Tag:Georgia State
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:05 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:08 am
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A sad goodbye to Karl Benson & perhaps WAC

The enduring image of Karl Benson will be his practically skipping through the University of Phoenix Stadium press box on Jan. 1, 2007.

Boise State had just shocked Oklahoma, college football and the world. The commissioner of the Broncos’ league was along for the ride. Karl Benson, a former Boise State shortstop, had just seen the gosh-darndest thing in his life. Along with the rest of us.

He was proud that his lowly-but-proud Western Athletic Conference had taken advantage of the BCS rules to – put in terms of the conference’s marketing slogan – Play Up. Yes, the loosening of BCS bowl access rules in 2006 contributed to Boise’s rise. But it took the team’s performance on the field to convince the world that college football wasn’t the exclusive domain of the Big Six conferences.

WAC member Hawaii went to the Sugar Bowl a year later but the new wave punk band that was the WAC slowly broke up over the years. Boise State skipped from the Mountain West to the Big East. Others followed.

The plucky little conference that couldn’t be killed was on its death bed Thursday with the news that Benson had become the new Sun Belt commissioner. On the surface, Benson is trading a job at the 10th-rated conference in FBS to one rated 11th(and last in the division).

In reality, it is the latest shift of conference realignment tectonic plates. The 50-year old WAC that Benson leaves behind be damaged beyond recognition.  It was formed in 1962 in order to grab an NCAA tournament automatic bid – there were only 24 at the time. The Original Six included Arizona, Arizona State, BYU, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming.  The current seven-team league (in football) could be absorbed like rain into the soil by some combination of Benson’s new conference and the emerging Big Country (Conference USA/Mountain West conglomeration).

It really depends on the intentions of the Big Country. 

Benson, 60, fought the good fight out West with dignity. Now it’s time to keep the Sun Belt alive and kicking. Time after time on the conference call announcing his hiring, Benson was not shy about saying he wanted the 10-member Sun Belt (in football) to grow to 12. At least. It doesn’t take too much to figure out where those two (or more) teams are going to come from.

As mentioned, in 2012 the WAC is down to seven teams, one above the NCAA minimum. The teams that emerged from that conference to gain BCS bowls under Benson’s watch – Boise State and Hawaii – are long gone. Just a guess but look for the Sun Belt to go after WAC member Louisiana Tech – if the Big Country doesn’t get to Ruston first. The New Orleans-based Sun Belt already has members at Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.

“There are schools in the [Louisiana] footprint that would make sense,” Benson said.   

Other possibilities: Any combination of Appalachian State, Georgia State, Jacksonville State and Liberty. All four are moving up or in the process of moving up to FBS.  

Benson has literally held the WAC together by force of personality. First, reorganizing after half the then-16 team league left in 1999 to form the Mountain West. (He got the news lying down on the couch at home after eye surgery.) Then with the departure of Boise State (Mountain West, then Big East) as well as Fresno, Hawaii, Nevada (Mountain West) Benson hustled within the last year to add Texas State and Texas-San Antonio. The next FBS game those two schools play will be their first.

The pity is if in the end Benson was somehow forced out of the WAC. The conference owes its current existence to him. With the Sun Belt’s Wright Waters stepping down, the lowest-ranked FBS league is about to experience a rebirth. The so-called Group of Five non-BCS conferences (WAC, MAC, Conference USA, Mountain West, Sun Belt) could to shrink to three.

In a way it consolidates Big Six conferences’ power. The apparent end of BCS automatic qualifying conferences in 2014 means that access to the game’s biggest bowls becomes more important for the “non-AQs” that Benson helped make famous.

“I often asked who is the next Boise State?” he said. “With my Sun Belt hat on, why not someone from the Sun Belt?”

 

WAC football membership in 2012

Idaho 
Louisiana Tech
New Mexico State
San Jose State
Texas State
Utah State


Sun Belt football membership in 2012

Arkansas State
Florida Atlantic
Florida International
Louisiana-Lafayette
Louisiana-Monroe
Middle Tennessee
North Texas
South Alabama
Troy
Western Kentucky


Posted on: October 13, 2010 10:44 am
Edited on: October 13, 2010 10:45 am
 

National notes

It only seems like Alabama obsessed all offseason about facing six SEC opponents coming off bye weeks.

The SEC schedule wasn't finalized until late summer as the school and league tried to move opponents around to keep from the dreaded six-pack. The Tuscaloosa News had revealed that over a three-year period Alabama had faced more bye-week opponents (17) than any SEC school. The best Bama could do was move Georgia State from a Saturday to a Thursday in November, thus allowing nine days before the Nov. 26 Auburn game.

That doesn't help things now. The Tide are on the brink of falling out of national championship contention after Saturday's loss to South Carolina. Their fall from No. 1 to No. 8 in the AP poll is the second-biggest fall for an in-season No. 1 since 1996. (Nebraska fell to No. 8 that year after losing to Arizona State). While Bama can still win the SEC and compete for the national championship, the final six conference opponents are going to be well rested. At least one columnist said the schedule already has caught up to the former No. 1.

Meanwhile, Nick Saban is trying to turn that offseason obsession into an in-season footnote. After 19 consecutive victories that included a national championship, Saban said this week his team may have believed a bit too much in itself.

"It's drinking the Kool-Aid, thinking that just because they say it on ESPN, it's so. Reading the newspapers all week. Just because you beat Florida 31-6, people start talking about you being the best team in the country. We're not the best team in the country. We had the best team in the country last year, and we proved it. We proved it over 14 games.

"This team hasn't proved s---."

Rhymes with spit.

Hey, that's the best Sabanator outburst since my question led him to the famous "pimp" line in July. 
 
"Excuse my language," Saban immediately told reporters on Monday. "That's how I feel about it. I'm really upset that I used bad language."

Anything colorful from Saban is always appreciated. It beats "behind-the-scenes" mini-docs where the only thing behind-the-scenes is what you don't see. This was raw emotion, a glimpse at Saban's soul at this point in the season. The message got through. Saban won't be taking bye weeks as an excuse going forward. It's clear that playing three consecutive top-19 opponents (in the AP poll) took something out of the Tide. Now they have to play Mississippi, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn coming off byes. Both teams will have a bye coming into the Nov. 6 meeting at LSU.

"Everybody out there assumes that having a bye week is an advantage," Saban said last week. "I've always answered that question by saying, 'I don't know if it's an advantage or disadvantage.'"

Maybe we're starting to find out.

 


**There is a dicey situation developing at Penn State where Joe Paterno is approaching his 400th career win.

But when?

The Nits are 3-3 after a depressing home loss to Illinois. Joe needs three more wins to become the third coach ever to win 400. There is growing doubt, though, that JoePa doesn't reach that mark this season. And what if he doesn't? What does that do to the program if Joe holds on (or is held over) for 2011?


In one sense, a 5-7 season can be written off as rebuilding year. Quarterback Rob Bolden is a true freshmen and has loads of upside. In other sense, there has to be concern. This is the first time in a long time, Penn State hasn't had at least one playmaker on either side of the ball.

The (mostly) cushy non-conference schedule has gotten Joe halfway to those six he needs, but the road ahead is littered with broken glass -- or at least formidable Big Ten opponents. Penn State still has to play the Big Ten's top three teams -- Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Assuming losses in those, Joe will have to win at Minnesota, at Indiana and at home against Northwestern to get to 6-6, 400 wins and a bowl game.

Is that a sendoff or a rebuilding year?



**
I'm starting to get intrigued by Oklahoma State. Coach Mike Gundy has ridden new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to a 5-0 start, the team's third such beginning since 2004.

The problem with OSU is that its schedule is typically backloaded with second-half meetings with Big 12 South heavies Texas and Oklahoma. In fact, Gundy has never beaten the LongSooners, or is it the SoonHorns? (Combined 0-10 against the two schools and 21-23 after Oct. 1.) Holgorsen has been the difference this year with his version of the spread option,  getting the most out of new quarterback Brandon Weeden, established tailback Kendall Hunter and breakout receiver Justin Blackmon.

The problem remains a defense which has finished above 89th nationally only once in Gundy's previous five seasons. This season's unit is marginally better in its second year under coordinator Bill Young. It is No. 88 nationally allowing more than 400 yards per game.

The difference is Holgorsen, a 39-year-old Mike Leach discipline who spent eight seasons at Texas Tech as an assistant, the final three as offensive coordinator. Holgorsen came to Okie State after a couple of seasons tutoring Case Keenum at Houston. Keenum is out with a season-ending injury but is seeking a sixth year of eligibility in 2011 during which he could become the NCAA's career passing yards leader.

Weeden, who turns 27 this week, is a former minor-league pitcher who is finding a new career playing pitch and catch out of the shotgun. Almost halfway through the season, Weeden has the fourth-most passing yards in the country leading the No. 2 scoring unit.

"[Weeden] was just a poor practice player," Gundy said. "There's a reason why we changed offenses. He can't execute [OSU's 2005-09] offense. It wasn't set up for him. ...We thought he could function at a high level, but we didn't know."

 

 

Posted on: February 27, 2009 9:38 am
 

National notes

Florida president Bernie Machen was weighing in on the BCS issue long before it heated up again recently. The former Utah president has been in both arenas -- overseeing of the one of the richest athletic departments in the country and looking up at the big boys from the Mountain West Conference.

Here are some leftovers from an interview last season that are still relevant today:

"There's no difference in my mind between the Mountain West and -- I won't name them -- a couple of the BCS conferences. So we have to find a way to allow those conferences to get some security. They don't have to have the season of all seasons to get in there.

"They deserve to be in there. They're working their ass off. They got budgets that are half of the BCS (schools) because they don't have the money.

"I'd probably put some of the weaker BCS conferences where they had to compete against the non-BCS guys. Every year there are teams -- BYU, Utah, Boise State or Fresno State -- those teams are damn close to a lot of the teams that are in the BCS.

"I don't begrudge us because we earn it. But there are teams in our conference that aren't as good as Utah. Yet, they get the BCS revenue which gives them an unfair advantage. We have to let these high-achieving non-BCS teams get an easy shot. "

 If you're worried about hard economic times for athletic departments, consider that the problems come from the bottom up. Orange County, which encompasses, Orlando, Fla., is considering cutting some freshman and junior-varsity sports, including football, to save money.

Imagine a hotbed of Florida football without a feeder system to develop football talent. Here's a look at an Armageddon scenario in 2019.

 One former player verbalizes what we've all been thinking. Joe Paterno is going to die on the field.

 Don't sweat the Oklahoma offensive line, which loses four starters from one of the best units in the country. "The Clean Team" was responsible for keeping Heisman winner Sam Bradford from washing his uniform last season. Things are not as bad as you think going into the spring.

Six-foot-seven LSU transfer Jarvis Jones should slide into the right tackle spot. Jones played on the 2007 LSU national championship team but was dismissed for a violation of team rules.

Trent Williams, considered by the staff to be the best overall offensive lineman last year, will move from right tackle to left tackle. Right guard Brian Simmons was overcome a couple of surgeries for clubfoot.

 In these tough economic times it scrambles the brain to see so many schools adding football, the largest expenditure there is in college athletics. I wrote about Georgia State recently.

Texas-San Antonio is ramping for football in 2011 and is considering for coach former Miami coach Larry Coker and Northwest Missouri coach Mel Tjeerdsma. Now that Terry Bowden has a job Coker has joined Dennis Franchione as the most accomplished coaches without a job.

 As the Bryce Brown saga marches on, the Wichita tailback's father recently admitted the recruiting odyssey had taken its toll.

"This thing has turned into something we never anticipated," Arthur Brown Sr. said.

The kid's long-awaited announcement is still scheduled for March 16.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com