Tag:Houston
Posted on: October 30, 2011 1:40 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 6:10 pm
 

Thoughts On A Football Saturday: West Virginia

This is on Don Nehlen. Major Harris too. Don’t forget Bobby Bowden. Rich Rodriguez gets credit. Even Bill Stewart.

West Virginia joined Big 12 on Friday (beginning in 2012) because of all those folks. Nehlen, the gritty, veteran coach who put the school on the map. Major Harris, the dual threat sensation before there were dual threat sensations leading the Mountaineers to the brink of a national championship. Rich Rod, the homeboy, and his basketball-on-grass offense. And all Coach Stew did was beat Oklahoma and average nine wins a year.

You can thank Gordon Gee too. Gee was West Virginia’s president during a key time (1981-85) in the school’s history. If not for the school’s admission into the old College Football Association, it might not be here today. West Virginia was among a group of about 15 independents in that initial CFA group of 63 schools.

The CFA gained power out of the Supreme Court’s de-regulation of college football in 1984. It was the television negotiating arm for those top 63 football-playing schools.

“They [West Virginia] met all the criteria,” said former CFA executive director Chuck Neinas. “They routinely get 60,000, their stadium size, strength of schedule, certain academic commitments.”

The qualifications for the old CFA have faded into history. But they are essentially why West Virginia is in a BCS league going forward and the Big East is in trouble. West Virginia has been selected to move on as a big-time football program.

That, and cold, hard numbers. You want to know why West Virginia is in the Big 12 and Louisville isn’t? 500,000 homes. That’s the difference in the half-rating point for television that separates the two schools.     

It comes down to West Virginia’s average 2.6 television rating over the past five years as opposed to 2.1 for Louisville. That half-rating point equals half a million television homes. That’s according to an industry source who had the numbers in front of him for all 120 FBS schools.

The FBS average rating is 2.2 In other words, Louisville is an average TV draw. West Virginia is an above average draw.

Big 12 inventory becomes more valuable because of  West Virginia-Texas and West Virginia-Oklahoma Louisville doesn’t move the needle as much. According the industry source, that 2.1 Louisville rating was boosted significantly by a pair of two five-year-old results – games in 2006 against West Virginia and Rutgers.

Neinas, currently interim Big 12 commissioner, was CFA executive director for the 20 years of existence. It disbanded in 1997. The Mountaineers move to the Big 12 can be traced back to Neinas’ time when he guided college football through a treacherous period. West Virginia made the cut Friday because of all those things – Nehlen’s leadership, that national championship run, ratings points. But it goes back to West Virginia being leading Eastern independent when the CFA was formed.

The CFA was a precursor the current BCS (membership: 66).

So West Virginia has its nose under the tent and the Big East moves on with uncertainty. Even if it does reconstitute itself and expand to 12 teams, there is no guarantee the Big East will retain its BCS status. That issue will at least be discussed when the BCS holds its next scheduled meeting Nov. 14 in San Francisco.

For 2012 at least, the Big 12 is a 10-team conference but don’t hold your breath.

“The only thing constant in this world is change,” Neinas said. “Right now we’ve got our house in order. We’re looking forward to a very aggressive conference.”

 

National notage …

 

A closer look at how Wisconsin has blown its last two games to Michigan State and Ohio State:

In the final eight minutes of both those games the teams’ combined score has been even, 21-21. In those fourth quarters, Wisconsin’s pass defense allowed 10 completions on 17 attempts for 155 yards. Take away the two game-winning plays – Michigan State at the gun and Ohio State with 20 seconds left – and the opposition completed only eight of 15 in that span for 74 yards, 4.93 yards per attempt.

But you can’t leave out those two plays. Keith Nichol caught the winner for Michigan State from 44 yards out. Ohio State’s Devin Smith caught that 40-yard touchdown from Braxton Miller with 20 seconds left.

Essentially, Wisconsin hasn’t responded when playing tougher competition. It won its first six games by at least 31 points. Two plays have killed the Badgers. They will likely be the difference in a BCS bowl (Rose?) and perhaps a Big Ten title.

 


Case Keenum has to be the season’s most valuable player to this point.

Houston is in the running for a Big East berth (maybe) and BCS bowl (barely) primarily because of its quarterback’s right arm. The nation’s leading passer has the Cougars ranked and on the periphery of BCS contention. The memory may have faded by now but Houston beat Rice 73-34 Thursday with Keenum throwing nine touchdown passes.  Someday soon he will be the all-time leader in passing yardage.

Yes, a sixth year of eligibility has helped but look at what it has wrought: In conference realignment where your worth can be judged by what you did yesterday, the Cougars are a hot commodity – at least to the Big East. Houston could be included in a batch of teams that would stretch from BYU to Texas and back East just to keep the conference viable.

Basically, Keenum is all Houston has. That’s no disgrace considering what’s at stake. While the defense is improved over last season (from 103<sup>rd</sup> to 86<sup>th</sup>), the Cougars have won games this season allowing 34 (twice) and 42 points. It all comes back to Keenum, already the NCAA’s career total offense leader, having thrown a nation-leading 32 touchdowns.

Without him, Houston is a commuter school in media market where it is the fourth or fifth option. With him, Houston may someday be able to thank Keenum for a berth in a BCS bowl.

That brings us to this week’s top Heisman contenders ...

1. Keenum – 139 career touchdown passes. 
2. Kellen Moore, Boise State – forget his measurables. Should end up in a pro camp somewhere.
3. Andrew Luck, Stanford – Completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception and passer rating all up over last season.
4. Trent Richardson, Alabama – We’ll know more after Saturday.
5. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin – Don’t blame the nation’s most efficient passer for the Ohio State loss.

 


While we’re speculating on coaching turnover, let’s not forget North Carolina State’s Tom O’Brien.

 

After being shut out by Florida State, 34-0, the Wolfpack is 4-4 having beaten only one BCS conference program this season (Virginia). N.C. State was shut out on the road an ACC game for the first time since 1990, not to mention Wilson’s decision to let Russell Wilson become a free agent.

O’Brien is 29-29 in his fifth season, having never finished better than a tie for second in the ACC Atlantic Division.

 

 
This from the Boulder Daily CameraIt seems like it’s already time to question why Colorado was included in the Pac-12’s expansion plans.

So why was CU No. 1 on Larry Scott's expansion list?

"CU just checked all the boxes for us," the forward-thinking Pac-12 commissioner said. "CU was a fit in terms of academic compatibility, being a good geographic fit and sharing a similar philosophy and culture in terms of the role of athletics within the broader mission. And Denver is a very important market."

Colorado dropped to 1-8, 0-6 in the Pac-12 South after a 48-14 loss at Arizona State. Pac-12 newbies CU and Utah are a combined 5-12 overall, 1-10 in the league.

 


Penn State may be the worst 8-1 team you ever saw, but it has a plucky defense and, more importantly, an inside track to the Big Ten title game.

After beating Illinois Saturday, the Nittany Lions have a 2 ½-game lead over Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State in the Leaders Division with three games to go. Hold onto your Coke bottle glasses. Those final three games are at home against Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin. If JoePa somehow grabs another Big Ten title at age 84 he will have earned it.

 

Posted on: September 29, 2011 10:54 pm
 

Son of Weekend Watch List

Starting with leftovers from the Friday Charlie Weis interview.

Florida's offensive coordinator takes on Alabama Saturday in his biggest college game since leaving Notre Dame in 2009. The knee he had replaced in June is no longer an issue. I began by asking him if walking around pain-free makes a difference in his job. 

"Absolutely no effect," he said.

All righty, then. Moving on. 

Question: You've coached at the highest level. Is the SEC, in some ways, like the NFL because it is a line-of-scrimmage league?

Weis: "It's not just a line-of-scrimmage league, it's how much speed there is. There's fast guys all over the place. That's a big testament to the conference. It's not just the linebackers and defensive backs. There's a bunch of athletic lineman running around too. You have to be on guard just to give yourself the best chance."

Question: When Urban Meyer came into the league one of the first things he realized is he had to have a fullback out there. Was there any surprise about coming into this league?

Weis: "I just came from the NFL so you're used to guys who can run real fast. You see it on a weekly basis. Now especially as we're getting ready for Alabama, I look at these guys on tape. This is what you're used to playing against."

Question: Have you snuck a look at the Chiefs this season?

Weis: "I know what's happened right there. We don't have time to watch any of their games or anything. Sunday is a very busy day for us."

Question: How is your son? (The reason Weis came to Florida was because he could be with his son Charlie Jr.)

Weis: "He's an intern for the head coach. I got him away from me, so he isn't like daddy's little tag along. That's worked out very nicely.

Question: What does he do for Will Muschamp?

Weis: "He's kind of the offensive liaison. He keeps Will [Muschamp] abreast of everything we do on offense. Will is always completely up to date with everything we do on offense. He brings him our daily grades and personnel. It's been a nice role for him."


Jordan Jefferson is back:
Now that LSU's quarterback has been reinstated, could it be that in a convoluted way, that bar fight might be one of the best things that happens to LSU?

Jarrett Lee (this week vs. Kentucky) probably never would have gotten the reps, or the starting job, had Jefferson never been suspended. Now, the Tigers essentially have two starting quarterbacks. If Lee slumps or loses the job, Jefferson is in the wings. Les Miles is already saying Jefferson will play in every game as a super-backup.

WWL would never advocate violence but in a weird way, this episode has worked out in LSU's favor. Jefferson is expected to see action against the Wildcats.


The gift that keeps on giving: The NCAA's top five passers this week all have ties to Mike Leach:

Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden, Houston's Case Keenum, West Virginia's Geno Smith, Arizona's Nick Foles and Oklahoma's Landry Jones.

Weeden, Keenum and Smith are or were coached by Dana Holgorsen, Leach's offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2000-2007. Holgorsen has since coached at Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

Foles' offensive coordinator at Arizona, Seth Littrell, played at Oklahoma under Leach. Littrell was also Leach's running backs coach at Texas Tech. Prior to Litrell, Sonny Dykes was Foles' offensive coordinator at Arizona, before going to Louisiana Tech as head coach. Dykes coached with Leach at Kentucky and Texas Tech.

Connection to Jones: Oklahoma's co-offensive coordinator is Josh Heupel who was coached by Leach in 1999 as OU's OC.


This gets a WWL mention because we are a quarter of the way through the season and, well, it matters:
 Temple is No. 1 in scoring defense. The Fighting Addazios (3-1, hosting Toledo) have given up four total touchdowns playing an FCS (Villanova), a conference rival (Akron) and two BCS programs (Penn State and Maryland).


This week's Power Poll
1. LSU
2. Oklahoma
3. Boise State
4. Alabama
5. Wisconsin
6. Virginia Tech
7. Oklahoma State
8. Stanford
9. Nebraska
10. Oregon
11. South Carolina
12. Texas A&M
13. Clemson
14. Baylor
15. Florida
16. Georgia Tech
17. Michigan
18. Kansas State
19. Illinois
20. Michigan State
21. TCU
22. Arkansas
23. West Virginia
24. Arizona State
25. Ohio State



Piling on: George Barlow makes his head coaching debut for crippled, battered, embarrassed New Mexico. The Lobos, 2-26 under Mike Locksley, try to salvage some pride in a rivalry game against New Mexico State. Barlow was New Mexico's defensive coordinator before Locksley was fired on Sunday. That defense is 116th nationally having allowed 24 touchdowns, the most in the country ... Look who is the No. 1 running back in the country. After a slow start against LSU, Oregon's LaMichael James has 613 yards. James is coming off a school-record 288 yards against Arizona. The Ducks play Cal on Thursday ... We'll see how that K-State defense defends its manhood after defending the goal line last week against Miami. Baylor's Robert Griffin threw for 404 yards and four touchdowns last season against K-State in a 47-42 win ... Half of the Big 12 (actually five of 10 teams) are ranked No. 17 or higher in the coaches' poll ... Joe Paterno coaches his 700th game this week as a part of the Penn State staff (at Indiana) ... If South Carolina's Stephen Garcia doesn't get it going this week against Auburn he never will. Steve Spurrier's much-cussed quarterback is ranked second-worst among the 100 quarterbacks rated by the NCAA. Auburn's secondary has allowed opponents to complete almost 68 percent of passes ... LSU is No. 1 for the first time since November 2007.
Posted on: September 25, 2011 8:55 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 7:58 pm
 

On A Football Saturday: UNM considering Leach?

So, would New Mexico consider Mike Leach?

The answer seems to be a resounding yes. Within minutes of releasing the statement that announced the firing of Mike Locksley, New Mexico AD Paul Krebs texted his qualifications for the new coach.

Head coaching experience is strongly preferred. Ability to recruit in Texas is a virtual must. Also, ties to the Albuquerque area will be considered.

Leach qualifies for all three. He spent a decade at Texas Tech recruiting Texas. Lubbock qualifies as having area ties. It is 320 miles from Albuquerque.

Don't sleep on this situation. New Mexico's interested. Is Leach?



--A quarter of the way through the regular season these are surprising undefeated teams:

Baylor: Robert Griffin III has more touchdown passes, 13, than incompletions, 12.

"A young man like Robert Griffin, it's like you're playing with 13 people," said Rice coach David Bailiff after Saturday' 56-31 loss to the Bears.

Houston: In his sixth year of eligibility, Case Keenum is now the third-leading passer of all time

Illinois: The Illini are 4-0 for the first time since 1951, the year they won a national championship in something called the Boand System.

Clemson: Give Dabo Swinney a microphone, he'll scream into it. Tigers have early advantage in the ACC Atlantic after beating Florida State.

Georgia Tech: Another Paul Johnson classic. A route of Kansas, followed by a late win over North Carolina. Can we just go ahead and call that offense the hardest to play against in the country?

South Florida: While the Big East agonizes over membership in the future, the Bulls are the league's only undefeated team right now.

Florida: Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps are finally becoming a fearsome <>combination<> under Charlie Weis.

Kansas State: Bill Snyder still has some magic left. The same Wildcats who almost to Eastern Kentucky at home, stopped Miami at the 1 to go 3-0 for the 16th time in Snyder's 20 seasons.



--That "Big 12, Big 12" chant by Oklahoma State fans Saturday at Texas A&M. It was as much a taunt as pride. Okie State probably didn't know that one A&M fan was waving a giant SEC flag at Friday's midnight yell practice ...



--Don't know what this means: The top six rushers in the country are from six different conferences ... The top two rushers in the Big Ten are quarterbacks: Denard Robinson (168.67 yards per game), Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (105.25) ... Anyone notice conference play is beginning? ...

Blowing by you on the bayou: This just in at LSU. The Tigers are incredibly fast ... Also, Oklahoma State is incredibly resilient: "What this comes down to is I thought our team was in better physical condition by a long shot," said coach Mike Gundy. Game time temperature was 91 degrees accompanied by bright sunshine. Pokes gave guts and character. Can't wait until the Bedlam game Dec. 3 in Stillwater ... Oklahoma hadn't trailed in 20 consecutive home games until falling behind Missouri 14-3 in the first quarter ... Clemson has gained at least 455 yards in all four games. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has consecutive 300-yard passing games ... The Big Ten went 8-2 on Saturday but the two losses were embarrassing. North Dakota State beat Minnesota for the second straight season. North Texas got by Indiana ... West Virginia gave up its most points in six years in LSU's 47-21 rout ...

Who says you can't win committing seven turnovers? East Carolina did it, beating Alabama-Birmingham 28-23 ... Southern Miss has beaten Virginia in consecutive meetings ... SMU and South Carolina have the best conference records in FBS, 2-0 ... Toledo had a 22-play drive against Syracuse and settled for a field goal. Sure, it got screwed on that extra point that Big East on-field and replay officials ruled good (it wasn't.). But the Rockets would have done themselves some good by punching it in the first quarter.


--This week's Heisman ballot: 1. Robert Griffin III, Baylor; 2, Marcus Lattimore; South Carolina; 3, Kellen Moore, Boise State; 4. Denard Robinson, Michigan; 5. Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State.


If Steve Spurrier ever gets a big head -- how could that happen? -- all he has to do is watch this 45-year old tape from the Ed Sullivan Show. Ed obviously didn't know who Spurrier was or his school. Miami? 
Posted on: August 29, 2011 8:37 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 9:05 pm
 

As long Big 12 has OU & UT, it has options

Let's look at this current conference alignment thing a different way. No commissioner wants to be seen as the one to cause Alignment Armageddon. But if it has to be the Big 12, who could blame Dan Beebe? His embattled league has suffered enough. Suddenly it has options, good ones, with or without Texas A&M.

We all pretty much agree that we're headed sooner or later toward the age of the super conference with four 16-team (or whatever number) conferences. The question is how or when. Right now, we stand on the precipice with Texas A&M wanting to go to the SEC, but the SEC still thinking about whether to take the Aggies.

That's because the SEC doesn't have to expand. It's fine how it is with 18 years to run on a $3 billion contract with CBS and ESPN. If A&M goes then sooner or later, the SEC is going to have to get a 14th member. Commissioner Mike Slive seemingly loves A&M but he -- and his presidents -- don't necessarily want to be that guy, responsible for breaking up another league.

The question is whether Beebe has such reservations. And as long as he has Oklahoma and Texas, he has leverage.

As mentioned, it's looking suddenly like the Big 12 is dealing from a position of strength. It could lose Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC and still be able to lure two teams (or more) to stay viable. Why? As long as the Texas/Oklahoma axis remains solid, so is the league. Fox invested $1.17 billion over 13 years just for the secondary rights. The Big 12 is going to hit another big financial home run in a couple of years when it goes out to bid. (The assumption is that ESPN will re-up for the primary rights.)

To this point, Oklahoma has shown a willingness to stay with Texas. While the schools are rivals on the field, ADs Joe Castiglione and DeLoss Dodds are close. They know that the fortunes of the two superpowers are mutually beneficial.

If Texas and Oklahoma stay bonded, the Big 12 is in somewhat of a position of power. It could raid the Big East and go to 12 or 16. Why not go get Pittsburgh and Louisville? Sure, Big East basketball great but think of a hoops league with Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Pittsburgh and Louisville.

BIG POINT NO. 1: Even though the Big East is due for a windfall rights fee of its own in a few years I'm told that the pending primary rights deal for the Big 12 would be bigger than the Big East's entire deal. 

Would that possibility pry Notre Dame loose? Not likely. ND AD Jack Swarbrick reiterated for the millionth time on Monday that his school is happy with independence. ND probably would need eight home games to make the deal work in the Big 12 because of its deal with NBC, at least one of those being a neutral site game. The school makes a reported $15 million a year from that deal. The Big 12 wouldn't say no then ND also reaping $20 million from the Big 12 deal. Heck, it's Notre Dame.

Texas AD DeLoss Dodds said publicly last year that the Big 12 would be an attractive place for Notre Dame's minor sports. The schools do start a four-game football series in 2015.

While we're at it, let's also forget the talk of Arkansas, SMU and Houston to the Big 12. Arkansas would be taking a pay cut. The Big 12 is already in the Dallas, Houston and state of Texas markets. SMU is making its case in part because it has been to back-to-back bowls. Is that all it takes these days?

In this age don't think of conference affiliations, think of which schools assembled together make for the most lucrative media rights deals. Remember, geography matters little. When TCU enters the Big East in 2012 that will be its fifth conference since 1995.

That's why the pool of candidates for the SEC's No. 14 has to include Missouri, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia Tech. That's not the list, it's a best-guess list if you believe that the SEC isn't going to expand inside its footprint. That means no Georgia Tech, no Louisville, no Clemson, no Florida State.

Whether the Big 12 loses Missouri or not, BYU has emerged as an attractive replacement for Texas A&M. That's not news. BYU has a loyal and large following. The question is whether BYU would give up its long-range plan for independence after only one year. One source last week went as far as to say BYU would be "excited" about the prospect of joining the Big 12.

AD Tom Holmoe told Brett McMurphy this month that his school was happy at the moment

While the Cougars have ESPN as a scheduling partner, it has to become apparent to the school sooner or later that it is all but out of BCS contention in most seasons. By going independent, it has the essentially the same BCS status as Army and Navy. That is to say, the only automatic berth would be if BYU finishes No. 1 or No. 2.

The six BCS conference champions are guaranteed a bid. A champion from one of the five non-BCS leagues get a bid if it finishes in the top 12 or top 16 if it is ranked higher in the final BCS standings than a BCS conference champion. Notre Dame (because it's Notre Dame) gets an automatic bid if it finishes in the top eight of the BCS.

Army, Navy and BYU? Guaranteed only in the top two. BIG POINT NO. 2: Essentially that means BYU could finish 10-2 (or even 11-1) and have nothing guaranteed in the BCS.

Earlier this year, I wrote that BYU's independence was more about faith that most people thought. I'm starting to think all it would take is one year of being left out of the BCS (and a call from the Big 12) for the school's fans and officials to change their minds about independence.

Meanwhile, the "composition language" in the SEC contract is probably similar to that of the Big 12's. That means ESPN would most likely try to renegotiate downward its current deal with the Big 12. Say that is 10 percent of the contract given that A&M represents 10 percent of the Big 12. At that point it becomes like rearranging deck chairs. ESPN could tell the SEC, the money it is taking away from the Big 12 goes to the SEC. In essence, A&M's money would follow it to the SEC.

It isn't that easy. The SEC would most likely negotiate for more saying it is gaining huge viewership in the state of Texas. BIG POINT NO. 3: What's forgotten is the SEC isn't starting from a zero position. In case you haven't noticed, ESPN is already in Texas. SMU AD Steve Orsini told me last week that the ratings for Big 12 and SEC games in Dallas are "even." Whether that's true or not, there is already a big following for the SEC in the Lone Star State because there is a big following for the SEC everywhere. That's why the league already gets the big bucks.

A further hang-up on this A&M thing: It's better for everyone if the SEC expands by two all at once. That's one negotiation, rather than two. But if Texas A&M is one, what's the other?

It might not matter to the Big 12.
Posted on: January 25, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2011 3:33 pm
 

Latest conference alignment tremors

Conference USA raised some eyebrows earlier this month when it signed a new deal with Fox Sports Media Group for $7 million per year through 2015-16. That may be the reason why the Mountain West is reportedly targeting Utah State and San Jose State as expansion candidates. CUSA possibilities for the MWC -- SMU, Texas-El Paso and Houston -- are now more than happy in their current league with a new network deal. CUSA also has a new side deal with current partner CBS College Sports. The combined deals represent approximately a 47 percent increase in broadcast revenue. ($14 million, up from $9.5 million according to reports).

As always in conference realignment, it's better to track the networks before tracking the teams. The government's approval of the NBC/Comcast deal last week seems to have caused a mini-tremor in conference realignment.

The Mountain West met again Tuesday, in part, to discuss whether to add two more teams in order to make it more attractive to bidding networks. Comcast, a partner in the league's network, is thought to be a player in a deal that could be worth $15 million per year over an undisclosed period of years. ESPN also may be interested, which is significant because the conference at one time made a conscious decision to move away from the cable giant. A few years ago, the Mountain West presidents told commissioner Craig Thompson to move off of ESPN after tiring of having weeknight game times dictated to them.

The Mountain West's network  that resulted from that move away from ESPN hasn't turned a profit yet.  Comcast, a partner with CBS College Sports in the MWC, has an out clause in the deal if both Utah schools depart the league, according to a source. BYU is going independent. Utah is joining the Pac-12. The current network deal with CBS College and Comcast is worth $120 million over 10 years. The contract ends in 2016.

That's why the MWC may be looking to increase its value. In addition to the loss of BYU and Utah, TCU is bolting for the Big East in 2012. The addition of Hawaii, Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State has made the league look more like the old WAC than a new Mountain West. The expansion to a 12-team league, though, would mean the addition of a conference championship game.

The MWC board released a statement Tuesday intimating it will stay at 10 teams for the time being. The conference presidents are next scheduled to meet in June, although they could get together at the MWC Tournament in March.

It's interesting that one conference moved away from ESPN (Conference USA) while another (the MWC) may be moving toward it. Bottom line: There is plenty of money out there, even for the non-BCS leagues. Texas last week announced a $300 million, 20-year deal with ESPN for The Longhorn Network. The ACC doubled its money last year in signing a long-term deal with ESPN (12 years, $1.86 billion). That perhaps left money for Fox, a bidder for the ACC, to hook up with Conference USA.

Comcast is a national communications company headquartered in Philadelphia. For college sports purposes, it is a regional cable giant that also owns E! Entertainment Television, the Golf Channel and VERSUS. There has been speculation ever since Comcast struck the NBC Universal deal what that would mean for sports properties everywhere. For example, what will happen next with the Pac-12 and Big 12 are next in line waiting to cash in on new network deals? Consider this passage from a USA Today story regarding Comcast:  "The [NBC Universal] deal fulfills a longtime goal of Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to turn his family-controlled company into a global media colossus."

Both the Pac-12 and Big 12 will begin negotiating this year with a new-looking product. The Pac-12 added Utah and Colorado. The Big 12 slimmed down to 10 teams after the loss of Colorado and Nebraska. ESPN and Fox made financial promises to the Big 12 last spring that eventually allowed Texas to stay in and keep the league together.

The Big Ten and SEC remain the big dogs in the college television landscape. The SEC finalized a $3 billion, 15-year deal with ESPN and CBS in July 2009. The Big Ten Network continues to be a force after turning a profit slightly more than three years ago.


Meanwhile, losing the San Jose State and Utah State could effectively kill the WAC. The WAC already is trying to reorganize after the loss of Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State to the Mountain West.


Posted on: November 2, 2010 5:38 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 6:57 pm
 

Big East expanding to 10 teams

John Marinatto looked like a wounded man last spring in Phoenix. Not so much physically, but emotionally.

According to reports, the Big East commissioner's conference was under attack. The popular notion was that the Big East didn't have long to live after the predatory Big Ten got through with it. Depending on what you read, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and/or Syracuse, were candidates to leave the Big East. Marinatto put on a brave front last April at the BCS meetings saying the league was using former NFL commissioner and Georgetown chairman of the board Paul Tagliabue as a consultant.

In an unguarded moment, though, Marinatto admitted to checking his text messages for the latest news during Mass.

The skies cleared above the Big East a bit on Tuesday when the league announced it would expand to 10 football-playing schools at some point in the future. No timetable given but a conference source said, "You can say the Big East would want to move quickly."

At eight teams in football, the Big East is the smallest conference in Division I-A. It was weakened significantly when it lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston to the ACC in 2003. Since then, during BCS television negotiations at one point, the league received a waiver to remain an automatic qualifying BCS league because potential TV partners wanted the league's Northeast markets.

In the last month it was learned that the Big East and TCU of the Mountain West had spoken. Villanova, already a Big East basketball member, is trying to decide whether its I-AA football program should move up to I-A. If that is the case Temple, another Philadelphia school and former Big East member, would probably be out of the running for a return to the conference.

Other schools mentioned include Central Florida and Houston from Conference USA.

One source said Villanova was "50-50" about whether to join the league in football. If Villanova joined in football, the league would have to add only one more football member. An NCAA moratorium on I-AA teams transitioning to I-A ends next summer.


TCU is the outlier in the discussion but a potentially valuable addition for the Big East. Forget the geographic designations, the school would be as far from some Big East schools as it is currently in the Mountain West. TCU probably wouldn't join as a basketball member. There is thought to be some reluctance within the Big East about adding any more basketball members to the already unwieldy 16-team basketball conference. The soonest TCU could leave for the Big East would be 2012. Per Mountain West rules, TCU would have had to notify the league office by Sept. 1 of this year if it was leaving for 2011.

One potential hurdle has been removed if TCU were to join. The Mountain West does not have a financial penalty for schools that leave the league.

Best guess: If Villanova doesn't move up, look for TCU and Central Florida to join. The league would be wise to value the Dallas-Fort Worth and Orlando markets. The Big East already is in Tampa-St. Pete with South Florida. A natural conference rivalry no doubt would develop between UCF and USF.

After expansion, Big East could set to reap a financial windfall from its next television contract. The league's TV deal with ESPN and CBS expires after the 2012-13 season. The football deal with ESPN expires after the 2013 season. Negotiations would probably begin around September 2012.

Because of increased competition for league rights, conferences have been seeing a huge spike in income. The SEC finalized a 15-year deal with the SEC and CBS in July 2009 worth $3 billion. The ACC signed a 12-year deal with ESPN in May worth $1.86 billion. The ACC more than doubled its major rights holder income with the deal.

Fox narrowly missed out on winning at least part of the ACC contract. A merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, another possible player in college sports, is awaiting federal approval.

The Big East presidents made the decision unanimously to expand Tuesday at their annual meeting. A smaller, core executive committee is studying the expansion issue and could meet anytime to address the issue, even by phone, according to a league spokesman.

Posted on: November 1, 2010 11:38 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2010 12:16 am
 

Big East possibly discussing expansion on Tuesday

Big East presidents and athletic directors will meet Tuesday to discuss possible expansion, the New York Post reported on Monday.

The Post originally broke the story of Big East's interest in seemingly unlikely expansion candidate TCU. The interest turned out to be reciprocal. If you believe that college football is trending toward the mega-conference, then schools need to get into a BCS conference before the window of opportunity closes.

The Big East is interested in staying relevant by remaining one of those BCS conferences. It received a waiver to remain an automatic qualifier conference by the other BCS commissioners in the past because of television's desire to have those Northeast markets. With conference realignment anything but dead, commissioner John Marinatto wants to protect his league from poachers. Earlier this year, the Big Ten was a threat to the Big East. Rutgers emerged as an attractive addition to the Big Ten and perhaps will remain one in the future. The Big Ten eventually settled on Nebraska -- for now.

TCU is looking for its own relevance. The loss of BYU and Utah has damaged the Mountain West's ongoing attempt to get at least a temporary BCS bid in 2012 and 2013. TCU has shown a willingness to conference hop to improve its profile since being left out of the Big 12 in 1996. Ironically, if the Horned Frogs get a second consecutive bowl bid this year it would have gotten a huge boost from beating resurgent  Baylor. TCU was left out of the Big 12 in favor of Baylor 15 years ago, mostly because of a political power play by then-Texas governor Ann Richards.


"If you're not aligned with an automatic qualifying conference prior to the super realignment you have no shot," CBS College Sports analyst Aaron Taylor said. "At least if you're there to begin with, you're in the topic of conversation and discussion. On paper, you'd think that TCU being in Texas doesn't make sense. But they're the furtherst team to the East in the Mountaint West. They would be the same distance, but West, to the Big East."

Other schools being mentioned for Big East expansion are Houston, Central Florida and either Temple or Villanova from Philadelphia. TCU and Central Florida seem to be the most likely expansion candidates at this point.

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."

 

 

 
 
 
 
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