Tag:Arizona
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: November 28, 2011 3:30 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Coaches' realignment in Pac-12

At this rate, Washington State's head of football operations will be the dean of Pac-12 coaches.

Just kidding, a little.

Black Sunday turned into Black Monday when two more Pac-12 coaches were reportedly fired. UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel and Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson are done. That brings the total number of conference coaches to depart in the last year to five. (Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, Stanford)

This isn’t a changing of a guard, it’s a purge. It’s almost as if someone decided that with the conference about to launch it’s own network, it needed a new “look”.

Out: Erickson at Arizona State. In: Mike Bellotti?

Out: Dan Hawkins in 2010 at Colorado. In: Jon Embree

Out: Mike Stoops at Arizona. In: Rich Rodriguez.

Out: Jim Harbaugh, from Stanford to the 49ers. In: David Shaw.

Out: Neuheisel four days before the Pac-12 title game. In: ?

Next out: Paul Wulff at Washington State. Next in: Mike Leach?

Half the league has changed or is in the process of changing coaches, which led a lot of us to check our media guides. Who exactly IS the dean of Pac-12 coaches at this point? With apologies to the Wazzu ops guys, that would be Oregon State’s Mike Riley who just completed his 11<sup>th</sup> season in his second head coaching stop at the school. Cal’s Jeff Tedford is next at 10 years. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham is third who just completed his seventh season. (But only his first in the conference.)

Neuheisel might be the first fired coach to participate in a conference championship game conference call. Give Slick Rick credit for manning up. His team is in the game only because USC is ineligible. The Bruins are prohibitive underdogs to Oregon a week after losing to the Trojans 50-0. Among the highlights from Monday:

On giving thought to even appearing on the conference call: “We all know what we’re getting into when we get into the profession … I’m just thankful for the opportunity to help bring it back to a place where I would be proud. [Positive things happened] they don’t always make it to the front pages of the newspaper. There was a lot of effort, good work done when I was here. It won’t be a bitter memory at all.”

On leaving: “Certainly when you’re the UCLA coach you’d like to play better against USC. When you lose in the fashion that we did, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.”

On the future:  “This has kind of hit me between the eyes a little bit. We’ll  make any decision about which course to take [in the future]. I love coaching, I know that. I’d have to take some time to figure all that out.  

On Friday’s championship game: “I hope like heck I’m not a distraction.”

This is a spectacular fall from grace for a favorite-son alum. At least another fall from grace. Don’t forget he left Washington after the NCAA tournament pool scandal that eventually led to him suing the NCAA – and winning.

Arizona State and UCLA are arguably the two best jobs in the league after USC. I’ve always wondered why 85 spectacularly talented kids wouldn’t want scholarships at Arizona State. The new coach will inherit a senior quarterback (Brock Osweiler), a good place to start in the Pac-12. Sun Devil Stadium is being remodeled.

UCLA should never be this far down. Big city. Access to big-time recruits. Rose Bowl. I’ve said it before but Neuheisel’s biggest mistake was that UCLA became boring. In L.A., the one thing you cannot be is boring. 

Posted on: November 21, 2011 5:57 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 12:22 pm
 

Arizona replaces Sgt. Hulka with ... Rich Rod

CBS Sports Network loses an analyst. Arizona gets a future.

That’s my first impression after hearing that Rich Rodriguez is taking the Arizona job. Just about the perfect hire. Rich Rod is hungry and wants to prove himself after the Michigan detour. Arizona needs to be revitalized. Rodriguez needs a job.

In short, Rich Rodriguez fits in Tucson. It is a laidback town, one of those big-little towns that isn’t pretentious. Larger than Morgantown, not as tradition-bound as Ann Arbor. In terms of sideline demeanor, Rodriguez is the antithesis of Mike Stoops. Arizona just traded Sgt. Hulka for this guy. 

That’s motivation.

Let’s be honest: Both sides needed rejuvenation. The Michigan thing just didn’t work out. Stoops had worn out his welcome. This just made Arizona matter again.

You can believe Rich Rod will attract top quarterbacks. No word on who he’ll get as defensive coordinator, but you can be sure Wildcat football will be exciting again. This is a new era in the Pac-12 and for the only team in the old Pac-10 never to play in the Rose Bowl, this is a home run.

 

 


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 19, 2011 7:43 pm
 

Bellotti's name surfaces at Arizona

EUGENE, Ore. – Former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti’s name has surfaced in the Arizona search.

TucsonCitizen.com reported Friday that “things could move very quickly” between the school and the 60-year-old now analyst for ESPN.  It has long been known that Bellotti wanted to get back into coaching at some point. He stepped down here after 14 seasons in 2009.

“Mike wants to get back into coaching,” one source close to Bellotti told CBSSports.com on Saturday. “Mike’s anxious.”

Arizona was the first major job to open up this season after Mike Stoops was fired Oct. 10. Arizona AD Greg Byrne already has one major hire on his resume. He was responsible for bringing Dan Mullen to Mississippi State while AD at that school.

Bellotti may have his pick of jobs in the Pac-12 if Arizona State and/or UCLA open up as well. 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: October 11, 2011 1:57 pm
 

National notes: Source of Missouri's indecision

We're starting to get a clearer picture of the momentous decision Missouri has to make.

The school could make as much as $12 million more per year in the SEC according to this Monday Associated Press story

The AP obtained the document that was shown to the school's board of curators last week. It contains details about academics but the juicy stuff is the money. As reported previously, Missouri would face a significant exit fee if it leaves for the 2012 season.  The document pointed out Missouri would make approximately $2 million less in revenue staying in the Big 12 compared to the average SEC school in fiscal 2012 ($19.25 million-$17.16 million).

The real money is in the future where the SEC is two years into its 15-year, $3 billion deal with ESPN and CBS. At issue seems to be how that additional $12 million could be made.

I talked to multiple TV sources who could come up with, at most, an $8 million-$10 million increase for Missouri. That includes the extra money gained from the SEC title game. Also, there is normal yearly escalation in the contract that is currently paying that $19 million per year to SEC members.

The document could be referring to the back end of that 15-year deal. Typically, long-term contracts are "back-ended" where an escalating amount of money is paid at the end of the deal. That's one of the reasons why CBS partnered with TBS and Turner on a new NCAA tournament basketball deal. It was easier to redo the deal than to pay the bigger rights fees at the end of the old contract.

The other possibility is a much-discussed "SEC Network". Technically, that's the description of the current ESPN deal that distributes the conference across multiple platforms. What's being speculated, though, is a new revenue generator -- a bundling of the conference's third-tier rights to form a new cable entity. That theoretically would include one non-conference game from each school.

Each SEC school gets the rights to that one a year to telecast on a pay-per-view basis. The conference would have to negotiate to reclassify those rights so that they could be bundled.

As far as a windfall for the SEC by merely expanding to 14 teams, slow down. I'm told that the increase in revenue would be negligible. Remember, that additional revenue from expansion would be a negotiation. If the parties (ESPN, CBS) can't come to an agreement with the SEC on a new number then the issue goes to arbitration.

ESPN and CBS will rightly argue that they're already in Texas, where the SEC already does well in the ratings. The SEC will counter that it has added value. Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said Monday he doubted the $12 million figure, adding that Missouri will be a Big 12 member for 2012-13.

Neinas said for Missouri to gain an extra $12 million per year, the SEC would have to increase their TV revenue by $168 million.

Missouri never seems to be able to do anything privately when it comes to these matters. Remember, it was Gov. Jay Nixon who is blamed by many for touching off this latest round of realignment. There have been dueling "leaks" starting with an anonymous Missouri official last week saying that the Big Ten was the school's first choice.

Monday's AP story seems to counter that by stating how rich Missouri could become by moving. In the end, it points up how divided Missouri is on the subject. There is no clear consensus. Does the SEC want that?

Missouri is obviously concerned about the instability of the Big 12. The league is basically guaranteed to stay together for only the next six years. The SEC could be a lifetime decision.

The Big 12's newest head coach already has some advice for Missouri.

"Stay in the Big 12," TCU's Gary Patterson said. "It's a better fit. Same with me as far as [speculation about] taking jobs. I know what my plusses and minuses are here. Everybody thinks it's going to be a better place if they change conferences."

 


Is Texas soft?

The question has been asked so often -- accusingly -- over the years that it is part of the Longhorn hater's talking points. But the issue has come up again this week as the depth and breadth of Texas' loss to Oklahoma starts to settle in.

Saturday's 38-point win was the largest for Oklahoma in the Red River series since 2003 and the fifth-largest margin in the history of the rivalry. OU had eight sacks for 84 negative yards, 113 yards in tackles for loss. Texas' 259 total yards was three more than OU had in sacks, tackles for loss and fumble/interception returns.  Defensive end Frank Alexander had a career day with three sacks, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble, a quarterback hurry and six total tackles.

"This was my last one," Alexander said. "I wanted to go out with a bang."

"It's not like we were playing the Little Sisters of the Poor, right?" Bob Stoops said.

That's to be debated. Any encouragement Texas got from starting 4-0 had to be diminished as the Horns go into the Oklahoma State game. One Dallas columnist went back to a season preview magazine to one of those quotes from an anonymous coach sizing up Texas before 2011.

"The guys they are taking are good-character kids, and good for them. But they don’t' get a lot of kids who have overcome a lot of adversity. How tough are they?"

We're about to find out. Mack Brown is 13-0 in games immediately following Oklahoma.

 

 

Did the state of Florida just detach from the United States?

Seems that way. It's clear that something is wrong in the Sunshine State. There was no team from the state in the top 25 for the first time since 1982. But there are rational reasons. Miami and Florida have new coaches. Florida State has been on a downturn for a decade.

What's new? Nothing much in the SEC. LSU and Alabama continue to be two of the most dominant teams in the country. Florida just got done playing them back-to-back.

"You can't get any tougher than LSU and Alabama," former Auburn coach Pat Dye said.

Miami was hurt by suspensions. It will be hurt by coming NCAA penalties in the Nevin Shapiro case. Florida State is the biggest surprise, rather disappointment. After the hype leading up to the Oklahoma game, the Seminoles have been one of the biggest underachievers of the season.

It will get fixed. All three schools won't be down for long. Florida has tremendous injury problems at quarterback. Miami has lost to Maryland, Kansas State and Virginia Tech by a combined 15 points.

 


Mike Stoops can now be himself. Expect Arizona's just-fired coach to surface quickly as an assistant somewhere. His name has already been attached to Kansas which is dead last in total defense.

KU would owe sitting coach Turner Gill the $6 million left on his contract if it fired him after this season. In one of the biggest potential boat races of the season, Kansas hosts No. 3 Oklahoma Saturday night.

Bob Stoops said he would be willing to hire his younger brother: "Sure, if I got enough money to. He's going to have a lot of opportunities. I know that."

 

One more on Arizona: AD Greg Byrne got out ahead of the competition by making the move on Mike Stoops in midseason. If nothing else, he can pursue a successor with a clear conscience without sneaking around behind his coach's back.

That puts Arizona ahead of UCLA, among others, which has a decision to make on Rick Neuheisel.  

 


TCU AD Chris Del Conte admits that his program's inclusion into the Big 12 gives it a boost in recruiting against in-state big brother Texas. But as Patterson pointed out, the coach was already recruiting against Texas in some instances.

Del Conte, in a strange way, reiterated Patterson's ability to develop players.

"We overanalyze five-star recruits. The greatest player when I was growing up in Taos, N.M. was a giant," Del Conte said. "but he was 5-7 in eighth grade. I was the only guy [back then] who took my shower with my underwear on. It was like, 'Whoa guys, I'm not ready for that.' "

 

 

My Heisman top five this week:

1, Tyrann Mathieu, LSU -- Best in this category since Charles Woodson?

2, Andrew Luck, Stanford -- Plays like Peyton Manning. Now, in the NFL.

3, Trent Richardson, Alabama -- Never thought he'd be a workhorse like this.

4, Russell Wilson, Wisconsin -- Look for Russellmania to explode this week against Indiana. 

5, Robert Griffin, Baylor -- Legitimacy of candidacy should be decided this week against Texas A&M. 

Posted on: October 10, 2011 10:02 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2011 10:22 pm
 

Mike Stoops' temper was bad, losing was worse

It's a bit easier to be screaming, raving sideline madman when you win.

That was the lesson we learned from midseason casualty No. 2 on Monday night. Arizona's Mike Stoops was fired abruptly after 7 1/2 seasons. Ask Woody Hayes or Bob Knight about sideline demeanor. Sure, their personality flaws eventually led to each coach's downfall, but winning allowed them to be enabled for a long time.

Not so much with Mike Stoops. After starting 7-1 last season, he lost his next 10 games against FBS schools, twice to Oklahoma State. The capper came Saturday, losing to previously winless Oregon State.

Stoops maybe could have kept his job a little longer if he cleaned up his sideline act. There were those in the Arizona administration who were definitely upset about it. But the losing was primarily the thing.  Spectacular losing after Arizona went 1-10 since that 7-1 start.  A losing streak so long against FBS competition that the Pac-12 was still the Pac-10 when it started.

Nebraska's Bo Pelini learned. Even Stoops' more accomplished brother Bob learned a long time ago he had to be more corporate on the sidelines. But they won, and continue to win. Like Pelini and his brother, Stoops is a defensive coach at heart. But only five teams are worse defensively this season than this Arizona squad.

When he was hired, Mike looked like the new generation of Stoops brother. He had coached with Bob at Kansas State and Oklahoma. Mike was one of the up and comers when his screaming from the coaches' booth could be heard in the press box during his days at K-State.

Mike got his chance at age 41 in 2003.  Not many coaches get fired after leading their team to three consecutive bowls but it's obvious AD Greg Byrne, who wanted to his stamp on the program.  

Not telling Byrne what to do but he'll probably be looking for a defensive-minded head coach who would bring in a big-name offensive coordinator. Arizona's heritage is defense going back to the days of the Desert Swarm D.

Stoops is still a valuable commodity. In fact, his sideline antics would be more acceptable as an assistant (see Will Muschamp). No sooner had his situation become official Monday when Twitter blew up with Oklahoma fans wanting him back. For the record, there's no opening there. Brent Venables and his defensive staff are doing a fairly good job.

This is an early career-defining hire for Byrne, only 39. He's on a roll having talked hoops coach Sean Miller in off the ledge after Miller's flirtation with Maryland.

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: June 13, 2011 6:32 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 6:39 pm
 

Fiesta Bowl close to having executive director

University of Arizona Robert Shelton is expected to be named the new executive director of the Fiesta Bowl, bowl sources told CBSSports.com Monday evening.

Pending the signing of documents to finalize the agreement, Shelton would replace John Junker who was fired amid scandal in March. Shelton is a native of Phoenix and a member of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee. Shelton has been Arizona's president since July 1, 2006.

Earlier, the Fiesta approached Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg, thought to be the frontrunner for the job. Weiberg told CBSSports.com last month that he was not interested in the position.

Category: NCAAF
 
 
 
 
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