Big East Fully Embraces Importance of TV In Hiring Mike Aresco as Its New Commissioner

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 15th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC  columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

For years the Big East has sat back and watched as conference realignment marginalized its position in the modern college athletics landscape. This realignment – driven almost entirely by football-oriented television rights contracts – prompted Syracuse and Pittsburgh, two league forerunners with longstanding rivalries and successful track records, to bolt for the ACC, a league that in May announced a restructured broadcasting rights deal with ESPN worth $3.6 billion over 15 years. Longtime affiliate West Virginia and near-member TCU also deserted the struggling league in favor of the Big 12 – another league cashing in on the recent power conference TV contract frenzy by agreeing to a $1.2 billion deal with Fox. The Big East in response embarked on a nationwide courtship to increase its membership before entering a crucial 60-day negotiating window with ESPN this September to secure a lucrative TV rights deal of its own. It has since added Houston, SMU, Memphis and Central Florida, with Navy, Boise State and San Diego State also joining as football-only members. Once a bastion of exemplary conference leadership and stability, the Big East has morphed itself into an amalgam of disparate parts with no geographical unity or identity. More importantly, its bargaining hand heading into the crucial negotiating period to determine its future status in the major conference pecking order lacks substance. And so the expectation was that the Big East, now a shell of it former self and withering at the expense of TV rights-motivated inter-league poaching, would muddle its discussions with ESPN and further diminish its standing within the power conference structure.

As the Big East prepares for its crucial TV rights negotiating period with ESPN, Aresco is the perfect leader. It remains to be seen how he will fare in his new position beyond this fall.

The floundering league took major strides Tuesday toward securing a far sweeter deal than it otherwise may have anticipated when it announced the hiring of Mike Aresco as its new conference commissioner. Aresco’s latest position comes on the heels of his stint as vice president of programming at CBS Sports, before which he worked in the programming department at ESPN. The Big East scrambled to fill the vacant position after former commissioner John Marinatto resigned in May amid concerns that he was ill-prepared to lead the league into its critical television negotiations period. The clear hope is that Aresco will work in conjunction with Evolution Media Capital (EMC) and Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures (a group that recently negotiated the Pac-12’s groundbreaking $3 billion TV rights deal) in striking a similarly advantageous package. If the Big East and ESPN cannot reach a deal within the exclusive 60-day negotiating window, then the league’s TV rights will be open to the highest bidder.

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Ranking the 2012 ESPN “College Gameday” Match-ups

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 9th, 2012

Christopher Johnson is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.

For college hoops fans, winter Saturdays are an overwhelming blur. With so many games spaced out throughout various networks, sitting down and selecting an optimal day-long viewing experience can be somewhat bewildering. When in doubt, the consensus gravitates towards ESPN, where the “College Gameday” crew doles out a constant flow of college hoops action, providing insightful commentary along the way. Starting at 10 AM ET with a studio show staged at that week’s featured game site, a raucous crowd howling in the backdrop, the panel lays out the day’s action, capped with a late-show pick ‘em segment which invariably has the effect of inciting the avid supporters on hand. Then it’s a day’s long succession of enticing fixtures, spanning different leagues, time zones and intrigue levels. The crew — Rece Davis, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and for the first time this year Jalen Rose, plus whoever else graces the courtside stage in any given week —  puts a bow on the day’s action with an hour-long recap show, which leads into that week’s marquee matchup. There are few things better than a “Gameday” Saturday: a highly entertaining and energetic crew of college hoops enthusiasts sandwiching a whirlwind of hoop with enlightening breakdowns and analysis about the day’s happenings.

Loved or Hated, Everyone Watches Gameday

In this early-August college hoops lull where the happenings on the gridiron seem to take precedent at most every power conference university, we long dearly for those delightful, couch-side Saturdays. Fortunately, ESPN provided a sneak peak of just how magnificent those Saturdays might be. The network released its “Gameday” schedule Wednesday, and the lineup – at least as far as I can tell from a rather distant August viewpoint – is the best I’ve seen in quite a long time. Maybe ever. The bad news is that January 19, the first Saturday of viewing, seems a pretty long ways away. Not to worry. Before you know it, Midnight Madness will arrive, November and December will slide by and the eight-week selection of action-packed Saturdays will commence. To pique your interest, I’ve put together a ranked list of the eight featured games. There’s no hard and fast criteria here; take this as a simple preferential ordering of which match-ups I feel carry the most appeal. Longstanding rivalries, interesting venues and conference/national title implications will all factor into this 100%-for-fun exercise. On paper, it’s hard to find fault with the selected games. But between now and January, a bad start or two could dampen the hype factor around some of these games. All we can hope is that the scheduled contests maintain their outwardly riveting stature throughout the winter months.

Note: All game times ET.

1. March 9: Syracuse at Georgetown (12 PM), Duke at North Carolina (9 PM)

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Coach K Discusses Penn State’s Mishandling of Joe Paterno on ‘Piers Morgan Tonight’

Posted by EJacoby on June 18th, 2012

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is unquestionably one of the great leaders in sports history, perhaps only matched in modern college sports by former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. ‘Coach K’ and ‘Joe Pa’ taped an ESPN special together last June about ethics and integrity, entitled “Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski,” ironically just a few months before the Penn State child molestation scandal broke and resulted in the football coach’s abrupt firing. Paterno then passed away from cancer in January, a mere two months after his dismissal. Krzyzewski appeared Friday night on Piers Morgan’s CNN talk show and discussed in one segment how he felt about the handling of Paterno by his employer. The Duke coach recognized that it was a difficult situation all around, but also said that he was very displeased with how Penn State responded. He thinks that the university should have shown more respect to its head coach of 45 years by discussing a mutual solution rather than throwing him out as the scapegoat. “I thought it was a real mistake by Penn State’s leadership,” he said, intimating that he wished Paterno had gone out on different terms, perhaps stepping down himself. Unlike everyone else in the media who gave an opinion on this issue, Coach K is acutely qualified as one of Paterno’s coaching contemporaries and as someone with just as much power at his university, so his comments speak loudly about how the Penn State crisis was handled.

Coach K (right) wishes that Joe Paterno (left) could have gone out on better terms (AP Photo)

Krzyzewski and Paterno only became close during the last year of Paterno’s life, so his defense of the former Penn State coach isn’t necessarily as simple as one man sticking up for a friend. Coach K has clearly thought long and hard about how he would have handled the situation had an (alleged) criminal emerged on his staff. He discussed the proper solution should something like this have occurred at Duke:

“You should deal with it like any team should deal with it. In other words, I’m on the Duke team. If that happened in my area, then I would look to work with my athletic director and my president to have a solution. And if that solution meant that I would step down, I would do it in a way that would be part of the solution, not like you’re just thrown out.”

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Kentucky State Senator Wants UPS To Pull Its Christian Laettner Ad

Posted by nvr1983 on March 15th, 2012

By now, you have probably already seen the UPS ad featuring Christian Laettner‘s iconic shot in the 1992 Elite Eight to propel Duke to the Final Four (and eventually a repeat championship) over Kentucky. If you have not, you soon will, but the ad throws up a bunch of physics formulas and shows the play from beginning (the Grant Hill pass) to end (Laettner running around like a madman) in slow-motion and excruciating detail as part of their ongoing and irritating “Logistics” campaign. When we first saw it, we figured that Kentucky fans would not be pleased, but that they would get over it.

Don't Base Your Ad Campaign Around Laettner In Kentucky

It turns out we were wrong. At least one Kentucky fan was very unhappy with it. Now, all fan bases have their fans that get a little too emotional about things, but usually those fans do not have a platform to air their grievances. Enter Ernie Harris, a state Senator from Kentucky, a UPS pilot, a Kentucky graduate, and chairman of Kentucky’s Senate Transportation Committee. Harris has already voiced his displeasure to a UPS lobbyist in the state and while he stopped short of saying he would take any action against the company, which is trying to pass two bills in Kentucky, others do not appear to be quite as forgiving.

Gene McLean, a lobbyist, Kentucky fan, and former writer for The Lexington Herald, has already sent out e-mails to many of his friends and others in the legislature urging a boycott of UPS. For their part, UPS is defending the ad in their blog. We imagine in the long run this “controversy” will not have any effect on UPS in the state of Kentucky, but if you read some of the comments and how some readers do not understand that UPS is an international company and not just one that does business in Lexington you might change your mind.

H/T to Dennis Yedwab for pointing this out to us on Twitter.

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An ESPN Host Just Tried To Recruit Nerlens Noel To His Alma Mater

Posted by nvr1983 on March 13th, 2012

ESPN and other media outlets love to report on inappropriate behavior when schools get busted by the NCAA or more commonly by a select group of journalists. How about when one of their own violates ethical standards (and possibly NCAA regulations) by trying to recruit a player, perhaps the top recruit in the country, to come to his alma mater?

Assuming that he cannot claim ignorance with his typo, it is pretty clear that Burr, a 1994 graduate of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse, was trying to recruit Nerlens Noel to play at Syracuse. While it was probably a joke in light of his favorite team having their dreams of a NCAA title likely dashed by Fab Melo being declared ineligible, at the very least it could be interpreted as unethical leading many to call for ESPN to punish, or at least reprimand, Burr for his tweet. The question of how the NCAA will respond to this is a little less clear as it depends on Burr’s affiliation with the school. If the NCAA chooses to come down hard, it could punish the school for Burr’s action particularly if he is a booster or maintains any active affiliation with the school. As for ESPN, which already deals with plenty of criticism regarding its objectivity, this latest incident certainly will not help.

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Calipari Takes Aim At The NCAA

Posted by nvr1983 on March 12th, 2012

For over a decade John Calipari has taken shots from critics who have questioned his recruiting methods and his ethics. They point to the two Final Four appearances — 1996 at Massachusetts and 2008 at Memphis — that were later vacated by the NCAA, and rejoice when his freshmen-laden teams lose in the NCAA Tournament. Most of the time Calipari has politely smiled and brushed aside the questions pointing to the career success of his players, but sometimes he takes veiled shots and sometimes he is more up front with his irritation. His interview with The Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy, released Monday, was the latter. Buried within an excellent discussion about how he runs his program and how he measures success, Calipari offers this quote:

They’re not going to be around long. The NCAA will not. Before I retire from coaching, they will no longer oversee college athletics. They will, but it won’t be the four power conferences—they’ll be on their own. And the main thing is, do you really care about these kids? They’ll get mad that I say it. The NCAA Tournament, for example. It’s more about the selection committee getting on TV, everybody getting their tickets on the aisle, down low, all the parties they go to, the traveling. But we don’t take the parents of the participants. But they take their kids and their families.

The officials will get better hotels than some of their teams. And I know it for a fact. The decisions they make on the $2,000 (expense allowance for student-athletes)—it should have been $4,000. It’s a stipend. It’s not salary. It’s not “pay-for-play.” It’s a stipend. It’s expenses. And then schools vote against it. All this stuff piles up to where people are going to say, “Enough’s enough.”

John Calipari Is Not A Fan Of The NCAA

It is an interesting perspective and most certainly an interesting time to take it. The NCAA has long been criticized by media members, who earn their paychecks covering the sport but are afforded protection by their parent companies. However, very few coaches — particularly active ones — have spoken out against the NCAA. The NCAA cannot come out openly against Calipari here and at most they could hit him with a harsher penalty if either he or the Kentucky program are caught doing something against NCAA regulations, but we imagine they are less than thrilled about Calipari’s comments.

As for the rest of the article, Calipari also discusses other changes he would make to benefit the athletes. In a sense it is somewhat refreshing to see a coach, particularly one as recognizable and controversial as Calipari, come out against what he sees as injustices against athletes. As entertaining as the interview was, we imagine that the school’s administrators and compliance department will also casually mention to him to keep it down a bit, although we cannot imagine Kentucky attracting much more national attention than it is already getting.

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ESPNHS Searches For New Low, Finds It…

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2012

When it comes to the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (key word: Entertainment) and its various offshoots, very little surprises us anymore. The network’s original programming jumped the Fonzie many moons ago, and the self-promotional brand of reporting that it favors does little to hide its mouse-eared shamelessness. Still, a recent article published on ESPNHS, the online arm’s boy’s high school basketball blog, shows that the company will not stop until it reaches the salacious bottom of the content barrel, no doubt populated with the remains of Nancy Grace’s bob haircut and Geraldo Rivera’s bathtub gin. In a piece written by someone they call “Recruit X,” ostensibly an elite recruit coveted by numerous top programs around the country, the player seeks “to keep it 100 percent real” in sharing with us the “truth about what goes on in the life of a heavily-recruited high school basketball player.” If you ever imagined that on-campus visits were like what Jesus Shuttlesworth (played by Ray Allen) experienced in a notorious scene of Spike Lee’s film, He Got Game, well, you aren’t the only one.

Next week on ESPNHS: Young, misunderstood kid is picked up on the side of the road by blonde southern woman who takes him into her home and develops him into an elite ballplayer in a nefarious scheme to get him to play at Ole Miss

When we got back to the dorms, the players had girls set up for us. If you’ve ever seen the movie “He Got Game” then you’ll understand better, but there were three of us and there were three girls there for us. We’d never met these girls before, but they were there for us. I won’t go into all the details, but let’s just say we had a great time with them and they were saying the whole time that we should come to the school and it could be like this all the time. I was loving it, personally. I’m not gonna front. What guy my age and in my position wouldn’t love that?

Real or fake? Who knows, and who cares? The sole reason for this particular endeavor is to get fans of rival schools in the comments to troll back and forth about which school offered Recruit X his companions, and as a result, drive up page views. As of this writing, Baylor, Kentucky, Ohio State, UCLA… even Duke was mentioned. Not that it matters a whit, because ESPN isn’t going to out the player (assuming he even exists at all), and there’s no actual there there anyway. has arguably more resources available to its writers than any other online entity in sports, and instead of taking the Yahoo! Sports tack of actual investigations into the corruption of high school and collegiate sports at all levels, they’d rather come up with gimmicky tell-all diaries from “recruits” who don’t actually tell us anything substantial at all.

Players are introduced to young women? Taken to clubs? Given a beer or two? WHO KNEW?!?! How about asking Recruit X, since he’s completely anonymous, to drop dime on the school that offered these things to him? How about getting another Recruit X, the football version, to give up the name and details of the coach that offered him a car “as a little joke?” Why does he care — he’s anonymous, AND he says he’s wasn’t going to matriculate there anyway? It’s all such garbage, and ESPNHS should be ashamed of itself for rolling this unintelligent tripe out there. In the media environment we live in, it’s much easier to be a hater than to laud someone for their efforts, but hey WWL, we’re just keeping it real.

(h/t @KansasSports for alerting us to this article)

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Michael Jordan’s Son Jeff Tweets His Support Of Joe Paterno

Posted by nvr1983 on November 10th, 2011

Yesterday night, Ashton Kutcher made news with his tweet questioning the decision by Penn State to fire Joe Paterno. Kutcher quickly back-tracked when he was met with a deluge of criticism and has essentially surrendered his account to his publicists at this time. Since that time, very few other well-known individuals (or really any people outside of some rioting Penn State students) have come to Paterno’s defense.

Enter Jeffrey Jordan, the oldest son of Michael Jordan, who goes by the Twitter handle @heirjordan13. Jeffrey currently plays alongside his brother Marcus at Central Florida although both were among a group of five players suspended by the school while the NCAA looks into their eligibility. Around 2:40 PM he sent out this tweet:

We have already gone down the road of athletes and their freedom of speech/expression, but this is an interesting sentiment for Jordan to have especially since his father was famously quoted as saying, “Republicans buy shoes too,” when asked why he did not publicly support an African-American Democratic candidate Harvey Gantt against Republican Jesse Helms, whom many consider one of the most racist politicians in recent memory. Given that it is a rather interesting political/cultural standing, we find it amusing that the first person to retweet it was former Kansas star Sherron Collins, who would appear to be agreeing with Jeff based on his retweet.

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On Kentucky Basketball, Media Credentials, and the First Amendment

Posted by nvr1983 on August 30th, 2011

Late last night an article from The Kentucky Kernel and a series of tweets ignited a media firestorm about how media credentials are handled. The article, which was written by the UK student newspaper’s managing editor Becca Clemons, told the story of how the daily newspaper had its credentials revoked for today’s special media session where each journalist was allowed to speak with every player on the team as part of a series of one-on-one interviews. According to Clemons, the story began when Kentucky‘s star freshman Anthony Davis sent out a pair of tweets welcoming Sam Malone and Brian Long as new members of this year’s basketball team. Prior to these two tweets there was no public knowledge that the two had been invited to be walk-on members of the team.

Kentucky Has Found Itself In Another Controversy

Soon after this, Kernel reporter Aaron Smith contacted Malone and Long by cell phone after obtaining their numbers through Kentucky’s public student directory. When asked whether or not they were on the team, both players acknowledged that they were even though it had not been formally announced by the athletic department, but declined interview requests from Smith. Upon hearing of Smith’s contact with the two players, DeWayne Peevy, Kentucky’s associate athletic director of media relations, revoked the credentials he had granted Smith and the newspaper to the event, which was to be attended by only 14 media outlets including a marketing firm. In her editorial, Clemons asserted that this decision violated Smith’s First Amendment rights and cited a Louisville lawyer who represents the Kentucky Press Association who stated, “the very fact that they don’t like the way you’re exercising your First Amendment rights does not give them the right to deprive you of an opportunity you would otherwise have” and that the decision was “clearly a violation of First Amendment rights.” What followed was a late-night Twitter debate by many prominent college basketball journalists which was joined this morning by a variety of sites with a vast majority of the non-Kentucky sites supporting the newspaper.

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D.J. Gardner Learns the Reality of the Social Media Era the Hard Way

Posted by nvr1983 on August 27th, 2011

Over the past two years few programs have had to deal with as many major issues related to eligibility and suspensions as Mississippi State has had to. From the initial investigation and year-long suspension of Renardo Sidney to the nine-game suspension that Dee Bost had to serve last year and finally the ugly fight between Sidney and teammate Elgin Bailey in the stands at the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii last December the program has had a difficult time getting out of its own way and putting its best possible team on the court. This time it involves a player, D.J. Gardner, who was not even going to be on the team this year.

Stansbury appears to be running a three-ring circus in Starkville

On Thursday, Rick Stansbury, announced that Gardner, a highly touted recruit who was considered a top 20 shooting guard in the class of 2011, would be redshirting. According to Gardner’s mother, her son approached the staff about redshirting after finding out that he would be part of a three-man shooting guard rotation rather than receiving the majority of the playing time that he had reportedly been promised during his recruitment to Starkville. In addition, she reports that the decision as to whether or not her son would be redshirting was not supposed to be decided on until November. However, when Stansbury announced that Gardner would be redshirting, D.J. fired off the following tweet (edited for our family audience):

These b***es tried to f**k me over.. That’s y I red shirted .. But I wish my homies a great as* season.. I don’t even know y I’m still here

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