The First Domino: Nebraska?

Posted by rtmsf on June 10th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-10 and Mountain West conferences and an occasional contributor.

On a busy day in the sports world (Steven Strasburg, NBA Finals, USC sanctions, World Cup, Izzo to Cleveland, etc.), the most chatter throughout the land was about Nebraska either with one foot already in the Big Ten – or not, depending on who you ask.

Nebraska the First Domino to Fall?

Once again, Orangebloods.com and their columnist Chip Brown are leading the way on this, and he is reporting that this is close to a done deal. A quick run-down of his reporting:

  1. Nebraska’s Board of Regents has informally agreed to join the Big Ten and that would become official with an announcement on Friday.
  2. There is, in fact, an invitation from the Big Ten for Nebraska.
  3. Sources from Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech have intimated that if Nebraska leaves the Big 12, the conference would be beyond help.
  4. Texas president William Powers and athletic director DeLoss Dodds informed Texas coaches today that their attempts to save the Big 12 were unsuccessful.
  5. The Pac-10 will invite the six teams reported first last week — Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech — and those invitations will likely be accepted, with the new conference alignment going into effect in 2012-13.
  6. Officials from Texas and Texas A&M will meet on Thursday to confirm their plans in the event of the dissolution of the Big 12.
  7. Missouri, which has burned bridges with the rest of the current Big 12 members while attempting to garner an invitation to the Big Ten has been “getting the cold shoulder from the Big Ten” according to a Big Ten athletic director and could be on the outside looking in.
  8. Joe Schad of ESPN reports that the Big Ten remains interested in Notre Dame, and with Nebraska added, its fourteenth member is likely to be either Maryland or Rutgers.
  9. There is in fact a deadline of June 14 for Colorado, Missouri and Nebraska to commit to the Big 12.
  10. Baylor, which had been rumored as a possible Pac-10 invitee in lieu of Colorado, is off the table due to the objections of some Pac-10 administrators towards adding a religious institution.

Elsewhere, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne has informed staff members that a move to the Big Ten is imminent. And Nebraska’s move has been reported as finalized by Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. Greenstein also quotes Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany as saying that the Big Ten could “act and act again,” read as that while the Nebraska invite appears to be the only imminent move, there could be additional moves by the Big Ten down the line. And Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Pac-10 invitations to the six current Big 12 schools are “locked and loaded.”

Osborne has since denied that there is any final decision made, has denied that he told his staff that the move was coming, no member of the Nebraska Board of Regents has gone on record confirming any of this, officials from both Texas and Nebraska have denied these reports and there has been no word from the Big Ten that an invitation has been extended to Nebraska. But, while there is no official, on-record confirmation of any of this at this point, there is an awful lot of smoke here for there to be no fire. It looks like the first domino has been pushed over, and the remaining dominoes could fall very quickly from here on out.

Nebraska

Starting with Nebraska, this is a huge move for an athletic department that prides itself on tradition. In making this move, they are cutting themselves off from their entire history. It has been more than 80 years since Nebraska has competed in a conference that did not include Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, and Oklahoma, but if they accept entry into the Big Ten, that link is over. While it still remains possible that Missouri could follow as well, the other four schools are clearly not bound for the Big Ten. From its administrators on down to its die-hard fan base, this move could not have been an easy one to make, certainly one that has been looked at from every angle before a decision was made. But if the decision has been made, Nebraska is just the first big stone in what looks like an avalanche to come.

For the college hoops fan, the Nebraska move is only important in terms of the other moves it triggers. Let’s face it, Nebraska is one of the weaker basketball schools historically of the current BCS conference schools. In their history, they have made the NCAA tournament six times, the last time 12 years ago. They have never won an NCAA Tournament game. Beyond that, they’ve made 16 NIT fields. That’s it, the sum total of Cornhusker success in basketball. But their impact on the way the sport’s landscape will look beginning in 2012 cannot be understated, something the Mayans clearly knew when they made their calendar.

Big Ten

For the Big Ten, this move is likely just the first in a series of moves, and one forced by timing. If the Big 12 had not issued their ultimatum, things could have played out a lot slower and the Big Ten may have been able to announce all their moves at once. But if serious talks were already ongoing between the Big Ten and Nebraska (and there is no reason to believe they weren’t), the ultimatum made Nebraska get assurances from the Big Ten that if they were to leave the rest of the Big 12 hanging, they would indeed get an invite.

The news about Missouri being ignored by the Big Ten is nearly as interesting as the news that Nebraska is going. Just a week ago it was assumed, by me at least, that Missouri and the Big Ten were a foregone conclusion and that Nebraska might be left out in the cold. Now there are reports that the only way Mizzou gets an invite to the Big Ten is if they decide to go all the way to 16, and even then, Missouri may have to fight off teams like Connecticut, Pitt and Syracuse to get the invitation.

Notre Dame still remains the Big Ten’s priority, even more so than Nebraska. However, the Big Ten is reported to have given Notre Dame a deadline to make its decision. Giving Notre Dame a deadline could spook the Irish if they feel like the Big Ten would raid the Big East for teams like Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and/or Connecticut, effectively gutting the Big East and killing off the football side of the equation there. It may be up to ND to call the Big Ten’s bluff if they figure (probably rightly) that the Big East basketball-only schools will remain together even if the football league dissolves.

And then there’s Pitt, rumored all along to at least be in the running for a Big Ten invitation. However, Jim Delany commented on Sunday that expanding the Big Ten’s presence in Pennsylvania is not a priority for the conference in expansion, despite the fact that 17 percent of the state does not have access to the Big Ten Network, the largest percentage of any state in the conference’s footprint. While that isn’t the last word on the subject, it looks like Pitt is running behind.

Pac-10 or Pac-16

For the Pac-10, the Nebraska move goes a long way toward turning it into the Pac-16. With Nebraska gone, Missouri looking for anywhere else to go, and Colorado already California dreaming, if Texas is sufficiently spooked about the long-term prospects of the Big 12, they’ll be headed west with the rest of the Big 12 six. Then, presumably, the Pac-16 creates its new cable network and….. profit! Along the way, the only remaining major conference with a full football round robin AND a full home-and-home basketball round robin expands to 16 and has to come up with some sort of plan to create a reasonable schedule in both sports, not an easy task.

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Big East: We Won’t Sit Idly By and Wait For the Big Ten Pillagers

Posted by rtmsf on May 28th, 2010

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 conferences and an occasional contributor.

There was plenty of news that came out of this week’s Big East spring meetings: elimination of the double-bye in the Big East basketball tournament and the approved use of high-definition monitors for football replays (consider me amazed that this wasn’t the norm already), but there was also the underlying issue of the looming Big Ten expansion and how that will affect the Big East.

The most interesting line of the week came from rookie Big East commissioner John Marinatto, who said he is playing the Bud Fox to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s Gordon Gekko (two characters from the 1987 movie Wall Street). “I feel like I’m Bud Fox and he’s Gordon Gekko,” Marinatto said. “He’s always honest and helpful with me. He’s brilliant and creative — just like Gordon Gekko — he knew all the corners to cut. He understands the landscape.” While the quote comes across as mostly complimentary towards Delany, it also underlines the fact that this is a high-stakes business situation, and begs the question as to whether greed is indeed good for the NCAA and its conferences.

Greed is Good?

But, despite Marinatto’s respect for his sparring partner here, he also made it clear that with all that is at stake for the Big East, they are not just sitting idly by and waiting to see what the Big Ten is going to do.  When the Big East lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC in 2004 and 2005, the Big East was able to respond by adding all-sport schools Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida and basketball-only schools DePaul and Marquette to create a new and improved version of the conference, one that morphed into arguably the best basketball conference in the country. But with the Big Ten rumored to be interested in current Big East schools like Connecticut, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse (amongst others), once again they are on the defensive. “I look at this situation as another threat certainly,” Marinatto said. “It would be irresponsible not to be concerned about it. We’re trying to position ourselves as best we can. In my mind, you always play out what it is you might do, but we certainly can’t do that in a public forum.”

Fortunately, we, and others, can do that in a public forum. The New York Post has reported that representatives from the Big East have already had discussions with Atlantic 10 schools like Dayton, Duquesne, St. Joseph’s and Xavier about possibly joining up in the event of the Big East losing teams to the Big Ten. There has been speculation elsewhere about schools like Buffalo, Central Florida and East Carolina as all-sport replacements in case of the potential loss of, for instance, Pitt and Syracuse. And there is even continued talk about the Big East laying down an ultimatum to Notre Dame: join us in football or leave us in the rest of your sports. The thinking here is that even if Notre Dame decides to leave and is left without a home for its non-football sports, it would be more apt to join up with the Big Ten, perhaps saving schools like Syracuse and Pitt from its elongated reach.

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Morning Five: 05.19.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 19th, 2010

  1. Providence has booted its star forward, Jamine “Greedy” Peterson, off the team for undisclosed violations of team rules that involved underage AAU players visiting the campus in April.  Whatever he did, PC officials mince no words in stating that kicking him out was the only option (“it wasn’t working here” and “no” was  the answer as to whether the decision was a tough call).  Peterson blew up last season, going from averages of 5/3 in ten minutes per game his freshman season to 20/10 in thirty minutes per game last year.  The all-Big East honorable mention forward was poised to become one of the top players in the conference next year, but will likely look into foreign opportunities rather than sitting out as a transfer in 2010-11.
  2. From the looks of these photos, the UNC freshman class of 2009-10 seemed to generally be ok with their NIT season.  Maybe all the sun and fun inspired the Wear twins to move back to the west coast (h/t Deadspin)?
  3. Your Big Ten expansion news of the day shows that Commisioner Jim Delany hasn’t changed his timeline for a decision no matter how much we pundits would like for him to do so, and appears to be carefully choosing his words when discussing options.  The only real criteria he regularly refers to is membership in the AAU, which is not the same organization that is currently destroying amateur basketball in the US.  Rather, the AAU Delany refers to stands for Association of American Universities, and there are 63 leading research universities in both the US and Canada as members.  While we don’t think Brandeis and Cal Tech are on the short list despite being AAU member institutions, several of the names we’ve heard bandied about are — Missouri, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Nebraska and Syracuse.
  4. Will the Terrence Jones saga finally end today?  Washington or Kentucky — Kentucky or Washington?  His high school coach believes that Jones will follow through on his verbal commitment from three weeks ago by signing with the Huskies today.
  5. Despite merely a 10% chance at winning the top pick in last night’s NBA Draft lottery, the Washington Wizards won the (presumably) John Wall sweepstakes.  With Agent Zero set to return from suspension next season, GM Ernie Grunfeld would not commit to the choice yet, but regardless of the decision, DC-area fans have to be feeling very good this morning, especially since there’s no Kwame Brown available.  Wall, to his credit, seemed very excited at the prospect of moving to the District next year.
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Morning Five: 05.18.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 17th, 2010

  1. From the this-cannot-possibly-be-a-good-idea department, Tennessee forward Emmanuel Negedu — you remember, the Vol who had a freakin’ heart attack last fall during a workout — is transferring to New Mexico because the school will let him play basketball again.  That option had been closed off to him by UT, so he was looking for another school willing to give him a chance.  We certainly understand when Negedu says that not playing basketball made him feel “like he was dead,” but he actually was dead for a little while last fall and we certainly hope that the New Mexico doctors who have cleared him earned their medical degrees away from the Caribbean islands.  Sheesh.  If the NCAA approves his medical waiver, he could play as soon as the 2010-11 season.
  2. This is going to be an ongoing theme all summer long, but the Big Ten is holding its annual meeting for coaches and administrators this week in Chicago and expansion is on everyone’s mind even though it’s not officially on the agenda.
  3. There are reports that everyone’s favorite networker, World Wide Wes, has been quietly contacting NBA teams with coaching and salary cap space about the possibility of bringing John Calipari and LeBron James as a package deal next season.  Our take on this is simple: if Calipari gets a realistic opportunity to coach the best player in the world during his prime the next five seasons, he’s going to take it.  The good news for UK fans is that there are many peripheral issues at play here, and the likelihood of such a package deal actually occurring is not all that high.  Gregg Doyel, for what it’s worth, doesn’t believe the hype.
  4. In a lawsuit pitting former Oklahoma State assistant coach Jimmy Williams against current Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith over a hiring dispute, former OSU head man Eddie Sutton was called as a witness yesterday.  Evidently the folksy coach got very angry under cross-examination when questioned about his time at Kentucky in the 1980s, going so far as to ask the judge whether he could ask the lawyer a question, and ultimately apologizing to the court for his behavior.
  5. Former president Bill Clinton gave the commencement address at WVU Sunday, and Da’Sean Butler was one graduate that impressed the former commander-in-chief, stating that he rooted for the Mountaineers in the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament after Georgetown (his alma mater) was out.  Butler tweeted out afterward:  Met with the Real Pimp C today—-Bill Clinton. Cool dude n knows his basketball. It kinda surprised me. Oh yea I 4got I’m graduating!!!!!!
  6. A bonus this morning: the NBA Pre-Draft Camp list of invitees is out for this season, and 53 players will get a chance to improve their stock later this month in Chicago.  Here’s the complete list:

Solomon Alabi, Florida State
Cole Aldrich, Kansas
Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest
James Anderson, Oklahoma State
Luke Babbitt, Nevada
Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky
Trevor Booker, Clemson
Craig Brackins, Iowa State
Avery Bradley, Texas
Derrick Caracter, Texas El Paso
Sherron Collins, Kansas
DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky
Jordan Crawford, Xavier
Ed Davis, North Carolina
Devin Ebanks, West Virginia
Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech
Tiny Gallon, Oklahoma
Charles Garcia, Seattle
Paul George, Fresno State
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Manny Harris, Michigan
Gordon Hayward, Butler
Lazard Hayward, Marquette
Xavier Henry, Kansas
Darington Hobson, New Mexico
Damion James, Texas
Armon Johnson, Nevada
Wesley Johnson, Syracuse
Dominique Jones, South Florida
Jerome Jordan, Tulsa
Sylven Landesberg, Virginia
Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech
Greg Monroe, Georgetown
Daniel Orton, Kentucky
Artsiom Parakhouski, Radford
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky
Dexter Pittman, Texas
Quincy Pondexter, Washington
Andy Rautins, Syracuse
Stanley Robinson, Connecticut
Larry Sanders, Virginia Commonwealth
Jon Scheyer, Duke
Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati
Mikhail Torrance, Alabama
Evan Turner, Ohio State
Ekpe Udoh, Baylor
Jarvis Varnado, Mississippi State
Greivis Vasquez, Maryland
John Wall, Kentucky
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Terrico White, Mississippi
Hassan Whiteside, Marshall
Elliot Williams, Memphis

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Morning Five: 05.17.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 16th, 2010

  1. Horrid news from Texas, as Texas A&M recruit and current prep senior Tobi Oyedeji died from injuries sufffered when the Toyota Avalon he was driving veered out of his lane and hit another car head-on at 6:15 am yesterday morning, killing the other driver as well as himself.  He was heading home after his senior prom and an after-party at a local Dave & Buster’s.  We hate to wildly speculate about this without knowing the facts, but we are very hopeful that his toxicity screening comes back negative.  A tragedy like this one doesn’t need additional reasons to hate everything about it.  RIP young fella.
  2. This Chicago Tribune article about Big Ten expansion hones in on just how impressively the Big Ten Network has grown in its three-year existence.  The mere fact that we’re discussing expansion as a proximate cause of the success of the channel in such a short period of time shows the phenomenal foresight that the conference had to take the substantial risk and initiate this endeavor.  It’s potentially paying off in droves now.
  3. While we’re on the topic of expansion, this is an interesting article we stumbled across that considers the endgame if the major NCAA football schools eventually break away from the rest of the organization.  NCAA Tournament stalwarts like Siena and Butler would no longer be a part of the Madness, a frightening proposition for those of us who think the little guys make up so much of the magic of the Tournament.
  4. Mike DeCourcy points out some of the expected impact transfers we should all keep an eye on in 2010-11.  Speaking of transfers, 6’11 JuCo Eloy Vargas from Miami-Dade CC picked Kentucky as his destination of choice, likely vaulting John Calipari’s recruiting haul to the #1 spot for the second year in a row at the school.  Vargas began his career at rival Florida two years ago, seeing spot time in nine games prior to injuring his ankle and missing the rest of the 2008-09 season.
  5. Last week the Hartford Courant listed some of the game’s top coaching salaries in light of Jim Calhoun’s new $13M, five-year contract.  This list is not exhaustive, as several coaches at private schools such as Coach K at Duke and Jim Boeheim at Syracuse are undoubtedly also in this range, but it is interesting to see nevertheless.

Average yearly salaries for some other men’s basketball coaches
John Calipari, Kentucky – $3.95 million (8 years for $31.65 million in 2009)
Billy Donovan, Florida – $3.3 million (6 years for $21 million in 2007)
Bill Self, Kansas – $3 million (10 years for $30 million)
Tom Izzo, Michigan State – $2.6 million (7-year extension in 2009)
Thad Matta, Ohio State – $2.5 million (10-year extension in 2006)
Tom Crean, Indiana – $2.36 million (10 years for $23.6 million in 2008)
Bruce Pearl, Tennessee – $2.3 million (6-year extension in 2008)
Rick Pitino, Louisville – $2.25 million (6 years for $13.5 million in 2007)
Rick Barnes, Texas – $2.15 million (10-year extension in 2007)
Roy Williams, North Carolina – $2.11 million (10-year extension in 2005)

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Morning Five: 05.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 11th, 2010

  1. The buzz yesterday was in regard to a report from 810 WHB in Kansas City that the Big Ten has made offers to four schools to join its conference, including Big 12 members Missouri and Nebraska as well as independent Notre Dame and the Big East’s Rutgers.  We’ll have more up on this later today, but so far, mum is the word at the four schools with denials from all interested parties.  Which means there’s probably something to this report.  We’ll know when we know.
  2. Four St. Bonaventure players were fined $250 each for their roles in a March on-campus fight that resulted in two men getting stabbed.  They each pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct charges, which are civil violations in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
  3. Creighton guard P’Allen Stinnett, who has not played since January, has been booted from the team by new head coach Greg McDermott.
  4. Reading the tea leaves on Brandon Knight’s ‘commitment’ to Kentucky paints an interesting what-if scenario that has John Calipari leaving UK later this summer to coach Lebron James wherever he ends up.
  5. You saw our revised Top 25 yesterday taking into account the early entries returning to school; here’s Luke Winn’s Power Sixteen.
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Morning Five: 02.01.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2010

  1. See that number two up there?  Yeah, the second month of the year… folks, it’s February.  Although a short month in terms of days, it’s not short on importance.  In fact, it’s without a doubt the most important month of the regular season, as a majority of teams will make or break their case for the Big Dance over the next twenty-eight days (Selection Sunday is seven weeks from yesterday).  Right now there’s a pool of roughly 75 teams in contention for the 34 at-large NCAA berths, and as each week goes by, that number will continue to shrink.  Buckle in and enjoy, because it’s time to separate the pretenders from the contenders.
  2. The New York Times takes a look at the domino effect that would likely occur if or when the Big Ten makes a decision to expand by one or more schools.  The best part of this piece is Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon throwing the Big 12 under the bus by comparing quality of academics at certain [not unnamed] institutions.
  3. John Wall, on his game and coach, John Calipari after beating Vandy on Saturday:  “I didn’t think I played that bad. I don’t know what to expect. [Calipari]’s probably going to say I played bad today too so. I don’t know. I just try not to listen to him and go out and play basketball and try and help my team win.”  Is the presumptive #1 pick in this June’s NBA Draft hitting the proverbial wall?  His five least efficient games of the season came in January (Georgia, Vandy, South Carolina, Louisville, Auburn), and he’s only shooting 39.5% from the field and committing 4.2 turnovers/game in SEC play.  Are teams figuring out how to handle Wall, or is he losing some of his focus?
  4. We’re still trying to track down a photo of this, but the WVU student section came up with a creative response to the AD’s criticism that they were not acting appropriately during last week’s game against Ohio State (a few F-bomb chants were thrown around).  They printed up white t-shirts that looked like tuxedos with the slogan “Keeping it Classy Since 1863″ written across the back.  In the spirit of benevolence, they then proceeded to chant Rick Pitino paramour Karen Sypher’s name throughout the game.
  5. You’ve probably already heard that President Obama was at Saturday’s Duke-Georgetown game in DC.  If you haven’t heard his segment as a commentator with Verne Lundquist and Clark Kellogg, you can check it out below.  But in one of the great all-time examples of why political writers should never write about sports (and vice versa), check out this pool report from the NY Post’s Charles Hurt.  Hurt couldn’t have misunderstood, well, just about everything, any worse than he did in his piece.  Taking shots at liberal elitism?  Talking about the “kick-off” and the “playoffs?”  Completely missing the tongue-in-cheek back-and-forth between Obama and the CBS team about “going left?”  Good grief.  Clearly Hurt has never witnessed a basketball game in his life.

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Tuesday’s Conference Check-Ins…

Posted by rtmsf on December 23rd, 2009

Here are today’s excerpts from the Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC… enjoy!

Big Ten – Jason Prziborowski  (READ MORE)

Northwestern is the best basketball nerd school in the nation. Two great things about last weekend’s Stanford game for the Wildcats. First, they beat probably the only school that can compete with them on the hardwood and in the classroom. The second is that John Shurna is back. He had a 22/8 game against Stanford, so I hope I don’t jinx him. Stanford actually shot better from the field and from 3-pt territory, but the Wildcats dominated from the free throw line. Northwestern is going to have to find a bench though, as five points from the reserves isn’t going to cut it in the Big Ten.  (…)

Big 12 – Patrick Sellars  (READ MORE)

Missouri to the Big Ten? PTI was talking about the potential move last week, and apparently Missouri wants to join the other midwestern BCS conference. The move makes sense geographically, and the Big Ten has been looking for a twelfth member for a few years. The likely scenario is that Missouri would move to the Big Ten,  and then the Big 12 would pick up TCU to compensate. Obviously this is all speculation, but it would be quite interesting if the move went through.  (…)

SEC – Paul Jordan of  Wildcat Blue Blog (READ MORE)

Kentucky set a new standard in college basketball as they became the first program to win 2,000 wins in an 88-44 romp over Drexel.  John Calipari is more than exceeding expectations with a 12-0 record and a #3 ranking in both polls.  UK appears to be gelling right now and are clearly setting the standard in the SEC. Unfortunately, the UK game was about the only highlight in the SEC this week as both Florida and Tennessee suffered head scratching losses.  The two Mississippi schools are starting to rise and play very well and the SEC is turning into a five or six team race.  (…)

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