Making Sense of the Mountain West/WAC Debacle

Posted by rtmsf on August 21st, 2010

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

When last we left the BYU-instigated MWC/WAC soap opera, the Cougars’ plans to escape the MWC in favor of football independence and a WAC home for all other sports had been thwarted by Fresno State and Nevada’s decisions to leave the WAC for the MWC, leaving the six remaining WAC schools twisting in the wind and BYU, although still a desirable quanitity, undecided as to where it would wind up. In the days since, some of the details of the MWC-induced defections have surfaced, some new rumors have arisen and the futures of the WAC and BYU remain undecided. And so, a recap of the events and whispers of the last few days:

Our Money is on Thompson (left) In This One (Idaho Statesman)

  1. Thursday morning, WAC commissioner Karl Benson gave his first public comments on the Fresno State and Nevada decisions to leave the conference, and he promptly blasted them, saying that their decisions were “selfish acts” that left the conference’s future very much in doubt. He also clarified that Nevada president Milt Glick did not, in fact, sign the agreement that would have levied a $5 million penalty on the institution for leaving the conference, but did give a verbal agreement to the proposition, and Benson expects that the verbal agreement will be binding. Fresno State’s president John Welty, along with the presidents of the other six WAC institutions, signed the agreement. According to Benson, the two institutions will have to pay up within 60 days. Furthermore, because both schools missed the July 1 deadline for filing to leave the WAC, they will be expected to play the next two seasons in the conference before heading to the Mountain West.
  2. It also came out on Thursday that Utah State had also been invited to join the MWC, but had turned it down, partially due to the $5 million buyout and in part because they wanted to be in the same conference as BYU. Since then, it has been reported that Utah State is again in negotiations with the MWC about possible membership, and since Nevada and Fresno State have already left the WAC, the $5 million buyout penalty is no longer in effect. If Utah State winds up leaving the WAC, it will likely be the final nail in the coffin, as the WAC needs six members who have been together for five continuous years in order to retain its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If USU leaves, the WAC would be down to five teams, and it would be the next little domino that would push the remaining WAC schools to plan a different future.
  3. While Utah State looks to take care of itself, Hawai’i is contemplating its own future sans the WAC, and that future may include independence, football-wise. Given the difficult travel logistics in scheduling Hawai’i, they may be better off scheduling a combination of road guarantee-games, a handful of home-and-home series and several games at the ends of seasons welcoming BCS squads as sort of a pre-Bowl bowl game. For other sports, including basketball, Hawai’i is considering perhaps joining a conference like the WCC, although the attractiveness of adding such a geographic outlier to any smaller conference is very much in question.
  4. If, by some stroke of luck, the WAC is able to keep all six of its remaining institutions on board (and about the only reasonable selling point they have now is that they could split the $10 million that may be owed by Fresno State and Nevada among the remaining teams), the WAC is still looking at taking a huge step backwards. With very few desirable FBS football schools in the west as potential targets for the conference, among the schools being discussed as possible additions to the conference are names like Cal Poly, UC Davis, Sacramento State, Texas State and Texas-San Antonio, none of whom have been major factors in Division I men’s basketball.
  5. The biggest outstanding question in all of this mess is at BYU: after triggering this landslide, where exactly do they wind up? Commissioner Benson remains hopeful that BYU will still be coming to the WAC, but at this point that is little more than wishful thinking – there is absolutely no reason for BYU to take its non-football sports to that mess anymore. If football independence is still on the table, the only way that will happen is if BYU agrees to join the WCC for its non-football sports, however BYU has very little in common with the schools in that conference. While all of those WCC schools are religious schools, they are all also very small schools, but BYU has an enrollment of more than 30,000 students. In the end, while nothing is set in stone yet, MWC officials have become more and more confident over the past few days that BYU will wind up back in the MWC, at least until it comes up with a better plan a few years down the road.
  6. One interesting rumor that has been bandied about the past couple of days has been a potential MWC/Conference USA agreement to join forces in some as yet undetermined way. Among the possibilities discussed have been a full merger of the two leagues (23 teams), a combination of the most-desirable teams into something like a 20-team league, an alliance between the two leagues resulting in a championship game between the two conferences with the winner of that game earning a BCS bid, or simply a scheduling alliance between the two conferences. At this point, all of this is conjecture, but there was a “strategic” meeting between officials from both conferences on Thursday, although MWC commissioner Craig Thompson claimed that it was a previously planned meeting that had nothing to do with the events of the previous days.  This claim that should be taken with a grain of salt, given that Thompson also suggested this week that the invitations of Fresno State and Nevada to join the MWC had nothing to do with the rumors of BYU’s plans to leave for the WAC.

So, while there is plenty still to be sorted out here, we presently stand with a Mountain West Conference that looks like this (or at least will look like this in 2012): Air Force, Boise State, BYU, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV and Wyoming, with the possibility that the addition of Utah State (bringing the conference to 12 teams) will create a very strong basketball conference of relatively like-minded institutions all reasonably well geographically suited to one another. The fact that the football side of the conference looks solid as well is just an ancillary bonus (at least to this basketball-minded blog). However, even if BYU slinks back to the MWC for a few additional years, they are still very much the squeaky wheel here, unsatisfied with their current crowd. While having their own dedicated cable network, The MTN, is a plus for the conference, there is still the feeling that relying solely on that channel, plus a handful of games on CBS College Sports Network and Versus, the conference is leaving money on the table. However, that television contract is going nowhere soon, as it runs through the 2015-16 season. At some point, BYU is going to find a more suitable partner for its plans, and when that happens, the MWC will be saying goodbye to BYU all over again, this time for good.

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BYU Sets Off New Wave of Realignment Positioning

Posted by rtmsf on August 18th, 2010

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

The Who, What, When, Where and Why

Just when you thought we were done with conference realignment talk, at least for the summer, out of nowhere comes a stunner that rocks the Mountain West Conference and could set in motion a new chain of events that could leave us without what had turned into arguably the best non-BCS conference in the nation.  No official announcement has been made, but as of mid-day on Wednesday, it seemed that BYU would leave the MWC beginning in 2011, play football as an independent and join up with the WAC for all other sports. The Salt Lake Tribune has reported the move as a “done deal,” pending approval by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the owner of the school.  However, the Mountain West, fighting for its life, immediately responded by officially inviting Fresno State and Nevada to join the conference, invitations which, if accepted, would pretty much cripple the WAC before BYU even arrived, and perhaps forcing BYU to reconsider the wisdom of such a move.

Maybe BYU Can After All?

BYU has been displeased with the television revenues associated with the Mountain West Conference and their dedicated cable television network, The Mountain, estimated to be somewhere around $2 million last season for football only. Comparatively, Utah, which just received and accepted in June an invitation to join the Pac-10, is expected to take home somewhere north of $15 million a season in football television revenues when it begins play in that league  in 2011. BYU was apparently shocked that it was passed over when the Pac-10 expanded, and shocked again when the Big 12 passed on inviting the school as well, so it began exploring the possibility of taking the matter into its own hands.

BYU already has its own television network, and athletic director Tom Holmoe notes that it has its own state-of-the-art broadcast facility and equipment, including their own HD production truck.  “There is nothing better than that west of the Mississippi. Nothing. For broadcasting,” said Holmoe at a meeting with reports on the BYU campus on July 16, according to Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune. “And it is first class. The things that we can do with that, the opportunities and possibilities. Nobody in the country has that ability.” Aside from the prospect of broadcasting their own games, BYU is reportedly in negotiations with ESPN for its football rights.

Is the Mountain West Kaput?

The invitations issued by the MWC to Fresno State and Nevada make a lot of sense in not only strengthening the MWC but also perhaps killing the BYU defection before it starts.  The specifics of these invitations still need to be sorted out, as the MWC has a couple of things going against it:  (1) the remaining WAC schools reportedly signed an agreement just last week that imposes a $5 million buyout penalty on any school leaving the conference in the next five years; and, (2) the WAC has a television contract with ESPN that may be more attractive (if presently slightly less financially rewarding) than The Mountain. It is unknown at this time whether the MWC in the interest of self-preservation has attempted to sweeten the pot for Fresno State and Nevada by potentially ponying up some cash to pay their buyout fees or if other machinations are in the works. It had been reported earlier in the day that Fresno State and Nevada had already declined offers to join the MWC.

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Morning Five: 06.18.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on June 18th, 2010

  1. Santa Clara head coach Kerry Keating is requesting that his fellow coaches go “hands-free” this summer (not texting and driving) in light of a recent accident where a young girl was killed on her bicycle by such a driver.  This is something we can get on board with, and we hope that other coaches (and readers) will take it to note.  If you must text, do it while the light is red.
  2. Is the Big 12 sticking at ten for the time being, or will they look at adding someone like, say, Houston?  Texas legislators are pushing for this addition, and with the unbelievable power that the state’s flagship university now holds over the conference, we’d never say never.  But honestly, we’re not really seeing this as a realistic possibility.  UT wants all that Big 12 money for themselves.
  3. As for the Mountain West, they’re sticking at nine for now after adding Boise State but losing Utah in the past two weeks.  Even with the loss of Utah, this league has really started to separate itself as the top mid-major league (if you can even call it that) in both football and basketball.
  4. Bill Russell and KC Jones aren’t walking through that door.  No, this isn’t a reference to the Boston Celtics but rather the San Francisco Dons, who found themselves with a two-year probation that will not include a postseason ban.  The issue was that several athletes spent their scholarship money on non-required textbooks and school supplies.  And… we’re not sure what the problem is.
  5. This article is an interesting look-back at the decision Billy Donovan made three years ago to stay at Florida instead of leaving for the Orlando Magic, but it hasn’t all been peaches and cream in Gainesville, while the Magic have become one of the better teams in the NBA (predictable three years ago given the Dwight Howard factor).  Many folks have Florida with all five starters returning as a top 10-15 squad next season, but this particular college-to-pro situation might have actually worked out.
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Texas Standoff Ends With Survival of the Big 12, er, 10…

Posted by rtmsf on June 14th, 2010

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

The Big 12 went all the way to the brink, peered over the other side into non-existence, and then veered away from the white light at the last minute. The patient is now resting comfortably in Austin, although it has lost a little weight.

After last week’s rumors that the University of Texas was all but signed up to head to the Pac-10, bringing Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and potentially Texas A&M or Kansas along for the ride, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe pulled off perhaps the biggest longshot in the college sports year, reportedly in conjunction with an influential group of concerned citizens both within and outside of the world of college athletics, pulling Texas back from the brink with promises of SEC-type money and an ability for the Longhorns to start their own television network, the revenues of which they’ll be able to keep all for themselves. And, just as a little bonus, the remaining ten Big 12 schools (yes, it appears that for the near future, the Big 12 will have ten schools and the Big Ten twelve) will get to split the nearly $20 million in buyout penalties that Colorado and Nebraska must pay for leaving the conference. Maybe Christian Laettner’s shot and Doug Flutie’s pass were more exciting to watch, but Beebe’s last chance attempt at holding the Big 12 together will have a much larger long-term impact on the college sports landscape.

The Most Powerful Athletic Program in College Sports


The biggest winner here is Texas, on several fronts. According to Beebe’s projections, the Big 12’s next television deal coupled with projected income from a Longhorn television network could provide the university with between $20-$25 million annually, a marked increase from the estimated $10-$11 million they are currently generating.  And, the Longhorns get to remain in a conference with its historic rivals, many of whom were either in the position a few days ago of  doing whatever Texas decided it was going to do, or being left behind if Texas did leave. While the Big 12 was already painted as Texas and the 11 dwarfs before the last week, that image has been cemented in everyone’s minds now. Clearly that will be just another useful recruiting tool for Texas athletics.

Texas A&M

The Aggies come across as the only school in the Big 12 whose leaders were able to think of themselves in a way other than their relationship to Texas. If Texas had made the decision to head west, A&M was already well on its way to paving its own road to the SEC. Whereas before this mess, most would have pointed at Oklahoma or maybe Nebraska as the strong number two program to the Longhorn Ace, Texas A&M went a long way this week toward establishing their own identity. And then, of course, at the last minute the Aggies blinked. Fortunately for them, big daddy Texas still had their backs.

The Little Twelve

So what happens to the conference as a whole? It gets significantly richer, while being in the excellent position of dividing up a bigger pie up into fewer pieces. Beebe’s number should certainly be retired, and any time that he shows up at a Big 12 sporting event for the rest of his lifetime, they should roll out the red carpet for him, sit him down at a nice courtside throne and pay off a few cheerleaders to fan him with feathers and feed him grapes. Iowa State in particular was certainly on the verge of relegation to a mid-major program with Baylor likely not far behind. Missouri’s administrators, who not long ago talked of their involvement in the Big 12 in the past tense, have been saved as well from peddling their wares on the street corner. Kansas and its pre-eminent basketball program has been spared the indignity of either playing out of region in the Big East or asking for shelter from the Mountain West. And all these longtime rivals (or at least most of them) get to continue beating each other up on the playing field. Without a doubt, the 2010-11 season has just taken on some added significance.

Beyond all that, there are the details. First, is this league still the Big 12? We’ve put up with the Big Eleven still calling themselves the Big Ten if only because they were sorta old and quaint, perhaps a little senile, and who could blame them if they couldn’t count anymore. Sure the Atlantic 10 has 14 members, but the Atlantic 14 sounds like a really bad sequel to Ocean’s Eleven. But we really can’t have the Big 12 operating with ten members (assuming they actually stay at ten – more on that in a second), still calling itself the Big 12, can we? The easy solution is to just have the Big Ten and Big 12 swap logos, but something tells me we’re stuck with these names.

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Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride — Just Beginning…

Posted by rtmsf on June 12th, 2010

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

When we first started looking at all the possible ramifications of Big Ten expansion and the ensuing conference realignment, we knew this was going to be crazy. This week, as the first dominoes have officially fallen, we’re getting a better feel for just how crazy it is, as new rumors fly by the hour and every move that gets made signals another set of decisions that need to be discussed and everybody’s got an opinion about what could happen, what should happen, and what will happen.

Today, another couple dominoes fell, as Nebraska officially announced its agreement to join the Big Ten and Boise State officially announced its intention to join the Mountain West. Not only do both announcements end days, weeks, even months of speculation and at the same time trigger a whole new round of speculation, each comes with something of a surprised attached.

First, Nebraska, the biggest domino (at least until Tuesday). While the announcement was expected today after a wild week, there were plenty of surprises tied in with the announcement, the biggest and boldest being that rather than begin play in the Big Ten in 2012, they hope to kickoff the 2011 season playing in the Big Ten, meaning next year may well be the last year of existence of the Big 12, and likely a wild and emotional one at that. Other surprises include the fact that according to what was said today, it was Nebraska that first approached the Big Ten about membership, rather than the other way around, and the comment by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said that they weren’t likely to be interested in any further Big 12 schools. While that last little bit of BCS-conference commissioner gossip may be little more than game-of-telephone talk, it cannot do anything to comfort Missouri, who more and more looks like they will be left out of the Big Ten when the wheeling and dealing is done.

Nebraska’s move will likely trigger the full-fledged collapse of the Big 12, as Texas drags most of the rest of the Big 12 west to the new Pac-16 superconference, something we saw as a possibility six weeks back, but perhaps never really believed. There are still questions as to who else beyond Texas will make it to the Pac-16, as Texas A&M is in serious talks with the SEC regarding a new home for the Aggies there, possibly with Virginia Tech, although other schools ranging from other Big 12 schools to ACC football powers could still be in the mix there. Oklahoma has also been tied to SEC rumors, but their athletic director Joe Castiglione said yesterday that they would be following Texas’ lead and the Oklahoman reported today that OU and OSU are definitely heading west, although they will wait until Texas makes their decision official to follow suit. As of right now, it looks like Texas will announce on Tuesday their intention to join the Pac-10, and sometime after that, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will follow, with the 16th spot going to Texas A&M if they are willing to take the leap. If not, Kansas and Utah seem to be the most likely candidates. Also note that with the Nebraska announcement that they will begin play in the Big Ten in 2011, it is possible that the Pac-16 will also be in effect that same year, one year earlier than expected.

Speaking of Utah, they are, for the time being, conference mates with Boise State in the Mountain West, a move that makes an already strong conference even stronger, at least football-wise. (As an aside, we’ve talked about how this conference realignment action really shows that basketball is the red-headed step-child to football, and just to drive that point home, the first three dominoes in the chain reaction, Colorado, Nebraska and Boise State, are all complete non-factors in college basketball). The Boise State announcement was originally expected on Monday, but after last weekend’s eruption of rumors regarding the Pac-16, et al, both the Mountain West Conference and Boise State found it prudent to take a step back and re-assess their position in the case of the Pac-16 becoming a reality and the Big 12 dissolving. Clearly, they found that as the rumor became reality this week, the dissolution of the Big 12 did not hurt the conference, and in fact, may provide the conference the opportunity to grow. Teams like Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri may be within reach for the Mountain West, with Kansas being the most attractive target, but also perhaps the least likely get. Baylor would be a very good fit for the conference as a regional partner for TCU, but all of the Big 12 leftovers will at least get a look from MWC commissioner Craig Thompson. Thompson confirmed on Friday that he has already been in contact with some Big 12 institutions and sees this as an opportunity for the MWC to get better.

What’s next?

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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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On Conference Realignment and the Consolidation of Power

Posted by rtmsf on April 27th, 2010

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


College sports fans dodged a major bullet last week when the NCAA announced that the men’s basketball tournament would only be expanding to 68 entrants, rather than the 96-team field that had been widely rumored. However, the face of college sports as we know it is still in jeopardy, as the specter of widespread conference realignment still looms, with the much-speculated-upon expansion of the Big Ten as the key domino that could start a wave of changes leaving the college sports landscape drastically altered.

The elephant in the room issue is the consolidation of power away from the existing six BCS conferences and into a smaller number of “superconferences” with the possibility looming that once any realignment sorts itself out and we’ve got four 16-team conferences, those conferences break away from the NCAA and form their own structure. As Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins puts it: “At some time, the major conferences are going to have their own quasi-NCAA. They’re going to do their own thing.” Former Syracuse AD Jake Crouthamel was even more specific, saying that eventually the Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Pac-10 would expand and ultimately leave the NCAA, even to the point of forming their own competing basketball tournament: “If you look at the history of what’s been going on for the last decade, I think it’s leading in that direction.”

We Promise It Won't Get This Complicated

The potential expansion of conferences detailed below is not the first shot fired in the consolidation of power, but the next step in an already-existing series of moves that has widened the financial gap between the biggest athletic departments and the rest of the supporting cast. And, as those at the top get bigger and bigger, the underdogs not only fall behind in terms of funding, but they may ultimately be left completely behind: no more Boise State and Utah to steal BCS bowl spots from big-money institutions during the winter, and no more Butler and George Mason sneaking into the Final Four in the spring. While that type of doomsday scenario is still several decision points down the line, what happens in the Big Ten over the next twelve months or so could be the monumental tipping point to drastically move things in that direction.

At present, the most widely rumored targets for Big Ten expansion are Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse from the Big East and Nebraska and Missouri from the Big 12, although as always occurs when the Big Ten thinks about expansion, Notre Dame is in the mix and likely their number one choice. With the Pac-10 also in the midst of contemplating expansion within the next year, these moves could send a ripple effect throughout all of the Division I conferences causing some conferences to get bigger, others to contract, and even some to disappear.  While the specifics remain conjecture and speculation at this point, there are enough common-sense scenarios out there to fuel theories to create one of the most helter-skelter flowcharts ever seen. We’ll take a look conference-by-conference at what could happen, and what kind of fallout might be created by each move, starting with our eleven midwestern friends.

Big Ten

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany confirmed last Wednesday that his conference is considering not only expanding to 12, but also perhaps even 14 or 16 teams. While some of the rationale for the expansion would be the addition of a football championship game for more revenue, the accumulation of more content and more markets for the Big Ten Network is probably more important to their plans. Delany noted that while discussions for this expansion are ongoing, the 12-18 month timetable that was originally announced in December is still the current framework.

Starting with the first domino, there is little doubt that the Fighting Irish would be the Big Ten’s first choice and the most logical fit for the conference, in terms of geography, academics and, frankly, football. Notre Dame and the Big Ten have flirted with each other many times in the past, but there is likely a greater chance that they will consummate their relationship this time around than any time before. For the Big Ten, the attraction is obvious: a huge fan base in historic “Big Ten country,” a ton of athletic history, and excellent academics. For Notre Dame, however, the question is a lot tougher. The Irish have been a football independent throughout their history and current athletic director Jack Swarbrick recently said that their “highest priority is maintaining football independence.” Notre Dame is currently in the middle of a television contract with NBC for the rights to broadcast home football games, a contract that runs through 2015 and an issue that will need to be confronted somehow if the Irish are eventually invited and accept Big Ten membership. The amount of the NBC deal (about $15 million annually) is not prohibitive enough to prevent them from considering membership in the Big Ten, whose member schools currently receive about $20 million annually from their television contracts. It is even possible that if the Big Ten and Notre Dame can come to an agreement, all this expansion talk will end right there: Notre Dame joins up, the Big Ten stops at 12 teams, the Big East poaches a team from CUSA like Central Florida as an additional football school and geographic partner to South Florida or a basketball-only school from the A-10 like Rhode Island or Massachusetts and the end-of-the-world scenario is averted. At present, however, it is being reported that Notre Dame is not being considered in the Big Ten’s expansion plans (a report that nobody in their right mind believes), but if Notre Dame is interested, the Big Ten will certainly be interested as well.

Figure 1: Big Ten Best Case Scenario

However, it is also realistic that with or without Notre Dame, the Big Ten is aiming for 14 or 16 teams to become the first superconference. While the addition of teams such as Missouri and Nebraska makes the most geographic sense, this expansion thing is not really about logic but about dollars, and Delany seems most interested in all the potential viewers that the bigger east coast markets present — notably Rutgers and Syracuse, but also Pittsburgh and potentially Connecticut. Adding three or even all four of those schools would effectively kill Big East football as we know it and potentially damage the Big East basketball enough to persuade a fence-sitting Notre Dame to leap off onto the Big Ten side as well. Swarbick himself admitted in March that “there are things that are large enough to challenge our ability to remain independent and remain in the Big East.” All four (or even three) of those flagship Big East programs bolting for the Big Ten could be one of those “large enough” things.

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Some Notes from the Mountain West & WAC Tourneys

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

In our attempt to bring you the most comprehensive Championship Week coverage anywhere, RTC is covering several of the conference tournaments from the sites. We have RTC correspondents Andrew Murawa at the Mountain West Tournament and Kraig Williams at the WAC Tournament this weekend.  In addition to live-blogging select games throughout the tournament, they will both post a nightly diary with thoughts on each day’s action. Here are the submissions for last night’s games.

Mountain West Tournament Quarters

  • After a long day and a drive from Los Angeles, I got into the Thomas & Mack Center to see TCU down only four to BYU just about halfway through the second half. Just a couple of minutes later, the Cougars had extended the lead to double figures and the only intrigue left was how much Jimmer Fredette would score. TCU threw everything they had at him, including sophomore point guard Ronnie Moss just wrapping his arms around Fredette’s waist at times, but it was no use. Fredette did it every way: deep threes, pull-up jumpers, taking it to the hole and, of course, hitting 23 of his whopping 24 free throw attempts on his way to 45 points (a MWC Tournament record), including 30 in the second half. And, if that weren’t enough, he added six assists as well.
  • Inside of a minute into the UNLV/Utah game, it was obvious it was going to be a physical game. Both teams tried to exploit the other teams inside, and Utah did so to the tune of 36 free throw attempts (of which they made 31). But if the Utes weren’t getting to the line, they were building a chimney; they made just 13 of their 40 field goal attempts, mostly because UNLV defenders were in their faces constantly.
  • It’s been said before I’m sure, so you won’t mind if I say it again: UNLV getting to play this tournament on their home court every year is a huge advantage. While there were pockets of Utah fans, this was little different than a UNLV home game.
  • After the Utes got three unanswered threes (by Marshall Henderson, Luka Drca and Chris Hines) wrapped around a David Foster rejection to cut what was a 13-point Rebel lead to just four at the half, the start of the second half was electric in the arena. But an early 12-3 run by the Rebels broke things back open and the rest of the half was the Runnin’ Rebels living up to their nickname.

WAC Tournament Quarters

(1) Utah State 84, (8) Boise State 60

  • If Utah State has a weakness it’s against pressure defenses. Boise State was able to hang in the game at halftime trailing by just five by turning the Aggies over and getting easy baskets in transition.
  • If you’ve followed WAC basketball at all this season you may wonder why Utah State’s Brian Green hits his elbow and points to the sky after every game. The answer? “These are my guns, I just reload them.” Green unloaded for 18 against Boise State, which was tied for the game high with both Tai Wesley and Pooh Williams.
  • Boise State fans don’t really like Greg Graham. Will he be joining Hawaii’s Bobby Nash in the WAC coaches unemployment line?

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WAC Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 11th, 2010

Sam Wasson of and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

It’s finally here, do or die time. The WAC tournament will begin on Thursday, March 11, for the eight teams who earned their way in. All eight teams feel like they have a shot to win the whole enchilada but in reality there are probably only five teams that have a chance. History is also not on four teams’ side as only once has a team seeded lower than #4 won the conference tournament as #5-seed Hawai’i pulled off the feat in the 2001 WAC Tournament. Utah State is the favorite as they ran roughshod over the WAC for a second straight season. Nevada is also a favorite but their lack of depth and need to win three games in four days will be something to keep an eye on. New Mexico State is the league’s second highest scoring team and perhaps most physically talented team, however, they are also the league’s worst scoring defense having given up at least 80 points in seven of their 16 conference games. Louisiana Tech was strong in the first half of the season but faltered down the stretch. They could get hot and run the table as well as they have wins over every WAC team except New Mexico State (whom they would not potentially face until the championship game). San Jose State is the darkhorse in the equation. They boast the league’s leading scorer in Adrian Oliver and they have the pieces in place to make a run. However, they too have fallen on tough times losing three of the final four conference games. Unfortunately for them their path to the title game goes through New Mexico State and potentially top seeded Utah State and that’s even before playing in the title game.

There is one team missing from the conference tournament and that is the University of Hawai’i. Not only did Hawai’i not play its way into the WAC tournament last week losing twice on the road, they played their coach out of a job. The University of Hawai’i announced on Monday that head coach Bob Nash would not be returning next season. The Warriors have fallen on tough times since winning the conference tournament in back-to-back seasons to start the new century. The Warriors won in 2001 and again in 2002 earning the automatic bid and then were NIT bound in 2003 and 2004 but have gone 85-93 in their past five seasons combined after amassing an 85-45 record from the 2000-01 season through the 2003-04 season.

Final Standings (conference tournament seeding order)

  1. Utah State, 25-6 (14-2)
  2. Nevada 19-11 (11-5)
  3. New Mexico State, 19-11 (11-5)
  4. Louisiana Tech, 22-9 (9-7)
  5. Fresno State, 15-17 (6-10)
  6. San Jose State 14-16 (6-10)
  7. Idaho, 15-15 (6-10)
  8. Boise State, 15-16 (5-11)

OUT) Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-13)

All-WAC Honors

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Checking in on… the WAC

Posted by rtmsf on March 3rd, 2010

Sam Wasson of and Travis Mason-Bushman of Vandal Nation are the RTC correspondents for the Western Athletic Conference.

As the WAC enters its final week of regular season play, Utah State has clinched at least a share of the WAC regular season title for the third consecutive season. The navy-clad Aggies earned the share with a 76-39 pasting of Fresno State. New Mexico State takes to the road with a chance to tie for the regular season title as the crimson-clad Aggies will face Nevada and Utah State. At the bottom of the standings it’s three teams — Idaho, Hawai’i and Boise State — fighting for the final two spots in the conference tournament which begins next week.

Current Standings

  • 1) Utah State, 24-6 (13-2)
  • 2) New Mexico State, 19-9 (11-3)
  • T3) Louisiana Tech, 22-7 (9-5)
  • T3) Nevada 17-11 (9-5)
  • 5) San Jose State 14-14 (6-8)
  • 6) Fresno State, 14-17 (6-9)
  • 7) Idaho, 13-15 (4-10)
  • 8) Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-11)
  • 9) Boise State, 13-16 (3-11)

Team Breakdowns

Boise State, 13-16 (3-11)

The week’s results:  02/25 W @ Louisiana Tech, 72-59, 02/27 L @ New Mexico State, 95-92

Upcoming games:  03/04 vs. Hawai’i, 03/06 vs. San Jose State

After looking like they were going to be the odd man out of the conference tournament just a week ago, the Broncos have been re-energized by a road split at Louisiana Tech and New Mexico State. BSU pulled off the stunning upset over La. Tech, winning by 13 points, and then nearly pulled off another shocker mounting a huge second half comeback before falling just short by three at New Mexico State. The Broncos can play their way into the tournament as they host Hawai’i and San Jose State to end the regular season. A split by the Broncos could still end their season as Hawai’i would then own the tiebreaker over Boise State and a pair of losses would guarantee their missing the conference tournament.

Fresno State, 14-17 (6-9)

The week’s results:  02/23 W vs. Cal State-Bakersfield, 79-68, 02/27 L @ San Jose State, 72-45, 03/01 L @ Utah State, 76-39

Upcoming games:  03/04 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Bulldogs had a disastrous week of conference play, losing on the road at San Jose State and at Utah State by 27 and 37, respectively. In both games Fresno State was down big at halftime. FSU hosts Louisiana Tech on Senior Night in Fresno but a loss could drop them all the way to the seventh seed in the conference tournament.

Hawai’i, 10-18 (3-11)

The week’s results:  02/26 L vs. Utah State, 61-50, 02/28 W vs. Nevada, 74-63

Upcoming games:  03/04 @ Boise State, 03/06 @ Idaho

The Warriors finally broke through by snapping a nine-game losing streak, eight of those in conference. It couldn’t have come at a better time for Hawaii as their win over Nevada on Saturday came on a tumultuous day that saw the islands threatened by a tsunami. It was coupled with a loss by Boise State at New Mexico State and enabled the Warriors to have a chance to play their way into the WAC tournament in the final week of the regular season. Hawai’i will travel to the mainland to face Boise State and Idaho. UH lost to Idaho and defeated Boise State on the islands in the first meeting but all that matters to the Warriors is winning two games this week and they’re in the conference tournament.

Idaho, 13-15 (4-10)

The week’s results:  02/24 L @ New Mexico State, 74-57, 02/27 L @ Louisiana Tech, 60-49

Upcoming games:  03/04 vs. San Jose State, 03/06 vs. Hawai’i

After looking like they had earned themselves a spot in the conference tournament, the Vandals are in danger of missing it after getting swept on the road at New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech. Combined with stunning victories by Hawai’i vs. Nevada and Boise State at Louisiana Tech, the Vandals have just a one-game lead over the two schools with two games left to play. Idaho will host San Jose State and Hawai’i. The Vandals just need one victory to earn their spot in the conference tournament, however, they would certainly want to win both to ensure they don’t drop to the eighth seed and have to face Utah State or New Mexico State in the first round.

Louisiana Tech, 22-7 (9-5)

The week’s results:  02/25 L vs. Boise State, 72-59, 02/27 W vs. Idaho, 60-49

Upcoming games:  03/04 @ Fresno State, 03/06 @ Nevada

The Bulldogs finish the week on the road visiting Fresno State and Nevada with a chance to lock up the third seed in the conference tournament. Louisiana Tech was stunned by Boise State and dropped into fourth place but they were aided when Hawai’i returned the favor against Nevada to tie things up between the Wolf Pack and Bulldogs.

Nevada 17-11 (9-5)

The week’s results:  02/25 W @ San Jose State, 83-79, 02/28 L @ Hawai’i, 74-63

Upcoming games:  03/04 vs. New Mexico State, 03/06 vs. Louisiana Tech

The Wolf Pack split a pair of road games last week but are assured a top four finish in the conference. Nevada can lock up second place in the league behind Utah State if they can take care of business at home against New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech.

New Mexico State (19-9, 11-3)

The week’s results:  02/24 W vs. Idaho, 74-57, 02/27 W vs. Boise State, 95-92

Upcoming games:  03/04 @ Nevada, 03/06 @ Utah State

New Mexico State took care of business at home last week to set themselves up for one of the biggest road trips they’ve had in a long time. A pair of wins would give the Aggies a share of the regular season title with Utah State and the number one overall seed in the WAC tournament. A split would give them second place in the league but a pair of losses could potentially drop them to the three seed.

San Jose State 14-14 (6-8)

The week’s results:  02/25 L vs. Nevada, 83-79, 02/27 W vs. Fresno State, 72-45

Upcoming games:  03/04 @ Idaho, 03/06 @ Boise State

The Spartans split a pair last week but moved up to fifth place in the league where they’ll look to stay with a pair of games at Idaho and at Boise State. SJSU is looking for their best conference record and finish in over ten seasons. Should the Spartans lose both games they could potentially drop to the seven seed.

Utah State, 24-6 (13-2)

The week’s results:  02/25 W @ Hawai’i, 61-50, 03/01 W vs. Fresno State, 76-39

Upcoming games: 03/06 vs. New Mexico State

The UtAgs clinched at least a share of the WAC’s regular season title for the third consecutive season with a pair of victories over Hawai’i and Fresno State. Utah State will look to win the title outright as they host New Mexico State on Saturday. The crimson Aggies are one of only two losses suffered by Utah State in conference play this season. The UtAgs have already avenged their only other loss when they defeated Louisiana Tech.


  • 03/04 – Nevada vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 03/04 – Idaho vs. San Jose State – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 03/04 – Boise State vs. Hawai’i – 7:00 p.m. MT
  • 03/04 – Fresno State vs. Louisiana Tech – 7:00 p.m. PT
  • 03/06 – Boise State vs. San Jose State – 3:15 p.m. MT
  • 03/06 – Idaho vs. Hawai’i – 5:00 p.m. PT
  • 03/06 – Utah State vs. New Mexico State – 7:00 p.m.
  • 03/06 – Nevada vs. Louisiana Tech – 8:00 p.m. PT
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