Morning Five: 09.23.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 23rd, 2011

  1. As we’ve said before, one of the few positives that’s come out of the conference congealment/realignment mess is that some writers have simply had enough and are pulling out all the stops in their critiques, and the readers are benefitting from it. The latest example of this came yesterday from Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel, who explains why the current system blows, the new superconference system will be even worse, and that it’s not too late to save these conference and school administrators from themselves and try to save college athletics, certainly (our favorite section coming here), “…for the average fan, who just appreciated things like the Big East basketball tournament or Backyard Brawl or the myriad other traditions that seem a lot cooler than protecting the salary of the guy who runs the Great Idaho Potato Bowl.” Enjoy.
  2. So, in that vein…Dan Beebe is out as commissioner of the Big 12, and it looks like this conference — which looked extremely wobbly at best just a week ago — will now survive. You probably remember that it was Oklahoma that said it would only stay on board if Beebe was removed AND if Texas‘ brand new Longhorn Network would be restricted in what it could show, especially regarding high school games/athletes. As for the “victory” yesterday and the discussion among the member schools that lasted for just over an hour, OU president David Boren said, “We achieved substantial reforms. We feel extremely good.” We assume now that it’s only a matter of time until the remaining schools gang up on Texas and that TV network to try and hammer out a few more substantial reforms.
  3. It’s been just over 18 months since March 3, 2010, a night on which Maryland defeated Duke in a basketball game. It’s also the night that Maryland student John McKenna was beaten with riot batons by a couple of police officers during the celebratory mayhem that followed the game. McKenna and his family hired a private investigator who found a tape of the incident, showing that McKenna was not provoking the officers and was unarmed. The tape didn’t support the officers’ story that McKenna was belligerent to the policemen’s horses and it was the horses that caused McKenna’s injuries. A Prince George’s County, MD grand jury saw that tape recently. The officers are still innocent until proven guilty, but the grand jury indicted them earlier this week, charging them with first- and second-degree assault.
  4. On May 13, UNLV senior Chace Stanback was pulled over for suspicion of DUI and ended up testing positive for marijuana. The summary of his punishment is as follows: $585 in fines, 40 hours of community service, attendance at DUI school, and participation in a victim impact panel. Yesterday, the school also suspended Stanback for the Rebels’ season opener on November 11 against Grand Canyon as well as an exhibition ten days earlier. The 6’8” swingman will be UNLV’s leading returning scorer, averaging 13.0 PPG last season (2nd on team), and led the Rebs last year in rebounding (5.9 RPG) as well as efficiency rating (13.5).
  5. Speaking of November 11, that’s Veterans’ Day, and the night that Michigan State and North Carolina will face off in the first-ever NCAA game on an aircraft carrier, lovingly called the “Carrier Classic,” specifically aboard the USS Carl Vinson docked in San Diego. The combatants for the 2012 edition now look to be Arizona from the Pac-12 and Connecticut from the Big East ACC…well, whatever. We understand the reasons they’re doing this on the Vinson and why the ship has to be docked, but as we wrote in our original article on the carrier game, at some point in the future this has to be played on an active ship in the middle of missile drills. Talk about preparing a team to play on the road, man. The sight of a bird being launched in the middle of an 18-year old’s one-and-bonus will make a couple of snarky signs or synchronized cheers from some day-drinking poli-sci majors look pretty tame.
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Morning Five: 09.21.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on September 21st, 2011

  1. With all the hints and allegations flying across the country via texts, Twitter, and television reports (mostly Twitter, though), at some point beyond the decisions made by Texas A&M, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh, somebody is going to have to pull the trigger and commit somewhere, even if the Pac-12 is now closed for realignment business. Attempting to grease the rails a little, the SEC did Missouri a solid as of yesterday afternoon, offering the Tigers a spot in that conference but still allowing them to see what happens to the Big 12. Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, though, has spoken out frequently about how he’d prefer to keep the Big 12 together and stay put, but we don’t know if his statements could be fairly applied to a revamped Big 12, or the now oft-speculated Big 12/Big East hybrid. Still, what a nice turn of events for Mizzou. Some schools don’t have anyone that wants them and are getting nervous. Missouri has the SEC as its fail-safe, and that’s not a bad spot to be in right now. The scuttlebutt is that this won’t happen, now, but the SEC needs a 14th school for (gag reflex initiated) football reasons, and it has to come from somewhere.
  2. Jim Boeheim’s rant yesterday (see yesterday’s M5 or our Tumblr feed at right) provided a refreshing dose of logic on Realignment-ageddon and is so far the best discourse on what will probably happen as a result. As far as why this is happening, look no farther than yesterday’s piece by Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy in which he explains why this nonsense began, what’s perpetuated it, and how astonishing it is that some pretty smart folks are making such colossal blunders, here. A description of the actions of college presidents over the last six weeks as “an unprecedented bacchanal of jealousy, mistrust, fear and conceit?” Oh, yes. Get yourself more of that.
  3. A couple of days ago, DeCourcy penned an article making the claim that Pittsburgh’s defection to the ACC would all but ruin the Panther basketball program. On Tuesday, Mike Miller of NBCSports.com’s Beyond the Arc published his counterpoint, asserting that things won’t change that much, and he has a snippet from a recent interview of Jamie Dixon as part of his evidence in which the head Panther says these conference switches “won’t be quite as much change as it may seem initially.” What’s Dixon supposed to say, though? He’s not going to show up for an interview and say, “Man, we are totally screwed. And I’m so outta here.” We enjoy the opposing takes from two experts in the field of college basketball, and that’s at least one good thing about all the realignment talk — the people who do care about basketball have a few new points for gentlemanly debate.
  4. In any conflict, resolution is most effectively and quickly achieved when the belligerents and all immediately affected parties put themselves in a room, come together face to face, and have it out. The Big East had its “come-to-Jesus” meeting last night, according to the great Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News. According to Weiss, this get-together of bigwigs resulted in every remaining school — yes, both the football and non-football schools — pledging to stay put as the conference now puts the full-court press on a couple of candidates to take the places of Syracuse and Pitt. Among the candidates mentioned: Army, Navy, and Air Force. That is not a typo.
  5. Before the Pac-12 slammed its doors shut last night, Oklahoma had been rumored to be headed everywhere from the Pac-12 to the Big Ten to the SEC or a sewn-together, refurbished Big 12. That last option, according to Barry Tramel of The Oklahoman, is only possible if current Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe is removed and Texas’ new Longhorn Network is restricted in exactly what it can show, among other demands. If this was leaked intentionally by OU brass, we don’t exactly know why, since it doesn’t look like a final good-faith attempt to keep the conference together as much as it does extortion or an example of Oklahoma holding the conference hostage. What we found especially funny is this photo that made it to us (and countless others) through the Twitter grapevine of SI.com’s Andy Staples and Leila Rahimi, a reporter for KXAN in Austin (Hi, Leila!) who took the pic. Nice ad placement in a story referencing Oklahoma’s unhappiness at how the Big 12 has become a bunch of satellites revolving around the Jupiter that is Texas, don’t you think?

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Morning Five: 09.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 6th, 2011

  1. Are we on the verge of the conference realignment free-for-all that we thought was going to happen last summer?  Texas A&M’s insistence on leaving the Big 12 presumably for the greener pastures of the SEC to the east, has the rest of the league running for cover.  Reports over the weekend suggested that once again Texas and Oklahoma are in backroom discussions with the Pac-12 to join the burgeoning west coast league, and like great white sharks in the Pacific, the other four major conferences are circling the remaining schools in hopes of divvying up the rest.  Conventional wisdom is that if Oklahoma bails on the Big 12, the league is effectively finished, but it is the school in Austin who holds the trump card.  One of the sticking points is what the Pac-12 would require UT to do with its Longhorn Sports Network — would it become one of the Pac-12’s new regional networks instead of a ‘national’ channel?  Or will Texas leverage its channel into another sweetheart deal, as suggested as possible on Monday when rumors of an ACC overture to the Longhorns were revealed?  ACC commissioner John Swofford denied that report Monday night, but the possibility of a 16-team basketball league containing Duke, UNC, Maryland, Texas, Syracuse and UConn seems absolutely ridiculous.  In a good way.  The one thing we know from conference realignment madness is that nothing should surprise anyone.  More news on this topic as it merits coverage, but for a comprehensive breakdown of the facts and rumors swirling right now, check out MrSEC’s wrapup from Monday.
  2. Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneurial success story (twice over) Mark Cuban has never been one to hold his tongue on an issue he cares about, and his post on Blog Maverick over the weekend is no different.  Bucking conventional wisdom to a certain extent, Cuban argues that the headfirst plunge by several schools into a group of a few superconferences will turn out to be a “huge mistake.”  He lists several intriguing reasons to support his argument, but the most compelling from our viewpoint was his discussion of how adding schools to a conference will not increase the value of the television contracts of the bigger league.  There must be some exceptions to this ‘rule,’ as in an example where Texas joins any other conference, but Cuban has forgotten more about media rights and deal-making than we’ll ever know so we’re generally inclined to figure he knows what he’s talking about here.
  3. Regardless of how the conference realignment mess ultimately settles out, the development and existence of Texas’ Longhorn Network has led to an arms race among individual schools seeking to reach their fans in the most direct way.  Over the weekend, another Big 12 school announced its response, as the University of Missouri is set to launch Internet-based The Mizzou Network on December 1.  The mostly free channel will broadcast games and competitions from non-revenue sports in addition to ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses at Tiger football and basketball, but it’s clear that the Texas/ESPN deal has put the pressure on athletic departments around the nation to progress or get left behind.  It’s yet to be determined whether a cable television model in the mold of LHN (currently having trouble getting traction with national carriers) or a fully digital network in the mold of Missouri’s (which can reach all of its fans directly) produces better outcomes for the school, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the biggest winners will be fans with team-specific content available to them 24/7.
  4. Now that schools are back in session for the fall semester almost everywhere, this is the time of year we start to see players with too much free time on their hands getting into trouble prior to returning to full-time practice in six weeks.  Over the weekend, Wake Forest sophomore guard JT Terrell was discovered asleep at the wheel of his car and charged with a DWI for a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.  Terrell, a promising freshman last season who averaged 11.1 PPG for the Demon Deacons, has since withdrawn from the school and is reported to be suffering from a “serious medical condition.”  Terrell represents the fourth WFU player to leave the school under difficult circumstances in the year-plus since head coach Jeff Bzdelik arrived. Wake also announced that senior center Ty Walker will not become eligible to join the team until after the fall semester, stemming from a suspension placed upon him in July.
  5. Moving over the Missouri Valley Conference, Drake also announced that two of its players including its leading returning scorer, Rayvonte Rice, will be suspended effective immediately for their alleged role in a petty shoplifting incident.  He and teammate Kurt Alexander, a senior guard, are accused of putting two packages of athletic socks into a bag and exiting a Finish Line store without paying for them.  Rice had one of the best freshman seasons in the history of Drake basketball last year, averaging 13.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG and also leading the team in blocks and steals.  He was a member of the MVC all-freshman and all-newcomer teams and was expected to become an all-MVC performer this year.  The two players told the police officer on the scene that they were “young and dumb” to explain their actions, and to that comment we can do nothing more than shake our heads.  Young and dumb, indeed.
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Texas Not Fooling Anyone With Its Platitudes

Posted by rtmsf on July 21st, 2011

Imagine if high school basketball games involving elite hoops recruits around the country were put on the Duke Basketball Network, coming to you nightly from December to March on your local cable package (and no, this post isn’t a not-so-subtle shot at ESPN).  After the initial uproars from Lexington, Chapel Hill, Lawrence and other basketball hotbeds subsided, imagine then that Mike Krzyzewski, as spokesperson and progenitor of the DBN, gave an interview where he said:

We do not want to use it as a recruiting advantage. We don’t want it tied to [Duke.  The DBN carrier] knows we don’t want to violate any NCAA rules and they don’t want to. [...] We want to play by the rules.  We want everything to be in the open with integrity.

To back up his claims, imaginary Coach K added that the DBN would not be involved in selecting the games and that the word “Duke” would not be attached to the broadcast in any way (you know, except for the fact that you have to tune into the Duke Basketball Network to see the game in the first place).  Would you believe it?   Isn’t he asking you to undergo a considerable afternoon of mental calisthenics in order to believe there’s absolutely no association between those two things — the players shown and the school’s network?

It’s patently absurd.  People make such associations without even thinking, and a removal of some of the associated branding does next to nothing to remove that perception.  Will a kid playing on the DBN tomorrow night tell all his friends that he’s playing on Dish Network channel 146 instead?  Will fans around the country not automatically assume that a player on their screen has already committed to play for Duke (after all, why would the DBN be showing it?).  Of course not.  It’s a huge marketing (and, by proxy, recruiting) advantage.

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