Morning Five: 10.03.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2012

  1. It’s officially considered preseason when the various Top 25s start rolling out from the more reputable sources, and even though we’re still aghast that The Sporting News no longer publishes its college basketball annual (or any annual, for that matter), we’ll give them a break and assume that they still generally know what they’re talking about over there. TSN‘s Top 25 rankings were released Tuesday, and if you’re looking for any major surprises, this probably isn’t the place to start. Still, these rankings are bullish on the Big Ten (three teams in the top five), Duke (#6), and giving some love to the high-mids (seven teams on the list). On the flip side, the group is still a bit skeptical of UCLA (#11) and the Big 12 (only Kansas is represented). If you can’t handle the annoying slideshow format, check out Mike DeCourcy’s write-up on the logic of their selections here.
  2. Is the Atlantic 10 positioning itself to eventually become the pre-eminent basketball league with a predominantly east coast footprint? Obviously we’re excluding the ACC from this consideration, but with the news on Tuesday that the A-10 had signed a new eight-year television deal with ESPN, CBS Sports Network and the NBC Sports Group, you have to wonder if the conference could overcome the dwindling Big East during some of its down years, and especially if more moves (ahem, Louisville) are coming. According to CBSSports.com‘s Jeff Goodman, the league will have roughly 150 annual games on those networks, and although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, it’s reasonable to assume that the additions of Butler and VCU as mid-major basketball empires produced a significant uptick in the league’s overall marketability and value.
  3. That muffled groan you heard late Monday night emanating from Indianapolis had nothing to do with the Monday Night Football game but instead everything to do with a decision by a federal judge in San Francisco concerning its case versus Ed O’Bannon and his friends. The class action suit against the NCAA depends primarily on the plaintiffs proving that the organization has for decades knowingly exploited its “student-athletes” through the use and sale of their names, likenesses, and images. To show the financial incentives for such a scheme, the O’Bannon group filed a motion for the NCAA to release its licensing and television contracts with ESPN since 2005, and lo and behold, the judge sided with their request. As SI.com‘s Michael McCann writes, this information is invaluable for the plaintiffs, as it not only provides specific dollar figures for the ‘monetization’ of college sports but it also opens up other companies such as ESPN and EA Sports to lawsuits down the line for exactly the same thing. This is a substantial ruling, one that should be watched carefully.
  4. North Carolina continues to find itself under fire for its jock-friendly academic coursework, as the Raleigh News & Observer has repeatedly embarrassed the school with release after release of new information that only serves to further fuel a national sentiment that there needs to be a comprehensive NCAA investigation of the academic side of the basketball program. The latest news is that a number of Tar Heel hoops players (among other athletes) were surprisingly enrolled in a 2007 Naval Weapons Systems class, a course ostensibly designed to produce commissioned US Naval officers rather than eligible power forwards. A Twitter war erupted over the fact that every school has easy classes and majors of which many athletes are attracted to, but people omitting the other side of the story are missing the bigger point. There already is clear and convincing evidence that members of the football team committed academic fraud at the school, and there is significant circumstantial evidence that the university has been at best, incompetent, or at worst, obstructionist, in evaluating the basketball side of the equation — there’s enough smoke here to strongly suggest further scrutiny because it’s becoming increasingly apparent that the school either cannot or will not adequately police itself.
  5. It’s becoming a huge recruiting week for the Class of 2013, as the Harrison twins are due to announce their decisions on ESPNU this Thursday and a couple of other top five players are busily narrowing their lists. Let’s start with some pundits’ overall #1 player, Jabari Parker. The Chicago big man released a list of 10 finalists over the summer (Connecticut was added last week), but his reported favorites Duke and Michigan State will be the first two schools to receive his official visits this fall. He will soon add three more schools from a list including the Huskies, BYU, DePaul, Florida, Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and Stanford. Another player considered by some to be the top overall player, Julius Randle, has narrowed his final list to six schools: Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. Interestingly, Tobacco Road powerhouses Duke and UNC were removed from Randle’s list, while Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack remain. After this coming weekend, the pieces of this year’s recruiting class will start to really fall into place.
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Morning Five: 09.07.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on September 7th, 2012

  1. Thursday’s buzz revolved around two head coaches who are no strangers to controversy — let’s start with the much more successful of the two, Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun. In a piece provided to SI.com by Mark Blaudschun about the venerable head coach, Calhoun said that he plans on making a decision whether he will return for his 27th season in Storrs in the next couple of weeks. And according to the author describing his body language in the interview, Calhoun may be leaning toward hanging up his whistle. We plan on looking deeper into Calhoun’s legacy a bit later today, but our stance on his retirement has always been one of ‘we’ll believe it when we see it.’ Of course, his team in 2012-13 is shut out of both the Big East and NCAA Tournaments (although the school is still lobbying for inclusion in the conference tourney), so the motivation that he had which caused him to come back last season might be missing this time around.
  2. The other head coach (for now) who has been in the news cycle all week long is Texas Tech’s Billy Gillispie. After six days holing up in a Lubbock hospital as he dealt with stress-related health issues, the much-maligned head coach was released on Thursday afternoon and presumably headed home. We actually don’t have a very good feeling about all of this, but we’d expect that the university will be speaking with him as soon as possible and will announce its position regarding his term of employment very quickly. Regardless of what happens with respect to Gillispie, the reeling program received more bad news this week when it learned that transfer forward Aaron Ross has torn his ACL and will miss the upcoming season. Too soon to joke that Gillispie will have him running stairs tomorrow?
  3. After two years of domino-tipping, could conference realignment be reaching a sort of stasis? The reason we say this is because the Big 12 is reportedly set to announce a new monstrosity of a $2.6 billion television contract with ABC/ESPN and Fox that will cover the next 13 years of broadcasts. So what, right? The difference is that this deal — similar in scope to the Big Ten and Pac-12 contracts  — in that each member institution must sign over its “grant of rights,” which is essentially a legal term that gives the conference ownership over each school’s media properties. So if, say, Texas or Oklahoma were to go sniffing around for a better deal elsewhere in the next 13 years, their media revenue in the new league would stay with the Big 12. This extreme disincentive to give away one’s media rights should all but ensure that those three stalwart leagues keep their members from jumping ship. Given that the Big 12 in particular has already been very close to disintegration, their newfound steadying influence in the nation’s mid-section may ultimately put an end to some of the craziness of the last couple of years.
  4. Remember that Rick Pitino guy? The Louisville head coach must have enjoyed his 2012 Final Four team so much that it left him (mostly) speechless over the summer. We’ve gotten used to the guy making news pretty much year-round, but there’s been nary a peep out of him lately. Yesterday he made the national news circuit with his comments to WDRB.com that, in light of the fact he has a veteran team with national championship aspirations returning, he wants his players to avoid playing pick-up basketball and only spend 45 minutes per day working on their games. If you read the article, Pitino goes into a long-winded explanation about how he implements his system as a whole versus its parts, but what’s unsaid here is that his teams over the last several years have been often walking M*A*S*H units. The message between the lines here is that Pitino wants his players to be fresh and healthy for the 2012-13 season, with the knowledge that if his group can remain that way into March, the Cardinals will have a great chance at cutting the nets down in Atlanta. This is actually a solid strategy, even if Pitino has trouble coming right out and stating it that way.
  5. While on the subject of Louisville, Lindy’s has released its preseason Top 10 and the anti-pick-up Cards sit at the top of the heap. Indiana, the other team that will probably share with UL the top spot in many polls, came in at #2. The surprise pick was at #3, with John Beilein’s Michigan Wolverines getting the nod, but we have to ask the question whether the choice of St. Louis at #9 was made before or after the news of Rick Majerus’ layoff. No disrespect to interim head coach Jim Crews, but that’s a lot to ask from a guy who has never so much as sniffed the Top 25, much less the rarefied air of the Top 10.
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Morning Five: 08.24.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 24th, 2012

  1. You know you’re doing something right in a lawsuit if the defendant’s attorneys start attacking the plaintiff’s ringleader long before the discovery phase ends. According to this report from The Birmingham News, the NCAA and its licensees maneuvered hard against marketing guru Sonny Vaccaro in an attempt to discredit him prior to a ruling by a federal court in California about whether the so-called Ed O’Bannon likeness case will become a class action suit. It’s no secret that Vaccaro has encouraged ex-players who feel wronged by the perpetual and ongoing usage of their faces and likenesses to join the suit, but the NCAA questioned whether his financial motives were too inextricably tied to the players to render him prejudicial. The NCAA had requested voluminous records of his communications for years, but ultimately, the two sides agreed that Vaccaro would turn over “custodial records from Vaccaro’s three organizations, communications with the plaintiffs, camp/tournament documents using players’ likeness, and payment records to or from players.” The court plans on making a decision on the class action later this fall, and without question that ruling could have a monumental impact on the future financial solvency of the NCAA.
  2. Thursday was an assistant coach kind of weekday as a number of high-profile schools announced comings and goings among their coaching support staff. Kentucky, a school whose media relations department must work a ridiculous amount of overtime, announced that former Wildcat center Marquis Estill will join the team as an undergraduate student assistant while he finishes his degree. Estill left school early in 2003, after receiving all-SEC honors after his junior season. Meanwhile, across the continent in Seattle, Washington announced that it was adding former Arizona State assistant Lamont Smith to its staff as a top recruiter mere days after adding another new assistant, former D-II head coach Brad Jackson (Western Washington). The key word in the previous sentence is former, as Arizona State lost not only Smith but also Scott Pera, who is leaving the desert to coach closer to his home at Pennsylvania. As Herb Sendek said about the twin departures this week, “the timing isn’t ideal.” More on ASU in a post later today.
  3. Much has been made recently about the Big East’s 60-day window to negotiate a new television deal with ESPN that begins on September 1, but it isn’t the only conference looking forward to making waves with a brand new broadcasting deal. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told media on Wednesday that the league expects to sign a 13-year deal with FOX and ABC/ESPN worth $2.6 billion and will provide “unprecedented” exposure in a much more “widely distributed” manner. Or, in other words, what everyone else says about these deals. From a financial perspective, if this deal turns out to be true, a distribution of over a quarter-bill to each of the 10 member institutions doesn’t sound very bad after all. As Bowlsby suggests, perhaps 10 schools is the right number after all — leagues have been pushing each other out of the way to expand, but maybe they should start thinking about strategic contraction instead?
  4. One school not reaping the tens of millions of dollars that the schools located nearby it are is Creighton, but that isn’t stopping the hot mid-major basketball school from investing in its future while things are going well on the court. Plans were announced earlier this week that the school will build the Fighting McDermotts a brand spanking new 35,000 square-foot practice facility to match what some of its MVC peers have already done. Perhaps more importantly, the school seeks to match what a certain Big Ten school an hour to the southwest is doing — even though Creighton is clearly the more successful basketball program than Nebraska, the spectre of all those BTN dollars at NU certainly keeps the Joneses over in Omaha looking over at their neighbor’s lawn. With possibly two more years of Doug McDermott as a Bluejay, this practice facility could be the recruiting carrot that Creighton needs to bridge its current and pending success with a strong recruiting future.
  5. Last summer the story of Lamont “Momo” Jones‘ transfer from Arizona back home to Iona was a hot topic. The question of how it would ultimately impact both schools was a common refrain, and as it turned out, it was his new school that played in March Madness (losing to BYU in the First Four), while his old school was shipped to the NIT (losing to Bucknell). Jones enjoyed his best season statistically in 2011-12, going for 16/3/3 APG while shooting a career-high 46% from the field. More importantly to the rising senior, though, he spent what he characterizes as the best of year of his life near his family — especially his ailing grandmother in the Bronx — and even became a first-time father of a boy, Jace’, in May. With all the negative stories surrounding college basketball these days, this piece by Dan Greene is one that will send you into the weekend with a smile on your face.
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Morning Five: 08.22.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 22nd, 2012

  1. From the time-on-his-hands department, we move to the curious tweeting of former North Carolina, Florida Atlantic and SMU head coach, Matt Doherty. The former Tar Heel — both as a player (1980-84) and coach (2000-03) — took to the Tweether on Tuesday to defend one of his former players, Julius Peppers. Of course everyone reading this by now knows the context under which Peppers has become a hot topic in the college basketball community, but most folks have lost track of Doherty, a disastrous hire seemingly everywhere he’s been. No worries, though, as the erstwhile coach makes clear in this tweet, he is currently getting “paid for not working!” Funny, that’s what UNC fans were screaming at the top of their lungs around a decade ago. Still, the entire series of semi-abrasive and tweets makes you wonder if Doherty plans on ever working in this business again.
  2. Is it every too early to start breaking down the juiciest match-ups in the non-conference schedule for the upcoming season? No argument here, as CNNSI.com’s Andy Glockner in mid-August has already put together his list of the 25 best pre-conference games (nearly all of these are in November and December). As it should be, the list is very top-heavy, with annual favorites Kentucky, Indiana, Louisville and North Carolina representing seven of the 10 spots in the top five games. It’s hard to quibble with lists like these because so much of it comes down to a matter of taste, but for our money, the best game on the agenda is the Champions Classic match-up between Kentucky and Duke. Sure, Louisville and UK are the bitterest of rivals and the storylines between Calipari and Pitino are too many to count. But we just played that game a few months ago in New Orleans, and we have it at least one other time per season. Instead, give us the Wildcats and Blue Devils, a pair of teams that somehow and shockingly have not played each other in ELEVEN WHOLE YEARS (Duke won in the 2001 Jason Williams overtime classic at the Jimmy V — check the Youtube clips here). How is this possible? How can Kentucky and Duke not see each other at least once every few seasons? All in all, though, if Glockner’s list doesn’t get your juices pumping, we can’t help you.
  3. One of Glockner’s juiciest 25 games is the annual Crosstown Shootout game between Cincinnati and Xavier, and regardless of the players on the floor, he’s 100% correct in that this game is always worth a viewing. Xavier, the big winner in last year’s brawl game, lost quite a bit of its production to graduation but was expected to bring back fourth-leading scorer (9.8 PPG) and TSN A-10 Freshman of the Year, Dez Wells. No longer. The school expelled Wells yesterday for a serious violation of Xavier’s student code of conduct.” XU would not provide additional details about the violations, but it’s safe to assume that his transgression fell on the side of worse than pushing a UC player causing an embarrassing fracas. The question we now have is: Who doesn’t need a scoring and rebounding big guard who will have three years of eligibility remaining after a one-year transfer layoffs. We’re betting that the over/under on calls to Wells by this morning is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 schools.
  4. With a new commissioner and a new lead negotiator in tow, the Big East is battening down all the hatches before its television negotiation window opens up in a bit over a week from now. The latest news that shows the league is putting its absolute best foot forward for its TV masters of the universe is that the conference is very close to securing a 10-year extension to its existing deal that will keep the Big East Tournament at the Mecca, Madison Square Garden, through 2026. This is very important to the future of the league for a number of reasons, but perhaps the weightiest is that it will serve to keep the encroaching ACC (with new members Pittsburgh and Syracuse) out of Manhattan for a good while. Furthermore, even though nearly everyone agrees that football drives the financial bus of the power conferences, the Big East’s Mike Aresco and the ACC’s John Swofford seem to recognize the value in their specific basketball products. The Big East Tournament on Seventh Avenue between 31st and 33d Streets is a big part of that value, so it’s great to see that Aresco and his team clearly understand that.
  5. Finally, we have no idea what to make of this news, but it’s bizarre and worth mentioning as we close things out nonetheless. Kellogg’s announced that it will release a series of Pop Tarts the company calls “printed fun” with five different flavors coinciding with the following schools: Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and North Carolina. As this responding article at Hoopsworld shows, Twitter may have had more fun with this meme than Doherty enjoyed all by lonesome on Tuesday. Somewhere in Lubbock, Texas, Billy Gillispie reportedly kicked over a case of delicious Pop Tart goodness with the release of this news. Alas.
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Morning Five: 08.15.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 15th, 2012

  1. In what seems to be a summer rite of passage involving several of the top recruits entering college basketball, UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad is the latest and greatest elite prospect whose eligibility the NCAA is investigating. According to the LA Times — and unlike the inquiry into NC State’s Rodney Purvis (the organization is reviewing the credibility of his high school) — the NCAA ” is reportedly investigating financial dealings between Muhammad’s family and friends,” specifically involving Muhammad’s former high school assistant coach, Geoff Lincoln, and his brother, Benjamin Lincoln. Of course, an investigation like this wouldn’t be any fun without an AAU connection, so the NCAA is obliging by also looking into the funding of Muhammad’s summer team by a New York financial planner named Ken Kavanagh. What does all this mean? Probably not much — the financial dealings likely involved trips that Muhammad made to visit North Carolina and Duke during his recruitment (worst case: he repays the cost of the trips), and good luck getting anything concrete out of the financial planner. Still, it means that UCLA has chosen to hold Muhammad out of its upcoming trip to China, costing the Bruins valuable preseason time to get to know each other and build team chemistry. At least one commentator believes that Ben Howland might be cursed.
  2. From one piece of great news to another, the UNC academic scandal that not may or may not include former two-sport star Julius Peppers is getting uglier. And given what we’ve seen over and over and over again in this peculiar industry, it’s likely to get downright hideous. As an administrator you know that things are not going well when CBSSports.com’s Gregg Doyel focuses on your program, and his article on Tuesday blows up the entire athletic department with his description of UNC’s negligence as perhaps “the ugliest academic scandal in NCAA history,” and even suggests that the 200o Final Four banner should come down. Like Dana O’Neil before him, he also takes the NCAA to task for dragging its feet on a thorough investigation — perhaps they, like Doyel and most of the media, think that the revered Dean Smith is still running things in Chapel Hill? What we know is this: Public pressure is building on North Carolina to come clean with a comprehensive review of the entire department — basketball included — and as we’ve seen with the Peppers transcript (as bizarre a flub as we’ve ever seen), that means actually removing the veil of secrecy surrounding the program and allowing independent investigators to assess exactly what happened there. Louis Freeh is probably available.
  3. One day after announcing its partnership with Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures to handle its upcoming television negotiations, the Big East announced the hiring of CBS Sports executive Mike Aresco as its new commissioner heading into those talks. Conference realignment across the board has fostered an alarmingly shortsighted arms race environment where every actor involved seems to believe that pursuit of the almighty dollar is without question the only thing that matters. The Big East, with its recent loss of West Virginia and the pending exits of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, hopes that by highlighting its numerous large markets and continent-wide footprint, it will enable the league to secure a massive television deal that will rival other major conferences and provide some much-needed stability. Perhaps it will work, but we have to believe that eventually someone is going to figure out that market penetration — how many people are actually watching the games? — is far more important than the total size of it. Right?
  4. If you’re an unemployed head coach out there still fretting about the coaching carousel not holding a chair for you last spring, dust off that resume — Eastern Michigan’s position appears to be open as its head coach, Rob Murphy, is reportedly taking an assistant coaching job with the Orlando Magic. The 2012 MAC Coach of the Year led EMU to a 9-7 conference record in his only season, and with a couple of good transfers joining a strong returning core, bigger things were expected next season. No official sources have been cited, but Lehigh’s Brett Reed, Michigan State assistant Dane Fife, and former Utah head coach Jim Boylen were mentioned in the article as possible selections with Michigan ties.
  5. Two players who were not expected to play college basketball in 2012-13 appear to be heading back to school after all. BYU sophomore guard Damarcus Harrison was expected to begin his two-year Mormon mission this fall, but instead he has decided to transfer closer to home at Clemson. The 6’5″ guard had a solid freshman campaign in Dave Rose’s lineup, averaging 3/1 in nine minutes per game, but he contributed 14 points and five boards in two NCAA Tournament games and showed considerable promise. American University picked up some great news when former all-Patriot League forward Stephen Lumpkins announced that he was returning to school for a senior season after spending last year playing minor league baseball in the Royals organization. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Lumpkins averaged 13/8 and shot a healthy percentage from the field — the talented big man will be able to slide into a starting lineup that returns three key contributors from a team that contended for the PL title last season.
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Morning Five: 08.14.12 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on August 14th, 2012

  1. After making numerous people mad over the weekend with its ‘top perceived cheater’ query of a sample of the nation’s college basketball coaches, CBSSports.com kept the hits coming on Monday with its follow-up question asking those same coaches whether everyone’s favorite Team USA head honcho, Mike Krzyzewski, has “earned a recruiting advantage” by virtue of his association with the star-studded Olympic squad. Note for the record that the group of writers did not ask if Coach K has a perceived recruiting advantage here — nope, they wanted to know if this is an actual, real-deal, verified by Visa advantage. Accordingly, 71 percent of the respondents affirmed that there is a definite recruiting advantage as a result of Coach K’s association with the Olympic team. On its face, in terms of name recognition and marketing/branding of the Coach K/Duke product with the best basketball players on the planet, the answer should have been 100% — this part is without question. But in terms of actual production on the recruiting trail, Coach K’s last top-rated class (as calculated by RSCI) was in 2002 (Shelden Williams, JJ Redick); prior to that it was in 1999 (Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Carlos Boozer); and before that in 1997 (Shane Battier, Elton Brand, William Avery, Chris Burgess). Since 2006, the first full recruiting year after Krzyewski took over for Team USA, his recruiting classes have been good to great (#3, #3, #11, #8, #9, #2, #10), but none have matched the pinnacle that the Duke head coach was regularly signing a little over a decade ago. So, does Team USA give Krzyzewski an actual recruiting advantage? The intuitive answer is assuredly yes, but the counter-intuitive one — that it makes no difference, or egads, could be a bit of a detriment — certainly has evidence supporting it as well.
  2. The Big East may be on shaky legs as a BCS league these days, but its announcement of its engagement with Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures, a sports media business that most recently negotiated a $3 billion multi-platform deal for the Pac-12, shows that the league doesn’t see it that way. Starting on September 1, the conference will retain an exclusive 60-day negotiating window with ESPN, and after that, it can field offers from other networks. Clearly the league believes that its new and unprecedented bi-coastal setup will be valuable to somebody — they’re already touting the fact that the new conference footprint resides in 13 of the 50 largest television markets holding a population base of 32 million people (reportedly twice that of any other league). Of course, there’s no mention made of penetration into those markets (does anyone in Orlando really care about UCF?), or if anyone will care to watch a San Diego State – Rutgers game, but that’s why the expensive firm was brought in — to deflect those questions. One thing is certain: The bubble of collegiate sports properties is still blowing up, so don’t be surprised if a few months from now we’re all sitting around scratching our heads wondering how the Big East is worth more than the ACC.
  3. The UNC football academic scandal appears to have finally crossed over to the basketball program, at least tangentially. Former two-sport star Julius Peppers‘ academic transcript was (mistakenly?) published on the school’s website Sunday night, where some enterprising NC State fans found it and passed it around like wildfire on the Internet. The transcript is no longer on the site, but assuming it is a legitimate document, it appears that Peppers would not have been eligible to play football or basketball during much of the three academic years when he suited up at UNC. Many of the courses that made him eligible were in the now-infamous African-American Studies major which has been the focus of NCAA investigators. The question that is on everyone’s minds — and frankly it has not yet been satisfactorily answered — is whether the holy grail of Tar Heel basketball was substantially involved in these academic shenanigans (apparently dating back over a decade), and if UNC’s obstinance in thoroughly (and publicly) reviewing this problem represents willful obstruction to protect the program or something much less sinister. Whatever the case, if Peppers turns out to have been an academically ineligible player from 1999-2002, would that mean UNC’s 2000 Final Four (of which Peppers was a key contributor) would be vacated? We’re certain that NC State and Duke fans in the Triangle will stop at nothing to make that happen.
  4. With more schools taking international trips during the summer to build team cohesiveness combined with the ubiquity of worldwide media access and coverage, we should expect to hear increasingly more bizarre stories like the one involving Missouri in The Netherlands over the weekend. According to a school release, during the third quarter of a physical game against the Dutch National Team on Saturday, Frank Haith was ejected for arguing with a referee on what he perceived to be a no-call elbow to the head of freshman Stefan Jankovic. Fearful “for the safety of his players,” and perhaps overreacting a bit, Haith decided to pull his team off the court and call the game over at that point. The Dutch head coach was diplomatic in his response, stating that he “understood” why Haith stopped the game because his technical foul “so suddenly came out of the blue” during game action. As a new league entrant to the SEC next season, we hope that Haith realizes that he’s unlikely to get a single favorable call from January to March 2013 — so he’d probably do well to get used to it.
  5. Jumping to news that will please Missouri fans a little more, Bill Self’s Kansas team just finished its European exhibition tour and to say it went poorly might be putting it a bit too mildly. The Jayhawks finished the trip by losing its last two games to a French professional team, but the second game was interesting in that Self chose to “rest” his upperclassmen for the game’s entirety. This gave his remaining extremely young group of players, led by Perry Ellis’ 16/12, to take center stage, but we also wonder if Self wasn’t using the opportunity to send his veterans — Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford — a clear message that he expects more from them in this, their senior, seasons. As he states in the linked interview, he was willing to live with the second short-handed loss, but he felt that the first loss was “inexcusable” and that his team is “not any good right now.” If we know anything about Self, he’s probably right; but he’s also without a doubt going to have the Jayhawks whipped into shape by January so that they’ll be right at the top of the Big 12 standings once again.
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Morning Five: 05.10.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on May 10th, 2012

  1. The biggest news to release on Wednesday was that the ACC has renegotiated its television rights deal with ESPN in light of the fact that it has added two additional members. The twin poaching of Pittsburgh and Syracuse from the Big East last year will result in a 32.9% increased annual payout for each school — from an average of $12.9M to $17.1M — proving that the new reality of cable channels willing to pay exorbitant amounts for college sports isn’t drying up anytime soon. The total amount ESPN paid for the rights to ACC football and basketball through 2026-27 is $3.6 billion, ensuring that Dookie V. will remain in his catbird seat at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the rest of his life.
  2. Realignment has allowed the ACC and the Big 12 (reportedly) to re-negotiate their television deals in their favor this week, so it’s unsurprising that further positioning is already under way. Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com floated a scenario yesterday that suggests the ACC’s Florida State could find a better deal over in the Big 12 ($19M per year), a conference that might also allow the Seminoles to develop its own Longhorn-style network (worth another estimated $5M per year). Very little would surprise us at this point, and the dollars talk — for the better part of two decades, FSU has seemed a strange fit in the basketball-centric ACC, so a jump to the Big 12 with no invitation to the SEC forthcoming seems just as reasonable as anything else. Maybe they could go west as a package deal: According to Andy Katz’s report from the new Big East commissioner’s conference call on Wednesday, Louisville has informed the other schools in its league that they’re gone at the first decent offer (presumably from the Big 12 or ACC). We’re sure there will be no shortage of this chatter for the next, oh, four months.
  3. Open and notorious solicitation of a school wanting to join a new conference isn’t confined only to the power leagues, of course. Oakland University (located in metro Detroit, not northern California) is hoping for consideration to replace Butler in the Horizon League when the Fighting Brad Stevenses move on to the Atlantic 10 after next season. A decade ago local rival Detroit, not wanting to share geographic space within the same league, managed to keep Oakland out — whether they’ll be able to turn down a program out of the Summit League that has made the NCAA Tournament three times in the last eight years remains to be seen. But it appears to be a natural fit if Detroit can find a way to play nice.
  4. With the coaching carousel winding down (only three jobs open currently), Jeff Goodman rates some of the notable coaching hires of this offseason. Although he doesn’t give actual grades to the decisions thus far, it’s interesting that he writes that the Larry Brown hire at SMU is the one where he’s “Not sold… yet.” In reading through this list, though, perhaps the most striking thing in a year where there have been 43 coaching openings so far, is that brand-name jobs have quite simply not been available. Which was the best opening — Virginia Tech? Kansas State? It has definitely not been a good year for aspiring young coaches to trade up — at least, not yet.
  5. It wasn’t a 1500-word missive to make his case for ‘nontraditional’ scheduling for a ‘nontraditional’ yet tradition-rich program, but Indiana’s Tom Crean on Wednesday gave his side of the story in the Great Scheduling Debate involving Kentucky and IU’s terminated home-and-home series. Crean basically argues that Indiana is already playing several neutral site games with the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis and whichever exempt tournament that it is invited to in a given season (e.g., next year’s Legends Classic), so it doesn’t make sense for the Hoosiers to play yet another neutral site game with Kentucky. He also reminds everyone that it was the Wildcats, not the Hoosiers (both under different head coaches at the time, who moved the game back on campus in the mid-2000s after a 15-year run at neutral venues. As we argued on Tuesday, though, the notion that teams should play as many as a quarter of its pre-NCAA schedule in neutral venues seems a bit ridiculous to us, but we’re mostly bitter about the loss of one of the best regional rivalries in college basketball, so don’t mind us.
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The Shame of College Sports: The CliffsNotes Version

Posted by rtmsf on September 15th, 2011

The average American can read between 300 to 500 words per minute.  If you’re at the high end of this range, it would still take you roughly a half-hour to read Taylor Branch’s seminal 14,573-word essay entitled “The Shame of College Sports,” published yesterday in The Atlantic.  To carefully consider the weight of his ideas, though, it would take you far longer.  And that’s what you should do.  If you’re a fan of college sports, and we’re going to assume that you are, then this might be the most important article you’ll ever read about the NCAA as an organization.  We highly encourage you to take the time, find a comfortable chair, and let the words and impressions from the Pulitzer Prize winner’s piece wash over you.  (Also consider yourself lucky — Branch’s award-winning trilogy on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., totals almost 3,000 pages — we pity the poor history grad students who have to slog through those tomes)

We recognize, though, that not everyone is going to have the time nor inclination to read all of what is admittedly a dense article.  For those folks, we’ve decided that the piece is so important to the public discourse about the NCAA, its member institutions, administrators and student-athletes that we are providing a CliffsNotes version of the essential excerpts from Branch’s work.  Our recommendation remains that you should read the entire thing, but if you don’t, here’s what you need to know.

The primary point of the article is that the NCAA, at its heart, is an eminently self-interested and ignoble organization that cares little about the very students that it purports to protect:

For all the outrage, the real scandal is not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.

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Morning Five: 07.28.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on July 28th, 2011

  1. It’s roughly 16 months away, but when is discussing the tropical paradise of Maui a bad thing?  The Maui Invitational released its roster of invited teams for its November 2012 island tournament, and one of its attendees, Butler, is still basking in the glow of a report stating its last two NCAA Tournament championship game runs were worth over a billion dollars in media publicity.  Well, the publicity train continues to roll, as Brad Stevens’ Bulldogs will join North Carolina, Illinois, Marquette, Mississippi State, Southern California, Texas, and host Chaminade in what promises to be another strong field.  It’s difficult to project any team two seasons out these days, but you can more than likely expect that, at a minimum, UNC, Butler, Texas and Marquette will all have strong squads in 2012.
  2. Get ready to see a whole lot more Pac-12 hoops on your television no matter where you live.  Starting about a year from now, the Pac-12 Networks will launch seven new channels for its fans, starting with a national network (presumably similar in scope to the Big Ten Network) but also with six regional networks featuring the six geographic areas where two schools are located (Washington, Oregon, NorCal, SoCal, Arizona, Mountain).  The national network will be available on the digital sports tiers outside of the local markets, which means that if you get the Fox Regionals, you’ll probably get the Pac-12 Network.  The networks will show roughly 35 football games and 100 basketball games each season in addition to the games already picked up by ESPN as part of its new $3B, 12-year deal.  Commissioner Larry Scott has crafted some innovative, forward-thinking deals to get his conference more notoriety; now he just needs to ensure that the product is something that people will want to see.
  3. Last season the NCAA Tournament debuted its “First Four” games, and Brad Brownell’s Clemson Tigers was one of the participants.  After defeating UAB in Dayton in the late game on Tuesday night, his team had to fly to St. Petersburg, Florida, to get to its Second Round game against West Virginia on Friday afternoon where they lost a close one down the stretch.  His primary beef is in having to play in an early afternoon slot on Friday after traveling all night after the Tigers’ first game, and it makes sense.  A few extra hours to recuperate that afternoon could have gone a long way in terms of tired and travel-weary legs, and after all, what’s the harm?  We know that CBS/Turner has heavy involvement in the selection of game tip times, but it shouldn’t be all that unreasonable to slot four teams into the sixteen late games on Thursday and Friday nights — the ratings will be fine regardless.
  4. We’re quite certain that if UCLA head coach Ben Howland could get a do-over on his 2008 recruiting class that was rated #1 in the nation, he’d take it in a heartbeat.  Jrue Holiday had one lackluster season before he was 1-and-done; Drew Gordon fell out with Howland and eventually transferred to New Mexico; J’mison Morgan never produced and landed at Baylor; Malcolm Lee played three semi-effective seasons before bailing to the NBA Draft without a guarantee.  That left Jerime Anderson as the lone survivor going into his senior season in Westwood.  A role player in the backcourt who similarly never lived up to his prep on-court hype, he was recently arrested on campus for stealing another student’s Macbook Pro.  A tracking device within the computer led police to Anderson, who was immediately suspended from the team and will miss at least the Bruins’ opener against Loyola Marymount on November 11.  If this allegation turns out to be true, we wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the final nail in the coffin of the illustrious UCLA Class of 2008.  Wow.
  5. This is one of those things that is so disheartening that you sometimes stop to wonder why you bother even to get up in the morning.  Earlier this week former Kentucky guard Desmond Allison was murdered in Columbus, Ohio, in an incident so completely senseless and illogical that it strains credulity.  According to the Columbus Dispatch, friends of Allison reported that the dispute that may have led to his murder involved a baseball cap that he was wearing while talking on the phone.   You read that correctly.  A baseball cap.  Reportedly, an ex-girlfriend of Allison’s removed the cap from Allison’s head which led to an argument between that woman and Allison’s current girlfriend.  Allison got involved in the dispute involving the cap, but soon walked away.  A bit later, three men (still unidentified) approached Allison when one of them (possibly a relative of one of the two women) began arguing with him and soon thereafter, shooting.  Allison died at a local hospital later that evening.  It’s mind-boggling, isn’t it?
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Morning Five: 05.06.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 6th, 2011

  1. Clearly the massive news of Thursday, and really, the entire offseason thus far, was the announcement that longtime Maryland coach and ACC curmudgeon-in-charge, Gary Williams, is retiring.  We covered his career impact in our story on him earlier this morning, but our lasting memory of his body of work will be how for a period from the late 90s to the early oos, from Steve Francis to Juan Dixon, from Joe Smith to Lonny Baxter, he made Maryland  basketball must-watch television.  Along with that, the Duke vs. Maryland battles were at the time the best rivalry games in the entire game.  Here’s some of the reverent commentary on Williams’ retirement from around the web: Mike DeCourcy, Seth Davis, John Feinstein.  Happy trails, Gary — you will be missed.
  2. As for the future of the Maryland program, we have a prevailing sense that this could go either way.  The resources, fan support and conference affiliation in the basketball-centric ACC are all major positives, leading some to argue that the Terrapin head coaching job is one of the top 15 or so in the country.  We agree with that sentiment, but the hire will need to be the right one — the DC area is a fertile recruiting base, but Williams ran a clean program that stayed away from much of the AAU nonsense that passes as prep basketball these days.  Whoever the new coach is will need to find a way to circumvent the agents, runners and hustlers with their hands out on the east coast playgrounds; or, like Williams, find enough diamonds in the rough whom he can coach up.  No easy task in a league where you have to deal with Duke, Carolina and a group of promising young coaches elsewhere.  Some early names being thrown around for the job include Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, Villanova’s Jay Wright, Arizona’s Sean Miller, and several others.  Of that group, Brey, from the DC area, makes the most sense; but could Terp fans tolerate having a former Dookie as their head coach?
  3. Not so fast on everybody’s favorite March Madness play-by-play guy leaving CBS.  According to the New York Daily News, Gus Johnson has an offer on the table from Fox to do NFL and Pac-12 games next year, but the Blinking Eye Network will have up to a week to match the offer and retain one of the best assets it has for its NCAA Tournament coverage.  Seriously, we can’t believe that CBS wouldn’t open their checkbooks for this guy — the anticipation among anybody under 45 years old when a “Gus game” is scheduled is off the charts, especially when it involves two evenly-matched teams.  Make it happen, Sean McManus.
  4. Last year’s offseason was headlined by seemingly constant chatter about conference realignment, and with the new television deal that the Pac-12 signed this week for $3 billion over twelve years, we now see more clearly what all the fuss was aboutUtah joins the reconfigured conference on July 1 of this year, and their TV windfall will begin soon thereafter, with expected payouts in successive years of $2M (2012), $10.5M (2013), $15.75M (2014), and $21M (2015).  The Utes made a relatively paltry $1.2M last year as a member of the Mountain West; in four years, they will have vigupled it (go ahead, look that one up).  Simply… amazing.
  5. There was some interesting transfer news on Thursday, with two notable players from NCAA Tournament teams possibly losing a key contributor.  First, UConn wing Jamal Coombs-McDaniel has decided to leave the Husky program to seek more playing time elsewhere.  The sophomore forward averaged 5/3 in just over sixteen minutes of action last season, but after a three-game stretch in mid-February where he scored 64 points, he only contributed 62 more the entire rest of the season (15 games).  He was also arrested for marijuana possession two weeks ago, so perhaps a fresh start somewhere else is best for everyone.  The other big transfer news yesterday came from George Mason, perhaps still reeling a little from the loss of longtime coach Jim Larranaga last month.  Luke Hancock, the hero of Mason’s second round win over Villanova, has requested permission to talk to other schools about transferring.  He averaged 11/4/4 APG last year in a promising sophomore campaign, and it appears that new head coach Paul Hewitt will have his work cut out to get him back to Fairfax next season.
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Morning Five: 05.04.11 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on May 4th, 2011

  1. Chalk this one up as weird, but one of Gonzaga’s returning players, Demetri “Meech” Goodson, is giving up his senior season in Spokane to transfer back home to play… football?  You read that correctly.  The junior guard from Spring, Texas, and younger brother of Carolina Panther running back Mike Goodson, will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining upon his arrival on an undetermined campus (likely Texas A&M) next season.  Goodson started all of Gonzaga’s 35 games last year, but he’s consistently struggled with shooting the ball and his departure will represent the seventh Zag transferring out of Mark Few’s program in the last two years.  Everyone of course remembers Greg Paulus’ one-year stint as the quarterback at Syracuse after a four-year basketball career at Duke, but it’s not often that you see a player transfer to play a different sport midstream through their career (it helps that GU doesn’t have a football team).
  2. As everyone is well aware, the NBA Draft withdrawal deadline is next Sunday, so decisions from players on the fence will be trickling out all week.  Two players Tuesday announced that they would be staying in the June draft despite currently facing a second round (if any) projection.  Louisville forward Terrence Jennings and Georgia Tech guard Iman Shumpert must have coaches at both schools shaking their heads, as neither appears to be a first round lock even in a weak draft.  Shumpert was second team all-ACC last year, going for 17/6/4 APG in a dreadful Yellow Jackets season, but Jennings in particular is an interesting case. His collegiate numbers of 10/5 last season were not exactly dominant in the Big East, but he says that he’s getting good feedback from scouts and thinks that the NBA will have a place for him.  This has been a tough week all around for Rick Pitino, as he not only learned that Jennings was officially leaving school, but elite 2012 recruit Rodney Purvis rescinded his verbal commitment to the Cards on Monday.
  3. New Pac-10, er, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott must know how to turn water to wine in light of news breaking on Tuesday that his conference has inked the most lucrative television deal in college sports history with Fox and ESPN for twelve years beginning in 2012-13.  The twelve western schools (now including Colorado and Utah) will average approximately a quarter-billion dollar payout every year over the life of the deal, out-distancing the recent Big Ten ($220M), SEC ($205M), ACC ($155M) and Big 12 ($130M) mega-deals.  The league will also go the Big Ten route with its own Pac-12 Network, and the rest of the games will be split between the two other national networks — now that ESPN will be showing Pac-12 basketball four days a week in addition to all of its other commitments, we wonder if there are plans for a few more ESPN channels.  There simply isn’t enough space on the existing family of networks to cover everything they have in the stable.  You might be wondering how Scott pulled this off given that many national viewers never see a Pac-10/12 football or basketball game all season long — the answer is in the numbers.  Eight of the top twenty-seven US media markets are within the Pac-12 regional footprint, the best such aggregate total in the nation (we shudder to imagine if Scott had pulled off getting Texas too!).
  4. Taking a page from the “pro day” that some major football programs have held in the past for their professional prospects, Kentucky held a similarly-styled event for its three early entries Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins, in addition to graduating senior Josh Harrellson.  All thirty NBA teams were invited to the event to have an opportunity to observe the UK players going through workouts at least once prior to the deadline on Sunday, and a good number of those showed up for at least one of the two sessions this week.  Knight told a reporter that he was still at “50/50″ on a final decision, but he is expected to leave; Liggins, on the other hand, is expected back next season, while Jones’ decision will no doubt be predictably unpredictable (see: his recruitment).
  5. Tennessee forward/impresario Renaldo Woolridge was feeling particularly patriotic on Sunday night after the news about Osama bin Laden’s capture was released, so the junior who only scored 13 points in eight games last year did what he does best — he wrote and produced a new rap video.  “Thank You (USA Troops)” was released Monday afternoon, and as Mike DeCourcy points out, the line packing a punch comes at the 2:20 mark: Almost 10 years/feeling kinda alone/But the fact is/Osama is gone.  Full video below.

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The Texas/ESPN Television Deal: What It Means

Posted by rtmsf on January 21st, 2011

Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent.

When it was announced on Wednesday that the University of Texas and ESPN had come to terms on a 20-year, $300 million agreement to create a 24-hour television network largely dedicated to broadcasting Longhorn sports, we entered a new era of college sports on a variety of different levels. What exactly this new era will look like remains to be seen, but the Texas move, which they have been angling in on for years, but most intensively since they turned down the Pac-10’s offer this summer, will reverberate around the world of college athletics.

Texas Keeps Expanding Its Reach and Redefining College Sports Media

First let’s look at some of the details of the deal. The network, launching in September, will be developed and managed by ESPN. According to the Austin American-Statesman, of the $300 million, 82.5% or $247.5 million is guaranteed to Texas, with the other $52.5 million promised to IMG College, which handles marketing and licensing for the university. According to Texas president Bill Powers, the university will receive about $10 million per year during the first five years of the contract, half of which will “be devoted to academic and faculty support” and half of which will head to UT Athletics. This $10 million annually will grow over the course of the contract, and Texas can expect an average of $12.4 million per year above and beyond their share of the Big 12’s television agreements. Currently, Texas receives approximately $14-15 million from those existing agreements (a number which will grow to $20 million next year with the departure of Nebraska and Colorado), and with the additional income from the new deal will earn more than $30 million per year from their television deals. All told, this new network is only guaranteed one football game and eight men’s basketball games, although it may get a few more in the early years of the contract and perhaps even more down the road. But, the crux of these numbers bears repeating: ESPN essentially gave Texas $247.5 million to air one football game and eight basketball games a year over the next 20 years.

This is by no means the first example of an individual school striking out on its own to pursue its own television contracts. Notre Dame’s football deal with NBC in 1991 was the first such example, and it was indeed a blockbuster, but given their lack of ties to a conference there were few immediate ripples. Gonzaga basketball has its own television deal with Spokane’s KHQ-TV and FSN Northwest, independent of the West Coast Conference’s television deals. And BYU, just this past summer, decided to break away from the MWC and move ahead as an independent in football, with a brand new contract with ESPN and with plans to air additional sports content on its own network, BYUtv. But given the size and stature of the Texas athletic department, this development is a whole different animal, and its repercussions are numerous and considerable.

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