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Like Sands Through The Hourglass, Tennessee/Martin Soap Opera Goes On And On

cuonzo-question mark copyOn Sunday it appeared as though Cuonzo Martin would be leaving Tennessee for Marquette.  On Monday it appeared that the only delay was a clause in Martin’s contract that would see his buyout for leaving drop by $1.3 million at midnight this morning.  Right after midnight this morning… that all went out the window.

Martin is staying at Tennessee.  For now.  Might he still wind somewhere else?  Wake Forest is reportedly closing in on Tulsa’s Danny Manning, but there is reportedly some interest in Martin as well.  The Boston College job remains open (despite an earlier version of this piece tying Jay Wright to BC… as we forgot it was April F’n Fools Day).

Either way, how the Martin situation went from sure departure to sorta/kinda staying is the topic of the day in hoops circles.  We believe there are a few possibilities:

 

1.  Marquette decided to go in another direction.  That one’s doubtful because everyone — and we’re talking everyone — said the MU job was Martin’s to take.  From ESPN to sources on the ground inside the University of Tennessee athletic department, a Martin/Marquette marriage was in the cards.  So yes, this has all the hallmarks of a face-saving move by the coach, but we’re told that’s most definitely not the deal.

2.  Tennessee ponied up a nice raise and extension.  It doesn’t sound like that’s the case, either.  Martin and athletic director Dave Hart met twice on Monday.  It has been reported/rumored that UT didn’t offer Martin much of anything to stay.  A very vocal chunk of the Vol fanbase wants Martin and his 19+ wins per year gone.  If he returns to Knoxville we’ll someday know what he received, if anything, for doing so, but for now it doesn’t appear that Hart wooed him back with cash.

3.  Martin got cold feet after examining Marquette and talking to others.  This one seems a bit more likely.  Marquette has a new president.  They have an interim AD.  There’s turmoil and flux in MU’s administration.  And Martin has been through enough of that at Tennessee.  He took the Knoxville gig not knowing if the school would be crushed with NCAA sanctions.  Then the man who hired him was fired and he wound up working for Hart who allowed him to twist in the wind all season.  It’s typical in these situations for a potential coach to call a school’s ex-coach for some reconnaissance.  Buzz Williams left Marquette for Virginia Tech.  That’s telling.  So it’s very much possible that Martin might’ve been scared away from the Marquette gig by Williams himself.  Don’t sleep on this possibility.

4.  Martin wanted to stick around for the kids he recruited.  Yes, by all accounts Martin is a good guy, a stand-up guy.  But coaches move.  It’s part of the business.  Martin left players and recruits at Missouri State when he took the Tennessee job.  While we have no doubt he loves his players and vice versa, we think it’s doubtful that Martin would stay in what’s becoming a pretty nasty situation just out of loyalty to his players.

 

Whatever the reason for Martin’s decision to stay, Tennessee once again finds itself in the middle of a soap opera.  The Volunteer fanbase has been dealing with one issue after another since the end of the Phillip Fulmer era.  Losing seasons.  Coaching turnover.  NCAA issues.

All that together has helped to split the fanbase into factions and those factions are only going to get louder next season if Martin is still in Knoxville.  The pro-Martin crowd will defend the coach saying he deserves better treatment than he’s received.  The anti-Martin crowd will scream, “I told you so” with every missed free throw.

Since launching this site in 2008, Tennessee has given us more chaos to cover than any other school in the SEC.  Martin is UT’s sixth football or basketball coach in that short span alone.  So it’s no wonder we look at this situation and say, “Only at Tennessee.”  Where else would there be so much debate over a coach whose win total has increased every year and who just took his team to within two points of the Elite Eight?

Like sands through the hourglass…

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Music City Bowl Numbers Could Adversely Impact Vandy’s Future Bowl Chances

gfx - honest opinionMusic City Bowl officials announced today that last December’s game between Vanderbilt and NC State had a $13.9 million positive impact on the city of Nashville.  The problem, however, is the fact that that’s the third smallest economic boom since the bowl began matching SEC and ACC teams back in 2006.

Why might the money have been down?  Uh, Vanderbilt is located in Nashville, of course.  Bowls were initially started as a means of bringing tourists into touristy destinations in non-touristy times of year.  To an extent, that’s still the goal for bowl and city officials.  And when it comes to tourism, grabbing a local team never makes sense.  Indeed, fewer than 30,000 out-of-towners traveled to Nashville to watch the Commodores and Wolfpack butt helmets.

Last year’s game ranked #3 on the list of least-profitable bowls for the city since ’06 and we bet you can guess which one finished dead last.  Yep, the 2008 Music City Bowl which also featured Vanderbilt.  That game brought in just $9.9 million for the city and just 17,000 visitors as the Dores were matched up with faraway Boston College.

Some bowls hold their nose on the travel numbers in exchange for creating a good television matchup.  What’s more valuable — bringing thousands of fans into Nashville for one game or promoting Nashville as a tourist destination in front of millions of television viewers?  But the television numbers for last year’s Music City Bowl were also lackluster.  Its 1.62 national household rating was the game’s lowest in seven years.

The problem for Vanderbilt is one of reputation.  James Franklin and the VU administration are having to build a program out of the ashes of dozens of failed football seasons.  Until Vandy gets a better name, it likely won’t become a major television draw (the school also lacks the massive alumni base of many of the nation’s larger state schools).  Bowl committees know what kind of television draw Vanderbilt is.  They know, too, about the smaller alumni base.  Those issues are largely to blame for the Commodores being trapped inside the Volunteer State — Music City Bowl twice, Liberty Bowl once — during their recent uptick in success.

To continue to move forward and grow Vanderbilt into an honest-to-God football program, VU officials need to loudly trumpet the fact that the school sold out its allotment of tickets for the 2011 Liberty Bowl.  Otherwise future bowl committees looking at sub-standard TV ratings and generic stories regarding low economic impact — even though its unfair to blame Vandy for not bringing fans into its own city — might decide to pass on inviting the black and gold to their party.

Northwestern has traveled the same road.  Ditto Stanford.

Franklin and Vanderbilt have made tremendous strides in the past two years alone.  But there are further issues to overcome before the school can start to land invitations to top-notch, out-of-state bowl games.  And until that happens, Vandy’s success story will remain more of a regional story than a national one.

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Wow Headlines 11/22/2012

The NCAA has been investigating the recruitment of players courted by two Auburn assistant coaches, according to several sources.
Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver says “There may potentially be some interest” from the SEC toward adding the Hokies
Sources tell MrSEC.com Jon Gruden is “intrigued” by Tennessee’s head coaching job and might be dropping his price tag
Recovering from a concussion, Missouri quarterback James Franklin could be a game-day decision
Thursday SEC basketball scores
Missouri 78 – Stanford 70
Davidson 75 – Vanderbilt 62
Weekend SEC Football Schedule
LSU at Arkansas (Friday)
Georgia Tech at Georgia
Kentucky at Tennessee
Auburn at Alabama
Florida at Florida State
Vanderbilt at Wake Forest
Missouri at Texas A&M
Mississippi State at Ole Miss
South Carolina at Clemson
Follow the SEC every day at MrSEC.com and twitter.com/mrsec

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LSU Finds Quarterback For 2013

LSU’s search for a quarterback in the class of 2013 has come to an end.

The Tigers offered a scholarship on Monday night to Hayden Rettig from Cathedral High School in Los Angeles. He was ready to accept it by Tuesday morning.

Rettig’s relationship with LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe played a role in Rettig’s decision, according to Cathedral coach Kevin Pearson.

“Hayden and him kept in contact and built a relationship in the last couple of weeks,” Pearson told ESPN RecruitingNation. “Hayden really liked him a lot … and the LSU program kind of sells itself.”

LSU had trouble selling itself to other quarterbacks in the 2013 class. Cooper Bateman (Alabama), Mitch Connor (South Carolina) and Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) all committed elsewhere earlier this month after considering offers from LSU.

The Tigers beat out such schools as Arizona, Arizona State, Boston College, UCLA and Vanderbilt to land Rettig, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 12 pocket passer by ESPNU.

LSU has 12 commitments for the 2013 class.

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Defensive Back Jones Commits To Auburn

Defensive back Jonathan Jones from Carrollton (Ga.) High School committed to Auburn during the weekend.

Jones chose Auburn over Mississippi State and Georgia. Other schools to offer include Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Boston College, Illinois and Stanford.

“I liked everything about Auburn, from the winning tradition to the coaching staff, along with the proximity from home,” Jones told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Coach (Gene Chizik) made it feel like one big family at Auburn, and that’s one thing I really liked.”

Jones is Auburn’s 14th commitment for the class of 2012.

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More Expansion Rumors, Reports And Reaction

1.  Florida State president Eric Barron says he has not had any talks about Florida State leaving the ACC for the SEC.

2.  Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver says that the Hokies “always wanted to be in the Atlantic Coast Conference” and that he thinks “that’s where we’re going to stay.”  The governor of Virginia forced the University of Virginia to welcome Tech into the ACC just a few years ago.  We’ve said that it’s doubtful the Hokies would jump again so soon.  (Interestingly, Tech’s AD cited travel in the SEC as a concern calling the ACC a “bus league.”  Not sure how often he buses to Miami or Boston College, but okey-dokey.)

3.  Tony Barnhart of CBSSports.com writes that he believes Mike Slive would still prefer to avoid expansion… but he’ll be ready to make a move if he thinks it would be in the SEC’s best interest.

4.  The Texas legislature has called a meeting for next week to discuss “matters pertaining to high education, including collegiate athletics.”  Translation: What’s up with Texas A&M?

5.  The SEC’s commissioner will be invited to attend the Texas legislature’s meeting.  Here’s guessing he won’t attend.  According to Dan Branch, R-Dallas, the legislature wants to know if an A&M move to the SEC would be good for the Aggies… and if such a move might hurt Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech.

6.  And that’s why one Texas A&M official said today that he believes Houston would be a viable candidate to replace the Aggies in the Big 12.  In other words, you guys take Houston and let us be on our way.

7.  Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has told A&M officials that Texas is the school that holds the key to the league’s future, not A&M.  (That should help A&M’s case in the legislature… if it comes to that.) 

8.  NC State AD Debbie Yow put out a note this morning reading: “State is a founding member of the ACC.  Our goal continues to be to do our part to strengthen the ACC.”  Good to know.  Of course, that’s the equivalent of me putting out a press release to announce I’m not in the running for the head coaching job of the Orlando Magic.  Sorry, Wolfpack, you would bring nothing to the SEC and the SEC knows it.

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Vanderbilt Adds Another Prospect From Georgia

Vanderbilt has received a commitment from Paris Head from Buford (Ga.) High School.

Head is the eighth prospect to commit to Vanderbilt’s 2012 class. Seven of those commitments are from Georgia.

“I think that’s awesome because I feel like Georgia is one of the top states in the country for football,” Head told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I think they are doing a great job of recruiting here, and I feel like Vanderbilt’s program is going in the right direction.”

That appears to be the case now that Vanderbilt has landed another prospect with offers from several BCS schools. Head chose the Commodores over Boston College, Louisville and others.

As John Pennington pointed out on Monday, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin is turning heads on the recruiting trail.

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Florida Lands Tight End For 2012

Tight end Colin Thompson from Archbishop Wood (Pa.) Catholic High School has committed to Florida.

I just wanted to get it out of the way now,” Thompson said on Thursday. “It’s just the right place for me, and it’s the right fit.”

Thompson, who chose the Gators over Boston College and Wisconsin, credited a close relationship he’s built with Florida coach Will Muschamp.

“He’s a guy who’d run through a wall for you,” Thompson said. “He’s just a great guy, a great family guy.”

Thompson is the 10th commitment for Florida’s class of 2012.

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Shoop Wants To Run The Tampa Two At Vandy

New Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop opened up to The Tennessean yesterday about his plans for the Commodore defense.  Two words: Tampa Two.

“If you’re asking my beliefs in a perfect world, the Tampa 4-3 is something I have always studied,” Shoop said.  “Coach (Mike) Tomlin has had a great effect on me when he was at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  He’s now the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers and he’s a William & Mary graduate, so he and I have spend a great deal of time together.

“My experiences at Boston College, we were a big zone-blitz, fire-zone team.  And a little bit of what we call our ‘chaos package,’ which is our third-down deal.  If you watch the Packers or the Steelers, or the Ravens or maybe the Eagles or Jets… some of the unorthodox style of things that they do to create pass-rush mismatched and to get after the quarterback.  Those are the things we will ultimately end up being.”

At least that’s the goal.  The Packers, Steelers, Ravens, Eagles and Jets all have an awful lot of talent on their defensive units.  Whether VU can recruit the players necessary to make such a gambling style pay off is yet to be seen.

If the Commodores are going to run more Tampa Two defense (from a 4-3 base), James Franklin and crew will need to recruit fast defensive ends, cornerbacks who can jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, and smaller, faster linebackers who will be called upon to drop into coverage quite a bit.  Speed is the key, not necessarily size in the traditional Tampa Two.

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Monday Commitment Roundup

Here are some recent commitments in the SEC coming out of the weekend.

-Defensive end Trey Flowers has switched his commitment from Georgia Tech to Arkansas.

I changed my mind and committed to Arkansas … mainly because I wanted to play in the SEC,” Flowers told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “To be the best, you have to play with the best. The SEC is the best.”

Flowers, who is from Huntsville, Ala., received his offer from Arkansas during his official visit this past weekend.

-Florida finally got some good recruiting news. Linebacker Graham Stewart from Middletown, Conn., committed to the Gators. He was once committed to Boston College.

-Mississippi State offered a scholarship during the weekend to defensive back Taveze Calhoun, who accepted and committed to the Bulldogs.

“Nobody thought I would be playing in the SEC except the people in my hometown,” Calhoun said. “I’m definitely going in there with a chip on my shoulder and to let everybody know that I am good enough to play in the SEC. I still have a lot to prove.”

-Tight end Dillon van der Wal decided to switch his commitment from Arizona State to Vanderbilt.

“They have me playing tight end in the SEC, and on top of that, the education can’t be beat,” van der Wal said.

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