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LSU, ‘Bama Is The Right Call

Mark McLeod, ESPN Radio

After Oklahoma State demolished Oklahoma 44-10 in the Dust Bowl, the Oklahoma State Sports Information Department wasted little time firing off an e-mail to many of us in the media campaigning for a spot in the BCS National Championship Game over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

The Cowboys make the argument that they defeated five ranked teams (Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas, and Missouri) and that they have more wins over bowl-bound teams. They point out that they were on the road, while ‘Bama was at home when they lost.

I’ll provide the defense for Alabama.

The Oklahoma State Sports Information Department didn’t point out that the Cowboys got rolled by Iowa State- an unranked team. They didn’t mention that Iowa State isn’t going bowling. And they certainly didn’t mention that the Cyclones rank 99th nationally in total defense.

How many years do we have to point out that the Big 12 is an over-hyped offensive, fall on your face defensive conference? I’ll make the same argument for Alabama that was in play before Florida faced Oklahoma in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game.

They don’t play defense in the Big 12. They play a style more suited for the Arena Football League.

Sure, Texas and Oklahoma are usually strong defensively, but the rest of the league seemingly plays with colanders for helmets. Alabama played three of the top 10 teams ranked nationally in total defense and five of the top 21. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State faced five teams ranked 99th or worse in total defense, including the Kansas Jayhawks, who ranked dead last at 120. The Cowboys have played just one team (Texas) ranked in the top 60 in total defense.

Want an exclamation point on this argument, defensively speaking?

Alabama has the top-ranked total defense in the country, while Oklahoma State ranks 107th. This isn’t Cowboy down, it’s Cowboy down and out.

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Championship game Saturday turned to blowout Saturday in college football. It didn’t matter if you are an ardent supporter of the Pac-12, Conference USA, or SEC…it was big blowout. The Big-10 battle between Michigan State and Wisconsin provided the challenge of the day.

The first half was nothing more than a false sense of security for Georgia. Head coach Mark Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo put the football in the arms of quarterback Aaron Murray, going off of their typical conservative script. The Georgia Dome was cranked with ‘Dawgs fans who smelled blood. But seriously folks, reality reared its’ ugly head when LSU stopped hitting the snooze button and answered the buzzer. The Tigers destruction of Georgia proved what we knew last spring. The Western Division would rule with an iron fist. The three best teams in the league were LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas. It was a reversal of the college baseball season last spring when Eastern Division powerhouses South Carolina, Florida, and Vanderbilt were the kings of the conference. What a conference.

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It’s a two-man race for the Heisman Trophy. I was stunned when the CFB talking heads reversed field with Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden as the man to beat after Alabama lost to LSU on November 5th and Stanford lost to Oregon 53-30 on November 12th.Weeden is a terrific quarterback and worthy of consideration, but give a stellar defense that he’s put up numbers against? One week later, Oklahoma State was knocked off by Iowa State 37-31 triple overtime and the Weeden for Heisman campaign was over.

The “men to beat” have been Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Alabama running back Trent Richardson all along. I don’t have a vote, but if I did, it Richardson would sit atop my ballot. Richardson scored nine of his 20 touchdowns against those five teams ranking in the top 21 in total defense. Weeden threw for just one touchdown against Texas. The competition does matter, folks.

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One guy that I’ll be sure to strongly consider on my 2012 Pre-Season All-Southeastern Conference Team Ballot will be LSU running back Kenny Hilliard. The 5’11, 240-pound freshman didn’t record a start for the Tigers this season, but has accumulated 320 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He caught just three passes for 13 yards, but turned one of those into six points. He’s a big back who runs strong with quickness and speed.  Opponents don’t seem to get a shot on him. Very impressive.

Mark McLeod is the host of “The Mark McLeod Show” and covers Gators football, recruiting, and baseball for ESPN Radio (Gainesville/Ocala). Mark is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. You can follow him on Twitter at @McLeodLive. E-mail Mark at mark@espngo1.com.

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Expansion By The Numbers 3: Total State Population

In Part 3 of our SEC expansion series, we wanted to look total population.  In addition to television households — which we looked at in Part 2 — leagues are hoping to increase their overall influence.  You do that by reaching more people, total.

There’s also a financial side to expanding a league’s population base.  First, there’s the obvious opportunity to convert new fans and sell more tickets, more caps and more t-shirts.  All that’s well and good, but there’s a greater reason than merchandise sales.  Let’s take Texas A&M, for example.  Now that the SEC has a Texas-based school with a huge alumni base in its ranks, viewership for SEC games in the Lone Star State should rise.  That’s added exposure for every SEC school that A&M plays.

Do a little research and you’ll find that schools like George Mason and Boise State actually see a jump in student applications (and alumni donations) after reaching a Final Four or BCS bowl game.  So being seen by a percentage of the 25 million Texas residents could lead to more applications for the SEC’s schools.  More students (or better students) equals more money long-term.  Applicants become students become graduates become donors.  That’s how you keep money flowing into a school decade-in and decade-out.

Just last summer, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany mentioned as one reason for expansion the continued population shift from the Rust Belt and Midwest toward the South.  His league eyed ways to get into the South, but it didn’t pan out for them last year.  Still, the fact that they were looking shows the importance of total population when it comes to conference expansion.

This Category:  Total State Population

Why:  Is it fair to suggest that a school in one corner of a state will reach and influence residents across that entire state?  No.  But it’s just about the best shorthand method we have.  It’s impossible to measure a school’s true sphere of dominant influence.  So we’ll just look at the each school’s home state and tally up the population base that the school could theoretically add to the league.  One last note — schools currently located in SEC states obviously bring no new population to the league.

 

Rank School Total Population In Home State (Millions)
1t Baylor 25.1
1t Texas 25.1
1t Texas A&M 25.1
1t Texas Tech 25.1
1t TCU 25.1
6 Syracuse 19.3
7t Penn State 12.7
7t Pittsburgh 12.7
9 Cincinnati 11.5
10t Duke 9.5
10t E. Carolina 9.5
10t N. Carolina 9.5
10t NC State 9.5
10t Wake Forest 9.5
15 Rutgers 8.7
16t Virginia 8.0
16t Virginia Tech 8.0
18 Boston College 6.5
19 Notre Dame 6.4
20 Missouri 5.9
21t Maryland 5.7
21t Navy 5.7
23t Oklahoma 3.7
23t Oklahoma State 3.7
25 Connecticut 3.5
26 Iowa State 3.0
27t Kansas 2.8
27t Kansas State 2.8
29 W. Virginia 1.8
30t Clemson 0.0
30t Florida State 0.0
30t Georgia Tech 0.0
30t Louisville 0.0
30t Miami 0.0
30t S. Florida 0.0

 

* Now, do Baylor or TCU truly influence as many Texans as Texas or Texas A&M?  Of course not.  But the potential is there.

* It’s clear why West Virginia, Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State are considered to be BCS schools that might have to fight to finding a landing spot in a realigned world.  Grab one of those schools and the league doing the grabbing isn’t reaching many new folks.

For comparison, here is how the SEC stacks up:

 

Rank School Total Population in Home State (Millions)
1 Florida 18.8
2 Georgia 9.6
3t Tennessee 6.3
3t Vanderbilt 6.3
5t Alabama 4.7
5t Auburn 4.7
7 S. Carolina 4.6
8 LSU 4.5
9 Kentucky 4.3
10t Miss. State 2.9
10t Ole Miss 2.9
12 Arkansas 2.8

 

* After looking at television households in Part 2 and total population in Part 3, it’s a good thing the Mississippi schools and Arkansas are already in the SEC.  If they were on the outside looking in at this point, the business of expansion might leave them searching for a home just like West Virginia and the Kansas schools.

* The average population of an SEC state is 6.5 million people.

Up next in Part 4, we’ll actually take location into consideration.

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Conference Realignment Isn’t Evil… It’s Evolution

“Dear Texas A&M: Don’t complain about being inconvenienced by Baylor.  Blowing up all of college sports is inconvenient for about 100 schools.” — Dan Wolken of The Daily

“The only thing funnier than Texas A&M completely altering the landscape of college sports is Baylor halting it.” — David Ubben of ESPN.com

“Tradition is gone.  Perspective is gone.  Any sense of tradition, doing what’s right or maintaining semblance of the fabric of what has made college athletics so great and unique has been obliterated by the potential of the next TV deal.  There is no common good in college football, any more than there is in boxing.” — Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Blowing up all of college sports?  Texas A&M completely altering the landscape of college sports?  There is no common good in college football?

What the hell’s the matter with everyone?

Why do I continue to read “change is bad” pieces without ever stumbling upon a “change is inevitable” column?  Much less — dare I say it? — a “change can be good” opinion?

Yeah, I get it, sports is all about tradition.  Because the world couldn’t go on without Oklahoma and Nebraska meeting on the gridiron every year.  Whoops.  Wait.

And free agency — why the very idea — would ruin all of sports forever.  Oh.  Nevermind.

Overtime, two-point conversions, league mergers, the Brooklyn Dodgers leaving Flatbush, the Florida Marlins being born and, and, and… sports goes right on along regardless.

So why’s that train kept a rollin’ for all these years?  Because sports are a pastime that we need for entertainment and distraction’s sake.  With the exception of strikes and lockouts we the fans never go anywhere.  When teams move, we keep watching games.  When conferences rise and fall, we keep watching games.  When leather helmets become plastic and then become whatever the heck that was Maryland wore the other night… we keep watching games.

If Oklahoma picks up stakes and heads to the Pac-12, sports will survive.  A million screaming Sooner fans will go along for the ride.  They’ll pull for the Crimson and Cream when they play Oregon State just as they would if they were playing Iowa State.

Sports will survive because it’s a business.  And it’s been a big business since the advent of television.  Televised games meant money for pro teams and money for schools.  In the case of college football, it was a landmark 1984 lawsuit set things in motion for what we’re seeing today.

“There is no common good in college football.”  Oh, please.  When has there been?  When Alabama and Auburn refused to play each other between 1907 and 1948?  When the Southern Conference splintered in 1932?  Or when it splintered again in 1953?

Conference expansion and conference realignment isn’t evil, it’s evolution.  For proof, let’s look back over the past six decades.  To keep things simple, we’ll only look at the major football conferences over that span of time: the SEC, the ACC, the Big Ten, the Pac-12, the SWC, the Big 8, the Big 12 and the Big East.

Let’s see just how steady and traditional and filled with brotherly love and loyalty the conferences and schools have been throughout the modern age, shall we?

ACC —

* Founded in 1953 with Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest and South Carolina as its 7 original members.

* In 1971, South Carolina left.

* In 1978, Georgia Tech entered.

* In 1991, Florida State entered.

* In 2004, Miami and Virginia Tech entered.

* In 2005, Boston College entered.

Total: 5 schools in and 1 school out (6 moves) since 1953.

SEC —

* In 1940, the SEC consisted of 13 schools: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Sewanee, Tennessee, Tulane and Vanderbilt.

* In 1940, Sewanee left.

* In 1964, Georgia Tech left.

* In 1966, Tulane left.

* In 1992, Arkansas and South Carolina entered.

* In 2012 (we think), Texas A&M will enter.

Total: 3 schools in and 3 schools out (6 moves) since 1940

Big Ten —

* In 1940, the Big Ten consisted of 10 schools: The University of Chicago, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.

* In 1946, Chicago left.

* In 1950, Michigan State entered.

* In 1990, Penn State entered.

* In 2011, Nebraska entered.

Total: 3 schools in and 1 school out (4 moves) since 1940

Pac-12 –

* In 1940, the Pac-12 consisted of 10 schools: California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Oregon State, Southern Cal, Stanford, UCLA, Washington and Washington State.

* In 1950, Montana left.

* In 1959, Idaho, Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington State left.

* In 1962, Washington State returned.

* In 1964, Oregon and Oregon State returned.

* In 1978, Arizona and Arizona State entered.

* In 2011, Colorado and Utah entered.

Total: 7 schools in and 5 schools out (12 moves) since 1940

SWC –

* In 1940, the SWC consisted of 7 schools: Arkansas, Baylor, Rice, SMU, Texas, Texas A&M and TCU.

* In 1956, Texas Tech entered.

* In 1971, Houston entered.

* In 1992, Arkansas left.

* In 1996, Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech left to form the Big 12 and the other 4 schools went to smaller conferences as the league ceased to exist

Total: 2 schools in and 9 schools out (11 moves) since 1940.

Big 8 —

* In 1940, the Big 8 consisted of 6 schools: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

* In 1947, Colorado entered.

* In 1958, Oklahoma State entered.

* In 1996, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State left and merged with 4 old SWC schools to form the Big 12 as the Big 8 ceased to exist.

Total: 2 in and 8 out (10 moves) since 1940.

Big 12 –

* Founded in 1996 with Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech as its 12 original members.

* In 2011, Nebraska and Colorado left.

* In 2012 (we think), Texas A&M will leave.

Total: 0 in and 3 out (3 moves) since 1996.

Big East –

* Founded in 1991 with Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, Virginia Tech and West Virginia as its 8 original members.

* In 2004, Miami, Temple and Virginia Tech left.

* In 2004, UConn entered.

* In 2005, Boston College left.

* In 2005, Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida entered.

* In 2012, TCU will enter.

Total: 5 in and 4 out (9 moves) since 1991.

That’s 61 moves since 1940.  On average that’s one major conference change every year for six decades.  Over that time three major conferences were formed, two went bye-bye and another is currently positioned squarely on the brink of oblivion.

Yep, until now things have been quite solid indeed.  Solid as a Jell-O.

The activity of the past 16 months isn’t the beginning of the end of college football.  It’s the end cycle of an evolutionary wave that began in 1984 with the US Supreme Court’s ruling on NCAA v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma.

In that case the court ruled that the NCAA’s control over college football television scheduling and revenue violated the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Not only did the ruling give the schools and leagues the power to cut their own TV deals, it took nearly all power away from the NCAA in terms of college football.  The NCAA can wag a finger and shout from a soapbox, but in the end, the schools and the leagues have the power to do whatever it they want to do.  Is it any wonder then that conferences began expanding soon after the Supreme Court’s ruling?  The bigger the league, the more money it could print.

Look at this timeline:

1984 — Supreme Court ruling
1990 — Penn State joins Big Ten
1991 — Notre Dame cuts its own television deal with NBC
1991 — Florida State joins ACC
1991 — Big East Conference is founded
1992 — Arkansas and South Carolina join SEC to form first 12-team league
1992 — This basically marks the end of the age of college football “independents”
1992 — SEC stages first major college conference championship game
1996 — SWC folds and Big 8 merges with 4 SWC teams to form Big 12
2004 — ACC raids Big East for Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech
2005 — Big East raids Conference USA for Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida
2008 — SEC signs landmark contracts with CBS and ESPN worth $3 billion over 15 years.
2010 — Big Ten explores expanding to 16 teams
2010 — Pac-12 tries to raid Big 12 for 6 schools (Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech) in an attempt to reach 16 teams
2011 — New Pac-12 television contracts and family of regional networks trump three-year old SEC television deals

What we’re witnessing today in college football isn’t shocking.  It’s the obvious next step.

Some fans look at conference realignment and bemoan the loss of tradition.  But a look at the history books shows that all of the major conferences have been adding and subtracting schools for years.  For every Penn State-Pittsburgh series that dies, there’s a Florida-Tennessee rivalry to emerge.

Some media members weep that “the spirit of college athletics” is falling by the wayside.  But those with any business sense understand that money has been changing the sporting landscape for the last 60 years and especially the last 35.

Texas A&M isn’t destroying college athletics.  Geez.  Overreact much?

A&M is simply trying to do what dozens of schools and conferences have done for decades — realign itself with new schools in order to increase its long-term financial security.

Despite the doom and gloom being tossed about by columnists taking aim on extremely low-hanging fruit, evolution isn’t always a bad thing.

Personally, I kind of like having opposable thumbs.  I enjoy using them to drive my horseless carriage.  And I feel good knowing that I likely won’t ever trip over an anvil.

It’s called progress.

Now, if you’re against expansion and realignment, super.  That’s fine.  I’m not totally gung-ho on the idea of 16-team super-conferences, either.  Much less the 20-team leagues that will someday follow.  But let’s not claim that expanding conferences are evil and that schools on the move are “blowing up all of college sports.”  That’s a preposterous oversell.

I’m pretty sure, after all, that if the Big 12 replaced Texas A&M with Houston or Louisville or BYU, it’s train would keep right on a rollin’.  As has been the case for all of sports — even the mostsacred college sports — since television dollars began to rule the world.

It’s not evil.  It’s evolution.

(PS — Feel perfectly free to point out in the comment section why the move of Whassamatta U. from Conference X to Conference Y shouldn’t count as a real move or that Leghorn Tech moved in 1943, not 1944 as we might have typo’d.  But please realize that doing so only proves that you’re spending far too much time looking at the trees and not enough time studying the forest.)

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Iowa State Now Thinking About Suing, Too

Baylor is no longer alone.  Fellow Big 12 school Iowa State — according to The Des Moines Register — isn’t going to waive its rights to sue the SEC or Texas A&M if the Aggies leave their current home.

“There has been no waiver of any legal rights,” a spokesman for ISU said today.  He also said that no other school — meaning Baylor — had asked the school to join in a lawsuit against the SEC and/or A&M.

Texas fans have to be loving all of this, of course.  As the lone rulers of the Big 12, it now appears that their subjects would rather eat the scraps from the King’s table than fend for themselves as true peasants in smaller leagues.

As for A&M and the SEC, well, what’s to say?

The Big Ten came and raided the Big 12 last summer and no national voices complained.  Nebraska left the league and broke away from traditional rivals Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, etc, and no one spoke ill of the Cornhuskers.

Not to be outdone the Pac-12 attempted to raid the Big 12 for six teams.  Larry Scott was hailed as a genius.  He wound up grabbing Colorado and not a soul said a bad thing about the Pac-12 or the Buffaloes.

But when Texas A&M begged out of the Big 12 and called the SEC, the Aggies were accused of destroying the very fabric of American sport and Mike Slive has been hailed as the Destroyer of Leagues.

Fair?  Nope.

But this is why when it comes to expansion… you never count your chickens before they hatch.  (For fear that Baylor and Iowa State might take your eggs to court.)


UPDATE — A source tells CBSSports.com that “at least half, if not the majority (of Big 12 schools) are going to reserve their rights for litigation.”

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Early Looks Inside Chizik’s Book

The advanced copies of Gene Chizik’s new book — “All In: What it Takes to Be the Best” — have been mailed out and reviewers are starting to share the details.

The Opelika-Auburn News reveals the following:


* There is an emphasis on Chizik’s Christian faith in the book.  He writes that his father “defined who I am as a coach.”

* The coach writes that he knew his team could win the national crown after a last-second win at Kentucky.  “I firmly believed we had a chance to go undefeated the rest of the way and win the national championship.  When I said that to our coaches, I think every one of them nodded in agreement.”

* When he interviewed for the AU coaching job — fresh off back surgery — he thought he would never land the job and felt guilty just for talking with Auburn.  “Despite my dream of coaching at Auburn one day, when I heard that Tommy (Tuberville) had stepped down, the thought of going back didn’t last any longer than the snap of a finger.  I knew that with a 5-19 record (at Iowa State) I was not hirable at Auburn.”  He also writes: “As Jonna drove me to the hotel where I’d be interviewing, I could stop thinking about the people back at Iowa State.  I had pledged to help turn the program around, and we were doing that.  But now I was facing the possibility, as remote as it still appeared that I might have to go back to Ames to tell all those people I was leaving.  I don’t know what it’s like to cheat on a spouse, but on the ride over, I imagined the feeling had to be similar to what I was experiencing at that moment.  I felt awful, and it wasn’t just my back.”

* Chizik called AD Jay Jacobs after the interview — feeling it had gone badly — to withdraw his name from consideration.  Instead, Jacobs soon offered him the job.

* The title-winning coach also writes: “I feel like the same guy who was coaching defensive ends at Middle Tennessee State twenty years ago, and I am humbled that God has placed me in a position I really don’t deserve to be in.”

* All proceeds from the book will got to a ministry the coach and his wife have set up to help certain nonprofit organizations in the state of Alabama.


The Associated Press also got an advance copy and they report the following:


* Of his Auburn hiring Chizik writes: “Make no mistake, I was humbled by Auburn’s decision.  And I knew this had to be a God appointment because this whole thing just didn’t make sense otherwise.  I knew God had to be behind opening this door — there was no other way it would have been opened.”

* The coach also leveled some criticism at Iowa State AD Jamie Pollard for allowing the coach’s departure from Ames to turn nasty.  “Jamie is a quality athletic director, and I respect him for what he has done at Iowa State.  But I wish he had handled my departure differently.  It could have, and should have, gone so much better for all involved.”

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Big 12 Applies More Duct Tape, But A&M To The SEC Will Still Happen. Someday

Anyone who has read MrSEC.com for a while now knows the following:


1.  We believe the Big 12 is destined to come apart at the seams because Texas (and to a lesser extent Oklahoma) make a heckuva lot more cash than their conference brethren… and that’s what almost split the league last summer.

2.  We believe — and have been saying this for two years now — that Texas A&M will one day be a member of the Southeastern Conference.  As we pointed out numerous times last summer, A&M and the SEC have flirted with one another dating back to the 1980s and the math of such a marriage makes too much sense not to eventually happen.  (Our opinions were validated when Mike Slive traveled to College Station last year as expansion-mania reached its apex.)

3.  We believe that this A&M migration to the SEC will commence when the Big 12 splits.  Unlike the Big Ten, the SEC’s presidents have made it clear that they do not want to raid a league unless that league is already disintegrating.


So why mention this today?  Because the Big 12 applied some more duct tape to its wounds last week during its annual league’s meetings.  (What, you didn’t know the Big 12 held its spring meetings last week?  Maybe that’s because 99% of the national press were attending the SEC’s meetings instead.)

A big sticking point in the Big 12 has been the disbursement of the conference’s revenue.  Until now, just 57% of the league’s riches have been distributed equally with the rest determined by the number of television appearances each school made.  Big advantage: Texas and Oklahoma.  Screwed: Kansas State and Iowa State.

Last week, however, the league voted to up the equal revenue split to 76% with the remaining 24% being divvied according to TV appearances.

With its new $1.17 billion television deal with Fox, that means an increase in millions for Big 12 schools like Baylor, Kansas, and the aforementioned Kansas State and Iowa State.

Texas is the true power in the Big 12 and such a move would not have passed without the Longhorns’ backing.  With UT’s own new multi-multi-million dollar deal with ESPN for its own television network kicking in soon, the Longhorns can afford to kick some of their “league money” back into the kitty if it means their underlings will stick together longer and continue to take a beating at the hands of the burnt orange bullies from Austin.

In other words, the lord of the Big 12 just gave his serfs a bit more land in order to keep them around.

Is this a final fix for the league?  Doubtful.  There’s too much bad blood between the schools and Texas’ TV network will eventually drive an even bigger have/have-not wedge between the league’s paupers and princes.  But this measure might at least slow down the fracture of the league for a while.

Texas A&M is still destined to join the SEC and duel with LSU and Arkansas on a yearly basis at some point, but it might be a few miles further down the road after the Big 12′s moves of last week.

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Running Back Roberts Chooses Arkansas

Running back Donovan Roberts from Norman (Okla.) High School has committed to Arkansas.

Roberts chose Arkansas over scholarship offers from such schools as Arizona, Pittsburgh, Michigan, Iowa State and Kansas State, according to Rivals.com.

Roberts, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards as a junior at Norman, is the sixth commitment in the class of 2012 for Arkansas.


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There’s One Charge From HBO Show That Auburn Should Worry About

Last night at MrSEC.com Headquarters, the ol’ TV was tuned in to watch the HBO “Real Sports” episode focusing on college athletes and their lack of pay last night.  Interesting work.  Better than I had expected when I first saw that both Billy Packer and Jason Whitlock would be joining Bryant Gumbel for an in-depth discussion of the college sports system.

Here are just a few thoughts on the show… including why Auburn folks should be worried:


1.  The four former Tigers who claim that money had changed hands at Auburn — Stanley McClover, Troy Reddick, Chaz Ramsey and Raven Gray — seemed credible.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they were telling the truth, but they did seem believeable.  With many sports fans across the nation already thinking AU cheats (because of the Cam Newton story), the credibility of these players doesn’t help the Tigers’ cause.

But that’s the court of public opinion we’re talking about and that court has no real bearing on the Tiger football program.  The NCAA court is the only one that matters. 


2.  Hundred-dollar handshakes go on in every major college town in the country.  I have several friends who played ball in the Southeastern Conference.  The majority of those guys say that, yes, they knew which boosters to turn to if they needed some meal money, some cash for a date, or even a vehicle.  And we’re not necessarily talking Lexuses here, either.  When a player is given the keys to a booster’s used truck, it’s still a violation.  And that type of thing goes on all… the… time.   There are restaurants where athletes get free meals.  Bars where athletes get free admission.  Heck, one former SEC footballer told me that in his naivete, he once reported himself to his coach for getting a free tanning bed session. 

There’s no way to stop freebies or hundred-dollar handshakes.  There’s also no easy way for the NCAA to track down the culprits and punish their schools.  Boosters don’t often give receipts with their cash advances.  For that reason, the bulk of the accusations made against Auburn — and other schools — will likely result in any real trouble.  (On a sidenote, paying players wouldn’t wipe out this issue either.  Someone will always try to do a little something extra for their gridiron and hoops heroes.)


3.  The major concern for Auburn stems from one accusation and one accusation alone.  Reddick claims that when he “started complaining and insinuating that I was ready to leave any day,” Auburn coaches sprung into action.  One coach allegedly told Reddick that he had “some mail for you up in my office.” 

Reddick says he “followed him up to his office and he gave me an envelope.  I didn’t open it there, I walked out to my truck, took off. … It was about 500 dollars.”

Worse, Reddick claims he received cash-filled envelopes “two or three more times” that season and “it happened about six or seven times my senior year.”

And that’s the area of concern — if true — for Auburn.  The NCAA will have a hard time proving hundred-dollar handshakes.  But if an AU coach actually handed cash to a player once (or eight to 10 more times), then the school could really land in hot water.  If Reddick tells NCAA investigators — who are sure to ask — which coach gave him money, then a full-scale investigation is likely to follow.  That would suggest a systematic payment plan and that would override any statute of limitations defense Auburn might be hoping to hide behind.  At that point, it would be Reddick’s word versus the claims of the coach.  And the NCAA would then start digging to find other former Tigers who’ll say that they were paid by AU coaches, too.

Auburn fans can pooh-pooh HBO’s story, claim the chatty players have axes to grind, claim the players were paid for their stories (highly, highly doubtful, by the way) or even suggest this kind of thing goes on everywhere.  But if a coach really handed cash to Reddick, this story isn’t going to have a happy ending.


5.  While some sites are harping on the claim by Ramsey and Gray that one Auburn coach told his players to put football ahead of academics, we have a hard time believing that that practice exists only at Auburn.  Does it help the Tigers’ reputation?  No.  But we don’t see that as a major issue.  Many, many coaches would prefer their stars study their playbooks over their chemistry books.  That goes all the way down to the high school level.


6.  Never thought I’d say this, but Packer was the voice of reason on the show.  While Gumbel and Whitlock talked about paying players and tearing down the system, Packer came armed with facts — most schools lose money on sports, two sports pay for all the other little sports, there would likely be no women’s sports at all if not for football/basketball revenue from the men, and not every athlete can be paid the same because of those aforementioned facts.

Everyone agrees the NCAA system isn’t perfect, but finding a new system isn’t as easy as tearing the old one down.  Kudos to Packer.


7.  Bernard Goldberg’s piece on paying players suffered one fatal flaw.  For hypothetical purposes he proposed paying players 57% of the revenue made by their schools off of their sport (which is the percentage of revenue NFL and NBA players receive).  Sounds good.  Only not all schools make the same amount of money.  Alabama and Texas make more money off of football, for example, than Boise State and Iowa State.  In the current scholarship set-up, the folks at Boise State and Iowa State can at least compete with the Bamas and the Texases of the world.  In a 57% pay model, just how many recruits would choose to sign with a smaller-revenue school?  Players would be fighting to get into the biggest-revenue schools in order to drive up their own paydays.


8.  The revelation that a number of NCAA officials make salaries of $300,000 or more was eye-opening.  We hear a lot about the NCAA’s small enforcement staff (little more than 40 people total).  That small staff requires the NCAA to use an “example” type system of discipline.  If a school is ratted out and caught, they will be made an example of.  If a coach lies or tampers with an investigation, he will be made an example of.  The NCAA has no way to get ahead of the curve because it lacks an enforcement staff.  There only means of prevention is to really make examples of those people they catch red-handed. 

But someone on HBO’s show should have proposed this realistic plan: Cut the salaries of some of those highly-paid NCAA officials and use that money to increase the enforcement staff by 50-100%. 


So who were the losers following HBO’s broadcast?

* Auburn University.  The Tigers didn’t need more accusations and yet another scandal.  Whether the claims of McClover, Reddick, et al are true or not, millions of people heard them last night.  The NCAA heard them last night, too.  And millions more people will read about them today.

* Tommy Tuberville.  The issues discussed last night trace back to the Tuberville era on The Plains.  He’ll be fielding a lot more questions about HBO’s report than he will Texas Tech’s spring drills in the coming days.

* Gene Chizik.  Chizik was on Tuberville’s staff at the time of some of these alleged events.  The NCAA might ask him a few questions about his first stop in Auburn.  And if the NCAA can find proof that an assistant once gave Reddick cash, Chizik’s program could be spanked for crimes committed on his predecessor’s watch.

Auburn’s coach was angered by the report and called it “pathetic and pure garbage.”  “That’s not who we are,” he said.  “That’s not how our program is going to be run.”

Chizik also said: “It’s very sad to me that HBO is going to air something that, admittedly, they have no proof on anything.  What is disturbing to me… they interviewed other former players that said the opposite, and they didn’t air (them).”

“When I was the defensive coordinator from 2002-04, all the allegations that are there are on this particular show, I can assure you I had no knowledge of any of that stuff.”

* The NCAA.  No one likes the NCAA to begin with, so a report trumpeting the destruction of it will naturally be met with cheers.  Of course, few people realize that the NCAA is made up of college administrators.  The NCAA is college football and basketball.  If they are the enemy, they’re appointed by the people they rule over. 

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Pelton Happy To Be Returning To Auburn

Mike Pelton has been officially announced as the new defensive line coach at Auburn, his alma mater.

“I look forward to working with a young defensive line and getting them ready to compete next season,” Pelton said in a press release.  “Auburn has always had a special place in my heart and it’s been my goal to coach at my alma mater.  I can’t wait to return to The Plains and get started.”

Gene Chizik knows Pelton from the time he served on his Iowa State staff.  “He’s a great coach, a tireless worker and an outstanding recruiter who has mentored some very good players.  Mike is very familiar with the state and region, and he knows what it takes to coach and recruit in the Southeastern Conference.”

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Former UF assistant Dan McCarney introduced as North Texas coach

Florida
Content provided by Swamp Things – Gators Blog.

His Florida career officially over, Dan McCarney was introduced as the new head coach at North Texas this afternoon.

The former Gators’ defensive line coach had been with the program for three years before his departure this week.

McCarney accepted the offer this weekend. He had spent the past four years as an assistant coach, and was head coach at Iowa State from 1995 to 2006.

“I’m happy for Coach McCarney and his family,” said Florida coach Urban Meyer in a statement. “He has a proven track record as a head coach and we were fortunate to have him on our staff for the last three years. He did a great job with our defensive line and I fully expect him to be successful at North Texas.”

With McCarney’s departure, the Gators have one open position. They will find out their bowl destination on Sunday, and could wait until after that game to hire another assistant.

McCarney’s departure has already contributed to one recruit decommitting from Florida. Asheville (N.C.) defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan decommitted on Monday. Danny Wilkins, Pagan’s high school coach, said McCarney’s hiring at North Texas was part of the reason the four-star recruit changed his mind.


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