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The Morning After: SEC Players Implicated, SEC Fans Fret

mushroom-cloudWelcome to the new reality of college athletics.  In this reality, college athletics — the actual athletic events — are only background noise.  The focus instead is on scandal.  One after another.  Week after week.  School after school.

Penn State.

Oregon.

Miami.

Johnny Manziel.

Oklahoma State and Les Miles.

Alabama, Mississippi State and Tennessee players.

Agents.

Boosters.

Hostesses.

Saturday’s Alabama/Texas A&M clash might as well be hyped as Player Autographs versus Agent Money.

Enjoying it all?  I hope so because with more and more media there will be fewer and fewer secrets.  Some might think complete transparency is a good thing.  In theory, it probably is.  But this writer believes the fact that every $100 handshake — a practice that has gone on since the dawn of college sports — is now going to be uncovered by a website or just a guy with a cell phone camera and a Twitter account, will serve as the death blow for college athletics as we’ve known them.

The NCAA is a doomed organization, but not through any fault of its own.  If everyone has boosters who cheat or players who take money from agents — and they do — then everyone must go on probation or be stripped of wins.  With more and more schools in the NCAA hoosegow, who’ll be left to play the games?

Some of you are likely thinking, “What kind of nimrod believes it’s better if we don’t know about rule-breaking?”  But the point is this: If every jaywalker in New York City was cited or arrested Barney Fife-style, think of the backlog of cases in NYC courts.

Another example: The police in your state know that they can’t catch all speeders.  So they catch a few and hope that the randomness of their ticket-writing scares other drivers into slowing down.  Until now, that’s basically been the NCAA’s plan, too.

Now, however, the NCAA is going to be forced to act again and again by enterprising reporters… or by angry fans with internet access.  Think Alabama and Auburn backers haven’t mastered the art of mudslinging and scandal-finding?

This won’t end well, folks.  We are headed toward the day — and we’ve written this on other occasions — when college sports teams are basically semi-pro squads, complete with bi-weekly paychecks and sponsor logos on helmets and jerseys.  Schools will use them for marketing purposes and the rules will be relaxed to 19th Century Tombstone, Arizona standards.

What we’ve watched and enjoyed for generations is dying.  An omnipresent media will kill it by exposing every toe that goes over an NCAA line.

 

Here’s a quick wrap on what’s being said this AM:

*  As you know, Yahoo! Sports has revealed that five SEC players received extra benefits (cash) from agents/runners between September of 2011 and December of 2012.  Those players documented — key word — to have received cash were ex-Alabama offensive lineman DJ Fluker, ex-Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox and ex-receiver Chad Bumphis, ex-Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and current Vol defensive defensive lineman Maurice Couch.

*  Columnist Kevin Scarbinsky wonders if Fluker could be Alabama’s version of Reggie Bush, leading to the loss of a pair of BCS titles.

*  Anyone remember Fluker tweeting in April: “Yea I took $ n college so wat. I did wat i had to do. Agents was tryin to pimp me to I pimped them. Cast da 1st stone.”  At the time, his agent claimed Fluker’s Twitter account was hacked.  Uh-huh.  You can be sure that there will be plenty of angry Tide fans ready to “cast da 1st stone” at Fluker’s noggin if his decision to accept cash hurts their program.

*  Nick Saban said yesterday taht he would handle the Fluker allegations appropriately.  When pressed for answers on the Fluker topic, Saban grew angry and left his presser with the words: “I appreciate your interest in the game.”

The runner in this case is ex-Alabama defensive lineman Luther Davis.  Yahoo! Sports has records suggesting that Davis funneled at least $45,000 to the five players implicated.

Some Alabama players are defending the school’s compliance department.

Here’s the breakdown of the Yahoo! story from a Mississippi State perspective.

Ex-Bulldog Bumphis hung up on a reporter from The Jackson Clarion-Ledger when contacted last night about his involvement in the story.

Here’s a look at things from a Tennessee perspective.  Associate AD Jimmy Stanton said: “We are aware of the article and are examining all of the relevant facts, and we will not comment further.”  UT coach Butch Jones has said that Couch probably won’t play against Oregon on Saturday.  (In reality, there’s little chance he’ll ever play again for Tennessee.)

 

Here are some quickie thoughts on the report and its fallout:

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Texas A&M AD Hyman Jokes About Controlling The Tide

gfx - they said itExactly three months from today, Alabama and Texas A&M meet on the football field.  In between now and then, expect plenty of Internet chatter, perhaps the occasional verbal shot and maybe even a Twitter dustup or two.  Texas A&M AD Eric Hyman got the ball rolling Thursday night.  Speaking to the Brazos County A&M Club Coach’s Night, Hyman told the crowd:

 

“What do the moon and Texas A&M have in common? They both control the Tide.”

 

Of course, Texas A&M defeated Alabama last fall.  Speaking to a crowd of about 800, Hyman also told coach Kevin Sumlin he “wants to be able to say the same thing” next year.  When it was his turn to speak, Sumlin said, “No pressure, Eric. Thank you.”

This being the age of instant media. no verbal shot can be fired without immediate commentary from the Twitterati.  Radio host Paul Finebaum chimed in, saying “Nick (Saban) is going to be mad!” to which A&M president R. Bowen Loftin replied, “Paul, he is already mad.”

Alabama travels to Texas A&M on September 14th.  Until then, expect plenty of verbal repartee in 140 characters or less.  Enjoy your summer.

P.S. Something about the line “the moon and Texas A&M” makes me think of  ”the moon and New York City” from the Christopher Cross song Arthur’s Theme.  Yes, it’s in my head and now it can be in yours all day. You’re welcome.

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Big Ten Makes Record Bank And Trumps The SEC By $42 Million

delany-big-ten-dollarFirst thought: The Big Ten knows how to make money.

Second thought: No wonder the SEC is starting its own network.

According to USA Today, the Big Ten’s latest tax return shows that the league pulled in $315 million during its last fiscal year (which ended in June of 2012).  That’s $50 million more than the league made the previous year and $42 million more than the SEC reported during its last fiscal year (which ended in August of 2012).

Additionally, USA Today writes: “The return also showed the league-owned Big Ten Network has progressed from start-up to overall profitability in less than five years.”

The Big Ten co-owns its television channel with FOX.  ESPN owns the new SEC Network and is expected to pay the SEC a licensing fee for content and 50% of profits.  The SEC should see money sooner from its network than the Big Ten did from its channel.

Now let’s tinker with the data USA Today is reporting.  For the fiscal year ending in Summer 2012, both the Big Ten and SEC were 12-school leagues.  With the SEC office taking an equal share — and we assume the Big Ten office does the same — that carves total revenue into 13 units.  Doing a little ballpark math… if the Big Ten made about $42 million more than the SEC during both leagues’ last fiscal year and that revenue was divided into 13 units, the average Big Ten school would have made about $3.2 million more than the average SEC school in 2011-12.

As the Big Ten Network continues to grow, the Big Ten will continue to bring in more loot.  And with the conference expanding to 14 schools eventually stretching all the way to New York City and Washington, DC, it will most certainly continue to grow.

Down South, the new SEC Network could become a billion-dollar-a-year revenue stream for Mike Slive’s league at some point down the road (as is the case with the Big Ten Network and Jim Delany’s league).

So as we’ve written on a number of occasions, new contracts and deals will continue to be cut by networks and conferences over the coming decades, but you can expect the Big Ten and SEC to always remain one-two in terms of revenue among the major conferences.  Who’s on top will depend greatly on whose network grows the largest.

And if you’re wondering how a league with average football in recent years is out-earning the king of the football world in a marketplace driven by football… click here.

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New York Post Tabs Carolina #1

When you think about it, South Carolina isn’t as long a shot to win the BCS title as Auburn was at the beginning of last year’s campaign.  Still, knowing the Gamecocks’ history, it’s a little jarring to see USC — the USC of the East — tabbed as the top team in the country.

But The New York Post has done just that:


“With (Steve) Spurrier’s smooth Southern charm and dazzling resume as a college coach (he led Florida to the 1996 national championship) and player (he won the Heisman Trophy in 1966), landing some of the nation’s best talent, and his sixth sense for play calling, the Gamecocks are ready to make history.”


While The Post is picking the Gamecocks to win it all in January, Spurrier is quick to point out that his program still needs to do some growing.

“We never finished in the Top 10, never won a major bowl, never won the SEC,” the coach said.  “There’s still a whole bunch of firsts out there for us.”

“We’ll get a little pub right now, get our fans fired up over it.  Then we’ll see.  I think we’ve assembled hopefully one of our best teams ever.”

If nothing else, Spurrier has built the Gamecock program to the point where a national title isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility.  That’s quite a feat when you consider the long march through the desert that Carolina’s football history has been.

Now even folks as far off as New York City are paying attention to what’s going on in Columbia.

(As we noted earlier in our post regarding Mississippi State’s rise, hire the right coach and upward mobility is possible in the rough-and-tumble SEC.)

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Pearl “Thought About” Not Coaching UT Against UConn

Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl has hit the halfway mark of his SEC suspension.  His Vols are 2-2 in the league and coming off back-to-back wins over Vanderbilt and Georgia (on the road).  This weekend his team will head to Hartford to match up against #8 UConn.  Pearl will be back on the bench, though he briefly considered sitting this one out.

“I thought about it… and wasn’t sure what purpose it would serve.  We’ve put some unprecedented penalties on our program — there’s no question that the visibility of it all — and (the penalties) have played a part in some of our struggles as it should.  That’s what happens when you get suspended, that’s what happens when… you’ve got self-imposed penalties.”

Pearl was also asked about the many national pundits — Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps — who have said he should have been fired or should be suspended for at least a year.

“They have a job to do.  These decisions (about the punishments) are made by people with all the information.  So sometimes it’s puzzling when people make strong statements when they don’t have all the facts.”

If Pearl can lead Tennessee to victory against UConn — and how many NCAA references do you think will be made in a game featuring Pearl and Jim Calhoun? — it will be the Volunteers’ third win of the season against a highly-ranked Big East foe on a neutral court.  UT has already beaten Villanova in New York City and Pittsburgh in the Steel City (though away from their home gym).

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Honors Abound for Basketball Vols

Numerous members of the 13th-ranked Tennessee basketball team have received honors in recent days following the Vols’ championship performance in the NIT Season Tip-Off last week at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
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Chizik Named Finalist For Eddie Robinson Coach Of The Year Award

Auburn head coach Gene Chizik has been named as one of eight finalists for the 2010 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, the Football Writers Association of America in conjunction with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl has announced. The winner will be revealed on Dec. 6 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.
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Vols New York Bound, 60-56

Tennessee edged Missouri State, 60-56, Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Preseason NIT in New York City next week.
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