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2013 Signing Class: South Carolina’s Target Zone

target-with-dartsSouth Carolina added 21 players from 7 different states on Wednesday and Thursday.  A breakdown of the Gamecocks’ “target zone” is below:

 

Georgia = 7 recruits

Florida = 4

North Carolina = 4

South Carolina = 3

Alabama = 1

Maryland = 1

Pennsylvania = 1

 

In-State Signees = 14.2%

Out-Of-State Signees = 85.7%

 

Observation:

With greater success the past three seasons, Carolina has been able to branch out and bring in more out-of-state recruits the past two offseasons.  But Steve Spurrier turned things around in Columbia by taking the lead in homegrown products.  The Gamecocks signed 17 in-state recruits (including Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney) in 2010 and 2011.  The last two years they’ve signed just seven in-state players.  The state wasn’t as rich this year as it has been recently, but Clemson signed two more in-state players and wound up ranked slightly ahead of Carolina in several post-signing day polls.  Not a huge worry, but a trend to watch nonetheless.

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2013 Signing Class: Tennessee’s Target Zone

target-with-dartsTennessee added 21 players from 9 different states on Wednesday and Thursday.  A breakdown of the Volunteers’ “target zone” is below:

 

Tennessee = 6 recruits

Florida = 3

Georgia = 3

North Carolina = 2

Ohio = 2

South Carolina = 2

California = 1

Kansas = 1

Maryland = 1

 

In-State Signees = 28.5%

Out-Of-State Signees = 71.4%

 

Observation:

The state of Tennessee has been producing more SEC-caliber athletes in recent years (19 from Tennessee this year compared to 20 from Louisiana and 24 from Alabama) and new coach Butch Jones will need to start taking advantage of that fact.  Getting back into the Carolinas and into Ohio is important as well and it appears the doors to those states have at least been cracked open.

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With Expansion Talk Heating Up, Here Are Four “Best-Case” Scenarios For The SEC

best-caseGet ready.  They’re coming.  From one side of the continent to the other.

With the Big XII conference holding a get-together of its athletic directors today and tomorrow, conference expansion/realignment rumors will be back on the menu and they’ll be served up fast and furious all week long.

Big XII commissioner Bob Bowlsby said last week that he was “not convinced based on my conversations with (two other conference commissioners) that the move to 16 is in any way imminent.”  Yet he has admitted that the pluses and minuses of expansion will be a main topic at this week’s meeting:

 

“It is very much an academic and philosophical discussion.  We have no plans in the immediate future for any change in composition, but we think it’s wise and prudent to consider all the positive aspects of our current formation as well as whatever negative effects there may be.  It also is a good time to talk about the positives of adding a new member or two members of six members.

We don’t have any plans to expand, but on the other hand, we don’t want to be caught off guard either.  I think there’s a proactive approach we can undertake and also a reactive and responsive approach.  We’re going to flesh out both of those.”

 

Days earlier, even Texas AD DeLoss Dodds — an anti-expansion hardliner — admitted “there may be some talk of 12″ inside the 10-school Big XII.

Twelve, schmelve seems to be the message of Ohio State president Gordon Gee.  He piped up late last week to say that the Big Ten is still talking expansion and that he “believes there is movement towards three or four super-conferences that are made up of 16 to 20 teams.”

We’ve written for a while that we believe the push for a new super-division of the biggest, richest football schools in the country will come to a head soon.  Very soon.  As in the next three or four years soon.  We suspect four or five conferences will survive in the Big Boy Zone and we’ve not been shy about stating that there’s no reason for anyone to believe that we’ll be left with four nice, neat 16-team power conferences.  Expansion/realignment is 95% about television revenue and that means content to sell.  Some league(s) will realize that having more schools means having more games to sell which in turn will mean more cash.  Gee’s “16 to 20″ comment didn’t catch us off guard (and if you read this, this, this, and this it didn’t catch you off guard either).

So what’s all this hubbub mean for the SEC?  Here are some best-case scenarios:

 

1.  Everyone takes a deep breath, taps the brakes on the Expansion Express, and waits to see how things play out in the new playoff world.

Uh, yeah, that ain’t happening.  It should happen because no one knows how all these rushed decisions will play out long-term, but there’s money on the floor and several league commissioners will be diving on the ground to grab every last nickle of it.

Unfortunate.

Unwise.

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WOW Headlines – 1/22/13

Florida has officially hired Brad Lawing from South Carolina to become the school’s defensive ends coach and assistant head coach
South Carolina has replaced Lawing by hiring Deke Adams from North Carolina as the school’s new defensive line coach
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says his team’s opener with Georgia could be moved to Labor Day, but it’s unlikely UGA officials will agree to do that
Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith is expected to face charges of unethical conduct for violations committed on his watch at Miami (FL)
Tennessee has already lost seven members from its 22-man 2012 signing class in football
Former Georgia RB Ken “Boo” Malcome will transfer to Southern Illinois
SEC Tuesday night basketball…Alabama 59, Kentucky 55…Missouri 71, South Carolina 65
Follow the SEC every single day at MrSEC.com or on your phone or tablet with a MrSEC.com app

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Big Ten Commissioner Talks Conference Expansion

gfx - they said itBig Ten commissioner Jim Delany started the expansion/realignment wheel spinning again with his league’s surprising grab of Maryland and Rutgers last November.  (The wheel never stopped spinning for smaller leagues, but all was once again quiet among the five power conferences when Delany struck.)  Now it’s rumored that the Big Ten wants to go from 14 to 16 schools.  Multiple sources from in and around the college athletics industry have told MrSEC.com that Big Ten representatives have spoken with representatives from Virginia and Georgia Tech.  No one has admitted that publicly, of course, but no one from Maryland or Rutgers acknowledged they were contemplating a move, either.

After adding the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins, Delany said his league was “inactive but alert” regarding future moves.  Last week he tried to explain just what “inactive but alert” really means:

 

“Someone said monitoring the landscape was a passive process, it wasn’t descriptive.  The fact of it is we were ‘inactive’ and ‘not alert’ for 22 years as we had 11 members then we announced we were going to (expand) and that was a circus for months and months and upset a lot of people.

We thought there was more risk in the status quo than in change, so we acted (adding Maryland and Rutgers).

The question is: Where are you?  We’re ‘inactive,’ but is ‘alert’ different than ‘monitoring the landscape?’ I don’t know, I can’t make a qualitative difference. We study it and keep our eyes and ears attuned to what’s happening in the real world. We’re focusing on other things (than expansion) right now — focusing on integrating Rutgers and Maryland into the league.”

 

Not sure about you, but to this writer it sounds like Delany’s got a plan and knows that eventually he’ll be putting that plan into place.  Whether that means Virginia, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke or more enter the Big Ten is anyone’s guess.  But the league’s commissioner certainly isn’t closing the door on further expansion.

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Big Bang Theories: The Countdown To Super-Conferences (Part 4)

BIG BANG THEORIES MRSEC BESTSince the Big Ten uncorked the bottle holding the conference realignment genie back in November, rumors of more massive changes to come have been spreading across the country.  Fans enjoy the “fantasy league” nature of the discussion.  People in industries connected to college sports (television, athletic equipment suppliers, agencies holding media rights) simply accept that their world is in for more change.  While several of the folks we’ve spoken to in various SEC athletic departments seem to dread the next round of shuffling.

Count us among those who’d like to see the biggest conferences pause, reflect, and observe how the last batch of changes turn out… before changing things once more.  Unfortunately it looks as though further changes are unavoidable.

Schools want to make more money and conference swaps can help them do that.  Conferences want to either stabilize themselves, guarantee themselves more money, or both.  And television networks want more and more content — that means games — with which to fill their program schedules.  Add it all up and it certainly appears that the era of the super-conferences is almost here.

Last month, we began a series of breakdowns on realignment and expansion.  In Part One we looked at which schools might be looking to switch conferences in order to bolster their bank accounts.  In Part Two we examined those 25 “up for grabs” schools to see which ones would probably be on power conferences’ wish lists.  In Part Three we looked at the five remaining power conferences and their various options moving forward.

In this, the final part of our series, we try to tie everything together for you.  It’s not been easy because many different people are saying many different things these days.  That’s the nature of these things, of course.  Everyone from an old buddy who works for a major television network to a contact/source who works inside an SEC athletic department wants us to believe he’s got his finger on the pulse of this stuff.  We’ve tried to cut through the clutter and deliver what we believe to be some pretty accurate recon of the shifting conference landscape, but it’s far from definitive.  This a chess game amongst world class players with billions of dollars at stake.  It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that sources — especially those at schools — might be willing to float misinformation to cause panic elsewhere.

So what you’re about to see should be taken as our view on this early-January day of where the conferences might move in the coming days, weeks, months and years.  It should not be taken as  gospel.  With the television dollars, threats of litigation, and pure politics involved in these realignment decisions, what’s true at breakfast could be false by dinner.

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Big Bang Theories: The Countdown To Super-Conferences (Part 2)

Last month, what looked to be a quiet holiday season went boom when the Big Ten surprisingly swiped Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East.  The Big East responded by inviting Tulane into the family.  At that point most of the Big East’s biggest basketball schools said, “That’s enough,” and announced just days ago that they would be breaking away from their football-playin’ brothers to create a new hoops-first conference of their own.

Instead of a season of peace, presidents, commissioners, coaches and fans are back to nervously holding their breath as they wait for the next big move.  Silent nights will be replaced with anxious nights for many.

With expansion and realignment in the air once more, we’re taking a numbers-based look at how things might shake out.  Yesterday, we showed you the total revenue numbers — gross not net — for each school currently scheduled to be playing FBS football by 2015.  Follow the money and it becomes clear that about 76 FBS schools — those not in the Big Ten, Big XII, Pac-12 and SEC — might be willing to flip-flop conferences if it meant more cash in their coffers.

Meanwhile, the biggest conferences are keeping their eyes on the ACC, the Big East, Notre Dame, and a select number of schools that might actually be worth nabbing.  That’s what we’ll examine today:

 

1.  Which schools would be appealing to the biggest leagues thanks to the number of cable households they can influence/provide?  With several leagues launching their own networks, the more cable households gained, the higher the subscriber fees those conferences can try to charge.

2.  Which schools have “big brand” appeal?  Location isn’t everything.  East Carolina — for example — might be located in the Tarheel State, but ECU doesn’t draw North Carolina-type ratings on television.  Just grabbing San Diego State in California wouldn’t allow a league to claim it has drawing power across the entire Golden State.  Stealing a Southern Cal or a California, on the other hand…

3.  Which schools have the best academic reputations?  As we noted yesterday, academics are playing a smaller and smaller role in expansion and realignment (see: Louisville to the ACC) as dollars and survival instinct become the real drivers behind many leagues’ decisions.  The Big Ten and SEC, however, are in the most powerful positions moving forward.  Their schools currently bring in the most revenue.  If push came to shove, there would be few schools willing to turn down an invite from either conference.  The Big Ten has always been very picky about trying to add AAU member institutions with big research budgets.  The SEC can be choosy, too, at this point.  The league’s presidents are tired of having the pointy-heads from Up North making inferences about the “dumb jocks” in the league Down South.  In addition to growing it’s geographic and media footprint, the SEC’s last round of expansion allowed it to add two AAU schools to its roster.  If forced to expand further, expect Mike Slive to try and land more big name brands with reputations for being solid research-based universities.

 

So let’s start by looking at the 25 schools we identified yesterday as having at least some hope of landing in a bigger conference:  Boise State, Boston College, BYU, Cincinnati, Clemson, Connecticut, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, SMU, South Florida, Syracuse, UCF, UNLV, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

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ACC Seeks To Quell Rumors

With rumors swirling about conference realignment – including chatter of a 16-team Big Ten conference – the ACC Council of Presidents issued a statement today. The statement read:

“We, the undersigned presidents of the Atlantic Coast Conference, wish to express our commitment to preserve and protect the future of our outstanding league. We want to be clear that the speculation about ACC schools in negotiations or considering alternatives to the ACC are totally false. The presidents of the ACC are united in our commitment to a strong and enduring conference. The ACC has long been a leader in intercollegiate athletics, both academically and athletically, and the constitution of our existing and future member schools will maintain the ACC’s position as one of the nation’s premier conferences.”

The statement was signed by the 15 current and future members of the ACC – including Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame, but not Maryland, which is headed to the Big Ten.

Rumors have linked Georgia Tech, Virginia and North Carolina to the Big Ten, as well as possible Big 12 interest in Florida State, Louisville and Clemson.  The Sporting News Matt Hayes recently said an ACC source told him that the SEC has been chasing Duke and North Carolina for “the last three years.”  These rumors won’t be going away anytime soon.

 

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UNC A.D. Puts Out Presser Regarding Fedora Speculation

Larry Fedora was believed to be on Tennessee’s list of potential head coaches.  Last Friday, an industry source told us his name was rising up the chart in Knoxville pretty quickly.  Fedora was even scheduled to meet with UT AD Dave Hart in New York yesterday, but there’s been very little talk about his candidacy today.

We reported earlier today that we had been told he did not want to anger his current boss at North Carolina just to be the #3 man in a three man race (behind Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Louisville’s Charlie Strong).  If he met with Hart, it’s believed, that he made it clear he wouldn’t/couldn’t discuss the job unless he was a strong — no pun intended — candidate.

Well, now Fedora’s boss — UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham — has responded to the rumors swirling around his football coach with a press release:

 

“This time each year there are a number of coaching vacancies in college football and yesterday several rumors included speculation about our own football coach Larry Fedora. Neither Coach Fedora nor I are going to address rumors about individual jobs that are bound to happen each year.

It’s been my policy since I have been a director of athletics not to comment or engage in discussions regarding a coach’s job until such time that there is a change in a coach’s employment status. Speculation about the future employment status of a head coach can be detrimental to an athletic program.

I frequently communicate with our head coaches about what they need to be successful at North Carolina. Whether a coach is highly successful or under inordinate pressure it has been my policy to keep those conversations confidential and I will continue my policy to not engage in any public discussion or speculation regarding employment. We work together to provide the best opportunities for our coaches and student-athletes.”

 

So what does that mean?  Like everything else, it’s open for interpretation.  Perhaps Fedora and UNC are okey-dokey.  Perhaps Fedora is talking to Tennessee, Wisconsin or some other non-SEC school.

But by saying something — anything — Cunningham has now turned Fedora’s status back into a hot topic.  Whether he meant to or not.

UPDATE: North Carolina recruit on conversation with Fedora: “He was just saying I don’t have anything to worry about, because he’s staying at UNC.”

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Kentucky Lands Hoops Commitment

Center Karl Towns has committed to Kentucky and announced he plans to reclassify to the 2014 class and graduate from high a school a year earlier than planned.

Florida, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina and North Carolina State were all in the mix for Towns. But Kentucky has long been considered the team to beat for Towns.

“Kentucky is such a great school,” Towns said. “I felt like Kentucky was just the right school at the end of the day.”

Towns should have an idea of what kind of coaching he’ll see from Calipari. Towns played for Calipari this past summer on the Dominican Republic’s National Olympic Team.

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