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SBD/September 20, 2011/CollegesPrint All
Univ. of Texas will "make a decision about its future conference home within two weeks," according to a source cited by Chip Brown of ORANGEBLOODS.com. UT regents yesterday "voted to give UT president Bill Powers the authority to make decisions on behalf of the university when it comes to conference affiliation." The source said that UT's "first option remains holding the Big 12 together with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State in it." But sources said that the Big 12's TV partners -- ABC/ESPN and Fox -- are "not interested in continuing their current contracts with the Big 12 if Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas are not all in the league." After being given "the authority by regents to make conference affiliation decisions on behalf of Oklahoma, school president David Boren on Monday expressed concern about the instability of the Big 12." Sources said that OU and OSU "are totally focused on becoming members of the Pac-12." But there is "some question about if those schools would receive a bid without Texas." Meanwhile, a second source confirmed that the ACC "remains interested in Texas -- but without Texas Tech." The source said that the ACC "would consider a Texas-Kansas or Texas-Missouri combination" (ORANGEBLOODS.com, 9/19). In Austin, Maher & Bohls report Pac-12 presidents "have not met collectively on any potential applications." No one "knows for certain if they would authorize Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott to extend invitations to OU and OSU separate from Texas and Texas Tech," though a source said that it "would be possible if the presidents embraced the idea." UT still remains "keenly interested in preserving its Longhorn Network, but conference membership elsewhere will make that a thorny problem" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 9/20). A source said that because of "complex issues, including the Longhorn Network" any UT move to the Pac-12 "would extend at least into next week." Another source suggested that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State "could petition to join the Pac-12 by week's end" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/20).
SEPARATION ANXIETY: Boren yesterday acknowledged that he has "engaged in 'very warm' and 'very constructive' talks with the Pac-12." He added that he has "spoken constructively, too, with some Big 12 presidents," but he "did not establish a specific timeline for the next OU move." Boren: "I'd still love to see a result sooner rather than later. I think that it's best for everyone involved if we can reach a conclusion, reach a decision, as soon as possible" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 9/20). Boren added, "I want to make it very clear that this is not a Texas A&M-like situation, where, when the regents voted to give authority to the president, everyone was aware of the fact they were giving authority under the direction of the president to take action to move to the SEC. That's not the situation here. The regents have not given me authority and direction to proceed to make a particular decision" (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 9/20). Boren: "I would say that the principal focus, beyond the Big 12 itself -- which is still a focus for us -- is the Pac-12" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/20). The AP's Latzke & Vertuno noted if OU leaves, "so will Oklahoma State." Boren said, "Whatever we do, we're going to do it together and I think that's very good news for the state of Oklahoma." He added that he "speaks daily with Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis." OSU's regents "have called a special meeting on the topic Wednesday" (AP, 9/19). In Oklahoma City, Travis Haney notes part of OU's "board meeting's executive session focused on the possibility of litigation, should OU choose to move to the Pac-12." Boren: "I don't think you build trust and I don't think you build stability in a conference by the threat of litigation. If it takes the threat of litigation to keep a conference together, that's not the right way to proceed" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 9/20).
NOWHERE LAND: Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe last night "broke a long silence with a statement of confidence in the league." Beebe: "We continue to apply all effort and resources toward assuring our members that maintaining the Big 12 is in the best interest for their institutions" (K.C. STAR, 9/20). Univ. of Kansas Board of Regents Chair Ed McKechnie said last night that the board "has added conference realignment to its agenda Thursday." The meeting will "be held in executive sessions with officials from both KU and K-State present" (KANSASCITY.com, 9/19). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes the Big 12 is a "ghost league," and a "loose confederation of Middle America schools that sport all the trust of a prison yard." Tramel: "This isn't the Big 12. This is a conference that used to be the Big 12" (THE OKLAHOMAN, 9/20). SI.com's Andy Staples wrote, "Barring an eleventh-hour miracle even more incredible than the one that saved the Big 12 in June 2010, the conference as currently constituted is toast" (SI.com, 9/19).
STAYING AHEAD OF THE GAME: USA TODAY's David Leon Moore in a sports section cover story reports after two years as Pac-12 Commissioner, Larry Scott has "emerged as an industry leader, perhaps a visionary and maybe even, as some see it, the smartest person in the combustible environment of college sports." Scott said, "I don't want that much credit, and I don't want that much blame." Moore notes to Scott, "more expansion always seemed inevitable." Scott: "I'm not sure I've got a clear view on exactly what the end product will look like, whether it's four or five conferences, or whether they all have 16 teams or not. But what I did see last year and what I continue to see is instability. Certain conferences are very stable, and others are unstable." Scott did not "see so much change happening so quickly in his first two years," but he "knew that he was ready to shake things up" (USA TODAY, 9/20). Scott said the "challenge of the role like I'm in is not just to look at the world the way it is today, but to look at it the way it may be five years from now and that's really been the basis upon which we've looked at everything we've done." He added, "If we were to ever consider expansion going forward, it would absolutely have to make sense for our current members and new members. It would have to be additive, not dilutive" ("Game On," Versus, 9/16).
ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the conference is “settled and we’re pleased" with 14 members after the addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh into the league on Sunday, though he added the league is "fundamentally and philosophically ... not opposed to 16 if it’s two schools that we feel that make us better as a conference and set our profile academically and athletically.” Swofford appeared on WQXI-AM in Atlanta yesterday to discuss the latest moves and said, “We still got our eye on the landscape and we’ll see what evolves. I’d be surprised if our movement is the only thing that happens in the near future. I guess that’s an understatement.” Big East President John Marinatto has told the N.Y. Times that the league plans to hold SU and Pitt to its contractual obligation to stay in the Big East until '14. Swofford said of when the schools would officially join the ACC, “We’re fine if it’s next year, and we’re fine if it’s several years from now, and that’s been part of our discussion about that from the beginning. ... We would love to have Pitt and Syracuse as soon as they can join us. With that said, we and the two institutions will be totally respectful of the Big East bylaws regarding a team exiting that league and currently those bylaws require a $5 million payment and a 27-month notice” (“Barnhardt & Durham,” WQXI-AM, 9/19). Swofford added, “There’s a great stability about the ACC and we certainly want to keep it that way and as we look forward and what may be happening in intercollegiate athletics, we just want to make certain that we’re a viable and prominent player.” He said, “I’ve never seen as much instability and potential fluidity in terms of schools and what conferences they may or may not be in” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/19).
MORE ON THE HORIZON? ESPN.com’s Andy Katz cited a source as saying that Univ. of Connecticut President Susan Herbst and basketball coach Jim Calhoun “were working the phones to continue to drum up interest from within the ACC.” The source said that UConn is “optimistic that interest is reciprocal but UConn officials have no idea about the ACC's timeline as to when it would decide if it would go to sixteen.” The source added that UConn officials “led by Herbst do not see remaining in a weakened Big East as a viable option” (ESPN.com, 9/19). Meanwhile, Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver yesterday said that “he would be open to the idea of the ACC expanding further into a 16-team conference, but that it depends on what schools were under consideration.” Weaver: “I was okay with 12; I’m okay with 14; and I’d be okay with 16 if it’s the right mix of institutions and it’s for the right reasons” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/19). Palm Beach Post reporter Tom D’Angelo said Swofford “has one-upped everybody in being the aggressor, and they seem to have the upper hand now in conference realignment” ("College Football Talk," Versus, 9/19).
BACK OUT EAST: In Syracuse, Mike Waters writes the Big East “had internal issues” and those “had a role in the departures of Syracuse and Pittsburgh.” The possibility of Villanova moving its football program from the FCS to the FBS “divided the Big East’s membership,” as well as the “decision to walk away from a television deal with ESPN that would have been worth $111 million a year for the next nine years.” The decision to walk away from ESPN’s offer “gave some schools cause for concern.” A source said that Pitt President Mark Nordenberg “was an advocate for trying to bargain a better deal when the Pac-12’s 12-year, $2.7 billion deal with ESPN and Fox became known.” Another source said that Marinatto “is caught in a bind, essentially serving two masters.” He has “the football-playing schools on one side of the table and the basketball-only schools on the other side” (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 9/20). SU AD Daryl Gross: “We did this individually. They weren’t aware of us; we weren’t aware of them. Not until the end.” He said, “We’re going to cooperate with our colleagues at the Big East and I’m sure that will all shake out when they figure out what their identity is and how we move forward. I don’t think we have an answer right now” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/20).
Talks of a merger between the Big East and Big 12 "have centered on an arrangement in which what's left of the Big East schools would blend into the Big 12, and not vice-versa," according to sources cited by Andy Katz of ESPN.com. The sources indicated that if Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were to leave the Big 12 and the five remaining schools -- Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas and Kansas State -- "didn't have a landing in the ACC, SEC or Big Ten then they would move to absorb remaining Big East schools, not the other way around." A Big 12 source said that the "reason it would absorb the Big East is the conference's ability to secure a television deal." The Big 12's BCS bid, however, "won't be a lock under a new configuration" (ESPN.com, 9/20). The AP's Ralph Russo cited a source as saying that there "has been 'alive and ongoing' dialogue between athletic directors and high-level officials" in the Big East and Big 12. Big East Commissioner John Marinatto last night said that he "was confident the league would emerge stronger from the loss of Syracuse and Pittsburgh." Marinatto said that he "planned to hold Syracuse and Pittsburgh to their 27-month contractual exit obligations, meaning that they would not be able to leave the Big East until June 2014." He would not comment specifically about the Big 12 (AP, 9/19). Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick confirmed that the "remaining Big East and Big 12 schools could merge." Swarbrick: "In some version, whether it's a formal conference merger or some derivation" (USA TODAY, 9/20).
WHAT'S THE FORECAST IN THE EAST? In N.Y., Lenn Robbins cites sources as saying that the ADs of the "non-FBS football-playing schools in the Big East held a conference call yesterday in which a strong sentiment was voiced to keep the league together." Despite the "sentiment expressed on the call, the growing belief throughout the member schools and league office is that the conference will probably splinter with the non-football schools separating from the football schools." The fact that Marinatto has remained "mystifyingly quiet of late has fanned speculation that some of the membership has lost faith in the direction of the league" (N.Y. POST, 9/20). Marquette Univ. President Father Scott Pilarz said his school is committed to the Big East "as of today." Pilarz: "I'm hoping that the Big East, in large part, will stay together" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/20). The Big East's non-FBS schools "seem to be staying on the periphery for now" (NJ.com, 9/19).
MARINATTO TO BLAME? N.Y. Daily News reporter Dick Weiss said, “If you’re the commissioner of that league, you have to make sure that you protect your most valuable assets. Syracuse and Pitt were two charter members. I think it was probably tacky on their part to not even bother to call him to tell him their plans until the story started breaking late Friday night, but by the same token, it may speak volumes to the lack of respect they have for what’s going on in Providence right now. … This league is in serious trouble" ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 9/19). CBS' Tim Brando said ACC Commissioner John Swofford “doesn’t want to be invaded, so he decided to be proactive." Brando: "I cannot find fault with any commissioner that wants to do that. Now commissioners like Marinatto at the Big East and (Dan) Beebe at the Big 12 are being passed by because they were asleep at the switch. Guys like (Pac-12 Commissioner Larry) Scott and Swofford blitzed them. They were beaten by them. They were not as good as their job as these guys were good at theirs” (“The Tim Brando Show,” CBS Sports Network, 9/20). 1260-AM's Brent Axe said the Big East “as we know it is over, and I think you go right to the top," as it is not like Marinatto “didn’t see this coming” ("College Football Talk," Versus, 9/19). Former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said that he "did his best to warn the league well in advance" this current situation could occur. Tranghese: "I told the people it was going to happen. John Marinatto knew it was going to happen." However, Tranghese said, "There's a lot of finger pointing, which disappoints me. That's something that I learned from Dave Gavitt that you never do" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/20).
WILD, WILD WEST: Mountain West Conference Commissioner Craig Thompson yesterday said that movement in college sports has led the MWC "to resurrect merger discussions with Conference USA." In Boise, Brian Murphy notes the two conferences "discussed a partnership last year," and now are "discussing a football-only 'consolidation.'" Thompson said that "a 'federation' between the two leagues could help from a television perspective, creating a league that stretches from Hawaii to the East Coast and offers all-day programming and increased marketing and sponsorship opportunities." He said that "automatic qualification in the BCS would be a part of it." In addition, Thompson said that the MWC "has reached out to apparent fragile members of the Big 12 and Big East about joining his league" (IDAHO STATESMAN, 9/20). Thompson said, "In this day and age, consolidation might make sense. In doing our diligence, we have to explore all options. ... I don’t know the chances of this happening, but it is a solid idea and marked by enthusiasm on both sides to see what could come of it" (TULSA WORLD, 9/20). Thompson indicated that the two leagues "would be run independently in this scenario, but simply share a championship game." He also noted that he "has been talking to TCU on a constant basis to get a read on the Horned Frogs as they play their final season in the MWC." Thompson said that he "was hearing and sensing that TCU's first option is to stay with the plan of going to the Big East in what could be a likely merger under a Big 12 umbrella with its remaining schools" (ESPN.com, 9/20).
NCAA President Mark Emmert yesterday said that he has been "contacting university presidents and conference commissioners, urging them to consider key factors before reaching any conclusions or making any leaps," according to Michael Marot of the AP. Emmert said, "I want them to make good, thoughtful decisions about what's helping the school and what's helping the student-athlete." He added, "I do worry about some damage occurring in terms of collegiality. When this is over and the dust settles, we need people to be able to work together, so we need things to occur as amicably as possible." Emmert "ruled out the possibility of a meeting on realignment because it could potentially violate antitrust laws." But Marot noted his words "still carry influence and Emmert has never been afraid to use his bully pulpit to illustrate a point." Still, Emmert "does not think every move is a bad one." He said, "If you get more resources, that's a good thing. If you get more opportunities for student-athletes to play in new places, that could be a good thing, too, right?" But Marot noted there are "concerns, particularly the cost of excessive travel." And Emmert "isn't going to tell any conference or any school what they should do." Emmert said, "We don't go out there and hire coaches or athletic directors and we don't tell schools what conferences to be a part of. Those decisions are all the domain of the university" (AP, 9/19).
POWERLESS TO STOP IT: In N.Y., Pete Thamel writes with "more realignment seemingly to come," the NCAA is "powerless to oversee the process, the way a commissioner would in professional sports." The result has been an "every-man-for-himself mentality among college presidents." Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said that colleges "were moving so fast because of an atmosphere of 'panic.'" Princeton AD Gary Walters said, "What is lost in all of this is that the presidents -- the very people tasked with enforcing the NCAA’s and the Knight Commission’s principle of 'presidential control' of college athletics -- have proven to all that they are incapable of fulfilling their mandate. The hypocrisy is almost tangible." Former Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese: "The presidents have failed at their mission to put integrity back into the sport. As we look in retrospect, I don’t see a lot of integrity and honesty and loyalty" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/20). Tranghese added, "It's now a dog-eat-dog world in college athletics, and everyone is acting in their own self-interest. It's not about fit or academics or rivalries. It's about football and money, period" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 9/20). More Tranghese: "I’m embarrassed about the whole thing. Not just because it has affected the Big East -- it just seems that things such as integrity, and loyalty and congeniality are gone. Our problem is quite simple: We have no one in charge. You always need someone in charge who can make tough decisions for the so-called greater good of the game, and there is no one in charge. What we have are little fiefdoms who have conference names" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN2, 9/19).
SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT: In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes the board game Monopoly "is eminently more fair than the current Wild West atmosphere in college football, a sport ostensibly, allegedly governed by the NCAA -- but only when the NCAA feels like it, such as when a student-athlete might make a dime off his own jersey, that sort of thing." Hamilton: "Realignment, which affects thousands, maybe millions, of people? Sorry. Their hands are tied." University presidents and conferences "are the winners here." TV deals "will increase in value and the institutions will benefit financially." Hamilton: "And by institutions, we mean the athletic departments." Unless the NCAA "plows some of its ill-gotten gains into rules enforcement, it might as well go ahead and cede all control of college football to someone else, anyone else." Hamilton: "We’ve seen the man behind the curtain; we are fully aware the NCAA, like the wizard, is nothing but smoke and mirrors" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/20).
TIME TO END THE NCAA? ESPN.com's Jeff MacGregor writes under the header, "It's Time: The Death Penalty For The NCAA." MacGregor: "It is now understood, even by the most obtuse and earnest members of the sporting press that not only does the National Collegiate Athletic Association fail to prevent corruption, it requires it. ... The evidence against the NCAA needs no embellishment. The argument against it as any kind of operative force for good is overwhelming" (ESPN.com, 9/20). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote, "This is a business deal. Nothing is out of bounds when school presidents and ADs are scrambling to protect their financial empires." For the "right price, anything goes, including the selling of principles and souls" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 9/19). CBSSPORTS.com's Gregg Doyel wrote, "We need Congress to get involved in the wave of conference realignment that's crashing through the upper levels of college sports." Doyel: "All of them must be stopped: It starts with ESPN, but it has extended to the other networks. Conference commissioners. The monstrous University of Texas. Pouting Texas A&M. This isn't an anti-ESPN screed -- this is an anti-realignment screed, because everyone involved with this is screwing up college sports." College sports would be improved if someone would "step in and save college sports from itself." Right now there are a "handful of power-drunk commissioners and athletic directors and TV executives treating the country's biggest colleges like chess pieces" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/19).
In Tulsa, John Hoover reports the Univ. of Oklahoma Board of Regents approved a “three-year extension at $5.15 million per year” for football coach Bob Stoops. He will receive a “$75,000 annual bump in his base salary and other ‘stay bonuses’ and ‘stay benefits.’” The new deal, which goes into effect Jan. 1, is for seven years and $39.4M, not including "incentive bonuses like winning conference or national championships.” OU AD Joe Castiglione “also got a three-year extension as well as a base salary increase from $350,000 to $375,000 and a ‘personal services’ increase from $400,000 to $540,000, as well as an annual ‘stay bonus’ of $110,000 each October, effective 2013” (TULSA WORLD, 9/20).
FREEDOM OF SPEECH: In Memphis, Ron Higgins reported a group of "disgruntled Ole Miss supporters" placed an ad yesterday “in several daily Mid-South newspapers calling for a change in the school’s administration” after the football team's 1-2 start to the season. Lee Habeeb, the spokesperson for Forward Rebels!, said that the “timing of the ad was ‘coincidental’ following the Rebel’s 30-7 football loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday." Habeeb said that the group “had considered for more than a year starting an ad campaign to express its displeasure.” Higgins noted the ad carried the header, “Are You Tired Of Losing, Ole Miss Fans?” The ad continues, “We believe that our coaches are not the problem. Or our athletes. Or our fans. The Ole Miss administration is the problem. ... We’ve waited long enough. We’re tired of losing” (COMMERCIALAPPEAL.com, 9/19).
GIVING BACK: Also in Memphis, Phil Stukenborg writes former Univ. of Memphis RB DeAngelo Williams, who now plays for the NFL Panthers, “presented Tiger football with a major gift toward the school’s Vision for Victory campaign.” UM coach Larry Porter said that the donation “was a ‘six-figure gift’ to enhance the locker room at the Murphy Athletic Complex.” The gift will allow Williams to have “naming rights to the locker room” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 9/20).
FIRING BACK: In Pittsburgh, Rich Lord reports former Univ. of Pittsburgh football coach Michael Haywood worked for the school “for 17 days, and on Monday he filed a lawsuit claiming he is owed about $4 million.” Haywood said that “his contract as head football coach was breached when Pitt promptly fired him after an arrest in a domestic dispute.” The complaint filed stated the school then "‘terminated Haywood without just cause,’ and must pay him $750,000 for each of the contract years” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/20).