This is on Don Nehlen. Major Harris too. Don’t forget Bobby Bowden. Rich Rodriguez gets credit. Even Bill Stewart.
West Virginia joined Big 12 on Friday (beginning in 2012) because of all those folks. Nehlen, the gritty, veteran coach who put the school on the map. Major Harris, the dual threat sensation before there were dual threat sensations leading the Mountaineers to the brink of a national championship. Rich Rod, the homeboy, and his basketball-on-grass offense. And all Coach Stew did was beat Oklahoma and average nine wins a year.
You can thank Gordon Gee too. Gee was West Virginia’s president during a key time (1981-85) in the school’s history. If not for the school’s admission into the old College Football Association, it might not be here today. West Virginia was among a group of about 15 independents in that initial CFA group of 63 schools.
The CFA gained power out of the Supreme Court’s de-regulation of college football in 1984. It was the television negotiating arm for those top 63 football-playing schools.
“They [West Virginia] met all the criteria,” said former CFA executive director Chuck Neinas. “They routinely get 60,000, their stadium size, strength of schedule, certain academic commitments.”
The qualifications for the old CFA have faded into history. But they are essentially why West Virginia is in a BCS league going forward and the Big East is in trouble. West Virginia has been selected to move on as a big-time football program.
That, and cold, hard numbers. You want to know why West Virginia is in the Big 12 and Louisville isn’t? 500,000 homes. That’s the difference in the half-rating point for television that separates the two schools.
It comes down to West Virginia’s average 2.6 television rating over the past five years as opposed to 2.1 for Louisville. That half-rating point equals half a million television homes. That’s according to an industry source who had the numbers in front of him for all 120 FBS schools.
The FBS average rating is 2.2 In other words, Louisville is an average TV draw. West Virginia is an above average draw.
Big 12 inventory becomes more valuable because of West Virginia-Texas and West Virginia-Oklahoma Louisville doesn’t move the needle as much. According the industry source, that 2.1 Louisville rating was boosted significantly by a pair of two five-year-old results – games in 2006 against West Virginia and Rutgers.
Neinas, currently interim Big 12 commissioner, was CFA executive director for the 20 years of existence. It disbanded in 1997. The Mountaineers move to the Big 12 can be traced back to Neinas’ time when he guided college football through a treacherous period. West Virginia made the cut Friday because of all those things – Nehlen’s leadership, that national championship run, ratings points. But it goes back to West Virginia being leading Eastern independent when the CFA was formed.
The CFA was a precursor the current BCS (membership: 66).
So West Virginia has its nose under the tent and the Big East moves on with uncertainty. Even if it does reconstitute itself and expand to 12 teams, there is no guarantee the Big East will retain its BCS status. That issue will at least be discussed when the BCS holds its next scheduled meeting Nov. 14 in San Francisco.
For 2012 at least, the Big 12 is a 10-team conference but don’t hold your breath.
“The only thing constant in this world is change,” Neinas said. “Right now we’ve got our house in order. We’re looking forward to a very aggressive conference.”
National notage …
A closer look at how Wisconsin has blown its last two games to Michigan State and Ohio State:
In the final eight minutes of both those games the teams’ combined score has been even, 21-21. In those fourth quarters, Wisconsin’s pass defense allowed 10 completions on 17 attempts for 155 yards. Take away the two game-winning plays – Michigan State at the gun and Ohio State with 20 seconds left – and the opposition completed only eight of 15 in that span for 74 yards, 4.93 yards per attempt.
But you can’t leave out those two plays. Keith Nichol caught the winner for Michigan State from 44 yards out. Ohio State’s Devin Smith caught that 40-yard touchdown from Braxton Miller with 20 seconds left.
Essentially, Wisconsin hasn’t responded when playing tougher competition. It won its first six games by at least 31 points. Two plays have killed the Badgers. They will likely be the difference in a BCS bowl (Rose?) and perhaps a Big Ten title.
Case Keenum has to be the season’s most valuable player to this point.
Houston is in the running for a Big East berth (maybe) and BCS bowl (barely) primarily because of its quarterback’s right arm. The nation’s leading passer has the Cougars ranked and on the periphery of BCS contention. The memory may have faded by now but Houston beat Rice 73-34 Thursday with Keenum throwing nine touchdown passes. Someday soon he will be the all-time leader in passing yardage.
Yes, a sixth year of eligibility has helped but look at what it has wrought: In conference realignment where your worth can be judged by what you did yesterday, the Cougars are a hot commodity – at least to the Big East. Houston could be included in a batch of teams that would stretch from BYU to Texas and back East just to keep the conference viable.
Basically, Keenum is all Houston has. That’s no disgrace considering what’s at stake. While the defense is improved over last season (from 103<sup>rd</sup> to 86<sup>th</sup>), the Cougars have won games this season allowing 34 (twice) and 42 points. It all comes back to Keenum, already the NCAA’s career total offense leader, having thrown a nation-leading 32 touchdowns.
Without him, Houston is a commuter school in media market where it is the fourth or fifth option. With him, Houston may someday be able to thank Keenum for a berth in a BCS bowl.
That brings us to this week’s top Heisman contenders ...
1. Keenum – 139 career touchdown passes.
2. Kellen Moore, Boise State – forget his measurables. Should end up in a pro camp somewhere.
3. Andrew Luck, Stanford – Completion percentage, touchdown-to-interception and passer rating all up over last season.
4. Trent Richardson, Alabama – We’ll know more after Saturday.
5. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin – Don’t blame the nation’s most efficient passer for the Ohio State loss.
While we’re speculating on coaching turnover, let’s not forget North Carolina State’s Tom O’Brien.
After being shut out by Florida State, 34-0, the Wolfpack is 4-4 having beaten only one BCS conference program this season (Virginia). N.C. State was shut out on the road an ACC game for the first time since 1990, not to mention Wilson’s decision to let Russell Wilson become a free agent.
O’Brien is 29-29 in his fifth season, having never finished better than a tie for second in the ACC Atlantic Division.
This from the Boulder Daily Camera: It seems like it’s already time to question why Colorado was included in the Pac-12’s expansion plans.
So why was CU No. 1 on Larry Scott's expansion list?
"CU just checked all the boxes for us," the forward-thinking Pac-12 commissioner said. "CU was a fit in terms of academic compatibility, being a good geographic fit and sharing a similar philosophy and culture in terms of the role of athletics within the broader mission. And Denver is a very important market."
Colorado dropped to 1-8, 0-6 in the Pac-12 South after a 48-14 loss at Arizona State. Pac-12 newbies CU and Utah are a combined 5-12 overall, 1-10 in the league.
Penn State may be the worst 8-1 team you ever saw, but it has a plucky defense and, more importantly, an inside track to the Big Ten title game.
After beating Illinois Saturday, the Nittany Lions have a 2 ½-game lead over Wisconsin, Purdue and Ohio State in the Leaders Division with three games to go. Hold onto your Coke bottle glasses. Those final three games are at home against Nebraska, at Ohio State and at Wisconsin. If JoePa somehow grabs another Big Ten title at age 84 he will have earned it.