Posted on: September 20, 2011 4:12 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 12:13 am
All you had to do was put together the puzzle pieces on Missouri.
Earlier Tuesday, we reported that West Virginia was out as far as joining the SEC or ACC. Logically, that held that Missouri was likely to be the SEC's 14th school. That looked to be the case after the Kansas City Star reported that Missouri had "an offer on the table" to join the nation's strongest conference.
Except that the SEC immediately shot down the report: "The SEC has not extended an invitation to any school beyond Texas A&M since it extended invitations to Arkansas and South Carolina."
That would be two decades ago.
All this develops while the Big East and Big 12 attempt to reconstitute themselves into a combined league going forward. A source said Tuesday representatives from both leagues would like to meet in a central location but that there was nothing imminent through Wednesday. There's a long way to go -- the SEC likely wouldn't entertain an application until the Big 12 collapse. However, such a move by Missouri's would clear up conference realignment just a bit.
"I think there's something to that," said an administrator not from the Big 12 but whose school would benefit if Missouri left for the SEC.
Because the SEC is so sensitive to the landscape right now, don't be surprised either that the report could actually wreck a Missouri move to the SEC. It is known that SEC commissioner Mike Slive doesn't want to move on an existing conference member -- especially from the Big 12 -- until things are resolved legally.
Don't forget that Baylor could threaten legal action against Missouri if the school was accepted to the SEC. A Big 12 source said that for legal purposes, the Big 12 is still considered a conference as long as it has five members. The NCAA requires minimum membership of six for a conference to exist.
For those of you just jumping into the subject matter, think of Missouri as the best player left on the draft board. With Nebraska, Oklahoma, Syracuse and Pittsburgh spoken for in the past two years, Missouri suddenly looks very attractive. It has two top 30 markets in Kansas City and St. Louis and is contiguous to three SEC states (Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee). It touches two Big Ten states (Iowa, Illinois).
Missouri's fans and some of its administrators were a bit too convinced last year that Missouri was going to the Big Ten. It turns out the school wasn't near the top of the list when Nebraska was invited.
Tuesday's developments obviously don't necessarily place Missouri in the SEC. The Big 12 could survive. The SEC may be looking elsewhere. With Oklahoma and Oklahoma State seemingly out the door to the Pac-12, we won't know for sure on the national landscape until Texas declares its intentions.
For a few minutes there on Tuesday afternoon, Dan Beebe was trending on Twitter over Two and a Half Men. Or that's what I was told.
I'm not really sure. The social Twitterverse exploded Tuesday with the news that Pac-12 bound Oklahoma was demanding that Beebe, the Big 12's embattled commissioner, be replaced. OU wanted that as a condition of staying in the Big 12. Interesting that on Monday, OU president David Boren was basically tap-dancing on the Big 12's grave after getting permission from regents to head to the Pac-12.
What changed and why did Beebe become a pawn in this discussion? Most likely because OU doesn't have the votes from Pac-12 presidents to actually join the league. There was a report Tuesday that Pac-12 presidents are prepared to vote by the end of the week but there is no consensus. In other words, exactly what we've been hearing for weeks.
Oklahoma and Texas may want to go to the Pac-12, but the Pac-12 has been more than hesitating. Cal and Stanford don't want to include the academically unwashed Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. The Pac-12 is going to make a killing with a dozen teams, why invite the OU/UT drama into the mix? Big, happy families are hard to find these days in college athletics.
In essence, two iconic college sports names -- Oklahoma and Texas -- may have just quibbled and bitched their way out of an invite to what promises to be the richest conference in the country. Can you imagine, then, the Big 12 staying together? It may be forced to kiss and make up. The infighting, jealousies and bickering is going to make the Great Plains version of Jersey Shore.
It's not the man (Beebe), it's the culture. Texas and Oklahoma were among those who voted Beebe a raise and extension in June. What's changed? Certainly not Longhorn and Sooner egos.
Let's sum up Tuesday: An ultimatum to Dan Beebe by a school headed for the Pac-12 trumps an offer to Missouri that the SEC says didn't happen.
Everybody caught up?
Officials had every right and duty to delay Saturday’s Oklahoma State-Tulsa start. There were concerns about lightning and, no doubt, liability. But did Oklahoma State and Tulsa take it too far in forcing the players to perform in a game that ended at 3:35 Sunday morning?
Tulsa has game-cancellation insurance for such occurrences so the school would have been reimbursed had the game been cancelled. There is no corresponding open date for the schools when the game could have been made up. But would it have been possible to play the game on Sunday?
Tulsa AD Bubba Cunningham told CBSSports.com that the decision to play the game so late was made jointly by himself and Oklahoma State AD Mike Holder after consulting with game officials and both coaches.
"We were about seven minutes away from cancelling the game," said Cunningham of the contest that kicked off at 12:15 am CT. "We talked about student-athlete welfare as we made the decision. That’s why we had midnight as the tipping point."
The game was allowed to start after midnight because both coaches needed time for their teams to warm up after weather conditions improved. Cunningham said he would think twice about agreeing to start a game that late again. The original starting time was 9 pm CT at the request of Fox regional.
The game started so late that it came close to apparently violating NCAA rules.
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy added that had the game started at 7 pm CT, the rain and weather delays would have likely hit in the third quarter of the game instead of before it.
"I just don't think it's best for the student-athlete," said Gundy whose team plays a top-10 matchup this week at Texas A&M. "I wasn’t excited about our players being out there at 2 and 3 in the morning for a football game. I was concerned about their health. I don’t know how players compete at 2 or 3 in the morning. You don’t want a young man to get an injury and not be able to play the rest of the year."
There was, in fact, a significant injury. Tulsa's G.J. Kinne suffered a reported tear of the MCL in his left knee. The Tulsa World stated that the typical recovery time is two to four weeks.
Cunningham said game cancellation insurance had been purchased by Conference USA after Hurricane Katrina had impacted members Southern Miss and Tulane. Weather delays have become one of the overriding topics of the early season. Baylor and Texas Tech had games delayed last week. The Western Michigan-Michigan game was postponed to the game that the statistics didn't count in the NCAA rankings because the game didn't go the minimum three quarters.
The Cowboys-Golden Hurricane game started so late that Oklahoma State assistant Glenn Spencer had to leave during it. His wife Angela died during the first quarter of game won by Oklahoma State 59-33. She had been dealing with the effects of a heart transplant.
"It affected me. I have a lot of respect for their family and what they’ve gone through," Gundy said. "I wasn’t in the best of moods or as focused as I should have been.
Gundy added: "I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. But at some point do we really want to start a game at 9 o'clock? ... Our APRs are going up, our required numbers of hours to be passed by semester is going up, everything is moving toward education, then we’re going to start our game at 9 o'clock? Whoever is making those decisions needs to think things through before we’re put in those situations."
Tulsa goes to Boise State for a game that starts at a more reasonable time, 7 pm CT.
Wyoming's War Memorial Stadium (capacity: 29,181) is the smallest Nebraska has played in since 1971 ... Vanderbilt's James Franklin became the first Commodore coach to win his first three games at the school since World War II ... It's been three years since the Big 12 has seen a conference game between two top 10 teams aside from the Red River Shootout (Oklahoma-Texas). No. 7 Oklahoma State travels to No. 8 Texas A&M on Saturday ... Boise State has had only three drives (out of 27) that ended in negative yards this season. Two of those came in victory formation while taking a knee ... Two of the top three rushers meet this week at Michigan Stadium. San Diego State tailback Ronnie Hillman is No. 2. Michigan's celebrated quarterback Denard Robinson is No. 3 ... South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is on pace to rush for 2,492 yards. That would put him 136 yards short Barry Sanders' single-season record ... Florida Atlantic leads all non-BCS schools with only one turnover this season. That ties the Owls with eight other BCS schools. FAU is also the only team not to score a touchdown yet in FBS ... Since the beginning of the 2006 season Vanderbilt has intercepted 81 passes, 10 in three games this season ... USC's Robert Woods has caught more passes (33) this season than seven teams have completed.
Before posting this week's Heisman top five let me explain that I love Andrew Luck. I adore Andrew Luck. I would want Andrew Luck to marry my daughter. But I cannot in good faith put him in my top five. Tell me which one of these you would remove -- based on the season to date -- in place of Luck. Did I mention I love Andrew Luck?
1. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina; 2. Kellen Moore, Boise State; 3. Robert Griffin III, Baylor; 4. Russell Wilson, Wisconsin; 5. Denard Robinson, Michigan.
Posted on: August 25, 2011 4:14 pm
Edited on: August 25, 2011 4:24 pm
Sometimes the spouse is the last to know.
As obvious as Texas A&M's shameless affair with the SEC has been, it was still a bit disconcerting to see it admitted in writing Thursday afternoon. A&M president R. Bowen Loftin officially notified the Big 12 that his school is "exploring our options."
If you need to be hit over the head, we'll go ahead and say it: A&M wants a divorce and marry into the SEC, but it wants to keep things civil. There are children involved -- eight of them if you don't count Texas which is an otherworldly mega-force.
We've known for weeks that Aggies everywhere would rather change into formalwear, than stay in the Big 12. It's a University of Texas thing and you're not expected to understand it fully but a multi-million deal with ESPN to launch a network has something to do with it.
This starts the official process of A&M leaving its not-exactly-life partners in the Big 12. Now comes the potentially ugly legal part. According to Big 12 bylaws (these are dated but still relevant), departing schools must give two years' notice.
Short answer: That probably ain't happenin' with A&M. If the school gives less than a year's notice, which seems likely here, it must forfeit 90 percent of two years' worth of payouts. That comes to approximately $30 million. Consider that a starting point for negotiations between the school and league.
By the way, Nebraska paid $9.2 million to move to the Big Ten, basically 50 percent of a year's payout. Colorado paid approximately $6 million.
Then there is the question of whether the Big 12 wants to claim tortuous interference on the part of the SEC. Street term: Poaching. That's what that SEC presidents meeting was about a couple of weeks ago. I was told the presidents huddled with SEC lawyers to determine the best legal path.
Texas A&M has to extricate itself legally from the Big 12 before it jumps into, ahem, bed with the SEC.
Loftin wrote " ... If Texas A&M withdraws ... we want to do so in a way that complies with the bylaws and is supportive of your efforts to seek a new member ..."
That made the letter seem official and legal but was it final? Remember, "If Texas A&M withdraws ..."
Doesn't anybody care about the kids?
Posted on: July 27, 2011 8:04 pm
Edited on: July 27, 2011 8:12 pm
With the Big 12 media days kicking off Thursday here are five key issues to consider:
1. The 800-pound Buckeye in the room: The world is waiting to see how the second-richest athletic department comes out of possibly its most disgraceful period in school history. Following a Watergate-like cover up, the head coach "retired" but not before allowing five players to compete while ineligible. No big deal. All it meant was that Ohio State won its sixth straight conference title and a $20 million BCS bowl. There are enough leftovers in this mess to be the subject of lectures in finance, history, ethics and sports law classes for years. While the NCAA weighs the football program's penalties, this year's Buckeyes will be the slow-down-and-look wreck on the highway. Everyone will be gawking. It is rookie coach Luke Fickell's job to unite Buckeye Nation and what is still a talented roster. Don't be surprised if Ohio State wins the Leaders Division and the Big Ten. Call it Jim Tressel's going-away present.
2. Quick, name the members of the Leaders and Legends divisions: No, really. I'm serious. All those corporate goofs talk about branding and synergy. In this case, the Big Ten paid some consultant or another six figures to confuse the public. Commissioner Jim Delany was looking for competitive balance so North-South or East-West were probably out. I get that. What I don't get is why the words "Schembechler" "Hayes" or "Grange" couldn't have been worked in there somewhere. This is a conference that is about to profit off the grainy images of old Joe Paterno coaching shows from the 1960s (on the Big Ten Network). Instead, the corporate goofs have succeeded in making the Big Ten (really 12) teams anonymous. Why is Ohio State a Leader given its current rep? Why isn't Penn State a Legend given that it is coached by one. An enterprising reporter could embarrass some coaches at the media days by asking them to name the members of each division. For now, the easiest way to remember is this: All the Ms (Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State) and the Ns (Nebraska and Northwestern), plus Iowa, are in the Legends. The Ps (Penn State, Purdue) and the remaining Is (Indiana, Illinois) are in the Leaders. That leaves Ohio State and Wisconsin to memorize on your own. A nursery rhyme, it ain't.
3. Nebraska assimilation: A tight-knit family hasn't been this charged up for a big move since the Clampetts figured California is the place they oughta be. In this case it's the Big Red loading up the U-Haul and moving to the Big Ten. Nebraska can't wait, per the wishes of Tom Osborne who had enough of Texas. Football-wise not much has changed. Some of the road trips are daunting. The Huskers move from one 12-team conference to another. They still haven't won a conference title since 1999. They still aren't "back". The Big Ten won't change those story lines. Talent-wise, Nebraska will compete just fine. It could make the Big Ten's title game in its first season. Other than that, Nebraska feels a lot better about itself having already inheriting some of that Big Ten arrogance on its way out the door from the Big 12. One thing, though: If the Big Ten is such a respected academic league why is Nebraska the only school not a member of the Association of American Universities. Expansion was not just about football. Yeah, right.
4. The rise of Sparty: In 2010, Michigan State won its first Big Ten title since 1990. (Tying with Wisconsin and Ohio State.) Next stop: The Rose Bowl. It's been 22 years since the Spartans got to Pasadena. After four seasons of steady improvement, Mark Dantonio has a chance to do it. To some, Michigan State is more than the trendy pick to win it all in the Big Ten. Kirk Cousins is one of the best pocket passers in a country in love with the spread offense. Edwin Baker (1,201 yards, 13 tds) may be the conference's best running back. A strong linebacking group must be rebuilt, although the schedule breaks Michigan State's way. It gets Ohio State in Columbus in the last game of the player suspensions. Michigan and Wisconsin come to East Lansing. Dantonio won't wow you with quotes but this is as solid a program as there is right now in the Big Ten. When the coach survives a heart attack and the team still wins 11 games something is going right. If it comes together, who knows Michigan State could get revenge on Alabama in a BCS bowl? (Bama trounced the Spartans 49-7 in the Capital One Bowl.)
5. The traditional mob boss: And I mean that in the best possible way about Delany. He is simply -- with the possible exception of SEC counterpart Mike Slive -- the most powerful man in college sports. Delany doesn't speak often publicly but when he does, he is usually provocative. Look for more of the same when Delany speaks Thursday during his annual state of the conference address at the media days. This is the guy who deftly tried to lure Notre Dame to the Big Ten (remember the rumblings about breaking up the Big East?), then ended up with a hell of a consolation prize -- Nebraska. This is the guy who slapped down the non-BCS conferences with impunity during a December forum in New York. "The problem is," Delany told the BCS wannabes, "your big stage takes away opportunities for teams to play on the stage they created in 1902." This is the guy who created the model for the conference network. Remember, there is still no guarantee the Pac-12, Longhorn and all these other networks will succeed. Ask Delany. It was a long slog to get to this point. With all the issues in play -- Ohio State, NCAA reform, conference realignment -- expect Delany to make his opinion known this week.
Posted on: July 1, 2011 12:08 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 12:10 pm
This is the day Nebraska officially says goodbye to more than a century of history in the same conference. It started with the old Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1907. It ended Friday when Nebraska left the Big 12 and joined the Big Ten.
Gone are decades of history in the old Big Six, Seven and Eight. Gone are memorable games with Oklahoma. Gone is Nebraska's preeminent spot in its conference. It is joining the nation's oldest conference populated with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and others. Nebraska is still a big fish, only in a bigger pond.
Where does one of the country's most recognizable football factories fit in? In this companion blog to Friday's story on conference realignment, CBSSports.com tried to find out in this exclusive interview Nebraska legend/AD Tom Osborne.
CBSSports.com: How is the Big Ten different than the Big 12?
Tom Osborne: "Probably a little more traditional, more emphasis on traditional rivalries, not that they weren't there in the Big 12. When the Big 12 was formed Oklahoma began to face South, focus on the game with Texas. Nebraska-Oklahoma was no longer a regular game. It seems that the Big Ten puts an emphasis on history and tradition.
"I would say that the Big Ten is more oriented toward a level playing field in that they don't preserve a large percentage of TV money for those that appear more frequently.
"What all that does is probably lead to a little more stability. I'm not saying one's right and one's wrong ... I would compare it to the NFL model with pretty much equal revenue distribution. If you're in a major market you're able to generate a lot more money. Generally, the Yankees do better because they make more money."
CBSSports.com: Were you surprised Nebraska was kicked out of the Association of American Universities? (Note: The AAU is a prestigious group of research universities. For the first time in its 111-year history, it voted a member out. It was supposed that Nebraska's AAU membership was key to its being attractive to the Big Ten.)
Osborne: "It came out of the blue. The thing that was difficult, we're a land-grant college in an agricultural state. The AAU decided they weren't going to count those agricultural research dollars. Our medical school is on a separate campus. If that was not the case we would have been [OK] ... They chose to discard us."
CBSSports.com: What about assimilation in the Big Ten, football-wise?
Osborne: "We'll be in uncharted water but so will they. They'll have no familiarity with Nebraska and we have little familiarity with them. An outsiders' perspective is we'll probably be playing with a traditional defense, three linebackers on the field. In the Big 12 you found yourself playing with one linebacker and six defensive backs a lot of the time. If you're playing teams with one running back or no running back and five or six receivers, it becomes sort of a matchup game.
"I can relate to it a little better. You'll see more teams that have a tight end and fullback in the game. In the Big 12, you saw some teams with no tight ends."
CBSSports.com: Will Nebraska have to change its recruiting focus? It has been a national program in that sense in the past.
Osborne: "The orientation is not very much different. We've always been a national recruiting program. I imagine there will be a little more emphasis in the Big Ten states. We've always been in Texas, California."
CBSSports.com: It's amazing after all the conference realignment upheaval, it's Nebraska's brand name that carried it through. In other words, population density didn't necessary matter.
Osborne: "I don't want to sound [presumptuous], but there was something there that was attractive to the Big Ten. Whereas they had a chance to bring in a school from a more heavily populated area. We're glad they did invite us."
CBSSports.com: What's your feeling about Jim Tressel? He was key part of this early on, in that he stopped by and you showed him around the athletic department last spring.
Osborne: "It's very sad. I know Jim personally. I believe him to be basically a very good person. I just imagine he's made a wrong decision ... I don't see him as a person trying to do something intentionally unethical."
Posted on: June 29, 2011 11:33 am
Edited on: June 29, 2011 12:09 pm
LINCOLN, Neb. -- They call him T-Magic. His coach seemed to call him out last fall in what might have been the turning point in Nebraska's season.
Huskers' quarterback Taylor Martinez said Tuesday that coach Bo Pelini "misunderstood" events surrounding his injuries during a bitter loss to Texas A&M. Martinez went into detail about the contentious situation the night of Nov. 20 in College Station. During that game, Martinez reinjured his right ankle and had to leave early during a 9-6 loss to the Aggies.
That's when controversy sprouted. Back in the lockerroom after being examined, Martinez said he spoke to his father, Casey Martinez, via cell phone during the game.
By the day after on Sunday, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman had criticized Pelini's sideline behavior. The coach had to shoot down rumors that his quarterback had left the team.
What the public saw that night was Pelini berating officials and getting in the face of his quarterback. Martinez had emerged from the lockerroom after treatment early in the game, only to have Pelini poke a finger in his chest on the sideline.
Here's how Martinez saw it:
"I hurt my [left] turf toe then two plays later, that's when our center stepped on me. I went to the sidelines, then went back and got X-rayed. After I got X-rayed, I went back to the lockerroom. I couldn't move at all. It was so painful, my left toe and my right ankle. I was in so much pain. I didn't think I was going back in.
"I was trying to walk to our lockerroom to feel it out. I plugged in my phone for the charger. It was on and it lit up. I saw it. I saw my dad called me. I called him back and told him I didn't think I was going back in. I couldn't move at all. I explained to him what happened."
Martinez did eventually return in the second half but threw for only 107 yards in the game. Nebraska came into the game 9-1 and ranked ninth. It finished the season losing three of its last four, including the Big 12 title game to Oklahoma and the Holiday Bowl to Washington.
Was Martinez surprised how much was made about the night of Nov. 20?
"I was, but people could have their own assumptions of what happened. Maybe they don't think it's a correct thing, that what I did was call my dad and let him know what happened. I got turf toe and he didn't know about that. He actually thought I tore my ACL or broke my femur or whatever. He was concerned like any other father would be."
So he called you. Was he just taking a shot and hoping you'd answer the phone?
"Yeah. He knew I went to the lockerroom. I thought I was done. I didn't think I'd be able to go back in. I knew it was him who was calling. I explained to him what happened. The trainer was next to me ...
"Coach Pelini misunderstood what one of the trainers told him [about] what was going on. That's when Coach Pelini came over and talked to me about it. He was heated because of everything going on, everything going on in the game."
These are revealing comments from the rising redshirt sophomore known for his aversion to media. Maybe it's because it was the offseason and he was relaxing on his turf in the Nebraska athletic offices. Maybe Martinez is opening up. Maybe this means Nebraska is getting the leader it desperately needs at quarterback. Backup Cody Green left the team in the offseason.
Whatever the case, Big Red Nation is agonizing over which Martinez shows up this season, the Huskers' first in the Big Ten. The Good T-Magic looked like a Heisman candidate during the first half of 2010. After the injuries, the Bad T-Magic lost mobility and effectiveness.
"It [injuries] pretty much changed everything," Martinez said. "I was pretty much playing on one foot. You can't move. I think Tom Osborne said it's like Peyton Manning breaking his arm, comparing me with my ankle."
Martinez said both the turf toe and ankle will be 100 percent going into the season. Pelini is expected back in the office this week after taking some time off.
Posted on: June 27, 2011 4:33 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 9:32 am
Wisconsin just became the Big Ten favorite because of the biggest free-agent acquisition, maybe, in history. In the history of college football, that is. Sorry, Jeremiah Masoli.
--Ohio State, you might have heard, is dealing with a few problems.
--No one is really sure about the Nebraska offense.
--I want to believe in Michigan State but until the Spartans do it -- go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1988 -- they are suspect.
With the addition of Wilson, Wisconsin is now, officially, loaded. He gives the Badgers something that they have lacked for years -- a playmaker at quarterback. I know, I know, Scott Tolzien wasn't bad, but he's also gone.
Without him, Bret Bielema faced a familiar problem -- game-planning around the quarterback. Now he goes into games calling plays because of the quarterback.
Let's not stop there. With Wilson, the Badgers could compete for the national championship if everything falls right. Sure, the Badgers lost an Outland Trophy winner in the offensive line (Gabe Carimi) and J.J. Watt in the defensive line, but if there are two things Madison is good at they are beer and linemen.
Am I gushing? I can't help it. One of my lasting visions from the 2010 season was Wisconsin pounding TCU's defense in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl. Now, add an accurate arm and fast feet to that scene. Give the Frogs credit for bouncing back, but this is going to be a different Badgers' offense with Wilson. I also remember last year at this time when Wilson went 250 days without football-related activity before the 2010 season. It didn't seem to hurt the Pack who won nine games for the first time since 2002.
Wisconsin gets a smart, polished quarterback who once threw 379 attempts without an interception. Perhaps most impressive: Wilson's 3,563 passing yards and 28 touchdowns not only led the ACC, it would have led the Big Ten.
If the kid truly wants to concentrate on football now -- which seems to be the case -- then he's at the right place with Wisconsin's pro-styleish offense. If nothing else happens, Wisconsin will have the deadliest play-action passing game in the country.
This is not Masoli II. Wilson will make a massive impact because he will be asked to do less in Wisconsin's offense. He is not a Cam Newton-like runner (who is?) but Wilson has enough mobility to make defenses account for him. Auburn never would have worked for Wilson because he plays too much like Newton.
I had to chuckle at Bielema's official statement. Wilson will "compete" for the starting quarterback position. You don't transfer -- and Wisconsin doesn't accept you -- if a quarterback controversy is about to break out.
The only thing that stops Wilson from becoming the Badgers' quarterback is a late hit from one of his teammates. So far, he's been pretty good at dodging those in live action. I like his chances of staying healthy and leading the Big Ten (ahem, 12) to its second straight Rose Bowl. At least.
Posted on: March 15, 2011 1:02 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2011 1:05 pm
You don't care about the University of Nebraska-Omaha. It's a directional Division II school living and playing in the considerable shadow of the other, bigger directional school down the road.
You know that school as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
But you needed to care about UNO on Sunday. For years there was the feeling that Nebraska football was going to kill Nebraska-Omaha football. Too big, too close. Nebraskans love their football but what would you rather eat on Saturday -- steak or baloney? Still, UNO was a nice, little, competitive program that was a credit to its community. It was shocking, then, that the hammer came down Sunday afternoon, not from Nebraska's almighty influence but from UNO itself. The school announced it was cutting football and wrestling essentially so it could afford to jump up to Division I in basketball.
You wouldn't care except that on Saturday night that wrestling program won its third consecutive Division II national championship. Last month, the football program signed 20 or so recruits promising them a free education and a chance to play football. In essence, the administration deceived both the coaches and athletes on those teams, planning their demise while the teams played on.
"How could you sit there, if you know this was going to come down, and let them sign letters of intent?” former Mavericks football coach Sandy Buda told the Omaha World-Herald . “Those kids are out. They got nowhere to go."
You will care further knowing that one of the butchers in this case is Trev Alberts. Yep, the old Nebraska star is UNO's AD. You might remember him as the ESPN football analyst whose ego allowed him to throw away one of the plum jobs in broadcasting. Alberts was hired a few years ago because of his name. It certainly wasn't his AD experience, of which there was none. The affected athletes and coaches are understandably in shock. Nine football coaches are suddenly out on the street. National champion wrestlers picked up the trophy, then got kicked in the butt.
"We're incredibly sorry," Alberts said Sunday. "Those students who choose to stay, we will help them."
Actually, Trev, the NCAA mandates that you honor scholarships in cases such as this, so don't go benevolent caretaker on us. This looked more like Enron than college athletics. There was deception at the highest level of the UNO administration. Alberts and chancellor John Christensen countered by saying they didn't know it had an invitation from the hallowed Summit League until last week. Maybe, but the administration's quick acceptance didn't come out of the blue either. This is a decision to made over time -- and shared with the people it is going to affect. You don't make it after 20 kids have pledged to play football. You don't do it less than 24 hours after the wrestling team has brought glory to the school.
And for what? The basketball team is moving into the Summit League, one of the worst Division I basketball leagues.
"Omaha has clearly spoken that mid-major basketball is a player here," Albert said.
No, Omaha has clearly spoken that Creighton is the city's team playing in one of the best mid-major conferences in the country, the Missouri Valley. Omaha has been following a private institution that is ingrained in the community for decades. UNO is a commuter campus. There is no assurance at all it will take off as a D-I basketball program.
Maybe it was inevitable. UNO football always struggled because it played in Nebraska's shadow. By moving up, UNO couldn't afford the addition of the 27 scholarships it would take to play in Division I-AA. Alberts said the average I-AA program loses $1.7 million. Alberts added that the reliance on subsidies (like student fees) for the athletic department was reaching critical mass. We'll take him at his word since he has been so up front with us to this point.
The school's signature sport remains hockey; the Division I Mavericks are finishing their 14th season. But in a system that is looking for accountability, Alberts and the UNO administration joined the Tressel and Pearl wagon train this season. No one said UNO had to keep football and wrestling. It did have to be honest with those coaches and players. Tell them that dropping the sports they have devoted their sweat, blood and lives to are in danger of being cut.
Football coach Pat Behrns had just hired Bobby Petrino's cousin to coach the secondary.
The century-old football program produced Marlin Briscoe who shattered racial barriers as a black quarterback, long before such a thing was possible in the NFL. There have been 13 playoff appearances, three bowl games. Three Mavericks have played in the NFL since 2000. You've especially got to feel for Behrns, the school's winningest coach. In 17 seasons, he delivered seven first-place finishes and three seasons of at least 10 wins. There have been 15 straight winning seasons.
Everyone will eventually get the equivalent of out placement. For now, you need to care about the human carnage, the emotions, the families, the educations, the careers ripped apart. The school got out of whack with Title IX when it added hockey. Then it moved its games to the swanky Qwest Center. Good aesthetically, but more of a debt burden. That's not the only reason, but one of the reasons.
UNO is not big time today because it plays hockey in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association and future basketball in the Summit. It looks petty, heartless. It looks like Enron and Tressel and Pearl. Hiding the truth while innocent, virtuous people worked their asses off. Here's the clincher: Someone please take my bet that in five years neither Alberts nor Christensen will be at UNO. It's the nature of the business. They are fixers, passing through town. They inherited part of this mess, but they sure as hell didn't make it better.
There's another model, one employed by many schools who can't afford athletics -- Division III, no scholarships. Washington University in St. Louis, one of the most prestigious schools in the country, does it that way and is a national power.. But that wouldn't have been big time enough for UNO. Guess we'll have to wait until the Summit League Battle of the Hyphens at Omaha's Civic Arena -- Missouri-Kansas City vs. Nebraska-Omaha. They should be busting down the doors for that one.
If a few football players and wrestlers don't bust some administrative jaws first.
Posted on: February 18, 2011 4:52 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2011 4:57 pm
Sometimes there isn't enough room, even on the Internet. Here are four more spring things to follow 25 Spring Things To Watch ...
YouTube sensation Johnny McEntee called this week. We chatted a bit about the fallout from his monster video "Johnny Mack Trick Shot Quarterback".
The Connecticut quarterback is a fourth-year walk-on from Southern California. The reason he came East is because he got only Division III interest in the L.A. area. At least at UConn, he gets to experience a big-time program. When I asked him his status for this season, he confidently stated "backup". McEntee hasn't thrown a pass in three seasons.
He says news outlets from around the world have e-mailed with questions (Japan, Hungary, Italy). As of Friday, the video had been viewed 4.6 million times. It took about 14 hours on one day a couple of weeks ago to get all the tricks accomplished. Did he ever anticipate a lazy Saturday with a camera turning into such a sensation?
"No way," Johnny Mac said. "It's crazy."
As for the future, there has to be a way of monetizing -- big corporate word -- his talents. Maybe a series of Johnny Mac Trick Shot videos? The public is willing to watch them. Would they be willing to pay for them?
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it," he said.
Don't be a former Miami coach: Got to thinking about this when Randy Shannon recently spurned Maryland which was ready to give the former Hurricanes' coach a soft landing spot as defensive coordinator. The Baltimore Sun reported that Shannon turned down the job because he would have lost $1.5 million in buyout money from Miami. It looks like it is more lucrative to sit on the sidelines as an ex-Hurricane coach than to be employed.
It's not exactly a curse but consider the careers of these former Miami coaches since Jimmy Johnson ... None of them improved their career after leaving the Hurricanes. Which is strange. Howard Schnellenberger had been in the NFL. JJ was at Oklahoma State. They actually made their careers in South Florida.
Dennis Erickson, at Miami 1989-94: He went to a BCS bowl with Oregon State and dallied with the Seahawks before spending one year at Idaho. In his last three seasons at Arizona State, Erickson is 15-21.
Butch Davis, 1995-2000: Butch restored Miami to national contention then abruptly left for the NFL where he was largely unsuccessful. Davis has never won more than eight games at North Carolina. His best coaching job may have come in 2010 after suspensions and blossoming agent scandal crippled the program.
Larry Coker, 2001-06: Deserves more credit than he ever gets from vicious Miami fans. Coker kept together the 2001 recruiting class when Davis left, then won a national championship in his first season. Currently, Coker is the coach at Texas-San Antonio which is on track to migrate to Division I-A and join the WAC.
Bet Al Golden didn't think about any of that when he took the job. He's better off thinking about this: The last four Miami coaches are a combined 36-11 in their first seasons.
Nebraska Nowledge: Nebraska fans got their wish -- again. New conference. New offensive coordinator.
It was announced Wednesday that Tim Beck (promoted from running backs coach) has replaced Shawn Watson and will help with the installation of the new zone read option offense. One issue: As of Friday afternoon, no one really knows what happened to Watson. Was he fired? Did he resign? Is he jumping the Snake River Canyon in a rocket? Is he still on staff sweeping the halls? Nebraska isn't saying and no one can seem to find Watson. Bet that he is quietly going about finding his next job.
What Bo Pelini did was spare Watson the public embarrassment of being fired or having to resign. In a convoluted way, that's a classy move by Bo.
As for Beck, the hope is that quarterback Taylor Martinez stays healthy enough -- and, ahem, determined enough -- to run the new offense. Hanging over the situation is the addition of recruit Bubba Starling -- for now. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Starling could compete for the starting job in August, or sign with a Major League team.
You read it here first: On Thursday, TCU and BYU announced their Oct. 28 game at Cowboys Stadium. That was a week after Dodds and Ends had it.
This week's feedback feedbag ...
Dennis, I have been in the medical profession for 14 years. The issue here is DEHYDRATION. These kids were obviously worked to extreme conditions but they were not hydrated properly. I have seen Rhabdo over the years in the hospital and you can't believe the ridiculous situations people put themselves through that leads to this condition. You might want to consider an article regarding the lack of proper hydration and where was Iowa's nutritional staff? Just a thought.
It's hard to believe in this day and age that coaches are still keeping players from getting enough water. That's Junction Boys type of stuff. How in the name of Vince Lombardi does that make them better football players.
Of course, none of us know what happened (yet) at Iowa. That's part of the reason I wrote the story. As long as this mystery hangs over the program everything is on the table. Dehydration? Creatine? Transfers? We don't know if the players were mistreated. We don't know if they'll all be back next season. We don't know if everyone on the staff will still have a job in a couple of months.
I do know there are some parents that are upset. They should be.
Hey Dennis, This is a good article because this kind of thing needs to be brought to the fore. However, I don't see any part of the story that says that some players actually want to leave......? I also liked your coverage of the pay-for-play scam that the Rev. (Cecil) Newton and his son were leveraging on the title-hungry SEC. It is really too bad that has all died out - it was a HUGE story ... Keep up the good work.......your opinion IS appreciated.
Thanks for the kind words. Don't know how you found your way in here with all the haters from Iowa.
As to your point, once again, we don't KNOW how many kids want to leave. That's the story. Questions need to be asked. I tried to find out, believe me. That's all I can do. There is no information coming out of Iowa. It's our (media) job to get as much information as we can. The public deserves it. None of us should have to wait three months for the school's own investigation to tell us what happened.
The angle of the story is that a noted compliance source -- AND the NCAA -- saying that -- given history -- there's a chance that several players could leave. People don't seem to realize this is an historic event. I've never heard of 13 Division I-A football players going to the hospital at the same time after a workout at their own school. There is a rule in place, thank goodness, to possibly allow them relief.
I talked to one of my health professional sources this week who said he believes this will "blow over." I asked why. The source said, "They didn't care when 21 players died, why should they care now?" That's sad.
If (Jadeveon) Clowney gives South Carolina as many wins as Da'Quan Bowers gave Clemson, Gamecock fans will be sorely disappointed. All Clemson eyes will be on Clowney for how he compares to Bowers. That may be one reason he didn't go to Clemson.
Carolina On Your Mind:
Are you intimating that the history and tradition of SOUTH CAROLINA swayed the nation's No. 1 recruit. I just checked: In the last five years year, Clemson has been exactly 1 1/2 games better than Carolina (39-27 vs. 37-28). Carolina has won three of the five head-to-head meetings. That, to me, makes it all but even.
Tiebreaker? Carolina's in the SEC where, as I pointed out here, guys like Clowney tend to dominate and subsequently make millions of dollars.
Conspicuously absent from your pre-season Top 25 is Brigham Young.
You could be right, but I rather think BYU is much more of a top 10 team. Spring ball will tell, but when you look at the way BYU came on offensively late in the year, the upgrade to staff over the offseason, the 10 returning starters on offense and six on defense that started the first five games in 2010 ranked below 100 in total defense; then average less than 230 yards per game over the final eight games. That team could be an enormous sleeper.
We'll know a lot when they open at Mississippi and Texas, but do not be surprised if they win both, defeat UTAH and UCF at home to start the season. Honestly Dennis, I doubt they mind being in the shadows, but do not be surprised if they are not a top 10 team by midseason, with only Oregon State and Hawaii on the road standing between them and an undefeated year, a slate much tougher than any Boise State ever had and no MWC anchor to tie them down to that non-AQ league status.
BYU travels well...could be a BCS buster for sure.
Coug for Life:
The basic question is whether BYU will be able to survive as an independent. I'm on record as saying no. Its biggest plus is not talent or the schedule, it is ESPN as a scheduling partner.
BYU needs games. ESPN will get it games. But will BYU be able to win enough of those games to get a BCS bid? In that sense, it now has the same access to the BCS as Army and Navy. (Notre Dame has its own special privileged access to the BCS.) In other words, it's now HARDER for BYU to get to a BCS bowl. The problem in the Mountain West is that BYU was mediocre-to-good at about at the same time TCU and Utah blew up. BYU couldn't KEEP up. What makes you think that an arguably more ambitious schedule as an independent is going to make things better?
From: Dr. Greg
Dennis, what coach (Rich Rodriguez) does not understand is that he thought he was hired to FIX something. He kept saying it would take time to FIX. Michigan was not broke! They competed for Big Ten titles every year. They were in the national title hunt a few times. They went to bowl games 30 straight years!! He never built on that success. He ruined it.
Except for the bowl streak, you're a little off. Lloyd Carr was roundly criticized at the end because he didn't have Michigan back in national title contention after 1997. That basically happened once (2006) since '97. Michigan's last outright Big Ten title was 2003. (It was co-champ in 2004). Let's not forget that four of those seven consecutive losses to Ohio State are on Lloyd.
I'm not defending Rich Rod because he failed to live up to the Michigan standard but there was some fixing to be done, no doubt.