Tag:SEC
Posted on: May 25, 2011 6:37 pm
Edited on: May 25, 2011 6:38 pm
 

Pac-12 may be looking at another $1 billion

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- The Pac-12's financial momentum isn't about to slow.

 Commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday that the league's media arm could earn the conference an additional $1 billion over a seven-to-10 period. The previously announced Pac-12 Media Enterprises is a kind of holding company, according to Scott, that would bundle the league's new network, the digital rights and the conference's sponsorship and licensing (Pac-12 Properties).

 The expanded conference is just beginning to realize its total worth as it seeks to start its own network. The $1 billion would be separate from the 12-year, $3 billion rights fees deal the Pac -12 finalized with ESPN and Fox earlier this month. 

 "I can tell you this, based on offers people have made to us we've got at least a billion-dollar business we're sitting on," Scott told CBSSports.com. "That's just Pac-12 Media Enterprises."

 He later added:  "That is a broad figure that has been thrown out to us by media investors. That's a potential minimum value over a seven-to-10 year period."

 Dividing $1 billion among 12 schools could mean an additional $83 million is gross revenue total per school. Depending the on length of the deal, that means Pac-12 Media Enterprises alone could produce an additional $8.3 million-$11.9 million per year for each school. The schools already are guaranteed an average of $21 million per school in the ESPN-Fox deal.

 Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby seemed to confirm another pending windfall for the conference telling CBSSports.com that the network and digital rights "may be worth well into eight figures per year." He added, "Time will tell on that. We may know something in the next 90 days."

 Scott called Pac-12 Media Enterprises a "for-profit subsidiary of the conference."

 "I'm not running from it," he added, "but I don't want to leave the impression that our primary focus is financial."

 Scott, as well as industry insiders, is anxious to see the possibilities of the conference's network. The commissioner consulted with -- and gives a lot of credit to -- his peers at the Big Ten and SEC (Jim Delany and Mike Slive) who previously started similar ventures. All parties know the road to network profitability can be a long, hard slog. It took the Big Ten more than two years to realize a profit with its network. That was relatively fast for a start-up but no one knew in the beginning when that profit would come.

 The Pac-12 is seemingly better positioned because Scott negotiated rights to first-tier games in football and basketball for his network. In other words, the Pac-12 Network (or whatever it is called) will have first choice of the best games for its air.

 That situation will help with potential partners, distributors and advertisers. Scott said the league is still deciding how to deploy the network. First reports were that the Pac-12 would own it alone. That approach would maximize profits instead of having to share them with a partner. But Scott said several business models are still on the table.

 Scott even foresees a situation where the Pac-12 Network could be shown on an existing channel. He used the example of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) replacing what used to be Discovery Health.

The digital possibilities, he continues to say, are limitless. There are 2,700 Pac-12 "events" available for broadcast each year according to Pac-12 TV consultant Chris Bevilacqua. To date, only 131 of those have been sold. Scott wants Pac-12 content on every device imaginable. There already have been discussions with Google as a possible partner.

 "It's hard to imagine now but I wouldn't be surprised that five-to-seven years from now we've got more fans on different devices other than TVs," Scott said.

 

 

Posted on: April 15, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 6:35 pm
 

Why conferences are making insane jack from TV

Through an epic financial collapse, through historic scandals, despite the confounding BCS, college sports have prospered in this age.

Television and the accompanying platforms -- phones, internet and cable -- have followed along. 

Wednesday's announcement that the Big 12 was the latest conference to hit the rights fees jackpot raised the question again. Why? Why are media companies in these tough times willing and able to pay out the wazoo for properties that, in this case, include outposts in Ames, Iowa; Waco, Texas and Manhattan, Kan.

What I'll try to do here is explain why we are witnessing an unprecedented growth in right fees -- and subsequently college revenue. The growth outstrips even that of the nation's highest paying coaches. For example, if Nick Saban had enjoyed a raise parallel to the Big 12's windfall, his salary would have jumped from $4 million to near $16 million per year.

So why is this happening? One industry analyst summed it up this way: "There is a value to limiting uncertainty." Sports have become one of the safest and highest-grossing buys for media companies. There are no coked-up, petulant stars to deal with. Well, at least not a lot of them. The only "winning" is done on the field. Sports are somewhat cheap to produce.  Sports are true reality television, almost immune to being DVRed. Advertisers love that. There is a built-in following whose interest doesn't wane with time. Even the strongest TV series are cancelled. Try taking Alabama-Auburn off the air.

Since the advent of TV, sports have become the foundation of the medium -- largely immune to viewer trends or changing mores. College sports, in the last 25 years, have taken it to a new level.

"I think we're all making a bet on the future where we believe that college sports and sports in general is one of the leading lights generating large audiences," said Randy Freer, Fox Sports Networks president.


The biggest reason for these increases is competition. Simple supply and demand. There aren't many college sports properties available in coming years. Until 2013, it's basically the Pac-12 and NHL rights that are going to be available on the market. Newbies such as NBCUniversal and Turner are showing a willingness to get into sports in a big way.

That's why the Big 12 hit it big on Wednesday. That's why the Pac-12 could hit it even bigger next year (See below).


The SEC and Big Ten have set the bar, for now. Those conferences' schools each earn approximately $22 million per year, give or take. The SEC finalized a 15-year, $3 billion deal with ESPN and CBS a couple of years ago. The Big Ten is in the middle of a 20-year deal, partnering with News Corp. (parent of Fox) to produce the Big Ten Network in a deal that could be worth $2.8 billion. That's without mentioning the Big Ten's primary deal with ABC/ESPN. Seeing what the Big Ten had done with its network, ESPN moved to get the SEC using its multiple platforms as the equivalent to a "network." 

CBS has the SEC's over-the-air rights.

The Big Ten and SEC have the most rabid following and/or are in the biggest markets. But in the last year, even the ACC doubled its annual rights fees to $155 million per year in a new deal with ESPN for the next 12 years. Because the ACC has become a diminished league in both main sports (football and basketball) since expansion, there was natural wonder why ESPN would pony up so much cash. It is essentially paying for Florida State and Miami on the come -- both have slumped since expansion -- and a couple of North Carolina-Duke basketball games every season.

Once again: supply and demand. Fox finished a close second and had all that money available for the Big 12. 

The league got a 350 percent increase for its secondary rights with Fox (an average of $90 million annually). That's after losing Nebraska and Colorado in last year's conference realignment. 

This is where it gets complicated. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was the wild card almost convincing Texas and five other Big 12 schools to join his league last year. When it became clear that Scott was serious, Fox and ESPN stepped in to make financial promises. Fox delivered what you saw happen this week, but at the time that's all it was -- a promise. ESPN did not alter its existing contract, despite the loss of the two schools, as a show of good faith.

In the end, Fox and ESPN had to make those promises. Neither could afford for the Big 12 to go away. That would have eliminated one BCS conference that accounts for 16 percent of the households in the middle of the country. With the Pac-10 going out to bid on its latest rights fees -- which it officially did on April 1 -- there was a chance that both ESPN and Fox would have been shut out of two BCS leagues.

That's a lot inventory (games) and advertising that would have disappeared into the ether. Desperation had literally set in. Cable giant Comcast, which recently bought NBC, was taking over the Rockets and Astros telecasts in Houston. Fox had to have a presence in Texas. Houston is the largest market in the state and a top five or six market in the country. 

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe got a lot of credit this week for "saving" the Big 12 that almost fallen apart 10 months ago. What's more likely is that Beebe happened to be the man in charge when these market forces collided. He gets credit for guiding the ship through choppy waters, but the ship was going to sail on after Texas re-committed to the Big 12 no matter who was in charge.

In short: Texas knew how the episode was going to end before it started. Yes, the school is that flush with cash, power and influence. It came through a rocky period with more money, a leaner, meaner conference and its own network (Longhorn Network). 

"Obviously, Fox decided [they'd] rather have a piece of both these leagues than leave one die," said an industry analyst.

The latest round of conference realignment proved that it's less about what league you're in and more about who's your television partner. Utah happened to be in the right place and the right time when Scott's power play failed. It then received a life-changing invite from the Pac-10. The Big East was suddenly willing to fly halfway across the country to invite TCU. Its teams begin flying halfway across the country to play games against the Horned Frogs in 2012.

Did Fox overpay for the Big 12? It's likely. But it wouldn't be the first time for a rightsholder. Part of eliminating that uncertainty sometimes is paying more for something than it is worth. The length of the deals keeps leagues out of the market for long periods of time. And what most analyses haven't included is that virtually all these deals are backloaded. While Big 12 schools will receive an average of $9 million per year from Fox, a large portion of that money will be owed toward the end of the 13-year deal.

That's the reason you saw CBS have to reach out to Turner to share the rights for the NCAA tournament beginning this year. Industry sources have indicated that the back end of the deal was getting too expensive. 

League rights fees are unique in that there are only a finite number of big-time conferences/leagues out there. The Big 12 deal was no doubt helped by the fact that the only other major conferences opening up in upcoming years are the Pac-12 (2012) and Big East (2013). There is already speculation that the Pac-12 may meet or surpass SEC/Big Ten numbers. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the league is seeking $220 million per year for its new deal. That's $18.3 million per year per school for you non-math majors. 

Colorado and Utah brought little value to the Pac-10 in the big picture. But expanding allowed the league to stage a conference championship game beginning this season. Fox paid $25 million in a one-year deal to telecast the first Pac-12 title game in 2011. That's $2.5 million per team that the conference never had. Scott also is reportedly determined to launch a conference network along the lines of the Big Ten. That would be more found money for the once-sleepy league. NBCUniversal, Fox and either ESPN or Turner (perhaps both) are said to be interested.

All this further explains what happened to the Big 12 and what is about to happen to the Pac-12. Texas and California are still  among the most valued television markets. The two leagues combined have Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. That starts to explain why the leagues almost go together.


Other explanations:

College sports are undervalued: Delany began realizing that fact in the last decade. Even though ESPN was featuring his league, he felt there was more potential. The Big Ten has a large, passionate fan base (25 percent of the U.S. population). After a long, expensive fight, the Big Ten Network gained a foothold with cables systems. Salesmen literally had to go to from cable company to cable company to sell something that had never been tried before.

"We were on ESPN for 10 years but they weren't being very aggressive with us," Delany said more than a year ago when it was becoming evident that the BTN was turning the corner. 

Now network has become must-see viewing for those rabid Big Ten fans find who find the league's second- and third-level football and basketball games. Its original programming is slick and engaging. Now the Big 12 and Pac-12 want to follow in Delany's network footsteps. 



Pay TV is blowing up: Those high cable bills you pay? Thank what are called "sub fees" -- subscription fees for cable networks. ESPN is at the top of the heap getting approximately $5 per subscriber per month. By comparison, The Big Ten Network, outside of its natural footprint, reportedly gets a dime per subscriber.

Any kind of programming that increases those sub fees is attractive to a network. In the new deal, Fox is dumping a lot of Big 12 content on FX. The network has been the home of several successful drama series, but sports are seen as a way to make it more valuable. Let's say FX gets 15 cents per month in sub fees. Let's also say that the addition of Big 12 sports bumps that fee up to 22 cents. That's seven cents X 100 million FX households which equals $7 million per month. Multiply that by 12 months and you've got an extra $84 million per year on FX alone.

Cable operators are willing to charge it because viewers demand it. That's why niche networks like the Golf Channel, Comedy Central and Nat Geo are successful. Cable TV is able to reach specific audiences -- and their money.


Televised sports are a leader in technology: Sports have pushed along the development of both cell phone technology as well as HD and 3D.

A friend was getting a game on his phone recently. He was driving so he couldn't watch it, but he turned up the telecast so he could hear it. Without new technology that wouldn't be possible. 

The next wave is Internet TV. Delany saw that wave coming approximately 13 years ago. That's a big reason he wanted to create the Big Ten Network. So-called "convergence" technology will allow us to watch from our computers, our phones, our IPads as well as enhanced televisions. Imagine having a spreadsheet for work open in one corner of your TV and the NCAA tournament in other portion of the screen. 

Some of this is already hitting the market -- MLB.TV, ESPN3, March Madness On Demand. It's coming and we're all going to want it. That's how conferences will make and their rights holders will pay even more money. 


Posted on: February 8, 2011 12:43 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Why the NFL loves the ACC

Gil Brandt loves to analyze the draft. At times, Gil Brandt is the draft. The former vice president of player personnel for the Cowboys (1960-89) was responsible for evaluating and drafting several hall of famers in his career.

For the last eight years he has been a draft expert and personnel guru for NFL.com. For the purposes of Tuesday's ACC story, he shared with us some exclusive statistics regarding the conference's strength in NFL war rooms. Since 2000, the ACC is second only to the SEC in total number of players drafted. Highlighting that is a stat Brandt calls a "value index". He assigns a number for each player drafted. For example ...

Schools get 10 points for each player drafted in the top 10; 11 through 30, eight points; 31-60, six points; 61-100, four points; 101-150, two points; 150-plus, one point. Here is the ACC's individual players drafted and value index from 2001-2010 ...

Miami, 62 players drafted/215 VI; Florida State, 51/149; Virginia Tech, 47/106; Virginia, 29/73; Maryland, 26/73; North Carolina State, 27/72; Clemson, 29/70; North Carolina 27/63; BC, 19/58; Georgia Tech, 22/55; Wake Forest, 16/36; Duke, 1/1.

Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida State and Maryland won ACC titles in those 10 years.

This is where it gets even more interesting for the ACC in the butt-kicking draft department ...

--From 2001-2010, seven current ACC teams are in the top 26 in Brandt's value index: 1. Miami; 6. Florida State; 12. Virginia Tech; T22. Virginia; Maryland; 24. NC State; 25. Clemson.

The top three probably aren't a surprise but certainly Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina State and Clemson being in the mix raises some eyebrows. During that time Virginia produced the likes of Heath Miller (30th overall, 2005), D'Brickashaw Ferguson (fourth overall, 2006), Chris Long (second overall, 2008) and Eugene Moore (eighth overall, 2009). Maryland notables included E.J. Henderson (second round, 2003), Shawne Merriman (12th overall, 2005), Vernon Davis (sixth overall, 2006) and Darius Heyward-Bey (seventh overall, 2009). NC State draft highlights include Philip Rivers (fourth overall, 2004) and Mario Williams (first overall, 2006). In 2006, the Pack had three total first-round picks. Clemson had Gaines Adams (fourth overall, 2007) and C.J. Spiller (ninth overall, 2010). 

--From 2000-2009, 31 schools have produced 50.8 percent of all selections, essentially a quarter of Division I-A. ACC schools finished second (Miami), fourth (Florida State), ninth (Virginia Tech) and 26th (Virginia) in total picks.

--In that same span, 14 schools produced 56 percent of the top 10 picks. Miami, Florida State, Virginia and NC State are among that group.

--Nineteen schools produced 61 percent of the top 30 draftees. The ACC finished first (Miami), fourth (Florida State) and 16th (Boston College).

--Twenty schools produced 53.3 percent of the top 60 draftees. The ACC finished first (Miami), fourth (Florida State), 14th (Virginia Tech) and 15th (BC).

--Twenty-two schools produced more than half (50.7 percent) of the top 100 picks. The ACC finished first (Miami), fourth (Florida State), 15th (Virginia Tech) and 17th (Maryland).

What does all this mean? The three newest ACC members (Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech) haven't added much in terms in pro talent compared to their previous accomplishments. A large portion of Miami's numbers above came before it joined the ACC in 2004. From 2005 through 2010, Miami has averaged 4.5 draftees per year and has only six first-rounders (none since 2008). From 1999-2004, Miami averaged 7.18 draftees and had a staggering 21 first-rounders. Boston College post-expansion: 1.83 draftees per year; pre-expansion, 2.33. Virginia Tech, has seen its NFL production increase only slightly since joining the league -- 29 drafted from 2005-2010, 25 drafted from 1999-2004. 

--Another strange stat courtesy of the ACC. Through 2010, the conference leads the NFL in linebackers (including those on injured reserve, practice squads and physically unable to perform lists.)

1. ACC, 53; 2. Big Ten, 49; 3. SEC, 46; 4. Big 12, 35; 5. Pac-10, 31; 6. Mountain West, 20; 7. Big East, 17; 8. WAC, 8; 9. Sun Belt, 7; 10. MAC, 6; 11. Conference USA, 5. 

 

 

 

 

Posted on: January 21, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2011 10:13 am
 

Dodd mail, 1/21/11

I put out an informal Twitter poll request this week: In light of The Longhorn Network announcement, what is the over/under on number of years the Big 12 will last in its current configuration.

Dan Beebe may want to avert his eyes. Fifty persons responded. The average life span from the respondents? 3.4 years

Here's a sampling of some of the replies ...

"3 seasons, breaks up in spring of 2014"

"A&M and Oklahoma will go to SEC and leave Texas high and dry"

"I second that--2 years. Everyone finally wants to admit Texas is out for themselves. A&M, OU next to leave following CU, NE"

"Give them 3 yrs. Others will tire of the pro-Texas deals and agitate for more. Horns then leave"


I was surprised too. I don't know if one has to do with the other -- TLN and Big 12 Conference stability. In fact, the reason Texas stayed in the Big 12 last year was because it wanted to pursue its own network. Without Nebraska and Colorado, the Big 12 is leaner in football and flat-out a monster in basketball. We haven't even gotten to the Big 12's new TV deal which -- to quote Texas AD DeLoss Dodds -- is going to be worth SEC money" -- $17 million-$20 million per school per year.

I'm not into Big 12 bashing. Any league with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Missouri (three 10 win seasons in the last four years) is formidable. It's going to be easier for the league to get two teams to the BCS each season without a championship game.

3.4 years? And some of us thought conference realignment had calmed down for a while. If an informal Twitter poll means anything, the upheaval has just begun.

This week's letters from the edge ...


From:
Wickedgrin1

I hope 2011 is better. 2010 left me feeling cheated by the NCAA, the SEC, the sports media herd, and Preacher Newton. I love the SEC and wanted to cheer for Auburn, but the smell was too great. And you in the media fed the momentum for that Newton thug, making this ripoff a fait accompli. I could not watch the biggest game of the year, and hung my head over the black eye to this greatest of all sports. With the possible nod to TCU, 2010 was the year without a national championship, and you in the media, the last line of defense, allowed it to be so.

Wicked:

What exactly did you want us to do? We reported the news to the best of our ability. We stayed on this Newton story so hard that the NCAA took the unusual step of dealing with player eligibility in the middle of an active investigation. What exactly did we miss?

We are, like you, still skeptical. We, like you, need closure from the 2010 season. We, like you, probably won't get it.


From: Richard

This is disturbing -- the new ESPN agreement with Texas. Notre Dame has had their own network for the past twenty years -- and, the last time I watched a Notre Dame football game -- including bowl games -- was the last year before their exclusive contract with NBC -- and, I am Catholic. Now Texas. This sets up a very disturbing and problematical hierarchy of the haves and have-nots and in the long run is not good for college football.

Since the NCAA has allowed Notre Dame to get away with this all these years without penalty or criticism -- they set themselves up for this eventual predicament. Once the genie is out of the bottle it is very difficult to put humpty-dumpty back together again. I don't know what the right answer is -- right now. But, I know this, these kind of arrangements would be considered unfair trade practices in the real-world and would be prohibited or highly discouraged.

Agitated:

Two words summed up your post -- "real world". There is no real world in college athletics. Notre Dame is private. Texas is public. One has to release balance sheet. The other doesn't. Both are among the richest schools in the country. And that's just a start. There are still 118 other schools with their own stories, desires and bank accounts.

We should have it figured out by now. Athletic departments are like board rooms -- selfish and worried about the bottom line. The "stock" in this case are young adults on scholarships on whose talents the schools' "stock" fluctuates.


From: Whatever

Brady White as the eighth-best hire [in Wednesday's story ranking the new hires 1-21] just because Miles and Harbaugh weren't hired?? Admittedly, Harbaugh would have been great for Michigan but the timing was wrong. It's hard to resist the NFL. But I definitely would rather have Hoke than Miles. There's something about the Miles situation that stinks... three years ago and now. In a few years, you will see that Hoke is a good short-term hire and probably the best long term coach for Michigan.

Whoever:

According to my research, you represent exactly 50 percent of the fans at Michigan right now. The other half wonder why the heck Dave Brandon couldn't do better.


From: Michael

There is no Louisiana-Lafayette. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette media guide has asked the media to call us UL, Louisiana or Ragin' Cajuns. The use of ULL or Louisiana-Lafayette is unexceptable.

Ragin' Politcally Incorrect:

It's also
unacceptable.

Serious tip: I have this rule that I've enforced for the 13 years I've been at CBSSports.com. This isn't some court room where you can change your last name when it suits you. You've got to earn it, over decades. Calling Ooo-La-La, Louisiana is arrogant and wrong. The same goes for Central Florida (not UCF) and South Florida (not USF). In other words, you're not a household name just because you say so.

All name changes should go through a panel made up of USC, UCLA, ACC and K-State officials.


From: Doug

Dennis--Maybe you or one of your colleagues has written about this already but I'd like to see something about the extremely poor example set the way Randy Edsall left UConn. Not telling his players, not taking a flight with the team after the bowl game. If he can't be man enough to tell his players he's leaving then I think he doesn't deserve to be coach in UConn, Maryland, anywhere. If I were a player I would not want to play for this clown. Fact is, Edsall is an average coach and recruiter, and he lucked out with the disaster of a league the Big East was this year.

Jilted:

I used to have a problem with this kind of conduct -- skating out of town without telling players. But what is this, a broken engagement or a new job? All Edsall owes his players is everything he gave them which is blood, sweat and tears for 12 years. He took a I-AA program and dragged it to the Fiesta Bowl. What else does he have to do at UConn?

He did make an honest attempt and spoke to a few key players by cell phone when they landed after the bowl game. He even apologized. I've got no problem with that. Edsall and Maryland kept this whole thing under wraps perhaps better than any of the other coaching searches this season. We didn't know Edsall was at Maryland -- until Edsall was at Maryland. Hurt feelings heal. Randy Edsall's only duty is to his family, his employer and his players. He has done all he could for all of them.


From: Bob

At this time, SEC has had a good run in football and the BCS, no doubt. However, when CBS & ESPN, ABC tells you that the SEC is great, I wonder. You guys are paying a lot of money to the SEC, you really can't say anything bad, and lose viewers. Sorta like patting your 8-year-old on the head telling everyone how great he is.

... or sorta like saying the sky is blue. We were merely stating the obvious, no matter how repetitive it might be. The SEC is fantastic until further notice. Nothing can change that no matter who runs the company.


From: John

I really don't get your sniping at the Legends and Leaders division names. Get a life. I think they are fine. Hopefully they will build into a tradition in time. I really don't get why you hate the Big Ten Conference so much. It sure does show.

Thank you, Mr. Delany. Your correspondence is appreciated.


From: Mike

I still wish that Butler had hit on that 3-point, 3-fourths of a court shot at the end of the NCAA Championship Game last year. That would have done more for parity, folklore, and equalizing all sports, big and small, at all levels of college sports. Duke would have deserved it, too!

Little Big Man:

Obviously you haven't been watching Boise State, TCU, Utah and Jacksonville State in football.


From: Steve

How does a national championship game that isn't even on network TV in prime time demonstrate that the whole BCS concept is a good idea? Give me back the days when all the games were on New Year's Day and the winner was crowned shortly thereafter.

Ding, ding, ding! We have found one of the two percent of people who don't have basic cable. What's it like watching Oprah all day?


From: Dan

I believe the TCU vs. Wisconsin game was a more of a comment on how weak the Big 10 conference is compared to other conferences. I admired TCU's win in the Rose Bowl but the problem with giving these small schools more BCS acknowledgment is their weak schedules, especially compared to the SEC, Big 12, etc. I know that TCU beat some good teams this year but it's the weekly grind of facing one big team after another each week that doesn't compare.

Mr. Gee:

Let's just make it the SEC vs. Big 12 every year and get over with, right?

TCU beat four teams with at least eight wins this season. Wisconsin beat three. TCU beat five bowl teams. Wisconsin beat four. TCU was one of two undefeated teams left in the country. Wisconsin was not. The Mountain West is considered just as good or better than the ACC and Big East and may have a BCS berth beginning in 2012.

Not exactly Little Sisters of the Poor, eh?

 

 

Posted on: January 4, 2011 4:33 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2011 7:24 pm
 

If Rich Rod is out, where does UM go from here?

The number you dialed is not a working number.

That was the message on Rich Rodriguez's cell phone Tuesday afternoon. Kind of says it all, doesn't it? In the end, nothing worked at Michigan, not even the man's cellie.

The Rich Rod era at Michigan reportedly has ended with everyone at fault and no one at fault. (Michigan released a statement saying Rodriguez' firing is "media speculation" and that AD Dave Brandon has yet to make a "final decision." A regularly-scheduled team meeting was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday, but had nothing to do with the coach's job situation according to a spokesman)

Three years ago Rodriguez was the obvious and welcome choice at Michigan. It's easy to blame former AD Bill Martin for the hiring but that would be revisionist history. Rodriguez was at the top of his game in December 2007. Michigan went to the wall, financially, to extricate him from a messy buyout at West Virginia.

Michigan fans cheered the whole way. Rodriguez brought the next-generation offense that was going to allow Michigan to compete for national championships. That's exactly what had happened at West Virginia, but for some reason the magic didn't translate to Michigan. It was square peg/round hole from the getgo. At his core, Rodriguez is a West Virginia guy. Michigan is ...well, it's hard to define but Michigan is different -- or at least perceives itself that way.

That's why it's hard to blame this whole thing on Rodriguez. The same guy who recruited and coached Denard Robinson to the brink of a Heisman invite to New York couldn't find a suitable defense. His worth as a valued coach will proven by his next job. It will be a quality one whether it's in 2011 or 2012. Pittsburgh or Connecticut would be wise to snatch up a proven head coach on the rebound. Rodriguez's career isn't over, it's just altered.

You can blame Brandon. He dragged this out much longer than it needed to be to the point that the firing itself seems to be lingering on. Meanwhile, recruiting has suffered. There is no assurance that Jim Harbaugh is coming. In fact the Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday that it is "highly unlikely". In other words, Brandon could have canned Rodriguez a month ago and been way ahead. Michigan would either have a coach or be able to tell recruits they were going to get a quality coach.

Now it might come down to whether Brandon can sell San Diego State's Brady Hoke to the masses. The short answer is no. A quick Twitter survey by colleague Stewart Mandel at SI.com was interesting. He asked Michigan fans which of three outcomes they'd like to see, if Harbaugh wasn't available -- keep Rich Rod, hire Brady Hoke or hire Les Miles.

Keeping Rich Rod won.

I don't think Miles comes because it's too much of a rebuilding job. LSU is going to likely start in the top five next season and could be favored to win the SEC West. And there's the little matter of Miles buyout which stood at $14 million before the season. Whoever comes in is going to have to rip up the foundation and start over. Hoke would welcome it. Miles? I say not so much.

The search seems to be trending toward getting another Michigan Man after Rodriguez The Outsider, didn't get it done. But if Harbaugh is out of the picture why limit yourself? Call Gary Patterson. Call Chris Petersen. Call Bob Stoops. Who knows, one of them might have a secret hankering to coach Michigan. What Brandon can't do is trot Hoke up to the podium and tell us, "He was our No. 1 choice all along." No matter what you think of Hoke, that won't fly. Michigan will have settled.

As for blame, it's everywhere. This is like a no-fault divorce. Something went wrong. It's now up to Brandon to get it right. If he can.


Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 1, 2010 4:44 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 5:20 pm
 

Inside Cam's eligibility

Did the NCAA do Mike Slive a favor?

Certainly, tacitly.

Start with the timing of Wednesday's announcement that Cam Newton had been reinstated by the NCAA and was eligible to play. Curiously, it came three days before the SEC championship putting a nice, neat bow on a slimy case that had been ongoing for a month. It helps everyone -- Auburn, the NCAA and the SEC -- that this case is "resolved" before the biggest TV show on the SEC calendar.

The obvious attempt at a publicity grab helps everyone who was in line to be helped. The NCAA was being criticized for dragging its feet. There was a perception that Auburn was a rogue operation. The SEC and Slive, the commissioner, was taking heat for what it knew and when in the Cam case. Mississippi State is the whistle blower. Folks were starting to write how they would not vote Newton for Heisman. CBS couldn't help but mentioning the case on its telecasts.

"Honestly, it is a major story in college football and has to be covered fully," Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, said this week.

There was, then, lingering embarrassment all around. That's why this was a bit of a grandstand move and, to me, still an unresolved case. 

"There are hundreds of cases each year where schools go to the NCAA an self-report a violation," said a source with intimate knowledge of the NCAA process. "If nobody knows about it, the NCAA reinstates the athlete and they don't make announcements. It's obviously because this was high profile and they want to try and put this thing to rest."

"It is interesting," said Doug Zeit, attorney for former Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers who was part of Wednesday's NCAA statement, "[this happened] three days before the championship."

We got our Cam back. We got our villain, his father Cecil. We got our co-conspirator. The NCAA said Cecil collaborated Rogers in a "pay-for-play scenario." The NCAA doesn't actually use names but when Slive added his own admonishment we knew who everyone was talking about.

"The conduct of Cam Newton's father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics," Slive said.

The NCAA cited a bylaw that applied to the case (12.3.3). It states that, "Any individual, agency or organization that represents a prospective student-athlete for compensation in placing the prospective student-athlete in a collegiate institution [getting] financial aid shall be considered an agent ..."

That seems to label Cecil who now will have limited access to Auburn athletics. What that means no one seems to know. Maybe Cecil can't become a financial advisor within 100 feet of Jordan-Hare Stadium. But what about Cam reportedly telling a Mississippi State recruiter that "the money was too much" at Auburn? Wednesday's release seems to let Auburn off the hook, but you have to read between the lines. Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs said, " ... at this time we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity ..." (Emphasis added).

That should tell you the case is not over, but for the purposes of Saturday's SEC championship game it's game on. As for the bowl game? Check back with the NCAA later. This story isn't going to die after Saturday.

The bylaw (12.3.3) seems to clears up the NCAA interpretation of this case. A couple of weeks ago a lot of us were breathless over the apparent NCAA bylaw that applied to this case. It turns out the case probably revealed a gap in NCAA legislation. In essence, the NCAA had to find a bylaw that best fit the "crime," -- a parent soliciting money for his son's services without the son's knowledge.

However, the NCAA concluded that neither "Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to this reinstatement."

"I think the NCAA is trying to say, 'We found a violation so we're going to put this on the father and Kenny Rogers because they were acting as agents," the source said. "The violation occurs when the prospect agrees to be represented by them. [Cam] didn't know anything about it. My argument would be there hasn't been a violation here."

On that confusing basis, Newton was allowed to regain his eligibility. It also gives the deniability excuse to any kid who is ever shopped by his parents, uncle or handler. That's why the NCAA is working hard as I type on a new bylaw to close this loophole.

This story started with Rogers who apparently will not go quietly. Rogers, who runs a scouting service in Chicago, was reported to have sought $180,000-$200,000 from Mississippi State for Cam's services. The school on Wednesday "disassociated" Rogers. However, Rogers was not found to have been a representative of the university's athletic interests in the letter sent to him by the school. So what exactly did Rogers do wrong? 

"This is like a knife in his heart," Zeit said. "This is his alma mater. For them to suggest this is beyond the pale but not surprising ... He never solicited any money. That is patently false."

Zeit said Rogers will consider his legal options including defamation suits against "media outlets" and "people from Mississippi State."


Another reason to believe this isn't over: Check this second-to-the-last sentence in Wednesday's release -- The reinstatement process is likely to conclude prior to the close of an investigation.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 23, 2010 6:14 pm
 

BCS releases list of at-large candidates

The BCS exclusionary?

Not today with 22.5 percent of Division I-A still eligible for BCS bowls. That's the conclusion after reading a BCS press release Tuesday afternoon. The BCS released its list of teams still under consideration for the five elite bowls. In addition to the 19 teams contending for automatic berths by winning their conference there are still eight teams being considered for at-large berths.

Those are:

No. 11 (in the BCS) Alabama, 9-2. Eliminated from the SEC, the Tide could get in the conversation by beating Auburn.

No. 21 Arizona, 7-3. A longshot even if the Wildcats beat Oregon this week.

No. 12 Arkansas, 9-2. The LSU game is a playoff to stay alive in the BCS.

No. 4 Boise, 10-0. Let's be honest, if the Broncos don't win out they're not going to a BCS bowl.

No. 5 LSU, 10-1. The highest-ranked one-loss team would seem to be in if it beats Arkansas.

No. 19 Nevada, 10-1. Another longshot even with a win over Boise on Friday.

No. 20 Utah, 9-2. Consecutive losses to TCU and Notre Dame doomed the Utes.

No. 3 TCU, 11-0. The Frogs are nervous. If they are passed by Boise for the No. 3 spot, their BCS bowl chances are in jeopardy.

To be eligible for an at-large berth, a team must finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings. For a non-A.Q. (automatic qualifier) conference champion to get into a BCS bowl it must finish in the top 12. (Top 16 if it is ranked higher than a champion from a power conference.) Only the highest-ranked non-A.Q. meeting those parameters is guaranteed a spot in the BCS. 

What's amazing is that there are 19 teams still alive for automatic berths:

ACC: Florida State, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech
Big East: UConn, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big Ten: Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Big 12: Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M
Pac-10: Oregon, Stanford
SEC: Auburn, South Carolina

Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:05 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2010 1:06 pm
 

National notes/Illinois-Northwestern fiasco

Northwestern and Illinois are playing this week at Wrigley Field. The NCAA Student-Athlete Advisory Committee might want to have a word.

Whoever sanctioned this mess probably came from the state boxing commission. Those folks don't care who the hell gets hurt either. Seriously, how does any adult in good conscience put an end zone up against Wrigley's right field wall? There's also precious little out-of-bounds room on one side of the field. If you haven't seen the pictures, they're here and here.

The NCAA's 15-year old principles of student-athlete welfare states, " ... It is the responsibility of each member institution to protect the health of and provide a safe environment for each of its participating student-athletes."

Smashing one's face into a (padded) brick wall seems to violate some of those principles. Forget about the possibility of injury, both teams are going to have to alter their game plans. In other words, don't figure on seeing many skinny posts or go routes in the east end zone at Wrigley.

"They've got it padded up pretty good," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "I was jokingly [saying] to our receivers, 'Got to get you ready for the Arena League.' Obviously, there was a lot concerns and a lot of thought put into that before the decision was made."

Zook he and officials surveyed Wrigley two years ago. Amazingly, none of the participants seem to have a problem with it.

"We had risk managers out here," Northwestern AD Jim Phillips told the Chicago Tribune. "We had civil engineers, safety engineers. We had so many people look at it because nobody wants to put the student-athletes in harm's way."

Noooo, who would want that? I guess to these guys, harm's way is actually putting the end zone in the bleachers.

"It will definitely be an element in the game," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

Thoughts and prayers, Illini and Wildcats, thoughts and prayers.



* Could a heart attack be a key to BCS bowl this season?

Hang with me on this: As crass as this sounds, TCU may have been distracted Saturday during a closer-than-expected 40-35 win over San Diego State. In the first quarter offensive line coach Eddie Williamson left the field because of a reported heart attack. Williamson had a stent put in and is expected to be back to the team soon. He didn't want the players to be seen in the weakened state, so he left the field as calmly as possible.

But the players had to know eventually that one of their coaches was gone. Did it have anything to do with the Frogs losing focus? They fell behind the Aztecs and came back to lead comfortably before a couple of late touchdowns by San Diego State.

The five-point victory margin probably had something to do with Boise cutting into TCU's lead for the automatic BCS bowl berth race. TCU is currently No. 3 in the BCS standings, but Boise is right behind with three games left. TCU has only one, Nov. 27 at New Mexico. Could the Broncos eventually pass the Frogs for that No. 3 spot if they win out?

It could come down to a close game caused by a distraction caused by Williamson's heart attack. Just saying ...



* The Pac-10's dirty little secret apparently is out. The Oregonian says it has a source who confirmed faking injuries was a "big part" of the game plan against Oregon's rapid-fire offense.

I reported Sunday that had been concerns inside the Oregon program over opponents' faking injuries since late September.

Oregon fans have taken to booing opponents' injuries whether legitimate or not.

"I know what our fans reaction is when someone's  carted off the field that looks like he's going off to surgery and is back immediately on the next play," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "We've played in games when three or four guys are down on a play. I think we have pretty intelligent fans at Oregon."



* There seems to be two parts to every SEC scandal -- the actual scandal itself and who ratted out the violator.

It's a conference tradition, one that commissioner Mike Slive has tried to eradicate with a code of ethics. The code requires those with knowledge of an NCAA violation to pass up the chain of command (AD to conference office to NCAA). That's obviously an issue lately with the Cam Newton situation. Mississippi State is on record as having turned in to the conference office Cecil Newton's alleged request for money for his son's services.


"The issue is you cannot turn a blind eye to misconduct," LSU coach Les Miles said. "If you do you're as guilty as the misconduct. I'm comfortable with the need to create a climate of compliance. I wish it wasn't anonymous. I wish everybody knew everything there was and it was open ... Then there would no behind closed doors."

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com