Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ridiculous stat of the day

Washington State has won a total of two games against D-I teams in the past two seasons. That's pretty bad. But to realize just how epically, ridiculously terrible they've been, just look at this chart that shows the worst single-season yardage differentials in the past decade:

1. 2009 Washington St -3161
2. 2006 Temple -2841
3. 2008 Washington St -2630
4. 2009 New Mexico St -2526
5. 2003 Army -2514
6. 2001 Baylor -2415
7. 2005 Temple -2348
8. 2002 Rutgers -2292
9. 2008 Washington -2263
10. 2003 Buffalo -2227

Upshot: Washington State's past two seasons have been two of the three worst for all teams in college football in the past decade. And if you need further proof, here it is: Wazzu has been outscored by 723 points (!!!) in that time.

We're talking about a Pac-10 team that went to a Rose Bowl just over a decade ago and is now being obliterated by an average of 241 yards and over 30 points per game. That's just embarrassing. I know it's not easy to win at a school with minimal tradition in the middle of nowhere, but somebody should remind Paul Wulff that it's OK to be competitive.

Seantrel Henderson isn't so sure anymore

If anybody really got screwed in the whole USC fiasco, it's the recruits who signed on with Lane Kiffin just two months before the penalties were handed down. None of those players knew how bad things would be (although they must have had some idea that there'd be serious punishment), and they can't be too happy now that they won't be able to play in a bowl until at least their junior year and probably won't ever seriously compete for a national title.

Uber-recruit Seantrel Henderson, for example, is less than thrilled:

National offensive player of the year Seantrel Henderson might be wavering on his intent to enroll at Southern California after the school was dealt severe NCAA sanctions.

Henderson, an offensive tackle from Cretin-Derham in St. Paul, Minn., skipped a scheduled orientation last week which prompted Trojans coach Lane Kiffin and three members of his staff to fly to Minnesota earlier this week.

Henderson's father, Sean, spoke to USA TODAY and said he could not comment on the situation.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press did manage to squeeze a comment out of him ... kind of:
Playing in a pro-am basketball league Tuesday night, Henderson was asked about his status with USC.

"I don't want to talk about that," Henderson said according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Henderson was smart back in February. He decided to wait to sign a letter of intent until after the penalties had been announced -- and he could do this because he was either the No. 1 or No. 2 overall prospect in the country (depending on which scouting service you prefer), so teams would wait for him. He could've waited until August if he wanted to. But for some reason, about six weeks after Signing Day (and after several meetings with Lane Kiffin), he gave in and signed. Good choice, right?

So now he's got a couple of not-so-exciting options:

1. He can play out the string at USC, possibly start as a freshman and have a good shot at being a first-round pick in a few years -- but probably never experience college "glory," so to speak.
2. He can transfer. Since there's not a chance in hell USC will grant him an immediate release, he'll have to sit out a year (essentially a redshirt year) and then will have four years to play wherever he wants.

Where would he go? His other finalists were Ohio State and Miami, but he'd also visited Notre Dame, Michigan and Minnesota and had offers from literally every major program. It's not like he'll have to go somewhere with limited exposure if he decides to leave -- he'll just miss out on the chance to start as a freshman and accelerate his NFL timeline. In other words, his decision will tell us whether it's college or the NFL that Henderson's really looking forward to.

We should know one way or another in the next two months since I assume he'll want to be settled by the start of the season. Either Kiffin will salvage the biggest (literally) and best prospect in his 2010 class -- which is crucial since USC will be limited to 15 scholarships in each of the next two classes -- or Christmas will come early for some other big-time program.

On a related note, I have no idea why more prospects don't disregard the letter of intent. It provides no benefit for the student-athlete; all it does is lock the player into a particular school. The school can withdraw the scholarship offer at any time and has no obligation to provide four years of aid (just ask Alabama). It's a one-year-at-a-time deal. The fine print basically says, "We can screw you over whenever we want if we decide to give your scholarship to somebody else. Sorry." Actually, I don't think it says "sorry." I'll double-check.

But if you're a recruit with a choice between 20 or 30 BCS conference schools, why sign a letter of intent? Nobody's gonna turn you away and NOT offer you a scholarship if you want to come -- it's just a matter of whether you lock yourself in. And if the school isn't locked in for four years of aid, the player shouldn't be locked in either.

Example: Mitch Mustain. He was the top QB recruit in the country in 2006 and picked the local school, Arkansas, only to be immersed in craziness almost immediately upon his arrival. He transferred to get away from it and (coincidentally) ended up at USC, where he had to sit out a year. Had he not signed a letter of intent with Arkansas, he would have been eligible to play in 2007 at USC and might have beaten out Mark Sanchez as John David Booty's backup. It's very possible that he'd have been the starter in '08 and '09 and would have been a first-round pick in April's draft. Instead he's spending his senior year on the bench behind Matt Barkley. I'm not saying with any certainty that things would have gone differently for him, just that I'm sure he'd like to know what would have happened in '07 (and beyond) if he'd have been eligible.

That's obviously a rare scenario, but the same holds true for just about any five-star prospect. Considering all the possible issues that could come up -- coaching changes, NCAA penalties, lack of playing time, etc. -- why risk penalizing yourself for a possible transfer if you don't need to? It's a screwy, one-sided system.

Seantrel Henderson knew it and shouldn't have signed. I'm just curious about whether he's more upset with Lane Kiffin's crazy recruiting voodoo or his own decision to give up on what was a pretty smart plan to avoid all the letter-of-intent restrictions.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Catching up: A rivalry in danger

* The end of The Holy War? I was under the assumption that when Utah was invited to the Pac-10 and said "yes please my bags are packed let's go," it meant that the Utah-BYU series would just continue as an annual nonconference matchup. But BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe doesn't sound very confident:
“BYU and Utah have over time developed one of the storied rivalries in college athletics,” Holmoe said in a statement released from the school. “Utah’s move to a different conference will certainly have an effect on the rivalry; however, at this point it’s hard to know to what extent. [Utah athletic director] Dr. Chris Hill and I have a very good relationship and will certainly be talking about this in the future. For now, we’re grateful for the long tradition of athletic competition between the two schools.”
Keep in mind that Utah also has a 115-year-old rivalry with Utah State and an upcoming series with Boise State from 2011-13. With the Pac-10 playing a nine-game conference schedule, that doesn't leave a whole lot of room for flexibility (although the series could always take a short break and then continue in 2014).

And the more I've been thinking about it, the more I've been wondering exactly how motivated Utah will be to keep playing BYU. The Utes are in the Pac-10 now -- they don't need the publicity or the national recognition from that sort of game. But BYU does. Wouldn't it benefit Utah to eliminate one of BYU's few nationally relevant games (and head-to-head recruiting opportunities) now that the Utes have the upper hand?

On top of that, it's not like Utah will be looking to toughen its schedule while regularly battling for bowl position in what should be a pretty deep Pac-10 (or Pac-12 or whatever). They'll be looking at the same formula as every other BCS conference school: more easy nonconference opponents = more home games, more money and more bowls.

I still hope something gets figured out, but this year's BYU-Utah game might be the last until at least 2014.

* A rough week for Ohio State: Ohio State had an Oregon-style week, losing three potential contributors to various shenanigans in a matter of three days. Recruit suffering life-threatening gunshot injuries? Check:
Jamel Turner, 18, was left in critical condition by a shooting early Saturday in Youngstown. A 17-year-old girl was killed in the shooting.
By the way, this is the second time Turner (a four-star DE/OLB) has been shot in the past year. "Wrong place at the wrong time" has to turn into "might wanna find some new friends" at some point. Hopefully Turner recovers and gets his life back on track.

Receiver (not a starter but a significant contributor) flunking out and transferring to a junior college? Check.
Receiver Duron Carter, a starter for Ohio State in 2009 as a freshman, has enrolled at Coffeyville Community College in Kansas with intentions on improving his academic standing. Carter, who had 13 receptions for 179 yards last season, missed the Buckeyes' 26-17 win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl after being ruled academically ineligible.
If the name sounds familiar, that's because Duron's father is Hall of Famer (and former Buckeye) Cris Carter. He looked like a potential star as a freshman before his academic issues, so his loss will be felt, especially in three- and four-receiver sets. OSU is particularly inexperienced after starters Devier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher. Carter was third among receivers in yardage last year; after that, there's nobody else on the roster with a college reception.

And last but not least (OK, this is probably least), defensive end Keith Wells left the team Monday and intends to transfer. Wells was a pretty highly touted recruit but hadn't amounted to much, getting spot duty as a freshman but then redshirting as a sophomore. He was looking at up a lot of similarly talented players on the depth chart and might have been having academic issues (there's some dispute on that). He hasn't yet announced a destination, but don't be surprised if it's a lower-division school where he can get immediate playing time if he's eligible.

* Arizona loses a receiver: Spectacularly named senior Delashaun Dean, one of a group of three returning Arizona receivers with over 40 catches last season, has been suspended indefinitely:
Arizona Wildcats wide receiver Delashaun Dean was arrested over the weekend on weapons charges and has been suspended from the football team indefinitely.

Coach Mike Stoops issued a statement this morning confirming the suspension. He said Dean's penalty is "due to a violation of team rules."

Dean's loss would hurt, but UA actually has remarkable depth at wideout, even with Terrell Turner (48 catches) graduating and tight end Rob Gronkowski heading to the NFL. There are four returning juniors with significant experience: starter Juron Criner (45 catches) as well as David Roberts (43 catches), David Douglas (31 catches) and William Wright (23 catches). This is a benefit of regularly sending out three- and four-receiver sets. With QB Nick Foles and the rest of the offense returning almost intact, the passing game should be fine.

As for Dean -- a pretty good athlete at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds -- any shot at the NFL probably hinges on working his way back and having a strong senior year.

* Former five-star recruit headed to ... USF? It's only been two years since Darrell Scott was the top-rated running back in the country (and No. 6 player overall on Rivals), but it's been a loooong two years. Scott passed up offers from USC, Florida, Texas and everybody else to go to to Colorado (for some reason) and has been the epitome of the team as a whole: a disappointment. He rushed for 343 yards as a freshman after getting beat out by fellow freshman Rodney Stewart, then posted a whopping 95 yards last year while missing time with a nagging hip injury. The lack of help on a horrific offense probably hasn't helped.

With Dan Hawkins on the holy-crap-my-ass-is-on-fire hot seat, Scott has decided to jump ship and head to (according to his Facebook page, anyway) USF.
"Just got a scholly peeps!!!! Your looking at a bull now," he wrote. "USF here I come baby."
If he's looking for playing time on what should be a pretty good team, he seems to have chosen wisely. USF's starting running back this year will be Moise Plancher, a sixth-year senior (yes, that's right). Backup Mike Ford was dismissed from the team in February, and there's nobody else of note on the roster.

Scott will have to sit out this season as a transfer but should be the front-runner for the starting job on a Big East contender in 2011.

* Oregon might be a little closer (maybe) to deciding on a QB: The battle to replace the moronic Jeremiah Masoli has been a dead heat since spring, with Dennis Dixon play-alike Darron Thomas (a redshirt sophomore) battling experienced-but-not-as-athletic senior Nate Costa.

I guessed about two months ago that Thomas would get the nod based on nothing but potential and one half against Boise State in 2008. But on Monday -- which was Oregon's first day of summer conditioning -- Oregon beat writer Rob Moseley made an observation that might mean something or might mean absolutely nothing:
Nate Costa has consistently been at the front of the pack leading guys through drills this evening.
Note that these weren't organized drills or plays, just "voluntary" workout-type things ("voluntary" goes in quotes because everyone knows they aren't really voluntary). But if Costa appears to be taking more of a leadership role for a program that hasn't exactly been stable this offseason, that might be the difference come September; this is a talented team with still-realistic Pac-10 title aspirations.

Don't expect an official decision until the final days of fall camp.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Pac-10 gets its 12th team

The Pac-10 didn't take long to recover from its broken heart:
The Pac-10 invited Utah to become the 12th member of the conference Wednesday, two days after being turned down by Texas, Oklahoma and three other Big 12 schools.

Utah officials did not immediately say whether the invitation would be accepted. However, a source tells ESPN that Utah will join the Pac-10.

Obviously. I'm sure there'll be a lot of debate over where to stay in the Mountain West or head to the Pac-10. "Let's see, would you like to keep your $1.33 million in TV revenue or would you like $15 million, a shot at an automatic BCS bid and a huge boost in prominence?" Tough call. The only negative anyone has come up with is the split from BYU, but some minor scheduling adjustments should take care of that and keep The Holy War alive and well as a nonconference matchup.

From the Pac-10's standpoint, Utah is actually a pretty good addition. Good football team (at least middle of the pack in the Pac-10), good basketball team, good TV market (Salt Lake City is the 31st-largest in the country) ... nothing spectacular but nothing not to like. Getting more quality competition is never a bad thing.

Overall, though, the Pac-10 didn't really do anything to increase its national relevance. Nobody east of the Mississippi will be drawn to the impending Pac-10 Network to see Utah-Arizona or Colorado-Washington or just about any other combination outside of USC-Oregon. In other words, Utah and Colorado are both fine additions, but they represent expansion for expansion's sake. The important thing is that the new Pac-10 can split into two divisions, hold a championship game, start a network and bring in a little extra money via Denver and Salt Lake City. The lesson: If there's more money, everybody's happy.

The Denver Post reports that the new divisions will look like this:

South North
UCLA Stanford
Arizona Oregon
Arizona St. Oregon St.
Utah Washington
Colorado Washington St.

No surprises there. One of the big concerns with a divisional split was that the Washington, Oregon and Arizona schools wanted to keep their regular trips to California to help with recruiting. Separating Stanford and Cal from USC and UCLA makes that possible and still retains most geographic connections. The only quasi-rivalry that might be lost some years is USC-Cal; that's manageable.

I've seen a bunch of articles praising Larry Scott for his aggressive moves in expansion, and I'll give him credit for trying to do something EXTREMELY bold. But at the end of the day, the Pac-10 pretty much is what it was a week ago except with one more good team (one that'll finally get a chance to test itself against consistently strong competition) and one more mediocre team. And a championship game, of course.

And then there's the Mountain West. The poor, poor Mountain West. Just five days ago, the addition of Boise State seemed like the first step toward a guaranteed automatic BCS bid. With Utah, BYU, TCU and Boise State? That's a strong conference, probably even better than the Big East. I even said this at the time:
... even if the Big 12 stays intact, the Mountain West will be a lot stronger coming out of expansion than it was going in.
Errrr yeah. I obviously didn't foresee the current scenario. As it is, we're right back to square one. There's one excellent team (Boise taking Utah's place) and two consistently very good teams (BYU and TCU). Unless the MWC can steal another good program from a major conference (extremely doubtful), it's gonna be pretty hard to land that coveted auto-bid.

So close and yet so far ...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The story of expansion in hilarious MS Paint

There's a guy on a Texas message board who does awesome stuff with MS Paint. That's pretty much all the explanation you need. Enjoy:

The end.

Coaching signals FTW

I've seen some pretty crazy coaching hand signals, but the Oklahoma assistant (I can't tell who it is) at the very bottom right corner of the screen in this video is either extremely aroused or should probably come up with a new signal for whatever he's trying to call:

I mean, what kind of play is that?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Big 12 is still kickin'

So ... I guess we won't be seeing a Pac-16. Texas has decided to save the Big 12 -- and about half the teams in it -- by choosing the status quo and the promise of $25 million or more per season in TV revenue.

This obviously takes care of any talk about superconferences, at least for now. The Pac-10 will likely stop at 12 teams and the Big 12 is probably stuck at 10, so until the Big Ten makes another move, there probably won't be a conference with more than 12 teams. Not exactly what we were expecting a few days ago, right?

But if you've looked at the details of Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe's sales pitch, you might have noticed something:
Texas stands to earn between $20 million and $25 million annually in television revenue in the reworked deal, including money from its own network, according to

The Longhorns' network figures to generate between $3 million and $5 million, according to the report. Because the Big 12 has unequal revenue sharing, the deal will mean more money for Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, who all would receive at least $20 million annually from the new deal.

The other seven schools in the Big 12 would make between $14 million and $17 million, doubling what they currently receive in TV revenue.

OK, let's figure this out. The Big Ten distributed between $20 million and $22 million in TV money to each team last year, part of which came from the ABC/ESPN contract and part of which came from the Big Ten Network. The SEC distributed about $17 million to each school from its contract with ESPN. The Big 12?

1. Texas: $10.2 million
2. Oklahoma: $9.8 million
3. Kansas: $9.24 million
4. Texas A&M: $9.22 million
5. Nebraska: $9.1 million
6. Missouri: $8.4 million
7. Texas Tech: $8.23 million
8. Kansas State: $8.21 million
9. Oklahoma State: $8.1 million
10. Colorado: $8.0 million
11. Iowa State: $7.4 million
12. Baylor: $7.1 million

Granted, the Big 12's TV deal was outdated and was set for a significant boost this offseason. But I highly doubt that it would've surpassed the SEC deal, and there's no way it would've gone past the Big Ten's total revenue package. And that's WITH Nebraska and Colorado. Yet according to Beebe, the revenue-sharing payouts will now look something like this:

1. Texas: $22 million
2. Oklahoma: $20 million
3. Texas A&M: $20 million
4. Everyone else: $15 million

Add it all up and that's a total of $167 million a year, or $16.7 million a team. Keep in mind that the second- or third-most valuable program (Nebraska) is gone along with the third-biggest market (Denver) the conference owned. Is the Big 12 run by the underpants gnomes? Because the new plan looks something like this:

1. Lose two valuable schools
2. ?
3. Profit

There must be something I'm missing. Fox Sports will be expected to pay the same amount for what's basically Texas, Oklahoma and Conference USA as ESPN is paying for the SEC? Yeah, I don't get it. Maybe the Big 12 can get that amount, but if so, Fox is flat-out stupid.

The more likely scenario: Beebe is pulling numbers out of his ass in a desperate bid to keep his conference alive. Not that I can blame him; it was his only chance to avoid what would have been the complete and utter collapse of the Big 12. But why would anyone more than double the value of a TV contract for a conference that now has one nationally relevant game (Texas-Oklahoma) a year? I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I'll be pretty surprised if the actual payouts end up close to what's being promised.

The other thing that's weird is that the whole cause of the unrest in the Big 12 was the uneven revenue sharing. Texas got just over 10% of the conference's total TV money (a little over $10 million), so teams like Baylor and Iowa State were left with a much smaller portion (around $7 million). Nebraska, Missouri and the middle-of-the-pack schools got about $8.5 million or $9 million. So how's that new deal look, Missouri? Texas will now be raking in roughly 13% of the overall TV package, while the bottom seven schools will each be pulling in about 60-75% of that. Everyone besides Texas, Oklahoma and Texas A&M is now in even worse shape than before in terms of percentages. And the sad part is that they all need Texas so badly that they'd have signed off on just about anything.

At the end of the day, it was all about power for Texas. If it was about money, UT could have had about $30 million in TV money from the Big Ten and $500 million from the CIC for research. If it was about academics, UT could have gone to the Pac-10 and given the school a reputation boost. Doing neither of those things made a pretty clear statement. If you condensed the entire negotiation process into one conversation, it would have gone something like this:

Missouri: This sucks. I can't believe how unfairly you treat me, Texas. I'm outta here as soon as the Big Ten breaks up with Notre Dame.
Texas: Fine. Good luck with that. I'll go hang out with my other friends and laugh while lighting my Cuban cigars with $100 bills.
Missouri: Shit. You're right. Hey, wait a minute -- maybe we can work something out.
Texas: I'm listening ...

This all has a downside, of course. If/when another conference comes calling at some point in the future (if the Big Ten decides it wants Missouri, for example), what will stop anyone from bailing? Going to the Big Ten or Pac-10 would still represent a huge financial boost AND equal revenue sharing. If you're not Texas, Oklahoma or A&M, you have no reason to be loyal. And if Missouri or Kansas (or both) were to be pulled away, what's already a thin conference would become a complete joke. I'd think Texas would have to leave at that point.

A friend actually pointed that out and made a simple suggestion: Why doesn't the Pac-10 just invite Kansas, who would definitely accept? That'd probably weaken the Big 12 to the point where Texas would say, "Screw it, let's just get out of here and find somewhere stable where we can still make a ton of money." And if that happened, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State would come along too. They'll go where Texas goes. The other spot would be Texas A&M's (if they want it) or Texas Tech's (if A&M were to pick the SEC). Makes sense, right?

And eventually, that might be the Big 12's downfall. There are too many unhappy/mistreated partners that will be willing to leave at the drop of a hat. But it might not happen for a while (maybe never if the Big Ten doesn't want Missouri), and for Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Baylor and Iowa State, that must be an overwhelming relief.

As for the Pac-10, it sounds like Utah is likely next on the list. There's little value in expanding to 11 teams (not enough for a conference championship game); it's just a matter of which school will get the 12th ticket.

Side note: Adding Utah and Colorado is fine, but it's gotta be a little bit of a letdown after barely missing out on the Texas-Texas A&M-Oklahoma-Oklahoma State conglomerate. The Pac-10 Network (or whatever it'll be called) suddenly seems a little less interesting. The Big Ten, meanwhile, has to be feeling pretty good about itself. Think about it: The Big 12 is still alive but significantly weaker, the Pac-10 is pretty much the same as it was before but with two more teams ... the Big Ten is the only conference that's definitely stronger than it was last week.

I still think there's almost no chance that the Big Ten stops short of 14 teams, but Jim Delany said the other day that the conference will now revert to its original 12-to-18-month timeline, meaning we probably won't know anything (officially, anyway) until next offseason.

Unofficially, I don't think it's any secret that Notre Dame is still at the top of the list. And the more I hear, the more I think Notre Dame will eventually be one of those 14 (or 16) teams. It'll just be too easy for the Big Ten to split up the Big East. I see one of these two things happening:

1. The Big Ten will invite two schools -- probably Rutgers and Syracuse -- which is guaranteed to cause the Big East to implode and force Notre Dame to find a home for all its sports.
2. The Big Ten will tell the Big East that it intends to invite Rutgers and Syracuse, and this threat will force the Big East to give Notre Dame an ultimatum: join for football (and save the conference) or GTFO. Notre Dame obviously won't be joining the Big East for football, so they'll be in the same situation as in the previous scenario.

Either way, Notre Dame will need a home and the Big Ten will be happy to oblige. My guess is that the second scenario is a lot more likely, because I don't think the Big Ten wants to go to 16 teams unless it absolutely has to. Getting Notre Dame and one of Rutgers/Syracuse/Pitt/Maryland is preferable to getting Notre Dame and three of those schools, because those schools just don't provide enough in revenue to make up for their addition. The fewer schools added beyond Notre Dame, the more money everyone's sharing.

There's a rumor going around (I've heard this from more than one knowledgeable person) that Notre Dame has been offered a stepped invitation, basically ramping up the number of Big Ten games each season and becoming a full conference member the year after the NBC contract expires in 2015. That would be a pretty generous concession by the Big Ten, but I'm on board with whatever it takes. Notre Dame is still wildly valuable and extremely popular throughout the country; getting ND in the conference would have more financial impact than any move any other conference could make. And let's face it: Notre Dame belongs in the Big Ten.

So ... where were we? Oh yeah. Once the Pac-10 adds Utah, we'll probably be done with expansion for a while. Unless the Big Ten gets Notre Dame to sign up (I'm pretty sure Delany would accelerate his timeline for that), at which point everyone will go crazy again.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Catching up: Non-expansion stuff is still happening

* Masoli done at Oregon: This was a mere blip on the radar last week amid all the crazy expansion talk and the USC penalty-palooza, but Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli was dismissed from the team for "failing to adhere to obligations" that were set this spring when he was suspended for the upcoming season. In case you're wondering what "failing to adhere to obligations" means, here ya go:
Masoli was stopped by Springfield police at 9:17 p.m. local time on Monday after exiting a driveway without stopping. At that time, the officer cited the former Ducks quarterback for driving with a suspended license and possession of one ounce or less of marijuana.
Brilliant. We're talking about a guy who just led Oregon to the Pac-10 title, was second-team All-Pac-10 and would have been a legitimate Heisman candidate next season. He fucked up once (stealing laptops from a frat house with teammate Garrett Embry)? OK. People make mistakes. I have no problem with him getting a conditional opportunity to work his way back. But to take that chance -- as well as any chance he had at the NFL -- and just smoke it away? What an idiot.

* The AP lets USC off the hook: Of all the stories and columns emanating from the USC punishment, the most confusing might have been the announcement by The Associated Press that the Trojans will get to keep their 2004 title. This part makes sense ...
"It would be impractical to (name a different champion)" AP sports editor Terry Taylor said. "It's been six years. Memories have faded and the poll board from that year is no longer intact."
... but why not leave the title vacant, which is what the BCS is expected to do? According to the official record books, USC didn't win its final regular-season game or the national championship game (because Reggie Bush was ineligible), so how can the AP still declare them the national champion? I don't get it. For once, the BCS has it right.

And I feel the same way about Bush's Heisman. If he was ineligible to play, how can you NOT strip him of the award? This is from the Heisman voting instructions:
"The (Heisman Trophy) recipient must be in compliance with the bylaws defining an NCAA student athlete."
He was breaking the most basic NCAA rule for the entire season in which he won the Heisman. What more would a player have to do to lose his award (as well as his future voting rights and seat at the ceremony)? You don't have to go back and name a winner or change your vote; just don't let him keep the honor he doesn't deserve.

* Anybody wanna transfer? It's open season at USC for juniors and seniors, who are free to be contacted by any program and free to transfer without sitting out a season due to the two-year postseason ban. But will anyone actually leave? Ehhhh ...

Here's the thing: Any upperclassman starter at USC is still in better shape in terms of exposure and NFL readiness than he would be by transferring. Bowl games don't matter that much. Guys who are platooning or sitting behind five other high school All-Americans, though, might look elsewhere. Any shot of college glory is gone now that USC can't play for a national title (or even play in a Rose Bowl) for the next two years, so if there's a starting job available at some other solid program, those guys might as well take it. It'll just be a matter of how sure a backup might be that he can win a starting job at a new program in a new system with only fall camp to prove himself.

The Orange County Register did a little asking around and got a "don't have plans to leave" response from backup QB Mitch Mustain and an "I am not leaving SC" tweet from sometimes-good/sometimes-benched running back C.J. Gable. Those would be (presumably) the two most coveted backups on the roster. So as much as most people would love to see a mass exodus, it ain't happenin'.

* Clemson loses a quarterback (probably): When the Colorado Rockies took Kyle Parker in the first round of last week's MLB draft, it probably spelled the end of his career at Clemson. Remember Drew Henson? Guys with a few million bucks on the table don't go back to college very often.

I was skeptical about Parker beating our former uber-recruit Willy Korn for the starting job last fall, but he did it -- and he turned out to be pretty good. He completed 55.5% of his passes and had 20 touchdown passes and just 12 interceptions, impressive numbers for a redshirt freshman who was spending half his time on another sport.

Assuming he won't be back, the starting job likely falls to athletic redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd, a one-time Tennessee commit who inexplicably had his scholarship offer pulled when Lane Kiffin took over at UT. Talent is what he has; experience is what he doesn't. With no C.J. Spiller and a completely unprepared QB taking over at the start of fall camp, Clemson's offense could be a little ugly early in the season (those games against North Texas and Presbyterian probably look like a blessing now). After that, it'll all depend on Boyd's development and whether he plays up to his recruiting hype or just plays like a freshman.

* Dorsey isn't coming to Michigan: Probably the most hyped recruit in Michigan's 2010 recruiting class was cornerback Demar Dorsey, ESPN's 12th-ranked player in the country. Note that I use the word "was." Naturally, since the RichRod era at UM seems to be cursed, Dorsey won't ever make it to Ann Arbor:
Michigan defensive back recruit Demar Dorsey has been released from his letter of intent after not being admitted to the school, his father said Wednesday, according to The Detroit News.
D'oh. The worst part is that he was technically qualified according to NCAA standards, but Michigan wouldn't admit him. This would normally cause me great irritation. However, two reports (at least one from an extremely reliable source) make it clear that Dorsey's transcripts were, ummm, questionable. Basically, his grades were in such poor shape heading into his senior year that the fact that he qualified automatically raised suspicion. That's not good -- just ask Derrick Rose.

As much as I'd love to add a five-star corner to UM's depleted secondary, I accept that there are some academic standards that simply have to be upheld. We're not talking about Florida State (which, coincidentally, is on Dorsey's short list of potential destinations). But I'm not gonna lie: It hurts to have a top recruit at a position of need yanked out of the class four months after Signing Day, especially knowing that it's probably bowl game or bust this season for Rodriguez.

* And that'll do it: Back to your regularly scheduled expansion talk ...

Friday, June 11, 2010

A date has been set

We'll get a decision from Texas on Tuesday:
University of Texas regents will meet next week to decide whether the Longhorns will remain in the Big 12 or switch to another conference.

The regents announced Friday that they will hold a meeting by telephone Tuesday for "discussion and appropriate action regarding athletic conference membership."
There's been a lot of speculation in the last 24 hours, but according to Chip Brown (a writer for Texas' Rivals affiliate who's made a name for himself with a lot of behind-the-scenes info on expansion), the outcome has already been decided:
Texas will announce its plans to join the Pac-10 after its regents meet next Tuesday, source confirm to
While this guy seems to have established himself as reliable, keep in mind that four days is an eternity in the world of rumors and negotiations. If the Big Ten were to swoop in and make a persuasive pitch or if the Texas Legislature were to really put the pressure on UT to keep the Big 12 intact, I think it's still a possibility that the mass exodus to the Pac-10 could fall apart.

But if nothing changes in the next 96 hours, we should all start preparing ourselves for the Pac-16 and the death of the Big 12.

The Mountain West gets in on the action

This has been expected for a while now, but Boise State is finally making the leap to a legitimate conference:
Boise State is leaving the Western Athletic Conference, a league the Broncos have dominated for a decade in football, the Mountain West Conference confirmed with a statement Friday.
This is a huge win for both Boise State and the Mountain West, and I'll explain why. For Boise, this represents competition. No more eight-week stretches with irrelevant games against San Jose State, Hawaii and Louisiana Tech, games Boise can win by four touchdowns with nobody outside the state of Idaho giving the slightest crap. There will suddenly be meaningful matchups with Utah, BYU and TCU (assuming those schools are still there when the dust settles), which will give Boise the legitimacy it can't get in a conference full of third-tier schools. An undefeated season by a preseason top-10 team in the new-and-improved Mountain West might actually be enough to garner BCS title game consideration.

As for the Mountain West, there's a very simple, very obvious reason to bring in Boise State: an automatic BCS bid. The BCS determines its autobids using a rolling three-year formula, and when Boise's three-year record is added to the already-close-to-enough performances of Utah, BYU and TCU, there's a good chance the MWC will qualify for an autobid and all the money that comes with it. The whole BCS system could change once all this expansion mania is complete, but as things stand now, the Mountain West will be as good as the Big East.

And this probably won't be the last move by the Mountain West. Boise was actually expected to be invited last week -- the conference just held off because everybody wanted to wait and see what would happen with the Big 12. Unless Texas pulls a shocker and decides to stay put (which a few teams have to be desperately hoping for at this point), there will be some quality leftovers in the refrigerator. Kansas? Kansas State? Baylor? Iowa State? The Mountain West will have its pick of some/all of those teams. None of them really move the needle nationally in football, but the Kansas schools are good from time to time and basketball would get a MASSIVE boost. The conference would suddenly be relevant in both major sports.

Like everyone else, the MWC now just has to wait for the Big 12 fallout to see where it goes next. It could end up staying at 10 teams or it could end up with as many as 16. But even if the Big 12 stays intact, the Mountain West will be a lot stronger coming out of expansion than it was going in.

Expansion and the Texas conundrum

This is what I said a few hours ago:
... megaconferences are about to happen one way or another.
I might have been going a little overboard with that statement, because I don't think it's a given that there are gonna be four 16-team conferences in the near future. Possible? Sure. Maybe even likely. But not a given.

On the other hand, there's no way the Big Ten is stopping with just Nebraska. Jim Delany has been talking for months about expanding the conference's TV footprint/reach; I don't think he had Omaha in mind. Texas and Notre Dame are still the primary targets. Rejections from those two would probably result in the addition of some less-spectacular group of two or four teams that would include Missouri, Pitt, Syracuse and/or Rutgers. I don't see any way the Big Ten has fewer than 14 teams when all is said and done.

Everything else hinges on Texas. If Texas joins the Pac-10, the dominoes start to fall as the other conferences try to keep up. The SEC won't be sitting still if the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-16 and the Big Ten grows to 14. But if Texas decides to stick it out in the Big 12 ... well, there might not be such mass chaos. I don't think that'll happen, but it could. Texas will decide whether the Big 12 lives or dies. And if the Big 12 lives and the Big Ten decides to hold at 12 or 14 teams, the Big East also could survive. There are scenarios that end with no massive changes and a bunch of 12- or 14-team conferences.

The problem with those scenarios is they assume that just about everyone of importance will choose loyalty/comfort/tradition over money (yeah, that happens a lot). But since people are talking about this as the potential armageddon of college athletics, who knows?

Texas, the ball is in your court. We await your decision.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

USC gets the hammer

Sweet merciful crap:
The NCAA threw the book at storied Southern California on Thursday with a two-year bowl ban, four years' probation, loss of scholarships and forfeits of an entire year's games for improper benefits to Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush dating to the Trojans' 2004 national championship.

The penalties include the loss of 30 football scholarships over three years and vacating 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through the 2005 season.

Any Song Girls need consoling? No? Fine ...

OK, I try not to brag about my correct predictions -- I get enough wrong that I don't really wanna go back and review all of them -- but I'd like to point out a few things. First is ESPN Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller's prediction, which was posted last week:
... even in the worst-case scenario for the Trojans, the NCAA sanctions should -- and almost certainly will -- fall under the penalties Alabama earned (in 2002, when the Tide were handed a two-year bowl ban and docked 21 scholarships).
Then there's CBS college football idiot writer Dennis Dodd's prediction:
USC football is going to walk. There will be no NCAA jail. ... I'm not claiming to know how USC has wriggled free. I'm just telling you it has happened. That was part of Kiffin considering the job.
Errrr yeah. It's a good thing Lane Kiffin knew the results of the investigation six weeks before USC even met with the NCAA. Way to use the ol' brain, Dennis.

Anyway, here's my prediction from last Thursday:
  • Vacating of all wins from 2004 and 2005
  • Four years of probation
  • Two scholarships lost for a two-year period
  • Ineligible for postseason play for two years
I have no inside knowledge of NCAA operations and no inside sources at USC. I simply used past precedent and some common-sense conclusions to come up with an educated guess, and I ended up a hell of a lot closer than the guys who get paid to do this stuff. There were only two things I had not quite right: USC only had to vacate two wins from 2004 (instead of all of them) and lost 30 (!!!) scholarships over three years instead of two for two.

The vacating of wins was a given from the beginning; it's been common knowledge for a while now that Reggie Bush was ineligible during at least the 2005 season. But losing wins from from the end of the 2004 season means that USC is no longer the 2004 national champion -- that title will be vacated and there will be no official champion (even though both Oklahoma and Auburn finished with perfect regular-season records).

It's the other penalties that will REALLY hurt, though. It's been seven years since a Division I school (Alabama) was banned from postseason play; this isn't a common thing. Every junior and senior on the roster will now go the rest of his career without playing in a Rose Bowl or having a shot at a BCS title. Don't be surprised to see a few transfers (not a lot, but there'll be a few guys who escape).

And losing 30 scholarships (10 per year from 2011 through 2013)? That is absolutely devastating. I don't care how much talent you have on your roster, there is simply no way to overcome that unless you have remarkable luck with your recruiting and development. Think about this: Since the NCAA recruiting-class limit is 25 players, USC's yearly limit has now been cut to 15. In 2014, there will be -- at the absolute most -- 45 non-freshmen on the roster (I suppose there could be a few fifth-year seniors still around, but I don't see how USC will be able to afford to redshirt anybody with that sort of personnel deficit).

Even in a best-case scenario, recruits pan out as quality starters at about a 50% rate (that'd be for an entire team of five-star players). So even if USC brings in nothing but the best players and develops them as well as anyone else, there will probably be only 20-25 good players on the roster heading into 2014. There might be enough superstars and enough capable players to field a still-pretty-good team, but they'll constantly be an injury away from starting a walk-on. Lane Kiffin better hope he has a freakin' unbelievable recruiting class in 2014 -- and 2015 and 2016 -- or there could be a really rough stretch coming up for USC in a few years (right about the time that bowl ban wears off).

I do feel a little sorry for the players who are caught up in all this, but I can't feel too sorry for Kiffin (who was on the staff back in 2004 and '05) or the people in the athletic department. And I sure as fuck don't feel sorry for athletic director Mike Garrett, who has overseen the decimation of both the basketball AND football programs in the last two years and still managed to come up with this gem of a statement:
"As I read the decision by the NCAA, all I could get out of all of this was, I read between the lines, and there was nothing but a lot of envy, and they wish they all were Trojans."
Stop. Stop right now. You're an idiot if that's your interpretation of this:

"The general campus environment surrounding the violations troubled the committee," the report said.

The report also condemned the star treatment afforded to Bush and Mayo, saying USC's oversight of its top athletes ran contrary to the fundamental principles of amateur sports.

"Elite athletes in high profile sports with obvious great future earnings potential may see themselves as something apart from other student-athletes and the general student population," the NCAA report said. "Institutions need to assure that their treatment on campus does not feed into such a perception."

The investigation found exactly what it should have found, and USC will be feeling the results for at least the next seven years. It will be a while before we see the Trojans playing for another BCS championship. I'd also say the door is wide open for Oregon to assert itself as THE dominant team in the Pac-10, which would have been a ridiculous statement about five years ago.

Will these penalties completely destroy the program? No, nor should they. There's enough high-end talent -- both players and coaches -- that USC probably won't revert to being bad like in the late '90s. But if you look at Michigan and Tennessee over the past couple years, you can very clearly see the struggles of teams playing well below the scholarship limit (neither was penalized scholarships, but both had a series of transfers and whatnot that led to a lack of depth). It won't be an easy recovery, especially if teams like, say, Texas and Oklahoma happen to be joining the Pac-10 around the time USC's scholarship limits are really taking effect.

We're about to find out just how good of a coach Lane Kiffin really is.

Here come the pretzels

It was such a slow, boring offseason just a couple weeks ago (outside of baseless expansion rumors, of course). But all of a sudden:
The Pac-10 conference announced Thursday that the University of Colorado has agreed to leave the Big 12 to join its conference.
And that's just the first in a massive setup of dominoes as we head toward megaconferences:
A source close to the Nebraska program told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that athletic director Tom Osborne informed some staff members within the past 24 hours the Cornhuskers were going to make the move to the Big Ten conference.
Boom goes the dynamite Big 12. With Nebraska and Colorado gone, the Big 12 North is basically done, so the Big 12 South has a big-time decision to make. At this point there are only three possible scenarios:

1. The Pac-10 becomes the Pac-16 as Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State become the newest members of a conference that would go overnight from probably the third or fourth best in the country to rivaling the SEC.
2. Texas (and possibly Texas A&M) joins the Big Ten, which really wants Texas and its gazillion viewers for the Big Ten Network.
3. Texas binds itself to A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor and decides to salvage what it can from the Big 12. If Texas and Oklahoma stick around, there are still the makings of a functional conference in both football and basketball. It won't have anywhere near the monetary pull of the Big Ten or a possible Pac-16, but it could survive.

Assuming Texas and its pals do join up with the Pac-10 (the most likely scenario), it will be a clear statement that Texas has chosen state loyalty over money. That's not to say that the Pac-16 won't get a sweet TV deal that brings in similar revenue to the BTN, but the one thing that's rarely mentioned in all the Big Ten expansion talk is the CIC (an academic consortium that consists of the Big Ten schools and splits $6 BILLION annually for academic research). Any new member of the Big Ten would presumably be included in the CIC and have access to $500 million that's not available anywhere else, which makes $20 million in TV money look like the change in my pocket. Even if the Pac-16 seems like a better fit geographically or competitively, $500 million a year would be a persuasive offer. It probably just won't be persuasive enough since the people making the decisions are the people running the athletic department.

So where does the Big Ten go next? The Big East. Not because it includes any school that's particularly desirable, but because taking two teams from the Big East will destroy that conference and put Notre Dame in a corner. The school's non-revenue sports will need a conference, and any conference willing to take Notre Dame will demand its football program as well. Geography only leaves two options -- the ACC and the Big Ten. The choice between those two is pretty easy. And I'm pretty sure the Big Ten would gladly invite, say, Pitt and Rutgers if it meant ND would come along as well. At that point, depending on exactly how many invitations are required to blow up the Big East, Missouri might also be invited to even out the Big Ten at 16.

Is there any scenario that involves Notre Dame leaving voluntarily without the Big Ten decimating the Big East? Yes -- but it still involves the same basic principle. If ND's administration has any foresight, they'll realize that megaconferences will be the death of the Big East regardless of who's directly responsible. If the Big Ten doesn't come calling, the ACC will (after it loses a few teams to the SEC, which obviously will have to keep up with the Joneses and expand to 16 teams too). Let's say the Big Ten takes Nebraska, Missouri and (just hypothetically) Rutgers. The SEC will then make a play for Florida State and Miami (and maybe some other pair such as Georgia Tech and Clemson), and the ACC will then have to fill those spots in order to keep up. They'll go after Pitt, Syracuse, USF and any other relevant schools left in the Big East. No matter how you slice it, I'll be stunned if the Big East is still in existence in two years. (Yes, I've heard the rumors that the Big East might make a play for Kansas and some of the other Big 12 leftovers, but there's just no way that's geographically feasible. Forget about it.)

I'm not sure Notre Dame can risk letting everything play out and not having a chair in the Big Ten when the music stops. It's the only possible landing spot that allows them to maintain most of their century-old traditions and national appeal. I believe that the Big Ten is, at least for now, waiting to see whether Notre Dame realizes that this is 2010 and that megaconferences are about to happen one way or another. I also believe that the Big Ten has extended an invitation to Texas and would take Texas and Texas A&M regardless of what Notre Dame wants to do. So we're back in wait-and-see mode.

For what it's worth, there's a rumor (that appears to have legs) that Texas, A&M, Notre Dame and Missouri have been invited to the Big Ten, with the offers to Mizzou and A&M contingent upon the other two joining. Texas and Texas A&M officials did have a meeting Thursday, but there was no resolution or indication about a potential conference choice. If this is true, it would definitely help explain Missouri's surprising silence on the issue. The MU administration has made it clear from the beginning that they'd crawl through broken glass to get to the Big Ten, so if they do have an invitation, why haven't they accepted already? And if they don't, why haven't they sought out other possible options? A contingent invitation certainly seems possible (maybe even likely based on the lack of info from Missouri). Landing all four of those teams seems like a pipe dream, but if Jim Delany pulls it off, he'll officially be granted the title of The Most Powerful Man in College Sports.

Personally, I won't be devastated if Texas ends up in the Pac-16 rather than the Big Ten. I'd like to have Texas (along with its cachet and the gobs of money it would bring), but from a competitive standpoint, any conference with Texas in it will be a hell of a lot harder to win. Just look at the proposed Pac-16: Good luck to a school like Arizona State, which would have to beat Texas AND Oklahoma just to get out of its own division and then play, say, USC or Oregon for the conference title. Yikes. I wouldn't be overly upset with a Big Ten combination like Nebraska, Missouri and Notre Dame, all of which provide a lot of fans, money and quality competition without the extreme talent advantage.

There are a ton of questions about exactly what the BCS bids would look like (two for each megaconference?) and whether some portion of the Big 12 might try to hook up with the Mountain West to form a sort of second-tier megaconference, but it's hard to know anything until there are answers from the two schools at top of the money heap: Notre Dame and Texas.

One last note: The big loser today was Baylor. Colorado jumping at the Pac-10's invitation was smart because it means that the Texas Legislature can't attach Baylor to its big brother in Austin and piggyback it into a new conference (a six-team move to the Pac-10 that included Baylor would have left Colorado with nowhere to go). Since Oklahoma won't be jumping ship without Oklahoma State, there's only room for three Texas schools in the Pac-16, meaning any sort of serious realignment would probably leave Baylor relegated (rightfully) to either the Mountain West or Conference USA.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hurry up already

Apparently we won't be getting the NCAA's verdict on USC today:
USC assistant vice president of media relations James Grant told the campus television station Thursday that the NCAA has not informed USC that the report is ready for release.
If you're wondering why it's taken so freaking long to finalize the penalties, the educated people I've talked to (or read) say there are a lot of details to iron out, and these have to be agreed upon and signed by every member of the Committee on Infractions. In other words, there's probably some argument over the exact penalties (length of scholarship reductions, etc.). The fact that the report was set to be released today means they have to be close -- the overall punishment structure is probably set -- but there's no way to know anything until the whole thing gets released.

Hopefully we find out the specifics some time this decade.