With the announcement that Maryland and Rutgers will be joining the Big Ten, we have yet another example of how tradition and the needs of student athletes no longer matter at all in big time college sports. It’s all about money. In this case, it was all about the Big Ten Network and gaining exposure to large TV markets on the East Coast.
On one level the entire situation is pathetic. Does a weakened Big Ten football conference really need to add a weak Maryland program or a Rutgers program that will struggle to stay competitive in the Big Ten? Adding Nebraska made sense from a football standpoint. But this is all about money and markets. I guess once we all acknowledge that it’s a little easier to accept. There’s an arms race going on and the Big Ten sees these dollars as adding to their muscle for the long term.
Meanwhile we have more stories of academic fraud at North Carolina. Read this article and it will make you sick, especially when you consider that UNC hoops is the darling of the NCAA and the national media. Will the NCAA be just as hard on this basketball program? Will it dare vacate a National Championship for the NCAA Tournament that the NCAA controls? How much has money corrupted the holier-than-thou NCAA? With a whistle blower coming forward at North Carolina the NCAA may be forced to address one of its sacred cows.
If Ohio State, Penn State and USC can get crushed by the NCAA for football violations, then North Carolina should get punished for basketball violations and academic fraud.
But frankly the whole system of punishment sucks. Ohio State had a minor scandal over players getting tattoos, and now they might be shut out of a national championship game against Notre Dame. Maybe the NCAA doesn’t care as the BCS controls football championships, but a matchup between Ohio State and Notre Dame in the National Championship could have been the most watched college football game ever give the huge followings from both schools.
Meanwhile, the NCAA is strong-arming former Miami football players in their investigation of a rogue booster there. What’s worse – some Miami kids getting free steaks and yacht trips or “student-athletes” at North Carolina taking no-show classes where a student adviser wrote their papers?
Finally, ESPN has won the rights to televise the new college football playoff for 12 years for a reported fee of $470 million per year. Does anyone expect things to get better? At least the BCS will get better as we can have four teams fighting it out instead of only two. Hopefully it will expand to eight teams at some point. But the dollars keep getting bigger for what’s supposed to be amateur sports.
I was never a big fan of Mike Leach, but I always respected what he accomplished at Texas Tech. The scandal that ended his tenure at Tech always seemed bizarre, and he’s in the middle of several lawsuits with the university and with ESPN.
Ron Modra has written an interesting profile of Leach in the Washington Post, which finds him in Key West as he waits for another opportunity to coach a major college football program. he had a shot at the Maryland job but they picked Randy Edsall from UConn instead.
I think he’ll get another shot eventually. My guess is you’ll see him at a BCS conference school that has hit rock bottom.
This weekend, the Final Four will be played at Ford Field in Detroit, and I want to thank you for another lackluster tournament. The aristocrats of college basketball trampled their opponents en route to the Motor City. Your selection process favors the haves (30 of the 34 at-large bids went to schools from the six largest conferences) and discriminates against the have-nots (four at-large bids to mid-major conferences).
An alarming trend has shown that the number of at-large mid-major schools has dwindled from the high water mark of 12 in 2004 to a low of four schools (Xavier, Dayton, Butler and Brigham Young) playing in this year’s tournament. You’re slowly taking away the madness of March. Please don’t BCS the most anticipated playoff format in all sport.
Your chairman, Mike Slive, proclaimed, “It’s all about who you play, where you play, and how you do,” when describing the criteria for selecting the 65-team field. He added that the committee looks at schools individually and not at their conference affiliation. I beg to differ, as a bailout package was handed to a couple of major conference schools (Arizona and Wisconsin) to salvage their seasons, while the mid-major schools were left standing at the altar.
Last night, you got a taste of madness…March Madness, as Connecticut/Syracuse played a 6-OT historic Big East quarterfinal game that seemed like it would never end. The player’s performances in this contest sum up why we love this time of the year in college basketball. You watch teams that will fight tooth and nail just to compete for another day. Neither team will receive a special trophy for last night’s game. No, Syracuse gets the opportunity to play West Virginia in a semifinal matchup this evening. Enjoy your hoop du jour.
All times ET…
Friday, 7:30 PM: Indiana Pacers @Atlanta Hawks (NBA TV)
Saturday, 9 PM: Los Angeles Clippers @ Denver Nuggets (NBA TV)
Sunday, 3:30 PM: Dallas Mavericks @ Los Angeles Lakers (ABC)
Sunday, 9 PM: Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors (NBA TV)
Saturday, 3 PM: Ottawa Senators @ Pittsburgh Penguins (CBC)
Sunday, 12:30 PM: Philadelphia Flyers@ New York Rangers (NBC)
Friday, 7 PM: #13 Villanova vs. #5 Louisville (ESPN)
Friday, 7 PM: Maryland vs. #9 Wake Forest (ESPN2)
Friday, 9 PM: #23 Arizona State vs. #20 Washington (Fox Sports Net)
Friday, 9:30 PM: Boston College vs. #8 Duke (ESPN2)
Friday, 9:30 PM: #7 West Virginia vs. #20 Syracuse (ESPN)
Friday, 11:30 PM: USC vs. #14 UCLA (Fox Sports Net)
Saturday, 1:30 PM & 4 PM: ACC Semifinals (ESPN)
Saturday, 1 PM & 3:15 PM: SEC Semifinals (ESPN2)
Saturday, 1:40 PM & 4 PM: Big-10 Semifinals (CBS)
Saturday, 6 PM: Pac-10 Final (CBS)
Saturday, 6 PM: Big 12 Final (ESPN)
Saturday, 9 PM: Big East Final (ESPN)
Sunday, 1 PM: ACC Final (ESPN)
Sunday, 1 PM: SEC Final (CBS)
Sunday, 3:30 PM: Big-10 Final (CBS)
Sunday, 6 PM: NCAA Tournament Selection Show (CBS)
World Baseball Classic
Saturday, 8 PM: Puerto Rico vs. United States from Miami, FL. (MLB Network)
NFL draftniks rejoice, your Super Bowl weekend is upon you as the 2009 NFL Draft Combine will take place this weekend in Indianapolis. 300 of the best prospects from college football will gather together to be evaluated by all 32 teams in the NFL. They will be tested for speed, strength, agility, and mental capacity in order to determine their position for the upcoming draft in April. And the NFL Network will there to cover all the action beginning Saturday morning at 11 AM sharp.