Pac-12 Notes – February / March

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Pac-12 Notes - March

March 31st

Rick Neuheisel to work for Pac-12 Network

He’s baaaccckkk …

Former Colorado, Washington, and UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel will work for the Pac-12 Network this fall, according to published reports.

Neuheisel will serve as an analyst and color commentator at various football games throughout the season.  For his efforts, Neuheisel will be paid $300,000.

For history Buffs, Neuheisel was a walk-on quarterback who finished his career as a Rose Bowl-winning quarterback for UCLA. While attending USC law school, UCLA worked as an assistant coach at UCLA.

After graduating from law school, Neuheisel spent five years as an assistant with the Bruins before joining Bill McCartney’s staff at Colorado in 1994 as the Buffs’ quarterback coach. After the 1994 season, McCartney retired, and Neuheisel was the surprise choice for the next CU head coach.

Neuheisel was a golden child his first two seasons in Boulder, posting 10-2 records in 1995 and 1996, Colorado’s last season in the Big Eight, then CU’s first year in the new Big 12.

In 1997, though, the bloom fell of the rose for Neuheisel, with the Buffs posting their first losing record, 5-6, since 1984. Colorado rebounded with an 8-4 record in 1998, including an Aloha Bowl victory, but Neuheisel surprised the Buff Nation a few days later, bolting for Washington.

Neuheisel’s stay in Seattle was much like that in Boulder. After posting a 7-5 record in 1999, Neuheisel led the Huskies to Pac-10 and Rose bowl championships in 2000. His third and fourth seasons were 8-4 and 7-6 (giving him an overall record of 33-16, vs. 33-14 at Colorado).

But Neuheisel’s stay in Washington would also come to an end after four years, but he did not leave voluntarily.

Before Neuheisel coached his first game for the Huskies, he had already violated NCAA recruiting rules by visiting high school players before the NCAA approved date to do so. In the summer of 2003, Neuheisel came under fire for taking part in a neighborhood pool for the NCAA basketball tournament and lies he told about his actions. He first denied the accusation to investigators before admitting to it after consultation with school officials. The gambling case became a local sensation when it was revealed that he had received an internal UW memo which authorized gambling in off-campus tournament basketball pools. UW athletic director Barbara Hedges learned that the NCAA was considering giving Neuheisel a two-year show-cause order, which would have effectively blackballed him from the coaching ranks for two years. Hedges (who was also not pleased that Neuheisel had secretly interviewed for the head coaching job at the San Francisco 49ers) then gave Neuheisel an ultimatum—resign or be fired for cause. He refused, and was fired on June 11.

After a run as the quarterbacks coach then offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens, Neuheisel was hired by his alma mater, UCLA, before the 2008 season.

In four seasons with the Bruins, Neuheisel was not able to take advantage of NCAA issues for cross-town rival USC, posting records of 4-8,7-6, 4-8 and 6-7. Despite winning the first-ever Pac-12 South title last season, Neuheisel was not able to keep his job. The Bruins finished with a 50-0 loss to USC, before being handled 49-31, by Oregon in the Pac-12 title game.

In 12 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Neuheisel has posted an 87-59 overall record. He has coached at 25% of the schools in the Pac-12.

Now fans of Colorado, Washington, and UCLA will be able to hear the thoughts of their former head coach on the new Pac-12 Network …

March 30th

USC cancels scrimmage

It’s not like Colorado coaches don’t know the feeling …

While the Buffs are facing a third “Spring Scrimmage” in five years due to a lack of healthy defensive linemen, USC may cancel a scrimmage of its own, which had been planned for Saturday.

The scrimmage, which was to take place in the Los Angeles Coliseum and be open to the public, may be cancelled due to a lack of healthy wide receivers.

According to ESPN.com, tight end Junior Pomee re-injured his foot on Thursday, and with Xavier Grimble, Randall Telfer and Christian Thomas all dinged up, there aren’t many options left at tight end. Kiffin said they might ditch the scrimmage and just hold a normal practice. “Unfortunately we can’t seem to keep a tight end healthy,” said Kiffin. “The problem right now is the offensive skill players [who are out with injury] aren’t allowing us to practice the way we’d like, but we’re making the best of it.”

Oregon closes spring practices

Welcome to our world …

For the first time in anyone’s memory, Oregon has closed its spring practices to the public.

The Oregonian reports that the Ducks had previously closed practices before the BCS national championship game two years ago, then closed regular season practices last fall.

Now, even the spring practices will be closed.

Wrote Aaron Fentress: “It’s another example of controlling the environment while sucking the fun out of even having a great team in the state. Attending practices for fans has always provided a chance for supporters to watch their favorite team up close.

“Having practice open for the media, allows us to present the team to our readers, who are fans.

“Protecting injury information and game plans during game week is one thing (although completely born from widespread paranoia) but closing practices during spring drills is yet another step in the process of creating a barricade between the team and the state.

“You can love them. But you can only view them live when you’ve paid for a ticket.”

Oregon and Colorado. Currently on different ends of the standings. But both closing out the public from spring practices.

Colorado has a number of young players, and a quarterback competition which the coaching staff does not wish to see played out on the internet.

Fair enough.

But closing out the fans also means closing out interest … and that is something Colorado desperately needs.

March 29th

Utah having a better spring?

Sure, Utah lost to Colorado in the 2011 season finale, missing out on a chance to win the Pac-12 South.

And yes, the CU men’s basketball team went 3-0 against the Utes, while the women went 2-1.

Still, all is good in Salt Lake City.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has given the team’s spring practices an “A+”. Colorado head coach Jon Embree, meanwhile, has given the Buffs a “B+” for the first half of spring practices.

Advantage, Utah?

We’ll see this Thanksgiving weekend.

March 28th

Arizona State fires athletic director

Lisa Love, athletic director at Arizona State since 2005, has been replaced by Steve Patterson. Patterson was serving as the athletic department’s operating officer and managing director of the Sun Devil Sports Group.

Love was hired in April of 2005. While many of the the Sun Devils’ nonrevenue sports have thrived (seven national championships), Love’s big-name hires haven’t, including Dennis Erickson for football and Herb Sendek for men’s basketball. Love also had a contentious relationship with successful baseball coach Pat Murphy who was fired in November of 2009 during an NCAA investigation. Further, the search for a replacement for Erickson, which eventually ended with Todd Graham’s hiring away from Pittsburgh, was far from smooth.

Love, senior associate athletic director at USC when she was hired at Arizona State, hired two football coaches during her tenure — Dennis Erickson and Todd Graham — along with men’s basketball coach Herb Sendek. The two highest-profile sports on campus struggled under her tenure. Erickson was fired after a 6-7 season last year. Sendek’s Sun Devils went 10-21 last season but he was given a two-year contract extension.

Patterson, though, has had issues of his own. The general manager of the Portland Trail Blazers, Patterson abruptly resigned in March, 2007. In an online poll gauging reaction to the news of Patterson’s resignation, about 5% of people in Oregon chose “sad.” More than 80%, meanwhile, chose either “surprised” or “happy.”

Good luck with Mr. Patterson, Sun Devils fans.

March 27th

BCS Playoff talk resumes

It’s getting closer …

BCS conference leaders are talking again, getting the college football world that much closer to a playoff.

But how much closer?

“The complexity is phenomenal, the level of details requires a great deal of time,” BCS executive director Bill Hancock told ESPN Monday, after the 11 conference commissioners and Notre Dame’s athletic director met for about 7½ hours.

This was the third meeting of the BCS leaders this year, this latest meeting coming just more than a month after the group met over two days at the same hotel connected to a terminal at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

“There’s no consensus yet on anything,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said. “The first couple of meetings, we talked a lot about just college football in general, the regular season. This time, less of that and more about how we need to start getting closer to where the rubber meets the road. And there’s lots of different options, and start to analyze each one of those and the pros and cons that go with them.”

While the commissioners have acknowledged a four-team playoff is among the options being considered, and there seems to be considerable talk about that, Hancock cautioned that isn’t a done deal.

“There’s a long way to go and a lot of people still to hear from,” he said.

The next meeting is scheduled April 24-26 in Hollywood, Fla., when the Football Bowl Association holds its annual meetings.

The group released a statement after the meeting that concluded with: “We’re making good progress toward our self-imposed goal of making a final recommendation this summer to our governing bodies.”

Among the things that have to be taken into account with a four-team playoff system would be where games would be played (Neutral sites or on campuses?) and how teams would be selected (Current ranking system, new ranking system or a selection committee?). Some have suggested a format that requires teams in a conference to win their league to be eligible for a playoff.

The statement also said Monday’s meeting was “constructive and highly detailed.” But it acknowledged that no decisions were made about the overall structure, and listed a series of the questions they are trying to answer.

“For every concept that enjoys broad support, there are a host of intricate details that we’re talking through,” the statement read.

So, just a few steps closer to … what?

We’ll find out this summer

March 22nd

Mike Leach wants to include everybody … including Washington State

In an interview with FoxSports, new Washington State head coach Mike Leach was asked about his views on a playoff for college football.

A plus-one? A Final Four?

Nah. This is Mike Leach we’re talking about.

“The minimum should be 16 teams,’’ he said. “I think 32 is better than 16, but I think 64 would be ideal,” he started to explain to me, without taking a breath.

“You could cut the regular season down to 10 games, but guarantee everybody 12 games. In the end, the champion would play 16 games.”

Don’t bring up school workload to him as an argument. “That’s a bunch of foolishness,” he chided, in a nice, polite tone.

“Basketball players go to school, volleyball players go to school, baseball players go to school and they play a lot more games than football [players do].”

Other Leach comments

Pullman an “anthill of students” …

With its snow-covered wheat fields, remote location and oft-described Mars-like landscape, Pullman is a shock to the senses for most first-time visitors. Leach’s reaction?

It’s his kind of town.

“I grew up in a little town — I grew up in a town of about 7,000 people,” said Leach, a native of Susanville, Calif., and now a resident of Cody, Wyo.

“[Pullman is] really a pretty town,’’ he said. “The best thing is that it’s a college town. The college students are all on College Hill. They live right by the university. All the little joints they go to and stuff like that are all right there, near the campus. It’s like an anthill of students.”

The “Leach Beach” …

“They’re going to build a 77,000-square foot football training complex, which is going to be a state-of-the-art one,” Leach said excitedly.

“[It's] certainly one of the best in the conference, if not the best.” Attention Cal, USC and Oregon — the unintentional smack has been laid down.

Because that complex will start building within a year, Leach hasn’t added any pirate gear to his office, but he’s already left his touch in Pullman. He’s installed a large sand pit that has been nicknamed “Leach Beach.”

“It’s just for conditioning,” he explained.

“A lot of people have trained in sand — Walter Payton used to run in a river beds. We had trouble with ankle injuries at Tech, so about once a week, in the offseason, you’ll do agilities in it, and change-of-direction drills in it.”

Mike Leach … always good for a quote – or three.

March 21st

Three CSU players involved in a knife fight

According to an article in the Ft. Collins Coloradoan, three Colorado State football players were involved in a knife fight at a St. Patrick’s Day party.

Tyler (Ty) Sambrailo, 20; Michael Orakpo, 21; and Nordly Capi, 19, fought with a group of people who’d been kicked out of a St. Patrick’s Day party they attended near Harmony and Taft Hill roads, said Fort Collins police Sgt. Kristy Volesky.

Sambrailo sustained the knife-slash wound, Orakpo was cut on the thumb, and Capi had a small cut on his wrist as a result of the fight. All have provided statements to police. The people they were fighting haven’t been identified, but police are following up on potential leads and partial license-plate identifications.

Nobody’s been arrested, and no criminal charges have been filed. Volesky said there could be charges after the suspects are interviewed.

The conflict started when the group of four to eight people was kicked out of the party the football players were attending. One of the people kicked out the tail-light of Capi’s Chevrolet Caprice on the way off the property, and the three football players got in a vehicle and followed them.

Sambrailo is a sophomore offensive lineman from Watsonville, Calif.; Orakpo is a junior linebacker from Houston, Texas; and Capi is a junior defensive lineman from Ocoee, Florida.

Last season, Capi played in all 12 games, with 34 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss and a team-leading ten sacks. He was named by Sports Illustrated to its All-American team (honorable mention). Capi led the Mountain West, and was ninth in the nation, in sacks last season.

Orakpo also played in all 12 games in 2011, with 87 tackles (49 solo), the third highest total on the team.

Sambrillo, playing on the offensive line as a red-shirt freshman, was on the field for 11 games last fall, including seven starts.

CSU spokesman Mike Hooker said university officials are aware of the incident but need more information before deciding whether any action regarding the students would be necessary.

CSU Athletics spokesman Zak Gilbert sent the following statement by e-mail: “The athletic department is aware of the incident on Saturday night, and awaiting the release of the police report, which will provide more details. All three student-athletes, thankfully, are in good condition. The safety of everyone involved is very important. The student-athletes and the university are cooperating with the investigation.”

March 20th

Oregon gets started with Pac-12/Big Ten rivalry early

Perhaps they thought it was Eastern Michigan …

Oregon, which has a built-for-success non-conference schedule this fall of Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech, is taking on a Big Ten school in 2014-15.

Two years before the Pac-12/Big Ten rivalry series kicks in, Oregon will play Michigan State in 2014 and 2015. The Ducks will host the Spartans in 2014, and will play in East Lansing in 2015.

The two teams have played before, splitting a home-and-home serier in 1998-99 (in case you are wondering, CU is 0-3 against Michigan State, with games being played in 1951 and 1983-84).

“We look forward to adding Oregon to our future football schedule,” Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said in a statement. “The series provides MSU alums on the West Coast with an opportunity to see the Spartans compete against one of the nation’s outstanding football programs. The relationship between the Big Ten and Pac-12 is built on common values and the Rose Bowl. We also look forward to bringing the Ducks back to Spartan Stadium, as we continue to compete for championships and national exposure.”

Quarterback competitions – Washington State and Utah

Colorado is not the only school who has interesting quarterback issues this spring. While more high-profile quarterback replacement battles are going in at Oregon and Stanford, both Washington State and Utah have interesting storylines this spring.

Washington State

Why should Buff fans care about who will be the quarterback for the team which will battle Oregon State for 5th in the Pac-12 North?

Well, the new head coach is Mike Leach, after all.

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review … Mike Leach has made it clear that senior Jeff Tuel, who was injured in the 2011 season opener, and red-shirt sophomore Connor Halliday will compete for the starting job. Leach stated last week that he’s not sure exactly how repetitions will be split during the spring, but that he’s not adamant that a starter be in place before drills conclude. If the battle goes into the fall, then so be it. … Tuel appears to have a couple distinct advantages, the most obvious being experience. He’s started games in three different seasons, only managing to get on the field for three games last year before compartment syndrome ended this season. As a sophomore, he threw for 2,780 yards, 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. At the time, it seemed unfathomable that anyone could beat him out. But Halliday made the most of his opportunity after Tuel was injured last season, throwing for a WSU freshman record 494 yards and four touchdowns in that famed 37-27 win over Arizona State. In addition to the numbers, Halliday displayed an impressive amount of moxy, dropping passes into tight spots with confidence beyond his years. Then he suffered a lacerated liver against Utah the next week and his season was over. … Both players have strong arms. Tuel is the better runner of the two.

Leach’s policy is not to discuss injuries, so the extent of Halliday’s recovery isn’t known. Tuel said in January that he’s ready to go. If Halliday is cleared, there could be a quality quarterback competition brewing in Pullman. If not, Tuel would appear to have a leg up. Regardless, WSU should have two quarterbacks it feels comfortable with by its Sept. 1 opener at BYU.

Utah

One name is familar to Colorado fans – Jordan Wynn, a former CU commit who ended up signing with Utah.

The other is not familiar, but is just as intriguing – new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, who is all of 25 years of age.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune … If anyone is expecting a drastically retooled offense from what they saw a year ago when Norm Chow was making the calls, they’ll probably be disappointed. Johnson said he isn’t concerned with running one type of offense or another.

“People get caught up in whether it’s a pro set or spread, and we want elements of both offenses,” he said. “To be honest, I’m most concerned with developing and putting players in the best positions to be successful. It’s not going to be that much different than what we’ve done. Spring ball is for teaching fundamentals and techniques and working on the two-deep and moving people around to the right places.”

As for Wynn, he remains the No. 1 quarterback, Johnson said. But newcomers Chase Hansen and Travis Wilson will get a look, too. The Utes also return Jon Hays, who quarterbacked the Utes after Wynn suffered his non-throwing shoulder injury against Washington on Oct. 1.

“Jordan is our starting quarterback, but in this league you have to feel good about the depth of the team and we feel we are in a good position depth-wise,” Johnson said of the quarterbacks. “We have some talented freshmen coming in, but it’s a dynamic group.”

March 16th

“Arizona Six”  start making Court appearances

UA football player Eric Bender-Ramsay and former Arizona Wildcat Josh Robbins both pleaded not guilty Thursday to assault and trespassing charges stemming from their roles in an pair of fights earlier this month. Bender-Ramsay and Robbins both appeared in Tucson City Court for 8:30 a.m. arraignments. They will return to court next month for a pretrial conference: Bender-Ramsay is scheduled to appear April 9, and Robbins April 17th.

The other four UA football players charged in the fight did not appear in court.

The six were arrested following a pair of fights at a campus-area party early March 2. Witnesses told Tucson police they saw Grandon punching both male and female partygoers; one witness said she saw the Wildcats’ defensive back punch a woman in the face. The witness identified Grandon later, telling police “that’s the guy who punched me and everybody else,” according to Tucson Police Department reports.

The party’s host told police the 6-foot-8-inch, 310-pound Ebbele forced himself into the house and “began punching everybody he could reach,” including her, the reports stated.

Both Grandon and Ebbele told police that they did not hit or push down anyone at the party, according to reports. Ebbele said he pulled groups of people apart to try to keep them from fighting; Grandon told officers that he was just trying to leave the party.

Ebbele and Grandon were held out of the Wildcats’ March 7 practice, the team’s last workout before spring break. Arizona returns to practice Wednesday.

First-year coach Rich Rodriguez called the arrests “a matter that we’re looking into very seriously, and we’re going to make sure we go through the whole process. If anything comes up, further developments, we’ll let you know.”

Bowl projections for eight Pac-12 teams in 2012

Of course it’s too early to talk about which teams from the Pac-12 might be bowl eligible in 2012.

But then again …

Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com has put out his 2012 bowl projections, and sees eight teams from the Pac-12 going bowling this fall.

Palm has USC playing in the BCS national championship game against LSU, with the Pac-12′s slot in the Rose bowl being filled by Oregon, in a matchup against Michigan.

The next slot, in the Alamo Bowl, goes to …. Utah, where the Utes will face off against Kansas State.

The Holiday Bowl is up next, choosing Stanford to face Baylor.

The fifth pick goes to the Sun Bowl, where Palm sees a matchup between Washington and North Carolina State.

Next on the pecking order is the Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas, with the No. 6 team from the Pac-12, California, is forced to face the Mountain West champion, Boise State.

In the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, Palm projects that Arizona State will be invited to square off against Navy.

The final Pac-12 bowl slot will be filled by Arizona, which will travel to Albuquerque for a New Mexico Bowl standoff against Air Force.

The only teams from the Pac-12 missing out on the post-season, according to this early bowl list, are Colorado, UCLA, Oregon State, and Washington State.

Colorado, coming off a 3-10 season and six straight losing seasons, has a lot to prove.

Utah ready to open spring practices

- Colorado is not the only school in which players are being moved around. At Utah, returners trying out new positions in the spring include Westlee Tonga, defensive end from tight end; Keith McGill, corner from safety; Thretton Palamo, defensive end from running back; and Joape Pela, defensive tackle from offensive line.

- Utes have broken ground on a new football facility … Work has begun on Utah’s new $30 million football facility, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2013 season. The demolition of the existing Dee Glen Smith Center is tentatively scheduled for Mar. 27. The football coaches’ offices and all football operations have moved into temporary quarters adjacent to the construction site. The Utes will also gain new practice fields when the project is completed and will practice in Rice-Eccles Stadium and the Spence Eccles Field House until then.

- Utah Camp Calendar: Due to the timing of Utah’s spring break this year (Mar. 12-18), camp will run continuously rather than being split into two sessions.

March 14th

Stanford agrees to six-year deal with Northwestern

No need for Cardinal fans to check out the upcoming schedule for the years 2019 to 2022.

Stanford has agreed to turn a two-year series with Northwestern into six years. The extension will have the Cardinal playing on the road in 2019 and 2021, and play the Wildcats at home in 2020 and 2022. This creates a six-year series, as the teams had already agreed to play each other in 2015 (in Evanston) and in 2016 (in Palo Alto).

“We are very pleased to have finalized two additional football games with Northwestern,” said Stanford Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby. “Our institutions have had a long relationship in a wide variety of sports, and we share many institutional values which extend to our sports programs.  Pat Fitzgerald and David Shaw are two of the sharpest young coaches in college sports, and it should be an outstanding series.”

What makes the agreement puzzling is the upcoming agreement – which begins in 2017 – between the Pac-12 and the Big Ten in which the two leagues have agreed to have games between conference members each season. Assuming that the Stanford/Northwestern agreement is not part of the contract (otherwise, Mike Bohn should be on the phone with Indiana or Purdue, and lock up some easier future matchups), then Stanford’s schedule is set for those four years.

Stanford already has a commitment for nine Pac-12 conference games each year, and also plays Notre Dame annually. Add a Pac-12/Big Ten matchup each season, and Stanford’s 12-game schedule is now set for the years 2019-2022.

Possible outs? Perhaps Stanford is looking to end its annual battle with Notre Dame, trading the Irish for another northern Illinois school.

Otherwise, other than switching out Pac-12 South partners every two years, and picking up a new Big Ten partner every two years, Stanford’s schedule is set for the years 2015-2022.

And you thought the Buffs were limited in their scheduling opportunities with the contract with CSU …

March 13th

ESPN and Big 12 close to television deal

Texas to the Pac-16? Ain’t gonna’ happen (thank goodness!).

According to the Sporting News … The Big 12 and ESPN are nearing an extension that will earn the conference — combined with its Fox TV contract — $2.5 billion over the next 13 years, according to industry sources. The ESPN extension would run through 2025 and sync up with Fox’s deal. By network, the Big 12 stands to make $1.3 billion from ESPN and $1.2 billion from Fox over the life of the two deals.

ESPN’s old contract with the Big 12 ran through 2016, but the two sides are close on a nine-year extension that will increase the conference’s average revenue from its current $150 million a year to nearly $200 million annually. Each Big 12 school stands to make roughly $5 million more a year in the new contract over the old deal.

Additionally, the new media revenue could effectively end any discussion of the Big 12 expanding back to 12 teams, not the news that Louisville wanted to hear. The Cardinals had been positioned as a strong candidate to join the Big 12 if it expanded.

Under the new terms, each Big 12 school will average just under $20 million a year. Schools in the Pac-12, which also partnered with ESPN and Fox to generate its record $3 billion deal over 12 years, will average nearly $21 million per school (which is an average over the 12 years of the contract, and does not  include the revenue Pac-12 teams will earn from the Pac-12 Network).

Fans of the Buff Nation can sleep a little easier … Texas is staying put, and the Pac-12 will remain the Pac-12.

March 12th

Pac-12 leaders united in desire to switch from BCS to playoff system

There was more going on in Los Angeles this past weekend than the Buffs’ men’s basketball team becoming the first Pac-12 tournament champions.

The leaders of the Pac-12 Conference agreed in principle to try and bring an end to the BCS.

“I don’t hear anyone saying business as usual is acceptable,” Edward Ray, Oregon State University’s president and chairman of the Pac-12 universities’ CEO group told the Arizona Republic. “We need change.”

Presidents and chancellors of the Pac-12 Conference schools discussed the future of the BCS on Saturday behind closed doors at a hotel adjacent to Staples Center, home of the Pac-12 men’s and women’s basketball championship games.
 
If the Pac-12 makes its formal recomendation as expected in June, it would come just before BCS bowls prepare late this summer to start negotiations on BCS contract renewals. The BCS contracts expire in early 2014.
 
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has criticized the current system.
 
“The BCS polls have had unintended consequences that are very negative in terms of the culture around football that places a premium on not losing,” Scott said. “The BCS system really doesn’t have any value around strength of schedule. It’s about won-loss records. It’s encouraged by coaches and conferences to want to schedule games as easy as possible and to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes more to buy games and easy wins.”

While the Pac-12 is a member of the BCS, which has been in place since the 1998-99 college-football season, the conference was not part of the bowl alliances that were precursors to the BCS.

The Pac-12 has a long-standing relationship with the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. If the other power conferences are not receptive to its proposition to launch a playoff system, Scott said, postseason play could merely return to the old days in which its conference champion played the winner of the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.

“The default we have is a bowl relationship that started the bowl system and has been around for 100 years,” Scott said. “If we can be a part of a system that goes beyond that, our conference is open to that. But our conference places the highest priority on the Rose Bowl tie-in.”

According to an article at SI.com, seven of nine college presidents interviewed favored some form of playoff.

Athletic directors and conference commissioners, powerful though they may be, do not officially make any of the final decisions regarding how college football’s postseason will be played in the future. That responsibility belongs to their bosses, the university presidents.
 
“I’d like the four principal bowls to be matched without regard for geography,” said Georgia president Michael Adams. “If the coaches want to seed it or whatever, that’s OK by me. Then I’d like the final four and then two to play.

“There is growing sentiment to do something. Now, whether the commissioners will land on a four-team or an eight-team sort of depends on which one of them you ask, but I just don’t think you can continue to ignore the fans who pay the bill for all of this.”

Adams might find an ally in Arizona State president Michael Crow, a former Iowa State javelin thrower who would like to see the FBS football title decided the same way titles are decided in every other team sport in the NCAA. “What I like more than the number of teams or whatever,” Crow said, “is the notion of an NCAA tournament that produces one of the crummy little trophies that they give.” (Crow adopted the most affectionate tone possible for the phrase “crummy little trophies.”) Crow also added one condition for his playoff. “It would be best,” he said, “if it was built around conference champions.”

One factor on which all nine presidents agreed is that the Automatic Qualifier designation likely will not survive this round of negotiations. The AQ designation, which guarantees access to one of four major bowls for the champions of the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, has been a sore spot for the five FBS leagues not guaranteed spots since the system began in 1998. Members of Conference USA and the Mountain West, which plan to merge in 2013, believe their leagues lost members because those schools chased the AQ designation. Meanwhile, members of the Big Ten and SEC also are more than happy to ditch the AQ designation because it would mean an end to the rule that only two schools from each league can play in big-money bowls. One of the BCS bowls probably would have taken 11-1 Michigan State in 2010, just as one of those bowls probably would have taken 10-2 Arkansas in 2011. Instead, those teams went to lesser bowls after they were barred from the BCS because their conference’s two slots had been filled.

Florida President Bernie Machen said the SEC has worked more with the Big Ten than with any other league on potential options for the system. “What’s happening is there is a lot of back-channeling,” Machen said. “We’ve been talking to the Big Ten. We haven’t really talked to the ACC or the Big 12. Certainly, the Big Ten and the SEC are likely to have the same proposal. That doesn’t mean it’ll be the final solution, but I think it would be the dominant one.”

Considering the Big Ten has traditionally moved in lockstep with the Pac-12, a plan that satisfied the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC probably would dominate any others. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the New York Times last month that he would like to see a four-team playoff with semifinals at home sites and a championship game bid out to different cities like the NFL’s Super Bowl. Earlier in February, a Chicago Tribune story attributed a similar plan to Big Ten officials.

So does this mean this is the plan to beat? Washington president Michael Young warned against making any assumptions. “[Scott's] saying that this is what he thinks helps move the dialogue forward. It doesn’t lock the conference in, and he knows that,” Young said. “He’s very sensitive to that. On the other hand, we have tremendous respect for his views and his perspective. I don’t think that by virtue of having speculated in the New York Times about what his views are that the conference is therefore locked into a position.”

S,o what is the time frame for a decision?

The presidents need to approve the next system by summer’s end, when the exclusive negotiating window with current television partner ESPN opens. Commissioners have met twice, and they have another meeting scheduled in late April. (Many times, commissioners also will meet informally at the Final Four to discuss issues simply because so many attend the event.) Presidents probably will discuss proposals at their various conference spring meetings in late May and early June. As early as those meetings, presidents could approve proposals to forward to the BCS committee.

A final vote would come sometime this summer.

So stay tuned …  

March 7th

Four Arizona players arrested

The Rich Rodriguez era in Tucson has not gotten off to the start that the former West Virginia and Michigan coach had hoped. Just days before spring practices were set to begin for the Arizona Wildcats, Rodriguez is down four bodies.

Four Arizona football players, including starting offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele, were arrested early Friday morning after a fight at a house party.

Also arrested were sophomore cornerback Jourdon Grandon, sophomore offensive lineman Eric Bender, and sophomore safety Jared Tevis.

Ebbele, Grandon and Bender were arrested on charges of criminal trespassing in the first degree and assault. Tevis was arrested on trespassing charges.

“We are taking this matter seriously,” Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said. “We are cooperating fully with the Tucson Police Department, and disciplinary action will be handled accordingly. Due to federal student-privacy laws, we will have no further comment.”

Ebbele, 6-foot-8, 310 pounds, started every game last fall at right tackle. Grandon started four games, finishing with 36 tackles and an interception. Tevis had 12 total tackles.

March 6th

USC still working on reducing roster to NCAA limit

In the NFL, it’s the assistant coach who is known as the “Turk”, who comes around during training camp, knocks on a player’s door, and says, “Coach wants to see you. Bring your playbook”.

The sign that an NFL career has ended, or at least put on hold.

Such attrition is not supposed to take place in college football, as there is the unwritten (at least until this year, when multi-year scholarships were approved) that a scholarship player, barring academic issues or brushes with the law, could maintain his scholarship for his four/five year stay in college.

That isn’t the case these days in Los Angeles, where USC has to find a way to get down to an NCAA-penalty mandated roster of 75 players by August. With a three-year, ten-scholarship per year penalty, the Trojans are trying to find a way to pare down from 85 players to 75 by the time fall camp opens.

USC is now down to 76, after fullback/linebacker Simione Vehikite left the Trojans and is no longer part of the football program.

He is still enrolled in school at USC and is attending classes in the spring semester.

Vehikite, a fourth-year junior, was due to compete this spring with redshirt freshman Soma Vainuku for the starting fullback spot vacated by Rhett Ellison’s departure to the NFL. Since arriving at USC in 2009, Vehikite spent time at both fullback and linebacker but didn’t start a game, logging most of his time on special teams.

Vehikite’s departure brings USC’s current scholarship count down to 76, counting the 2012 signees due to get to school in the summer. NCAA sanctions mandate that the Trojans stay under 75 this season, so at least one more player must be cut or lose his scholarship by August.

Vehikite is one of six scholarship players with eligibility remaining to leave the Trojans this offseason. Left tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry departed for the NFL; defensive lineman Armond Armstead (transferred to Oregon) and cornerbacks T.J. Bryant (injured in weight room altercation, eligible to transfer to 1-AA school) and Patrick Hall (tore ACL last season; academically ineligible the season before) are also out of the program.

March 5th

Reduced attorney’s fees = settlement imminent?

The Oregonian is speculating that the reduced fees being charged by the school’s law firm is an indication that the NCAA investigation of the school is winding down.

cooperation and contrition is accepted by the NCAA, hopes.

Bond, Schoeneck & King, the law firm the University of Oregon hired to conduct a parallel investigation to the NCAA’s, recently billed the university $5,812.50 for “review, conferencing, and correspondence work performed in January. The University first turned to Bond, Schoeneck & King in March 2011 — after reports surfaced that Oregon paid Houston-based talent scout Willie Lyles $25,000 for a national recruiting package, shortly after running back Lache Seastrunk, who was mentored by Lyles, signed a letter of intent with the Ducks.  

In the following 10 months, the firm billed the university $106,339.

Reduced billing suggests, at least to the Oregonian, that the school’s need for Bond, Schoeneck & King is waning, which could signal the final days of the law firm’s investigation. And because the university is working in unison with the NCAA on this matter, which was illustrated within the documents entitled “Proposed Findings of Violations, released February 24th, the end might be near.

“While we have no specific timetable on the inquiry, we remain in close communication with the NCAA as the process advances cooperatively through each stage,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens wrote in an e-mail to athletic program supporters the same day. “Currently, pursuant to the NCAA’s process, we are in constructive discussions with the NCAA on their draft of their proposed findings.”

“We think the NCAA will storm in and drop off a letter saying, ‘This is how you’ve been cheating,’” a former major conference administrator with a background in compliance said, speaking in generalities. “Instead, it’s more of a case of, ‘Here’s what we heard, so why don’t you do your due diligence. …’ That’s fairly common.

“It used to be so draconian. But now, they want to make sure they have your attention.”

So how does the process work from here?

According to past history and sources familiar with these investigations, here’s a window into what could be ahead:

The NCAA defines summary disposition, in part, as “a cooperative process between the school, involved individuals and the NCAA enforcement staff.”

“The school during the investigation at any point, can express an interest in following the summary disposition process,” said NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn, who is forbidden from addressing specific details in any investigation.

“But it really rests on whether or not they agree on all of the findings. If they don’t, they should have an opportunity to go before the Committee on Infractions and address the committee as to why they don’t agree.

“That’s why there could be potential sharing back and forth of documents — it could be the enforcement staff is working with the school to this point.”

Either way, the Committee on Infractions, an independent body composed of NCAA members, ultimately decides the university’s fate. Britton Banowsky, commissioner of Conference USA, is the chair of the committee, which has ten members.

Stay tuned … you know that Miami, USC, and Ohio State will be paying close attention to how the NCAA handles this particular set of recruiting violations.

March 4th

Oregon receiver arrested for DUI

From the Eugene Register-Guard … University of Oregon football player Josh Huff faces a drunken-driving charge stemming from a traffic stop near the UO campus early Saturday morning, a Eugene police spokeswoman said.

The officer pulled over the car at 1:22 a.m. after seeing it speeding. After stopping the car, the officer became suspicious that Huff had been drinking.

Huff faces additional charges of driving without a license and speeding. Huff is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges in Eugene Municipal Court on March 23.

UO athletic department spokesman Dave Williford said department officials are aware of Huff’s arrest. No announcement has been made regarding any possible discipline.

Huff, a 5-foot-11, 207-pound native of Houston, is Oregon’s top returning wide receiver for 2012, when he will be a junior.

In 2011, he caught 31 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns despite playing through a lower leg injury that caused him to miss two games.

Huff also returned eight kickoffs as a sophomore, for 174 yards, a 21.8-yard average.

While an Oregon running back decides to transfer – the third Texan running back to do so

Running back Tra Carson intends to transfer from Oregon, a team source confirmed. Earlier Saturday, Carson indicated his intention to transfer with a post on his Twitter account.

Carson, who had 45 carries for 254 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman last fall, wrote: “Dont know what color uniform im going to be in next year.”

A native of Texarkana, Texas, who attended the same high school as Oregon record-holder LaMichael James, Carson played in 10 games as a true freshman, also catching one pass for six yards and contributing on special teams with the kickoff return team at times. The 6-foot, 227-pounder was billed as a bigger back to complement Oregon’s stable of smaller, quicker runners.

Given the loss of James to the NFL and the all-purpose role filled by De’Anthony Thomas, Carson was projected to enter spring drills as a sophomore backup to senior Kenjon Barner. The Ducks signed one incoming freshman, another big body in Byron Marshall.

Carson is the third running back since the end of 2010 to leave the Ducks, following on the heels of fellow Texans Dontae Williams and Lache Seastrunk.

And there is one fewer linebacker in Pullman

According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review … Washington State linebacker Sekope Kaufusi was dismissed from the team Friday for a violation of team rules.

Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said Kaufusi was arrested Wednesday night and charged with possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana and drug paraphernalia after police served a search warrant on his apartment.

Tennant said police received a call Tuesday night about the smell of marijuana emanating from Kaufusi’s apartment. Officers responded and obtained enough information for a warrant, Tennant said, and served the warrant on Wednesday.

Kaufusi was arrested and charged – both counts are misdemeanors – before being released on his own recognizance at about 3 a.m. Thursday.

He is the second WSU linebacker to be dismissed from the team following an arrest since Mike Leach took over as head coach. C.J. Mizell was arrested on an assault charge on Feb. 5 and dismissed from the team shortly after.

In addition to Mizell’s dismissal and the graduation of Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Kaufusi’s dismissal means WSU will not return any starters at the linebacker position. Linebacker Louis Bland also decided to give up football earlier this offseason due to several knee injuries.

The Cougars signed five linebackers to national letters of intent on Feb. 1, and return just two linebackers who have ever started a game.

As a redshirt sophomore last season, Kaufusi recorded 42 tackles and two sacks in 11 games.

February 29th

Oregon and NCAA to agree to “Summary Disposition”?

According to CBSSportsline.com … It appears Oregon and the NCAA could be heading toward summary disposition of the Will Lyles case. Two sources with extensive experience in NCAA investigations told CBSSports.com they believe that to be the case after reading documents released by Oregon last week in the Lyles case.

That would be somewhat positive news for a football program concerned about major sanctions surrounding the questionable $25,000 payment to Lyles for his recruiting expertise. Summary disposition essentially means that the NCAA and a school agree on a basic set of facts in a major infractions case.  The school proposes its own penalties. In such an occurrence, Oregon would avoid an appearance before NCAA infractions committee, which would have to agree to summary disposition.

The fact that Oregon has “agreed” to three of the seven violations released after a public records request last week – the other four are redacted – is a sign that summary disposition could be on the way. Neither the Oregon nor the NCAA would confirm that assertion.

“When I read that [Oregon documents] I said, ‘Hey, it looks like they’re beginning the process of going to summary,” said Michael Buckner, a South Florida-based attorney with 13 years experience assisting schools through NCAA investigations.

While Oregon could face major penalties from the case, the fact that it has “agreed” to wrongdoing in the documents is different from more combative language where the NCAA would have “alleged” wrongdoing.

“Once the school tells them, ‘Yes, we want to go summary disposition, they change it from, ‘it is alleged’ to , ‘that it is agreed,’ said another source familiar with the NCAA enforcement process. “That’s what the language [in the Oregon documents] would suggest.”

In the documents, Oregon agrees that …

–From 2008-2011 it paid for at least three recruiting subscription services.

–In 2008 and 2009 it paid $6,500 and $10,000 to Elite Scouting Services and received reports from Lyles and partner Charles Fishbein

–In 2009 paid $3,745 for service from New Level Athletics and its rep Baron Flenory.

–In 2010 paid $25,000 for a subscription to Complete Scouting Services and reports from Lyles. The service “did not disseminate” recruiting information at least four times per year in violation of NCAA rules.

–From 2009-2011 the program had one more coach out recruiting than allowed.

–There was a failure to monitor football’s use of recruiting services.

Stay tuned …

February 28th

Stanford the first to open spring practices

And we’re off …

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Five quarterbacks are competing to replace a long time starter this spring.

While Colorado is looking for a replacement for Tyler Hansen, Stanford is looking to replace perhaps the first pick in the upcoming NFL draft, Andrew Luck.

“It was different,” coach David Shaw told the San Jose Mercury News of life without Andrew Luck. “It’s uneasy, but at the same time there’s a little excitement mixed in, because it’s a battle.”

The five quarterbacks competing to replace Luck are juniors-to-be Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo, sophomore Brett Nottingham, and freshmen Evan Crower and Kevin Hogan.

Nottingham, of Alamo, was Luck’s understudy in 2011 but has thrown just eight career passes. His chief competition could come from Nunes, who served as Luck’s backup in 2010 but was injured for part of last season.

“You realize Andrew’s not here, and someone has to get under center,” Nottingham said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m looking forward to competing.”

Nottingham and Hogan have the strongest arms; Hogan has the quickest feet. But athleticism is not the primary consideration in picking a starter.

“They need to worry about their performance, and executing the offense, completing passes — making sure they have the right run checks, managing the pocket,” Shaw said.

Practice repetitions will be distributed evenly among the five contenders for the first half of the spring session, at which point the competition probably will be pared to two or three.

According to the Mercury News report, Stanford has three main objectives for spring practices:

1. Whittle its list of potential starting quarterbacks to two or three, with a starter likely to be chosen in mid-August.
2. Identify new starters at left tackle and right guard to replace Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro, respectively.
3. Rebuild a secondary that lost three starters, including all-conference safety Delano Howell.

February 27th

Larry Scott interview concerning playoffs getting wide play

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott’s interview with the New York Times concerning the potential for a playoff in college football is getting a great deal of nationwide attention.

The article, entitled. “A Four Team Playoff That’ll Replace the B.C.S. Appears Likely in 2014“, there are several telling quotes from Scott.

Scott said he was taking a more holistic view of the postseason rather than concentrating on a method for determining a champion. He said he had pondered change to the entire bowl system, the championship games and rankings.

“The more I think about it, the more opportunity for improvement I see,” he said.

Scott said that any variation of a two-team playoff would not be enough to mute the critics of the current system and that an eight-team playoff would be difficult to fit into the academic calendar, a priority for Pac-12 leaders. He would not say directly that he favors a four-team playoff, but his view appears to be in line with many of the top B.C.S. officials.

As for the potential playoff format, Scott agreed with the position of the Big Ten, first reported by The Chicago Tribune, which favored home sites for the semifinal games and a neutral site for the championship game. After a number of discussions with the N.F.L., Scott said, following its model made sense.

“There’s a reason that in the N.F.L. they only play the Super Bowl as a neutral-site game,” he said. “There’s a reason they play playoffs and A.F.C. and N.F.C. championships with home hosting.”

Also from Scott:

- Scott is in favor of only having conference champions be participants in a playoff – something which would have excluded 2011 national champion Alabama (and would have kept Nebraska out of the 2001 title game against Miami, inserting Big 12 champion Colorado instead).

- Scott is not a big fan of having 6-6 teams qualify for the post-season, looking to “raise the standards” for bowl qualification. “We need to get away from the societal trend of everyone getting a trophy,” he said.

- While a playoff is looming in the not too distant future, Scott is not in favor of extending the season. He would rather have the possibility of having semifinal games played soon after Christmas and the national title game closer to New Year’s Day (This year’s title game between Alabama and Louisiana State was played Jan. 9th).

Overall, Scott is charging ahead full speed, just as he has with the formation of the Pac-12 and the Pac-12 Network. 

“I hope we can come up with a system that turns the bowl model on its head and improves it,” Scott said.

One interpretation, from the Dallas Morning News

Action: Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott tells the New York Times that he likes a model originally put forward by the Big Ten to have BCS semifinals on campus sites and the title game at a neutral site.

Reaction: If there was any lingering doubt about the current direction of the BCS after the 2014 bowl games, Scott pretty much removed it with his New York Times interview. The feeling after the DFW meetings Tuesday and Wednesday was of momentum for significant and real change in the BCS. The commissioners were spending too much time and effort on the subject for their not to be some of payoff at the end.

Apparently, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott is becoming the E.F. Hutton (google it if you are too young) of the BCS …

When Larry Scott talks, people listen.

February 24th

Oregon admits to recruiting violations in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011

Oregon has agreed in documents that it violated NCAA regulations relating to recruiting and the use of recruiting services.

A statement of “proposed findings of violations” submitted by the NCAA to the Oregon athletic department was obtained Friday in a public records request by several media outlets.

The report concludes that Oregon didn’t adequately monitor its football program in relation to recruiting rules.

The NCAA has been looking into Oregon’s recruiting practices since questions arose over a 2010 payment of $25,000 to Willie Lyles and his Houston-based recruiting service. The information that Oregon said Lyles provided for the fee was largely outdated.

Oregon has not received a formal Notice of Allegations from the NCAA. The heavily redacted documents released Friday do not include any possible penalties.

The documents suggests that the Oregon football program broke a series of NCAA rules between 2008 and 2011:

- The Ducks improperly used three recruiting or scouting services, Elite Scouting Services, New Level Athletics and Complete Scouting Services between 2008-2010;

- In the years 2009, 2010 and 2011, Oregon used an impermissible athletic department employee to recruit; and

- The athletic department failed to adequately monitor the football program, and failed to adequately establish policies and procedures to monitor the football program’s use of recruiting or scouting services.

The NCAA’s preliminary report found seven violations. Four were completely redacted by the school, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or state law and Oregon Administrative Rules. Another was redacted partially.

Oregon went 44-9 in the period in which the NCAA alleges Oregon broke rules. The first of those years marked Mike Bellotti’s final season as head coach before Chip Kelly took over and led the Ducks to three consecutive berths in BCS bowls, the most lucrative of postseason games. The record in the overall span marks the Ducks’ most successful run in football history.

We’ll have to see … it will take some time … how this all shakes out.

The penalties will probably not be as harsh as those imposed on USC.

Then again, Oregon doesn’t have USC’s history, and might find it harder to endure an imposition of lost scholarships.

Here is the NCAA “Proposed Findings of Violations” – with most of it redacted by the University of Oregon.

And here is a letter from the Oregon athletic department to its fans.

 

February 22nd

Oregon State losing cornerbacks

And you thought the Colorado secondary had it bad last fall …

Oregon State sophomore cornerback Malcolm Marable was suspended indefinitely from the team after being cited for driving 104 mph on Interstate 5. Marable was also cited for failure to produce proof of insurance and registration for the Nissan Altima he was driving.

Sound a little familar? Yes, it was the same Interstate 5 which Oregon defensive back Cliff Harris was cited for driving 113 mph last spring (nine mph victory for the Ducks!). Harris, an All-Pac-10 performer the year before, and potential NFL draft pick, was suspended for one game by Oregon. Marable, meanwhile, did not play for the Beavers last fall.

It will be interesting to see how the penalties compare …

The potential loss of Marable from the Oregon State secondary is just one of three Beaver cornerbacks who have been suspended this spring. Junior cornerback Sean Martin (nine tackles in 2011) was recently suspended indefinitely for a DUI arrest, while junior cornerback Mishawn Cummings was also suspended, for undisclosed reasons.

That’s three cornerbacks lost to off-field incidents in one spring.

Sounds like the attrition at the CU nickel back position the last two fall campaigns …

 

February 21st

Pac-12 Spring goes from February 27th to May 5th

Are you ready for some football?

Colorado opens spring practices on March 10th, and, with a week off for spring break in the middle, will conclude the 15 allotted practices with a Spring game on April 14th.

The rest of the Pac-12, meanwhile, is spread out over most of the spring, going from late February to early May.

The first to get underway is Stanford, which has a bifurcated spring schedule. The Cardinal open spring practice next Monday, February 27th, going for two weeks. Stanford will then take off nearly a month, before resuming practices April 2nd, finishing up with a Spring game the same day as the Buffs, April 14th.

Colorado will also share the April 14th spotlight with Arizona and USC, which will also have their Spring games on that day (which is significant, as coaches like to have potential recruits – still juniors in high school – attend Spring games).

The last team to still be wearing uniforms this Spring will be UCLA. Under new head coach Jim Mora, the Bruins don’t get underway until the Buffs are almost done, opening camp on April 3rd. UCLA will then be the last team to conduct a Spring game, closing up shop on May 5th.

Let the 2012 season get underway …

February 20th

New CSU Stadium not to be on existing open green space

We’ll see it when we see it …

While no sources of funding for the proposed $100 – $200 million Colorado State stadium have been identified, some criteria have been identified. According to an article in the Ft. Collins Coloradoan, the criteria for the stadium are:

• CSU won’t consider putting the stadium on existing open green space, including the intramural fields.
• CSU won’t consider putting the stadium in front of significant existing view sheds so as to protect views of the mountains.
• All recommendations from the Advisory Committee must take into serious account any impact on neighbors in areas adjacent or near a new stadium.
• State appropriation, tuition, fees or taxes will not be considered as funding sources for a stadium project.

In addition to the obvious issues of funding and need (in 2011, Colorado State was 88th in the nation in attendance, at 21,867  per game … 67% of capacity of the existing Hughes Stadium), there is also this … Critics of the stadium proposal said CSU appears more concerned with its athletic image rather than academic performance. A group called Save Our Stadium, Hughes has been formed to fight the stadium idea.

Nice to know that CU is not the only school to find resistance to anything athletic department related …

February 16th

Leach wins/loses in Texas Supreme Court

So, is it really about principle … ?

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday denied former Texas Tech (and current Washington State) head coach Mike Leach’s appeal in his wrongful termination lawsuit against his former team.

The court rejected Leach’s appeal without comment more than two years after he was fired by the university amid allegations that he mistreated a player with a concussion. The player, Adam James, is the son of Craig James, a former star at SMU, former ESPN broadcaster and currently a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas.

Leach denied the allegation and later sued the school, saying he suspects an $800,000 bonus he was due the day after his 2009 firing was behind his dismissal.

Leach’s attorneys had challenged an appellate ruling that threw out Leach’s breach of contract claim against Texas Tech based on sovereign immunity for the university. The ruling allowed Leach to try to show Tech’s reasons for firing him were wrong — without monetary relief — and the university appealed that decision to the state’s high court.

So, Leach can sue … he just can’t collect any damages if he wins.

Texas Tech spokesman Dicky Grigg said he hoped the latest decision was “the end of the road.”

“As we’ve said from the beginning, we were right on the law and the facts, and the (Texas) Supreme Court has just held that we were correct on the law,” Grigg said.

Grigg said he didn’t know what Leach could gain moving forward. “We’ll just have to wait and see what that is,” he said. “Whatever the claim is, it’s not monetary.”

Leach attorney Ted Liggett, though, hinted that the case might not be over just yet.

“The facts will come out and finally the truth will be known,” he said. “While we’re disappointed that the supreme court has ruled that Mike can’t be compensated monetarily for the work he’s done, we are encouraged that we finally get to take Texas Tech to trial.”

Stay tuned …  

February 15th

Colorado off the radar in national championship race

Not that it’s a real surprise, what with Colorado coming off of six straight losing seasons, and a 3-10 record, but the Buffs are not turning any heads in the 2012 national championship race.

According to a British sports book, the favorites for the 2012 national championship includes two Pac-12 teams:

LSU Tigers: 4.5 to 1 odds
Alabama Crimson Tide: 5 to 1
USC Trojans: 8 to 1
Oregon: 10 to 1
Oklahoma Sooners: 12 to 1
Florida State Seminoles: 12 to 1
Georgia Bulldogs: 12 to 1

The odds improve for the conference when the Heisman trophy is considered, with USC quarterback Matt Barkley considered the favorite. Pac-12 players on the list:

  • USC quarterback Matt Barkley tops the list at 5-1 odds.
  • Oregon running back De’Anthony checks in at 25-1 odds.
  • Washington quarterback Keith Price is the darkhorse at 40-1.

February 14th

Big 12 schedule skews old rivalries

West Virginia has finally settled its lawsuit with the Big East, allowing the Mountaineers to join the Big 12 this fall, and not have to wait out the contractually agreed to 27 months.

This being the case, the Big 12 has been able to publicly announce its conference schedule for this season.

Texas A&M and Missouri are off the SEC, with West Virginia and TCU becoming the newest members of the Big 12. The changes in partners have made for some strange bedfellows …

- Gone is Texas v. Texas A&M Thanksgiving weekend, replaced with Texas v. TCU.

- Gone is the season-ending Border War between Kansas and Missouri, replaced with the new season-ending Time Zone war between Kansas and … West Virginia.

- The Mountaineers. for their part, have given up the Backyard Brawl with Pittsburgh in order to take on the Jayhawks.

- The very first game of the reconfigured Big 12 will be Kansas hosting TCU on September 15th.

My question: West Virginia plays at Texas on October 6th, then at Texas Tech on October 13th … will the Mountaineers just hang around the Lone Star State for the week, avoiding traveling all the way back to Morgantown in between road trips?

It’s a strange new world. I can’t wait for the Big East scheduling when Boise State and San Diego State schedule games in the east coast …  

February 13th

Conference USA and Mountain West to form a new “Association”

Just don’t call it a merger …

The Mountain West and Conference USA will announce a newly named conference in what is being termed a new association, not a merger of the remaining existing members.

The conference may start as early as 2013-14. The MWC/C-USA will have a regional/divisional makeup of the current membership of the two leagues and will likely include 18 to 24 universities.

“This is an exciting development that will stabilize the current conferences and create the first truly national conference with members in five time zones and television viewership from coast to coast,” UNLV president Neal Smatresk said in a statement. “This partnership brings together like-minded institutions to improve the integrity and stability of intercollegiate athletics.

“We are moving our plans forward rapidly and expect to complete our conversations in the near future. Look for further announcements soon as we work together on this exciting new venture.”

So who’s in?

Break out your atlas …

The new league – which is yet to be named – is expected to consist of  Southern Miss, Marshall, East Carolina, UAB, Tulsa, Rice, UTEP and Tulane from C-USA and Wyoming, Air Force, Colorado State, UNLV, New Mexico, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii from the MWC. Hawaii would be a football-only member. Other schools which may be invited include Temple, Idaho, and Utah State.

The presidents and chancellors will have follow-up meetings during the next six months to fully develop the operational issues essential to the formation of the association.

While the move will be spun as a move to protect the members of the association as full FBS partners, don’t look for an automatic bid to be extended to the new league anytime soon.

Also look for spin on how the “student athlete” will not be adversely affected by having to travel across three or more time zones for a conference game. This is not as much an issue for football, with a limited number of road games per season, but anyone want to mark up the cost of Fresno State at East Carolina in women’s volleyball? Marshall at Nevada for a tennis match?

It will be interesting to see how the Colorado State fans try and put a good face on this, rather than acknowledge it for what it is …

… a desperate move by teams who found themselves without a chair when the music stopped.

Cal signs two non-descript prospects

So, it’s not just Colorado who signs “under the radar” players …

Last season, Colorado signed four players to national Letters of Intent after Signing Day in February. Joining the team late were wide receiver Tyler McCulloch, wide receiver Austin Vincent, athlete D.D. Goodson, and offensive lineman Brad Cotner. Of the four, only McCulloch and Vincent were even rated by Rivals, with two stars apiece. Goodson and Cotner, meanwhile, were unrated players.

While the jury is still out as to whether the Colorado coaching staff found diamonds in the rough in these four prospects, it is of some comfort to know that the Buffs are not the only team out there reaching after Signing Day.

Cal has signed two players since Signing Day, 2012. One is defensive lineman Maurice Bennett, from Madison, Mississippi, who is listed as a three-star prospect, but only had offers from Memphis and Washington State. The other new Bear is defensive back Willie Fletcher, from Orange, California, who was unrated by either Rivals or Scout.

So … it’s not just Colorado who is willing to take a shot on some undiscovered/unrecognized/underdeveloped talent.

We just spend a lot more time worrying about it when its the Buffs taking the shot.

February 11th

Rodriguez/Leach considered top hires from Pac-12 off-season

In a CBSSportsline article, Ohio State made the best hire this past season. The hiring of former Florida head coach Urban Meyer was rated as best move by any of the 26 teams who switched head coaches this season.

Arizona’s hire of Rich Rodriguez was rated as the second-best hire overall, stating:

In seven years at West Virginia, Rodriguez won 61 games, reached two BCS bowls and lost only 26 games. In three years at Michigan he lost 22 games. So which Rodriguez does Arizona get? Either way, one thing is certain: He will bring an entertaining, high-scoring offense to Tucson == and even higher expectations. “When you watch us play it won’t be boring,” Rodriguez said. “I want to win the Rose Bowl at the University of Arizona. I want to be in the top 10 in the country every year. Why not Arizona? Why not us? Why can’t we win it all?” Rodriguez has an 18-year coaching record of 120-84-2, including 75-48 at West Virginia and Michigan. This will be Rodriguez’s third FBS head coaching job == and, he says, his last. “This is my final coaching stop,” Rodriguez said. “I hope to be able to do this another 12-15 years.”

No. 3 on the list was another Pac-12 school, Washington State, who took on former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach:

Leach, 50, returns to coaching for the first time since his controversial firing at Texas Tech in 2009 amid allegations he mistreated a player with a concussion. Leach was 84-43 in Lubbock, leading the Red Raiders to 10 bowl appearances in 10 seasons. The Cougars haven’t been to a bowl game since 2003 or had a winning record in eight years. Yet Leach remains confident he can turn Washington State around. “You can win here and win big, I believe,” Leach said.

Jim Mora, who had an amazing run to end the 2012 recruiting season, was considered no better than the 15th-best hire, while new Arizona State head coach Todd Graham checked in at No. 18.

Jim McElwain, who came from Alabama to Colorado State this off-season, was rated as the No. 9 best hire of the year.

Pac-12 Network studio breaks ground

Get the money train rolling … the Pac-12 is breaking ground on the Pac-12 Network studios next week …

WHO: Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, Pac-12 Enterprises President Gary Stevenson, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Kilroy Realty Corporation President and CEO John Kilroy, Former Pac-12 Athletes Jennifer Azzi (Stanford women’s basketball), Ronnie Lott (USC football), Marshawn Lynch (Cal football), Kim Oden (Stanford women’s volleyball), JT Snow (Arizona baseball) and Cal Women’s Swimming Coach and U.S. Olympic Swimming Coach Teri McKeever

WHAT: Will begin the construction of the Pac-12 Studios by putting up the first wall in Studio 1 and doing demolition work on another wall. MATT Construction is the General Contractor, HLW is the architect and Diversified Systems is the Integrator.

WHY: The Pac-12 Studios will be home to the Pac-12 Network and the Pac-12 Digital Network. The Pac-12 Network will showcase 850 live Pac-12 sporting events each year as well as original studio programming. It is scheduled to launch in August, 2012.

WHEN: Monday, February 13 at 11:00 a.m.

WHERE: 370 Third Street, Third Floor, San Francisco, CA 94107

February 8th

Two starting Pac-12 linebackers out?

Stanford and Washington State both had linebackers arrested this week. Washington State dismissed its offender; disciplinary action in Palo Alto is still pending.

Washington State

Linebacker C.J. Mizell has been dismissed from the Washington State football team for a violation of team policy, the school announced Tuesday.

Mizell was arrested Sunday night on allegations of fourth-degree assault and second-degree criminal trespassing stemming from a fight at a fraternity party early Sunday morning, according to Pullman Police.

A statement from WSU said that Mizell is “not being retained.”

Pullman Police Sergeant Dan Dornes said police were called at approximately 12:24 a.m. after Mizell allegedly tried to enter a party at the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house. When Mizell was denied entry, he allegedly “punched one of the guys several times,” Dornes said.

Mizell, who came to WSU from Tallahassee, Fla., recorded 56 tackles in nine starts as a sophomore last season. He started 15 games in his WSU career.

His dismissal follows a WSU career marked by turmoil. Perhaps the most athletically gifted member of the Cougars defense, Mizell frustrated coaches with his lacking work ethic during his freshman year, but appeared to be turning things around last season until injuries slowed him.

Stanford

Star linebacker Shayne Skov was arrested and jailed last weekend for driving under the influence.

A Stanford University Department of Public Safety spokesman said Skov was arrested for driving under the influence Sunday at about 2 a.m. The incident, first reported by The Stanford Daily student newspaper Monday night, occurred on campus.

Skov was pulled over in the parking lot of his dormitory after his vehicle swerved several times, SUDPS spokesman Bill Larson said. Skov was booked at the Santa Clara County jail, he said, and the case is being turned over to the Palo Alto District Attorney’s office.

“We have an expected standard of excellence and conduct for our players and Shayne failed to adhere to those standards,” Stanford coach David Shaw said in a statement released through a team spokesman. “It’s a matter we are taking very seriously. Shayne will be responsible to adhere to any legal responsibilities regarding this event along with ramifications which will be determined by the program.”

Skov’s signature Mohawk and liberal display of eye black made him the unquestioned face and leader of Stanford’s defense.

Skov led the Cardinal with 84 tackles and had 7½ sacks two years ago. He tore a ligament in his left knee in the third game of the 2011 season, sidelining him for the year and likely through most of spring practice.

Best bet: Skov will be suspended for the first two games of the 2012 season.

Why two?

The first two games on the Cardinal schedule this fall are against San Jose State and Duke.

Game three?

USC.

February 6th

Too good to be true?

According to a CBSSportsline article, the Pac-12 has updated its executive regulations, with the new rule stating that non-conference neutral site football games will no longer be permitted unless the conference gets their cut of the media rights.

The language of the new regulation: “No member institution shall enter into an agreement to play a neutral-site football game (except in circumstances where such neutral-site game is the away leg of a home-and-home series) unless such agreement provides the Conference with the exclusive broadcast rights and digital rights in all media, and copyright to such neutral-site game.”

Will this mean the end of the Rocky Mountain Showdown against Colorado State in Denver?

Dare to dream.

But it may not work out that way …

First, it may be that the league will not enforce the new regulation upon existing contracts. The current CU/CSU agreement for Denver runs through 2019 (with the 2020 game, strangely enough, scheduled as a home game for CSU in Ft. Collins). Still, if Buff fans could see the writing on the wall for the end of the series in Denver, they may be willing to put up with the game at Mile High Stadium (okay – Sports Authority Field) for the next eight seasons.

Second, the regulation does not say that neutral-site games against non-conference opponents are prohibited, just that such a game would have to be a Pac-12 Network game, or be the back end of a home-and-home. Would the league will be willing to give some $$ to CSU in exchange for showing CU’s ”exciting” in-state rivalry game with the Rams? Would CSU be willing to give up the media rights in order to have a broadcast partner (note that the RMS for 2012 has been moved to Sunday, in order to try and find a network interested in showing a 3-10 team play a 3-9 team)? Would CSU be willing to play its future ”home” games against Colorado in Denver, and allow CU to play its “home” games at, well, home (which would satisfy the terms of the regulation) in order to preserve the series?

These questions will be ironed out over the next few months/years. Still, as it is right now, Colorado is getting hamstrung with its twelve game schedule. Colorado is bound to play nine Pac-12 games each season, and with a Big Ten opponent every year (in the not-to-distant future) creating a tenth prescribed game. With the CSU game on the calendar each season, Colorado will have only one non-conference game to work with after 2015.

If there are no changes, there will be a lot more Sacramento State’s and Central Arkansas’ in CU’s future.

Getting out from underneath the CSU game would certainly assist in allowing CU to schedule home-and-home games with more quality opponents.

Plus, it would get CU out of Denver …

February 4th

Pac-12 Network numbers keep getting better and better

While the Pac-12 facility arms race continues to heat up – with Colorado still urging fans to “stay tuned”, the chances of any Pac-12 team crying poverty any time soon continue to diminish.

We already knew that the $3 billion, 12-year contract the Pac-12 signed with ESPN and Fox would bring Colorado more than double what it was used to in television revenues. As a member of the Big 12, Colorado brought home $8-$10 million per year. Over the term of the ESPN/Fox contract, the average take will be around $21 million per year (starting out between $15-$18 million next year, and escalating from there).

What we didn’t know was how the Pac-12 Networks would work out financially.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott and his team took a risk, at least compared to the model which was out there, the Big Ten Network. The BTN members took less revenue (51%) in exchange for Fox taking care of the setup costs and distribution issues.

The Pac-12 Network is wholly owned by the league, with the conference also taking on all of the costs associated with the start up and administration. Now, Scott and the conference did hedge their bets in owning the league, getting ESPN and Fox to agree to allow 36 football games (three per week, including some marquee games) to be shown on the Network, along with most of the men’s and women’s basketball games.

The thought was that retaining 100% of the rights would pay off … in the long run.

It now appears that the gamble will pay off handsomely, and even sooner than expected.

In an article in the Seattle Times, Bud Withers quoted A.J. Maestas, whose Chicago-based company, Navigate Marketing, does media research and measurement. ”Off the top of my head, four years from today, I would not be surprised if the Pac-12 schools saw $12-15 million distribution (each) from the Pac-12 Networks,” Maestas said. “The truth is, it could actually be 30-40 percent higher than that.”

That’s on top of the average of $21 million per year from the television package.

Bring on women’s lacrosse!

“In my opinion, it will be the most successful sports-network launch in history,” Maestas continued. “It’s an absolute home run, period.”

Why?

First, Pac-12 Networks lined up four partners – Comcast, Time-Warner, Cox and Bright House – that already reach 40 million homes. So if Pac-12 Networks launched today, it’d be No. 11 in the country in sports networks for distribution.

(According to Sports Business Journal, these were the top-10-distributed sports networks for June, rounded off: 1, ESPN, 100.1 million TV homes. 2, ESPN2, 99.9 million. 3, Golf Channel, 83.8 million. 4, Speed, 78.5 million. 5, Versus, 76.2 million. 6, ESPN News, 74.2 million. 7, ESPNU, 73.2 million. 8, NFL Network, 56.9 million. 9, MLB Network, 56.2 million. 10, NBA TV, 55.6 million.)

While Maestas says the 40-million start is a robust number, he adds, “In 12 months, I think they’ll easily pick up another 20-25 million households.”

All that would do is vault the Pac-12 Network saturation past any of the pro leagues’ networks. Remember, the conference hasn’t even gone to DirecTV or the Dish Network yet – or all the other cable carriers out there.

The figure behind the scenes in much of Scott’s blockbuster success in two years is Kevin Weiberg, who has been instrumental on at least two fronts – expansion and the Pac-12 Networks. Before Scott hired him as deputy commissioner 18 months ago, he was Big 12 commissioner, so he knew the sacred cows and vulnerabilities of that league (and boy, have those been exposed). But more recently, he had been with the Big Ten Network for 18 months.

Says Maestas, “I think what we’re seeing in the Pac-12 Networks is Kevin Weiberg’s education in the process from launching the Big Ten Network. I think he said, ‘We get to do it again; here’s the 2.0 version.’ ”

Will the new television and Pac-12 Network revenue fund all of the facilities upgrades Colorado wants to make? No.

Will the new television and Pac-12 Network revenue bring Colorado even with Oregon and USC in terms of revenue and amenities? Of course not – the Ducks and Trojans will also be seeing a financial windfall from these contracts.

But the extra money will make it possible for Colorado to remain in the upper echelon of college sports.

And that’s a good start …

February 1st

Colorado turns in Top 35 class despite 3-10 record

Imagine what these coaches might do with a winning record …

While Colorado undeniably got a boost in the national rankings from the sheer number of signings – the largest recruiting Class since 1978 – there is also something to be said for the job the CU coaching staff did overcoming the burden of six straight losing seasons and a 3-10 record in 2011.

Team Rankings (February 1st):

Rivals: 34th nationally / 8th in the Pac-12

Scout:  29th nationally / 6th in the Pac-12

24/7 Sports: 42nd nationally / 9th in the Pac-12

ESPN: Outside of the top 25 nationally

Where did other players end up?

While the list of Colorado recruits was pretty much a known quantity heading into Signing Day, there were a number of other players CU coveted this recruiting season. A list of some of the players who took official visits to Boulder, and where they wound up:

Linebacker Seth Jacobs – Oklahoma State

Tight end Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick – USC

Offensive lineman Isaiah Folasa – New Mexico State

Defensive end Kyle Kelley – Arizona

Defensive end Morgan Breslin – USC

Offensive lineman Alexandru Ceachir – UCLA

Offensive lineman Steven Moore – Cal

Linebacker Deaysean Rippy – Pittsburgh

Offensive lineman Shane Brostek – Washington

Tight end Taylor McNamera – Oklahoma

Linebacker Rashawn Hooker – Utah

Former CU commits …

Running back Erich Wilson – Committed to CU August 13th; de-committed November 1st – Signed with Washington

Defensive back Ma’ne Manaea – Committed to CU September 14th; de-committed in November – Signed with Idaho

Defensive lineman Zaheer Webb – Committed to CU September 14th; but never qualified – remains unsigned

Defensive lineman Victor Irokansi – Committed to CU July 12th; de-committed July 28th – Signed with Oklahoma State

Running back Benjamin Catalon – Committed to CU March 14th; de-committed May 12th – Signed with TCU

Colorado high school top ten recruits …

Quarterback Cyler Miles – Washington

Offensive lineman Joey O’Connor – Ohio State

Offensive lineman Paul Thurston – Nebraska

Offensive lineman Shane Callahan – Auburn

Tight end Evan Bayliss – Oregon

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