August 31st

Texas A&M says “adios” to the Big 12

After weeks of partial denials and convoluted press releases, Texas A&M has made it official.

The Aggies are looking for a new conference.

Texas A&M has notified the Big 12 that it plans to apply for membership to a new conference, and if accepted, it will end its membership with the Big 12 on June 30, 2012.

“I have determined it is in the best interest of Texas A&M to make application to join another athletic conference,” Loftin, who was authorized by regents to act on behalf of the university regarding conference affiliation on Aug. 15, wrote in a letter to Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe on Wednesday.

Texas A&M previously asked the Big 12 to provide an outline of requirements to leave the league and the Big 12 responded earlier this week.

“We appreciate the Big 12’s willingness to engage in a dialogue to end our relationship through a mutually agreeable settlement,” Loftin said in the release. “We, too, desire that this process be as amicable and prompt as possible and result in a resolution of all outstanding issues, including mutual waivers by Texas A&M and the conference on behalf of all the remaining members.”

Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton, who serves as the chairman of the Big 12 board of directors, said Tuesday that the group has formed a committee to look at possible replacements.

Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe released a statement shortly after the Texas A&M announcement: “The presidents and chancellors of the nine remaining member institutions are steadfast in their commitment to the Big 12. As previously stated, the conference will move forward aggressively exploring membership options,” he said.

The SEC said earlier this month it was happy with its current membership but left the door open to expansion, and the Aggies certainly wouldn’t have made this move if they didn’t believe they could eventually join the conference.

The Big 12, including Texas A&M, agreed to a 13-year television deal with Fox Sports in April worth more than $1 billion. There is a chance the contract could be voided by the Aggies leaving the conference, which could lead to legal issues for Texas A&M and its new league.

The Aggies also will likely face an exit fee for leaving the Big 12, although it’s unclear how much that could be. Nebraska paid $9.25 million and Colorado paid $6.9 million.

So, what’s next?

If the SEC actually does invite Texas A&M, as expected, how does the SEC get back to an even number of schools? Does Arkansas get traded out to the Big 12(unlikely)? Does the SEC invite Missouri? Oklahoma? Does the SEC become the first conference to go to 16 teams? If so, are teams from the east to be involved – Florida State? Virginia Tech? Georgia Tech? West Virginia? Will there be a lawsuit filed against the SEC by the Big 12 if Texas A&M is invited? Will the television contracts with Fox be voided now that the Big 12 is down to nine teams?

Will the Big 12 even survive? Will they invite one more team to join? Or three more teams? SMU has been lobbying to join, as has BYU. What about Houston? Notre Dame doesn’t sound interested, but other schools might be willing to listen. Can Dan Beebe forge another deal to salvage his league?

Then, of course, the most important question: How will this impact Colorado and the Pac-12? Will Texas be able to keep its own little private conference together? Will Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma become members of a Pac-16? What about Kansas instead of Texas Tech or Oklahoma State? Is Texas willing to give up its sweet ESPN deal to join an “one for all, all for one” equal revenue sharing league? Will the Pac-12 teams be wary of allowing Texas to join at all?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again … I really do not want to Texas to be a part of the Pac-16. Even if Texas agreed to some form of revenue sharing, the playing field will remain out of balance. The Longhorns will always have greater facilities to work with, and will always have more revenue coming in, than any other school in any other conference they join. True, USC and Oregon have their advantages in the Pac-12, but those are moderate compared to the discrepancy between Texas and the rest of college football. Recall that in 2010, Texas took in almost $94 million in football revenue, and the Longhorns’ football profit for the year – $68.8 million – was more than the revenue for every other school in the nation besides Alabama and Penn State (which each took in about $70 million last year).

I really don’t want a Pac-16. That being said, if Texas somehow agrees to play nice (read: equal revenue sharing, the end of the Texas Longhorn Network), then a “pod-system” (or, if you prefer, a “quad-system”) with four refugees from the Big 12 might work …

The four new schools would form a pod (Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State), the California schools would form a pod (Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA), as would the Northwest schools (Oregon, Washington, Oregon State, Washington State), with the four remaining schools (Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Arizona State) forming the Mountain pod.

To get to nine conference games, each team would play the other three teams in their own pod, plus one road and one home game against teams in every other pod (e.g., at Texas, Oklahoma State, at Cal, UCLA, at Oregon, Washington State). This would still give the Buffs a trip to California once a year (although to southern California only every other year). It would also give Colorado road trips to the state of Texas every other year, which arguably could enhance the Buffs ability to recruit in the Lone Star State (it’s worth mentioning that about half of the recruiting Class of 2012 is from Texas).

So many possibilities, so many options.

And the season starts this weekend.

Thanks, Texas A&M. Why couldn’t you have pulled this off in June, when I didn’t have anything else to write about??

August 30th

Ohio State picks a quarterback / Miami keeps theirs for game against Buckeyes

A day ago, we didn’t know either of the starting quarterbacks for the matchup between Ohio State and Miami (the weekend before CU travels to Columbus to face the Buckeyes).

Now we know the names of both.

Ohio State named its starter for the season, with new Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell made the first big call of his head coaching career. Fickell, an assistant elevated to replace Jim Tressel who was forced out in the midst of an NCAA investigation, said that fifth-year senior Joe Bauserman would most likely be the starting quarterback when the 18th-ranked Buckeyes open their season on Saturday at home against Akron.

Bauserman and true freshman Braxton Miller had battled for the starting job in recent weeks in camp. They were listed with an ‘or’ separating them on Ohio State’s two-deep roster this week.

“Joe would probably take the first snap,” Fickell said at his first weekly news conference. “Just talking with those guys, talking with the offensive staff, we know we’re going to need them both. The whole idea is we want to make sure that we can put them out there in front of 106,000 and see how guys respond.”

Meanwhile …

The name of the starting quarterback for Miami also became known, as the NCAA handed down suspensions for 11 players. Quarterback Jacory Harris and 11 other Miami players who accepted extra benefits from former booster Nevin Shapiro will be allowed by the NCAA to play again, some as soon as the second game of the season.

The harshest penalties handed down Tuesday were reserved for those who took gifts from Shapiro while being recruited. Defensive lineman Olivier Vernon will sit out six games, while Ray Ray Armstrong — considered among the nation’s top safeties — and tight end Dyron Dye will miss four games apiece. They are three of eight players, including Harris, who must sit out games and repay benefits before they can be reinstated.

Harris, Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo all must sit out one game and make restitution for accepting benefits after enrolling at the school. Four other players must repay small amounts, all under $100, but will not miss any games.

So, assuming that Jacory Harris makes restitution, it will be Bauserman v. Harris in the Orange Bowl in Miami on September 17th.

August 29th

Hawai’i players suspended for Colorado game

While both outside linebacker Aaron Brown and wideout Darius Bright were suspended by the team after their arrests (see August 28th story, below), there was still a question as to whether either or both would be reinstated before the Colorado game.

Apparently not.

According to an ESPN story, both players will miss the season opener on Saturday.

“Aaron and Darius used extremely poor judgment and in turn embarrassed the football program and the university,” Warriors coach Greg McMackin said Monday. “These are two young men who have never been in trouble with the law before, but became involved in a situation where they did not make the right choices.”

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Brown, a senior from Puyallup, Wash., led the Warriors with five sacks and ranked third with 83 tackles last season. He also had three interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns. Bright, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior from Fayetteville, N.C., redshirted last year after playing two seasons for City College of San Francisco.

Witnesses reported that two men struck a 22-year-old man, causing injuries to his face, Honolulu police spokeswoman Michelle Yu said.

The players apologized to teammates and met with McMackin and athletics director Jim Donovan on Monday. They will be allowed to rejoin team practices Tuesday.

A decision will be made early next week on whether they will play in Hawaii’s Sept. 10 game at Washington, Donovan said.

Two CSU football players arrested

UPDATE: Colorado head coach Steve Fairchild was non-committal Monday about the penalties to be imposed upon Starting linebacker James Skelton and backup defensive end Robert Tiedgen after their arrest on Saturday night (see story, below). Fairchild would only say that “we’re looking into it, and we’ll comment further when we know more.”

Leaning towards the players being on the field against Colorado on September 17th … the players were allowed to practice with the team on Monday.

Leaning towards the players not being on the field against Colorado on September 17th … Coloradoan blogger Kelly Lyell wrote on Monday that, “precedence would suggest that they could be season-long suspensions”. In support of this belief, Lyell notes that Fairchild suspended three other players — junior receiver Byron Steele, sophomore safety Ezra Thompson and redshirt freshman H-back Kivon Cartwright — indefinitely two weeks ago for violations of unspecified team rules.

Another case to keep an eye on …

—-

Monday morning … It is being reported by the Coloradoan.com that two Colorado State players were arrested Saturday night.

Starting linebacker James Skelton and backup defensive end Robert Tiedgen were amongst four individuals arrested in connection with a party on Saturday which reportedly drew thousands.

Skelton was cited for third-degree assault, while Tiedgen was cited for disorderly conduct.

Zak Gilbert, director of media relations for CSU’s athletic department, said athletic officials were aware of the arrests and issued a statement from football coach Steve Fairchild. “I’m fully aware of the situation and have been in contact with everyone involved since Saturday,” Fairchild said in the statement. “I’m gathering facts right now, and I’m not going to comment further until a more appropriate time.”

Fairchild is scheduled to hold the first of his weekly Monday news conferences at 1 p.m. today at Moby Arena, and the Rams are scheduled to begin practice at 3:45 p.m.

Stay tuned …

August 28th

Two Hawai’i starters suspended

Outside linebacker Aaron Brown and wideout Darius Bright have been suspended from the team following their arrests for third degree assault. The pair were allegedly involved in a bar incident in a Waikiki nightclub.

University of Hawai’i athletic director Jim Donovan said an arrest is considered a “major violation,” according to the school’s student-athlete rules of conduct.

Donovan said the Warriors, who open their season against the Buffs on Saturday, will not be allowed to practice or attend meetings until their cases are reviewed. Donovan and Hawai’i head coach Greg McMackin discussed the matter today, and will be meeting Monday.

Aaron Brown was being counted on to be a significant part of the Hawai’i defense this fall. In 2010, Brown led the team with five sacks, and had 83 tackles. Brown also had three interceptions last year, returning two for touchdowns.

Darius Bright is a junior college transfer being counted on to help replace three Warrior receivers who were drafted into the NFL last spring. The 6’4″, 230-pound junior represents a rare combination of height and speed.

August 26th

LSU in turmoil a week before its showdown against Oregon

So, Willie Lyles is going to have an impact on the LSU/Oregon game, after all.

The “street agent” has been implicated in possible NCAA violations in helping recruit players to play at Oregon. However, it is an LSU player who will not be on the field in Arlington on September 3rd because of Lyles.

Junior LSU receiver Russell Shepard, a starter on last year’s 11-2 Tiger squad, has been suspended for the opener against Oregon on Sept. 3 and is expected to miss a number of games while the university seeks his reinstatement. LSU, which announced the suspension Thursday, said Shepard violated university and NCAA codes by discussing an NCAA inquiry with a teammate who was scheduled to be interviewed about the same matter.

The inquiry involves the NCAA’s probe of LSU’s relationship with scouting service owner and purported street agent Willie Lyles, a person familiar with the situation said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because LSU has not announced what the inquiry entailed.

But that’s not the worst of it for LSU …

LSU Starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson has been suspended indefinitely.

Jefferson, along with linebacker Joshua Johns, have been arrested for their roles in a bar fight last Thursday in Baton Rouge. Police had issued arrest warrants charging Jefferson and Johns with second-degree battery for a bar fight that injured four people last week.

LSU promptly suspended Jefferson and Johns indefinitely, the school announced.

Baton Rouge police Sgt. Don Stone said in a statement Friday that investigators contacted Fisher and LSU coach Les Miles, and asked for the players to turn themselves in. Jefferson and Johns, a linebacker, face felony charges for their alleged roles in a fight outside Shady’s bar in Baton Rouge on Aug. 19.

A police report says a 19-year-old woman named Victoria Long said she witnessed several LSU players beating one of the alleged victims and saw Jefferson kick that man in the face.

Jefferson’s backup at quarterback is sophomore Zach Mettenberger, but he might not be available to play. If one fight’s not enough, another story broke Thursday detailing an incident involving defensive end Sam Montgomery and Mettenberger. The East Baton Rouge Parish district attorney said he is pursuing charges against two men involved in a June 5 fight with Montgomery and Mettenberger in which a loaded gun was pointed at the players.

According to an LSU police report, Montgomery and Robert Davis, 31, got into a fight following an argument in the parking lot of the West Campus Apartments, and Davis’ friend, Marcus Adams, pulled out a gun. Mettenberger tried to intervene and Adams pointed the gun at him, the report says.

Nice way to start a season in which several publications have listed LSU as the favorite to win the national championship …

August 24th

USC head coach Lane Kiffin not penalized for infractions committed while at Tennessee

But he was only there for one year …

The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions announced Wednesday that USC football coach Lane Kiffin did not commit major infractions during his short stay at Tennessee and that he would not be penalized.

“The committee concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support findings of major violations,” the infractions report said. “However, the committee was troubled by the number and nature of the secondary infractions by the football coaching staff during its one-year tenure at the institution.

“From January 2009 through October 2009 the staff committed 12 violations, all connected to recruiting. Some of the violations received nationwide publicity and brought the football program into public controversy. This is not a record of which to be proud. Nevertheless, because the violations individually were secondary and most were isolated, the committee, in the end, determined not to make a finding of a major violation.”

In a released statement, Kiffin had this to say: “I’m very grateful to the NCAA, the Committee on Infractions and its chairman, Dennis Thomas, for a very fair and thorough process. I’m also very grateful that we were able to accurately and fairly present the facts in our case and that no action was taken against us. I’m pleased that the NCAA based its decision on the facts and not on perception. I’m also very grateful that the Tennessee football program was cleared of any wrongdoing.”

Meanwhile USC athletic director, Pat Haden, was equally pleased that his school will not be facing any new sanctions:“We obviously were pleased to learn about the NCAA’s ruling today regarding Lane Kiffin. I appeared at Lane’s NCAA hearing, and I believe the NCAA’s decision is fair and based on the facts presented. I’m glad this is behind us now and I know Lane feels the same way. From the time he arrived at USC, Lane Kiffin has been extremely compliant regarding NCAA rules and I feel confident that he will continue to be so.”

Bookmark the part about “from the time he arrived at USC, Lane Kiffin has been extremely compliant regarding NCAA rules …”, and get back to me in a few seasons …

August 23rd

News concerning LSU and Miami impact Colorado

From the Enemy of my Enemy is my friend file …

LSU – The 4th-ranked LSU Tigers take on the 3rd-ranked Oregon Ducks in Arlington, Texas, on September 3rd. The winner of that game will be in prime position to make a run for a national title, while the loser will have some catching up to do.

While Oregon will be without at least one star (cornerback Cliff Harris, the 118 mph driver, who has been suspended for “a minimum” of the opener), LSU was looking at being without several starters after a number of players were involved in a bar fight last Thursday night.

LSU starting quarterback Jordan Jeffersson and three teammates met several hours with police Tuesday to discuss a bar fight that allegedly involved them, then left without any arrests being made or charges filed. Offensive lineman Chris Davenport and linebacker Josh Johns were the first to leave. Jefferson and receiver Jarvis Landry left nearly an hour later.

Authorities say four people were injured in the fight last Thursday night, and that one person’s injuries were serious enough that two unspecified players could be arrested on felony battery charges.

The four players have hired defense attorney Nathan Fisher, who also attended the meetings with police. “No charges promised or given,” Fisher told ESPN’s Joe Schad afterward. “It was amicable.”

So, at least for now, it appears that the Tigers will be at full strength for their battle with the Ducks.

Miami (Fla.) – The same might not be true for the Hurricanes, who play No. 18 Ohio State the week before Colorado travels to the Horseshoe to face the Buckeyes.

The probe into Miami athletics is growing, with the university looking into the eligibility of 15 athletes who may have accepted improper benefits from a rogue booster.

Miami President Donna Shalala did not reveal any names of the players under investigation as she released a video statement Monday. The booster, convicted Ponzi scheme architect Nevin Shapiro, told Yahoo Sports for an article published last week that 12 current football players and one men’s basketball player got money, gifts and other items from him.

“We cannot let the actions of some define the many,” Shalala said.

The football players who were named by Shapiro in interviews with Yahoo Sports are Jacory Harris, Vaughn Telemaque, Ray Ray Armstrong, Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Marcus Forston, Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, Dyron Dye, JoJo Nicholas and Sean Spence. Shapiro also alleged to Yahoo Sports that he paid $10,000 to ensure that basketball player DeQuan Jones signed with the Hurricanes.

Most, if not all, the current football players Shapiro named would likely be major contributors if they get to take the field.

If they don’t get to take the field, Ohio State, depleted in its own right due to NCAA suspensions, will have that much easier a time making it to the Colorado game with an undefeated record.

Meanwhile …

– Oregon black sheep running back Lache Seastrunk is returning home to Texas, specifically to Waco and Baylor University.

Baylor announced Tuesday that Seastrunk signed a financial aid contract, will enroll in the university and will join the football team. Classes begin Monday. It was unclear when the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Seastrunk — who redshirted as a freshman last season — would be eligible to play for the Bears, whose season opener is Sept. 2 at home against No. 14 TCU.

Seastrunk, was a high school standout in Temple, Texas, which is about 35 miles south of the Baylor campus in Waco. The third-ranked Ducks granted his unconditional release last weekend and Oregon coach Chip Kelly said Saturday that Seastrunk missed his grandmother back home.

“I think Lache is back where he needs to be,” Baylor coach Art Briles said in a statement. “On Texas soil at Baylor University where he will have the opportunity to get a quality education and play football at the highest level. We’re looking forward to him being a great teammate.”

– Former Colorado prep star quarterback Brock Berglund, who disappointed Buff fans when he opted to shun Colorado in favor of Kansas, is still not a full-fledged Jayhawk.

“Due to legal issues, Brock will no longer be attending practices with the team this fall,” Kansas head coach Turner Gill said in a statement. “He will remain enrolled as a KU student, and plans to resume all team activities in the spring semester.”

The 6-foot-4 Berglund was being counted on to help turn around a program that has struggled significantly the past few seasons. But he’s been dealing with legal issues at home in Colorado, where he pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge after allegedly punching a man during a party.

Berglund was on campus for a portion of spring practice, then was back in Kansas for the start of camp this fall. Gill said he consulted with Berglund and his parents before deciding the quarterback would not be a part of the team for what will amount to a redshirt season. “We both discussed it, and I say both, I mean myself and him and a little bit his parents, and we just decided it was in his best interests to take care of his legal issues,” Gill said.

August 20th

Oregon running back granted unconditional release; quarterback denies smoking pot

Lache Seastrunk, the Oregon running back who is the subject of the NCAA investigation, has left the team.

Seastrunk, a touted recruit, redshirted last season. His connection to scout Willie Lyles, an alleged “street agent,” has provoked interest from the NCAA. Oregon paid Lyles $25,000 for his recruiting service, but the school has yet to produce any recruiting materials of value that Lyles provided.

“We wish Lache all the best in his future pursuits and will offer our complete assistance to him in his search to continue his football and educational career,” Ducks coach Chip Kelly said in a statement.

If he transfers to another FBS school, Seastrunk would have to sit out a season before being eligible to play.

Meanwhile …

While Lache Seastrunk was unlikely to play this fall for Oregon (OU reason: the four-star running is no good; cynical reason: so Oregon will not have to vacate wins later on if the NCAA penalizes the team for Seastrunk’s recruitment), that is certainly not the situation for Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas.

A Heisman trophy finalist in 2010, the Duck star player was in the vehicle driven by star cornerback Cliff Harris in June – the borrowed rental vehicle stopped for doing 118 m.p.h. on the highway at 4:30 a.m. – but denies smoking marijuana.

The video tape of the traffic stop was released this past week (see August 16th update, below), and it came with two new revelations: 1) Thomas was in the vehicle; and 2) the officer asked the driver, Harris, “Who has the pot?” (to which Harris replied: “We smoked it all”).

Of the revelation that Thomas was indeed a passenger, the quarterback denies doing anything wrong, including smoking marijuana. “I woke up, the police (officer) was right at the window talking about it. That’s all the facts I know,” Thomas told reporters Thursday after practice.

Farfetched? What do you think? Try driving with someone down the interstate, and have them fall asleep (you don’t need to to 118 mph, the normal speed limit will suffice). Then slow down for traffic or construction, and see if your passenger stays asleep. Still not convinced? Then think about this – What do you think the reaction was when Cliff Harris saw the officer’s flashing lights? Silence? Do you think he turned to the other two passengers in the car and whispered, “Shhh. We don’t want to wake Darron!”.

Then there is this. This is not the first time Darron Thomas has been an “innocent” passenger in a vehicle. Last summer, Thomas was a passenger when then-quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was stopped for a traffic infraction and marijuana was found in the car. Masoli, who had earlier pleaded guilty in connection to an unrelated burglary incident, was later dismissed from the team by Kelly. Thomas was also a passenger in 2008 when linebacker Eddie Pleasant crashed while street racing in Springfield.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s reaction? Kelly defended his quarterback, saying: “I’m not punishing someone for being a passenger.”

Sure, coach.

Just to be clear, then. The third-string running back who may cost Oregon vacated victories if he plays is shown the door, while the Heisman-trophy candidate quarterback is on hand every time there is a vehicle-related arrest, and receives nary a slap on the wrist.

Welcome to “big time” college football.

Associated Press poll released

For the ninth year in a row, Colorado is on the outside looking in in the Associated Press preseason poll.

While the Buffs did not merit even one top 25 vote from the 60 Associated Press writers who cast ballots, nine of CU’s 13 opponents did find at least some support.

Oklahoma is ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll, followed closely by Alabama. Between the two, the Sooners (36) and the Crimson Tide (17) garnered the majority of the first place votes. Three other teams, though, also received first place votes. No. 3 Oregon rated three first place votes, while No. 4 LSU rated one and No. 5 Boise State earned two first place votes.

On the Buffs’ 2011 schedule, four teams were ranked in the top 25: No. 3 Oregon; No. 7 Stanford; No. 18 Ohio State; and No. 25 USC. Colorado will play both Oregon and USC at home, but will travel to play Ohio State and Stanford.

Five other teams on the Buffs’ schedule – considered by some to be the most difficult in the nation – also received votes. Arizona State, ranked as the favorite to represent the Pac-12 South in the first Pac-12 title game, came in at No. 28. Utah, though, was close behind at No. 30. Further down the list, with a handful of votes, is No. 41 Hawai’i, No. 44 Arizona, and No. 46 Washington.

The only teams on the Colorado 2011 schedule not ranked are: Colorado State; UCLA; Washington State; and California.

August 17th

Buffs somewhere between a 3-10 and 9-5 team

Ted Miller, the blogger for ESPN, is posting the best case scenarios and worst case scenarios for every team in the league. Wednesday is was Colorado’s turn.

The article is worth your time to read, but if you are having a busy day, here are some of the highlights:

“Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz shook his head.

” ‘If Colorado is the worst team in the Pac-12 South, I’d hate to play in the Pac-12 South,’ said the touted Warriors QB after the Buffaloes sacked him five times and intercepted him twice in a 42-20 victory that ended a 17-game road losing streak.

“Says new Buffs coach Jon Embree, ‘We don’t have too much time to feel good about this. We have to go back home and watch film of last year’s game with California. That should make us sick.’

“That 52-7 defeat to the Bears is a major reason many old school Pac-10 fans don’t think too much of the Buffs. But after Colorado prevails 24-21 in a highly physical contest, it becomes clear the Buffs have been underestimated.

” ‘Colorado has been underestimated,’ the Pac-12 Blog insightfully observes …”

“The 7-5 Buffaloes head to Utah, which is 7-4, with the apparent stakes being a berth in the Sun Bowl. The game is billed as a rivalry game between the Pac-12’s two new members.

” ‘Do you guys see this!’ an enraged Embree says to his team during a meeting Monday before the game. He holds a bike above his head that it appears someone has vandalized with cheap, red spray paint.

” ‘This is my 15-year-old daughter’s bike. Look what they did to it! It used to be black and gold, our beloved colors. And now it is Utah red! Those, those, Utes… they made her cry!”

“The meeting room erupts. ‘They made coach’s daughter cry!’ rages 6-foot-8 guard Ryan Miller. ‘We must crush them, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentation of their women!’

“It will become known as the ‘Red Bike Incident.’ Utes fans will alternately revel in it or deny involvement. Years hence, college football historians will lean back and sagely say, ‘Yep, that was when those Buffs and Utes really started to hate each other. Might be the most vicious rivalry in all of college football.’

“Colorado prevails 28-27 in a game that features 195 yards in penalties. The Buffs then stomp Clemson in the Sun Bowl and finish 9-5.

“Embree’s recruiting class ranks 15th in the nation. The Big 12 falls apart. Nebraska finishes last in the Legends Division of the Big Ten.”

I’ll spare you the “Worst case scenario”. It’s brutal, but honest, and is a good “reality” check for those of us who have been drinking high concentrations of Kool-Aid of late …

USC loses five-star wide receiver to academics

University of Southern California receiver Markeith Ambles is academically ineligible for the 2011 season, Trojans coach Lane Kiffin said Tuesday.

Ambles, a sophomore, had been going through academic troubles since his arrival at the school last summer. He left the team abruptly last November after he was suspended indefinitely and fell far behind in his classes as a result, although he did rejoin the team in January.

A member of the recruiting Class of 2010, Ambles was considered by Rivals to be the No. 3 wide receiver in the nation, the No. 24 overall national prospect. Ambles had offers from over two dozen BCS conference schools, including Alabama, Auburn, Nebraska, Florida, LSU, Florida State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Cal and UCLA.

Whether Ambles returns to the Trojans in 2012 remains to be seen.

All we know right now is that Ambles will not be on the field in Boulder on November 5th.

August 16th

How will this play out?

The videotape of the traffice stop of Oregon star Cliff Harris has been released … and it is interesting.

Harris, as you will recall, was pulled over for driving 118 mph down the interstate in Oregon on June 12th. Harris earned All-American recognition last year as a cornerback and punt returner. He led the Pac-10 with six interceptions.

Since the incident, Harris has been suspended indefinitely, though Oregon head coach Chip Kelly has only stated publicly that Harris has been suspended for the season-opener against LSU.

Some of the new revelations from the videotape …

– Starting quarterback Darron Thomas was a passenger in the car;

– The officer asks “Who’s got the pot?”. The reply: “We smoked it all”;

– When asked who owned the car, Harris said “my girlfriend” (we have since learned that the vehicle was rented by Mindy Schmidling, a payroll specialist at the University of Oregon business affairs office); and

– It is interesting to listen to the change in tone by the officer when he asks the driver his name. When the response of “Cliff Harris” is given, the cop replies, “The football player?”. The tone goes a little higher when the officer discovers that the starting quarterback is also in the car. Anyone want to speculate as to what was going through the officer’s mind when he was processing Harris’ tickets? Any speculation that the result might have been a bit different if the driver had been a mechanic named “Harrison Clifford”?

August 15th

Colorado in line to start 12 seniors

ESPN blogger Ted Miller has given a quick look to the depth charts of every team in the Pac-12. While rosters – including Colorado’s – remain fluid, Miller noted that the Buffs may have as many as 12 seniors in the lineup come September 3rd – as many as any team in the Pac-12.

The 12 Buffs identified by Miller were: WR Tony Clemons, OG Ethan Adkins, OG Ryan Miller, TE Ryan Deehan, QB Tyler Hansen, TB Rodney Stewart, FB Evan Harrington, DE Josh Hartigan, NT Conrad Obi, LB Patrick Mahnke, SS Anthony Perkins, and CB Arthur Jaffee. Most of the starters listed are well established, but there are a few potential question marks – fullback Evan Harrington might not be the starter (but if not, it would likely be fellow senior Tyler Ahles), while cornerback Arthur Jaffee may lose the starting job to sophomores Ayodeli Olatoye or Parker Orms (or even freshman Greg Henderson).

In any event, Colorado will likely put as many veterans on the field as any other team in the Pac-12 (the only other team with 12 projected senior starters, Arizona State, is being lauded as a Pac-12 South favorite despite a 6-6 record in 2010. Meanwhile, USC will have only five senior starters, with Washington and Utah only listing seven). Perhaps that is why Miller noted:

“A bit of a surprise that the Buffs are so veteran. Another reason to wonder if they are being underrated.”

Jon Wilner’s Associated Press Poll

Many of us have become a fan of Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, as Wilner has become the conduit for all news related to the business of the Pac-12.

This weekend, Wilner released his preseason AP poll (the nationwide poll will be released this weekend):

1. Alabama
2. Boise State
3. Oklahoma
4. Texas A&M
5. Oregon
6. Nebraska
7. West Virginia
8. LSU
9. Stanford
10. Florida State
11. Mississippi State
12. South Carolina
13. Notre Dame
14. Michigan State
15. Brigham Young
16. Oklahoma State
17. USC
18. Georgia
19. Air Force
20. Wisconsin
21. Arizona State
22. Texas
23. Ohio State
24. Virginia Tech
25. Hawaii

Colorado opponents on the list: No. 5 Oregon; No. 9 Stanford; No. 17 USC; No. 21 Arizona State; No. 23 Ohio State; and No. 25 Hawai’i. That’s six of the Buffs’ 13 opponents, with four of those games on the road.

Other notes:

Wilner said he also considered putting into his Top 25, amongst others, Missouri, Washington, and 2010 national champion Auburn;

Boise State at No. 2? It is unlikely that any other writer will rank the Broncos higher;

Texas A&M, which is trying desperately to get out of the Big 12, is ranked fourth;

Wilner ranks Mississippi State 11th; Air Force 19th. Both are higher than most preseason magazines have rated these teams;

Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Texas, perennial top ten teams, barely made Wilner’s top 25; and

Wilner put Hawai’i into his poll, at No. 25. It will be interesting to see how many votes the Buffs’ first opponent will rate.

August 12th

Colorado State suspends three; two academically ineligible

In one day, Colorado State lost five players.

Three players have been suspended indefinitely for breaking team rules, while two others have been ruled academically ineligible.

Coach Steve Fairchild said freshman fullback Kivon Cartwright, sophomore wide receiver Byron Steele and redshirt freshman Ezra Thompson will be allowed to practice with the team but not play in games. He didn’t say what rules they broke.

Also, redshirt freshman offensive tackle Justin Becker and freshman wide receiver Tony Drake were ruled academically ineligible Saturday.

While none of the five players were expected to make significant contributions during the 2011 season, it’s never good to lose six percent of your scholarship players in one day.

Especially when your coach is fighting for his job after consecutive 3-9 seasons …

Brandon Magee lost to the Sun Devils for the season

Senior linebacker Brandon Magee ruptured an Achilles tendon on the eighth play of Saturday’s scrimmage, and will be lost for the season.

“I feel extremely bad for him,” Arizona State Dennis Erickson told azcentral.com. “The guy’s a good football player. You lose somebody like that, that’s damaging to your football team.”

Magee started 11 games at weakside linebacker last season. He had 73 tackles (five for loss), second most on the team. Defensive coordinator Craig Bray recently told The Republic that Magee was the team’s best defensive player last season.

Over the past week, Magee had seemed to take a greater leadership role on the field, barking at the first-team defense to get to the ball and to work through fatigue.

“It’s just huge, man,” senior defensive tackle Bo Moos said. “I think at this point we have to really start focusing on what we need to do to stay healthy because that’s a huge loss. He is probably our biggest leader on defense. He’s vocal. He does the right things. That’s just huge, man. I don’t even know what else to say about it.”

Since being chosen as a darkhorse for the first Pac-12 championship game, Arizona State has not fared well in the injury department.

Quarterback Steven Threet, who started 11 games last season, retired because of symptoms relating to concussions. Cornerback Omar Bolden, an All-Pac-10 pick, and receiver T.J. Simpson suffered ACL injuries during spring practice.

Sophomore running back Deantre Lewis, perhaps last year’s top big-play threat, was injured in a random shooting near his home town of Norco, Calif. He has not practiced since. Defensive end James Brooks left the team for personal reasons.

And since the start of fall camp, ASU has lost reserve defensive tackle Joita Te’i (broken foot) and reserve cornerback Devan Spann (dislocated shoulder), although both are likely to return at some point.

“Our football team is tough,” Erickson said. “But injuries, that’s football. We’ve had it every year. This isn’t like the only year we’ve ever had it. We lost guys, so guys have got to step up. That’s why you have 85 guys on scholarship.”

August 11th

NCAA votes to raise APR requirements to 930; stricter penalties for non-compliance

The NCAA Board of Directors voted Thursday to increase APR (Academic Progress Report) requirements, with the new standard going from 925 to 930.

Insignificant?

While the four-year rolling average rate going up five points may not seem a great change in policy, the penalties for non-compliance will raise eyebrows. Currently, teams with a four-year APR of 925 or below face penalties like loss of scholarships. Only if a team falls below a 900 and is therefore considered a chronic under-performer will it face ‘historical penalties’ including postseason bans.

Now the NCAA will do away with the 900 cutoff, forcing all teams to raise their academic standards or sit on the sidelines in the postseason. Under the new standards, 12 teams would not have qualified for this year’s NCAA tournament, including Ohio State and Syracuse. (Kansas State and USC, which also posted scores of 924, would also have been ineligible).

The new standards will not go into effect immediately (perhaps a three-to-five year phase in period), but it’s not too early to start projecting.

How would these new standards have effected Colorado?

If the new APR standards were currently in placeColorado would not be bowl eligible, and the basketball team would not be eligible for post-season play.

Despite the best APR report in the history of the Academic Progress Report program, the Colorado football team’s four-year APR released in May was only raised to 929. The Buffs made marked improvement in 2009-10, with an APR of 958, raising the football team’s four year average score from 920 (for which a penalty of five lost scholarships was imposed), to an acceptable score above the 925 cutoff.

The men’s basketball had an even better year, with an APR of 1,000 in 2009-10. Still, that banner year only raised the overall average score to 926 – good enough in 2011; not good enough in 2014. (Every other athletic program had an average APR of over 950, including women’s basketball, which had a healthy four-year APR score of 982).

Nationally, 103 teams at 67 schools were penalized this past year. With the bar being raised from 925 to 930, that number will be raised significantly. And with the penalties imposed going from a few scholarships to an outright ban on post-season play, the May release of the APR will soon become “must see TV” for many collegiate fans.

(It is worthy of note that this past year, 2010-11, not a part of the four-year APR until next May, was reported to be one of the best, if not the best, in terms of cumulative GPA for the football team. While GPA and the APR are not directly correlated (transfers in and out of the program have to be considered), the higher team GPA bodes well for the continued rise of the football teams’ four-year APR score).

August 10th

Higher standards for academics / Harsher penalties for rule-breakers / Revised rule book all on the table

At the end of the day, there might be more than just bluster coming out of the meetings of the University Presidents in Indianapolise this week.

According to an ESPN report, there are three major areas of potential reform (in addition to the paying of players and granting five years of eligibility, discussed in the April 9th update, below):

Stricter enforcement of major infractions – NCAA chief Steve Emmert said he wants to see penalties for NCAA violations that not only provide a disincentive to cheat “but in fact a healthy fear of being caught.” The penalties the NCAA can use, such as bowl bans and barring coaches from working at other programs, won’t change. But Emmert said those punishments will be handed down, schools will understand the range of sentencing possibilities and that NCAA enforcement and investigative staffs will be beefed up to go after rule-breakers.

Emmert also said the NCAA would focus on the schools and programs “that make the biggest impact on college athletics” while not spending nearly as much time prosecuting minor violations.

“Coaches and athletes and boosters should be afraid if they’re going to go out and break any rules, because people have had enough of that,” Spanier said. “The folks that are trying to disrupt the integrity of intercollegiate athletics in this country are going to have to be held more accountable.”

Revised rule book: The presidential group expressed strong support for what Emmert called “some serious editing.” Their goal is to streamline the rules handbook and get rid of outdated rules that prevent coaches from communicating via text messaging and other technology. “We’d love to probably throw the rule book out and start all over again, but that’s actually impractical,” Emmert said.

Instead, the rules will focus more on major infractions like paying players and less on the minor ones like bumping into recruits at an all-star game. Emmert said the NCAA will also stop defining every violation as only either major or secondary and will come up with a multi-tiered system.

Emmert said changing the rule book would take “a monumental bit of work,” but that he wants it in place by next April.

Upgrading academic standards: The NCAA implemented the Academic Progress Rate in 2004 as a way to measure how teams were graduating and retaining their players. Teams that score below 925 on the APR four-year average are subject to penalties like loss of scholarships.

Emmert said the presidents agreed that it’s time to increase the baseline score, most likely to 930. And teams that score below that level now could be held out of postseason tournaments. To put that in perspective, 12 teams in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament scored below 930, while national champion Connecticut had a 930.

Judy Genshaft, chairwoman of the Division I board of directors, said her group could approve the new 930 cutoff as soon as Thursday. Emmert said any tournament bans would likely not take place for another year or two.

As for me, I am in favor of the first two recommendations, and give a partial endorsement of the third. My problem with the APR is not that schools and players be held to a higher academic standard, but that the standards be uniform. A 2.0 GPA sounds easy to do for most of us, but most of us didn’t have to hold down a full time job of being a scholarship athlete when we were in school. That being said, a 2.0 at a school not noted for academic prowess (you know the ones I am talking about) is different than a 2.0 at the University of Colorado (which, in turn, is different from a 2.0 at MIT). If schools are going to be required to have a higher APR in order to avoid penalties, then the NCAA should also take a long look at forcing its members to do away with “Rocks for Jocks” and “Modern Dance” courses as ways of keeping players eligible.

The Colorado football team this past spring posted its highest cumulative semester GPA ever (in the seven years of the APR), and does not appear to be in danger of losing scholarships anytime soon, even if the standards are raised.

But that doesn’t mean that Buff fans shouldn’t keep an eye out for what is taking place in Indianapolis this week ..,

August 9th

Bigger, Longer scholarships to be voted on no later than January

Are you ready for another sea change?

In the world of college football, changes are coming fast and furious. Now, NCAA presidents are meeting in Indianapolis, with a proposal to permanently separate the “haves” from the “have nots” to be voted on as early as October, and no later than January.

According to a report from ESPN, if the rules pass, each Division I conference would have the option to award bigger, longer scholarships to athletes. That would represent a sea change from previous NCAA philosophy, in which all schools in the same division were supposed to play by the same rules and policies.

NCAA chief Mark Emmert said questions still need to be answered about potentially “huge implications for competitive equity and not having people game that system.” But he said that a level playing field in college sports is already a myth.

“We have athletic departments with $5 million total budgets and schools with $145 million total budgets,” he said. “Schools have huge variations right now in terms of things they can provide for student-athletes, like training facilities, game-day environment and all of that. So most people think that a change in that basic scholarship structure wouldn’t have much of an impact on competitive equity, but it’s something we want to watch.”

Commissioners from the BCS AQ conferences, many of which are flush with money from lucrative new TV deals, have supported these reforms. It’s clear, however, that not all schools in Division I could afford the added costs. Simply accounting for the full cost of attendance for every athlete on campus could add more than $1 million a year to an athletic department’s expense sheet at a time when most programs are operating in the red.

“Traditionally, we’ve done sort of a one-size-fits-all approach, and I think for many schools it’s not possible to do a lot more,” said Ed Ray, Oregon State president and chairman of the NCAA executive committee. “There are some things that maybe we all need to do and some things where there could maybe be some differential treatment.”

Major ideas like these usually crawl through the NCAA legislative process. But Ray said the goal is to present these proposals for an up-or-down vote when the board of directors meets in either October or January.

Any chance a star player in Colorado would choose Colorado State over Colorado, when the Buffs can offer a stipend and the Rams cannot?

I doubt it …

August 8th

Larry Scott still hard at work

The Pac-12 begins its first football season in less than a month, and its commissioner, Larry Scott, is still hard at work. In a brief interview with ESPN’s Ted Miller, Scott brought us up-to-date on what he has been up to. Some highlights:

So you’ve expanded the conference, reorganized the officiating, signed a new TV contract and started a network: What’s next?

Larry Scott: Well, we’ve got an awful lot to do in the next year to make this all work and work well. Our championship game has all kinds of operational challenges, given that with home hosting we don’t know in which venue it is going to be. A lot of work has to be done on that. We are currently looking at the future of our basketball tournament and evaluating its location. And with what we’ve just announced, we’ve got a monumental amount of work to do in terms of building a management team and launching a year from now seven different TV networks, as well as building a digital business, too. The next year is going to be a very busy and challenging one.

With the network: Can you explain the revenue model? How will the conference profit from the national and regional networks?

LS: In its simplest form, there are basically two revenue streams for TV networks. One is subscriber fees, one paid by the satellite or cable or telecom companies [a monthly fee for each subscriber]. And the second is advertising. Those are the revenue streams. There are a lot of costs in terms of production and operations and marketing [which come from the Pac-12 coffers].

The biggest negative response has been from folks with satellite TV: How reassuring to them can you be that they are not going to miss Pac-12 football?

LS: Our vision is that the other satellite companies and cable companies and telecom companies will also take the network. But all we have announced so far is our partnership with these cable companies [Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks]. All I can say to fans is I hope the satellite companies will take it further into discussions, and as deals get done they will be announced.

(This is worth keeping an eye on, especially for those of us who have cable and do not live in one of the Pac-12 home states).

August 4th

USA Today Coaches preseaon poll released

See, we told you it would be “easier” to play in the Pac-12!

The 2011 USA Today coaches’ preseason poll has been released … and only two teams from the Pac-12 are on the list, No. 3 Oregon and No. 6 Stanford.

Meanwhile, if Colorado was still in the old Big 12, the 2011 schedule, the schedule would be “tougher”, as six former rivals from the old league are in the preseason rankings: No. 1 Oklahoma; No. 8 Oklahoma State; No. 9 Texas A&M; No. 11 Nebraska; No. 21 Missouri; and No. 24 Texas.

Okay, Colorado’s 2011 schedule is not that easy.

For starters, USC is under NCAA probation, and is not eligible to be ranked this season. What’s more, there are several other 2011 opponents which are or will be ranked this season. Ohio State, which finished the 2010 season ranked No. 5, will start the 2011 season at No. 16. Just outside the top 25 is Arizona State, in at No. 26, and Utah, with enough votes to be ranked 28th. Arizona is No. 32 in the preseason poll, while Hawai’i checks in at No. 39. Even Washington earned some votes, coming in at No. 48. (Oregon State, like Colorado a 5-7 team in 2010, received votes – but is the only team from the Pac-12 not on the 2011 schedule).

That would be nine of Colorado’s 13 opponents this fall receiving votes (if you count the banished USC, which would have almost certainly been in the Top 25). Only Cal, Colorado State, Washington State, and UCLA failed to join the Buffs in the “others not receiving votes”.

For those of you scoring at home, the last time Colorado was in the USA Today coaches preseason poll was in 2002, when the Buffs were ranked No. 6 (finishing No. 21). The last time Colorado was amongst the “others receiving votes” in the coaches preseason poll was in 2005, when the Buffs checked in at No. 32.

August 1st

Mountain West conference struggling financially

While Pac-12 teams are in their respective counting houses, trying to figure out the best ways to spend their future television revenues (estimated to be around $21 million per year over the life of the 12-year, $3 billion contract with ESPN and Fox) and the bonus money from the projected revenues from the Pac-12 Network (estimated to be an additional $6-8 million per year per team once the Network is fully operational), the Mountain West Conference is struggling financially.

As the Pac-12 Media days stretched on for three days, covering both sides of the continent, the Mountain West Media days were quietly spent last week in Las Vegas. The disparity of income between the largest six BCS conference, and wannabe BCS automatic qualifier MWC, is stark. While Colorado, starting in 2012-13, can expect a payday from the league of $20-$25 million, little brother Colorado State will make do with $1.5 million in television revenues as part of a ten-year, $120 million deal the league signed in 2006.

“It cannot continue as it is,” said Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson.

With Utah, BYU, and TCU leaving, the conference is losing three of its high-profile members (Boise State joins this fall, with Fresno State and Hawai’i coming on board in 2012). The shifting of teams has hurt the league’s chances of becoming an automatic qualifier for the BCS bowls (though that could still happen on appeal). The added exposure coming from having the league champion being invited annually to a BCS bowl (likely the Fiesta) would certainly help.

But it won’t change some financial realities.

An example given by Thompson at a press conference last week: In the past 11 years, Mountain West schools have invested $840 million in facility upgrades, an average of $76 millon per year. Meanwhile Michigan this past year spent $200 million … on its press box. “Michigan’s press box is $200 million. C’mon,” Thompson said. “Our league spent $840 million, but a $200 million press box for one school?”

There’s more. Even though the teams of the Mountain West have more than doubled their athletic department budgets over the past ten years, going from an average of $17 million to $38 million from 1999-2000 to 2009-10 (Colorado’s athletic department budget was in the mid-40’s over that span), there are still cuts being made. Thompson gave San Diego State as an example. In the past three years, the Aztecs has had to furlough coaches and cut 25 full-time jobs. The football office at SDSU is down to one secretary and one athletic trainer. “One of the biggest challenges is just keeping the doors open,” Thompson said. (Side note: for anyone who believes that San Diego State is a viable candidate for an expanded Pac-16, please re-read the previous three sentences).

So, what’s a league to do?

One possibility being floated is that the champion of the Mountain West face the champion of Conference USA each December, with the winner assured of a BCS berth.

Other options may open up if conference realignment again takes center stage nationally, with the Mountain West picking up refugees (Kansas State? Iowa State? Texas Tech? Baylor?) from a disintegrating Big 12.

For now, however, the income gap between the elite six conferences and the non-AQ conferences will continue to grow.

Translation: If Colorado cannot completely bury Colorado State over the next decade, the Buffs will have only themselves to blame.

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