Building the case for UofL to move on ……..A week in the life of following college re-alignment
By: Danny Grace, LSL Guest Blogger
Over the weekend of September 17 and 18th
Well Cards Fans, what have you been talking about the last few days? The fact that Teddy Bridgewater to DeVante Parker looks real nice the next few years in the Governor’s Cup, or where we were getting together to tailgate for our annual rumble in Lexington? The news we got a hint of late Friday evening and confirmed Saturday morning we weren’t prepared for. Sort of like the UK fans at the game watching our O and D-Line manhandle their entire team. Yes on Sunday, the Big East lost a founding member in Syracuse and another long standing member in Pittsburgh to the ACC. Meanwhile, everyone was thinking that the Big East, with its upcoming television contract negotiations, was going to be on the offensive the next few weeks/months, especially with regard to feasting on the Big 12 implosion. What we didn’t know as fans is that behind the scenes in the Big East an implosion of its own was going on.
You see we as fans are only privileged to read blogs, tweets, and get what we can in nuggets of information at the work place or game tailgates, such as teams becoming increasingly unhappy about their conference present and future. But you know who should know exactly what is going on weekly if not daily in this little game of Musical Chairs..….John Marinatto, the Big East commissioner. Our commish found out the same way our Athletic Director found out www.courier-journal.com/videonetwork/1165614204001/Tom-Jurich-discusses-Syracuse-and-Pitt-leaving-the-Big-East about Syracuse and Pittsburgh to ACC, through Brett McMurphy of CBS Sports.com. I guess you could say the demise of the Big East and how our commissioner got word of it is just the capper of his “leadership” through all of this. He elected to try to get together with the Big 12 and ACC commissioners in August http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/6868423/big-east-commissioner-john-marinatto-reaches-big-12-dan-beebe-acc-john-swofford to try and work together to land everyone softly after the Big 12 conference was presumed to be dissolving. What does the ACC commissioner do coming out of that request for a summit of “Nobel Peace Making Summit”? He takes whatever information our commissioner provided to him and raids the Big East, securing the entire east coast from Massachusetts to Florida.
You can call the ACC slimy, Pitt a backstabber (see their president) and Syracuse (see their comments about 2003 raid) a hypocrite, but most importantly our conference CEO didn’t work the right angles to resolve the very fluid and unstable issues of the Big East. He comes from Providence like previous commissioners and has tried to keep the basketball programs on equal footing in strategic planning, revenue, and expansion plans. Now being here in Louisville, a basketball-crazed town, we should like that mentality. But the truth is, that’s not how major college sports are being managed and we’ve known that for quite some time. Our commissioner has always been a bit coy with his quotes and coming across a bit lost in the shuffle through this musical chair game. So for him to find out about the Big East’s demise from a reporter calling him at a football game in Maryland, simply seems par for the course.
I must admit I’m a little puzzled with how we were supporting a Villanova upgrade as Eric Crawford of the Courier-Journal pointed out, but maybe it’s part of our history to give the little guy a chance to grow and improve your footprint. But surely that was 1 piece of the puzzle and possibly the last piece of fitting together a bigger and better Big East Conference and/or splitting up down the road….too late for that now isn’t it?
Monday, September 19th
Here we are, the start of the week, the UofL win over UK is close to back-of-the-sports-page material by now. Yeah there are people at the water cooler – UK fans smiling and UofL fans frowning. UK fans have licked their wounds by now and point at the potentially new watered-down Big East that UofL will be forced to play in if the chips don’t fall the way we want them. After the visit to the water cooler and coffee machine we learn that there is going to be a Texas and Oklahoma Board of Regents (BOR) meeting later in the afternoon, sources say this is the beginning of the Oklahoma schools and Texas with Texas Tech heading to the Pac 12. These BOR meetings are a formality to give the president’s power to make these decisions. As a UofL fan this starts to get us thinking if this will be advantageous for us. If they go to the Pac 12, then surely the Big East pounces on the rest of the Big 12 and we reestablish ourselves with the likes of Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, and possibly Iowa State. Another scenario, the remaining teams look at the rest of the football schools in the Big East as teams to raid and they would bring them to the Big 12 and reestablish their own conference. This could have been more likely because the Big 12 schools were said to have not wanted a hybrid like the Big East is currently setup.
Later that evening I receive word the Big East is working with the Big 12 (without the 4 going to the Pac 12/16) in a merger scenario and could bring in Navy, BYU, Boise State, and Air Force. This sounds interesting enough to move past the backstabbers (administration only, not fans) that left on Saturday, plus reestablish itself for the future. Now we reconvene at the water cooler again with our fellow UK coworkers with a mixed reaction. We are thinking we can regroup with that expansion of teams, yet frowning as well with the mere thought of Friday night games against Army….with all due respect to our servicemen of course, that doesn’t get our bellies warm thinking of that re-run.
Tuesday, September 20th
Well, we’ve officially moved on from making dirty faces and laughing at BBN, to full on speculation mode. On Tuesday, there have been a couple of options floated to either make the Big East stronger at the demise of the Big 12 and by adding a few other teams such as Boise State and BYU – but nothing to really make us feel comfortable yet. We do find out that West Virginia may have applied and already been denied to go to the SEC and ACC…..probably not a smart move, but at the same time at this point you want to get their attention and find out where you stand. Elsewhere, the Big East “CEO” calls an emergency meeting for the football schools to meet at the Hyatt in New York City. The presidents and athletic directors showed up, except for the UConn top brass (they sent a representative that could be labeled as the IT guy, janitor, or security guard, for all we know). The meeting came and went, with speculation that UofL’s Tom Jurich left a little early. Had he and Dr Ramsey heard enough, or did they just need to get to their show time of “The Producers” on Broadway? The typical quotes came out of the meeting of”Our membership met this evening and we are committed as a conference to recruit top level BCS-caliber institutions with strong athletic and academic histories and traditions,” read a statement released by the Big East. “We have been approached by a number of such institutions and will pursue all of our options to make the Big East Conference stronger than it has ever been in both basketball and football.”
This was followed up with more truthful news such as not voting to increase the http://twitter.com/#!/mikecasazza $5 million dollar penalty fee for leaving early. In addition, it’s now clear that both Rutgers and UConn are not on the same page as the rest of the football programs. This leads many to think that they that the unity of the conference has broken apart and many teams are beginning to head down a different path.
Word comes out on Tuesday that Missouri is still a player for the SEC, if the Big 12 dissolves due to the Oklahoma and Texas schools moving west to the Pac 12 and Texas A&M already leaving presumably to the SEC…….Just to throw in another small twist, later that evening the Pac 12 announces it will not be expanding past 12 teams. Reasons leak out that the conference didn’t want to just take the Oklahoma schools, and Texas was still trying to muscle their way in with the Longhorn Network as it currently stands, which doesn’t fit the Pac 12’s new TV model. There were talks that it would work out as its regional network along with the rest of them in the conference, but ultimately it didn’t pan out – the schools in the Pac 12 decided to just vote down expansion all together.
Meanwhile for UofL today, we hear that the school is very much in the running for the SEC if only UK would back down from blocking us in what is known as a “gentlemen’s agreement” between UK, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida for not voting to include other in-state schools. The thought is yes we are in a large market, but the SEC has grown to be more of a national market with their ESPN and CBS deals. Louisville would enhance it that way, in addition to bringing an elite and tradition rich basketball power to the league.
Wednesday, September 21st
Well its hump day, but it feels like a full week already since Saturday’s win against the kittens. The Big 12 is announcing a meeting now for Thursday to regroup from the news earlier in the week of no teams leaving for the Pac 12. With this announcement of a conference wide meeting, news breaks that the Big 12 is now going to go in a different direction with their commissioner. Dan Beebe resigned and the new interim commissioner will be Chuck Neinas, a special consultant to many coaches and athletic directors throughout the country, particularly with the Big 12/Big 8/Southwest conference. Translation: he knows a lot of people in the game and has been around it for 50 plus years. Also, he was athletic director at Colorado at the same time Tom Jurich was at Colorado State.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Andy Katz gets a quote http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/blog/_/name/katz_andy/id/7001082/rick-pitino-thinks-big-east-survive from UofL’s Rick Pitino about the Big East being able to sustain the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and that he felt we would be adding Navy and Air Force in football only by the end of the week. In addition to this news, East Carolina officially applies for the Big East (which is a bit of an odd move, so the thought is they are doing this to not only officially apply but to also get their name and brand out in the news). The Big East did not respond with an acceptance of East Carolina, nor come to support the Navy and Air Force news yet. Additionally, sources say Big East members want to see Syracuse and Pittsburg leave immediately instead of holding them to the 27 month period until released. http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/story/2011-09-22/sources-big-east-members-want-pitt-syracuse-gone-soon
Thursday, September 22nd
Lots of news came out of the Big 12 on Thursday, with the dual press conferences in Oklahoma and Missouri (a bit odd). Most of the news came from the Oklahoma side of things as they announced that a 6 year grant of rights was verbally approved (not necessarily in writing just yet, because Missouri Curators needed to review and approve and or dismiss if they leave for the SEC). What this means though is that the other 8 schools will seemingly vote to approve this 6 year deal to stay together or lose their media rights (Revenue) if they leave….. for example if Missouri were to take off for the SEC or the Pac 12 comes shopping again.
Additionally at the meeting http://espn.go.com/blog/big12/index/_/count/46 a new expansion committee is announced, and all indications show they will begin work right away. The athletic directors are to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to begin getting the house in order and moving forward.
News coming in late Thursday within the Louisville circles is that the Oklahoma faction really likes UofL as one of the first schools to look at extending an invite. This came after speculation that Oklahoma didn’t like UofL but that Texas does. Additionally, Oliver Luck of WVU has moved on from the Big Apple to Denver, Colorado for business today.http://twitter.com/#!/PeteThamelNYT/status/117007504763924480 This becomes a little more interesting in our Friday news segment. In the event WVU is moving anywhere, they have a 3 day Board of Governors mandatory public notice, and you can bet the media will catch that, so if we are paired with them or if they are moving on the SEC that will be a good indication of when things are becoming more aggressive for them.
Friday, September 23rd
We are to the end of the week, and as you can tell by reading my daily rundown, the Big East news virtually stopped after the Tuesday night meetings in New York City. Outside of a few nuggets of information mentioned above, the phrase “we will go on the aggressive” has not necessarily been exercised out of the Big East commissioner’s office. I’m sure there’s a reason for that if you are reading the tea leaves like me.
Later on the in the afternoon we pick up some good sound bites from the new interim commissioner Chuck Neinas…..from his Boulder, Co. location. See link for audio/written Q/A regarding his first few issues he will tackle in the conference, as well as lets you get to know his past and personality a little bit.http://www.big12sports.com/mediaPortal/player.dbml?&db_oem_id=10410&id=800723&ATCLID=205276546&ATCLPID=&DB_MENU_ID=&SPSID=106137+&SPID=13138&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=10410 Neinas will not officially be the interim commissioner until October 3rd, meanwhile he will start to visit each school throughout October to get to know them one by one. He’ll also seek out what Missouri’s course of action will be, and help guide the newly announced expansion committee in finding the first school to get them back to 10, or multiple teams to get them back to 12 depending on how many they want and if Missouri stays around. He mentions that he prefers to stay within the geographic confines of the Big 12 conference for expansion, and as he knows it now, they would like to get to 10 and stay, but would look at 12 as a possibility; this is in line with what Oklahoma president said in the Thursday night press conference.
End of the week/beginning of new week summary (For UofL)
Coming from just an amateur blogger here and passionate UofL fan with not much else to go on, but if I go through the timeline of the week with what bits of information I could put together, I may see a pattern of the Big East breaking down and the Big 12 and UofL starting to have a little dance with each other. The Big East is going to take a huge hit in football, basketball, and general leadership with Syracuse and Splittsburg leaving town Art Modell style. We can move on to the Tuesday night snoozer of a meeting in NYC, followed up by basically silence coming from the Big East and its media.
On to the Big 12 reestablishing itself again on Monday and Tuesday, followed up with actions speaking louder than words such as a change in leadership, agreements to stay together with serious TV revenue teeth, and then having the interim commissioner jumping on the television and radio right away to begin stabilizing the conference and sending out the message of his future plans, it sounds to me like one BCS conference is talking and acting and one conference is only talking…..par for the course. What does that part by itself say to you about which conference you prefer your Cardinals to be affiliated with, in addition to in lock and step with our president and athletic directors normal course of action for the growth of the university?
I have to think we are on the cusp of a move, but I don’t think it will happen in the next day or two. I think the new Big 12 commissioner will want to meet with each school, as well as let the expansion committees work swiftly to put their game plan together. We’ve already seen A&M leave over the weekend, next we need to see if Missouri is going to stay or go to the SEC. Then after that they will all need to rally around this 6 year grant of media rights agreement and make it official to stabilize the conference. The tier 1 and tier 2 equal revenue issues will need to be resolved and agreed too, and some form of restrictions of the LHN will need to be put in place to take away recruiting advantages, not necessarily monetary advantages. These items all need to be finalized for the Big 12 to move forward and for schools like UofL to even be interested in the conference – despite how bad the Big East looks right now. We have to protect ourselves in a move as much as possible. Personally I don’t see the SEC as a legit option because of UK and the others blocking they’re in-state schools. I can see WVU still being the SEC’s #14, but that along with UL’s possible invitation to the Big 12 may take a little longer than what fans would like.
If we see an official offer and choose to accept, it will be the right move as the conference shows long term stability. It’s an easy answer for this Louisville Cardinals fan; let’s hope it is for the Big 12 and the UofL administration….