I received more than 600 reader e-mails this past week -- more than during most weeks of the actual football season -- and at least 90 percent of them were outdated by the time I sat down to write this week's Mailbag. Sorry that you wasted your time, folks. If it makes you feel better, at least 90 percent of the many words I've written about realignment over the past several months are now moot, too.
As things seemingly have calmed down for the time being, hopefully this week's edition will hold up for longer than 24 hours.
I don't consider the Pac-10 a loser in this by any means. For one thing, its fans now know definitively that there's a new sheriff in town, that
Everyone has his or her own theory or version of what exactly went down at the 11th hour, but one thing is clear: Neither Texas (the key to the whole plan) nor the Pac-10 anticipated Texas A&M breaking from the pack and opting for the SEC as its backup plan had the Big 12 collapsed. There were presumably several other factors behind Texas' sudden cold feet, but I imagine this was a big one.
From the outset, Scott said he'd be equally comfortable with a 12-team league. While it's not nearly as big of a splash as the proposed Pac-16, it still allows the conference to start a championship game (which Scott very much wants), adds a very solid football program (I personally believe Utah, once it gets its expected invite, will contend for the league title within two years of its arrival) and a top 20 television market (Colorado/Denver) in advance of next year's contract negotiations. As the Big 12 learned this week, there is a lot of television money to be had out there, and Scott will undoubtedly elicit a bidding war.
That's a popular perception out there today, and while I've
However, Texas was not operating in a vacuum. As conditions changed last weekend, the school came back to the Big 12 on Monday, and thanks to some apparent miracle money from Fox and some serious concessions by Kansas/K-State/Missouri/Baylor/Iowa State, Texas now has the best of all worlds: every bit as much revenue as it would have gotten from the Pac-10, plus the freedom to start its own network, plus a much easier path to the BCS. It's still hard to believe how it all came together, particularly the part where Fox agreed to
Well first of all, we don't know if the Big Ten is finished expanding. But even if it is, I think you're grossly underestimating Nebraska's selling power as a national brand. Upon the Huskers' arrival, the Big Ten immediately adds at least two or three more marquee national games -- the kind that ABC likes to air in prime time -- whenever Nebraska faces Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State. Meanwhile, even a game against New Mexico State in September is going to draw a large, loyal audience of Huskers fans to the Big Ten Network, which in turn entices advertisers.
Nebraska is one of the 10 to 15 programs nationally with a strong enough pedigree to survive any short-term bouts of mediocrity. In fact, everything Kyle described, you could just as easily have applied to Alabama as recently as two years ago, or Oklahoma in the 10 years prior to
There's no question Nebraska will have to alter its recruiting philosophy, because that Texas pipeline is definitely going to dry up a bit now that the Huskers won't be playing in Texas. Nebraska, by the nature of its surroundings, has always had to recruit nationally, and that's not going to change. I would expect
But realistically, for Nebraska to succeed in the Big Ten, it's going to have to start making inroads in the Midwest. Ohio, Pelini's home state, is a logical starting point, but it's tough to beat Ohio State for the top in-state kids, just as it's tough to beat Michigan and Michigan State in Michigan. My guess is you'll see Nebraska zero in on the state of Illinois, which could spell bad news for the Illini and Northwestern.
What? I would never thump my chest over anything so ... OK,
Darn it. You've debunked my everything-is-cyclical mantra once and for all.
The only real provision is the one you listed: Due to the bowl ban, any Trojans player with only two years of eligibility remaining is basically a free agent, so long as he's not heading to another Pac-10 school. (That's a conference restriction, not the NCAA's). So far, the only player to take advantage of the option is junior linebacker
I wouldn't expect some mass defection. Bowl games are just one small part of a college player's experience, and I would imagine any USC junior or senior who likes the school and/or has NFL aspirations would want to stay and play for the current staff rather than try to start over somewhere else. The one obvious candidate most people thought might bolt was terminal backup quarterback
There are no special provisions for USC's incoming recruits. They can certainly ask to be released from their letters of intent and thereby reopen their recruitment, but so far none have indicated they will. Kiffin better hope that remains the case, because he's going to need every one of those guys the next three years when his classes are severely limited (15 scholarships instead of 25) and depth inevitably becomes a problem for the Trojans.
Michigan should be fine. In fact, the two schools have pretty much offered a textbook clinic on how a school should and should NOT handle an NCAA infractions case.
As a public school, Michigan knew its various NCAA reports were accessible under open records laws, so it beat the media to the punch and self-published both the notice of allegations against it and its accompanying response, with its athletic director,
Contrast that to USC, which, as a private school, shielded all NCAA correspondence from the public throughout the process while continually downplaying the potential consequences. Only after the sanctions came down did the school release
I fully believe USC could have landed itself a significantly lighter sentence -- maybe a one-year bowl ban instead of two, maybe 15 scholarships instead of 30 -- had it showed any sign of remorse or made any substantive changes to its practices. But as its mentally unhinged athletic director,
I don't disagree, but at the same time, what else can the NCAA really do? It can't have its people out patrolling campuses across the country on the lookout for players mingling with shady associates. Rarely does it get evidence of such indiscretions handed to it by a scorned whistle-blower and some terrific investigative journalism by Yahoo!, either. All it can do is pick its spots and "make a statement" that it's taking these things seriously. It's certainly unfortunate that an entirely new group of players must pay the price six years later, but the NCAA's job is to penalize the school -- where, as mentioned above, the same incompetent athletic director is still running the show. Mostly, the message goes out to administrators at other schools who, should they notice something fishy, would best be advised to notify someone ASAP or pay the price later.
Hell yeah, you are.
(And yes, I do realize the hypocrisy of the double standard I just created.)
Actual football. Sweet, sweet football.
(Hopefully I didn't jinx it.)