Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Does Anyone Like the Big 12 Conference?

It’s difficult to avoid conference realignment talk here in America’s Heartland. The daily news has centered on Texas A&M.

Apparently, the Aggies have signed their divorce papers and will leave the Big 12 Conference.

What’s wrong with the Big 12? Last year, Nebraska and Colorado departs: this year A&M. Who could be next? Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma?

No matter what spin the conference leaders put on it, the Big 12 is in trouble. Remember the apple tree in your neighbor’s yard when you were a child? It seemed everybody stopped there to pick the fruit. Seems like the Big 12 Conference right now.

If you took a poll of the real problem in the league, many would say the Texas Longhorns. And those not saying it publicly might be thinking it privately.

But Texas is Texas and the Longhorns will always be the big fish in the Big 12 or in another league or as an independent. It’s similar to saying that Donald Trump will always have lots of money.

Texas is and isn’t the problem. But the way things are going, the Big 12 better be careful or most of the fruit will be gone from the tree.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ready for College Football?

Last week, I went to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals. Now that Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and the rest of the Redbirds are all but out of the race, it’s time to concentrate on college football.

We have an interesting matchup in the Iowa this week when Northern Iowa travels to Iowa State Saturday. Granted, this game won’t receive national press, but here in the corn state Northern Iowa might pull off an upset.

The Panthers are ranked No. 7 in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision). They return nine defensive starters and eight offensive starters from the 2010 squad. Northern Iowa also returns 10 of its top 11 tacklers.

The Panthers return an electric quarterback in Tirrell Rennie. The senior can cause difficult with both his feet and arm.

Another plus for Northern Iowa is recent success against Iowa State. The Panthers have defeated the Cyclones three times since 1992 including the 2007 season. Northern Iowa will not come to Ames in fear.

Iowa State returns 11 starts off a team that finished one game shy of bowl eligibility last season. The buzz in fall camp centered on the quarterback position. Junior college player Steele Jantz beat out two others for the job.

The Cyclones faced arch rival Iowa in week No. 2, but they better become focused on the first game or the Missouri Valley Conference preseason pick may pick off Iowa State.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cheering Your Favorite Team

I am looking for a little interaction today. Why do you cheer for particular college teams?

Personally, I need a connection to faithfully cheer for a school. Or sure, I can pick a team during a national contest (usually the underdog), but there isn’t a real investment there. Plus, it’s a one-shot deal and nothing long term.

My local team is the Iowa State Cyclones. I attended school and worked in athletics there. My connections are deep. Enough said. Now, I wish the Cyclones would string some victories together in football and basketball.

I also cheer for the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. I also attended school and worked in athletics there. It’s a little more difficult to follow ULM due to the distance and lack of national exposure. But the Warhawks are coming to Iowa this fall to play the Hawks, so I can root for them then.

One team that will probably drop from my list is North Carolina State. I have a dear friend who was in athletics there. He retired last year, so there went the connection. The investment was there for a long time and thus the divorce is difficult.

I also follow two specific basketball teams but don’t cheer for the schools in general. With connections at Baylor and Virginia, I keep a close eye on the Bears and Cavaliers.

Sometimes it’s a judgment call tracking the teams. If they play at similar times on the same dates that presents a problem. I only have two eyes and ears and one television.

So who do you follow and for what reasons?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ready for College Football

The regular season cannot start soon enough for this college football fan. The reason is plain and simple: I’m tried of discussing all the challenges in the college football world and I want to focus on some actual games.

It seems like three years since Auburn was crowned 2010 champions. There has been so much negative off field stuff going on that puts a black mark on the game.

The following are only a few examples of the mess in college football.

Auburn’s association with quarterback Cam Newton doesn’t go away. Auburn claims it did nothing wrong with Newton’s recruitment. If this is true, how come people are still talking about whether Newton will lose his Heisman Trophy and/or Auburn will have to give back its national championship trophy?

Jim Tressel lost his coaching job at Ohio State for withholding information about the now famous tattoo incident. Tressel said that he didn’t have the information and then admitted later that he did. The NCAA is still not finished with Ohio State over this incident.

Recruiting services have been cited for having questionable dealings with some schools. Did these services created an unfair advantage for the involved universities?

Texas A&M’s flirting with the Southeastern Conference has been well documented here. The final chapter hasn’t been obviously written, but you get the sense the hard feelings with its present league (the Big 12) will continue regardless of what happens.

Do you now know why I am ready for some real football?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Texas A&M Soap Opera

Seriously, isn’t this Texas A&M ordeal just like a soap opera?

Rumors were wild over the weekend the Aggies were indeed leaving the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern (SEC) Conference. But as it turns out, there was a major problem. Like a guy calling up a gal for a date, the SEC said no thanks to Texas A&M.

Some believe the SEC may invite the Aggies in the future, but for now the SEC is staying with its 12 members.

This is shaping up to become a major public relations problem for Texas A&M. The Aggies obviously want out of the Big 12 and the SEC won’t welcome them with a lovely flowers and a huge paycheck.

Texas A&M must now heal some burned bridges with its Big 12 brethren. I seriously doubt if it can repair the trust issue however. And maybe the Aggies don’t really care. They may choose to bide their time until a potential SEC offer comes.

Meanwhile, the Big 12’s future is in doubt. It’s a mess. As one sports commentator said, the difference between the Big 12 schools and the Big Ten schools is that the Big 12 teams are only looking out for themselves. Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten are looking out for the bottom teams like Indiana and Minnesota (equal revenue), whereas teams such as Texas and Texas A&M want to become the center of its universe.

In its current state, the Big 12 may become a true feeder league for other conferences. If that happens, you can turn out the lights on the league.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Unrest in the Big 12 Conference Again

So much for the happy family vibes the remaining Big 12 Conference members portrayed after Colorado and Nebraska left.

Word out of Texas this week is that Texas A&M is unhappy and exploring membership with the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The story gained steam when A&M graduate and Texas Governor Rick Perry mentioned it in a press conference.

Apparently, the Aggies aren’t pleased with Texas, its new network and the Longhorns desire to televise high school football games. The Big 12 Conference recently told Texas it cannot do the high school games at least for a year while the conference waits direction from the NCAA.

I’m sure there are numerous league teams upset with Texas but most are refraining from stating public opinions. Reportedly, Nebraska didn’t appreciate the Longhorns attitude and that was one reason the Huskers fled to the Big Ten Conference.

But Texas will always be Texas and dominate the money and exposure in the Big 12. Whether you like them or not, the league needs the Longhorns.

But does the conference need the Aggies? Probably not. The Big 12 could probably snatch a team from some other conference. The Aggies, on the other hand, need the Big 12. A&M has close natural rivals now (Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor) and if it flees to the SEC, the Aggies will lose that and become a stepchild in the SEC.

But it might become a moot point anyway. The SEC might not be interested in the Aggies. They really don’t carry much star power nationally and the SEC might deem the league is better off with the current arrangement.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Go Joe Go

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno has always been a feisty character. You don’t coach football at age 84 without some feistiness.

So does it surprise anyone that Paterno wants to return to the field today (Wednesday) after suffering an injury last Sunday at practice? Joe Pa was struck by a player and ended up in the hospital with an apparent hairline fracture in the pelvis.

Paterno could have taken it easy and allowed his injury full healing. Instead, he wants to return to practice quickly and run sessions via a golf cart. This is a senior citizen who will not be playing cards and shuffle board anytime soon.

Joe Pa reminds me of that bunny in the television commercial that refuses to give up. I say go for it, Joe. Why sit around and become old?

Paterno says he wants to coach until he is 90. That may be an ambitious goal but I wouldn’t want to tell the feisty guy he couldn’t do it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Coach Speak

One of college coaches (and all coaches really) biggest jobs is playing the public relations role. It just goes with the job.

The college football season is less than a month away. Training camps have begun. Coaches are trying to tell their fans what the fans want to hear. Whether your team is projected to finish 10-2 or 2-10, have five-star players or one-star athletes, coaches are selling hope. But usually fans are perceptive about their particular team despite the coach’s comments.

There has been plenty of talk about Russell Wilson playing quarterback at the University of Wisconsin this fall. Wilson as I have noted before transferred from North Carolina State. Wilson was a three-year starter for the Wolfpack plus an all-ACC performer.

The Badgers held their media day Sunday in Madison. Coach Brent Bielema maintained again that Wilson must earn the starting job. That’s all fine and good, but it’s classic coach-speak. Every Badger fan from La Crosse to Milwaukee and beyond knows Wisconsin didn’t bring Wilson in to play second or third string Folks, it is the worst kept secret in the state of Wisconsin. Bielema is trying to motivate Wilson (Wilson is highly motivated on his own) and keep the morale high among the other quarterbacks. Barring injury, it will only become a matter of time before Wilson is officially named the starting quarterback.

Once that occurs, Bielema will focus on some other coach speak. It’s as normal as leaves changing colors in the fall.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Auburn Tigers Won't Repeat

As the saying goes, you can take this to the bank: Auburn will not win another national championship this season.

It’s an easy pick. The Tigers must replace 16 starters from their national championship team including stars in quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Farley. Auburn might not even be too competitive in the always tough Southeastern Conference (SEC).

The Tigers will feature mostly inexperienced, but highly talented players. One of the ‘veterans’ returning is sophomore running back Michael Dyer. Dyer rushed for 1,093 yards last season and figures to receive plenty of carries this year.

Can coach Gene Chizik keep this team focused after last season’s success? Every opponent will treat Auburn different this year. It’s a ‘circle’ game for Auburn’s foes.
The Tigers are a marked team. If they don’t respond well, Auburn could take some real lumps.

The SEC has won the last five national championships, but Auburn will not make it six. Its bitter rival down the road, Alabama, has a much better chance to keep the title in the state.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Money in America

Despite what you have heard or read out of Washington, DC, money is available in America.

Apparently, a good number of Division I college football teams have plenty of green. For example, have you checked out the paychecks some lower Division I teams will receive this season from road games against higher Division I schools? This isn’t anything new, but in this economy it should raise some eyebrows

My old school, the University of Louisiana-Monroe, is one example. Out of four non conference games, the Warhawks will play “money” games against Florida State and back-to-back games against TCU and Iowa. Monroe will receive 1.3 million from Florida State and 1 million from Iowa. Although I couldn’t find a figure for the TCU contest, I doubt if the amount is less than $750,000. This is serious money.

The Warhawks have one of the smallest budgets in Division I. Obviously, it helps pay the bills. The chances of defeating any of these teams are slim (although they did shock Alabama a few years ago), but if Monroe can get out of town reasonably healthy, the pros definitely outweigh the cons of the arrangement.

The big schools often complain they have difficulty scheduling so they must sweeten the check to lure the smaller schools. Louisiana-Monroe and other smaller schools have definitely taken the bait.

At least in one phase of the economy, supply-and-demand is working quite well. Maybe Washington should take a look,