Bob Knight Gives Speech in Indy on Same Night as Tom Crean’s in Bloomington by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Former Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight gave a speech benefitting a charity last night in Indianapolis.  Tom Crean addressed Hoosier fans at the IU Auditorium last night.  Coincidence?

My guess is that it is.  As arrogant and bitter as Knight can be, I doubt he asked the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Indiana to make sure the event featuring his presence was held on the same night Crean spoke.

It’s unlikely that Crean decided it would help his attendance and hurt Knight’s if both presentations were held simultaneously.

The media coverage for the events gave a clear edge to the old man, who hasn’t deposited a check as an employee of Indiana University in over a decade.  TV news stations covered Knight in their newscasts last night and this morning.  The Indianapolis Star put Knight on the front page, and the top item on the online sports page.  Crean?  I’m still looking in the Star for any mention.  Would it have killed the Star’s IU beat writer Terry Hutchens to attend the Crean speech and get quotes from fans afterward if nothing else?

The reason for the edge to Knight is obvious.  Of the two, who is likely to say something newsworthy?  I’ve neverread an inflammatory quote from Crean.  I’ve never heard Knight speak when he didn’t say something brutally honest, angry, intolerant, and/or crazy.  He’s also incredibly entertaining.  Crean?  He has the discretion Knight continues to lack.

At the Knight events I attended as a student, there was always an air of drama.  No one knew who he would bludgeon, or what hopeless dumbass would ask him the wrong question and prompt the typical hilarious scorn of the beast.  Poking the bear in the red sweater was always a losing play.

I can’t imagine Crean attacking anyone.

Crean’s speech featured a lot of rah-rah stuff about how the Hoosiers are improving, and will be tougher.  Knight blasted the NCAA and Notre Dame.

Going to a Crean speech is like attending a Journey concert.  He is going to play the hits in a very predictable way.  Knight is like Judy Garland back in the 1960s.  Is going to show up at all, and if so will she be trashed?  If present and sober, she might be magical.  Knight is as thoroughly unpredictable as any performer since Garland.  People might not know who he’s going to blast, but it’s likely to be some agency or person who bloviates with regard only to hear himself speak.

Last night, Knight busted the NCAA and Notre Dame, according to Jeff Rabjohn’s account in the Star.  Knight chided the NCAA for allowing one-and-done kids to pass six hours in the first semester and never attend a class in the second semester, yet play a full season and win a national championship.  The NCAA tries to penalize schools who might engage in that kind of work without reward scenario for kids with the Academic Progress Rate scores and penalties attached for poor performance, but as long as the APR penalties attach to the schools and not the coach, what the hell does he care?

The Notre Dame shots were earned by not joining the Big Ten, which Knight strongly advocates.  He said there are some dumb “Catholic boys up there”, who don’t understand how their recruiting would change if they affiliated.

Crean spoke about the Hoosiers being more fit and tougher.

That Knight wins that battle for the media spotlight isn’t hard to understand.  Crean joins a list of speakers a mile long who don’t rival Knight for creating drama and tension.  The list of men more interesting and entertaining for sports fans to listen to for 90 minutes is very short.


Big Ten Expansion – New Divisions Announced by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

How smart is the Big Ten.  Pretty smart.  They announced the two divisions yesterday for football.  Early on, I thought the best scenario was to align geographically because, while football is the most important of the sports (at least in terms of revenue and broadcasting), there would be a need to consider balance in all the other sports too.  No one wants to be accused of not taking the women’s sports into account, or they would go all Title IX crazy.

The Big Ten said why do we need to have the same divisional structure for all sports, and maybe there is no reason to have divisions in some sports at all.  I felt like a dumbass.  Of course they are right, and I should have been smart enough to see that concept myself.

The football alignment is as follows – in one division you have Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.  In the other, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Northwestern.  Indiana and Michigan State will play their rivalry game each season in an inter-divisional game, and then the rest of the interdivisional contests will rotate.

You get the feeling that during meetings with the ADs and president of the member universities, commissioner Jim Delany asked, “Why not?” a lot.

The rivalries didn’t require anyone being aligned in the same division if there was a guaranteed single interconference game that pairs of schools could select.  Not interested in forging permanent divisions for all sports based on football?  Okay.  There were dozens of hurdles quickly cleared by using almost infantile logic – the kind that many cynics just don’t possess.

Maybe it’s time that the fans give Delany and the Big Ten a lot of credit.  I’m not saying that they are the smartest people in American sports, but Indiana University was one of 14 NCAA Division One schools to post a profit last year, and so was Purdue.  If you need any additional evidence that the Big Ten has a lot going for it, you really are a cynic.

IU’s football conference football schedule for the next two years will be:

2011 Big Ten Schedule
10/1     Penn State
10/8    Illinois
10/15    @Wisconsin
10/22    @Iowa
10/29     Northwestern
11/5    @Ohio State
11/19    @Michigan State
11/26    Purdue

2012 Big Ten Schedule
9/29    @Northwestern
10/6    Michigan State
10/13    Ohio State
10/27    @Illinois
11/3    Iowa
11/10    Wisconsin
11/17    @Penn State
11/24     @ Purdue

They just do things right at the Big Ten.  I love it when the pompous and arrogant make idiotic calls, but that doesn’t happen with the Big Ten.  They are neither arrogant nor foolish.  They got this one right, and fans will be better for it.

As the Big Ten continues to expand to its logical destination of sixteen teams – adding Pitt, Rutgers, Notre Dame and Texas by 2016, it will be the preeminent conference in America in combining academic and athletic excellence.

How do I know that those will be the four schools to climb aboard the Big Ten train?  Because it’s logical and smart, and that is what the Big Ten does.

Big Ten Expansion – Why Will Pitt Join Rutgers from the Big East by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Excuse me for jumping to the conclusion that Rutgers will be and automatic invite for the Big Ten as it looks to expand from 12 teams to 14 and then 16.  There is just no way Rutgers doesn’t join the Big Ten.  It makes too much sense for the conference and the school.

There is great debate as to who the partner for Rutgers will be because the growth will certainly not stop at 13.

There are those who believe that the other Big East team might be UConn or Syracuse, and Pitt is not mentioned as often as it once was.  Pitt is the absolute logical choice, and a reader sent my an eloquent email explaining why, and I agree completely:

The Big Ten prides itself on academic excellence while presenting strength in athleticendeavors. Potential Big Ten expansion candidates are expected to add to the conference prestige while not jeopardize its reputation in any manner. Any candidate would be expected to have exceptional academic credentials, a leader in research, not only an outstanding football program but also a recognized winning football tradition consisting of National Championships, a successful winning basketball program, and add revenue to the Big Ten Conference.

If Big Ten expansion wants eastern exposure and not jeopardize its academic or athletic reputation then the leading institution in the east must be chosen. Pitt provides the exceptional academic credentials in AAU membership and the largest research institution (among mentioned Big Ten candidates) and has a rich football tradition with nine National Championships and a Heisman trophy winner. The Pitt basketball program has the highest winning percentage in the highly touted Big East over the past ten years.

In terms of delivering revenue to the Big Ten, Pitt’s research dollars exceed $642M, hundreds of millions more than any other eastern expansion candidate can produce. National TV ratings for Pitt football are the highest among the eastern candidates and close to Nebraska’s which translates to advertising dollars and TV content for the B10 Network. Also the addition of Pitt provides the 17% of Pa.

TVs not currently delivered by PSU and closes any opportunity that a rival conference (ie. ACC by extending Pitt membership) could have to penetrate the large Pa. TV market, sustaining potential competition for the Big Ten Network and securing TV advertising dollars a bigger revenue maker than TV monthly subscription. Pitt will deliver significant revenues in multiple ways to the Big Ten.

In addition to the leading academic and athletic merits, Pitt delivers to the Big Ten the best geographical fit, presenting financial benefits to the Conference when dealing with travel expenses of the non-revenue sports and travel time reducing classroom time lost by those participating in Olympic sports.

I am not excluding other eastern institutions for consideration but firmly believe that any combination of Big Ten expansion to the east which excludes Pitt would be a mistake. When considering eastern expansion, to achieve the original premise that the Big Ten seeks new conference members that will uphold its reputation for highest academic standards, athletic traditions and prowess, and producing increased revenues only Pitt can deliver on every front.

Expansion will almost certainly include Pitt.  With Rutgers and Pitt gone from the eight-team Big East football conference, the conference disintegrates as schools with football programs like UConn, Syracuse, Cincinnati, and West Virginia looking for a home in either the ACC or SEC.  The schools without football stick together and invite Butler, Xavier, St. Louis, and maybe Dayton to join.

Notre Dame would have almost no choice but to join the Big Ten, and then the 16th and final membership in the Big Ten would be offered to Texas.

The story that was so hot six weeks ago isn’t dead – it’s just resting.  A full-scale awakening make be a year off, but it’s coming.  When it does, the dominos will begin to fall, and the result will be four 16-team conferences and a four-team playoff for a national championship.

Who’s going to be in the Big Ten?  Follow the potential audience, money, and academics.

Big Ten Expansion – BCS Bowls and Playoffs Can Coexist, According to Kennedy Plan by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Brandon Kennedy is praying for someone to take his plan for a college football playoff seriously

There is a lone guy out there who is working without any compensation or financial support to build enthusiasm for a plan that will bring the BCS bowls into a playoff system that will maintain the tradition of the bowls, but as a part of a 10-team playoff system.

Brandon Kennedy spent his last dime to fly to Washington, DC, (read a Washington Post story about his trip here) last summer  to try to put his plan into the hands of some influential guys and to watch the senate hearings on the BCS hosted by Orrin Hatch.  He was 21-years-old, and because his money was gone, he lived under a bridge while in DC for months.

He has returned to his native Washington state, and is working two jobs while continuing his strangely passionate pursuit of a more equitable and profitable season-end playoff for college football.  The Kennedy Proposal (click on the link if you want to read it – it is way too long to include here) was conceived by Kennedy – hey, if you have a plan, naming it after yourself is the least a guy deserves – and it addresses was Kennedy believes to be the inequities of the current system.  It puts six automatic qualifiers and four at large teams in a 10-team bracket.  Those who win advance toward a national championship game.  The losers move to one of the bowls.

Continue reading

Big Ten Expansion – BCS Is Dying; Playoff is coming by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

This could have been so easy and painless (for everyone but Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe) had the Big 12 South migrated over to the Pac-10 like they should have.  Now with Utah accepting a bid to the conference, the math gets fuzzy.

The BCS is a ridiculous vehicle for selecting the two teams who play for a national championship.  No one understands the formula for the rankings, and how can you root for something based in algorithms developed by MIT educated wonks like Jeff Sagarin (no offense to Jeff – he’s a nice guy, but so much smarter than the rest of us that we are virtually a different species).

A four-team, three-game playoff among the champions of four 16-team conferences is the simplest, and therefore most correct method of allowing America watch and pay for a national championship decided on the field rather than on Sagarin’s TI-89 titanium graphing calculator.

The Big 12 has decided to stay at 10 teams, which means no playoff, and no pirating the Pac-10.  If I were Dan Beebe, and thank God I’m not, I would go after Arizona and Arizona State today to start climbing back into the game.  Then I would call USC and UCLA to see if they might come along.  Maybe TCU and Houston might be willing to round things out at 16 teams.

Without USC and UCLA, the Pac-10 is the Mountain West.  There can be only one survivor among the Big 12 and Pac-10, and while it’s damn unlikely that USC would for a moment consider leaving the Pac-10 or return Beebe’s call at all just to be polite, it’s worth a shot.

Beebe said last Tuesday that he isn’t calling anyone, and he was adamant about it, especially in referring to a letter sent to the Big 12 by several Houston lawmakers requesting that Houston by added, “We’re not looking to expand at all, and certainly we wouldn’t look to expand with any institutions that are in our geographic, five-state area now. We’re very comfortable with where we are and there’s no interest in having an expansion review at this point, and I don’t think it’s going to come in the future.”

Time will tell whether Beebe’s promise to double the cash contributed by the Big 12 to the coffers of Texas and Texas A&M will actually materialize.  Writing numbers down on a cocktail napkin and actually delivering cash are two very different things.  We’ll see if Beebe, who awakened from his perpetual slumber two weeks ago to save his conference from total annihilation, can keep his blood sugar high long enough to stroke giant checks rather than simply cypher like “The Beverly Hillbillies” Jethro Bodine.  As anyone who has faked their way through budget preparation can tell you, plugging in numbers that add up is one thing.  Having the pieces fall into place is a vastly different challenge.

There is a big but mythical pile of money on the table for a real playoff to decide the champion of college football, and that cash will drive the train toward the elimination of the silly BCS.  The four-year – $495 million dollar deal for ESPN to carry the BCS is a drop in the bucket compared to a week-long college football celebration that would make the college basketball’s Final Four look like a small town ice cream social.

BCS executive director Bill Hancock told the Associated Press he isn’t worried,  “The fact is, the consensus of all of the schools in the 11 conferences support the BCS.  There are some who have said they would rather do something else. But it’s a small percentage because the presidents of those schools know the BCS works. It does match the top two teams in a bowl game and it does preserve the importance of the regular season. And it does preserve the bowl system that so many people enjoy.

“I don’t see the universities changing their minds about a playoff or about the BCS system.”

Not until they see the numbers.  When that happens, the game is over.  The key is getting to down to the four conferences, whose champions would comprise college football’s Final Four.

The money is better for big-time college football with four 12-16 team conferences, so that is what will happen.  Principle is one thing.  Principal is quite another.

Sports fans like watching teams earn championships on the field or court.  The BCS is nothing but a system of educated guesswork narrowing the field to two very good teams.  No series of calculations can assuredly tell which to of the top four teams in college football are worthy of playing for a championship.

When asked by the AP whether the Mountain West Conference might earn an automatic bid after the current four-year evaluation period ends he said, “The official data won’t be compiled until after the four years, but intuitively looking at what they’ve done the last two years, we know the Mountain West is off to a good start.”  As my eyes reached the word “data”, my mind started to wander and I began dreaming of a real playoff.  College football and math don’t mix.

Put four conference champions on the field, and let’s play football.

Big Ten Expansion – Big 12 Will Be Gone Soon Enough, and the Irish Will Come to the Big Ten by kentsterling

by Kent Sterling

Yeah, the Big 12 saved itself from Armageddon earlier this week.  As Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech teetered on the brink of a mutinous run to the Pac-10, and Texas A&M flirted with the SEC, the gravitational pull of the eventual college sports landscape came clear – there will be four 16-team megaconferences soon enough.

The drama of the past ten days did nothing but delay the inevitable, and secure Texas’ ability to make a bunchmore money through the formation of its own TV network.  When Texas finally moves into the Pac-10 with its sycophant brothers, and the ACC gets off the dime and grabs up what remains of the sinking S.S. Big East after the Big Ten fires two torpedos into its hull by grabbing Rutgers and Pitt, we will have logic in college sports – a true national championship in its most popular sport.

The next first volley will be the Big Ten offer to Rutgers and Pitt, and then life gets interesting for Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick.  Without Rutgers and Pitt, the eight-team Big East football effort dies.  That leaves Syracuse, Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia, UConn and USF scrambling for affiliation.  The ACC will gladly accept some of those.

The Big East will then be little more than a Catholic school basketball conference with second tier athletic programs (and I’m speaking in terms of profitability not quality) like Seton Hall, Marquette, St. John’s, Providence, DePaul, and Georgetown.  Forget Notre Dame’s desires for a minute.  The schools like DePaul and Seton Hall can’t compete financially with a behemoth like Notre Dame, and what do they gain from trying – a few extra fans for men’s basketball?

Notre Dame may not have the option of staying in the reconstituted Catholic Conference, and then it has no home at all and is forced to take the deal in the Big Ten.

Either way, if Rutgers and Pitt are invited to join the Big Ten and accept, Notre Dame has no choice but to be the 15th or 16th member of the Big Ten.

Nothing really changed when Texas decided to slide back home.  The logical outcome was forestalled, but noteliminated.  The world wants a playoff.  Everyone knows a playoff is the right answer to a problem that has plagued college football for generations, and a problem that requires a solution sooner rather than later.  The four megaconference solution is so sensible that talking about anything else is futile.

The only question that remains is how much time will elapse before those resistant to change are convinced that this change works.  If there is no progress, all that remains is to regress.  There is no standing still in business, and college athletics is big business.  The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC will move forward as major players, and the rest will enjoy playing football for reasons other than to compete for a national championship, and marshal its other resources toward building a significant brand with its men’s basketball programs.

There are people who embrace change, and people who are terrified by it.  With change, there is always risk.  Some see the greatness that change can bring, and others fear the worst-case scenario.  Businesses who eagerly embrace evolution thrive or die quickly.  Those who covet the status quo, wither almost imperceptibly until it’s too late.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany is an early adopter.  He sees the need for growth, and isembracing change.  Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe wants to delay the inevitable.  He may like change, but sees that in this game of musical conferences, there are only four chairs and they are already claimed.  His only chance is to keep the music playing for as long as possible.  He wants “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and “American Pie” strung back-to-back.

Change is coming.  It’s just taking longer than it needs to.  The losers are the fans who demand a playoff.  The winner is Texas who gets to build a network while the Pac-10 has no ability to tell them not to.  The biggest challenge is for Swarbrick (a change and reinvention proponent by DNA) to get the Notre Dame administration on board with the move to the Big Ten before they lose all negotiating strength in the process.