I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
Hello! Sam McGuffie, who you may have heard of (or watched a six minute highlight reel of twenty-plus times), announces in approximately one hour on a Houston area television station. Here you'll find his announcement, when it is announced -- things look good -- and a sort of choose-your-own adventure followup.
If Sam McGuffie chooses Michigan, GOTO OVERREACTION-POSITIVE.
If Sam McGuffie chooses Texas A&M, GOTO OVERREACTION-NEGATIVE.
OVERREACTION-POSITIVE: The dossier on our new shiny internet video toy.
OVERREACTION-NEGATIVE: A brief burst of swearing and then retirement to fight again another day.
Should be fun. In the meantime, check out the extremely erratic Michigan sports branch of Logic Times and their take on McGuffie and, um, profiling.
OVERREACTION-POSITIVE: Yea, peal the churchbells and go forth proclaiming the good news: McGuffie is in our sweaty internets clutches. Here is a youtube dump of stuff you've probably already seen before.
McGuffie taking a screen for a touchdown:
This one's on the ground:
This is titled "jtrain 2" for some reason but I am pretty sure this is another McGuffie run (it's labeled "cy fair," the team running the ball wears Cy Fair colors, and the running back appears to have the same body type as McGuffie. Can't make out the number but it's definitely only one digit -- he wears #2 -- and isn't a one), this one taped from the stands:
That's a Mike-Hart-like ability to evade certain doom right there.
There is also this one, featuring the rarely-seen NCAA back juke:
That appears to be all the plays available. There are duplicates of single plays in the mixtape: the famous hurdle; the 90-yard I-run-forwards-and-backwards touchdown, a playstation spin move in the first round of the playoffs, and another touchdown from that same playoff game.
More in the morning.
Update: You can watch the announcement here if you so desire. Nothing earth-shattering, except for the brief moment in which it seems the Rivals guy there is talking crap about him right to his face before it becomes clear he is doing the usual cheerleading, but maybe worth watching if only for the highlights in the background.
Yesterday's FanHouse post on Big Ten expansion must have set a record for number of intelligent comments without someone who types in all caps interjecting his learned opinion. And it's an interesting subject, so let's expound.
The situation: the Des Moines Register talks to Jim Delaney and Kirk Ferentz; the subject of conference expansion comes up. Delaney points out that there is a powerful new motive to expand: the Big Ten Network. A new school provides that much more content for the channel to carry and, if it's in a place not currently a part of the network's footprint, that many more basic cable subscribers. Hopefully. Maybe. Probably not if it's Rutgers.
So, goal for expansion:
- Maintain the CIC's high standards. The CIC is an academic consortium consisting of the Big Ten schools and the U of Chicago. It's a big deal to people, so any school admitted should have serious research going on in their grad schools and so forth and so on. Large public state schools are the preferred targets, although exceptions can be made.
- Expand the geographical reach of the conference. This increases the core recruiting area for the conference, the number of eyeballs watching on television, and the amount of money flowing into the BTN's coffers.
- Add interesting football teams.
- Add interesting basketball teams.
- Try to keep travel costs down by picking someone reasonably nearby.
And on with the contenders...
The Big East
PROs: An academic fit. Good basketball program. Adds upstate New York as a television market -- NYC won't care. Considering the addition of hockey. Football program has rich history.
CONs: Football program stuck in long-term malaise since departure of McNabb. Plays home games in snoozy dome named for maker of air conditioners. Sort of an awkward geographic fit, though it's a shorter distance to Syracuse than it is to Penn State from here if you use the wonder of Canada.
Verdict: A plan B school. It would bring in a decent-sized market that has few pro sports, but sexiness level is very low.
PROs: Also an academic fit. Better location than Syracuse; has the only program in the universe that could get New York City interested in college football even a little; even if it doesn't still brings in New Jersey. Provides a real rival for Penn State.
As potential world domination plans go, "conquer New York" is third only to capturing Notre Dame or audaciously (and mildly senselessly) picking off Texas from the Big Twelve.
CONs: Has been a total doormat for the enter non-Schiano existence of their program. Last year's Texas Bowl win was great... but as a 40 year high point not so much. Basketball program also bleah.
Verdict: A high stakes gamble, and how. Michigan's in on a ton of New Jersey recruits this year, so I've noticed a new trend: these guys are actually listing and seriously considering Rutgers. Safety Brandon Smith has them slightly trailing us. JB Fitzgerald has them in his top group with UF and us. Witherspoon listed them. They're probably going to get offensive lineman Art Forst. This is a new development, and even if they're striking out on the kinds of guys that get offers from Michigan and UF they're probably going to recruit better than a lot of mid-level Big Ten schools this year. Joining the Big Ten would probably be another boost. So... I don't think this is a flash in the pan. As long as Schiano stays.
That's the bet here: that Schiano can be a program patriarch for the Scarlet Knights. That Rutgers success can be sustained. That when Joe Paterno finally retires, he stays. That the move to the Big Ten provides a further boost. That the program is relevant enough to retain people's interest. Because the downside here is stark: my God, we've admitted Temple.
PROs: An up-and-comer in college athletics, dumping money into their programs. Poised for long term success in both football and basketball. Adds a foothold in SEC country, bringing in markets in Kentucky.
CONs: Academics don't measure up; are reputedly not even close. Definitely a new money situation here: stadium named after a pizza company, JUCO-heavy basketball team, etc. Will they continue their success under Kragthorpe?
Verdict: But for the academics, a good choice. I would prefer them to any other available team save the real home runs; unfortunately I think the CIC thing is a dealbreaker.
PROs: Geographic fit. Finally had the stones to jettison Bob Huggins; basketball team now sucky but not a haven for delinquents. Would provide instate competition for Ohio State.
CONs: Just recently jumped out of CUSA and unlike UL has experienced scant success. Only real success was under the shadow of Huggins. I don't know about their academics.
Also: I always, always spell it "Cincinatti," and I'd have to correct it a lot more often. No thanks.
Verdict: What's the point? Is anyone going to think to themselves "oooh, Cincinnati"? No.
PROs: Geographic and academic fit. Also provides natural rival for Penn State. Football program has rich history; basketball program would be a fine addition.
CONs: Michigan and OSU are already raiding the hell out of the WPIAL. Adding Pitt opens no new recruiting grounds and only marginally raises interest in the Pittsburgh market. Their football fanbase would be amongst the worst in the conference.
Verdict: I guess. I would rather take a chance on Rutgers, personally.
PROs: Killer basketball program. Would expand the Big Ten into some new England media markets.
CONs: Football program remains fledgling. About as much of a geographic fit as Nebraska.
Verdict: Meh. They're like Louisville except their football team hasn't proven anything yet.
West Fuckin' Virginia
PROs: Darling of the moment with Rich Rodriguez staying, and if he turns down 'Bama's millions he's probably in for the long haul. Will have a good, if sleazy, basketball team with Huggins around.
CONs: Isn't WVU a really crap school? Huggins should be a net negative. Football program has strong flash-in-the-pan characteristics.
Verdict: Academics are a dealbreaker, I think.
The Big Twelve
PROs: Geographic fit with decent academics. Natural basketball rivalry with Illinois. Opens up Missouri, St. Louis.
CONs: Hasn't won anything in football since 1969. That won't change in the Big Ten. Basketball program mostly known for having gel-slicked cheater Quinn Snyder in charge for way too long.
PROs: It's in Iowa.
CONs: Inept at every sport it ever tried. Brings in no new markets. No upside here.
Verdict: No way.
PROs: Rich football tradition. Would be competitive and bring cachet. Nebraska fans travel like mofos and would probably be fun to have around.
CONs: No other sports of note. Geographically distant. Nebraska is not a rich area to pluck recruits from. They would remind us of [
BOWL REDACTED] and force us to strangle them and then we would be in jail.
Verdict: Nebraska fans occasionally bring this up as a possible escape hatch from the Big Twelve and their unbalanced TV contracts. An interesting possibility, but the geography is a negative and they don't bring anything except football. Tempting, but no.
PROs: Outstanding academics, outstanding football, outstanding basketball, outstanding fans. Austin is a great city. Brings in huge television and recruiting benefits.
CONs: Is in freaking Texas.
Verdict: Except for the bizarre geography, a perfect fit. Would be an earth-shattering move tectonic in scope. Would be better than Notre Dame.
But... really doubtful Texas would ever go for this. Would restrict their ability to schedule anyone ever again, as I assume OU would stay on the schedule plus probably A&M, then they'd just have to rotate two Texas schools for the rest of time. Non-revenue sports would all of a sudden have killer travel costs... and what do they do with their baseball and softball teams, both of which they like quite a bit? Playing in a virtual mid major is going to be a harsh blow.
Sadly, this is never going to happen.
PROs: Geography, academics, football. It keeps coming up because it's an obvious fit. Rivalries with MSU, Purdue, Michigan. No new markets, but they are kind of a big deal in college football.
CONs: Midwest would be full of suicide bombers from NDNation.
Verdict: One of us... one of us... one of us...
PROs: Fine academic school with the appropriate geography. One of the more successful MAC programs historically. As the "Cradle of Coaches" has long-standing ties with the conference.
CONs: Is a MAC school, brings no new markets, and probably wouldn't be that competitive. Like Northwestern++.
PROs: Like Louisville except with a killer basketball program and a dire football one (this year's pending aberration excepted). And they're a better school.
CONs: As noted, dire football program.
Verdict: As a charter member of the SEC they wouldn't go for it, I don't think. And though the basketball program is interesting, football runs the world.
PROs: Perennially decent at both basketball and football. Hockey team a national power (not that we'll all of a sudden have a Big Ten hockey conference, but we'd probably set something up regular-like w/ them). Academically a fit. Provides access to Boston media market and, by, extension, much of New England. Weird fit geographically but less weird than their current conference.
CONs: Geography. Check any Bill Simmons column for the general interest in collegiate sports in the Boston area.
Verdict: A strong candidate behind the home runs.
One Man's Order of Preference
2. Notre Dame
5. Boston College
...the rest I don't care for.
One Man's Order of Likelihood
This is hard to project. I assume this is what will happen: the Big Ten tells everyone plans are afoot, gets the BTN up and running. Once we know how that's going, the Big Ten waits until ND's NBC contract expires and tries to get the Irish again. Once that doesn't work, it settles down to business. So... we have three years to see if Rutgers is going to hold it together and if UConn is going to step up. If Rutgers remains good and interest holds up...
4. Boston College
Book update! Maple Street says that the book should be in bookstores like Borders and Barnes and Noble across Michigan, as well as newsstands at Meijer, Walgreens, and wherever fine book-magazine-preview-type things are sold. Should be arriving sometime this week. An excitable commenter inquired at the local Borders:
Borders in Ann Arbor just said that it hadn't been shipped to them yet and it would be at least a few more days before they had it. Hearing that, I broke down and ordered it online.
They are coming, I assure you. Anyone who sees one in the flesh, please let me know.
Amazon orderers are spooked by the projected ship dates (September?); Maple Street assures me that this is a fiction borne of Amazonian caution to not over-promise and under-deliver and that they will have the books shortly as well.
If you'd like to check out what the book actually looks like in the flesh, as it were, here's a PDF of the first half of SMQB's schedule preview.
I have been inundated with email (two pieces!) about this, so, yeah:
The photo proves a few things. One: It doesn't matter if you're 5'8" on a good day if you've got a jaw like that. And millions and millions of dollars. (Not only is Comrie a well-compensated NHLer but his father is the owner of a chain of Canadian furniture stores.) Two: holy hell Hillary Duff is tiny. I can't believe she can even lift her enormously oversized purse-type thing. Shouldn't she have a manservant or something?
That would be awesome. If I was preposterously wealthy and famous instead of getting all coked up my vice would be hiring a tiny elderly man from the Indian subcontinent to carry around things for me. Not even heavy things. Like, my cell phone. Because my jeans profile must not be disturbed, I say!
This appears to be a digression.
Schedule bits. As soon as a break in the ND series is dropped everyone wants in. Texas:
Two readers emailed me this morning with links to this story noting that both the Wolverines and Fighting Irish are seeking opponents for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. I've beaten the "please schedule tougher" horse to death by now, so I won't take the podium for that particular lecture again.
Instead, a quiet sigh of resignation as I note our current schedules for both seasons in question
Peter's actually got the years wrong, as it's 2012 and 2013 that are the open slot. Texas is very feasible.
As Hydrotech wrote before in our most controversial post to date, while it's rather unfortunate that while THE Ohio State University (seriously, what is up with that?) decided to cancel our series with them in 2012-2013, it does leave us with other opportunities. Like the opportunity to schedule a habitually underachieving Big Ten foe whose fans somehow got more riled up about our dis of Ohio State than their own fans did. Maybe it's an inferiority complex.
Still, just like Ragnarok suggested, our Bears have an open date in 2012. So do the Wolverines. The two haven't played since the 1950 Rose Bowl. And we are a national power from a major conference.
This would be great if this was true, but it isn't. Cal's not even a Pac-10 power: the Bears' last Rose Bowl was in 1959. The reason Jeff Tedford is such a sexy candidate for the hypothetically open Michigan job is that he's managed to drag Cal into respectability. Next.
Doug Karsch got on the radio -- I did not actually hear this, but have seen it multiple places on the message boards -- and said that Michigan was looking at Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and the big three in Florida. FWIW.
Meanwhile, I will enjoy watching the pretzel logic from a certain genre of Notre Dame fan that turns this Bill Martin quote on its head:
"Certainly, we will be playing them; we'll never discontinue playing with Notre Dame," Martin said. "We may take breaks now and then so that we can add other prominent programs to our schedule."
Szzzzabo. Brief excerpt from a GBW interview with Steve Szabo with interesting bits. Graham and Thompson lead for their spots at the moment. Szabo on Austin Panter:
Spring was rough for Austin. He played eight-man football in high school in Kansas and then went to junior college out there. He doesn't have a vast background in 11-man football. He struggled in the spring, but I think he'll come back a different man this fall. He's become acclimated to the university and his teammates and I think he'll come back much more competitive in the fall."
Yikes. On Thompson:
John's got to step up to the plate. He's got a ways to go, but I'm often reminded by the coaches of some comments that I made last spring about David being a little mediocre (laughing). Thompson is the same way. He's not a house hold name right now, but you never know with how hard he'll work.
I am not particularly assured at the moment.
This will be next to Yost next fall.
Click for big. Construction info here. All the windows are reflective. Curses! Foiled again.
Etc.: Lake The Posts is counting down the top games in Northwestern football history. They've reached #6. You
probably don't want to read about it. And you definitely don't want to read the Anthony Thomas fumble one, whenever that is.
Two sentences in I gave up and just started trying to include as many abbreviations as possible.
A couple days ago EchoStar, the owner of Dish Network, filed a request for the FCC to rule the Big Ten Network a "regional sports network." The Big Ten thinks is for stupids:
The Big Ten Network reiterated Wednesday that it is a national, not regional, sports network and called EchoStar's suggestion it was not a "brazen attempt to increase its negotiating leverage."
This is a tricky tightrope for the Network to walk, because the whole reason it's a big deal whether or not the BTN is an RSN is because RSNs are such a BFD that the FCC has a special carveout in their regulations for them. The ever-helpful Hoosier Report highlights the relevant sections of the legislation. The gist is that when News Corp, the multi-tentacled Rupert Murdoch corporation, bought a way to distribute programming one of the conditions of the sale was the imposition of this arbitration process for various things for which there exist no substitutes, like regional sports.
If the Big Ten Network is declared an RSN they're subject to binding arbitration over just how much it costs. So even if you're all about the Big Ten Network you probably want them to lose this scuffle, as then EchoStar has the option of binding arbitration, i.e. the network gets put on the air. I don't know if cable companies would follow suit (if they even have the option to), as they seem to want to avoid the whole idea of the BTN entirely.
Is the BTN an RSN? Dunno. Neither does THR, but the cited post above takes a crack at it anyway:
I haven't read closely enough to have much of an opinion. A quick read does suggest that my prior discussion of the difference between an RSN and a national network may not have been completely out to lunch. The FCC does seem to assign some significance to the geographically restricted nature of the pro sports programming on RSNs. In the case of pro sports, the geographical restrictions are at the behest of the leagues; for the BTN, while the actual demand is dramatically higher in the right state region, the BTN allows and actually wants people outside the footprint to watch the games, too. Is this distinction meaningful? I don't know, maybe I'll look deeper, but not today.
Mark Silverman is president of the Big Ten Network and, apparently, is on a sort of media -- any media -- blitz as the saber-rattling between the BTN and cable operators reaches its peak in the month before D-Day. Exhibit A: this interview at Peegs.com. (HT: The Hoosier Report.) Exhibit B: the BTN office reached out to me and asked if I would like to have an interview with Silverman.
The ensuing scramble to get some sort of recording capability came up empty -- I shake my fist at you, Skype -- and so I spent a lot of time frantically transcribing. Some quotes may not have 100% fidelity as a result, but they all communicate Silverman's intent fairly. Anyway...
I started by reading Mr. Silverman a quote that was highlighted in an earlier editon of UV:
"We're well on our way toward ensuring that roughly half the subscribers to smaller cable systems across the Midwest have better access to their favorite Big Ten schools and teams than anytime in history."
This seemed a worrisome scaling back of ambition, albeit one that could have been taken out of context. Silverman did confirm that the fears generated by that quote were unfounded: "The point was more specifically referring to the smaller companies. By no stretch is that any sort of implication about the larger companies."
As the conversation progressed, this became clear: the Big Ten is not and has not reduced its goals. They are no more backing down than any of the cable operators are. In fact, when I asked whether there was a backup plan if basic tiers were not possible Silverman repeatedly stated the Big Ten Network is "not deserving of a sports tier" and that they needed to be "sure the network was launched appropriately," then dropped something of a bombshell: if cable operators in the footprint are not willing to put the channel on a basic tier they won't be permitted to carry it at all. This is an all-or-nothing gambit, and this is why Silverman got in contact.
"It means more access. Martin wants to build the school, to build the exposure. The more you can put it on, the more you showcase these universities and make them seen nationally. It's a great exposure tool for the school in general and for the conference."
(Silverman did confirm that they were way more flexible outside of the footprint, willing to accept placement on sports tiers for a lesser fee than that charged by ESPNU or CSTV. Ironically, if you're in Phoenix you have a better chance at having the channel available than Ann Arbor.)
Said gambit is either brilliant or insane depending on whether it works, a real Schroedinger's cat situation. I don't think I have to convince anyone who reads this blog that having the BTN on basic cable is good for both Michigan fans and the University itself. The more revenue the channel generates, the better positioned the Big Ten is in the ongoing filthy lucre wars between conferences, and, frankly, I'd probably watch the BTN a ton.
One thing that Silverman did convince me of is that the universally used -- for scorn -- comparable, the NFL Network, isn't comparable at all. Despite the fact that the NFL is the King Kong of American sports, their network had eight games all year. The rest of their schedule is like highlights and analysis and, basically, junk. The BTN is going to have multiple football games every week plus a ton of basketball games, and act as an ESPN Classic for the conference. (Except without the suck.) The sheer number of televised events makes it comparable to a Fox Sports Net, not the NFL network. The problem, of course, is that a local FSN has a ton of events guaranteed to be high profile and laser focused on wherever it's distributed; meanwhile a Purdue-Indiana football game may not be of extreme interest in Wisconsin or Michigan. Silverman acknowleges this:
"There's a lot of confusion because there's not an exact comparable, but if you look at local and regional networks â€“ most of which are owned by Comcast â€“ and it's significantly less. None of their networks are on a sports tier."
This is true. A brief listing of Comcast-owned RSNs:
- Comcast Sports Chicago: $3.75
- Comcast Sports Philadelphia: $3.10
- Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic: $2.50
- Comcast Sports Northwest: $2.00
- Sportsnet NY (Time Warner -- Mets): $1.80
All of these channels are on expanded basic, as are Versus, the Golf Channel (THE GOLF CHANNEL), and something called CSS Sports, a southeastern channel whose main attraction is single-A baseball and SEC games... on tape delay. That is in six million homes, about what the Big Ten Network's projected footprint is. The "Northwest" edition of Comcast Sports is especially egregious because their entire programming lineup is 50 Blazers games. That's it. Evidently Comcast doesn't care about the "Blazers tax" they're imposing on Oregon, nor the "Tape Delayed SEC tax" on the southeast or the "Frickin' Golf And Not Even Interesting Golf tax" currently being deployed on virtually everyone.
The Big Ten Network's widely reported $1.10 -- a number Silverman said was "probably ballpark" but, oddly, one that he'd "never confirmed" -- doesn't seem out of whack at all in relation to those numbers. Sure, it's probably not worth anywhere near what channels full of NBA/MLB/NHL games are, but they aren't asking for a price near that, and they are providing everything they have at the basic carriage price:
"There's two networks, an HD network and a regular one, a VOD [video on demand -ed] one, and all these overflow channels that we're offering for free. Comcast is going to get a ton of new HD subscribers because all these new games are on that weren't in HD."
(It is possible this is SOP for cable networks and this is not really a point in their favor, though I do think the HD point is cromulent.) Silverman made it clear that the BTN wasn't married to $1.10, but if cable operators were going to stall on placement on basic cable there would be no discussion:
"If they said 'it's on basic,' then we're off to the races. I have to believe it's posturing. I can't believe they're going to hang their hat on that. You can't even have a legitimate conversation on price until you agree on what level of service you're talking about."
At some point he asked me what I thought -- hey, who's doing the interview here? -- and I said I felt like a pawn, then accidentally got off a pithy quote: "it seems like your leverage is our outrage." It does feel like we fans are caught in a Mexican standoff, except both guns are pointed at our collective head. And instead of a gun we have a rubber chicken. Any trigger-pulling will be a mutual act of our two antagonists, but Comcast's rife hypocrisy shouldn't be obscured by the Big Ten's PR-deaf commissioner.
Will the trigger get pulled? Don't know. Neither does Silverman:
"It's going to go on for a while there. We hope to convince them to carry it on a basic level. I do think we'll get it on the air. But... I don't know. We definitely have some work ahead of us."
Hockey Aside: I asked what the hockey coverage was looking like, and he said there would be "ten to fifteen games" on the network this fall and that they would be "above and beyond" the current coverage provided... probably. Obviously hockey isn't A-1 on his priority list, so he wasn't 100% up to date on their projected coverage. Since Minnesota and (I think) Wisconsin have very good TV packages with their local Fox Sports affiliates I assume most of those
would be Michigan/Michigan State/Ohio State games. Hopefully some will be, you know, on the road.
For the record:
(Sidenote: The announcement about his pending announcement was premium message board only 31337 stuff this afternoon. Which is, like... what? Eventually people are going to figure it out. It's on TV.)