rumormongering is what the internets are for
Monday came and went without an announcement about playing Alabama in Jerryworld, and with a few "not quite yet" type announcements from key players. See the title of this Rivals article($) ("Brandon: Exciting news is coming") for one. My source re-iterates: it is happening, with all three parties set on an agreement and just waiting to announce it when everything gets dotted and crossed.
It's a plot device so well-worn it's hackneyed in even real life: kid on team mouths off publicly about something or another. The coach threatens castration privately; publicly he downplays the loose lips and denies the veracity of whatever claim has got the media atwitter. Hugs are shared, unity declared, and the incident forgotten.
So when Troy Woolfolk sort of called Tate Forcier a leper, but not really, to the point where he had to issue a twitter retraction, Rodriguez immediately leapt to his quarterback's defense:
"I'm glad our seniors are taking some ownership and leadership in this team. They want everyone to work as hard as they have."
And by "leapt to his quarterback's defense" I mean "obliquely agreed with Woolfolk." That's the blockquote equivalent of scratching a record, especially since he followed that up with "Tate has a lot of work to do to prove himself, and not just on the field but off the field" and deviated from his years-long obsession with finding "two guys you can win with" at quarterback, instead suggesting that if someone separates himself from the rest of the competition he will be The Guy. So much for this blog's Tate/Denard QB Voltron fever dreams, I guess.
Having one half of your hopes for a competent non-freshman quarterback damaged by that guy's seeming disinterest is bad. Worse: Rodriguez was moved to publicly declare a "handful" of players "not ready to play Division 1 football" after the first day of practice. The identities of the folk in this handful are largely unknown—please no corners please no corners—but today's premium internet chatter fingers Justin Turner—GODDAMMIT—as the most prominent member of the group. [Update: Greg Robinson on Turner: "I don't know what's going on there."] The trepidation that's built up the last year as Turner first failed to crack the worst Michigan secondary ever and then failed to beat out a guy who lost his spot in the worst Michigan secondary ever has now broken through the last frayed tendrils of hope born of his recruiting rankings; he's now solidly en route to epic bust status. "Dann O'Neill or Shawn Crable?" is a much less pleasant question to answer than "Charles Woodson or just Marlin Jackson?"
With Turner apparently 0/2 when it comes to showing up to camp with the ability to outrun Rod Smith, Michigan's corner depth chart now looks like this:
- Troy Woolfolk and JT Floyd
If you're looking for damage mitigation, cornerback is a spot at which a freshman can hypothetically cope, but after so much hammering to one position group something's got to give touchdowns in bunches.
And since today's Turner PANIC is late-breaking, it doesn't even figure in Doctor Saturday's fair and totally depressing evaluation of the state of Michigan's defense:
You probably dismissed the idea of Michigan playing a huge nonconference game against Alabama in two years in Jerryworld as crackpot rumor-mongering of the sort the internet specializes in. Michigan's on the road against ND, leaving a maximum of six home games, it's transparently silly to play a college football game thousands of miles from either college, and Michigan hasn't played a neutral-site OOC game basically ever. It seemed instantly implausible.
But apparently it is happening. The contract is being signed Monday. Which is tomorrow.
The following details are unconfirmed but of interest since they come from an established source:
- Game is happening because a desperate Jerry Jones "overpaid."
- Michigan will be the nominal home team (important mostly for TV rights) and receive more money.
- There's no additional game scheduled and there may not be.
- Jones might be well-positioned to provide some advice on HD scoreboards.
This comes with a set of crazy conflicting emotions. Hurray awesome nonconference game, boo that it's in fricking Dallas in a corporate death star of an NFL stadium and not a home-and-home in Ann Arbor and Tuscaloosa. I guess that's what it takes for a lot of actual nonconference games to get done these days, but awesomeness of trip to Dallas to see M play 'Bama <<<<<< awesomeness of M-Bama home-and-home. On the other hand, awesomeness of M-Bama Dallas >>>>>>> awesomeness of M-BGSU anywhere.
[Note on sourcing: in this case I am going with one source, but he is a very established one.]
A newspaper profile of WR commit Shawn Conway mentions some trouble he got into recently:
“All my dreams came true when I got my scholarship,” he said. “I felt comfortable up there right away with the staff and the players, a lot of whom I already knew. It’s a natural fit. They make me feel at home and I’m excited for the chance to play in the Big Ten.”
Unfortunately, Conway encountered a setback in his journey. In April, he was suspended from school as a result of disciplinary reasons. He is trying to put that situation behind him and learn from his mistakes.
“I did something really, really stupid and I had to pay the price,” he said. “It should have never happened and I take responsibility for that it did. But I learned from the situation and now I’m past it and moving forward”
This won't be a surprise to people who keep their ear to the ground, as rumors about Conway's trouble have been flying around since late May, when the high school paper (of which there can only be one: it's called the Highlander) published an article about an anonymous student who'd been caught breaking into lockers on tape.
Internet buzz suggested that was Conway and a couple of independent sources confirmed it; now that Conway's been quoted saying he "did something really, really stupid" it's better to put two and two together instead of let that vague problem float out there to get Freeped. The stupid act is the one detailed in the Highlander. The article itself says that the secret being maintained by the principal (who cited the usual FERPA concerns) was of the open variety:
“I mean, when someone is involved in a disciplinary situation, then it really would be violating their privacy to discuss it at all,” Piper said. “Because they have been disciplined, they have a right to have that not made public around the school.” …
However, the secret is out.
Word of the suspension and the video tape quickly spread throughout the Seaholm hallways since the incident was captured on tape April 21.
The article goes on to describe a "tall African-American male" taking approximately 50 dollars from a locker… you get the point, and you draw a line from A to B. At this point it's common knowledge around Seaholm and since it's time to publicly acknowledge it in the Oakland Press it seems appropriate to disclose the nature of the offense since it's a two on the Richter scale.
As long as Conway stays on the straight and narrow this shouldn't impact his status with Michigan, and since he's had an improbably tough upbringing (parents divorced at four, mother sent to prison at ten, now the legal guardian of his coach) some sympathy is in order. Anything else and I imagine Conway will join the ranks of Kelly Baraka since a guy who can't keep it together for a year is not someone college coaches like to take chances on, but for now he's fine.
This has been a conflicted public service announcement.
I put up a Sporting Blog post on the latest in conference reconfiguration that covers the main news of the day, which is that the awkward moment in nomenclature we're experiencing where the Big 12 has ten teams and the Big Ten has twelve is a surprisingly stable college football isotope.
Whether its half-life is two days, two years, or two decades we don't know yet, but reports that the Big 12 lives have spread beyond Chip Brown, who is by this point basically the earthly avatar of DeLoss Dodds, to Joe Schad and Pete Thamel, and have reached the point the Nebraska rumors did last week where the sheer quantity of independent confirmation outweighs everyone's natural skepticism towards anything Anonymous Athletic Director would like to leak. The Big… er… Twelve lives.
Why? Because if they're going to rename it they might as well dub it The Texas Conference. The major sticking point with Texas's move to the Big Ten was not distance or tradition or even money but the Longhorn's refusal to share and share alike, which is fine as far as it goes. Anyone who approaches college football from an angle other than realpolitik is willfully naive. Expecting Texas to sign off on a change where they go from the king of everything to just another shiny happy Big Ten (or Pac-10) school was extremely wishful thinking in retrospect.
This is despite a ton of huge advantages moving would bring. For one, I don't believe Brown for a second when he claims Texas "stands to make between $20 mil and $25 mil per yr under a proposed new TV pkg presented by Dan Beebe" before we even get to the coming Longhorn Network. Allow myself to quote myself:
Big Ten teams are currently raking in 15 million per year with a fully-functional network spread across eight states with a ton of people. The Big 12 Texas's entire conference distribution was 10 million in 2007 and as of May 31st conference distributions were ranging between "7 and 12 million" according to the KC Star; Big Ten teams each brought in 20 million. The Big 12's current television contract with ABC goes to the 2015 season and the conference has just lost its third most attractive television draw (Nebraska) and third biggest media market (Denver). The average value of the Big Twelve's TV inventory has gone down considerably this summer.
Texas would make more money moving to the Big Ten. They'd get to join the CIC. They'd have a more competitive environment than one game against Oklahoma every year. Iowa State would no longer be on the schedule. In all absolute ways, moving makes sense. Relatively? Not so much. Now that the Big 10 door is swinging shut—Missouri's scrabbling at the lock but can't get in—and the Pac-10 seems set on adding Utah and calling it a day, the Big 12 leftovers desperately need Texas and will sign up for any lopsided revenue sharing plan they have to as long as they don't have to consider whether they should join the Mountain West or Conference USA. If Texas won't enter as an equal partner, the Big Ten won't take them, and that's as it should be.
But no one should mistake the reason the Big 12 has shed two of its best schools: it's because of Texas. If the Big 12 does end up imploding, it will be because of Texas. Realpolitik has its costs.
The Big Ten's Next Move
This guy on the message board has a bunch of scuttlebutt about Texas that reflects the above and suggests where the Big Ten will look next: the ACC. Take it for what it's worth—not much given how fast these things change—but I've gotten a couple notes that suggest the same thing. The current plan appears to be wait to see what happens with Notre Dame and the rumored get-in-or-get-out ultimatum from the Big East and then possibly look to move to 14. 16 is not regarded as a viable setup without a compelling reason.
One man's guess as to the future direction of the conference, listed from most probable to least:
- The Big Ten sticks at 12 teams.
- ND gets the boot from the Big East, sucks it up, and joins the Big Ten sometime around when their NBC contract expires. The league would then look for a 14th team (Maryland, BC, GT, Rutgers, Syracuse the most commonly mentioned targets) at that point.
- ND stays in the Big East as they are now and the Big Ten picks off a couple of the above-mentioned targets to go to 14.
- Some crazy thing happens and the league goes to 16.
If I had to guess, the Big Ten will stand pat until such time as Notre Dame gets the boot from the Big East, which may or may not ever actually happen.
i like this picture because he's about to shoot a planet-destroying laser out of his mouth
Some horse-holding may be in order in case anyone is printing up huge quantities of Pac-16 t-shirts. These reports come from a television station and a guy in Indianapolis radio and are about conference expansion should therefore be taken with a grain of salt large enough to have moons, but they appear to be independently-sourced claims that Texas and Texas A&M may be heading Midwest instead of just West.
High level sources in multiple conferences have told KCTV5 that Texas and Texas A&M are looking to move to the Big Ten Conference and have petitioned for membership, while the University of Oklahoma is planning on petitioning the Southeastern Conference to become a member of its conference.
Texas Tech can pound sand, according to KCTV.
Kent Sterling, the Indiana radio guy does have an extensive newsy background, FWIW, but his site's report is way fuzzier and it's posted by Pauly Balst, whose bio reads "Pauly Balst has a very solid reputation and track record in speculative journalism and for-profit amatuer [sic] athletics." This is not reassuring. Anyway:
College Station, Texas, based sources close to Texas A&M confirm the scenario of Texas A&M, Texas and Nebraska joining the Big 10, bringing the total to 14. … Sources also confirmed the rift with Texas Tech and Baylor is that “UT and A&M have joined together in this decision”. By adding this trio, UT does not “go to war alone in a new conference” when ongoing issues arise.
"Confirm the scenario"? What does that mean? That could be talking. It could be a D&D meeting. I'm not putting a ton of stock into that, but it's out there.
Meanwhile, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is sounding less imperial:
“I’d say that (having an 11-team conference) is a possibility,” Scott said.
He also said that no assurances and that no invitations have been issued to any other Big 12 schools, including Texas and Texas A&M, whose athletic directors met on Thursday in Austin to discuss their future.
“There are several different scenarios,” Scot siad. “There is no defined timetable” for further Pac-10 expansion.
Colorado snapping up the Pac-10 invite and thereby bouncing Baylor may have given the Big Ten the wedge it needs to crowbar Tech off the Texas schools everyone wants, in which case thanks Baylor.
This post's information value will self-destruct in ten seconds.
(HT: Aaron and Damon Lewis.)