Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 23 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.
|Tuesday, May 31
Texas A&M captures national championship in men's doubles
The trophy cases in College Station are getting crowded.
The day after Texas A&M's baseball team won its second consecutive Big 12 Championship in baseball, the Aggies accomplished a first in school history. Austin Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo became the first Texas A&M national champions in tennis by winning the 2011 NCAA Doubles Championship Monday in Stanford, Calif.
"I thought it was appropriate that the final shot was a forehand winner from Jeff," Texas A&M coach Steve Denton said. "These guys will always be Aggies, but in their final appearance on the collegiate tennis courts representing Texas A&M to come out winning the national championship, I could not be more proud of them. They have always been winners, but now they can say they are national champs."
Two years ago the men's golf team won the national championship. The men's and women's track teams are two-time defending national champs. The women's basketball team won the national title about two months ago. Denton's team won the Big 12 Championship in Waco two weeks ago.
Krajicek and Dadamo used familiarity to overcome a home court edge enjoyed by their Stanford opponents. Bradley Kahn and Ryan Thacher were playing in front of a large and rowdy crowd of supporters but the A&M duo had defeated the Cardinal doubles team in the NCAA Round of 16 on May 19 and recorded a 7-6 victory. Krajicek and Dadamo also defeated the Stanford pair en route to the USTA/ITA Indoor Doubles National Championship in Flushing, New York, last fall.
"We were pretty familiar with Stanford since we faced them in the team match a little over a week ago," Krajicek said. "We knew there were going to be a lot of people out and they would be loud. We just focused on our game and didn't let it affect us that much. It's fun playing in that kind of atmosphere when it's really loud. It makes the match more exciting and I think Jeff and I enjoyed it."
Stanford broke serve to take a 2-1 lead in the first set but the Aggies rallied and prevailed in the first set 7-6 by virtue of winning the tiebreaker 7-4. Krajicek and Dadamo rallied from a 40-15 deficit in the decisive game of the second set and won it on Dadamo's forehand winner.
"They really played solid in all areas today," Denton said. "When they were able to bounce back and break to tie the match in the first set you could see their confidence build. The guys took care of their service games, only losing one serve, they returned well and they really volleyed extremely well. They were just rock solid on a big stage today."
|Saturday, May 28
Former OU All-American Brandon Everage dies
Oklahoma's football program has experienced another tragedy.
Former Sooner All-American safety Brandon Everage, one of the hardest hitters of the Bob Stoops era, drowned over the weekend. The 30-year-old drowned in the Little River about 80 miles northeast of Austin.
Authorities received a call late Friday about a possible drowning and commenced a search. Everage's friends told police he had been swimming, went under water, but never resurfaced. Everage's body was finally found by a dive team about 10:50 a.m. Saturday.
Everage played for the Sooners from 1999-2003 and was a member of OU's 2000 national championship team. He was an All-American in 2002.
"Brandon was a favorite in the locker room and a favorite among the coaches," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. "He played football with tremendous passion and had a special spark that inspired everyone. We will always have fond memories of him. For now, though, we are deeply saddened for Brandon's family."
On May 19, Oklahoma senior linebacker Austin Box died. The next day, the brother of OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables died.
Texas A&M's Stilson out for season
John Stilson, Texas A&M's top pitcher this season, will miss the rest of the season. After the Aggies' 9-8, 11-inning victory in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship Saturday, Aggies coach Rob Childress confirmed that Stilson has a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.
"My disappointment is not for my team," Childress told the San Antonio Express-News. "It's for John. He's given us everything he's had from the day he stepped on campus at Texas A&M, and for him to not be a part of the most fun time of the year breaks my heart. This is a guy who's 110 percent sold out to our program and our team and his teammates. That's what breaks my heart."
Stilson first injured his shoulder May 5, when he pitched five shutout innings against Dallas Baptist. He missed a start, then returned against Texas on May 19. He was uncharacteristically wild against the Longhorns, walking seven over 6 1/3 innings in a loss to projected first-rounder Taylor Jungmann. After the Aggies scratched Stilson from his start in the first round of the Big 12 Conference tournament on Wednesday, an MRI revealed the labrum tear.
Stilson is a junior and was a projected first-round selection in next month's amateur draft. It's uncertain how the injury will impact his draft status.
"That's something that will be determined obviously in a couple of weeks as far as the draft goes," Childress said.
|Friday, May 27
Missouri has raised over $100,000 for Joplin tornado relief
The University of Missouri announced Friday that proceeds from its "One State. One Spirit. One Mizzou." tornado relief shirt campaign has topped the $100,000 mark for giving to the United Way's United For Joplin campaign.
More than 9,000 shirts have been sold just 72 hours after the start of the campaign and sales remain strong heading into the weekend. Shirts are already sold out at both the Tiger Team Store and University Bookstore locations in Columbia, but more shipments are expected by Tuesday afternoon of next week.
Fans are also encouraged to place orders online at mutigers.com for just $14.95 in addition to the aforementioned locations in Columbia.
Missouri third baseman Nicole Hudson is from Joplin, Mo., and her father's business was destroyed during last Sunday's tornado.
Great video report from KBTX on Texas A&M catcher Meagan May, who is back in action after a serious car accident last summer.
Graham Hays of ESPN.com writes that Oklahoma State softball coach Rich Wieligman's passion has helped him build a winning program.
Washington believes it's the underdog in its NCAA softball Super Regional in Columbia against Missouri.
Oklahoma has to play at Arizona - one of the most successful and storied programs in softball history - but the Sooners are confident of their chances in the Super Regional.
Jason King of Yahoo!Sports.com previews the top newcomers in Big 12 basketball for the upcoming season.
Baylor's Perry Jones III tells Andy Katz of ESPN.com why he decided to return for his sophomore season instead of putting his name in the NBA Draft.
|Wednesday, May 25
Condolences to the Splittorff family
Paul Splittorff, a veteran pitcher for the Kansas City Royals who went on to a broadcast career that included working as a Big 12 Conference basketball analyst, died Wednesday morning after a battle with oral cancer and melanoma. He was 64.
Following his retirement from baseball in 1984, Splittorff went into broadcasting that included play-by-play and analyst work that included football and basketball. He was a regular analyst on Big 12 Network basketball telecasts. He played basketball at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa; his passion and insight for the game were evident in his television work.
"The Big 12 Conference sends its condolences to the friends and family of Paul Splittorff," the Conference said in a statement. "Paul was a great broadcaster who started doing basketball games for the Big Eight Conference and continued that work with the Big 12. He loved college sports and was an outstanding professional as a broadcaster."
Splittorff, a left hander, spent his career with the Royals and was a workmanlike pitcher. He finished with a 166-143 and his 88 complete games are second all-time on the Royals' ledger. He is the career leader in starts (392) and innings (2,554.2). Splittorff was named to the Royals' 25th anniversary team in 1993, and was the Royals' pitcher of the year in 1973.
Mike Green, Iowa State sports information director for men's basketball, wrote this about his decade-long relationship with Splittorff.
UPDATE: Splittorff's funeral has been scheduled for May 31. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations be made to St. Mary's Medical Center Foundation, 201 NW R.D. Mize Road, Blue Springs, Mo. 64014.
|Monday, May 23 - Afternoon Update
Commissioner Dan Beebe, in an interview on Monday, confirmed that the 10-member Big 12 Conference will retain its current name as it goes forward. The decision to keep the name was made by the league’s board of directors.
“Most people believe that the Big 12 is the name on the banner under which we have competed, under which we’ve won national championships,” Beebe said. “I think the name we have is the name we’re going to continue with.”
Beebe said that a new branding initiative that will speak to the strength of the continuing 10 members is likely to be debuted during the Big 12’s football media days on July 25-26. The Conference has been working with GSD&M Idea City to develop the new strategies to brand the 10-member Big 12.
|Monday, May 23|
Baylor women's tennis in NCAA semifinal
Baylor senior Jelena Stanivuk won the decisive singles match to lift the Lady Bears to a 4-3 quarterfinal victory over No. 4 seed North Carolina in the NCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship.
For only the second time in school history, Baylor has reached the semifinals. The third-seeded Lady Bears (29-3) will face top-seeded and defending national champion Stanford on the Cardinal's home court at 6 p.m. CST Monday.
The Cardinal have won 45 straight matches, including a 4-2 decision against then top-seeded Baylor in last year's quarterfinals, and haven't lost at home since Feb. 27, 1999, an NCAA-record streak of 183 matches.
"You ask anybody if we have any chance," Scrivano told the Waco Tribune-Herald, "and they're going to say no. So we're going to play the match and find out."
Stanivuk's victory over North Carolina in singles was clutch. Baylor won the doubles point and two singles matches in straight sets to take a 3-0 lead before North Carolina rallied to win three singles points and deadlock the match at 3-all. Stanivuk lost the first set but won the last two to extend her career record in NCAA singles matches to 12-0.
"We knew it was going to be a really tough match," Baylor coach Joey Scrivano said. "We have a lot of respect for North Carolina. Even with things were going our way and it looked like momentum was totally in our corner, I still didn't want to get too confident, because this North Carolina team has won a lot of tough matches this year. They're the ACC champions, so we knew we just could not let up."
Baylor has won 19 consecutive matches. During that streak, 13 of those opponents have been ranked No. 41 or higher.
|Sunday, May 22|
Four Big 12 men's golf teams qualify for NCAA Championship
The Big 12 qualified four teams for the NCAA Men's Golf Championship, May 31-June 5, at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Texas earned their spots in regional play that wrapped up Saturday.
The Cowboys won the South Central Regional at Colorado National Golf Club. The Aggies finished second at the Southwest Regional at OMNI Tucson National. The Sooners finished third at the East Regional in Radford, Va., on the Pete Dye River Course. The Longhorns rallied late to finish fifth at the West Regional Championship at The Farms Golf Club.
The top five teams in regionals advance to the national championship.
The Big 12 also had three medalists in regional action - Oklahoma State's Kevin Tway, Oklahoma's Abraham Ancer and Missouri's Jace Long.
Oklahoma State posted a 282 score Saturday and won by 18 strokes. Tway, a senior, became the first three-time NCAA Regional individual champion in NCAA history by posting a 10-under 69 to finish one-stroke ahead of Arizona State's Scott Pinckney. Tway won NCAA regional titles in 2008 and 2009.
"It feels pretty good. It's the third regional that I have won, but hopefully I can win the NCAA and we can get the NCAA team title," Tway said. "I stayed pretty patient. I started off well, but then hit sort of a hiccup on nine (double bogey). I didn't let it bother me, and I just kept plugging along."
The top-ranked Cowboys have nine regional titles, the most in NCAA history. Oklahoma State will play in its 65th NCAA Championship; the Cowboys have never failed to qualify for the final event. The Cowboys have won eight of their 12 starts this season, their highest win total since their nine-victory season in 1994-95.
Missouri's Long equaled the school record with a 10-under par 62 to earn medalist honors
at the NCAA Southeast Regional in Ocala, Fla. Long is the first individual Tiger golfer to qualify for the NCAA Championship since 1990. Missouri finished in sixth place, the school's best finish since qualifying for the NCAA Championship in 2005.
Long had a 29 on his first nine holes and finished with nine birdies, an eagle and just one bogey. After shooting a 73 in the opening round, Long was 11-under par over his next 36 holes.
Baylor started Saturday tied for fourth at the NCAA Florida Regional and after the first seven holes was five-under par. That got the Bears to 16-under overall and first place. But over the last 11 holes, Baylor lost 11 shots to finish five-under and in seventh place. The Bears missed qualifying for the NCAA championship by three shots.
"It's disappointing," Baylor coach Greg Priest said. "I hate it for the guys. I know that was a huge goal for them, and I know that you've got a bunch of guys that are hurting. I think we had it sitting right there for the taking. We were in great position, and unfortunately we just didn't get it done today."
Texas A&M women finish seventh in NCAAs
The final round of the NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championships didn't go well for Texas A&M. The Aggies, playing on their home course, shot a 12-over 300 Saturday - but that was still good enough to finish seventh. It was the fourth top10 finish in school history.
"I'm proud of my kids," A&M coach Trelle McCombs told the Bryan-College Station Eagle. "The fact that they got themselves here is a huge accomplishment. We finished 16th out of 18 teams in the fall preview on our home course. A lot of people counted us out then, but we kept fighting and worked hard.
"This is a huge stage that most of those kids have never played before. Now that we have the experience, next year will be a lot of fun."
The Aggies only had one senior in their lineup, and McCombs can build next year's team around a budding star in Katerina Ruzickova. The freshman from the Czech Republic became the third player in A&M history to finish in the Top 10, claiming a share of sixth place with a 2-under 70 that was the fourth-lowest round of the day. She shot even par for 72 holes with lots of wind and a difficult course setup.
"She's pretty special," McCombs said. "She's one of those rarities that you hope to find in your coaching career. Her work ethic is like no other than I've ever seen. She loves the stage, being in the pressure. That's what she lives for."
UCLA edged Purdue, the defending national champion, to win its third national title and first since 2004.
Baylor men's tennis falls to Ohio State
After losing the doubles point to Ohio State, Baylor needed to do something it had not done all season. The fifth-seeded Bears came close but fell short.
The fifth-seeded Bears (22-5) had never won a match after losing in doubles. Facing fourth-seeded Ohio State in the NCAA quarterfinals Saturday in Stanford, Calif., Baylor wound up on the wrong end of a 4-2 final and was eliminated.
"The biggest thought (about the match) was that we fought hard," Baylor coach Matt Knoll said. "This team, as much as any team we've had, fought for everything we could get. We didn't win a lot of matches easy. We had to scrap for four points, and more often than not we were able to do that."
The Buckeyes won the clinching singles matches, with both results happening within minutes. Baylor's Julian Bley and John Peers were close to climbing out of early deficits before succumbing in their singles matches as Ohio State recorded the third and fourth points needed for the victory.
"We had some opportunities to get four, and we didn't do a good job of getting four," Knoll said. "We don't want to take the mentality that we want to take anything away from Ohio State, though. They deserved to win."
Texas A&M's Kennedy makes first hire
Texas A&M men's basketball coach Billy Kennedy has made his first hire, adding Memphis assistant Glynn Cyprien. A close friend of the Aggies' new coach, Cyprien has been with the Tigers the last two seasons.
Cyprien was on the staff of former A&M head coach Billy Gillispie at Kentucky before being hired at Memphis by Josh Pastner. Cyprien also was an assistant to Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State from 2000-04. He's also been an assistant at Texas-San Antonio, Lamar, Jacksonville, UNLV and Arkansas.
Mike Jones of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram nails it with this reaction to criticism over the recent salary increase received by Texas basketball coach Rick Barnes.
Jason and Jared King are key contributors to Kansas State's baseball team and their father Jeff has spent the season living in an RV as he travels to every game.
Oklahoma teammates reflect on their memories of senior linebacker Austin Box, who died Thursday.
Freshman Petra Niedermayerova - named the Big 12 freshman and player of the year - is the first Kansas State tennis player in nine seasons to compete in the NCAA championships.
|Thursday, May 19|
DeLoss Dodds, who has been in charge of Texas' men's athletic programs since 1982, was named the athletic director of the year at the fourth annual Sports Business Awards dinner. The awards are sponsored by Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, the two leading publications on the business of sports.
|Tuesday, May 17|
Hot links, served fresh
New coach Billy Kennedy says that after 13 coaching stops Texas A&M is his destination job. And Kennedy's new players liked what they heard about how the the Aggies' coach wants to play on offense.
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com points out that while Billy Kennedy might not have been Texas A&M's first choice as basketball coach, several other schools have made successful hires of coaches who weren't at the top of the list.
Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads wants college football to move toward a level playing field regarding scheduling.
Frank Martin treated for blood clots
Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin is recovering at home after being treated for blood clots that formed after a recent knee surgery. Martin, 45, had surgery on his right knee May 6. It was his second surgical procedure on the knee in the last two months. He has been receiving treatment for the clot at a Manhattan hospital every 12 hours since the clot was found on Friday.
Martin, who recently concluded his fourth season with the Wildcats, told a Kansas City television station that he is on house rest and is taking blood thinners. He says doctors believe they found the blood clot early, and as long as he follows the doctor's orders, he should be fine.
Oklahoma State's Peter Uihlein wins Hogan Award
Oklahoma State junior Peter Uihlein was named the recipient of the 2011 Ben Hogan Award by the Golf Coaches Association of America at a banquet held on Monday evening at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. The Hogan is considered the Heisman Trophy of collegiate golf.
"We are all here tonight because of Ben Hogan and what he has meant to golf. It is truly remarkable what Colonial is doing in keeping his tradition alive. He is one of the greatest players to ever live. To be here and see all of his memorabilia and awards is truly remarkable," Uihlein said.
The Hogan is presented annually to the top men's NCAA Division I, II or III, NAIA or NJCAA college golfer taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions during a 12-month period.
Uihlein is the fifth Cowboy to claim the honor - Kevin Wentworth (1990), Trip Kuehne (1995), Hunter Mahan (2003) and Rickie Fowler (2008). Uihlein's teammate Kevin Tway was one of three finalists - the first time in the history of the award that two players from the same school were finalists.
"When I was growing up and talking about Oklahoma State, I wanted to be a part of a tradition that was second to none. To be a part of a team at Oklahoma State with the nucleus that we have and to be a part of that tradition is truly remarkable" Uihlein said. "I want to thank the coaches, Coach McGraw and Coach Bratton. I will be back next year for my senior year and I wish I could go more. I truly love it there. I can truly say that I would not be standing up here if I would have gone anywhere other than Oklahoma State."
Prayers and best wishes
Paul Splittorff, the former Kansas City Royals pitcher who became a broadcaster and was a fixture on Big Eight and Big 12 conference basketball telecasts, is gravely ill with throat cancer and melanoma. He is hospitalized at KU Medical Center and KC Confidential reported that he was given Last Rites this week.
|Sunday, May 15|
Texas A&M coaching search update
Less than a week after Mark Turgeon left to become Maryland's coach, Texas A&M appears close to finding his replacement. The choice apparently is between Murray State coach Billy Kennedy and Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson.
Brent Zwenerman, who covers Texas A&M for the San Antonio Express-News, interviewed athletic director Bill Byrne and associate athletic director John Thornton early Sunday morning after they returned from North Dakota and an interview with Jacobson. Earlier Saturday they interviewed Kennedy in Memphis.
Zwenerman wrote that he expects Kennedy to get the job. A source indicated that one of the coaches on A&M's list of candidates had been informed that Kennedy would get the job.
Andy Katz of ESPN.com wrote late Sunday morning that the search process remains "fluid" as A&M administrators are debating between Jacobson and Kennedy. Katz wrote that one of his sources said "Jacobson appeared to be the new leader."
Byrne told Zwenerman to expect an announcement "soon" and also emphasized that the choice of a new basketball coach would need to be discussed with university president R. Bowen Loftin.
Zwenerman wrote on his blog: "I believe they've got their man, and will announce a press conference for Monday to introduce Kennedy as Mark Turgeon's successor."
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are in unique positions - each school has two players worthy of Heisman Trophy consideration. The sports information departments at each school won't rely on gimmicks to promote their candidates.
Bobby LaGesse of the Ames Tribune writes that Iowa State's basketball program needs stability before it improves in the win column.
A sweep of Iowa State Saturday gave Missouri at least a share of the regular-season championship in softball.
Kansas defensive end D.J. Marshall is back on the field after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in the fall of 2009.
Nathan Peterson, a former Oklahoma State defensive end, now is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corp and will be sent to Afghanistan in July.
|Friday, May 13|
Hot links, served fresh
Andy Katz of ESPN.com evaluates where the Texas A&M coaching search stands as the Aggies seek to replace Mark Turgeon.
Pending approval of athletic directors and school presidents, the Big 12 coaches voted to streamline - but not significantly change - the tiebreaker for football.
Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune writes that Missouri fans shouldn't be shocked that Tyler Gabbert decided to transfer.
Big 12 basketball is going through a number of changes, writes Dave Sittler of the Tulsa World.
As Texas A&M's men's tennis team heads into NCAA regional play, senior Austin Krajicek has helped the Aggies become a Big 12 and national power.
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman writes that Texas senior catcher Amy Hooks is one of the reasons why the Longhorns are ranked in the top five.
Baylor a "breakout" team for 2011-12
ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla wrote about six teams he believes could be "breakout" teams for the upcoming season. Baylor was one of those teams:
While the Bears didn't meet the high expectations that were placed on them last season, consider this a reset year for them. While traditional Big 12 powers Texas and Kansas look to be in rebuilding mode, Scott Drew's team is deep at every position. In fact, he'll boast two potential lottery picks in the 2012 NBA draft, 6-11 sophomore Perry Jones and 6-9 freshman Quincy Miller.
Coupled with Jones and Miller, seniors Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones and J'Mison Morgan give Drew as much depth up front as North Carolina next season. Acy is an energizer who is the most logical leader for this young team.
While the Bears' backcourt is in flux, there are more answers there than last season. Junior point guard A.J. Walton is the incumbent but will be pushed by junior college All-American Pierre Jackson. Cal transfer Gary Franklin is a combo guard, while Boston College transfer Brady Heslip - nephew of Toronto Raptors coach Jay Triano - is a deadeye shooter. Miller's high school teammate, Deuce Bello, is a human highlight film who will factor into this mix, as well.
|Tuesday, May 10|
Mark Turgeon leaves Texas A&M for Maryland
College basketball coaching changes can be described as a carousel. Or musical chairs. Or a game of dominoes. Whatever you call it, there are times when the merry go round stops suddenly or the music stops and you're left without a coach.
Last week Gary Williams picked an odd time to leave his job as Maryland's coach. The opening at Maryland caused the athletic directors at Arizona, Notre Dame and Pitt to sweat. Arizona's Greg Byrne sweated the most as Wildcats coach Sean Miller had an opportunity to move back East and take the Maryland job. Instead, he accepted a new contract offer to stay in Tucson.
Ironically, that decision eventually put Byrne's father in a tough spot. Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne needs a new men's basketball coach because Monday night Mark Turgeon accepted an offer to become Maryland's coach.
Your Humble Correspondent is sad to see Turgeon leave College Station. The man can coach. His teams rebounded, played tough defense, shared the ball and took good shots. His players also improved their skills year to year. Those are some of the reasons why the Aggies went 97-40 and made the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons.
Maryland can be - and has been - the third-best basketball school in the Atlantic Coast Conference, trailing Duke/North Carolina. The Terps play in a modern arena and the fans pack the place. Turgeon, who worked tirelessly to increase student attendance at Reed Arena, has at times been frustrated when the Aggies played to less than a full house. Attendance is probably not the reason he left Texas A&M but it might be a reason.
YHC also wants to give props to Turgeon for returning to College Station to personally tell his players and his assistants about his decision. Turgeon also talked with media immediately afterward, something that YHC recalls another former Big 12 coach failed to do.
Bill Byrne has a good track record of hiring coaches. Finding a men's basketball coach in mid-May is not easy. All the changes following the 2010-11 season have been made. Coaches who were courted but stayed put have signed new deals.
"The timing is difficult," Byrne told the San Antonio Express News Monday night. "We'll go find somebody good. … We can go out and attract great coaches."
Here's what Andy Katz of ESPN.com wrote: "Texas A&M will likely first target Marquette's Buzz Williams to replace Turgeon. Williams was a former Aggies assistant under then-coach Billy Gillispie. But Williams will be tough to pry away from Marquette after receiving a new contract and coaching the Golden Eagles into the Sweet 16 last March."
If Byrne hires a head coach from another school, another domino will fall, the carousel will spin and the music will start again - for that school.
|Monday, May 9|
One writer's "way-too-early" preseason Top 25
Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com offered up his post-spring practice Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 poll with five Big 12 schools making the list. Here's what he had to say about each one:
1. Oklahoma: The Sooners probably have fewer areas of concern than any other team in the country, which is a big reason why they might be poised to appear in their fifth BCS Championship Game since 2000. Quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Ryan Broyles are back to lead what should be a very prolific offense, albeit under new direction after former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson left to become Indiana's head coach. It appears OU will use a tailback-by-committee approach to replace departed leading rusher DeMarco Murray, and converted tight end Lane Johnson might have to replace right tackle Jarvis Jones, who will miss several months with a knee injury. Another big concern: All-Big 12 cornerback Jamell Fleming isn't enrolled in classes after reportedly being suspended for academic misconduct. If Fleming doesn't return this fall, it will be a big blow to a thin OU secondary.
6. Oklahoma State: Even without former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who left to become West Virginia's coach-in-waiting, the Pokes figure to have one of the country's most explosive attacks in 2011. Record-setting quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon are back, and running backs Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle will share carries while replacing departed star Kendall Hunter. New offensive coordinator Todd Monken didn't revamp OSU's spread offense; he only applied a few adjustments, so expect a smooth transition. Just as important, the Pokes will bring back all five starting offensive linemen, including four seniors. In 13 games last season, OSU allowed only 10 quarterback sacks in 532 pass attempts. The Pokes will have to find depth at defensive tackle, but Shaun Lewis looks like a future star at middle linebacker. OSU's offense is good enough to lead it to a BCS bowl game, but its defense will have to continue to improve.
9. Texas A&M: If quarterback Ryan Tannehill picks up where he left off last season, the Aggies might end up being Oklahoma's biggest threat in the Big 12. Texas A&M brings back two productive running backs (Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael) and two big-play receivers (Jeff Fuller and Ryan Swope). Tannehill completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,638 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions after taking over the starting job, leading the Aggies to a 5-1 record. The Aggies should be better in their second season in defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's 3-4 scheme, but they'll have to replace All-American linebacker Von Miller. Texas A&M plays only four true road games this coming season and gets Oklahoma State, Missouri and Texas at home.
18. Missouri: Gary Pinkel guided Missouri to 40 victories over the past four seasons with high-octane offenses built around quarterbacks like Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert. If Missouri is going to be a legitimate contender in 2011, its defense might have to carry the load. The Tigers are going to have one of the league's best defensive lines, even after losing NFL first-rounder Aldon Smith. Brad Madison and Jacquies Smith are solid pass rushers, and Kony Ealy had an outstanding spring. James Franklin held off Tyler Gabbert (Blaine's younger brother) for the No. 1 quarterback spot in spring practice, but the battle probably won't be decided until preseason camp. The Tigers will play at least three difficult road games: at Arizona State, at Oklahoma and at Texas A&M.
20. Texas: The Longhorns have five new coaches, including both coordinators, and still haven't settled on a starting quarterback after spring practice. But it's just hard to imagine Texas limping through another losing season in 2011. Four players were battling for the starting quarterback job during spring practice, including 2010 starter Garret Gilbert and Case McCoy, the younger brother of former UT star Colt McCoy. More than anything, the Longhorns need an every-down running back, which is why incoming freshman Malcolm Brown will get a long look during preseason camp. New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will have to rebuild UT's secondary while installing his aggressive scheme.
SI.com's Stewart Mandel writes that Oklahoma "is indeed loaded"
The Sooners, who return quarterback Landry Jones, receiver Ryan Broyles and linebacker Travis Lewis, among others, have long been pegged as the likely preseason No. 1 team. But the scary thing we learned this spring is that even some of the returning non-starters are pretty darn good. Bob Stoops at one point called sophomore linebacker Corey Nelson the best player on OU's defense, which is interesting considering Nelson began spring as the backup to All-American Lewis and the Sooners return three other former starting linebackers as well. Sophomore safety Aaron Colvin led all Sooners with eight tackles in the spring game, and sophomore Gabe Lynn asserted himself as a solid starting cornerback and serviceable fill-in for All-Big 12 honoree Jamell Fleming, whose academic status is in limbo.
If there's an area of uncertainty for Oklahoma, it's running back, where sophomores Roy Finch and Brennan Clay and freshman Brandon Williams are vying to fill DeMarco Murray's shoes. As of now, none are surefire feature backs.
Texas changes a top spring story line
Thayer Evans of FOXSports.com, listed his five top storylines coming out of spring football. The changes at Texas made the list and here's what Evans wrote:
After a 5-7 record last season, in which the Longhorns missed a bowl for the first time since 1997, coach Mack Brown overhauled his coaching staff. He brought in Bryan Harsin, a former Boise State offensive coordinator, as co-offensive coordinator and Manny Diaz as defensive coordinator, a position he held previously at Mississippi State. Yet the biggest question facing the Longhorns is at quarterback. Returning starter junior Garrett Gilbert struggled last season with 10 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions and will be challenged this fall by sophomore Case McCoy, redshirt freshman Connor Wood and freshman David Ash. McCoy outplayed Gilbert in the spring game, but McCoy's arm strength is lacking. Ash might be the best talent physically, but he has a ways to go in terms of maturity.
How Big 12 shapes up in basketball
The 2011-12 college basketball season will be the first after last summer's realignment of several conferences. Yahoo!Sports.com's Jason King takes a look at the Big 12 after the departure of Nebraska and Colorado.
The good: Most Big 12 coaches - especially Rick Barnes - are excited about being able to determine a "true" conference champion. Under the old 16-game format, for instance, the six teams from the North Division would play each other twice while facing their foes from the South Division only once. That was usually beneficial to Kansas, because North Division teams usually haven't been as strong as those from the South (although that's changed a bit in recent years), so the Jayhawks had an easier path to the title. The new 18-game format will call for each school to play each other twice, once at home and once on the road. At the end of the season no one will be able to argue about who had the best team.
The bad: A few coaches are bristling at the thought of playing an 18-game league schedule because of the extra wear and tear - both mentally and physically - it could have on their players. "The league is harder now," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "You're not going to see anyone go 16-2." Maybe, but it still isn't something coaches should complain about. They play 18 games in the Big East. They do it in the Pac-12. They can do it in the Big 12.
Links to start your week
Texas junior Taylor Jungmann has the combination of power and control that has Major-League scouts paying attention.
There's still the "ping" sound of ball hitting aluminum bats in college baseball, but the change in the bats' construction has had a great impact on offense in college baseball this season.
Olin Buchanan of Rivals.com writes that Oklahoma State junior wide receiver Justin Blackmon is making a name for himself and his hometown of Ardmore.
Rivals.com has a ranking system based on success of football during the BCS Era along with men's basketball success. In the top 30 of the rankings, the Big 12 has two of the top four schools and five in the top 30.
|Wednesday, May 4|
What does the Pac-12 TV deal mean for the Big 12?
Your Humble Correspondent's qualifications for assessing billion-dollar television deals could is limited to knowing how to work a remote control. That might well be true. But here's a few semi-educated thoughts based on Wednesday's news that the Pacific-12 Conference has a new 12-year television contract that is worth $3 billion.
* The Pac-12, borrowing the headline from the Big 12 announcement, called it a "landmark" deal. The same was true when the Big 12 announced its deal with FOX Sports Media Group in mid-April. Both can be categorized as landmark deals. Like the Big 12, the Pac-12 was the beneficiary of negotiating the right deal at the right time. The Pac-12 (formerly as the Pac-10) had been undervalued in the market place. That market place is now thirsting for college sports properties. That helped the Big 12 strike its deal.
* ABC/ESPN sees FOX as a worthy competitor in the battle to gain college sports inventory. NBC/Comcast is a recent addition to the competition. By signing the Pac-12 deal, both ABC/ESPN and FOX kept their slices of the pie while keeping NBC/Comcast from gaining a beach head in the college landscape. NBC/Comcast envisions turning VERSUS into a competitor of ESPN and was desperately trying to get a foot-hold in the collegiate marketplace and drove the price up. Similarly, FOX tried to land a deal with the Atlantic Coast Conference last year but drove up the price for the deal that ESPN eventually struck with the ACC.
* The Pac-12 agreement with ABC/ESPN and FOX is for more product - over the air (first tier) and cable (second tier) rights for football and men's basketball (including the championship game in football and the postseason tournament in basketball). The Big 12's deal with FOX that kicks in for the 2011-12 season is only for football second-tier rights, plus some Olympic Sports and championship events.
* The Pac-12 deal also includes the sale of its member schools digital rights (including web sites). Plus, the Pac-12 announced that it plans to start its own network. Big 12 schools have maintained their digital rights plus the option of starting their own network distribution streams (third tier) via either traditional cable/satellite distribution or digital offerings.
* While the Big Ten Network has become profitable, it required start-up costs and hard work to get it carried on cable systems. The Pac-12 network will face similar challenges. Whatever its new TV deal is worth, subtract around $100 million to account from starting from scratch. Comcast is the major cable company on the West Coast. Now that it has lost out on getting Pac-12 programming for VERSUS, will it be more resistant in carrying a Pac-12 network.
* The Pac-12 quadrupled its television income with its new first- and second-tier deal, which is considered as the richest college TV agreement ever. The Pac-12 TV deal means that each of its schools will receive over $20 million per year in TV revenue alone, but the Big 12 will be back in the marketplace in less than five years and is excited about where the marketplace is headed in advance of their negotiations.
* The Big 12 quadrupled its income with its second-tier deal from FOX. Combined with its current first-tier deal with ABC/ESPN, each Big 12 school will receive approximately $17 million per year from television revenue, but that does not include the revenue that member institutions can garner for the remaining rights for school channels or digital offerings.
* The Big 12's current first-tier rights deal with ABC/ESPN, which expires after the 2015-16 season, is worth a reported $60 million per year. If that only doubles (a conservative estimate) in value to $120 million, the Big 12 would be receiving $210 million for its first- and second-tier rights. That's $21 million per Big 12 school. If the first-tier deal triples to $180 million, the total TV money for the Big 12 would be $270 million or $27 million per school. If the first-tier rights quadruple as did the second-tier rights, then the total in TV money would be a staggering $330 million per year, $33 million per school.
* Why so much television money for college sports? For television, sports is the ultimate reality TV. There are four pro sports leagues (even though the NHL draws few eyeballs). There are six major collegiate conferences; television is turning to those six conferences for live programming that will be watched live. Viewers might DVR their favorite entertainment program and fast forward through the commercials. Viewers/fans watch their college sports telecasts as they happen. That's why advertisers will pay more for commercials on sports telecasts and why networks can afford billion-dollar contracts.
Expect Big 12 football to be the bell-cow as FX, one of FOX's top cable properties, returns to the college football landscape in 2011. FX, which is in nearly 100 million homes, is reported to be the highest-rated cable network in the all important 18-34 male demographic. Televising college football should only strengthen its position.
Texas alum in charge of Osama Bin Laden raid
A 1977 University of Texas alumnus was in charge of the planning of the mission that led to the death of Osama Bin Laden. Vice Adm. William H. McRaven took over leadership of the more than 60,000 troops in the Joint Special Operations Command in 2008.
McRaven is a highly decorated Navy SEAL who participated in the Naval ROTC program while at UT. Awards during his 35-year career include the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit and Defense Superior Service Medal. McRaven is the highest-ranking active duty UT Naval ROTC graduate.
It's interesting that McRaven graduated from UT with a degree in journalism. Your Humble Correspondent is proud that someone from his profession morphed into a career that led to a meaningful and historic event in world history.
"I was fascinated that somebody with a journalism degree had gone to special forces and been a SEAL," retired Adm. Bobby Inman, a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, told The Daily Texan. "He has demonstrated that he is truly a distinguished graduate of the University."
David Ubben, who covers the Big 12 for ESPN.com, breaks down the Big 12's football television contract future now that the Pacific-12 Conference has announced its new deal.
Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido overcame his reluctance to author a "life lessons" book called "Life Is Yours To Win."
Former Missouri basketball player Kareem Rush, who has started a singing career, performed at the school's awards banquet Monday night.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger has a background in football but he's giving second-year coach Turner Gill plenty of space.
For Missouri coach Ehren Earleywine, softball is hard ball - his Tigers play the game in an aggressive manner.
Texas men's basketball coach Rick Barnes was honored by the United States Basketball Writers Association with its "Good Guy Award" (video link).
New Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith has been a busy recruiting and touring the state drumming up support for the Tigers.
Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin touched on a variety of topics in this Q and A with the Wichita Eagle.