Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Big Ten Bloggers roundtable, part 1.

In honor of the Big Ten media days, which begin today, the Big Ten Bloggers roundtable begins with a series of questions posed by BadgerTracker at Wisconsin Badger Sports. Despite his alphabetizing issues, I commend BadgerTracker for getting things rolling. You can find other bloggers' answers here, here, here, here, here, here. Here are mine:
1a. The press and the coaches will be predicting the Big Ten champ at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Wednesday. That's fine, but overdone. In lieu of boilerplate predictions of who will come out on top, which Big Ten team will be the most surprising? Remember, surprises can be good or bad; the underdog who comes out of nowhere to share the title is just as surprising as the favorite who winds up with five losses and no bowl bid.

With all due respect to the originator of this slate of questions, I think it's going to be Wisconsin. I expect Wisconsin to be a very good team this season, but I think last year's 12-1 record, which did include a nice win over Arkansas in the Capital One Bowl. Will be very difficult to match. Even for a program that has improved as much as Wisconsin in the last 15 years, there's no shame in going 9-3 or 8-4. Still, thanks to last season's impressive record and finish, the Badgers have been in or near the top 5 in almost all of the unofficial preseason polls that I have seen. Wisconsin lost the highly underrated John Stocco and the best offensive lineman in the league. While I am not eagerly anticipating the Hoosiers' trip to Camp Randall, I do expect the Badgers to go 5-3 in the conference, losing at home to Michigan and at Ohio State, plus one more (possibly at Penn State). I suppose Badger old-timers can take solace in the idea that 9-3 could be a disappointing season. Based on the preseason accolades, I do think a 5-3 Big Ten record counts as a disappointment, and that's where I think the Badgers will be.
1b. Imagine it's December, and the consensus in the media is that your team's season was "surprising." Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? What would have to happen for you to consider your team's season surprising?

Every year, the Peegs board is aflame with criticism of this preseason mag or that for picking the Hoosiers to finish 10th or 11th in the Big Ten. Who can blame the writers? Since 1995, we have obliged nearly every season. Unfortunately, it's one of the safest bets in college football. Had Coach Hep been alive and healthy to coach this season, IU would have been a trendy pick based on schedule, the youth of last year's roster, returning starters, and this season's schedule, IU would be a trendy pick to finish in the top half of the Big Ten. With the reality of Hep's death and the uncertainty surrounding the program, most prognosticators expect us to do about what Northwestern did last year. So yes, I think that if the media consensus is that IU was "surprising," it will mean that IU is playing in late December/early January and Bill Lynch is building a new house.

For me personally to consider the season surprising? I would have to say 8-4 would surprise me quite a bit. IU likely will be favored in all four of its non-conference games (Akron, @ Western Michigan, Indiana State, Ball State). IU plays Illinois and Minnesota at home and Northwestern on the road. I won't predict that IU will win all of those games, but none seems like a stretch. I may be overly optimistic, but I currently have 7-5 at the far end of "realistic" (with 2-10 at the far low end). IU's five other games are @ MSU, @ Iowa, @ Wisconsin, Penn State, and Purdue. If IU can win all seven "realistic" games and add one more (probably Purdue), I would be surprised, not at any individual outcome, but because things just don't fall together like that for IU.

2. A preseason player of the year will also be dubbed in Chicago. For your team to succeed, which player or unit is going to have to put forth a "player of the year" performance? What's the one position that would take your team to the next level if it performs above expectations?

Anyone with even passing knowledge of the Hoosiers knows the answer to this: the defense, particularly the front seven. IU needs to be able to stop the run to take some pressure off the defensive backs. With nearly everyone back on offense, the Hoosiers will score some points, especially if the running game can improve a bit. With Marcus Thigpen and Tracy Porter returning kicks/punts, the Hoosiers will score some special teams touchdowns. If the defense can just become respectable, IU could win some meaningful games this season.

3. Which Big Ten team's out-of-conference schedule would you most want to have this year? Why? Do you think your team will have out-of-conference losses this year?

I want ours. IU plays Indiana State, at Western Michigan, and Akron before beginning the Big Ten season, and then plays Ball State in November. Yes, it's a joke. Yes, this sort of scheduling is bad for college football. Yes, I would welcome a change in NCAA rules, allowing no more than 13 home games in a two year period and prohibiting I-AA games if such a rule could survive a legal challenge. But IU is in no position to unilaterally disarm. We need four non-conference wins because a bowl, any bowl, would be an important step for our program.

Oddly enough, while the MAC has had some success against some of the middle and upper tier Big Ten programs (Penn State, Purdue, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have fallen victim), IU has a 17-game winning streak against the MAC dating back to a 1978 loss to Miami. My fear is that we are due, but ultimately I do not expect IU to lose a non-conference game. While Big Ten teams can exploit IU's flaws in the trenches, I think any MAC team will have a hell of a time with Kellen Lewis and James Hardy. Yes, we lost to Southern Illinois last year, so I realize anything can happen.

4. Here's a chance to look like a complete genius in a few months: pick the biggest in-conference upset that will happen this season. Justify your prediction!

Illinois over Penn State in Champaign. I don't know what he's selling or why the recruits are buying, but Zooker is accumulating enough blue-chippers that they are going to get a scalp sooner or later.

5. Say something nice about the Big Ten school whose name precedes yours alphabetically. Say something mean about the one that comes after.

Illinois: This is a tough one. Things are a bit testy between the Hoosiers and Illini. In football, each school zeroes in on the other as a likely win at the beginning of the season, so the loser of the annual game between the two programs faces the bitter realization that it's going to be a long season. In basketball, well, the Illini seem to be a bit worked up (as in, completely unhinged, from the coach to the Pravda-like downstate Illinois media to the fans) about a 17 year old kid who changed his mind about where he's going to go to college. Something nice? Well, despite the threats that Eric Gordon has received, as far as I know no Illini fan has actually followed through on a promise to do him physical harm. Not nice enough? Although I have never been there, the Illini's Memorial Stadium

looks like a really nice stadium. So many of the old stadiums have been so extensively renovated that they are unrecognizable, but Illinois's stadium retains a really stately look, and hopefully that will survive the current renovation.

Iowa: There's something profoundly insecure about a program that has to paint the visiting locker room pink. I don't blame Iowans for venerating Hayden Fry, but what a surly sore winner that guy was! Also, good call and pushing Tom Davis out the door. NCAA titles are sure to follow!

6. USC: great football program, or greatest football program? Also, how about that SEC? Damn, those guys are fast!

USC: USC is great, but let's not forget that just a few years ago they were wallowing during the second John Robinson era and the Paul Hackett era. Every great program has had an era in which it looked absolutely invincible. Every great program, has had an era in which the media proclaimed the program would never again compete at a high level. Ten years ago, USC and Oklahoma were terrible and Nebraska looked invincible. Still, USC has had seven Heisman winners, and six of the seven have never slashed the throat of the mother of their children and a waiter. What other school can say that?
SEC: I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics. Each school, as well as each conference, simply must do what fits their mission regardless...oh, wait, I'm not a blowhard, loose-cannon conference commissioner. I like the SEC, think it's a fun conference to watch, and would love to spend a football season hopping to each venue. I hate the speed myth. I think there is indeed a disregard among many SEC fans and institutions for the student-athlete concept, but I don't think Jim Delany, given some of the offenses committed by Big Ten schools during his tenure, is the person to point it out.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Mizzou perspective.

My post on Big Ten expansion candidates drew a comment from the author of Mizzou Sanity, a blog covering Missouri sports, obviously. He has a couple of posts concerning Big Ten expansion and Missouri's possible interest in joining the Big Ten. MS pointed out this article from the Dallas Morning News concerning the Big XII's revenue sharing procedures. To entice the Texas school to reject overtures from the Pac-10 and SEC, the Big XII, during its formation, allowed schools that make more appearances on television to collect more money. According to the article, half of the TV revenue is split equally, and the other half is distributed based upon appearance fees. How much of a difference does that make?
Under the current formula, the so-called haves in the conference earn anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million more per year in television revenue than the have-nots.
Athletic budgets in the Big 12 average nearly $50 million with Texas at the top end ($83 million) and Iowa State at the bottom ($32 million).
It's not a surprise that a conference in which the members are not equal partners would experience some tension. On the other hand, taking $1.5 million from Texas and giving it to Iowa State would not create financial parity in the Big XII. Would Mizzou leave the Big XII over $1.5 million? Is it the principle of the thing? Who knows. I can't imagine that Missouri's position in the Big Ten would be much better, unless the Big Ten makes that much more money off of its TV contracts. I don't know the answer to that. In the Big Ten, although the league does pool all TV and bowl money, the schools that sell the most tickets and T-shirts have the largest budgets.


I have updated the blogroll recently. There is going to be some sort of a Big Ten blog roundtable this season, and I believe that I have added every blog from that group whose identity I can discern. Also, note that Hoosier running back Bryan Payton (great name for a running back) has started a blog with the appropriately literal name "Inside IU Football." This should be a fun read as the season progresses, especially during preseason practice, when information can be difficult to obtain. Lest anyone be concerned about whether this endeavor is appropriately sanctioned by the program, Bryan reports in his latest post that the blog will be moving to IU's official site on August 6.

US defeats Panama, finishes fifth in Pan-Am Games.

Do we get the canal back? The US team did recover nicely from the two early losses, although they needed a comeback to defeat Panama 77-74(box score in .pdf). DJ White scored 14 points on 10 shots (6-10 from the field, 2-5 from the line), 6 rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes. He did commit four fouls. Now DJ gets a couple of weeks off before IU begins practice in mid August in preparation for the Bahamas trip.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

DJ playing well in Rio.

USA Basketball once again is out of medal contention, but after dropping the first two games, the US beat Argentina 74-71 last night, led by DJ's 22 points. Here's the box score (pdf). White managed 22 points on only 14 shots (8-14) and went 6-8 from the line. The ESPN story says 13 rebounds but the box score says 7. The US now advances to play the US Virgin Islands in the consolation bracket.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Expansion talk again?

There hasn't been serious expansion talk since 1999, when Notre Dame's administration seriously considered joining up. Nevertheless, the commish has revived that talk with a suggestion that the existence of the BTN makes expansion more valuable. Where might the league be looking?:

"Wherever," Delany said when asked about specifics. "With the network — there's a different element. It changes the dynamics."

This statement:

"We have eight states. With expansion, you could have nine."

suggests that the focus would be on expanding the league's footprint rather than adding a school within the current Big Ten territory such as Iowa State or Pitt. I have often heard, but never confirmed, that the Big Ten bylaws require that expansion be limited to contiguous states, so for now I will forget Texas and other attractive schools elsewhere. Is there a good fit in the adjacent states? Let's consider what Penn State added to the conference: 1) one of the nation's most prominent football programs; 2) academic profile very similar to that of many Big Ten schools; 3) two significant media markets. Limiting ourselves to contiguous states, who are the possibilities and how do they measure up? (For what it's worth, here is how the eleven Big Ten schools are ranked by US News & World Report among "national universities": 14. Northwestern; 24. Michigan; 34. Wisconsin; 41. Illinois; 47. Penn State; 57. Ohio State; 64. Iowa; 64. Purdue; 67. Minnesota; 70. Indiana; 70. Michigan State). (P.S. I started this post before realizing that mgoblog was doing much the same thing. Since my approach is a bit different, here goes.)

From east to west:

  • Rutgers. 1) Athletics: Meh. The Scarlet Knights have always been a supposed sleeping giant. They did play in the first college football game ever, so they have that going for them. Rutgers finally seems to have found a really good coach who actually wants to be at Rutgers, and combined with the departure of Miami, BC, and VT from the Big East, could emerge as a perennial contender in the Big East. Could they compete with Michigan and OSU for Big Ten supremacy? Seems pretty unlikely. Rutgers has had a bit more success in basketball, but not much. Rutgers has a fairly new football stadium (opened in 1994), but at 41,000 would be the conference's smallest football stadium by far (Ryan Field seats around 49,000; IU's Memorial Stadium will seat somewhere between 53,000-54,000 when the current construction is complete). 2) Academics: Rutgers is ranked #60 in the US News rankings, right in the middle of the pack. That wouldn't be an issue. 3) Media markets. Rutgers is in the NYC market, the Holy Grail for conference commissioners and TV executives (is there a difference anymore?). My main concern would be whether Rutgers is of any significance in the NYC market. Do Rutgers games have any ratings pull? Would any cable subscribers in New York or Connecticut care if the BTN were on their cable system? I'm less than overwhelmed by Rutgers.
  • Maryland. I'm trying to list all theoretical candidates in contiguous states, not just the real candidates, if there are any. Maryland doesn't immediately come to mind as a state anywhere near Big Ten territory, but it's right there south of Pennsylvania. 1) Athletics: Maryland isn't a football power, but has had a nice run in recent years. Maryland is more of a basketball school, and in light of that seems quite unlikely to leave the ACC. 2) Academics: Maryland ranks #54 in the USN&WP sweepstakes, right in the heart of the Big Ten. 3) Media markets: Baltimore, of course, and Maryland seems to be a bigger draw in the shared Washington TV market than Rutgers is in New York. In sum, it seems that Maryland has everything the Big Ten would want except for any inclination to join.
  • Syracuse. The Orangemen have long been mentioned as a possible candidate. One would have to think that any Big East school, despite competitive concerns, would have a tough time saying no to the Big Ten. 1) Athletics: tradition rich, if currently downtrodden football program. I don't know enough about Syracuse's athletic history to know how long this has been the case, but in my living memory as a sports fan, Syracuse is a basketball school, one of the traditional powers of the Big East. Would Jim Boeheim want to trade Madison Square Garden for Conseco Fieldhouse, and if not, would he have enough power to stop it? 2) Academics: Syracuse is private school, small by Big Ten standards but fairly large for a private school: about 13,000 undergrads, 19,000 total. USN&WR ranks Syracuse #52. 3) Media markets: I don't know much about Syracuse's fan following. I presume that the Orange are closely followed in Syracuse and Rochester, but are they Buffalo's team? I know that SU draws much of its student population from metro New York, but is there any interest there?
  • West Virginia. 1) Athletics. Good football program, solid basketball program. Again, WVU might have a hard time turning us down, but the football staff might be perfectly happy not having to go to Columbus in November. 2) Academics: not among the top 124 USN&WR universities. Still, as the state's flagship university, WVU probably isn't too much of a stretch. 3) Media: Not much. WV is pretty lightly populated. If I recall correctly, Morgantown gets its TV from Pittsburgh, a market that already has a Big Ten presence via PSU.
  • Louisville. 1) Athletics: Same caveat as all other Big East teams--big fish, small pond, etc. Top shelf basketball tradition, of course, and a remarkable renaissance in football. As a bitter Indiana fan, I have to note that building a football program in C-USA isn't as hard as building one in the Big Ten, but UL's improvement is impressive by any standard. 2) Academics: USN&WR doesn't seem to give away its entire rankings for free anymore. When they did, my recollection is that UL was in tier four. For reference, Ball State is Tier 3 and Indiana State is Tier 4. UL has a research component and a med school, but as an undergrad institution Louisville is a commuter school that isn't in the same league as any Big Ten school. As Brian notes, whatever the athletic merits, UL's academic reputation almost certainly would be a dealbreaker. 3)Media: not much. UL's fan base is concentrated in Louisville, essentially, and IU already has some presence in that market.
  • Kentucky. This one intrigues me. 1) Athletics: not a great football program, but Kentucky does seem to support its football program well. UK's basketball program is legendary, of course. As Brian notes, UK is a charter member of the SEC. Still, UK might be the flip side of the Big East coin. As the SEC is currently aligned, absent a blimp crash at the Cocktail Party, UK will never play in the SEC title game. The right Big Ten alignment might look attractive to Kentucky. As for hoops, they have an existing rivalry with IU. Indeed, it would immediately become the Big Ten's signature basketball rivalry, with twelve combined NCAA titles (compared to a measly seven for Duke-Carolina). UK has been in the SEC since the beginning, but oddly enough, its two biggest rivals (Louisville and Indiana) are non-conference rivals. 2) Academics. UK is #112 in US News, lower than every Big Ten school, but not outrageously so. UK is the state's flagship public university and doesn't strike me as a stretch academically. 3) Media: UK is immensely popular throughout the state, and of course would deliver the middling Lexington market. The currently split markets of Louisville and Cincinnati would be Big Ten territory on both sides of the river. In sum, as a Hoosier, I can't help but be somewhat hoops-centric, although I think UK is a worthy addition in football: I would prefer Kentucky over any other candidate in the states contiguous to Big Ten territory.
  • Missouri. 1) Athletics. Mizzou is a mystery. Missouri is a decent-size state with two large metro areas, yet the Tigers have never emerged as a power in either sport. Thanks to Maryland's recent success, Mizzou probably holds the less-than-prestigious title of "best basketball program without a Final Four appearance." The football program had its moments under Dan Devine half a century ago, but in modern times, Mizzou is best known for finding uniquely awful ways to lose (the fifth down against Colorado; the kicked ball against Nebraska). Still, the potential seems to be there. It is unclear whether Mizzou fans and alumni would be willing to walk away from a long history in the Big 8/XII or from their rivalry with Kansas. The Tigers do have an existing rivalry with Illinois. 2) Academics: #88 in USN&WR. Like Kentucky, ranked lower than all Big Ten schools, but not outrageously so. 3) Media: the Tigers would bring the bulk of the population of metro St. Louis and some significant portion (probably more than half) of the KC market. Anyone who lives there can correct me if I'm wrong, but I have never had the impression that either St. Louis or KC is crazy about Mizzou. Overall, Missouri is a solid fit but not terribly exciting.
  • Nebraska: 1) Athletics: legendary football program, nothing on the basketball side. Long history of Big 8/XII membership and a division that it should dominate. I'm guessing that NU fans wouldn't like the move. 2) Academics: #98. See Kentucky and Mizzou. 3) Media: nothing of note. Still, the state follows Husker football with religious fervor. Would the Big Ten be better off with a populous state like Missouri that seems lukewarm about its flagship university, or a less populated, rural state like Nebraska where it seems that nearly everyone is invested?

I don't have any idea on the likelihood of any particular school joining. As is obvious above, I would like to see Kentucky in the league. Louisville will never happen. I could live with any of the others. The question Delany and Co. will have to ask is whether expansion is worthwhile absent a slam-dunk such as Penn State or Notre Dame.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The FCC order.

With a big hat tip to Jason, who found it and posted the URL in comments, here's the FCC order. Little time today, but here are a few excerpts:

From paragraph 66:

In contrast, with respect to RSNs, we conclude, as we did in the Comcast-AT&T merger, that the relevant geographic market for RSNs is regional.218 In general, contracts between sports teams and RSNs limit the distribution of the content to a specific "distribution footprint," usually the area in which there is significant demand for the specific teams whose games are being transmitted. MVPD subscribers outside the footprint thus are unable to view many of the sporting events that are among the most popular programming offered by RSNs. We thus find it reasonable to define the relevant geographic market as the "distribution footprint" established by the owner of the programming.

From paragraph 148:
At the outset, we agree with commenters that there are no reasonably available substitutes for News Corp.’s RSN programming and that News Corp. thus currently possesses significant market power in the geographic markets in which its RSNs are distributed. We base these conclusions, in part, on the limited number of teams and games of local interest that are available and [REDACTED],455 and on our economic analysis, described below, of the effects of temporary withdrawals of such programming from MVPD subscribers. An additional feature of RSN programming that sets it apart from general entertainment programming is the time-sensitivity of the airing of important local professional sports events, such as opening days or playoffs. As we have previously observed,456 RSNs are comprised of assets of fixed or finite supply – exclusive rights to local professional sports teams and events – for which there are no acceptable readily available substitutes. These peculiar features of RSN programming give rise to somewhat unique competitive problems in terms of
finding relatively close substitute programming in the event access that is foreclosed to rival MVPDs.

From paragraph 175:
Thus, our remedy is to allow MVPDs to demand commercial arbitration when they are unable to come to a negotiated “fair” price for the programming. The staff analysis has found that the allure of temporary withholding to News Corp. is substantial, even after the ability invariably to obtain supracompetitive affiliate fee increases is eliminated. Accordingly we do not allow News Corp. to deauthorize carriage of the RSN after an MVPD has chosen to avail itself of the arbitration condition. We also specify that expedited arbitration procedures be used and that the final offers submitted to the arbitrator by each side may not include any compensation for RSN carriage in the form of the MVPD’s agreement to carry any video programming networks or any other service other than the RSN.

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.
As to the remedy for a price dispute, a provider may demand arbitration. The arbitration is conducted by a single arbitrator and approximates the method used in baseball, where each side proposes a number and the arbitrator must select one of the two positions rather than coming up with his own compromise figure.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dish Network seeks relief from FCC.

Echostar, which owns Dish Network, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to declare that the Big Ten Network is a "regional sports network" (RSN). The significance of this designation is that under the terms of a 2004 FCC order, the BTN would be forced into arbitration to determine a fair price for carrying the network. The 2004 order related to Rupert Murdoch's huge market presence. Murdoch's Newscorp owns DirecTV, numerous Fox television stations, various RSNs, and ten cable networks, and the arbitration provisions were a condition of the company's acquisition of DirecTV. Neither article sheds much light on the definition of a RSN. I have a busy day, but perhaps tonight I will try to track down the FCC order.
EDIT: Until I get a look at that order, I'm basically talking out my posterior, but it does seem to me that a fundamental distinction between the BTN and a RSN is that the BTN is making all of its programming available nationally, even if the primary interest in that program is in the eight state Big Ten region. For stupid MLB blackout reasons, I subscribe to the DirecTV Sports Pack, which gives me access to all of the nation's RSNs. I'm able to watch the Cubs (and White Sox, I guess) on Comcast Sports Net Chicago, the Reds on FSN Ohio, and the Pacers, but otherwise, the RSNs are useless. The MLB , NBA, and NHL games, the RSNs' primary reasons for existing, are governed by the particular sport's blackout rules. So, while the appeal of the BTN unquestionably is higher in a particular part of the country, the BTN's programming, other than the occasional regionalized football/basketball coverage, will not vary by region. I don't know if that is a meaningful distinction, but it is a distinction.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Interview of Mark Silverman.

Mike Pegram of IU's Rivals site just posted an extensive interview of Mark Silverman, president of the BTN. Peegs did a great job. This is by far the most extensive comment I have seen from the BTN concerning the specific nature of the programming. If my BTN posts do not cause your eyes to glaze over, I highly recommend that you read the whole thing. The highlights:
  • DirecTV will have all of the regional feeds.
  • Except during the pre-conference portion of the football season, the BTN hopes to avoid regionalizing the coverage--for instance, they will stagger the start times of Wednesday evening basketball games to allow all games to air on the BTN.
  • The BTN will air classic games. Because the once-great Classic Sports Network has trasformed into the ESPN Poker/Boxing/Movie Network, this is good news.

Some pushback on the BTN; Time Warner Q&A.

Dang ol' Google News Search, I tell you what. Here's a letter to the editor of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette from former IU defensive back Curtis Randle El, best known as the big brother of IU legend Antwaan Randle El. He provides the student-athlete's perspective:

The amount of time and effort put into preparing for each and every game was tremendous, and it was always disappointing when family or friends weren't able to watch an un-televised game. The Big Ten Network would ensure that all athletes, regardless of gender or sport, would receive more airtime and coverage.

CRE makes a fair point. It's great that many athletes, particularly in non-revenue sports, will get some more exposure. I often stumble across Big XII and Pac-10 non-revenue sports on Fox Sports Net, so it probably will help the recruiting efforts of Big Ten programs, particularly in sports such as soccer and swimming where so many of the top recruits are from other regions, now that the coaches can promise some national (well, hopefully) TV coverage. Does that make me reevaluate my criticism of the league's goal of equal time for men's and women's teams? Nah. The Big Ten Network exists only because of the revenue and ratings generated by football and men's basketball. Because of that, the BTN will devote hundreds of hours to broadcasting football games and men's basketball games. As with Title IX, however facially neutral or well-intentioned the policy, if the BTN includes football and men's hoops in the equation, men's non-revenue sports will be the big losers in this arrangement. The best arrangement would be to take football and men's hoops out of the equation and apply gender equity to the non-revenue sports. If they don't (and my guess is that they won't), the IU women's soccer team, e.g., likely will get lots more airtime than the men's soccer team. That doesn't seem right, but I suppose it is a side-effect of the fiction that big time college sports are nothing more than an extracurricular activity.

Also on the BTN front: here's a link to a Q&A that appeared in Multichannel News, some sort of a niche cable industry publication. Melinda Witmer, Senior VP and Chief Programming Officer of Time Warner Cable, addresses a variety of issues, but the discussion turns to the BTN and about halfway down.

MCN: At this point, as you’re looking at both of those networks, do you see them as being sports-tiered networks in terms of their value? You mentioned that you’re not getting complaints with the NFL Network, but the Big Ten’s a little different. You have systems that represent markets where Big Ten schools are and there might be a great desire among those subscribers [to be able to watch] that network.

BW: Well, I think that, again, it’s a real assessment as to what we think the value is that the content brings to our consumers. There’s no question that there are fans of the NFL, hockey, the Big Ten, tennis — there are fans of every sport you can find.
I think striking the right balance is the question. Of course, we’re in the business of providing video content, so the most compelling offering is going to be able to offer our consumers everything they could possibly want. If bandwidth were unlimited, we would do that at the right price, and let the right people pay for it that want to pay for it. So I think that — particularly for sports programming where they’re looking for high payoff — we have to be responsible about figuring out who’s going to pay for that. And I don’t think that that burden should be borne by the breadth of
customers. Particularly, the Big Ten is an interesting one only because they’ve kind of cast themselves in a hybrid of a regional sports network and a national service. But you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a regional sports network with an eight-state core market. But we’re still evaluating, and we have an open door with respect to every programmer who wants to do business we us, so we’re talking to them and evaluating, and trying to determine where our customer sets are.

That is, it seems, the problem with the way the media has covered these negotiations. There just isn't any precedent for a network like the BTN. In the eight state region, the BTN programming is highly sought-after, along the lines of a regional sports network. Outside the BTN, it's essentially a niche channel for former midwesterners, Big Ten alumni, and irredeemable sports junkies (I live in Indiana, but I would watch games on the SEC Network if it existed. I have a problem). Ms. Witmer notes that Time Warner didn't hear much from NFL fans about the NFL Network. Of course, the NFLN began broadcasting games only last November. Most NFL teams haven't yet been on the NLFN, and it seems unlikely that any of the 32 NFL teams will be on the NFLN more than once or twice a season. For Big Ten fans accustomed to watching every single football or basketball team, losing 1/3 of the schedule might change the equation, particularly when any cable subscriber with a clear view of the southern sky has an alternative.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Slow news days.

Not much at all is happening in the college sports world these days. In the next few days, I plan to begin a series of posts discussing the good, bad, and ugly of each of IU's 2006 games. If I had been writing the blog last year, I probably would be linking to the old posts, but this year I get to start from scratch. In other news:
  • Former IU women's basketball player Jenny DeMuth,ranked seventh on IU's career scoring list, is now an assistant at IUPUI.
  • The Hoosier Scoop has tracked down a brochure for IU's Bahamas trip. IU will play once on Friday, twice on Saturday, and once on Sunday. NCAA rules prohibit missing class time for such tournaments, and because IU, unlike many schools, holds classes on Labor Day, the team will have to hurry back after the Sunday game.

Friday, July 20, 2007

McClurg, Edmundson arrested for some really stupid crap.

It looks as if IU will earn some Fulmer Cup points this offseason. Senior Hoosiers Adam McClurg (returning starter/captain(EDIT: per Ken Bikoff at Rivals, captains have not been selected for 2007, so this is inaccurate)) and Sean Edmundson (little-used offensive lineman) tried the old ride-and-dash with a cab driver who transported them (and a University of Indianapolis football player) from a downtown Indianapolis bar to Greenwood. Weak, weak move. Embarrass yourself, your families, and your teammates over a lousy $39 cab fare ($13 a piece). Strangely enough, another Big Ten football program addressed a cab fare-related incident this week. Must be the gas prices.
It will be interesting to see how Lynch handles this. Skipping out on cab fare isn't as serious as domestic violence, drunk driving, or a bar fight. On the other hand, the premeditated (they gave a phony address), petty, and stupid nature of the crime cries out for some sort of discipline. A slap upside the head, at least.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

More McCallum speculation.

Doug Wilson at the Hoosier Scoop suggests that McCallum is the people's choice in Muncie. I disagree with one thing that Doug says:
Andy Katz’s sources — who are, because he’s Katz and he works for ESPN, as strong as anyone’s — say that if McCallum is offered the job, he’ll take it.
The IU coaching search of a couple of years ago taught us a that sources who think they are in the know often aren't; and that many media types will publish nearly any rumor. Katz is a connected insider, but these coaching searches result in an astounding level of false reporting, and no one is ever called on it.

Doug goes on to explain why he is skeptical about whether McCallum would make a move right now. As I said earlier, while McCallum might not make a move under ordinary circumstances, it's easy to imagine the strong pull of one's alma mater in need. Ball State is in a tough spot right now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Many coaches with IU ties mentioned re: Ball State vacancy.

Doug Zaleski of the Muncie Star Press (hat tip: Hoosier Scoop) doesn't seem to have found anyone who has much to say, but does throw out Dan Dakich's name as a possible replacement, although that appears to be pure speculation. He also suggests that former Hoosier and IPFW coach Dane Fife and Purdue assistant Cuonzo Martin "are believed" to covet the job. He seems skeptical on the whether Ray McCallum would want to return and whether he would be welcomed back by all.
The Dakich rumor is fairly amusing. When Dakich was the coach at Bowling Green, he got sideways with Ball State fans while he was defending Billy Lynch, a two sport athlete at BSU who now is an assistant IU football coach and the son of IU head coach Bill Lynch. Lynch apparently attracted some boobirds at Worthen Arena, and here's what Dakich said, preserved in this letter to the editor of the Ball State Daily News:
If Ball State people boo Billy Lynch, then those students who do are dumber than
I thought....Having graduated of the Ivy League of Indiana - Indiana University - I'm not sure how much of a regard we had for the intelligence of Ball State students anyway.
Good points for Knight-speak, negative points for poor syntax in a sentence declaring IU "the Ivy League of Indiana." His position on Ball State students is bolstered by the remainder of the letter, a passionate defense of booing Billy Lynch for his own good. If Dakich gets the job, that will be an interesting press conference.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

BTN update.

With a hat-tip to "ptrich" on the IU Rivals forum, Gerry DiNardo is joining the Big Ten Network as a studio analyst. Who would have thought that failing as an IU football coach could be so lucrative? I can't wait:
Dave Revsine: Gerry, what do you think of Jim Tressel's decision to punt on 4th and 2 in that situation?
DiNardo: Jesus Christ, Dave, I went 3-21 in the Big Ten! Why the hell would anyone want to listen to me second-guess a national championship coach?
Seriously, though, DiNardo and Revsine teamed up for ESPN's Gameday show the last couple of years and I thought they did a nice job. I'm not sure how it will translate to the more formal TV studio environment. DiNardo is a good guy who once was a good coach but who seemed thoroughly burned out by the time he arrived in Bloomington. Hopefully, TV land agrees with him. FYI, DiNardo still lives in Bloomington, where he and his wife own and operate DeAngelo's restaurant.
In other news:
  • Still more negative publicity re: the Comcast negotiation, this time from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  • Trouble in Iowa: while Waterloo and Muscatine may be covered, Mediacom, the state's largest cable provider, is not on board, yet seeks to distance itself from Comcast's public pronouncements:
    "They are in a very public battle with the Big Ten Network," Peters said of Comcast. "Their market is not the same as our market, and what they do is entirely different."We are not in an acrimonious situation at all." At the same time, Mediacom hasn't given any indication it will give in by Aug. 30 just to make sure it can show three or four Iowa football games. "If (the BTN) really wants their place on expanded basic, then maybe they can give on the price," Peters said. "We hope we can still work something out."
    Perhaps Mediacom's conciliatory tone is based on this:
    Klatt showed that in recent years, more than half the TV sets in the Des Moines area are tuned to Iowa football when it is on TV, and about a quarter watch Iowa men's basketball when they play.

I still remain mostly convinced that this essentially is a price negotiation. We shall see.

Happy thoughts.

The Lexington Herald-Leader talks about the "basketball triangle," noting that from 1976 through 1987, Indiana, Kentucky, and Louisville won six of twelve NCAA titles. I don't really care if UK and UL are any good, but I sure liked this line:
"Gillispie and Sampson definitely have their programs at the forefront of basketball fans' minds," says [Rivals recruiting guru Jerry] Meyer. "I actually think that Indiana and Kentucky are at a point where a lot of prospects want to go there, and the biggest challenge is taking commitments from the right players."
Has that ever been the case for IU? Maybe during the first half of the Knight era.

Monday, July 16, 2007

IU preview up on Hawkeye State.

My IU preview is posted on Hawkeye State.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

DJ White makes the Pam Am Games roster.

I have to confess that I didn't even realize that the Pan-Am Games were still around. Perhaps they were never a big deal at all, but I just remember them such because the 1987 games in Indianapolis were considered such a huge part of the redevopment of downtown Indianapolis. In any event, DJ White has made the roster and will play for the United States in Rio De Janiero in late July. Here's the roster:
Roy Hibbert (Georgetown), Wayne Ellington (North Carolina), Shan Foster (Vanderbilt), Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low (Washington State), Eric Maynor (VCU), Bryce Taylor and Maarty Leunen (Oregon), Josh Carter (Texas A&M), D.J. White (Indiana), Drew Neitzel (Michigan State), Scottie Reynolds (Villanova), James Gist (Maryland) and Joey Dorsey (Memphis).
DJ will get to team up with MSU's Neitzel, one of the Big Ten's top returning players, and Scotty Reynolds, a Kelvin Sampson recruit released from his LOI by Oklahoma after Sampson left for IU.
EDIT: Apparently I'm jumping the gun. Two more players will be cut from the roster.

Hawkeye State Big Ten previews.

The Hawkeye State, a nicely done Iowa blog, asked various Big Ten bloggers to submit previews of the teams they cover. He had hoped to post them alphabetically, but my foot-dragging interfered with that. The Michigan State and Illinois previews are up, and I would expect that my IU preview will be posted sometime in the upcoming week.
I say this with all sincerity: if you see any mistakes in my preview, please let me know and I will ask Hawkeye State to correct them. My biggest concern surrounds some inconsistencies on the IU website concerning whether certain players are back this season.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ronny Thompson resigns at Ball State.

BSU coach Ronny Thompson, lesser known son of former Georgetown coach John Thompson, Jr. and brother of current Georgetown coach John Thompson III, has resigned at Ball State. This isn't really IU-related (BSU is a frequent IU opponent, I guess), although it will be interesting to see if IU assistant Ray McCallum shows any interest in returning to BSU. McCallum is something of a Delaware County legend. He probably is the greatest player in Ball State history and led Muncie Central to back-to-back state championships in 1978 and 1979. McCallum did a nice job at Ball State and was an excellent recruiter, most notably somehow keeping fellow Muncie Central alum Bonzi Wells in Muncie for college. Certainly, he has emerged as a key part of IU's recruiting success under Sampson (who hired him at Oklahoma after McCallum was fired at Houston), but if old alma mater gives him a call in this tough situation, it would have to be tempting.
Thompson recently came under fire for NCAA violations regarding offseason workouts and racist notes were found under the doors of Thompson and various other basketball staff members, despite no signs of forced entry. There are loads of interesting rumors flying around about this matter, and it's a story worth following.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Trouble for the BTN?

I have been delinquent in my Big Ten Network coverage, but Mgoblog's Brian Cook has been kind enough to pick up the slack, pointing out this AP article in which BTN president Mark Silverman says:
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.
Well, that's less than optimistic. I guess signing up Cedar Falls and Dixon didn't have the expected domino effect. As Brian notes, if Silverman's quote is accurate and in context, it's pretty troubling. If any company is an easy sell, it would have to be a mom-and-pop cable company in a Big Ten state. While a national company like Comcast might not feel much of a pinch, Joe's Cable Company/Bait Shop surely wouldn't want to see even five percent of its customers bail for DirecTV. My hope is that Silverman really meant that the BTN is well on its way to having half of the cable subscribers in the midwest or some such thing. After all, amateurish press releases have become something of a Big Ten tradition, thanks to the commish. As a satisfied DirecTV customer, I have no personal stake in the negotiations, but if this move reduces exposure of Big Ten teams, it's bad news.

On the road again, and basketball and recruiting(!) miscellany.

This isn't exactly breaking news, but it's worth noting that for the first time during his tenure at IU, Kelvin Sampson is on the road during the summer recruiting season. Keep in mind that Oklahoma's self-imposed sanctions kept Sampson at home before his last season there, so he hasn't been to the summer camps since 2004. He took some well-deserved jabs from Rick Barnes and Tubby Smith:
"Where have you been?” joked Barnes. "Call me sometime.” "Still got the ankle bracelet?” added Smith.
Despite recruiting with one hand tied behind his back, Sampson certainly hasn't been hurting for recruits. He landed what Rivals ranks as the #9 recruiting class without leaving campus. Still, both for IU's recruiting advantage and for moving beyond the taint of NCAA-sanctioned misconduct, this is good news.
Other items:
  • Again, I'm not one for following whether we are on a prospect's top 5 list or his lukewarm eight. My interest in recruiting is sporadic. One thing I would like, however, is for IU to someday land a blue-chipper from Lawrence North (no offense, Todd Leary). Hopefully, Stephan Van Treese will be the one. Here's a nice Cincinnati Enquirer article about him.
  • The Bloomington Herald Times does a great job covering IU athletics, and I have previously noted my admiration for the Hoosier Scoop blog written by Doug Wilson, Chris Korman, and occasional others. Unfortunately, the H-T's excellent coverage is behind a subscription wall, but occasionally Doug and Chris let us take a look at what they are writing. Here's a well-done article about DJ White. This non-White-related item from the story was worth a chuckle:
    One of the new post players, DeAndre Thomas, has been working the hardest in the gym this summer, according to White. Thomas, who arrived from Chipola junior college weighing more than 350 pounds, is trying to shed at least 50 pounds. He and Sampson can often be seen walking from Assembly Hall to Sampson’s house and back. That’s an eight-mile trip.
  • The White article also mentions something I don't know that I have mentioned before, which is that NCAA rules allow IU ten full-fledged practices before the team heads to the Bahamas for a Labor Day weekend tournament. This is a perfect move for this team. Certainly, we have some fine experience players returning, but several newcomers (Eric Gordon, Jamarcus Ellis, possibly Eli Holman and/or Deandre Thomas) will have to play well if IU is to end its season in San Antonio. While the Final Four is not an unrealistic goal given the talent and experience (either at IU or at junior colleges) on this team, these guys have never really played together. The Bahamas trip should provide a great opportunity for these guys to begin to learn playing together, and it also gives the coaching staff a chance to put things in place for the season fairly early.

Monday, July 9, 2007

There you go again.

I just had to go and pay Terry Hutchens a compliment. Serves me right. Hutch, best known for sticking his thumb in IU fans' eyes in his former role as Mike Davis's "Baghdad Bob," Terry used the Fourth of July holiday to advocate for adding names to the IU basketball jerseys. Hutchens, believe it or not, is an IU graduate. I was stunned when I learned that late in the Davis era. Hutch often makes mention of his California upbringing, but rarely mentions that he graduated from IU. To make matters worse, Hutch graduated from IU in 1989. Not only did he witness the program win big (the 1987 championship), he was at IU for Knight's greatest coaching accomplishments. The 1987 team is the only NCAA champ since the advent of the NBA to win the NCAA title without a future NBA first round draft pick. Also, IU won the 1989 Big Ten title outright (over the Flyin' Illini and eventual NCAA champ Michigan) with Jay Edwards and a bunch of role players. During the Davis era, Hutch never seemed to understand the fans' expectation that IU be among the handful of elite programs or the value that a coach can add to a program. When I learned that Hutch had graduated from IU and when, it became even more incomprehensible.
Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that Hutchens decided to play the contrarian here. A few highlights:
You've got to keep the candy-striped warmups, you've got to play almost exclusively man-to-man defense, and you have to take a long look at those five national championship banners everytime you step in the friendly confines of Assembly Hall.
Good start. God forbid that IU fans show reverence for the program's history and brag that we have more titles than every school except UCLA and Kentucky.
I just think in the 21st Century kids today are different than they were when all of these traditions were established. And while I think it's still a prestige thing to wear the IU uniform (especially for the in-state kids) I just think having the names on the jersey would take that to another level. And I think if you asked most players, that is something they'd like to see at Indiana. Look around the Big Ten, and you see it at a lot of different programs. Look around the country and it's the same thing. I just don't see the harm in bucking tradition and giving IU basketball a different look.
Yes, lots of schools have names on their jerseys. Practically all of them, including Northwestern and Penn State. One of the reasons IU fans treasure the tradition is because hardly any other school omits the names. IU fans like the unchanging simplicity of the uniforms and like the sentiment of playing for the "name on the front of the jersey." That's the "harm." Really, that's what a tradition is: doing something that no one else does or that no one else does anymore.
The best part of this passage:
I think if you asked most players, that is something they'd like to see at Indiana.
How would Terry Hutchens ever find the answer to this question? If only Terry knew someone, such as a professional, full-time journalist, who had access to this information or the ability to ask players such questions. Oh well. I suppose the answers are lost to history.
Terry then lists the marketing benefits of selling jerseys with the players' names, until a reader pointed out that such sales are impermissible under NCAA rules. And again, the IU beat writer for the state's largest paper says:
And while you might think that something as small has putting names on jerseys wouldn't have anything to do with success in recruiting, you might be mistaken. I have two teenage boys and I know the things that are important to them. They like glitz.
That's between you and your kids, Terry. In the last two recruiting classes, IU has landed highly regarded players from New York, the Bay Area, and many points in between. Again, you're the professional, Hutch. You tell us if it has any impact on recruiting. The task won't require deciphering ancient texts written in dead languages. It should be as simple as asking around.
One other thing it might allow IU to be able to do is somehow recognize the great players who have played for the Hoosiers over the years. IU has never retired basketball uniforms, but maybe if you could put a name on the back of a certain jersey and hang it in the rafters as a means of honoring IU players of the past you could do that without actually retiring the jersey. I'm not sure this is something you would need to do along with putting names on the back of uniforms or not, but again it just seems like something that should be done. You go to other gyms of storied programs and you see it, but there's nothing like that at IU.
IU does plenty to recognize former players. IU has a Hall of Fame. There was an all-century team a couple of years ago. Many greats come back to the Hall regularly. There are all sorts of photos and such around Assembly Hall. Again, however, and this is something Hutch admits he doesn't get: most IU fans think the best way to honor great players is to honor the accomplishments of their teams.
IU has many great traditions, yet Hutch elects to complain about the traditions we have and pine for the traditions we don't have. It's pretty pathetic but sadly typical of the lead IU writer for the state's largest paper.

Unannounced absence.

I'm going to be out of commission from July 4 until the beginning of next week. That's what I meant to say last Tuesday. For those of you who are kind enough to stop by regularly, I don't expect any significant outages for the rest of the offseason.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Good news for Eli?

This story is a few days old, but for anyone who missed it, things do appear to be looking up for Eli Holman. As I have mentioned before, Eli seems to be quite an amazing young man despite a really tough background, and it would be great to see him on the court this year. This Terry Hutchens article from last week provides some reasons for optimism:
One of his high school coaches said Friday that Holman has qualified and it's just a matter of the Clearinghouse making it official. The Clearinghouse will announce his eligibility status by late August. "It's our understanding that he has qualified, but it isn't official until the Clearinghouse says so," said Leonard Coleman, an assistant coach at Richmond (Calif.) High School. "Eli was able to improve his test score, and his grade-point average was already strong. "I know that Eli worked really hard after basketball season to get his academics in order. He was pretty much a hermit. He stayed in his house and prepared for the SAT, and he worked hard in the classroom, too."
This info, plus Eli's presence on campus and in summer school, would seem to be positive signs. Let's hope that the athletic department's math skills have improved. George Leach, long -suffering IU fans will recall, had to sit out his first year because he was 10 points shy of a qualifying SAT score. He took the SAT only once and would have had ample opportunities to take the test again had he not been erroneously informed by IU that he had the score he needed.
I've mentioned it before, but here is the link to the audio of Mark Monteith's interview of Holman (warning: audio begins automatically).

Additional BTN network stuff.

This is an IU blog (really!), but the Big Ten Network seems to be just about the only news relating to IU right now, so here goes. Teddy Greenstein's column in today's Chicago Tribune provides a little more info, and indicates that the Big Ten will be making some sort of formal announcement today. Here's what we know:
  • The BTN nightly studio show, hosted by former ESPN anchor Dave Revsine, will launch on August 30 (that's the Thursday before college football begins.
  • The BTN will announce deals with over 75 cable companies, but none of the big boys (Comcast, Time Warner, Insight, Dish) are on the list yet.
  • There will be a Friday night "tailgate show" with live coverage from the sites of the next day's games. It's not clear whether that will happen every week or just the first week.

Greenstein also provides this information, which may have been reported before but if so, escaped me:

ABC Sports picks first each week. The BTN gets the second choice (ahead of ESPN)
in three of 12 weeks and the third choice three other weeks. In six weeks it picks fourth after ABC, ESPN and ESPN2.

That does suggest that the games on the BTN will be a bit higher profile than the typical ESPN Plus games in the past.

UPDATE: Here's the release. Nothing much new. August 30 is the official launch date for the network, not just the studio show. The list of the committed companies is interesting:

Some of the local systems planning to carry Big Ten Network as part of their expanded basic level of service include Altatec Alta Municipal Utility, Cedar Falls Utilities, Celect Communications, Consolidated Communications Network Services, City of Wadsworth Cable TV, Dixon Telephone Company, Grundy Center Municipal, Harlan Municipal Utilities, Hiawatha Broadband, Horizon Telecom, Independence Communications, Iowa Network Services, Mid-Century Communications, Moultrie Telecommunications, Muscatine Power & Water, Oneida Cablevision, Spencer Municipal Utilities, The Community Agency and USA Communications. In addition, Big Ten Network has national distribution agreements with DirectTV and the new AT&T U-verseSM service, as well as a major regional agreement with Buckeye Cable.

That's better than not having Harlan and Muscatine in the bag, I suppose. And as Grundy goes, so goes the nation. How many households are represented on that list. 500?