BushWACked by departures, whither the remaining schools?

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Let’s face it: the Western Athletic Conference, as it’s currently constituted, is dead.  It has ceased to exist as a conference, both technically and in the realm of any reasonable thought.

The six teams left standing are a veritable Who’s Not collection of fringe mid-major football schools — at best — with little cachet left following the departures of Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada for the Mountain West, presumably after the 2010-2011 school year.

Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Hawaii, San Jose State and Utah State?  There’s little doubt that these schools are fine, fine institutions of higher learning, but, when it comes to football, the Sun Belt now scoffs in their general direction.  And chuckles, with a giggle thrown in for good measure.

So, just where does the conference go from here?  Commissioner Karl Benson is expected to hold a press conference at some point Thursday, at which time it’s expected he’ll address the future of his league and any type of salvaging plan they’ve cobbled together in the past 24 hours.

Aside from the obvious of just outright abandoning the conference and allowing the remaining schools to fend for themselves — especially if BYU decides to remain in the Mountain West and not take their non-football sports to the WAC — the WAC will have to look at plucking schools that are currently members of other leagues.  The most obvious candidate for plundering would be Conference USA in general and their Western division specifically.

Houston would be the obvious prize out of that group, with SMU and their cash-flush rebuilding efforts not far behind.  The former would seem an unlikely candidate for departure right now, if for nothing more than there’s a possibility that either the Mountain West (most likely) or the Big 12 (kinda, maybe) could have their eyes on the Cougars in the not-too-distant future; the latter school would appear to be a good candidate, although they may not want to abandon their natural in-state conference rivals.

Beggars can’t be choosers — and right now the WAC is a panhandling fool — so they could be forced to focus their attention on two of the following four schools to get to the NCAA-mandated level of eight schools: Rice, Tulane, Tulsa and UTEP.  Would either of those four schools leave the relative stability of C-USA for the uncertainty that is the WAC?  Not to mention the additional travel expenditures that would come along with it?

If C-USA is out of the question, the attention may turn to the Sun Belt.  With Louisiana Tech already in the WAC fold, perhaps Louisiana-Lafayette and/or Louisiana-Monroe would be an option.  With the exception of getting to the minimum of eight schools to technically form a conference, do those to Louisiana programs add anything — besides travel expenses — of value to the conference?

Of course, there’s always the option of cannon-balling into the Div. 1-AA pool and see what comes ashore, which brings us full circle back to the original premise: the WAC is on life support and, barring what seems right now would be a more-than-minor miracle, will have the plug pulled.

Thus, if the WAC ceases to exist, what happens to the individual schools?  There are two seemingly no-brainers when it comes to the dissolving of the WAC and what happens to the current members.

One, Hawaii would be odds-on favorites to go the independent route.  It’s been discussed in the past and, if they suddenly found themselves conference-less, would be the likely path for the foreseeable future.  The other no-brainer would be Louisiana Tech to either Conference USA or the Sun Belt.  The former already has 12 schools, so the numbers would have to be worked around, while the latter would likely welcome LaTech with open arms and a couple/few cases of beers.

As suggested to me by one of the fine editors at NBC Sports.com/MSNBC.com, two of the remaining four schools could potentially drop down to Div. 1-AA.  Idaho and Utah State, at least geographically, would be a perfect fit for the Big Sky conference.  Dropping down a level would not be optimum, but they could be left with no other choice.

That leaves San Jose State and New Mexico State.  Godspeed, higher-learning institutions.  Godspeed. 

Of course, if the reports come to fruition and BYU does indeed strike out as a football independent and drops their non-football sports into the WAC, the conference may suddenly become attractive again and they could very well, with the BYU draw, pull in an additional two schools, thus staving off extinction.

So, BYU, the ball’s in your court.  You have the power to save or kill an entire conference.  No pressure at all.

ACC sees revenues spike nearly $100 million in 2014-15

John Swofford
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Here’s how wacko, bonkers, crazy college sports has gotten in the past half-decade, and more specifically the money taken in by the SEC and Big Ten: the ACC saw its revenue jump by nearly $100 million in 2014-15 — and they’re worried about falling behind.

Whereas a decade ago simply making $100 million as a conference would’ve been cause for a clicking of heels in Greensboro, the ACC’s jump from $302.3 million in 2013-14 to $403.1 million in 2014-15, according to tax documents obtained by USA Today, is met by concern of just how in the heck they’re going to match the SEC’s $527.4 million and the Big Ten’s $448.8 million without what those two leagues have — a TV network.

The ACC has seen revenues jump nearly $170 million in two years, and the 2014-15 jump was thanks in large part to a $30 million exit fee played by Maryland in leaving for the Big Ten.

Commissioner John Swofford saw his pay grow along with his conference’s, from $2.1 million and change to just under $2.7 million.

The ACC was the final Power 5 to release its financials for the 2014-15 fiscal year, and with all five out we now have a full picture of how the schools stack up on a per school basis (full shares only):

  1. SEC: $32.6 million*
  2. Big Ten: $32.4 million
  3. ACC: $25.8 million*
  4. Pac-12: $25.1 million
  5. Big 12: $23.4 million^

*  – Splitting difference between highest and lowest distributions, as listed by USA Today
^ – Does not include third-tier payments such as Longhorn Network

Michigan spent nearly $350,000 on spring break trip to IMG Academy

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during warm-ups before the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on October 31, 2015 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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When Jim Harbaugh goes on vacation, he does it big.

The world’s most notable khaki pants aficionado went to France last summer and, as was well-publicized at the time, brought the entire Michigan roster to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., for a spring break football trip.

According to the Detroit News, that trip cost Michigan’s football program nearly $350,000.

That $348,553 figure represents nearly 10 percent of the entire athletics budget at Coppin State, according to the most recent figures on record from USA Today, the lowest in Division I.

Michigan, meanwhile, spent over $151 million on athletics — and that figure will only go up considering the month-long satellite camp tour Harbaugh has planned for his staff in June.

Imposter used alias of Vols football player for Snapchat extortion scheme

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 02:  Cameron Sutton #23 of the Tennessee Volunteers runs past Dalton Ferguson #76 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field on January 2, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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A Sweetwater, Tenn., man is accused of using the likeness of Tennessee football player Cameron Sutton to run an extortion scheme over Snapchat.

According to WBIR in Knoxville, federal authorities have charged 22-year-old Brandon Shanahan with intent to extort money and other things from a woman using the alias “Camsutton2323.”

Sutton, a senior defensive back from Jonesboro, Ga., wears number 23.

Case documents indicate the woman sent the person she thought was a Volunteers cornerback nude photos through the messaging app. The next day, authorities say, Shanahan threatened to post the photos online unless she sent more. Investigators believe Shanahan used the scheme to contact other women as well.

If convicted of criminal impersonation, Shanahan faces up to two years in prison.

Proposed Big 12 rule change would give Baker Mayfield extra year of eligibility at Oklahoma

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5:  Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners celebrates a touchdown against the Akron Zips September 5, 2015 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Akron 41-3.(Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
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A proposed rule change up for vote at the Big 12’s faculty athletics representatives meetings could have a wide effect on the college football season in 2017.

As reported by Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News, the Big 12 will vote on a rule that would allow non-recruited walk-ons — like Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield — to transfer within the conference without penalty.

Mayfield walked on to Texas Tech’s roster in 2013 and immediately won the starting job as a true freshman. The combination of injuries and bad blood between he and Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury led Mayfield to transfer to Oklahoma, where he also walked on. (Sooners head coach Bob Stoops famously didn’t meet Mayfield until he’d already joined his roster.) Mayfield and his father James exhausted the appeals process both inside the Big 12 and nationally through the NCAA to no avail.

Because of that, Mayfield, a 3,700-yard passer for the 2015 Big 12 champions and College Football Playoff semifinalists in 2015, will be a senior in 2016 at Oklahoma — but could transfer again to another school and play outside the Big 12 in 2017. Fear of that potential embarrassment is what spurred this proposal to next week’s docket.

“I think we all ought to be a little bit thoughtful about it,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told the Morning News. “Absent Baker Mayfield getting relief, he’ll have a year of eligibility left and won’t be able to use it in our conference but instead would go someplace else and use it. That might not be in anybody’s best interest.”

Bowlsby and OU athletics director Joe Castiglione stressed the rule change would be bigger than just one quarterback, but, let’s be honest: if Mayfield was still a Red Raider, this issue would be on exactly no one’s radar.

And now, thanks to college sports’ goofy governance system, a group of Big 12 faculty chaired by Kansas chemical and petroleum engineering professor Susan Stagg-Williams will vote on Wednesday at campus headquarters in suburban Dallas on a rule that will have wide-sweeping impact on college football next year.

Another interesting angle to this is that, no matter how the votes tally, the result will be bittersweet for the Sooners. Either Oklahoma sees the nation’s No. 3 most efficient passer from 2015 receives the opportunity to play elsewhere in 2017, or Kyler Murray sits on the bench one year longer than anticipated. And Oklahoma can ask their former Big 12 bunkmates at Texas A&M how the Murray camp will probably handle that.