Dan Beebe

With a half-dozen media members in tow, Big 12 opens expansion-free spring meetings

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Exactly one year ago today, as the Big 12 opened their annual spring meetings, commissioner Dan Beebe was asked what were the odds that not a single member school would up and leave the conference.

Very high,” the commissioner boldly stated.

Fast-forward 365 days, and with Nebraska set to officially join the Big Ten and Colorado the Pac-12 one month from today, the Big 12 opened this year’s version of their annual spring meetings to “slightly less” drama.  And even fewer people, both membership-wise and media-wise.

In perhaps the most stunning development, at least from our perspective, of the first day of the meetings, a grand total of six media members were in attendance.  Our guess as to the makeup?  Five of ’em were from Texas and the other from Nebraska, and that’s only because he/she forgot about the whole Big Ten thing.

Needless to say, the “subdued” media presence didn’t escape the notice of officials in attendance.

“We couldn’t get through that hallway out there last year,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

With expansion (thankfully) off the docket this year, much of the talk on the first day of the meetings — and much like it was at the SEC’s spring meeting opener Tuesday — centered on Jim Tressel‘s resignation and the repercussions it may have for college football as a whole.  Even as some view The Vest’s inglorious tumble as one of the signs of some kind of collegiate football apocalypse, Beebe took a decidedly different tack when discussing the state of sports at the NCAA level.

Such matters, commissioner Dan Beebe said, represent “a big teaching moment for all of us” to re-examine compliance and standards on conference campuses.

Still, Beebe doesn’t believe the issues associated with OSU, football national champion Auburn, men’s basketball champion Connecticut and other prominent programs are an indication of corruption corroding college athletics.

“I think it’s a confluence of unfortunate events,” said Beebe, a former NCAA investigator. “There are some situations that are occurring that are body blows to what we’re doing … (but) I think you have to put it in context (with) where we are now.

“Maybe I’m being Pollyanish about this, but I don’t think it’s anywhere like where we’ve been in previous eras.”

Without naming the old Southwest Conference or Southern Methodist, which Beebe probed leading up to its death penalty, he recalled a “whole area” of the country in which there was “outright buying of players” and “academic fraud.”

On that point, Beebe is likely absolutely correct; the people from that era and that area of the country are quite likely quietly scoffing at the Tressel’s and Cam Newton’s of today’s game.

The commissioner is also correct on the level of scrutiny in this day and age of the Internet and social media, which shines a brighter — and longer and nearly instant — spotlight on situations such as what is currently going down in Columbus.

“It used to be I’d gumshoe around for quite awhile” before the media knew about allegations of impropriety, he said. “Now the media is out there first.”

And that’s part of the problem: the media has almost become an unpaid extension of the NCAA’s investigative arm.  It’s high time that the NCAA — and, specifically, the conferences who are pulling in unprecedented money from historic television deals — put additional investigators on the streets and get out ahead of the issues that exist.  Simply put, the 30-some individuals who make up the Association’s overwhelmed enforcement division are simply not enough given how massive, far-reaching and powerful the game has become.

Lamar Jackson, OU tandem headline list of five Heisman finalists

LOUISVILLE, KY - OCTOBER 22:  Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals runs with the ball during the game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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The Heisman Trophy finalists were announced in a made-for-awkward-television moment during ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown on sight from MetLife Stadium. The Heisman trust revealed a list of five finalists including: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson and Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook.

Described my some (read: yours truly) as Allen Iverson in cleats, Jackson’s slippery explosiveness led to 4,928 yards of total offense and a nation-leading 51 touchdowns responsible for. He is regarded as the overwhelming favorite to win the stiffarm trophy.

Mayfield has thrown for 3,669 yards with 38 touchdowns against eight interceptions. His 197.75 quarterback rating is on pace to break the FBS single-season record, and he pilots an offense that ranks third nationally in scoring and yards per play. Mayfield’s efforts helped Oklahoma win its second straight Big 12 title and complete the first 9-0 run in the league’s 6-year round-robin era.

Peppers is the swiss army knife of a threat for the Wolverines. He ranks second on Michigan’s elite defense in tackles and tackles for loss while also returning punts and kicks and serving as a running back on offense.

Watson has led Clemson to back-to-back ACC championships and College Football Playoff appearances while firing 37 touchdown passes and throwing for 3,914 yards on the year.

Mayfield’s top target, Westbrook recorded 74 receptions for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year. Westbrook’s inclusion makes Oklahoma the first team to send teammates to New York since Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush did the same for USC in 2005. They’re just the fifth set of teammates to do so overall (Leinart and Bush did so twice.)

That’s also the last time the SEC did not place a player in the top five vote-getters.

The Heisman Trophy ceremony will be held Saturday night in New York.

Army breaking out WWII-themed uniforms for Navy game

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 12:  The Army Black Knights sing their alma mater near their fan section after the game against the Navy Midshipmen at Lincoln Financial Field on December 12, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Navy Midshipmen defeated the Army Black Knights 21-17.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Army will carry with it a 14-game losing streak against Navy when it takes the M&T Bank Stadium field on Saturday. But the Black Knights will do so in some some great uniforms.

The academy on Monday unveiled the special uniforms they’ll wear against Navy that honor the accomplishments of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II.

Known as the All-Americans, the 82nd Airborne was “[h]ighly trained and highly disciplined, the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne were asked to spearhead the invasions of Italy, Normandy, and Holland. With little to no reinforcements or relief in the most adverse conditions, their physical and mental toughness was pushed to the limits. Their unwavering brotherhood and intense dedication to success, ultimately led to mission accomplishment.”

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While Navy has won 14 straight and 15 of the past 16, four of the fast five games have been decided by six points or less, including last season’s 21-17 decision.

Knowing the recent history of this game, expect a response from Navy at some point this week.

Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield takes home second straight Burlsworth Award

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 5: Quarterback Baker Mayfield #6 of the Oklahoma Sooners looks to throw 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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For the second straight season, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been named the recipient of the Burlsworth Award. Mayfield is now the first player to win the award two times.

The award is given to college football’s top player who began his career as a walk-on player. Mayfield was originally a walk-on player at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to Oklahoma, where he has emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate and led the Sooners to two consecutive Big 12 championships and one appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Mayfield beat out Washington State quarterback Luke Falk and Northwestern wide receiver Austin Carr for the award. Mayfield will also have a chance to add one more Burlsworth Award to his name next season, as the Sooners passer has already said he will return to Oklahoma for the 2017 season.

The old BCS computers would have served you the same College Football Playoff lineup

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  The official Bowl Championship Series logo is seen painted on the turf in the end zone as the Virginia Tech Hokies play against the Michigan Wolverines during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 3, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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If there is one common criticism of the College Football Playoff model it is that it is left up to humans to determine who should play for the national championship. Bias and allegiances can interfere with the decision-making, unless you believe there really is no bias within the board room when the committee gets together in Dallas every week. Some would prefer the playoff model use some sort of computer system, perhaps one similar to the makeup of the old BCS computer. Well, the BCS computers would have come to the same conclusion for the College Football Playoff if it was used.

The seeding may have been slightly different, with Ohio State staying ahead of Clemson, but the matchups would have been the same as this year’s playoff. Alabama would be the top seed and face Pac-12 champion Washington and Ohio State would have faced Clemson. The Buckeyes would have been the “home” team, although the 2-3 matchup really means nothing other than who gets to decide what uniform color to wear and which team calls heads or tails at the coin flip. Of course, under the old BCS model, there would be just two teams selected to play for the national championship, and that would paired the last two national champions against each other; Alabama and Ohio State. Clemson was the second-ranked team in the final College Football Playoff ranking, with Ohio state finishing third.

It is also worth recognizing the BCS computers would also have awarded Western Michigan the highest-ranking among Group of Five schools, thus sending them to the Cotton Bowl. Western Michigan also would have qualified for a spot in the BCS lineup with the No. 12 ranking in the computer model. Finishing in the top 12 qualified the champion from either Conference USA, the MAC, Mountain West Conference or the Sun Belt for an automatic BCS berth.