Initial reports yesterday stated that the Western Athletic Conference would vote today to expand its football and basketball membership in an effort to stay afloat after the losses of Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii to the Mountain West Conference.
That turned out to be only half true.
The conference did extend a formal invitation to Seattle University for a basketball-only membership (the school does not field a football team), but decided to not expand its football membership. The WAC was reportedly considering Lamar, Sam Houston State, Montana, Montana State, Sacramento State and Cal Poly — all Football Championship Subdivision members.
During a conference call, WAC commissioner Karl Benson said there were a number of roadblocks preventing several potential football members from making the jump from the FCS to the FBS.
“We hope in the next year that the timing will be better,” Benson said. “Hopefully a year from now there may be football playing schools ready to make a move to the WAC.
“It will be important this year for the five remaining WAC schools to show some success,” Benson added. “It will be important for one of those five teams to contend for a WAC championship, to go to a bowl game, to carry the WAC umbrella into the postseason. I’ve been asked many times what the future holds and I think I’ve been consistent in saying there isn’t any reason one of those schools or perhaps a Texas State or UT-San Antonio can’t be the next Boise State.”
UTSA and Texas State will join the WAC in 2012, bringing the total football membership to a measly seven schools.
A lot of stars need align for expansion to work, so there’s really no need to rush this decision. At the same time, trying to manage six non-conference games beginning after this season for an indefinite amount of time will be a chore for WAC members and a potentially expensive one at that; I doubt USC or Oregon will be down for a home-and-home with Idaho or New Mexico State.
What has long been rumored became fact Friday, as Wisconsin announced a 10-year agreement with Under Armour.
“I am absolutely thrilled about our new partnership with Under Armour,” AD Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “Kevin Plank and his team have established a brand that fits perfectly with the Wisconsin athletics story and culture. Our primary focus at Wisconsin is, of course, our student-athletes, and Under Armour’s passion and commitment to high quality and innovation will benefit our student-athletes for years to come. Our entire department is looking forward to a long and mutually productive relationship with the Under Armour team.”
The new deal will pay the Badgers a total of $7 million in cash and product in 2015-16 and is valued at $96 million over the life of the contract, good for second in the Big Ten, trailing only Nike’s new contract with Michigan.
Hidden within the contract are two nuggets that UA offered to sway the Badgers away from Adidas, from the Portland Business Journal:
Wisconsin will get as much as $500,000 from Under Armour to “rebrand” athletic facilities. It’ll get $150,000 to build out an Under Armour retail space in a campus gift shop called Bucky’s Locker Room. It also gets two summer internships for students at Under Armour’s Baltimore headquarters.
“The University of Wisconsin is an institution built on the highest values of academic excellence, and we are extremely proud to be teaming up with one of the most vibrant, distinctive and successful athletic programs in the country to help elevate the performance of all Badgers with innovative footwear and apparel,” added Plank.
Wisconsin’s departure continues to weaken the stronghold Adidas had built in the Midwest after losing Michigan to Nike and Notre Dame to Under Armour in recent years (the company still owns apparel rights for Indiana and Nebraska). The Badgers are now the 41st Division I athletics department and 17th FBS program to join UA.
In the minds of some in the media and even more in the fan base, Ohio State in general and Cardale Jones specifically have been underwhelming through the first five games of the 2015 season.
Jones, in particular, has been a rather large target of much of the angst. Coming off a Cinderella-like three-game postseason run that helped OSU to a national championship, the perception is that Jones has been underwhelming and underperforming; even head coach Urban Meyer appeared to be leaning in that direction as he considered making the switch to J.T. Barrett prior to the Western Michigan win before reaffirming his commitment to the redshirt junior.
Is that perception valid? Statistically, he’s not that far off from where he was in the 2014 postseason, at least in a couple of categories.
He’s completing 61.3 percent of his passes this season compared to 59.4 percent in the games against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon. It was 9.9 yards per attempt in that three-game stretch last season, 8.2 in five games this season. When it comes to scoring and turning the ball over, however, that’s another matter entirely.
He threw a touchdown pass every 15 pass attempts in the 2014 postseason; this season, it’s one every 21 attempts. Even more glaring, he’s currently throwing an interception every 21 attempts as well. During the run that made him a household name, it was one pick every 37.5 throws.
So, fewer touchdowns plus more turnovers equals validation of the angst, right? Not so fast, at least as far as the college arm of Pro Football Focus goes.