With uncertainty swirling around future membership and whether or not it will remain a viable football conference, the Big East has reportedly garnered interest from a network with which I’m quite familiar.
According to, ironically enough, ESPN.com, the NBC Sports Network has given a verbal offer to the Big East to acquire that conference’s media rights. Reportedly, the offer from NBC would be for upwards of $23 million annually; less than two years ago, the Big East turned down a TV deal that would’ve paid the conference $130 million annually.
The Big East’s current deal pays football schools a little over $3 million per year. The offer from NBC would pay those schools roughly half that amount.
Per ESPN.com‘s Brett McMurphy and Andy Katz, “[o]nce the Big East receives an official offer from NBC Sports Network, the league must give ESPN, the Big East’s current rights-holder, the opportunity to match the deal.”
Just what any network that ultimately lands the Big East’s rights will receive in return when it comes to the most valuable commodity, football, is very much a fluid situation.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving this year for the ACC, Rutgers for the Big Ten next year. Slated to join the Big East in 2013, both Boise State and San Diego State opted to remain in the Mountain West. Current Conference USA members Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF are slated to join the league this year, although there’s speculation that the the two Texas schools could be MWC targets. Tulane and East Carolina are expected to join the Big East in 2014, with Navy joining as a football-only member in 2015.
In the midst of reports that he had a physical altercation with one of his Tennessee players during summer camp this year, Butch Jones labeled the speculation “absolutely ridiculous.”
Apparently, his bosses agree with the head coach.
At a board meeting Thursday, UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek stated that he and athletic director Dave Hart had done their “due diligence” in investigating the accusations that Jones and senior offensive lineman Mack Crowder were involved in some type of physical skirmish during practice this past August. The end result of interviews with Jones, coaches and players was the conclusion that there was nothing to the reports and message-board rumors.
“There’s been a lot of rumor and misinformation on social media and message boards about an alleged incident during football practice,” Cheek said according to GoVols247.com‘s Wes Rucker. “It’s not our practice to respond to rumors, but I thought it was important to let you know that we’ve done our due diligence and Dave Hart and I are very confident there was no inappropriate conduct with any players or coaches.”
Shortly after Cheek spoke at the board meeting, Crowder took to Twitter with a series of missives that speaks around the issue.
Michigan played without its leading rusher in Week 5. The Wolverines are hoping there won’t be a repeat in Week 6.
De'Veon Smith sustained a lower-leg injury in the Week 4 win over BYU and didn’t travel with the team for last Saturday’s win over Maryland. Smith has been practicing with his teammates throughout the first few days of this week, and head coach Jim Harbaugh is guardedly optimistic that the running back will be available for what’s turned into a huge Big Ten matchup with Northwestern Saturday in the Big House.
“He’s practicing and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to stay good and be ready to play,” Harbaugh said during a radio appearance Thursday morning. “But we’ll (keep) looking at that every day.”
Despite essentially missing a game and a half, Smith currently leads the Wolverines with 331 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. He’s added four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield the first four games.
Should Smith be unable to go again, the Wolverines have three other backs with at least 100 yards on the ground: Ty Isaac (187, 7.2 yards per carry), Drake Johnson (125, 4.2 ypc) and Derrick Green (100, 3.3 ypc).
In addition to Smith, Harbaugh is hopeful Channing Stribling will be available this weekend as well. The starting cornerback didn’t play against the Cougars because of injury