Jim Delany talks de-emphasizing athletics; we call his bluff

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The importance of the Ed O’Bannon case vs. the NCAA in regards to the future of college athletics cannot be stated enough. As we touched on briefly back in late January, the lawsuit is still on track to become a class-action that could eventually result in college athletes receiving (and deservedly so) a piece of the ever-growing television revenue pot.

Needless to say, that would dramatically alter the idea of amateurism that the NCAA and several college admins hide behind. One of those admins is Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. In an intriguing article from Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Staples, which you can and absolutely should read HERE, Delany openly explored the idea of the Big Ten moving to a de-emphasized athletics model should athletes ever receive compensation in a pay-for-play scenario.

Here’s what Delany wrote in a declaration supporting the NCAA against the O’Bannon’s pursuit of class-action status. In it, Delany introduces the possibility of using a Division III model:

“…it has been my longstanding belief that The Big Ten’s schools would forgo the revenues in those circumstances and instead take steps to downsize the scope, breadth and activity of their athletic programs. Several alternatives to a ‘pay for play’ model exist, such as the Division III model, which does not offer any athletics-based grants-in-aid, and, among others, a need-based financial model. These alternatives would, in my view, be more consistent with The Big Ten’s philosophy that the educational and lifetime economic benefits associated with a university education are the appropriate quid pro quo for its student athletes.”

And this is what Delany told Staples:

“It’s not that we want to go Division III or go to need-based aid,” Delany said. “It’s simply that in the plaintiff’s hypothetical — and if a court decided that Title IX is out and players must be paid — I don’t think we’d participate in that. I think we’d choose another option. … If that’s the law of the land, if you have to do that, I don’t think we would.”

Delany wasn’t alone in filing his declaration. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, Texas athletic directors DeLoss Dodds and Chris PlonskyBig 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby and SEC executive associate commissioner Mark Womack have also filed similar documents.

Staples writes candidly “If the Big Ten schools dropped athletic scholarships and moved to Division III or into the non-scholarship FCS realm occupied by the schools of the Ivy and Pioneer leagues, it would inject some intellectual honesty into this debate. Schools and leagues say they want to run amateur sports that enrich the collegiate experience, but then they run football and men’s basketball like professional sports. This would mean a group of 14 schools leaving millions of dollars on the table to run true amateur athletic programs that exist only to enhance the university experience of their students.”

And therein lies the biggest deterrent for Delany and anyone else considering a future with less emphasis on athletics and its revenue potential, whether it’s a DIII model or otherwise: no one, and I say this quite confidently, is going to seriously leave that much money on the table based on some out-of-date belief that those who work hard to help generate that revenue shouldn’t receive even a small portion of it.

(If they did, more power to ’em. At least someone would be standing by their words. Just be prepared for a massive pay decrease or pink slip.) 

But consider Delany’s job description. As Big Ten commissioner, Delany is responsible for serving his presidents and athletic directors. What he wants doesn’t always reflect what his conference wants, or what it will get. By Delany’s own admission, he hasn’t polled them on the idea of moving to another model. But he does feel confident that they would support his idea.

“… I think our presidents, our faculties and our boards of trustees would just opt out,” Delany said of a pay-for-play. “I don’t know what the opt-out means, whether that’s Division III or another model.”

Picture the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State agreeing to de-emphasize their athletics programs. No, really. Go ahead.

How about new members Maryland and Rutgers? The Terps moved to the Big Ten solely because of money and the Big Ten expanded to 14 — and could expand again to 16 — to grow its footprint in richer television markets.

Those schools have factions to consider too, such as wealthy alumni, season-ticket holders and network subscribers. All play a pivotal role in making the Big Ten one of the most recognizable and profitable brands in college athletics.

Delany insists he isn’t bluffing. We’re saying he is, and we’re not alone. Remember how anti-playoff Delany was?

Then again, completely scrapping everything you’ve built for the sake of making sure some athletes don’t get paid is the most college athletics thing ever.

New Mexico AD Paul Krebs in hot water for Scotland golf trip

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New Mexico AD Paul Krebs (right) had it all figured out. He wanted to go to Scotland to play golf (who doesn’t) but he didn’t want to pay for it (who does?). So he came up with a solution: he’d turn it into a UNM fundraising trip and make the school pay for it.

The school sold 23 packages to travel across the pond for a getaway of luxurious accommodations and bucket-list golf, but put the bills of himself, two UNM executives and a handful of local businessmen on the school’s dime. Lots of dimes, in fact. The trip cost the Lobos nearly $65,000.

“The trip was a working trip and it was designed to immerse us with these donors. It was an intensive experience and I understand why people may question it,” Krebs told KRQE-TV earlier this month.

Despite his attempt at justification, it appeared Krebs knew from the start the trip was an ethical no-no. The $65,000 bill was classified as a basketball tournament on UNM’s accounting paperwork, and Krebs failed to disclose the nature of the June 2015 trip to acting president Chaouki Abdallah until last week.

“VP Krebs came to me and told me that he wanted to tell me something that he had forgotten or did not tell me before,” Abdallah told KRQE. “I was not happy.”

It is not clear why the UNM Foundation or the Lobo Club,  non-profits that handles the school’s and the athletics department’s fundraising efforts, respectively, did not cover the cost of the trip, especially since Lobo Club executive director Kole McKamey was one of the UNM officials who was on the trip. Putting the bill on the university’s ledger also appears to be a violation of the state’s anti-donation laws. The $24,000 cost to take the Albuquerque businessmen has since been refunded by an anonymous donor.

“(Krebs) told me about it in no uncertain terms,” Abdallah told said. “He didn’t try to sugarcoat it. He said I made a mistake. I didn’t tell you about it before. Here’s what happened. I’m going to try to fix it.”

 

Miami Beach Bowl officially moves to Frisco, Texas

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The Miami Beach Bowl was an unnecessary bowl game played in a metro area already populated by bowl games — but at least it was in Miami. Bowl games may have lost their luster over the past decade-plus, but it’s hard to complain about being sent to South Beach in December for a football game.

The Miami Beach Bowl is no more, and it’s now been reincarnated as another unnecessary bowl game to be played in a metro area even more populated by bowl games — and it won’t be anywhere near as interesting as Miami.

Meet the Frisco Bowl, the newest ESPN-created postseason college football game to be played in the scenic locale of Frisco, Texas.

The north Dallas suburb will host the game at Toyota Stadium, a 20,500-seat outdoor venue that’s home to MLS club FC Dallas as well as the FCS National Championship every January. The Frisco Bowl will also compete for sponsorship dollars and public attention with the Cotton Bowl in Arlington, the Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas and the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.

“We are pleased to be able to host this game in one of the most vibrant football markets in the country,” said ESPN vice president of events Clint Overby. “The infrastructure and facilities that exist in Frisco are outstanding and will be an excellent venue for the teams, players, administrators and fans traveling into the marketplace. We look forward to working with civic organizations and businesses in the area to create an annual event that embraces the spirit of the community.”

The first annual Frisco Bowl will pit an American Athletic Conference team against a to-be-determined conference at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 20.

2017 Texas signee sees felony drug charge reduced to misdemeanor

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It appears the door to one member of Texas’ 2017 recruiting class arriving in Austin this summer has opened a little wider.

In late February, Reese Leitao was arrested at his Oklahoma high school on a charge of possession/delivery of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to sell within a thousand feet of a school, a felony.  Tuesday, the Austin American-Statesman is reporting, Leitao pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge.

As part of the plea agreement, Leitao received a four-year deferred sentence; provided he stays clean during that time, the charge will be wiped off his record.  The American-Statesman writes that, “[a]ccording to Leitao’s attorney, Leitao has ‘some probationary work,’including speaking engagements at schools, and will be under the supervision of the district attorney.”  A $1,000 fine was part of his punishment as well.

The ball is now in the hands of first-year UT head coach Tom Herman as to whether Leitao will have a football future with the Longhorns.

“I’m happy,” the attorney, Allen Smallwood, told the newspaper. “Hopefully the University of Texas will be happy.”

At the time of Leitao’s arrest, a statement attributed to Herman said that “[w]e’re collecting information, will talk to Reese and his family, let the legal system run its course and then address it further at the appropriate time.” As of this posting, the university has yet to publicly address the development.

Leitao was a three-star 2017 signee, rated as the No. 19 tight end in the country and the No. 8 player at any position in the state of Oklahoma.

Miami All-American, NFL Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy dead at 48

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One of the most physically-gifted and talented players in the history of Miami Hurricanes football is gone way, way too soon.

The Orlando Police Department confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Cortez Kennedy passed away earlier today.  He was just 48 years old.

No cause of death has been determined, with the OPD stating that “at this time there is nothing suspicious to report but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing.”

After starting his collegiate playing career at the junior college level, Kennedy moved on to the University of Miami, earning All-American honors in 1989.  In 2004, he was inducted into the university’s Sports Hall of Fame.

The third overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, Kennedy spent his entire 11-year pro career with the Seattle Seahawks.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Not surprisingly, Kennedy’s sudden passing has brought an outpouring of emotion from those connected to the football program.