A&M raising eyebrows at ESPNUT televising high school games

22 Comments

Somewhat lost amidst the intense glare given off by the $300 million deal Texas signed with ESPN to create the Longhorn television network (Bevo-TV?  ESPNUT?) was the content that will be utilized to fill the 24-hour channel.

Specifically, the rather startling revelation that high school games — including football — are expected to be broadcast by the network.  How this is even possible, that a university-branded TV entity can televise games involving potential recruits, is at minimum head-scratching and raises a gigantic red NCAA flag the size of the state the network will be centered in.

And, of course, the televising of high school games, football and otherwise, has at least one in-state rival raising both flags and questions.

By way of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne seemed to intimate that he is hopeful the NCAA will look into the prep angle of Texas’ new network.

“I can’t speak for the NCAA, but I would imagine the governing body will look into the use of a collegiate television network airing games of prospective student-athletes,” Byrne said. “I understand networks such as FSN and ESPN airing high school sports, but whether or not employees under contract with a university that may have additional contact would seem to be an issue.”

The head coach of the Aggies’ women’s basketball team was even more succinct and direct when it comes to what impact the network could have on high school recruits.

“If Brittney Griner was coming out of high school today, and all of a sudden they decided to televise eight of her home games, don’t you think that would put Texas a leg up in recruiting?” Gary Blair asked rhetorically about the current Baylor star.

“Are we all still going to be on the same level playing field? I want to be on the same level playing field as much as I can, particularly in recruiting.”

An unnamed ESPN insider told the Express-News that a format or how extensive preps coverage will be has yet to be determined, but that in the end it will be “fair to all parties involved.”

We’ve attempted to get a comment from the NCAA on the situation but, frankly, there’s really not a need for official word.  Common sense would seem to dictate that you cannot allow a University of Texas network — or any other school, for that matter — to televise high school games.  There should be no question about that.

For all of the “clamping down” the NCAA has done on “outside influences” in the recruiting game, it would go beyond mere head-scratching if the governing body of collegiate athletics were to allow this aspect of the network, regardless of how profitable the deal as a whole is for the institution, to exist.

Then again, it is the NCAA we are talking about here, so “common sense” may not really have a prominent seat at the table.

Lane Kiffin’s new 10-year deal doesn’t contain amended buyout number

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Even as Florida Atlantic has made a significant commitment to Lane Kiffin — and vice versa — it still won’t cost Power Five programs a sizable amount of money to pry him away from the Conference USA school.

It was confirmed in December of last year that Kiffin and FAU had reached an agreement in principle on a new 10-year contract, although very few, if any, particulars were made available. Fast-forward six months, and fauowlaccess.com is reporting that not only is the deal now official, but there are also some specifics contained in the revamped contract that can now be revealed.

Most notably, given the fact that most expect Kiffin to bolt for a bigger job at some point after the 2018 season ends — of course, those same observers thought the same after the 2017 season ended — is the buyout language contained in the new contract. Specifically, it remains the same language contained in the old five-year deal the new 10-year pact replaced.

From the website’s report:

FAU elected not to alter the buyout clause in Kiffin’s contract. Leaving between now and January of 2019 would cost Kiffin $2 million. The buyout drops $500,000 per year through 2021.

A $2 million buyout, of course, would not prevent most Power Five schools from pursuing Kiffin if they’re looking for a head coach as the 2018 regular season winds down.

As for pay, Kiffin’s annual base salary of $950,000 remains unchanged from the terms of his previous deal, fauowlsaccess.com is also reporting. That $950,000 is also what he was paid in 2017, a number that was third in the conference behind UT-San Antonio’s Frank Wilson ($1.137 million) and North Texas’ Seth Littrell ($991,000).

Taking over a program that was coming off of back-to-back-back 3-9 seasons, Kiffin led the Owls to an 11-win campaign in 2017 that included a 10-game winning streak that they’ll carry into 2018. The wins set a school record and the football program also claimed its first-ever conference championship.

Report: CMU RB Berkley Edwards, brother of Braylon, heading to Michigan

Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Berkley Edwards, the younger brother of former Michigan standout Braylon Edwards, is apparently following in his brother’s footsteps. According to a report from The Michigan Insider, Berkley Edwards is planning on transferring from Central Michigan to walk on with the Wolverines.

Edwards will be using a sixth year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to play his final season for the same program his brother and father Stan Edwards once did.

Edwards began his college career at Minnesota in 2013. He spent one year as a redshirt and later sat out the 2016 season as a transfer to Central Michigan. Edwards was a part of the Central Michigan special teams unit last season and has previously handled rushing duties at Minnesota. At Michigan, Edwards will likely fill a spot on the depth chart at running back and special teams, although his role is expected to be as a reserve option for each as he gets started with the Wolverines.

Edwards will be eligible to play for Michigan this season. Michigan has not formally announced the addition of Edwards to the football program at this time.

Two Western Michigan players medically disqualified

Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Western Michigan running back Matt Falcon just can’t seem to catch a break, it seems. After injuring his knee last season, Falcon has been medically disqualified to play for the Broncos this fall, according to a Battle Creek Enquirer report. Western Michigan will also be without redshirt freshman defensive lineman Dezmond Lance, who has also been medically disqualified.

Falcon redshirted for Western Michigan in 2016 under former head coach and current Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck. Falcon came to Minnesota after being offered a medical scholarship at Michigan after a second ACL injury in his senior year of high school. He injured the same knee during camp prior to the 2017 season and managed to make just one appearance for the MAC program. Falcon rushed for 37 yards on 10 rushing attempts.

Due to his injury history, Falcon was likely only to play a reserve role in the running game for Western Michigan this fall. Regardless, not being able to contribute this fall has to be disappointing for a player that was once rated as a four-star recruit in high school. In terms of his eligibility, the time to petition for a medical exemption for an extra year of eligibility could eventually be on the table for Falcon, although that does not need to be decided just yet.

Junior defensive back Brad Tanner has also been confirmed to have left the program.

Big Ten revenue distribution hits $51 million

AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File
2 Comments

The Big Ten continues to roll in gigantic piles of money. Details on the Big Ten revenue distribution for the past year were uncovered from a budget spreadsheet from the Michigan Board of Regents, in which it was revealed Michigan received a revenue distribution of $51 million from the Big Ten for the past fiscal year.

It is currently projected the Big Ten distributions will rise to $52 million for the next year, according to Detroit News reporter Angelique Chengelis (via Twitter).

That’s a nice payday for all parties involved and was to be expected given the recent changes to the Big Ten media partnerships. Last year, the Big Ten began making regular season games available to FOX in addition to its current partnership with ESPN and, of course, the Big Ten Network. That expansion of the media deal appears to have paid off for the Big Ten and should continue to fuel the revenue allotment for the next year as the deals with FOX and ESPN continue. The Big Ten’s revenue distribution the previous year was $36.3 million.

The Big Ten revenue distribution of $51.1 million eclipses the average $41 million distributions received by SEC members. It also continues to pace well ahead of the other power conferences; Big 12 members received $36.5 million, ACC members received between $25.3 million and $30.7 million, and Pac-12 schools received $30.9 million. For the sake of comparison, the American Athletic Conference recorded a total conference revenue of $74.47 million for the past year.

It’s good to be in a power conference. It’s even better to be in the Big Ten and the SEC, apparently.

UPDATE: As a reminder, Maryland and Rutgers will not receive a full revenue distribution until the 2020-2021 year. Nebraska was eligible for a full distribution for the first time as a Big Ten member, however.