Mountain West, Conference USA working on merger?

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Forget what a 16-team superconference would do for college athletics — that’s so six hours ago anyway — it’s all about the 22-team “Super Friends” conference now.

At least that’s what the Mountain West and Conference USA are potentially discussing. MWC commissioner Craig Thompson told the Idaho Statesman reports today that both conferences are considering a football-only merger that would include a whopping 22 teams spanning from North Carolina to Hawaii.

Seriously, has no one thought of the consequences for women’s volleyball? (Don’t answer that)

Earlier today, Texas and Oklahoma authorized their presidents to have complete control over their conference realignment future. Based on the comments of OU president David Boren, It’s widely believed that Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will move on to the Pac-12. Whether Texas and Texas would do the same isn’t quite as clear, as the Longhorn Network continues to be a hurdle for any possible move.

If Texas does not end up staying in the Big 12, those left behind could connect with any remaining members of the Big East. Thompson added, though, that he would consider taking teams from the Big 12 and Big East who were not picked up as part of the conference realignment shift that appears to be on the cusp of action.

“What I’m hearing from most parties is the Big 12 and Big East institutions that might not get invited (to other BCS leagues), their No. 1 option is they are interested in getting together. That is the highest option on those institutions’ part,” Thompson said, noting that former member TCU would “probably” be ndorsed by the MWC Board of Directors for a re-invite.

Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky also added the following statement:

“We find the activities involving conference realignment fascinating. We are closely watching the recent developments in other conferences, and the potential for change. At the same time, we are working on some creative consolidation strategies that have the potential for positioning our members well into the future. We are particularly intrigued by cooperative possibilities with the Mountain West.”

Fascinating; intriguing. Those would definitely be words you could describe how the “Super Friends” conference would looks. The Houston Chronicle takes a guess at the possibilities:

Pod 1
Wyoming
Hawaii
Boise State
San Diego State
Fresno State

Pod 2
Air Force
New Mexico
Colorado State
Nevada
UNLV

Pod 3
Houston
Rice
Tulane
Tulsa
SMU
UTEP

Pod 4
Memphis
East Carolina
Southern Mississippi
Central Florida
Marshall
UAB

As we noted yesterday, the Pac-12 could use a similar Pod system if it expanded to 16 teams.

But just think: there was someone all along with the foresight and knowledge to see this type of superconference coming from a mile away.

Minnesota’s Tom Foley punts way into transfer portal

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A Minnesota football player is the latest to prove that punters are people too and, as such, aren’t immune from the pull of the portal.

On his personal Twitter account this week, Tom Foley announced that, “[a]after talking it over with my family and friends I have decided to put my name into the transfer portal.” The Punter gave no specific reason for the decision.

“I would like to say thank you to [Minnesota football head coach P.J.] Fleck and [special teams coordinator Rob] Wenger for giving me the opportunity to become a Golden Gopher,” Foley wrote. “Thank You to all my teammates who pushed me to become my best.”

Now, for what’s seemingly becoming a daily disclaimer when it comes to transfers.

As we’ve stated myriad times in the past, a player can remove his name from the portal and remain at the same school. At this point, though, other programs are permitted to contact a player without receiving permission from his current football program.

NCAA bylaws also permit schools to pull a portal entrant’s scholarship at the end of the semester in which he entered it.

A walk-on from Peoria, Ill., Foley took a redshirt as a true freshman last season. He has yet to see any game action for the Minnesota football program.

Minnesota currently has two punters on its football roster. Fifth-year senior Matthew Stephenson took a grad transfer to the Big Ten school from Middle Tennessee State. At MTSU, he punted 16 times and averaged 37.06 per. Additionally, true freshman Mark Crawford is a 2020 three-star signee who comes to the school from Australia. He was rated as the No. 5 punter in this year’s class.

Minnesota is coming off a season in which it won 11 games, the football program’s most since 1904.

In interview with Howard Stern, Tom Brady talks about almost transferring from Michigan to Cal

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While a lot of the attention surrounding his Howard Stern interview focused on his relationship with the current POTUS, there was a college football angle to all of the Tom Brady talk.

Coming out of high school in California, Brady chose a scholarship offer from Michigan over one from Cal. His first season at U-M, Brady sat behind Scott Dreisbach, Brian Griese and Jason Carr, the son of head coach Lloyd Carr and took a redshirt. His second season, with Carr out of eligibility, Brady was still behind Dreisbach and Griese.

In his book “Belichick and Brady,” Michael Holley explained that Brady very nearly transferred from Michigan to Cal because of his positioning on the depth chart. During the course of his SiriusXM interview with the King of All Media Wednesday, Brady acknowledged the transfer talk.

The guy who was playing above me, Scott Dreisbach, he was very much their guy,” Brady told Stern during the show. “I thought we had got off to kind of a good start, he had got off to a good start in his career, and I was looking up at all these guys on the depth chart that were ahead of me, and I thought, ‘I’m never going to get a chance here.’ I remember talking to the people at Cal, because that was my second choice, to go to Berkeley, and I was thinking, ‘Maybe I should go there, because I’ll get more of an opportunity to play.’

“I went in and talked to Lloyd Carr. I said, ‘I don’t really think I’m going to get my chance here. I think I should leave,’ and he said, ‘Tom, I want you to stay, and I believe in you, and I think you could be a good player, but you’ve got to start worrying about the things you can control.’ When he said that he wanted me there, I went to bed that night, I woke up the next day, and I figured, you know what, if I’m going to be — and I still feel this way today — in a team sport, you’ve got to sacrifice what you want individually for what’s best for the team. So if you’re not the best guy, it’s a disservice for the team if you’re forced to somehow play. My feeling was, if I’m going to be the best, I’ve got to beat out the best, and if the best competition’s at Michigan, I’ve got to beat those guys out if I’m going to play. I ended up committing to be the best.

Obviously, Brady opted to remain with the Wolverines. He served as Griese’s backup in 1997, then beat out Dreisbach for the starting job the following season. After two years as U-M’s started, Brady was infamously selected 199th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Suffice to say, Brady did fairly well for himself during his 20 seasons in New England.

Minnesota projecting potential $75 million loss due to COVID-19

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The worst case for Minnesota when it comes to COVID-19 is a hefty bottom line hit.

The school’s board of regents met on Tuesday and detailed some of the initial modeling they are projecting as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking just of the athletic department, that could result in nearly $75 million in lost revenue alone for the Gophers.

The Athletic’s Eric Vegoe detailed one of the slides from the meeting, which shows an overall $200 million hit to the university at large in a worst case — or “severe” — scenario:

Obviously the severe scenario that shows COVID-19 lasting into the fall is projecting a serious loss of revenue as the result of no (or reduced) college football. The sport makes up the vast majority of Minnesota’s revenues and has untold impact on other items such as donations as well.

USA Today’s database of athletic department revenues show the Gophers had nearly $125 million in revenue through the 2017-18 school year. While that figure has undoubtedly climbed higher as Big Ten media rights distributions have escalated, the number provided to the regents is still a huge chunk of that amount.

Even the moderate estimate of things lasting through the summer could result in a 20% shave on the department’s income.

It goes without saying that finances across the board in every industry will be impacted by the global pandemic but slides like the one above are a good reminder that even in the tiny world of football or college athletics, the cuts will probably have to run quite deep. And if a school like Minnesota is potentially forced to cut back, just imagine what other Group of Five programs will have to go through.

At some point college football will return to our lives but the ramifications of this current battle against the coronavirus figure will certainly have a far-reaching impact well beyond the gridiron. Sadly, no amount of ‘Rowing the Boat’ will be able to change that fact.

Bay Area official does not expect sports to return “until at least Thanksgiving”

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So much of the intersection of the coronavirus and college football has centered on when the game might return this fall.

Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy wants players back as soon as May. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is confident that Death Valley will be packed come September. Virginia Tech’s athletic director has floated moving the calendar back just to get a full slate in.

In short, nobody knows.

That unknown has weighed heavily on most as they are asked to discuss the topic in recent days. What is left unsaid however, is that no coach or administrator will truly be in charge of determining the date CFB returns. That will be left to health officials at the local level.

One such official broached that topic this week. Speaking to the Santa Clara County (in the California Bay Area) Board of Supervisors, Dr. Jeffrey Smith believes sports in general may be looking more toward winter than fall whenever it returns.

Per the Los Angeles Times:

Smith on Tuesday told that county’s Board of Supervisors that he did not expect there would be “any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we’d be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving. This is not something that’s going to be easy to do.”

Santa Clara County is home to both Stanford and San Jose State. It’s also located in the region of the United States that was at the forefront of shutting down as a response to COVID-19 last month.

If those in charge don’t see a return to the football field until turkey time, those optimistic projections of getting the season done on time can probably be thrown to the wind.

Let’s hope that won’t turn out to be the case and the world can get a medical miracle it desperately needs. But until that happens, it’s probably best to be more pessimistic when it comes to the 2020 season than optimistic.