McMurphy's Law: John Marinatto Gets His Tie and Big East Gets Horned Frogs
Big East commissioner John Marinatto ventured out into the madness of Black Friday in Providence, R.I., in search of only one item: a purple tie.
Marinatto was unable to secure the coveted tie, but he got an even better present on Monday -- a new football member for the Big East.
TCU and the Big East announced Monday afternoon that the Horned Frogs would be joining the league for the 2012-13 school year.
When arriving in Fort Worth, Texas, TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte provided Marinatto with a purple and black tie -- and an even sharper looking football program.
Now that Marinatto has dressed up his league with a ninth football member, what's next?
"Our goal is to get to 10 (teams)," Marinatto told FanHouse. "That's what we said following our presidents meeting in November. Obviously there are circumstances that could change that -- if Penn State called tomorrow and said they wanted to join, we'd say yes and do it."
Since that call's not coming in, the Big East will wait on Villanova. The Wildcats have a pending offer to join the league as a football member and the school has board meetings scheduled in February and April. Marinatto expects a decision from the Wildcats by the April meeting, at the latest.
If Villanova decides to keep its football program in the FCS, sources have told FanHouse that Central Florida would be extended an invitation. Marinatto would not speculate on any expansion candidates or how much TCU's entrance fee is to join the league.
However, league sources told FanHouse that TCU's entrance fee "would be similar" to what South Florida, Louisville and Cincinnati paid to join the league in 2005. That was $2.5 million, but instead of TCU paying up front, the Big East will withhold $500,000 a year for five years from TCU's cut of the annual revenue sharing pool.
Marinatto said there has been "no discussion" about the Big East basketball tournament and whether all 17 teams would qualify or if the league would return to only the top 12 teams making the trip to Madison Square Garden. Marinatto said that decision will be made by the league's presidents, but added he thinks "the tournament is supposed to reward excellence."
The biggest misconception about the Horned Frogs joining a league where they are located an average of 1,140 miles from the other football members is the travel costs for the Olympic sports. Because the Big East does not require in-season competition between league members in individual sports (tennis, golf, cross country and track), the only time those programs would be required to travel to a Big East school would be for the conference championships, Marinatto said.
That was not the case in the Mountain West, which does require in-season competition within the conference for those sports. So, while no one has crunched all the numbers, it's possible that TCU's athletic department could spend about the same on travel in the Big East.
As for the oddity of having a Texas school in the Big East?
"People keep asking me about geography," said Marinatto, who had never visited TCU's campus before Monday. "How does the Big East justify having a team in Texas? If a conference called the Big Ten can have 12 members and the Big 12 can have 10, why can't the Big East have a school in Texas?"
Marinatto remembered in 1990 when the Big East added Miami, located more than a 1,000 miles from the closest league member. "Geography was a major issue back then, but look how the world has changed," he said. "No one could rationalize it then. Also from the basketball side, adding Miami didn't help us, but it helped them."
And by adding TCU, it will also help the Horned Frogs' basketball program and, more importantly, the Big East's football future.
Hypothetical Question Of The Week
It's a question I've been continually asked by football fans -- and my editors -- for a couple weeks now: what if Auburn wins the SEC championship Saturday and Cam Newton is ruled ineligible before the Jan. 10 BCS national title game?
BCS spokesman Bill Hancock said he can't speculate on hypothetical situations, but said the BCS group is "not an investigative body."
"As far as ineligibility in general, the BCS group -- conference commissioners and Notre Dame's athletics director -- is not a regulatory or investigative body," Hancock told FanHouse. "The group would review an eligibility matter if, and only if, the NCAA takes action -- and then not until all appeals have been exhausted."
So in other words -- this is my opinion, not Hancock's -- even if any of the allegations concerning Newton or his father, Cecil, resulted in Cam Newton being ruled ineligible, it would be impossible to remove Auburn from the BCS title game because the resulting domino effect on the remaining 34 bowls.
The Ups and Downs of 2010
Remember back when the season opener was only a few weeks away and every team -- except for USC -- had dreams of playing in the GoDaddy.com Bowl at season's end?
Back then, all of the conferences released their various preseason media and/or coaches polls. So let's take a quick review and point out the biggest surprise and disappointment for each of the 11 FBS leagues.
Surprise: Maryland. The Terps were picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division and the Fridge was going to be put on ice. However, Maryland went 5-3 in the ACC, finishing in a tie for second in the Atlantic, and 8-4 overall. Quite the turnaround after last year's 2-10 debacle.
Disappointment: Clemson by a slight margin over Miami. The Tigers received 16 first-place votes and were predicted to finish second in the Atlantic Division. Instead, Clemson finished in a tie for fourth place at 4-4 only ahead of Wake Forest. Overall, the Tigers were 6-6 with four of their losses by six points or less.
Surprise: Syracuse. In the Orange's previous five seasons, they were 4-31 in the Big East. They went 4-3 this year. Picked to finish seventh, Syracuse could end up being anywhere from a five-way tie for first to, at worst, a two-way tie for fourth place. The Orange also earned their first bowl berth since 2004.
Disappointment: Pittsburgh. The Panthers were a near unanimous choice to win the league, receiving 22 of 24 first-place votes. They still might finish in a tie for first, but not being able to dominate the league in a down year plus a 2-3 non-conference record certainly was not expected.
Surprise: Michigan State. The league only lists the top three preseason teams and the Spartans were not one of them. Most preseason magazines had the Spartans no higher than fifth. All they did was finish 7-1 in a three-way tie for the Big Ten title. Even a mild heart attack suffered by coach Mark Dantonio couldn't slow the Spartans.
Disappointment: Iowa. The Hawkeyes were picked to finish second in the Big Ten and even one idiot -- yes, me -- predicted they would play for the BCS title. Instead, Iowa, returning a boatload of talent from last year's Orange Bowl championship team, only mustered a 4-4 league record, good enough for a three-way tie for fourth.
Surprise: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys were picked to finish second-to-last in the Big 12 South. Instead, they finished in a three-way tie for first in the Big 12 South and nearly earned their first BCS bowl berth. The Cowboys only losses were to Nebraska and Oklahoma, the two Big 12 title-game participants.
Disappointment: Texas. Of the 26 Big 12 media members who voted in the preseason poll, 10 picked the Longhorns to win the Big 12 South. Don't worry, I won't out you. The Longhorns finished dead last in the Big 12 South at 2-6 and also were 5-7, missing a bowl game for the first time since 1997.
Surprise: East Carolina. C-USA doesn't have preseason polls, but Phil Steele's College Football Preview magazine predicted a fifth-place finish in the C-USA East division. However, the Pirates, under first-year coach Ruffin McNeill, finished in a two-way tie for second with Southern Miss at 6-6.
Disappointment: Houston. Include a big asterisk by this selection since the C-USA preseason favorite Cougars lost both starting QB Case Keenum and backup Cotton Turner to season-ending injuries in week three at UCLA. Predictably, the Cougars struggled, finishing 5-7 overall, 4-4 in C-USA.
Surprise: Miami, Ohio. The Redhawks were picked to finish fifth in the MAC's East division, but will play for the MAC championship Friday night. The Redhawks showed their season-opening near upset of Florida was no fluke. Miami was 8-4 overall, 7-1 in league play after going 3-21 the past two seasons.
Disappointment: Central Michigan. The Chippewas were predicted to finish second behind Northern Illinois in the MAC's West division. Instead, Central Michigan went 3-9, including 2-6 in league play, finishing in a last place tie with Eastern Michigan. The 3-9 mark ended the Chippewas' streak of four consecutive bowl trips.
Surprise: Kudos to the media voting in the Mountain West preseason poll -- you were nearly dead on. They correctly predicted the top four spots and last place. The biggest surprise, though, was San Diego State. Pegged for sixth, the Aztecs finished in a three-way logjam for third place with Air Force and BYU at 5-3 in league play.
Disappointment: Wyoming. The Cowboys were predicted for a fifth-place finish, but ended in a last-place tie with New Mexico. Wyoming went 3-9 overall, 1-7 in MWC play despite returning 15 starters from last season's 7-6 New Mexico Bowl championship team.
Surprise: Stanford. Picked to finish fourth, the Cardinal were the Pac-10 runners-up. While most preseason predictions had the Cardinal outside the Top 25, some genius -- yes, me -- picked them 18th in the country and even that wasn't high enough. Stanford (11-1) only lost to Oregon and will earn its first BCS bowl berth under coach Jim Harbaugh.
Disappointment: Oregon State. This should come with an asterisk, however, as the Beavers lost star WR James Rodgers to a season-ending knee injury. OSU was 3-2, with losses at Boise State and TCU, when it lost Rodgers and closed 2-4. OSU was picked to finish third, but likely will finish sixth if it loses to Oregon Saturday.
Surprise: Auburn. The Tigers are the nation's biggest surprise team. The nation's No. 1 BCS team was only picked to finish third in the SEC West behind Alabama and Arkansas. Honorable mention to South Carolina. The SEC East champion Gamecocks also were picked third in their division.
Disappointment: Florida. The Gators were the overwhelming choice to win the SEC East. Although they still finished second, they were only 4-4 in league play -- losing consecutive home games to LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina. Florida's 7-5 record equals its worst record since 2004, Ron Zook's final season at UF.
Surprise: Florida International. The Golden Panthers are 6-1 in league play have clinched at least a tie for their first Sun Belt title and will win it outright by defeating Middle Tennessee on Saturday. That's quite an accomplishment since the Golden Panthers were picked to finish sixth in the preseason poll.
Disappointment: Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin' Cajuns were picked to finish fourth, but sit in seventh place at 3-5 in the league, 3-9 overall. Lafayette, which had won six games in four of its last five years, ended a seven-game losing streak by defeating Louisiana-Monroe last week but it wasn't enough to save Rickey Bustle's job.
Surprise: Hawaii. The Warriors were picked to finish fifth by the coaches and seventh by the media. However, if they defeat UNLV Saturday, they would finish at least in a tie for the WAC title. The Warriors (9-3 overall) also cracked the AP Top 25 this week at No. 25.
Disappointment: Utah State and Idaho. The Aggies were picked fourth (coaches) and sixth (media), while the Vandals were picked fourth (media) and sixth (coaches) in the preseason polls. The Aggies and Vandals enter Saturday's finales in a tie for sixth at 2-5 and only ahead of New Mexico State and San Jose State in the league standings.
What If There Was No BCS?
No BCS? I know, it's like imagining if there was no Santa Claus. Anyway, here's how the bowl matchups might look with the current conference champion tie-ins for the bowls and taking the highest ranked at-large teams.
Under this formula, any league champion not ranked in the Top 15 would not receive an automatic berth so sorry Big East champion, you're on your own. These matchups would not provide a No. 1 vs. No. 2, but overall the four BCS bowls are more attractive as a whole than what the projected BCS bowls are going to give us (see the column to the right).
Rose: Oregon (Pac-10) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten)
Orange: Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Arkansas (at-large)
Sugar: Auburn (SEC) vs. TCU (at-large)
Fiesta: Oklahoma (Big 12) vs. Stanford (at-large)
This would pit unbeatens Auburn and TCU, ranked No. 1 and 3, against each other in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 1 Oregon gets No. 5 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl's Big Ten-Pac 10 matchup.
ACC champion Virginia Tech would face No. 7 Arkansas in the Orange, while Big 12 champion Oklahoma would get No. 4 Stanford instead of an unranked Big East team.
OK, enough daydreaming. Back to reality.
Pink Slips On Decline -- for Now
Perhaps it's the economy or perhaps head coaches are doing a much better job in 2010 -- OK, so it's the economy -- but whatever the reason, fewer coaches are getting fired this season.
In the past nine years, an average of 18.3 FBS coaches were fired or changed jobs, including an average of 9.5 from BCS-automatic qualifying schools. In each of the past two years, more than 1/6 of the FBS coaches had a different job -- 23 in 2009 and 22 in 2008.
Through Monday, there were 10 FBS coaches that have been fired or resigned, including five from BCS-AQ schools. This season, the numbers of coaching changes are significantly down from last season, but that could change from a domino effect depending on Miami, Colorado and Minnesota.
Several coaches who were speculated as being on the endangered list (see Erickson, Dennis), have been given a public assurance by their respective athletic director that they will return next season. Of course the numbers could drastically increase if a high-profile coach (Michigan/Clemson) gets let go in the coming minutes, days or weeks, which could trigger a domino effect through the coaching ranks. But so far, it's been relatively quiet. But is it the calm before the storm?
Year Coaching changes made
2001 – 8 BCS-AQ, 13 FBS
2002 – 10 BCS-AQ, 18 FBS
2003 – 5 BCS-AQ, 13 FBS
2004 – 12 BCS-AQ, 23 FBS
2005 – 4 BCS-AQ, 11 FBS
2006 – 13 BCS-AQ, 24 FBS
2007 – 11 BCS-AQ, 18 FBS
2008 – 11 BCS-AQ, 22 FBS
2009 – 12 BCS-AQ, 23 FBS
2010 – 5 BCS-AQ, 10 FBS*
A Holtz New Era Indeed
Shortly after South Florida hired Skip Holtz to replace the fired Jim Leavitt in January, billboards popped up around Tampa, Fla., indicating it was "A Holtz New Era."
Is it ever.
The Bulls have accomplished several firsts under Holtz: their first wins at Cincinnati and at Louisville and their first win against Miami (they had lost each of the previous meetings by at least 20 points). Holtz also managed to lose for the first time in school history to Syracuse -- hey, so nobody's perfect.
The biggest change, however, is how the Bulls are finishing. The past few years, they were notorious for starting fast and then limping, crawling and/or sputtering at the end. Since joining the Big East, USF was 16-19 in each of its final seven games of the regular season the past five years.
This season, the Bulls have closed on a 5-2 run, including Saturday's upset at Miami. Ironically, wide receiver Joel Miller, almost a year to the day when Leavitt hit him at halftime in the locker room last season that ultimately led to Leavitt's dismissal, had a team-high four catches for 60 yards, including a clutch nine-yard catch to UM's one in overtime that led to the game-winning TD.
On Saturday, the Bulls look to continue their hot streak by beating UConn and denying the Huskies their first BCS bowl appearance.
What Caught My Eye
Even though Florida and Miami are having down years, teams from the Sunshine State still could win three of the 11 FBS conference titles. Florida State (ACC) and Central Florida (C-USA) will play in their respective championship games Saturday , while Florida International already has clinched at least a tie for the Sun Belt title. ... If there hasn't been this bumper sticker printed yet in College Station, Texas, there should be: Texas A&M 42, Big 12 Title Game 25. The Aggies defeated both Big 12 title participants -- Oklahoma 33-19 and Nebraska 9-6 -- but didn't make the title game because of a lower BCS ranking.
Last week after I wrote that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, the highest paid coach in the Big Ten, was, well, not earning his keep, I received a deluge of e-mails from Iowa fans (all very polite I might add and no profanity) indicating I was, well, crazy. My reasoning was Ohio State's Jim Tressel, winner of six consecutive league titles (some shared), should be the league's highest paid coach, and Ferentz, who is a BCS worst 11-18 in games decided by eight points or less, should not. Well, the Hawkeyes, with 26 seniors and 14 returning starters from last year, promptly went out and lost at Minnesota 27-24. That dropped the Big Ten's highest paid coach to 7-5 this season, including 11-19 in games decided by eight points or less since 2005.
Former Florida State president T.K. Wetherell recently told the St. Petersburg Times that while Jimbo Fisher was his No. 1 choice to replace Bobby Bowden, his second choice was none other than Lane Kiffin. ... Who says Boise State isn't a big-time program? After kicker Kyle Brotzman missed two field goals, including the game-winner at the end of regulation in the loss at Nevada, their fans acted like the fans of any non-rational big-time BCS conference team. The Ada County (Idaho) Sheriff's Department received a report about callers leaving obnoxious and harassing telephone messages with a woman with the last name of Brotzman, who was not related to the kicker, the Idaho Statesman reported. Fortunately, true Boise State fans took to Facebook and created pages in support of Brotzman.
Observations From the Road
Having made my first trip to Nevada's Mackey Stadium, I was impressed with the atmosphere and enthusiastic crowd for Friday night's game with Boise State. And, boy do the Wolf Pack fans love their ThunderStix. Also for any "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" fans, I loved the public address system playing "Kashmir" at the start of every Nevada drive, which may have been the key for the Wolf Pack's second-half comeback. So, sorry Mike Damone, side one of Led Zeppelin 4 is good for more than just "makin' out." The cannon in the end zone got quite a workout. It's fired after every Nevada score -- and even sometimes when they thought Nevada scored, like when Colin Kaepernick stepped out at the five.
And Now for Steve Hill's View of the College Football World
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at email@example.com or please follow at Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY