Thinking Out Loud: USC, UCLA shake up college sports with Big Ten move

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Thinking out loud…while wondering if being an adult is just wandering around and wondering what you’re forgetting…

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Hear that rumbling in the distance? Those aren’t firecrackers popping off.

Last year at this time, Texas and Oklahoma set the college sports landscape on its’ collective ear with the news of their impending departure to the SEC. And as sure as Ron Popeil liked to sell slicers and dicers on TV back in the day, and Billy May pitched his products on infomercials at 3:00 in the morning…

…but wait, there’s more! The San Jose Mercury News let go of a bombshell this week, with the news both UCLA and USC will leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten…in 2024.

They were founding members of what was the old Pac 8 Conference 100 years ago. Times aren’t just a-changin’, they’ve already passed us by.

And there’s little doubt from this point of view…that ‘super-conferences’ will ultimately ruin college football…and perhaps college sports overall…through the now prevalent and insatiable greed and avarice permeating ‘amateurism.’

Whatever happened to collegiality in college? Did the Big 10 just nuke the tradition of “The Granddaddy of Them All,” the Rose Bowl?

It’s all about the playoff, or payoff – nowadays, anyway.

This quote came from a Big 10 administrator, through The Athletic. And it is telling: “It really came down to, are you gonna expand, or are you not? And that’s the decision. And if you are, this is it. This is your moment,” the Big Ten source said.

“It was do or die: Either you stay at what you are forever and let someone else capitalize, or you go. And that was the prevailing sentiment.”

There has been a scheduling alliance in place between the Big 10, Pac-12 and ACC that has been slow to materialize. With the Big 10 in deep talks for its next media rights deal, expected to be at or near $1 billion…well, those Bruins and Trojans have decided to cut themselves loose from tradition to get in on that bigger piece of the pie.

And the Big 10 is listening. Still a lot of quid for 16 teams to split, maybe more, when this comes to pass. It could be a VERY Big 10. Notre Dame could be the next domino to fall.

We’ve seen the trickle-down effect since the Texas-OU announcement a year ago…affecting just about every corner of Division I athletics. So, we ain’t done yet.

Gonzaga to the Big East, anyone? If UCLA and USC in California can be in the same league as Rutgers in New Jersey, the Zags can make a trip to Providence, or New York, or DC. If the price is right.

And let’s not forget one of the new, primary drivers for this insatiable monetary drive…NIL.

Last year at this time, Name, Image and Likeness for the student-athlete took over the collegiate landscape. Pay for play? Not exactly, even if it sure seems like it.

College athletes are finally reaping the benefits of their NIL being available in the marketplace, which isn’t really a bad thing. Regulating it, however, is an entirely different matter…one in which the NCAA has yet to come up with a definitive plan. Or any plan.

It’s still up to individual states…as well as leagues and individual schools to self-police right and wrong here…which may be akin to the wild, wild west when a gunslinger outdueled another at 20 paces, and never had to answer for his transgression except for buying a round at the local saloon.

Some college football players could make upwards of several million dollars per year. LeBron James’ son Bronny is worth more than $5 million, and he’s just a high schooler. So far.

Rhode Island does not (yet) have an NIL law on its’ books to govern the Ocean State’s four Division I schools, but at the one-year anniversary of this “new” wild west, it does appear that each school has at least some semblance of a plan for its’ athletes.

Providence, URI and Brown are all represented in marketing and sales by Learfield, a national marketing company that represents more than 200 Division I institutions. Learfield has partnered with Opendorse, based in Lincoln, NE, and the Friars have an active arrangement for their student-athletes through this particular portal.

While URI and Bryant did not respond directly to specific inquiries about their current NIL arrangements for athletes, it’s hard to imagine Rhody falling too far behind PC in this arms race. Brown is exploring a platform called Compass to create these opportunities for their student athletes.

And the latest trend among FBS programs especially – collectives – is beginning to pick up momentum at schools throughout the country. These collectives are set up to “pool” funds from alumni, boosters, and local businesses to help facilitate NIL deals.

While collectives could be lucrative for some current student athletes, these collectives cannot deal directly with recruits before they are offered scholarships. This is where things get slicey and dicey…and gets guys like Nick Saban at Alabama all hot and bothered.

Not for nuthin’, but you can expect news on a Friar collective to be announced in the near future.

Of course, if the NCAA ever gets off its collective a** (they say they want Congress involved – hah!) and decides to legislate this mess, and maybe rein in some of these $$$ shootouts over student-athletes (and recruits), this “new” wild west might just make it into the 22nd century.

‘Cuz the first 22 years of the 21st century have basically been straight out of the Twilight Zone. “Imagine, if you will, an entire world that believes college athletes should be paid for scoring touchdowns and shooting threes…while remaining ‘amateurs.’ You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind and money…”

URI picked up a big man from the transfer portal this past week, as one-time Alabama center Alex Tchikou committed to the Rams. Tchikou is 6-11 but only played in three games over two years due to injuries. He was a Top 75 recruit out of an Arizona prep program.

The Atlantic-10 hoop schedule pairings were announced this week, and Rhody will certainly have its challenges under first year head coach Archie Miller.

But the home-and-home opponents seem to have worked out quite nicely, with UMass, LaSalle, George Mason and Fordham playing the Rams home and away. Rhody will also get the top four finishers from the regular season last year at the Ryan Center – Davidson, VCU, St. Bonaventure and Dayton.

A-10 newcomer Loyola-Chicago will be a road trip for the Rams next season…as part of an overall 18-game conference slate.

And as an aside – the A-10 could have four or five potential at-large teams for the NCAA Tournament next March. URI isn’t one of those…yet.

Congratulations to Bob Driscoll for his 21-year run as athletic director at Providence. It’s safe to say – he was a major reason Friar athletics has transformed itself into one of the smaller ‘big school’ powerhouses out there, with the successes they’ve had. PC’s facilities are second-to-none. The coaches are first-rate, and motivated.

It was fun to see the fruits of his labor. Can’t wait to see what Steve Napolillo learned at his right hand, and what he can do now at PC, as he sets out on his own career.

Amazing that Jimmy Walker was not in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, before this year. That wrong has now been righted. Walker gets his posthumous due in the Class of 2022, along with such greats as UConn’s Jim Calhoun and Rip Hamilton, John Beilein, Lon Kruger and Roy Williams.

Walker died in 2007. Greatest Friar of them all? There’s been a lot of great ones, of course. But 30.4 points per game as a senior – well before the three-point shot and still a school season record – and a Number One pick in the NBA Draft? That sez it all for me.

Caught wind of Coca Cola getting in its proverbial “two cents” on the impending naming rights deal for the still-Dunkin Donuts Center (for now) and the Rhode Island Convention Center. Although they’ll be pouring a bit more than two cents into state coffers if they win the bid.

The current contract for those naming rights ended (give or take) on Thursday, pending any further extensions.

ICYMI…PC’s schedule update includes hosting Albany at the Dunk (or whatever it will be called) on December 10th.

The schedule for the Big East-Big 10 Gavitt Games is out, and the Friars are not involved this season. PC (defending BE champs) and Creighton (preseason fave) are the two Big East schools out of the rotation this year…and UConn won’t participate until the two conferences decide to renew their contract, since the Huskies rejoined the league after the series had begun.

Of note: Villanova will play at Michigan State and Indiana will visit Xavier. Two games (out of eight scheduled) that might be worth the price of admission. But the rest is, um, lacking.

Hopefully, the series honoring Dave Gavitt will continue beyond this year. And will also make allowances for better matchups year-to-year, despite the rotation policy.

It is, after all, ALL about the TV ratings and $$$...fairness-be-damned. Haven’t we learned this by now?

Creighton’s Ryan Nembhard and Ryan Kalkbrenner – the reigning Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East – have both been cleared for activity coming off of season-ending injuries last year. Good news for the preseason favorites, who may very well be a Top 5-ranked team nationally.

On3.com surveyed several college head coaches for their views on top assistants around the country…and two names with local ties popped up – Providence’s Jeff Battle and ex-URI star Antonio Reynolds-Dean, who coaches at Georgia.

One Pac-12 coach called Battle a “sniper” on the recruiting trail. He was mentioned more often by coaches outside the conference than any other Big East assistant coach.

Former Friar walk on and Portsmouth, RI’s Drew Fonts will play for the Celtics summer league team. That…is the proverbial local boy making good.

Former Friar all-American and NBA 1st rounder Kris Dunn will be playing for the Washington Wizards in the NBA summer league, after spending the end of last season in Portland with the Trail Blazers.

David Duke is a restricted free agent, but he will be taking part with the Brooklyn Nets’ summer league team and he is expected to play a role for them next season…if all goes well.

Sign of the (collegiate) Times: Sports Illustrated first reported Brett Yormark’s hiring as the commissioner of the Big 12 Conference this week. He has zero college experience and comes directly from working for Jay Z’s Roc Nation as Chief Operating Officer.

So maybe the Big 12 will have some hellatious halftime shows?

My buddy “Big E” sez he was driving near the college campus close to his home and as he went past one of those traffic cameras, it flashed. He knew he wasn’t speeding, so he turned around and drove past it again. And it flashed again.

He did the same thing six times, going slower each time, until he finally got out of the car, laughing – and it flashed again. Two weeks later, he got six tickets in the mail…for not wearing his seat belt.

Tweet of the Week on the Red Sox, from @BostonSportsInf: “There have only been 7 previous teams to start the first 30 games of the season with 11 or fewer wins and make the playoffs – 2005 Astros, 2005 Yankees, 2001 A’s, 1989 Blue Jays, 1987 Tigers, 1981 Royals, 1974 Pirates.”

Anyone who thinks Trevor Hauck and Jarren Duran (especially Hauck, who wasn’t available to potentially save a Tuesday night bullpen disaster) aren’t responsible for the Red Sox losing two of three at Toronto…because they weren’t vaccinated?

You have no idea what being on a team really means. And spare me the “freedom” thing. More like “freedumb.” You’re thinking only of yourself...like they are. Please turn in your cups, jock straps, fan cards and pink hats.

Take Hauck and Duran with you, too. Except…you can’t take them to Toronto, so…

Hey, Trevor Story had to be vaxxed before he even signed with the Sox. Didn’t seem to be too much of a problem for him.

Regardless, it sure doesn’t look like the Yankees will be caught in the AL East. But that’s NBD. The expanded postseason is the prize to be shooting for.

Trade deadline moves? Please tell me the Sox will be a buyer at this stage, and not a seller? Although there’s a couple of guys I’d sell off for a bag of apples if I could get it.

The WooSox are holding a PawSox Heritage Day at Polar Park July 9th. Great idea.

Would be better if the PawSox were holding a Heritage Day somewhere in Rhode Island, however, instead of Worcester. Just sayin.’

If you’re so inclined, you might want to check out the collegiate Futures League in Brockton, MA this summer. The Rox feature a roster full of names you know – like Manny Ramirez, Jr., D’Angelo Ortiz (son of Big Papi) and Pedro Martinez, Jr. – plus Keith Foulke’s son Kade and Gary Sheffield’s son Jaden.

Proud to say one of my sports broadcasting majors at Dean, Taunton’s Brett Chaves, is the Rox’ Broadcast Director and lead play-by-play voice. Could be the summer of a lifetime.

Just 19 of the 62 players who made the 54-hole cut at last week’s Northeast Amateur Golf Championship finished under par. Wannamoisett is still a tough test, even if it suits the game of back-to-back champ Dylan Menante just fine.

Menante, from Carlsbad, CA, joins rare company as a multiple-time winner at Wannamoisett with Jay Sigel, Luke Donald, Ben Crenshaw and Dustin Johnson. He helped lead Pepperdine to a national title, too.

Ok, Edward in East Providence. At midweek as Wimbledon gets going, Rafa Nadal is 15-0 in majors this year. Can he be called the “GOAT?”

Kyrie Irving opted in to a $36.9 million contract with Brooklyn for next season…and immediately the rumors began how he wants to join back up with LeBron in LA.

Of course he does. The Lakers may be the only team with the cap space to handle his deal…and the idiocy to put up with his nonsense. No one else will.

Celtics’ assistant Will Hardy will be the youngest head coach in the NBA, at age 34, as he takes his first-ever head coaching job with the Utah Jazz. Seems appropriate to me that Danny Ainge, the CEO of basketball ops for the Jazz, is involved in the pilfering here.

Hey, when’s football season again?

Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments, and local stories to jrbroadcaster@gmail.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

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