Big 12 version 2.0 (2012-2???)

July 2, 2015 by Mike Casazza

July 1 came and went and Navy joined the American, meaning the last moving part of the great realignment era had finally come to rest. And before we could collapse into a rocking chair and marvel What a time that was, we were already dealing this these obscure conversations about the future of the Big 12.

Any idea where this is going?

We’ve got presidents and athletic directors talking, and we have to assume it’s not for nothing. But it’s also summer, and you can get a whiff of expansion/realignment nostalgia with all of this, as though people long for the days of rumors and reports. So maybe it’s manufactured as opposed to organic. But having witnessed the sinking of the Big East, it’s folly to stand with arms crossed and shake your head to deny it’ll happen. And when people are proactive, even in a just-in-case sense, they sometimes get a good look at a better picture and begin to see and thing You know, we could make this happen and it wouldn’t be that hard. That’s the goofy part of all of this, and it ought to be bothersome.

People seem happy to use the words imminent or inevitable, and though I probably agree with the latter, if only because the business changes too much or too fast to remain static for another decade, I think I need a better definition of the former.

In short, I don’t see the room for it right now, but I certainly anticipate something as we get closer to the end of the grant of rights agreements. I fully expect someone to get itchy before the 13-year period ends and at least talk about litigating a way out of one. But how do the pieces move? Where do the schools fall? Does the highly visible fraternity expand by taking in schools from the group of five? Is a highly visible league absorbed into the other four? And what then happens to the schools in the group of five that don’t have a seat at the grownup’s table?

It’s all very strange and hypothetical, and I can’t shake the fact this is warming up just before the Big 12’s media days (July 20-21), where and when you just know it’s going to be a topic and a little more of the cat will come out of the bag. I guess I’m trying to get an idea of what that cat will look like, and I’ve never been much of a cat person, so enlighten me, please.

Where are we now, where are we going and where are we X years from today?

Sleep easy, for now

July 1, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Tony Gibson’s on vacation, and he’s left his defense in the capable hands of his senior leaders. But Gibson won’t much rest wherever he is, and he knows his players will remain on edge, because they’ve been watching Georgia Southern tapes. Reminders of Willie Fritz’s hybrid option attack will ruin a day at the beach faster than a shark fin breaking the surface.

The Eagles are fun to watch and it’s miserable to prepare for them, but that’s why Gibson is getting a big head start.

Consider this: Last season, WVU opened the season in Atlanta against No. 2 Alabama. At this point of that offseason, Gibson hadn’t started readying for the Crimson Tide like he is now for the second-year Football Bowl Subdivision program.

“We were watching, but not really explaining things and talking to the kids this much about it,” Gibson said. “But you have to with this kind of attack.”

Georgia Southern is an offensive force, but it once was an annual powerhouse in the Football Championship Subdivision, a national titlist in 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1999 and 2000, a proving ground for coaches like Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson and Army’s Jeff Monken.

A year ago, the Eagles jumped up to the FBS and won the Sun Belt. They finished 9-3 and won all of their eight conference games by an average of 18.3 points.

They also averaged 379.92 rushing yards per game, easily the highest national average this century. That has Gibson’s attention. The fact the dual-threat quarterback and the team’s top two rushers return next season after combining for 3,284 yards and 41 touchdowns last season has Gibson’s attention.

But what worries him most is not who the Eagles have or what they do, but rather how they do it. They have a triple option offense, but it call it that limits their skill and scare. Georgia Southern is a mix of different option ideas and varying formations with zone blocking.

“They’re in the shotgun. They’re going to run split-zone, lead option, load option,” Gibson said. “They throw the ball, too. They do a little bit of everything. It’s to the point right now where if we’re going to play them, I’d rather play them first. I definitely don’t want to play them in game two, three or four.”

Jimbo’s fishing

July 1, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Florida State’s been great for the opening weekend of the college season and will be for years to come. It started with playing at Pitt in 2013, which was a conference game and more about the Panthers joining the ACC than anything else, but Florida State was an attraction, too, and Jameis Winston did his part to make it memorable. Last season, the defending champions opened in Houston against Oklahoma State, the sort of thing the belt-holder doesn’t have to do. This season, the Seminoles play host to Texas State, but Week 2 is USF, which follows second weeks games in the past against BYU and Oklahoma.

They like to play big games early, and they’re aiming to keep that going. They play Ole Miss in Orlando to open next season and Alabama in Atlanta to kick off 2017 and then … West Virginia in 2018?

Fisher said the Seminoles are working on a similar game in 2018 and hopes they can reach an agreement with West Virginia, the school that is located 40 miles north of where Fisher grew up and one in which he followed as a kid.

“It’s the best preparation you have for going into a playoff game or a national championship or major bowl game,” Fisher said. “It’s a major game, the hype, that atmosphere and environment. And I think it’s good for college football.”

About that: Nope. The Mountaineers open that season against Tennessee in Charlotte and then, following an open week, have a game at North Carolina State. That week 2 game has to be a home game, unless WVU is going to play five Big 12 home games in addition to three road/neutral-site non-conference games. Mike, it’s Florida State. Move one of those games. Maybe, but the Tennessee game is through a promoter, which you better believe wouldn’t do business with WVU again, and it has a $250,000 buyout. The N.C. State series has a significantly larger buyout.

WVU football: Seasoned, but how much?

July 1, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Phil Steele has our back again, and the timing is good. Something we circled at the Tier 4 retreat was what to make of WVU’s a) claim that it’s deep and experienced and b) depth and experience. I think we think there’s some truth and some exaggeration to one or both. It’s a strength — and that it’s a not a weakness or a question mark ought to make us agree to that — but we don’t know how much it can bench press or, more importantly, how much the guy to the right or the left can lift.

What we discover is the Mountaineers have one of the most top-heavy depth charts in the country, and nobody in the Big 12 has more juniors and seniors in the two deep.

There’s some value in this ranking, and WVU has simply sought this sort of situation for years now, but only some. An explanation:

Last season La Tech and Air Force were among the top teams in the experience chart and they improved from 4-8 to 9-5 and from 2-10 to 10-3! On the flipside Vanderbilt was #128 LY and dropped from 9-4 to 3-9!

Last season Michigan was near the bottom of this chart at #122. The young Wolverines saw their record drop for a 3rd straight year but now find themselves on top of this years article.

OK, so inexperience can cripple bad teams and experience can charge rebound teams. But look at that top five, that top 10, that top 25. (And look at No. 7. More on them later in the day.) How many of those teams are going to be something special this year? And how many of them were something last year or the last two years? Some of them have had nice seasons — and TCU is the outlier for all of this, of course — but none of those nice seasons were on a grand scale. Very few of them are even high visibility teams.

Talent is talent, and teams that recruit at high levels win with high-level recruits sooner rather than later.

So where the talent rests is important, but maybe not as important as a quantity of talent. This is where it gets interesting for the Mountaineers — and by interesting, I mean “hmmm.”

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Controversial list!

June 30, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Today is a weird day. We get an extra second. Venus and Jupiter will do something cool in the sky. It’s also the end of the fiscal year and the athletic year at your favorite college. WVU had an eventful year and put together its top 10 moments from the 2014-15 calendar and … do we need to talk this over?



Comings and goings while I was gone

June 30, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Big doings at the Tier 4 retreat, ones we’ll reveal later, but other things happened, too. Dustin Garrison is off to Fresno State and Andrew Buie is off to Charlotte. (That Alabama thing was too weird to acknowledge.)

Yesterday was also the first day of the second six-week summer session at WVU. And …

Look, there’s still time before the fall semester, and there’s even a three-week session that starts in three weeks. But these coaches want the absent players on hand.

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Friday Feedback

June 26, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the Friday Feedback, an abbreviated version today preceding an abbreviated absence. I’ll explain. But first, let’s loosely wrap a ribbon around some (really) old news — and we hope to tighten the bow later. Previously on WVUSBWMC, we tried to learn a little bit more about the WVU v. WVRC settlement. There is a — ahem — living document now, though we still don’t (yet) know what’s inside.

In a statement announcing the settlement, university officials said all claims against all parties were resolved. The terms of the settlement, though, have not been disclosed, and school officials have declined to comment further.

Yes, yes, the statement. WVU threw together a press release Wednesday afternoon with some very vague details and quotes from both sides.

WVU President E. Gordon Gee released a statement that he was “very pleased to bring this matter to a final resolution. WVRC is a significant contributor to our local community, West Virginia University, and the State of West Virginia. The University deeply appreciates and values the partnership it has had with WVRC for more than 70 years in bringing high-quality radio broadcasts to Mountaineer fans throughout West Virginia and the surrounding states.”

WVRC Chairman John R. Raese stated that he was also “very satisfied with the settlement and the need to move forward. I certainly appreciate the approach of Dr. Gee to these matters. Our companies will look forward to supporting WVU’s and the Foundation’s mission of making WVU one of the leading institutions of higher education in the country.”

There’s a key paragraph that follows about WVU evaluating its purchase and procurement process, including what amounts to making a better record of who knows who any why around here. The gist  is WVU us undertaking “significant, ongoing” improvements.

That’s dandy. But how about the between-the-lines stuff from Gee?

deeply appreciates and values the partnership it has had with WVRC for more than 70 years in bringing high-quality radio broadcasts to Mountaineer fans throughout West Virginia and the surrounding states.

Two ways to read that: Hatchet buried. Relationship buried.

Our one major point of interest last week, when we discovered there was an agreement to end this, was whether a settlement would include an arrangement for future business between the two.

Two things about that:  I’m told there is nothing of the sort in the settlement. (Of course, last week, when I was talking to legal people, they suggested it might not be included and that that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.) I also don’t believe John Raese was deposed, meaning everyone with a high profile was except him. Assuming that’s true, he played some sort of hand in this game.

As for the schedule here, I’m out for a few days at the beginning of next week. It’s the annual Tier 4 retreat, in which the staff gathers to put together a plan for the upcoming football season. Exciting time, and not just because it means we’re almost there (Big 12 media days are July 20-21). We’re going to make some changes and introductions this season, all for the better.

Onto the Feedback. As always comment appear as posted. In other words, be careful, not ironic.

Josh24601 said:

The Mike Parsons Project is allllllmost asleep.

The Million Dollar Dream is applied in the middle of the ring. The arm has fallen limp twice…

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Football updates

June 25, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Dana Holgorsen and his assistant coaches and players were available for brief interviews today, and the head coach talked for about 10 minutes. There wasn’t much to say, except that things are going swimmingly and the coaches are about to take a few weeks off for vacation. He shored up some other details, as well. More players can arrive over the weekend an enroll Monday. There’s another enrollment date three weeks later. Players report Aug. 2 and practice starts a day later. Malik Greaves actually left the team because of persistent hip injuries and will receive a medical hardship waiver, meaning he’ll stay on scholarship and won’t count toward WVU’s limit of 85. Tyler Tezeno is off to Sam Houston State. Jaylon Myers is academically ineligible, meaning he’s done with the Mountaineers.

Sleepy days. No word on what’s happening with WVU’s quarterbacks, but I think I can give you a pretty good idea.

Next you’ll say there’s no Easter Bunny

June 25, 2015 by Mike Casazza

This is the time of the year when there are no games and when players and coaches retreat into the background of meeting rooms and workouts and occasional vacations. The lights and the ink instead go to administrators and decision-makers, and this is how mole hills grow (See: Big 12’s sportsmanship initiative). So what you get is a lot of meetings and a lot of commissioners and presidents/chancellors and athletic directors touring or speaking or both. Suddenly Shane Lyons is advocating for Big 12 expansion, though he never really said that.

“There’s a presidential committee that’s kind of looking at that as well, but as athletic directors, we try to look at the bigger picture of what actual teams and partners we could bring in that would add value to the conference and that’s still being explored,” Lyons said.

“I’m in favor of expansion if it’s the right two teams to bring in,” he continued. “Obviously for us, it would be nice to have more of an eastern partner, but at the same time, I want to make sure it’s the right partner and from a revenue standpoint it doesn’t impact us negatively as well by bringing additional partners in.”

See what happens? I mean, do you see what happens? (Seriously, one of them says WVU will lead the charge!) Well, yesterday was another day, and this time Oklahoma president David Boren, who loves to talk, said he’d like to see the Big 12 expand in the interest of “living up to our name,” which is maybe the worst reason to expand.

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Juwan Staten trivia … unfortunately?

June 24, 2015 by Mike Casazza

Even if you’re just tuning in, you probably know Juwan Staten most likely won’t be drafted tomorrow night. The reservations the NBA has about his game are clear, and even in this 11th hour evaluators seem to say the same: Great kid, great leader, but no higher than the 50s, if it happens at all.

Yet there’s always hope, and that team in Cleveland has a few connections — and it is worth noting it’s the day before the draft and the Cavaliers made that call. Anyhow, Mike Gansey runs the D-League team, and I’ve spoken to a couple scouts who believe Staten would be a great D-League point guard just to make sure the offenses there run smoothly and the players around him develop properly. (The same scouts think Staten’s best career is spent in Europe, where he’d be a dynamo with the ball.) Of course, there’s also Staten’s link to LeBron James, as well.

Mentioned within that bond is Staten’s appearance at LeBron’s skills academy last year, where he was something of a novelty.

When Staten looked around at the participants in Las Vegas, he realized he was the only player to attend both. He understood it said a lot about his career and his ongoing quest after four years, an unhappy freshman season at his hometown University of Dayton, a season on the sideline after transferring to West Virginia, a sophomore season below his expectations and a spectacular comeback as a junior.

“I just looked at it as another blessing,” the Mountaineers’ senior point guard said. “So many people went to that camp when I was in high school. Some of them have done big things and are in the NBA and some have fallen by the wayside. I felt pretty good about being on the right track and headed in the right direction.”

That direction forks tomorrow night, and should Staten not hear his name called, well, there’s a bit of history attached to that, too.