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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, March 29, 2014

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering when the word “amateur” will finally disappear from our vocabulary…

Bryce Cotton’s one-and-only NCAA appearance might have earned him a nice paycheck in the professional ranks. It also earned him quite a bit of run among national media, and it’s simply too bad he couldn’t have played on the big stage once or twice more to ensure his basketball future…

• Naturally, there was quite a bit of Big East-bashing last weekend after Creighton was unceremoniously bounced from the NCAA tournament by Baylor. No Big East teams in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993? For a league that is used to being the Beast, sure, it’s a setback. There’s work to do, and the league’s coaches knew that going in. So did the commissioner, and that’s something Val Ackerman told us before the season ever started. But honestly, take a look at the American. Louisville and UConn - those Sweet 16 teams were built to play in the Big East…

• Not sure why UConn fans would be reveling in a down year for the Big East – at least as far as the NCAA’s are concerned. They got a good draw, and they have great guards. It’s not their fault they’re no longer in the league. Blame the landscape of college sports. Blame football. Or blame BC. But don’t blame PC, Villanova or Georgetown. They did what they did to survive – UConn tried I suppose, but …

• Count me as among those who would love to see UConn back in the Big East someday. If only they could do something about that albatross of a football team hanging around their necks…

• That was an ugly way for Doug McDermott to finish a spectacular career. Long, athletic teams were not Creighton’s cup ‘o tea. So here’s a warning shot fired coach/Dad Greg McDermott’s way – either find some inside strength and length, or start looking for another soft landing spot, like you did after Iowa State. Got any more kids at home?

• McDermott’s career was, in a word, spectacular. 5th all-time in collegiate scoring. Maybe the best I’ve personally seen play in 26 years of covering the Big East and college basketball. In spite of the Baylor finish, word in San Antonio among NBA media was definitely leaning toward his being a 10-15 pick in June’s draft, and perhaps higher with the early team flops from a couple of the phenoms (Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins). And Bryce Cotton? From basically off-the-radar, to “we need to take a hard look at this guy…”

• Watching the North Carolina-Iowa State game in San Antonio last Sunday, two thoughts kept running through my mind: 1) Providence could have beaten the Cyclones, especially without Georges Niang out of the ISU lineup with a broken foot; 2) It could have been PC-UConn in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden. Which would have been completely off…the…hook

Winners and Losers thus far in the NCAA’s? The SEC had three teams (Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee) in the Sweet 16 round, while the ACC had one (Virginia) and the Big East none. Even the Big 12 - #1 in the RPI and most computer rankings – had only two (Baylor, Iowa State) out of seven advance to the Round of 16…so really, what are we to make of the so-called power leagues?

• Here are a couple of thoughts on this: 1) That parity is greater than ever overall in the college game, and 2) realignment has probably helped spread the wealth, so to speak…

• Other winners and losers in the tournament? Winner – Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching tree. Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins, and Harvard’s Tommy Amaker got wins. Loser – Krzyzewski himself. Winners – Teams with four-year players like Mercer. Losers – Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. Winner – Pac-12 (3 of 6 in the Sweet 16). Loser – Atlantic-10 (1 of 6 reached the Sweet 16)…

• Another winner this past week was Virginia Tech, luring Buzz Williams from Marquette, where an interim athletic director and new president created an uncertain future for the Golden Eagles’ program. But if someone like VCU’s Shaka Smart or former Pitt/UCLA coach Ben Howland emerges as the new coach, with the name and national reputation, MU moves from the “loser” category in this exchange to the other side of the ledger. And so does the Big East, in perception…

• I certainly understand why fans would be down on the Big East, simply because of past successes. But before you bury the league as irrelevant (haters, pay attention) consider this – Duke, Syracuse, Pitt, North Carolina, Ohio State, Kansas and Cincinnati also left the dance earlier than expected…did they not? Shouldn’t an infant-league (which technically, it is) be allowed some time to grow up? And in an era where parity is greater than it’s ever been why would anyone be so demanding of immediate success? Learn to walk, before you sprint…

• TV winners? Here you go. ESPN still dominates, Fox Sports 1 was so-so, NBCSN a little less…

• The Biggest Winner? The NCAA, which has finished auditing a financial statement for 2013, and reports a $61 million surplus. It’s down a bit from the previous two years, but also the third straight year with a reported surplus over $60 million. Since 2007, the NCAA has just about doubled its year-end net assets…

• The Biggest Loser? Maybe the NCAA…which has been named as a defendant in two lawsuits aimed specifically at the limits on compensation that athletes can receive in exchange for playing college sports…and probably faces more legal trouble with athletes now thinking “union…”

Not for nuthin’…but Big East expansion? Fuhgeddaboutit. At least for the next year. The coaches loved the home-and-home round-robin setup, even if they didn’t like Fox’s scheduling of the games. The scheduling will be addressed this year, as Fox will have assistance (if not give up outright) in that department. One more year, before this topic resurfaces. And the best bet for further expansion is in 2015-16 (if it happens at all, and TV will dictate that) to 12 teams, providing more inventory for TV, and more opportunity for increased post-season shares for the league…if you add the right teams. For my money, it’s still Saint Louis and Dayton as the front-runners…

• Which means the Atlantic-10 would be pick-pocketed again. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s just a matter of money, and because of TV, Big East membership stands to gain more for a school. The A-10 is a great conference. It’s unfortunate they don’t carry the cache – or the cash – of Big East membership, because of the history involved…

• The ACC Tournament move to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is official, in exchange for the A-10 giving up the final year of its contract with the building that ends in 2017-18. In return, the Atlantic-10 gets a new three-year extension for 2019-21 at the Barclays, and also gets to include league teams in the annual non-conference games being played at the venue – like PC and Kentucky last year…

• Speaking of Kentucky…the Friars’ 2014-15 hoop schedule is a work-in-progress, but will include a visit to Lexington, KY for a meeting with the Wildcats. Also on the docket – the Hall of Fame Tip-Off at Mohegan Sun the weekend before Thanksgiving with games against Florida State and Notre Dame. PC will face Navy and Binghamton in home games as part of the 4-game tourney…home games with UMass, URI, and Brown with a road game against Boston College are also set. Four games still need to be finalized…and at least one more should be a high-major opponent...

• I started it last week. The food thing. In the interest of fair reporting and opinion-making, I feel I must share these things I’ve found with you. And, that I must attend games at these parks to taste-test these items and report to you their true value. Ha! Who am I kidding? I want one! This is the Fenway breakfast burger you can purchase at Sox games this year…with egg, mozzarella, onions and special sauce. How special is that sauce?

Fenway Breakfast Burger

• Want your picture with the Sox World Series trophies?  They'll be at the RI Home Show at the RI Convention Center Thursday night, 7:30-9:00 pm...

David Ortiz got his money. For the most part, he deserves it, based on his past and potential future performances…even as he ages before our eyes. Money has been spent much, much worse by the Red Sox in the past. Can we get on with baseball now?

• I’m torn with all of the discussion surrounding Jared Remy and his famous father, Jerry. Having actually worked with Jerry Remy on NESN Red Sox broadcasts for a brief spell in the ‘90’s, I could certainly qualify to recuse myself from the discussion. The Boston Globe expose last week on Jared’s criminal history is shocking in its depth and breadth, to the point that our legal system needs a serious self-examination. If Jerry Remy, as a parent, is to be held responsible for “enabling” his son during his reign of terror, then we must also hold responsible the judges, the attorneys and the family friends who helped “fix” his situation in the first place…

• And we all know, that’s impossible in this world. Someone needed to stand up and say “this is wrong.” Maybe the Remy’s did do that with Jared, as Jerry tried to explain during an appearance on WEEI this week, and Jared simply ignored his parents…instead choosing to take advantage of his father’s notoriety for his personal gain without regard for his feelings or his actions. That’s happened before with psychopathic behavior, and it will happen again. But the Red Sox themselves also need to be held accountable, through their continued employ of Jared after his jail release…and firing him only after the steroid investigation in 2008. That’s something the Globe piece failed to do...hold the Sox accountable. Shocker there, since John Henry now owns the paper…

• Did Jerry Remy enable his son’s behavior? It certainly appears he didn’t help it much. Jerry admitted as much on the radio.  But unless you’ve walked a mile in his shoes – with mental health issues in your own family, and it’s clear he has them – you don’t know how you would react. Instinct initially tells you to protect your child, whether it’s right or wrong. That’s what Jerry did, as far as I can tell. And that’s not enough for him to lose his job at NESN, or to lose his ability to make a living…

• Will it be awkward on the air? Probably…more so, perhaps, for broadcast partner Don Orsillo. They’re pros, however, and can deal with it. If I’m watching, I care about the games…not whether someone’s parenting skills needed addressing years ago, with his psychopathic child choosing not to listen…

• The definition of insanity?  The Detroit Tigers signing Miguel Cabrera to a 10+ year deal worth up to $350 million.  That's nuts...especially after breaking OFF talks with pitcher Max Scherzer.  What, pitching doesn't matter anymore in the Motor City?

• Why do I get the uneasy feeling that the Boston Bruins are peeking/have peeked a bit too soon?

• As a fan of the NCAA Tournament staggered start times, (so you can catch all or part of more than one game if you choose), the Awful Announcing blog had a great idea this week that bears at least some consideration…staggering start times for the NFL. Before you dismiss it outright, what would anyone lose here? Interest in the games? Hardly. Less viewership? Doubtful. Tradition? Yup, you got it. But tradition has been trampled elsewhere in the sports world over the past several years…it’s time for the NFL to embrace the horror…

• A show of hands here…who is surprised that Bill Belichick was the LAST head coach to show up at NFL meetings this week, and DIDN’T show up for the group photo? The emperor has always marched to a different drum beat, hasn’t he?

• He’s also got a very, very dry sense of humor. Unearthed this tidbit from his days in Cleveland as a celebrity chef. Who says BB has no personality? I’m still laughing…

Vince Wilfork (fannation.com)

Big Vince…as I see it, you had two choices this season: 1) play for the Patriots, or 2) retire. Glad to see you made what appears to be a smart decision.  And you got an extension on top of it.  They were perfectly within their rights to hold you to your previous deal and not release you. And, I see your side – you’ve earned your money, there’s no quibbling there. You know the Patriots are business-first.  You're coming off of Achilles surgery.  There had to be a compromise on BOTH sides.  Just sayin’

• The more I read and hear from him, the more I like Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban. Used to hate him, thought he was a pompous, silly, rich (but smart) brat. Now? Maybe I’ve got a little silly in me these days, too. His tweaking of the NFL last week by suggesting the league would implode due to its greed, safety issues and public perception of player behavior has some merit. Maybe…it’s because he’s a big fan?

Tweet of the Week I – from NFL PR chief @gregaiello: “Dear Mark. We appreciate your interest & for taking time to share your views. It’s the passion of fans like you that makes the NFL special.” Well then. That is all

• My buddy Statbeast sez he is definitely passionate about his travel. He just got back from another pleasure trip – by taking his mother-in-law to the airport…

• How about a trip to Pittsburgh for this? The Closer – with NINE different cheeses and candied bacon. Mmmmmmmm…bacon

• Really? The NFL is outlawing goal-post dunking? Positively un-American. Anyone who penalizes for dunking does it just because they can’t. Dunk, that is…

• Owners approved allowing NFL officials “under the hood” in viewing replays to consult with the league officiating department in New York in deciding correct calls. Sounds like a big step toward “Big Brother” to me…

• Other new changes for America’s True Pasttime…the clock won’t stop on QB sacks, goalposts will be extended from 30 to 35 feet high, PAT’s will move to the 20-yard line (1st 2 weeks of pre-season only – a trial, perhaps) and recovery of a loose ball in the field of play is now a reviewable call. Got all that?

• Attention - OPEN auditions for the Patriots Cheerleaders are next Saturday, April 5th at the Dana-Farber Field House in Foxboro. It would help if you looked like this, but it's not mandatory...

• Let me get this straight…Michael Vick is now with the New York Jets, while Mark “Buttfumble” Sanchez is now a Philadelphia Eagle? This wasn’t a trade, but didn’t both teams effectively “trade” for another team’s problem? Stupid is as stupid does

• The laughter you hear in the distance comes from places like Miami, Dallas and New York, with a stopover in Foxboro

• This is no laughing matter, but after reading about NFL Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly’s recurring bout with cancer, I am glad I stumbled upon his wife http://www.jillk.org/journal/2014/03/21/meeting-jason/">Jill’s blog…which is very personal, and at the same time, very uplifting. We can all use a boost from time to time…

• Our pro athletes in New England showed a nice touch through social media this week with the firefighting tragedy in Boston’s Back Bay. They seem to understand who the true “heroes” really are…

Tweet of the Week II – from @ESPNStatsInfo: “UConn women are looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the 21st straight year. Last time they didn't make it was in 1993…”

• My favorite sport at this time of year isn’t necessarily basketball, but (coaching) musical chairs

• The Steve Masiello story at Manhattan this week – headed for USF, resume discrepancy over his graduation, no new job offer, then placed on leave at Manhattan – is ridiculous. If he’s good enough to coach your team and you want him, hire him. And stand by him. Institutions of higher learning (boy, is that a misnomer these days) say they stand for academic integrity. Well then, explain to me the academic fraud going on at North Carolina, at Oklahoma and several other big-time schools…all in an effort to pass their players, keep a high APR rating, and keep going to bowl games and NCAA Tournaments?

• At the other end of the academic spectrum, are the smart guys from Northwestern…as the football players seeking to unionize won the right to do just that this week. What does this mean for college athletics? It’s potentially huge for college athletes. Unless the decision is overturned on appeal, schools had best start ponying up benefits and saving up potential “stipends” for their student-athletes, beyond the cost of a scholarship…especially the athletes whose performances bring in the big bucks. Athletes’ time commitment to their sport and their scholarships being tied to performance are the major reasons for the National Labor Relations Board siding with them…

• In case you were wondering, an employee is regarded by law as someone who, among other things, receives compensation for a service and is under the strict, direct control of managers. Sounds like a player/coach relationship to me. Those who supported the rights of the Northwestern players to unionize have argued the university (and there are others, see above) values football as more important than academics for their scholarship athletes. So it appears March Madne$$ just got new meaning…athletes who receive full scholarships now qualify as employees under federal law, and therefore may legally unionize. Whoa

• The next step here? Scholarship athletes will need to hold a vote on whether or not to formally authorize the College Athletes Players Association (CAPA) to represent them in collective bargaining. The goals – better protection for medical expenses incurred, better procedures to reduce serious injuries and potentially letting players pursue commercial sponsorships. In other words, welcome to the new “minor leagues,” and the end of amateurism as we (think) we know it…

Tweet of the Week III – from ESPN business reporter @darrenrovell: “Real Sports/Marist Poll: 23% of people say if college athletes got paid it would make watching games less entertaining.” Not sure about that…see “NFL.” Who were the pollsters speaking with? The NCAA?

• Some sanity actually prevails at UMass, which decided this week to play two more football seasons in the (mostly Midwestern) Mid-American Conference, and then withdraw. The reason? Travel budgets, and time demands on student-athletes travel as well. UMass is doing this without a new conference home for football, too…while basketball remains in the A-10. For now. The Minutemen seem to fit the profile for the American Athletic Conference (and a rekindled UMass-UConn rivalry), but is there room at the Inn?

• From the mailbag this week – Justin from Denton, TX via Facebook: “The Providence vs. North Carolina basketball game last Friday was the #1 most watched cable television program in the nation that evening.” Justin: Not at all surprised by the revelation. First, the game was in prime time (starting on the fringes of it) on the east coast…second, it was a great game…third, we had great performances, especially from Bryce Cotton and Marcus Paige. Just not the right outcome if you’re a Friar fan. Perhaps, however, the national exposure will pay dividends somewhere down the line…

• Interested in having your questions on local RI sports (including the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions and comments to jrooke@golocalprov.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here! Follow me on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

• Don’t forget to join us for GoLocal Sports on 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am! Call in (401) 737-1287(401) 737-1287, or text us at 37937…and send email to the show - golocal@weei.com .

 

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