All eyes on Texas A&M

Never doubt that football is king of college sports.

A week after the U. S credit rating is downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, the college athletic landscape appears to be teetering on the edge of a massive transformation — depending on whether Texas A&M is invited and accepts an invitation to join the Southeastern Conference.

Pete Thammel of the New York Times says it best:

For all the billions of dollars, millions of fans and boundless passion that surround college football, that has always been its glaring and bizarre flaw. No one is looking out for the greater good of the game. No one is guiding the sport toward long-term prosperity and short-term sensibility. No one is building consensus and channeling all of the ratings, financial success and popularity toward an outcome that is positive for everyone in the sport.

And with the conference plate tectonics poised to shift with Texas A&M’s possible move to the Southeastern Conference, the college sports world finds itself, yet again, panicking about a major paradigm change.  Must Read.

But Frank The Tank, usually in the know on these issues, won’t believe Texas A&M is going South until it happens:

Last year, the entire world was convinced that the Pac-16 was a “done deal” on a Friday without any doubt in anyone’s mind, but after a weekend of rampant discussions, it ended up collapsing within a few days.  In conference realignment discussions, absolutely nothing is a done deal until you see an announcement with both the inviter and the invitee at a press conference with signed paperwork.  This goes double in the case of public universities located in the state of Texas.  Also note that Tony Barnhart (about as plugged-in with Mike Slive as anyone) and Mr. SEC seem to intimate that it’s not necessarily full speed ahead from the SEC side with a lot more smoke coming from College Station as opposed to Birmingham.

Meanwhile, OrangeBloods.com, a University of Texas fan site, says the Big 12 wants to stick together no matter what happens with Texas A&M:

The Big 12 athletic directors – minus Texas A&M – pledged their commitment to a nine-member conference during a call Saturday afternoon if the Aggies were to bolt for the Southeastern Conference. But the Big 12 ADs are reaching out to A&M to stay in the Big 12. The ADs decided if A&M left and the league was to expand, it would be by only one school, sources said. The early candidates would include BYU, Air Force, TCU and Houston, sources said.

Forgive University of Louisville fans if they’re disappointed their school didn’t at least get an honorable mention on the list. While Tom Jurich says the Big East is a perfect fit for U of L, he would like to have as many options as possible when the ground starts to move.

And the fact that TCU is even on the list, as it prepares to join the Big East in 2012, says a great deal about the callous, cut throat nature of the university community when it comes to athletics, especially football.

Kragthorpe Sorry For Missing Football Camp

The apology tour has begun for Coach Steve Kragthorpe after inexcusably missing an opportunity to represent the University of Louisville program at the Kentucky Football Coaches Clinic on Thursday. About 120 high school football coaches were stood up when Kragthorpe failed to make an appearance.

The observer was reminded of his first impression of Coach K about two weeks after he took the U of L post, the coach showing up more than an hour late for his first meeting with fans at the Neutral Zone in Middletown. Said he couldn’t find the place. Bad omen, the observer was thinking at the time. New guy, new town, let this one pass.

But this latest faux pas is flat out embarrassing. Take it, Coach K:

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Lee Corso Weathers Stroke

The comedic football commentator Lee Corso apparently suffered a minor stroke recently. However, the former University of Louisville football coach is expected to return to ESPN’s announcing crew for the 2009 season.

“This is just a small bump in the road, ” Corso said in a statement issued by ESPN. “A ‘not so fast, my friend’ in my game of life. I look forward to making a full recovery and returning to ESPN for my 23rd season analyzing the greatest sport in the world — college football.”

Corso’s appeal on ESPN broadcasts appears to be his unpredictability. One never knows what he is going to say or which teams or players will be the target of his habitual stereotyping. Some fans are known to wait for Corso’s predictions on big games, then wager against his picks.

Corso coached the Louisville Cardinals from 1969 to 1972, compiling a 28-11-3 record.

EA Sports, NCAA Targets Of Lawsuit

What took so long?

Some former college athletes have filed a class action lawsuit against EA Sports and the NCAA, claiming the video game maker has gone too far in using the images of players but not allowing them to share in the considerable profits from  game sales.

Games like NCAA Football 09 and NCAA Basketball 09, for example, feature characters with striking physical likenesses to actual players and the jersey numbers but without their names. This, of course, significantly enhances the experience for video game fans who identify closely with their teams.

If the lawsuit is successful, it could potentially affect the efforts of all universities in marketing their athletic teams. The universities regularly use star players to promote their programs. Imagine a University of Louisville football schedule poster from the 2006 season not featuring Brian Brohm or last season’s basketball schedule poster without Terrence Williams or Andre McGee.

If there’s anything surprising about the lawsuit, it is the question of why it has taken so long for the players — or the trial lawyers — so long to file the action. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for every college football and basketball player who jersey on a opening game roster who has appeared in an EA game.

EA Sports, the NCAA, and the Collegiate Licensing Company, also named in the suit, argue that the NCAA annually reviews EA’s games and do not believe any violations of NCAA bylaws or student rights have occurred.

Those who have argued for paying college athletes even more than they now receive in the form of scholarships, food, travel and priceless college athletic experiences will be pulling for the ambulance chasers in this fight.

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Candyce To Camp — Lady Card Candyce Bingham reports to the training camp of the San Antonio Silver Stars of the Women’s National Basketball Association this week with no illusions or gurantees. See Sonja’s take here.

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Cards Land ‘Prized Prospect’

The University of Louisville football team has secured a verbal from Roy Philon, a defensive lineman from Lexington Bryan Station who was heralded by the Courier-Journal last month as “one of the state’s prized prospects.”

The know-it-alls among us are sure to question why Philon is signing on with Coach Steve Kragthorpe’s team, thinking that the major reason would be early playing time, and lots of it. Well, think again. We have it on good authority that Louisville has been his favorite football team since he was a youngster.

While an early start is not assured, his talent level could quickly push him to the forefront. The C-J stats from his senior season are impressive.

“Philon, who runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, played defensive end, defensive tackle and running back for the Defenders. He made 52 tackles, including 14 for losses. Five of those were sacks, and he forced two fumbles and broke up two passes. As a running back, Philon needed only 10 carries to amass 220 yards and seven touchdowns.”

ESPN Scout gave him a respectable appraisal as well:

“Philon is a tough hard-nosed kid in the trenches. He moves around the line a bit in high school and plays a 3-4 end, but is likely more of a true interior player at the college level. He is a thickly built kid who will need to add some more bulk. If he is about the 6-foot-4 he is listed at then he should not have much problem getting to that 290-300 pound range. He will flash some solid quickness off the ball. Does a good job of being able to get to the shoulder of a blocker and power his way into the gap. Displays solid raw strength. He can be a vicious tackler who has a WWE flair to him. You would like to see him not leave his feet as much, but he likes to slam ball carriers to the ground …”

Why does the name of former Cardinal terror Michael Josiah come to mind? No comparison intended but it would be good to have another one, without Josiah’s challenges.

Aggressive football recruits wanted, needed and welcomed at Louisville.

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