Collegiate football still in the headlines
Although Easter will be here Sunday, much of the news in the world of sports is focused upon college football.
Which of the premier players from last season will be drafted by the NFL April 28-30? How did the spring football practices go for some of the top-ranked teams? What rules will be altered for the 2011 college football season? What kind of deals are being cut by some of the conferences and television networks?
Stories about the above questions are saturating the newsprint, Internet, radio and television, despite the stalemate of the NFL lockout, the start of the NBA playoffs and the major league baseball season being only in its fourth week.
Despite the NFL lockout killing a majority of the normal activities that take place at this time of the year, the NFL draft will take place as scheduled.
And the NFL Network plans on more than 38 hours of live coverage with a record 10 cameras in team draft rooms, including the teams with the top three picks—Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills—as well as the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Green Bay Packers.
Also new this year is that the NFL Network’s lead analyst Mike Mayock will unveil his projected picks in prime time April 27, the day before the draft’s first round.
And just as in the past, the NFL Network will enlist college coaches to appear April 30—Alabama’s Nick Saban, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, North Carolina’s Butch Davis and Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema.
While the NFL Network is providing exclusive coverage of league events like the NFL Scouting Combine, will it ignore the big picture—the NFL lockout if it is still in place?
Several of the major college football programs have recently finished their respective spring practices with their big intra-squad game featuring some new looks both offensively and on defense.
The Texas Longhorns went into spring practice with four prospective quarterbacks and expected to have one emerge as the starter for the fall, but that didn’t happen. There still will be a battle for the starting position from the four candidates plus any incoming freshmen.
Texas A&M had questions about whether Beaumont junior running back Christine Michael’s broken leg is completely healed, and that was answered rather clearly when the talented tailback rushed for 52 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 11 carries in the annual Maroon and White Game at Kyle Field last Saturday.
The Oklahoma Sooners were looking for a replacement for All Big 12 Conference runner DeMarco Murray at tailback. But according to Head Coach Bob Stoops, that question remained unanswered after the Sooners annual Red and White Game last Saturday as all five candidates looked good at times.
“All these guys do a lot well,” Stoops explained after the game, “but I believe it will be more by committee. These guys all bring a different speed, a little change-up in how they run. As long as they’re taking care of the football, we’ll use them all.”
Lamar University was one of the first teams in Texas to begin spring practice last month and several players emerged as starters from their Red and White game a few weeks ago.
Also in the news last weekend was the fact the NCAA has approved tougher restrictions on blocking below the waist and given teams the option of taking 10 seconds off the clock in the final minute of each half this season in penalty situations.
Receivers or running backs lined up outside the tackle box can block below the waist ONLY if they are blocking straight ahead or toward the nearest sideline. If they go inside and block toward the play, it would be a penalty.
If a team commits a penalty that stops the clock in the final minute of a half, the opponent can take the yardage AND a 10-second clock rundown, the yardage only, or decline both.
And this is a biggie: the NCAA also implemented a rule to NULLIFY touchdowns if a player is called for taunting BEFORE he crossed the goal line, such as by high-stepping.
Last, but not least, Fox Sports Media Group will pay the Big 12 Conference an estimated $1.1 billion over 13 years to air 40 football games each season on Fox networks and to satisfy the financial demands of schools that considered bolting the league last summer, according to a Houston Chronicle article last week.
The agreement takes place in the fall of 2012 and will average $90 million per year. The conference’s overall TV revenue, according to The Chronicle, including its eight-year, $480 million deal with ABC and ESPN that runs through 2015-16, will grow to an average of about $150 million per year for the 10-team league.
The Big Ten, expanding to 12 members this fall, receives about $230 million annually from Fox and ESPN. The 12-team Southeastern Conference gets about $205 million from CBS and ESPN and the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference receives about $155 million from ESPN.
Next up for bids is the Pac-12, which receives about $57 million from Fox and ESPN, plus about $25 million that it will add this year after adding Colorado and Utah and a league title game.
KWICKIES…Three of the eight NBA playoff openers resulted in the favored home team upset last weekend. It appeared to this Korner that the formula used to produce these upsets was to bottle up the star on the favored team and make the other players beat them. It worked for Memphis over San Antonio (101-98), New Orleans over the world champion LA Lakers (109-100) and Atlanta over Orlando (103-93). But watch out in that second home game of the favored team. It could get ugly for the underdog.
Rookie Brendan Steele fought the relentless Texas winds to post his first PGA Tour win last weekend in the Valero Texas Open played in San Antonio. Steele’s one-stroke victory score of 280 was the highest winning score at the Texas Open since a 283 win in 1934. Steele held off challenges from Charley Hoffman and fellow rookie Kevin Chappell to capture the $1,116,000 first-place check.
And while on the subject of golf, we ran into Jeff MacDonald and Keith Certa who were playing at Sunset Grove Country Club Sunday. Both were in town for a mini-tournament with their former classmates at Lutcher Stark High School. Jeff has been living in the Bryan-College station area while Keith resides in Huntsville.
And speaking of Huntsville, that was the site of this weekend’s sweep of a three-game series by Sam Houston State over the Lamar Cardinals in baseball, denying Cardinal Coach Jim Gilligan his 1,200th coaching victory. The Bearkats won the opener Friday 9-4 and then came back with a pair of 3-2 wins Saturday and Sunday. The series loss evened the Redbirds’ record to 9-9 in the Southland Conference and 22-16 overall. The Big Red resumes SLC action with a three-game series at UT-San Antonio beginning Thursday.
Local tracksters are getting ready for the Regional Track & Field Championships that will be held the weekend of May 2-3. Class 5A and 3A Regionals will be held at Humble High School while Class 4A and 1A will be at Sam Houston State University and the Class 2A will be at Whitehouse High School.
For the third time in this young major league baseball season the Houston Astros have lost a game they led after seven innings. Again, Manager Brad Mills yanked his starting pitcher after only six innings and for the second time that starting pitcher was his ace Brett Myers, who has NEVER lost a game of the 16 he has started in Minute Maid Park. He is 9-0 with a 2.10 ERA. Sunday the Astros were leading 6-3 when Mills gave Myers the hook and three relievers and three errors later the Astros were on the short end of an 8-6 final score. The loss prevented Houston from winning its first series this season putting the Astros’ series record a 0-4-1 and joining the Minnesota Twins as the major league’s only teams yet to win back-to-back games. The Astros are now 5-11 going into their six-game road trip to visit the New York Mets (Tues-Thurs.) and Milwaukee for three games this weekend.
JUST BETWEEN US…ESPN2 had a panel of analysts commenting on the upcoming NFL draft Monday morning when one asked which team they thought had the best draft in 2010. The vote was unanimous that the Seattle Seahawks had the best draft, taking offensive lineman Russell Okung and free safety Earl Thomas in the first round and Golden Tate in the second round. The consensus was that because he was injured during much of the season, Okung didn’t perform up to expectations but that Orange native Earl Thomas was Seattle’s best pick because he started every game and led the team with five interceptions. That was a nice tribute for our hometown guy.