Just what the doctor ordered…

The artist renderings of the changes planned for Memorial Stadium are just what the doctor ordered…The renovations will finally demonstrate to the world that the University of Oklahoma is serious about football.   To be honest there have been many times in past ten years that I have wondered about that fact.

In the George Lynn Cross days, there was never a question regarding where OU football stood in the overall scheme of things.   President Cross made the statement that he wanted to create a university that the football team would be proud of.  With Bud Wilkinson at the helm they made it happen.   While President Cross may have a bit over the top at times, OU football fans everywhere should applaud his drive. 

President Boren has taken a different approach.  Hoping to create a balance between football and academics he has systematically worked to make the two areas complimentary of each other.   Both the Cross and Boren systems have worked to a tee.   Given the recent goings on in Stillwater it is easy to see why Boren took his direction. 

At the same time, it must be pointed out that Boren’s approach was becoming woefully close to the edge.   The west side of the stadium has deteriorated badly over the past several years as anyone making restroom or concession run during that time can attest.   Halftime in the concourse area had become reminiscent of a day on the midway at the state fair.  References by high school prospects to the facilities at OSU had gotten old. 

With new stadiums popping up in Stillwater, Waco, and Fort Worth and major renovation projects going on in Lubbock, Austin, Manhattan and even Ames, OU was falling desperately behind the rest of the region in the area of facilities.    

Then it finally happened….  The University is on the verge of keeping up with the Jones in a big way.   The $370 million dollar project will create a second to none venue at Memorial Stadium.   Quoting a line from a Seinfeld episode, the stadium changes are real and they are spectacular.   No program in this part of the country will have a recruiting advantage over the Sooners with these new digs.  Even more impressive is the fact that Boren will not be forced to turn the university’s keys over to a Pickens-like donor.   Many friends of the football program will be involved in this project.   

If the Sooners can put together a couple of stellar seasons on the field, the Sooners will become untouchable over the next decade when it comes to recruiting talent to Norman.    Top ten recruiting classes will become the standard at OU once again.  Even rumors of the renovation project have paid off as twenty four (24) prospects listed on either the Rivals or Scout top 100 lists have expressed an interest in visiting Norman this fall.   Recruiting top quality players just got a lot easier.  

What changed things?  First, the University under David Boren’s leadership is on the cusp of becoming a top 100 U.S. News and World Report university.   This fact allows him to move forward with the football makeover without selling out to football.   OU fans will now have the best of both worlds.   Boren can sell the football team to conferences that may come calling while boasting about his top 100 academic program.

Secondly, David Boren is a genius when it comes to fund-raising.  He realizes that football success can be directly tied to fundraising efforts for the university at large.    Studies have shown that student enrollments spike anytime a team wins a national championship or a big game.  It can be assumed that OU will be turning students away this fall after the OU win over Alabama last January.  Same goes for fund raising for infrastructure needs.  Donors love a winner and they are much more likely to give to the Geology Department when the football team is producing big wins over rival schools.       

Boren realizes that there is no point on waiting for Aggie lawmakers at the State Capitol to loosen up their purse strings for higher education.    Boren has decided he must circumvent state politicians by putting oil billionaires in football suites.  This move will translate to millions for both stadium renovation projects and classroom additions.   Boren knows that for every dollar he raises for football, another dollar will be raised for university infrastructure. 

Lastly, a final reason for David Boren to sign off on this project is his feeling that OSU has turned the corner.    Boren’s affection for OSU is well-documented and he has made it clear that OU will never leave little brother behind.   The Pickens renovation project coupled with on-field success for the Cowboys has apparently assured Boren that OSU has turned the corner.   Boren hopes that the positive energy coming out of Norman will overcome the OSU albatross and make an OU/OSU package acceptable to future conference suitors. 

One last positive note:   In terms of the future of the Big 12, OU and not Texas will be calling the shots.  

Sorry Charlie…

Boomer Sooner…

 

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OU-Texas Cotton Bowl contract extended…      

The Cotton Bowl contract for the OU-Texas game has been extended subject to regent’s approval for five more years.  The game will now run through 2025.   This move keeps the game away from Jerry World for another decade which is great news.   The news that I eventually hope to hear about this game is still on the horizon. 

It would be great to see this game played under the lights just one time.   While the uniqueness of the game is special, a night game would jack up the revelry level several decibels.   As someone who was raised on 1:30 OU starts, I can attest that there is no comparison between the atmosphere of a day game and night game.   You might say the difference is like night and day…

What is the hang-up?  Some have suggested that the issue is the Cotton Bowl neighborhood that precludes playing the game at night.  Obviously, these folks have never been to a game at the Orange Bowl.  Others will suggest that the older fans who have been raised on day games.  I am not buying that argument either…Even the oldest dog can learn a new trick from time to time.  

Bottom line is that there is no really good reason for rooster kickoffs…The bands entering the stadium at 10:00, not to mention pre-game at 10:30.  Most OU-Texas fans can’t even open their eyes that early after a night of partying.  Who needs fourth quarter temps in the 90’s.   

Honestly, I can’t think of one good reason for morning kickoffs…What I can see however is an OU-Texas game under the lights where the colors are brighter, the bands are louder and the fans are simply out of their minds.   Why can’t what we see every Saturday night in SEC country happen in Dallas.  As a matter of fact, this is the one Big 12 game that can compete in terms of pageantry with anything the SEC can throw out there on a Saturday night.   

As OU and the conference attempts to keep up with the SEC on the football field and on the ledger sheet, the time has come for OU officials to think outside the box.   The SEC just signed a new t.v. deal with CBS, ABC and ESPN that will generate $34 million dollars yearly for each team.  This t.v. deal outdistances the Big 12 deal by $14 million.   With the conference locked into ten teams, four of which are bottom feeders, a round robin schedule and no championship game, it will be up to individual conference teams to make up the difference.   

The 7:00 Saturday night slot would break all kinds of viewership records.  The entire country and most importantly the entire country’s blue chip prospects would be glued to the tube.     While the game will be special regardless of its time slot, the game could bring in millions of new dollars to conference coffers.   If conference officials can’t see this, OU and UT should illuminate the matter for them.  Not widely known is the fact that the home team loses money on the game every year.  While this game generates $5 million for each team, an extra home game in Norman or Austin would raise twice that much.   

While this may not be a reason to move the game to a night game, I know how athletic directors think and I am giving them an excuse to make it happen.     If we start paying players which in one form or another is going to happen, OU and UT will need additional revenue to keep up with the SEC.  

Simply put, nothing stays the same in college football these days.   The Big 12 is fighting for its conference life and providing the nation a Saturday night alternative to the SEC would be a huge step forward for the conference.   

One last reason for making the OU-Texas game even bigger…No one should assume that Texas will always be a part of the Big 12.  As we know Texas will always take care of Texas…Making the OU-Texas game an even bigger spectacle with an even bigger purse will ensure that OU-Texas in one form or another will always be with us.  Contracts as we know are made to be broken and the 2025 agreement is just that an agreement that Texas could disregard in a New York minute.   The Horns are still smarting from the A&M saga that turned UT into an after-thought overnight.  I expect that Texas will not be beaten to the punch next time around. 

I, for one do not want to think about life without OU-Texas.  If you think that this could never happen, let me remind you of OU-Nebraska and/or Texas-Texas A&M.     In order to make an OU-Texas night game happen Joe Castiglione and particularly the new Athletic Director from Texas, Steve Patterson will have to make it happen.  While the rest of the Big 12 would benefit with its conference life, waiting for a 2nd to the motion from the other conference members is unlikely.  They fear that OU and Texas will run away and hide and leave the football crumbs for rest of the conference.  Joe C. needs to take the lead on this one or risk being left at the altar by Texas…

Finally, for those who believe that an OU-Texas night game will never happen, I remind you that I never thought I would see the Berlin wall go down, but it did…Never say never…Miracles do happen and this one is a miracle worth waiting for…

 

 

 

 

2014 = Scoreboard watching

Some of the greatest times for college football fans can be had from predicting an upcoming football season.  Of course it is human nature to believe that the home team will go undefeated.  Otherwise, college football is a crap-shoot every year which makes the game unique and adds to its allure.  At the same time certain variables play major roles in a teams projected finish. 

This year with the final four playoff system in place, predicting a teams finish will be even more complicated.   The newly installed playoff committee selection will make things even more eventful in 2014.  The second weekend in December will be to football fans what March Madness selection Sunday has become to basketball fans. 

What concerns me most about this process is the fact that we do not know how the selection committee will weigh out a team’s strength of schedule.  In the past we had the computers to do that for us.  It is likely that the committee will use similar techniques, but then again we will have the human element this year that will play a bigger role than in the past.  That’s right things just got more complicated and more importantly, possibly more unpredictable.  

That be as it may, the Big 12 faces another issue…The Big 12 is the only power conference without a championship game.   As we know humans tend to value what they see last as most important.   It is likely that SEC, ACC, Pac 12 and Big Ten championship games played on major networks will have no difficulty impressing America and selection committee members the day before selection Sunday.  It will be critical for OU and Baylor to do the same with its OU-OSU and Baylor-K-State games that weekend.

The Big 12 has taken a major step to help out here by beefing up its Big 12 non-conference schedule, a move that will certainly beef up the conference RPI or strength of schedule rating.   First things first, it will be important for conference teams to compete against the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Tennessee and UCLA.  This was a bold step and a necessary one, but it will work only if conference teams compete well…

Upsets have to be avoided and all games must be competitive.     OU and Baylor will be the beneficiaries of this move as the Sooners play a young, but respectable Tennessee team at home while Baylor plays the weakest non-conference schedule in America.    As stated previously, a November 8th matchup between undefeated Sooners and Bears teams would do wonders for the conference chances in the final four, particularly if the conference has enhanced its RPI during the nonconference portion of the Big 11 schedule.

For an insurance policy it would be nice for one of the power conferences to go south prior to championship Saturday.   The SEC is still the SEC and we can pencil in this conference as final four finalist.  The ACC with Florida State on one side and solid championship game competitors on the other can be penciled in as well.   Same goes for the Pac 12 as the PAC 12 will be loaded with several top ten teams in 2014.  That leaves the Big Ten and the Big 12…

With academics weighing down the Big Ten conference, there are only a handful of stout teams at the top of this conference.    Two teams stand out; The defense-minded Michigan State Spartans and the and the Braxton Miller-led Ohio State Buckeyes.  It would be preferable for both these teams to have at least one loss going into championship Saturday; 

To make this happen, we need Oregon to take out Michigan State at home early in the season.   Then, we need Michigan State to take care of the Buckeyes in East Lansing in November.  This gives both these teams a loss.  Most importantly, it gives Ohio State their loss late in the year.  

For safe measure, let’s have LSU take care of Wisconsin in August and for Wisconsin to dispatch of an overrated Nebraska team at home in mid-November.  There you have all the Big Ten pretenders have one loss making the winner of this game less attractive to the selection committee on selection Sunday.   Even if the Sooners were to stub their toe during the season a strong game against Baylor and OSU on championship Saturday late in the year should put the Sooners in great shape.   If all of this comes to fruition, even a one loss Sooner team will make the four team playoff format.  An undefeated Sooner team would make OU a top two seed. 

I know it sounds like I am overthinking the process, but then again this is what college football junkies do during the dog days of summer.  This process also allows us to scoreboard-watch during OU blowouts. 

Here is the way it looks on paper…

  • August 30th – LSU over Wisconsin…
  • September 6th – Oregon over Michigan State…
  • November 8th – Michigan State over Ohio State…
  • November 8th – OU over Baylor…
  • November 15th – Wisconsin over Nebraska…
  • December 6th – OU dismembers OSU…
  • December 7th – OU makes final four…

 

Final four teams in alphabetical order…

  • ACC
  • Big 12
  • Pac 12
  • SEC

 

Boomer Sooner…

 

 

Breaking News out of Stillwater = OSU moves up signing date…

John Helsley, OSU beat writer for the Oklahoman wrote recently that OSU had already signed five blue chip players to letters of intent.   He went on to report that the Cowboys were kicking butt on the recruiting trail and were on the way to a top ten class.   Of course I was upset that I had missed the memo from the NCAA changing the signing date. 

Either Helsley miss-spoke or is as dumb as Mudd or both.  Granted the Cowboys have secured the commitments of a couple of high profile prospects, but commitments are a long way from signings.    Five star running back Robert Jones is the real deal.   He is a top 50 nationally ranked running back out of McKinney, TX.    Additionally, Jaylon Lane, a four star recruit out of Nacogdoches is another solid pick-up for the Cowboys.  

Unfortunately for the Cowboy faithful, it is still just June and in spite of Helsley’s assertion the real signing date is still eight months away.   One must wonder what the rush is here as the Cowboy mouth-piece appears particularly anxious to lock up these two guys for the Cowboys early.   Is it possible that rumors have emerged that Robert Jones may be looking around and that Jaylon Lane’s really wants to be a Sooner or is there more bad news on the horizon. 

Regardless of the motive, teenage minds being what they are, it may more necessary than normal for OSU to wrap up high profile recruits as early as possible this year.   With all the bad news coming of out Stillwater these days and possibly with more on the way, OSU coaches will want to get their recruiting class in the barn as early as possible. 

Signing these guys to letters of intent early would be great for OSU, but unfortunately or fortunately things don’t work that way.  This is exactly why the NCAA should not consider an early signing period.  Allowing high school players an opportunity to change their minds after a closer examination of a football program is important.  Three months ago, Jones and Lane would not have known about the embarrassing API score that will cause the Cowboys to lose practice time this year or the latest Gangsta U. felony.  

Highly recruited Devon Thomas out of Broken Arrow has been charged with two counts of armed robbery and one count of shooting with the intent to kill in a recent drug deal gone bad.    Normally, OSU officials do a nice job of keeping their gangsters out of Logan County lock-up.   In this case, Thomas was out on parole in his home town of Tulsa when he decided to change one orange jump suit for another.   

As Devon Thomas joins Gangsta U’s alumni Perrish Cox, Justin Blackman, and Dez Bryant on the America’s Most Wanted list, the Cowboys must be sweating their early commitments.   If they had signed these guys to letters of intent as suggested by Helsely the possibility of losing the nucleus of their 2015 recruiting class would not be an issue. 

The Cowboys must now hope that the bad news coming out of Stillwater this spring has abated and that the Cowboy can recapture their momentum on the recruiting trail.   Unfortunately, for Gangsta U. fans I suspect that the bad news out of Stillwater is not over.   We are still waiting for the results of the internal investigation out of OSU related to the Sports Illustrated expose’.   While a whitewash of sorts is expected, it can be assumed that OSU cannot afford to come completely clean on these charges and I suggest at least some self-imposed penalties are coming..  Appeasing the NCAA will come at a cost.   

Regardless, bad news is bad news and any amount of bad news on this subject would be a third strike in a string of bad news this spring.  At some point the moms and dads of previously committed high school prospects will begin rethinking their commitments to OSU. 

In the meantime, let’s take a look at recruiting rankings for this week.  The first list was the one presented by John Helsely and the second comes to us from Scout.com.

  • Helsleys’s rankings…
  1. OSU
  2. Texas
  3. Texas Tech
  4. Rest of Big 12…
  • Scout.com rankings as of 6/8/14… 
  •  Big 12 Ranking… The first number in parenthesis is the is the national ranking for each team.   The second number in parenthesis is the number of early commitments for each team. 
  1. (8) Texas (10)
  2. (18) West Virginia (10)
  3. (20) Baylor (11)
  4. (23) TCU (12)
  5. (26) Texas Tech (7)
  6. (27) OU (6)
  7. (36) OSU (5)
  8. (83) Kansas State (2)
  9. (89) Kansas (1)
  10. (93) Iowa State (1)   

  

 

Champions Bowl = Pros and Cons…

 

The Champions Bowl at the Sugar Bowl that appeared to be a done deal some six months ago is now on hold.    It will eventually happen, but not this year.  The reason for the one year hiatus is the NCAA drafted the Sugar Bowl for one of its two qualifying games.   The Champions Bowl, the brainchild of Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was sold to the Big 12 schools as the Big 12’s savior.  That may still be the case, but that bowl game pitting the Big 12 and SEC champions will not play a role this year.    

 

If the truth be known Bowlsby was hedging his bets that the Big-12 would not make the four team playoff this year.   He was worried about the dismantled Big 12 competing with the other power conferences for limited final four opportunities.  Actually, this was a pretty shrewd move on his part given recent Big 12 history.  

 

Left with only ten conference teams, league officials opted for a round robin schedule and no championship game.  At that point, Bowlsby had to think fast and the Champions Bowl was his solution to guaranteeing a big time bowl at the end of every season.  The hope was that this season ending bowl game would keep the Big 12 relevant until the Big 12 was able to beef itself up in other ways.  With the SEC being what it is four power conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, and Pac 12) will be vying for the remaining three play-off spots each year.  If you believe the SEC propaganda the non-conference power conferences will be playing for only two playoff spots.   

 

The down side of the Champions Bowl scenario is the fact that until the power of the SEC is diminished there will always be a serious risk that the Big 12 champion that misses out on the playoffs will be playing the 2nd or 3rd best team from the SEC in the Champions Bowl.   This would obviously create a serious blow to the Big 12 psyche’ and in essence create a lose-lose situation for the Big 12 champion.  Of course for the immediate future, Big 12 fans must trust Commissioner Bowlsby’s leadership and believe that everything will work out for the best.  

 

Given the preseason situation for both OU and Baylor, the absence of the Champions Bowl will have little impact on conference opportunities in 2014.  With the stars being aligned as they are for 2014, the Sooners have an excellent chance to return the Big 12 to national prominence.  If this happens the Big 12 will begin playing for a final four spot on a regular basis and the conference will use the so-called Champions Bowl as a venue for conference runner-ups.   If OU and Baylor do their job, Baylor will also represent the conference in the Cotton or Fiesta Bowl which would give the conference two teams in major bowls.   This would be a best case scenario and one that would send the Big 12 back to the top nationally. 

 

If things go as planned, next year the Big 12 will be represented by a final four playoff appearance, as well as a Champions Bowl appearance in the Sugar Bowl by the league’s runner up team.  This would be the best of all worlds and would restore the conference’s national reputation. With national credibility comes recruiting success which will in turn make the conference a permanent final-four fixture.   Of course with this best case scenario comes with a lot of ifs and buts.  The pressure is also squarely on OU to right the conference ship.    Having said this, the importance of the 2014 season for the future of the Big 12 cannot be overstated. 

 

The following 2014 major bowl set up will make this happen…  

 

2014 Major Bowl Setup…

 

  1. Playoff game #1 vs. #4 (Sugar Bowl) Jan. 1 (OU)
  2. Playoff game #2 vs. #3 (Rose Bowl) Jan. 1
  3. At-Large team vs. Group of five (Cotton Bowl) Dec. 31 (Baylor)
  4. At-Large team vs. At-Large team (Fiesta Bowl) Dec. 31
  5. ACC vs. At-Large team (Orange Bowl) Dec. 31
  6. At-Large team vs. At-Large team (Peach Bowl) Dec. 31

 

Note:  Group of five will be represented by the highest ranked team from a non-power conference league.