Biggest winners and losers from realignment…

According to a recent Dallas Morning News article, 33% of college football teams are in different conferences today than they were five years ago. Makes perfect sense to me as today’s Big 12 has only 33% or 8 teams left from the original Big 12.

Realignment changed the landscape of college football forever and created winners and losers…Unfortunately, as you will see OU came up on the short end of the stick. To better understand the current situation inherited by Bob Stoops it is important to take into account the fallout of conference realignment.

I have borrowed the Morning News winner and loser list and provided my reasons why…

The biggest winners

1…TCU – Ten years ago, TCU was a sleepy Mountain West team that no one cared about. Today, the Horned Frogs are national darlings. This team is taking over the Dallas metro-plex in recruiting.

2 and 2A…Texas A&M and Missouri – Everyone around here laughed at the Aggies and Tigers as they made the move to the powerful SEC. These guys had the last laugh as they have used their new conference alignment to recruit better players. Yes, I expect that eventually both these teams will come back to earth, but in the mean time they and their fans are living the good life.

4…Louisville – Louisville was jilted by the Big 12 for West Virginia. This may be the worst Big 12 move of them all. While West Virginia has done nothing for the conference, Louisville has become a powerhouse in the ACC in all sports. Whoever came up with that move should be fired…Oh, wait a minute, he was fired…

5…Utah – Utah went from the Mountain West to the Pac 12 or from playing no-name teams like San Jose State and San Diego State to USC and UCLA. Brilliant move…They went from beating up on the sisters of the poor to taking down the occasional big boy. Moves like these can do wonders for a program’s ego.

5 and 5A…Rutgers and Maryland– Ten years ago no one cared about Rutgers or Maryland. Rutgers was ranked 110th in the country back then. All this has changed with a move to the Big Ten. While the Scarlet Knights and Terps are still not household names, life in the Big Ten will make them relevant…East coast recruiting is big time and will pay off for both programs.

The biggest losers

1…Cincinnati…The Bearcats missed their chance to join a power conference and unless the Big 12 comes calling this franchise will never recover…

2…BYU may have made the biggest mistake of them all during conference realignment phase as the BYU decided to go it alone. Only Notre Dame can afford to play as an independent…This program is doomed unless the Big 12 gets desperate and invites the Cougars to join the conference.

3…West Virginia…Taking three thousand mile round trips for non-revenue sporting events is about as dumb as it gets. Who thought this arrangement would work…A team can be mediocre in any conference. Why travel half way across the county to do this…

4…Boise State…Boise State was the darling of college football prior to conference realignment. Now, they are an afterthought. No Power Conference including the Big 12 wants any part of these guys. Only an undefeated season will make this program relevant again.

5…Texas…It is hard to decide who has suffered the most from conference realignment, OU or Texas. Of course Texas deserves everything it gets because it was the Horns that doomed a move by OU and UT to the Pac 12. With the Longhorn Network as a stumbling block the Pac 12 said thanks, but no thanks. As a result, the Horns now find themselves swimming upstream against the Aggie recruiting machine. Texas has gone from a National Championship season to a five year record of 31-21 that includes a 6-7 campaign. OUCH…

5A…OU…All of the above can be said about OU regarding realignment. While the Sooners have not suffered through a 6-7 season, the lack of a turnaround year in 2015 could easily produce one in 2016. The recruiting effort in Texas has taken a major hit. At one time OU had only Texas to compete with for Texas high school talent. Now the Sooners have Texas, A&M, TCU and Baylor… Now the Sooners find themselves coveting players from California and Florida to fill the Texas-size void.
The Morning New and I were on the same page with the winners and losers list. This season will go a long way in determining the future of OU football in the current conference alignment world. The conference dye has been cast by Boren and company for the foreseeable future. Now it is up to Stoops and company to make it work…

Boomer Sooner…

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Football versus racism…

As a former history teacher, I tend to ere’ on the side of caution when it comes to anything history in nature. After all historical events and for that matter symbols are part of our fabric as a nation.   What happened in Charleston last week has caused me to rethink that stand.

As I viewed the carnage from South Carolina last week, I began to wonder if football could be used once again to alter how we look at history, in this case a flag.   The racist shooting was bad enough, but the reaction of the state’s top politician made things even worse and as a result drove me over the edge.

Is it not bad enough that in a state where the population of its African-American citizenry is upwards of 35% the Confederate flag still flies over the state capitol?   After the mass shooting of black worshippers in Charleston, the U.S. and State flags were flown at half-staff, while the Confederate was flown at full staff.   It was almost like the Confederate flag was flying in defiance of what had happened.

Yes, to many the Confederate flag is nothing but a symbol of the old south, but to the black community it is a symbol of hatred and bigotry.  Presidential candidate and U.S. Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham seemed to say that symbols of hatred and bigotry were okay, at least in South Carolina.   He stated and I quote “that while the confederate flag may be a racist symbol, it represents who we are in South Carolina and should be flown at the state capitol.” In other words, while the Confederate flag may be a racist symbol, it is our racist symbol.

Regardless of where you stand on the race issue, I find it simply amazing that the south and in particular the SEC uses black athletes every Saturday in the fall to dominate college football  while unapologetically practicing racism the rest of the week.  Without the black athlete these teams would be toast.

There was a time when the segregationist south lost their footing with the rest of the football world because of this sort of backwards thinking.   Southern coaches like Bear Bryant, Darrel Royal, and Johnny Vaught refused to play players due to the color of their skin.  OU under Bud and later under Barry took a different view and in doing so took full advantage of those racist views.  By recruiting these players out from under the noses of these schools the worm turned in favor of the good guys.  On numerous occasions OU would use these players to kick the dog out of Texas.

Of course OU could back up this stand honestly as OU players took a stand against racism in ’56 as fellow player Prentice Gautt was denied a place at a restaurant’s breakfast counter in Tulsa.   The team simply left en masse.   The same thing happened at hotels in OKC and Fort Worth with the same result.  Eventually business owners got the message and as they say the rest was history, no pun intended.   This was a gutsy move by a team made up predominantly of white players.

Just like in ’56 it was not just about breakfast or in this case a flag, it was about doing the right thing.  OU players took a stand against racism and it paid off, not only from a moral and ethical standpoint, it also paid off on the score board.  It took Texas years to recover from its racist ways and the OU domination of the series since WWII speaks for itself.

Politicians like Lindsey Graham are a dime a dozen.   Opportunities for affecting real change rarely come along.  South Carolina players like the OU players of the 50’s will have that opportunity this season.

South Carolina football players, both white and black should use the Charleston shootings to take a page from the ‘56 Sooners and change South Carolina thinking.  While removing the confederate flag from the capitol may not seem like a big deal to some, Lindsey Graham’s assessment of the flag as a racist symbol speaks for itself.

By boycotting football practices at South Carolina and Clemson the issue will become a front and center issue in South Carolina and in the south.   I suspect that it would not take long for South Carolina politicians to take a different view of this issue if players took a stand.   I suspect the risk of losing a few football games would do the trick.

Granted South Carolina officials should remove the flag for the right reasons, but then again as we know politicians, especially ones in the Deep South sometimes need an excuse to do the right thing.

Something to think about…

Shovel ready… 

Taking a satellite view of the University of Oklahoma campus it appears that the south side of Memorial Stadium is a construction-free zone.  Apparently, we were not as shovel ready as we had been led to believe.

A football program in desperate need of momentum needs construction crews is deathly quiet.  OU football is in need of a shot in the arm that a stadium renovation project could provide.   This time last year Sooners fans were basking in the glow of stadium renovation talk.  Then of course the price of oil plummeted and David Boren got wet feet.

This is the problem with bureaucrats…They just don’t get it…David should stick to hiring and firing professors and leave football decisions to those who have a clue.   Boren is compounding some really poor decision making back during the conference realignment era with additional bad stadium renovation decisions today.  I just hope Bob Stoops and the OU football program can overcome his latest backwards thinking move.

As a baseball coach, I told my players on numerous occasions not to compound a first error by making a second.   A team could survive one error, but seldom two in a row.   The same goes with leadership-ball.

I am as much a fiscal conservative as the next guy, but give me a break…Sometimes you simply have to have a pair…Only Kansas from the Big 12 has failed to move forward with major stadium renovation projects over the past few years and we know how that decision has worked out for the Jayhawks.  KU football is destined to remain in the conference cellar into the next millennium.

Making matters worse is the timing of this delay.  The Sooners are languishing in the one of the worst recruiting cycles ever.   The Sooner recruiting class is currently ranked #62 by 247sports.   An OU program that was built on five star Texas recruits is now relegated to blushing over two-star behemoths from Harrah.  Say what you will…High school prospects are like the rest of us, they love the smell of a new car and they love to see progress in the making.

Having the sound of jack hammers and land movers in the background during summer camps would create the perfect backdrop for potential recruits.  Possibly Bob should consider piping in construction music on those days when recruits are on campus.  Yes, I am kidding, but then again, maybe not…As I said previously, 2015 will be a critical year for the Sooner program and the Sooners are in desperate need of momentum.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Harold Hamm, an OU fan was set to donate some of his Billion dollar fortune to the renovation project.  Yes, the downturn in oil prices and an ugly divorce did cut into to his fortune, but the guy is still worth $10 Billion dollars.  That is ten times more that T. Boone Pickens.    A check for $100 million to get the project off the ground would have chicken feed to this guy.   Boren should stroke the guy’s ego, name something after Hamm and get the construction crews moving.

Even if Bob Stoops works his magic and things turn around for the Sooners in 2015, a recruiting season may be lost and given where TCU and Baylor are taking the conference these days, OU can ill afford an off year on the recruiting trail.

We shall see how things go, but if things go south again in 2015, I will be holding David Boren and the OU Regents responsible.

At that point I will be shovel ready…

Boomer Sooner…

Back-in-the-day…

Back in the day, Dr. Tamage and I had a student at Central Mid High who was one of those athletes that comes along once in a lifetime.  His name was Terry Pritchard… This kid was a natural athlete who could play any sport and do so at a very high level.

Baseball was not his natural sport, but I thanked my lucky stars that he decided to give it a shot.  On many occasion I would drop by summer school to remind Terry that we had an American Legion game that night.  In spite of his limited background in the sport, he could make a difference by simply stepping on the field.

Most importantly for OU fans, Terry was a man among boys on the football field.  As a 6’6’’ tight end, he almost single-handedly led Moore to a state championship in 1984 as the Lions lost a heartbreaker to Booker T. Washington.   Terry eventually took his athletic prowess to OU where he played tight end for the Sooners.  I think it would be safe to say that he never lived up to his skill level at OU, but he never forgot his OU roots.

OU fans can be thankful for this fact.  OU basketball fans will be the beneficiaries of his OU affection in a big way beginning in 2016…Terry eventually settled in the great Northwest where he married and had a son.

That Pritchard prodigy is named Payton.  Payton Pritchard is a four star point guard and a top fifty national basketball prospect.  Just like Terry, Payton is a difference maker.  He will join Edmond’s Kameron Doolittle to produce a top five recruiting class for the Sooners.

Payton will be the most ballyhooed basketball player to arrive in Norman since Waymon Tisdale and of course we all know how that story turned out.

247sports ranks the OU basketball class of 2016 as the country’s 4th best…That is not a misprint…Can you imagine what Lon Kruger can do with a top five recruiting class.  I can…

Combine Lon Kruger’s coaching ability with blue chip talent and even Lloyd Noble will create a home court advantage for the Sooners…

Let the basketball good times begin…

Boomer Sooner…

2015 = Critical year…  

In an attempt to remain sane most OU fans wiped last season from their memory banks…That’s right, it simply never happened.   Unfortunately, blog writers don’t have that luxury.   Trying my best to tell it like it is I need to report to you that the OU program is still hemorrhaging from last season’s meltdown.   High school prospects with short memories have not forgotten what happened.

The Sooners were fortunate last year as the Sooners recruited a respectable class, particularly in light of their on-field issues.  At the same time, recruiting operates on a two year lag system.   Last year’s downturn was not devastating to the Sooners as the foundation for that class was laid two years ago.  The Class of 2016 however will be built based on what happened last season.  Therein lays the problem.

High school players, particularly Texas high school players are not like us…They don’t live and breathe Sooner football.  Subsequently, these high profile studs must be sold on the program in its current state.  Don’t get me wrong the OU name still means something and getting these kids on campus to view the Switzer Center can help, but still, this could be a tough year for Sooner recruiting.

Case in point…Currently, the Sooners are ranked #49 by Rivals and #56 by 247sports.  OU ranks #7 in the Big 12 just ahead of Kansas.   Yes, it is still early and with summer camps just around the corner these numbers could turn around quickly.   As a result, I am not ready to hit the panic button, but I am getting nervous.

College football is a simple game…just like in life, winners get the best looking girls; winners in football get the best looking football players.  This is exactly what has happened at TCU and Baylor.  Currently, TCU has segwayed last year’s success into a top ten recruiting class.

Here’s an additional rub…Unlike the old days when players waited until well into the season and in many cases even beyond the end of the season to commit to a football team, that seldom happens today.   Committing early is now in vogue.   As of today, 51 of the top 100 and 97 of the top 200 players in the 247sports rankings have committed to power-five programs.

Here’s the good news…Of the four OU commitments; one is four-star quarterback Kendal Austin.   Austin is a top 150 player that can become a difference-maker for the Sooners.  Another piece of good news is that if OU can find a place on its staff for graduate assistant coach Chip Viney, all-world linebacker Caleb Kelly will be a Sooner commit as well.  Kelly is ranked as the 18th best player in America by both Rivals and 247sports and he is dying to be a Sooner.

The other piece of good news is that Bob Stoops has never had two horrid seasons in a row and I suspect that the changes he made last offseason will bear real fruit this year.   Yes, 2015 will be a critical year for the Sooners as we make our way back to the top.

Getting off to a quick start in Knoxville will revitalize the program.  If this happens and Caleb Kelly gets on board, he and Kendal Austin can go to work on the rest of the uncommitted players.    This start will provide the impetus for the Sooners to put together a top 25 class.   Sooner fans should be ecstatic with a top twenty five class this year.

With this in-season momentum and top 25 recruiting class, the Sooners can get back to winning championships again…

Boomer Sooner…

History lesson…  

An office colleague chided me after last year’s OU loss to OSU about OU fans living in the past.  You know the line about OU fans and the History Channel.  Realizing as I did that the closest thing an OSU fan gets to real history is a comic book, I let it go…

Unfortunately, she may not remember that back in the day, OSU actually had some history to brag about.  Of course that history was written back in the pre-Boone days.  At one time OSU led the nation in the number of team National Championships.

Granted those numbers were swelled by the non-revenue sports of wrestling (34) and golf (10) but still  Aggie hearts were warmed year round by these numbers…These facts provided OSU fans a great comeback when OU fans would goat over the dominance of the Sooner football.   After T. Boone bought the University and took over the athletic department the sports program in Stillwater has gone south.  Only the Cross Country and Women’s Equestrian teams remain competitive nationally today.

While many OU fans would love to see T. Boone go away, I suggest that T. Boone may have been the best and the worst thing that has happened to both OU and OSU over the past ten years.  Arguably by OSU standards, Pickens’ football wish has come true, but the rest of the OSU athletic program has gone into the toilet.

On the other hand OU football continues to be potent while the rest of the OU athletic program gets stronger by the day.  An OSU athletic program that once bragged about national championships is pressed to bring home a state championship in any sport in today’s world.

Yes, baseball was down a bit this year, but I don’t expect Joe C. to allow that situation to go on forever.   Once baseball gets it act together, the Sooners will have a clean sweep over OSU.

I believe 2015-16 will be a great year for the Sooners…

Boomer Sooner…