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John Rooke - Thinking Out Loud

Saturday, February 16, 2013

 

Thinking out loud…and wondering how the broadcast business can be so cruel, and so intoxicating at the same time…

• You can certainly make the assessment that the schools pulling out of the Big East have made the right decision, based on the estimated amount of a new contract offer from NBC Sports for next season. However, if the reports of a deal that will only pay existing schools between two and three million per season are accurate…all that does is validate the proposal put before the membership by former commissioner John Marinatto. If the $1.17 billion dollar deal had been accepted a year ago, football schools could be making between $13-14 million per season, basketball schools a bit more than $2 million…

• Even more pointedly – and let’s make certain this is on the record – you can place the largest slice of blame pie for the Big East’s breakup squarely in the stomach of Pittsburgh chancellor Mark Nordenberg, who led the parade of league presidents in voting to turn down the initial offer from ESPN. Then, with Syracuse in tow, the Panthers pulled an “et tu, Brute” on the rest of the league…and skipped off to the ACC. With ESPN’s encouragement…

• If the Hoop Seven have any intestinal fortitude, they will NEVER schedule Pittsburgh again. In anything. Same goes for the remaining Big East schools left behind…

• I’m still not sure why Georgetown also voted to turn down that initial deal. But all sources indicate this to be the case. Invariably, it was a calculated gamble that appeared they lost…but now perhaps regained with the alignment (and subsequent departure) of the Catholic/Hoop 7…

• Why will the potential NBC contract offer be so watered down from previous estimates? Simple. Too many valuable commodities within the Big East have left town. Markets, cities, schools. The replacements just don’t yet measure up. Putting any kind of a new deal together for next basketball season had to be one of the toughest things for current commish Mike Aresco to negotiate, in the face of so many schools running out the door…

• What’s good here for the Catholic/Hoop 7? Early estimates on an alleged deal in place from Fox Sports could have members reaching $4 million annually – about double what they would earn if they had stayed within the Big East, depending on expansion plans. Apparently, there are some TV folks and advertisers who believe that the idea of a “basketball-first” league has merit. And “sellability…”

• With so much work to do on a new conference, 2014 sounds about right for the Friars and their as-of-now all-Catholic brethren to step out on their own. The split with the Big East won’t be easy. Let’s hope it will be amicable. Both sides (BE leftovers, Hoop 7) want the name and the MSG contract for the post-season tournament. Money will definitely exchange hands. Neither side will get everything they want. And lawyers will ultimately win. Don’t they always?

• The wildcard in leverage/negotiations? St. John’s. MSG is their home-away-from-home floor. The Garden wants and needs them. Georgetown is a plus, and Seton Hall is close in proximity. Hope I’m wrong…but here’s a thought – the Hoop 7 get the Garden, don’t get the name…

Memphis in the Hoop Seven? According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, they were contacted, but also apparently chose to stay with their current/future Big East affiliation. If true, I’m not surprised they were contacted, or that they said “no thanks.” It makes sense to build the best basketball league you can build, regardless of whether or not a school plays big time football. I just don’t see a football school (including UConn and Cincinnati) making a decision based on hoops first. But I also say, “never say never…”

• My vote for naïve comment of the week, from Pittsburgh athletic director Steve Pederson: “We haven’t gone to environments (in the Big East) where the kids were put in a tough spot, or were uncomfortable. Everyone has been good. Of course, everyone is going their own way a little bit. It’s hard to be too judgmental when you’re leaving, too.” Geez Brainiac, it’s “hard to be judgmental when you’re leaving, too?” Why exactly, Mr. Pederson, do you think so many have left? I vote, in part, because they no longer decided to affiliate with purposefully greedy, non-collegial, back-stabbing counterparts…

• Did UConn meet Syracuse for the final time on a basketball floor this week? No, probably not. But when you consider that the Orange have already scheduled St. John’s for a home-and-home, and that Georgetown has always been considered more of a rival…the chances we see the Huskies in the Carrier Dome anytime soon are slim and none. And slim is headed out of town…

• I’m not certain what Ed Cooley told his Friars at halftime of their game against South Florida Wednesday night…but whatever it was, he should bottle it and sell it…

• PC’s road win in Tampa wasn’t pretty, but the execution of the comeback was a thing of beauty. And a sign that the Friars are growing up…and coming to an understanding about what Cooley and his staff want them to do. Vincent Council’s play – subsequent benching – and re-emergence in the second half was an example of the game within the game. VC received his message, again, loud and clear…

• A site that might have been too bizarre for words – Wednesday night in Tampa, a former Friar coach interviewing the current Friar coach…on national TV, no less…

Not for nuthin’…but let’s say it together – dee-fense (clap-clap!)…dee-fense (clap-clap!)…because a steady dose of defending can make Providence a real threat as this season turns its eyes toward MSG…and a post-season tournament that might be one to remember…

• Have you checked the Big East standings lately? Nine teams are within a game-and-a-half of each other. And PC is charging hard from the outside…

• How about this nugget, courtesy of ESPNNotre Dame has scored 69 points AFTER regulation play in their past 4 games. They've got nine whole GAMES this season scoring fewer than 69 points. And in February, the Irish are undefeated in OT games, but winless in games that end in regulation. So don’t get the Irish into extra time…

• Speaking of overtime…my buddy Statbeast sez he knows a guy who has worked 72 years at one job, but he’s only 56 years old. This is possible how? Thanks to all of the overtime he’s racked up. And to the powers-that-be in this state who allowed him to do so…

Kadeem Batts has become a true post threat in this league. He still doesn’t value the ball as well as I’d like him to, and his hands can sometimes mysteriously turn into bricks…but his improvement is a great story. His ability is now undeniable, as teams must game-plan against him. With Bryce Cotton’s production decreasing as opponents learn how to slow him down, Batts’ play has been THE key to PC’s continued improvement overall…

• With all of the talk about whether Ricky Ledo will come back to play next season for the Friars…there should now be some thought as to whether or not Batts also decides to return. He’ll be a 5th year senior next year, and is scheduled to graduate this May. If all of these moving parts somehow come together, next season can’t come fast enough…

• USF’s mostly-new campus facilities are very impressive, as are their improvements to the 10,000-seat home court Sun Dome. When the Bulls joined the Big East in the mid-2000’s, they were truly nothing more than a sprawling commuter school that happened to sit in the middle of Florida. Now, USF is a threat – with their facilities alone – to become a big-time player. They’ve shown potential in football, last year in basketball…and if they fail, it’s because they’re not making the right hires. The ability to dominate is in place…

• Congratulations to the Class of 2013 for the Providence College Athletic Hall of Fame, which includes former Friar hoop great Dickey Simpkins. A huge part of the (so far) only PC men’s team to win a Big East basketball title in 1994, Simpkins represents everything that has been good about the program…growth in maturity and ability on and off of a basketball court…and ultimate success that has followed post-PC…

• What does it say about your potential when you go down for the season with a knee injury, like Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel did this week, and drop from the #1 pro prospect for next season all the way to number three? If Noel were a stock, I’d still be buying…

• Boys will be boys, or stupid is as stupid does? Four Alabama football players and a five-star recruit were arrested this week on second-degree robbery charges and fraudulent use of a credit card. Once again, the price of fame is steep…

• The news that the Big 10 has discussed no longer scheduling FCS (formerly Division 1-AA) schools in football should ring a warning bell for all fans of college athletics. In effect, the Big 10 is saying to the Appalachian State’s, the Delaware’s and the Rhode Island’s of the world “we’re better than you (even if you beat us), and we will no longer lower ourselves to your level and let you come into our stadiums to play us.” We are now one step closer to the major conferences breaking away from the NCAA, and the true professionalization of “college sports…”

• Isn’t the NCAA Tournament in March one of the most exciting events of a calendar year, simply because of the threat of an upset by a smaller school? The Big 10 (er, 11..12…14…and counting) has now done its best to look down upon the rest of us who are unworthy. Excuse me, Big 10, but waaaay back when – wasn’t our country founded as an underdog to the British? Please check your history books, if you have them in your libraries…

• Remember, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I may never root for a Big 10 school – ever again…

• The fact that the International Olympic Committee has voted wrestling “off the island” for the 2020 games is a travesty. Wrestling is one of the original events from the inaugural modern games in 1896…and 344 athletes competed in London. Women’s wrestling was even included for the first time. Maybe now we should move the competition into mud pits or jello bowls?

• A truly bizarre, and tragic, story involving South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius, known as the “blade runner” for his use of artificial “blades” as legs. Pistorius was charged with murdering his girlfriend after she was shot and killed at his home this week. Early reports claimed he thought she was an intruder…but there are now allegations of domestic disputes between the two…

• I have long lamented the decisions made by the powers-that-be in this business of broadcasting, having been a victim to what might be described as short-sighted thinking and/or economics over the years myself. Simply put – (bleep) happens. Glenn Ordway’s ouster at WEEI this week, following 26 years of dominance, was surprising…but not surprising. I respect his talents, even if I didn’t always enjoy every talk show…but what he did sure worked for a long time. That deserves respect in such a volatile line of work. This move is simply another instance in the line of public consumption of media moving ever-so-slightly toward a younger demographic…

• Having worked with and known Mike Salk for about 10 years now, he’s a very talented communicator in his own right…much like Ordway has been. But will he be an entertainer? Can he be a polarizing personality in an area that demands such? He’s a Boston guy, who comes from working in Seattle…after a network stint at the ESPN mother ship and time spent in radio purgatory at 1510 and 890 (where I worked with him) in Boston. I hope he’s got back-up…

• That said, Michael Holley is expected to be the true star of the revamped afternoon drive show. He has to be. This move is also about giving Holley a chance to shine, away from the glare of Ordway’s omnipresence…

• Absolutely love what I’ve seen from the Celtics over the past three weeks. Don’t love the losses of Rondo, Sullinger or Barbosa…but love the fight, night-in and night-out. Now we learn that Paul Pierce has been playing with a pinched nerve in his neck, limiting some of his shooting touch. I still think he’d be a great addition for a younger playoff-caliber team…but would absolutely hate to see him go. Absolutely…

• Who’s ready for the Red Sox? Me neither. But let’s be fair about it. I am going to give this edition – including manager John Farrell – a chance to win me over. Not sure I like the makeup of the roster, and definitely not sure I can get behind John Lackey’s return to the rotation…but I am sure that one year does not a trend make. Until it becomes two…

• Why is it that baseball injuries always seem to be more egregious than other sports? First day back, Clay Buchholz strains a hammy. What is that? What did he do, bend over to pick up a ball the wrong way? Did he do NOTHING to stay in shape over the winter?

• Speaking of staying in shape – love this from David Ortiz, courtesy of ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes, while coming out of the team’s Fort Myers weight room holding two large dumbbells: “Hey, Gordon,’’ Ortiz shouted at him this week. “These are my PEDs. Take that, (expletive).’’

• In addition to Ordway’s departure this week, another friend and true pro lost his position at WPRO, as Ron St. Pierre was released from his duties at Cumulus Broadcasting. Ron’s a Hall-of-Famer, inducted in 2010, and another who is responsible for helping me reach some of my career goals along the way. With Tony Bristol’s new year departure from Cumulus, St. Pierre, Ordway…and undoubtedly more on the way…let this be a cautionary tale to those of you who wish you could be in their shoes within the current-day broadcast industry. Today, they might trade places with you…

• Our mailbag question/comment this week comes from Lance from Amherst, MA via Facebook – “Your thoughts on (Glenn) Ordway getting fired, John?” Lance: See above. But let me also add that I have always considered him a friend…and his advice through the years has been invaluable. His influence in the industry has helped me shape what I do, whether it was talk or play-by-play. And when you can leave that kind of a legacy, on anyone, you’ve done well…

• 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, or text 37937…and send email to the show - golocal@weei.com .

• The recently released “Rhode Island Radio” from Arcadia Publishing is available for sale, and the book tells the story of the 90-year history of radio in our state through photographs, clippings and memories from many of the personalities who have graced our airwaves. Join me for a book signing event Saturday, March 2nd at Barnes & Noble on Route 2 in Warwick, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm! If you’re in search of the gift that says “Rhode Island,” you’ve found it. Or, find it in local bookstores and online right here… 
 

 

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