Until It Secures a TV Deal, Reserve Your Judgment on the New Big East

Until It Secures a TV Deal, Reserve Your Judgment on the New Big East

Bill Bradshaw is seeing green, even if plenty of others can't see past the Green Wave.

The Big East has faced a firestorm of criticism since it announced on Tuesday the additions of Tulane and East Carolina to the conference. Those adds came one week after it lost Rutgers to the Big Ten and one day before it lost Louisville to the ACC.

But Bradshaw, Temple University's athletic director, seemed as confident as ever in a halftime interview with 1210 AM during Wednesday night's Temple-Buffalo basketball game. Rather than speak in generalities about the bright future ahead as the Big East continues to replace more recognizable programs with those of lesser prestige and name value, Bradshaw took a bold, honest approach. These quotes come courtesy Joey Cranney of the Temple News:

“If anyone’s confused and frustrated, just know one thing: It’s the color green,” Bradshaw said. “Think of the color green, and that answers all of your questions.”

“I think it’s going to be very lucrative, particularly with the markets being brought into the Big East, such as San Diego, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Orlando, and certainly Philadelphia,” Bradshaw said. “All those markets are going to mean more eyeballs, more exposure and hopefully more revenue.”

Bradshaw's open admission that his new conference is angling for a pay day points to an overlooked reality. The message seems to have permeated discussions about the BCS conferences, but stayed separate from the debates about the future of the Big East.

It's beyond time to recognize that realignment has absolutely nothing to do with athletics, traditions or rivalries. The only thing that matters is geography, insofar as it can be turned into money, a lot of it. Maryland and Rutgers don't scream "Big Ten," but those two programs provide that conference with TV markets in which it was not previously a presence.

So why not take that exercise, exploit it to its fullest extent, and recognize the new Big East?

As things currently stand, Big East football will be contested between these 13 schools in 2015: Temple, SMU, Navy, Houston, South Florida, Central Florida, San Diego State, UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis, Tulane, Boise State, East Carolina.

For reasons related to quality of competition and the implausibility of a West-Coast school joining a (by name) eastern entity, that assortment of schools has been relentlessly mocked by the conference's critics — of which there are plenty.

But here's that list retyped: Philadelphia (4), Dallas (5), Washington D.C. (8), Houston (10), Tampa Bay (13), Orlando (19), San Diego (28), Hartford (30), Cincinnati (34), Memphis (48), New Orleans (52), Greenville (99), Boise (112).

The numbers in the parentheses represent that city's place in Nielsen's list of the country's largest television markets. Boise and East Carolina do not extend immediately extend to major metropolitan areas, but do provide the conference a presence in two additional regions. Excluded from the list above are non-football members St. John's (New York, 1), Villanova (Philadelphia, 4), DePaul (Chicago, 3), Providence (53), Seton Hall (North Jersey/New York City, 1), Marquette (Milwaukee, 34) and Georgetown (Washington, D.C., 8), who will also factor into the negotiations. 

Here's what Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, formerly the executive vice president of programming at CBS Sports, is banking on: The markets mentioned above will provide the conference leverage as it negotiates its new TV deal. Better yet, those markets are the Big East's leverage. Realignment is a cash grab, and what the Big East has lost in traditional athletic prestige, its attempted to add in national scope.

You can criticize the conference as mid-major, and, according to the new BCS bowl format set to kick in in 2014, you would be right. You can mock it for being the new Conference USA, and, considering that nine of the 13 schools mentioned above came from C-USA, you would again be right.

But there's little denying these schools stand to make more money as a group in a makeshift Big East than they would in their former conferences — C-USA, MAC, MWC, Independent (Navy).

This is the only way to write it any clearer than Bradshaw said it Wednesday night: It's about money.

By no means do I aim to argue that the Big East is guaranteed success. It is very possible the conference will soon face the realization that having programs in and around major TV markets does not equate to a meaningful number of individual televisions in those markets.

But until Aresco comes back with a deal in hand, and until its clear just how much money each member school will receive, reserve judgment on the Big East. The jokes have been told and re-told, and the moral indignation has been tweeted and retweeted, and its all become played out.

The Big East has taken one hit after another over the last decade. It's lost 10 members since 2003 (assuming you count TCU, who left before it even arrived). It's lost seven to the ACC alone. It's proven as reactionary as could be in a time when programs, presidents and commissioners needed to be the most proactive. No one should weep for what's happened to the Big East.

But the conference is due at least some credit for having survived this long given all its losses, for somehow figuring out a way to expand beyond the number of teams it ever had at one time for football, for trying something inventive for the first time in a long time.

The Big East, very late in the proceedings, has staked itself a unique place in the conference landscape. It's lost its status as an automatic qualifier but positioned itself to potentially prove the best of the rest.

A few months from now, its last-ditch effort to expand its reach across the country could prove too little, too late. Then the criticisms will have proven valid. But if it succeeds, and if the Big East lands a lucrative TV contract, then it will have done so in the face of every argument about how sub-standard its additions have been.

For now, Bill Bradshaw is right, even if the majority of onlookers can't warm to the idea of adding programs they admittedly know little about.

NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at three years

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NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at three years

NEW YORK -- A person familiar with the negotiations says the New York Jets made a three-year offer to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in March that includes $12 million guaranteed in the first year.

That offer has remained on the table for Fitzpatrick, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is commenting publicly on the negotiations.

The New York Post first reported the terms of the offer Friday.

Fitzpatrick and the Jets have been locked in a contract stalemate. The 33-year-old quarterback is a free agent and coming off a season in which he threw a Jets-record 31 touchdown passes and led New York within a victory of the playoffs.

Both the Jets and Fitzpatrick have said they would like a reunion, but have unable to agree on a deal.

Bears: First-round pick Leonard Floyd agrees to deal
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears and first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd have agreed to a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year.

The Bears drafted the outside linebacker from Georgia with the ninth pick after trading up two spots in a deal with Tampa Bay. Chicago hopes he will add some athleticism to a team trying to build on a 6-10 season. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Floyd led the Bulldogs in sacks for the third straight year with 4 , and tied for the team lead with 10 1/2 tackles for loss last season.

With the announcement Friday, the Bears have agreed to contracts with eight of their nine picks. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard, a third-rounder, is the exception.

NFL: Navy's Reynolds, Carter can defer military service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Keenan Reynolds will get his chance to play in the NFL this season.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Friday that the record-setting Navy quarterback Reynolds and fullback Chris Swain can defer their military service to play in the NFL.

Carter made the announcement during his graduation speech to the academy in Annapolis. As students cheered the news about their graduating classmates, Carter said: "Go get 'em."

Reynolds was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. He is the NCAA's career leader in touchdowns with 88. He had 31 touchdown passes while leading Navy's triple-option offense. The Ravens plan to use him as a running back, receiver and kick returner.

Swain has signed with the San Diego Chargers (see full story).

Redskins: Activists criticize poll on team name
WASHINGTON -- Native American leaders and activists have criticized a recent US national poll that found nine of 10 Native Americans aren't offended by the Washington Redskins' name.

On a conference call held Friday by the National Congress of American Indians and "Change the Mascot" campaign, panelists voiced opposition to a Washington Post poll that surveyed 504 Native Americans, 90 percent of whom said the name doesn't bother them.

James Fenelon, a California State San Bernardino sociology professor, called the poll "immoral," adding it was not representative of Native American communities. Amanda Blackhorse, lead plaintiff in the trademark case against the Redskins, said the "misguided" poll will not affect attempts to change the name.

National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata said: "This issue is not about polling. This issue is about human rights."

D.C. council member David Grosso said he hadn't been swayed and that the government would not support the team moving back into the District unless the name was changed.

The team currently plays its home games in Maryland, with its headquarters and training facility in Virginia.

Best of MLB: Mets spoil Urias' debut, get walk-off win over Dodgers

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Best of MLB: Mets spoil Urias' debut, get walk-off win over Dodgers

NEW YORK -- Curtis Granderson homered leading off the bottom of the ninth inning to give the New York Mets a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.

Chase Utley, who was booed all night in his return to Citi Field, hit a tying three-run double off Jeurys Familia with two outs in a four-run ninth inning for the Dodgers.

New York took a 3-0 lead in the first against Julio Urias and chased the 19-year-old after 2 2/3 innings in his major league debut.

But in a non-save situation, Familia (2-0) failed to hold a 5-1 lead.

New York moved back into the NL East lead, by percentage points over Washington, giving Mets manager Terry Collins a happy 67th birthday. New York won for the sixth time in seven games, stopping the Dodgers' four-game winning streak (see full recap).

A-Rod, Tanaka lead Yanks to win over Rays
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Alex Rodriguez homered for the first time since coming off the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka pitched seven shutout innings and the New York Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-1 on Friday night.

Rodriguez returned Thursday after missing three weeks with a strained right hamstring. His sixth homer of the season and 693rd overall off Chris Archer came during a three-run sixth.

Tanaka (3-0) scattered two hits and struck out four to run his career-best unbeaten streak to 11 consecutive starts, dating to last season.

Andrew Miller gave up a single and hit a batter during a scoreless eighth. Kirby Yates allowed Steve Pearce's two-out solo homer in the ninth before Aroldis Chapman got the final out.

Carlos Beltran homered in the eighth for the Yankees.

Archer (3-6) allowed four runs -- one earned -- and four hits in eight innings for the Rays, who have lost six of seven (see full recap).

Donaldson HRs spark Blue Jays' victory
TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson hit two home runs and drove in five runs as the Toronto Blue Jays snapped a five-game home losing streak with a 7-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

The reigning AL MVP was 4 for 5, starting the scoring with a first-inning solo shot, and then providing the winning margin with a two-run drive, his 13th of the year in the eighth.

Justin Smoak added a solo shot in the fifth inning. Joe Biagini (2-1) got four outs and Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his 11th save.

Koji Uehara (2-2) worked the eighth inning for the Red Sox, allowing Ezequiel Carrera -- starting for the suspended Jose Bautista -- to reach on a bunt before surrendering the home run to Donaldson.

Boston's Xander Bogaerts was 1 for 4, extending his career-best hitting streak to 20 games, the longest active run in the majors (see full recap).

Cubs use three homers to beat Morgan and Phillies' feeble offense

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Cubs use three homers to beat Morgan and Phillies' feeble offense

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs were everything they were advertised to be on Friday afternoon/evening.
 
They pitched.
 
They hit.
 
And they looked like what they are – the best team in the majors – as they put a whoopin’ on Adam Morgan and a Phillies club that is slowly cooling after its hot start.
 
The Cubs rode three home runs to a 6-2 win over the Phils at Wrigley Field (see Instant Replay). It was the Phils’ third loss in four games on this road trip and fifth in the last seven games.

As if the loss wasn't enough, the Phillies' misery was stretched out by a pair of late-game rain delays that totaled 1 hour, 33 minutes.
 
Scoring runs continues to be a great challenge for the local nine, which entered the day averaging just 3.3 runs per game. The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 16 times in their 48 games. For the season, they have been outscored by 35 runs.
 
The Phils are still over .500 at 26-22, but they might not be much longer if they don’t find some offense. They had 10 hits in the game, but only one for extra bases.
 
"We couldn't string anything together," manager Pete Mackanin lamented afterward.

Mackanin was asked if he was worried the offensive shortcomings were catching up with the team.
 
“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it,” he said. “I’ve been conscious of it the whole season. We certainly would like to have more offense, a little bit more power.
 
“You look at the Cubs, you look at the Tigers, they’ve got power and home-run threats to do damage. We haven’t been able to do that. So, of course, I’m always concerned it might catch up with us, but as long as the pitching does its job we’re going to be in as many games as they allow us to be in.”
 
Starting pitching is a big reason the Phillies came into Wrigley Field five games over .500. It has kept them in games to the point where a big hit or big defensive play can win it.
 
But the starting pitching was not there in this game and that’s a problem when you’re facing the Cubs. They are a team has been built to break a 108-year World Series championship drought. They are averaging 5.7 runs per game, best in the National League, and have outscored their opponents by a whopping 123 runs. Their 32 wins are the most in the majors.
 
The Cubs pounded Morgan for six runs in four innings. He was tagged for eight hits and five were for extra bases, including three homers.
 
Morgan really struggled in the fourth inning. He gave up a mammoth 461-foot homer to Jorge Soler to lead off the frame. Four batters later, David Ross followed a walk and a single with a three-run home run to left and the Friday afternoon Happy Hour was on at Wrigley – at least until the skies opened in the seventh. Morgan gave up a third home run (to Kris Bryant) in the fifth.
 
“You try to be consistent and give your team a chance to win,” Morgan said. “When you put them in a hole like that it’s hard.”
 
Two of the homers Morgan allowed came on 1-2 counts. One was on a slider, the other a fastball. Neither put the hitter away, obviously. Poor location.
 
“Morgan didn’t have it today,” Mackanin said. “He really didn’t have command of any of his pitches. He struggled to make pitches when he needed to. You can overcome a solo home run, but that home run by Ross was the one that got us out of the game.”
 
In six starts, Morgan has an ERA of 6.67.
 
“He’s one good start, one bad start, one good start, one bad start. He's got to be more consistent,” Mackanin said. “At this level you have to be consistent to be successful. He’s capable of doing it. He just has to do it.”
 
Mackanin was asked whether Morgan’s spot in the rotation was in jeopardy. He did not give a direct answer.
 
“Nobody is solid in their spots,” the manager said. “Last year, I talked a lot about how you’re auditioning every day. At this level, consistency is the hallmark of a good major-league player. That includes pitchers.”