What Big East Expansion Means for Temple and 'Nova UPDATED

What Big East Expansion Means for Temple and 'Nova UPDATED

It was only a few months ago that game-changing conference realignment updates flocked to social media outlets like the salmon of Capistrano. Then, as is wont to happen, days and weeks of near-constant chatter gave way to weeks and months of inactivity and apathy. It was a great story for a while, but readers and writers (myself included) beat it so badly to death that even meaningful updates were briefly greeted with a collective "meh."

Perhaps it was that break in the action—or attention paid—that injected just a little bit of excitement back into today's confirmation that the Big East will add five more schools to its conference membership, expanding its reach from coast to coast. Boise State and San Diego State will join as football-only members while UCF, Houston and SMU will join as all-sports members. With Rutgers, UCONN, Cincinnati, Louisville and USF still on board, the deal will raise the football-playing membership from its current eight teams to its eventual ten.

Though, as we've told you before, this story is by no means at its end, and won't be for some time. So, what are we to make of this deal's impact on the future prospects of Temple and Villanova?

Okay, so maybe this is why we got tired of the story. As much as it would be relief to finally have an answer one way or the other for even just one school or the other, the Big East is going to remain in a state of flux for months, if not years to come.

While this deal certainly plugs some holes and provides a really fantastically fascinating prospect for both lovers and haters of the BCS (see Boise State's annual snubs versus the uncertainty still surrounding the conference's AQ-status), today's news should be seen more as a step in the middle of the proceedings than a legitimate end to the road.

In the short term, the conference will continue its wooing of service academies Navy and Air Force, who appear, for whatever reasons, to be far more interested now than they were only two months ago. Should it land both, the conference will reach its previously stipulated goal of 12 football-playing members and the problem would, seemingly, be solved. End game, right?

Eh, not quite. Though the Big East—along with the Big 12—has been the focus of the realignment universe for the past few months, it's been so for all the wrong reasons. The Big East has been in the news not because teams are clambering to join in the hopes of creating a super conference a la the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC, but because its current members are leaving in the hopes of joining one of the preceding powerhouses. Today's announcement, though a short-term plus for the conference, doesn't do much in the way of assuaging its long-term concerns.

Moving right back to those super-conferences, the ACC has been previously rumored to have an interest in expanding to 16-teams. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are already leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast, which, by the way, is what started this chaotic mess in the first place. If the ACC really is looking to expand once more, it's nearly impossible to believe the Connecticut Huskies and Louisville Cardinals aren't on the list of prime candidates. Believe whatever you want about Calhoun not getting along with so and so and the claims of school presidents about being loyal to their conferences; just don't be caught off guard when the ACC comes calling down the line. As for the here and now, even Navy and Air Force aren't done deals that would settle the conference's short-term aspirations.

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Update: Reports have surfaced that Air Force has declined interest in the Big East and will be staying put in the Mountain West. With Navy's agreement still probable—but not yet confirmed—the conference is now in search of at least one more school to reach it's goal of 12 football-playing members.

Though Big East officials will be looking for another Western program to ease the travel concerns of Boise, San Diego and Southern Methodist, UCONN basketball coach Jim Calhoun has joined Rick Pitino in lobbying publicly that an all-sports invitation be extended to Temple. Separately, Brian Ewart of VUHoops was able to secure a quote from conference commissioner John Marinatto that Villanova's potential as a football member will be revisited once the conference gets its "footing established."

Thus, we reiterate our position from last evening...

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As for Temple and 'Nova—this is supposed to be about them, after all—well, there's there in. The conference landscape is far from settled and its not unreasonable to believe the Big East has further losses to contend with on the horizon. Is there any lock-solid evidence that says "these" schools are leaving and that "these" schools would step in to fill the gaps? No, not at all.

The point is that when something—anything—changes down the road, we could all be right back to square one. And, suddenly, Temple University and Villanova football are put back on the drawing board along with every other school who may be able to fill a need.

The Big East hasn't secured itself a long-term solution, it's just found some friends to party with in this weird, intermediary middling process.

Boise State, say hello South Florida. Rutgers, meet San Diego State. Everybody else, pour some punch, take a seat and enjoy K-Billy's Super Sounds of the 70s.

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

Ivan Provorov displays durability, versatility in Flyers' preseason loss

NEWARK, N.J. — How much of a horse is Flyers defensive prospect Ivan Provorov?

Well, consider this:

The 19-year-old logged a game-high 28:48 of ice time Monday night during the Flyers' 2-0 split-squad loss to the Devils in which he also quarterbacked the first-unit power play (8:03) and had the most penalty kill time (3:58) (see story).

“I thought I played well,” Provorov said. “It took me a few shifts to get into the game. I competed as hard as I could.”

He said he was used to playing more than 25 minutes in Brandon (WHL), anyway.

“Of course, this is a better league, high pace and it will take a few games to adjust,” Provorov said.

Because the Flyers have yet to work on power play, the results aren’t there. They were 0 for 7 in the game.

“We haven’t done anything on the ice, but have done some video on the PK on the board but nothing on the power play,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “There’s other priorities now with so many players (64) in camp.”

Provorov worked both points on the power play and had just one official shot in the game.

“We didn’t get to do much power play [in camp],” he said. “It will get better as the preseason goes on.”

Rookie forward Travis Konecny worked the low slot on the top power play. He logged 18:34 of ice time, including 6:01 PP time. Konecny had two shots in the game.

He was on Andy Miele’s line with Scott Laughton. Konency had the only shots on his line.

Hakstol said Konecny and Provorov each “settled in” as the game went on. Hakstol isn’t sure if one or both will play Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center against the Islanders.

Konecny’s body language in camp exudes confidence unlike a year ago when he was skittish in his first-ever Flyers training camp. Now he sits back, takes it all in and has that look on his face of been there, done that.

In fact, he was trying to calm down some of his buddies, Anthony Salinitri and Connor Bunnaman, who were seeing the lights before the game.

“Me and [Ivan] Provorov were just talking,” he said. “We feel a lot more comfortable this year.

“I’ve been in this position here. I have my guys Salinitri and Bunnaman, we all hang out together and it’s their first year.

“They’re excited for their first preseason game just like I was last year, but I’m not thinking, ‘Wow, it’s an NHL arena.’ I’m thinking about the game and getting ready to play.”

Konecny was impressive last fall as an 18-year-old and Hakstol said he takes everything into account with more emphasis on the now than the past.

“Your body of work includes your season last year,” Hakstol  said. “Includes everything. The most important information is what you do right now. No question in my mind. I take everything into account.”

Take this into account: Alex Lyon is going to be a contender with Anthony Stolarz for the starting job in goal with the Phantoms this season. He was outstanding with 28 saves on 29 shots.

“They spent some time in our zone and had their big guns out there,” Lyon said of being under siege for two-thirds of the game. “They had a few shots but we did a good job keeping them to the outside. No super grade A opportunities.”

Lyon stopped two breakaways by Beau Bennett, one within three minutes of play.

“I felt like a newborn deer and could barely stand up,” quipped the former Yale goalie. “I was so nervous. It felt good to stop the first one.”

Dee Gordon honors Jose Fernandez with leadoff homer as Marlins beat Mets

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Dee Gordon honors Jose Fernandez with leadoff homer as Marlins beat Mets

MIAMI -- In tribute to Jose Fernandez, left-handed hitter Dee Gordon stepped to the plate as a righty to lead off the first inning of Monday's mournful game.

After one pitch, Gordon switched to his customary left side -- and homered in the first at-bat for Miami since the death of Fernandez in a boating accident.

Gordon pulled a 2-0 pitch from New York Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon over the wall in right for his first homer of the season. He tapped his chest after crossing the plate and waved toward the sky, and then sobbed as teammates hugged him in the dugout.

It was another heart-tugging moment in a succession of them over the past two days.

The atmosphere was funereal at Marlins Park three hours before the first pitch, with players going through their pregame stretching in eerie silence.

Then someone cranked up the sound system, and bouncy reggaeton reverberated throughout the ballpark. It was a nudge toward a return to normal, as the Marlins and baseball began to move on without Fernandez.

The animal race at the end of the fifth inning was canceled, along with other in-game entertainment, and most of the Marlins' hitters decided to forgo walk-up music. But there was a game against the Mets, the first for the Marlins since their ace died early Sunday.

"This is shallow, but the show goes on," Marlins president David Samson said. "There has been a lot of talking and a lot of crying and a lot of praying and a lot of trying to make sense of something you can't make sense of. There is no sense to a life ended like that, in a way that is so meaningless.

"It's our job to make his life matter, so we're going to do that forever, and forever starts today."

Fernandez made his major league debut against the Mets in 2013 and was scheduled to face them again Monday night in his final start of the season. Instead, Miami and the Marlins mourned the loss of the 24-year-old pitcher, whose talent and captivating personality were a combination unmatched in the sport.

Fernandez and two other men were killed when his 32-foot SeaVee slammed into a rock jetty that extends off the southern tip of Miami Beach at about 3:15 a.m. Sunday, a medical examiner said.

Fernandez was originally scheduled to pitch Sunday before his start was moved back a day. The change may be the reason he decided to go on the late-night boat outing.

"If he had pitched yesterday, maybe fate would be different," Samson said. "I've been thinking about that a lot."

Manager Don Mattingly said, "Obviously it crosses your mind."

The Marlins' game Sunday against Atlanta was canceled, and when they took the field Monday for batting practice, Fernandez's name and number hovered over the field on the huge video screen. Gordon wore a T-shirt that said "RIP," with a photo of Fernandez shaped as the "I."

For the game, the players decided to wear Fernandez's No. 16, with hastily made uniforms flown in. His number was also stenciled on the back of the mound.

The pregame ceremony included a slow, solemn solo trumpet rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." Following the national anthem, New York manager Terry Collins led his Mets across the field to share hugs with the Marlins, and fans briefly chanted "Jose, Jose."

The Marlins then clustered around the mound and put their hands to the dirt. Some scratched out Jose's number or a message of love, and some just rubbed the mound -- his mound. His career record at Marlins Park was 29-2.

Fans established a makeshift memorial on the plaza outside the ballpark entrance, leaving dozens of flower arrangements -- daisies, carnations, roses and lilies, the result as colorful as Fernandez's personality. There were also candles, and messages scrawled on balls, balloons, photos and jerseys.

The situation was emotional even for the Mets, who are in the thick of the chase for an NL wild card with one week left in the season. On their dugout wall hung a Mets jerseys with Fernandez's name and number.

"Hearts are heavy," New York outfielder Jay Bruce said. "From a professional standpoint, you just try to prepare and play the game and respect the game. But I can't even imagine what it's like over in that other clubhouse."

Collins spoke about Fernandez in the present tense.

"He epitomizes what the game's about," Collins said. "Our game is bigger than a lot of things. It will always go on. We'll remember Jose. You've got to play the game in his honor. He would want to be out there."

Plans for a public funeral had not been finalized, but it was expected to be Thursday, the Marlins' final off day of the season.

Fernandez defected from Cuba at age 15, won the NL Rookie of the Year award and became a two-time All-Star. His enormous popularity in South Florida bridged the divide between the franchise and fans antagonized by too much losing and too many payroll purges.

Fernandez left behind a girlfriend who is expecting their first child, the mother who came with him to the United States and the grandmother who helped raise him.

On Sunday evening, the entire team took two buses to Fernandez's family home and met for 45 minutes with his mother, grandmother and other relatives and friends.

Fernandez's agent, Scott Boras, spoke to reporters near the batting cage -- or at least tried to. He said he paid his respects to the family before coming to the ballpark.

"His mother wanted me to tell everyone how she felt," Boras said. "She showed me pictures of him as a boy. She actually made his uniform when he was 7 or 8, with Cuban red pants."

Boras then cut short the interview because he couldn't stop crying.