Big 12 Basketball

Postscripts: Bob Huggins’ Blunder, Big 12 Momentum, Group of 5 Pitches Power 5

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Texas Tech

What’s going on in the Big 12 and beyond? I expand and explain every Sunday in Postscripts at Heartland College Sports, your home for independent Big 12 coverage.

This week, Bob Huggins breaks bad, more Pac-12 goodies and Mike Aresco doesn’t like labels.

 

Bob’s Bad Week

I was sitting at the car dealership waiting for some warranty work to be completed when I saw something on Twitter. A West Virginia fan saying, “Bob said what?”

It took another hour, but I found out what he said. We all did.

Bob Huggins’ casual use of an anti-gay slur (twice) on a Cincinnati radio station was on a show in which he was surrounded by old friends — including host Bill Cunningham. There was a casualness to the conversation that was unsettling. The host said after he said it, “Don’t you just love Bob Huggins?” Or something like that.

Huggins was ostensibly talking about the Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry. He didn’t have to go there. He wasn’t led there. He just went there. He should know better. It’s not that long ago that a good friend of his, Thom Brennaman, lost his job calling Cincinnati Reds games by using a similar slur. In fact, Huggins had Brennaman speak to his team AFTER it happened.

Yeah, Huggins knew better.

Huggins didn’t lose his job, ultimately. His punishment was not insignificant. He had his salary reduced by $1 million per year, with the reduction going to charity. His contract is now year-to-year, which means WVU can fire him anytime. He’ll undergo sensitivity training (which I think most of us would pay to watch). He’ll be suspended for the first three games of the season.

 

The punishment will be enough for some and not enough for others. I was under no illusions that WVU was going to fire Huggins. The school wasn’t going to do that. Huggins might be the most important person in the state — and that includes the governor. The fact that he said that and still has a job all but confirms it. Huggins may be out the door one day, but it won’t be before this season and it won’t be because of this.

I cover Big 12 basketball, which means I’ll write about WVU basketball next season. That means I’ll write about Huggins as well. He used a word that I was taught as a child that was off-limits, hateful and wrong. That’s why I don’t use it.

I lost a lot of respect for him on Monday, not that that will impact his life in any way. Or my coverage of his team. In his statements he’s said, “I’m better than this — and I will be.”

So, Bob, prove it. You’ve been given the chance.

This Week in “As The Pac-12 Turns”

So the Pac-12 has a media partner willing to sign on the dotted line now, says Washington State president Kirk Schulz. The reason it hasn’t happened?

Well, optics. That potential partner is busy laying off employees and doesn’t want to plunk down millions for Pac-12 football right now.

But that wasn’t the only development this past week.

 

Brock Huard is one of the more consistent voices in college football. He was at the Fiesta Summit last week in Arizona that included the Big 12 and the Pac-12. He mingled with folks at both meetings.

He talked with KSL Sports about the ‘vibe’ at both meetings, and boy they couldn’t have been more different.

The Big 12? “The Tuesday night get-together and shindig with the Big 12, there was so much momentum, so much energy. You know, the first-year Commissioner (Brett Yormark) is a driver. He is an expansionist … aggressive, and you feel it. The conference is following that lead as they got their TV deal, and they’re not done.”

And the Pac-12? “On the flip side, the night before with the Pac-12, I’m not going to say survivalist, but it was not a lot of vision cast. And how could it be with so much unknown in a media deal that, as one AD told me, ‘It’s close.’ But close is good for horseshoes and that’s not good in this business because we’ve got to get this deal done.”

That doesn’t sound great for the Pac-12. Neither did a report from the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand on Thursday and said a deal between the Pac-12 and Amazon was “very unlikely.”

If so, that would leave Apple as a primary target for a streaming partner.

Action Network’s Brett McMurphy was on the mic, too, hanging with David Smoak and the guys at SicEm 365. He told them that the Big Ten has vetted and cleared both Oregon and Washington to join the Big Ten IF the Pac-12 falls apart. And there’s no doubt in my mind the two would have already bolted for that league if the Big Ten had sent them an invite.

Finally, there was this piece from Dick Harmon at Deseret News in Utah. It’s a great summary of where things are now, both the facts and the not-so-facts.

The Pac-12 is closing in on a decision point. That decision only comes when the Pac-12 has clarity on what the final ‘number’ for their potential TV deal looks like.  

 

Mike Aresco, ‘Power’ Broker

Earlier this week American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco wrote a 2,000-plus word letter titled “An Open Letter on Power 5 – Group of 5 Branding.” It had a lot of “I wanna be at the cool kids’ table” energy. You can read it here.

This is the conference that tried to brand itself as the “Power 6” to no avail, and he acknowledged that in the letter. This is the league that just lost three members to the Big 12 and then poached six programs from Conference USA to replace them.

Some of what he wrote I acknowledge is worth considering. If he think the Group of 5 is good enough to compete with the Power 5 from year to year (and he wants to do away with those terms completely) we’ll find out soon enough. The expanded playoff is coming and their best team will have its shot.

I’ve actually been to many of these Group of 5 schools. Many of them have great gameday experiences and play fun football. But Aresco acknowledges the biggest issues are the financial chasm in TV contracts and revenue generation (Texas can draw 100,000 whlie North Texas can draw up to 31,000). That isn’t going to correct itself by doing away with labels.

To make it equitable you have to make it like the NFL, where revenue is shared equally across all 10 conferences. Good luck getting the SEC to share its money with the Sun Belt.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard

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