Assessing Nebraska's future, student-athlete eligibility, piñatas and more...
Last week was nuts, and the week before that I was on vacation, but we’re back with some “Ask Us Anything” fun this week and there’s no shortage of topics to get to.
So let’s jump right in.
As always, we really appreciate all of the questions. It’s been great having this feature back on our site. If we didn’t get to your question this week, we’ll try to get it answered next week.
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Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always going to leadoff with a percentage wheel when possible.
And who’d have thought we’d be talking about Nebraska coming back to the Big 12 10 years after we spent all that time talking about the Huskers leaving?
Before we get into it too much, here are a couple of things to consider. While Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby and anyone else associated with the Big 12, Nebraska or the Big Ten may be saying there’s nothing here right now, it’s worth pointing out that there are enough people who cover the Huskers who are writing and talking about this.
Does that make it inevitable or even likely? Not necessarily. But it does mean it’s worth considering.
Think back for a minute to the realignment days. How often did you hear an AD or university president say one thing only to see that school do something different in the days or weeks that followed?
Reminder: It happened. A lot. But things are much more stable today, so that recent statement from NU chancellor Ronnie Green and president Ted Carter that declared Nebraska to be “a fully committed member of the Big Ten Conference,” is pretty solid.
That said, I think it’s far too early to be talking about Nebraska rejoining its Big 12 brothers. But I do think the Big 12 would expand to 12 schools if the right schools became available. And Nebraska most certainly would qualify as the right school.
Money plays a bigger role in all of this than fit, though. And staying in the Big Ten is far, far more lucrative for Big Red than leaving to rejoin the Big 12.
First, Nebraska would be giving up its television rights money for a while longer per the Big Ten contract. Second, Nebraska wouldn’t be a fully vested member of the Big 12’s financial rights agreement until Year 4 after rejoining.
Finally, the Big Ten still distributes far more money to its members annually than the Big 12. In 2018, USA Today reported that the Big Ten paid out $54 million to 12 of its 14 members. Only Rutgers and Maryland, which were still relatively new, received less.
That same year, the 10 Big 12 schools made just over $37 million apiece from its television contracts.
So while there might be a whole bunch of reasons for Nebraska to start feeling nostalgic about life in the Big 12, there are millions of reasons for the Huskers to stay put and make the Big Ten work.
Having said all of that, here’s my official percentage wheel on the matter...
1 – Nebraska stays in the Big Ten – 78%
2 – Big Ten, Big 12, who cares? The super conferences are coming – 18%
3 – Roll out the welcome mat, Nebraska to the Big 12 within five years – 4%
This has been a huge topic throughout this crazy college football story and it appears to be of great importance to the NCAA, conference commissioners and athletic directors, as well.
Long story short: Everything I’ve heard and read points to athletes who opt out or who have their seasons canceled or cut short getting an additional year of eligibility down the road.
That is absolutely the right move and falls in line with what the NCAA did with spring sports athletes when the spring season was shutdown at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Aug. 5, the NCAA’s Board of Directors released a directive that stated that each college or university must honor the scholarship of any athletes who opt out. It also stated that all athletes and their families must know what their eligibility status will be before beginning the fall season.
And this weekend, The Athletic’s Max Olson reported that West Virginia AD Shane Lyons, who also serves as the chair of the Division I Football Oversight Committee, will push hard for all student-athletes to retain their 2020-21 year of eligibility regardless of whether they compete in a fall or spring sport this season.
According to Olson’s report, “The NCAA Division I Council has recommended that the Division I Board of Directors grant student-athletes impacted by COVID-19 an additional season of competition if they participate in 50 percent or less of the maximum number of competitions allowed in their sport. Lyons, a member of the D-I Council, believes that is not enough relief.”
Clearly, the wheels are in motion for student-athletes to be protected regardless of how things play out during the next nine months.
Let’s go to an email question from Rich Bailey for our third question this week... “Just curious why Les Miles has not (to my knowledge) made any public statements or appearances in the last several weeks? And football season is just around the corner—if there is a season? Is there some kind of a health issue or something else going on? You may not be able to comment on this question but thought I would give it a try.”
Let me start by saying I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to get a phone interview with Miles back in early April after all of this craziness first surfaced.
He was great and we touched on a number of different storylines and topics.
Since then, outside of a couple of written statements sent out in press releases, we haven’t heard from Miles. And given all that has happened and changed and been hanging in the balance, that’s been a little disappointing.
There wasn’t much to say or talk about in May and June, but that surely changed when the team began practicing and preparing for the season in late July.
The responses to our requests for interviews have been somewhat understandable. After all, the facts and data regarding college football and the 2020 season have changed so fast and so often this summer that it would’ve been tough for Miles to say anything definitive. But it would’ve been nice to check in and hear him say something — at least at some point — about all of the craziness that has taken place while trying to stage a football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As you might expect, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Texas’ Tom Herman have both talked plenty during the past few months. After all, their programs are the flagship football schools of the conference and people want to hear what those head coaches have to say, no matter what their names are or how long they’ve been on the job.
That hasn’t always been true with the KU head coach, but I certainly thought it would be when Miles was hired.
As one of a handful active head coaches with a national championship ring, Miles is still a big name in college football and people from coast to coast would surely pay attention to what he had to say about some of this stuff — regardless of what it was or how deep he decided to go.
In addition to Riley and Herman, coaches at K-State, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Iowa State and even Baylor had at least some kind of contact with local media during the past few months.
Only Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy has been quiet this offseason as long as Miles, and Gundy found himself in hot water with a few of his comments and wardrobe choices early this spring, making his soundbite sabbatical less than a surprise.
We haven’t complained too loudly about any of this given the unique nature of this offseason and how difficult it must be to get information or actual analysis of your team when you’re not around them and can’t work with them on a regular basis.
But I’m hoping the season opener being less than a month away and a little more stability settling in — at least in some ways — will bring about an opportunity to get some info and insight from Miles sooner rather than later.
Sometime this week would be nice.
Totally fair question and the answer partially coincides with the answer to the last one.
To date, we have not had the opportunity to interview any players on KU’s roster this spring or summer. But many players are much more active on social media than their coaches and several have stated there that they want to play.
Beyond that, I have heard of some pretty powerful team meetings this summer that demonstrate just how badly these guys want to play and how committed they are to trying to take all the right steps to make the season a possibility.
Are there players on the roster who are nervous about playing or have reservations about moving forward? I don’t know of any specifically, but I’d be shocked if there weren’t at least a few.
But the stories, the social media and the practice videos that the KU Football Twitter account has regular put out all point to a group that wants to suit up on Sept. 12 when Coastal Carolina comes to town.
There’s always one joker in the bunch. I just happened to go to high school with this one, and I always catch up with him and his son — Nico Phenix, who has made a few guest appearances on my Pregame Minute — at every KU basketball game that’s even remotely close to the West Coast.
In the past five years alone I’ve seen him at Stanford, Arizona State and in Vegas and I’m sure he was headed to the Wooden Legacy tournament this November.
Having said all that, there is no designated Homecoming game on KU football’s updated schedule this season. And with the Memorial Stadium fan capacity likely limited to somewhere in the 20-30% range (KU is supposed to present its plan to Douglas County health officials on Wednesday), it’s almost certain that there will not be a big fuss about Homecoming in 2020.
If they were going to pick one, I’d make it the Sept. 12 opener.
I read an interesting Tweet from a high school coach over the weekend that touched on this. It said schools should aim to make their openers their senior nights this season because there are no guarantees that the seasons will be played to completion and the seniors should be honored at the first possible opportunity.
This one made me laugh because, at first, I had completely forgotten about the Chanticleers thrashing a Jayhawk pinata in the visiting locker room at Memorial Stadium last fall after knocking off Kansas, 12-7.
Then it came back to me and I thought you might actually be serious.
In case you are — or in case anyone else is — I did a quick search and found out that for $79.50 plus tax, www.pinatas.com will make a custom pinata of anything you want.
“...don’t be shy,” the website reads. “Let us make anything into a pinata for you. Logos, new products, buildings, cartoon characters, anything means ANYTHING! You dream it; we make a pinata of it.”
I would assume that would include a teal-and-black-clad Chanticleer, which, of course, is a proud, fierce rooster known to dominate the barnyard.
In case you forgot the scene from last year’s Coastal Carolina win, here’s the video.