Sunday reading: SEC expansion and more is reporting this morning what has become pretty common assumption over the past week, that the Southeastern Conference is going to aim for the top when it comes to lifting Big 12 schools for expansion.

ESPN says that the SEC wants Texas and Oklahoma if it wants anyone from the Big 12, though it likely would take Texas A&M if it meant getting Texas, too.

And ESPN’s Chris Low says an SEC official told him that the SEC is also considering taking Texas A&M on its own because it would open the Dallas and Houston TV markets to the league, though one would wonder how much.

Read the report here.

The most telling quote from an SEC official to ESPN has been this one: “We can’t just add teams who are going to split the pie without adding anything substantial.”

Translation — don’t expect the SEC to add any lightweights.

In other expansion news . . .

  • The Mountain West is sending out feelers to schools left behind by the Pac-10 raid on the Big 12. This according to league sources from the Fort-Worth Star Telegram. “The league is leaving the door open to pluck other schools to boost their résumé to earn an automatic BCS bid,” the paper reports. “There are two more years remaining on a four-year evaluation period to get the automatic BCS bid. With the addition of Boise State, the MWC hopes it can get a temporary BCS automatic qualifier status in 2012 and 2013.” [Fort Worth Star-Telegram]

  • Meanwhile, there’s little to no news on the Big East front. There have been a few reports of Big East inquiry here or there, but nothing I would deem credible at this point. And this is strange. What to make of the quiet on the Big East front? The Northeast media isn’t exactly shy when it comes to breaking news, or even printing rumor, but there has been little in this regard. And the school officials I’ve talked to seem to have plenty of speculation or thoughts on what should happen, but no real insight to concrete moves the conference might be pondering. So we wait. I have to believe that the Big East has some response, but the longer we go without news the more I wonder if they’re not circling their wagons instead of looking to expand themselves. This, in my view, would be the wrong way to proceed.
  • Maryland, reacting to published reports, says it has not heard from the Big Ten and is “happy in the ACC.” Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow tells The Chicago Tribune, “The Big Ten is a terrific conference, but Maryland is a charter member in 1953 of the ACC, and we are happy in the ACC. These are deep roots.” [Chicago Tribune]


Outside of the expansion drama, a few other must-reads . . .

The Los Angeles Times published its John Wooden tribute section today. It’s a 20-page section in the print edition, but you can read it all here. The high point, as you might expect, is the 1972 profile written by legendary sports columnist Jim Murray. I’m posting an extended excerpt here because it not only provides a great glimpse of Wooden, but a reminder of what made Murray so great. You can see the full section at this link.

You picture the man who is, demonstrably, the world’s greatest basketball coach, and there comes to view a guy with lots of diamonds on stubby fingers, a Rolls-Royce illegally parked outside the gym with his driver reading a comic book in the front seat. Guys leap to light his cigarettes, the president of the college is on the phone seeking an appointment, maybe so is the president of the United States. He is doing a commercial, dictating a book, getting a manicure, reserving a table at Scandia for lunch, and two 7-foot phenoms from the sidewalks of New York are cooling their heels in the outer office waiting for an audition and/or a scholarship.

Then you meet John Wooden and he is answering his own phone, he clips his nails with a drugstore clipper, his haircut has a faint bunkhouse bowl look to it, his clothes are less Savile Row than bought-with-a-coupon, and the whole thing cries out for a Grant Wood brush, not a shrill sports column.

John Wooden is American Gothic to the collar button. You meet him and you’re tempted to say, “All right, what did you do with the pitchfork, John?” You can smell the hay if you close your eyes. Players might call other coaches “The Baron” or “The Bear” but they call John “The Reverend.”

His walls are awash with homilies, exhortations of the spirit, words-to-live-by. He’s as homespun as calico, as small-town as a volunteer fire department. He doesn’t juggle oil wells or cattle deals or tax shelters. He doesn’t even own his own house. He has turned down $100,000 contracts to coach the pros.

He looks like the kind of guy you could get to guess which walnut has the pea under it. The eyes are a kind of guileless blue, and the conversation is sprinkled with “Oh, my goodness!” and “Gracious!” and you bet he could never figure out how they sawed the lady in half, or got the rabbit into the hat. They run carnivals for guys like this, you feel sure. He’d buy a watch from an 8th Avenue auctioneer, or a vegetable slicer from a sidewalk pitchman.

Yet this is a man whose basketball teams have won more than 1,000 games over the years, and who is sitting on the crest of six national championships in a row.

Jim Murray, Los Angeles Times, August 10, 1972, Read full column here.

I hate to make my friend and predecessor in this job Jerry Brewer follow Jim Murray, but Jerry’s profile of Celtic Nate Robinson is worth a look. It took me back to Albuquerque, N.M., when Jerry and I were part of the C-J crew that went to cover the University of Louisville making its Final Four run, and Robinson and Washington were the first team they had to get by. Of Robinson, Brewer writes: “He jumps so high, moves so fast, shoots so well, talks so much, reacts so unpredictably. Even against the showy standard of the NBA Finals, Robinson is the ultimate showman.” [Seattle Times]

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press says Tom Izzo needs to make a decision on the Cleveland Cavaliers already. The longer he takes, Sharp writes, ” the more he flirts with becoming a headline-grabbing drama queen to a public that once threw roses at his feet.” [Detroit Free Press]

In Los Angeles, Times columnist T.J. Simers rightly skewers USC athletic director Mike Garrett. “Mike Garrett lost touch with reality, and probably some time ago, success in football his justification for everything. But now he’s an embarrassment, thumbing his nose at the NCAA rather than noting his own culpability in having his athletic program go on probation for four years. It’s time for him to go, and as of yesterday.” [Los Angeles Times]


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