Bledsoe, Conferences, Etc.

A little late-night wrap-up of some events of the day.

Birmingham school officials are looking into Eric Bledsoe’s academic past, but anything being dislodged that could spread farther up the line to his career at the University of Kentucky is a longshot. The investigation now under way is basically a double-check of their original process for clearing him to play high school basketball, and if the process didn’t create any red flags then, it’s not likely to create any now.

Beyond that, even if there are red flags with his transcripts and he is retroactively ruled ineligible for high school play, that wouldn’t necessarily disqualify him from college play (as we’ve seen with Darrell Arthur at Kansas and elsewhere.)

The one thing that could cause UK problems would be a finding that Bledsoe didn’t do the work himself, or that his grades were inflated in some kind of verifiable way. But the Birmingham schools investigation really isn’t dwelling too much on those issues, it wouldn’t appear.

As for other issues — such as a coach apparently paying Bledsoe’s mother’s rent, that may in the end be for others (read: NCAA) to look into.

Jurich speaks on conference realignment

In an interview with The C-J’s C.L. Brown today, University of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich acknowledged that the Big East was ready to swoop in on Big 12 schools Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri and Baylor had the league not found a way to stay together.

It’s the first actual public acknowledgment of what a lot of people suspected, that the Big East was moving toward expansion. Now, whether that means the league will continue to lean that direction is yet to be seen. Some talk seems to be building around adding a ninth team for football. Why the league would add either Central Florida or Memphis, but not the other, is a bit of a mystery.

And why it’s assumed by some that Central Florida is that much better an addition that Memphis is a mystery to me. The Big East already has a presence in Florida, and while Central Florida would enhance that and should be added to the league, Memphis is a talent-rich city in itself, at the intersection of SEC and Big 12 territory. It’s home to the Liberty Bowl — a bowl tie in that would be a good one for the Big East. And it brings some strong basketball tradition and a natural rivalry with Louisville and Cincinnati.

Not to mention its corporate backing. Memphis has the larger sports budget of the two ($33 million to $30 million), though Central Florida football did out-earn Memphis in the last year for which we have numbers, $8.8 million to $8.3 million.

But the Big East is not like most conferences that are expanding. The Big East is expanding for survival, and for development. It’s not going to enhance its value. I heard a couple of people today wondering why you’d bring in schools that don’t add to the league’s value. There aren’t any left out there. You’re bringing in schools so that you have enough football bodies around the table to still have a conference if you get raided. And you bring them in now so that those new members can spend a year or two (or however long they have till the next expansion) playing under the BCS banner.

The Big East already has enough large media markets. It’s not going to enhance its football media package with any teams now left on the table. It needs to go after programs that can develop and grow.

Thoughts on the Big 12

There can be only one name for this new collection of old teams — The Longhorn Conference. I hear they’re going to be playing for the prestigious Mack Brown trophy.

This new arrangement will be lucky to last five years. There’s a good chance it won’t make it three. You can’t weight everything so heavily to one member without causing internal instability.

Right now, Texas is sitting back with the rest of the league’s you-know-what’s in a jar up on the mantel.

All of which begs a question that I’m going to ask in an upcoming column: Exactly how much money do these programs need anyway? If the $100 million that Texas brought in for athletics last year isn’t enough to win to Texas’ satisfaction, then I don’t know what will be.

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