The Hot Read: Power up!

Don’t know how I feel about this. Actually, I do. But first, the story. Sports Business Journal this morning reports that the University of Texas has signed a six-year deal with Dallas-based Branded Retail Energy to sell Texas Longhorns Energy to customers in Texas by the middle of next month.

How far afield are we going to let college athletic departments run. First it was a football program. Now Texas is looking at getting into the cable TV business. Now it’s an electric utility?

At some point, does Congress not have to step in and classify some of these enterprises as the for-profit deals that they are?

Not surprisingly, IMG College helped Texas negotiate the deal. IMG, incidentally, reportedly is underwriting sports management programs at some universities, meaning that athletes can take courses paid in part for by the sports agency that may represent them later on.

And the NCAA wants to crack down on agent involvement in college sports? It better go after its own schools and athletic departments before coming down on individual players.

It’s one thing to be able to buy Wildcat or Cardinal ice cream or other small novelties. But electricity? Can’t help but think this thing is running off the tracks in a hurry.

More motivational material for Strong

Some of you may know, U of L football coach Charlie Strong has posted signs that say “picked last in the Big East,” all over the Howard Schnellenberger football complex. Fewer, perhaps, know that a a video of last year’s loss to Kentucky is playing on a continuous loop in the football training room, to the point where it has bored itself into the minds of players, not a few of whom would perhaps sacrifice a body part never to have to see it again.

Yesterday, however, I was leaving through Phil Steele’s SEC/ACC/Big Ten publication (and if you’ve never seen it, it’s definitely worth picking up, with four pages of breakdown on each team).

In it, Steele ranks the position units for each conference. In the Big East, U of L has only one position unit that ranks even in the top half of the league — running backs. And he ranks every defensive unit last in the Big East.

Where Steele ranks ’em: Quarterbacks 6th, running backs 4th, receivers 5th, offensive line 6th, defensive line 8th, linebackers 8th, defensive backs 8th, special teams 8th,

Football writers aim to get it right

The Football Writers Association of America says it may strip USC of the 2004 national championship it voted the Trojans and award it instead to Auburn.

Executive director Steve Richardson acknowledges it would be unprecedented, but also noted in an interview with the Mobile-Press Register that the situation is unprecedented.

What’s that, you didn’t even know the FWAA awarded a national championship? You’re probably not alone. The Grantland Rice Trophy is probably the least-known of the college football national championships handed out.

Tommy Tuberville, now coach at Texas Tech but who was Auburn’s coach at the time, said on Tuesday that he thinks there should be a re-vote in light of sanctions the NCAA has imposed on the USC program, including forfeiture of games during the 2004 season.

Governor’s Cup festivities, plus Pitino

Look for more updates here later today on the Governor’s Cup press conference and luncheon held at Lake Forest Country Club in Louisville.

After a dead sports month, the day is bustling with local sports news. In addition to the Governor’s Cup football festivities, which I’m not going to miss, U of L basketball coach Rick Pitino is expected to take the stand in the extortion trial of Karen Sypher. I’m going to try to get to that, though I don’t expect to write anything in the way of opinion for the paper until the trial is completed.

I know it’s not college-football related, but I’ll get into it a bit because I’ve gotten a good bit of email asking if I’d be writing about the Sypher-Pitino story. Much of it mirrors the tone of Tony Edelen, who wrote from Bardstown this morning to call me a “gutless joke.”

I weighed in on Pitino when the story broke, and we really haven’t seen new information emerge at trial. A few details, perhaps, but nothing new in terms of material facts or allegations. As it happens, I sat in on a trial on jury duty several months ago, and it’s interesting how your view of the facts can change from witness to witness. So to form opinion after one witness or after only one side presents its case is done at your own peril. That’s why it’s generally not a good idea to write opinion pieces on trials in process.

From a sports standpoint, I think we need to let the thing play out to weigh impact, assess final views, etc. Otherwise, I’ve said my peace on Pitino and the whole situation, and nothing has come out to make me change my mind on that.

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