DALLAS - I always considered the annual Big East football media event in Newport, R.I. - and before that at Giants Stadium - to be a pretty big deal. And it was.It was held in the shadow of the media center of the world, New York, and afforded ink-stained wretches such as myself nearly unfettered access to every head coach and many of the best players in the league for a couple of hours. I was there for probably 15 straight years and if I was lucky and diligent enough was able to get a full season's worth of opponent stories.Oh, and there was a Monday night clambake that was to die for. The lobster and clams aside, it was information heaven. It couldn't get much better.Boy, was I wrong. Compared to the Big 12 football media days that began here Monday morning, the Big East event was public access TV covering a city council meeting.That's not to put down the Big East. We've done enough of that in the nine months since West Virginia jumped [the sinking] ship.But this is really the first tangible, practical experience we've had with how the Big 12 does things since WVU officially came on board three weeks ago. If there was any doubt that the Big 12 is on a completely different level in terms of interest, organization and just plain volume, this erases it.Think about the difference between going to a high school football game on Friday night and then to a West Virginia game on Saturday. That's how stark the contrast is. One is a nice little diversion with a few friends and the other a production of immense planning and orchestration.You're not interested in the minutiae, of course, so suffice it to say that there are two or three meeting rooms housing a 21/2-hour media event in the Big East with the only real separation being that coaches do an hour of TV and another hour with print and radio. Then there's lunch and back to the airport.
By lunch on Monday at the Big 12 event, league commissioner Bob Bowlsby had done a 50-minute Q&A with writers and five head coaches had done 20 minutes each. They'd also split off for separate sessions with national TV, local TV, radio, the Big 12's website and taping public service announcements. By lunchtime here, 31/2 hours of interviews had been done and for the print media there was still an hour of individual interviews with players and head coaches to come.And West Virginia hadn't even shown up yet. Only half the league was represented on Monday. The Mountaineers, along with four other schools, will repeat the whole process today.Again, you probably don't care about any of the nitty-gritty because this is, after all, just a media thing. No one roots for interviews. I bring all this up, though, as yet another example of the vastly different atmosphere West Virginia finds itself in now in the Big 12 as opposed to the Big East.I do miss that clambake, though.
This was supposed to be pretty much the biggest thing going in college athletics on Monday. Again, media days aren't exactly earth-shaking events, but in July, with camps still a week or so away, it fills a void, which is why ESPN dedicated a bunch of time to the SEC media days last week and will do so here and in the ACC this week, as well.And then the whole Penn State-crushed-by-the-NCAA thing exploded. So much for the spotlight.
Few here wanted to delve into the subject of the $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban and the loss of 40 scholarships handed to the Nittany Lions, but there were some reactions, not the least of which was that of Bowlsby when asked if he was surprised at either the severity of the penalties or the speed with which the NCAA acted."Well, acting quickly and the NCAA are seldom mentioned in the same sentence,'' he said. "So I am a little surprised by that.''While most coaches were stunned by the scholarship cuts (that's their wheelhouse, after all), Bowlsby wondered aloud about the immense fine, as well as the jurisdictional aspect."I don't presume to know all the details of it and I'd like to spend some time reading and talking to folks before I make a whole lot of comments about it," said Bowlsby, who spoke just an hour after the NCAA's announcement. "But the one piece that I was surprised at was the magnitude of the fine. I'd like to hear a little bit more about how that number was derived and just learn more about it."And I don't know that it is absolutely clear on what basis this becomes an NCAA issue. Having said that, there are certainly elements of our constitution and bylaws that go right to the heart of ethics, and clearly there are some ethical issues here. I think perhaps the lesson that will be taken away from it is that things can get pretty far afield when there are people running the show that don't ever get frank feedback and don't ever have anybody pushback against them in terms of recentering their decision processes. And it's obvious this was a pretty insular circumstance.''Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads, the former Pitt defensive coordinator, called the scholarship cuts "devastating.''
"And probably if you asked the powers that be,'' he said, "that's what they were going for.''Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.