The idea for a sports/media/gambling column was hatched this summer and look for it every Wednesday. If you want to yell at me about something that appeared here – because let’s face it, on the internet, it’s outrage or nothing: Jmcintyre at thebiglead dot com.
ESPN is beefing up its college basketball team this Fall, and people familiar with the network’s hiring process say the Worldwide Leader is hiring former Oregon State coach Craig Robinson (aka President Barack Obama’s brother-in-law) and former Arkansas coach Stan Heath. Robinson isn’t expected to be on the set of Gameday, but his primary role will be as a studio analyst. People spoke on the condition of anonymity because the hiring hasn’t been announced.
It’s unclear yet whether or not Robinson will take part in the yearly Andy Katz ritual of picking the NCAA tournament bracket at the White House. Robinson was a 2-time player of the year in the Ivy League while starring at Princeton in the early 80s. He coached at Brown for two years before struggling with the Beavers (93-104).
KEVIN SUMLIN UP, JOHNNY MANZIEL … DOWN?
After watching Kevin Sumlin and his latest QB prodigy, Kenny Hill, dismember South Carolina Thursday night, I asked three NFL front office members their thoughts on a) Sumlin’s odds on getting to the NFL next year and b) what, if anything, does Hill’s success mean for Johnny Manziel.
First, Sumlin could have gone to the NFL last season (or USC), but instead signed a lucrative $30 million deal that contains a $5 million buyout. ESPN reported in January the “NFL will have to wait until 2016” for Sumlin, but $5 million is chump change for 9-figure owners in the NFL. All three team officials I spoke with agree – the Falcons and Cowboys make the most sense for Sumlin next year, should Mike Smith and Jason Garrett flounder (as expected).
A darkhorse: the Bengals, who have excellent offensive skill players and a formidable defense, but could be in the market for a new coach if they take another step back or lose in the first round of the playoffs for the 4th year in a row. But would Sumlin leave for Cincinnati knowing the franchise just committed to Andy Dalton for a few years? Also, owner Mike Brown is a cheapskate.
Also keep an eye on St. Louis (surely he’d find a way to make use of Tavon Austin) and Miami, two teams with coaches on the hot seat.
Back to Hill and Manziel. Obviously nobody is comparing Hill to Manziel after one record-setting performance. But, we’ve seen this show before – Sumlin turns unknown Case Keenum into record-setter, then an NFL QB; Sumlin turns unknown Johnny Manziel into a Heisman winner, then a 1st round pick … maybe the same thing happens to Hill? The question now becomes: Are we looking at three great college QBs – all roughly the same size, 6-1, 215 – who rode a great system to the NFL, only to become marginal backups? If you buy into that line of thinking, there’s also this: Hill was the highest-rated recruit of the trio.
Here’s Mike Francesa on his radio show Tuesday, responding to last week’s Inside Blitz, which said he was talking to MSG about possibly leaving Fox Sports 1 (via Neil Best): “I can’t [talk about it] yet for some reasons I can’t discuss right now. I wish I could but I can’t.”
LOCK OF THE WEEK (0-1)
Last week’s Lock of the Week was a painful defeat. Navy was covering the spread against Ohio State for 57+ minutes before the Buckeyes scored with just over two minutes remaining to take a 17-point lead. The spread, most places, was between 15 and 16.5. A crushing defeat, especially when you knew you were on the right side. This week, I hope to rebound with another underdog. While I like Michigan State (+12) to play Oregon close, and Stanford (-3) to cover against a good USC team, the pick this week is BYU on the road against Texas.
Given the whipping BYU handed Texas last year (679 yards of total offense!), you know the Longhorns are looking for payback … but that’s going to be difficult to do without your starting center (senior Dominic Espinosa) and starting QB (David Ash). Here’s a great nugget on why Espinosa might be a bigger loss, via Pregame: “He was replaced by redshirt freshman Jake Raulerson, who subsequently had two miss-handled snap exchanges with Ash.” A backup center and backup QB against an underrated BYU team that held UConn to a handful of 1st downs in the first quarter and a half, leaping to a 21-0 lead? I’ll go with the Cougars +1 on the road. The game opened at Texas -4.5 before Ash was ruled out.
For those of you who want to fade my picks weekly … each Friday I’ll have an NFL picks column as I’ve entered the Hilton contest again.
ODDS AND ENDS …
In addition to Robinson, ESPN is close to hiring Jeff Borzello from CBS Sports to cover the big business of college basketball recruiting. Borzello will take the spot vacated by Dave Telep, whose contract wasn’t renewed last year. Telep is now the Draft Scouting Coordinator for the San Antonio Spurs … Matt Leinart, who I could have sworn would make a great NFL QB, is out of the league after just six years, and going the media route. He’s already appearing on Fox Sports 1, and recently joined the Pac-12 network, too. Leinart tossed just 15 TDs in his disappointing 33-game NFL career. He threw 99 TDs in three seasons at USC, winning a National Title, and came a minute away from another before Vince Young swooped in … The Washington Post announced that it hired Chuck Culpepper to cover college football … Mike Tanier, an NFL writer, has landed at Bleacher Report … Did ESPN pull Josina Anderson out of St. Louis after her bizarre shower report, for which she was blasted by Rams coach Jeff Fisher? It really depends on whom you ask. I was told Anderson “was pulled out of St. Louis by ESPN” after the debacle, and that she wouldn’t be returning to cover the team this season. However, an ESPN spokesman says she had previously been scheduled to leave St. Louis to head to Green Bay to prepare for Week 1, and if she has to return to report in St. Louis, she will. We’ll probably never know, since the Rams cut Michael Sam and lost their QB and won’t be a playoff team …
MONDAY: THE NEW NBA BATTLEGROUND?
Here’s the latest scuttlebutt, from Somebody Who Would Know: It’s starting to sound like when the NBA signs a deal with Fox Sports 1, the network will start airing games in January (2017) after the football season. There’s simply a logjam on weeknights in November/December, and I’m being told that FS1 is lukewarm on the idea of having Saturday night (as is the NBA).
Mondays in November/December: Monday Night Football. Tuesday night Turner has a game. Wednesday night ESPN had games. Thursday night Turner has games. And Friday night ESPN has games. Nobody is putting up games against Sunday Night Football, which leaves Saturday night, which is a wasteland for ratings and advertisers (and a big night for college football).
A source says the NBA would love to create a Monday Night Football-type atmosphere for the NBA starting in January (again, 2017), and that’s what FS1 is angling for. Will they beat out Turner and ESPN for Mondays?
UTTERLY UNVERIFIABLE BLIND ITEM
The Washington Post has now profiled Skip Bayless and Adam Schefter in the last year. Which prolific sports media member, who doesn’t work for ESPN, reportedly turned down the paper’s profile request over the summer?