The big news earlier this week was ESPN’s announced layoffs that affected about 100 employees, mostly on-air personalities and online journalists such as Ed Werder, Danny Kanell, Jim Caple, Jayson Stark, Trent Dilfer and Brett McMurphy.
The cutbacks impacted the network’s coverage across the board, but the sport hit hardest was probably men’s college basketball where some of the biggest names in the industry such as Len Elmore, Andy Katz, Dana O’Neil, C.L. Brown and Eamonn Brennan were issued pink slips on Wednesday.
Why men’s college basketball?
The answer is obvious - ESPN doesn’t own the rights to the NCAA Tournament. Why over-saturate its coverage of the men’s college basketball regular season when March Madness will ultimately benefit CBS’ and Turner’s bottom lines more than ESPN’s? There can be no other explanation why ESPN would jettison some of the top voices in the sport.
That means one of the game’s top reporters (Katz), one of the game’s top storytellers (O’Neil) and one of the game’s top trend analysts (Brennan) have been let go to keep the network’s growing roster of opinion makers, agitators and screamers intact.
For ESPN, it probably makes sense from a business perspective to load up on the sports they have the biggest financial stake in such as the NFL, the NBA and college football.
As for men’s college basketball’s sister sport, women’s college basketball, it was mostly spared from this round of cuts.
You guessed it, ESPN has the rights to the women’s NCAA Tournament.
As for those talented journalists/personalities laid off on Wednesday, most of them will eventually land on their feet because they are too good at what they do to not.
We will just be watching and reading their work elsewhere. And, you may have to look a little bit harder to find it.
More on money … Earlier this week the Big 12 Conference announced its financials for the 2016 fiscal year, the league showing an increase of more than $40 million in annual revenue since 2015. According to USA Today’s Steve Barkowitz, the Big 12 has nearly doubled its annual revenue since the 2012 fiscal year when it reported earnings of $159.5 million.
That means West Virginia, earning a full revenue share for the first time since joining the league in 2012, will receive about $28 million from the conference in 2016.
By comparison, the SEC, which reported earnings of $420 million for the 2016 fiscal year, will pay its 14 members schools between $39.1 to 41.9 million.
The Big Ten hasn’t revealed its tax records yet, but the conference is expected to match or exceed the SEC in annual earnings.
Randy Mazey’s nationally ranked West Virginia University baseball team is entering a defining moment in its season with 12 of its next 13 games at Monongalia County Ballpark, including consecutive conference weekends against Oklahoma and Texas Tech.
The Sooners have cooled off somewhat after their hot start, but they still sport a 28-15 record heading into Friday night’s game in Morgantown. According to the website WarrenNolan.com, OU’s RPI is 36 with a 7-9 record against top-50 RPI teams.
What is hamstringing the Sooners a little bit is their 11 wins this year against bottom-200 teams.
The Red Raiders, 34-11, sport a No. 5 RPI with an outstanding 14-8 record against top-50 RPI teams and an overall 22-10 mark against top-100 teams.
The Red Raiders and Mountaineers are currently tied for second place in the Big 12 standings, two games back of league-leading TCU.
All eyes will be in Lubbock, Texas, this weekend when Texas Tech plays host to TCU.
West Virginia, meanwhile, is holding steady at No. 8 in today’s RPI with an 8-8 mark against top-50 teams and an 18-15 record against the top 100. The Mountaineers have played just one team with an RPI in the 200s, that being No. 222 George Mason back on Friday, February 24 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Right now, the Mountaineers (24-15) have one more 200-plus opponent on their schedule - No. 207 Penn State. WVU plays PSU in Morgantown on Tuesday, May 9, and then drives up to Pittsburgh to play the Nittany Lions at PNC Park on Wednesday, May 10, at 7 p.m.
Gates will open at 6 p.m. and fans are encouraged to enter through the Peoples Home Plate Gate.
Based on his performances against Tony Gibson’s West Virginia defense, I must admit I am a little bit surprised that Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes II was the No. 10 overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in last night’s NFL Draft.
Mahomes struggled last year against the Mountaineers in Lubbock, completing just 28-of-44 passes for 305 yards and one touchdown.
He was picked off once and was sacked four times.
Two years ago in Morgantown, Mahomes completed 21-of-34 passes for 196 yards with three touchdowns and a big red-zone interception by Daryl Worley that led to Tech’s 31-26 loss to the Mountaineers.
But Mahomes accumulated some terrific numbers at Tech, passing for 11,252 yards and 93 touchdowns in only three seasons with the Red Raiders.
Compare that to Geno Smith’s four-year passing totals of 11,662 yards and 98 touchdowns at West Virginia.
It will be interesting to see how Mahomes develops in Kansas City under Andy Reid’s tutelage.
The former Mountaineer pitcher with two first names, Ross Vance, was recently promoted by the St. Louis Cardinals organization to Double-A Springfield in the Texas League. The deceptive lefty posted a 3-0 record in rookie ball last year and began this season at Advanced A-ball in Palm Beach where he didn’t allow an earned run in four relief appearances.
In 19 career professional appearances over 48.1 innings, Vance is sporting a nifty 2.05 earned run average.
Up at the parent club, former Mountaineer shortstop Jedd Gyorko is currently hitting .308 with three home runs and seven RBI in 59 plate appearances through 17 games.
Gyorko, who hit 30 home runs in his first full season with St. Louis last year, is now 18 dingers shy of reaching 100 in just his fifth full season in the majors.
The Cardinals begin a three-game series against the Reds tonight in St. Louis.
Earlier this week, West Virginia University junior guard Jevon Carter
officially submitted his name for the NBA Draft, although he will not hire an agent which leaves his option open to return for his senior season in 2017-18.
Carter led the Mountaineers in scoring at 13.5 points per game and steals with 92. He was named Big 12 and NABC Defensive Player of the Year and was a second-team all-league choice.
A quick search of NBA mock draft websites revealed one (NBADraft.net) that listed Carter ranked 50th among junior prospects available for the draft, but he was not rated among its overall top-100 players.
Among Big 12 players listed, Kansas’ Josh Jackson was rated No. 1 followed by Texas’ Jarrett Allen at No. 14, Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu at No. 27, Baylor’s Johnathan Motley at No. 29, Oklahoma State’s Juwan Evans at No. 43, Kansas’ Lagerald Vick at No. 55, Iowa State’s Monte Morris at No. 56, Kansas’ Frank Mason at No. 57, Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk at No. 83 and Kansas’ Dedrick Lawson at No. 97.
Keep in mind, there are only 60 picks in this year’s NBA Draft, which takes place on Tuesday, June 22.
And finally, on Wednesday evening, Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples during his weekly Facebook Live video chat asked West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen when he was going to grow a mullet that rivals Oklahoma’s State’s Mike Gundy?
Holgorsen shut down the mullet talk immediately, “I don’t feel like I need to - I feel like I’ve got the best hair in the Big 12 the way it is,” Holgorsen deadpanned. “It may be thinning and a little awkward at times …”
Staples interrupted the coach to correctly point out that his hair served as inspiration for actor Matthew McConaughey’s character portrayal of Kenny Wells in the recent movie “Gold.”
“My dad was always around a lot of guys who looked like Kenny … they were great consumers of life - whatever they could eat, drink, smoke, kiss and slobber on, they did it,” McConaughy told the Austin-American Statesman in January prior to the movie’s release.
“But you know where it really came from?” McConaughy continued, “I haven’t told anyone this. I went to the hair lady and she said, ‘It’s this guy’s hair’” as the lady handed McConaughy a picture of Holgorsen.
“He had some bad hair now,” Holgorsen said of McConaughy’s character. “That made me feel bad because mine is not nearly as messed up as his was in that movie.”
Returning to Gundy’s mullet, Holgorsen said that’s all his.
“I think what coach Gundy is doing I admire it - I really do. I just think he should perm it and get the full Kenny Powers look going,” he said.
Have a great weekend!