The Not-So-Changing NCAA Landscape

The other day, I, Michael Schwartz posted an article on what the possible move to the SEC would mean for Texas A&M, the Big XII and the NCAA. News has come out that the SEC is fine where it is, with just 12 teams, so Texas A&M will not be moving. My objective was to show the reader what it would mean for the teams, conferences and college football if Texas A&M were to move to the SEC. But the SEC commissioner has come out and said, thanks, but no thanks A&M. What happens now?

No realignment is what happens, thank goodness, and no giant power conference in the south. The Southeastern Conference wanted to gain Texas as part of their stomping grounds, but they stand content with 12 teams. University president’s said they did not believe A&M would receive enough votes to be added, so no invitation was extended. A&M would have been the thirteenth team, unbalanced, so adding a 14th would be difficult as well. Another sign that Florida State, Clemson and Missouri will not be on the move. In the future, Texas A&M will continue to flirt with the SEC, and the possibility of an offer is still out there.

We'll see how long the SEC drags them along

A&M has long wanted out of Texas’ shadow, and the money would have been right, if there was an offer, but nothing materialized. So they’re stuck. Good luck going back to the Big XII’s next meeting.

What does this mean for all involved?

TEXAS A&M: Back to the Big XII. They are still in the shadow of Texas and Oklahoma, and have angered them somewhat. UT coach Mack Brown said the conference would be fine without A&M, but now that the Aggies have come back with their tail between their legs, believe the big teams will want to lay a beat down on A&M. Despite the high rankings and hopes in College Station, they’re record hasn’t been great. But Mike Sherman finally has built the team he’s wanted. A&M has to walk the walk now. This is the second failure by A&M to move to the SEC, moving won’t get any easier. Thankfully for them the Big XII did want them to stay and showed a strong desire to make sure that happened. Hopefully A&M can benefit from the new Big XII conference network and earn some money, they have to find a way to compete consistently.

THE SEC: They have announced they are happy with 12 teams, they’ve been the dominant conference and who knows what the Aggies would bring. The conference remains stable, no shifting divisions around, or allocating more money. In the future they could always add more teams whenever they want, they are the SEC.They aren’t the biggest conference, but for the SEC it’s quality over quantity.

THE BIG XII: They remain at 10 programs, an even number, with no need to add another school to keep things balanced. A&M is their 2nd highest ranked team right now and the conference can only hope they succeed, bringing good press to the Big XII. It’s stability, after losing Colorado and Nebraska, a mini-victory to hold the strong conference together. The conference board wanted to retain A&M, and acknowledged their value to the conference. In the future they could add more teams and expand back to 12 (as they’re name suggests), or just fall apart as they almost have for the past two offseasons.

THE NCAA: No longer is there any real threat to a change in the college football picture. Radical conference changes could necessitate changes to the bowl system, the balance of top tier teams, and other collegiate sports.  It also is a sign of the Big XII’s strength, the conference once thought to be dissolving kept one of it’s best schools; they won’t be leaking programs for a while–unless Texas has a change of heart. Texas A&M was not offered a spot in the SEC, and the NCAA could use this example in the future in moderating the realignment of conferences.

So that big “if” for Texas A&M became a big no, marking another failed attempt to shift conferences. A&M has never ran with the Big XII pack, always overshadowed by the big dogs, and now they have to make peace again after some serious flirting with another conference. Texas A&M can only try to carry on its plans of internal growth and change in the Big XII, a conference with history and prestige of its own. College football isn’t ready for more realignment, and much to the pleasure of diehard fans, college football will only move at it’s own pace, further discussions pertaining only to the future (five to ten years from now).  Don’t be surprised if there is news in the future of A&M’s desire to leave the Big XII; be surprised if it actually happens.

Michael Schwartz is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage

The Ever-Changing Landscape of the NCAA

All signs point to Texas A&M leaving the Big XII for greener pastures. Last year conferences shifted as the Pac 10 grew to the Pac 12 (Colorado and Utah), the Big XII lost two (Colorado and Nebraska), the Big 10 gained one (Nebraska, making the Big 10 a twelve team conference–it had eleven before) and Texas A&M unsuccessfully tried to move. During the last offseason rumors floated that the Big XII would be swallowed by the Pac 10, but A&M wasn’t invited. That never happened, but now A&M is on the verge of moving to a more prestigious conference, the SEC.

The predicted crumbling of the Big XII is finally starting with the departure of the Aggies of Texas A&M. Texas is a blue blood in college football, however they went 5-7 in 2010. Mike Sherman is entering his third year at Texas A&M and has quietly built the best football team in Texas. The Longhorns have the prestige and flooded recruiting classes but on the field success has plummeted after QB Colt McCoy left for the NFL. Texas Tech gets press for their unorthodox ways and scandal, while SMU is a program reborn, looking to make the final push over the hump. Texas A&M finished 2010 ranked 19th in the AP poll, but lost  a close 24-21 battle royale with LSU. 2011 is almost a “contract” year for A&M as they begin the year ranked #9 in the nation, with a core group of established and talented athletes. Optimism and expectations are high in College Station, Texas; what does their move mean to the SEC and the NCAA?

For the past six seasons, a national champion of college football was crowned, and all six of them SEC programs. The Southeastern Conference is the toughest conference right now, with diverse style’s of play and exciting football. A move like this will bring wonderful results to the Aggies and the SEC, while potentially crushing the Big XII.

PROS FOR A&M: This is the SEC. No conference has been able to compete with the SEC on a consistent basis in quality of play. The schedule may be difficult, but A&M is ready for the challenge. Quality in the Big XII has fluctuated, something that is certain not to happen in the SEC. Recruiting could see a meteoric rise in interest from top prospects; A&M has always competed with its in-state rivals for commits. But now there is a new draw for high school athletes: come compete for a Texas school, against top programs in the SEC. The grandeur and luster of the SEC has provided the existing schools top talent for years; Texas A&M plays in one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the world. The potential results for A&M and this move are astronomical, brand new opportunities for this strong program lean toward future fortunes in College Station.

CONS FOR A&M: Tough, tough, tough SEC schedule, different style of play from the spread offenses of the Big XII. If they can’t stay afloat, losses will be a regular happening for the Aggies. Also they would be competing not only with Texas schools for recruits, but now SEC schools. In 2010 period of realignment had rumors that Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State leaving for the Pac 10 while Texas A&M flirted with the SEC. That never happened then, but word was that the Texas schools would excommunicate A&M for leaving them and breaking rivalries, something that would hurt scheduling in the future.

PROS FOR THE SEC: Expansion in to Texas is huge. Texas, as mentioned before, is probably one of the best recruiting hotbeds next to Florida and California. The SEC has Florida, and soon Texas will be in the loop. A&M gives off an SEC-type vibe, pro-style offense with some wrinkles in it, powerful defense and athletes all around. A&M is currently ranked top 10; if they keep it up through next year, just one more top ranked program for the already dominant conference. Diversity in cultures, schools and stadiums grow, along with added power in the BCS. Rivalries are also reborn such as A&M-LSU and A&M-Arkansas, creating more competition. Plus, A&M’s baseball team is pretty good.

CONS FOR THE SEC: If A&M stumbles and falls off as they did in the early 2000s, this could be a bust move. There’s also the possibility that A&M couldn’t compete in the SEC, and sits in the cellar with Vanderbilt. But Texas is still added as a recruiting spot, so not much harm to be had.

PROS FOR THE BIG XII: Not many, as they lose one of their better teams. A little less in-conference recruiting competition at best, and more justification for the individual school’s new broadcast networks, like Texas’.

CONS FOR THE BIG XII: Losing one of the better teams hurts. Rivalries are also lost, including Texas A&M versus: Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech. The Big XII drops to an uneven nine teams, their conference name becomes an even bigger misnomer and money is lost.

PROS FOR THE NCAA: The NCAA’s power conference becomes even stronger, with more teams, more money, and more wins. A&M brings class to a shady conference (some say the SEC stands for Somebody Else is Cheating), as they are not under investigation and they have a strong military program, with great presence at football games. The SEC network brings in more money, more money for the NCAA and greater competition and quality in the the NCAA’s top conference. And finally, with updated conferences, it could be a step away from the BCS system, a possible change towards a playoff.

CONS FOR THE NCAA: Conferences as we know it may be crumbling, as the Big XII is falling apart, and reports say the SEC is about to swallow Missouri and some of the ACC, schools like Florida State and Clemson. If that happens, the SEC will have a monopoly on college football, and other top teams are left in decimated conferences. The Pac 12 has solidified itself, and the Big 10 was never touched, but the ACC is dying as well as the Big XII. Schools like Texas, Oklahoma, Miami and Virginia Tech are in rather unknown territory. If the realignment happens, it will be twice in two years conferences have shifted, changing the BCS, the competition and the entire landscape of the NCAA. Who’s to say they’re done? Next year could bring even more change.

Over time, changes do happen. Schools move up and down, conferences have evolved over time and every year, each school has a shot at a national championship (just don’t schedule the SEC). And with most change, evaluation can only be done properly after everything has been put into effect and analyzed down the road. Initially, this is great for Texas A&M and the SEC, not so good for the Big XII, and it’s up in the air for the NCAA. The move is almost imminent, but is still in the works at this point. If the move happens, look for a scrambling of other conferences to make up by adding more teams. The true evidence of the fallout will be seen in its entirety in 2014 most likely. Realignment is a tricky thing as moving forward, college football is forever changed in some way. As for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, best of luck to everyone. SEC school, see you in the title game. Now we play the waiting game, will the move be finalized, or will it fall through, leaving a very angry Texas A&M squad?

Michael Schwartz is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage

Ah Summer- the College World Series

For the 67th time, the NCAA will hold the College World Series, but this time, it’s in the brand new TD Ameritrade Park. But don’t worry, it’s still in Omaha, Nebraska.

Rosenblatt may be gone, but its memory lives on as host to some of the best baseball around, a rich history. Those lucky enough to attend a game at Rosenblatt love the atmosphere and the history, where guys like Terry Francona, Larry Walker, Pat Burrell and Rod Dedeuax roamed.

College baseball has seen a slight rise of popularity in the past decade, due mostly to expanded media coverage and more money for programs. More athletes are recognized in the college ranks in the baseball world, primarily through the College World Series. Plenty of ball players are still drafted out of high school, skipping college, but more are going to school. This year has no shortage of potential talent, and excellent pitching.

The 2011 College World Series should be a part of your summer sports television lineup, if it wasn’t already. 3 North Carolina, 6 Vanderbilt, 2 Florida, 7 Texas, Cal, 1 Virginia, 4 South Carolina, and Texas A&M are the World Series teams, a mix of blue bloods and newcomers. Virginia, the #1 national seed cruised through the regionals and super regionals, while Cal, a sleeper team from the Pac 10, took over the Houston regional and beat Dallas Baptist for a spot. Every team is a one seed, except for Cal, but many are new to the college post season. The CWS is double elimination in bracket play, and then a best of three championship series.

North Carolina Tar Heels
2011 Record: 50-14, 20-10 in ACC, 3rd in the ACC Coastal Division
Hosted and won both the Chapel Hill Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 9 (1960, 1966, 1978, 1989, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011)
CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Dustin Ackley, BJ Surhoff, Chris Ianetta
Drafted Players: SS Levi Michael (Twins 30th), RHP Greg Holt (National 247th)
Batting Leaders: BA- .335 Colin Moran (FR, IF), HR- 9 Colin Moran (FR, IF), RBI- 69 Colin Moran (FR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-1 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP), ERA- 2.27 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP), K- 120 Patrick Johnson (SR, RHP)
Young team with excellent pitching, defense carried the Tar Heels for the most of the season and has been instrumental in their CWS run. Their offense is nothing to scoff at, young bats will have to step up in the first game against Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt Commodores
2011 Record: 52-10, 22-8 in SEC, 3rd in the SEC Eastern Division
Hosted and won both the Nashville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 1 (2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: David Price, Pedro Alvarez, Mike Minor
Drafted Players: RHP Sonny Gray (A’s 18th), LHP Grayson Garvin (57th Rays), 3B Jason Esposito (64th Orioles), RHP Jack Armstrong (99th Astros), 1B Aaron Westlake (106th Tigers), LHP Corey Williams (117th Twins), RHP David Hill (187th Nationals), RHP Mark Lamm (206th Braves), C Curtis Casali (317th Tigers), RHP Navery Moore (446th Braves), RHP William Clinard (928th Twins), OF Joseph Loftus (1384th Diamondbacks)
Batting Leaders: BA- .357 Jason Esposito (JR, IF), HR- 17 Aaron Westlake (JR, 1B), RBI- 59 Jason Esposito (JR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-1 Grayson Garvin (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.21 Navery Moore (JR, RHP), K- 119 Sonny Gray (JR, RHP)
All-around solid ball club with two big time starters and an excellent pitching depth. Offense is powered by Westlake and Carl Yastrzemski’s grandson Mike Yastrzemski, especially in the postseason. If their pitching is on target, look for Vandy to excel in the CWS, starting in the first game against UNC.

Florida Gators
2011 Record: 50-17, 22-8 in SEC, 2nd in the SEC Eastern Division
Hosted and won both the Gainseville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 7 (1988, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2005, 2010, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: David Eckstein, Mark Ellis, Matt LaPorta, Al Rosen
Drafted Players: LHP Nick Maronde (104th Angels), RHP Anthony DeSclafani (199th Blue Jays), LHP Alex Panteliodis (282nd Mets), RHP Thomas Toledo (341st Brewers), 1B Preston Tucker (498th Rockies), C Ben McMahan (701st Brewers), RHP Matt Campbell (751st Phillies), CF Tyler Thompson (1387th Nationals)
Batting Leaders: BA- .376 Mike Zunino (SO, C), HR- 18 Mike Zunino (SO, C), RBI- 68 Preston Tucker (JR, UTL)
Pitching Leaders: W- 10-3 Hudson Randall (SO, RHP), ERA- 1.72 Steven Rodriguez (SO, LHP), K- 83 Karsten Whitson (FR, RHP)
Always a strong unit, the Gators rely more on offense, but have above average pitching. The entire staff goes through ups and downs, which could hurt in a very defensive CWS. Keep and eye on freshman RHP Karsten Whitson, drafted early 1st round last year but opted to go to school, whose stuff is filthy. They start the CWS against Texas

Texas Longhorns
2011 Record: 49-17, 19-8 in Big XII, Conference Champions
Hosted and won both the Austin Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 34 (1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1992, 1993, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2011) CWS Titles: 6 (1949, 1950, 1975, 1983, 2002, 2005)
MLB Notables: Roger Clemens, Huston Street, Drew Stubbs
Drafted Players: RHP Taylor Jungmann (12th Brewers), LHP Sam Stafford (88th Yankees), SS Brandon Loy (167th Tigers), RHP Cole Green (295th Reds), LHP Andrew McKirahan (639th Cubs), 1B Tant Shepherd (732rd Mets), RHP Kevin Dicharry (1261st Phillies), C Kevin Lusson (1380th Rays)
Batting Leaders: BA- .358 Erich Weiss (FR, IF), HR- 5 Tant Shepherd (SR, IF), RBI- 44 Erich Weiss (FR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-2 Taylor Jungmann (JR, RHP), ERA- 1.15 Corey Knebel (FR, RHP), K- 123 Taylor Jungmann (JR, RHP)
Texas has been plagued by the new college bats, in a power drought, but the pitching staff is one of their best of all time. Jungmann is a star, and the other starters are winners. Pitching will determine how far Texas can go, starting with Florida.

Cal Bears
2011 Record: 37-21, 13-13 in Pac 10, 6th in the Pac 10
3 seed won the Fort Worth Regional and the Santa Clara Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 6 (1947, 1957, 1980, 1988, 1992, 2011) CWS Titles: 2 (1947, 1957)
MLB Notables: Jeff Kent, Bob Melvin, Xavier Nady, Conor Jackson
Drafted Players: RHP Erik Johnson (80th White Sox), SS Marcus Semien (201st White Sox), RHP Dixon Anderson (277th Nationals)
Batting Leaders: BA- .335 Tony Renda (SO, IF), HR- 7 Chad Bunting (JR, UTL), RBI- 42 Tony Renda (SO, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 9-6 Justin Jones (SO, LHP), ERA- 1.59 Kyle Porter (FR, LHP), K- 100 Erik Johnson (JR, RHP)
Cal, well, they stunned the college baseball world. No one expected them here, and now they are gaining the underdog fans. A well rounded team, doesn’t do anything spectacular, but they are getting the job done. They will have to battle to stay alive, the begin versus #1 overall Virginia.

Virginia Cavaliers
2011 Record: 54-10, 22-8 in ACC, 1st in Coastal Division and ACC Champions
Hosted and won both the Charlottesville Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 2 (2009, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Eppa Rixey, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds
Drafted Players: LHP Danny Hultzen (2nd Mariners), C John Hicks (123rd Mariners), RHP Will Roberts (158th Indians), 3B Steven Proscia (213th Mariners), RHP Philip Wilson (305th Orioles), C Kenneth Swab (636th Royals), RHP Cody Winiarski (1101st White Sox)
Batting Leaders: BA- .366 David Coleman (SR, OF), HR- 8 Steven Proscia (JR, IF), RBI- 58 Steven Proscia (JR, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 12-3 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.49 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP), K- 151 Danny Hultzen (JR, LHP)
A dominant team, which has held down the nations #1 spot in the rankings the entire year, the Cavaliers are very good, but not unstoppable–but close. Hultzen leads a ridiculous pitching staff, and the offense has excellent depth. The team has experience, and talent. Only way to beat the Cavs is by jumping on the pitching staff and score–a lot. They start out with Cal.

South Carolina Gamecocks
2011 Record: 54-10, 22-8 in SEC, 2nd in SEC East Division
Hosted and won both the Columbia Regional and Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 10 (1975, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1985, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011) CWS Titles: 1 (2010)
MLB Notables: Adam Everett, Landon Powell, Justin Smoak
Drafted Players: OF Jackie Bradley (40th Red Sox), RHP Matt Price (184th Diamondbacks), SS Peter Mooney (649th Blue Jays), OF Adam Matthews (695th Orioles), LHP Bryan Harper (907th Nationals), LHP Steven Neff (1257th Giants), LHP Jon Webb (1465th Reds)
Batting Leaders: BA- .359 Christian Walker (SO, IF), HR- 10 Christian Walker (SO, IF), RBI- 60 Christian Walker (SO, IF)
Pitching Leaders: W- 13-3 Michael Roth (JR, LHP), ERA- 1.02 Michael Roth (JR, LHP), K- 95 Michael Roth (JR, LHP)
The defending National Champs are back, complete with last years CWS MVP Jackie Bradley Jr. USCeast has another strong team, also lead by pitching. The offense is even strong, leading me to think they will be hard to beat. If the Gamecock pitchers are getting outs, look out. South Carolina leads off against Texas A&M

Texas A&M Aggies
2011 Record: 47-20, 19-8 Big XII, 2nd in the Big XII
Hosted and won the College Station Regional and won the Tallahassee Super Regional
CWS Appearances: 5 (1951, 1964, 1993, 1999, 2011) CWS Titles: 0
MLB Notables: Chuck Knoblauch, Cliff Pennington
Drafted Players: RHP John Stilson (108th Blue Jays), RHP Thomas Stripling (288th Rockies), RHP Nickolas Fleece (415th Reds), RHP Adam Smith (779th Yankees), RHP Brandon Parrent (921st White Sox), C Kevin Gonzalez (1090th Astros), RHP Steven Martin (1120th Astros)
Batting Leaders: BA- .390 Tyler Naquin (SO, OF), HR- 7 Matt Juengel (JR, IF), RBI- 49 Matt Juengel (JR, IF) & Jacob House (JR, UTL)
Pitching Leaders: W- 14-2 Ross Stripling (JR, RHP), ERA- 1.68 John Stilson (JR, RHP), K- 110 Michael Wacha (SO, RHP)
The Aggies silently floated into the CWS defeating a good Florida State team to get here. The pitching staff is a strong point (surprise), but the offense may struggle at times. They are a scrappy team, almost feast or famine, but they’ve been lucky enough to feast most of the year. They will be hungry and will battle hard, starting off against the defending champs, South Carolina.

Bracket

This College World Series will definitely be interesting; it’s the first year with the new, less bouncy aluminum bats (reason for the low homerun numbers and stud pitching numbers), and the new stadium. Scores will be low and pitchers will need to stay on the mark for all 9 innings, for letting up just one big inning could hurt any of these teams.

I see it coming down to Vanderbilt and Virginia, two strong, all-around teams whose bats can sustain a long enough run to win it all. Hultzen and Gray will be the headliner pitchers, their performances the turning point of the Championship Series, but the real test will be in the 2 and 3 starters for both. Who can keep the runs off of the scoreboard. Ultimately, Virginia will win it all, the second year in a row an team wins its first title. Hultzen will become a household name for his work on the mound, and Yaz 2.0 (Mike Yastrzemski) will capture a large audience as he performs well for Vanderbilt. Virginia has been good enough to be #1 all year, and rarely do I chose that season long #1 to win it all, but UVA has been consistently too good, they’re only misstep was against Miami in the regular season (you should know me, have to plug the Canes).

Sit down and watch starting Saturday, June 16th, live on ESPN. And if you chose to watch only a little, the championship series will surely be a dandy. It’s college baseball baby, and it’s hit the boiling point–let’s get it on!

Michael Schwartz is a staff writer for Home Field Advantage