Thinking out loud: UConn is back in Big East

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By WEEI 93.7
Thinking out loud…while hoping ‘funny’ doesn’t disappear from daily life…

  • Tweet of the Week I, from @epark88: “Today we’re all in Bobby-Ewing-in-the-shower mode: the last 7 seasons never happened…”

 

  • Ok, so UConn – a one-time founding member – is officially back in the Big East Conference as of July 1.  You knew it was coming, so in the words of Emperor Palpatine, “Good, good. Let the hate flow through you.”

 

  • Actually, the ‘hate’ is good for the league.  It’s good for Providence.  It’s good for the sport of college basketball, as well as other sports that need to keep travel costs in line these days. 

 

  • The only downside?  The Huskies, if they weren’t already before, are in direct competition for recruits.  The coaches have known this. 

 

  • Big East cache means something – especially now to UConn.

 

  • The Big East is welcoming back a program that has combined for 15 national basketball titles (11 for the women, four for the men).  Madison Square Garden should also be sold out during the second week of March from now until eternity. 

 

  • The only thing that would make this re-entry better?  Syracuse deciding Tobacco Road just doesn’t fit.  It never did, and it never will.  But the football money from the ACC fits into Orange back pockets pretty well.

 

  • Where do the Huskies fit for next season within the men’s Big East hierarchy?  Depending on overall health, somewhere in the upper half is a likely spot.  NCAA tournament-worthy.  Which they haven’t been in a while.

 

  • Tweet of the Week II, from @TTAPCBBall: “(Bleep) UConn.”

 

  • Good to see old feelings stirring again, like so many ambers in a bonfire.  Makes things seem normal again.

 

  • CBS’ Jon Rothstein tweeted this week, mentioning the conference teams finishing in the NET Top 50 this past year – Big East with 7, 2nd behind the Big 10 with 11.  Welcome to the party, UConn.

 

  • Father Brian Shanley’s tenure as President of Providence College, after 15 years, also came to an official end on July 1.  Father Ken Sicard assumes command of the school – and ultimately, the athletic program – built into one with national recognition and cache of its own.

 

  • His progressive thinking and ideology that athletics ‘builds a sense of community’ has always been on target.  You can go back to the days of Father Robert Slavin (1947-61) when PC first put itself on the athletic map, to see how a successful athletic program can elevate your academic mission.

 

  • Shanley is also a primary reason the Big East learned to re-invent itself as the college sports world imploded in 2012.  So, shouldn’t UConn be thanking Providence for his guidance and leadership that has helped preserve, and perhaps save, its’ own bacon?

 

  • Rothstein also tweeted this week the 2021 Empire Classic at MSG will feature the Friars, Gonzaga, Louisville and Oklahoma State.  PC won this event three years ago by beating Washington and Saint Louis.

 

  • The Friars’ trip to Maui for the Maui Invitational this November is still on, for now.  The tournament organizer, as of mid-June, told the Maui News they were assessing new information, but they expect the tournament to proceed as planned.

 

  • With some fan restrictions in place.  More beach or golf time instead of gym time?  Check.  Stand by for news on that front.

 

  • Keep in mind, tournament proceeds generate nearly all of the revenue required to fund all 10 Chaminade University athletic programs. And they’re not playing in this year’s event, but they are scheduled to play exhibitions at two tourney teams, Stanford and UNLV.

 

  • Noticed this week Iona College posted a job for an “assistant to the head basketball coach,” which is most likely for someone to become Rick Pitino’s organizer, bodyguard, front man and personal valet.

 

  • You interested?

 

  • Adam Zagoria tweeted this week Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukaleshvili hasn’t yet decided to return for next season.  It could be the difference between the Pirates being an upper-half or lower-half Big East team.

 

  • Cam Newton.  My initial reaction to the news?  I LOL’d.

 

  • Sonofagun, Rookestradamus was right.  Also predicted Gronk would be back – even though he didn’t say it would be in Tampa.  Alter ego is gonna get a case of ‘big head.’  Just sayin’.

 

  • Bottom line – the move makes the Patriots an instant contender, again.  Isn’t that what everyone (fans, media) wants?  Or does 8-8 suit you after two decades of kicking the NFL’s rear end?

 

  • You’re effectively trading a 42-year-old Super Bowl and NFL MVP QB for another who is 31, and athletically still quite capable.  Please explain what is wrong with that deal…especially if Newton is healthy? 

 

  • We know he’s got a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder already – something the Patriots have thrived on with veteran free agents for the past 20 years.

 

  • Hasn’t Bill Belichick always said he’ll do what’s “in the best interests of the football team?” His track record is, um, not perfect – but pretty solid.  Six rings as head coach and GM back that up.

 

  • If he’s not healthy and this move bombs?  No harm, no foul contractually.  But the Patriots apparently DO hold an option to franchise him in 2021, so…

 

  • …where does this leave Jarrett Stidham?  Right where he’s always been, still firmly entrenched in team plans.  He could win the starting job, anyway. 

 

  • But if he doesn’t, playing a year behind another (Heisman-winning) War Eagle – after playing a year behind TB12 – might be the best possible education for any young signal-caller.

 

  • If you don’t like the move, you’re simply being contrarian.  There’s really no downside.

 

  • That sound you hear is coming from upstate New York.  As in the sound of a couple million Buffalo jaws hitting the floor.

 

  • Man, I love the intrigue, the story lines.  Nu skool swag moving in as old school superstar moves on.  Love football.  Just hope we play it this year.

 

  • As for the Patriots’ penalties announced for what’s being termed ‘Spygate 2,’ they’re harsh.  Why? 

 

  • The only way you can get a repeat offender to pay attention is to slap them harder the next time they offend.

 

  • But the brilliance of the PR move in sliding this news in AFTER the Newton signing was genius.

 

  • The NFL will shed two preseason games, Weeks 1 and 4, with teams ostensibly needing more time to teach young players and get veterans in shape.  Remember, you hate preseason football anyway.

 

  • It also means less time for a guy like Stidham to assume control of the offense.  Think the Patriots knew this was coming when they signed Newton?  Love a good conspiracy.

 

  • Training camps are still scheduled for opening July 28, if we’re all corona-willing by that time. 

 

  • And the NFL is considering having fans sign an electronic waiver, acknowledging a risk in attending games if you’re one of the relatively “chosen” few within a socially-distanced stadium.  You signing that?

 

  • If the present-day Washington Redskins change their name, I’d vote for “Sentinels.” Like in the movie, “The Replacements?”  And Shane Falco at QB, not Eddie Martel.

 

  • Not a shock to see the Minor League Baseball season cancelled before it could ever get started.  No available players = no teams play.

 

  • Which also means the Pawsox are done, forever.  So this is how a 50-year legacy ends?  Sad.

 

  • What I will miss – as a former Pawtucket broadcaster (seven seasons on radio and NESN) and fan:  McCoy’s charm.  Fishing for autographs over the dugout.  My boys sitting by themselves behind home plate, armed with snacks from that dugout while Dad worked in the press box. 

 

  • Watching stars rehabbing and future stars learning.  The hot dogs.  The family atmosphere created by Ben Mondor.  Mike Tamburro’s big smile.  The grassy berm.  Michael Gywnn’s floppy hat.  My bag of peanuts.  The nachos.  Yes, I liked the hot dogs, peanuts and nachos. Got a problem with that?

 

  • Some of that will, of course, continue on in Worcester.  But it won’t quite ever be the same.

 

  • We’re almost lucky in the sense that 2020 has been so incredibly full of distressing news, the State of Rhode Island allowing treasured baseball history to leave – or have you forgotten the Longest Game Ever Played – will be buried among the rubble.

 

  • Oh, they’ll just be up the road in Worcester, I know.  But for some Rhode Islanders, they’d have to pack a lunch for that trip.  In other words, they ain’t leavin’.

 

  • But the RedSox are back, so there’s that.  At least we’ll see some semblance of baseball during a summer month, perhaps.

 

  • And McCoy will likely serve as a training/holding ground for the backups not on the big league roster.  Couldn’t we figure out a way to scrimmage some other team’s backups?

 

  • MLB says they won’t tell us why our favorite player(s) aren’t in the lineup – if they have tested positive for the coronavirus.  HIPAA laws aside, that makes zero sense.

 

  • Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement says that for any medical condition “not related to employment,” a team can disclose only the fact that a medical condition is keeping the player from rendering his services.

 

  • But wouldn’t playing baseball in a contagious environment be related to a player’s employment?  Stupid is as stupid does.

 

  • But hey Mets fans, Happy Bobby Bonilla Day!

 

  • Tweet of the Week III, from @dennisdoddcbs: “’I don’t want to sugar coat it for you,’ noted U of Illinois computer science professor tells me, he says 3-7 FBS players will die in 2020 due to the coronavirus.’”

 

  • More athletic corona-casualties:  UMass Dartmouth (NCAA D-III) has announced they are dumping eight of their athletic programs immediately, including women’s equestrian, men’s golf and lacrosse, coed sailing, men’s and women’s swimming and diving and men’s and women’s tennis.

 

  • RPI has cancelled its football season, following Morehouse, Bowdoin and Williams.

 

  • Even the Pac-12’s mighty Arizona program this week hit the ‘pause’ button on student athletes returning to their campus, as virus cases continue to rise in their state.

 

  • Eight FBS programs have dropped other sports, 45 total in Division I since the pandemic began.

 

  • Still think we’re having a fall sports season?

 

  • The Ivy League, admittedly, was out in front on this entire pandemic before anyone else realized this is no hoax.  And TMG Sports reported this week they’re talking about flipping football season to the spring, and playing seven-game schedules, just against each other. 

 

  • If the Ivies don’t flip until spring, they likely wait until late September to kick-off, and still play just seven-game schedules.  Stay tuned.

 

  • Not for nuthin’, but the AP reported this week that attorneys for Public Justice and the ACLU have filed a motion in federal court, alleging Brown is in violation of Title IX by their ‘moving’ (or cutting) 11 varsity sports to club status.

 

  • Brown did backtrack on this decision a bit, reinstating men’s indoor track and field, outdoor track and field and cross country programs.  But the official scoreboard reads: Men’s sports cut – 3. Women’s sports cut – 5.  Hence, the lawsuit.

 

  • Boomer Esiason was the first to say it and knowing the culture of college football – it makes sense.  Because Clemson has so many Covid-19 cases now, are they shooting for ‘herd immunity’ in order to be able to play the season with potentially fewer cases?

 

  • Is this also a little like playing Russian roulette with just one bullet in the gun’s chamber?

 

  • Boston College had 93 players report this week – only one tested positive.

 

  • It’s becoming clearer by the day – if there’s any chance for sports to return anywhere close to what we’re used to having and seeing, #maskup.  Today would be nice, thanks.

 

  • Sports apparel manufacturer Under Armour is in some financial distress.  They’re trying to terminate a record-setting $280 million deal signed with UCLA, and Boston College is in negotiations to try and hang on to their UA deal.  The contract runs through 2023-24.

 

  • Caught in the middle of this financial fix – former BC AD Martin Jarmond, who is now the AD at UCLA.

 

  • URI Director of Baseball ops and former UConn pitcher David Fischer will coach in the Newport Collegiate Baseball League, starting next week at Cardines Field – as will Middletown, RI’s and RIC head coach Frank Holbrook and Bryant assistant Eric Hirschbein-Bodnar.

 

  • Ex-Rhody Ram Hassan Martin has a new deal playing in Greece for Olympiakos, sez the Projo.  Jared Terrell is also re-upping with Dnipro of the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague.

 

  • College hoop recruiting guru Evan Daniels has parlayed his many connections into a new position as a coaching agent for CAA, a noted talent and sports agency based in Los Angeles.

 

  • Zion Williamson is on the cover of NBA2K21?  No truth to the rumor he’ll be wearing his Duke jersey.

 

  • Hey, that’s great for Edmonton and Toronto as the NHL hub cities.  At least Canada will play host to some Stanley Cup playoff games this year.  Buh-dump!  Ching!

 

  • Fox announced they’re dumping golf coverage, including the U.S. Open…and NBC steps into the breach.  Wonder if the Peacock Network will also step in and hire Brad Faxon, who has now lost one of his big gigs?

 

  • Did anyone realize that the John Henry-owned Liverpool FC won its’ first EPL (English Premiership) title in 30 years?

 

  • Apparently, they also won without too much ‘analytical’ stuff going on.  Just good, plain, ol’ fashioned eyeballs-on-the-players for much of their evaluation and coaching.  Uh huh.

 

  • That doesn’t sound like the Red Sox’ John Henry, does it?

 

  • Hugh Downs died this week at age 99.  What a career he had, from game show host on “Concentration” to The Today Show, The Tonight Show and ABC’s “20/20.”  The Guinness Book of World Records certified in 1985 that Downs had clocked the greatest number of hours on network commercial television – a record for most hours on all forms of TV he later lost to Regis Philbin in 2004.

 

  • My buddy “Big E” sez he isn’t much of a poet, but he was challenged at work to write two lines – one romantic, one not so.  Here’s what he came up with:

 

  • “I see your face, darling, when I am dreaming. That’s why I always wake up screaming.  And what inspired this romantic rhyme?  Two parts tequila, one part lime.”

 

  • The great Carl Reiner passed away this week at age 98.  I remember him from the Dick Van Dyke Show of the ‘60’s, maybe you saw him in “Oceans’ Eleven” or “Two and a Half Men.”  One thing is certain – his was a comedic genius that worked as well 60 years ago during TV’s ‘Golden Age’ as it did today.  He never failed to make me laugh.

 

  • Interested in having your questions on local Rhode Island sports (and yes, that includes the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, whenever they play again) answered in a somewhat timely fashion? Send ‘em to me! It’s your chance to “think out loud,” so send your questions, comments and local stories to jrooke@weei.com. We’ll share mailbag comments/Facebook posts/Tweets right here!  Would appreciate the follow on Twitter, @JRbroadcaster…and join in on Facebook, www.facebook.com/john.rooke ...

 

Don’t forget to tune into Providence’s 103.7 FM, every Saturday from 7:00-9:00 am for Cordischi and Coit!  Call in at 401-737-1287 or text at 37937.