Canzano: Conferences -- and players -- plot as landscape shifts
Transfer portal, coaching hires, and expansion.
The Easter eggs have been found.
He is risen.
A few thoughts for your Sunday:
• Mountain West Conference Commissioner Gloria Nevarez told me on Saturday that her conference is exploring a number of expansion scenarios.
“The Mountain West has been meeting regularly to survey the landscape and explore expansion options,” she said.
• MWC member San Diego State already sort of has one foot out the door. The Aztecs held a public celebration for their men’s Final Four basketball season at Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday. Fun was had by all. University President Adela de la Torre used the occasion to drop a hint: “Who knows? Maybe in the near future we will be somewhere else.”
• Fresno State’s President has had regular contact with the Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark over the last five months, campus sources tell me. Boise State could also be an eventual Big 12 target, although I’m told there hasn’t been frequent and regular contact. There were also some recent murmurs about possible Big 12 interest in UNLV, but based on my conversations I don’t think it’s particularly serious.
• Feels like the Big 12 will wait to see what happens with the Pac-12’s media rights deal before doing anything itself. That’s what I would do, at least.
• Anyone else think Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark is eventually going to want something to show for all the bluster and talk?
• As I reported earlier this week, the Pac-12 isn’t expected to finalize its media deal this month. It could be May or even June before there’s a resolution.
• Pass the beer nuts.
• Who should the Mountain West Conference be exploring as potential expansion targets? My mind immediately went to a handful of California-based Big Sky Conference members such as UC Davis, Cal Poly and Sacramento State. But I’m told by an industry insider that those options won’t easily fly.
• There could be firm opposition from San Jose State, Nevada and Fresno State, who all regularly recruit California, per the source. Also, there’s a sizeable investment required to make the jump up.
• The same insider waved off current Big Sky member Montana as a possible Mountain West Conference target. He said: “Montana and Montana State will stay together.”
• I reached out to Big Sky Conference commissioner Tom Wistrcill on Sunday. There’s a domino-effect in play here. Wistrcill told me: “We’re always monitoring the changing landscape of college athletics. Our President’s Council discusses various schools and potential movements at every meeting. You have to be ready for anything.”
• It’s possible that the Mountain West Conference could lose San Diego State to the Pac-12/Big 12 and decide to stay at 10 full-time members (11 in football as Hawaii is football-only). But the ultimate play for the MWC may be in Texas (i.e. Sam Houston, UTEP, UTSA, etc.).
• Keep in mind, Nevarez — the MWC commissioner — used to be the commissioner of the West Coast Conference. She’d welcome Gonzaga with open arms if it ever decided it wanted to join the Mountain West.
• Oregon State women’s basketball star Talia von Oelhoffen tweeted on Saturday: “the portal is portalin.”
• I will allow the use of “portalin” in Scrabble at my house.
• At this point, who isn’t in college basketball’s transfer portal?
• Von Oelhoffen is a gifted player and a great story. Her mother, Tondi, was a four-year starter at Hawaii in basketball and a national pentathlon champion in high school. Her father, Kimo, played college football at Hawaii and Boise State. After that, he spent 14 years as a defensive lineman in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Steelers.
• New Cal men’s basketball hire Mark Madsen has been particularly busy lately. I communicated with Madsen over the weekend. We’re trying to coordinate an appearance on the radio show next week. He already landed Texas Tech transfer Fardaws Aimaq and has been active in the transfer portal.
• Avinash Kunnath ofsummarized the activity in a tweet: “We've seen more recruiting buzz in the last week for Cal basketball than we have in the past half-decade.”
• Mark Fox went 3-29 at Cal last season. I wrote in great depth about Cal’s woes earlier this season. A big part of the issue in Berkeley is related to funding, the lack of a practice facility and dwindling donor enthusiasm.
• Madsen has captured some early momentum. Said a long-time program supporter who observed his introductory news conference: “Quality first appearance by Madsen. Real, real solid showing.”
• Oregon State sophomore Glen Taylor Jr. had a change of heart after previously declaring he was staying in Corvallis next season. Taylor said last month in Las Vegas at the Pac-12 Tournament that he was coming back to OSU. He shifted his stance and jumped in the transfer portal this week.
• All eyes at Oregon State then shifted to freshman Jordan Pope, the team’s best player. Pope led all Pac-12 freshman in scoring last season. Like Taylor Jr. he also insisted last month in Las Vegas that he was coming back to play another season for coach Wayne Tinkle.
• I reached out to the Oregon State’s Dam Nation Collective to see if they’re getting proactive with Pope. Turns out, the parties are already talking. Co-founder Dick Oldfield told me: “We are having conversations with him but aren’t really ratcheting things up until the portal ends in early May.”
• If you haven’t watched “The Big Door Prize” on Apple TV+… watch it. It’s outstanding.
• I know everyone is excited about DJ Uiagalelei, but everyone who sees the Beavers football practices comes away talking about the talent of freshman quarterback Aiden Chiles.
• No, I don’t expect Chiles to beat out Uiagalelei next season.
• It’s odd, but one year ago, we were all debating and wondering who would start at quarterback for Oregon. It was Bo Nix vs. Ty Thompson vs. Jay Butterfield. There is no question who starts for the Ducks next season. It’s Nix’s show now in Eugene. Looking forward to seeing what he does with another season.
• UCLA freshman quarterback Dante Moore spoke to reporters for the first time on Saturday. He started the news conference by shaking the hand of every reporter who was present, per James H. Williams, who covers the team for The Los Angeles Daily News.
• Moore, who is from Detroit, talked about the beautiful Southern California weather. He apparently uses a scooter to travel around campus and is an amateur photographer.
“I love nature,” Moore said. “I love taking pictures. That’s why I carry my camera with me all the time.”
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Easter and Passover Greetings - busy, busy, lot's to keep up with. You go, John.
Bluster and talk by Yormark? He's also the only one with any action to date having obtained a reasonable media deal dollars and visibility wise. And his administration negotiated a financially lucrative early exit of UT and OU. And I presume they have been working to assimilate the new conference members.
Meanwhile, on the Pac 12 front, nothing to date regarding media, expansion, officiating issues, ...