I have two things to chat about today, and I think the one that has the potential to be the biggest long-term story is that Texas and Oklahoma have taken the first steps necessary for the two schools to leave the Big-12 Conference. There are reports that the other schools in the conference are working on ways to retain Texas and OU, but the way I read things, this is the situation:
- If 11 of the 14 current SEC schools vote to admit Texas and OU, that is where they will go voluntarily.
- If 11 of the 14 current SEC schools do not vote to admit Texas and OU, there are going to be some extremely hard feelings to overcome in Big-12 country.
So, what might become of the rest of the Big-12 when – I think it is going to happen – Texas and OU depart for the SEC? Are the other Power 5 Conferences ready to expand and scoop up any of the remaining Big-12 teams? This is totally off the top of my head, and I have only thought about Power 5 Conference moves; in games of musical chairs, some folks never find a seat:
- Baylor: Maybe the PAC-12 but nowhere else
- Iowa St.: Big 10 is the only one that makes sense
- Kansas: Nowhere; the program needs to be downgraded not promoted
- K- State: Geographically, the Big-10 but not a real fit anywhere
- OK St.: Nothing sensible comes to mind
- TCU: PAC-12 fits
- Texas Tech: PAC-12 or nothing
- W. Virginia: ACC makes more sense than Big -12 did.
The other important item on the menu for today is the NFL very pointedly – and yet subtly – taking a pro-vaccination position. The NFL announcement that it would not be nearly so accommodating to rescheduling for teams that suffered COVID outbreaks this year had a couple of barbs in the message:
- This year, there will be forfeits if rescheduling is difficult. Forfeits not only mean a loss for the affected team but it also means – according to the CBA – the loss of a game check for ALL players on BOTH teams. A game check is 1/17th of the contract value for the year – not counting things like roster bonuses and workout bonuses. So, if a player’s base salary is $2M, a forfeit will cost him about $118K in lost wages. Think that might ramp up a bit of “peer pressure”?
- Getting down to final cuts and deciding on who the fifth wideout or the seventh defensive lineman will be, might coaches give the nod to a vaccinated player as opposed to a vaccine resistor? Remember the old saying that the most important “ability” in the NFL is availability…
There appear to be – already – some coaching changes being effected by teams in light of the new stance by the league. The Vikings and Rick Dennison – who was their offensive line coach and running game coordinator – have “gone in different directions”. Dennison had not been vaccinated; reports say he was offered the vaccine and refused to take it; he is no longer with the team. No one is saying he was fired for that refusal – – but no one is denying it either. I went to look up Dennison’s history as a coach and found:
- He has been an NFL assistant for 26 seasons
- He has been with teams that made the playoffs 13 times.
- He has been with teams that won their division 5 times.
- He has been with teams that won 3 Super Bowls
In a similar situation, the New England Patriots and Cole Popovich have parted ways. Popovich had been with the Pats since 2016 in a variety of assistant coaching positions and this year would have been his second as the co-offensive line coach. Even prior to the recent announcement by the NFL regarding game forfeits, the league sent a notice to all teams that all “Tier1 staff are required to get the vaccine in order to be on the field, in meeting rooms, or have any direct interactions with players”. “Tier 1 staff” is defined as:
- Front office execs
- Equipment managers
The NFL edict had an out for unvaccinated Tier 1 staff in the case that they provided a valid medical or religious reason for not taking the vaccine. With training came about to begin, unvaccinated people in those “Tier 1 positions” become significantly less valuable to the teams.
Finally, since much of the current vaccination debate devolves to principles, let me close today with this observation by Oscar Wilde:
“I like persons better than principles and I like persons with no principles better than anything else in the world.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………