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Idaho to join Big Sky Conference in 2014

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Just when we thought it was safe to focus on the games.

The Big Sky Conference announced that Idaho will join the league in 2014, giving it 14 basketball-playing members. The Vandals will leave the WAC — well, kind of, since the WAC is pretty much dissolving — for the Big Sky in all sports except football, where they will play as a Football Bowl Subdivision independent.

“We welcome The University of Idaho back to the Big Sky, a conference where it excelled athletically and academically for more than 30 years as a flagship member,’’ said Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton in a release. “President Duane Nellis and Athletics Director Rob Spear have faced some very difficult challenges as the conference landscape has shifted. Both are to be commended for finding a stable home with a strong academic and athletic future. Our current membership can’t wait to begin renewing old rivalries and developing new relationships with the Vandals.’’

It’s a reversion of sorts for Idaho, who were members of the Big Sky Conference from 1963-1996.

Idaho is the third new full-fledged member of the conference this season. North Dakota and Southern Utah officially joined the Big Sky in July.

It’s definitely the right move for Idaho as a whole. Their last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 1989-90 and they’ve only had one 20-win season since then, in 1992-93 under Larry Eustachy. The market for Idaho is slim in terms of media and television. The Big Sky is full of teams in that position like Weber State, Montana and Eastern Washington.

As far as  the school going independent in FBS football, good luck making a bowl that way (though for a program like Idaho, a bowl game might actually lose them revenue.)

The Vandals tried to be a somewhat big-time program in a somewhat big-time conference, but that’s tough to do in the chimney (peninsula?) of Idaho. This is where the Vandals belong.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.

h/t ShockerHoops.net

AUDIO: Rick Pitino discusses allegations, future at Louisville

Rick Pitino
Associated Press
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Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.

The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.

“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.

“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.

“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”

Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.