Realignment Catchup: More changes come on July 1

3 Comments

July 1, 2013 was a busy day on the college sports landscape, with a “new” league (American Athletic Conference) coming into existence and some 46 schools moving from one conference to another. But while the major shifting took place on that day, today — July 1, 2014 — hasn’t lacked for moves, with the majority of those shifts coming at the mid-major level.

Will this be the end of realignment for the foreseeable future? Or is this all just the tip of the iceberg, with NCAA issues such as the Ed O’Bannon and Sam Keller lawsuits and the threat of unionization possibly changing the structure of intercollegiate athletics? Only time will tell.

Below is a summary of each move that has taken place, with the ACC, American, Big Ten and SoCon among the conferences adding and/or losing members.

_________________________________________________________________

American Athletic Conference: Mike Aresco’s league loses two members in Louisville and Rutgers (Big Ten), but gains three as East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa make the jump from Conference USA. Basketball-wise this is a tough “trade” for one reason: the loss of Louisville. Rick Pitino’s Cardinals are off the the ACC, where they’ll be a contender from the start. Of the three basketball programs joining the conference Tulsa’s best positioned for immediate success, with the Golden Hurricane returning the majority of their rotation from last season’s NCAA tournament team.

Atlantic 10: Last year the A-10 lost programs to the American (Temple), Big East (Butler and Xavier) and Conference USA (Charlotte) while adding one in George Mason, and they’ll add another program this summer with Davidson on board. Bob McKillop’s Wildcats were an excellent program during their time in the Southern Conference, making them a quality addition to the Atlantic 10.

ACC: For the second time in its existence the ACC will be losing a school, with charter member Maryland moving to the Big Ten with economics playing a major role in the decision. In place of the Terrapins will be Louisville, who have experienced greater success on the basketball court in recent years. With a now stable membership, the ACC will look to live up to the “best conference ever” chatter that began with the arrivals of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

Atlantic Sun: The A-Sun lost two members on July 1, with East Tennessee State and Mercer both moving to the Southern Conference. Those are big losses, especially when considering just how good Bob Hoffman’s Mercer Bears have been in recent years. Those moves make the A-Sun an eight-team league with FGCU expected to lead the way. And only seven of the eight teams will be eligible for the conference tournament, with Northern Kentucky still a transitional Division I member.

Big Sky: An 11-team league last season, the Big Sky moves to 12 members with the arrival of Idaho. The Vandals, whose football program will be a part of the Sun Belt, took one of the biggest hits in realignment with the Mountain West picking apart their former home (WAC).

Big South: The Big South loses one program, as VMI will join the Southern Conference. The Keydets may not have reached the NCAA tournament in recent years, but Duggar Baucom’s program played an entertaining style of basketball that led to a lot of points being scored.

Big Ten: Jim Delany’s conference doesn’t lose any members but they gain two in Maryland (ACC) and Rutgers (American). Maryland will be under some pressure in its first season in the league, with Mark Turgeon yet to lead the program to the NCAA tournament during his tenure in College Park, and they’re talented enough to end that streak. As for Rutgers, year two of the Eddie Jordan rebuilding project looks to be a difficult one. But on the bright side for the conference, adding Rutgers means another state with quality high school programs (New Jersey) is now within the conference’s “footprint.”

Colonial: The CAA was another league hurt by conference realignment, with Old Dominion, VCU and George Mason moving on in recent years. The CAA won’t lose any members this summer but they do gain one, as Elon’s moving in from the Southern Conference. Elon is the second school in as many seasons to move from the SoCon to the CAA, with the College of Charleston doing so last year.

Conference USA: Three more programs are leaving C-USA, with ECU, Tulane and Tulsa all moving on to the American. Conference USA adds one member this summer, with Western Kentucky making the move from the Sun Belt. Ray Harper’s Hilltoppers didn’t reach the NCAA tournament last season but they did in each of the two seasons prior.

Southern: No conference will experience more change on July 1 than the SoCon. Final count: four schools out, and three schools in. While Davidson (A-10) and Elon (CAA) have made their moves for basketball reasons, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern will both join the Sun Belt with football being the catalyst. The three entrants are ETSU, Mercer (both from the A-Sun) and VMI (Big South).

Southland: The Southland loses a member this summer, with Oral Roberts moving back to the Summit League after spending two seasons in the Southland.

Summit League: Just two years after beginning play in the Southland Conference, Oral Roberts is headed back to the Summit League. So obviously there will be some familiarity, and the return of ORU gives the Summit League another solid program to compete with the likes of Denver, North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

Sun Belt: The Sun Belt loses one member in Western Kentucky but gains two as Appalachian State and Georgia Southern move in from the Southern Conference. Appalachian State will have a new head coach as well, with former Davidson assistant Jim Fox taking over for Jason Capel.

WAC: The WAC loses a member as Idaho’s moved its non-football programs to the Big Sky (football is in the Sun Belt). Grand Canyon remains a transitional Division I member, meaning that the Antelopes won’t be eligible for the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in 2014-15. Seven of the eight remaining members will be able to play in the conference tournament next March.

And here’s the full list of schools changing leagues on July 1:

  • Appalachian State: Southern to Sun Belt
  • Davidson: Southern to Atlantic 10
  • East Carolina: Conference USA to American Athletic
  • Elon: Southern to Colonial
  • East Tennessee State: Atlantic Sun to Southern
  • Georgia Southern: Southern to Sun Belt
  • Idaho: WAC to Big Sky
  • Louisville: American Athletic to ACC
  • Maryland: ACC to Big Ten
  • Mercer: Atlantic Sun to Southern
  • Oral Roberts: Southland to Summit League
  • Rutgers: American Athletic to Big Ten
  • Tulane: Conference USA to American Athletic
  • Tulsa: Conference USA to American Athletic
  • VMI: Big South to Southern
  • Western Kentucky: Sun Belt to Conference USA

Kentucky’s Tionna Herron recovering from open-heart surgery

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times/USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky coach Kyra Elzy says freshman Tionna Herron is recovering from open-heart surgery to correct a structural abnormality.

The 6-foot-4 post player learned of her condition after arriving at school in June and received other opinions before surgery was recommended. Senior trainer Courtney Jones said in a release that Herron underwent surgery Aug. 24 at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and is recovering at home in DeSoto, Texas.

Elzy said Herron “is the definition of a warrior” and all are grateful to be on the other side of the player’s surgery. Herron is expected back on campus early next month and will continue rehabilitation until she’s cleared to return to normal activity.

“Her will and determination to eventually return to the court is inspiring, and it’s that `game-on’ attitude that is what makes her such a perfect fit in our program,” Elzy said in a release. “We are so thrilled for Tionna’s return to our locker room; it’s not the same without our full team together.”

Herron committed to Kentucky during last fall’s early signing period, rated as a four-star prospect and a top-70 player in last year’s class. Kentucky won last year’s Southeastern Conference Tournament and reached the NCAA Tournament’s first round.

Emoni Bates charged with 2 felonies

Joe Rondone/USA TODAY NETWORK
1 Comment

SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP, Mich — Emoni Bates, a former basketball prodigy who transferred to Eastern Michigan from Memphis, was charged with two felonies after police found a gun in a car during a traffic stop.

The 18-year-old Bates failed to stop at an intersection Sunday night and a search turned up the weapon, said Derrick Jackson, a spokesman for the Washtenaw County sheriff’s office.

Defense attorney Steve Haney told The Associated Press that the vehicle and the gun didn’t belong to Bates.

“I hope people can reserve judgment and understand there’s a presumption of innocence,” Haney said. “This was not his vehicle. This was not his gun. … We’re still gathering facts, too.”

Bates was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and altering identification marks on a firearm. He was released after his lawyer entered a not guilty plea. Bates’ next court hearing is Oct. 6.

“This is his first brush with the law,” Haney said in court. “He poses no threat or risk to society.”

Less than a month ago, the 6-foot-9 Bates transferred to Eastern Michigan to play for his hometown Eagles. Bates averaged nearly 10 points a game last season as a freshman at Memphis, where he enrolled after reclassifying to skip a year of high school and join the class of 2021.

“We are aware of a situation involving one of our student athletes,” EMU spokesman Greg Steiner said. “We are working to gather more details and will have further comment when more information is available.”

Bates was the first sophomore to win the Gatorade national player of the year award in high school basketball in 2020, beating out Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley. Detroit drafted Cunningham No. 1 overall last year, two spots before Cleveland took Mobley in the 2021 NBA draft.

Bates committed to playing for Tom Izzo at Michigan State two years ago, later de-committed and signed with Memphis. Bates played in 18 games for the Tigers, who finished 22-11 under Penny Hardaway. Bates missed much of the season with a back injury before appearing in Memphis’ two NCAA Tournament games.

In 2019, as a high school freshman, the slender and skilled guard led Ypsilanti Lincoln to a state title and was named Michigan’s Division 1 Player of the Year by The Associated Press. His sophomore season was cut short by the pandemic and he attended Ypsi Prep Academy as a junior, his final year of high school.

UConn to pay Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million over firing

uconn
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
0 Comments

STORRS, Conn. — UConn announced Thursday it has agreed to pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie another $3.9 million to settle discrimination claims surrounding his 2018 firing.

The money is in addition to the more than $11.1 million in back salary Ollie has already been paid after an arbitrator ruled in January that he was improperly fired under the school’s agreement with its professor’s union.

“I am grateful that we were able to reach agreement,” Ollie said in a statement Thursday. “My time at UConn as a student-athlete and coach is something I will always cherish. I am pleased that this matter is now fully and finally resolved.”

Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a 127-79 record and the 2014 national championship in six seasons as head coach, was let go after two losing seasons. UConn also stopped paying him under his contract, citing numerous NCAA violations in terminating the deal.

In 2019, the NCAA placed UConn on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for violations, which the NCAA found occurred between 2013 and 2018. Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques Parenteau and William Madsen, accused UConn of making false claims to the NCAA for the purpose of firing Ollie “with cause.”

The school had argued that Ollie’s transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie’s lawyers had argued that white coaches, including Hall-of-Famers Jim Calhoun and women’s coach Geno Auriemma, had also committed NCAA violations, without being fired, and indicated they were planning to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The school and Ollie said in a joint statement Thursday they were settling “to avoid further costly and protracted litigation.”

Both sides declined to comment further.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

Dream’s McDonald returning to Arizona to coach under Barnes

Getty Images
0 Comments

TUCSON, Ariz. — Atlanta Dream guard Aari McDonald is returning to Arizona to work under coach Adia Barnes.

The school announced that McDonald will serve as director of recruiting operations while continuing to fulfill her WNBA commitments. She will oversee all recruiting logistics, assist with on-campus visits, manage recruit information and social media content at Arizona.

McDonald was one of the best players in Arizona history after transferring from Washington as a sophomore. She was an All-American and the Pac-12 player of the year in 2020-21, leading the Wildcats to the national championship game, which they lost to Stanford.

McDonald broke Barnes’ single-season scoring record and had the highest career scoring average in school history before being selected by the Dream with the third overall pick of the 2021 WNBA draft.

South Carolina, Staley cancel BYU games over racial incident

Getty Images
1 Comment

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina and women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley have canceled a home-and-home series with BYU over a recent racial incident where a Cougars fan yelled slurs at a Duke volleyball player.

The Gamecocks were scheduled to start the season at home against BYU on Nov. 7, then play at the Utah campus during the 2023-24 season.

But Staley cited BYU’s home volleyball match last month as reason for calling off the series.

“As a head coach, my job is to do what’s best for my players and staff,” Staley said in a statement released by South Carolina on Friday. “The incident at BYU has led me to reevaluate our home-and-home, and I don’t feel that this is the right time for us to engage in this series.”

Duke sophomore Rachel Richardson, a Black member of the school’s volleyball team, said she heard racial slurs from the stands during the match.

BYU apologized for the incident and Richardson said the school’s volleyball players reached out to her in support.

South Carolina said it was searching for another home opponent to start the season.

Gamecocks athletic director Ray Tanner spoke with Staley about the series and supported the decision to call off the games.