Battle for the Best in the Midwest; #8 Nebraska vs. #7 Wisconsin (Game Preview)

For the first time since 1962 (#3 Wisconsin vs. #5 Minnesota), two top-ten teams will face-off at Camp Randall Stadium. The highly anticipated game between the #7 Wisconsin Badgers (4-0) and #8 Nebraska Cornhuskers (4-0) will be under the lights as the prime-time game on ABC with the help of ESPN College GameDay.

The battle for the Best in the Midwest contains more story lines than As The World Turns, and just might have as many followers as the popular soap opera. Nebraska fans are on a mission to scoop up as many tickets as they can to watch their favorite team in their Big Ten debut while the Badgers fans try to embrace a team who just might have a shot at a national title.

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ESPN College GameDay Likely Visiting Madison for Wisconsin/Nebraska Game


According to Benjamin Worgull of Badgernation.com, there’s a “99 percent chance,” of ESPN College GameDay visiting Madison for ABC’s primetime match-up between the #6 Wisconsin Badgers (3-0) and #9 Nebraska Cornhuskers (3-0).

The game will mark the Cornhuskers’ first-ever Big Ten game and it will most likely be the only match-up in the country between top-ten teams next week. [Read more…]

Even with Backward, Archaic Postseason, College Football Growing in Popularity

DALLAS, March 2, 2010 – The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame (NFF) showcased today several impressive facts from the 2009 college football season, including top-notch television ratings and stellar bowl attendance figures, that emphasize a continuing trend of increased interest in the sport by millions of fans across the country.

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Michigan State versus Illinois Preview, Predictions

By Jeff Ghiringhelli, feat. the two Pauls

Photo’s courtesy of Illinois Loyalty.com (be sure to check out that awesome website!)

There always seems to be an added excitement around campus when College Gameday comes to town. Even those that do not follow sports very closely know that there must be a big game. Tonight’s clash pitting Michigan State against Illinois is no exception.

All of a sudden, it appears as though a Big Ten title being delivered to East Lansing is no longer a foregone conclusion. An 18-point loss at Wisconsin was bad enough, but to make matters worse Spartan team leader and point guard Kalin Lucas went down in the second half with a sprained ankle.

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Connections, Nepotism Brings ESPN College GameDay to Champaign Saturday

By Paul M. Banks

Once again the old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” rings true.

This time it’s applied to ESPN’s location selection process for broadcasting their national college basketball pregame show. From 2003-07 Illinois had MORE WINS than any program in the nation. But ESPN College Gameday never visited once (not even during the Champaign Campaign season of 2004-05, when the Illini tied the all-time record for single season victories).  But tomorrow “ESPN College GameDay Driven by State Farm” will broadcast live from the University of Illinois prior to the prime-time basketball matchup between the Fighting Illini and Michigan State. UI is one of just eight universities chosen by ESPN, out of 343 Division 1 basketball programs, for a live GameDay broadcast this season.

So it’s finally happened for the Illini! Unfortunately, it’s in a year that’s actually been very disappointing for the orange and blue. The Illini find themselves on the wrong side of the NCAA bubble and not even remotely close to a national ranking. So why this year? Because the school has the right connections.

[Read more…]

Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach Puts Player in Closet

By Alex Simon

If you thought Texas Tech was playing with fire when hiring Bobby Knight, Tech was messing with a forest fire by not firing head football coach Mike Leach when they had the chance this offseason.  And if the accusations against Leach are true, then hall of fame hardliner Bobby Knight looks like a true mench.

Red Raider redshirt sophomore receiver Adam James, son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James, filed a complaint about being mistreated by Leach after suffering an injury.

A source close to the family said James sustained a concussion on Dec. 16, was examined on Dec. 17 and told not to practice due to a concussion and an elevated heart rate. The source said Leach called a trainer and directed him to move James “to the darkest place, to clean out the equipment and to make sure that he could not sit or lean. He was confined for three hours.”  James said Leach told him that if he came out he would be kicked off the team.

According to the source, Leach told the trainer, two days later, to “put James in the darkest, tightest spot. It was in an electrical closet, again, with a guard posted outside.”

Leach has been suspended in light of these accusations and will not coach their bowl game.

ESPN Finally Gives Gameday Love to the Illini

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By Paul M. Banks

For some bizarre reason, the Eastern Seaboard Programming Network ignored the University of Illinois when it came to finding a locale to host their popular “College Gameday” pre-game show. The show has been running for six seasons, and during that period of time, the Fighting Illini were 6th in the nation in total wins! They’ve been a NCAA Tournament regular and they’re tied with Duke for the most number of 25+ win seasons this decade. A 2006 USA Today poll stated that Illinois was the 5th most recognizable college basketball program among 14 year old males, who comprise a huge demographic within ESPN’s pregame show audience. Yet despite all these facts, the Eastern biased conglomerate and empire brand NEVER made a single trip to showcase the Orange Crush at Illinois’ Assembly Hall. That all changed today.

Please read this press release sent straight from Champaign-Urbana this afternoon:
Champaign, Ill.-ESPN College Basketball GameDay driven by State Farm will make its first appearance at the University of Illinois’ Assembly Hall on Feb. 6, 2010, when the Fighting Illini host Big Ten rival Michigan State.

The popular network show will feature a pair of one-hour telecasts, at 10 a.m. CT and 7 p.m., followed by the 8 p.m. tip-off of the Illini and Spartans in ESPN’s Saturday Primetime Game of the Week.

“We are thrilled to have College GameDay coming to the Assembly Hall,” head coach Bruce Weber said. “We have watched the show at various college sites the past few seasons and have been anticipating the opportunity to host it on our campus. There are so many factors that make this a perfect fit. We enjoy a tremendous relationship with both ESPN and State Farm, we have high expectations for the upcoming season, and we are facing an outstanding opponent in Michigan State. I’m sure the Orange Krush and Illini Nation will be out in full force as we showcase our program to a national audience that day, and for what should be an incredible game-time atmosphere that evening.”

The complete ESPN Gameday schedule is as follows:

Jan. 16 – Notre Dame at Connecticut (women’s); Jan. 23 – Duke at Clemson; Jan. 30 – Kansas at Kansas State; Feb. 6 – Michigan State at Illinois; Feb. 13 – Tennessee at Kentucky; Feb. 20 – UCLA at Washington; Feb. 27 – Villanova at Syracuse; March 6 – North Carolina at Duke.

“We obviously feel the choice of Illinois men’s basketball and Assembly Hall, which is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s great home court atmospheres, create a great match with the College GameDay brand,” said Chris Hanna, Illinois Assistant Athletics Director for Sales and Marketing.  “We take great pride in our ongoing relationships with State Farm, the sponsor of College GameDay and a long-time Illinois corporate partner, and ESPN through our Big Ten Conference television agreement. We will approach this event with the intention of establishing a new attendance record for College GameDay in addition to filling Assembly Hall with 16,618 orange-clad fans for the Illinois-Michigan State game.”

Jay Bilas Exclusive

Paul M. Banks interviews the former Duke star and current college basketball analyst for ESPN and CBS

Jay Bilas served as master of ceremonies when the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Foundation held its inaugural “Court of Honor Gala” at Chicago’s Union Station. The Tuesday evening Gala celebrated the achievements and contributions of Jerry Colangelo, chairman of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns and managing director of the USA Basketball senior national team from 2005-2008.

Sports Illustrated called Bilas the best analyst in college basketball. In both 2007 and 2008, Bilas was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Performance by a Studio Analyst. Bilas joined ESPN in 1995 as a college basketball analyst, serving as co-host of ESPN’s studio broadcasts since 2000, including College GameNight and College GameDay. Bilas makes frequent appearances on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS and ESPN Radio, and is a featured basketball writer on ESPN.com. “The Bilastrator” is also featured during halftime segments of some games.

In 2003, Bilas joined CBS as a game analyst for the network’s coverage of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, being paired with Dick Enberg. A member of the Screen Actors’ Guild since 1987, Bilas has appeared in national television commercials and the feature-length movie “I Come in Peace.”

Bilas received his law degree from Duke University School of Law (while also serving as an assistant coach under Coach K.) in 1992. He is currently Of Counsel to the Charlotte office of Moore & Van Allen, where he maintains a litigation practice. Bilas most notably worked on the case Lyons Partnership v. Morris Costumes, Inc., where he successfully defended the costume business against trademark and copyright claims brought by owners of the popular children’s television character, Barney the Dinosaur.

I had an exclusive with Bilas at the NABC’s ESPN Zone mixer on Monday night.

Paul M. Banks: The word student is listed first in the term student-athlete for a reason, talk about the role of academics in the world of big-time college basketball

Jay Bilas: There’s a duality to it, I’ve always found it kind of funny that after a press conference after a NCAA tournament game they call them student-athletes, that’s when it’s ok to call them players. When they’re in class they’re students, when you’re playing you’re a player, so I believe in the term even though I think it gives a lot of the guys a short trip. In the educational foundation I have in Charlotte, we believe in education not just for athletes, but for everybody. It starts at the very beginning when kids are in pre-k, kindergarten, at the earliest stage, getting them into reading, getting them into learning, and learning for learning sake. It’s a lifelong pursuit, and part of what the NABC is doing with their Ticket to Reading Rewards program and something that’s really worth while”

 

PMB: I just actually flew in from Charlotte this morning, great city by the way, tell me more about your foundation there

JB: I work with Dell Curry, the former NBA star whose son Stephen is the Davidson star that electrified the NCAA tournament last year. We have a foundation called Athletes United for Youth. Although athletes headline it, it’s an educational foundation for underserved youth in the Charlotte area and we run after-school programs and computer learning centers and summer camps that give kids that maybe haven’t had a chance the tools they need to be successful. While Athletics may play a part in their lives, it’s a small part, and we want to make academics the primary part and something they gravitate towards instead of shying away from.

 

PMB: The institution within which you did both your undergrad and graduate work, Duke has quite the prestigious reputation, do you have a relationship with the school today, and to what extent?

JB: I grew up in Los Angeles, neither one of my parents went to college, so college wasn’t necessarily an expectation for me when I grew up and through basketball I got recruited by some schools that I probably would not have looked at outside of my want to play basketball and having gone to Duke was a really fortunate turn for me. I still stay in close contact with the school.

I’m a contributor and go back as often as I can. Any college is about people and I have good relationships with the people there. The reason I contribute money to where I went to school, both high school and college, is not for some philanthropic cause, it’s because you want the next person’s experience to be better than yours and I was really lucky- my experience was really good. There are so many good colleges and universities around the country that have good people and do great things, I was lucky I went to one of them, but they’re all over the place. I know people feel the same way about where they went to school as I do about where I went to school, so we’re all brothers in that regard.

PMB: You must be especially proud that an icon of Duke helped restore the prestige and reputation of Team USA basketball?

JB: Coach K. is the reason I went to Duke, I’d like to say that I had some other higher goal in mind: that I went to Duke for its own sake, but I went there to play for him and if he would have been somewhere else I would have gone somewhere else. I played USA Basketball on the lower level- I played for Gene Keady on the U.S. National Select Team one year. I’m really proud of that.

PMB: You must be pretty excited about your MC duties tomorrow night?

JB: I’m really excited. It’s going to be one of those rooms where’ its going to be really humbling to be in it. With all the people who have been great doers in the game of college basketball. Maybe we {media members} look at ourselves as talkers more than doers, but to be in that room with so many people that have accomplished so much in the game, I’m honored to be a part of it”

PMB: Tell me about how USA basketball turned around under Jerry Colangelo

JB: I think the biggest development we’ve had over the last 30 years in USA basketball is when Jerry Colangelo took over as Executive Director and formed a real program that we can now build on. We’ve had so many great coaches and players over the years in USA basketball, but we haven’t had the structure to give them the tools they need to be as successful as they can be.

I think now the program put in place by Jerry Colangelo, working with Coach K and everybody at USA basketball- that was a big home run they hit in Beijing, but it was also over a three-year period. What they did the three years before was perhaps more important: with the structure, organization, how they choose the team, the commitment that all the players made, it wasn’t just a commitment for that summer in ’08 in Beijing, it was a three-year commitment, and it sounds like some of them want to keep committing.

 

PMB: Finally what are your thoughts on Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid and their chances?

JB: I don’t know much about the process, but I can tell you it would be great if it was here. Anyone who’s been in Chicago in the springtime and the summertime knows that this would be a heck of a place to have the Olympics and have the world come to Chicago would be pretty extraordinary.