Money continues to fuel latest round of conference realignment

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Money continues to fuel latest round of conference realignment

So much for that peace and quiet.

When Notre Dame became the 14 12th member of the ACC in September, plenty figured the latest conference expansion and realignment cycle had finally reached an endgame. The dust had settled, with Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Texas A&M, Missouri, West Virginia, TCU and Notre Dame (in a limited fashion) joining up with new or different power conferences that didn't always fit geographically.

The Big 10 had 12 teams and the Big 12 had 10. The Pac 10 changed its name to the Pac 12. The ACC and SEC grew to 14 full members.

Make no mistake, money is driving these moves. That's easy to confuse with greed, but with TV contracts skyrocketing in payouts, schools began to look toward financial security instead of traditional rivalries and associations. That's why Texas won't play Texas A&M, Mizzou and Kansas are done and the same goes for Notre Dame and Michigan after 2014.

So when rumors began flying about the Big 10 adding Maryland and Rutgers on Saturday, one observer of -- and participant in -- realignment wasn't exactly taken aback.

"I guess we've all learned never to predict that," Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick said Saturday of stability in conference movement. "If this occurs, the timing is a surprise to me, sort of this happening when, not the fact of it but the timing of it is a little of a surprise."

For Maryland, the move was almost entirely financial -- that was overarching theme of Dr. Wallace Loh's press conference from College Park Monday. The cash-strapped athletic department in College Park needed a lifeline, with the Big Ten and its lucrative network providing just that (Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reported Maryland projects it'll earn 100 million more in the Big 10 though 2020). For the Big Ten, Maryland delivers the mid-Atlantic market for the Big Ten Network.

The same goes for Rutgers, which will be announced as the 14th member of the Big Ten Tuesday afternoon. The Piscataway, N.J.-based school is the closest FBS program to New York City, meaning the Big Ten Network will have serious pull on the nation's largest city.

"In this case, we were there at 12 quite happy, but change kept happening," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Monday. "Conferences were outside their region over and over and over again. We thought given what had happen around the country, this was a natural response, and if they were interested in us, we were certainly interested in them."

It's about the money, too, for Rutgers -- most reports have the Big Ten's payout to its members at 24 million annually -- but it's also about keeping a program in a dying conference relevant. The Big East will be lumped with the Mountain West, MAC, Sun Belt and Conference USA in having one bid to one of college football's access bowls that'll be set up with the playoff format in 2014. The Big Ten provides far more stability for Rutgers than the Big East, which may wind up losing Boise State and San Diego State, too, according to a few reports Monday.

For the ACC, they'll need to add another member to avoid having the headache of an odd number of teams. Most likely, John Swofford & Co. will pick at the Big East carcass, with UConn and Louisville potentially being attractive options. The conference would love to get Notre Dame in as a full member, but given the school's deal with the Orange Bowl and NBC, that's unlikely.

And on the flip side, Notre Dame isn't regretting its decision to join the ACC, even if the conference is in flux for the immediate future.

"It doesn't have any impact," Swarbrick said of Maryland's then-rumored move. "It has absolutely zero impact, and it wouldn't change anything about our decision-making process. If we were going to engage in it today, it wouldn't change at all."

Fire can't hold onto halftime lead, settle for draw with LA

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Fire can't hold onto halftime lead, settle for draw with LA

The Fire had a chance to continue the momentum from Saturday’s win at Montreal, but couldn’t put the finishing touches on a second-straight win.

Instead, the Fire settled for a 2-2 draw at home against the LA Galaxy on Wednesday after the Fire led at halftime.

After a dull first quarter of the match, the game featured four goals, two more called back for offside, a number of close chances and wide open play.

LA’s U.S. national teamer Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 31st minute and the floodgates opened soon after. Zardes pounced on a loose ball in the box with a hard and low shot after the Fire couldn’t fully clear a cross.

Just three minutes later the Fire (5-11-8, 23 points) equalized with a goal that also required a couple deflections to wind up at the feet of an open shooter. Michael de Leeuw headed a cross on frame and LA goalkeeper Clement Diop came up with the initial save. However, the save bounced off A.J. DeLaGarza’s face and landed right to Arturo Alvarez, who scored with a half volley.

[SHOP: Get your own Fire jersey here]

The Fire completed the turnaround when Luis Solignac was tripped in the box for a penalty kick, which David Accam converted to give the hosts a 2-1 lead in the 39th minute.

In the second half, Chicago had a golden opportunity to take a two-goal lead when David Accam chased down a long ball and dribbled around LA goalkeeper Clement Diop. Diop came way off his line and Accam easily took him out of the play. Instead of shooting at an open net, he dribbled into the box and passed to Luis Solignac, who missed the shot with two defenders, but still no goalkeeper in his way.

The Galaxy (9-4-12, 39 points) later made the Fire pay when two substitutes connected. Alan Gordon centered a ball to Giovany Dos Santos, who scored with his first touch.

In addition to not starting Dos Santos, LA didn’t include Robbie Keane or Steven Gerrard in the matchday lineup and Nigel De Jong was available as a substitute but didn’t play.

The Fire next play Saturday at D.C. United.

Notre Dame disappointed, embarrassed as it moves on from weekend arrests

Notre Dame disappointed, embarrassed as it moves on from weekend arrests

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly went through three stages of emotions after learning that six of his players were arrested in two separate incidents over the weekend. 

First, the seventh-year Irish coach was disappointed. Then he was embarrassed for the university.

“And then I was mad as hell,” Kelly said. 

Kelly dismissed senior safety Max Redfield and indefinitely suspended cornerback Devin Butler in a stern statement released Sunday, and meted out internal discipline for running back Dexter Williams, cornerback Ashton White, linebacker Te’von Coney and wide receiver Kevin Stepherson. Those four players — Williams, White, Coney and Stepherson — are practicing will be available for Notre Dame’s season opener against Texas unless Notre Dame’s Office of Community Standards decides to take further disciplinary action against them. 

Butler, who was charged with two felonies on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to those charges on Wednesday, remains indefinitely suspended, Kelly said. 

Notre Dame players, though, would prefer to move on from a tumultuous weekend that cost them their starting safety and plenty of goodwill in the public eye. 

“We’ve had enough meetings, it’s been talked about enough and I think it’s time to put our heads down, start working and get ready to go down to Austin, Texas and win a football game,” offensive lineman Mike McGlinchey, who was one of four team captains named on Wednesday, said. “That’s what we’re looking to do and I think our team is right on track. The last couple days they’ve put their heads down, ready to work, practice has been (guys) flying around and having fun. I think that’s what our focus needs to be on at this point. Coach Kelly and his staff and the university will handle what needs to be handled and it’s our job to play and win football games.” 

Wide receiver and newly-minted captain Torii Hunter Jr. echoed that sentiment: “We’re just looking to go forward and just make better choices as a team”

Still, there’s no whitewashing the disappointment of the arrests. Notre Dame wrapped up preseason camp on Friday, and within less than 12 hours had six players arrested. Butler was charged with resisting law enforcement and battery against a public safety official, both of which are felonies; Redfield, Williams, White, Coney and Stepherson were all charged with possession of marijuana and Redfield, Williams and Stepherson were charged with illegal possession of a firearm, all of which are misdemeanors. 

“It’s a disappointing situation,” defensive end and captain Isaac Rochell said. “You never want to be in this situation. I don’t need to do anything (as a captain) — I trust the coaching staff, I trust coach Kelly. And my only job is to support and enforce what he says to do. But bottom line, I trust them.”

Kelly said he hopes his players can take away messages about not making “selfish” decisions and representing more than just themselves out of last weekend’s incidents. The impact of those arrests will be felt immediately in Texas, when true freshman Devin Studstill and sixth-year graduate student (and natural in-the-box strong safety) Avery Sebastian are in line to fill in for Redfield at free safety. 

When asked why Redfield received a harsher punishment than the others, Kelly declined to get into specifics. 

“There’s a lot of things going on there,” Kelly said. “I think any time you dismiss somebody from the program, that’s serious. So I would say the best way to characterize that is it’s gotta be serious for me to dismiss somebody from the program.”

Sending Redfield away may hurt Notre Dame’s on-field production, but Kelly felt it was the right, and necessary thing to do. And with it made, the Irish will aim to push forward and put the the disappointment and embarrassment of the weekend behind them with a focus on Sept. 4’s trip to Texas. 

“You have to be prepared as a college coach, unfortunately, to deal with some poor decisions,” Kelly said. “They crop up. I think you have to be as fair but you also have to be quick in making decisions. And when they don’t square with your mission or philosophy in your program or your university, you can’t be afraid to make decisions. And you can’t be swayed by external factors. You gotta do the right thing.”

Preview: Channel Seed Ag Bowl opens Iowa football season Thursday on CSN+

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Preview: Channel Seed Ag Bowl opens Iowa football season Thursday on CSN+

High School football is back in Iowa as you can catch the fourth annual Channel Seed Ag Bowl live on CSN+ on Thursday night.

This year's game will feature the visiting Northeast Rebels as they take on the Central DeWitt Sabers in a game that will start at 7:00 p.m.

Taking place at Birney Field in Dewitt, this game is the season opener for both schools as these two haven't matched up on the gridiron since 1984. The former Big Bend Conference rivals are only 20 minutes apart but haven't played in over 30 years as Thursday's game should make for a unique atmosphere.

Besides the live CSN+ broadcast, you can also see this game streaming live on CSNChicago.com as you can find the live stream here. If you wish to find CSN+ click here for the channel finder