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The Dig: You Can Taste the Salt in Memphis Edition

The Rush has been busy- graduated law school on Saturday & moving cities for bar prep for the summer.  Big News across the C-USA landscape:  UTEP gets the 2011 Tournament; Mike Price isn't happy with the NCAA, Memphis loses another star basketball player, great article on Nolan Richardson, and expansion talk galore.  Oh, and if you want to get a feel of the Memphis response to the decision, the Dig is the Place to be.   In The Dig.

The UTEP Miners

Trailblazer:  Dan Wetzel gets the lead with this fantastic write-up on Nolan Richardson.  Can't wait for "40 Minutes to Hell."

The most common complaint about Richardson has always been why he didn’t just quiet down. It’d be fair if it wasn’t so naïve. Richardson never would’ve won a title at Arkansas if he played nice and waited his turn. College administrators never got around to "Big House" Gaines or Eddie Robinson. To forget that is to forget everything.

Now, Onto the Story of the Day:  UTEP earned the recommendation from the league's coaches to host the 2011 C-USA Tournament.  The El Paso delegation had the best proposal and it was only fair to reward UTEP for being loyal to the league.  Money talks in college athletics and if Memphis really wanted the C-USA tournament, they should have raised the stakes.  They've had their turn.  If El Pasoan's are asked to travel to Tulsa, Memphis, or anywhere else for the league tournament, then once every now and again, the other league teams can return the favor.  After a margarita or two, I think all will be well. 

Excitement:  Tim Floyd is pumped.

"Along with the first round of the NCAA Tournament, my favorite time of the entire basketball season has always been conference tournament play," UTEP men’s basketball coach Tim Floyd said. "We’re excited to be able to share this experience with our fans. I think what Conference USA is going to learn is that we have an extremely sophisticated fan base.

Memphis Writers and Fans are really, really unhappy with the decision. 

The Bitter End:  The Commercial Appeal's Geoff Calkins doesn't want to offend El Paso, i=he acknowledges the EPT has "its charms."  But then he wrote a column essentially slamming El Paso and UTEP hidden under the veil of a rant against the league.  We can read in El Paso, Geoff.

The tournament will be played at an arena with no suites and no overhead scoreboard. It will be hosted by a team that lost its coach and its entire frontcourt during the offseason.

On Wednesday, the 2011 Conference USA basketball tournament was awarded to El Paso, Texas.

What, did Pluto not put in a bid?

Oh No You Didn't:  Of course Geoff had to go here.

The city of Ciudad Juarez is right across the border from El Paso. It's like West Memphis is to Memphis. With a lot more murders, of course.

"The homicide capital of Mexico," is how the Los Angeles Times recently described Ciudad Juarez.

Geoff, you should be used to it.  Memphis isn't exactly a safe place to live. 

Among large cities in America, Memphis ranked second in violent crimes last year even though the city showed a 4 percent drop compared with 2006, an FBI report released Monday shows.

Detroit edged Memphis for the No. 1 spot in cities with more than 500,000 people. There were 1,950 violent crimes reported in Memphis last year per 100,000 people vs. 2,286 in Detroit.

Salty:  Tuto has some remarks from a bitter sounding Josh Pastner.

"I think it needs to be in Memphis," Pastner said. "Nothing against El Paso. Nothing against any other city. The best place to have it is in Memphis. I’m talking about fan support, media coverage, travel expenses in terms of making it doable for every other school. It’s a no-brainer, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be in Memphis."

Saltier:  Pastner sounded awfully concerned about travel times.  Apparently, Memphis shouldn't have to travel all the way to El Paso, but wouldn't mind forcing UTEP fans travel to New York.  I'd like to see how many UCF and ECU fans make a trip to Los Angeles.  Oh, the crowds would be huge!!

"If you want the most support and the most media coverage, then you’re going to do it in Memphis," Pastner said. "If you just want a complete neutral site, then let’s go to New York or California or Oklahoma or Minnesota. If you’re doing what’s best for the league, it’d be in Memphis. If you’re worrying about doing anything neutral, then do it in Los Angeles or New York."

I Call Bull%^$&:   The Memphis Commercial Appeal slips a random shot at  the UTEP delegation who presented UTEP's case for the tournament.   Keep in mind that the panel that represented El Paso at  the meetings consisted of school and local leaders.  The Commercial Appeal says, without naming a source or specifics, that the El Paso contingent used an expletive when describing Memphis' bid.

Representatives from both Memphis and El Paso made final cases for the tournament on Tuesday. Though Banowsky said Memphis made a "nice presentation," a source who heard both groups said that El Paso’s pitch was more elaborate and organized and used an expletive to describe the weakness of Memphis’ case.

More Whining?  Why not!

I won't gain any popularity points in El Paso for saying this, but I will anyway:  I like Dan Wolken.  The fiery beat writer for the Memphis Tigers does a hell of a job covering C-USA sports.  He's the writer who was all over the Moultrie story and he frequently breaks league news- especially in basketball recruiting where he's head and shoulders above everybody else.  It's very difficult to find breaking news on C-USA schools and Wolken is a great resource for C-USA fans.  That said, he's clearly not very happy that Memphis lost the tournament bid.   He's salty.  Very, very salty.

Here are some of his Tweets on the decision.

A dominant Memphis is good for C-USA. If you're good enough to beat them, you'll be rewarded. If not, you won't. That simple.

Did these folks see what their league looked like without a dominant Memphis? It was UTEP going 15-1 in conference and getting a 12 seed.

He also retweeted this:

Cold, man RT @Eli560: @DanWolken any truth to the rumor that the UTEP presentation included Floyd handing Banowsky an envelope full of cash?

Stern Words:  The NCAA is proposing a new rule that will require freshman athletes to receive 9 academic credits in the fall semester or face an automatic four game suspension.  Students would be given a chance to annul the suspension by hitting 27 hours before the end of the summer semesters.  Mike Price is not a fan of the proposed legislation.

UTEP coach Mike Price isn't happy about the likely rule change. "Freshman year is really the hardest for everyone entering college, athlete or not," Price said. "We want them to pass all 15 hours in the fall, but sometimes it takes them time to get adjusted. Now that they might have to miss four games, that's really tough. I think this means you can take less chances on athletes, less chances on athletes with learning disabilities."

Congratulations Are in Order:  Philadelphia Eagles safety Quentin Demps graduated from UTEP on Saturday.

"It was important for me to set a good example for my kids," said Demps, who graduates from UTEP on Saturday, though he isn't coming in for the ceremony. "This is very exciting, I'm very blessed. A lot of work went into this and I'm excited I've finally graduated."



Celebration Over:  Q Demps wasn't able to celebrate his graduation too long.  He's in for a battle to make the Eagles roster. 

So, it's possible Demps will regain the chance he fumbled away a year ago, but it is far from a sure thing. He is here right now, it would seem, because he is on the fringes of the roster, along with other such former pet projects as linebacker Joe Mays.

Duke Wins Again:  Duke Keith has some thoughts on conference expansion- always nice to get some local thoughts on how it might play out.  Keith is right in that it would benefit UTEP to be in a league that makes more sense geographically.

This is the man who moved conference HQ to Las Colinas, the Dallas business suburb, from Chicago, IL, and invited SMU, Houston, Rice and UTEP to play a part. He and Miners athletic director Bob Stull have seemed pretty tight since UTEP joined the league, as well. If Banowsky is willing to release the east, UTEP could be in some heady company with no travel east of the Mississippi river.

Patience is Virtue:  Former Miner QB Carson Palmer is being patient in his quest to become a starting NFL quarterback.

The Road to Redemption:  Here's a nice feature on Derrick Caracter's road to the NBA Draft.

The road to redemption for Caracter began this season at UTEP, the college where he transferred after leaving Rick Pitino’s Louisville. He averaged 14.1 ppg and 8.1 rpg there this year, leading the Miners to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they fell to eventual runner-up Butler. At UTEP, he flashed the best of his game - the strength on the boards, the nice footwork, the excellent touch around the basket…


The Memphis Tigers

Big Loss:  The Tigers have lost Roburt Sallie for good.  The guard seems ready to play professional basketball- at home or abroad.

"This was a very difficult decision for me because of my love for Memphis -- the city and university," Sallie said in a university release. "But I am moving into a different stage of my life with graduation in August, and I feel it's time to move forward.

UAB Blazers

More Knox:  The Decatur Daily wants to know why Alabama is so scared of letting Justin Knox go to UAB.

It’s not so reasonable to keep Knox, a Tuscaloosa native, from staying close to home and going to UAB, which is his first choice, according to a family member. The Crimson Tide never has scheduled the Blazers in men’s basketball, mostly because of a cold war that developed between the two programs when UAB debuted its men’s basketball program in 1978. Here’s a bit of advice, Alabama: Let Knox transfer to UAB. It won’t hurt.

Seven Footer:  UAB's Mike Davis can't get into the NCAA tournament but he can sign some good recruits.  He may have snagged Tyree Graham- a nice center JC prospect.

UAB men's basketball recruit Tyree Graham is expected to sign with the Blazers today and another recruit -- 7-foot junior college transfer Bea Hamga -- is currently taking a recruiting visit to the schoo

League Wide

The Commish:  Britton Banowsky spoke rather candidly on C-USA expansion and realignment scenarios. (ESPN)

"We have three principles that we share with our folks," Banowsky told media. "One is, it's OK to change conferences. Unlike other conferences, we are generally comfortable with that concept. ... We have no problem with having the conversation. We have it openly. We do, however, believe while you're on the team, you've got to support the team. And that's something that we talk about."

Finally!  Liberty:  The Memphis Commercial Appeal didn't just publish articles slamming UTEP, El Paso, the league coaches and AD's, and whoever else may have had a say in the tournament decision - they also took the time to write the first coherent explanation of the league's new agreement with the Liberty Bowl.  Read this.

What was once a cut-and-dried arrangement for the Liberty Bowl to pit the C-USA champion against a team from the SEC has become a bit more complicated. When the SEC added an affiliation with the Gator Bowl for the upcoming season, it knocked the Liberty Bowl down a spot in its bowl lineup -- so far down that the SEC might not have a bowl-eligible team to send to Memphis in a given year. In response, Ehrhart added a tie-in with the Big East that would fill the void if the SEC didn't have enough teams to fill all of its bowl slots. In the agreement, however, the Big East will send a team to Memphis once every four years. Under that scenario, if the SEC continues filling all of its bowls, there's a possibility that the Liberty Bowl could feature an SEC-Big East matchup, with C-USA squeezed out.

The One that Got Away:  As noted by LaOnda & Company in the FanShots, Emmanuel Negedu is off to New Mexico.  Andy Katz has a nice article on his medical condition.  This kid has been through a lot.

He also got another opinion in Los Angeles from noted cardiologist Dr. David S. Cannom, the director of cardiology at Good Samaritan Hospital. Cannom had cleared former Pepperdine player Will Kimble to play at UTEP after the Waves wouldn't let Kimble return to the court after collapsing in 2002. Cannom told Kimble that his ICD implant would allow him to play competitive sports again.