Thoughts of the Day: June 8, 2021

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:

THINGS THAT HAVE ME THINKING ON A MONDAY EVENING A theory about UF contract extensions: Florida fans have been second-guessing athletic director Scott Stricklin ever since it was announced that he had extended the contracts of football coach Dan Mullen, basketball coach Mike White and women’s basketball coach Cam Newbauer. Mullen had three years added to his contract (he’s signed through 2027) and had his pay raised to $7.6 million per year. White didn’t get a raise but had two years added to his contract (signed through 2027). Newbauer, who has yet to post a winning record in four years on the job, received a three-year extension through 2025.


On the surface, none of the contract extensions make a ton of sense, particularly to Newbauer at a time when LSU just made a 7-year, $22.5 million commitment to women’s basketball in the form of Hall of Fame coach Kim Mulkey, who won three national championships at Baylor. How do you compete with that when the program is spinning its wheels and the perception is that women’s basketball at Florida is nothing more than a Title IX requirement?


Although Mullen’s season ended poorly with three straight losses, he did get the Gators to a third straight New Year’s Eve bowl game. Because he already was under contract until 2024 and was already making $6 million a lot of Gator fans felt the raise and extension was a bit much. From a symbolic sense, however, it does tell recruits that Florida is 100 percent behind its football coach but the perception among many fans and a good portion of the media is that Mullen will bolt for the NFL at the first opportunity to be a head coach.


Other than White’s second year on the job in 2017, the Gators really haven’t made a dent in the NCAA Tournament, cause for consternation among UF fans who believe White is the Peter Principle personified. The three-year extension without a pay raise has raised plenty of eyebrows among fans and the basketball media.


I have a theory why Stricklin gave the extensions. It is my opinion that Stricklin is so focused in dealing with Florida facilities deficit that he doesn’t want to be bothered with coaching searches for awhile. That the University of Florida is middle-of-the-pack in the Southeastern Conference when it comes to facilities is disgraceful and Stricklin knows he’s got to act swiftly before UF falls farther behind. The top priority at this moment is the stand-alone football facility, scheduled to be completed in 2022. Since football is the cash cow for all sports, the stand-alone facility will level what has for years been a most unlevel playing field when it comes to recruiting. Until the new facility opens, Mullen will continue to be at a serious recruiting disadvantage.


When Stricklin took over as Florida’s athletic director, there was no facilities master plan. He inherited an O-Dome renovation project that had to be re-started and went way over budget and an indoor practice facility that also had cost overruns since no one took into account there were no end zones, bathrooms, scoreboards, etc. Stricklin has overseen the new Florida Ballpark, which is a serious upgrade, and there are other facilities on the drawing board.


Of course, new facilities require more money and in addition to the planning that goes into bring Florida athletic facilities into the 21st century, he has to do some serious fund raising. That’s another area that went lacking prior to Stricklin’s arrival.


So back to the original premise. It’s easier to give contract extensions at a time when the focus needs to be elsewhere than it does to deal with buyouts, coaching searches and the cost of hiring new coaches. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Tre Mann in ESPN and CBS mock NBA drafts: A month ago just about every mock NBA draft had Florida’s Tre Mann going somewhere between 13-15. A month later he’s still in the first round but both ESPN and CBS have added Michigan’s Franz Wagner and Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson to as lottery picks and three international players inside the top 20, bumping Mann down a little bit. ESPN has him going No. 20 to the Atlanta Hawks while CBS has Mann going No. 21 to the New York Knicks. I don’t see Mann as a good fit with the Hawks who have Bogdan Bogdanovic (16.4 points per game) and Kevin Huerter (11.9 points per game), both very good 3-point shooters. The Knicks already have R.J. Barrett (17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds) and they desperately need a point guard since Derrick Rose is 32 and hasn’t played a full schedule since 2010. Mann would fit best with the Memphis Grizzlies, who need a dynamic scorer to pair up with Ja Morant.


Nick Saban gets a contract extension: Alabama is giving Nick Saban a contract extension that comes with a pay raise and will keep him in Tuscaloosa at least until February 28, 2029. Saban, who is 70 years old, will work with a base salary of $8.425 million but with bonuses and incentives, he will be making in excess of $10 million a year.


As Andy Staples of The Athletic pointed out, Saban would be cheap at three times the price when you consider the amount of money he brings in to the University of Alabama. As one example, Staples points out that just since 2011 the number of out-of-state students at Alabama has doubled from more than 11,000 to more than 22,000 and one of the chief reasons is the kind of publicity and advertising that comes from Alabama football being on TV all the time and winning those national championships. Out-of-state students pay more than $30,000 a year in tuition while in-state students pay $10,780. Staples writes the out-of-state students are “worth an additional $200.4 million a year to the school.”


I know a lot of SEC football fans wish Saban would ride off into the sunset sooner than the 2028 season, but I contend that Nick is good for the SEC. The league has won 11 national championships (Alabama 6, Florida 2, LSU 2, Auburn 1) since 2006 when Florida started a run of seven straight. Alabama raises the bar of expectation at every SEC school and because expectations are so high, there is a greater commitment to football from top to bottom of the league that attracts the best players, fills stadiums on game day and results in unprecedented television contracts.


The SEC distributed more than $45 million to each school for the athletic season that ended in the spring of 2020 and that’s with a CBS television contract that pays each SEC school around $3 million. There is a new contract with ESPN that goes into effect after the 2023 season and will pay each school $20 million, bringing the yearly distribution to more than $60 million per school. That pays for a lot of new facilities, scholarships, etc. And think about this: our country cousins in the Almost Competitive Conference just broke $30 million distribution for the first time. The Big 12 did $37 million last year. The Pac-12 barely made it to $30 million. Here in the state of Florida, Florida State and Miami (both ACC) will be pinching pennies while Florida is on TV more often and rakes in practically double the amount of money. Recruits will notice.


For that, we can thank Nick Saban, who has made the SEC brand hotter than it’s ever been. So, is he good for the SEC? You bet.


OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC

Alabama: Patrick Murphy needs to be second-guessed after Alabama lost two straight games to Florida State at the Women’s College World Series. Sunday, Murphy elected to sit Montana Fouts, who had pitched a perfect game against UCLA Friday night. Instead, he started Lexi Kilfoyil and lost, 2-0. He brought back Fouts Monday evening but she wasn’t anything close to the pitcher she was the first two games of the WCWS when she went 14 shutout innings, striking out 30. Fouts gave up six runs and seven hits in 2-2/3 innings as FSU took an 8-5 win to advance to the championship series against Oklahoma.

Arkansas: The Razorbacks (49-11) had to come from behind to knock off Nebraska, 6-2, in a do or die game to take the Fayetteville regional. The No. 1 national seed Razorbacks will host North Carolina State (33-17) in super regional play … Cody Kennedy, who was the O-line coach at Tulane in 2019-20 before joining the Arkansas staff, has been moved from tight ends to O-line to replace Brad Davis, who left last week for LSU.

Auburn: JT Thor (6-10, 205) will remain in the NBA Draft. Thor averaged 9.0 points and 5.4 rebounds as a true freshman. ESPN lists him as the No. 66 prospect. The NBA Draft is two rounds, 60 players.

Georgia: Shooting guard Andrew Garcia (6-6, 225, SR) is transferring to Kent State. Garcia averaged 8.7 points and 4.0 rebounds last year … Softball coach Lu Harris-Champer, who took Georgia to the Women’s College World Series, announced her retirement. She had more than 1,100 wins in 25 years, the last 21 at Georgia.

LSU: Paul Manieri lives to coach another day. The soon-to-be retired LSU baseball coach is heading to the Knoxville super regional after the Tigers (38-23) won the Eugene Regional by knocking off host and No. 14 seed Oregon,

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (43-15) beat Campbell, 6-5, Monday afternoon to advance to win the Starkville regional. The 7th-seeded Bulldogs will host 10th-seeded Notre Dame (33-11) in the super regional.

Missouri: Wide receiver Jalen Knox has officially entered his name in the transfer portal. In his three years at Mizzou, Knox caught 77 passes for 1,031 yards and four touchdowns.

Ole Miss: Ole Miss (44-20) finished off Southern Miss, 12-8, Monday afternoon to win the Oxford regional. The 12th-seeded Rebels travel to Tucson to face 5th-seeded Arizona (43-15) in the super regional … Power forward/center Khadim Sy (6-10, 240, GR) is transferring to Wake Forest. Sy averaged 3.1 points and 1.9 rebounds last season, but in 2019-20 averaged 9.0 points and 5.5 rebounds.

Tennessee: The national No. 3 seed Vols (48-16) will be hosting a super regional against a familiar face. LSU (38-23) emerged from the Eugene regional to set up an all-SEC super regional in Knoxville.

Vanderbilt: Fourth-seeded Vanderbilt (43-15) will host 13th-seeded East Carolina (44-15) in the Nashville super regional … Power forward Akeem Odusipe (6-9, 230, FR) is transferring to Kent State. He averaged 0.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in 11 games last season.


ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: The College Football Playoff is going to expand, most likely a couple of years before the current contract expires. Over the past four or so months there has been plenty of speculation that the CFP people will choose to walk before they run, which means a six-team playoff for a couple of years before adding two more teams. In the six-team format the champs of all five power conferences would get in with one spot held for Notre Dame or a higher ranked team from the Group of Five. In the eight-team format, the power conference champs would get in with the top-ranked team from the Group of Five and two wild cards that could include Notre Dame and the next highest ranked team. One more proposal is making the rounds, however, and that is a 12-team tournament that would include all ten Division I champs and two wild cards. The four highest seeded teams would get a bye while the other eight teams would play for a spot in the quarter-finals. If sounds interesting, but my guess is this is the least likely proposal to be adapted. While I think the Power Five would prefer the six-team model, I think the pressure will be too great to include at least one Group of Five team every year and the only way that will work is eight teams. In my opinion, we’ll see expansion in 2023.

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