LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The American Athletic Conference era has begun, during Independence Day week no less. For football fans in Louisville, it will be a short stay. It's like purgatory, if purgatory had a BCS bid and road trips to Temple and Connecticut.
The trend is going to be to "kick around The American," as the conference would like to be known. There's a special brand of elitism in college sports, just as there is in academia in general.
That won't be The 'Book's attitude toward this league. No, it isn't strong in football. Yes, it lacks tradition and big names. But take a look at its members and you'll notice something.
Oh, right. It's members. Perhaps now would be a good time to get down exactly who they are. As many national publications mentioned, on the league's official first day of existence, even Connecticut's official website botched the membership. ESPN published a map of conference members and got the location of only one of them right.
The American is made up of Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, Southern Methodist and Temple.
They are, with the exception of UConn, schools located in cities. The city university's heyday was in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Louisville and Houston rose up in basketball, as did Marquette, Memphis and DePaul. Universities located in cities generally lack traditional college feel. Houston has to deal with Texas (and others), Cincinnati with Ohio State, Memphis with Tennessee, Louisville with Kentucky and on down the line.
These generally weren't institutions given preferential treatment even within their own state. They are schools that have had to fight for their own growth and progress.
For the University of Louisville, and I'm guessing others in this league, that's pretty much a snapshot of its history.
They are schools thrown together by a process designed to keep them out of a grand revenue sharing experiment, a concerted effort to share the proceeds of a lucrative football playoff with as few schools as the major conferences can get away with.
They will fight for a single scrap, a lone berth in a playoff system; not in the four-team playoff, mind you, but in a preferred group of bowl games.
That's next year, when Louisville will move to the ACC and days of being on the outside looking in are over until the big boys get itchy for more money.
This year? Louisville remains in The American. At U of L, the process of eradicating the Big East logo already has begun. The process of affixing new logos has not. There will be a few items with The American's letter "A" attached, color-coded to match U of L colors. But by and large, the greater transformation will be a year from now, though even that has not been finally decided. American commissioner Mike Aresco said that talks are congenial, but no agreement has been reached.
Reinvention has been a way of life for many of these schools since 2005 when conference realignment first kicked up. Aresco said as much, when he said, "The Big East had to reinvent itself several times, but it's always made the school coming in better. That's going to happen with the new teams because they're going to play better competition. They're going to have a TV deal with good exposure."
Maybe that will be the case again. For Louisville fans, be respectful. The schools you're leaving behind used to be you. But don't forget -- you are leaving them behind.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong sent out a letter to agents that if they approach his players while still in the playing season, he'll see to it that any offenders don't sign anyone. It's a great pitch, if it works. But can it?
No. If a player or his parents want to talk to an agent, they can. There's no NCAA rule prohibiting it. Rose Murphy, the mother of Teddy Bridgewater, told The Courier-Journal last week that she was inundated with agent calls and wanted it to stop. That prompted Strong to issue his no-agent manifesto. But one player doesn't make a whole team. And the fact is, most of these players need time to interview agents and some already have relationships with agents.
There's nothing against NCAA rules in players or their families talking with agents. The violations come if there is an agreement with an agent, or if there is talk of making an agreement. That, of course, is ludicrous. What else is there to talk to an agent about? Strong's heart is in the right place. And his "hands off" warning to agents might be the best thing for players of Bridgewater's ability. But most players are not of Bridgewater's ability, and if an agent calls, they might like the opportunity to see what he has to say.
Nor does Strong's threat of keeping a player from signing with agents who violate his rules have much bite. If the player goes along with them, the threats could have some effect. And if the players don't? Well, that's up to the players.
DUMERVIL NAMED ONE OF TOP 10 D-LINEMEN OF BCS ERA
Athlon Sports loves to rank things. We report the results. In a ranking of the top 10 defensive linemen of the BCS era (1998-present) the magazine has some love for a Louisville player.
Elvis Dumervil, who set an NCAA single-game sack record with six against Kentucky and broke the NCAA record for forced fumbles with 10 as a senior in 2005, came in at No. 9 on the list.
The magazine said Dumervil "posted one of the greatest single seasons in NCAA history. He also broke Dwight Freeney's Big East single-season sack record with 20 sacks, and went in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
Yeah, that's right, fourth round. Let's just say a lot of people missed on Dumervil, though his senior year in college provided plenty of warning that he could rush the passer.
USA TODAY NAMES BRIDGEWATER NO. 7 PLAYER IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL
USA Today was out this week with its list of the top 50 players in college football. No. 1 was defending Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, No. 2 South Carolina defensive end Jadaveon Clowney and No. 3 USC wideout Marqise Lee.
Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville checked in at No. 7. The newspaper said Bridgewater, "made the 'leap' as a sophomore, throwing for 3,700 yards and 27 touchdowns while finishing top ten in passer rating. He should eviscerate a pitiful Louisville schedule in 2013 and, if he comes out, be the top quarterback on NFL Draft boards."
KENTUCKY BUYS ADS IN TIME, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED AND THE WEEK
Kentucky continues its football marketing blitz with advertisements in three major magazines -- Time, Sports Illustrated and The Week. Though the three ads will only be seen in Kentucky (at a cost of about $15,000), it still points to a new approach behind coach Mark Stoops and his UK program.
"Coach Stoops has generated incredible excitement around this program," Nathan Schwake, UK's assistant athletics director of marketing and licensing, told the UK "Cat Scratches" blog. "Our goal is to keep building on it."
The magazine ad is part of a summer-long season-ticket sales campaign and will be complemented by billboards with the same "A Nation Awakes" theme, some of which already can be seen in Louisville. UK advertises football season tickets every year on those billboards, but this year opted to scale back its outdoor presence and purchase magazine space in the Lexington and Louisville markets.
"Just like with our Super Bowl spot in February, we had to make sure we created an ad that matched the prestige of the medium," Schwake said. "We want people to turn the page in these magazines and know UK football belongs."
URBAN MEYER: "NO TRUTH TO HERNANDEZ RUMORS AT FLORIDA"
The arrest and subsequent murder charge of Aaron Hernandez have set people to re-examining Hernandez's career at all levels, and have made for some criticism of his college coach, Urban Meyer, at Florida.
Meyer hasn't spoken on the Hernandez arrest -- until today, when he text-messaged the Gainesville Sun newspaper.
"I just received an email from a friend where there is an accusation of multiple failed drug tests covered up by the Univ. of Florida or the coaching staff. This is absolutely not true," Meyer texted the newspaper. "Hernandez was held to the same standard as every other player.
"He was an athlete at Florida 4-to-7 years ago and there are some comments being made that are not correct. Our staff, myself and our families worked very hard to mentor and guide him. Prayers and thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim. Relating or blaming these serious charges to the Univ. of Florida, myself or our staff is wrong and irresponsible."
In a later conversation with the newspaper, read more here, Meyer was asked about a 2007 shooting in which Hernandez was questioned by Gainesville police. Meyer said, "I didn't think about it again until a couple of days ago."
Meyer did tell the paper that Hernandez was suspended for a 2008 game for a failed marijuana test, but did not fail another.
The New York Times, in a story today, takes a new look at the 31 player arrests at Florida in Meyer's tenure, from 2005 to 2010. Read more here.
The Paul Hornung Award, now in its fourth season, is given annually to the most versatile player in college football by the Louisville Sports Commission and Hornung. Western Kentucky's Antonio Andrews is one of three returning players to the list, and is this season's local representative on the preseason "watch list." Here's the entire 44-player list:
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska Antonio Andrews, WKU Dri Archer, Kent State D.J. Banks, Louisiana Tech Odell Beckham Jr., LSU Corey Brown, Ohio State Isaiah Burse, Fresno State Trey Burton, Florida Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest Brandon Carter, TCU Chris Coyer, Temple Quandre Diggs, Texas Stefon Diggs, Maryland Bruce Ellington, South Carolina Tyler Ervin, San Jose State Cody Fajardo, Nevada JD Falslev, BYU D.J. Foster, Arizona State Jerry "BooBoo" Gates, Bowling Green Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State Jamal Golden, Georgia Tech Scott Harding, Hawaii Akeem Hunt, Purdue Kyshoen Jarrett, Virginia Tech Duke Johnson, Miami (FLA) Christion Jones, Alabama Marqise Lee, Southern California Tommylee Lewis, Northern Illinois Tyler Lockett, Kansas State Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M Venric Mark, Northwestern Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia Marcus Murphy, Missouri LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida Bernard Reedy, Toledo Jamill Smith, Ball State Damien Thigpen, UCLA De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon Tramaine Thompson, Kansas State Sammy Watkins, Clemson Trey Watts, Tulsa