The OKTC-Fox Sports merger is complete

I’ve been keeping an eye on Clay Travis’ SEC-football-oriented site, Outkick the Coverage, since its inception, more recently tracking changes associated with the site’s acquisition by Fox Sports. As detailed in the comments here, certain small changes indicating the Fox connection had been appearing on OKTC as early as last July, and today, that transformation appears to be complete, as evidenced by the site’s facade redesign.

oktcnewEven the base URL and browser tab icon have become those of FoxSports.com:

oktctabPerhaps most importantly, OKTC now has a permanent link on FoxSports.com’s college football portal page, favorably situated right under the College Football header.

fscomThis can only portent well for Travis, who has continued to expand his television role with Fox Sports 1, even parlaying that into a Super Bowl assignment. Travis has been public about his expiring contract with what has been his main employer, WGFX, 104.5 FM in Nashville. While Clay seems unlikely to leave Music City and the SEC football beat entirely, he definitely is expanding his reach and the scope of his coverage. The only thing that seems unlikely for Travis in the near future, given his deepening ties with Fox and a possibly distant relationship with Paul Finebaum (or at least Finebaum’s callers), is a move to ESPN’s SEC Network, which launches this August. Fox undoubtedly recognizes the value of the SEC and the Southeast. How heavily they’ll rely on Travis to bring that audience to Fox remains to be seen, but they certainly aren’t running away from him.

Sensational Sporst Synergy: Clay Travis and Fox Sports

oktcfoxsportsAs of last night, Clay Travis’ Outkick the Coverage has merged with Fox Sports. The exact nature of the relationship is not clear. According to Fox Sports, “Clay Travis has officially joined FOXSports.com as a contributor.” As Clay tells it,

Outkick the Coverage and FoxSports.com have entered into a partnership agreeement. OKTC won’t change at all, we’ll just have a much broader audience. And those times when you try to hop on the site and we’re overloaded with traffic and you can’t get to our article?

Yeah, that won’t happen again.

Which is why FoxSports.com is hosting our latest story.

Did that ever happen to anyone? Anyway, Clay continued (as he always does): “After a lot of conversations FoxSports.com made the most sense and I’m excited about what’s to come.” He promises more details in the future, and for now says: “I have editorial control and Fox doesn’t want us to change at all.”

Together with MSN, Fox Sports already owns Yardbarker, which it bought in 2010, and through which it has a relationship with similar sites, such as Larry Brown Sports. Fox Sports seems to like to keep all of these formerly independent blogs underneath the umbrella of its Yardbarker Network. Major questions at this point include whether OKTC will receive the same treatment, whether OKTC itself will become a mere FoxSports.com reverse-portal, and what it means for Clay to be a FoxSports.com “contributor” (and why Clay did not reference that label on his own site).

As for clues about what Clay thinks– or thought– about Fox Sports, we can turn to the premiere source of information on all things Clay, Clay Travis, who in August 2012 responded to a question about ranking the major sports media outlets’ college football coverage by rating Fox Sports last among the given options, adding

I would rank Fox Sports last in its coverage of every sport. In its humor. In everything that it does online. I truly have no idea what this company is doing. FoxSports.com is a complete and total disaster of a site. So it’s no surprise that it’s also bad at college football. It’s also behind SBNation, Bleacher Report, and even OKTC.

Less than a month ago, he wrote that he had not visited FoxSports.com in over a year: “I barely have a conception of what [the page looks] like on direct entry.” Now that his article is plastered atop the front page of FoxSPorts.com, though, it’s probably his homepage.

The slowest day in sports blogging?

Things have been a little slow around here lately, but hey, we aren’t the only ones. Deadspin’s pulling an amateur radio move and begging for calls, while Clay Travis has been padding his content at Outkick the Coverage by reposting months-old articles by guest writers.

Fortunately, we have tons of great content sitting in the hopper just waiting for that finishing touch and a push out the door. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, go Wings!

On paying college athletes: Schools’ obligations under the status quo

Last week, Clay Travis argued, credibly, that all Wonderlic Test scores should be made public. For whatever reason, these scores are the only NFL combine results not made public. Every year, though, someone leaks a few of the scores to the media, and this year was no exception. According to the testing company, a score of ten indicates literacy, while a twenty indicates average intelligence. The three leaked scores were a twelve (Justin Hunter, Tennessee), an eleven (Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee), and a seven (Tavon Austin, West Virginia). Travis explained his larger takeaway point:

So all three of these wide receivers tested borderline literate, and substantially less intelligent than an average security guard would test.

Yet all three receivers have been eligible to play college football for years.

Isn’t this prima facie evidence of academic fraud? I mean, if you can barely read the Wonderlic test, how in the world have you been eligible at a four year college without significant cheating?

Travis goes on to writhe in the muckety muck of “academic fraud . . . one of the great untold stories of major college athletics” and cast  now-common aspersions on the NCAA.

It’s the NCAA that tends to bear the brunt of the building criticism of the college athletics status quo from the likes of Travis and his former employer, Deadspin, and the NCAA probably deserves most of that criticism. On this issue, though, it’s the schools themselves that deserve a critical assessment, not the NCAA.

The boom-bust cycle that is the volume of the discussion over whether college athletes should be paid is in a boom phase at the moment, but the substance of the conversation has not changed much over the years. Those in favor of paying college athletes point to the large revenue streams college athletics produce for schools and the NCAA and argue that it’s wrong that the athletes are not allowed to share in those profits; those opposed argue that the student-athletes are being compensated in the form of a free college education. The two sides actually seem to agree, at least implicitly, on the fundamental premise that college athletes should be compensated, and their disagreement is with the degree to and manner in which the athletes should be compensated: Proponents want new cash payments, perhaps held in trust, for the students, while opponents believe a free education constitutes sufficient compensation.

Test results indicating that students are flirting with illiteracy after three or four years of college are evidence that schools are not even keeping up their bargain to provide student-athletes with an education.

Midseason Monday

We’re into the meat of the 2012 football season with heavy games for most teams from here on out. It’s also the time when teams’ reputations for the year become solidified. One such team is Auburn, which fell to 1-6 on the season, 0-5 in conference with a 17-13 loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville. Four years ago, I watched these teams play under the lights in the same stadium. In 2008, Auburn was 5-0 and highly ranked, but the game outcome was the same. This year’s win over the TIgers/Plainsmen/Eagles won’t do as much for the Commodores’ strength of schedule, but it does push them to 2-3 in the conference, and it’s an important win to kick off the second half of a schedule that should be easier than the first.

While Vanderbilt took a necessary step in the positive direction Saturday, Michigan State took another step toward a lost season with a 12-10 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor. More on that game later in the week. Back to the SEC for a moment, where the Eastern division is one of the most power concentrated and confusing divisions in the nation. Florida swamped South Carolina, 44-11, to go to 7-0 (6-0), while Georgia escaped Lexington with a 29-24 win over Kentucky. If Florida’s going to lose a game this year, it will be next week when they host Georgia, because the rest of their schedule is soft cake (Missouri, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State, and Florida State). In the SEC West, LSU and Texas A&M renewed their rivalry in a compelling game featuring early Aggie control and a Tiger comeback win.

Elsewhere in the top 25, Alabama and Oregon rolled. Two quick notes on Oregon: 1) I’m worried that Florida’s #2 rating in the first BCS, together with their easy finishing schedule, will mean that we don’t get to see Alabama and Oregon in the national championship game, a matchup that feels very compelling and intriguing; and 2) the ALDLAND staff is still waiting on it’s autographed Oregon cheerleader calendar. Jog back to the SEC West, where Mississippi State is the most unheralded undefeated team in the country. After beating MTSU Saturday, though, they’re unlikely to stay that way, finishing with Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. Of course, nothing is more perennially unheralded than the Starkville Dogs, and that schedule only has something to do with it. Most of the rest of the top 25 won, including Clemson, Oregon State, and Stanford in important conference games. The upstart Texas Tech Red Raiders survived in triple overtime to beat TCU, and the very impressive Kansas State beat West Virginia in Morgantown 55-14 in a game in which I’d only somewhat jokingly predicted WVU would score 100 after being embarrassed the week before. Dana Holgorson’s air raid offense appears to be out of jet fuel.

On Sunday, the Vikings continue to mount an increasingly compelling challenge to those who would dismiss them by going to 5-2 with a win over flash in the pan Arizona. RGIII continues to impress despite another close loss, this week to the Giants. The Saints doubled their win total by beating Tampa Bay, and the Raiders came back to beat the ailing Jaguars, who lost Maurice Jones-Drew and Blaine Gabbert, sending out the bat signal for David Garrard (I hope). The Patriots beat the Jets in overtime, although VSL’s Bobby O’Shea, a noted Jets fan, thinks that something is wrong in New England, and I’m inclined to agree. Whether it was the defensive injuries Baltimore suffered last week or Houston’s push to come back from a loss, the Texans returned to 2012 form with a 43-13 win over the Ravens.

In baseball, the World Series is nearly set. The Tigers are in(!), and the Cardinals and Giants are playing a game seven right now, which the Giants are winning 7-0 in the fourth. In other current news, Ndamukong Suh just separated Jay Cutler’s neck from the rest of his body. Bears 10, Lions 0 in the first half.

Instant reaction: South Carolina 17, Vanderbilt 13

As football season regularizes our schedule, ALDLAND’s regular Monday recaps will return in short order, but given the hype of last night’s CFB season-opener, some instant reaction seems appropriate.

We go now to the most reactionary of instant reactors. Clay Travis writes:

Every time I see SEC commissioner Mike Slive at big games, he tells me the same thing, he’s not rooting for either team, he’s just rooting for the officials.

On Thursday night en route to a South Carolina 17-13 victory, Slive’s team lost.

SEC officials missed a crucial and clear pass interference call that would have given Vanderbilt a first down at the South Carolina 47. Would the Commodores have scored a touchdown to win? Maybe not, but we’ll never know.

Instead fans left fuming over the latest, greatest near miss Vanderbilt Commodore upset victory.

Read the rest here.

The 2012 NBA finals: Resurrecting the Zombie Sonics allows attention-seeking bloggers to go all-in on LeBron James

The very elemental 2012 NBA finals tip off tonight between the Heat and Thunder, and while we don’t know which way Captain Planet’s going with this one, I did think everybody outside of South Beach was on board with cheering for Oklahoma City. Probably more accurately, I thought everybody was on board with rooting against LeBron James & co.

Now that King James is (again, admittedly) on the verge of winning his first NBA championship, the internet’s writing hands are rushing to join his camp. Whether they really are tired of harping on James for The Decision, the pep rally, and his promise of eight championships in Miami or they’re just following the old, adhere to one view for a long time and then publicly and suddenly change positions to get attention model, or maybe they see that James’ time is here and they want to be on the right side of history, everybody’s suddenly all-in on LeBron James.

How to accomplish this switch? Remind everybody saying OKC “did it the right way” that OKC did it the wrong way first, by ripping the franchise out of Seattle. Continue reading

James Franklin’s Recruiting Strategy: Your Wife Better Be Smokin’

Now that Franklin and Gratham have buried the hatchet, I think we can turn to more important, ahem, *qualities* that Franklin brings to the picture.  Namely, hot women:

Franklin, in a relaxed mood near the beach, explained, “I’ve been saying it for a long time, I will not hire an assistant until I see his wife.  If she looks the part and she’s a D1 recruit, then you got a chance to get hired. That’s part of the deal.  There’s a very strong correlation between having the confidence, going up and talking to a women, and being quick on your feet and having some personality and confidence and being articulate and confident, than it is walking into a high school and recruiting a kid and selling him.”

As an added bonus, one of Franklin’s assistant coaches gives a shout out to AD’s favorite writer:

@coachingsearch: James Franklin will not hire you unless your wife is a smoke show. http://bit.ly/KxYmPy ” This-I def outkicked my coverage!

Scrutiny of the Bounty: A prequel

We’ve been quiet here lately, though not for a lack of notable sports events, even if they are coming in the one sport that’s currently in it’s offseason. Two big NFL stories have been developing in fits and tumbles over the past week or two: 1) Peyton Manning leaving the Indianapolis Colts, and 2) Gregg Williams and Bountygate. There isn’t much to say about the first story yet, or maybe ever. He’ll go to a team. It won’t be the Titans. And we’ll get some variety of Joe Montana in Kansas City or Brett Favre in New York. He won’t have teammates like Marvin Harrison, Jeff Saturday, and Dallas Clark who are on his level, and we’ll probably see a lot of sad Manningfaces peering out of an unfamiliarly colored helmet.

As for the second story: first, a nod to Deadspin for the title tag to this post, and very quickly second, this:

That out of the way, how much can one really say about the bounties Williams and certainly other coaches paid to players for big hits on important players, and how much does one really want to say given the at least tiresome and likely nauseating cliche-laden moral hand-wringing on the part of the sports media?

Instead, we’ll offer a short, derivative series on the bounty story through the eyes of the evolving media reaction. As usual when I start a series of posts without fully mapping it out, the first post is the best (e.g., here and here), and this is likely to be no exception.

This first item is interesting because it was a profile of the New Orleans Saints’ defense under Williams published just before the bounty story broke. Untainted by the news of the bounties, the NFL’s investigation, or the media reaction to it, The Classical’s Charles Star offers up an innocent (from the writer’s perspective) take that’s telling upon retrospective re-read:

Continue reading