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VOL. 131 | NO. 149 | Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Will Memphis Make the Big 12 Cut?

By Don Wade

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Another day, another media source outside of Memphis ranking the Big 12 expansion candidates. The following evaluation comes from The Orlando Sentinel.

The University of Memphis is one of several contenders for joining the Big 12 if the league expands, and the recent rise of the football program perhaps helps the Tigers’ cause.

(Daily News File)

The good news? The University of Memphis made the cut as one of five favorites.

The bad news? Memphis is listed fifth on that list and, at most, the league will expand by four teams.

Houston is considered the top favorite and recent indications are that there is now more solidarity regarding Big 12 expansion within the state of Texas than either the Democratic or Republican Party can claim this election cycle.

The Texas governor is behind it. The University of Texas and Texas Tech are for it.

And Houston is a Top 10 television market. That matters.

Which makes things really tricky for the other contenders. Nationally, BYU continues to be regarded as a top choice because of its football tradition and, by the way, it does have its own TV network. But the school won’t play on Sundays and Utah isn’t exactly convenient and is isolated.

UConn is the other side of the BYU coin with its strength in basketball – men’s and women’s – and the program regarded as a gateway to media in the northeast.

Cincinnati is solid but not great in football and basketball and gives West Virginia a travel partner. But the Bearcats have been mentioned for so long without ever making a move into a Power Five, one wonders if they will always finish as a runner-up.

Memphis fits well enough geographically but the big advantage, of course, is Fred Smith and FedEx. If it truly comes down to money – and what doesn’t in college sports? – the U of M may be able to gain entry. But understand, the rest of the country is not quite as impressed with the recent football success and more concerned with a long-term resume short on wins.

And Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium is not exactly the kind of playground that Oklahoma and Texas are used to occupying on Saturdays.

Still, if the Big 12 takes four teams, Memphis would seem at least as qualified as Cincinnati. And Memphis and Cincinnati together with Houston and UConn seems to make more sense than BYU.

All that also assumes that perceived longer shots such as Boise State and UCF don’t change the equation. And if we’ve learned anything about the Big 12, it’s assume nothing.

Cubs Acquire Aroldis Chapman; Will Cardinals also Deal?

If there was any doubt before, there shouldn’t be now. The Chicago Cubs proved they are all-in on this season by trading four players, including their top shortstop prospect, to the New York Yankees for the fastest gun in the game: closer Aroldis Chapman.

The lefthander routinely throws his fastball in excess of 100 mph and has hit 105 this season. That season, of course, started late after MLB suspended him for an incident in which he allegedly choked his girlfriend.

So Chapman comes with some baggage and, when a pitcher throws this hard, the constant concern that his elbow might go on any given pitch. But it’s a risk Cubs general manager Theo Epstein is willing to take. Chapman is an expensive short-term rental, but apparently no price is too high if the Cubs go on to win the World Series.

And yes, that is the very possible goal.

The Cubs gave up Gleyber Torres, their best shortstop prospect, pitcher Adam Warren and a pair of outfield prospects to get the deal done.

Realistically, the St. Louis Cardinals are pursuing a wildcard spot and not trying to chase down the Cubs for the National League Central Division title. That said, they still have to face the Cubs and never fared too well against Chapman when he worked for the Cincinnati Reds.

As Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the Chapman trade was made, “I think we’re really due to get to him, to be honest.”

Overdue. The Cardinals have not scored on Chapman since late 2011.

Meantime, the Cardinals have their own bullpen issues with Trevor Rosenthal having lost the closer’s role. They may be in the market for help and may be able to get it at a cost less than what the Cubs paid the Yankees for Chapman.

Suffice to say, anyone new joining the Cardinals’ bullpen has never made a radar gun read 105 and velocity alone is not a guarantee of success. Rosenthal has thrown up triple digits on the gun before, and still goes high 90’s. And he’s been very hittable this year.

Peyton Manning Cleared by NFL

The National Football League officially has cleared retired quarterback Peyton Manning of any wrongdoing after conducting its own investigation into allegations made in a documentary by Al-Jazeera America that Manning had used HGH or other banned substances while an active player.

Based on that documentary, however, the NFL is continuing to investigate accusations made against other players.

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