Friday Fodder: Time to form the MWAC | NevadaAppeal.com

Friday Fodder: Time to form the MWAC

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning … The Big Ten is about to alter college sports forever. The Midwest giant is thinking of adding four more schools. Missouri, Nebraska, Rutgers and Notre Dame are supposedly on their short list with Maryland, Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt also on their radar. Once the Big Ten makes its decision, it will likely trigger a chain reaction that could trickle all the way down to the Western Athletic Conference. If that happens, the Nevada Wolf Pack needs to be ready to move. There is talk of the WAC and Mountain West Conference forming a super conference, sort of the western version of the Big East. That would be the best and smartest move for both conferences. But if the WAC and MWC egos get in the way and the two want to remain separate entities, the Pack needs to knock on the MWC’s door with their resume in hand if an opening is there for the taking.

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The WAC has been OK for the Pack. But that’s it. Just OK. It certainly hasn’t been anything to get excited about. Let’s face it, other than Boise State and Fresno State in football and Utah State in men’s basketball, the rivalries are boring and lifeless and lack any sort of excitement and intensity. It’s a big reason why crowds at Pack events have been flat at best in recent years. A super conference – call it the Mountain Western Athletic Conference, the MWAC – would be a shot in the arm for all the schools involved. UNLV and Nevada would be united. That alone makes it the smart choice for the Pack.

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The Associated Press has established a very dangerous precedent. The news agency voted for the second time on its NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award this week after it was announced that winner Brian Cushing tested positive last September for using what the NFL considers a performance enhancing substance. Cushing, though, also won the award in the second vote. One idiot voter actually changed his vote from another player and gave it to Cushing. So now it looks as if the AP condones PED use. Where does this end? Will the baseball writers now take another vote on the 16 Most Valuable Player awards won by proven or suspected PED users (Barry Bonds leads the list with seven) since 1988? It’s time journalists stop handing out awards. Journalists should be in the business of covering the news, not making it. Since professional sports is now tainted forever by widespread illegal drug use, it’s time journalists step away from the ugliness and cheating and stop being a part of it and, in the case of Cushing’s silly award, stop putting their stamp of approval on it.

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The NHL is having a wonderful postseason. The Montreal Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks are all still alive. The last team out of that bunch to win the Stanley Cup is the Canadiens in 1993. Chicago (1961), Boston (1972) and Philadelphia (1975) all won it 35 or more years ago and San Jose has never even been to the Finals. The Bay Area hasn’t had a champion in the big four (football, baseball, basketball, hockey) since the 1994 San Francisco 49ers. I don’t even want to think about what would happen to the Cup if it spent a summer in the Bay Area.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would like to put a minimum age of 21 for NBA players. It will never happen but it would be a good step. But it would only be a baby step. If Abdul-Jabbar’s rule was currently in place, it wouldn’t have even prevented Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson from leaving the Wolf Pack this spring. Johnson is already 21 and Babbitt will be 21 when the 2010-11 season starts. The only Pack player who left school early that would have had to wait is JaVale McGee, who was 20 when he left the Pack after the 2007-08 season. The rule that desperately needs to be implemented is to require players to stay at least two years in college basketball. They then would at least have to take more than three classes in college to stay eligible.

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Hardly anybody has noticed, but the Wolf Pack baseball team has a chance to have its best season since 2000. The Pack is currently 27-18-1 and has a legitimate shot at winning more than 35 games and qualifying for the NCAA regionals for the first time in a decade. The Pack has nine games remaining in the regular season and at least two in the WAC tournament. They would have to win the WAC tournament to get to the regionals but this team is built to win a tournament with its solid starting pitching depth (Brock Stassi, Chris Garcia, Jeremy Cole and Tom Jameson).