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32 posts from January 2013

January 20, 2013

Heat signs Birdman; Financial decisions loom for Heat, Dolphins, Marlins; Fins, UM chatter

SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE; SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

The Heat signed veteran center Chris Andersen to a 10-day contract, giving the team a skilled rebounder and shot-blocker. Andersen, 6-10, auditioned for the Heat on Jan. 8 and remained in South Florida for the past week while trying to improve his conditioning.

Andersen could carve out a role on a team that ranks next-tolast in the league in rebounding. Miami also re-signed center Jarvis Varnado to another 10-day contract. I'll have a thorough story with reaction from Anderson, Erik Spoelstra and the Big Three posted on the Herald home page by 2 p.m. (Look for it under breaking news on The Herald's sports home page, to the right of this blog.)

### UM picked up an oral commitment from junior college defensive end Ufomba Kamalu, who had 14 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles for Butler CC in Kansas last season. He was rated a two-star recruit by rivals.com and three stars by ESPN. Canesport.com said he could play end, d-tackle or tight end.

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SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

So much of sports is about money now, and the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins will face financial decisions, in the coming months, that will shape their teams. Among them:

### Heat: Sports Illustrated suggested the Heat might need to dump one of the Big Three when the luxury tax becomes far more onerous in 2014-15. But owner Micky Arison said a year ago: “We can keep it together,” and a Heat official reiterated last week that remains the intention.

That assumes, of course, that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh want to stay when they can opt out of their deals in the summer of 2014, and that none becomes diminished by injury or something unexpected.

Last week, an Akron newspaper said “more and more people around the league believe there is a strong possibility James will return to Cleveland after next season.” A James associate couldn’t rule that out but also said he’s happy here.

What’s clear, though, is that the rest of Miami’s roster will be affected by the tax. This season, teams must pay $1 for every dollar spent above the $70.3 million threshold, meaning Miami will have a tax bill in the $13 million range for its $83 million payroll.

But next season, the tax rates increase, and a team $12 million over the threshold (which hasn’t increased much in recent years) must pay a $21.25 million tax.

That likely will motivate the Heat to reign in 2013-14 payroll somewhat from $85.6 million. Using the amnesty clause on Mike Miller ($6.2 million) would help, and Miami could save a meager $1.1 million if it doesn’t extend a qualifying offer to Dexter Pittman. Ray Allen will decide after the playoffs whether to opt out of his $3.2 million contract for next season.

The real problems begin in 2014-15, when Miami almost assuredly would fall into the new “repeat taxpayer category” for teams above the threshold four years in a row, or a fourth time in five years. As a repeat taxpayer, Miami would be required to pay $2.50 per dollar if it’s between $1 and $4.99 million over the threshold. The tax is $2.75 per dollar for teams between $5 million and $9.9 million above it, and so forth.

If James, Wade and Bosh opt out in the summer of 2014, and if Miller is amnestied by then (very likely), then the only players under contract for 2014-15 are Norris Cole ($2.1 million team option), Udonis Haslem ($4.6 million) and Joel Anthony ($3.8 million).

Haslem or Anthony could essentially be given away to teams with lots of space, replaced by minimum-salary players who would comprise much of the supporting cast around the Big Three. Keep in mind that because of the rising tax, a lot of decent players --- some of whom are now getting exception money -- will settle for the minimum.

So a cast of James, Wade, Bosh and cheap complementary pieces should still be formidable in 2014-15, provided the Heat finds the right veteran minimum players to surround them, unearths a couple of young rotation players (like they once did with Haslem, Ike Austin and Voshon Lenard) and that Wade -- who just turned 31 --- maintains a high level.

### Marlins: The 2013 payroll projects to $32.5 million, but it’s $45 million counting money they owe other teams from salary-dumping trades. An MLB Players Association source said if owner Jeffrey Loria doesn’t increase their payroll in the coming months, they plan to pursue the issue with commissioner Bud Selig.

“We don’t have to wait until next October to pursue it,” the source said. If the Marlins don’t raise payroll in 2013, former commissioner Fay Vincent expects “the commissioner and union will strongly encourage Loria to spend some money. They can make it very uncomfortable if he doesn’t.”

In 2010, the MLBPA forced an agreement with MLB that required the Marlins to boost their payroll for three years. It jumped immediately, from $37 million in 2009 to $46 million in 2010. According to MLB’s Basic Agreement, any club that receives money from revenue sharing must use those funds “to improve its performance on the field.”

But the Marlins privately believe MLB won’t force them to increase payroll during 2013 or before 2014 for a couple of reasons: They assert they lost $40 million last season and won’t make much, if anything, this season, because they expect attendance and associated ballpark revenue to plummet. MLB and the players union are given the Marlins’ books.

Also, the Marlins expect to collect much less in revenue sharing this year (between $10 million and $15 million) than past years. They reportedly averaged $33 million annually in revenue sharing from 2002 to 2010. Another MLBPA/Marlins conflict is inevitable, and it will be interesting to see how Selig deals with it.

### Dolphins: With the team’s cap space now at $46 million, owner Stephen Ross reiterated: “All my resources are there and if the right players are there, I don’t care what it costs. We’ll go after them.”

But Ross also said free agency “isn’t the answer” and during a visit to the Miami Herald last week, he told me: “I hope we find the right free agent if there is one out there. [But] we’re committed to the draft. We are not going to sign free agents for the sake of signing free agents.

“They’re going to have to fit in and not be people playing for a contract. You can’t be signing free agents just to think you’re going to be satisfying the public.”

When I asked him if the Dolphins will pursue the two top free agent receivers, he mentioned one of them “was injured.” He wasn’t permitted to give a name because of league rules, but Greg Jennings missed eight games before returning late, and Mike Wallace missed the finale with a hamstring strain.

“We’ll see what’s out there,” Ross said, noting the team might draft a receiver instead. “We know we have to become more explosive.”

### By the way, the Panthers enter this season with $60 million in cap commitments --- 18th highest among 30 teams. That's $10 million below the cap.

CHATTER

### Several former UM coaches were briefed on their violations last week, and one who expected to be punished for recruiting rules-breaking said there were no surprises in what he was told. But the NCAA forbids them from discussing it.

### The NCAA has tried very hard the last couple of months to prove some of Nevin Shapiro’s new basketball allegations, including claims of violations in UM’s recruitment of John Wall. We hear Wall’s AAU coach, Brian Clifton, told the NCAA in a meeting -- late last year --- that while he met Shapiro, Wall never met Shapiro; that UM offered no inducements; and that neither he nor Wall asked for any. One UM assistant was pushed hard on exactly what Frank Haith knew.

### With Jedd Fisch leaving for the Jacksonville Jaguars, keep this in mind: Before hiring Fisch two years ago, Al Golden also spoke with Brian Daboll. Daboll then took a job as the Dolphins' offensive coordinator (he was fired after one season) and then took the same job in 2012 with the Kansas City Chiefs, which also ended in his dismissal. Daboll re-joined the New England Patriots' offensive staff this past week; Bill Belichick wouldn't specify his responsibilities but he won't be coordinator..... For those wondering, new UM tight ends coach/associate head coach Mario Cristobal has never been an offensive coordinator.

### Neither UM’s Brandon McGee nor Mike James was invited to the Senior Bowl, and Mel Kiper projects both as late round picks, though some scouts believe McGee could rise to a mid-rounder.

“James could push his way on a roster as a third back,” Kiper said, adding no other Cane player will be drafted in April. By the way, James, McGee, Darius Smith and Vaughn Telemaque were on rosters for other draft showcase games this weekend, neither as prestigious as next Saturday's Senior Bowl.

### The Dolphins conveyed they would like to re-sign safety Chris Clemons and see a potential future here for cornerback Dimitri Patterson. But Patterson’s $4.5 million salary likely puts him at risk if there’s not a restructuring.

### The Marlins are hearing from agents from several older veteran free agents who “would love to play here,” the latest including Miami residents Freddy Garcia (7-6 for the Yankees in 2012) and outfielder Bobby Abreu (.242, 24 RBI for the Dodgers).

January 19, 2013

WQAM suspends Sileo; Heat parts ways with player; Marlins add another 3B; UM

A quick Saturday update:

WQAM-560 has suspended host Dan Sileo for two days in the wake of a series of sexist insults delivered, via Twitter, to Fox broadcaster Erin Andrews.

Sileo's shots at Andrews began Thursday evening when he was commenting about media coverage of the Manti Te'o story: "Media's funny on how the Te'o story was so NOT covered right by the media. Well, when bimbos like Erin Andrews."

Andrews responded, via Twitter: "So funny, because I never worked a Notre Dame game. Not sure how I could have covered it. Blame it on someone else."

Sileo then told Andrews, among other things, to "make me dinner, bake me a cake" and "go cover a cat show." He also tweeted: "I have no respect for her. Worst sports reporter chick in sports." 

Sileo, who already had angered WQAM management with the initial tweets, made the situation even worse by then tweeting on Thursday evening: "Love Erin Andrews either naked or in a porn. Not at a sports desk."

In March 2010, Michael David Barrett was sentenced to 30 months in prison for filming Andrews through peepholes at hotels in Nashville, Tenn., and Milwaukee. One of those videos, showing Andrews naked, was posted on the Internet and went viral.

Sileo on Saturday tweeted: "Wanted to apologize [for] the peephole and porn stuff. Whatever I think of ur work... not cool. I have a daughter."

WQAM declined to comment on the suspension, which was justified. He will miss his 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. show on Monday and Tuesday.

### The Heat and center Josh Harrellson have decided to part ways after the expiration of his 10-day contract today. "It's best for both sides that Josh look at other options," agent Merle Scott said. "The Heat believes it needs something different than what Josh can offer. The door hasn't been closed on a return down the road."

Harrellson was released earlier this month so the Heat could avoid guaranteeing his contract for the remainder of the season. He was re-signed to a 10-day contract last week. The Heat could have signed him to another 10-day contract, but not a third, before deciding whether to sign him for the rest of the season.

Jarvis Varnado's first 10-day contract with the Heat also is expiring.

### The Marlins signed former Astros third baseman Matt Downs to a minor league contract, with an invitation to spring training. Downs, who can play all four infield spots and also has logged time in the outfield, will compete for a backup infield job.

Downs hit .230 in four seasons for Houston, including .202 with 8 homers and 16 RBI in 91 games last season. But he did hit .276 with 10 homers and 41 RBI in 2011.

### For an update on Jedd Fisch's departure and a big recruiting weekend for UM, please see our last post.

  

January 18, 2013

Fisch leaving UM; big recruiting weekend for UM; Kobe credits Heat "psychopath"

Saturday morning update: UM confirmed that offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch is leaving to become offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fisch and new Jaguars coach Gus Bradley previously worked together on the Seattle Seahawks staff.

It's a big loss for UM ---- only 12 college play callers have guided offenses that averaged at least 6 yards per play each of the past two years. Fisch was among them.

The Herald will have a full story posted soon.

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Some Friday night UM and Heat items:

### It’s a huge recruiting weekend for UM, which is welcoming four of its top targets for official visits, as well as six of its oral commitments.

Uncommitted players scheduled to visit include defensive tackles Jaynard Bostwick and Keith Bryant, running back Alex Collins and offensive tackle Denver Kirkland.

Rivals.com ranks Bryant as the nation’s No. 17 d-tackle prospect, and Bostwick 27th. UM badly needs at least one of those two, considering it doesn’t have any commitments from any defensive tackles, its biggest area of need.

Bostwick, from West Centennial High in Port St. Lucie, is considering Miami, Alabama and UF and could commit if the visit goes well.

Bryant, a former UM oral commitment, can’t seem to make up his mind. He nearly canceled this weekend’s visit, and there was some doubt even late this week whether he would show up.

Bryant, from Delray Beach Atlantic, said he loved his visit to FSU and also is planning trips to Tennessee and South Carolina.

Collins, also a former UM oral commitment and the nation’s No. 9 running back prospect, remains a high priority for the Hurricanes, who envision him sharing carries with Duke Johnson. Florida State and Arkansas (where he will visit later this month) remain among other strong contenders for the South Plantation High standout.

Kirkland, rated the nation’s No. 9 offensive tackle, continues to be pursued by FSU, Arkansas, Auburn, USC and many others. UM hoped he would visit with his Booker T. Washington teammate, elite linebacker prospect Matthew Thomas, but Thomas opted to visit USC this weekend and will visit UM later this month.

Meanwhile, Miramar linebacker Jermaine Grace will announce his choice Tuesday among UM, Louisville, Tennessee and Florida. He has said he is leaning toward Miami.

Also visiting this weekend are a half dozen UM oral commitments: quarterback Kevin Olsen, offensive lineman Alex Gall, tight end Standish Dobard, cornerback Artie Burns, safety Jamal Carter and running back/defensive back Ray Lewis III.

National Signing Day is Feb. 6.

### In the wake of the Heat’s win against the Lakers on Thursday, Kobe Bryant credited someone who wasn’t even on the floor or the sideline – team president Pat Riley.

Asked about the Heat’s defense, Bryant said: "They're very smart. You guys know Riley. You know what a psychopath he is with numbers and statistics. He plays percentages really well.  

“He knows the high percentage of Steve (Nash) coming off of pick-and-roll and picking teams apart. He knows the high percentage of leaving me on the backside. So, he says, 'We're going to stay home and take our chances with everybody else.'"

Actually, Erik Spoelstra very likely determined that. Or maybe Riley discussed it with Spoelstra – they talk a lot, and Riley was with the team during the California swing of this road trip.

### This can’t continue: Chris Bosh averaged just 4.6 rebounds on the six-game road trip.

### Nor can this: Shane Battier shot 0 for 10 on the road trip (he played in only three games due to an earlier injury) and is now 0 for his last 15, 1 for his last 21 and 4 for his last 33.

 

January 17, 2013

Media column: News, views on Te'o story; Sileo, Erin Andrews Twitter feud

Media notes on the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax:

### Even if you believe Te’o’s story – and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick made a strong case - this raises red flags about any suggestions that Te’o was blameless:

Swarbrick said Te’o got a call from one of the alleged perpetrators on Dec. 6 – a woman, whom he believed was his girlfriend, telling him that she was, in fact, not dead.

And yet, on Dec. 8, Te’o told reporters at the Heisman Trophy ceremony: “I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer.”

This doesn't prove Te’o was in on the hoax or that he wasn’t a victim, but it does suggest a desire to cover it up.

### Numerous media outlets cited detailed background information about the girlfriend (Lennay Kekua), such as her alleged car accident, the first time they met, their frequent phone calls.

So where did all this information come from? Turns out, some of it was unattributed in newspaper stories, instead merely stated as fact.

But much of the details came from Te'o himself in an Oct. 1 Sports Illustrated cover story. SI's Pete Thamel, who wrote the story, recounted on SI. com on Thursday how Te'o gave "staggering" detail about Kekua.

Among those details: He said they met four years ago through a cousin; that they started dating Oct. 15, 2011, that she graduated from Stanford, had a passion to work with children, got hit by a drunk driver and then discovered she had leukemia while recovering. Ta'o also said he had to calm her brother after Kekua died. 

"She was in a coma" after the car accident, Te'o told Thamel. "We lost her, really twice." He said on Friday nights, Kekua's brother or sister would typically read to Te'o a letter than Kekua wrote to him.

Meanwhile, Te’o’s father was quoted in the South Bend Tribune saying they Te'o and Kekua met at a Notre Dame-Stanford game and spent some time together during the summer in Hawaii. And Te'o's father said he (the father) received a condolence text from her after his mother died.

### Thamel told Dan Patrick on Thursday that while writing the story, he noticed “small red flags” about the girlfriend, including the fact he found no obituary or death notice for her, nor any evidence of her existence in an Internet search.

But he told Patrick he went ahead with the girlfriend-dying angle because “you were able to write around it.”

In his SI.com piece Thursday, Thamel noted that he called Stanford to check when Kekua graduated, but Stanford couldn't find a record of her. Thamel concluded she didn't graduate, so he took the Stanford reference out of his SI.com profile.

Thamel said he "never specifically said he'd met her in person and I didn't ask. Why would you ask someone if he'd actually met his girlfriend who recently died?"

### ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski, who also wrote extensively on Te’o, wrote Thursday: “I sat across from Te’o in the fall and listened to him tell his story of heartbreak…. If he was lying, it a performance for the ages. And if he wasn’t, then clearly he believed with all his heart that both his beloved grandmother and girlfriend had died within six hours of one another.”

Wojciechowksi previously asked to talk to the girlfriend’s family, but Te’o asked him to respect her privacy. Hmmm.

### Besides breaking the story, Deadspin.com also pieced together a fascinating list of media errors or inconsistencies in reporting, including AP noting the non-existent girlfriend’s funeral took place in Carson City (which isn’t a city; it’s Carson, Cal.) and the Palm Beach Post noting it took place in Hawaii. Ta'o told Thamel that it took place in California.

### If Te’o proves to be an innocent victim, then Deadspin should regret including a line from a Te’o friend saying he was “80 percent sure” Te’o was in on it. If the friend didn't have evidence, Deadspin shouldn’t have used that quote.

### ESPN was hopeful Te’o would do an interview with Jeremy Schaap on Thursday --- Yahoo's Pat Forde prematurely tweeted that it was set – but it never materialized.

ESPN wasn’t told it’s out of the running for a Te’o sit-down, but the network wouldn’t be surprised if Te’o ends up on NBC, which owns rights to Notre Dame home games. Maybe a Dateline special?

### ESPN’s reporting on the story Thursday included Bob Holtzman relaying that a former teammate said “players knew the woman wasn’t really his girlfriend.” Meanwhile, ESPN vehemently denied The Big Lead’s suggestion that it knew of the hoax before the national championship game but decided not to report it.

### Among the zillion Te’o-related tweets: Marlins first baseman/social media king Logan Morrison: “I’m pretty sure if I was a 21-year-old star football player at Notre Dame, I wouldn’t be dating someone online. I’d also probably have eight kids.”… Jose Canseco: “I feel so bad for Te’o getting screwed by the Internet. Hug for Te’o. Hang in there.”

### And then there was this uncalled-for tweet from WQAM’s Dan Sileo: “Media’s funny on how the Te’o story was so NOT covered right by the media. Well, when bimbos like Erin Andrews are covering.”

Andrews responded with this tweet: “So funny, because I never worked a Notre Dame game. Not sure how I could have covered it. Blame it on someone else.”

Sileo, needing the last word, then told Andrews (and a male program director at the ESPN Radio affiliate in Melbourne) to “Make me dinner” and “Bake me a Cake.”

Charming.

BROADCAST NOTES

### The Atlantic Coast Conference has begun exploratory talks about beginning its own TV network. The Southeastern Conference and ESPN are expected to launch a joint network in the next year.

### Because UM is a private institution, it is under no obligation to release the notice of allegations it will receive from the NCAA. And UM continues to say it’s unsure how much information it will share with the public when it gets the letter. A statement is possible. The NCAA does not release the notice.

### Even as defending division champions, the Panthers weren’t given any games on NBC or NBC Sports Network. But NBC lead NHL analyst Ed Olycyk said he believes they are good enough “to go the next level.”

### ESPN’s Stuart Scott continues to anchor SportsCenter while battling cancer for a third time.

January 16, 2013

A look at Mel Kiper's mock draft and Dolphins and other draft notes

Mel Kiper told us a couple weeks ago that he liked Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as Miami’s potential first round pick, and that’s who he listed in his first mock draft Wednesday.

Patterson, 6-3, had 46 catches for 778 yards as a junior this past season. Of course, if the Dolphins add a top receiver in free agency, this Kiper projection likely would change.

Here’s what Kiper wrote on ESPN.com about Miami’s pick at No. 12: “The Dolphins nailed their quarterback pick in taking Ryan Tannehill in 2012, but when they dealt Brandon Marshall to the Bears, they also left Tannehill without a wide receiver who opposing defenses truly fear as a matchup problem. Patterson had just one year against top competition after spending two years at the junior college level, but he has very good hands, can beat cornerbacks with his height and strength, and will go up and beat defenders for 50-50 balls. He also has big-time ability to run after the catch, and this slot matches up with his current value.”

He’s the only receiver Kiper has being drafted before Baylor’s Terrance Williams at No. 23.

Here’s Kiper’s first ESPN.com mock draft, followed by highlights from his conference call today:

1) Kansas City: Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel

2) Jacksonville: Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore

3) Oakland: Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei

4) Philadelphia: Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner

5) Detroit: Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones

6) Cleveland: FSU defensive end Bjoern Werner

7) Arizona: Alabama guard Chance Warmack

8) Buffalo: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o

9) Jets: LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo

10) Tennessee: Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan

11) San Diego: Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher

12) Dolphins: Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson

13) Tampa Bay: Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree

14) Carolina: Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson

15) New Orleans: Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins

16) St. Louis: Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro

17) Pittsburgh: BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah

18) Dallas: North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper

19) Giants: LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery

20) Chicago: Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert

21) Cincinnati: Wisconsin running back Montee Ball

22) St. Louis: Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker

23) Minnesota: Baylor receiver Terrance Williams

24) Indianapolis: FSU offensive tackle Menelik Watson

25) Seattle: Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins

26) Green Bay: Stanford tight end Zach Ertz

27) Houston: Cal receiver Keenan Allen

28) Denver: FSU cornerback Xavier Rhodes

29) Baltimore: LSU linebacker Kevin Minter

30) San Francisco: Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd

31) New England: Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins

32) Atlanta: SMU defensive end Margus Hunt

### Just the Dolphins’ luck: The draft is deepest in Miami’s deepest area (front seven). “Half the first round will be front seven defensive players,” Kiper said. “A tremendous number of defensive linemen are first-round worthy --- the most I can remember in years. A ton of defensive tackles.”

Defensive line becomes a big need only if Randy Starks leaves in free agency; Miami is making an effort to re-sign him.

### Besides the prominent receivers (Patterson, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, Cal’s Keenan Allen, Baylor’s Williams, Clemson's Hopkins and West Virginia’s Tavon Austin), among other receivers Dolfans should keep an eye on is Marshall receiver Aaron Dobson, “a guy people are not talking about who could emerge maybe in late first round, or in the second round discussion,” Kiper said.

### Kiper said Floyd is the best of the Gators: “Most years, he would be a mid first-rounder.” Matt Elam “is the No. 2 safety behind Kenny Vaccarro. Elam is more of an early to mid second.”

Linebacker Jelani Jenkins “is probably more of a third to fourth round type of pick. I project him lower than the other two.”

Tight end Jordan Reed “can stretch the deep middle. It’s not a great year for tight ends. Eifert and Ertz are first-round tight ends. Michigan State’s Deon Sims and Reed are next in line. Reed is probably in the third round discussion, maybe second if he runs a great 40.”

### Kiper doesn’t have a quarterback in his first round because he said teams picking lower than eighth (really ninth, because the Jets pick ninth) don’t need a quarterback. And he can’t justify any going in the top 10.

“Kansas City, Arizona and Buffalo are second-round possibilities. Do you trade late in the first round to get a Matt Barkley, Geno Smith or Mike Glennon? They could. [People] thought that would happen with Andy Dalton and it didn’t.”

### Kiper was asked why West Virginia’s Geno Smith, a Miramar alum, isn’t a guaranteed first-rounder. He pointed to him benefitting from the Mountaineers system: “The windows you throw into – some possible interceptions were dropped.”

### Not only has Barkley cost himself financially by returning for his senior year, but so has Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, whom Kiper pegs as a third to fifth rounder: “You see inconsistency with accuracy.”

### Kiper said a case could be made for the Chiefs taking Joekel, Moore, Lotulelei or Jarvis Jones No. 1 overall.

### If Jake Long leaves in free agency and Miami is looking for a right tackle, Kiper likes North Carolina’s Brennan Williams as an appealing third round option. The best natural right tackles are Fluker and Watson, both of whom Kiper pegged for the 20s.

### Kiper said FSU quarterback “E.J. Manuel won a lot of games. Not tremendously instinctive. You see some decision making, that bad throw, that leaves you scratching your head. Inconsistent. More of a fifth, sixth round possibility.”

### He said Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is a likely second-rounder, probably as a receiver: “He has great speed, great athleticism. He can catch the ball. I think he will be an offensive entity. He can return” kicks.

### “There are a lot of corners in the second-round discussion” -- including Washington’s Desmond Trufant, San Diego State’s Leon McFadden, Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks and Oregon State’s Jordan Poyer, with a possibility of Virginia Tech’s Logan Ryan and North Carolina State’s David Amerson (“who was beaten far too much for our liking.”)

Kiper doesn’t see Xavier Rhodes falling into the second round.

 

January 15, 2013

An inside look into Marlins payroll slashing; Dolphins, Canes, Heat chatter

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

The biggest unanswered question in South Florida pro sports the past few months? Simple: Why did Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria slash payroll by more than $60 million --- to a projected MLB-low $45 million – after claiming that a new ballpark would allow them to have a payroll in MLB’s midrange? Loria, who made the decision on his own after studying financial projections, is refusing to answer that.

So how could this happen?

Two MLB officials briefed on the team’s finances cite this as the issue: The Marlins dramatically overestimated their revenue at Marlins Park, largely because they expected much higher attendance.

“I expected it to be filled a number of times and we sold it out only twice all year,” Marlins special assistant Jeff Conine said. “It was very disappointing.”

One MLB official said the Marlins told people they overestimated stadium revenue by a whopping $40 million. Here’s how:

### The Marlins expected per-game attendance would be 33,000 to 35,000. Instead, paid attendance was announced at 27,400. That ranked 18th in baseball and was worst for a first-year ballpark in the modern era.

But the figure was actually a bit lower because some people got in free, including using tickets given away by MLB (which is routine around baseball).

And the number of people who actually showed up to games was, on average, 17,000. With an average ticket price of $29.62, selling 7500 more seats per game would have boosted revenue by $18 million.

“Our attendance was not anywhere near where we thought it would be,” Marlins president David Samson said on his former 790 The Ticket radio show. Loria recently banned Samson from speaking.

### Season-ticket sales were widely reported at 15,000. Not true. The Marlins actually sold 12,000 season tickets and will be fortunate to reach 7000 in 2013.

“Part of this,” according to WallStreet27 marketing report, “may be due to the fact that the Miami metro region has the second-lowest median household income among all 30 teams.”

Nor does this market have as much baseball history, tradition, or fan interest as many others.

### Because attendance was much lower than expected, concessions and merchandise revenue fell far below expectations. Say, instead of having 17,000 people in the ballpark per night, the Marlins had the 35,000 they hoped for.

Suppose each of those extra 18,000 people spent $10 in concessions per game. That’s another $14.6 million.

### The Marlins were required to pay the county $10 for 5000 parking spaces every game. Parking is included in prices for season ticket holders and is $15 (weekdays) and $20 (weekends) for others.

The Marlins expected to make a modest profit. Instead, they had to cover the cost of a lot of empty spots and ended up losing $300,000 on parking.

### The Marlins expected to find a naming rights partner that would pay them $4 million or so a year. They never did.

### Some ballpark costs were higher than the team projected, including air conditioning.

### Though the Marlins knew this going in, their annual TV revenue ranks among the bottom five in baseball.

The view here is none of these facts justify Loria fielding a team that will pay current Marlins a projected $33 million, with another $12.5 million paid in 2013 to San Diego and Toronto to cover some of the salaries for Heath Bell, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle.

Loria, who is refusing to sell the team, should sell if he’s not willing to finance a far more representative payroll.

The Marlins told people in baseball that they lost $40 million in 2012, a figure that cannot be independently corroborated and one they know will invite skepticism, in the wake of Deadspin.com reporting the team made $49 million in 2008-09.

The Marlins refuse to discuss their finances, beyond Samson saying on his former radio show that money lost in 2012 “is too much to talk about.”

The new ESPN/Fox/TBS TV deals will deliver twice as much annual revenue as the old deal, which should theoretically give the Marlins a reason to boost payroll in 2014. But Loria hasn’t told his people if he will.

CHATTER

### Among the oddities that puzzle the Heat about its league-worst rebounding: Though Udonis Haslem is a much better rebounder than Shane Battier, Miami has been outrebounded by 38 with Chris Bosh, Haslem and the other starters on the floor, but by just four with Bosh, Battier and the other starters.

The major reason: Bosh rebounds a lot worse playing next to Haslem than Battier; he mentioned Monday about having to “compete with my guy for a rebound.” Erik Spoelstra has used Joel Anthony with Bosh more recently, and the Heat is plus-eight in rebounding (45 minutes) with them together, though Anthony is a below-average rebounder for his size.

### The NCAA delayed (for a day or two) scheduled Monday calls to former UM coaches and staffers to tell them what they’re charged with. Meanwhile, we confirmed at least five former Canes players ended up talking to the NCAA after the NCAA mailed them an ultimatum to do so.

 Attorney Bruce Fleisher said his two clients – whom he wouldn’t identify -- spoke to the NCAA, before an extended Jan. 3 deadline, and they said they received no benefits from Nevin Shapiro. “In order for them to continue going on the UM campus, they had to give statements to the NCAA,” Fleisher said. “None of these guys wanted to be banned from that activity.”

### The UM basketball program, also awaiting potential allegations, is the only team with a Top 10 RPI ranking (fifth) that’s not in the AP Top 10. But it's more irritating that that.

In fact, UM (12-3) isn’t even in the top 25. Miami was eighth in "others receiving votes," which would place it 33rd. Conversely, Syracuse is sixth in the AP poll but 13th in RPI, well behind Miami.

Jim Larranaga isn’t angry because he knows RPI -- which places strong emphasis on strength of schedule -- weighs more heavily than ranking with the selection committee.

“The thing that makes them dangerous is they’re old,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “That team fits together. They’ve got shooters, some inside presence. Defensively, they’re good. Shane Larkin is really good, kind of makes them go.”

### Some final rankings for Dolphins defensive players by Pro Football Focus: Randy Starks was 40th and Paul Soliai 50th among 85 qualifying defensive tackles (both seem too low).... Kevin Burnett was third and Koa Misi 10th among 43 outside linebackers in a  4-3...  

Karlos Dansby was 13th among 53 inside linebackers... Cameron Wake was first and Jared Odrick 59th among 62 defensive ends in a 4-3.... Reshad Jones was third and Chris Clemons 24th among 88 safeties... Nolan Carroll was 68th and Sean Smith 75th among 113 qualifying corners. 

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, campaigning for stadium upgrades, declared: "I've made as big a commitment as anyone in pro sports in this country."  

 

January 14, 2013

Good news for Panthers fans; Reaction to latest Heat loss; UM's proposed capacity reduction

### Good news for Panthers fans: Fox told us Tuesday that the network and Panthers have decided to air all 48 regular-season games in this lockout shortened season. Forty-two will air on FS-Florida, the other six on Sun Sports.

NBC and NBC Sports Network did not include their Panthers in their TV schedule released Monday. The Panthers open Saturday against visiting Carolina.

### How odd was it to see Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the bench down the stretch of the Heat's 104-97 loss at Utah on Monday?

Erik Spoelstra stuck with the lineup that helped Miami rally from a big deficit: LeBron James, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Joel Anthony and Rashard Lewis, who was taken out of mothballs.

Bosh didn't play in the fourth quarter until the final minute. Wade didn't play at all in the fourth, a quarter when Miami outscored the Jazz, 32-20.

Did Wade, who closed with 11 points in 29 minutes, expect to go back in the game? "I don't know," he said. "I always stay ready.... Coach makes the calls. I'm just a player."

And Bosh? "I was ready for it, but the call didn't come."

Of his decision not to re-insert Wade or Bosh late, Spoelstra admitted: "I'll probably be thinking about that on the flight" to Oakland for Wednesday's game against Golden State.

Bosh had 16 points but just one rebound in 27 minutes -- unacceptable on a night Miami was again pounded on the  boards (40-23). 

Bosh had a curious take after the game: "Sometimes I have to compete with my guy for a rebound," he said. "Sometimes I have to beat my own teammate to it."

Then he added: "Sometimes I just get beat. I'm human."

James, who scored 32 points in 45 minutes, blamed the loss on "low energy to start the game and low energy to the start the third quarter."

Spoelstra is starting to sound like a broken record after these road losses, the latest of which dropped the Heat to 8-9 away from home. "Everyone - staff, players - has to give more," he said. "They got so many easy baskets, jumpers with no one near them."

###############################################################################

For an overview of the Dolphins' stadium proposal, see our story on the home page. Here are some other developments to emerge from a meeting that stadium, UM and Dolphins officials had with Herald writers and editors:

### The University of Miami plans to reduce capacity for many of its football games at Sun Life Stadium if proposed stadium “modernization” goes forward, athletic director Blake James said Monday.

Under the proposal, capacity for UM games would be 72,000 for marquee games, but 52,000 for other games, James said. That reduction can be achieved by closing off upper end zone seats with tarps, according to Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee.

James and UM officials are enthusiastic about the proposed changes, which could go into effect for the 2015 season, because there will be 3700 additional lower bowl seats between the goal lines, and some sideline seats will be moved closer to the field.

Sun Life Stadium has never matched the intimacy of the Orange Bowl, but UM believes the changes will help.

They “get fans closer,” James said. “It’s great for our program. It will create a winning environment.”

The announced average attendance for UM’s six home games last season was 54,252 – a number driven up by an excellent crowd for the Florida State game (73,328) and a good turnout for the North Carolina game (58,954).

Each of the four other games had announced crowds between 37,219 (for the Thursday night Virginia Tech game) and 39,435 (for Bethune-Cookman).

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was asked how the Dolphins’ plea for public money will differ from the Marlins’ when they were pursuing a new ballpark.

Ross pointed out that he would contribute more than half of the $400 million cost, whereas the Marlins paid for $160 million of their $515 million ballpark.

The Dolphins also will need funding from a hotel tax and a state sales tax rebate, both of which would need government approval.

He also said the Dolphins would hire mostly local workers for construction. But the Marlins also did that; 61 percent of the workers on the project were from Miami-Dade.

And unlike the Marlins, Ross said he would be willing to make available his team’s financial records. “You can look at them,” he said. “We believe in transparency. When you open it up, you get a lot more accomplished in life…. I told the NFL they should have opened their books.”

Ross said the Dolphins are modestly profitable.

### Asked how anger about the Marlins’ payroll-purging could hurt the Dolphins’ efforts, Ross said: “I don’t know what they’re doing… I’m creating a winning football franchise.”

Dee cracked: “I’m not going to use the name of the ballpark to the south” – referring to Marlins Park. He added, of the Marlins: “We’re aware of the angst that exists. We have to let our actions speak louder than words.”

### If the stadium modernization goes forward, the Dolphins will add a general admission bar on the south side, using empty office space that was previously used by the Marlins.

### Ross said he’s waiting to see if this project will go forward before deciding whether to proceed with longstanding plans for a water park across from Sun Life Stadium. “We’ll look into the water park [regardless], but it’s best to do it together,” he said.

### As predictable as the sun rising: Norman Braman is against the Dolphins getting public money. "If he's looking out for the community, he should embrace it," Ross said. Of Braman's history of opposing use of public money on stadiums, Ross said: "I don't know if it's sour grapes."

### Among Ross’ messages to The Herald editorial board: “Not to have a first-class stadium would be crazy. We have to act like a first-class city.”

January 12, 2013

UM says no to a Gator; Dolphins' contract talks; Heat/Obama visit set; Fins, UM, Marlins, Heat

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

When UM coach Al Golden arrived on campus two years ago, Miami had only three scholarship quarterbacks (including the immortal Spencer Whipple) and Golden admitted being “scared to death as I go to sleep every night that you don’t have the depth to get you through a season.”

Now, UM feels so good about quarterback that it quietly rejected recent overtures from the Gators’ 2012 opening day starter.

West Palm Beach Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said UM was the “top choice” of Jacoby Brissett, who is transferring from UF,  but the Hurricanes informed him “they don’t have room for him” because they have five quarterbacks on scholarship and a sixth (Kevin Olsen) arriving this summer.

Brissett, rated the third-best duel purpose QB and 75th player overall in the 2011 class, completed 23 of 35 passes for 249 yards in 2012. He started the season opener against Bowling Green but was replaced after a quarter, replaced an injured Jeff Driskel and helped rally UF to avoid an upset loss against Louisiana-Lafayette, then started against Jacksonville State and threw for just 154 yards. He then lost the job to Driskel, decided to transfer, and likely will pick between North Carolina State and West Virginia, Daniels said.

Based on how he closed last season (11 touchdowns, no interceptions in the final four games), UM believes Stephen Morris should be among the nation’s best as a senior. “He’s been spectacular,” Golden said. “We had maybe the hottest quarterback in the country the [final] four games. He has grown into a man. His leadership is extraordinary.”

The job in 2014 will be an open competition among Ryan Williams, Olsen (ESPN’s No. 5 quarterback in the 2013 class), Preston Dewey (finished the year ahead of Gray Crow), Crow and David Thompson, who is recovered from labrum surgery but will skip spring football to play baseball. But people close to the situation make Olsen the favorite if he’s as good as the UM staff believes.

“I like Olsen’s chances,” said former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, who coached him at an All-Star game last weekend. “He has size, smarts, has enough arm strength and good touch. I’m anxious to see him play.”

### Former Miami Palmetto High quarterback Wyatt Chickillo, cousin of UM defensive end Anthony, is about to become the fourth Chickillo to play at UM, dating to 1950. He’s walking on, potentially as a receiver.

### In scheduling the Hokies to play at UM for a second year in a row, the Atlantic Coast Conference finally consented to the Hurricanes’ wishes to split up the Virginia Tech and FSU series so that UM plays one at home and one on the road. The Canes also have asked the ACC not to give them a Thursday night home game and are optimistic that will be granted. It could hurt UM in recruiting if high-school players see small crowds on ESPN Thursday games.

### UM doesn't know what to expect when it receives NCAA allegations imminently, but UM is optimistic there won't be any big surprises based on the fact that the NCAA hasn't informed UM of any bombshells recently. UM is hopeful of avoiding another bowl ban, but nobody will know that until the infractions committee rules in a few months. Scholarship reductions remain likely....

By the way, Jamie Israel, who was UM's associate compliance director when some alleged violations occurred, now works for the NCAA, as assistant director for academic and membership affairs. He's not involved in the investigation, but the NCAA says there is no rule to prevent him (or anyone else) from giving information to the enforcement committee. Israel, who is respected by his former UM peers, declined to comment.

### For more on the NCAA investigating and UM recruiting news, see our last post.

DOLPHINS CHATTER

The Dolphins have opened talks with defensive tackle Randy Starks and made clear they want to sign him. But the sides aren’t close on financial terms. Some had speculated that Miami might prefer to move Jared Odrick to tackle and draft or sign a starting defensive end. But that would become a possibility only if Miami is unable to sign Starks.

### Matt Moore would love to find a team where he can compete to start and has relayed to the Dolphins that he is going to test the free agent market, barring an incredible offer from Miami.

The Dolphins told Moore they want to keep him but have never given him a firm offer. If the Dolphins lose Moore, their free agent backup quarterback options include Jason Campbell, Brady Quinn, Tarvaris Jackson, Drew Stanton, Rex Grossman, Matt Leinart, Charlie Batch, Brian Hoyer and Bruce Gradkowski. Third-stringer Pat Devlin, a favorite of Joe Philbin, also could compete for the No. 2 job if Moore bolts.

### Among the season’s biggest disappointments: Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman expected a fast-pace, no-huddle offense that would average 75 plays per game. But because the Dolphins couldn’t sustain enough drives, they actually averaged fewer plays this season (61.3) than in 2011, when they huddled and averaged 61.9 --- something nobody in the organization ever would have expected.

### Daniel Thomas’ mid-December knee injury required surgery, according to his representation – he should be fine by the spring – and the second-round pick has fallen behind Lamar Miller in the organization’s eyes. Disconcerting: His three fumbles were the most by any NFL back with fewer than 100 carries, and only four backs with as many attempts had a lower per-carry average than Thomas’ 3.6. Incidentally, Reggie Bush tied for the league lead among backs with five fumbles.

### Look for the Dolphins this week to propose using public money --- partly through a hotel tax and possibly through a sales tax – to partially fund upgrades to Sun Life Stadium. The cost of the project has risen to $400 million.

“We’re furious what the Marlins did slashing payroll, because this will make it more difficult for us [with politicians],” a Dolphins official said. If approved, “Sun Life will be like a new stadium,” the official said, “and it will delay the need for a new stadium by 25, 30 years.... Stephen Ross will cover a large chunk of the costs.”

CHATTER

### Center Chris “Birdman” Anderson, who auditioned for the Heat on Tuesday, is staying in South Florida to work on improving his conditioning, with the hope Miami will sign him. But the Heat has made no decision.

### Though free agent Kenyon Martin would love to play here, he’s less appealing to Miami because his rebounding numbers for the Clippers last season weren't especially good --- clearly below Udonis Haslem’s this season….

### The Heat's visit to the White House has been scheduled for Jan. 28, according to someone invited to the ceremony honoring the NBA champions. President Obama was unavailable when the Heat visited Washington in early December.

### Nothing has pleased the UM basketball staff more than the improved focus and play of forward Kenny Kadji, whose numbers are better (13.8 points, 9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks) in the six games without injured Reggie Johnson. “People who scouted me only think I can shoot, so people run at me,” Kadji said. “I had to work on ball-handling, rebounding and defense, so if I don’t shoot well in a game you can affect it in other ways.”

### Look for the Marlins to re-sign outfielder Austin Kearns (.245, four homers, 16 RBI)… The Marlins are among several teams in talks with Matt Capps, who had 14 saves for the Twins in 2012, but also a rotator cuff injury.

### Besides forbidding president David Samson from doing his radio show, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria also told Samson that he can no longer do interviews. That’s short-sighted, because Samson made himself more accountable and accessible than many team presidents, even amid unpopular decisions made solely by Loria. Loria, by the way, has refused to speak to the media since mid-November.

Saturday update: NCAA/UM investigation; UM recruiting, Heat, Panthers

Some Saturday quick hits:

### A source told us Saturday morning that the NCAA has told several former UM coaches and staffers to be available Monday and Tuesday for phone discussions about the allegations against them.

Meanwhile, two UM officials said they were told the allegations against UM will be delivered "imminently." But under the typical NCAA timetable, it will be several months before UM learns its punishment. That might not happen until June, July or August.

### While UM obviously respects Alabama and Nick Saban’s power of persuasion, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing that four UM targets are visiting Tuscaloosa this weekend, before making their way to Coral Gables later this month. Unless any of the four commit on the spot, which isn't expected, there are advantages for Al Golden being able to make his case after Alabama does.

UM remains hopeful of landing at least three of the four players: Booker T. Washington’s Matthew Thomas (rated the nation’s second-best outside linebacker by rivals.com); Baton Rouge-based Tim Williams (the third-ranked weakside defensive end) and Port Saint Lucie’s Jaynard Bostwick (the 27th-rated defensive tackle).

UM realizes it’s a long shot to snag Auburn-based Dee Liner, the nation’s No. 2 defensive end prospect.

All four are reportedly visiting Alabama this weekend and all four have visits lined up with UM before signing day Feb. 6.

Besides UM and Alabama, Thomas also is considering FSU, Georgia and Southern Cal. Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell calls “Miami and FSU the leaders, but watch out for USC.”

Besides UM and Alabama, Bostwick also is considering UF. Playing early is important to him, and he certainly would have that chance at Miami, with defensive tackle a big area of need.

Farrell said the competition for Williams is “between Alabama, UM and FSU, with the Hurricanes having the most momentum.”

Farrell predicts Liner, an Auburn oral commitment, likely will end up at Alabama.

### The Heat would fall to 7-9 on the road if it somehow loses at Sacramento tonight. Miami hasn’t been two or more games under .500 on the road since the first month of the Big Three Era (November 2010), when the Heat dropped to 2-5 on the road with that “Bumpgate” loss in Dallas. But that team finished 28-13 on the road.

### For those still wishing it could have worked out here with Michael Beasley, consider that he’s shooting 36 percent and has been used only 24 minutes in the past seven games on a dreadful Phoenix team.

### Panthers president Michael Yormark announced on WQAM that the hockey team will open at home next Saturday against Carolina and play at least half of its 24 home games on weekends.

### Check back later for a lot more UM news – plus Dolphins, Heat and Marlins – in the Sunday buzz column.

January 11, 2013

A candid chat with ESPN's president on assorted issues; media notes

FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN

 

In his first 13-plus months as ESPN president, John Skipper has done a little bit of everything, from buying rights to the new college football playoff, to suspending announcers for racially insensitive comments, to forging new deals with Major-League Baseball and several conferences, to changing his NBA studio talent yet again.

In town for Monday’s BCS Championship, Skipper addressed numerous issues in a discussion with a few reporters inside a suite at the Harbor Beach Marriott:

### In the wake of Rob Parker’s racially insensitive comments about Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Skipper said he’s creating a new checks-and-balances system to prevent this type of embarrassment from happening again on ESPN’s First Take and other studio programs. And he wants the debate among Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless to be spirited but thoughtful, not outrageous.

ESPN announced this week that it is not renewing Parker’s contract – after initially suspending him 30 days for suggesting that Griffin is not authentically black.

“I like Rob [but] what he said was clearly inappropriate,” Skipper said. “The fact nobody caught it and re-aired it showed a significant lack of judgment. I met personally with the producers and told them how disappointed I was and we were going to suspend some of them and I expect them to be more careful in the future.”

The problem with First Take is that Bayless often seems hell-bent on making outrageous comments simply to see what reaction it will evoke.

“It’s a debate show and we get a lot of criticism for it,” Skipper said. “I personally don’t have any problem with doing a debate. You just have to figure out where you walk the line [between] being provocative and stepping over it and saying something stupid. We’ve done that once or twice on this show. We’re going to add more checks and balances.”

How tough is it to find that line? “Apparently, pretty tough.”

But Skipper added the segment “shouldn’t be built on people saying outrageous things. It should be built on vigorous discussion and debate. We’ve got a very successful show, Pardon The Interruption, which is a debate show, but it works because of the judgment and the brains of Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon and [producer] Eric Rydholm.”

Skipper added that “Stephen, Skip and [producer] Jamie Horowitz are bright guys. They ought to be able to figure it out. The show has worked. The ratings have gone up.”

### On the fact ESPN pays significantly more than NBC for NFL rights but doesn’t get as many attractive games, Skipper said he “lobbies all the time to get a better schedule” but “stomping your feet doesn’t do a lot of good.”

And he points out the contract allows ESPN to do NFL programming “across multiple networks, mobile and digital. We got more than 500 windows of new studio shows in the deal. Everything else is probably more important than the games for us. We’re not buying the same thing [NBC] is.”

### Skipper remains optimistic Jon Gruden will stick to television long term. Last week, “I reiterated to Jon our commitment to him and he reiterated his commitment to us.” But one of his associates believes he would consider a marquee job.

### Skipper is glad he changed the Monday night booth by moving Ron Jaworski to the studio. “Jon’s personality came through more,” he said. “I always had a slight bit of trouble telling Jon and Ron apart. It made it simpler.”

### Skipper said lead NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who has been mentioned as a candidate to coach the New Jersey Nets next season, is “very happy. He says he’s committed. I think he’s really enjoyed not being stressed every minute of the day.

“We’ve got a good shot to keep the two of them [Van Gundy and Gruden]. Every year they stay, it’s more likely they stay.”

### Skipper explained he didn’t hire outspoken Stan Van Gundy because “Stan walks a line. That’s part of what made him attractive. It ultimately scared us off.”

Skipper heard Van Gundy sharply criticize NBA commissioner David Stern in a September podcast with Jeff Van Gundy and Dan Le Batard. Skipper said that “was a factor” in his decision to pass on Stan.

"The NBA did not make that decision nor did they try to influence it,” Skipper said. “I decided not to do it. Stan has a little bit of a legitimate beef. I think he rightly believed he was going to get offered a job.”

### On his new NBA studio team, which added Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons: “I’m very pleased so far. Jalen has added a lot of personality to it. Magic Johnson has been forceful this year in giving opinions. Bill is exhaustive in his knowledge. He’s a stimulant. [TNT’s] Charles Barkley is a tough act to compete with. What we’re trying to do is let them be the entertaining show. We’ll be the smarty-pants show. Bill is the smarty pants.”

### He said he will eventually “make a little money” on the Longhorn Network but doesn’t believe there’s another school outside the Pac-12 and Big-10 (which have their own conference-run networks) that would generate enough interest for another stand-alone channel.

Though ESPN is expected to be involved in a proposed new SEC network, Skipper said there’s no thought to launching another ESPN domestic network. "I don't think [cable] distributors want another ESPN [television] network," he said.

But ESPN3 (with live Internet streaming) “is a hidden gem,” he said. “We will do 5000 live events on ESPN3 this year. You can eventually show every varsity game of every college in the country on ESPN3."

We’ll have Part Two of our interview later this month, including Skipper addressing common criticisms of his networks.

TIDBITS

One significant NFL media change this weekend: Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick will call Seattle-Atlanta on Sunday – not No. 2 team Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa - because Fox felt Brennaman/Billick deserved a playoff game. Lead team Joe Buck and Troy Aikman work Packers-49ers… WINZ-940 said it decided to drop Jim Rome and carry Jay Mohr’s new afternoon show because Rome’s ratings were poor. WINZ said it had the option of continuing to carry Rome even though he moved to CBS Radio…

Dolphins games finished with a 16.3 average rating, down from 17.7 in 2011.