Bigger league helps Bluejays land four-stars

TOM SHATEL


This still happens: Last week, after a couple of disheartening losses, a Creighton fan I know told me, "I'm still not sure if going to the Big East was the right move."

Now, this fellow should not be mistaken as a spokesman for Jays fans. Most CU fans love Big East membership. And they should.

It was, and will always be, a brilliant move.

If there's some trepidation, I get it. Creighton had a very good thing going in the Valley. It had the formula to winning games and making NCAA tournaments. Something to be said for being on top or fighting for it every season.

Meanwhile, Wichita State has lost only two games in the Valley in the last three seasons. But there's a restlessness in Wichita. You think the Shockers would love to be in the Big East? Oh, yeah.

No, if there's lament on the Hilltop, it's not about the Valley. It's concern for whether the Jays will adjust to the talent level of the Big East.

Can Creighton recruit with the big boys?

Looks like the answer would be yes.

Mitchell Ballock, a four-star, confident-shooting kid from Kansas, committed to wear Creighton blue on Sunday. Ballock brings with him all sorts of symbolism for Jays fans to wrap their arms around.

He's a small-town Kansas kid from a burg named Eudora, located in Kansas coach Bill Self's backyard, just a 10-mile jaunt from Allen Fieldhouse.

Ballock had an offer to play for KU. He also had serious looks from Iowa State, Oklahoma and Indiana.

And he chose to spend his college years in downtown Omaha, fighting the good Big East fight.

This is the second four-star kid for coach Greg McDermott, for those scoring at home. Mac, the Missouri Valley veteran, got Ty-Shon Alexander, a guard from North Carolina, last fall.

You can say these are kids Creighton would not have gotten had it still listed the Valley as its home address. And you would be right.

McDermott and his staff already have shown they can attract meaningful transfers to their campus, including Marcus Foster (Kansas State), who should be an effective salesman for CU recruiting when he suits up next season.

You're not going to win in the Big East on transfers alone. Mac needed to show he could land some name-dropping high school heroes. So far, very good.

Now, about some rebounders...

If Mike Riley initiated Hank Hughes' departure, after one season, that says the head coach is feeling the urgency. You want there to be perspective after a 6-7 season, but you don't want to stand pat out of loyalty, either. Hughes was not part of the Oregon State gang. Whatever happened — recruiting issues, bad fit, etc. — this is a big hire for Riley, a chance to get a proven recruiter, a chance to hire a difference-maker at a position group that will make or break Riley in this conference.

John Parrella is a name that intrigues this old sports writer. I bet he would be great recruiting to his alma mater.

My favorite Super Bowl commercial was Peyton Manning hawking Budweiser immediately after the game.

There were some iffy calls, but Clete Blakeman and his crew did a good job running Super Bowl 50. Blakeman actually looked relieved to hand the coin clip duty off to Joe Montana. But what was with all the tweets during the game from female viewers commenting on Blakeman's physique? Clete Blakeman, referee and sex symbol?

UCF coach Scott Frost is not a fan of recruiting hype, as he told an Orlando radio station last week.

"I think recruiting has become a circus," Frost said. "In some ways, that's good. Long term, I don't want to recruit a lot of guys here who are going to be prima donnas and wait until the last day and put four or five hats on a table and keeps teams hostage to wait and see what they're going to do. I want kids who want to be at UCF, not kids who want to be recruited.

"So much has come of this because of websites and TV coverage. In my experience, the kids who fall in love with recruiting and do those things, they have a harder time adjusting to college football and college life (as opposed to) kids who make their decision and immediately think about how to make themselves great college football players. Recruiting is fun for everybody but in the long run you're better off getting the kids more about business and getting ready to work."

ESPN Bracketology has Iowa and Iowa State potentially meeting in the Sweet 16 in Chicago. You know what that would mean? Yep. Another Chicago fire.

After the Big 12meetings, the league announced that only Commissioner Bob Bowlsby would be allowed to make comments to the media. The fact that the Big 12 has to do that, well, says it all.

The Big East should invite UConn to come back. Go independent in football; the playoff and major bowls are long shots for schools in the AAC. The Huskies belong in the Big East. There aren't many obvious places for the Big East to expand. Connecticut is one.

I don't think the sport of football is going away anytime soon. But I really do wonder how long it can survive with more and more tragic stories coming out on former players. The Ken Stabler saga hit me hard. The image of Stabler sitting in a chair, holding his head in pain, it's hard to imagine. What a sad twist: Football took him away before he was able to experience making the Hall of Fame.

In some ways, the commissioner of the NFL is the commissioner of all football. He sets the tone. Roger Goodell's message is a dangerous one for the future of football. I hope nobody got hurt Sunday watching the Super Bowl on their couch.

Jessica Shepard: Nine Big Ten freshman-of-the-week honors, 466 points and 200 rebounds. And it's Feb. 9. The show's just beginning.

One more and I'm outta here: What a good week to be snowed in.

The Harry Caray special on MLB Network last week was the second-best show I've seen in a while. The best was the ESPN "30 for 30" show on the 1985 Chicago Bears. Classic storytelling of classic characters, two counts.

My favorite Harry story from the show: One night Caray went out carousing with Frank Sinatra on Rush Street. At 5 a.m., Caray says, "OK, Frank, you win. I gotta go to bed."

There were so many incredible parts to the Bears story. The very things that made them great were the things that would tear them apart. Losing Buddy Ryan and the injuries to Jim McMahon had impact. But remember this: In the NFC in the 1980s, the Bears had to contend with Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs. That's stout.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to find some deep dish pizza.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1025, tom.shatel@owh.com twitter.com/tomshatelOWH

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