Dio, Time to Go. You Must Give Your Cape and Scepter to Me...and a Smaller One for Jacobi. Renowned tiger rider, Ozzy Osbourne replacement, and unabashed rock god Ronny James Dio finally took up Tenacious D's offer and passed the torch. The video above is a brilliant homage embedded in the greater Dio parody that is the D; so much of metal's obsession with the occult can be traced to Ozzy-era Sabbath, but it was the medieval undertones of Dio that were even more pervasive in the long run (for good or for bad; I would begrudgingly say for good, if only because it was the basis for Wyld Stallyns) and that lay the true groundwork for ironic metal acts like JB and KG. Godspeed, you hellspun mixture of the swords of bastard knights and sinews of thieves and gluttons. You will be missed.
Big Ten Expansion: Now With More Bloodpunch! The Big Ten annual spring meetings are underway in Chicago, with expansion off the agenda but on the minds of meeting participants, according to Mas Casa. Big Ten commish Jim Delaney likely will duck any expansion-related questions, and nobody inside the intraconference discussion is talking. Nobody, that is, but Iowa AD Gary Barta, who clearly didn't get the memo:
Barta told discussed with reporters Monday possible geography and population in regards to expansion.
"We’ve talked from 10,000 feet about the census 20 years ago and the rust belt population, the Big Ten population versus movement to the Sun Belt over the last 20 years," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told the AP.
"More and more people have moved to the South," he said. "The Big Ten still has the largest population base of alumni, but we want to make sure years from now, if that movement continues, we’re in position to say that."
To date, any discussion of population was related solely to potential television sets for the Big Ten Network; Barta's statement implies (if not flat-out admits) that the conference is as focused on broadening its reach to large population centers, not just as a way of making cable money but as a method of stemming demographic shifts away from the center of the conference. This is good news for any program remotely related to New York City cough Rutgers cough and any school with alumni in an here-to-date untapped urban market and fingers into the south sneeze Texas and maybe Mizzou sneeze. (I'm sorry. I'm pretty much allergic to expansion talk anymore.) It's not so much good news for Nebraska, Pitt, or even Notre Dame (though ND is buttressed by its large NYC alumni base), which could provide national cache but little in the way of population centers.
Alumni bases are great for fundraising and all, but "largest population base of alumni" is too incomprehensible a statistic to be a conference calling card or a serious reason for expansion. More likely is that expansion is being undertaken not just for broadening the exposure of the Big Ten Network and the pool of athletic talent, but for broadening the exposure of the Big Ten as an academic collective and the pool of academic talent, in large part to stem the flight south. Why, hello Texas.
LAS CRONICAS DE BOSS HAWK! Dochterman, who continues to be the only reporter to actually investigate and report the basketball coaching search, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the university for, among other things, Barta's phone records. Not only did he find that Barta was lining up a search firm 48 hours before he fired Lickliter, which is in direct contradiction to his public statements that he hadn't made a decision on Lick's fate until Monday morning, but he also obtained a rundown of calls made to other locales. I won't blockquote it, because to do it justice would require a giant copy-paste, and Doc deserves your traffic and comments for his excellent work, but a couple of points of note: Barta's first round of phone calls after Lickliter's firing were to Tom Davis (expected) and his son, Providence coach Keno Davis (early frontrunner). Barta also contacted Jim Boylen of Utah and Doug Wojcik of Tulsa, both named as potential candidates in reports and message board chatter. Also, after an extended call to eventual head coach choice Fran McCaffery on the day before his hiring, Barta made a last-ditch call to Dayton, presumably to make one final pitch to Brian Gregory. In the end, Barta got his coach, and without the public missteps of a program like Oregon. Aside from the weekend before Lick's firing -- where the writing was clearly on the wall, and Barta had apparently begun making arrangements for his new coach while his current coach twisted in the wind -- it was effectively handled.
- Former Loras head coach and top Lickliter assistant Chad Walthall has been named head coach at Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Walthall was quite successful at Loras and is a proven midwestern recruiter who should do well for the Dragons, who play in Division II. He also stayed on and, by all accounts, worked tirelessly to keep recruits in the fold after Lickliter's dismissal. His service to the program is greatly appreciated, and we wish him nothing but success.
- Ben Brust's controversial transfer from Iowa to Wisconsin, completed despite a Big Ten bylaw that prohibits players from transferring between conference institutions, is expected to be a topic of conversation at this week's BXI spring meetings. According to Illinois coach Bruce Weber, the Brust transfer/release is just a window into a bigger discussion on the role of the letter of intent in an age where coaches are fired at a staggering rate. Also hidden there is the fact that Iowa was more than a little pissed about the decision on Brust's appeal, even though they had given Brust their blessing in his quest to not play for Iowa.
- Newly-minted Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg's college roommate was Iowa head golf coach Mark Hankins, who has led the Hawkeye program to heretofore unseen success and who has exactly as much basketball coaching experience as Fred Hoiberg. I'm just saying, Iowa State takes a former star player who had a decade-long career in the NBA and makes him head coach; Iowa makes him the film guy.
- Maize n' Brew discusses the other side of the expansion story: The teams that will be left out in the cold if and when the Big XII disintegrates. Iowa State: Dead man walking.