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What to Read While Chauffeuring Lindsay Lohan

For the record, if you're looking to increase hits to your website via google search (especially after midnight), writing a post entitled "Leaked Playboy Pictures" is probably a solid idea.

The eight teams participating in the first annual "Big East/SEC Invitational" have been named, and sadly Louisville is not among them. The schedule for the two day event is as follows:

Dec. 5 at the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center

West Virginia vs. Auburn (7 p.m. ESPN2)
Georgetown vs. Alabama (9:30 p.m. ESPN)

Dec. 6 at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia

South Carolina vs. Providence (7 p.m. ESPN2)
LSU vs. Villanova (9:30 p.m. ESPN)

I still don't understand why they won't make this a 12-on-12 deal, excluding (I don't know, just off the top of my head) South Florida, Rutgers, Providence and Seton Hall. I suppose ESPN doesn't want anything to overshadow its current December tradition, the ACC/Big 10 slaughter, but the fact remains that the SEC and the Big East have won four of the last five national titles and seven of the last 12. If any two conferences deserve interleague play fellatio from the world wide leader, it's these two.

The crown jewel of Louisville's developing 2008 recruiting class continues to be Tyreke Evans, who told the C-J's Jody Demling that his top five schools at the moment are U of L, Villanova, North Carolina, Memphis and Texas. Most insiders continue to contend that Evans is North Carolina's to lose, but the Tarheels' lack of interest in the 6-4 guard may ultimately be what makes him a Cardinal.

Speaking of Demling, he's been blogging from the Memorial Day Classic in Nashville all weekend, and he's got some must-read stuff if recruiting is your bag.

I gave Mark Story a free pass when he butchered Amobi Okoye's name a few weeks ago, but referring to Harry Douglas as "Henry Douglas" (especially in the context of him being considered the eighth best receiver in the entire country) is condemnable. Seriously, if you want me to take anything you write the least bit seriously, at least have the decency to google "Doulgas" and "Louisville" if you're not 100% certain what the name of one of the Big East's best players is.

Just in case you missed it, PRP all-everything defensive tackle Brandon Newman committed to Notre Dame during a recruiting trip yesterday.

"When it boiled down to it, I looked at my options, and when it comes to academics and athletics Notre Dame was at the top of the list," Newman said. "If any other school would have come in and offered, Notre Dame would have still been at the top."

I'm not a Notre Dame apologist by any stretch of the imagination, but I'll never argue against the decision of a local kid who chooses to go there, especially one with a 3.8 gpa.

Calling Michael Bush "the steal of the NFL Draft" has become a bit of a cliche over the last couple of weeks, but that didn't stop MediaNews' Steve Corkran from writing a detailed story on the subject anyway.

Rivals' David Fox has a nice piece about Thursday night college football and the rise of the Louisville program. In addition to the stuff we've all heard countless times before, Fox also talks about U of L's extremely valuable relationship with Nelligan Sports Marketing.

In addition to added revenue from television appearances, bowl games, donors and Big East membership, Louisville became the flagship program for Nelligan Sports Marketing.

Where Louisville used to handle marketing internally, Nelligan's team of professionals arranged sponsors for coaches' shows for Louisville, worked on deals for radio and television coverage for Louisville programming and sold signage at Louisville sports venues.

Before Nelligan arrived, Louisville made less than $1 million in revenue on this kind of marketing. Now, it is expected to be around $7.5 million.

The majority of the increased revenues go back into the athletic department's operations budget, which includes coaches' salaries, scholarships and recruiting budget.

Rutgers, too, follows the Louisville model. Rutgers has increased its revenue from $1 million in 2000 to more than $4 million expected for this year.

"Two things a university looks for when they hire someone like us: it's increased revenue and increased exposure," said T.J. Nelligan, president and CEO of Nelligan Sports Marketing. "The best example of our business is the Louisville model. Rutgers is in the third inning and Louisville is in the fifth."

The Big East's basketball meetings in Florida wrapped up this week, and though next to nothing of any consequence came out of the meetings, Kevin McNamara writes that it's not difficult to pick up on the fact that a number of the league's coaches are still uncomfortable with the size of the conference.

But now the critics lie within the league as well. Louisville coach Rick Pitino has referred to the Big East as "a corporation, not a conference," on numerous occasions, including the 1987 Final Four reunion event that Providence College held two weeks ago. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse's Hall of Fame coach, has said that the league's bloated size was a major factor in the controversial decision to squeeze his Orange team out of the NCAA Tournament in March.

When the league was expanded to add Louisville, DePaul, Cincinnati, Marquette and South Florida, the basketball coaches expressed concern that the NCAA may hold the league's size against it. When the Big East was 12 schools, for example, it would regularly see 50 percent of its teams earn NCAA tourney berths. Would the same happen in a 16-team league?

Thus far the answer is mixed. In 2006, the Big East set a record with eight bids but secured the eighth only because Syracuse recorded two major upsets (including No. 1-rated Connecticut) in the Big East Tournament. The coaches were actually miffed that Cincinnati (19-12 overall, 8-8 in the league) didn't get in and make it nine bids. In '07, Syracuse went 22-10 and 10-6 in league play and didn't get it. The league settled for six bids.

"If 10-6 in the Big East isn't good enough to be in, then I don't think we should be in the Big East," Boeheim said.

Lastly, kudos to the women's golf team for finishing 10th in their NCAA Championship debut. Louisville - which finished with a score of 1214, if that means anything to you - was the only team not ranked in the Top 12 coming into the tournament to finish in the Top 10.