Thursday, June 23, 2016

Big 12 Expansion Saga Never Ends

The Big 12 college conference has always stunk of instability. Created in the 1990s with the merger of the Big 8 conference and the four strongest members of the scandal-ridden all-Texas Southwest Conference, the Big 12 ushered in an era where two 12-team conferences (the SEC being the other) dominated the college football landscape with sprawling 12 team line-ups.

The only problem with the Big 12 is that the Big 8 teams and their relatively scandal-free reputation conceded the majority of the power to the Texas schools – going as far as allowing the conference's headquarters to be in Texas. With the majority of power residing in Texas, the Texas schools virtually dictated the direction of the conference. This became painfully obvious to anyone paying attention to college sports in the late 2000s when conference realignment became front page news.

With Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri all leaving for greener pastures, the conference recruited yet another Texas school Texas Christian (TCU) and eastern outlier West Virginia (WVU) to shore up the Big 12 ranks for a total of ten teams. But rather than even try to get back to 12 schools, the Big 12 conference stood firm with ten schools and the majority of power still squarely residing in Texas. The likelihood of stability was further lessened when ESPN partnered with the University of Texas and gave the school its very own cable sports channel, The Longhorn Network. That move by Texas only served to further alienate the former Big 8 / non-Texas schools. It became obvious the the Big 12 conference was merely the University of Texas, a handful of other lesser Texas schools and some former Big 8 schools with limited options for new conference homes.

The turmoil in the conference came to a head more than once in the past half decade. The Pac 10 nearly became the Pac 16 by plucking off the best of the Big 12 conference but this move was apparently squashed at the last minute because the University of Texas wanted to bring along a few of its Texas school cousins.

Other schools in the conference have still been mentioned at attractive expansion candidates by other conferences. The B1G (Big Ten) has been tossed about at a potential home for the University of Kansas and the University of Oklahoma. The complication lies with both of these school supposedly being tied to their in-state brethren (Kansas State University and Oklahoma State University). The SEC has as well as the Pac 12 has also been tossed in as potential homes of the University of Oklahoma.

But then the talk of expansion came up. The Big 12 looked like it was just days away from getting back to a total of 12 schools in its geographically sensible conference. The University of Cincinatti and Brigham Young University were mentioned as frontrunners. Of course there were others such as the University of Memphis, Colorado State University, University of Houston, University of Connecticut, University of Central Florida and University of Southern Florida who were brought up.

There was a divide, though, It seemed like the University of Oklahoma and the remainder of the former Big 8 schools as well as WVU were in favor expansion while the University of Texas and its Texas bloc of schools were against expansion. Again, the University of Texas looked to be wielding its power and standing in the way of expansion. No expansion meant no possible chance for an increase in television rights fees and definitely no lucrative Big 12 cable sports channel – especially with the University of Texas and their Longhorn Network standing in the way.

Now, though, expansion talk has cooled. In fact, many are speculating that the Big 12 has come to a consensus that ten schools is the perfect fit for the foreseeable future. Well, for the future until 2025 when the conference's Grant of Rights agreement as well as current television agreement comes to an end. If you were one for conspiracy theories, you could speculate that this stability is only leading to one final upheaval in 2025 where the conference wither finally dissolves to be swallowed by the Big Ten, Pac 12 and SEC or flexes its might and swallows at least a portion of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Power Five conferences (Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Pac 12, Big 12) shrinks to the Power Four conferences and finally makes sense for an expanded college football playoff.

Either way, any significant upheaval seems to have been pushed down the road around nine years. In 2025, though, all bets are off and that's when I'll be back to update you on this hot topic.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Goals for 2016

Normally people pontificate on the upcoming year towards the end of the prior year. With everyone and their little dog, too, having already done that; I opted to wait a handful of week into the current year to set some goals for myself.

I feel like I spun my wheels for the most part in 2015. For better or worse I settled into a groove, or rut, depending on how you look at it. Things need to change this year.

After some unfortunate developments in 2015, I was thrust into a number of new roles within the company where I work. For 2016 I need to get better at those roles because those roles drive revenue and with a radically new ownership structure on the horizon, ever dollar will be scrutinized and that is something we are entirely unfamiliar with. What was previously a free-wheeling company with virtually no revenue expectations is now expected to be a money-making machine. Being responsible for approximately 15% of that revenue (if not more), I need to step things up.

Secondly, I need to be better about distancing myself from work. There will always be that need for taking care of problems minutes after they arise – that's the nature of a small 24/7 business. The key is knowing when to prioritize things. I have been careful in how I approached things, letting other know that I put work second but still being able to fix problems when they need to be fixed. I stay in my corner of the work world and let others fight their battles because I control my own destiny and people repeatedly state that they notice how much work I do and are impressed with how I exceed their expectations.

The third area is self-improvement. I am used to working my ass off. It comes from growing up on a farm where manual labor and long hours were the norm. I need to get back to that. I intend to step up to bat in the area of helping my parents who are no longer young. I also intend to pitch in whenever I can to help my in-laws whose health is beginning to fade. One would think that with eight children that there would always be help around when it is needed but that simply isn't the case. I enjoy helping them out and I look at it as returning the favor for them letting me have garden space at their farm.

The fourth area is my health in general. Item three will go a long way in improving my health but I also need to make smarter choices about what I eat and drink. Now don't go crazy thinking that I'm cutting out beer, wine or alcohol in general because I'm not. I actually consume those rather infrequently. I do need to completely eliminate soda from my diet and find ways to improve my overall fitness. Maybe that means more bike rides with my kids or running with them as they ride their bikes. Whatever the case, I intend to lose ten pounds this year and gain back the muscle tone which has become a bit soft in recent years.

Wait and see if I meet these goals in eleven months.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Buffer strips on Minnesota waterways = overkill

There, maybe I got your attention. In no way am I saying that buffer strips aren't needed. They are needed. The one size fits all approach that Governor Mark Dayton has shoved down the throats of Minnesotans, though, is simply wrong. Dictating that open rural drainage ditches are subject to a 50 foot wide buffer strip (on both banks) is simply wasteful.

What the public and even Mark Dayton fails to understand is that when drainage ditches are initially dug and cleaned periodically, the soil removed is placed fairly close to the banks to create what is essentially a berm alongside the ditch. This berm acts as a barrier, preventing surface water from entering the ditch directly. Instead, the surface water must make its way through the soil to tile a few feet below the surface or through grass seeded waterways which also filter sediment, chemicals and any excess nutrients from the water before it enters the waterway.

In the case of the family farm where I grew up, there is a combination of grass waterways, tile, catch basins and berms to prevent runoff and water pollution. Oh, and buffer strips measuring some twenty feet wide.

Farmers, contrary to popular belief, do care about water quality and pollution. After all, they depend on that clean water just as much as their non-farming friends and neighbors.

Just this year, though, my family farm has been strictly told that in no way can they improve the water flow in their drainage ditch which stretches nearly a mile through the farm. Instead, it seems like various governmental agencies whom apparently control the rights of a privately-owned drainage ditch would rather have this ditch slowly fill with sediment which enters the drainage ditch through open road ditches and un-bermed naturally flowing areas of this particular drainage system. In the long run, such a scenario will lead to overland flooding which will push even more sediment, organic matter, chemicals and fertilizers into the very waterways the government has stated that they want to protect.

In an era where government increasingly doubts that the stewards of the land can actually do the right thing, the government themselves are the ones who will do longterm harm.

If Governor Mark Dayton and the various legislators who support the implementation of 50 foot buffer strips would look at the true source of erosion and pollution in our waterways, they would see that closer attention needs to be paid to the state's larger natural waterways.

Efforts to protect shorelines and banks of many areas along the Minnesota River should be one of the top priorities. Anyone who has witnessed the aftermath of a flood will tell you that a stable shoreline will at least begin to decrease the mass erosion events I have seen first hand along the Minnesota River. When a river bank collapses, that soil ends up in the river. Those are the scenarios where, at least during normal rainfall events, a berm and buffer strip combination would be beneficial. Without a berm, though, any amount of rainfall will take soil, chemicals, fertilizers and pollutants to streams and rivers rather quickly.

While agricultural practices have come a long way in the past twenty years, there is still room for improvement. I know that the voice of one person who has seen the value of a berm/sensible buffer strip combination will never change the minds of a politician who rarely ventures outside of the 494/694 loop. Maybe, though, common sense will prevail before a 200 acre farm loses an additional 17 acres due to the forced implementation of 50 foot wide buffer strips.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflecting on 2015

With life as hectic as it is sometimes, there is often little time for reflection. As I sit writing this I am actively procrastinating on no less than half a dozen projects both for work and on a personal level but that's how I have always operated. It is also how 2015 has gone for me. I am sure that if I were to dig deep enough and carefully analyze every minute detail of the past year that I would be able to pick out a vast array of accomplishments. Maybe this feeling of unaccomplishment is due to a birthday next year which for whatever reason is troubling to me. I'm not turning forty years old but it's still disconcerting none the less.

Sure, 2015 was definitely marred by turmoil. There was a situation in my professional life which rocked my world not even before I had celebrated one full year at what I still look at as being one of the most amazing jobs I have ever worked at. That job has given me freedom, opened up a world of possibilities and at the same time tied my stomach in knots due to the actions of one who caused heartache and tremendous loss felt across a wide area.

Those actions truly stuck with me. With that event occupying a piece of my mind, I was less able to enjoy what was normally a fantastic weekend with some of my best friends. It was still a great weekend but those tragic events were still very fresh in my mind. I am, however, looking forward to our 2016 weekend and  actively making plans because life truly goes on and while the events of 2015 definitely stung and left me with more questions than answers, it's not wise to dwell on the past.

There were plenty of highlights. My first grade daughter was voted into the student council at her elementary school. My two year-old son got his first haircut at the hands of his mom. He also developed a deep liking of tractors -- so much so that he often sleeps with one in his crib. My daughter learned to ride her bike without training wheels.

Overall, my family is in a far better place than we were three years ago when I was just beginning my foray into the world of marketing and we found out that we were expecting the birth of our son.

I earlier said that this year has often tied my stomach in knots but it has also been far more relaxing than previous years. We finally had a year without large, time-consuming projects. We vacationed on the Hawaiian island of Kauai with two of the best couples anyone could ever ask for as friends. We replaced the tires on both of our vehicles (hey, not everything can be hugely exciting).

We also tackled a handful of small projects which had been bothering us for years. The kitchen ceiling was replaced. The living room ceiling was redone with tin panels. I fixed a few cosmetic electrical issues. I plan on redoing some of the grout in the master bath. I stained 300 linear feet of fence by hand. I finally built the workbench in the basement which I had been planning for over a year. I got back into selling fall decor (mainly pumpkins and gourds) but doing that reminded me of my teen years when that was a cash cow for me.

I took our kids to my parents' farm this fall to show them what the fall harvest was like and managed to get both of them into the combine with me driving. Showing the what I used to do when I was some twenty years younger was huge. It also showed me that I still remember how to operate the farm equipment just as well as I did in the 1990s.

With that being said, 2016 looks to be a great year. We look forward to a calmer year filled with even more accomplishments and landmarks. I hope for good health for my parents and my in-laws. I look forward to more frequent gatherings with friends and family and a year full of personal accomplishments!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jaclyn Swedberg Rocks A Red Bikini On The Beach

The 2012 Playboy Playmate of the Year showed off her stunning figure in a tiny red bikini on the glorious beaches of Miami, FL.

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