- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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1. Eastern Michigan athletic director Derrick Gragg had all the leverage with his head coach, Rob Murphy. If Murphy truly wanted to leave for an Orlando Magic scouting job he could but his contract stated he had to pay $210,000 to leave, according to the Detroit News. Multiple sources also confirmed Murphy wasn't going to get out of paying the fee. So, Murphy opted to remain and he did say in a statement that Gragg assured him the school is "continuing on the path of building a strong foundation for our basketball program." Well, that's fine if Murphy wanted to get a strong commitment. But the time to do so isn't in August. Coaches complain all the time when a player opts to transfer at an inopportune time in the spring or even summer. Had Murphy bolted on his staff and players on the eve of the fall semester it would have been even more egregious. Murphy can leave when he wants but there are consequences, especially financially. He also was leaving for a non-coaching position. Murphy will have to work even harder now to show where his loyalties lie this season to those that gave him a chance as a head coach. EMU did win the MAC West Division, but were under .500 overall in Murphy's one MAC coach of the year stint. Had he left in the spring then there would have been time to recover. But not now. He made the ethical choice to stay. Now the onus is on him to show his commitment to this season.
2. Is it me or are more positive things happening for Northwestern than ever before? The Wildcats got 7-foot-2 center Chier Ajou eligible for the season. If he can contribute then suddenly the usually vertically challenged Wildcats would have significant size inside. Northwestern's recruiting has gone exceptionally well for 2013. Coach Bill Carmody is energized as if he just arrived in Evanston. The Big Ten is loaded yet again with potential champion/Final Four teams. But it's hard to dismiss the positive vibes emerging for the Purple and White. Oh, if they can only get into the NCAA tournament just once.
3. The proposed 16-team Nike event in Portland in 2017 to celebrate co-founder and CEO Phil Knight's 80th birthday -- created by Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis -- will be interesting to watch if all the teams sign contracts instead of just offering up firm emails and verbal commitments. Hollis said the reason the two specific Pac-12 schools were selected -- Stanford and Oregon -- is those are the institutions which granted Knight a degree. The other 14 schools invited are: Kentucky, Florida, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, Ohio State, Connecticut, Georgetown, Texas, Oklahoma, Xavier, Butler, Gonzaga and Portland. The two eight-team tournaments (remember conference teams can't be in the same event) would be seeded. The organizers (and our bracketologist) have plenty of time to come up with intriguing brackets for the two fields.