George Mason moving into A-10 in July
FAIRFAX, Va. — George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor says it’s “bittersweet” to be leaving the Colonial Athletic Association for the Atlantic 10.
GMU announced Monday it is switching conferences as of July 1.
GMU was one of the founding members of the CAA, but O’Connor said the changing landscape of college sports prompted the move. Two of Mason’s regional rivals — Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond — previously departed for the A-10, and the switch also sets up a subway conference rivalry with nearby George Washington.
GMU is paying an exit fee of $1 million and will forfeit at least $1.65 million in conference payouts. University President Angel Cabrera said the move will pay for itself “in as little as five years.”
The move leaves the CAA with nine schools for 2013-14.
Minnesota fires coach one day after loss
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota has fired Tubby Smith one day after the Golden Gophers lost to Florida in the NCAA tournament.
Athletics director Norwood Teague announced the decision Monday and said it was time for a “fresh set of eyes” on the program.
Smith was 124-81 (.610) in six seasons at Minnesota. He arrived in 2007 from Kentucky, immediately ramping up expectations for a team that was buried by an academic cheating scandal.
Smith won 20 games five times. But he went just 46-62 in Big Ten play and never finished higher than sixth in the conference. The Gophers made three NCAA tournament appearances under Smith. They beat UCLA this year before losing on Sunday.
Howland ends decade at UCLA graciously
LOS ANGELES — Ben Howland kept it classy in departing as UCLA basketball coach, thanking the athletic director who had fired him a day earlier while noting the high expectations that come with running a program that owns a record 11 national championships.
Howland was applauded by supporters as he walked into a news conference at Pauley Pavilion for the last time Monday. The 55-year-coach expressed gratitude for his 10-year run in Westwood, the longest tenure since John Wooden retired in 1975 after 27 years on the sideline.
Howland had a 233-107 record in Westwood, including three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006-08 and four Pac-12 championships, including this season. The Bruins’ season ended last Friday with an 83-63 loss to Minnesota in the NCAA tournament.
Ratings, viewership reach 15-year highs
NEW YORK — The NCAA tournament’s first week has earned its highest television rating in 15 years.
The broadcasts on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV averaged a 5.8 household rating and 12 share, the highest rating for the tournament’s first week since 1998. That year, the rating was 5.9 and 15 share.
The networks say that’s up 27 percent from last year’s 5.6 and 11.
The broadcasts also had the highest viewership since 1993, averaging 8.9 million total viewers — a 9 percent increase from a year ago.
The third-round games on Sunday averaged a 7.1 and 14 share, the highest for the tournament’s first Sunday since 2000 when it had a 7.2 and 17 share and up 27 percent from last year’s 5.6 and 11.