Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The 582nd and final daily post on this blog - thank you for visiting

Hi. What you typically would see in this space Monday through Friday is a rundown of four to five sports stories that have caught my attention, along with my thoughts on them. Today I'm afraid things are different. I've come to the conclusion I have to end my daily presence on the blog.

If you look at the times on the posts I've made, you'll notice they typically come at all hours of the night. Normally my wife goes to bed and then I stay up and work on preparing my show for the next day while writing some of that up for the blog. Yesterday my wife let me know she's tired of it being that way. As a result, I've made the decision you're reading about right now.

I first started the blog in May 2008 as a way to maintain the connection with my Gainesville radio audience. When I left town I had the top rated sports show in the city by a wide margin. If you're one of those original readers, please know again how much I appreciated both that and your continued interest in anything I've had to say.

What's been interesting is to see how the blog's readership has grown. The tracking stats have shown visitors from almost every state in the US, plus some other countries. I've never mentioned the existence of the blog once on my Columbia radio show, but somewhere along the way a fairly good sized number of people here have found it and chosen to read it too. Stuff written on this blog turned up in the Las Vegas Sun, St Pete Times and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wherever you are and however this came to your attention, I want to extend my thanks for your decision to visit as well.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm no longer going to post daily items on the blog. That doesn't mean it will go completely dark. While I'm still not crazy about the Twitter phenomenon, it does make it easy to communicate with anyone who's interested in doing so. I'll continue to be a regular presence there - to read my feed, go to twitter.com/heathradio and you'll be able to see what's on my mind and give me any feedback you wish to if you have a Twitter account.

When there are times I want to write a longer form post not reacting to daily news - for example, about the Heisman Trophy vote - I will still do so and post it here. To this point I have never sent out any messages about the blog on Twitter. Now, when I do write a post, I'll announce it there and send the link out in case you want to come read it. Once again, thank you for your time these past few years. I hope you'll choose to stay in touch with me through the new means to do so.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fire Dan Hawkins - now, or sooner if possible

This week was already going to be interesting for me, as it has been since I began working in Columbia when South Carolina and Florida cross paths. Now the game's officially for the SEC East championship and what I think will be a much better shot at winning the conference than most will anticipate thanks to LSU beating Alabama over the weekend. I'll spend plenty more time on the Gamecocks and Gators as the week goes on, but here are my thoughts on South Carolina's debacle against Arkansas I wrote up for my friend Chuck Oliver's site. I'll save most Florida thoughts for later, because I was on the air for most of the game and haven't had time to go back and watch anything after the score hit 28-0 during the second quarter. Jordan Reed's reemergence in a significant role at quarterback is certainly an interesting twist. I'm surprised to see Urban Meyer calling for a "blue-out" at Florida Field this week though. Noise bothers players - colors don't. UF's won tons of big games in the Swamp without any cutesy crap like orange jerseys or this stunt - what's with the gimmicks this year?

Lord knows I've ripped Les Miles plenty over the years, and justifiably so. The clock management bumbling and inept use of the tremendous offensive talent at LSU would be grounds for a malpractice suit if there was such a thing for football coaches. Fairness requires that I give the man his due for Saturday's win though. Miles and his coaches finally got the offense working, made some gutsy calls at critical times that worked, and knocked Alabama out of the BCS picture (and likely down to the Capital One Bowl). The fact Miles chooses to eat grass during games is perfect. Of course he does. LSU's quarterback Jordan Jefferson said Miles told him the grass was good protein. Of course he did. Grass = protein. That sums up Miles in so many ways, but he coached a terrific game Saturday.

So, about that FSU program being back and Jimbo Fisher being a genius.... losing to a completely depleted UNC squad at home for the first time ever might cause a few people to reconsider some things they were writing three weeks ago. As awe inspiring as wins over Samford, Wake Forest and Virginia were, perhaps some folks reacted just a little too strongly to the Seminoles beating a mediocre at best Miami team? FSU's had two chance to take control of their division of the ACC and gave them both away. This week they should be able to handle a Clemson team that's playing very poorly right now, but even then they'll need help to reach the title game. At least Bobby Bowden had a good Saturday with his new commercial debuting. Compared to those horrible insurance company ads with the Bowden grill and statue that aired the past couple of years, this spot looks like Oscar material.

Dan Hawkins should have been fired by the time you read this, but he hasn't been. He should have been fired on the field immediately after Colorado blew a 25 point halftime lead against Kansas. To give you an idea of how bad it was to lose to the Jayhawks like this, here are two facts:

1. Colorado has only won two games outside the borders of the state of Colorado since Hawkins took over with the 2006 season - the last win came in Lubbock over Texas Tech in 2007.
2. Despite fact #1, a three win Colorado team was FAVORED in Lawrence over the Jayhawks by eight points.

The Buffs allowed five touchdowns in the fourth quarter to a team that had scored forty points in their last FOUR GAMES COMBINED. The only reason Hawkins hasn't been fired yet is because his son is the only healthy, experienced QB left and the school's apparently afraid he'll quit if they can his dad. That doesn't matter - Hawkins can not be allowed to walk onto Folsom Field as coach again.

Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari got the chance to meet with Warren Buffett last week. When you have the chance to sit down with one of the most renowned investors of this or any time, where better to take him than the KFC buffet? I know Buffett isn't big into fancy restaurants, but surely there's a good local sandwich place in Lexington? Despite the K in the name, KFC really doesn't qualify at this point.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Randy's next explanation: it's not the heat, it's the humidity

The only way Florida's game with South Carolina next Saturday isn't for the SEC East title is if the Gators trip up in Nashville tomorrow. Vanderbilt has won a conference game this season, but lacks a credible offense. Losing Warren Norman for the season this week only exacerbates that problem. We'll see how Florida's efforts at a hurry up offense look against an opponent who's spent time preparing for it. I'd anticipate the Commodores blitzing heavily in this game, especially when Brantley is taking the snap. If UF isn't minus two or more in turnovers, they shouldn't have to worry late in this one.

Auburn's got the easiest game on their schedule all year this weekend, which is a good thing when national stories suddenly call into question whether your Heisman front running quarterback was being offered for sale during his post JUCO recruitment process. The NCAA is investigating Cam Newton's recruitment, which puts both him and Auburn in an incredibly difficult position. Newton will now be viewed as potentially shady by most and outright dirty by some, even though he may have had no role in this even if it turns out money did change hands. There was a rumor six weeks or so ago that the price for Newton was 150 grand and that his father's church was involved in some way. Reading about the way the church has apparently gotten into compliance with area building codes recently makes that seem conceivable. The problem is with Newton potentially both a Heisman winner and BCS title game participant there's going to be quite a bit of pressure to get this investigation finished quickly, yet that might not be possible to do. I hope nothing happens that's unfair to the kid, yet Gene Chizik's out of his mind if he thinks saying Newton is eligible at Auburn - "end of story" - is actually the end of something that's just beginning.

Minnesota needs a new football coach. They've got the only BCS conference job known to be open right now, so they're getting a lot of attention as their search process gets started. The St. Paul Pioneer-Press claims their top three candidates to lead the Golden Gophers are: Boise State's Chris Petersen, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, and TCU's Gary Patterson. I've done a little digging and come up with the next three names on the list:

4. Hayden Fox
5. Woody Hayes
6. Prince

You may think my list is stupid, but I promise you there's an equal chance of one of my three candidates taking the job as there is those three. This is at most the eighth best job in the new Big Ten, and likely lower than that. Harbaugh's getting NFL interest - other than Michigan he's not going to another college gig. The other two have had better opportunities than Minnesota ask them to leave and turned them down. Being honest with yourself about what you are is one of life's big challenges. Minnesota appears to be failing it at the moment.

I've heard lots of explanations from coaches over the years for why things aren't working out as planned for their teams. Some are legit (normally injuries) and others are really excuses. It takes a really special one to stand out as downright bizarre. I didn't think anyone could approach Ron Zook's "You don't know it was a close game" comment in response to a question after 2002's 21-17 UF win over Vandy. Zook explained "we could have scored more" (except for, you know, they didn't - hence the question about it being a close game). Randy Shannon has stepped up to challenge Zook with this doozy he gave to the Miami Herald...

"The hardest thing now -- unlike when I went to school -- is we have thunderstorms now. When I was playing, it was just rain storms. We counted up, we might have missed 12 to 14 days [of practice]. Not in August, I’m talking during the season."

These crazy kids today, with their IPods and Twitter accounts and thunderstorms! If only we could go back to the good times in the Eighties, when Miami had never heard of lightning. If the Canes lose to Maryland tomorrow, I look forward to hearing about the impact of the tides on their pass rush.

A man actually attempted to eat the entire Applebee's "2 for $20" menu last night. He came up about ten percent short of putting away the twelve pounds of food. Why someone would want to do that is a mystery to me, particularly the "provolone stuffed meatballs" they feature in their commercial which look like Cadbury Creme Eggs. I hope you have better plans for your weekend than that. I will be at Arkansas/South Carolina Saturday and New Orleans/Carolina in Charlotte Sunday, and will be sharing thoughts on Twitter along the way. Follow along at twitter.com/heathradio if you're interested. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Think this'll tick Lane off?

The NCAA hands down its punishment on Michigan football today, and all indications are it will be a mild one. The Wolverine program has been under scrutiny for misconduct with regard to the amount of practice time players were being required to participate in as well as grad assistants doing things they shouldn't have been. Some will wonder whether the NCAA has decided to back away from its punishment power again after showing its teeth in unleashing devastating penalties on USC. That case was particularly egregious though, and this one involves far fewer charges and a school with no previous history of violations. Odds are also good that unlike USC's Mike Garrett, tonight Michigan's AD won't publicly blame any punishment they get on haters who all wish they were WOLVERINES.

What Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham did the other day in giving the choke signal and yelling when Chas Henry was about attempt the game winning field goal was classless. That doesn't mean he needs to be suspended and fined substantially, though. Tony Barnhart is a well respected voice in college football, but he overreacted here. The idea players will be less disciplined as a result of a coach doing that seems like a major stretch to me, particularly since Georgia's players have shown they're quite capable of being undisciplined long before anyone in Athens ever heard of Grantham. Give Henry credit for downplaying the whole thing yesterday - presumably that's the end of this particular storyline.

Womens college sports are mostly ignored overall, so for a story from George Washington womens basketball to get national attention you know it has to be a pretty unusual one. One of the Colonial players has decided to switch genders, going from a woman to a man. Henceforth, the former Kay-Kay Allums wishes to be known as Kye. Kye's a junior, meaning for the next two years the GWU womens basketball team will feature someone who lives life as a male. Allums apparently intends to wait until the end of senior season before beginning the hormonal and surgical part of the change, which is why this is considered legal under NCAA rules. Two things spring to mind as a result of this: 1. Thank goodness I've never had to deal with the kind of internal questions about my identity or sexual orientation that some people have, because it has to have been terribly unpleasant for them. 2. What if Allums did begin to transition early? At what point does the process cross the NCAA lines, and could they stand up in court anyway? I'm no attorney, but it seems there are issues which need to be settled there.

Miami will take on a surprising Maryland team this week without not only starting quarterback Jacory Harris, but also top tailback Damien Berry. The Miami Herald reported earlier this week that Miami president Donna Shalala will not cut Shannon loose as long as he can win eight games a season and graduate his players. He'd better hope they're right, because the Canes look like a team that's falling apart at the moment. They still will have more talent than the Terps, but Maryland's on a roll this season and controls their own ACC fate. They're not going to be awestruck to be on the same field with the Hurricanes, that's for certain.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hola! Como esta usted?

Greetings from the Qdoba Mexican grill in Columbia's Five Points. The internet access here is working, unlike the way things were at my house this past late night/early morning. No blog for today as a result - back to the usual routine tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

No more political ads after today, thank goodness

Freshman safety Jonathan Dowling being dismissed from Florida's program yesterday may be important or completely irrelevant in the broad scheme of things. I don't know, because I've never seen the kid play. Dowling was a big deal recruit, but that doesn't mean he can adjust to college life or play well once he does. What does stand out is that Dowling is the third member of the 2010 signing class to qualify, arrive at UF and be gone by Halloween. That's very unusual to see, and once again reflects the chaos that was going on during the month leading up to signing day earlier this year. The Gator staff was in a major transition, Urban Meyer's status was up in the air, and they were fighting to put together a recruiting haul that eventually was ranked as the supposed best in the nation. I believe some of the current issues Florida has stem from the staff being assembled too quickly to try and save that class. There's no way the coaches and kids could have the same understanding of each other's expectations a more established staff would have, given the circumstances. The "throw some guys together and get them recruiting" ploy appears to have been a short term success, but as this point it's looking very questionable if it was worth it.

A terribly sad story is unfolding at Mississippi State. Defensive end Nick Bell is in intensive care as a result of a cancer that has apparently spread throughout his body. A few weeks ago a cancerous mass had been removed from his brain, but it wasn't known that the problem was elsewhere too. This has been an unbelievable season for Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs, but having to deal with this has to impact them emotionally going forward. Hopefully doctors can get Bell's health back under control, but it sounds really bad right now.

Lots of people are calling for Wade Phillips to be cut loose as coach of the Dallas Cowboys right now because of how pathetic they've been playing. Maybe Jerry Jones will do it now or maybe he'll wait until the end of the year, but everyone knows it will happen. Without anyone on their staff being a legit option to take over (because Jason Garrett would be a ridiculous hire at this point), it really doesn't matter in the end. The Cowboys chances are done for this year. What I can't figure out is how Brad Childress has a job today. The man had to beg Brett Favre to come save him last year, and then got mad when it became clear Favre regarded him as an ineffectual nobody not worthy of any respect. Despite that, he went through the same process this season only now that Favre's played poorly Childress has gotten pissy about him publicly. Childress has just traded a third round pick for Randy Moss and cut him within the same month, while also being inept enough as a manger to notify Moss's teammates before speaking to him. The man has shown zero people skills, playcalling acumen, or game management instinct. I am at a loss to think of anything he is considered good at by NFL standards. Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier is well regarded as a possible head coach candidate around the league - why don't they give him a shot to pull this mess out of the ditch now while there's still some playoff hopes? There's not a chance Childress can win back that locker room after this fiasco.

The Big East is reportedly conducting meetings today about the possibility of adding new members. The idea is to keep the football schools happy enough that they won't go off on their own to form a new conference. TCU's been the highest profile name linked to this, but if they're smart the Big East would add UCF. The Knights would give them another good sized media market and a natural rivalry with USF. I have no idea how they think they're going to work this out with basketball, since the conference is absurdly oversized already at 16 for that sport, but at least teams could be scheduled on a "Florida swing" of back to back road games with the Knights and Bulls to reduce costs. For football, make sure every school plays UCF and USF on the road in different years as a way to tell Florida recruits they'll get to play a home game in their state each season. UCF's not a bad program either, and the Big East needs some of those to improve its current awful image as a football conference. The funniest part of the Big East's search for bodies is that they're talking about Temple - the same school they kicked out of the league a few years ago for being so awful.

Monday, November 1, 2010

This was not a "hurry up" post

Florida's win over Georgia was huge for the program in the short term. With a loss, it becomes a distinct possibility that the Gators go 6-6 and are in a crappy bowl game. It would be an open question whether guys would be motivated to work hard the rest of the way knowing any hope of a conference championship was already gone. It was terrific to see Chas Henry get the satisfaction of making a winning field goal after all the grief he's put himself through over the past couple of weeks while struggling as the substitute kicker, particularly considering the classless "choke" gesture TV cameras caught UGA's defensive coordinator making prior to the winning kick. To conclude Florida has turned things around at this point would be a grave mistake though. Having watched every game both they and South Carolina have played this year, there's no question in my mind the Gamecocks are a better football team right now. That doesn't mean they're going to win in two weeks, but UF has got to be a lot sharper by then or they're not going back to Atlanta. A few other thoughts....

1. Will Hill's performance this year continues to be hard to understand. His two interception returns were both impressive, but neither of them came as result of him actually making a play on the ball himself. He certainly appeared to be at least in part responsible for the first UGA touchdown by not providing deep support for Jeremy Brown. No play all game was more annoying than the one where Hill delivered a big hit on Kris Durham and got up dancing and flexing - after allowing a 17 yard completion for a first down. Hill has too much talent to have played the way he has this season. We'll see if he's able to get some momentum coming out of this game.

2. Florida's offensive line's inability to pass block reliably is inexplicable given the overall level of experience in the group. Blitzes will work sometimes against any line, but Georgia got some major heat on Brantley out of a basic four man rush. The Gamecocks are among the national leaders in sacks, and they're not blitzing much to get them. If this isn't shored up in two weeks, John Brantley will find himself on the turf a lot.

3. Playing "hurry up" sounds good in theory, but UF wasn't able to get their "banzai" package to work last season with Tim Tebow running the offense. I find it very hard to believe that they're going to be able to do it on any reliable basis while mix and matching three different guys taking snaps, plus some wildcat stuff with at least one other guy that they haven't showed yet but have worked on. Against Georgia, they had the benefit of surprise. Now that teams know to anticipate it and prepare accordingly, it's even less likely to work. Imagine facing either Auburn (who sees their offense every day) or Alabama (who will have just got done facing Auburn's offense) in the SEC title game. Is a hurry up to run a dive play really going to throw them for a loop or wear their stamina out?

4. When there's 6:36 to go and you have a chance to put your opponent in 2nd and 20 from their 47 versus 3rd and 10 from your 43, you take the holding penalty. Because Florida won, Urban Meyer's decision won't be discussed much today. It still is worth noting. Down 7, that was an obvious four down situation for Georgia. Under those circumstances, the yards are worth more than the down.

5. Aaron Murray's really going to be a nice QB for Georgia by the time his career's done. I was skeptical of how good he could be this season, but in a year with a lot of chaos for the Bulldogs he's performed very well considering his lack of experience. The throw he made for their final TD was absolutely perfect. Not sure how well Georgia will do without Green or Durham at WR next season, though. Tavares King's the only WR they'll have coming back who's shown much, although Orson Charles should be a good weapon too. Meanwhile, UGA now has to beat either Auburn (not likely) or Georgia Tech (doable) or they're not going bowling. That would be a major problem for them, because it would mean missing out on all the bowl practices that give coaches a chance to work with younger players without the pressure of an imminent game.

Other college football stuff...

1. Baylor beat Texas in Austin for the first time since 1991. The Longhorns have lost back to back games to them and Iowa State, and three straight at home overall for the first time since 1938. Somehow, the only game they've won in their last five is over Nebraska in Lincoln. If the incredibly awful Kansas beating Georgia Tech is the weirdest result of the season so far, that Longhorns win isn't too far behind.

2. Another mystifying result from the weekend was Boston College beating Clemson 16-10, giving them a win for the first time since September 11th. Clemson didn't score an offensive touchdown against a bad BC squad, and lost their best running back Andre Ellington to a knee injury. At 4-4 with NC State and at FSU as their next two games, they're in serious danger of not bowling.

3. Ron Zook has probably saved his job at Illinois with his new coordinator hires on both side of the ball. Win one of his last four (and with Purdue on the schedule, he will) and his Illini are going bowling. This week they get Michigan. Rich Rodriguez has lost three in a row and still has a disaster on the defensive side of the ball after three years. Lose to Zook with Wisconsin and Ohio State still on the schedule and the Wolverines are probably looking at no better than a .500 record. Not what they had in mind in Ann Arbor, which could cost Rodriguez his job.