Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a weird year this has been

It's hard to understand just how relations between Mike Leach and Texas Tech's brass got strained to the point that the school was obviously dying to find an excuse to fire him, but they did. As a result of an apparently mild concussion, Adam James was either trapped in an "electrical closet" or told to stay in the visiting coach's media room in Lubbock. There are now dueling videos purporting to show what really happened. Leach has now been fired, an incredible act of hypocrisy from a school that eagerly hired Bob Knight even after the whole country saw him choke Neil Reed on video. It's not in dispute that Leach did no physical harm to James regardless of whether his approach to the situation was correct or not. To claim that's grounds for firing him with cause and not paying him a dime more is absurd. If Leach winds up coaching Colorado in 2011, which seems like a pretty decent fit with his personality and experience in the conference, that would make me a very happy Buffs fan.

If, as seems to be the buzz, it turns out that John Chavis is Mark Richt's pick to be the new defensive coordinator at Georgia then color me unimpressed. Richt is known to have attempted to hire Bud Foster from VT and Vic Koenning (who he lost to Zook, of all people) from K State. That makes Chavis at best a third choice, and possibly worse. Those three men we do know about do not employ similar defensive schemes, which makes me think Richt is sort of grasping at straws right now. Chavis is not a factor in recruiting and showed no sign of being able to deal with Florida or spread offenses in general the past few years. If he's hired, I don't anticipate UGA making huge strides on that side of the ball. Should Chavis take the UGA job, LSU ends up looking for their fourth defensive coordinator in as many years. The impact of that constant shifting of scheme on their recruiting's effectiveness would be interesting to follow.

Everyone seems to be doing best/worst of the decade lists with today being the final day of the 00s, and most don't really register with me because they're just someone's opinion. This list of the best/worst teams against the spread for the decade in all major sports is kind of interesting though. I have to admit I was woefully unaware of Fordham basketball's pariah status prior to reading this story. Can't say I'm shocked that the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning have proved to be a poor bet, especially since they had the one exciting year when they won the Stanley Cup and little else to work with.

Can anyone explain exactly why the demolition of Texas Stadium is going to be sponsored by Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? Maybe there's an ad campaign I'm not creative enough to imagine that will make it all clear, but this seems truly bizarre. I like macaroni and cheese, but associating it with an old building being blown up doesn't seem likely to make me like it more. Is there anything that can't be sponsored these days? Funerals, maybe?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ending my leave of absence

Saturday evening I was having dinner at a restaurant in Tampa with my grandmother. We were at a place where you aren't allowed to talk on the phone in the dining room. At 6:50, I looked down at my vibrating phone's caller ID and saw a call from AP Radio in New York. Seemed unusual, but maybe they needed something from the bowl game? As soon as that went to voicemail, another call from someone else. After the fifth time that happened in four minutes, my keen reporter instincts told me I might want to step outside and check those voicemails. AP was trying to confirm the Urban Meyer resignation, and so much for me being on Christmas vacation.

I've been genuinely puzzled by the reaction to Urban's announcement and then revision of his stepping down to a leave of absence the next day. It seems to me that a lot of people felt sorry for him Saturday, and then felt taken when he backed away from an immediate absolute ending. What these folks don't seem to get is that there is no guaruntee Urban Meyer ever coaches the Florida football team again. Maybe he will - it's certainly his nature to want to do so - but all Meyer's said is that he's going to give this some time rather than potentially be regretful if he feels reenergized in July and someone else is coaching his team. There is a health issue involving his heart. Whether surgery is needed isn't clear, and I'm not going to speculate blindly about that. Again though, it's his HEART. Some commentators like the loathsome Paul Finebaum are acting like the man quit his job because he had a bad case of gas and then came back the next day and said "Never mind!"

Lots of people have tried to draw the parallel between Meyer and Billy Donovan's Orlando Magic weekend. That's a poor analogy. Donovan was looking for a new challenge while also making mega money to do it. Urban Meyer is burned out emotionally, dealing with health concerns and feeling guilty about family issues. Donovan came back ASAP, while Meyer postponed making any final choice indefinitely. To me the much better comparison situation is when Jimmy Johnson was with the Miami Dolphins. Johnson was ready to retire in January 1999 after three seasons with the team, burned out and apparently significantly impacted by his mother's death. Wayne Huizenga talked him out of it, in large part by bringing in Dave Wannstedt as assistant head coach to take some of the pressure off Johnson to do everything. Johnson went one more season and then did quit, this time for good. Can Florida and Urban Meyer find their "Wannstedt" idea that will supposedly relieve stress on him? The Dolphins could have as many coaches as they wanted - UF can only have nine besides the head man, no matter how they're assigned.

One thing that has to be noted is that Jeremy Foley was proactive about dealing with Meyer's workaholic ways. When the word came down that Meyer would no longer do a radio coaches show every week and was greatly reducing his Gator Club speaking appearances, there was major grumbling from some people. Foley made clear that the idea was to reduce the demands on Meyer's time in hopes of slowing his burnout rate. There's no way to know how much that helped, but the message it sent that the school cared about such things is likely a part of the reason Meyer's willing to try this leave of absence in the first place. If 2010 winds up being a limbo season and Meyer can't return, it will still give Foley time to make a considered, well researched choice to replace him as opposed to a rush job hire now. That can't be undervalued. Back to general topics tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

See you in a week

Brutal loss for Florida basketball last night. Every bit of momentum from the early tournament win against Michigan State has now been given away, thanks to a home loss to South Alabama. This team can certainly still make the tournament, but they can say goodbye to the rankings for at least a month after the week they just had. Either the outside shooting has to improve, which doesn't seem that likely, or they have to cool it on taking so many shots from there.

The Yankees continue to add ridiculous depth to their arsenal, acquiring Javier Vasquez from Atlanta for the thoroughly unremarkable Melky Cabrera and a couple of prospects. Everyone knew the Braves needed to move an arm, but this doesn't inspire great confidence in their plan going forward unless it leads to something bigger. As for New York, I continue to wonder how it's enjoyable to be a Yankees fan. Their season's a waste of time until the playoffs, and if any injuries or disappointments occur they'll just buy someone else to fill in the hole. It's legal, but where's the fun of rooting for a team like that?

Everyone's doing athlete of the year awards right now, and yesterday Serena Williams won the AP's honor for female athletes. What grabbed my attention was the second place choice: Zenyatta. That's right, the horse. I don't care that Zenyatta's a filly, this is ridiculous. Comparing seperate species just because they're in the same gender is absurd. Beyond that, does anyone think a male horse will get serious consideration on the men's side of the award anytime soon? If the "athlete" doesn't know she's even involved in a sport, she shouldn't be involved in the voting for these kind of awards.

The Wall Street Journal did a lengthy piece focused on former FSU player Myron Rolle. The headline reads "Can Scholars Make Dollars in the NFL?" Of course they can - if they're good football players. That's the detail people writing about Rolle seem to be missing - his play for FSU wasn't all that special. Rolle was a highly touted recruit, but when I watched him play I didn't see the performance to back that up. No NFL draft gurus considered him anything better than a midround pick last season, and that was before he took a full year away from the game to study at Oxford. By all indications Rolle's a terrific young man, and would be a wonderful example for any young athlete to follow. The NFL won't give a crap about that if he gets burned in games, and fifth round picks don't generally get big endorsements whether they're scholars or can't spell scholar.

My wife and I will begin our trip to Tampa late tonight. I've never traveled with a dog before, so this could be interesting. As previously noted, I'll be taking a blogging break for the holidays. The regular posting schedule will resume here on Wednesday the 30th from Birmingham, where I'll be a small part of the raw excitement and energy surrounding the Papa John's Bowl between South Carolina and UConn. Thanks for reading - I hope you have a terrific Christmas. If you're not burned out on holiday music, enjoy my personal favorites: Stevie Wonder's "What Christmas Means To Me", U2's Baby Please Come Home and Run-DMC's Christmas in Hollis.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

I would have pushed for "Guerilla Radio" instead

Brett Favre was good last year until December, when he melted down. It may be happening again, although it's too soon to tell. What can now unquestionably be stated is that Favre is proving to be a disruption to Minnesota the same way he was in New York. Sunday night he blew off Brad Childress when the Vikings head coach planned to take him out of the game, and now it turns out he's pulled the same stunt three times. Favre's also audibling whenever he feels like, making it very clear that he considers Minnesota his personal team and Childress merely an annoying middle manager he has to listen to occasionally. The Vikings are going to the postseason, but Favre isn't giving me many reasons to believe they'll do much once they're there.

The Cleveland Browns are getting Mike Holmgren to take over the leadership of their franchise. This is being perceived as a good thing, and in the sense that he's not proven incompetent jerk Eric Mangini I suppose it is. Still, can someone explain to me what's so great about people who were excellent coaches taking jobs that don't involve coaching? Bill Parcells has the Dolphins back to being watchable, but they aren't special. Holmgren showed in Seattle that personnel decisions weren't his best suit, to the point he had to give them up or he would have lost his job as coach too. Now personnel will be his primary focus and that's going to raise Cleveland's franchise from bottom dweller to contender? Why would anyone believe that?

Sports By Brooks reports that TMZ is starting a new version of their website devoted to sports. It's hard to tell how big a deal this will be without knowing how many people and how much money is committed to the project. Will they focus on all sports equally, or pay more attention to pro stuff and glamorous names? If TMZ wants to muckrake every salacious rumor about goings on with college programs and things happening during recruiting, it could make things very interesting. If a kid like Matt Barkley of USC is out past curfew or breaks up with his girlfriend, is that the kind of the story TMZ Sports will do? I'll be curious to find out.

I used to believe on some level when I was a kid that it mattered what the first song played on the radio at the start of a new year was. When Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (like a Record)" was first on Q105 one year, I took it as a sign it was going to be a pretty crappy year. Apparently British folks have a similar fixation on which song sits at number one for Christmas week each year. This year's number one? "Killing in the Name Of", Rage Against the Machine's tune from the early 90s. The story of how that happened is pretty cool.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sam Houston State used to be the Sam Houston Institute of Technology - good call on the name change

Florida basketball's loss to Richmond was disappointing but not disastrous. The Spiders will be an NCAA contender out of the Atlantic 10, and the game will count as neutral court for RPI purposes. For the SEC as a whole though, this was an incredibly damaging weekend for conference credibility. South Carolina lost at Wofford. Tennessee was shredded by USC, and Alabama lost in Mobile to Kansas State by 13. Auburn didn't just lose to Sam Houston State, they got worked over by 18! Kentucky being undefeated and ultrahyped is going to help the league this year, but these kind of performances are going to chip away at that credibility. Other than UF, it's hard to point to anyone who could be described as exceeding expectations so far.

Cincinnati's already ridiculous situation heading into the Sugar Bowl got even more disjointed over the weekend. Buffalo hired Bearcats OC Jeff Quinn as their new coach. The Bearcats were coached by Brian Kelly, who's now gone to Notre Dame, all season. He'll be taking about half the Cincy staff with him, although no one's acknowledging that yet, meaning those guys have divided attention. Kelly's replacement, Butch Jones, has been hired but will not coach in the bowl game. Now the guy who's supposed to be trying to finish the job Kelly started has his own program to worry about. If Florida can't take advantage of this set of circumstances, something's wrong.

When Joe McKnight signed with USC, he was touted as the "next Reggie Bush". Just as he has been less effective than Bush on the field, McKnight has now proven to be less adept at concealing potential NCAA violations off it than Bush as well. The L.A. Times exposed the details on McKnight driving an SUV registered to a Santa Monica businessman who has also registered the domain name That prompted the SUV's owner to write an extraordinary email claiming there's nothing fishy about any of this, while also referring to turning nuclear waste into metals. Pete Carroll's paradise is crumbling, and looking at the quality of some of the returning Pac Ten talent it's far from certain that the Trojans will race back to the top of the conference next season.

Want to get a feel for how the mindset of a pro athlete can be radically different from a typical person's? Check out former Green Bay Packer and FSU star Leroy Butler's take on the Tiger Woods situation, as detailed on his Twitter feed...

"okay,this tiger thing is starting to get under my skin,these,(tricks) easy women knew he was married,so i can care less how they feel the only one i care about is his wife,but i think this was a set up from day one,the tour players,hook him up with a babysitter, they cant beat him so they try to bring him down,they know,his weakness,and its not golf,its women,in comes jasper,"dude hook him up"

That's right, Tiger was fooling around with a dozen or more women behind his wife's back not because he's a cheater but rather because the pro golfers conspired to get him married in the first place. If Parenvik doesn't introduce him to Elin (and aparently subliminally command him to ask her to marry him), then Tiger wouldn't have a wife to cheat on! You and I didn't pick up on such an obvious explanation, because we're not pro athletes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

No photographs please

Two Florida football recruits were the subject of much derision on the web the last couple of days as a result of pictures from their Myspace pages being circulated. One featured the player posing with a small amount of money and a pellet gun. The other showed the UF prospect with a bandana over his face flashing some sort of hand signal. Internet hysteria being what it is, both kids were being called thugs immediately on websites like Deadspin. To their credit, each kid has come forward to acknowledge the photos are them while trying to minimize further PR damage by pointing out the pictures are from eighth grade. For all players, this should be an indication that if you choose to present yourself as a gangsta people will believe you're serious. The number of people eager to make sweeping conclusions about others from one photo or brief internet video clip is disturbing though.

The Chicago Tribune claims Big Ten sources are saying the conference might not stop at 12 schools, with 14 or even 16 a possibility. I don't buy 16 as a legit scenario for a second, but 14 could make some sense. If the Big Ten took Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska, they would add a great basketball rivalry between KU and Mizzou. Nebraska's a legendary football powerhouse, and all three schools are of reasonable academic quality. I'm still not sold the conference will even go to 12 for sure, but it would be a lot easier to persuade Missouri to leave the Big 12 with Kansas and the Cornhuskers coming along.

The Washington Redskins caught everyone off guard by finally making the move their fans had been waiting several years for yesterday. GM/Danny Snyder racquetball buddy Vinny Cerrato is out. He's been replaced already, by former Tampa Bay and Oakland GM Bruce Allen. Translation: either the Chucky show is headed to DC after Monday Night Football wraps up or the Redskins just stomped out whatever lingering hope their fans had of success. Allen has shown no ability to make solid draft selections or function effectively as an NFL executive without Jon Gruden pulling his strings. It's hard to understand what could have convinced Snyder he was the right guy to lead the Redskins going forward.

Sports Illustrated's All Decade college football team has been released. I'm surprised to see Urban Meyer got the slot as coach, not that he's unworthy. With the media's love affair with Pete Carroll (who won a share of two national titles) and Nick Saban (who may be the first to win one at two different BCS schools) I would have anticipated one of them being the choice. Tim Tebow was selected at QB as well. There aren't many glaring errors on the team, although some are debatable. Oklahoma's Derrick Strait has no business being touted as one of the two best cornerbacks of the decade though.

A holiday note: there will be fresh posts Monday through Wednesday next week before taking some downtime for Christmas travel. I'll resume activity December 30, after traveling to Birmingham the day before to begin coverage of South Carolina in the Bowl. I will be covering UF/Cincy in New Orleans as well, but only on game day itself. Should you be one of those who's taking the entire next week off, I hope you have safe travels and a merry Christmas. I have no holiday video to offer you, so please enjoy the University of Maryland's instead (turn your speakers on for the full ridiculous effect).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Losing big money - now that's G!

One of the storylines everyone is going to be sick of leading into the upcoming NFL Draft will be what happens with Tim Tebow. The real focus point will be whether Jacksonville will draft Tebow or not and whether doing so will save the franchise. Those things you can count on, but I find columns like this one from Yahoo's Charles Robinson pretty irritating. Calling a Tebow to the Jaguars scenario "disastrous", Robinson proclaims...

"I don’t think Moses and the Israelites shared such an obsessed and needy relationship as the one between Tebow and the state of Florida. I can tell you what will happen if Tebow stays in Florida. Fans will expect immediate greatness. They won’t stay patient and wait for what is likely to be a protracted period of development if Tebow does indeed play quarterback at the next level. And when Tebow struggles – and he will struggle – they’ll point a finger at the franchise and wonder who is damaging the kid’s shot at NFL greatness."

because all of them Florida hicks is just a bunch of dummies. Most people I have talked with about Tebow are well aware he needs work to succeed as an NFL QB. If Robinson had paid attention to what Gator fans had to say about Tebow this season, he might realize they understand he's far from perfect or NFL ready. On the other hand, the kid is a winner. If used creatively, Tebow certainly is a powerful enough runner and a hard enough worker that he could do some good things for a team next year to help them. Maybe he can eventually develop into an NFL QB, but fans in a city that saw Byron Leftwich get drafted as a "franchise" player at the position can grasp that it's no sure thing. Especially given the amount of information available today, fanbases are generally smarter than the Charles Robinsons of the world think.

Alabama is unhappy that six of the teams they'll play in SEC action next football season are scheduled to have bye weeks before they go against the Crimson Tide. As a result, the Tuscaloosa News reports the SEC wants to change the schedule to placate them. The conference has always had the image of dancing to Bama's tune - this certainly won't help that go away anytime soon. As for the Crimson Tide's lament, I'd be more willing to consider this a problem if they were losing games to better rested opponents. When you've gone undefeated in back to back regular seasons, it's hard to see where the supposed harm comes in. Mississippi State will have two whole weeks to get ready for Bama - ooooh, scary! Each school's AD designed their schedules and placed their team's bye weeks where they did based on their own needs. If one of them loses out on that privilege because Alabama's unhappy, that's disgraceful.

Tennessee has a gigantic question to answer leading into their next season: who's the quarterback with Jonathan Crompton gone? Senior Nick Stephens has virtually no experience and is so unimpressive he couldn't beat out Crompton for any playing time at all. The Vols signed a crappy junior college QB last summer who's made minimal impact, and now they've signed another JUCO in Matt Simms. This would be of little note, except that Simms is the son of Phil Simms. A few of the items on Matt's resume include:

1. flicking off opposing fans and cursing at them after winning the state title his senior year
2. a four game suspension after a photo showing Simms preparing to smoke pot hit the web
3. quitting the team at Louisville when he wasn't promised to be a starter for 2009 despite having completed 4 of 10 with one touchdown pass the year before.

Sounds like just the kind of winner Lane Kiffin is looking for to lead the Volunteers to greatness! Because his dad's famous, expect this signing to be built into a lot more than the actual ability of Simms warrants.

If you have a successful and established brand name, it turns out to be a bad idea to ditch it just to try to sound hip and appeal to the youth market. "G"'s volume dropped 18 percent in the first half of the year, costing the company four percent of market share. Maybe that's because people were looking for Gatorade and had no idea what the heck G was? Before this idiotic name change was made, I would have thought someone was discussing a club drug if they'd asked me whether I used G. Sounds like I wasn't the only one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Being a loser is still an identity

Raheem Morris says the Bucs need to reduce rookie quarterback Josh Freeman's workload as a result of him throwing eight interceptions in the past two games. There's also lots of talk about the need for the offense to establish an identity. They HAVE established an identity: they're a terrible football team coached by a guy who's so over his head in the lead role that he fired both his coordinators before completing two thirds of his first season in the job. If you're Morris and you chose to start a rookie QB who was known for making bad decisions against Big 12 defenses, what other outcome could you possibly have expected going against NFL schemes once they had a little tape on what you were doing with the kid?

The Big Ten has now officially announced it will look seriously at expansion over the next 12 to 18 months. I've always believed the most logical team outside of Notre Dame for them to add is Missouri. It would enhance the Big Ten's TV appeal in St. Louis and Kansas City and add another state U with quality academics to the mix. Missouri appears to agree with me, as they issued the statement equivalent of "call me!" One commenter from yesterday took issue with me saying Mizzou's departure would destabilize the Big 12. Make no mistake, if they leave they have to be replaced by someone at least as good. Unlike the Big Ten, which doesn't have to add someone to maintain its current revenue levels, the Big 12 would not be coming from a position of strength. Saying "add TCU" doesn't account for the Horned Frogs having sold out just two games in their 44 thousand seat stadium in the past quarter century. The Big 12 would try to come after Arkansas, but I can't see the Razorbacks walking away from the SEC cash cow at this point. The domino effect from whatever the Big Ten does will be fascinating.

The creep who videotaped Erin Andrews pled guilty yesterday in a Los Angeles courtroom and will get at least a couple of years behind bars. To her credit, Erin went to the courtroom and faced the guy down. I'm sure now that it's been made abundantly clear that she had nothing to do with this situation, all the clueless clowns who accused her of being involved because there wasn't an arrest within a couple of weeks will acknowledge their stupidity. Maybe Christine Brennan just hasn't had time to write about it either.

Newspapers continue to wrestle with ways to survive given the current technology and economic trends that have wrecked their longtime business model. I take no pleasure in that, but it's a reality. The Miami Herald has now taken a new step to try and generate revenue - it's put the equivalent of a tip jar on its site to try and make money from web viewers. I completely understand if they need to charge a subscription fee. Content is being generated, and a lot of people are getting paid to do it. I've never understood why papers opted to make everything online free to begin with. This idea just makes me sad though. A paper like the Herald shouldn't be in the same category as the guy playing violin on the subway hoping someone drops a quarter or two in his case.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame seriously needs to take a few years off from inducting anyone. I've mentioned this before, and yesterday's announcement of this year's inductees only confirms it further. Genesis is worthy of being in, but if that's the best you've got then you don't have enough to merit yearly voting. Maybe every three years they should induct some new artists. Meanwhile, regardless of what you think of their music (and I'm not a huge fan) there is no way Kiss is not more "Hall of Fame" worthy than the Hollies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

30 years after Woody Hayes, some guys still don't get it

Brett McMurphy leaving the Tampa Tribune and catching on with Fanhouse continues to be nightmare fuel for USF fans. First he nailed their basketball program for apparent NCAA violations, and now he has details of Jim Leavitt reportedly striking one of his players during the Bulls game with Louisville. If the behavior chronicled in the story is accurate, Leavitt should be fired. He, not surprisingly, maintains the report is not true. Leavitt supposedly headbutted a player during the Louisville game, and was walking around dripping blood after the half. As bizarrely over the top as he is sometimes with his temper, I find this story completely plausible.

The New York Times is on a roll when it comes to sports stories at the moment. This morning's edition details the continuing investigation into Dr. Anthony Galea, a prominent sports medicine figure. According to the Times, he's under scrutiny for providing athletes with performance enhancing drugs. Whether this is the jumping off point for a new BALCO situation remains to be seen, but one of Galea's many patients is Tiger Woods (for recovery assistance from his knee surgery). There's no evidence at all of anything inappropriate done by Tiger with regards to this, but given the month he's been having he'll probably wind up being the one most identified with it for now.

If Tiger Woods is the most insanely overpursued story of the past two weeks - on the cover of the New York Post every single day?! - the Big Ten looking to expand is the undercovered item. According to Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez, they want a conference title game as soon as it's feasible. The question is what team they want to go after since there's no indication Notre Dame's looking to join. Do they try and push Big Ten country into New York by grabbing Syracuse or Rutgers? What about a Big 12 destablizing Missouri? Someone no one's thinking of at all like Texas? Whichever team they take if they're successful will open the door for other conferences to make some moves as well - this could get interesting.

A surprising announcement from Seattle yesterday could really impact the upcoming NFL Draft and 2010 college season. Quarterback Jake Locker will stay at Washington rather than enter the draft. Locker had emerged as the consensus top prospect at quarterback heading into the combine, which means Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford (assuming he can show he's healthy) are very appreciative of Locker's choice. What will be interesting to see now is whether Ryan Mallett stays at Arkansas or Christian Ponder at FSU. Each is a prospect with some interest but enough flaws that they'd be better off returning to work on them. Do they feel like they can squeeze into round one now even though they're not really ready? If so, they probably should go given the concerns about the NFL's rookie salary structure they're expected to install for the following draft group.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making as much sense as me trying to be a Soul Train dancer

In yet another example of family members never helping situations when they decide to speak to the media, Ahmad Black's dad decided to pop off to Robbie Andreu about his son going pro. Beyond that, he decided to announce the supposed thoughts of the other three UF kids from Lakeland. Who cares if they haven't chosen to do that and didn't know this was coming, because Mr. Black is upset....

“I would let Ahmad stay if they would show him some respect,” Bruce Black said. “I don’t think coach Urban Meyer respects my son. If he did, Ahmad would have started the first game (against Charleston Southern) instead of (sophomore) Will Hill. Coach Meyer favors certain players, and Ahmad isn’t one of them."

First of all, he'd "let" his son stay in college on scholarship if he was the starter? How generous of him! Beyond that, Ahmad Black would be making a terrible decision to go pro. Black will not be drafted because while he's a good college player he lacks sufficient size and speed to merit being selected and is at a position which is not particularly coveted in the draft. Talk to Emmanuel Cook of South Carolina, considered a better prospect than Black is, about how that worked out for him last year. If his father has deluded himself otherwise, he will soon be angry at NFL scouts for not showing Ahmad enough respect. If history indicates anything, that will be the coach's fault as well. As for Chris Rainey's supposed interest in going pro, when even Mr. Black can grasp you have no business doing so that speaks for itself.

Mack Brown has been a very good football coach for Texas. He's won two conference championships and a national title since being hired in 1998, and will likely continue to do well in coming seasons. Brown is not known as a particularly brilliant game coach, as anyone who watched Saturday's last minute fiasco can attest, but he's an excellent recruiter and is a very likeable guy. Three million a year for his salary made sense, given the marketplace for successful coaches. Yesterday, for no apparent reason, Texas made Brown the highest paid coach in college football history - 5 million per year through 2016. The idiocy of this move can not be understated. Brown has no suitors - unlike Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, no one's trying to lure him away. The school already has Will Muschamp signed as his replacement, so it's not like they're buying the security of not having to look for a coach. What possible explanation is there to just give Brown a two million dollar raise when most people's budgets are tighter than ever? How many schools will wind up paying more exorbitant salaries to their coaches as a result of Texas arbitrarily raising the bar so much?

One day after the New York Times dropped their NCAA investigation bombshell, Tennessee supporters are busy screaming "All is Well!" like Kevin Bacon in Animal House. Knoxville News-Sentinel columnist John Adams actually says Kiffin has "turned UT football from losers into winners". I didn't know 7-5 passed for being winners in Tennessee these days, nor did I realize having a bad 2008 meant UT was now a program of losers. Adams also basically says no one's been able to pin anything on the Vols in years, so the charges probably won't stick this time. Hey John, even John Gotti was eventually convicted.

Gary Shelton of the St. Pete Times claims this is the most disappointing Bucs season ever. Sorry, no. Not even close. Going 8-8 after a Super Bowl win with no playoff trip was vastly more disappointing than an obviously crappy team playing crappier than expected. This was never going to be anything better than a 4-12 team from the start - anyone who felt otherwise wasn't paying attention. When a franchise has an 0-26 string on their resume, getting worked up about a one win year in the midst of a radical roster makeover seems silly to me. It's been a strange year, and I hope the owners will look seriously at hiring a competent GM and coach after the season has wrapped. There's no need for any extra hyperbole on top of that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You reap what you sow

Things are getting extremely interesting in Knoxville, as the New York Times breaks the news that the NCAA is engaged in a major investigation of Tennessee's recruiting tactics. Lane Kiffin's already lost two staff members, and may well have two more of his "super recruiters" go soon. This should make things very interesting as he looks to land replacements. As for the allegations about the UT recruiting hostesses coming to Brynes High School in South Carolina, the Gamecock coaching staff was tipped off about that as soon as it happened. It was not a spontaneous choice by the girls to show up at that game - whether that can be proven by the NCAA investigators remains to be seen, because being a whistleblower can put people in a very difficult spot.

One of those Tennessee staffers who hasn't left, LB coach Lance Thompson, may be joining Charlie Strong's staff at Louisville as his defensive coordinator. UF will need to fill Strong's shoes, as he's scheduled to be announced as the new Cardinals head man this afternoon. This means he won't be eligible next year for the Broyles Award as top assistant coach, which he lost to Alabama's Kirby Smart Tuesday, but I'm guessing he's okay with that. We'll see how many, if any, coaches leave Florida's staff along with Strong. I anticipate a promotion from within for the DC spot, and there's really no reason for Strong to stick around for the Sugar Bowl with UF not playing for a championship. It's great to see this finally happen for Strong - he's waited a long time and appears to have found a good situation.

The idea being discussed by the NCAA to expand the NCAA Basketball Tournament to 96 teams as a way to generate extra TV revenue is unbelievably stupid. If someone wanted to concoct a plan to ruin the entire sport of college basketball, this would be a blueprint. The idea would basically turn week one of the tournament into the 9-16 seeds in a current bracket battling for their spots with the NIT field. The 1-8 seeds would have the week off. The effect would be that every team in a major conference with anything resembling a pulse would make the tournament. The February bubble games that are mandatory watching now for hoop fans? Meaningless. Conference tournaments, where a Mississippi State or Georgia from 08 can battle their way to a season saving bid? A waste of time - everyone's already in. Epic first round upsets that built the interest in the tournament like 15 seed Richmond over 2 seed Syracuse? Gone in favor of them beating the sixth team in the Big Ten instead. This is a disastrously bad idea - anyone with the slightest love of college basketball should raise hell if it ever sees the light of day.

Peter Gammons leaving ESPN for the MLB Network will have a huge impact on their coverage. Buster Olney and Jayson Stark are both solid info guys, but neither has the built up role as Mr. Baseball that Gammons does. Losing Steve Phillips was nothing big, but Gammons going means ESPN has to find someone to fill those shoes. Looking around, it's hard to see who that person would be. I honestly have no idea if my cable company even offers the MLB Network. This is significant enough that I'm going to find out.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Heisman winner named Suh? Maybe

Tim Tebow will go back to New York as a Heisman finalist for the third time. He's not going to win, but it's wrong for people to jump on him as not deserving to be there. The Heisman people can invite as many or as few people as they wish - last year it was three, this year it's five. Tebow is a former winner and likely will finish fifth or sixth in the voting - why wouldn't they want him there? The notion that Tebow is "taking" a spot that C.J. Spiller or Kellen Moore deserved instead is nonsense. If they had enough votes to be there, they would be there. I have a Heisman vote this year for the first time. They've asked us not to reveal our votes in advance, to preserve some surprise factor now that sites like compile any published/broadcast info and look to project the winner in advance. Without disclosing the order for now, I will say that Mark Ingram, Toby Gerhart and Ndamukong Suh were the three guys I voted for.

To me this year's BCS matchups are thoroughly uninspiring. Alabama-Texas for the championship is suspect, largely because the Longhorns did nothing to earn the spot all season long. Colt McCoy struggles every time he plays a pass D ranked higher than 70, they basically have one WR, and the Texas A&M game indicated their defense is highly overhyped as well. It's the other four games that really are lackluster though. The Rose Bowl matchup has nothing to do with the BCS, and it's alright. UF-Cincy could be interesting. Find a soul without a previous tie to either Iowa and Georgia Tech who's excited about that game and I'll be amazed. The TCU-Boise State game is a cynical ploy by the BCS to put the two non-BCS league teams in just as Congress is bringing more political heat (ridiculous though that is). By matching them against each other rather than BCS conference teams, the possibility of any Utah like upsets to bolster underdog programs credibility is eliminated. My guess is other than the two on New Year's Day and the title game, ratings will be dreadful. Why is this supposed to be better than a playoff again?

If you haven't taken the time to go over the final ballots from the coaches poll, you owe it to yourself to do so. Among the more interesting items, Brian Kelly ranked UF seventh, lower than any other coach (along with Tommy West). Troy Calhoun of Air Force kept UF second, ahead of Texas. Les Miles has Cincinnati ranked eighth, including inexplicably putting them behind two loss Ohio State at five. Steve Spurrier may have leftover Buckeye memories from the 2006 Championship game, because he not only ranked them eleventh but put them behind Penn State and Iowa - two teams the Buckeyes beat on their way to winning the Big Ten. This would all be interesting as a curiosity, but it actually matters in the BCS. That's not good.

It was documented two years ago during Houston Nutt's unpleasant final season at Arkansas that he attempted to get involved in job searches at NC State and Miami. Those both seemed like moves that would have made sense for him had the schools been interested. Both had access to areas with more talent than what Nutt had in Fayetteville, and there was extra incentive for him to look around. For him to be trying to get in on the Kansas job after just two years at Ole Miss makes no sense whatsoever. Nutt just had a disappointing season, lost to his instate rival, and won't have Dexter McCluster next year. This is not the time to test the patience of the fanbase currently paying your bills. If Nutt doesn't disassociate himself from the KU search in a hurry, he'd better get the job or his seat in Oxford will get warm mighty fast next year.

The Tiger Woods crap just will not go away, with every female he's ever met suddenly coming forward to claim they had a torrid affair. Curiously, all of them seem to have lawyers too. I have no idea how many women Woods was involved with outside his marriage, but the first example of legitimate hypocrisy on his part has now come to light. Tiger talks about family and how his priorities have changed in advertising for an Asheville area resort he's designed a course for. I still don't think that justifies the insane saturation coverage of this whole sordid situation, but it's worth noting.

David Stern says he believes a woman will play in the NBA within a decade. If we're talking "play" like Manon Rheaume played in the NHL, maybe. Playing as any kind of regular member of a team? Sorry, no sale. Look at the athletes playing in today's NBA and tell me what woman can guard them. Even if there's a male who's a great shooter, he won't play if he gives up points for sure on the other end. I don't know if this is some sort of WNBA wind down strategy - we don't need a women's league because they're good enough to play with the guys now! - but to me it's ridiculous.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What an amazing Saturday that was

Ever since Florida finished being blasted by Alabama, my phone and email has been blowing up with people asking the same question: what happened? It's one thing to lose to a quality team like the Crimson Tide, it's a whole other issue entirely to look as bad as the Gators did in doing so. A few thoughts:

1. Dunlap being out did hurt, in that Bama was much more willing to throw early than they likely would have been had he been there. They did a great job of protecting Greg McElroy and creating matchups like Marquis Maze on Ryan Stamper that were nightmare scenarios for Florida. When the Gators began to blitz more to try and get pressure, Alabama hit them with the perfect call of a screen pass to Mark Ingram that went 69 yards and may have been the most important play of the game.

2. Dunlap's absence does not explain repeated missed tackles by usually steady performers. It does not explain dropped passes by normally reliable receivers. It does not explain a player with the chance to make the block to spring Brandon James on a punt return wandering by the one man who could make the tackle, the punter, with no apparent interest in even appearing to block him. Florida looked like another team in their all white ensemble - since when do the Gators aspire to resemble Miami? - and their performance did as well.

3. Alabama must be given their due. Even if Florida had produced a slightly above average performance by UF standards, they would have lost to them Saturday. Plays like Greg McElroy's toe hopping sideline scramble to keep a drive going on third down have nothing to do with coaching and everything to do with desire. Alabama made those kind of "heart" plays all game long. I saw very few Florida players other than Tim Tebow making those kind of plays Saturday.

4. Steve Addazio is a very solid offensive line coach. There is no way to defend his performance in this game as offensive coordinator. Florida tailbacks getting three carries TOTAL for the game is absurd. I understand that Cody clogs the middle, but outside runs were there. The few times UF did give a back the ball, they ripped off 8 and 9 yard gains. Jeff Demps is one of the fastest people in college football. He got one play with ball in his hands (after dropping a pass early - is that why?), and that is completely unacceptable. Next year there will be a new QB, Hernandez and Cooper will be gone, and UF's offense will look completely different. That means continuity won't be as valuable as it is in some seasons. Urban Meyer is a loyal guy, but he is doing himself and his team a disservice if he does not seriously evaluate what has gone on this season with the playcalling.

5. I don't think the team will mail it in against Cincy in the bowl the way Bama did last year, but the Bearcats are an excellent offensive team. This will be interesting, especially if Charlie Strong is gone to Louisville as most believe he will be by Tuesday. There's no reason for Strong to coach a bowl game when Dan McCarney's on staff and has ample time to prepare. Vance Bedford has DC experience as well, which will make Meyer's choice on how to handle the opening very interesting. I don't think Brian Kelly will be in South Bend when the game's played - just a hunch, but keep your eye on UConn's Randy Edsall for the Notre Dame gig. If Kelly did get hired by Notre Dame, it would change everything about the Sugar Bowl matchup because he's the Bearcats equivalent to Spurrier in his UF days.

Speaking of Notre Dame, Charlie Weis did something over the weekend that was pathetic. For no apparent reason, he decided to take a direct shot at Pete Carroll by claiming he was living with a grad student in Malibu rather than his wife. Weis, as quoted by longtime Notre Dame reporter Tim Prister...

"Let me ask you this question: You guys know about things that go on in different places. Was I living with a grad student in Malibu, or was I living with my wife in my house? You could bet that if I were living with a grad student here in South Bend, it would be national news. He's doing it in Malibu and it's not national news. What's the difference? I don't understand. Why is it okay for one guy to do things like that, but for me, I'm scrutinized when I swear. I'm sorry for swearing; absolve my sins."

"He's doing it" doesn't seem to leave any wiggle room, but Weis now claims the comments were taken out of context. Sure they were. The good news for Weis is he'll probably be hired by an NFL team as offensive coordinator soon and the head man likely won't let him talk at all. That way he can't say something this stupid again. I think it's hilarious Weis believes internet chatter was a big problem for him. Losing to Navy twice in three years seems like a bigger deal to me.

The BCS is ridiculous, as is anyone voting for Colt McCoy to win the Heisman. I'll hit those things tomorrow when we have the list of finalists for the trophy.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Atlanta here I come

Last night we got an excellent game to settle the Pac-10 Championship - who would have thought Oregon could get to Pasadena after that absurdly awful opener against Boise State? Now it's time for the matchup everyone's been pointing to for weeks. I keep hearing commentators proclaim how incredible Alabama is - they're better than last year, while UF is struggling. That doesn't appear to synch up the facts, since UF has won every game but one in their current streak by double digits while Bama had to rally in the fourth quarter against Auburn and LSU and blocked a game ending field goal to survive Tennessee. Details, details - don't you know only one coach has been able to win back to back games against the mighty Nick Saban (if you ignore his whole career before LSU)? Hey, how many coaches have won back to back against Urban Meyer in his ENTIRE career? Oh that's right, only Tommy Tuberville. Details, details.

The reality is this: while both teams are excellent Urban Meyer has been considerably more effective when a championship's on the line than Saban has. Give me the team with the better coach, the better QB and the better special teams and I'll take my chances. Florida's that team, and if they play as they normally do they will be on their way to Pasadena. Then we can all go see if Nebraska can induce BCS chaos by beating Texas, especially since some have floated scenarios of an SEC rematch if they do so. I don't believe that would or should happen regardless of who wins the game. An unbeaten TCU deserves their shot over a one loss anyone. Unless Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati it will be a moot point anyway.

Tim Donaghy's book is coming out after all. He's going to be on 60 Minutes Sunday - hopefully they'll ask some tough questions and try to verify what he's putting out there as opposed to doing a Roger Clemens/Michael Vick rollover interview. I'm glad the book will be released, because while Donaghy's motives have to be considered suspect he may be able to force the NBA to do more to address their issues with officials than they did when this scandal broke. The disgraced NBA referee also has a new Facebook fan group to promote his book- who wouldn't want to have "became a fan of Tim Donaghy" on their page as an activity?

If you were an elite athlete looking to improve your performance, it stands to reason you might look for advice on what to eat and which supplements to take. Out of all the possible people you could seek out to provide that information, wouldn't it seem pretty obvious not to go to the guy who masterminded the BALCO scandal and went to jail as a result? Apparently not. Current boxing champs and an MLB outfielder are on the record saying they're using Victor Conte's products. I'm not saying Conte is still committing criminal acts - in fact, let's assume he isn't. It still astounds me anyone is willing to trust him to give them stuff to put in their bodies when their career depends on staying clean.

This weekend should be a lot of fun. Have a good one and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

AJC NFL Poll: Can UGA beat the Saints?

Throughout the week there's been a steady drumbeat of reports indicating Charlie Strong is the lead candidate for the Louisville head coaching job. He won't interview until next week, but I'll be very curious to see how that goes. Strong is a terrific defensive coach and recruits well, but hasn't shown great skill with the "public face" part of the job yet. Dan Mullen has had MSU people eating out of his hand since he got to Starkville and began referring to Ole Miss as "the school up north" a la Urban Meyer with FSU (who modeled his version of that on Woody Hayes). Bob Stoops claimed at his introductory Oklahoma press conference that he painted his shoes silver to look like Joe Washington when he was a kid. The fanbase loved it - instead of some DC they'd never heard of, he was a Sooner like them! Is Strong ready to play that kind of role for the Louisville fanbase? I hope so, but in media dealings with him he's seemed pretty stiff even with guys he knows. Being skilled at that stuff's an important part of being a head coach these days.

Mark Richt did what most believed was inevitable and announced the dismissal of Willie Martinez as Georgia defensive coordinator. Two other assistants on the defensive side got the boot as well, meaning only defensive line coach and recruiting ace Rodney Garner is left. Considering Garner has been reported to have some sort of issue with athletic director Damon Evans, he may leave on his own regardless of whether he's considered for the DC spot. It will be very interesting to see what direction Richt goes with this enormously important choice, and as usual the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's absurd Bulldog homerism about how desirable that position will be does not disappoint. Check out the poll accompanying this inane Mark Bradley piece suggesting UGA should hire South Carolina's DC (who took the job with the Gamecocks specifically to return to his home state, but Bradley feels would want to leave because... well, he just would). It lists Charlie Strong and Tommy Tuberville as candidates for Georgia's DC spot. Why not include Batman and General David Petraeus too?

There's a college football game you should watch tonight. I've heard for a long time that Oregon and Oregon State is one of the most bitter rivalries in all of college football. Unfortunately, thanks to the Pac-10's crappy TV contracts, most of us haven't gotten a chance to see it too often. Tonight at nine the two teams play with a Rose Bowl berth on the line and ESPN will let the whole country see what the big deal is. Both teams have creative offenses with quality running backs - this should be really good. If we're really lucky, they'll mix in some sideline shots of the Oregon cheerleaders as well.

As bad as Bobby Bowden must have felt when FSU told him it was over earlier this week, at least there was a way to stop him from further damaging his legacy. No such process exists in boxing, which is why we wind up with the sad spectacle of long used up fighters who will not accept reality. The latest sad example is Roy Jones Junior, who was knocked out in less than a round by someone named Danny Green. Hopefully this will be it, but supposedly there's a potential rematch with Bernard Hopkins out there for him. Ideally Jones and Evander Holyfield could be pitted against each other in a "loser has to retire for good" match, because both of them should have stopped at least half a decade ago.

You might have noticed I haven't said anything about Tiger Woods admitting to "letting his family down" via statement yesterday. It's a shame that Tiger made the mistakes he did, but I'm at a loss to explain why anyone would expect moral guidance from a pro athlete. Woods owes his family an apology, but other than that he doesn't owe anyone much. When the sexuality of the mom from Family Ties can be treated as an important story, something is seriously messed up with our priorities.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

That better have been some amazing party, Carlos

Urban Meyer normally doesn't reveal suspensions in advance, but he had no other choice but to announce Carlos Dunlap wouldn't play in the SEC Championship as a result of yesterday morning's DUI arrest. Dunlap has damaged his NFL Draft stock a great deal - a DUI is bad, but the lack of focus to have it happen the week of a one versus two game for a shot at the national title will raise more questions for scouts than the offense itself. It's a huge mistake, although I'm not going to brand Dunlap as a "thug/criminal" like one Gainesville media member did on his Facebook page yesterday. Lots of kids I went to college with made poor choices with regards to drinking and driving, smoking pot, being drunk in public and so forth. It's unfair to athletes that when they make the same mistake it's treated like the end of the world. Putting Dunlap's DUI, Dorian Munroe's decision to put a parking boot in the trunk of his car, and Ronnie Wilson firing off an AK-47 in public in the same category seems pretty stupid to me.

For some reason it was big news to people that Steve Spurrier is getting a one year contract extension from South Carolina. He'll be under contract through 2013, which has absolutely nothing to do with how long he'll serve as coach of the Gamecocks. Remember, Charlie Weis had six years remaining on his contract. Phil Fulmer got a seven year deal last summer and was out the door by Halloween. I believe Spurrier intends to coach for at least two more seasons, and if things have progressed past the current seven win level he may want to stick around after that. If it hasn't, I doubt he sees the end of this or any other "extensions" they give him for recruiting purposes.

Keep an eye on the situation at LSU, where the AD has acknowledged that they're looking into possible NCAA rules violations by their WR coach. Les Miles has already lost his running backs coach, who was considered maybe their best recruiter, to the Memphis head coaching position. If there turns out to be something significant here, it's the kind of thing that could not only cost the WR coach his job but also have serious repercussions on the recruiting trail. Rumors can be just as bad as the actual penalties. Other schools would love to get a bigger foothold in Louisiana, especially Tennessee with Ed Orgeron.

The NFL is considering expanding their season to 18 games while dumping at least one preseason week. That's not a surprise. What would be news is if they begin playing every Thursday and Saturday night as part of their plan to do so. It's one thing to play a few Thursday games as a way to work around the World Series, but are fans who spend big money for tickets really going to want to have four nights a week potentially be when a game could come up? Lots of people are fans of the NFL and college football - playing on Saturday would be forcing them to make a choice that in some markets the NFL will lose. Going after Saturday viewing and ticket money isn't likely to go over well with the colleges, who can make scouting life really difficult for the pros if they want to. The NFL needs to rethink this idea - it sounds like when ABC went nuts and put Who Wants To Be A Millionaire on every night for hours. There can in fact be too much of a good thing.

Chip Caray is out as TBS play by play man for baseball. Chip seems like a nice enough guy, but sometimes you are simply not good at what you want to do. I know announcing baseball was the family business, but he's terrible at it. This year's playoffs were so outlandishly bad that this was bound to happen, but the fact he couldn't win over people in either Chicago or Atlanta should have told TBS something. Not sure who they'll go to next, but hopefully it's someone who's chosen based on being good at what they do as opposed to their relatives having been good at what they did. Caray didn't seem too bad back in his Orlando Magic TV days - maybe basketball's a better fit for his skill set.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

So long to a legend

The Bobby Bowden era at FSU ended years ago. Unfortunately for the coach, no one had the guts to tell him. Thanks to having an enabler in the school president's office, Bowden has been allowed to keep going well past the point where common sense should have made it clear it was time to step aside. Today it finally ends, although the specifics still seem unclear. There was even a report that Bowden might "coach" the first game of 2010 against Samford, his alma mater and the first place he coached, and then retire. That's the kind of nonsense that had to end in Tallahassee. Bowden should be honored on that day (although once you've built a statue, a ridiculous looking stained glass window and named the field after a guy there's not much left to do on that front), but having him pretend to coach would be a huge distraction with zero benefit for FSU.

The tragedy of Bowden's final nine seasons on the sidelines is that a lot of people will remember him as a doddering fool, blowing his nose constantly and wondering why "ol' number nine" wasn't in there to return a punt when he went pro years earlier. That's a shame, because once upon a time he genuinely was a terrific football coach. The road victories in the 80s at some of the toughest venues in college football amazed me as a kid. Imagine someone booking a stretch like this insane five game 1981 run today: at Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Notre Dame, at Pitt, and at LSU. Bowden's team won three of the five. Bowden had the guts to call the punt rooskie against number three Clemson on the road late in a tie game in 1988. To quote a favorite movie of mine, Inherit The Wind, "A giant once lived in that body."

I believe things went permanently off course for FSU under Bowden in 2001 for a number of reasons. The departures of Mark Richt and Chuck Amato for head coaching jobs were significant, with the promotion of the unqualified Jeff Bowden to the offensive coordinator spot and Darryl Dickey being hired as QB coach each turning out to be disastrous choices. In February of that year, Devaughn Darling died while taking part in an offseason workout. I don't think the kids on that team ever fully recovered their trust in the coaches after that incident. I'll never forget being at the annual Florida Sports Writers Association Media Day event in Orlando around six months after the death. Bowden was asked what the status was of Darling's brother Devard, who had been in limbo because of concerns about him having the same sickle cell trait that had been a major factor in Devaughn's death. Bowden began to answer, and then said - and I want to emphasize this is a VERBATIM quote....

"Was it Devaughn or Devard? (Turning to FSU's SID Rob Wilson) Rob, which one died?"

I understand years and players may run together for a coach. I'd never blame a guy for not remembering whether someone was all conference for him in 83 or 85. When you have one DIE though, that should stand out enough to remember their name a few months later. It illustrated just how removed from the realities of his program Bowden had become. Without quality coaches under him to keep things organized and under control, this kind of preparation didn't work so well.

As a result of Bowden's retirement, it appears FSU will play their final game in the Gator Bowl against the West Virginia team he once coached. It'll be a nice storyline and sell some tickets, but it also emphasizes just how desperate the people in Jacksonville were to get rid of their current ties in favor of lower choices in priority from the SEC and the Big Ten. Whoever loses between Clemson and Georgia Tech will fall like a rock, likely to the Music City Bowl. Neither the ACC or Big East teams are marketable to anyone outside their own fanbases.

Word on Jimbo's staffing plans has been that he intends to make current staff member James Coley offensive coordinator. Rick Trickett will certainly be around, but other than that the rest of the coaching staff in Tallahassee may turn over. I'll be very interested to see what moves he makes and how fast he makes them. We'll get back into general discussion here tomorrow.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hopefully they're auctioning those helmets off so they can't be worn again

The most predictable college football season I can remember continued toward its inevitable conclusion over the weekend. Only Nebraska can stand in the way of the championship matchup everyone had forecast before the season, and unlike when Texas did it to them in 96 they don't have enough offense to surprise the Longhorns. Certainly no one was surprised by the events in Gainesville, as UF hammered the Noles without even having to really break a sweat. I really disliked the uniforms, especially the helmets, but Nike pulled this crap all over the place. Clemson kids were wearing shiny metallic orange shoes, LSU looked like Washington - there was just no need for all the wardrobe changes in a sport that revolves around tradition.

Bobby Bowden says he wants to coach FSU again next season, even though there's no evidence of any kind he's coaching them right now. Looks like that situation will come to a boil in the next couple of days. Other schools resolved their situations quickly, with Louisville and Marshall dumping their coaches. Al Groh's inevitable canning by Virginia led to the weird moment of the weekend, with the coach reading a poem (complete with his own verse at the end) at his press conference after another Virginia Tech loss. Charlie Strong's name is being thrown around for jobs, but I don't see an obvious fit yet of the ones that are currently open.

As for a job that's not open officially yet, Spencer Tillman of CBS claims Brian Billick is a legit Notre Dame candidate. Tillman has clearly been exposed to toxic chemicals from Tim Brando's hair dye that are making him hallucinate. Let's see here: Billick's a lifelong NFL guy known for his supposed offensive genius. He has a Super Bowl ring to show off, and is known for his arrogance. Hmmm... sounds familiar. Weis at least was an ND alum with recent success. Billick's a BYU alum who didn't win a playoff game his last six years in the league and hasn't gotten a serious look at a job since the Ravens fired him. Brilliant idea, Spencer!

Does anyone at ESPN hold their commentators accountable when it comes to facts? During the inane "Final Verdict" segment of College Football Final Saturday, Mark May said Alabama would beat Florida this weekend. To support his theory, he cited Florida's performance against the three SEC West teams they've played. This is a verbatim quote...

"Florida struggles with Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi State. Alabama wins impressively over those teams."

There is one team that has stayed within ten points of Florida during their 22 game win streak - Arkansas. Bama beat them by 28. On that game, May is correct. Some of us who prefer our analysis a wee bit more thoughtful then just comparing scores would point out that:

1. Florida played Arkansas much later in the season when the Arkansas offense had gotten much more comfortable with Ryan Mallett at QB
2. the game was the week after UF's huge road game with LSU and was tailor made for a letdown, which most of us pointed out before the season
3. Florida won against Arkansas despite being -4 in turnovers including two inside the Hogs ten, and perhaps their performance in the other 11 games of the year might be more reflective of their merits as a team.

Regardless though, at least May is accurate that Bama clearly did better against Arkansas than UF. On the other two he's either wrong or exaggerating. Florida dominated their game with LSU, winning 13-3 after leading the whole way and allowing the Tigers just 162 yards total in Baton Rouge. Alabama trailed in the fourth quarter at home before winning 24-15. Bama's margin of victory was bigger than UF's against Mississippi State, but neither team allowed an offensive touchdown and at no point was Florida in danger of losing. May conveniently ignored comparing Alabama's performance against Eastern teams versus UF's as well - the Gators performance was vastly better against Tennessee in particular. If ESPN's going to insist on turning every show into a sports debate, is it too much to ask them to provide factual context as part of the discussion?

Florida basketball had a fantastic weekend, remaining unbeaten by knocking off Michigan State and then finishing the job against Rutgers the next day. They will be ranked when the polls come out today. They also get a boost from FSU's peformance in Orlando, as the Seminoles won the Old Spice Classic last night. Florida already has more valuable wins out of conference than they did the last two years combined, and with neutral court games against Syracuse and Richmond plus an NC State road trip and Xavier at home they have a chance for more. I really like what I'm hearing about this team right now - can't wait to see a game live once I'm not slammed with football stuff.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Apparently at CU, it will be intramurals

Hope your Thanksgiving was a good one. Back to work for me, and unfortunately due to work I can't be at the Swamp to cover a historic UF-FSU game. It's always important, but you'll have to look a long time to find bigger storylines than UF's continued pursuit of an unbeaten season to stay alive for the national title, a final home game for Tim Tebow and Bobby Bowden's final trip to Florida Field. It'll be Greg Reid's first trip, but that's apparently no reason for FSU's MENSA candidate not to run his mouth. Hopefully someone will call him on his BS after the game, because he will be lucky to have 25 return yards for the game total. If UF plays at anything close to its normal levels, the game should not be in doubt. FSU does have athletes on offense though, and if UF starts screwing around a la Arkansas it could wind up looking like Texas's win over Texas A&M. Meanwhile, Jim Kelly's touting Tebow as the possible answer for Buffalo's quarterbacking woes. Kelly was much more the classic NFL gunner than Tebow appears to be, so this is an interesting endorsement.

One of the most fun things about this weekend is having two days of college football to work with. Alabama's at Auburn for their last game before next week's SEC title showdown - pretty savvy move by Nick Saban to get himself an extra day of prep time by agreeing to move the game to Friday. Dan Hawkins gets to coach against Nebraska today knowing he'll be back at Colorado no matter what happens. This means they couldn't afford his buyout and the program will drift aimlessly for another year with no chance of recruiting success. Go Buffs.

The BCS has suddenly mounted a publicity offensive to try and proclaim that their system is the most wonderfullest, super duper neato thing in all of recorded sports history. As an example of their PR brilliance, behold their website Playoff Problem. My favorite part is this quote...

"During the 11 years since the BCS was created, #1 has played #2 every year by BCS measurements."

That's right, they're BRAGGING that they have successfully matched number one and two according to THEIR OWN formula. Way to go guys - you avoided some sort of coup in your offices that put your number three in the national title game. Why not tout your ability to have gravity at every game while you're at it? This website is the stupidest thing I've seen in a while now. I assume this is supposed to help them with the pressure from Congress, because it's been clear for years they don't give a damn what the public thinks.

I'm guessing David Stern needed some Alka Seltzer over the holiday, and not because he got ahold of some bad dressing. First it was a report that 13 referees were actually involved in the Tim Donaghy gambling scandal, which the league has aggressively portrayed as a flukish incident with one rogue official. If you can't trust the word of a man named Jimmy "The Sheep" Battista looking to sell a book, who can you believe? A day later, Ron Artest and his sister were reported to be under investigation for welfare fraud. If this report is accurate, Artest is even more of a loser than I already thought he was. NBA Action - it's Fantastic!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Never thought the Richard Williamson Bucs era would look good

Florida's victory over FSU in basketball last night was an unexpected but nice beginning to a busy week for them. For a variety of reasons the Noles have had the advantage in the series in recent years, and this year there was plenty of buildup about the edge their size would give them. It didn't work out that way, despite UF really not having anyone whose performance in the game could be described as above average offensively. Michigan State in Atlantic City will be a tougher test, but this was a really important win for Billy Donovan's guys.

What's gone on in Tampa this year is now officially a total NFL debacle. As if the decision to fire offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski just days before the season began wasn't bad enough, now the Bucs have for all practical purposes canned defensive coordinator Jim Bates as well. The hiring of Bates puzzled me from the beginning - he doesn't run a Tampa 2 defensive scheme, which is what the team's personnel had been signed to fit. Bates is a respected coach and a veteran DC though, and I assumed Raheem Morris wanted Bates to use the scheme he has coached for years. Now Bates has been dumped for the sin of not being a Tampa 2 DC, and the overmatched head coach who put together this disaster of a staff will serve as defensive coordinator too. How can the Glazers actually be allowing this fiasco to happen? Everyone involved in current management and coaching should be fired. Burn it to the ground, then try actually hiring competent people to do the jobs next year.

I've never understood why PETA lets nutcases make absurd arguments using their name. Getting publicity for an outlandish request that 99 percent of the people who hear about dismiss as ridiculous and stupid doesn't seem terribly beneficial to me. The latest example: PETA wants UGA to replace the deceased UGA 7 with a robot dog because breeding of animals is supposed to be cruel. There's a better chance of me becoming Pope than there is of Georgia having Mr Chips the robot dog as their mascot. This is PETA's dumbest argument since trying to get Green Bay to change their name to the pickers or "six packers" because they don't like the current name's association with meat packing.

It's well documented that there are former players in all the major sports who were gay and kept that concealed during their career. No one can possibly be naive enough to think there are no current gay players, even though none have confirmed that to be the case. These guys are unable to acknowledge their true life to their teammates and the public because it makes some people uncomfortable. There's an interesting story you should read from the world of hockey that indicates the time when a guy can come out without it becoming a career killer may be closer than a lot of people think. If a successful current college team can handle having an out student manager in their locker room without it being a disruption, what possible excuse would pros have for it being a problem?

I'm taking Thanksgiving off, but there should be a new post up for Friday to set up the weekend. I hope you have an enjoyable holiday, even with the Lions and Raiders both being nationally televised.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Press thinks Urban's the magic 8 Ball - ask the question until you get the desired answer

Urban Meyer has said multiple times that he will stay at Florida, including specifically saying he would never be the coach at Notre Dame. So naturally, with a critical game against UF's instate rival and then a 1 vs 2 SEC championship game ahead, Monday was time to ask him about Notre Dame again. Meyer revealed he has already accepted the job and will sign a seven year, 49 million dollar deal in two weeks. No wait, actually it turns out he said he's staying at Florida. Again. What a stunner - never could have guessed that would happen. Not sure why the Peter Kerasotises of this world want to harp on Meyer having acknowledged that at one point ND was his dream job while completely ignoring everything else he's ever said on the subject, but I'm sure they'll just dismiss this as him covering up his true intentions as well. Meyer turned down ND five years ago. Since then he's won two national titles, coached a Heisman winner (and may be about to add another to both of those lists), has terrific talent assembled and more on the way, and is really rich. Would anyone still pushing Meyer to ND nonsense care to explain exactly why ND would hold sway over him now after adding all of that to his original choice of UF?

Of all the Florida guys who will contend for college football's awards this year, I was happiest to see that Chas Henry made it as a Ray Guy finalist. Henry has become a terrific punter, a skill that's easy to undervalue until you don't have a reliable guy doing it. I voted for Henry as a first team FWAA All American, but since he hasn't punted more than four times in a game this year I thought that would lead to him being overlooked. Tim Tebow being a finalist for both the Maxwell and O'Brien awards makes it clear that he's still alive for the Heisman if he can put a big final two weeks together.

Reports out of South Bend indicate an irate Notre Dame fan took out his frustration over the team's disappointing season by punching quarterback Jimmy Clausen in the face. If this is accurate, it's both pathetic and stupid if the person is genuinely a Fighting Irish fan. Clausen's been terrific this season - without him, Notre Dame would be lucky to have more than three wins. It's generally suspected he'll look to go pro, but there's a chance he could return. I'm guessing this kind of treatment doesn't increase the odds of Clausen sticking around, which they desperately need him to do. Considering Clausen's backup is a senior and his projected successor Dayne Crist recently suffered a major knee injury and may not even be ready at the start of next season, ND's about to have a major problem awaiting the next coach.

The Miami Dolphins are set up for a potentially nice second half run this season, but they'll have to depend on Ricky Williams to play at the same level he did against the Panthers if that's going to happen. You'll notice I didn't a "high" level - that's a bad word for Ricky. One thing about Williams that clearly hasn't changed is his New Age medicine fixation - check out how he deals with ankle pain....

``Ricky will send me a text message saying, for example, to work on his ankle,'' O'Hara said. O'Hara, in Orange County, Calif., will then ``visualize Ricky's ankle as if he's standing in front of me. I visualize him glowing. I make a sweeping motion over my ankle to remove the dirty energy from his ankle that's creating an abnormality and give his body fresh, revitalizing energy.''

Umm, okay. Hard to believe the Dolphins even feel they need team doctors anymore when this guy can do it by phone in five minutes.

David Hale of the Macon Telegraph's Bulldogs Blog is always worth reading if you're interested in what's going on in Athens. He outdoes himself with this post illustrating just how messed up things are and have been the last two years for Mark Richt's team. Changes have to come, even if they beat Georgia Tech somehow. The questions are how many will there be and whether they'll be embraced by Richt or this turns out to be the beginning of the end for him like Fulmer's coaching shakeups at Tennessee proved to be. Fascinating times are ahead in Georgia football.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stupidity being punished makes me happy

Florida cruised against FIU, but the win didn't come cheap as A.J. Jones is out for at least FSU and maybe longer with an injured MCL in his knee. (Side note - actual question asked of me by a Gator beat reporter who shall remain nameless: "MCL's a tendon, right?" Umm, no. The L is for ligament.) The Gators are 21 point favorites over FSU. Can't say that I'd be in a hurry to give 21 with this team against anyone with offensive talent, but they should be able to win without sweating too much late.

It wasn't a weekend filled with great games, but there were memorable developments in college football. Saturday's LSU debacle at Ole Miss suddenly has people lining up to proclaim what an idiot Les Miles is. Some of us have been saying that for years. Miles got away with some incredibly stupid decision making in 2007, but even with the most talented team in the country he managed to lose two games. If he hadn't won a national title, he would be in grave danger of being fired. As it is, he makes 3.74 million a year and isn't going anywhere.

Another bad Notre Dame loss only further greases the skids for Charlie Weis to be ousted as coach. Classless behavior like his curt ending of the postgame interview with NBC's Alex Flanagan certainly isn't helping his case. Weis is capable of being a courteous, occasionally charming guy. He has done great charity work and has shown class in dealing with guys like Mark Herzlich when the BC linebacker got cancer. Why Weis thinks presenting himself in a braggart pseudo tough guy "Jersey jerk" persona helps him is a mystery, but it's a huge part of the reason he was on the hot seat so quickly even after signing that ridiculous contract. As for who's next, the Chicago Tribune takes a shot at presenting the list of possibilities. There's been a lot of chatter about TCU's Gary Patterson the last couple of days, but I still find it hard to believe they can do better than Brian Kelly.

Odds are you didn't notice that Georgia Southern fired their football coach Chris Hatcher over the weekend. He'd been there for three years. Whoever replaces him will be the fourth different head coach at the school in six seasons. Hatcher was an excellent coach at Valdosta State and then headed to Statesboro to continue their transition away from option offense that had begun the year before under the previous coach. For an FCS program like Georgia Southern to not give Hatcher even three full recruiting classes before dismissing him is absolutely insane. Can any school's AD and/or fans cope these days with the fact that college football success requires time to recruit and develop players?

Last week I mentioned Jerry Glanville's remarkable knack for wringing all kinds of attention and money out of a football career where he accomplished very little. Now he's got a role in an online football video game. Just imagine how much this guy would do stuff like this if he had actually been good at coaching.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tony Dungy's a floor cleaner AND a desert topping!

Florida football has a bye this week, although for financial purposes they will claim it's a game with FIU. I hate these kind of matchups - the only good thing you can get out of them is playing time for younger players on the roster. Hopefully the starters will get out of the game healthy early on and then that's how it will go. It's a pretty horrid week overall for college football when even the Ohio State-Michigan game has no buzz to it. Here's the available viewing options from Awful Announcing.

What may be Bobby Bowden's final game in Tallahassee now has another sad storyline attached to it. Longtime FSU writer Steve Ellis of the Tallahassee Democrat won't be there to see it after his death from a heart attack yesterday afternoon. When Ellis called for the end of the Bowden era earlier this season, it was a significant development. No one else on the FSU beat even remotely approaches his time spent covering the ins and outs of that program. It's a tremendous loss for the paper. I didn't know Ellis well personally, but when I did deal with him he was always a good guy. My sympathies go out to his friends and family.

An already rough year for Georgia football continued with the word yesterday that UGA VII had died unexpectedly. Of course I hate to see any family lose their pet, and from my limited observations of UGA at games over the past couple of seasons he seemed like a very nice dog. Having said that, I really wonder if Georgia people are going to go overboard with memorial services and a funeral the way they did when this happened a couple of years ago. UGA's a much loved dog without question, but something's seriously screwy when its funeral is getting vastly more attention than those of people who've served the country.

For a number of years, the answer for major public image issues has been to go to rehab - drug, alcohol, overeating, or even sex rehab like Steve Phillips, but some kind of rehab. Now it appears the strategy's changed to "TD-hab". I have great regard for Tony Dungy, but when did he become some sort of magic talisman that solves all problems? Guiding Michael Vick back into the NFL made some sense, but then it got silly. Oregon's LaGarrette Blount punched a Boise State player - part of his image remake was to get "counseling" from Dungy. Mike Locksley got himself into multiple messes as New Mexico head coach, so who's his new mentor? You guessed it. I actually saw someone suggesting yesterday that Mark Mangino should call Dungy too. I'm sure Dungy is sincerely trying to help anyone he deals with, but he needs to be careful with who he's letting present him as a PR shield.

Maybe USF basketball coach Stan Heath should call Dungy too. He needs to do something after former Tampa Tribune Bulls beat writer Brett McMurphy blew the lid off his program yesterday on the Fanhouse website, with both first hand reporting and interview documentation of multiple NCAA violations. I know it's hard to get high quality recruits to look at USF, but the answer to that is work harder at evaluating talent and find diamonds in the rough you can develop. Instead of panning for gold in a river, Heath opted to do it in a sewer and signed lots of kids kicked out of other programs. When that's the kind of person you go after, this is the kind of result you get. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This rapid fire post brought to you by Time Warner Cable

Last night I sat down at my computer to begin working on this morning's post. Three minutes later, the internet and my cable TV went down completely for hours - second day in a row this has happened, although the other one was at 1 in the afternoon. Now that it's back, I wanted to crank out a quick post - never know, I might lose net access again in five minutes.

Florida picked up another early hoops win, this one over Georgia Southern, but the shooting continues to be an issue. Having seen the Eagles play in Columbia Monday night, I'm not surprised by how that game went. They uglied up things against Darrin Horn's squad and had the lead for awhile in the first half and weren't put away until after the break. At least UF has avoided a loss, unlike five SEC teams. That's ridiculous - the SEC has more teams with a loss right now than the ACC, Big East, Big 12 and Big Ten combined!

In keeping with the recurring theme of comments from family members never being helpful to sports figures, Ann Bowden popped off again in yesterday's USA Today...

"They'll have to fire him for him not to go another year... if they've got guts enough to do it, let them do it."

Brilliant job, Ann. Always a good idea to draw lines in the sand like that, and I'm sure FSU administrators just love being put in the position of having the public choice between firing Bowden or having guts. It apparently hasn't occurred to Ann that it will take a lot more guts for university officials dealing with a fan revolt to prop up her doddering husband as coach for another year than it would to tell him to go since he refuses to take a hint.

ESPN reportedly breathlessly yesterday that the Buffalo Bills had contacted Mike Shanahan about their open coaching job. Of course they have. Wake me when he shows the slightest inclination toward taking it. There will be huge competition to land elite free agent coaches like Shanahan and Bill Cowher this year. None of them are going to be foolish enough to close off any doors by taking a deal before they've played multiple teams against each other. Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure I have about as good a shot of coaching the small market, talent deficient Bills next year as Shanahan does.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lying Lane strikes again

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin is a liar. This is once again not a matter of opinion, it is proven fact. The latest example comes courtesy of Nyshier Oliver, a freshman defensive back who was busted for shoplifting the day of the Vols game with Memphis. Four days later, Kiffin touted on the SEC teleconference that his team had not had any arrests since his arrival. Since Tennessee says punishment occurred the day of the incident, Kiffin clearly was aware of Oliver's brush with the law when he bragged about his program's supposed sterling record. Kiffin refused to talk after practice Tuesday when his latest lie had been exposed, but some Vol fans are trying the spin that it wasn't completely untrue because Oliver wasn't physically taken to a jail cell. That's preposterous, and they should be ashamed to even begin the effort of selling it. Beyond that, if Lane doesn't think shoplifting busts count as arrests then who knows how many other similar incidents may have occurred in those eleven months he was bragging about?

The Notre Dame job appears to be close to opening up, which means it's once again time for Florida Today columnist Peter Kerasotis to claim Urban Meyer's likely to take it. Kerasotis, who bashed Meyer every step of the way for the first four years of his UF tenure, first trotted out this "Urban's leaving any day now" routine last year. UF's coach plays his cards extremely close to the vest, which is one reason I believe Kerasotis has as much insight into Meyer's thinking as he does my dog Mader's. If and when you hear Pat Dooley or Kirk Herbstreit talk seriously about Urban considering Notre Dame, pay attention. Otherwise, it's just nonsense.

I've mentioned before my belief that it is virtually always a bad idea for family members or close friends of players or coaches to go public in their defense. They may be well intentioned, but all it leads to is people questioning the athlete even more about their remarks and whether he/she agrees with them. Looks like Rex Grossman will be getting asked those questions soon, as his dad teed off on the Chicago Bears for their poor job of handling quarterbacks. Some of his thoughts are on target - it's ridiculous the way Bears fans and media reacted toward Grossman - and others are not. None of them will really be considered though, because the story will be all about the fact Rex's dad spoke out and not what he actually said.

There's a truly strange story developing at Kansas. The school's AD met with Jayhawk players and has acknowledged an internal investigation of coach Mark Mangino. The coach is accused of poking one of his players in the chest, which doesn't seem too outrageous even though it's been known for years that Mangino is a grumpy and unpleasant guy. It seems like the school is looking for an excuse to fire him, which is hard to believe less than two years after Mangino took them to the Orange Bowl and won. On the other hand, his players have had major issues with the basketball team this year, and you know who's going to win that battle in Lawrence. Kansas is playing at Texas this week, by the way. That should be a terrific game after they spend the week dealing with this.

Has anyone in sports ever gotten more attention out of few accomplishments for longer than Jerry Glanville? He had a video game, even a spot in MC Hammer's awesomely bad 2 Legit 2 Quit video (at the 9:55 mark, if you really don't want to watch 11 minutes of unintentionally hilarious stuff). The former Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons coach, who also spent considerable time in broadcasting thanks to his "cowboy" image, has been dumped as head coach at Portland State after leading them to their worst record in 27 years. The cowboy, who's from the great western outpost of Detroit, talked a better game than he coached. What a surprise from a guy who was ten games under .500 in his NFL career and never came close to any kind of championship. But hey, he leaves tickets for Elvis - that's kooky!