Friday, January 30, 2009

Wish Bruce had time to play Jungleland

I've been waiting all week for something to get me excited about the Super Bowl, but it doesn't look like its going to happen. I still feel like the game should be pretty good, with the Steelers the team I'm both picking and rooting for. Mike Tomlin did great work with Tampa Bay despite being treated poorly be Gruden, and I'd enjoy seeing him win a championship in that same stadium. I don't think Arizona can protect Warner well enough to get out with a win. Let's call it 28-17 Pittsburgh and hope Bruce Springsteen can get them to extend the halftime long enough for him to play six songs instead of three. Feel free to have some fun with a pool during the game, but if you start betting on which commercial will be most popular you need help.

Georgia fired Dennis Felton yesterday, about seven hours after I posted here that the change would have to be made soon. At some point, when it's obvious things aren't working, there is no other option. Felton came in with lots of goodwill because he'd agreed to clean up the slime Jim Harrick and his son had tracked all over the Bulldog program. He was never able to build on that and become a popular figure in Athens. Felton brought in too many talented players like Mike Mercer who turned out to be knuckleheads (Mercer got kicked out of UGA, transferred and got kicked off USF's team earlier this week after his second arrest there). The state of Georgia pumps out top talent in basketball, and the number one priority for UGA will be finding someone who can keep it instate. Anthony Grant's phone may already be ringing.

Tampa Bay has hired Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator. I like this choice better than some of the other options that had been discussed. Jagodzinski has OC experience, knows how to work with quarterbacks, and runs a scheme which should fit alright with Tampa Bay's existing personnel. With a young head coach in Raheem Morris, having a guy who's made the final decisions recently (although at Boston College rather than the NFL) as part of the staff isn't a bad idea either.

It's important for college coaches to up to speed on modern technology. If you want to communicate with today's kids, you'd better know how about email, Facebook, etc. Guys like Bowden and Paterno who take pride in not knowing any of that stuff seem ridiculous - who wants to play for a guy who brags about how he refuses to learn something new? No college coach is better at utilizing modern tools than Pete Carroll. Having said that, if the best Pete can come up with for news on his Twitter feed is that he's listening to Heart's "Barracuda" I'm not sure that's helping too much.

I was sorry to find out last night that Ashley's Pub has closed down in Gainesville. Ashley's wasn't the best place to eat, but it was one of the places that bridged the gap between my college days (where friends would go for "big-ass margaritas") and more recent years (where I'd noticed the crowds were mighty small during periodic Monday gatherings for dinner with friends). I probably wouldn't have wound up going in there again on one of my weekend visits, but it's still too bad it's gone. Support the businesses you like, because in this economy they might not be around if you don't. See you back here Monday.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Even Zook can't recruit bigtimers in the Big Ten

Florida took care of business against Georgia last night, which they needed to do. It's amazing that Dennis Felton is still employed with a 9-48 road record, but that will change soon. Things get interesting for Florida again Saturday night in Knoxville. It's a game they weren't expected to be able to win, but UT's plenty vulnerable. Five more regular season wins and UF's going to the NCAAs, so there's no pressure but there is a big opportunity.

It's easy to believe the current state of college football is cyclical. Just because the Big Ten has been down the last few years doesn't mean it won't get back to an elite level soon. That's what they keep hoping in the midwest, but the latest recruiting data is saying something else. I'm as skeptical of recruiting hype as anybody, but when six of the schools in a BCS league with its own TV network are putting together classes outside the top forty that means something. Ohio State will always be good and eventually Michigan will regroup, but for the next few years the odds are it will continue to be the Buckeyes in the BCS getting used as a pinata by a bigtime team over and over.

NBC Sports has put together a list of the supposed best twenty non-yearly rivalry out of conference college football games for 2009. If LSU at winless Washington and Nevada at Notre Dame are really two of the best ten available non-conference matchups, those first few weeks of the season are going to be brutal to watch.

David Beckham might leave MLS and return to Europe to play. Turns out he hasn't been able to get this country to care passionately about a sport that people have been ignoring since the NASL went under in the early Eighties. Who could have ever guessed that would happen, besides any American sports fan?

Looking for something to jazz up your Super Bowl party this weekend? Everyone has their secret weapon - Pat Dooley's is using cashews instead of beans in his chili. Odds are if you hurry, you can be the first one on your block to show up with the Bacon Explosion. If you believe in the theory that if you're going to be bad, you want to be really bad, this thing's for you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Irony defined: Lingerie Bowl offends community by not showing enough skin

I'm not doing any coverage of the Super Bowl this year. This is the fourth one in a row I've missed. One of the things I've always enjoyed when I have gone is getting to see old friends on Radio Row. In some ways, it's always been like the annual sports radio convention. Not this year - apparently almost no one's there. I'd love to be in Tampa, but once the Panthers got throttled there's just no relevant angle in Columbia to justify the expense of being there for Steelers-Cardinals. No one seems to be to into this Super Bowl right now. Yesterday's media day was a slightly reduced version of the typical clown show and produced exactly no noteworthy news. Even the sixth (yeah, I was also amazed there'd been five) of the Lingerie Bowl has been called off.

As the economy takes a huge bite out of America's disposable income, a key NASCAR figure has stepped forward with a plan to help his sport: let's be less fan friendly! Bruton Smith, Chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., thinks races which aren't sold out should be blacked out on television to their local areas the way NFL games are. The two sports don't compare well - there are more than twice as many races as there are football games, and an NFL team's performance impacts their attendance while the entire NASCAR league plays at the same spot. It doesn't look like NASCAR's going to follow Bruton's suggestion, because doing so would be a PR disaster.

Every year while the NCAA tournament is going on, there are people making snide remarks about the NIT. Much like folks who get angry about the existence of the New Mexico Bowl, that seems silly to me. For some young teams, like UF last season, there is something to be gained from the experience of tournament preparation even if the event itself doesn't mean much. Last year, we saw the first ever CBI, which included teams with a losing record. Basically, it was a way for some schools to buy themselves more games if they really wanted to. Now, with the creation of the College Tournament, things have officially gotten ridiculous. The fact they think the fourth basketball postseason tourney needs a "selection committee" is the biggest punchline of the whole thing.

Kanye West has decided that's not a good enough name for him any longer. If you run into him at the Circle K, he'd appreciate it if you'd refer to him as "Martin Louis the King Junior". At least Prince went for a symbol with no pronunciation. If I embarassed myself on SNL as badly as Kanye did last year, I'd want to change my name too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No one could do less with more than Mark Gottfried

In college basketball you can go a long way on recruiting, but eventually if you can't coach the talent you get the clock runs out. John Brady actually got LSU to the Final Four in 2006, and it still wasn't enough to keep him employed more than two losing seasons. Now Mark Gottfried's finished at Alabama. This had to happen. Gottfried is a terrible bench coach, ruined the career of Ronald Steele by playing him far too many minutes with a knee injury, and never could do anything on the road. Talented and athletic players like Alonzo Gee are no better today than they were the day they got to Tuscaloosa. That's a direct reflection on poor coaching. Now the Tubby Smith chase is on - Auburn and Georgia will both join in soon enough. Anthony Grant's name is bound to come up as well.

Last week's news of the impending Michael Irvin reality show for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys camp roster was ridiculous. So naturally, Terrell Owens had to find a way to top it. Owens will be getting his own show on VH-1 this summer, with his publicists acting as "matchmakers and therapists" for him. Neither publicist is Kim Etheredge, who made the "he's got 25 million reasons to live" comment at the press conference after T.O.'s supposed suicide attempt. I stopped watching VH-1 a few years ago, when the last music shows like Storytellers disappeared and it turned into the channel with lots of unfunny people I'd never heard of making lame wisecracks about something from the past every thirty to forty seconds. If this T.O. show sounds good to them, I shudder to think what's passing for programming on there now.

It's a safe bet T.O.'s show won't be an NFL Films production. The question is just how many more things they will be putting out. The Philadelphia Daily News says the league is cutting lots of jobs at NFL Films and may want to kill them off altogether. That would be a bizarre and poorly thought out choice. The NFL has its whole history available to view, unlike any other sport. I'd love to be able to fully appreciate the career of guys like Bill Russell or Jerry West but I can't. That's because there's very little video available of their playing days. Gale Sayers career was well before my time, yet I've been able to see why he's in Canton for myself. It's tacky enough the NFL is putting people out of work at a time where the league is still rolling in money. To show a lack of appreciation for the value of NFL Films only compounds their foolishness.

When you work in sports radio, you know you'll periodically tick some people off. That's just the nature of a job where expressing an opinion is a big part of what you do. I've been doing radio fulltime since 1998, so it's safe to say I've irritated plenty of people along the way at some point (especially the Zook era). In those eleven years, I've gotten plenty of angry emails. If you respond reasonably to those people, they generally cool off and acknowledge maybe they were overreacting a bit. Guess I'm lucky I've never worked in the Fort Myers/Naples area. According to David Moulton, an afternoon host on AM 770 down there, he gets weekly death threats, has had his car's windshield broken and tires slashed, drinks poured on him at angry confrontations, and threats made to his daughter. I've had one death threat in eleven years and nothing but polite interactions in public. No one I know in sports radio has experienced anything in their career remotely like a supposed typical week for Moulton. Guess they must take their sports WAY more seriously in Fort Myers than they do in SEC and NFL cities, huh? Or perhaps someone's got a bit of an overactive imagination - it could be that.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Some uplifting stories for a Monday

This was a tremendous weekend for the Florida basketball team. Not only did they destroy Vanderbilt, but their Washington win's value continues to improve thanks to the Huskies beating UCLA. The Gators should be able to cruise past Georgia to get to 5-1 Wednesday, meaning they'll be five wins away from likely securing a tourney spot. Chandler Parsons won't always have a big day like yesterday, so it would be helpful if Dan Werner started to figure things out at some point.

Tampa Bay continues to out together Raheem Morris's first staff. To me, the most important hire he will make is offensive coordinator. The Bucs have struggled to have consistent production on that side of the ball for the entire history of the franchise. Whenever they have won, the defense has always led the way. Morris has a defensive background, so he presumably will give a good amount of leeway to the person he hires as OC. I've got to admit, seeing that he's interviewing Titans QB coach Craig Johnson for the job does not thrill me. That's a very conservative team offensively, and he hasn't called plays in the NFL before. Doesn't mean the hire would be a bad one, of course. Still, comparing that to Atlanta's rookie head coach with a defensive background bringing in Mike Mularkey as OC last season, I know which choice makes me more comfortable.

Meanwhile, I'm sure the Bucs are deeply concerned that John Daly objects to the timing of their dismissal of Jon Gruden. How bizarre must it be for Gruden to have a trainwreck like Daly say "I'm here for you"? Gee, that's a relief.

Former UF center Mike Degory is now a member of Mike Locksley's New Mexico coaching staff, working alongside fellow former Gator Cheston Blackshear. I'd heard about Blackshear being hired after working at Columbia last season, but the Degory news is a surprise to me as I didn't realize he was a grad assistant at Illinois last year. Degory was a leader on a team that didn't have many in the late Zook/first Meyer year era. Remember, when Meyer arrived he was stunned to learn it was Degory rather than Chris Leak making the playcalls at the line. It's hard to imagine Mike being a recruiting "salesman", but I can definitely buy into him as a successful OL coach.

A minor note in this Miami Herald column absolutely astounded me. It deals with highly touted running back Bryce Brown, who's been a Miami "commitment" for quite a few months now...

"Brian Butler, mentor for UM oral commitment Bryce Brown (the nation's top high school running back) said Brown won't sign anywhere until at least March; he also is considering Tennessee, Kansas State, Auburn and Southern California; and he wants to learn about UM's new offensive coordinator. Butler said his website will charge $9.99 monthly for Brown updates."

And there you have it, everything that is wrong with the obsessive focus on recruiting in one neat package. You have the "mentor" (not a parent or high school coach) acknowledging he's looking to cash in on a kid. A supposed commitment means absolutely nothing. There's a perfectly good possibility that once the kid gets to school he'll turn out to be an unremarkable player. But during recruiting, the college football world is supposed to fall at the prospect's feet, wallets extended, praying he'll pick their school. It's absolutely pathetic.

Not much surprises me anymore, but every now and then there's still a story that does. An American business in the year 2009, in New York City of all places, selling "Drunken Negro Face" cookies in "honor of" our new president did the trick.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What is a "commode with legs"?

After ESPN's College Gameday came to Gainesville and aired the spring game as a virtual commercial for Florida, it was inevitable other schools would want the same kind of exposure. This year, Georgia gets to host Chris, Lee and Kirk. Bad choice by the network - they should be in Austin or Norman. UF had the returning Heisman winner and was a strong possibility to be number one in 2008 after winning a national title a year ago. UGA has the strong possibility of going to the Outback Bowl and only A.J. Green back of their star players. What's the hook for non Dawg fans to tune in?

It appears the Chicago Cubs are going to be sold for 900 million dollars to a guy who's not Mark Cuban. After the insider trading accusation it was assumed Cuban was out, which is a shame. He would have reinvigorated the mood around that team in a way no other new owner could. Hopefully the new owners are willing to spend the necessary money to fix Wrigley up rather than start complaining about the need for a new stadium in a couple of years.

Bob Knight says he's interested in coaching again. That would be a mistake. I enjoy when Knight is working a game for ESPN. He's at his best in that setting, not the studio stuff. No one disputes Knight's knowledge of the game or teaching skills, but the way he bailed out on his final Texas Tech team midseason should keep any school from seriously considering him. There's no scenario where Knight can recruit well enough to win big, especially considering the midseason ditching of the Red Raiders, so what would the point of a comeback be?

I'm fascinated at the fashion obsession some women have. From people trying to order the outfits the Obama daughters wore at the inauguration to extensive analysis of the new First Lady's wardrobe choices, this entire week has been about shopping for a certain segment of people. How over the top are some people about this stuff? There's actually been a huge surge of business for the man who created Aretha Franklin's hat. The Caddyshack line about a free bowl of soup coming with the hat seems to apply here. Silly women - why can't they learn to send money on the really important things, like the Merrill Lynch CEO's 87 thousand dollar rug? Have a good weekend - see you back here Monday.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

You reap what you sow

Stupid gets you beat eventually, and last night Florida basketball put a whole lot of stupid on display late in losing to South Carolina. Up 67-60 with just over two minutes remaining, they turned it over on two posessions and compounded the issue by fouling. That allowed SC back within three. Then Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons each missed the front ends of one and ones, and Dan Werner let his man get behind him in a situation where the one thing you can not do in any circumstance is let that happen. It all led to an unbelievably aggravating 70-69 loss. It's unfortunate, because the Gators displayed excellent shot selection during the game and did a lot of good things. Now the question is whether they learn from this debacle and come out energized against a very beatable Vanderbilt squad Sunday. A split of a double road week isn't that bad, but you hate to let one you had get away like this.

FSU is waiting on the final NCAA damage report from their academic scandal. That's supposed to happen anytime now, but in the meantime someone in the school's front office decided they need to be proactive about improving their image. How? By ripping off Ohio State's "the" schtick. Apparently consultants were paid to come up with such a brilliant plan. Is this some kind of joke?

The fallout from Clear Channel's chainsawing of its staff continues, as Jacksonville people will now be subjected to the worst host sports radio has to offer. Dan Sileo's morning show will now be on there in addition to Tampa and Orlando. You may think this is professional jealousy. It is not. Sileo has been proven to be a liar and a phony. He was a terrible player yet tries to make his supposed career the centerpiece of every discussion. Sileo plays the race card anytime he needs to generate cheap controversy. He doesn't cover events but acts like he's well connected everywhere. People I know at the Tampa station Sileo's on were mortified when told they would have to begin carrying his Orlando show, but he accepted ten thousand more per year to do it and Clear Channel wanted to avoid the expense of a morning program in Tampa. Now for another forty pieces of silver Sileo's got the morning spot in Jacksonville too. That's going to work really well the morning after an NFL weekend - Tampa people want Bucs talk, Jacksonville wants the Jaguars, and Tallahassee FSU. Instead they'll get a mishmash of forced controversy and subjects they don't care about - delightful. "Cost effective ratings death" - that should be the Sileo show's new slogan.

The Academy Award nominees are out. Everyone agreed The Dark Knight was a terrific film and it tore up the box offices all summer. Naturally they didn't nominate it for best picture. I guess the feelgood fun of The Reader was too much for them not to put it in instead. The Razzie Awards are supposed to be the anti-Oscars. I get that, but who are these awards supposed to help? If you couldn't tell that Eddie Murphy's "Meet Dave" or "The Love Guru" looked awful, I can't help you and I'm not sure anyone else can either.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Stay classy, Clear Channel

Yesterday while Barack Obama was being sworn in as president, one of America's largest broadcasting companies was busy cutting 1850 jobs and hoping it would slide under the radar with all the inauguration news. That part of the plan didn't work so well. Clear Channel's hand had already been tipped, with articles in the New York Post and Wall Street Journal. There will be plenty more stories today, as an unbelievable number of good and talented people around the country lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Two you may have heard of were David Lamm and Joe Cowart of 930 the Fox in Jacksonville. There were many more. How can all local programming at a consistently strong rated station like 1130 the Fan in Detroit just be gone? Andrew Siciliano and Ben Maller, both excellent hosts for Fox Sports Radio who'd been with the network since it began, both got cut as did another program. What happened yesterday was a direct result of the consolidation ushered in by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowing a media behemoth like Clear Channel to form in the first place. As we've seen quite a few times lately, deregulation is not a good answer for every policy question.

Tonight my two markets intersect as Florida basketball comes to Columbia to challenge South Carolina. This is a critical game for both teams. The Gamecocks can't lose home games if they want to have any shot at the NCAAs, and UF would love to get a second SEC road win. If you believe, no one in the SEC is a lock for the NCAAs this year, which seems a little extreme to me. Ten wins in conference would guaruntee UF a spot, meaning they could play .500 ball after this and get there if they win tonight. Devan Downey, point guard for SC, is a terrific player but the key to this game is front court player Mike Holmes. If Holmes is playing hard he will be a matchup nightmare for UF. If not, this is one they should be able to win. I'll be discussing it with JC and the QB in my old time slot on the Star 99.5 at some point today.

Word all season had been to expect an extraordinary crop of talent to go pro early in the NFL draft this year due to concerns about a new rookie salary cap starting in 2010. Roger Goodell promised that would not happen, and apparently players believed him. Thanks to Brandon LaFell of LSU pulling his name out at the last minute, this year's crop of early entries turns out to have been the smallest in nine years. That means any team who trades away a 2010 first rounder this year better get something amazing in return, because that draft will be stacked.

Urban Meyer may have two national championships, but he's playing second fiddle to Rich Brooks when it comes to having his own signature vehicle. That's right, you can now buy your own Brooks Edition Ford F-150 truck. Word is the truck runs well at first but the wheels fall off in November.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

At least Chris Berman won't be the anchor

Regardless of political views, everyone grasps that today's inauguration of Barack Obama as President is a historic event. It will get marathon coverage on the news channels and the networks, as it should. It will also be broadcast on ESPN, which is ridiculous. There are two things wrong with this. First off, I dont believe for a second they would have shown John McCain being inaugurated. That's not a "liberal media" thing, I just don't think it would be considered cool enough that ESPN would want to show it. Still, it's a form of bias which they shouldn't be indulging. Secondly, there's no need for it. For all I know, the Cartoon Network is also showing the ceremonies today. I won't find out, since I tend to go to news channels when I'm looking for news. Today ESPN isn't giving their fans what they're looking for in favor of something they can find lots of other places - that's not smart business.

The Austin American-Statesman's Cedric Golden writes a column about former UF guard Jai Lucas, and it's hard not to wonder if they saw any Gator games last season in Austin. Lucas explains he left because Billy Donovan wanted him to play more at the two guard spot than he preferred. Golden's thoughts?

"Asking a pure point guard to move to shooting guard is like asking a chef at a five-star restaurant to run a load of soup bowls through the dishwasher. It's not worthy of his artistry."

The chef served up a mighty 2.3 assists per game last year while playing thirty minutes per game, with a 1.4 assist to turnover ratio. He had two assists total in his final three SEC games combined. Magnifique! Actually, Lucas was more like the Swedish Chef. He's not a horrible player, but he's not what they seem to think he is in Austin either.

As assistant coaching salaries in college football continue to go through the roof, some schools are going to lose out on any semblance of staff continuity. One program which seems likely to fall victim to the trend is Miami. Defensive coordinator Bill Young can double his salary by going to Oklahoma State. Assuming he does, that means the Canes will have to hire their third defensive coordinator in as many years under Randy Shannon. If the Herald is right and they go after Willie Martinez, Georgia fans will probably offer to help pay his salary. As for the rumor of Mark Whipple as offensive coordinator, he's a good coach but the four and five wide passing scheme he's known for is a poor fit with Miami's personnel and Shannon's stated desire for a pro style scheme. It's hard to make any sense at all of what he's trying to accomplish on that side of the ball.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is upset about the way assistants are moving around. He thinks it's time to put buyouts and noncompete clauses in assistants contracts. The level of hypocrisy here coming from a guy who couldn't even be bothered to finish out his season with the Falcons before bailing out for another gig is just astounding.

U2's new album will be out in four weeks, but the first song is now available on the web. "Get On Your Boots" isn't mind blowing, but it's still pretty good stuff. As long as they don't do something like Discotheque again, I'll buy it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I'm three years older than the Bucs coach - wow

The news that Jon Gruden was out as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit just before 6 PM Friday. It was unquestionably the right move. Martin Fennelly sums it up as well as anyone - there was simply no reason to buy any of Gruden's BS anymore. The Gruden/Bruce Allen plan for 2009 would have been something like this... sign a few more 35 year olds (ideally with a felony conviction or two) to play the skill positions, take a look at Michael Vick to be the young QB of the future, and make sure to alienate at least a half dozen more productive guys by lying to them. Things will be better in no time!

Gruden supposedly is stunned he was let go. He shouldn't be. When you go to the playoffs just twice in six years, losing at home in the first round both times, you can't be shocked that the guys who canned a much better person and coach in Tony Dungy after four playoff appearances in six years would make a move again. The difference between the Dungy move and this time is that they had a plan in place that did not rely on the flakiness of Bill Parcells. Raheem Morris could turn out to be the next Mike Tomlin or the next Richard Williamson. Should he fail, it will not mean the Gruden move was a mistake - he'd already lost the locker room back when I covered the team daily in 2004 and never got it back.

The Super Bowl matchup is set, and there will be plenty of time to analyze the Cardinals and Steelers over the next thirteen days. For two teams with no meaningful history between them, there are a surprising number of storylines for this game. Two Super Bowl winning QBs squaring off looking for their second ring, impressive offense versus great defense, tradition versus nobodies - this actually looks pretty interesting to me, while Ravens-Cardinals would have been a snoozer.

Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy has had a rough year. Multiple injuries have decimated his roster, he's been arrested on an assault charge, and now his wife has told the world they're not having enough sex anymore. As a result, Mrs. Kennedy is suing the cabbie who accused her husband of the assault. Think any of the student sections Ole Miss will see the rest of the way will mention this while they heckle?

Perhaps all the negative stuff I've been reading about the economy is inaccurate. There has to be some explanation for how the people of this country chose to spend 32.3 million of their dollars to make Paul Blart: Mall Cop the number one movie at the box office. If you want something extraordinarily well acted that's perhaps a bit more challenging than Mall Cop, I recommend Doubt.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Work gets in the way

I've got a big project I'm working on for my radio station, and there's just not enough time to put up a regular post today. If you're flying somewhere, I hope you have a pilot as good as the guy who successfully landed that US Airways flight in the Hudson without killing anyone. Have a great weekend and see you back here Monday.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is the stuff called Rhesus pieces?

Today is decision day for everyone still weighing their NFL options. Percy Harvin is definitely gone, and everything I was hearing seemed to indicate Brandon Spikes would be too (UPDATE: He has decided to stay at UF now). A lot of people were caught off guard by the choices made in Norman Oklahoma yesterday. I'm stunned Sam Bradford has decided to stay when he might have been the number one overall pick. The quarterback could refine his on field game with another year and he still hasn't won a bowl, so maybe those things explain his choice. I'm not sure what stud Sooner TE Jermaine Gresham's thinking, but he was a likely first rounder and is sticking around too. Not doing so, likely in part because of Bradford's choice, is USC's Mark Sanchez. Time for Mitch Mustain to show if he can play or not.

I despise the fact the coaches poll is a component in the BCS, but at least there's a way to prevent someone manipulating the poll to serve their own interests. That's the fact the final ballots are publically released to the public, meaning coaches have to be accountable for what they vote for. So naturally, the head of the coaches association wants to get rid of that safeguard against irresponsible voting. Coaches supposedly feel they'd be more honest if their votes weren't revealed. Sure they would. It's a really stupid idea, one that hopefully goes nowhere.

A group in Orlando is trying to create the city's third bowl game, to be played at UCF's stadium. Orlando was creative with the two bowl game plan, something San Diego and New Orleans jumped on as well, but this would be seriously pushing it. The always bad traffic in Orlando is insane that time of year. Never in my life have I dealt with worse driving conditions at a sporting event than the week leading up to last year's Capital One Bowl. Plus, while breast cancer prevention is certainly a worthy cause, I can't imagine people will be too fired up about going to see their team play in the "Bowl For a Cure".

I've always felt the whole bet between two politicians thing was pretty cheesy. Just once I'd like to see them say "screw your stupid crabcakes, I'm talking cash - winner gets 1 percent of the loser city's gross tax revenue for the next year". This week Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl takes that weak shtick to a new level. He's "changing his name" to Luke Steelerstahl since the Steelers are playing Baltimore for a shot at the Super Bowl. That's really lame.

Be on the lookout for an escaped rhesus monkey in the Tampa Bay area. Don't worry if it's throwing feces, it's only because it's mad.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Does anyone take himself more seriously than John Feinstein?

Barack Obama isn't formally president yet, but various sports media continue to raise the question of whether he will do something to change the BCS once he steps into the Oval Office. To their credit, Obama and his people have been downplaying that talk and keeping their focus on the vastly more important issues this country faces. Hopefully that will continue in the face of ridiculous proposals by people like John Feinstein that Obama should invite not just Florida to the White House, but also Utah, USC, and Texas to say they were legit champions also. The problem with that plan is that THEY AREN'T. The system all those teams agreed to participate in ended with Florida holding the crystal football. There are lots of potential ways to improve the BCS, but pretending it didn't exist is not one of them.

No SEC basketball teams are in this week's edition of the coaches poll, the first time since at least 1992 that has happened. That may not matter much in the grand scheme of things, but it speaks volumes about how little people think of the conference this year. Having said that, Kentucky's Jodie Meeks wrecking Tennessee (in Knoxville) for a school record 54 points last night should change that soon. UF gets a very winnable game with Auburn tonight, and they'd better take adantage of it. The Tigers haven't beaten an SEC East team since January 2007.

While Florida waits to see what personnel losses they'll suffer to the NFL draft, Georgia is now down three players thanks to cornerback Asher Allen's choice to go pro yesterday. Allen isn't as big a loss as Stafford and Moreno, but he was an experienced corner and a decent return threat. The Bulldogs will have a lot of work to do if they plan to compete with UF next year.

It's no secret the newspaper business is in big trouble. I say this with no glee, because a lot of good friends of mine work for papers. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Rocky Mountain News are likely to shut down within the next few weeks. Rumblings continue that the Tampa Tribune, the paper I grew up reading, may become a web only or three day a week paper soon after the Super Bowl. Now, the Chicago Tribune is going to begin publishing in tabloid form. It's astounding just how quickly things fell apart, but the reality is the "dead tree" version of the business is going away very soon.

Perhaps Eddy Curry's former limo driver, who claims working for the Knicks center was a mind-blowingly bad job, can now apply for the supposed best job in the world. Australian tourism officials are offering someone the chance to make just over a hundred thousand bucks American, live on a beach island for six months, and spend a bunch of time snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef. Someone gets paid to shoot the photos in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue so there's room for debate about the best job thing, but it's still a pretty good deal.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Goodbye to one of the good guys

I expected Tony Dungy to call it quits in Indianapolis after this season, and he made it official Monday. He's going to be active in social work in the Tampa area now rather than spending Sundys on an NFL sideline. Dungy will be hugely missed, because he's a class act as well as a good football coach. It's easy to forget just how putrid the Bucs were for fifteen years prior to Dungy's hiring. He took them to the playoffs four times in six years, yet the Glazers fired him to bring in the classless clown currently ruining the franchise. Dungy will be in Canton in a few years. Gruden can go if he buys a ticket.

There was some panic yesterday thanks to a rumor about Tim Tebow having a serious injury, but his surgery was actually relatively minor. Two more days for Brandon Spikes and Percy Harvin to make their decisions about the NFL Draft - each has a good reason to go but could potentially improve their stock by staying as well.

Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice were voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. Most of the coverage has focused on Rice finally getting in, but the part that fascinates me is that Henderson received 511 of 539 votes cast. That means there are 28 people who looked at the all-time stolen base leader (by 468!) and runs leader and said he wasn't worthy of Cooperstown. Their ballots should be taken away, because they're either voting with a personal agenda outside of a player's qualifications or they're completely incompetent. Either choice is unacceptable.

There's a lot of things the U.S. Marshals Service could and should be doing with their time. None of those things involve making sure Joe Buck, Tim McCarver and Troy Aikman have private escorts for their limos. Lord knows we wouldn't want Joe Buck to be late for his next lame commercial shoot.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Looks like preseason number one for 2009 is settled

I'm not sure why Florida's athletic department felt it was the right decision to hold the national championship celebration so quickly rather than give fans a week to plan to be there, but they did. The big story of the day was Tim Tebow's announcement that he will return for his senior year. This is undoubtedly the right call for Tebow and obviously works out well for Florida too. Any kid has the right to make the choice he thinks is best for himself, but unless you know you're a first round choice or have physical limitations that will keep you from improving your draft stock (Jacquez Green wasn't going to get any taller, for example) you're much better off sticking around and getting better. Cornelius Ingram is the worst case scenario, but I suspect he'll still get drafted about where he would have last year as long as the reports I've heard about his rehab progress prove accurate at the combine. That same Sun report says Percy Harvin's leaning toward staying as well. I find that hard to believe, but sometimes guys surprise you. He's obviously incredible, and it would be fun to see him ever stay healthy for a full season.

UF basketball won their first SEC game, but it is going to be a bumpy ride this season. Four offensive rebounds will not get it done against most conference opponents. The amount of rushed, poorly chosen three point shots I saw in the second half against Ole Miss was alarming. At one point, Nick Calathes took a three with:

1. 32 seconds on the shot clock
2. his feet not properly set
3. all five Ole Miss players between him and the basket and not a single potential Gator rebounder up the court yet

That's bad basketball. Late in the game, a three was attempted with 18 seconds on the shot clock while up three posessions. Again, bad basketball. Details matter, and this team hasn't shown yet that it pays attention to them nearly enough. They should cruise against Auburn in the midweek game, but Arkansas next Saturday will be a whole other animal.

That crying sound you hear in the distance are ticket scalpers and people with corporate promotions tied into the Super Bowl after a nightmare weekend that saw three of the top four teams in the AFC and NFC lose their games. Think NBC and the NFL are desperate for a Pittsburgh win next week? How's Ravens-Cardinals for the Vince Lombardi Trophy grab you? That game might turn out to be good, but when it could have been Steelers-Giants that's not much consolation for folks looking to strike it rich in Tampa three weeks from now.

Miami is still looking for an offensive coordinator, after Randy Shannon has apparently been turned down. What great offensive mind was he looking for to revitalize the Hurricanes attack? Mike Shula, of course! Seriously, are we sure this entire Shannon as head coach deal isn't some sort of elaborate ESPN Ashton Kutcher style prank?

So apparently the Denver Broncos shoved Mike Shanahan out the door to hire Josh McDaniels, the Patriots offensive coordinator. Three Bill Belichick proteges have gotten jobs - the two in the NFL have already been fired (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini) and the one at Notre Dame should have been (Charlie Weis). That doesn't mean McDaniels won't succeed, of course, but I really thought to make a move like this Denver would be betting on a little more of a sure thing.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Quite a night

Florida's victory over Oklahoma last night was different from any UF related national title game I have covered in any sport. It was not extraordinarily well played on offense, as the four interceptions thrown by a pair of QBs who had eight combined in 26 games played before this would attest, yet it was dramatic and compelling throughout. None of the other games met that standard.

I've been up all night except for about two hours of sleep on the flight back to Columbia. A few random thoughts on the game in no particular order before my afternoon show:

1. Sam Bradford is very good, but he gets a great deal of help from the fact his offensive line is allowed to hold on 99.9 percent of their plays. Over the past few years it's seemed like offensive holding is just not getting called much anymore, but last night was just ridiculous.

2. There were tons of "turning point" plays in the game, but the Torrey Davis goal line play was the most important in my view. The energy level of UF's D looked like it was flagging and that completely changed their body language for the rest of the night. If that kid gets his act together in a salary drive for his junior season, he's going to make a lot of money.

3. One thing I'm happy about for this championship is that Ron Zook's name wasn't mentioned by anyone I spoke with all week. He shouldn't have been discussed nearly as much as he was in 2006. This coaching staff took a team with a good amount of talent and made it champions then, and they've shown they're capable of recruiting every bit as well as Zook ever did. Zook somehow convinced people that Florida was a rebuilding job when his first team had more players selected by the NFL than anyone else. He's still not a very good head coach, and being able to recruit high end talent to UF should be considered a given.

4. It's hard to evaluate how much of last night's offensive approach reflected Steve Addazio's thinking versus Dan Mullen's but the insistence on repeatedly running inside with Oklahoma bringing so much heat there puzzled me. It wasn't there, and the quick throws to the outside were and weren't being used anywhere nearly enough.

5. It's a reflection of just how extraordinarily deep this team is that guys like Riley Cooper and David Nelson had critical catches on the game winning drive. Nelson is a guy they need to continue to mix in next season. Deonte Thompson had no catches and Emmanuel Moody got one carry - these kids are too talented not to see more meaningful action next year.

6. I got a sample look at the pregame show of the 3-D broadcast of the game in the press box. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to watch a full game that way - what I saw was very distracting and didn't add much. My friend Ross did watch it, and I'll be curious to hear what he thought.

7. One positive of the 3-D broadcast apparently was that it wasn't the main Fox team doing it. I'm not sure I've ever heard a national broadcast get slammed by so many different people as I have today. Everyone seems to have hated it, which is how I generally feel about everything Fox has done with the BCS.

8. As great as Tim Tebow was in the second half, if an offensive guy was going to get most outstanding player it should have been Percy Harvin. I've seen a lot of talented football players, and I've never seen anything like what that guy can do.

9. Imagine being an FSU fan today. Your rival is celebrating their second national title in three years, and you're still spinning your wheels with Bobby Bowden for another season. Good luck with that.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

UF 41, Oklahoma 28

Good morning from Columbia's airport, where I'm about to board my flight to Atlanta and on Fort Lauderdale to cover tonight's game. It's been weird the past three days to have been in that atmosphere around the game Saturday and Sunday and then gone. What I've observed from being outside of the cone of excitement around the game itself is that I don't think sports fans as a whole are all that fired up about this game. Part of that is because it's on a Thursday and there's been no other college football for three days. Part is the perception thanks to Utah, USC and even Texas that whichever team wins will have the crystal football but might not actually be the best team. It feels different than the OSU game did.

I do believe Florida will win tonight, mostly because they have a decided edge in special teams and no one has shown the ability to stop their offense all season despite using a variety of schemes. Oklahoma's best hopes are to completely dominate the line of scrimmage on offense, pray the ACC refs don't believe in calling holding, and throw to Jermaine Gresham over and over. Maybe the Mullen situation can throw UF's offensive rythym off, too. The Sooners are good, but I think UF gets it done. Either way, I'm looking forward to being there to see it unfold. UF's 4-1 all time in national title games with me in attendance, by the way. That's one stat even my buddy Chris Fallica can't give you.

One of this year's first mock drafts is out. If you believe their thoughts, Oklahoma has four players who'll be chosen before Percy Harvin barely makes it in as the final pick in the first round. No Brandon Spikes in round one either - not sure I'm buying that. I do think their belief the Lions would take Sam Bradford over Matthew Stafford is the correct one, although heaven only knows what Detroit will actually do.

I've got to go get on the plane, but check out this amazing story of a guy dealing with a polar bear. One more reason I'm glad I don't live in Alaska.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

One more day

Everyone's loking for a different angle on tomorrow night's BCS showdown, and in Los Angeles there's still lots of people arguing USC's really the best. Emmanuel Moody, who would know a thing or two about the subject since he transferred from USC to UF, makes it clear the Gators could outrun the Trojans. I'm getting really tired of USC using the Big Ten as a pinata every year in a virtual home game at the Rose Bowl and then using that to assert how dominant they are. Had they played Texas in the Fiesta the way they nearly did (had Oregon not beaten Oregon State) and won decisively on roughly neutral territory, that would have shown me something. No one with a brain thought Penn State had a chance in Pasadena, much like Illinois last year.

It's an annual ritual in college football: someone gets a raw deal from the BCS. This year has more contenders than usual, but the school who probably has the most to complain about since they're undefeated is Utah. This leads to the second part of the ritual, where politicians looking to score cheap PR points by pandering to fans threaten to do something about the BCS. This year's winner is Mark Shurtleff, attorney general of Utah, who's claiming he'll build an antitrust case against the BCS. Sure he will. I'd be much more impressed with a politician who had the foresight to address this before their team got the short end of the stick.

Reports out of Athens indicate that Matthew Stafford and Knowshown Moreno have made their decisions and both will announce today they're going pro. Whoever gets Stafford is getting a kid with great physical tools who does not impress me at all with his decision making. I would not want him with a high draft pick. Moreno is making the right move - the next hit could be the career wrecker for any running back. Time to go get paid.

It's possible I'll see something else this year stupider and more surreal than Skip Bayless debating the merits of Oklahoma's BCS trash talking with rapper Lil' Wayne on ESPN's First and Ten program, but I'm not sure exactly what that could turn out to be. The good news for Skip is that soon he may have Rob Parker back in that chair (once they've had it drycleaned so people don't get a contact high from Lil' Wayne's leftover residue). That's because Parker is out at the Detroit News two weeks after his embarassingly unprofessional questioning of Rod Marinelli in the wake of the Lions losing again. Lots of good people in the newspaper business are losing jobs right now through no fault of their own. Parker earned his exile.

If you're looking for a way to be part of the Super Bowl in Tampa but don't have the cash to drop on tickets, they're looking for two thousand people to jump around and pretend to be enthralled by Bruce Springsteen's halftime show. I love Bruce's music, but this isn't a great venue for him. The Springsteen live experience is about him playing lots of tunes from three decades of great material for hours, not racing through three songs. I'll still tune in, of course, but I'll take a pass on waiting outside during the first half.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Could the Big Ten just stay on its own network all the time?

Texas performance in beating Ohio State last night continues to indicate that the incredible Big 12 offensive numbers don't seem to be translating to games against other conferences. It doesn't prove Oklahoma's offense won't be every bit the monster they were during the season, but there's mounting evidence to indicate inflation has been at work here. Meanwhile, the Big Ten has lost six consecutive BCS bowls and is 9-20 overall in bowls the last four years. Can't wait for Commissioner Jim Delany's latest excuse making open letter!

Watching Fox's broadcast of the BCS games, I have to ask again: who hired these announcers and why are they still employed themselves? There are approximately six dozen people who regularly call play by play of college football games for various TV networks, some of which are Fox properties. Is there some reason none of them could be allowed to broadcast the Fiesta Bowl instead of former San Diego Padres TV voice Matt Vasgersian? His smug performance last night added nothing and at times detracted from the broadcast. Kenny Albert and Darryl Johnston on the Sugar Bowl, the ghost of Pat Summerall and a fifth rate NFL analyst doing the Cotton Bowl - this is apparently what Fox thinks college fans deserve. The games can't get to ESPN soon enough.

With Florida on the national stage, the question of why Charlie Strong isn't a head coach by now is being asked again. Peter Kerasotis concludes the answer is racism. Perhaps that plays a part, but I don't believe that to be the only answer. Strong is an excellent coach, and he should be getting more looks. Part of the reason is because he isn't willing to take part in anything he suspects is a "token" interview. The problem with that approach is that it deprives you of the opportunity to meet people who might be able to hire you at a different time, even if they can't/aren't ready to right then. Athletic department employees tend to move around quite a bit - maybe someone you meet while interviewing for one gig is the next AD at a Big 12 school who could call you for the job there. I know for a fact that Charlie's agent has tried to get him to do more interviews and he's refused to do so. As I've previously noted, Charlie also needs to do more media interviews to boost his profile and get more comfortable with the public presence required from the "face" of a program. If UCF opens up in the next year or two, as I suspect it will, I think Charlie will have his job. It'll be a good launching spot for him.

Cam Newton is transferring to a junior college and will make up his mind where to go from there. After the laptop incident, it's definitely best for him to be somewhere other than UF. If Tebow comes back this won't be much of an issue - Brantley had passed Newton on the depth chart and Meyer's staff has QB commitments already for each of the next two classes.

Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Morrissey calls for the Bulls to get rid of Joakim Noah. It doesn't appear to be for any specific infraction as much as a desire by Morrissey to send a message to immature players in their locker room. Noah's numbers aren't great and he talks a lot, so dump him. I still think Noah can play, but it hasn't looked for a while now like Chicago is going to be the right place for him. If they want to take Morrissey's advice, then please send him over to the Cetics for a draft pick. I'd be willing to take our chances.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The road's my middle name

Greetings from the road. I'm making my way back to Columbia after spending the weekend covering the BCS title buildup in Fort Lauderdale. For those of you in the Gainesville area, I'll have preview updates for the game running all week on my old station, the Star 99.5.

I'm sure there's some point to Oklahoma players bashing Tim Tebow, but I can't figure out what it is. I got some comments from Nic Harris of the Sooners that amazed me, claiming Tebow would be the seventh best quarterback in the Big 12. Quarterbacks from that conference have underperformed their season stats in the bowl game by around 25 percent, with Texas and Colt McCoy going tonight against Ohio State. The high powered attack of Missouri needed overtime to score 30 on Northwestern. Texas Tech lost 47-34 to Ole Miss. It seems to be a really odd time to go out of the way to insult your opponent's QB on behalf of "conference pride". One Sooner says it's easier to defend Tebow since he's primarily a runner. They do have game film they watch, don't they?

Chad Pennington suddenly played like he was Chad Pennington, and the Dolphins seasons is done. The Ravens actualy stayed at the same hotel the BCS media stuff is being held in, and their fans were everywhere this weekend. I actually like three of the matchups this sets up for next weekend, and the Panthers have to be overjoyed about missing Minnesota and getting an Arizona team that's 0-5 in the eastern time zone this year.

Not coaching in 2009: Bill Cowher for sure, Mike Shanahan possibly. I think Cowher's plan was to take over the Carolina Panthers, but once they had the unexpectedly terrific year and saved John Fox's job he decided to be patient and wait for another good fit. As for Shanahan, could Jerry Jones really be stupid enough to have him looming over next year's team all season as head coach in 2010?

Boston College has been to back to back ACC Championship games, the first two they've ever qualified for. So, naturally, they're going to fire the coach who got them there. Jeff Jagodzinski was an NFL assistant before coming to BC and wants to interview for the open Jets job. He's not likely to get it, but the school has threatened that he's going to be fired if he even interviews. I'm all for schools actually holding coaches to their contracts but it needs to be an NCAA wide effort, not one school with a quick temper. This is a short-sighted move by BC, one that will likely make it more difficult for them to fill the vacancy they'd be creating. And if they talk to anyone under contract somewhere else, they'd also be colossal hypocrites.

Lane Kiffin appears to be creating the most expensive staff ever at Tennessee, as he actually landed Ed Orgeron after all. If the New Orleans Times-Picayune is right, and Orgeron is making 900 thousand dollars to be a recruiter and DL coach, they've lost their minds. Now the word is Rodney Garner, recruiting mercenary, is likely heading back to Tennessee after stints at Auburn, UT and most recently Georgia. How this guy never has worked for Saban is one of the great mysteries of our time. Anyway, Tennessee clearly will be able to recruit players. The two coordinators are apparently going to have to do all the coaching, including individual skill groups, but they'll have some talent to work with.