Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Can someone get Calathes Matt Walsh's number?

Nick Calathes has put his name into the NBA Draft. I've mentioned before that the buzz around the program all season has been the sophomore was looking for someone to tell him what he wants to hear, and now he's going to look some more. No one is going to tell Nick he's a first rounder, because he isn't. Given his lack of athleticism, I doubt Calathes will even be drafted should he stay in. He's shown some excellent court vision and has shot the ball well at times, but the NBA wants a lot more than that. It's not like they'll buy into Calathes's intangibles, since he's struggled mightily at clutch time and has failed to lead his team to meaningful wins repeatedly late in the last two seasons. If three future lottery picks with a championship ring felt they needed a junior season to be ready for the league, why is this even a conversation? If Calathes wants to go play for pay in Greece, he should just go ahead and say that now. There is nothing he needs to talk to the NBA about.

As I'm writing this, it's not official that John Calipari is Kentucky's new basketball coach. That's probably changed by the time you're reading it, though. Calipari's a great hire for UK in a lot of ways, but some people are overreacting to the move. Memphis has reportedly been stupid enough to allow all four of Calipari's fall signees unconditional releases in their letters of intent which would make them fair game for anybody to sign if he leaves. Maybe they all want to follow Calipari to Lexington. He could add touted recruits DeMarcus Cousins and Jon Wall as well. UK had only one senior this year and has already signed players too. Even releasing all Gillispie's signees won't give Calipari room to fit his class in, much less supposed transfers who want to follow him. Run off lots of kids to make room and you screw up your APR, plus you'll still have a tremendously young team that will limit future recruiting opportunities. Keep in mind too when weighing Calipari's chances of instant success that Rick Pitino in his heyday didn't have to deal with Florida or Tennessee programs at anywhere near what they are today. Would Calipari make UK a force again? You bet, as long as they make sure he doesn't cross any NCAA lines along the way. They don't magically transform back into a 14-2 conference team every year just by him showing up, though.

I openly admit that I'm a huge coaching carousel geek. All the Calipari talk aside, Monday's big surprise news was Tony Bennett leaving Washington State for Virginia. A year ago Bennett could have had the Indiana job and was also mentioned but chose not to get involved with LSU. It's hard to see what made Virginia more appealing a year later, especially when Bennett's entire coaching career has been spent in the midwest and scenic Pullman, Washington. He played for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and does still have ties there, but it's hard to imgine he's going to pull any top kids out of NC with who he's up against. I think Bennett's a really good coach and UVA has plenty of potential with the right guy running their program, but this doesn't feel right to me.

All of a sudden every college football coach in the world has jumped on Twitter. In the last two weeks alone Mark Richt, Bill Stewart of West Virginia, and Rich Rodriguez have started sending out messages. I'm sure Urban Meyer will be soon as well. I've mentioned before that I get some amusement out of Pete Carroll's feed, especially when he's referring to OMC as a "great band". It turns out I'm not the only one, because now Ron Zook has become the latest member of Twitter. Who's the one person Zook is following on Twitter? You guessed it - Pete Carroll. If Zook was really doing the Twittering (I'm sure it'll turn out to be some SID sending out banalities) that would be absolute must read material. "Sleepingtwohoursfastisjustlikefourhours" "Itscorrectableanditsgettingbetterandbetter" - ah, good times.

Not good times at all for a lot of people in sports media, with the latest example coming from WFLA TV in Tampa. Sports anchor Dave Reynolds was let go yesterday as part of another round of cost cutting by Media General, the same folks who have also run the Tampa Tribune into the ground. The move leaves Tampa Bay's NBC affiliate with one sports person, but the company says it will have Tribune sports reporters also do TV stories. After all, those folks have lots of free time despite all the layoffs on their side, and the skills of a print reporter are virtually identical to what's needed to produce a TV story. Who isn't comfortable on camera, especially comfortable enough to look air ready as a rookie in Market 13? If that sounds stupid to you, that's because it is. If you care at all about your local TV news outlets covering sports, you'd better email the news directors and let them know. It's one of the most popular items to eliminate right now since "sports fans just watch ESPN". I must keep missing ESPN's regular nightly coverage of things like spring football practices or high school basketball playoffs.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The message boards on Catspause.com are hilarious right now

Billy Donovan made it easy on UF fans this time around, removing his name from contention within half an hour of Kentucky's official press conference dismissing Billy Gillispie. Speak to three different connected people and you'll get three different versions of how serious Donovan's level of interest was. In the end, it really doesn't matter since he stayed. It's not an accident that Anthony Grant accepted the Alabama job less than two hours after Donovan released his statement. That's a great move for them and for Anthony. Donovan and his proteges now make up 25 percent of the conference's coaches, and if Donnie Jones can get Marshall going the next couple of years someone will probably try to bring him back too. As for Kentucky, the buzz right now has them going after John Calipari. He's the closest thing to Pitino or Donovan they're likely to find, but will he be willing to give up a guarunteed two seed or better every year at Memphis?

The Final Four is now set, and after a pretty boring first three rounds the tourney was finally worth watching over the weeekend. The biggest surprise for me is definitely Michigan State making it. When I've seen them play this year, they just did not look like a team capable of playing at a high enough level for four straight games. Instead, they rallied to beat the defending champs and then handed Rick Pitino hs first ever loss on the second week of the tournament. Now they get to play in Detroit, with only the possible distraction of Kentucky interest in Tom Izzo to deal with. CBS play by play guy Gus Johnson reported the Spartan staff told him yesterday that Florida was supposed to "destroy them" in 2000 while comparing that situation to the matchup with Louisville, though. Michigan State was a four point favorite in the game, and they were a one seed to UF's five seed in the tournament. Winning a championship is something to be proud of, but there's no need to make up nonsensical stories about it. As for Pitino, he at least has the two best commercials running this year, with the one for Guitar Hero making its debut yesterday.

As soon as the word was out that Seth Curry was looking to transfer, everyone in college basketball expected it to be to an ACC school. Turns out Duke is the destination. Maybe he'll be a star for the Blue Devils, but if he wasn't considered a strong enough player to top programs out of school why is he now that he spent one year at Liberty? Does anyone think this happens unless his brother did what he did last year in the tournament? Lots of siblings have struggled to live up to legacies over the years, and there no athletes in the Big South close to the defenders Curry will see in the ACC. I don't envy the expectations Seth will have on him when he starts playing in 2010.

You might have seen LeBron James on 60 Minutes with Steve Kroft last night. Once upon a time that show did the most feared investigative reporting on television, but not any longer. Not once did Kroft confront LeBron about his incredibly dangerous pregame ritual! Yes, a Case Western Reserve environmental health expert thinks kids might harm themselves imitating LeBron so she wants him to stop tossing powder in the air as his pregame routine. Is there anything that's not dangerous to kids these days? Just imagine what a menace to society LeBron could be if he endorsed something made with peanuts.

Today's a big day in Gainesville, as my old employers at Asterisk give the city a fulltime FM all-sports station. 105 The Game will carry even more play by play sports than we were able to on the Star 99.5, plus people will be able to pick it up anytime day or night. Shows like Steve Czaban in the morning and Dan Patrick 9-12 will really add something to Gainesville radio for listeners who like national options. Wish I could have been there to be a part of it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What if Stafford said Filet-o-Fish with a Shamrock Shake?

Sometime today, Billy Gillispie will officially be out as the coach at Kentucky. How it's described for public consumption doesn't matter, he's going away. As the Lexington Herald-Leader's Mark Story points out, this is about the personal stuff with Gillispie much more than the record. Gillispie likes basketball, booze, horses and women. He thought UK, which has all of those in abundance, was a great fit. Gillispie apparently didn't grasp that with the UK job comes expectations he couldn't meet for how you live as the state's most important man, and once he found out his reaction was to say he would not change. Now UK needs someone with proven credibility as a coach who also understands what it means to coach in Lexington, and the only guy who fits that bill is Billy Donovan. They're going to try to hire him again, and the more I talk to people close to Billy the less idea I have what he'll say when they do. One thing I do know is it would have been a really good idea for Gator fans to show up to more games the last two seasons. No one likes to feel unappreciated, and Donovan has been disappointed how little consistent support back to back national titles has brought his program. I'm not saying Donovan goes, because there's lots of reasons for him not to, but this is going to be an interesting weekend.

The NFL Draft is roughly a month away, and most teams have now had their pro day workouts for the league so the evaluations are pretty settled now. Matthew Stafford may be number one on Pro Football Weekly's list of the top 150 prospects, but at least one team's front office is indicating they aren't big fans of his. San Francisco didn't like Stafford making a wisecrack after being asked about his supposed "unfinished business" stemming from his parents divorce when he was in high school by their psychologist. I don't blame Stafford a bit - the questions teams ask these kids are ridiculous. Elsewhere in the linked article it notes the Lions psychological profilers were asking players what they would order at McDonald's. If someone says McRib, he's probably stupid enough that the Lions would want him in the first round.

As you watch ESPN's college basketball coverage this weekend, particularly any stories about Connecticut's rule violations, keep in mind that the network itself has some dirty hands in the college basketball business recently. ESPN runs the Big 12's website. Wednesday they and the conference put out a joint statement acknowledging that "Training Day", a supplement that had been promoted as one of the Big 12's corporate partners, had been dropped. Turns out ESPN had set up the Big 12 in a sponsorship deal with a creatine based product, even though schools are prohibited from giving that to athletes. Oops. ESPN also employed Jason Williams as a college basketball analyst last year while he was also the chief recruiter for an NBA agent firm. Somewhat of an ethical problem there, right? They should have at minimum required Williams to regularly disclose his other activity on air, and really should have demanded he stop it altogether or stop being an analyst. Instead, ESPN did nothing while Williams was busy trying to induce kids like Kevin Love to go pro early. But hey, they're all over this UConn thing.

If Isiah Thomas can still get serious interest for NBA jobs, there's apparently no viable options left to choose from. Isiah would reportedly prefer a college head coaching job as his next challenge. Exactly what major school would want to hire a guy linked to business failures, rampant sexual harassment and awful basketball as its leader wasn't made clear. Maybe Isiah can promise them or the Clippers some free popcorn.

The Basketball Hall of Fame has done a deal with the Planet Hollywood Casino in Las Vegas to provide them with a variety of items from Springfield for display over the next six months. Included amongst the loaned stuff is the basketball from Wilt Chamberlain setting what was then the alltime career scoring record. I love Vegas, but this is a bad idea. Once the Final Four weekend is over, there's no way the casino will prominently feature this material and really promote the sport or the Hall. While it's gone, visitors to the real Hall of Fame will miss out on seeing some of what they came there for as well. I know all museum marketing is a tough job in this economy, but especially considering the NBA's public attitude toward gambling the Hall needs to do better than this. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Maybe they can get Daniel Day-Lewis as Shemp

In 1999, UF was sent to Seattle for their first weekend games in the NCAA Tournament. Also there was Minnesota, as a seven seed facing Gonzaga. The day before the mandatory press conferences each team has to hold at the tournament, the St Paul Pioneer Press blew the lid off the Gophers program by exposing a massive academic scandal. Despite some instant suspensions, Clem Haskins and his players claimed it wouldn't affect them and then went out and lost to the Zags. The scene was on my mind yesterday, as Yahoo Sports nailed the UConn program for cheating in a fantastic piece of work they posted yesterday morning. Like Haskins, Calhoun tried to downplay the whole thing, acting as if it's just some internet craziness. It's not. Dan Wetzel has had my vote for years as the best investigative reporter on college basketball - if you can find a copy of his book Sole Influence you should read it - and he has the Huskies dead to rights. When UConn's run in this tournament is over, we will have seen the last of Jim Calhoun on the UConn sidelines. Purdue may very well finish him up tonight, just like the Zags did to Haskins ten years ago.

The current climate in Washington being what it is, I really thought the college football playoff grandstanding from anyone was done for a while. Silly me. It was announced yesterday afternoon that Orrin Hatch's Judiciary subcommittee will hold hearings on the BCS and that he will offer some sort of legislation to change it. Hatch is a senator from Utah, so he's pandering to the home fans who feel they should have been the national champs last year. Nothing remotely productive will come of this, which should surprise no one.

Normally I'd have zero interest in defending Alex Rodriguez from whatever criticism is coming his way. He's always been a postseason failure and in the past year has added steroid cheater and general all around weird dude to his resume as well. There are limits, though. No one in any legit sport should ever have to take crap about performance enhancing drugs from someone employed as a pro wrestler. John Cena used A-Rod's recent admission to explain he thinks the government should throw steroid users in jail, apparently ignoring the fact they'd have to open a new facility just to house his WWE co-workers. Maybe Cena's always been clean - haven't a clue - but it's been very well documented that PED abuse has been a giant part of that organization's gameplan for years. I know wrestlers sometimes change names and gimmicks. Maybe if Cena needs to make a comeback once the movie career fails he can try being a masked wrestler named "Chutzpah".

Hollywood is apparently going to try making a modern movie version of the Three Stooges. That doesn't sound like a great idea to me under any circumstances, but wait until you hear who they've got in mind for the cast. One person who makes sense is Jim Carrey as Curly - interesting choice for that particular Stooge, but he's a natural for this kind of humor. But Sean Penn as Larry and Benicio Del Toro as Moe - say what? I loved Penn doing comedy in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but that was 27 years ago. That's a long time between laughs. As for Del Toro, the closest thing he's done to comedy is a brief appearance in Big Top Pee Wee twenty years ago. Suddenly he'll be a master of slapstick? Okaaaaaay.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Final Four run is over

Florida basketball's season ended in an irritating fashion with a home loss to Penn State last night. One thing Penn State did have was seniors, and when they needed to make plays they did. Meanwhile, the oblivious announcers are busy babbling on ESPN about Walter Hodge being the ultimate winner as he's scoring seven points. Even having to play as a seven man team without Kenny Kadji, UF should have been able to beat the Nittany Lions. In the end, what happens next is vastly more important. There will unquestionably be attrition, the issue is how many players leave and why. I've heard all year Nick Calathes wants to go pro if he gets any encouragement to do so. He is not ready, nor is it even close. The LA Times lists their top thirty NBA propects plus a dozen more candidates, and Calathes isn't one of them. Calathes needs to make it clear he's staying rather than go play pro ball in Greece, then spend the summer working with his teammates to improve. Adding Kenny Boynton's athletic ability as well as Vernon Macklin to the roster should finally make UF a legit NCAA team again. This lineup just wasn't talented enough to get the job done.

For some reason the idea the Dolphins are looking to get Chad Henne ready to be their starting quarterback as soon as next season was treated as news yesterday. They spent a second round pick on Henne and he appears to have all the necessary tools to be a successful NFL QB. He's also from a Michigan program that has had great success producing pro players at the position over the past couple of decades. Why wouldn't they be focused on developing Henne into a starter? Did anyone seriously expect Chad Pennington to be viewed as a longterm answer just because he had a good 2008?

The NFL passed more rules yesterday designed to improve safety within the game. Some of these kind of rules, like barring horsecollar tackles, have made sense. But getting rid of the wedge on kickoffs is just ridiculous. Wedge blocking is not a problem. Wedge busters coming down and diving into the players like a bowling ball can be, but they solved the wrong problem here. As for the "Tom Brady rule", how can you tell a defensive player that once he's on the ground he can't hit a quarterback but allow him to still hit other players from that position? Why not just make it touch football rather than tackle for QBs if you're going to be that unfair about it?

I wasn't going to post about the Miami politicians passing a plan to build the Marlins a stadium on the site of the old Orange Bowl. Supposedly it will open in 2012. Aside from them changing the team name to the Miami Marlins (finally acknowledging they are not and never have been the state of Florida's MLB team), this stadium plan stuff has been going on for years. Maybe it's for real this time, but what made it worth mentioning to me was the complete arrogance of MLB President Bob Dupuy while addressing the Miami-Dade Commission....

"Today you have a chance to choose whether or not Miami remains a Major League City. Whether to choose to be the only major city in America without a Major League Baseball team."

In Dupuy's mind, the world's evaluation of Miami's worth hung in the balance depending on if the Marlins stuck around? Had they moved to Nevada, well then welcome to the bigtime Las Vegas! Apparently until the Nationals showed up Washington, DC wasn't a major city. Charlotte, Nashville, Portland, New Orleans, Orlando - they're nothing when compared to "major cities" like Milwaukee or Kansas City? Sorry Bob, not buying it.

An 18 year old in England is currently traveling. Hopefully he has internet access wherever he is, because I wouldn't want him to come home unaware his parents have found out he painted a 60 foot long schlong on the roof of their million dollar house. I'm guessing he's grounded for a while.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lewis Preston's return should pack the Odome

Florida hosts Penn State tonight for a trip to New York. Penn State doesn't turn the ball over a lot and shoots threes well at times, but they don't have the kind of interior player that UF's had trouble with. They're pretty banged up too, although supposedly all the Nittany Lions will play. UF is the better team and they're playing at home. This is a game they should win. With Kentucky edging Creighton yesterday and keeping Billy Gillispie employed at least two more days, it could be a pseudo SEC Tournament in NYC. Auburn hosts Baylor tonight as well, and Kentucky heads to Notre Dame tomorrow. Getting three teams in the NIT Final Four would perfectly sum up SEC basketball this year. The conference was really good at being not quite good enough.

The NFL is as brilliant as any business in the country at finding ways to keep themselves in the news throughout the year. The draft's a month away, free agency and the combine results have both faded as topics, so that means it's time to start announcing the schedule. Pittsburgh hosts Tennessee in the opener and T.O. gets a Monday Night stage to play on for his first game as a Bill. The league also announced an extension on its deal with Directv that ups the fee the satellite provider spends to a billion per year while also planning to make the Sunday Ticket package available to those who can't get Directv for the first time. That's a pretty nice chunk of change, yet the league "needed" to lay off office workers making around fifty grand a year last month. Hmmm. You can bet they won't lay off the cheerleaders like the Denver Nuggets have, though.

There are tons of different angles to follow with the current recession, but one I've been eyeing since my friend Andy Staples did an SI.com piece about it last summer is the impact on high school sports. A variety of communities in Ohio are looking at tough choices that will result in either killing off high school sports or shifting all the costs onto the parents. This story is playing out around the country, and if these programs are axed it will have major longterm ramifications. Sports provide discipline and keep kids out of trouble by reducing idle time. Even if a kid isn't up for an athletic scholarship, having sports experience on an application helps with college admissions committees. Some kids stay in school specifically because of sports. Areas that make the choice to slash these programs because they don't want to pay for them are going to wish they hadn't when they look at their dropout and crime figures a couple of years from now.

I'm lucky enough to love what I do for a living. I do have lots of interests other than sports, and naturally there are some days when I'd probably rather talk about them since little of note is going on. Still, even on the deadest sports topic day of the year (which typically is any day in the first two weeks of July before NFL camps open and conference media days for college football begin), you could never get me to say something stupid like “I don’t like sports—I am embarrassed that I cover them. I can’t wait to stop. It is a means to an end and a paycheck”. That's what Chico Harlan, Washington Nationals beat writer for the Washington Post, thought would be good to say in an interview with Washingtonian magazine. He's since apologized on his Post blog. With layoffs continuing to devastate the newspaper industry and entire papers folding - the Ann Arbor News being the latest to announce its imminent demise - Harlan's lucky if one of those unemployed people who actually loved what they did as a sports writer doesn't punch him out. How tone deaf does a guy have to be to make a comment like that right now?

A couple of weeks ago it was Delaware's governor making moves toward his state offering some form of sports betting. Now it's a New Jersey state senator filing a lawsuit hoping to overturn the federal law allowing just four states to offer any form of sports wagering. Of course Vegas has to stay ahead of the pack, and the M Resort there may have found the way. They now have wagering available on a constantly shifting line as the game is being played. Sounds incredibly risky to me, but maybe if I saw how it works I wouldn't feel as leery about it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

March Blahness

The first week of the NCAA tournament is now in the books, and it turned to be a pretty big dud. The 1-3 seeds in every region advanced, and only Arizona is even close to being a surprise team (and they were favored in both the games they played). A few of the big teams got scares but watching the games it never felt like, for example, Louisville was genuinely in trouble against Siena. One of the only true surprises of week one was FSU losing to mediocre 12 seed Wisconsin. Leonard Hamilton finally got them to the tournament, but he's shown little evidence over the years that he has much idea what to do when he gets there. The one good thing of a flat first week is that we should get some excellent games beginning Thursday.

Both of Florida's basketball teams are still playing, as the women knocked off Temple in the NCAA first round and the men reached the NIT's Unelite 8 with a win against Miami. Amanda Butler deserves a ton of credit for what she's done with the UF program after Carolyn Peck's disastrous run as coach. They got a raw deal being seeded eighth and having to face certain elimination by UConn, but there's no reason not to believe the Lady Gators are back in business for the long haul. As for the men's team, they face Penn State tomorrow night for a trip to New York. Allan Chaney's from nearby Connecticut, but he won't be making the trip if they go. The freshman's been suspended for the season, and with UF currently one scholarship over the limit for next year we may have an idea how this story ends.

Every year at the NFL Combine the prospects take the Wonderlic test, which allegedly measures mental acuity. Every year the scores are leaked despite assurances they won't be. It's happened again, with some making a big deal of the fact Percy Harvin scored a 12 out of 50. There are legit reasons to wonder about Harvin - lack of time at one position, UF not running classic pass routes as much as other teams in their offense, durability questions, etc. - but anyone who doesn't draft him based on that score is making a major mistake. There's plenty of debate about how valuable these results are to begin with, even for positions like QB. Dan Marino scored a 16 on the Wonderlic and turned out alright. I'm guessing Harvin will be able to grasp NFL pass routes just fine.

Anthony Grant is holding a winning lottery ticket. The only question is where he will choose to cash it in, but this is the year for him to move from VCU. Alabama has made Grant a top candidate for their job, although a lot of people there are still interested in Missouri coach Mike Anderson as well. A Georgia internet site stirred up a bunch of Grant rumors there yesterday, but I don't expect anything to happen with either job as long as the Kentucky situation remains up in the air. More and more indications seem to be that Billy Gillispie will be out after two years. That will unleash all kinds of silliness, like a Fox Sports Net TV reporter in Los Angeles claiming Rick Pitino is first in line for the job but Billy Donovan is interested if he doesn't take it. Sure, those two would love to go head to head in the same state. Billy's dying to leave his legend for life status at UF to go to a place he already turned down that's firing a coach after two years, too. Makes perfect sense. If and when UK does open, it will gum up the works for everyone else looking to hire at a major job until that one gets filled and the resulting dominoes fall.

Most of the discussion about a young NFL QB potentially on the move right now focuses on Jay Cutler's ongoing public temper tantrum in Denver. Cedric Golden, columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, notes that another touted QB from that same draft might be ready for a new destination. He thinks Vince Young should ask for his release (sure, Mr. Number Three Pick in the Draft, no problem!) and go start for Tampa Bay. While the Buccaneers need a quarterback to build around, Young has given plenty of indications he's not that guy. Considering the odds of the Titans releasing Young for nothing in return are roughly equal to the chances of the water fountain at your office suddenly pumping out Yoo-Hoo, I'm not too worried about it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Maybe Coach K should focus more on coaching instead of commercials

Day one of the NCAA tournament was pretty quiet overall. The only significant bracket item was Illinois losing to Western Kentucky in the final game of the day. If someone can explain to me how that team was a five seed and SEC champion LSU is an eight (not past tense, since they could handle winning a first round game), I'd love to hear it. The Big Ten had no business getting seven teams in this year, and by the end of the weekend no more then two will still be hanging around. I like Purdue, am skeptical about Michigan State and think the rest of the teams are junk (although Ohio State likely won't lose a first round game in Dayton). As for today, I'm interested in Marquette/Utah State, Arizona State/Temple and Oklahoma State/Tennessee. UF gets Miami tonight in the NIT as well, and I'll be curious to see what kind of crowd that draws.

Duke won easily against Binghamton Thursday, but Mike Krzyzewski still came off as a loser with his comments about Barack Obama daring not to pick the Blue Devils to reach the Final Four....

"Somebody said that we're not in President Obama's Final Four, and as much as I respect what he's doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets"

There's no way Krzyzewski, known to be a conservative Republican, honestly thinks the president's not been handling any of his responsibilities because he was spending large amounts of time on an NCAA bracket. It's a cheap shot, and an inappropriate one considering the added exposure from the president being a fan of the sport benefits college basketball. Everyone is and was well aware the economy is the highest priority item on the national agenda at the moment without any help from Krzyzewski. If Obama picked Duke to beat Pittsburgh instead, would his bracket then have been acceptable to The Great and Powerful Coach K? Perhaps if Duke wins the Final Four the president could neglect to invite them to the White House because he's too busy working on the economy. (For the record, I would feel exactly the same way if Bush was in office this year and a Democrat leaning coach made the remark about him.)

Every year there's at least one commercial that gets under your skin while you watch the NCAA tournament. A couple of years ago it was the two losers singing about Applebee's shrimp to the Gilligan's Island song at least two dozen times per game. The backlash was so huge the chain's marketing director was out of a job before the tournament was even finished. This year's front runner is this Sheraton hotels ad, which inexplicably has been hanging around for a while now. If I was a Syracuse alum seeing my university repeatedly represented by a guy reaching over and wiping blue cheese off the mustache of a Georgetown fan with his finger, I would have demanded the school do something about it by now. All the ad's portrayals of "fans" are lame, but that one is creepy.

If the reports out of Miami that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth was legally drunk when he struck and killed a pedestrian last weekend are true, his NFL career should be done. Stallworth should be in jail if he killed a man while driving drunk, but we've all seen plenty of examples to indicate that's not a given. If there is any scenario where Stallworth's sentence does not end his career, Commissioner Roger Goodell should step in and announce he is banned for life. It's a disgrace that Stallworth's fellow UT alum Leonard Little has been allowed to play a decade more in the league after killing a woman in an accident while driving with a .19 BAC and then getting caught behind the wheel after drinking again six years later. That should never have happened, and considering the NFL's tougher policies on off field activities Goodell should establish that it never will again. In one of those weird quirks of fate, the league is looking at allowing liquor sponsorships for the first time at their meeting this weekend.

One final note heading into the weekend: ESPN's Chris Low put up a post on his SEC blog last night in which Georgia coach Mark Richt downplayed the notion he has a confrontational relationship with Urban Meyer. I believe Richt is largely being truthful here. People forget that Meyer called Richt in 2006 for advice on how to handle playing in the Georgia Dome as well as the environment of the SEC title game prior to UF's matchup with Arkansas. At the time, Meyer described Richt as a friend, which I feel is why he was so stunned and angered by the way Richt sold out his own character with Georgia's embarassing display in 2007. The item I found most interesting was that Richt mentioned there were just two SEC coaches who called him when his wife was dealing with cervical cancer two years ago. The two were Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier. Have a good weekend watching the NCAAs and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

If I'd known company was coming, I would have tidied things up

Before getting into the meat of today's entry, I want to say hello to anyone who's happened upon the blog this week via the folks at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The AJC website put together a blogroll of "Essential College Football Recruiting Blogs" at their excellent recruiting page and somehow this site wound up on it. At first I was going to let them know that while I write about recruiting related stories occasionally, this blog is a general rundown of whatever's on my mind in any given day and they might not want to list it if hardcore recruiting coverage is what they're going for. Then I saw they'd also listed the brilliant Every Day Should Be Saturday, which is about as far from nuts and bolts recruiting coverage as A-Rod is from your average guy, and dismissed that idea. Anyway, if you're visiting for the first time, welcome. I'm a sports talk show host on 107.5 the Game in Columbia, SC who spent a lot of time on the radio in Gainesville before that. This blog started last May as my way to keep in touch with my listeners when I made the move to Columbia, but along the way has picked up readers in a lot of other states as well. I appreciate the fact anyone chooses to spend some time here, so thanks for dropping by.

The tournament starts today, and it shoud be a fun one. I'm bummed out that I won't be attending a single game of it as a fan or media member for the first time since 1997, but at least there's likely to be plenty of surprises and close calls for me to watch today with friends. Hopefully you didn't go too crazy trying to pick your bracket. A quick story: twenty years ago, I won a pretty big NCAA pool at my high school. That's why I'm in sports radio, because I'm so smart, right? Except I hadn't picked the sheet, a girl named Alison Lewis did it for me as an experiment. She didn't know anything about basketball or even like sports. She picked Michigan, a typically underachieving three seed heading into the tournament with an interim coach, to win it all because one of her parents was from there. Alison took East Tennessee over FSU as a 13 seed because her grandmother lived there. She nailed both picks, and no one else even had Michigan in the Final Four. Both of my well thought out sheets never stood a prayer. Take a few shots but don't go too overboard on upsets and maybe good things will happen for you this year. Here's what I came up with, intentionally taking just ten minutes. Considering Pitt has never beaten a team higher than a six seed in their entire NCAA history, they'll probably go out and lose to Tennessee in round two to kill my sheet off. If you're looking for some last minute help deciphering the bracket, the folks at Accuscore have some interesting analysis on the first round games.

UF has put a plaque with the words of Tim Tebow's speech to the media after the Ole Miss loss on display at the football stadium. I don't think that's a great decision while Tebow is still active as a player. There's only been a tiny bit of jealousy from teammates toward Tebow over his career despite all the accolades he's received, but stuff like this elevates him above his peers in a way that doesn't seem helpful to me. It's generally best to wait until someone's finished with their career before you start honoring them too much. Talk to FSU, who's already put up a statue and a stained glass window of Bobby Bowden as well as named their field after him, about how that can go. Kentucky naming a campus street Hal Mumme Pass didn't turn out so well either. Maybe a year from now this would have been more appropriate, but right now it's a well-intentioned bad idea.

College teams continue to have their pro days as we move closer to the NFL draft, with Florida's players generally getting positive feedback at theirs yesterday. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is not giving good reviews to criticism of his quarterback Graham Harrell's NFL readiness. Leach particularly dislikes those who maintain his quarterbacks are flawed because they haven't been working from under center. Some of this stuff becomes an echo chamber. Remember when everyone in the college football media spent the 2007 preseason wondering if Tim Tebow was capable of passing? It was obvious to anyone who had paid the slightest bit of attention that he could, but nobody seemed willing to go out on a limb and say so. Until a Leach QB excels in the pros, they'll all face this same skepticism.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NIT Fever - catch it!

In Monday's post I mentioned that the NIT gets a bit of a bad rap. It's not where anyone wants to be, but there are things which can be accomplished by playing in it. It's the basketball equivalent of the Liberty Bowl. Florida opens its NIT run run tonight against Jacksonville, and for the sake of everyone there I hope it's better than the disastrous mess I had to endure last night. Davidson beat South Carolina 70-63 in a game that saw three refs I've never seen before (and hopefully never will again) call 51 fouls in 40 minutes. They had one team in the bonus 2:30 into the second half! Couple that with a Gamecocks team that combined its 12 of 40 shooting from the 2nd half of their loss in the SEC Tournament with a 6 of 24 effort in last night's first half for a robust 28 percent shooting span in 40 minutes and I think I've had enough NIT basketball in person for one year.

Kentucky won their NIT game last night, but rumors continue to swirl about Billy Gillispie's job security. I'm not a huge Seth Davis fan, but the SI/CBS college basketball analyst reporting UK's AD is moving in the direction of firing Gillispie is worth a mention. The search two years ago was a huge mess - how could UK possibly make a move this time without someone already in place to be next in line? Among UK guys Travis Ford might have the edge on John Pelphrey based on this year's results, but Mitch Barnhart has to deliver someone huge to justify a move like this if it happens.

FSU has made it clear from the minute their sentence for making a mockery of NCAA academic policies was announced that they would appeal. Keeping the penalties against them requiring game forfeitures from affecting Bobby Bowden's pursuit of the all time wins record is their number one priority, even if the school won't officially acknowledge that. Most university presidents might not take this stance, but then again most schools are not run by buffoons like T.K. Wetherell. At a press conference, he referred to Samford University (a 2010 FSU opponent, by the way) as a "dipshit school" and made an inane analogy about how FSU could supposedly conspire to get Tim Tebow suspended as an excuse for their documented academic fraud. After so many embarassments over the past few years, how does this man still have his job?

Bad break for FSU with the news touted redshirt freshman QB E.J. Manuel will miss the rest of spring with a compound finger injury. Manuel is supposed to be the next great one in Tallahassee, but now he'll have to sit and watch Christian Ponder continue to secure his starting job for the next month. If anything happens to Ponder, FSU's now in a world of hurt trying to get anything out of their offensive drills. LSU also suffered a meaningful loss yesterday, as sophomore tailback Stevan Ridley is out for at least spring. Ridley had apparently become a lead contender to start for the Tigers this year.

I've mentioned Twitter here on the blog previously. I'm not a member of it and I'm not a big fan of the concept. Milwaukee forward Charlie Villanueva feels differently. He's so into Twitter that he went a message to his followers in the middle of an actual game. It takes a special level of obliviousness not to realize that some folks might have a problem with that plan. One newspaper did twitter updates from a child's funeral recently so this isn't the most inappropriate use of it this year, but how is it ever too hard for a player to stay off the phone in the middle of a game?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fools rush in

Tennessee's football fans are feeling good today because they landed an alleged savior for their program: much discussed running back Bryce Brown. A friend of mine who was in Knoxville this weekend covering spring practice saw Brown there on his "unofficial visit" and noticed a few things that made his eyebrows raise. Tennessee's compliance department is going to have to work overtime on this kid, and I guaruntee you the media's going to look into every nook and cranny of his recruitment. Maybe everything involving the signing's pure as the driven snow - Lane Kiffin better know it is or he's really asking for trouble here. It's interesting that his mentor Pete Carroll said thanks but no thanks despite the obvious talent.

I'm amazed that athletes who've worked their entire lives to reach the brink of a pro career find ways to screw things up for themselves, but it's happening again. Last week it was Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith showing up totally out of shape for his pro day workout after he damaged his stock with bizarre behavior at the NFL Combine. Now P.J. Hill, former star running back for Wisconsin, gets a second DUI as part of a four charge night on the town. When people think of what agents do, they always imagine them neogtiating contracts. That's the easy part. Stopping trainwrecks like this from happening when many of your clients are immature and ultra-entitled is where those guys actually earn their money.

The college basketball coaching job search market was already open thanks to Alabama and Georgia whacking their coaches during the year, but now it gets serious. Virginia gave Dave Leitao the boot yesterday, and there will be many more. As for Alabama, virtually everyone expects them to make a run at former UAB/current Mizzou head coach Mike Anderson, with Oliver Purnell and Anthony Grant's names coming up as well. It's going to be at least another week before Anderson is free. So why is Miami's Frank Haith apparently doing everything short of purchasing billboards in Tuscaloosa to say he wants the job? He's not going to get it, and he could really tick off the Miami fans if he keeps this up. Last year he was trying to get South Carolina, and they weren't interested either.

It's being reported that Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire is in the running to be a Bond girl for the next movie in the series. I'm sure she's looking at more challenging parts to play as well, but this is an outstanding idea. I wasn't as awestruck by Slumdog as some people seem to be - my vote for Best Picture would have been Frost/Nixon - but Pinto's a stunner who has future star written all over her. If she was a stock, I'd definitely buy it. Newspaper stocks, on the other hand, no. The latest dead tree edition to go away is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as of this morning. Many more will follow, which is a shame.

Monday, March 16, 2009

NCAA to SEC: Drop dead

Yesterday's unveiling of the NCAA bracket without Florida being in it couldn't have surprised anybody. I do think they could have made it by beating Auburn, but it would have been close thanks to all the crazy stuff that happened the last few days that ate up at large spots. (Temple, USC, and Mississippi State winning conference tourneys, for example). Next year's team will finally have some meaningful numbers of upperclassmen again, and if Calathes stays around I believe they will be very good. Without him they would need to sign another point, because while I love Erving Walker's game the kid can't play 35 minutes a night at that spot.

Some people mock the NIT, and it's certainly nothing to do handsprings about. For a team that's still growing, the event does have value. Last year's road win against a good Arizona State team is the best work UF's done on another team's court the last two years. Florida will host three games if they keep winning, and some of the guys on this team can definitely use the work. It's a chance to get more court time together as a team and improve for next year. Ohio State did that last season, won the event, and they're back in the field this year. UF should be able to emulate that.

A few early bracket thoughts: the committee clearly thought the SEC this year was awful, but there's no excuse for Mississippi State being a 13 seed. Go ask Oliver Purnell, the coach of a Clemson team that will face tenth seeded Michigan, whether he would want to trade them in for the "easier" matchup with the 13th seeded Bulldogs. This is a team with the SEC's all time leading shot blocker, good athletes and a collection of shooters. Washington got screwed by having them as a first round matchup despite being a four seed. How are FSU and Utah five seeds? I know the Noles had a nice ACC run, but that seems like an overreaction. If Tennessee doesn't stop Pittsburgh in a tricky second round matchup, the Panthers are the team I'm most sure gets to the Final Four.

Jacksonville got rid of Matt Jones today. That's a good decision on their part. The recent episode with him drinking beer despite knowing he wasn't allowed to while on probation just emphasized again that this is a guy who doesn't get it. Rules matter, and shockingly enough they even apply to athletes sometimes. Jones is almost certain to be suspended for part of the coming season anyway, and who knows when the next headache with him will surface? The Jaguars are better off building with people they can actually depend on.

I'm never happy for anyone to lose a job, but if someone has to Sid Rosenberg isn't the worst choice. This is the same guy who made comments while he worked in NYC that the Williams sisters should be in National Geographic and wisecracked about Kylie Minogue's breast cancer. 790 the Ticket in Miami hired him despite (or maybe because of) all that. I'd love to believe this is an indication the radio business is moving away from hiring people whose main skill is their ability to be as cruel as possible as loudly as possible as often as possible, but I know better. While in Tampa I listened briefly to one radio tough guy screaming insults into his mic about "Renee Caldwell". I'm sure ESPN 1040's Marc Benarzyk is a beast across the middle against NFL safeties and just likes radio better as a career choice, but I wasn't real impressed by that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Win and you're in

Day one of the SEC Tournament in Tampa didn't feature too much excitement. Florida looked crappy early and then eventually pulled away to win 73-58 against Arkansas. They still are not playing well, and Nick Calathes in particular needs to improve his performance big time today. The first three games were boring as Kentucky, Mississippi State and Alabama cruised. The arena is excellent, and the fans who are here seem to be having a good time although there aren't as many of them as there would be if the event was in Atlanta. The only genuinely weird thing is the music in the arena when the pep bands aren't playing. I actually heard George Michael's song "Praying for Time" at the SEC Tournament, something I can safely say I would not have imagined ever happening. I fervently hope it never will again.

One thing the SEC has got to change is having its tournament start so late. The Big Twelve finally figured it out and moved theirs forward a day. The NCAA committee will be able to fully consider all their games as they assemble the final bracket. The SEC final is ignored other than them leaving a slot for a champion should a team otherwise out of the field still be playing. Any team who plays four straight games is guarunteed to be gassed, meaning they're in big trouble as they get ready for Thursday NCAA matchups. Remember when UF played four straight before losing in the SEC finals in 2004 and then was assigned to play Manhattan Thursday in the first game of the entire tournament? The Gators had nothing left, and were beaten easily. There won't be a tornado here this year, but if any event was to delay the tournament at all the SEC's given themselves no room to reschedule. It's a stupid plan. They need to scrap it next year and move the finals to Saturday.

The governor of Delaware is apparently about to propose a form of legalized sports betting as a way to close a revenue shortage in his state. I've never understood why it's illegal in the first place. Here in Tampa, I can legally bet on dogs, horses ridden by humans and jai alai played by them. And of course there's the lottery as well as bingo and a Seminole casino on the edge of town. Yet for some reason if I wanted to bet on whether Baylor is going to beat Texas in basketball today, that would make me a criminal. That makes zero sense. Legalize sports betting and you take one of organized crime's lucrative markets away from them while ensuring that winnings will be taxed. If this works for Delaware, you can count on other states looking to emulate them soon.

I always believed the USFL could have been a success if it had stuck to its original business plan of spring football. Donald Trump thought he could muscle the NFL into merging and making his New Jersey Generals a third New York team, so he spearheaded a plan to move to fall and sue the NFL for anti-trust violations. The suit brought the league three dollars and the whole thing went under as a result. Vince McMahon's XFL was a lame concept done stupidly, and folded after one year. Now, a new challenger to the NFL is staking its claim by hiring coaches. Jim Haslett, Dennis Green and Jim Haslett will coach in the UFL, should it ever actually play. This thing has Mark Cuban as an investor, but it's talking about playing in the fall. Unless they're going to be an NFL minor league (which would be a good thing), that's a very bad idea. By the way, the USFL says it will be back in 2010. No, really.

I almost never drink soda anymore. A few years ago I realized I just didn't enjoy the taste of it at all, so it's pretty much tea or water all the time for me. Perhaps the reason is because they stopped making colas with natural sugar as opposed to the loathsome "high fructose corn syrup" that's in everything now. I'll be able to test that theory for myself if I want to, as Pepsi is going to issue a limited time line of their product made with sugar. It's kind of amazing that making the product the way it was supposed to be made qualifies as a marketing strategy, but this could be the next big thing. Otherwise, people will continue to hoard Kosher Coke after every Passover. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A note from the road

Sorry for no Thursday blog. Between editing radio sound, covering press conferences and practices for two teams and writing an article for fightingators.com there just wasn't enough time. Right now I'm on press row watching Mississippi State finally put this year's horrible Georgia squad out of their misery. How did Florida ever find a way to lose to these guys? I should have time to write something tonight, so back to the usual routine tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SEC = Select Everyone's Choice?

What number makes up a college basketball team? On the court, it's five players. By scholarship count, it's thirteen. Or, if it's the SEC coaches All-Conference team, it's eighteen! Five players, including Nick Calathes, were unanimously selected as first teamers. So why are there eight guys on the "first team"? The conference does this crap every year, and it's rarely looked sillier than this one. The media team will be anounced at the SEC Tournament in Tampa, which is where I'll be beginning this afternoon.

Life just became more difficult for all the teams on the fringe of the NCAA tournament thanks to Butler gagging on their home court in the Horizon League final yesterday. they'll still make it into the tournament, but Cleveland State will take a spot from somebody who would have made it otherwise. Couple this with Creighton losing before the finals of their conference over the weekend and there may be two unexpected spots gone already. The big loser yesterday was Providence. Thanks to DePaul upsetting Cincinnati, the Friars will get to play one game against a team with no regular season Big East wins and then Louisville. That's no way to boost a resume that needed plenty of help.

Lane Kiffin claims he didn't make the comments attributed to him in the story mentioned in yesterday's blog. A player and his high school coach each say Kiffin told him he would end up pumping gas if he signed with South Carolina rather than Tennessee. Kiffin, who has shown incredibly poor judgment in his public speaking, claims he didn't do that. He has a reason to lie about it - the attributed comment makes Kiffin appear to be a completely immature person with no idea how to deal with not getting his way other than to start lobbing insults at the person who turned him down. What reason would the recruit or his coach have to make it up? I can't find any - the player was even described as not wanting to talk much about the incident in the original report. That's hardly the way you'd do it if you looking to hammer someone with a made up story. Given Kiffin's behavior toward Pahokee after the Nu'Keese Richardson fiasco, I have no trouble believing the story is completely true.

Years ago, Oklahoma's president told the state legislature that "we want a university that our football team can be proud of". He was being sarcastic, but no one noticed. I don't know if the OU prez got his way or not, but the president in Austin is trying something similar. If Texas doesn't get relief from a state law requiring it to admit the top ten percent of any high school in the state, William Powers says it could be curtains for the Longhorn athletic program by 2015. This guy's lucky he isn't a poker player, because that's a terrible bluff attempt. There's a better chance I will replace Jimmy Fallon as host of NBC's Late Night program by 2015 than there is of Texas dropping athletics.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lane Kiffin - the Don Rickles of football, only without the humor

Florida football had a good news day yesterday. Jonathan Phillips received his NCAA waiver which will allow him to return as placekicker for this season. Caleb Sturgis was ultra hyped coming out of high school and yet he was nowhere near ready for the job last season. Phillips isn't spectacular, but he was steady in his first season as the main guy and that's generally good enough with UF's offense. As for Carl Johnson, all charges against him have been dropped although he's still dealing with judicial affairs. It's always hard to know what truly happened in a situation like this, but the violation of the restraining order seems to have been inadvertent. As for WHY there was such an order, that's in the realm of "he said she said" and will likely never be further resolved than that.

Lane Kiffin is an immature idiot unfit to be the head coach of Tennessee. Not groundbreaking stuff at this point, but what other reaction can you have when ESPN.com's Chris Low exposes his behavior during one of his attempted last second recruiting steals? Kiffin wanted Alshon Jeffrey, a former USC commitment from South Carolina who had decided to stay home and play for the Gamecocks. When he realized he wasn't going to get him, here's what Kiffin trotted out as a closing argument...

"According to Jeffrey and Wilson, Kiffin told Jeffrey that if he chose the Gamecocks, he would end up pumping gas for the rest of his life like all the other players from that state who had gone to South Carolina."

Remember, this is the same guy who thought it was a great idea to demean everyone in Pahokee while bragging about signing Nu'Keese Richardson. Now - WITH A COACH AND A HIGH PROFILE 2010 RECRUIT LISTENING ON THE PHONE - Kiffin decides it's a good idea to tell a kid that if you don't give me what I want you will amount to nothing. Tennessee people keep rationalizing that Kiffin is bringing back swagger to their program and it's good to upset other fanbases. Can't wait to hear how it's good to insult recruits and entire areas as well. Meanwhile, one of UT's returning QBs has a broken wrist and will miss lots of spring ball. That should make installing a new system loads of fun.

The Jaguars were feeling good about themselves for signing Tra Thomas to shore up their offensive line yesterday. That didn't last long, thanks to Matt Jones getting arrested again. Turns out when authorities tell you you're not allowed to drink as part of your plea deal for cocaine posession they actually mean it. Who could have guessed? Jacksonville probably won't make a move on Jones after he unexpectedly had a good year in 2008, but this doesn't bode well for the future.

I'm fortunate to have worked for good people the last few years, so I wouldn't want to take shots at any of them on a blog, message board or Facebook page. Others are not so happy with their employers, as was the case for Dan Leone, a stadium operations employee of the Philadelphia Eagles. The team letting safety Brian Dawkins sign with Denver upset Leone greatly, and he vented about it on Facebook. They fired him. Philly's not saying why, but hopefully it's for actually calling them "retarted". Bright guy, that Dan Leone.

How powerful is football at Alabama? Well, wide receiver Julio Jones was just elected to a student senate seat representing the College of Human Environmental Sciences. No big deal, you say? After all, guys like Terry Jackson and Brad Culpepper were involved with SG at UF too. That is true, but they actually ran for the office. Jones won as a write in candidate who wasn't running for the job. Normally only the Bear can achieve a feat like that in Tuscaloosa.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The knucklehead postulate is proven right again

Florida did what they had to against Kentucky Saturday, but this team still just isn't playing very well. When the Wildcats are turning the ball over like it's their job and the UK coach tells their best offensive weapon not to shoot in the second half, you should wreck them instead of winning by seven. I continue to believe UF can get in the NCAA field by winning against Arkansas and Auburn, which is doable. They will likely lose in the first round, but there would be value in making it in. Do you realize no Billy Donovan coached team has ever been anything lower than a six seed in the tournament? The bubble is a new place for him.

Few stories in Gainesville the past decade have been as vile as Jamar Hornsby's arrest for using the gas card of his teammate's late girlfriend to ring up bills for months after her death. Urban Meyer instantly and correctly kicked multiple time troublemaker Hornsby off the team. Hornsby also wasn't a very good player, which is why I was stunend to see schools lining up to sign him out of junior college this year. Ole Miss was the big winner, and here's their prize: Hornsby arrested again for theft and aggravated assault. Lie down with dogs, Houston Nutt, and you get fleas. Since Nutt signed 37 guys this year (for real) and only can get 25 into school, I'm guessing he'll cope with the loss alright.

FSU's penalties for their academic fraud case turned out to be rather tame, with no sports losing more than a couple of scholarships. The posibility of haing to forfeit games for using an ineligible player has some people in a tizzy, since that would cost Bobby Bowden any shot at catching Joe Paterno in their alltime wins death match. Since Bobby's wins at Samford shouldn't be counted in the first place unless they want to acknowledge Eddie Robinson as having won more than both guys, I don't find that complaint too compelling. If FSU trades more scholarship reductions for no wins being sacrificed, that would be stupid on their part.

Speaking of stupid, a Tallahassee television station is pitching a public tantrum about the FSU sports information office threatening their press credentials for contacting quarterback Christian Ponder without permission. There are rules set by schools for contacting their student athletes. If you don't abide by them, you may pay a penalty for it. Putting out juvenile rhetoric about FSU athletes being "not allowed the basic right of freedom of speech" makes it sound like WCTV is run by high schoolers. Furthermore, should there be a controversy involving WCTV, do they intend on letting any and all of their employees speak their mind about it freely in public? Of course not, which makes this tantrum even more hypocritical and unprofessional.

ESPN Radio's Colin Cowherd has cultivated an image for himself as national radio's "college football guy". While Colin does legitimately pay more attention to the sport than most hosts, some of his analysis is breathtakingly shallow. And now, since he thinks he can make it big in New York being on from noon to 2, all us college football loving yokels can go jump in a lake. From Newsday...

"We'll ramp up our baseball coverage to a higher degree and not waste much time on college football in New York," Cowherd said. How might the rest of the country feel about that? "They don't have the influence on my revenue and ratings that New York and Los Angeles do," he said.

So, just to be clear, if you're not in New York or L.A. Colin doesn't care whether you like his show or not. That's his right, of course, but saying it publicly is pretty dumb. The funny part is the show will fail miserably in New York this time just as it did before, because New York people want local sports talk rather than a national guy pretending to be local.

Not to go on a huge announcer kick today, but I think it's great that the NCAA tournament is coming up and I won't hear Billy Packer do a single game of it or grumble about the selection committee putting teams like George Mason in that can't be any good because he's never seen them. But the exiled CBS curmudgeon has resurfaced, with plans to do five shows for Fox Sports Net originating from Wynn Las Vegas starting Sunday. Packer says the show will be the "most informed" on TV. He also says the show will not do brackets, is not about gambling, and notes that he refuses to use a computer or cel phone. A show from a Vegas casino that won't go over matchups or make picks, hosted by a guy who will know only what he can read in a newspaper or has seen in person. Yep, sounds like the "most informed" to me.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How'd Tennessee lose so many games this year?

Does anyone want to be in the NCAA tournament this year? I'm starting to think the field needs to drop to 48 for a season, because the bubble teams just keep choking away opportunities. This is good news for UF, because should they be able to handle UK tomorrow they still have a decent opportunity to qualify for the NCAA tournament as result. Last night it was Arizona and Providence coming up short, as well as South Carolina laying an egg against Tennessee. The only teams who've made significant moves to help themselves this week have been in the Big Ten - Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State all won critical games. Everyone else just keeps blowing it, which means the conference tournament week will be fascinating. I'm looking forward to getting to Tampa.

Urban Meyer was back in a public capacity for the first time in a while yesterday, and that led to a couple of interesting developments. Meyer indicated that Tim Tebow would have gone pro had the NCAA not been accomodating on allowing donations to his father's orphanage in the Phillipines. He also commented for the first time on Lane Kiffin's stunt from after signing day. Meyer handled the Kiffin thing correctly, making it clear he's still not happy without making remarks to escalate the situation. This year's SEC meetings in Destin should be a barrel of laughs. As for the Tebow thing, my grandmother received a solicitation from Bob Tebow's ministry last year featuring a family photo prominently showing Tim. I was surprised that was considered kosher under NCAA policy, but apparently it was.

Congratulations to former Miami coach Larry Coker, being announced today as the first head coach of Texas San Antonio football. Part of the issue for Coker in getting a look for a job the last couple of years has been that he's 60, which is a lot older than most D-1 programs want a new head coach to be. Phillip Fulmer will find out about that soon, unless he's willing to take a job at a non-BCS school who needs the name recognition he can bring. Coker always seemed like a good guy who simply wasn't cut out to run a program like Miami. All the successful Hurricanes head men over the years have had an air of ruthlessness about them. Coker seemed more like he would be happy to take the whole team to Dairy Queen after the game.

Apparently I now live in America's thirteenth most manly city. I guess the fact WWE's cavalcade of steroid abusers is here this Sunday followed by rodeo next week meets their criteria really well. Not sure what Richmond's doing that's manlier than this place, but maybe we can challenge them to a fight. If you'd asked me to name the manliest city in the USA, Nashville's not the one which would have sprung to mind. Grand Rapids ahead of Vegas seems a bit off as well. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Next MWC proposal: we get to play with twelve guys on the field

Florida isn't an NCAA tournament level team this year, which they showed again last night. I should have known it after seeing them find a way to lose in Athens, but I really thought they would play enough in a game or two to get the job done. It didn't happen. Having said that, I still think they have a shot at a bid to the NCAAs based on the way their SEC bracket sets up as long as they beat a Kentucky team that's also staggering to the finish. That would get them to 9-7 in conference and as the number three seed in the East they'd face Arkansas. Assuming they can handle a Razorback team they beat already this season, they would see an Auburn team the next night which they've also beaten. With the games in Tampa, both of those should have pro-UF crowds. Assume UF loses in the SEC semis after winning those two - that streak of three victories might be enough to get them in depending on what else happens.

One happy note coming out last night's game was this: I will never have to see an SEC game of any kind broadcast by Raycom again. The conference's ESPN megadeal delivers us from them next season. No more announcers laughing uproariously at comments which aren't even remotely funny. No more incompetent graphics people who can't keep the score of the game they're broadcasting straight. No more score updates for other games lagging an hour or more behind. No more in game promos for David Cook albums, because that's exactly what SEC basketball fans are listening to when they aren't watching. You might watch Raycom show the SEC Tournament, but I'll be there covering it in person so I won't have to. Goodbye, and good riddance.

Speaking of good riddance, Terrell Owens is reportedly out in Dallas. The Cowboys haven't disclosed what led to the move, but the fact they traded their first rounder to Detroit for Roy Williams and got almost nothing out of him last year with T.O. around could be part of it. The fact Owens has been a problem from the second he got there could be as well. Now the only question is which team will be next to welcome this circus into their locker room. The Raiders are too easy to suggest, and with Gruden not around anymore it won't be the Bucs. Washington, I'm looking in your direction.

The Mountain West Conference has proposed an eight team playoff to the BCS. Maybe the idea here is to ask for so much that a guarunteed BCS bowl slot every year will sound like a reasonable negotiated compromise once they give up on this one. If the SEC's commissioner couldn't get a plus one model approved a year ago, the idea a conference with no automatic bid will prompt a total restructuring of the sport is laughable.

When you don't typically report and then you try to break a story, it can blow up in your face. Steve Duemig of WDAE in Tampa found that out the hard way this week. Monday he went on air with a text message from "a really good source" that another of the players lost at sea in this weekend's boating tragedy had been found. Oops. Duemig has since apologized, but his explanation of his thinking that "This is optimistic, so I'm going to run with it" is cringe inducing. If you've got a story confirmed by multiple sources and are sure it's accurate, report it. You can't "run with" something just because you wish it was true, especially when lives are involved. Duemig has whiffed on his attempts at breaking big stories like the Bucs supposedly being sold before, but this was really bad. At least he wasn't cracking jokes like Mike Valenti at WXYT in Detroit, who had to apologize as well. How dense do you have to be to make a "water weight" or "traded to the Dolphins" comment on air about a guy who's from the city and played for the hometown team in 2008 WHILE THEY'RE STILL TRYING TO SAVE HIS LIFE? I get irritated when other media types act like all sports radio people are cretins, but episodes like this are why they do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ray Shipman better put on a show tonight

Tonight Florida basketball plays a critical game against Mississippi State. With a win, they set themselves up to likely clinch an NCAA spot with a win against Kentucky in Gainesville this weekend. This is a flawed team, and there are a lot of things holding it back. The lack of an upperclassman with the personality to be a leader has hurt. Injuries to Adam Allen, Eloy Vargas and Allen Chaney combined with the transfer of Jai Lucas have stripped them of significant depth. Still, I wonder about this team's mindset when I see freshman Ray Shipman complaining about his role. Despite being one of the only options to serve as an athletic defensive presence on the perimeter, he wants to score more. A few years back, Corey Brewer played a similar role for the Gators (only much better) as a freshman and turned out all right, what with the two championship rings and being the seventh pick in the 2007 draft and all. Shipman's response to that example?

“They always use Corey as an example,” Shipman said. “I’m tired of hearing Corey’s name.”

Oh. I guess Billy Donovan and his coaches better hush up about that two time national champion team. Wouldn't want to bore Ray.

Monte Kiffin, who I have great respect for, is trying to cover for his son, who I don't. He claims Lane Kiffin felt bad about his erroneous public attack on Urban Meyer and says the new Tennessee coach is not arrogant. Unfortunately, the tape of the episode (as well as Lane's public behavior ever since he was hired) tells a different story. Monte also notes he wants to coach his players sixty hours a week and that the twenty hour rule for when they can practice is killing him. Welcome back to college, Monte. It's very different than when you left for the NFL a quarter century ago, and it's going to be extremely hard for you to install your schemes considering the limitations you'll be facing.

Give Darryl Strawberry credit for honesty. While defending Alex Rodriguez, he says that had steroids been big when he was in his baseball heyday, he would have taken them. Darryl does have a book coming out soon, so it may be in his interest to say whatver's necessary to boost his public profile again. If he really wants to make a big splash, may I recommend a reissue of the rap classic "Chocolate Strawberry"? Meanwhile, A-Roid may have to sit for awhile because of a "cyst in his hip". Remarkable timing that it would start bothering him now.

Georgia was excited about following in Florida's footsteps by having ESPN College Gameday come and broadcast their spring football game. Now Alabama's getting in on the action as well. It's not clear whether Gameday will be part of this too, but it's becoming obvious that everyone watching UF's spring game extravaganza last year was green with envy.

From Pete Carroll's Twitter page yesterday: "Whatever happened to the band OMC? Love their stuff, especially "How Bizarre". Seriously, Pete, stop. It's getting embarassing. Not as embarassing as calling 911 three times because McDonald's is out of Chicken McNuggets, but still really embarassing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Maybe Orgeron's just a big Duran Duran fan

The buzz around the UF basketball team all year has been that Nick Calathes would like to enter the NBA Draft after this season. I'm not saying that he will, but that much like Marreese Speights was last season he's looking for someone to tell him what he wants to hear. If you believe the NBA scout who Seth Davis quotes in his latest column, that doesn't sound likely....

"I like him because he loves to pass and he has size, but I don't trust his shot in the least. It's kind of a set shot. It's similar to Brent Barry's, that quick-release set shot, but Brent is a great shooter and this guy isn't. I don't think he's athletic enough to be a starting point guard, but a backup point? Sure. Can he play against Acie Law? Yeah. Can he play against Derrick Rose? No way."

Sounds like a textbook description of a second round pick or free agent player. Billy Donovan has always been well connected in NBA circles and gives his players solid advice on their draft status. It's up to Nick whether he'll choose to listen, of course, but it sounds like he should stick around.

Washington signed their new savior Albert Haynesworth on defense last week, so it's time to let the 2008 model go. Jason Taylor gave the Redskins 3.5 sacks in his season with the team, and now he's gone. They gave up this year's second rounder for a guy who won't even be on their roster the day of the draft, and there's still a sixth rounder owed the Dolphins in 2010. That's a pretty expensive rental, even by D.C. standards. Chalk up a big win for Bill Parcells here.

One of the bizarre stories going around after Ole Miss hired Ed Orgeron was that the new head coach had a first team meeting with his team where he ripped his shirt off, challenged them to a fight and made them chant "Ole Miss! Wild Boys!" over and over. It's a big part of the lyrics to Chris Vernon's classic song "Colonel Reb Is Crying". It would appear that story was completely true based on comments recruits are making from this weekend's Tennesee junior recruiting day. Kiffin and company don't seem to get that they aren't going to win big by outrecruiting the rest of the SEC. They may get a top ten class, but so will three or four other conference schools. At some point Coach 5-15's staff will actually be on the field coaching these guys, and Coach 0-8 in the SEC in 2007's shirt will need to stay on.

We have a new frontrunner for lamest criminal athlete excuse of 2009. Freshman Iowa defensive back Shaun Prater was busted for drunk driving over the weekend. He blew a .134 and a .127 on the Breathalyzer, but he had a good explanation for the officers...

Prater told police his bartender “must have put alcohol in his Coca-Cola”.

Those darned bartenders, always pulling pranks like that. What scamps they are! That must have one big Coca-Cola for Prater not to notice the booze - I bet that crazy bartender gave him extra syrup to cover the taste.

I love books, but I'm fascinated at how many of them seem to have almost no appeal to actual buyers. "Big names" get a lot of these kind of deals. For example, why did a publisher think the first winner of Survivor was so intriguing people were going to pay to read his thoughts on anything? Even with the economy in the tank, there's actually someone dumb enough to give disgraced Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich a six figure deal to write a book. I'm sure he'll make some lurid and likely unverifiable allegations against his enemies, which we'll all hear about on the news and thus have no reason to purchase the book to read them. The rest will be self-promoting craziness. Seriously, do you know a soul who would spend even fifty cents on a Blagojevich book? Same here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The F'n Souldja comes to Tampa - yippee

Another Florida Tennessee basketball game, another Gator loss. If we still had records, this would be a broken one. Yet again a Volunteer team which has been erratic on offense all season came out and drained three point shots all through the first half while Florida imploded. UF fought back valiantly, but you can't let that happen in the first place. Too many missed layups, rebounds, and wide open looks allowed for the Gators to make up for it. Now they go on the road to face a Mississippi State team which just got their clock cleaned by Auburn and depends on outside shooting from a four guard lineup. Win there and you somewhat atone for this. Otherwise, the Kentucky game next weekend is an NCAA elimination game, with there being no guaruntee that the winner gets in either.

Tampa Bay began the free agency period by giving up multiple draft picks for a player who's a proven attitude problem as well as an irresponsible jerk off the field. They needed to get younger and more athletic at the skill positions, but trading this year's second rounder and a fifth next year for Kellen Winslow Jr was not what I had in mind. Couple that with a guy who's been a train wreck most of his career in Antonio Bryant as the featured receiver. There's no established quarterback to keep these guys in line either, which means I'm not liking what new GM Mark Dominik's doing with personnel so far very much.

Even more galling than the idea of giving up second and fifth round picks for Winslow is the notion that New England gave up Matt Cassel and a good quality defensive player in Mike Vrabel for just a second rounder from Kansas City. Lito Sheppard became a Jet for a fifth rounder and a conditional 2010 pick. Those are great deals for the teams that got the players, who the dealing teams needed to move for salary cap reasons.

Curt Schilling needs some attention, so he says he may return to pitch for the Cubs or the Rays. He's not ready to make a decision right now, of course, and he won't be on a roster opening day but keep checking in with him. Curt gets lonely if he doesn't get to spout off about smething once in while. As for the idea of Schlling pitching for the Rays, the last time I checked finding another starter wasn't a real concern for them. Don't wait by the phone for them to call, Curt, but I'm sure media guys still will.

I've mentioned before on the blog that I'm fascinated with the disaster that is the city of Detroit. Unemployment is rampant, the housing market has deteriorated to the point they will literally give you a house for a dollar if you're willing to maintain it, the most recent elected mayor wound up in jail and a massive public corruption investigation is ongoing, and the city's financial status is abysmal. Now a preacher is demanding action to solve a problem, and a city councilwoman is as well. What vital issue has finally moved them to speak out and do something? They think a casino billboard looks creepy. It's important to keep up appearances, you know.