Thursday, April 30, 2009

Slow sports day today

I'm mystified by Les Miles. He's a mediocre at best game coach who was given a gold mine in LSU and has managed not to screw it up too badly. Despite that, he has a remarkable knack for doing things which make you wonder what he could possibly have been thinking. Saying he'll be twittering messages doing pregame and halftime of games is the latest example. I'm all for utilizing new ways of communication, but even if Miles has someone write the posts in his name what could they possibly say and how would it help anything? Do recruits really want coaches who send messages at halftime? What kind of selling point is that? Despite the general buffoonery of Miles, LSU is number thirteen in's post pring football poll.

I want to extend hearty congratulations to Trev Alberts, the new athletic director of Nebraska Omaha. This is wonderful news, because it means Trev will no longer be on TV or the web expressing opinions in any capacity. Even in his much less visible recent role as an analyst on CBS College Sports TV, he still had a knack for taking stances so ridiculous that I'd hear about them. An egomaniacal Trev lost his ESPN job thanks to refusing to show up for work because he didn't want to have to share any airtime with the Gameday guys. His opinions would shift with the breeze, sometimes in the very same day. Never met the guy, and he may be a wonderful family man and human being. As a commentator though, Trev was college football's Stephen A. Smith - polarizing, irritating, and rarely entertaining. Word is he may be using this job as training wheels before moving up to his alma mater Nebraska once Tom Osborne thinks he's ready.

What some people believe to be the ugliest uniforms in sports history are about to return from the grave. Denver burned their original gear rather than keep wearing them for a third season. Sure the Broncos may not have a QB, but I'm sure the charm of wearing vertical striped socks is really being undersold. The Nuggets rainbow jersies were memorably garish, but they looked awesome compared to these getups.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What, no Rashaan Salaam?

In the end, Alex Tyus figured it out. Him transferring from UF to try and become a three just didn't make any sense. No high end team was going to look for him to come in as a small forward, and any small program that would kill to have an athlete of Tyus's ability would be even more likely to need him as a power player than UF was. It's hard not to wonder about kids who express a desire to leave and then return. Is the commitment to doing things Billy Donovan's way truly there? For Tyus, you can only hope the answer is yes because he should benefit enormously from moving to the power forward spot next to Vernon Macklin.

The NCAA is simply amazing. Even when given an obviously positive story, a way to promote the best ideals of what college athletics are supposed to be, they find a way to screw it up. I mentioned in February that the NCAA was refusing permission for Mark Richt to attend the graduation ceremony of one of his signees. The player in question was a possible valedictorian and wanted Richt to come to his speech. Considering the young man has already signed with UGA, what recruiting benefit would it give Richt? Are we to believe coaches would start using this as some sort of loophole - "commit to us and I'll definitely come to your graduation" - to recruit every kid? Given the obvious silliness of this, Richt looked into a waiver so he could go to his future player's graduation and hear his speech. The answer back? Waiver request denied. The explanation is even more maddening. Because the player in question isn't valedictorian, the NCAA wouldn't approve the waiver. He's still giving the same speech, but they say it's not significant enough to bend on an entirely unnecessary rule. This quote about NCAA recruiting policies from new Oregon coach Chip Kelly...

“If it makes sense for a student-athlete or it makes sense for a coach, then you can’t do it”

speaks volumes about just how ridiculous this situation is. To say a waiver would have been approved if the future UGA player was valedictorian only makes the decision more foolish. It's inane to say the rule was worth breaking for a valedictorian but not a salutatorian.

McFarlane Toys is coming out with their first set of NCAA football action figures. Six players have been chosen: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady (no word on whether it'll be him standing next to Lloyd Carr watching Drew Henson actually play), Adrian Peterson, Ray Lewis, Hines Ward, and JaMarcus Russell. Is it just me, or does that last one not quite fit in with the other five? Also, can you imagine how many thousands of figures the Tebow version of this will sell?

Who's the most influential person in the world? The Pope or the US President perhaps? Oprah? Sorry, no. According to TIME magazine's survey, the answer is moot. That's not a descriptive adjective, it's the moniker of the founder of an internet community. It's somewhat hard for me to believe the most influential person in the world is a guy I'd never heard of. The most voted for athlete wasn't Tiger Woods, which I would have guessed. It was boxer Manny Pacquiao. Speaking of Tiger, I get to cover him this week at the Quail Hollow Championships in Charlotte. Haven't seen him play since the 2002 US Open - should be fun.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Safety first? Not in the NFL Draft

The folks at College Football News generally do a nice job of breaking down the sport. They're not as good when it comes to trying to pose as NFL Draft experts. CFN put out a Top 250 prospects for the 2010 draft that asks you to believe Brandon Spikes is the number three prospect for next year. There's no chance that's accurate. If Spikes was that highly regarded, he would have been told he was a sure first rounder this year and gone pro. His grade was considerably lower. Spikes isn't CFN's only miss by a long shot either. The player who will begin the year billed as likely number one pick for next year is Sam Bradford, not USC safety Taylor Mays. Just another reminder that terrific college players are not necessarily hot commodities at the next level.

Las Vegas odds don't necessarily tell us how teams will do in the coming year - wouldn't have found a small number on the Rays to win the AL last year, for example. They do give a pretty good indication of what expectations should be before the year begins. The Venetian sports book has posted their NFL win totals for the coming year, and it appears they don't think too highly of Tampa Bay (6.5 wins) while the Dolphins and Jaguars are expected to be unremarkable eight win teams. New England's twelve wins is the largest total for anyone while St. Louis and Detroit trail the field with five. Sadly, I'd recommend taking the under on Tampa Bay.

Barry Bonds says he's not retired, and he recently met with the Dalai Lama. He's lying about one of those things, and it's not the one you think. Whether Bonds is willing to admit it or not, he's a retiree now thanks to being unable to credibly play the field, the fact he's clubhouse cancer and that whole federal indictment thing. Big hitter, the Lama. I'm pretty sure that's about all they have in common.

Special teams wizard Frank Gansz died yesterday. He will be remembered mostly as the Kansas City Chiefs head coach for a brief stint in the late Eighties, but I covered him in Jacksonville. He was quite a character. Gansz showed up to coach the Jaguars special teams and brought an enormous PA system so all the players could hear him at practice. Not all Jaguar players, ALL players on the planet. The speakers were that loud. I can still repeat some of his phrases nine years later - "Are you in your lane? Are you prepared to attack the ball?". RIP to one of the best at what he did.

Monday, April 27, 2009

It's FSU's fault you didn't get drafted too

I hated Tampa Bay's move to trade up and draft Josh Freeman. I've watched him play plenty of times, and he has great physical tools. His decision making is subpar though, and to me that's much more important than raw physical gifts. I know Raheem Morris had ties to him from his year as Kansas State DC and Freeman seems like a decent enough guy, but that's not a good enough reason to take an unprepared player. Giving up a sixth round pick for the privilege only added to my irritation. The second day picks were better, with Fulton from Illinois probably the best for when he was chosen. I was surprised by the Dolphins taking Vontae Davis, who has talent but is allegedly a bit of a head case. The Pat White move will either be brilliant or a total bust, and we'll know pretty quickly which one it is. I do think they got some useful guys on the second day. Of the three Florida teams, I thought the Jaguars had the best draft. They got two quality tackles, one of whom a lot of people thought was going to be a first rounder and slid into the second. Interesting move to trade away next year's second rounder for a third, though. I know absolutely nothing more than you about CB Derek Cox since he played at William & Mary, but he'd better deliver or that could be a really expensive mistake.

It's become a regular tradition each year. A highly touted high school star realizes he will not be a high draft pick, and places the blame on FSU. This year it's Antone Smith following in the proud tradition of Lorenzo Booker, ignoring the fact that the NFL drafts on talent and not stats. If they thought Antone Smith had NFL wheels, they would have selected him just as they once did Booker. Instead, Smith's a free agent looking to go to someone's camp. Beyond that, exactly what in this decade would indicate to an offensive player that FSU was likely to send him to the league? Smith got what he signed up for, and now he's upset about it.

The idea of the NFL holding a Super Bowl in London is spectacularly awful. I already dislike the fact they play a regular season game there each year, robbing some city's fans of one of their eight shots to see their team play in any given year as well as the businesses in that city of the revenue a game generates. To take an event that generates vastly more economic impact out of the country altogether would be disgraceful. Why should anyone have to wonder if their Super Bowl performance was impacted in any way by jet lag? Imagine the Lions and Browns finally reaching a Super Bowl only for their fans to be told they're out of luck going to the game they've waited their whole lives for if they don't have a passport and roughly seven thousand dollars lying around. There's no way enough owners will vote to approve an idea this stupid.

Sorry to be later than usual getting this up today, but I got back really late from Atlanta after last night's Bruce Springsteen concert. It was the first time I'd gotten to see a full Springsteen show - the one previous time I had was as part of a combo bill with REM and others. The man lived up to his hype and then some. It was a terrific show. Here's a piece of last night's show, with Bruce and the boys doing "Outlaw Pete" off the new album.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mel Kiper's high holy day is here

The NFL Draft is this weekend, with a lot of kids in it for me to keep track of. South Carolina's got a lot of second day prospects, while UF could get three on day one depending on how Louis Murphy and Cornelius Ingram are viewed by the late second round teams. I'd love to see Ingram rewarded for coming back since he didn't get to play thanks to his ACL injury. ESPN is going to be at his draft gathering, so he should get a fair amount of attention when his name starts to surface as a logical pick. Here are Pro Football Weekly's final ratings if you want to follow along. For some interesting history, check out the list of the alltime best pick at each first round slot. Not good to wind up with pick 7 or 25, apparently. Andy Staples of breaks down the recruiting numbers on this year's projected first round. Two two star guys made the top ten, and one walkon is a projected firs rounder - more proof recruiting "stars" are somewhat meaningful, but very overblown.

The NBA Draft is still weeks away, with college players who are still undecided about whether to remain in or not having until June 15 to decide. That's ridiculous, and mercifully enough it's about to change. Having a deadline around Mother's Day will still give kids over a month to seek feedback on whether the NBA's interested in them, but also lets coaches have a fair shot to plan for losses and recruit the necessary players.

This year's Heisman Trophy media headquarters was at the new Sports Museum of America near Wall Street in NYC. They held the ceremony in a theater near Times Square and then tried to get players down to us for interviews. It took quite a while, which meant I had some time to wander around the museum. I couldn't believe how much they were charging to come see what boiled down to a moderate amount of semi-interesting odds and ends stuff. Turns out that plan didn't work and the museum's gone under. All the discussion I heard from PR folks that night about the "new home of the Heisman" is time I'll never get back, but at least I'm not one of the people they're charging big money to get their own stuff returned to them.

Tennessee's personnel losses continue to pile up, with an offensive lineman and quarterback B.J. Coleman deciding to leave yesterday. The Coleman loss means they've got almost no viable options if anything happens to Jonathan Crompton at QB. Crompton only has this season left to play too, so there's not going to be much in the pipeline to compete for the starting QB spot in 2010 either. Lane Kiffin better find himself a special freshman QB for that year or he's in trouble.

When I covered the Jaguars, Jimmy Smith was one of my favorite people to deal with. He was a great player and a nice guy who handled the media with class. I can't say how many times he was the guy willing to stick around a few extra minutes to talk with ESPN Radio's national NFL show for me. That's why it made me sad to see the photo that accompanied the story of Smith's latest drug arrest. Smith looks terrible - he's aged himself 25 years in the last ten. I doubt I would even have recognized him had we passed on the street. Smith's rise to the Pro Bowl from his status as a street free agent nobody was a great story. Now, he's a cautionary tale of what this crap can do to your life, and it's sickening. Hopefully someone can get him to help himself.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Good thing they weren't playing the Grizzlies

We're two days from the NFL Draft, and I was trying to figure out where Tim Tebow might have gone this season had he put his name in. We can't know for sure, of course, but I believe he would have been behind the three anticipated first rounders - Stafford, Sanchez and Freeman - but ahead of everyone else at QB. If supposed "draft guru" Todd McShay is right in maintaining Brian Hoyer of Michigan State is currently fourth, there's no other conclusion you can draw. Remember, SI's Peter King has already quoted a scout from a successful franchise who says his team will take Tebow in the first round next year if he's available. I watched Hoyer plenty, and he's a complete stiff - the guy "led" MSU to 12 points on that same UGA defense UF put up 49 on and Georgia Tech destroyed. If a QB with a 51 percent completion mark and nine TD passes in 13 games went ahead of Tebow, it would be a travesty. Either McShay has no clue, or Tebow would have gone fourth at QB. Actually, both those statements could be accurate.

Not news: a star junior basketball player skips his senior year to take his game to the pros. News: it's a junior in high school. Jeremy Tyler, a Louisville commitment who's supposed to be finishing his junior year of high school, has instead left San Diego High and will head to Europe. He expects to make six figures over there for a couple of years and then be the top pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Sounds like a great plan, as long as...

1. he doesn't get severely injured while playing overseas and become irrelevant to the NBA while being ineligible to play in college
2. he doesn't flop in Europe and wreck his NBA stock like suppposed "lottery pick" Christian Drejer once did
3. he doesn't wind up with a fly by night team that stiffs him on his pay and abandons him somewhere with no notice (as happened to Matt Bonner and tons of other players over the years)
4. he places no value on being around anyone his age who speaks his language and having something resembling a normal social life
5. the NBA doesn't have a massive labor upheaval prior to the year he envisions himself returning which creates a season cancelling lockout, massive salary cuts, etc. - which many people think will happen.

Other than that, it's foolproof. The thing is, this kid may be able to handle it. If he succeeds, how many more will try to follow his path who aren't as gifted and cost themselves enormously? This will not end well. The most predictable thing in the entire story, by the way? Sonny Vaccaro's at the root of the whole thing. No one's done more to profit off young basketball stars for decades than him.

The Atlanta Hawks were such an embarassingly bad organization for years that's it's still hard to believe they're good enough to have home court advantage in the first round of the NBA playoffs. I was at a game when Lon Kruger was their coach where his assistant coach Gar Heard actually got on the PA mic and promised the 4000 or so of us who were about to watch them get killed by the Knicks that the Hawks were going to play really hard that year. It reeked of amateur hour. Last night, we got a reminder of true Hawks tradition: not only did they lose to Miami, but a key factor may have been players getting intimidated by the live Hawk mascot getting loose. Maybe they could make this a selling point for dull games against teams like Memphis or Minnesota - come see if a live hawk will attack you or the players during the game! The Hawk should have stuck to motorcycling.

They're making a movie out of The Blind Side, Michael Lewis's book that told the story of this year's likely first round pick Michael Oher. The big tackle was recruited to Ole Miss by Ed Orgeron's staff, and now Orgeron will be starring as himself in a scene opposite Sandra Bullock in the movie. It's not clear whether all professional actors were too scared of Orgeron to try and portray him, or whether he's just so out there that no one else could. We can only hope the scene includes the immortal line "Tell 'em about it JoJo!"

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hope it was good stuff, Percy

When Percy Harvin was reported by an obscure website to have tested positive for marijuana at the combine three weeks ago I said I wouldn't buy into that report until someone with more credibility put their name on it. While most of that original report's details were wrong, Harvin apparently is the one they got right. It's mind boggling to think someone could make that poor a decision knowing the exact time and place he was going to be tested, and it will hurt Harvin's stock. If he doesn't go to a pair of teams that have shown a willingness to take chances and need a WR - Baltimore at 26 or Tennessee at 30 - I suspect he will now fall out of the first round.

FSU continues to pursue their plan to appeal the loss of wins as a result of their NCAA academic eligiblity violations. One of Bobby Bowden's fellow ACC coaches is calling BS on that. Ralph Friedgen of Maryland puts it pretty bluntly too...

"Duke suspends a guy for a year. They (Florida State) got 36 of them and they don't lose a whole year?" Friedgen asked. "Yeah, I think it's [penalties] more than fair. They're [Florida State] playing with the guys I can't play with."

I give Friedgen credit for speaking out here. The easy thing to do is go along and get along. Unlike Lane Kiffin, Friedgen is correct about the rule and has credibility to back up his criticism. FSU got off very lightly, and they still don't seem to grasp that.

One of the questions any team asks as they prepare for the NFL Draft is how much emphasis they want to place on the Wonderlic test. Some scores had previously gotten out, but Pro Football Weekly's website has the first comprehensive list of everyone's scores I've seen this year. Percy Harvin had previously been reported to have gotten a 12, but now we know he actually answered 42 questions of the possible 50 in the timed test. I don't know how that compares with Cornelius Ingram getting a 13 out of 26 questions answered - do they give Ingram credit for being for more methodical as he looked for an answer or is he penalized for thinking too slowly? Interesting to note that no one got below a 9 this year. There've been some combines when kids have posted a 4. While I wouldn't be enthused about trying to be successful with a squad full of single digit Wonderlic guys, I think some teams go overboard on the importance of this thing.

We're all familiar with the basic college coach show format. Coach comes in to restaurant he doesn't want to be at, talks with the play by play guy about his team a bit, plays a ton of commercials (all of which feature the coach introducing himself in the opening), takes a few phone calls (that are heavily screened if the team is struggling), and says goodbye. They're a pretty dry exercise all the way around. Coaches are copycats, though, which gives us hope. Perhaps they'll steal an idea from Tom Izzo: The Musical! Instead of a dry discussion about post play, imagine a singing, dancing Billy Donovan performing Memory from Cats. It would add a whole retro, Dean Martin feel - ratings would be through the roof.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just another day at the office

Sorry, not going to have time for the usual blog today. The Chinese supposedly have a curse that says "may you live in interesting times". Don't know if that's true, but today qualifies as an interesting time for me. Back to business tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Will the last player out please turn off the lights?

The news that Alex Tyus was leaving the Gator basketball program came out of nowhere Friday. Lots of theories have floated about why this happened, but after talking to people around the program the gist of it is that Tyus wants to play on the outside and Billy Donovan needs him as an interior player. Tyus in't talking to the press, but he appears to have confirmed that on his Facebook page. I understand Tyus being frustrated about playing out of position at the five spot, but this year he would have switched to the more natural four and I think been very successful there. I also think Billy's perfectly happy to see him go and will feel the same about Calathes whenever he officially acknowledges the obvious as well. The last two years he's had a team that has not consistently listened to him, and this year that's going to change. Good luck to Tyus - he's a nice kid and has enough game to help someone's team, but I don't think he's made a good choice here.

Donovan is expected to make more news today by hiring Richard Pitino as his latest assistant coach. This makes sense. Pitino's got a reputation as a talented recuiter, is well versed in UF's desired style of play, and Donovan's known him virtually his entire life so there shouldn't be any surprise chemistry issues. While Pitino's name came up for Boston U head coach opening this year, my guess is he will be on UF's staff for a few seasons and help give them some stability they've really needed. May not be a bad time to leave Louisville either, with his dad having gone to the FBI about an apparent extortion attempt. There's a lot of weird and ugly stuff being spread about this story. I'm curious to see where it goes.

Some people scoff at the idea of Matt Millen, architect of the 0-16 debacle in Detroit, serving as NFL analyst again. I have no problem with that unless they bill him as "Matt Millen, draft expert". Millen was good at explaining what was going on during a game in his previous work and I assume would be again. Just because he stunk as a personnel guy does not negate that skill - they're different jobs. What I do have a problem with is that ESPN is going to have Millen work college football games too. Millen has been an NFL guy for the last three decades. As his drafting showed, he knows nothing about college football. Lots of talented guys who follow this sport on a regular basis are available to be college analysts. Why have someone with no knowledge and credibility in the current sport do it instead?

I'm not a fan of college baseball for a lot of reasons, from the damage it does to pitchers through the ping of the bat. Whenever I can avoid watching it or talking about it in the course of my job, I do. Having said that, the stuff I saw Brad Wilkerson do at Florida was amazing. The guy could knock the cover off the ball then run in from the outfield and turn into a closer. There were people who complained about Andy Lopez not signing enough Florida kids, but getting Wilkerson out of Kentucky was the best thing he did. Now, at the age of 31, Wilkerson has decided to retire after losing the fire to keep playing. He was in the minors with Boston and had been a .247 career hitter in MLB. I'm not sure what happened with Brad in the bigs, but I've never seen a better college baseball player (and hopefully won't have to either).

UF is among three SEC schools to make the Playboy top 25 party school list(WARNING: Link is to Playboy, likely NSFW though it does not have any nudity) coming in at a conference best number 4 overall. This list is silly, although I'm sure Bernie Machen won't rest until UF fails to make the top 25. Any list that claims Miami is the biggest party school in the country while putting Arizona State 15th behind Lehigh needs some serious editing work.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Meet the Canadian Ron Burgundy

I'll be in Gainesville for the Orange and Blue Game Saturday. The question is what there will be for any of us to actually see. UF has had an unbelievable run of injuries this spring, and the coaches weren't going to take chances with veterans even before they started losing guys. There's no ESPN circus in town either. It's still a chance to see a few of the touted young guys get some work, and that's what I'm hoping to take from it. Meanwhile, we can all look forward to fall. UF may be on CBS as many as half a dozen times, and the network has picked up the Florida-Georgia rights for the next fifteen years.

I'm 35. On a logical level I know that's not extraordinarily old, but it sure feels that way today. Just as I got into the studio after coming back to Columbia from the PGA's Heritage event going on down on Hilton head Island, word came down that Danny Ainge had suffered a heart attack. I instantly shifted from a relaxed mood to a state of shock. This guy is one of the main cogs of the first basketball team I ever cared about. Fortunately Ainge is expected to recover, but the notion that he had a completely blocked artery and could easily have been gone at fifty scares the hell out of me. Ainge has always been in great shape. If his heart could be a ticking bomb, any of ours could. The Ainge news has to have kept even the most crazed Celtics fan from getting too upset about the fact Kevin Garnett may be out for the playoffs.

The news that John Madden is stepping down as NBC's analyst for Sunday Night Football shouldn't be shocking. He's 73 and travels around the USA by bus - you can see how that would get old. It's still hard to imagine the NFL without him. Madden's been a part of fall Sundays as long as I've been alive. Surely someone will get him to do a weekly pregame segment from his house or something like that, because he's too big a presence to just vanish. Cris Collinsworth should do a great job filling Madden's shoes. While his style's different, his willingness to be critical is something a lot of NFL analysts lack.I don't know if Alabama announcing Kenny Stabler is done as their radio analyst was a sympathy move to his old Oakland coach. One thing we know for sure - the saddest man in America today is Frank Caliendo.

While Madden will be missed, I'm not sure the same can be said for ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. A few years ago, an ESPN executive who's no longer with the company was convinced Smith was a superstar in the making. They gave him his own TV talk show, a radio show in New York City and later the ESPN Radio network, and made him a constant presence on their NBA coverage. Now, Screamin A's days with the network appear to be just about over. It'll be tough missing insights like Smith's criticism that a coach whose team missed a field goal in a playoff game should have kicked on first down so he would have four chances to try and make it, but we'll all pull through together. At least Smith hasn't had a moment like Canadian sports reporter Roger Millions yet. (Warning: foul language on that link) Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hulk does realize "turning heel" is only a wrestling thing, right?

Jacksonville has locked up Maurice Jones-Drew long term with a new contract that makes him the third highest paid running back in the NFL. Imagine what they would have done if he actually had a thousand yard season on his resume. I like Jones-Drew, but that's a bunch of money for a guy who's never had to carry the load as a featured back for a full year. The Jaguars gave David Garrard a big contract and the dropoff in his performance was noticeable. They're in big trouble if the same thing hapens with Jones-Drew. On the other hand, when you've had two recent first round picks at receiver arrested on cocaine charges in the last nine months alone, I guess it feels good to reward the quality player you found in the late second round.

Good news for Florida - they're in next year's NCAA tournament field as an eighth seed! At least, according to Joe Lunardi's Bracketology on the ESPN website they are. Not sure how someone evaluates a group of teams with no idea who's returning next season or who has signed some talented players still out there, but Joe has found a way. Do you think he and Mel Kiper do mock drafts and brackets to each other on the phone in early June when they're suffering from withdrawl because no one wants to talk to them?

Some of the guys I'd have thought Lunardi might need to know about include Patrick Patterson of Kentucky and Dominique Archie of South Carolina. Both put their names in for the NBA draft, even though neither one is assured of being a first rounder. Archie wouldn't even be guarunteed of being a third rounder if that part of the draft still existed. A guy who's not first team all-conference (in a league that names eight guys to the first team for some reason) probably doesn't need any NBA feedback right now. This is what the current system encourages, though. Stick your name in, see what happens. Unfortunately, every year some kids have too much pride to admit they aren't good enough yet or simply believe BS from the wrong people and wind up losing out on the rest of their college career while getting no benefit from it. How many Jamont Gordons will there be this year?

The LA Times reveals that ABC was trying to put together a season opener for the Georgia Dome in 2010 between UCLA and Auburn. Atlanta's trying to make a yearly tradition of having an SEC team against someone to open the year there. Last year it was Bama wrecking Clemson, this year it's them against Virginia Tech. The UCLA-Auburn matchup didn't happen because Auburn nixed it. In turn, UCLA refused to play Georgia Tech instead. Both teams would have unquestionably had a home field advantage over the Bruins, so it's clear Rick Neuheisel's guys think they'd beat Auburn but don't want to deal with Paul Johnson and the rapidly on the rise Yellow Jackets. It's interesting to see an SEC program with tradition dissed that way. Secondly, UF opens the 2010 season in Gainesville with Miami of Ohio and USF. That's better than their usual fare. But once it's back to crap like Furman in 2011, they should look into doing this at least once. Just imagine the anticipation if this season was starting with Virginia Tech or UCLA instead of Charleston Southern. It would be a nice recruiting tool, a fun and easy trip for fans, and it would help get the team ready for the SEC Championship Game. What's not to like?

If there's any scenario where the words "I totally understand OJ. I get it." pass your lips, it's probably time to stop talking. Hulk Hogan is about to learn that the hard way. In an interview with Rolling Stone (huh?), Hogan discusses his ongoing divorce battle and says "I could have turned everything into a crime scene, like OJ, cutting everybody's throat." But he didn't - what a guy! Apparently that's supposed to be some kind of selling point to sway folks view of the Hulkster. After seeing what's happened to the Osbourne and Hogan families since they allowed TV to take over their lives, hopefully no one is desperate for more fame as well as stupid enough to ever take part in that kind of crap again. As for Hulk, whatever happened to "say your prayers and take your vitamins"?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Someone needs to remind Rodriguez he's not in WV any more

The NFL schedules are out, and a few things stand out about each of the three Florida teams. Tampa Bay has to play four of its final six games on the road including a trip to Seattle in December. They get no primetime games at all, and will deprive their fans of a home game against New England so the Glazer family can try and leverage their Manchester United investment by having the team play in London. With the only early home games against Dallas and the Giants, this is a very difficult slate. I could easily see them opening 1-6 or 2-5 going into the bye week. The Jaguars avoid multiple week road trips all year until the final two weeks - at New England and Cleveland. Ouch - better have the wins you need for a playoff run by week fifteen. Miami has to go on the road four times in five weeks, with one game a Thursday night road trip to Charlotte. Seeing the Jets twice in twenty days is going to be odd for them as well. None of the teams got a perfect setup, but I think the Jaguars did the best of the group and Tampa Bay by far the worst.

Greg Paulus never came close to living up to his hype during his basketball career while playing for Duke. Now, he's apparently revisiting the idea of playing football in college. Despite Duke winning more games than Michigan last season, Paulus apparently is looking at playing for the Wolverines. Exactly why Rich Rodriguez would want to turn his offense over to a one and done player who hasn't taken a snap in four years is beyond me. Paulus did have a bunch of hype as a QB coming out of high school from New York, that hotbed of high school football. There's just no way the recruiting gurus in football completely blew it too, is there?

I find it hilarious that Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith has fired his agent less than two weeks before the draft. There were plenty of observers who questioned Smith's choice to represent him, and he certainly has appeared poorly prepared throughout the process. But firing the agent as if it's mostly his fault would make me even less likely to select Smith if I was an NFL GM. Anyone with a functioning brain knows that a college player who's being evaluated for pro football needs to be in as good a shape as possible. Unless Smith's agent was recommending he eat entire honey-baked hams every day and wash them down with 32 ounce bottles of melted butter, I'm not sure how he's to blame for his client's woeful conditioning. An agent is supposed to help a player make the best possible case for himself, but if a guy lets himself go like Smith did there's not much he can do to stop it from happening.

A group in Dallas is trying to bring the College Football Hall of Fame to their city. Do you even have any idea where it is right now? The answer is South Bend, Indiana. While convenient for Notre Dame fans, that's not exactly a vacation destination. The hall belongs somewhere people may actually visit to be able to enjoy the museum and appreciate the history of the sport. I don't now if Dallas is the right spot either, but it's a lot closer to fitting the bill than South Bend is.

This Thursday is the deadline for bidders to submit their offers to purchase controlling interest in the NHL's Montreal Canadiens. There's been a great deal of buzz around the idea singer Celine Dion is going to be the buyer. While I'm sure that would have VH-1 drooling at the possibility of a reality show or stealing the concept and using it with someone else ("Scott Baio takes over as GM of the Lansing Lugnuts! It's gold, Jerry!"), this would not be the first time Celine has crossed paths with sports. When I first began working at 900/1230 in Gainesville/Ocala back in March of 1998, I did afternoons but also sometimes filled in as part of Buddy Martin's morning show. Each and every morning, Buddy ended his show by playing Celine's "Because You Loved Me" in its entirety. I think I can safely say we were the only sports station in the history of the format to do that.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

R.I.P. Harry Kalas

The news of legendary Philadelphia Phillies play by play man Harry Kalas dying hit everyone in baseball hard yesterday. Kalas wasn't just one of the great voices of the game, he was a well liked person. There are some successful announcers who are simply not very nice people. Kalas remained friendly to those he crossed paths with despite his extra fame from NFL Films work, commercials, even the Puppy Bowl. We had him on the show a couple of times during my time in Jacksonville, and he couldn't have been a nicer guy. I feel for whoever has to try and fill those shoes in Philadelphia. Every team still has radio broadcasts, but the play by play guy doesn't have the same connection with the fans anymore that ones of the era when Harry broke in did thanks to practically all the games being available on TV. Vin Scully in Los Angeles becomes even more of a treasure every year.

Isiah Thomas is the new head basketball coach at FIU. It apparently hasn't registered with them that everything he touches turns to crap. Thomas bankrupted the CBA and ruined the Knicks. He was emboiled in a sexual harassment suit that cost his employers 11.5 million. Thomas said - ON VIDEOTAPE! - that it was alright for a black man to call a woman a bitch but not a white man. This past October, Thomas was reported to have been taken to the hospital for an overdose of pills. He than claimed it was his daughter, despite officers flatly saying he was lying. Isiah Thomas is the guy FIU's athletic director thinks is the right man to teach college kids anything? Wow.

Former Gator basketball player David Huertas has decided to turn pro early. No, really. He's going to play in Puerto Rico. This was the year Huertas had been dreaming of. Ole Miss suffered enough injuries that he got to shoot all the time by default. Only one teammate was within 184 shots attempted of him. Huertas shot 41 percent from the field and 35 percent from three while having more turnovers than assists. Not awe-inspiring numbers to me, but Huertas has always thought very highly of himself. I wish I could see a videotape of the meeting when Huertas came in after the 2006 title and told Billy Donovan he needed to shoot twenty times a game. Five future NBA players and one of the great NCAA three point shooters are back from a team celebrated for its unselfishness and Huertas says "give me the rock or I walk". You can't be more clueless than that.

Sergio Garcia still hasn't won a major despite having several chances over the years. Some people thought this might be the year for him at Augusta, but it didn't happen. Garcia's crybaby reaction afterward tells me it probably won't happen anywhere else anytime soon either...

"I don't like" the course, Garcia said in an interview with The Golf Channel. "It's too tricky. I don't think it's fair."

The nerve of those Augusta National people, making their course so challenging. No one could be expected to hit double figures on such a course! Well, except the three guys who tied at twelve under. It's not Sergio's fault 37 people did better than him, it's the course's. You betcha.

The NCAA's preferred method of handling modern communication technology's improvements is to order everyone to pretend they don't exist. They banned text messaging rather than try to come up with a common sense approach to it. Coaches can't accept return messages from anyone on Twitter because if it's from a recruit that could be considered an extra contact. Now, the NCAA's demanding Facebook groups designed to encourage a recruit to choose a specific school shut down. That's got their attention while the third anniversary of the Reggie Bush agent scandal being exposed is this month. Memo to Myles Brand and company: you're never going to be able to stay ahead of technology, so stop worrying about it. Even things like phone call limits can be worked around by using a purchased prepaid cel that's not in a coach's name. Find ways to tighten up the seamy stuff going on with AAU basketball. Do everything you can to get agents under control. There's lots to be done, but worrying about people naive enough to think a little more internet ego stroking is going to sway the heart of a highly recruited point guard is simply stupid. Not to mention that if it could get another school in trouble, troublemakers will start groups to "encourage" recruits to go to their rival's school.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The door revolves again

The annual exodus of players from the Florida basketball team has begun. Last week I mentioned Allan Chaney was in limbo, but now the freshman has officially decided to hit the door. This one's a straight up story, as Chaney himself says...

"He (Billy Donovan) wants me to change some of my ways, which I didn’t understand.”

When your coach asks you to do things, it's generally a good idea to listen. If you dont want to listen, he'll probably suggest you find someone else not to listen to. UF does seem to have an unusually large number of transfers, but there's not one consistent thread that connects them. Some, like Rashid Al-Kaleem, were told to go away for disciplinary reasons. Others, like David Huertas, visualized a different role for themselves than was realistic at the time and weren't willing to be patient. Others still, like Jonathan Mitchell, were bad evaluations by the coaches during recruiting. If there could be more consistency on the staff, I think it would help reduce the trend somewhat. When four assistants leave in as many years, three for HC gigs, it's understandable but does have consequences.

Tampa Bay signing Byron Leftwich certainly doesn't excite me, but it's move that might work out alright. People I know who cover the Jaguars felt Leftwich got a big head over there and stopped working hard enough to be an effective leader for the team. If riding the bench with the Steelers and the realization that only a good year in Tampa will get him starters money again is enough to motivate him, Leftwich does have the physical tools to succeed. I wonder whether this means Tampa Bay believes Kansas State QB Josh Freeman will be gone before they pick at #19 or if they just aren't sold on him being worth the pick (I'm not convinced he's worth a first rounder).

While Byron Leftwich will never wear a Jacksonville uniform again, none of the Jaguars will sport their old look this season. The franchise will break out new uniforms on the 22nd of this month as part of their buildup to the draft. Once in a great while, like the Bucs switching from the embarassing looking Pastel Pirate to their current look in 1997, this kind of thing makes a difference. More often, it's a way to rearrange the deck chairs on a ship going nowhere. Want more proof? Other teams changing their look this year include Detroit and San Francisco.

You'd think a three man playoff (only the eighth sudden death one in Masters history) would have to be at least good, right? Instead, all three guys wilted under the pressure and struggled to stick around. Give Angel Cabrera credit for winning his second major, but the moment I'll remember from this week isn't the playoff or even Woods and Mickelson making it interesting for a few holes. It's this unbelievable shot by Vijay Singh during a practice round. Haven't even seen Tiger do that in his commercials yet.

I don't know what's more ridiculous about PETA's latest publicity foray: the absurdity of their request or their target. They've asked the band the Pet Shop Boys to change their name to the Rescue Shelter Boys because PETA doesn't like pet shops. I doublechecked the release date on this - it was written in 2009, not 1989. The idea that all publicity is good publicity is nonsense - talk to Michael Jackson about that. There are legitimate animal issues that could be addressed by a group like PETA. How do idiots keep getting ahold of this group's stationery?

Friday, April 10, 2009

What is "creme" anyway?

The Darrin Horn flirtation with Xavier that shook up my day yesterday appears to have officially come to a close. You never know for sure until the job is filled - after all, Sean Miller turned down Arizona and then took the job half a day later. Horn apparently didn't expect word of his Xavier visit to get out and is now claiming he wasn't involved with the search, which is an insult to everyone's intelligence. It was funny though, taking calls on my show from people who were stunned and offended at the idea Horn might look to leave South Carolina for another gig. This is a guy who left his alma mater to come to Columbia because he had the chance to make more money and potentially advance his career. Why wouldn't he look at Xavier if he thought it gave him an even better chance to do those two things? Anyone expecting loyalty from coaches when they're seeing Billy Gillispie get canned after two years in Lexington and Phillip Fulmer out at Tennessee four months after signing a seven year contract is deluding themselves. If you want loyalty, get a dog. If you want your coach to stick around, you'd better be proactive about keeping his pay at market level.

Florida has done just that for Billy Donovan, which is why he's stayed in Gainesville all these years. They can't pay Nick Calathes though, which is why UF still doesn't appear in Gary Parrish of's early basketball top 25 for next season. They are on the ten to watch list, which is probably about right until we know what Calathes does and see whether UF signs a point guard to either reduce his minutes or fill his shoes. I think they'll do that regardless of what move he makes. I've got a lot of respect for Gary, but I do disagree with him on Clemson at number nine. Incoming high school star Milton Jennings is overhyped for his level of performance, and that team does not have a reliable point guard. They're a good team and I can buy them as a top 25 squad but not top ten.

I meant to write about this yesterday and didn't remember to with the Horn stuff going on. Pro Football Talk reports Rex Grossman has switched agents from Eugene Parker to Drew Rosenhaus. This is a pretty smart move by Rex at this stage of his career. Rosenhaus's persona may grate on people, but the guy has shown an ability to get deals done that other agents have not. One time while working in Jacksonville I called his office at around 7 AM because of a breaking story involving one of his clients who played for the Jaguars. Drew answered the phone himself. I've learned over the years not to even bother calling Parker's office, because they have never been helpful in dealing with any client. Grossman can help a team - I wouldn't mind seeing him sign with Tampa Bay at all - and Rosenhaus will find him a deal and location that makes sense.

Fifteen days before the draft, Rosenhaus and other agents with prospects for this year have something else to worry about besides workouts and Wonderlic scores. Some NFL teams have aparently been using fake online personas to get players to approve them as friends so they can check out their Facebook and Myspace pages. You'd think kids would be smart enough not to put anything up there which could be damaging, but lots of them just don't get it. On his Facebook page one current Gamecock wide receiver lists his favorite book as "Harry Pothead", among other drug references. There's no way that's going to help him, but he'll likely have to learn that the hard way at some point.

According to Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, they were given an autographed picture of Saddam Hussein by the Army's 4th Infantry Division. Marines who guarded Hussein during his time in captivity apparently forced him to watch the South Park movie portray him as Satan's gay boyfriend. Personally, my favorite South Park moment remains Cartman introducing Colorado's starting lineups on offense and defense during the Nebraska game in 2007. Have a good weekend, go easy on the Cadbury Creme Eggs, and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Things are getting interesting in Columbia

Sorry for the delay in today's posting. I've been a little tied up today, with South Carolina basketball coach Darrin Horn potentially in Cincinnati this morning interviewing for the Xavier job. Nothing like a coaching search to keep you on your toes. More details on this later.

We're now two and a half weeks out from the NFL Draft, and the rankings I place the most faith in have been released. Pro Football Weekly's not perfect, but I've found them to be far more reliable in sizing up potential NFL talent than most media outlets. Percy Harvin is still listed as a late first rounder, but the part of their ratings I'm happiest to see is Cornelius Ingram as an early second rounder. Ingram's a great kid who I think can be an outstanding performer for somebody. It would have been terrible for him to come back for his final year, suffer an injury that robbed him of a chance to play at all and then drop in the draft as well. If he goes early second, that means his return likely made him some money. Last year he was being projected at least a round lower than that. One other thought looking at those ratings - John Parker Wilson of Alabama is a third rounder at QB? Really?

The number of banged up players has become a huge issue for UF during spring drills, but they've been able to stay away from the season ending injuries thus far. Last year there was a huge surge of ACL related problems that a lot of people thought might eventually sink the Gators chances. Georgia also wasn't lucky with player health last year, and that trend continues as receiver Kris Durham is done for 2009. Durham isn't a star, but he's a senior who knew their system. Without him, UGA's already down to just seven wide receivers for fall.

Another day, another SEC player who think he needs to get the NBA's opinion on his game. This time it's LSU's Tasmin Mitchell. None of these guys - not Calathes, Devan Downey, Jodie Meeks or Mitchell - are projected as first rounders. Some aren't even projected to be drafted. It's ridiculous and unfair to their teams that if these players want to they can drag this out until mid June. The deadline needs to be moved up so that coaches can make an effort to replace guys who decide to go. Football players get three days to change their minds if they enter the draft but don't sign with an agent. Why should basketball players get three months?

Since I don't watch much TV, I've never felt the need to pay for HBO. I've missed out on some good shows like Entourage, The Wire and the Sopranos, but the odds are I wouldn't have found time to sit down and watch them anyway. I may have to make a change next year, though, because Eastbound and Down is coming back. I've only seen some of the first season, but it's hilarious. The guys I work with here are borderline evangelists for the greatness that is Kenny Powers. If paying for HBO means I'll be less likely to get exposed to crap like this from FOX, well that's even better. Layoffs are not funny or entertaining. Who the hell is going to sponsor this show - resume placement firms? Kleenex? Sleeping pill manufacturers? Stay classy, Rupert Murdoch.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

So is this a better look for the blog?

Some people will see the news UF has released signee DeShawn Painter from his letter of intent and think that's how they're resolving being one over the scholarship number for next year if Nick Calathes returns. I don't believe it has anything to do with that. UF is recruiting multiple point guards in the event Calathes does go, and may even sign one regardless of if he returns. This move apparently is about academics as well as a belief Painter's development has tailed off. There will be subtractions from the current roster, with multiple possibilities available. My guess is that Eloy Vargas will not return, and who knows what Adam Allen's physical status will be come fall? Allan Chaney ended the year in limbo too. As for Painter, better to let him go now than find out he won't be coming in too late to do anything about it, a la Doneal Mack and Derwin Kitchen.

The attrition continues at Tennessee, where safety Dee Morley is off the team after missing some conditioning drills and practices. Morley is a classic example of a guy who has tons of talent but lacks the personal discipline to do much with it. He was one of the recruits UT "stole" from UF when Zook's 2004 squad began to struggle, and he already had missed a year due to academics. It makes this year's Vol squad weaker, but if an underclassman steps in and learns Monte Kiffin's defense it will help when they have a more realistic shot of competing for big things.

Everyone's looking for ways to make money these days, and college athletic departments are never shy about that. Auburn has a new angle that I hadn't seen before - they've sold the naming rights to their spring football game. Hearing that, you'd assume it was an Alabama based business that would make such a move. Instead, it's the US Navy. Huh? Alabama's spring game is being shown on ESPN, so I could have understood sponsoring that. How many prospective recruits is the Navy likely to reach on A Day in Auburn? One thing you can count on is that every athletic department in the southeast is calling the Navy's ad agency right now.

How uninspiring is this year's NFL Draft's top wave of prospects? Bad enough that a Michigan newspaper is floating the scenario of Detroit passing on the first overall pick. The idea would be to let their fifteen minutes expire and assume the teams with picks two and three don't want a quarterback. Then the Lions would turn their pick of Matthew Stafford in third and try to pay him the salary for that spot instead of the kind of contract a QB selected first overall gets. In effect, it would be trading down with themselves. While this is legal under NFL rules, it would be a disastrous beginning to their relationship with Stafford and would make the franchise look like more of a joke than it already does. All the top teams want to trade their picks and not shell out huge money to these guys - what if they all refused to draft until someone else made the first five picks? Mel Kiper's head would explode!

One of the truly weird moments of my run in Gainesville was the time in 2002 I wound up appearing on Fox Sports Net's Best Damn Sports Show Period. I was getting ready to do my afternoon show for 900/1230 when our office phone rang. It was the show's producer asking me to come on and discuss Ron Zook's status at UF and argue about the BCS. After confirming it wasn't a prank, I agreed to do it but there wasn't anywhere in Gainesville with a compatible satellite hookup. Inexplicably, they wanted me on badly enough that they rented a satellite truck and sent it to my house so I could go live from my backyard four hours later. My neighbors probably thought I was being charged with some sort of crime. Perhaps because of that kind of "spare no expense" approach to programming, the plug is reportedly being pulled on the BDSSP. If they have a recap of the show's history, maybe I can win some sort of award as the palest guest. TV lights shining on a really white guy with no makeup in a pitch black back yard made me look like Powder.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The perfect end for an imperfect year

Last night's UNC demolition of Michigan State was a fitting end to a hugely disappointing NCAA tournament. I can't remember one that's offered us fewer memorable games. Even the upsets weren't fun to watch. The Spartans knocked off two number seeds to get to last night, but made the games fairly dull by controlling the entire second half in each. It's probably appropriate that what turned out to be the least enjoyable Final Four in years happened in one of America's least enjoyable cities. Ask the mayor of Indianapolis how much fun Detroit is. Hopefully next year the games will be more intriguing and I'll be somewhere in person covering them again.

Leonard Hamilton will remain as FSU's coach, making him the final guy to take advantage of Memphis's overmatched AD as a way to get a new deal. Instead, the Tigers will be coached by 31 year old assistant Josh Pastner, who had been expected to go with John Calipari to Kentucky. This means Calipari has to go find a new top recruiter, and he may need to find two staff members since the word is John Robic will likely stay as Pastner's top assistant. It'll be interesting to see what direction Calipari goes in to fill the vacancies, since that will give us the first clue whether his recruiting approach may change in Lexington. Right now he needs to focus on convincing Jodie Meeks, who's reportedly declaring for the draft, to stick around. Hopefully he likes cornbread.

We all know that the first day, week or even month of baseball's schedule mean very little. The odds are very strong that at the end of this season the Yankees will be back in the playoffs. None of that made it any less enjoyable to see one of their big ticket free agent acquisitions melt down yesterday. CC Sabathia got lit up by Baltimore. There's no reason he shouldn't be able to succeed in the Bronx, but sometimes strange things happen when a player goes to New York. I'd love to see the Yanks find out the hard way again that you can't just buy a championship, although charging your fans nine dollars a can for Schlitz and Pabst Blue Ribbon makes it easier to try.

The Basketball Hall of Fame has announced its 2009 class. These are the five members: Michael Jordan, David Robinson, John Stockton, Jerry Sloan, and Vivian Stringer. Which one of these things is not like the others? The NBA needs its own Hall of Fame. It's ridiculous to have college players, womens coaches and players, foreign coaches and players, and contributors to the game being put to the same vote as pro legends. Vivian Stringer is a Hall of Famer in her own sport. There's no reason she should be up for the same hall of fame as Chris Mullin, and even less reason for her to be in when he's not.

Back to the NCAA tournament for a moment. Every year there are two things I look forward to regardless of how good the game was. One is trying to predict what lame thing Jim Nantz has come up with to say at the end of the game. I basically got it right last night figuring he'd go for the "nothing could be finer" Carolina thing although the wording was slightly different. The other is "One Shining Moment". There are many who do not care for the song, but I think it's a terrific tradition. Having the kids watch it together on the court was a brilliant improvement - both times the UF guys couldn't wait to see it. Here's 2006 and the 2007 versions. (That last one is worth watching just for the shots of the Oregon cheerleaders, who were the best thing about the trip to St. Louis for the Midwest regional.) I was at Super Bowl XXXVII when the NFL had Bon Jovi come out and play "It's My Life" postgame, something they claimed was going to be their "One Shining Moment". It was lame, and the idea went away. This is something that works specifically for college hoops, and I hope it's around as long as the tournament is.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Patterson's favorite NBA player: Cornbread Maxwell

A couple of emailers wondered why I didn't write anything about the report last week that Percy Harvin tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine. The reason is simple: I'd never heard of in my life before that report got publicity. I don't know who's behind the site or how credible it is, but based on what the NFL and others have said since the report came out, I have substantial doubts. Pete Carroll has proclaimed that both his players named by the site have been inaccurately accused. Ron Zook says the same about his cornerback Vontae Davis. The NFL, meanwhile, says no one even knows the results yet. Does any of this mean Harvin didn't test positive? Not necessarily - but I see no reason to assume he did unless someone more credible than a random website reports it to be the case.

The hot name being tossed around for the Memphis job that's open right now is inexplicably FSU's Leonard Hamilton. You can tell a school is getting desperate to hire someone people have at least heard of when they start talking about a guy in his sixties with just four NCAA appearances in his career. I'm not sure whether Florida would be happy to see Hamilton go or not. He does lure talented players, but shows little ability to do much with them. No way to know who FSU AD Randy Spetman would look to hire should Hamilton bolt, and his work at Air Force and Utah State prior to arriving in Tallahassee didn't provide connections to many hoops masterminds. How this plays out will will be interesting.

FSU held their spring game over the weekend. I don't know whether receiver Rod Owens went out partying to celebrate or not, but he picked up a DUI charge at 4:30 in the morning. With Miami as the opener, if Owens is disciplined at all that's another chunk missing from a receiver group that's lost Preston Parker already and has Taiwan Easterling trying to make it back from a ruptured Achilles. As far as anyone knows Corey Surrency won't be back, and they're counting on multi-time screwup Bert Reed keeping out of trouble this summer. Could be another rough year for the rebuilding project in Tallahassee.

Patrick Patterson has a decision to make about whether to return to UK or not. If I was John Calipari, I would begin my effort to convince him to stay by promising UK will serve cornbread with every meal. I say this because Patterson spoke with Sporting News Today for a profile in their Saturday edition and was asked his favorite meal, which included cornbread. Patterson's greatest love: "my mother and cornbread". The next question is his heroes: "My mother and father". Patterson's dad must be thrilled - I love you pop, but not as much as cornbread.

I've mentioned before that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame needs to stop inducting people for a few years, because they're running out of good candidates to put in. TIME Magazine disagrees, and submits their list of the ten biggest snubs. I think they're making my point for me. Some of these you can argue about - yes, Kiss should be in if we're calling it a Hall of Fame as opposed to a Hall of Great Music. Genesis belongs too. But Pat Benatar? Cheap Trick? Why don't we just put every band with four hits in and annex the entire city of Cleveland for the building? And Warren Zevon, who actually does belong, isn't even on TIME's list. Stick to politics, guys.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dodged a bullet

You don't see many trades as big as the one that went down in the NFL yesterday. There's a reason for that. It's incredibly risky to bet your whole franchise on one player, but that's what Chicago did yesterday. I think they made a disastrous choice. If Jay Cutler had been there for the 18th pick in the draft, the Bears would have taken him. They obviously want him to replace Kyle Orton, so I can rationalize him being part of the deal although Chicago now lacks any kind of credible backup. A third rounder to sweeten the pot would make me reluctant, but I can still cope. But Chicago's 2010 first rounder on top of all that is simply way too much. This is the kind of move you make when you're ready to win big and you think a guy will get you over the top. Cutler's not getting them anywhere close to the Super Bowl throwing to Devin Hester and Earl Bennett as primary receivers, not to mention the defense has gone downhill. The Bears blew this and I thank them for doing so, because otherwise Tampa Bay might have.

Memphis is looking for someone who can pick up where John Calipari left off, but there aren't a lot of coaches with the salesman personality he had to attract both attention and recruits. One guy who could have done it was Bruce Pearl, but he's staying in Knoxville. UT had to keep him. There is absolutely no one available who can do for them what Pearl has done with that program. Are there better bench coaches than him? Yes. That doesn't matter - the guy fills the arena, his style is fun to watch and he brings in elite guys. He may never get past the Sweet 16, but it's not like Buzz Peterson, Kevin O'Neill or Jerry Green were threatening to do that either.

While Pearl is staying in Knoxville, Lennon Creer is not. The tailback is transferring out rather than be part of Lane Kiffin's first squad. I always thought this kid had talent and was underused by the Fulmer staff, and I think he'll turn out to be a nice player for whoever gets him. I'll be curious to see what Creer has to say about the new coaching staff whenever someone gets some public comments from him. Kiffin clearly feels this is no great loss, but now the Vols will be mighty inexperienced at tailback behind Montario Hardesty.

Georgia found their new basketball coach. It's a curious choice at best, and more likely an outright panic hire. Mark Fox has a solid overall record at Nevada but hasn't reached the NCAA tournament either of the past two years. He has no significant ties in the south, or the eastern half of the country for that matter. Fox also is well known as a hothead who rants and raves at officials like a lunatic. I got to see Fox work in person when his Nevada team took on Creighton in New Orleans while UF was there for the first round in 2007. After the game, I remember saying to Larry Vettel that there was no way I would ever hire that guy to coach my team. Fox was constantly carping at the officials, mishandled strategy in multiple game situations and was thoroughly unimpressive overall. Given what he's up against, I'll be surprised if UGA isn't looking for a new coach again four years from now.

The folks at ESPN have decided they need to branch back into movies, meaning we'll have some more lines drilled into our heads with never ending promos - "All I want to do is race, daddy!". Who can forget bloated Brian Dennehy trying to impersonate Bobby Knight in "A Season On the Brink"? And just what stories does ESPN feel need to be told these days? According to the network...

"King of the New York Streets recounts how former Indiana Pacers sharpshooter Reggie Miller crushed the New York Knicks' hopes and dreams in the 1995 playoffs"

You can see the real thing yourself anytime you want. If you care about the NBA, you probably remember it quite well. Why do we need to see someone do a crappy job of trying to recreate it? ESPN will probably cast Bow Wow as Reggie Miller and then have Lil' Wayne and Skip Bayless argue on First Take about whether it's the best acting performance of all time. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tim Floyd? Was Kelvin Sampson's phone busy?

Dan Mullen joined me on my Columbia show a couple of days ago to talk about how things are going for him so far in Starkville. He acknowledged that splitting the time leading up to the national title game took more out of him than he had anticipated, and is looking forward to this year's matchup with UF. Mullen also admitted when Urban Meyer's staff came to UF they didn't really focus on what the personnel were capable of as they put together the offensive scheme. He says he'll look to avoid repeating that mistake at MSU. It's not surprising that was the case - they were running five wide sets in 2005 with guys like Gavin Dickey and Kyle Morgan on the field - but I've never heard anyone from the staff actually acknowledge it before. One thing Mullen clearly has picked up from Meyer is the idea of using the spring game as a marketing tool. You can bid on the chance to coach in the MSU spring game right now. Considering last year's MSU spring game went to OT in a scoreless tie, there won't be much pressure on you if you win.

After being turned down by a variety of prominent names, apparently including Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, Arizona may have found their man to replace Lute Olson. Southern Cal's Tim Floyd has accepted the job according to KTAR radio in Phoenix. I'm not sure I buy that report yet, since broadcast outlets historically are terrible at these kind of reports during coaching searches, but there's no question Floyd's a serious candidate. I don't get this pairing for either side. Is Floyd making this move just for a cash grab? This was a disappointing regular season for the Trojans, but they still won the Pac-10 tournament to get to the NCAAs. There's good talent coming back and you're working with an incredible recruiting area. In Tucson you're following a legend and the turmoil the program's been through the last couple of years means there is little to work with right now. As for Arizona, is a 55 year old coach with a history of recruiting lots of sketchy characters really the best you can do? Floyd's farthest tournament runs were two Sweet 16 trips ten years apart. What's so amazing about this guy to make him worth what it's going to take to get him to leave L.A.? Bad fit for both sides.

Jim Leyland has looked like death warmed over for the last two decades, so he's not typically a guy I'd talk to for health advice. The Detroit manager did provide some words to live by recently though. "It's not good when you light up two Marlboros at the same time at 3 a.m., washing it down with a glass of chocolate milk." Good to know - maybe the Tigers can make Leyland's health tips one of their regular features on their radio network. I once saw David Lamm eat a doughnut while smoking a cigarette, all as he was on air doing his talk show. No word on whether Leyland's okay with that as long as it's one cigarette at a time.

Not sure exactly how former Gator Brent Wright's playing status with his team in Croatia being in question caught the attention of the well known sports blog Deadspin, but it did. Wright apparently overslept and missed a road game, which some are attributing to his big night on the town as a Croatian nightclub. Looks like Wright is having a good time overseas.

I've never been a big fan of April Fool's Day, because most people have no idea how to do it right. Making up a lie and reporting it like it's real is not particularly funny, especially when things like stock values and people in fear of losing their jobs can be affected by it. Car and Driver magazine learned that the hard way yesterday, when they decided it would be hilarious to claim Barack Obama was insisting Chevy and Dodge end their NASCAR participation as part of their ongoing federal aid package. Laughing yet? At least UConn big man Hasheem Thabeet put his own name out there on his Twitter feed as having failed a drug test and claimed he was out for the Final Four. A few minuts later he fed the info it was just a prank. I'm sure the UConn Sports Info Department greatly appreciates Thabeet's sense of humor.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Jay Cutler will cry if you don't read this blog

Billy Donovan's coaching tree has sprouted another branch faster than expected. Assistant Shaka Smart will take over from Anthony Grant at VCU. It's great news for him, but a tough break for UF. Smart is a young, energetic coach who was considered an up and comer when Donovan hired him from Clemson in June. He would have been a great asset to the staff over the next few years, but when an opportunity like this comes along you have to jump on it. Smart's the fourth Donovan assistant to land a head coaching job, and all to this point have been successful. Because of that and the trend of Gator coaches getting HC gigs, there will be great interest among the ranks of talented assistants. Hopefully Donovan finds someone closer to Smart than to Lewis Preston.

With Kentucky having finally gotten Calipari to agree to come, Georgia faces even more pressure to get their hire right. Swing and a miss on their first attempt, as Mike Anderson decides to stay at Missouri rather than try to rebuild Dennis Felton's failure. Hard to argue the decision, and if they're foolish enough to go after Jeff Capel of Oklahoma then UGA will find itself 0 for 2 on the coaching search. Arizona and Memphis are better jobs that are open right now too. Do the Dogs settle for pursuing Clemson's Oliver Purnell or Frank Haith, or is there another "big time" candidate left on their list?

Jay Cutler has successfully whined his way out of Denver. Now the question is where he's headed. I could stomach Tampa Bay giving up the 19th pick in the draft for him, but anything more than that and I'll take a pass. The Bucs have already spent their second round pick on Kellen Winslow, so giving up a third or starting to cannibalize next year's draft would basically ensure they will acquire no top young talent until 2011. For a QB who has acted like a spoiled child because the Broncos considered trading him, that's not worth it. If guys like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Warren Moon, Jerry Rice and Eric Dickerson could handle being traded during their career, a deal being discussed and not even happening really shouldn't have traumatized Cutler for life.

It's been puzzling to see what's become of Dontrelle Willis the past few years. He went downhill with Florida and since being traded has cratered in Detroit. Now Willis is on the Tigers disabled list with an anxiety disorder he says was diagnosed through blood tests. Psychiatrists are mystified, saying that simply doesn't make any sense. Whatever the issue, Detroit is trying to find a way to avoid eating 22 million more of salary for Willis the next two years. If he's on the disabled list, they may be able to shake half of that onto insurance. Willis's mysterious "illness" may actually be a case of Severe Bottom Line Depression for Tiger ownership.

This can't come as any great surprise, knowing Sacha Baron Cohen's history, but his movie Bruno has been assigned an NC-17 rating. I'm sure he'll make enough cuts to get the movie into theaters, but I'm not sure this one will be as big a hit as Borat. That movie made a lot of people look stupid and let the audience laugh at them, but this sounds like it will genuinely creep viewers out. Whatever happens, we'll always have the memory of Bruno's visit to an Alabama football game. I'm guessing Shaud Williams won't go see the new film.