I'm back in Columbia after a week away for the SEC and ACC football media days. A few things I learned before we pick up with the usual blog fare:
1. Lane Kiffin had better win big, because he has already done serious damage to his support base in Knoxville. According to people with close ties to Tennesee's program, Peyton Manning has quietly put the word out that he will not be attending any Vol games as long as Kiffin is coach. Loyalty to Fulmer isn't the main reason either - apparently Kiffin and Co. have continued to be extraordinarily rude and abusive to the UT support staff, many of whom have been there since Manning's days. David Cutcliffe greeted a media guy who's a fellow Alabama alum with "Roll Tide", explaining that now that Fulmer's gone he wants UT to lose every game. Kiffin may think the "little people" don't matter and that doing things like bragging in Sports Illustrated (inaccurately) about firing them make him seem like a tough guy. He'll learn the hard way they sometimes have ways of exerting power too.
2. Bobby Bowden's desire to beat out Joe Paterno for the all time wins mark is increasingly pathetic. Yesterday in the ACC radio room, he was arguing that his 22 junior college wins from Georgia should be counted by the NCAA toward the record. At first we took it as a joke, but after a minute and a half of pressing the point it was clear he didn't. Thank the lord Bobby doesn't play video games, or we'd be hearing about how he's won three straight national titles in Dynasty Mode on NCAA 2010 and they should count too.
3. People are still underestimating Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech. They got just nine votes to win their division of the ACC. Brady Ackerman and I were two of them. Johnson's offense drives people nuts - no one can shut it down with just one week to prepare (as opposed to LSU, who also had much more talent, in the bowl). I can't find any unit in that conference I believe in as much as that one.
4. If the ACC is going to have coaches interviews the same day they have their golf tournament, showers need to be mandatory prior to beginning the media circuit. One coach in particular yesterday reeked worse than anything short of a hockey locker room.
For a long time I've believed Florida should have a better non-conference schedule in basketball, and and Billy Donovan has finally gone along with that idea. This year's team may not be ideally suited to deal with this slate, but once Mike Slive made clear he expected SEC schools to upgrade their opponents it seemed a given UF would do that. It's a good mix - other than Michigan State, I don't see many games the Gators will be clear underdogs but there are plenty of competitive affairs. My only quibble is that it would be nice for the fans to get a decent early season game at the Odome other than FSU.
Roger Goodell's Michael Vick decision yesterday makes sense to me. It's not a full reinstatement, but it gives him a chance to try and restart his career. The part I like best is the mentoring role Tony Dungy will play in this. Dungy is perhaps the most respected man in the NFL, and rightly so. If he's willing to say Vick has grown enough as a person and is ready for his last chance, then I'll accept that. If Vick lets Dungy down, it's hard to imagine anyone will buy in on the idea he can be counted on ever again. Now the question is who's willing to take the guy. A lot of league people are indicating Jacksonville could be a fit - my friend Todd Wright compares the move to the Clippers talking about signing Iverson as a way to fill seats. I'm not sure I buy "We'll be bad but we won't be boring" as a marketing slogan for the Jags.
The UFL is going to come out with team names at some point in the next few weeks, and the word is that the Orlando franchise will be called the Tuskers. Basically, it's a wild boar. Not great, but as long as they don't bring back the lime green Orlando Thunder jerseys from the WLAF I'm okay with it. I still don't understand why no one in pro sports has actually used a gorilla for their nickname, though. The Phoenix Suns have one as a mascot and one small college uses Gorillas, but it's wide open to be a big money maker for somebody. They'd sell a lot of merchandise.
It's time for NFL training camps to open, so players are making cuts of their own. First it was Tony Romo dumping Jessica Simpson, now Reggie Bush has said so long to Kim Kardashian. Of the two, I imagine Reggie had the tougher time making the decision. Maybe not having the Kardashian distraction will let him become a true NFL star, but I doubt it. Bush seems like he's going to be this decade's Eric Metcalf. Looks like the gossip crowd will have to focus on Hank Baskett and Kendra as their big story this year.