Monday, August 31, 2009

Imagine how bad Michigan would have been last year without all that extra practice

As college football is about to start its 2009 season, those around the sport are buzzing about the Detroit Free Press story alleging Michigan has been making a mockery of the NCAA's 20 hours a week rule. Wolverine fans are of course certain that their program is completely clean and this is the evil media out to get them. What stands out about it to me is that a decent number of players in Ann Arbor clearly are still not on board with Rich Rodriguez and his staff, regardless of whether there are verifiable NCAA violations here or not. Given the glacial pace of recent investigations, any consequences for UM from this episode should be felt right about 2012. I don't believe this kind of thing is unique to Michigan for a second, but they may have taken it to a big enough extreme that it actually leads to punishment.

Brett Favre will be the NFL story tonight, starting and playing the first half of Minnesota's preseason game. Jon Gruden will be there calling the game as part of the Monday Night Football crew, so he was asked about the Favre situation. Gruden is still as full of crap as ever....

"I tried to get Favre last year," Gruden said. "That's probably a big reason why I'm not coaching. I didn't get him."

Yeah, that's probably it. You could have developed a QB from within at any point since 2002, but what kind of fun would that have been? It's always better to keep patching the tires with 38 year old QBs! By the way, Jon, you went 9-7 and got fired after collapsing late and missing the playoffs on the final week of the season. Eric Mangini went 9-7 with Favre and got fired after collapsing late and missing the playoffs on the final week of the season. Funny how that worked out.

I was curious to see how things turned out for Josh Portis in his first game as the new starting QB at Division 2 California (Pa). With his much touted athletic skills, surely he would wow at this level. Ehh, maybe not. Portis wound up going 14 of 31 for 145 yards and 2 TDs. He ran twelve times for 82 yards, and his team lost 23-17 to Saginaw Valley State. Perhaps, despite helpful suggestions from Mama Portis, Urban Meyer was correct to continue starting Chris Leak in 2005 after all.

There were two excellent stories over the weekend which you should read if you haven't already. Edgerrin James signed with Seattle a few days ago, but the running back wasn't willing to do that last Monday. The reason: he wanted to take his four kids to their first day of school. Their mother died from leukemia earlier this year. There are plenty of depressing tales about pro athletes and how they handle fatherhood. As a single dad, James shows there are also guys who do things right. Also defying stereotypes is Tim James. The former Miami basketball star who was a first round pick by the Heat is now SPC Tim James - serving in Iraq. While never a star in the NBA, James made millions. It's remarkable that he would make this choice, and Dan Le Batard does a great job telling his story.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Long night, short entry

The news that Billy Gillispie had picked up a DUI charge in the early Thursday morning hours surprised absolutely no one. The former Kentucky coach already had two DUIs when they hired him, and one of the issues that kept him from ever signing his contract was reportedly a conflict over any kind of "personal conduct" clauses to deal with stuff like this. I don't care for Gillispie as a person and thought he was ridiculously overhyped for his skills as a basketball coach, but this make me feel sorry for the guy. He's supposedly working on a book and he'll be doing commentary for a website, but Gillispie is the definition of a guy who lives to coach basketball and has nothing else in his life (other than horses and booze). With this arrest, any chance of him getting a head coach spot better than Texas-Pan American ever again is nonexistent. Hopefully someone will keep an eye on Gillispie when the season gets going - he could really get into some trouble this year.

I've noted previously on this blog that I regard Big & Rich's ESPN Gameday "Coming to Your City" tune to be a crime against both music and college football. It appears their horrifying run is over, although we can't say for sure yet. Kenny Chesney is apparently next in line. This doesn't feel like a lot of progress to me.

It's not often that I have a rooting interest in what happens at the movie box office, but this weekend is an exception. They've been running advertisements for "The Final Destination" for several months now - got stuck seeing a few more during the four hour Dolphins-Bucs slog last night. This is the fourth version of the exact same film - someone has a vision of impending disaster that will kill them, successfully avoids the disaster along with around a half dozen others, and then they and everyone who didn't die as scheduled are killed in other gruesome ways one by one. The studio's hoping this version being in 3-D will excite people to come in for an even gorier spectacle (75 minutes long - always the mark of a strong film) than the first three versions. Words can't do justice to how much I want this slice of violence porn to fail miserably. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Silliness abounds

My buddy Andy Staples of is in the midst of a noble pursuit. He's filed public records requests to require all of the coaches working at public institutions to reveal their ballots in the USA Today football coaches poll. The coaches association has told schools they can refuse the request, but most are having their legal department check it out. To their credit, USF went ahead and posted Jim Leavitt's ballot on their website. It's a perfect example of why the coaches poll has to be done away with. Leavitt has Oklahoma at number one, possibly as a nod to his former K-State colleague Bob Stoops, but that's not the big issue. He has his team at number 18, one of four Big East teams he put on the ballot. FSU, an early season opponent for the Bulls, is number ten. Does anyone want to make the case that this vote is based on a true ranking of the best 25 teams as opposed to what would be best for Jim Leavitt's personal agenda? I doubt it. So why should this kind of thinking have any role in the BCS process?

When I read Tim Cowlishaw's Dallas Morning News column with his ideas to fix the BCS, I was pretty sure it would be the stupidest thing I saw this week. Cowlishaw wants a BCS rule that teams which lose bowls shouldn't be allowed to be ranked in the next year's preseason top ten. Ignoring the fact the BCS doesn't control the polls, exactly how does that make any sense? Everyone agrees Oklahoma's one of the four best teams coming into this season - why should voters not have been allowed to put them higher than eleventh as a result of a loss the year before to the team they're voting number one? It's a completely inane suggestion by Cowlishaw. Then Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union came along and topped him with a piece about Tim Tebow's possible impact on ticket sales in Jacksonville. Stellino doesn't believe Tebow becoming a Jaguar would make a noteworthy difference at the box office. I disagree, but that's not the problem. Stellino then says if Jacksonville gets the Senior Bowl, that will prove whether fans would buy tickets to see Tebow...

"If Tebow plays and the game isn't a sellout, that would reduce the pressure on the Jaguars to draft him."

Let me get this straight, Vito. Unless fans SELL OUT an NFL tryout game in a gigantic stadium knowing that Tebow will only play around a third to a half of one team's plays, that proves they won't spend money to come see Tebow play in real NFL games for their hometown team? Without knowing what Jacksonville did for the Senior Bowl in a non Tebow year, there will be no way to measure the impact he had on the game's ticket sales numbers. Whether Tebow can change the Jaguars box office results or not, we sure won't get the answer from the Senior Bowl.

Halfway through the preseason, Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris has still not named a starting quarterback. It doesn't really matter whether it's Byron Leftwich or Luke McCown, because neither one is going to be anything more than fodder until the Bucs are ready to begin first rounder Josh Freeman's era under center. How little does Tampa Bay think of their top two "contenders" for the starting job? Acording to the NFL Network, “They’re looking for someone to make the (starting quarterback) decision for them” by trading for one of the guys. They'd be lucky to get a sixth rounder for either one. Rebuilding isn't fun - it's going to be a really long year for Bucs fans.

Still not appearing on Ohio State's football schedule: Florida. Appearing as the focus of a Columbus Dispatch sports column for the second time in five days: Florida. The guy shorts UF a basketball title while claiming they've replaced Michigan as the focus of fulltime Buckeye hatred. It's pretty amusing how obsessed they are up there, considering they've got very little shot of seeing the Gators again anytime soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another thing that'll help Miami more than you'll ever know

One of the great college football mysteries for the last few years has been why the Canes have had so many problems signing quarterbacks. They've lost kids to schools like Penn State and Alabama after they originally committed to Miami. After signing Robert Marve, they lost him thanks in part to some bizarre hndling of discipline by Randy Shannon. Now two more QBs have said sayonara rather than hope they'll get some time behind Shannon favorite Jacory Harris. Harris is a skinny guy - he'd better hold up, because if he doesn't UM is down to a QB that most thought was about to be moved to another position. Shannon finally has a quality OC, but thanks to this any injury to Harris may now be the end of his head coaching run as well.

The Pac-10 wants to ban the practice of teams staying in hotels the night before home football games. This is the kind of crap SEC schools can count on dealing with the next few years. Colleges that aren't willing or able to spend the same money on their programs are going to try to limit everyone so that they don't suffer a disadvantage in recruiting as a result of their cheapness. If you can't compete financially, weigh the other guys down. By 2011, you can also bet on seeing a proposal to reduce the paid recruiting visits each kid's allowed to three. It'll be touted as a way to save money, but the real intent will be to make kids from outside SEC territory less likely to take visits there. Mike Slive and the conference's presidents better be ready to fight at the next few NCAA conventions. Why should the Pac-10's desire to save 40 grand be imposed on SEC teams that don't need to?

I was fairly stunned to learn that Teddy Dupay's sentence for felony aggravated assault and a pair of misdemeanors came to thirty days in jail. The report on the damage Dupay did to the woman he attacked was sickening. Whatever the prosecution's reasons for accepting a plea bargain, Dupay has largely gotten a free pass here. Hopefully he will take advantage of yet another chance to make something of his post basketball career. It's hard to imagine how Dupay could have squandered this much goodwill in just eight years.

It still looks like the Senior Bowl will move from Mobile, with the latest place floated as a possibility being Jacksonville. Tampa's been linked to it in the past as well. They need to make this happen - it's silly to have a huge event for the future of the top college kids take place in a glorified high school stadium. Put it somewhere with a real NFL training setup that's easily accessible to fans and it'll be better for everyone. Lord knows Jacksonville could use something big in sports between the Gator Bowl and the Players Championship.

Apparently the most dangerous person on the web is Jessica Biel. More links purporting to be photos or videos of her contain viruses or spyware than any other person, according to McAfee. At number five is Jessica Simpson, who allegedly is now dangerous to Tony Romo for other reasons than anything inolving his computer. A report claims she has used a witch to put a hex on Romo to ruin his luck in love and in football. It's in the National Enquirer, so you know it's accurate. Since Romo's team should wreck Tampa Bay in the opener, we'll be able to tell if the spell's working pretty quickly.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The idea is to look like Namath in the Sixties, not now

Preseason football means very little, but I was glad to see some of the air taken out of the Mark Sanchez balloon last night as well as Matthew Stafford over the weekend. Being an NFL quarterback is tremendously difficult, and way too many people fail to appreciate how extraordinary what Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco did last year was. Sanchez started just sixteen games and lost the toughest road games he played in. Pete Carroll flat out said he wasn't ready when he put his name into the draft. Despite that, the NYC media is trying to make him out to be Joe Namath already. A star level performance will not happen this season, for either guy. It also shows why the Bucs should take their time with Josh Freeman.

How hard is it to find 20-25 healthy, talented athletes in the state of Florida who are capable of making it as a college football player? Apparently a lot tougher than I realized, since 11 of USF's signees for football may not qualify academically. Jim Leavitt has done an amazing job of developing a program as Bulls head coach, but it seems like things have gotten stale lately. Whiffing on eleven guys will be hard to overcome on the roster or at the box office, especially when one of them is your first ever Parade All-American and a hometown guy to boot.

Fox did it for the BCS title game, and now ESPN plans on making a big college football battle available to people in 3-D. They plan to show USC at Ohio State in each school's home town as well as ESPN's Hartford gathering and a Dallas suburb. I got a look at the 3-D broadcast in the press box at UF-Oklahoma, and it didn't wow me. If you've got a big hi-def screen, you were probably better off than you would have been with Fox's 3-D. I imagine ESPN's version will be about the same, and that doesn't hold much appeal for me.

There are still some people who question whether or not Erin Andrews was involved with the leak to the web of the illegally filmed videos of her in her hotel room. Those promulgating this idea argue it must have been a publicity stunt despite the fact Andrews has done nothing to capitalize on her resulting "exposure" since it happened. Next Thursday, she returns to the sidelines for ESPN's coverage of South Carolina at NC State. The tabloid TV crapfest "Inside Edition" requested a credential for the game - not so they could actually cover it, but rather so they could follow Andrews around trying to get her to talk about the video episode. As they should have, the NC State folks turned them down. If Erin Andrews had a goal of publicity or moving from sports to entertainment, Inside Edition's a call she would want to take. She clearly has no intention of doing so, which should convince any skeptics to stop unfairly doubting her innocence in what happened.

Tim Donaghy, who was a crappy NBA ref even when he wasn't throwing games, got arrested yesterday evening for violating the terms of his probation. Donaghy never had the "come clean" press conference or interview that would have explained just what went so wrong with him. For the damage he did to the reputation of sports officials everywhere, he should have still been in jail from his first sentence.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I have got to get an AP vote one of these days

Friday, Urban Meyer spoke out about the climate around the UF program when he arrived in Gainesville. It wasn't a premeditated thing - he did it in response to a question about a Miami player getting injured in a locker room fight. It's not the first time Meyer has expressed distaste for the team's attitude when he arrived, and there's been plenty of evidence to support him. Remember this Jarvis Herring admission to the New York Times in 2005?

"Last year, Herring said, he and some of his teammates often started drinking alcohol in the morning on summer days and did not stop until well into the night. Or, as Herring said with a smile, until there was no more to drink."

Meyer was honest about what he encountered upon arrival, and he criticized the results that a team with hazing on its mind as a priority had mustered. Despite not being mentioned by Meyer, Ron Zook decided to issue a pissy response in return...

"I was surprised to see that, once again, five years later, we're blamed for something else at Florida. But by now I guess I shouldn't be. This one was most disappointing because it implies we didn't look out for our players. From someone who wasn't there at the time. I can assure you I've never, ever been accused of that. I thought I was too much of a players' coach. The implication is incorrect — there is no place for hazing in college football and we've put a stop to that if we've ever seen it."

Ron Zook is a bad liar. When the 1991 Kinko's incident with Jack Sells faxing him plays came to light, he lied about it and got caught. When his inappropriate behavior in the frat house incident during the 2004 season came to light, he lied to his bosses about it (not knowing a University dean witnessed the episode) and got caught. He is lying again. Claiming they put a stop to hazing at UF is simply not accurate, not to mention that Zook's attitude toward discipline was lax at best. The comment about being "too much of a players coach" shows just how obtuse he is. Players were doing whatever they wanted, including hazing guys. That's the whole point, Ron!

All but two media members with votes in the AP poll selected Florida as their number one team. I was curious to see the logic of anyone who didn't put them at the top spot to start. After all, we're talking about a defending champ with its entire defensive two deep back, a Heisman winner at QB, and a pretty accomodating looking schedule. Well, say hello to J.P. Giglio of the Raleigh News and Observer. He voted Texas ahead of UF because, er, well just because. Let me get this straight - Mack Brown, who has fewer conference titles in his career than Urban Meyer has BCS titles at UF, is going to win the national title because the game is in Pasadena again? Great point, J.P.! Almost makes Lou Holtz's pick of Notre Dame to be UF's opponent for the national title sound well reasoned. Almost, but not quite.

The fact the Jaguars didn't even produce a broadcast of Jacksonville's game with Tampa Bay over the weekend speks volumes about where the fan support for the franchise is right now. Plenty of NFL teams don't sell out their preseason games, but they still produce a tape delay broadcast of the event. Instead, Jacksonville's already projecting that they'll black out their entire home season. This is a perfect example of how the blackout rule is counterproductive. Seeing other games instead of your home team doesn't build fervor to go buy tickets. In fact, Los Angeles residents have been hostile to the idea of bringing in a team again because they'd rather see the best matchups on TV each week. Common sense says Jacksonville's more likely to play well at home than on the road, so the NFL's ensuring already apathetic fans will mostly be exposed to the team at its least effective. Is that going to make them feel like going to buy tickets? It's bad marketing by the Jaguars to already be presuming blackouts, and bad management by the NFL that they'll happen.

On a Saturday two weeks before the college football season, there are a lot of things you might expect a sports columnist in Columbus, Ohio to want to write about. It was the day of Ohio State's "jersey scrimmage", the biggest day of their fall drills. The AP poll was coming out that day. Cleveland had a preseason game that night, and there are two MLB teams in the state even though they stink. So what was on Michael Arace's mind? Ripping Tim Tebow's post Ole Miss speech from last year being put on a plaque. While I thought the plaque was unnecessary, especially while Tebow was still on campus, it's not a bad thing. Two and a half years after the beatdown in Glendale, if UF was in the OSU fanbase's head any more they'd be getting charged rent.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Imagine being Plaxico's cellmate - you got two years for shooting yourself?

Do you ever feel like you're living the movie Groundhog Day? July 3rd of last year I wrote about my contempt for Tampa Bay's selection of first rounder Aqib Talib when he got in trouble (Favre was unretiring, too). In May, Talib was in trouble again. Hey, guess who's been arrested for battery and resisting arrest? The lesson of the Dungy years in Tampa Bay was clear - draft quality people who also are good players and you will win. Draft talent that is undisciplined and irresponsible (the Keith McCants types of the world) and you will lose. Unfortunately, the Bucs chose not to continue to follow that blueprint when Dungy was ousted. They are getting what they deserved as a result.

Further illustrating my point that it's not worth dealing with people who can't be counted on to make smart choices, even if they're really talented, is Plaxico Burress. He was reportedly offered a plea deal which would have given him a few months in jail on his gun charges and turned it down to try his luck with the grand jury. Yesterday, he pled guilty and got two years in jail instead. I've heard lots of people make the argument that this is ridiculous compared to Donte Stallworth's sentence, which I agree with in theory but is totally irrelevant since we're talking about crimes which happened in different states. NYC has strict gun laws, and it's not a secret. Burress chose to ignore them at his own peril.

Talib and Burress are unquestionably talented, which is why they were first round draft picks despite coming into the NFL with baggage. Guys who aren't talented and come into the league with baggage are undrafted free agents like Marcus Vick. You might have thought that given the events of the last two years there was no chance Michael would be considered the smart son in the Vick family, but Marcus has found trouble yet again. For every Eli Manning that can handle being the brother of the superstar and thrive themselves, there are a whole bunch of Adam Bledsoes and Marcus Vicks who can't.

With all the revenue streams college football already has, there's one that would be a surefire moneymaker that they're missing out on right now: booze at games. Most places don't allow it, or restrict it to the skyboxes and possibly club seats. Some schools are beginning to allow their concession stands to sell beer, even at on campus venues. There's no SEC or NCAA policy that says a school can't sell beer, but common sense should keep them from doing so since they have plenty of money coming in. If one decides to and makes big money though, you can count on others jumping in quickly.

I don't typically make commercial mentions in the blog, but I want to put one in for my buddy Kyle Cohan at Wing Zone in Gainesville. This year has been a tough one for business owners everywhere, with restaurants especially getting hit hard. So the other day when Kyle got an order for 1000 wings from UF football, that was a pretty nice surprise. Ten minutes later, they called back and changed plans - ouch. Kyle backed the Dog Day Thursday contest on the show for a couple of years, so I'd like to return the favor. If you're a Gainesville reader and you enjoy wings, call him up at 377-BIRD (campus area) or 377-WING (Tower Road). I'd get honey BBQ or sweet teriyaki, but they've got plenty of styles for you to choose from. Might be a good way to enjoy some preseason football this weekend. This isn't the start of monetizing the blog or anything: I don't have any "tell 'em Heath Cline sent you" deal I can give you, and Kyle doesn't even know I'm doing this. Just helping out someone who helped me take care of the Gainesville audience. Have a good weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Today's earlier post has been vacated

The SEC basketball schedule will be released today, giving us a better idea of how it stacks up for Florida this year. Of late, the pattern has been to give them a fairly soft opening half of of conference play and then backload the hardest stuff into the final three weeks. The Gators will almost certainly be without Adam Allen thanks to injury, and Billy Donovan acknowledged yesterday it doesn't look good for them to have Eloy Vargas either thanks to academic difficulties. Neither player loss is completely out of the blue, but the Vargas one in particular will bother some people. Mississippi State has one of the elite shot blockers in the country paying to play his senior year, yet UF can't catch a break in the post 04s era.

The NCAA is apparently going to vacate the Final Four appearance by Memphis today. Not sure what that's supposed to do to prevent programs from taking chances on questionable kids in the future, but it gives them the impression of having done something about the Derrick Rose situation. Two Final Four trips for Calipari, two vacated appearances. Welcome to your future, Kentucky.

Want to know why the SEC can get the kind of money from broadcasting networks and corporate partners that it does? Check out the latest numbers from the Collegiate Licensing Company. Eight of the top fifteen sellers of licensed products in college sports are members of the SEC. Nine SEC teams show up before a single Pac-10 team, and only the Mississippi schools and Vandy finish outside the top 25. The total support across the board is unique to this conference - no one chants "Big Ten" or "ACC" at sporting events - and it's given them a remarkable amount of power. It's unfortunate that they've recently chosen to use it ineptly by threatening fans who might dare to take a photo at a conference game.

The Dolphins celebrity strategy continues, with Serena and Venus Williams becoming small owners of the team. Are fans more likely to come to games if they think they might run into Serena or Marc Anthony while in line for nachos? It just seems pointless to have one of these announcements every three weeks. I wonder what Bill Parcells thinks of all this.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What can Brown do for the NCAA?

When Tennessee signed Bryce Brown, a lot of people wondered how the stud recruit would pass NCAA muster. His "handler" had been selling updates on Brown's recruitment on a website as well as doing a lot of other stuff that people were troubled by. Now, it seems the NCAA may not be on board with Brown being eligible to play for the Vols. I'm not sure how big a deal this will actually be for UT on the field if Brown's not eligible. The word from their camp is that David Oku, another true freshman RB who Fulmer's staff landed and Kiffin's almost lost as a result of the Brown recruitment, has looked much better than the alleged superstar Brown so far. Montario Hardesty gives them a solid senior presence at tailback too. For Lane Kiffin to lose his trophy catch - the one he's trumpeted as proof his inane and immature behavior this spring was a great idea - would be a triumph of karma though.

Ole Miss recently cancelled plans for their program to be involved in a reality show that was supposed to air on Tru TV about the 2009 season. Fear not though, an SEC team has stepped up to carry the reality banner. You're thinking Tennessee, aren't you? No, it's the team coached by The Least Interesting Man in the World, Gene Chizik. Auburn Football: Every Day is coming to CSS this fall. If they actually showed everythig that goes on behind the scenes at Auburn, that would be some must see TV. I imagine this version will be rather sanitized for public consumption.

As you likely know, I'm expecting Tampa Bay to get off to a very slow start this season. Starting safety Tanard Jackson being suspended for four games only makes things worse. He was the rarest of rare items, a player who had been a second day selection yet was also productive during the Jon Gruden era. Jackson becomes a ticking bomb now, as his next screwup will have him out of the NFL altogether for year. It all moves the Bucs a little closer to 4-12 this season.

As a media guy, I don't get the chance to take part in the tailgating rituals most people do on gamedays. I still know what proper tailgate food is all about. Fried chicken, ribs, burgers, brats - these are true gameday cuisine. Now a Georgia alum is trying to convince people that caviar should be on that list as well. Can't say that I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing caviar, but at 235 dollars per quarter pound I recommend sticking with the fried chicken instead.

Oh yeah, Brett Favre's back. To quote Derrick Coleman "Whoopty-damn-do". The most selfish man in team sports for the past half decade strikes again by blowing off training camp and then marching in as the supposed "savior". I hope Aaron Rodgers leads Green Bay to a thirty point win when they see Minnesota.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The "He's transferring" speech by Mama Portis probably won't get its own plaque

Remember Josh Portis? I imagine it's becoming harder for most people to do these days, but once upon a time he was supposed to be Florida football's bright future at quarterback. After spending the 2005 season in Gainesville, the highly touted QB from California transferred to Maryland (in large part because his mother insisted he should, just like him switching high schools at her behest). He sat out 2006 under NCAA rules and then was suspended for 2007 due to an academic issue. Portis has transferred again, to Divison 2's California of Pennsylvania. Think of everything that has gone right for Tim Tebow and Florida since 2006, and then imagine it never happened. If Portis stayed at UF, Tebow likely plays at Alabama and who knows how either party ends up. Little things can add up to huge stuff sometimes.

In recruiting coaches will use any advantage they can get, which makes this Philadelphia Daily News article something important for Gator football. The story maintains that most NFL teams expected Cornelius Ingram to reinjure himself because of concerns about his knee surgery when they looked at it during his pre draft process. I know and like UF team doctor Pete Indelicato, and he worked in the NFL with the Dolphins for years before and during his UF tenure. The idea implied by this article is that Indelicato's skills at repairing knees are inadequate compared to NFL doctors and that's why Ingram re-tore his ACL. I think that's ridiculous, but you can count on other schools trying to capitalize on it. Florida better get their spin on this story together now, because they'll be hearing about its claims for years.

The news an NFL coach had allegedly punched one of his assistants and broken his jaw came out yesterday. Without knowing anything other than that information, you likely know where it happened. The Oakland Raiders are a circus act. It's disconcerting to see what Al Davis has allowed this franchise to become. When Davis was moving the team or showing his paranoia toward the NFL management by refusing to vote in league decisions, at least there was a feeling he had reasons for his behavior. Hiring a bed and breakfast operator who'd been out of football for seven years as offensive coordinator, picking random college assistants as NFL head coaches (remember, he was originally trying to hire Steve Sarkisian but got turned down), drafting a guy in the second round no one had ever heard of - all just a few of the recent Raider sins. Their downfall has been bizarre and sad in that no one seems to be able to get Davis to acknowledge his train is no longer running on the tracks. Until he does, nothing can or will change in the worst run franchise in sports.

Rich Rodriguez wants a preseason game for college football as a way to work out the early kinks before the year begins. I like the idea as a concept, but there's no way this would be allowed to work in modern college football. Schools compete intensely over things like who can have better attendance at a spring game - what are the odds that their fanbases could handle a preseason "loss" to Duke?

The latest cast of Dancing With the Stars was announced yesterday. There was the requisite "what the hell?!" choice with former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, as well as the usual assortment of sports choices including Michael Irvin. Some jocks survive on that show through fan goodwill and loyalty that a former star from "Perfect Strangers" just doesn't have, but I suspect Irvin will do very well. When you start your career as a Hurricane and spend it in Dallas, not much about being on a big stage will intimidate you. Irvin's spent lots of time with dancers too, although to be fair some were "self employed models".

Monday, August 17, 2009

Think 60 Minutes will want JB full time?

James Brown's interview of Michael Vick was an even bigger disappointment than I though it would be. Brown did an awful job - we don't know a single thing about Vick's role in the dogfighting that we didn't before the interview. When did it start? Was it his idea, or one of his posse member's? Was it a year round thing, or an offseason hobby? Killing dogs who've lost or aren't working out as fighters is one thing, but why did Vick and his guys torture them rather than just shoot them? There were dozens of questions that could have been asked. Instead, we got repeated shots of JB nodding his head mixed around "I'm sorry" platitudes from Vick. Maybe Michael Vick really has learned something from his prison experience. Hopefully someone will do an interview that gives me the chance to see some evidence of that, because other than his admission he was a lazy player for the Falcons who never put in enough work there was nothing noteworthy last night.

It's completely unsurprising that the NFL eagerly put Eagles Vick jerseys up for sale on their website at 79.99 each before he'd even taken a practice snap with the team. I just wonder what kind of person is actually buying them. He's accomplished nothing for Philly, so if you're an Eagle fan you'd presumably want Brian Westbrook or Donovan McNabb instead. Vick wasn't a top quarterback - 20th rated passer in the NFL during his last season - so there shouldn't be too many huge fans of his play. Falcon fans should be bitter about what he did to their team, not buying his new jersey. So who is buying them, and what makes them want to do so?

The only major news that ever comes out of the first week of preseason games is from the injuries. Rex Grossman's had some bad luck with those in preseason before, and in his first series as a Texan it happened again. Grossman was on his fifth play of the game when he hurt his hamstring. It would have been interesting to see if Grossman could beat out Dan Orlovsky for the backup spot in Houston, but now that he's going to miss the whole preseason that idea can be put to bed. Hopefully it won't cost him the spot on Houston's roster altogether.

As I was driving back from Tampa to Columbia Sunday, one of the things I listened to was Bob Dylan's "Theme Time Radio Hour" on XM satellite radio (my rental car had it). It would appear two Long Branch, NJ police officers are not only unfamiliar with that program, but even with the very existence of Bob Dylan. I can see not recognizing the face right away, but how far under a rock do you have to have been to still not know who Dylan is when he tells you he's in town on tour?

Friday, August 14, 2009

WIP Radio should be a ton of fun today

So Philadelphia is the place where the Michael Vick Media Circus will occur. Early reaction there is largely puzzlement with some dismay mixed in. This is a curious move for the Eagles. Donovan McNabb is getting old and has had injury issues. Kevin Kolb has a knee injury and hasn't shown much to indicate he's ready to be McNabb's successor. If Vick shows them enough, maybe he's the man next year. On the other hand, Vick's previous experience in the West Coast offense wasn't very good - it prioritizes decision making and accuracy, neither of which are his best skills. One thing for sure: tickets for the Eagles visit to the Georgia Dome December 6 are suddenly going to be much more expensive. Lifelong Philly fan John Kincade is on vacation, but I suspect you'll still hear him turn up on 680 the Fan in Atlanta today. It should be some must hear radio when he does.

As for Vick himself, we'll see what he has to say Sunday on "60 Minutes" but he has now spoken on the record to a newspaper from Virginia. Reading his comments, I get the impression he's going to say the right things but still doesn't really get it. It's easy to forget that even before the dog fighting mess came to light Vick was involved with multiple embarassing episodes. Among other things he flicked off the Atlanta fans, had the infamous water bottle with hidden compartment at the airport, and became famous for his use of Ron Mexico as an alias. Will Vick go back to dogfighting again? Of course not - even if he wanted to, the dog fighting thugs would likely assume it was some sort of sting operation and steer clear of him. Saying his 2010 will be about "being the face of the NFL for the next ten years" doesn't convey that Vick has been very humbled by his experience, though.

College sports are all about the student-athletes getting to enjoy the thrill of competition. It's not about the money, which is why the NCAA is looking to raise the cost of applying to join Division 1 (and get a share of the basketball tournament money) from fifteen thousand to to one million dollars. Remember, it's all about the kids.

When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards and enjoyed it. Unfortunately, too many companies got involved with the hobby around the end of the Eighties. It used to be a challenge to put together a full set, but they began printing so many copies of the "basic" cards that stores couldn't give them away. Meanwhile, new high tech lines of cards came out that focused more on ultra fancy photos and "rare inserts" but also would cost two to three bucks for a pack with half a dozen cards. It was all just too much, and so the business has largely died. Now MLB has reduced the number of licensed companies to one: Topps. They're hoping this will regenerate interest, but I'm afraid it's too late. A kid today can see a hundred photos of his favorite player on the guy's website, and maybe follow him on Twitter. His stats are available instantly anytime. Even if baseball is lucky enough to have a 12 year old be a fan, why would he feel the need to buy a pack of cards anymore?

I'm looking forward to getting down to Gainesville tonight after my show. Haven't been there since April, which is the longest I've been away since enrolling in 1991. I'll be doing interviews for some of my work after practice Saturday morning and then writing them up over the next few days. Hope your weekend is a good one - see you back here Monday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beano Cook wouldn't even buy this

Joe Montana was reciting from the old Bob Davie book of excuses in South Bend yesterday. The legendary QB claims Notre Dame's problem is that their academic standards are just too high to compete with the likes of Florida and Oklahoma. That might fly if ND was losing to those teams. They've been losing to Syracuse and Navy. Beyond that, Jimmy Clausen and Sam Young were the most sought guys in the entire country at their positions coming out of high school. Neither player's career has progressed very fast compared to talented guys at other programs. It's not reasonable for anyone to be stuck in the Forties and thinking Notre Dame should dominate college football. That will never happen again. To absolve Charlie Weis and his staff of their dreadful performance over the past two years because the academic standards aren't totally accomodating is absurd though.

With football taking center stage now and the Reds fairly irrelevant to MLB all season long, maybe no one will pay much attention to Bronson Arroyo's USA Today interview that's been posted this morning. That would be a mistake, because he's as blunt about the performance enhancing drug debate as anyone's ever going to be...

"As far as looking at Manny Ramirez like he's Ted Bundy, you're out of your mind. At the end of the day, you think anybody really (cares) whether Manny Ramirez's kidneys fail and he dies at 50?"

Arroyo makes it clear that he's still taking anything which could provide him an edge that isn't specifically banned by MLB. Not sure why Arroyo's willing to be as candid as he is here, but you can definitely believe there are plenty of others who feel exactly as he does.

That Arroyo interview is the kind of thing you'd think "60 Minutes" would come up with when they choose to focus on sports. Instead, they've tended to be remarkably soft on the athletes they profile. This weekend, odds are very strong that trend will continue. Michael Vick is doing his first post prison interview with them. Which reporter will handle Vick - maybe the outstanding Scott Pelley? Perhaps a special appearance by Mike Wallace? Try James Brown on for size. JB is a well respected pregame host for a reason - he's great at keeping the mood light and balancing out all the competing egos on a set. Those skills fit what's needed to do a good job on the Vick profile extremely poorly. I hope Brown holds Vick's feet to the fire on why a team should trust his judgement or his choices of friends, but I'm not betting on it.

The NFL has had a recent tradition of holding a "big name" concert as part of the first night of their season. They've done a great job of geting quality artists for Super Bowl halftime shows the past few years - Springsteen, Tom Petty, Prince, McCartney and the Stones are hard to match up with. When it comes to the opener, it doesn't seem like they even want to try. As a result, prepare to enjoy the musical stylings of the Black Eyed Peas and Tim McGraw four weeks from now. Maybe they can do that super clever "I'm so 2008, you're so 2000 and late" song - just what pro football fans enjoy! For a halftime show, they could hire the guy from this video to come out and catch laptops with his butt.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Jim Delany: "This conference goes to eleven"

The arrogance of the Big Ten's Commissioner Jim Delany never ceases to amaze. This is the same guy who issued an open letter on the conference's website right after Florida gutted Ohio State like a fish claiming "they're only faster because they can admit dummies". Larry Grant playing in that game for Ohio State after being admitted right away once SEC standards wouldn't let him into UF directly contradicted that, but Jim isn't big on letting facts interfere with his rhetoric. Now the SEC has received widespread acclaim for its TV package, which means Delany has to insist as usual that the Big Ten's is better. He sneers at the idea the SEC will benefit from all their new exposure, and asserts the Big Ten network is in more of the nation's top markets. There are two problems with that rationale:

1. The SEC is currently thumping the Big Ten. Does anyone want to argue that the new vastly wider reach of their broadcasts will somehow hinder them from doing that? If the new deal gives the SEC even two percent more ability to reach kids and sell merchandise, it's still an improvement on a situation where they're already ruling the roost.

2. The SEC's new ESPN produced over the air package (aka the "JP game") will come on established local channels. The Big Ten Network, which is a good product, often requires people to pay extra and go looking for it far up the channel list. As an example, here in Columbia I can get the network only as part of a digital sports package on channel 148. The SEC game is on channel 3. Which do you think a recruitable athlete in a place like Los Angeles, Houston or Dallas is more likely to see?

The SEC gets their money regardless of whether the networks can sell ads during the broadcasts or not. The Big Ten has to battle for ad dollars on their network in a very difficult time for all media ventures to do so. Delany would really do himself a favor if he stopped trying to claim victories after losses.

The SEC's currently looking at its bowl partnerships and waiting to see what's going to happen with the game in Orlando. Between Atlanta, Dallas and Jacksonville there are several bowls who might be willing to spring for some pretty big dollars to move up in the pecking order. I'd love to see there be more flexibility in the possibilities, which currently have teams like Kentucky stuck around the Music City/Liberty bowl tier every single year. Mixing it up a little bit would be nice. The Orlando bowl may be the single most inconvenient and poorly organized major event I have ever covered, by the way. I would love to see the SEC switch their bid there down to the Champs Bowl and give the better teams to cities like Tampa, Atlanta or Jacksonville who do things right.

The Rick Pitino extortion story had all sorts of unseemly stuff attached to it as soon as it hit the press. Yesterday evening, the Louisville paper finally got the confirmation needed to verify the rumors. Pitino apparently acknowledged a sexual encounter with the woman in question and provided funds for her to have an abortion. Her allegations against Pitino have been deemed untrue by prosecutors, and the story makes clear why - things she alleges happened simply could not have on the dates she claims. Whether this mess had anything to do with Pitino's son deciding to leave Louisville and join Billy Donovan's staff or not, there will be people who draw that conclusion. It appears this soap opera will only get uglier.

I didn't mind the Bucs making the decision to let Derrick Brooks go as part of a youth movement, although as usual they didn't do a very good job of the way they handled his departure. Now there's a chance they may see Brooks again twice this year as a member of the New Orleans Saints. A lot of people thought Brooks would wind up in New England when he was released, but so far he hasn't received much interest from anyone. The guy can still help someone, and he's the gold standard for the kind of leader you want in a locker room. I'd hate to see Brooks go against Tampa Bay, but if he does I hope he has a monster day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Good thing this site doesn't have video

The SEC is making billions from their new TV deals, but they still want to squeeze every possible dollar out of people. As a result, the SEC Digital Network has been created and the conference is issuing new media policies. The original plan, which among other things contained a clause that would have eliminated the ability of all student media outlets to cover the games played by their schools, is now being revised. Among their restrictions, the conference also intended to no longer allow any websites to show video from games or press conferences more than 72 hours after the end of the event. Remember though, this sport is played by "student-athletes" for the pure love of competition. Don't you dare suggest anyone pay them a dime! Hopefully the SEC will pull back from some of the ridiculous excesses of this policy, but they are going to do everything they can to get more out of your wallet.

Fifteen ESPN college football gurus, including my buddy Chris Fallica, vote in their weekly power rankings. It's no surprise that UF was a unanimous number one, but some individual opinions stand out. Of particular interest to me is Bruce Feldman's putting Houston at number 20, one spot ahead of Georgia. The Cougars are a good team - they'll probably beat Mississippi State later this year. Better than Georgia, though? Hmmm. Feldman doesn't seem like he's believing in a Joe Cox led team, and I suspect he's correct not to do so. Ivan Maisel has Notre Dame at number eleven - who knew the Hawaii Bowl was the test of greatness? For the record, I think Nevada has a great shot at beating ND in South Bend on the first week of the season.

Speaking of student-athletes, Colorado decided to have one of theirs do a blog of his senior season. Then he made the mistake of actually being honest about something that made the school uncomfortable - can't have that! What shocking revelation did cornerback Ben Burney share? He noted he woke up in bed with a woman. The school edited that part out of his blog, the censored version of which can be seen here, and have since told him he won't be doing any more posts. Apparently the notion of an unmarried 22 year old having female companionship in bed was a little too hot for CU to handle. This from the athletic department of a school located in a place frequently called "The People's Republic of Boulder". The nerve of this kid, actually thinking writing something meant he could express what he felt! Wonderful way for the Buffs to start the season - always a great idea to alienate a senior.

Not that I had high hopes for the Bucs this year to begin with, but the news Antonio Bryant is injured and will miss all of preseason only further diminishes my expectations. There aren't many weapons in the Tampa Bay passing game to begin with, and now the one teams might have feared will be gimpy at best when the season starts and have gotten very little work with whoever the quarterback turns out to be.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Shannon's how to get rich backup plan: help Nigerian prince who emailed him get money out of country

Everyone who knows Cornelius Ingram was saddened to hear that he had torn his left knee's ACL again at Philadelphia's training camp. This does reinforce that Urban Meyer and his staff absolutely made the correct decision in not letting Ingram play in the national title game. He looked just fine in workouts, but they said no to even a few snaps in the big game. If this had happened before Ingram got himself at least some pro money, it would have been a disaster. It's particularly bad news for Ingram that he tore the same knee - assuming they took the graft out of his patella tendon the way they did when I tore mine, it takes five years to regenerate. He'll likely have to get a cadaver graft now, which carries its own set of risks. Hopefully things will eventually work out for him - CI's a good guy.

Bobby Bowden said yet again yesterday he wants to go out on top with one more national title. I want Shakira to come to my house and reenact her dancing from the "She Wolf" video. We have an equal chance of getting what we're after. More importantly, Mickey Andrews says he's going to be done after this year. Since no one believes Bobby's calling it quits before he's forced to after 2010, what's going to happen with that defensive coordinator spot? Does Jimbo Fisher make the hire, or does Bowden? Everyone in Tallahassee knows Fisher wants to completely remake the defensive staff, so there's no way he's going to be on board with doing something like promoting Chuck Amato for the season. This will be a very interesting test of the "coach in waiting" concept.

I read with great amusement the Miami Herald's piece about Randy Shannon's supposed genius decision not to accept a contract extension yet because if the Hurricanes go 9-3 or 10-2 like he thinks they will then he'll really be able to cash in. I see a couple of slight problems with that plan: 1. They won't go 9-3 and 2. Even if they did, Shannon won't make much more than he would if signed an extension today because UM has no money. If they did, they would never have hired Shannon in the first place. The article notes Shannon "won't make that leap" to Urban Meyer's four million a year pay level without winning a national title. Gee, you think? The Canes couldn't keep the championship coaches they did have back when the price of the NCAA poker game was a lot cheaper than it is now. Also, exactly who would drive up Shannon's price by coveting the services of a head coach who is terrible with the media as the public face of the program and changes coordinators the way some people do their socks?

When word came down on Friday that Boston had designated John Smoltz for assignment to the minors, I thought he was done. At minimum, no one could put him out there as a starter again. He's been a disaster this year, and at 42 that's not likely to suddenly turn around. Astoundingly enough, ESPN reports lots of teams are lining up to grab Smoltz if they can. I hate to see this - it reminds me of Steve Carlton pitching for the White Sox, Giants, Cleveland and Minnesota in less than a year and a half when he was clearly used up. It would have been better if Smoltz had retired and been able to potentially go into Cooperstown in the same class as Greg Maddux and (should he not try again to pitch in MLB next year) Tom Glavine. His competitive desire wouldn't let him. Hopefully it won't compound the problem by leading Smoltz to prolong this year's embarassment.

I won't rehash the death of John Hughes since I wrote about it Friday, but I strongly encourage you to read this blog post by a woman who was pen pals with Hughes as a teenager if you have not done so already. It's an extraordinary story which perfectly explains why Hughes's films spoke to my generation so well.

Friday, August 7, 2009

R.I.P. John Hughes

The USA Today coaches preseason poll is out, and Florida is number one as expected. I was surprised they only got 53 first place votes, and someone voted them third. Some people are hard to convince. Meanwhile, the Big East put no teams into the top 25 - the first time that's ever happened. As always, some teams are getting too much credit based on their name alone. How is Notre Dame ranked ahead of Oregon State to start this season?

The gap between what Florida fans seem to expect from their basketball program this season and the national perception of it remains large. The latest example is Dick Vitale's top 40, which has UF at number 22. I don't think the apparent arrival of Nimrod Tishman figures into Vitale's thinking, either. Is he being excessively optimistic going into the year? It appears to me that is the case, but I've read a lot of thoughts from UF fans who seem to think the team will be lucky to make the NIT. Those people are letting the frustration of the Calathes years blind them to the potential future with the addition of athleticism Gator hoops is about to get.

Terrell Owens has a reality show doing so poorly its second episode finished 862nd in the weekly cable ratings, just behind a 3:30 in the morning showing of something called "Brandy and Mr. Whiskers" on the Disney Channel. I'm sure you can imagine the outcome: Owens has accepted full responsibility for the show's lackluster performance, noting he may have alienated the audience and the program is just not very good. You'd be imagining that because it's not true, of course. According to Owens, the ratings company's to blame, for reasons which make zero sense. I'd love to know what it would take for T.O. to acknowledge a personal failure of some kind.

Lou Holtz says he won't run for Congress. I don't know if I should be happy that he won't be involved in politics or sad that he'll still be on ESPN. Holtz's Notre Dame cheerleading has been over the top the last couple of years, to the point it's impossible to take anything he says about the school seriously. Some people think he may be trying to pave the way for his son Skip (currently doing a fine job at East Carolina) to get the job in South Bend. After the Holtz pep talks and "Dr. Lou" nonsense, maybe ESPN's skit this year will play off this and feature him giving "campaign speeches" for teams.

One of the top talents in college football has managed to put himself on the shelf for awhile. Appalachian State's QB Armanti Edwards apparently ran over his foot with a lawnmower. Hopefully he'll be back in time for the season, because Edwards is the kind of story that makes the sport fun to cover. Without him, the Mountaineers have no chance against Holtz's ECU squad. If Edwards plays, that could be a very interesting game.

I was saddened to learn John Hughes had died yesterday. No man made more important movies to my generation than he did. To give you an idea of how prolific and gifted the guy was, a story idea he had given up on two decades ago still got made into Drillbit Taylor last year. That was a bad movie, but the fact a leftover Hughes concept still seemed like a better idea to make than something from what Hollywood churns out for scripts these days speaks volumes. Hughes had left the movie business behind, but his contributions were gigantic. He was already missed, and now he'll be mourned. What a crappy year this has been - see you back here Monday.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Camp's open, so I'm back

I've enjoyed a few days away, but now it's back to work. It was interesting to see the national reaction to the Urban Meyer contract extension. Doesn't it seem pretty basic that if someone's going to make the "priorities" argument, they should familiarize themself with where the money's coming from? Meyer's salary has as much to do with a professor's as the level of water in your bathtub does to the ocean. Some people still won't accept the idea Meyer's not just waiting to go to Notre Dame, but if they read Pat Dooley's piece discussing the extension with him even they might start to have some doubts. There's simply no reason for Meyer to go anywhere - he's not a guy who enjoys the NFL like Spurrier was, and there's nowhere else that makes sense to leave for. If Jeremy Foley or Bernie Machen left and were replaced by a meddler, that could change his situation enough to make a difference. Otherwise, Meyer's where he's going to be.

The trend of kids bailing out on their senior year of high school to race off to college or the pros doesn't seem like a good one to me, but it looks like UF will be benefitting from it this season. Stephen Alli's apparent early admission will likely help the scout team, and he should be more ready to contribute next year as a result. I can't imagine he cracks the lineup this year unless he's just an otherworldly talent. On the other hand, Nimrod Tishman has a terrific chance to be a big factor for Gator basketball this year. Should he make it in, and it appears like he will, this guy will be fascinating to watch. Walker can play, so all UF needs from Tishman is 10-15 competent minutes a night. If he turns out to be special, this could be a really fun team to watch.

When Jarvis Moss was drafted by Denver, I thought he'd have a pretty good NFL career. Not sure how things have gone so wrong, but it became clear they had after reports in April said he was offered around for a seventh round pick and no one took the Broncos up on it. Moss is back in camp after a weird retirement threat earlier in the week. I still believe Jarvis has the ability to help a team, but stunts like that only further ensure Moss will have to try and make it somewhere else.