Friday, January 29, 2010

Art is a better wagering choice than food between these two cities

This weekend is the Senior Bowl, where Tim Tebow will doubtless struggle to even successfully tie his shoes since they are NFL LEVEL shoelaces and thus far too complex for someone with his technique to be able to handle. The good news is that once the game is done, we get a break from draft gurus using Tebow as a pinata so we can actually finish the NFL season. I'm expecting a good game, and hopefully the city and state politicians will refrain from cheesy "bets" since there's been a terrific wager between the cities already. The serious stuff for this Super Bowl week will not be the game of course, but rather what Kim Kardashian and other celebs like her are up to in Miami. Whatever it is she does, Reggie Bush's woman will be doing it in a tank/limo hybrid. Seems like exactly the kind of discreet presence teams are hoping for from player families.

The folks at are looking back at the analysis Scouts, Inc. provided on w National Signing Day back in 2006. Amongst the gems from their top 150? Myron Rolle was their choice as the best player in the country - he never even made first team all conference. Tim Tebow was 15th, but behind true star QBs like Mitch Mustain and Jevan Snead. Knowshown Moreno was the 99th best player, one spot ahead of Brandon Spikes. I'm particularly amused by the attempts to pump up certain players who've failed to live up to the hype Scouts Inc. placed on them. As an example their #27 player, wide receiver Markeith Summers, has 22 catches in four years since high school. Sound like a missed evaluation to you? No, according to them "he proved to be a big-play threat for the Rebels in 2009" because he caught 4 TDs. Riiiiight. Keep in mind that this group of master talent evaluators is the same outfit that employs Todd McShay, who has zero qualifications for his job but is proclaiming that Tim Tebow can not possibly play QB on every outlet ESPN has.

For sheer "say what?" factor, it's going to be tough for any stories the next week or so to top ESPN's bizarre selection for a spring football game to broadcast: North Carolina's. Butch Davis has seen his team lose back to back Meineke Car Care Bowls. That's worth a featured national showcase? I'd understand being at Alabama, or even following the Lane Kiffin circus to Los Angeles, but what's supposed to be appealing about the Tar Heels? They do have a lot of players back, but they're still players from a very mediocre team. It's not like Kenan Stadium will be packed with fired up fans, either. This seems like some kind of behind the scenes deal, possibly in return for UNC changing their schedule to play LSU in the Kickoff Classic game in Atlanta this year.

The Olympics are coming up. As a sports fan, I'm supposed to care. Other than wanting to see some of the hockey, I really don't. I find the bobsled and luge events interesting, but that's about it. The disdain I have for most of the events is summed up in this story about Russian ice dancers having offended Aborigines. I'll stick to basketball, thanks. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No sign of the peanut butter covered UGA guy last night?

Florida basketball isn't going to make the tournament by winning home games against Georgia and South Carolina, but losing them would have been devastating to their chances of being in the field of 65. Road wins are the key to not being on the edge of the field when selection Sunday rolls around. So far UF has ones over NC State and Arkansas, but Sunday's game with a struggling Tennessee has the potential to be a high value conquest. Bruce Pearl is not a better game coach than Billy Donovan, and it's time the results on the court begin to reflect that.

At the end of Tuesday night's surprising South Carolina win over Kentucky, I realized I was about to see something I never had at a basketball game before. The fans were going to storm the court, and there wasn't a chance in hell of "security" stopping them. Yesterday the bill came due, as the SEC fined South Carolina 25 thousand dollars. Fans were ticked off about the fine, although the rules are very clear and were agreed to by everyone in the conference. Florida makes sure fans won't enter the court or field by having lots of police ringing the playing surface ready to arrest anyone who attempts to do so. South Carolina has 50-something women in yellow jackets that say "security" holding a piece of clothesline to restrain the crowd. Forcing schools to improve on that kind of poor planning is exactly why the rule exists. Fortunately the big moment for Gamecock fans led to no major problems, but there's no way to know what will happen when thousands of people simultaneously charge into an area while the competitors are still there. The SEC is right on this.

With all the scrutiny of Tim Tebow right now, it's easy to get lost in the blizzard of commentary. There are some people who I've followed long enough to know that what they say has value when it comes to how the NFL evaluates personnel. Mike Lombardi of the National Football Post is one of those people. He's been a front office guy with the 49ers and Raiders, among others, and you might have seen him on CBS as an NFL Today contributor a few years ago. Lombardi takes a look at what type of team is most likely to be a fit for Tebow while also encouraging people to back off and let the situation breathe a little bit. His opinion is vastly more relevant than that of Todd McShay or any of the ESPN afternoon screamfest panel shows.

Is sending nude pictures of yourself to someone a great idea? Probably not, even if the person wants them at the time. There's always a chance they could be stolen, accessed by someone inappropriate if they're on a computer, etc. And of course should things between the two of you turn out poorly, sharing the pics with folks they weren't intended for is a natural revenge option. Having said that, why exactly did Greg Oden need to apologize yesterday? He took photos for someone he was involved with. They weren't intended for broader viewing, nor did he have anything to do with that changing. It had nothing to do with Oden's job performance, and he's never been involved in any public moralizing that makes this hypocritical on his part. It's not against the law to take a nude photo and give it to someone. Since he wasn't harming anyone with unwanted advances, where's the problem here?

You can't give yourself a nickname, or you'll come off like a clown. The flip side of that is the inability to escape a nickname once it's hung on you and catches on. Glen "Big Baby" Davis no longer wants to be called that. Making that known only further ensures he will be called it by everyone he sees. You don't get to pick a nickname, and you don't get to decide if you like the one you wind up with. Thus it has been, and thus it will always be. Sorry, Big Baby.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Giving the job to caller number 7 might have come off a little crass

There was an interesting nugget inside a St. Petersburg Times piece that ran over the weekend looking at the emails sent to USF regarding their football coaching job when it was open (thanks to a public records request). FSU President T.K. Wetherell wrote to his USF counterpart to recommend Kevin Steele, who's currently Clemson's defensive coordinator. Wetherell reveals that "we were grooming him for Bobby (Bowden)'s job until Nick Sabin (sic) and (Alabama) hired him away". Rumors about Steele being a possible Bowden successor had surfaced in the past, but Wetherell's confirmation of that raises a number of interesting questions:

1. T.K. doesn't know how to spell Saban's name? It's been in all the papers.
2. The first man you thought would be the right guy to fill Bowden's shoes was a man who had just gone 9-36 and 1-31 in conference during his four years as head coach at Baylor?!
3. You thought Steele was the guy to groom for Bowden's job, yet let him leave for a Bama assistant spot? Why would you do that?
4. What are the shared qualities that a linebacker coach with four years of failing head man experience had with your actual Bowden successor Jimbo Fisher, an offensive coordinator and QB coach with zero head coaching time prior to his hire?

By the way, if Steele would have been a good Bowden successor, exactly why has he not received even a sniff from another program for their head coaching job? Rather than aiming high, FSU's president appears to have had lower standards for his football coach hire to replace a legend than most MAC programs do. That's puzzling.

With signing day a week away, all college football coaches are trying to make their classes as good as possible. As a result USC is looking to get in on a kid from Frostproof, who's currently committed to Georgia for college. That's not surprising, but this observation from Frostproof's AD stands out...

"He’s planning to visit Southern Cal next week. Monte Kiffin has been very persistent. He’s probably been in here more than is legal. Of course they don’t pay attention to the rules.”

They don't? Sounds like that's worth a phone call to the NCAA or two. Monte Kiffin won a Super Bowl seven years ago with Tampa Bay. He's got to ask himself sometimes why he left that behind to be involved in this kind of nonsense. Now he gets to deal with kids who say things like this as they're committing...

"I may take other visits, but I don't know for sure. I don't want to say I am, but I'm not going to say I'm not."

Again that's a kid who "committed" to start the week, as he's announcing the news. Is it too much to expect a commitment to last longer than a sneeze?

Mike Leach hasn't seen his name surface for any coaching gigs, but he's been on the move regardless. The former Texas Tech gridiron boss has moved to Key West. The pirate theme should work well down there, and this plays into the eccentric image that Leach benefits from (which may also hold him back). If he sits out a year or two, eventually he'll find a good fit for his return to the sidelines like Colorado.

The Who has announced their setlist for the Super Bowl show. Like a lot of bands working with a reduced window of time, they're going to play a medley of songs and not the full version of any of them. So much for the prop bets that were being offered on what the band would do for an opening number. Not sure what led them to believe "I Can't Explain" would be the probable opener when you consider all the good Who tunes there are to choose from.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stars mean more in Lucky Charms than during recruiting

While the first day of Senior Bowl practices featured the expected Tim Tebow smotherage - and apparently, it wasn't a very good day for him - the story that grabbed my attention was that of O'Brien Schofield. The Wisconsin defensive end tore his ACL at practice, which will likely drop him from a second or third rounder to an undrafted free agent or very late selection. We're likely talking about at minimum a 2-3 million dollar injury for the kid. I can't imagine what a moment like that feels like, although Schofield says his religious faith is helping him cope.

Football recruiting is eight days from wrapping up, with the gurus from outlets like (whose site I also write for, although not about recruiting) saying Florida is looking like they will not just sign the number one class but potentially one of the highest rated ever. If you're a Gator fan that's nice, but it means very little until you see how they look on the practice field and in games. Remember, Steve Spurrier's highest rated wide receiver he ever signed was Steve Shipp, with Brock Berlin his best QB and Damien Hill his most touted CB signee. All of them failed to produce in Gainesville, and it was apparent pretty quickly that they weren't what they were supposed to be. If Urban Meyer and his staff want a kid, that should be reason enough to believe in him regardless of ranking. Instead, after getting a commitment from Connecticut QB and previous Temple pledge Tyler Murphy over the weekend the UF staff is getting second guessed on message boards and in my inbox. I have no idea what Murphy can do, having only seen a few highlights, but if anyone's recruiting skills should be above question at this point it ought to be Urban Meyer and his staff. Want to know why some people think Florida fans are unreasonable? Micromanaging a scholarship in a recruiting class expected to finish number one would be an example.

With the Super Bowl approaching, that means it's time for new commercials to make their debut. Lots of time will be spent on this topic in the next couple of weeks, but the last few years haven't had many ads that I can remember. That was not the case with the Larry Bird-Michael Jordan "nothing but net" ad for McDonald's. CNBC just did a look back feature about the making of the spot. The most interesting fact to me: Bird had to challenge Jordan to shoot for his lunch because of concerns about media coverage of Jordan's gambling at the time.

The Scorpions must be Brett Favre's favorite band. They've announced that they're going to retire as a group - right after a three year world tour. Considering they haven't had any success in the US since "Wind Of Change" twenty years ago, this probably doesn't come as Earth shattering news. As long as there are county fairs though, some carnie will still be playing "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and screaming "DO YOU WANT TO GO FASTER?!" - so the Scorpions have got that going for them

Monday, January 25, 2010

Making lemonade

Florida's win over South Carolina Saturday had an electrifying finish, but it showed something that I suspect will be a major issue during the next two months in the SEC. UF came out with little energy early, literally walking through the opening intros. The fact they had a 9 PM tipoff Thursday at Arkansas likely had something to do with that. The Razorbacks appeared to be affected as well, not even showing up against UK. The conference should never have put UF playing late in the farthest place possible prior to a Saturday game. The SEC also did the Gators the favor of scheduling three of these Thursday-Saturday combos, more than anyone else in their division. It's a ridiculous setup.

Brett Favre throwing a pick in the NFC Championship Game on his final pass of the season is nothing new. It's how he finished up with the Packers, and will probably be how he does with the Vikings. I assume he'll "retire" again, before making noise about returning for several months and probably doing so in October with a team that needs a QB bad. As much amusement as I got from Favre yet again blowing a big playoff game, he had help. I didn't understand the Vikings choice to seemingly make no effort to do much better than a potential 51 yard field goal to win the game. That made them vulnerable when the 12 men in the huddle penalty occurred. Brad Childress isn't a very good game manager. Nice call giving him a needless contract extension midway through a fluke year with a 40 year old QB, Zygi Wilf.

The mayor of Tallahassee wants to rename Stadium Drive after Bobby Bowden. Apparently naming the field after Bowden, building a statue of him, and creating a ridiculous looking giant stained glass window tribute weren't enough. Why stop at a road, when you could name the whole city after Bowden? Heck, the county's named after some guy Leon. Why not change that to Bobby?

Conan O'Brien said so long for now Friday night, handling things absolutely perfectly. He made fun of his situation with NBC, but went out with class. If you have the time, I encourage you to read the commencement speech O'Brien delivered at Harvard in 2000. Whether his show's your kind of humor or not, this is a good guy. Meanwhile, Jay Leno goes on Oprah tomorrow to try and repair his lame image after the 10 PM debacle and Conan force out. Everyone else in late night TV tries to succeed by being funny, while Leno campaigns like he's running for mayor. Schmoozing NBC affiliates is how he got the Tonight Show job over Letterman in the first place. Hopefully his comeback is a colossal flop, regardless of whether O'Brien goes to another network and competes with him or not.

Friday, January 22, 2010

From Purple Rain to this?

Very important win for Florida basketball last night in Arkansas. They're now put in the ridiculous position of flying back this morning, practicing this afternoon and playing South Carolina tomorrow. These Thursday-Saturday combos are not good, and they've got three this year. Fortunately for Billy Donovan and company, the Gamecocks are struggling badly right now. Devan Downey is terrific, a truly special talent at point guard. Unfortunately for him, the loss of two starters for the season due to injury and discipline issues has wrecked this team. SC gets off to unbelievably slow starts - if UF comes out and shoots well early, they should be able to take control and coast to the finish line.

The latest name to surface for the Tennessee defensive coordinator job is Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebackers coach Joe Barry. The concept, of course, would be that he knows Monte Kiffin's defense and could reduce the amount of change in approach and terminology from what the Vols did last year. Barry has no BCS school experience and hasn't worked with college kids at all since 1999. His two year stint as Detroit Lions DC was an unmitigated debacle, even with fellow former Kiffin assistant Rod Marinelli as head coach to help. Making the drummer into the lead singer worked for Genesis, but for most bands it would be a disaster. That's what Tennessee is thinking about trying here, and if this is the best idea the Vols have for the spot they're officially in trouble.

Seeing what has been allowed to happen to the Tampa Bay Lightning since the 2004 Stanley Cup winning season ticks me off. First the NHL lost an entire season to labor issues, and then implemented salary rules that forced the splintering of a young championship team that could have been a contender for years. The team was sold to an incompetent partnership that proceeded to fire the Cup winning coach so they could hire Barry Melrose and then fire him just a few weeks into the season. Now the Sports Business Journal reports the owners are apparently in default on their loan and may lose the team altogether. Right now the team is a perfectly mediocre 20-20-10, but it's made progress. Another new owner with another brilliant Melrose-esque "plan" would be disastrous for the franchise. The NHL's incompetent commissioner Gary Bettman, who's managed to have multiple eventually indicted con artists become full fledged owners in his league, should be held accountable for how these flakes keep getting control of teams. It doesn't seem like that will ever happen, though.

The news that "liberal talk" network Air America is officially going under will be taken by some as having political significance - conservatives good, liberals bad. Those people don't get it. Regardless of what format it is, radio is about entertaining people. There are tons of nationally syndicated conservative talk radio hosts who say virtually the exact same things as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, yet are nowhere near as successful. That's because those hosts have shown an ability to engage their audience and draw big ratings and revenue for stations. Air America relied on "celebrity" hosts like Chuck D and Janeane Garofalo who weren't radio people and had a poorly conceived business plan. It showed - their shows were unlistenable. Bob Lassiter was the first radio host that turned me on to the power of the medium. He was unquestionably liberal in his views, yet he drew huge ratings because he knew how to entertain. It's ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS got to be about finding ways to entertain the audience enough to keep them listening rather than finding something else to do. Liberal hosts who do that will be fine. People who confuse talk radio with a civic issues lecture, as Air America did, will fail.

I'm looking forward to this weekend's NFL Championsip Games. There are a lot of people buying into the Jets, but I'm not. Mark Sanchez has completed 24 passes in two playoff wins. The only way New York can win is to have the kind of game that allows him to play that way - lots of running, both teams around 14-20 points max. I don't believe the Jets D, good as it is, can keep Peyton Manning from putting up enough points to take their offense out of that comfort zone and make Sanchez throw. The other game should be terrific. I'll be rooting for New Orleans, and I think they'll get the job done at home. Hopefully the Vikings don't listen during the pregame to the new "fight song" that Prince recorded for them and released last night. The guy's unbelievably talented, but I'm not sure he gets football. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tebow, Tebow, Tebow and Tebow

One of the things we all knew was coming leading up to the NFL Draft was an overdose of Tim Tebow coverage. What I'm not sure people realized was just how nonstop it's going to be for the next four months. Don't believe me? Right now, before Tebow even arrives at the Senior Bowl and begins giving us something fresh on the field to discuss, he's still at the centerpiece of multiple stories. Should the NFL invite him to the draft? (Doesn't seem that hard to figure out: if they feel strongly he'll be a first rounder, sure. Otherwise, of course not.) Now that the Focus on the Family ad with an anti-abortion message featuring Tebow and his mother has been approved by CBS, will that negatively impact his fan appeal or his relationship with NFL teams? (We'll see about the fans, but NFL teams won't care if Tebow performs abortions himself as a hobby if they believe he can play well while selling merchandise and tickets.) What about his ex-girlfriend being one of the 24 finalists on American Idol? (Wait, what? Since when did Tebow have a girlfriend, much less an ex?) Soon there's likely to be an announcement that Tebow will be on the cover of the NCAA 2011 video game as well. Tebow has every right to make money, promote causes he believes in, or take up curling as a hobby if he so desires. I hope he has people around him with the judgement not to let his appeal to the public get completely burned out with overexposure.

Tiger Woods has been overexposed for the last two months, even though no one's seen him. Now one of his fellow PGA Tour pros has taken a stand about how Woods should handle his return to the game. Former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy wants Tiger to have a press conference that's not associated with a golf event in any way, believing that will reduce the tabloid presence at whatever event Woods plays first. The reality is Tiger will be stalked by gossip people looking for a story no matter where he is for the forseeable future. Guys like Ogilvy are of zero interest to the TMZs of the world. Considering everyone on the Tour is richer because of what Tiger's done for the past decade, Ogilvy and the rest would be wise to keep their thoughts on his situation to themselves and let him handle it however he sees fit.

East Carolina is still looking for a football coach thanks to Skip Holtz heading to USF. They swung and missed on Middle Tennessee's Rick Stockstill, which means it's really desperation time. When Mike Shula as your head coach starts to sound like a good idea, you're in big trouble. Shula's not a bad quarterback coach. He is proven to be a terrible offfensive coordinator, and he's not a very good college head coach either. I know the last name is famous, but it's famous with people like me who are 36. Any kid who knows the Shula name today either is thinking "the NutriSystem guy who operates a steakhouse chain too?" or "the guy who flopped at Alabama". How does that help build a football program today?

While I'm sorry to hear former NC State head coach and longtime FSU assistant Chuck Amato has cancer, the good news is that it was caught early. Hopefully he'll be able to make a full recovery. The article from the Charlotte Observer says people were discussing Amato's undisclosed cancer in various online forums, prompting him to make this announcement. What kind of person learns about a man's private medical status and reacts by heading to message boards to spread the word? It's not like Amato's even an active coach, so there's no reason any school's fanbase "needs" to know. Is there no privacy of any kind left at this point?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lots of creepiness going around Tuesday

The first text came in right around two. It was a radio friend asking "Do you know Steve Babik?" Sure, I replied, I know Steve. Babik was around long before I first began covering Florida as a student in 1994. He originally was brought in for an off air role as network coordinator, but had gradually managed to insert himself into virtually every aspect of UF broadcasts. I'm not a huge fan of his on air work (typical postgame "question" after a loss: "(Name here), tough game today") but we'd always been cordial when we crossed paths. Then my friend explained why he was asking the question, and it turns out no one may have known Steve Babik at all. The notion of someone I've probably spoken with 100 times, even if he isn't particularly a friend, being involved with child pornography just makes my stomach turn. I hope for Babik and his family there is some explanation other than the obvious one for this. Sadly, Babik is not the first person I dealt with in the sports world to be accused of this crime. Former Jaguars and Miami Hurricanes media relations guy Rick Korch is currently serving three years after pleading guilty to similar charges.

Another trainwreck with Florida ties has resurfaced. Teddy Dupay spent a month in jail after pleading guilty to a felony aggravated assault on his girlfriend. That's just the most recent of his episodes with the law, but now he's back with a truly ridiculous plan. Dupay wants you to join his movement to legalize marijuana and pay him for the privilege. Chris Harry of Fanhouse does a terrific job of explaining Dupay's current status, as he runs what certainly sounds distinctly like a pyramid scheme. It's up to Dupay whether this becomes his final legacy or there's something he can do that will still change it. History says if he does, it's not likely the change will be for the better.

Dupay doesn't play organized basketball any more. If he did, there's a new league that would likely have been thrilled to have him join them. The All-American Basketball Alliance intends to begin play in a dozen cities this summer, with their league rules restricting the team personnel to only white, American born basketball players. This sounds like the setup for a Saturday Night Live sketch, but the clown who supposedly is running the league (which has as much chance of success as Babik does of working sidelines for the Super Bowl next month) actually maintains there's no racism involved. With a stated business concept involving bitter fans who want to watch a fundamental game as opposed to "street ball" played by "people of color", the guy's either incredibly dense or a really bad liar. Maybe the AABA unis can be made by Bad Idea Jeans.

Tennessee's continuing coaching crisis Tuesday featured Clemson's DC agreeing to come join Derek Dooley's staff, than backing out. Lane Kiffin's Knoxville driving habits were reexamined despite him having mentioned an accident in August when it happened. Meanwhile, lost in all the shuffle last week, defensive back Dennis Rogan put his name in for the NFL Draft without telling anyone. That means the Vols are down two starters in the secondary as opposed to just Eric Berry. Good luck, Derek Dooley. You're going to need it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Apparently Derek Dooley turned them down

Imagine being a Buffalo Bills fan right now. It's not bad enough that the temperature won't break freezing all day, and it's going to snow again. You have to wake up this morning to the news your team's next football coach is likely Chan Gailey. No single guy more defines mediocrity as a head coach more than Gailey. He went 18-14 with the Cowboys and 44-32 at Georgia Tech. He has no playoff wins, and went 2-4 in bowls with a Champs Sports Bowl victory over Syracuse his shining moment. Most recently he was fired by the Kansas City Chiefs as offensive coordinator. Bill Belichick, Rex Ryan, Tony Sparano(w Bill Parcells pulling strings) and Chan Gailey - one of these things is not like the others. Good luck with that, Bills fans.

Enraged Tennessee fans are spreading progressively more outrageous rumors about Lane Kiffin and his coaching staff's behavior during the past year. On Wednesday, he was just a jerk. By now he's evolved into some sort of John Belushi/Tiger Woods combo, only without the talent of either guy. Particularly delusional fans have managed to take a photo of Kiffin out on the town with Mike Tomlin and his brother in law and turn the fact he was talking to women into "proof" of all this. Brooks of Sports By Brooks has debunked the persistent message board fantasy that TMZ is in Knoxville "investigating" the Kiffin rumors. Brooks is very well connected in L.A. - if he reports that TMZ's not there, I believe him. Would they have interest in verifiable proof of some of this stuff against USC's new coach? Sure, but I don't believe for a second that it's a priority for them. Like most stuff that everyone on the internet "knows about", I'll be extremely surprised if much of this is legit or any of it can ever be proven.

There should be a rule for stadiums. After it has originally been named, you can change it once. After that, it either goes back to its original name or if that was a sponsorship deal then it is given a noncommercial name that is permanent. It would prevent the kind of silliness that now results in yet another new name for the former Joe Robbie Stadium. After being called Land Shark Stadium all season, it will suddenly be Sun Life Stadium in time for the Super Bowl. This is the sixth name someone's put on the place in its 22 years - that's ridiculous.

When I first heard about Twitter, I was a skeptic that it had much value. While I still don't put anything out on a Twitter feed, it's a huge help to my daily show prep as an aggregator of information. I mention this because of another new function I've become aware of called Blippy (who names this stuff?). The concept of Blippy is that you will be constantly informed of the things other people are buying. Am I missing something here? Is there a benefit I'm just not grasping to learning that someone spent 24 dollars at T.J. Maxx? Where does this end - will there soon be a service devoted exclusively to live updates on people's activities in the bathroom?

Monday, January 18, 2010

R.I.P. Gaines Adams

There are some things you don't expect to wake up to on a Sunday morning. A defensive end ten years younger than you dying as a result of heart problems is one of them. Former Tampa Bay first rounder Gaines Adams apparently was the victim of cardiac arrest caused by an enlarged heart, and is gone after just three years in the NFL. I never covered Adams, but those who did here in South Carolina as well as in Tampa think highly of him as a person. I didn't want the Bucs to draft him because I suspected he would be an underachiever on the NFL level, and unfortunately that proved to be the case thus far. It's a shame we won't get to see what he might have done under Rod Marinelli's tutelage in Chicago this year - if anyone could have made Adams into a force, that would have been the guy.

Tennessee got their guy, or at least got some guy, to try and clean up after the bomb Lane Kiffin dropped on them last week. Having kept an eye on what he was doing at Louisiana Tech the last couple of seasons, I can tell you Derek Dooley is a better coach than most people think even though he was 17-20 there. Having said that, he walks into a ridiculously bad situation. Even if there were no changes and UT signed the alleged top ten class they were working on, they were going to take a step back this year. In what will be no better than their starting QB's second and third games of college action, they host Oregon and Florida. In October, they're at LSU, Georgia and South Carolina wrapped around a home game with Alabama. This is likely no better than a .500 team without the chaos, which means fans need to be fair in judging Dooley's performance the next couple of seasons. Thanks to the ridiculously inept hiring process put on by UT AD Mike Hamilton, I'm not sure they will.

The most uninspired NFL postseason I can remember continued its current pace of one watchable game per weekend, as the Jets beat San Diego. The Jets have had five field goals missed against them in the last two weeks, which is an appropriate note for these playoffs. The Cowboys kicker was brutal yesterday as well, athough Brett Favre and Sidney Rice were in a groove and Dallas couldn't block anyone so it's hard to place too much heat on Shaun Suisham for the loss. Two weeks from now it's Norv Turner and Wade Phillips battling it out as head coaches for the Pro Bowl live in Miami, something else that illustates what a crappy postseason it's been.

Tiger Woods may be undergoing "treatment" for sex addiction at a clinic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. This could also be a prank by the guys at the local Applebee's to make poor Rachel Nichols of ESPN come back after spending the whole summer there waiting for Brett Favre's inevitable unretirement. I don't really care either way, I'm just glad it's already given us perhaps the most useless live TV report ever courtesy of Jackson, Mississippi's CBS station. "There's definitely something going on here" - Walter Cronkite would be so proud.

In case it's not clear enough to you yet that Jay Leno is a loathsome fraud, check out this clip of him announcing the deal to give Conan O'Brien the Tonight Show in five years back in 2004. In 1992, when it appeared Leno might get bounced from the Tonight Show, he made clear he would never consider moving time slots and criticized NBC for considering a move like that. Of course, once it could benefit him, all this talk went out the window and he began lobbying for his old gig back publically less than a third of a year after Conan started. Leno is not funny, but more than that he's a bad guy. Conan is going to get paid, but he still got screwed over.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Maybe Mike Leach can become ECU coach now

Nice move by USF to hire Skip Holtz to replace Jim Leavitt. To compete for attention and dollars in a pro market like Tampa, they need someone who can win while also being media friendly. Holtz can do both. I have never encountered a less helpful sports information department than USF's was when I attempted to cover events there or arrange interviews. I don't know how much of that tone was set by Leavitt himself and how much was just their general mindset. If USF doesn't make every effort to put Holtz out there for the next year to heal any hurt feelings from the Leavitt dismissal, they're making a very poor decision. I'll be curious to see what Holtz does for a staff, but this should at minimum maintain current performance levels while keeping open the possibility of improvement.

Local television outlets in North Carlina report Tennessee has hired Duke's David Cutcliffe as its new coach! No wait, they haven't - at least not yet. Let me give you a little advice, which applies to this search as well as all other situations like this. Keep in mind that my wife works as a TV sportscaster as do a number of my friends. I'm not hating on the profession, but they're awful at this kind of story. News directors want to "break this", which far too often leads to reports based on dubious sources or no sources at all, just semi-informed guesses. After dealing with one bogus local TV coaching "scoop", I was able to find out the source of the information. It was a guy from the news director's husband's gym who said he had a friend on the Board of Trustees at the school who told him the supposed coaching move was going to happen. Unless you know from experience that the reporter whose name is on the story is trustworthy (like my wife), do not believe anything you hear on a coaching search from local TV. If it's a non sports reporter doing the story, you should actually assume the complete opposite of whatever they're saying is true.

Whether Cutcliffe takes the job or someone else does, National Signing Day is 19 days from now. None of the remaining candidates appear to have been recruiting the kind of players Tennessee needs to sign to be competitive in the SEC, meaning this will likely be a lost recruiting class. Couple that with the suspect class landed by Kiffin during the transition (some of whom are already gone) and you can see why the Wall Street Journal says "Kiffin's Abrupt Exit Signals Doom on Rocky Top" The numbers on the aftershocks from one and done coaches are pretty damning. If Cutcliffe really will only take the job if he can bring his full Duke staff, I suspect he'll still be in Durham this year. There are some good coaches on UT's list, but I don't know if they can get them to come at this time in the process.

We all know how highly Notre Dame thinks of itself. It just got rid of Charlie Weis as coach because Fighting Irish football is supposed to achieve at elite levels, not go to the Hawaii Bowl. That's why I was surprised to learn that according to their AD Jack Swarbrick, they're actually not that kind of program at all. He was asked about potentially scheduling an SEC team in this South Bend Tribune Q and A. Swarbrick wasn't a big fan of that idea...

“I'd like to do more with Duke and Wake and some of those schools. It's really more institutionally focused - what's a good fit for Notre Dame? What sort of looks and feels like us?”

Duke feels like Notre Dame in football? Look, I get that ND is a private university and has a smaller student body than state schools. They don't have the special BCS spot, TV deal or the shoe and apparel contract they do because they compare themselves to Wake Forest. You can't proclaim your greatness and insist you're a national program while also ducking the competition being on that level brings.

I'm looking forward to watching the NFL this weekend. I'm rooting for Saints and Cowboys in the NFC title game - hopefully Favre throws five picks against Dallas. The Colts and Chargers should advance as well. Have a good weekend, don't get arrested for tampering with grocery items as part of a deep "artistic" prank, and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A quick one

One piece of the Lane Kiffin story perfectly sums up what's wrong about college football. Kiffin's already been busted for lying in his introductory press conference, claiming Ed Orgeron hadn't made recruiting calls to Tennessee signees when he had. Of course it's a low class thing to call a kid and try to get him not to go to class at a school you sold him on so that he can stay available to potentially come to USC instead. Kiffin had to know what was going on, but tried to bluff his way out of admitting it. Mike Hamilton, Tennessee's AD, has every right to be mad about this. That doesn't give him the right to claim that any early enrolee who was on campus Wednesday at 12:01 AM, regardless of whether they went to class, is now considered a UT student and can't go anywhere else without losing eligibility. That attempted strong arm move to limit the possibilities for athletes who'd already been lied to by Hamilton's coach is inexcusable and deplorable. Is there any sign that either of these parties views the kids as anything more than "meat on the hoof"?

By the way, remember how Kiffin made a big thing about his son who was born last year being named Knox? Monte was actually his first name, but Knox is what they were going to call him. Check out Kiffin's USC bio - Knox has been put on waivers. The guy really is a piece of work.

Tim Tebow's first autographed football card is out. Normally a player's national endorsement potential is based on where they go in the draft, but Tebow has always been a guy who changes the traditional concepts on how things happen. I'll be curious to see, given the current climate toward athlete product endorsers in the wake of the Tiger Woods and Gilbert Arenas PR debacles, how many companies look to tie in their brands with Tebow.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Words can't describe how funny this is

At 7:53 last night, a listener line rang at the studio I do my 107.5 the Game radio show from here in Columbia. The gentleman calling told me he was a high level Tennessee booster but enjoys my program and wanted to give me a tip: Lane Kiffin was heading to USC, with a press conference to come within two hours. I started working to confirm it, and then around fifteen minutes later Tennessee recruiting "intern" Steve Rubio Twittered out the following: "Ruh Roh". Ruh roh, indeed. Kiffin leaves the Vols high and dry, showing absolutely no gratitude for them being foolish enough to give him big money when he was an unemployed guy that no other school was after as a head coach. Think his son Knox will have his name changed to South Central now? One of the girls from the ongoing UT hostess recruiting scandal sums the Knoxville take up nicely on her Twitter. Sometimes a picture's worth a thousand words (warning - vulgar content). QB Nick Stephens and WR Denarius Moore seem somewhat upset as well.

So what does Tennessee have to show for the Kiffin experience? One season with a 7-6 record and a bowl loss. No, they didn't actually beat anyone good, but they sort of scared Alabama thanks to a late fumble and covered the spread against UF. (Lane lost to a bad UCLA team, too. Wonder if that'll come up in L.A.?) They have a lingering NCAA investigation to deal with, and what should be a decimated recruiting class. There was a high profile, embarassing armed robbery involving three of Lane's supposed elite recruits. Let's not forget the immortal Li'l Wayne lyric "Smoke weed, talk shit like Lane Kiffin" - the one Lane bragged boosted UT's street cred. Did Fulmer ever do that for you, Vol fans?

More than anything else, UT fans will have the feeling of having been used as a stepping stone, something that NEVER happens to an SEC team. Think about it - other than Guy Morriss to Baylor from Kentucky and Dennis Franchione from Alabama to Texas A&M as a result of the probation they got hammered with, no one has left the SEC for another college job outside the conference in DECADES. Tennessee's fans bent over backwards to defend this guy when everyone outside their school told them he was a tool. His supposed "master plan" was exactly what we thought it was - an immature, overmatched coach making it up as he goes along and periodically lying his tail off ("I fired my driver and secretaries, because I'm that tough" "no, I haven't fired my strength coach despite him having already told you I did" "no, we didn't send those hostesses" "no, I never said anything about South Carolina players pumping gas - the kid just made that up despite having witnesses that heard it") to cover up the fact he either didn't know or didn't care about the rules.

What can Tennessee do now? Well, one name they looked at seriously last time was Air Force coach Troy Calhoun. Maybe they go down that path again, although some feel like they'll need a bigger name. Will Muschamp seems to be the early name being thrown out there - another first time college head coach seems like a highly questionable decision to me, should that be something they pursue, and Texas is a better job than UT so they'd better have a ton of money to throw at him to convince him not to wait for it. Trying to bridge the gap with Vol tradition by hiring David Cutcliffe's been brought up, although that would sure be a radical shift from the "recruiting is everything" nature of the last choice. People will try and bring up Jon Gruden based on the fact he coached there once and his wife is from there. Again, Gruden is not a college coach. His offense took three years for NFL guys to pick up, and now he's going to run it with a kid who's never played before? Sure. Gruden can make between six to seven million without having to do any recruiting the next time he chooses to coach. UT isn't offering that anytime soon. This is going to be fascinating. By the way, other than hiring Bruce Pearl, exactly what has UT's athletic director Mike Hamilton done to justify keeping his job?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

At least we know pro wrestling is clean, right?

Florida's early NFL departures now stand at five, which appears likely to be the final number. No one could have been surprised that Carlos Dunlap is going, with sure first round status awaiting him, but some might have thought Maurkice Pouncey would stick around since his brother Mike decided to as well. Good luck to Major Wright, a big hitter who's sometimes suspect in coverage. I suspect his draft status will not turn out to be what he imagines it is, although I hope things work out well for him. Of the five decisions, Wright's is the only one that seems iffy to me. Joe Haden and Dunlap are surefire early choices, Aaron Hernandez may not go first round but will go first day, and Pouncey will likely do the same.

Mark McGwire's admission that he used steroids during his record setting 1998 season as well as a large portion of the rest of the decade was the most surprising news since it turned out Clay Aiken was gay. It's still noteworthy that he finally acknowledged the obvious and explained why he didn't five years ago in front of Congress. McGwire's desire to avoid self incrimination was pretty clear with the "not here to talk about the past" answers at the time, but it wasn't known that the Alberto Gonzales led Justice Department inexplicably wouldn't approve immunity for McGwire even though he confessed his use to the committee chairs in private. At that hearing, McGwire pledged to work to keep kids away from steroids. He followed that up with about as much effort as O.J. put in on his search for the real killers of Ron and Nicole. If people want to criticize McGwire now, the failure to act on that promise is probably the best place to start. He otherwise seems to be handing his reentry into baseball about as well as is possible given the circumstances, including apologizing personally to the Maris family.

Lots of things led to the homer crazy era of baseball - the new parks were mostly smaller, weight training and nutrition legitimately improved, video and computer scouting made it easier to hit, and lots of players put all kinds of illicit substances in their bodies. Figuring out how much credit to assign to all those different factors is a near impossible task, so we'll never be able to know how much difference steroids made for McGwire and guys like him. MLB needs to figure out how to handle this era for Hall of Fame purposes. Do admitted cheats get treated differently than ones who'll never fess up like Roger Clemens? What about guys who've had suspicions raised but never have had any hard evidence of use surface like Pudge Rodriguez or Jeff Bagwell? Some kind of policy needs to be in place, or we're going to be reading grandstanding columns forever from BBWAA people abut their individual stances on the subject.

Pete Carroll's hiring by Seattle has drawn renewed attention to the NFL's Rooney Rule. The rule is a well intentioned one, but it frequently creates ridiculous circumstances like the ones we've had this year in Washington and Seattle. Sometimes a team makes a coaching move knowing who they want to hire, and there's no shame in that. Why wouldn't Washington want a two time Super Bowl winner with a great resume to be their head coach? Because of the Rooney Rule though, the Skins pretended they were interviewing defensive assistant Jerry Gray and Seattle had to insult Vikings DC Leslie Frazier's intelligence as well. My suggestion on how to fix this is simple: make the Rooney Rule apply only to teams interviewing more than one person for their open position. When Tampa Bay hired Raheem Morris as their head coach, they weren't required to interview a white coach before making the hire. If you know who you want before the process starts, regardless of their race, that should be fine.

It's hard to tell when bands and realy gone for good. The Eagles have been back together performing for over a decade after spending the Eighties insisting that would never happen under any circumstances. The Police did a reunion tour 25 years after they split up. Seventeen years after Guns N' Roses blew up, things aren't looking too good though. Slash says he's turned down over 100 million dollars for a possible reunion tour with Axl and the guys. Last time I was at Best Buy they had around eighty copies of Chinese Democracy still on the racks, so if a reunion hasn't happened yet I'm not thinking the demand's going to get hotter.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Trojans lose their horse

On New Year's Day, you could've gotten pretty long odds on USC's football situation being more chaotic than Florida's, but that's exactly where they are now that Pete Carroll's departure to Seattle is official. While the UF staff racked up commitments from 3 "five star" guys Saturday, kids at the All-America game committed to USC were trying desperately to get ahold of anyone who could clue them in on what the heck was going on with Carroll. Some of them have reopened their recruitment altogether, which may even wind up helping UF more. Lots of people are making the assumption that Carroll must know the NCAA hammer is coming. Not sure I buy that, because neither Indiana basketball or FSU football got hit with tough penalties despite each being involved in clearcut and extensive skirting of NCAA rules. It does seem there's been a rift between Carroll and the school's AD, which is likely a part of what led to this. This paragraph from an excellent article about Carroll in Los Angeles Magazine two years ago...

"When (Carroll) feels that he’s losing the players, losing the fans, losing momentum, or just losing, he might leave. Regardless of the contract extension he signed in 2005, details of which he declines to discuss, he’s not likely to stay where he’s not wanted, or where his message is no longer working. “I never want to coach again when it’s not like this,” he says. “I won’t hang on for dear life. I love winning so much that I can’t imagine being here when it’s any other way.”"

sums it up pretty well, I suspect. With a chance to take one more shot at the NFL and make megabucks to do it, why stay at USC if you aren't enjoying it as much as you used to? Seattle's a great city, their owner will spend whatever's necessary, and you can have as much control as you want. If you're Carroll, what reason is there not to take it if you don't feel your boss is supporting you?

With Oregon State's Mike Riley having already made clear he won't be next at USC by agreeing to a contract extension, attention shifts to the other rumored names in AD Mike Garrett's top three. I don't think Jeff Fisher wants to leave the NFL right now, but Jack Del Rio might be a different story. There's a lot of buzz claiming Del Rio's in real trouble in Jacksonville, that Wayne Weaver has gotten sick of his whole act. He'd be falling upward into the USC job, and I suspect he will fail if he gets it. What's interesting for SEC fans is that Ed Orgeron supposedly wants to return to USC in some capacity. That'd be a significant blow to Lane Kiffin's supposedly incredible staff.

It's going to be fascinating to see what USF does about replacing Jim Leavitt. When a player finally went on the record last week about Leavitt hitting a player as had been previously alleged, it was clear his ship was taking on water fast. Now the player he struck and his family have acknowledged lying about the situation once it came to light to avoid being blamed for Leavitt's firing. The AD at USF hasn't got a history to work with in figuring out what direction he might take this. Having an inexperienced guy take over during an uncomfortable time may not seem appealing, which could work out well for Tommy Bowden, Terry Bowden, Jeff Jagodzinski or even Phil Fulmer.

Thank goodness the Packers and Cardinals redeemed what was the worst first week of NFL playoff football I can remember before their second half. If Kurt Warner can play like that, why's he thinking about retiring? Aaron Rodgers played a great game, but he'll be replaying that first throw in overtime in his head for a long time. Make an accurate pass and the game's over. The Cardinals and Saints should be a fun game next week. Other weekend NFL thoughts:

Marvin Lewis showed again he's incredibly bad at game management - you can not use your two challenges on frivolous stuff early in the game - and the Bengals never seriously threatened a Jets team that probably shouldn't have been in the playoffs in the first place. I know Carson Palmer's having surgery on his non throwing hand, but that doesn't explain what has made him so ineffective for most of this season. He looked more like a rookie than Mark Sanchez did.

The Cowboys proved yet again that people who say "it's hard to beat a team three times" have no idea what they're talking about - the team that won the first two has won the third 73 percent of the time since 98. The Eagles had been great in their playoff openers under Reid - hard to understand how they could look so inept in this one.

It was hard to know what to expect from New England, with them losing Wes Welker right before the postseason. Them losing to Baltimore didn't shock me, but I never would have imagined they'd just lie down. Belichick has been trying to rebuild that team without taking a step back, but that's proven not to be feasible. They've got a ton of draft picks, but until they can reliably run the ball again the Patriots will not be a championship contender.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The real title game was in Atlanta

We got the result I expected in the national title game - Alabama winning by a couple of TDs - but what a weird way to get there. I hate it that Colt McCoy injured himself and wasn't able to at least get his shot at leading his team to the championship. Even when he was in for a few plays, the Longhorns failed to take advantage of some bizarre early choices by Alabama by putting it in the end zone. A first posession fake punt on 4th and 23 deep in your own territory? Did someone hack into the Crimson Tide staff's headsets?

I would have thought that fake punt would be the worst play call of the half, but then came the Texas shovel pass attempt that began with 15 seconds remaining. For the play to even set up a possible long field goal attempt, it had to gain roughly 40 yards - good luck with that against Bama's D. Why would you ever call that play in that situation and give yourself the chance for it blow up in your face that way? It reminded me of the Jack Squirek interception for the Raiders against Washington in Super Bowl XVIII.

Jordan Shipley's a terrific receiver, but by himself he could not carry the Texas offense. Only one other player generated more than 39 yards, and his was largely on one play. Garrett Gilbert will probably be a good quarterback for the Longhorns down the line, but I doubt their gameplan was tailored to his strengths as a more traditional dropback passer than McCoy. Bama didn't get great play from their QB, but when you have two 100 yard rushers that isn't essential.

One of yesterday's comments took me to task for my skepticism about Mack Brown's coaching ability in big games...

"Mack Brown is not a big game coach? Have you not been paying attention? Since 2004 he's 5-0 in bowl games (3-0 in BCS bowls). 6-3 against Oklahoma and Ohio State. 2-0 in the Big-12 Championship. 2-0 against the SEC. Funny how the missteps of Texas teams from 10 years ago still shape public perception of Mack Brown's coaching abilities to this day"

Sorry, no sale. Just because you manage to win a game does not mean you were well coached in doing so. (Les Miles won a national title while going out of his way to prove that point two years ago.) Texas beat Nebraska to win the Big 12 title DESPITE their coaching, not because of it. That was some of the worst clock management I have ever seen, and they didn't look well prepared to play at all. Likewise, a narrow win against a depleted Oklahoma squad this season - one that saw McCoy's best play be a tackle to stop a potential gamewinning Oklahoma defensive TD - did not cause me to bow to Mack's coaching wizardry. Brown is a terrific guy and has done a wonderful job as an organizer and recruiter of making the Texas program the force it should always have been. Game coaching is not his strength. I'm all ears if someone wants to cite games where they feel Mack Brown won with great strategic choices rather than superior personnel. I suppose you could argue letting Vince Young take over the 2005 season's national title game was a strategy, but for me that's about it.

BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock continues to put out incredibly amateurish PR talking points to try and sell the idea that it's the best system that we could ever possibly want to determine a college champion. Here's his latest effort, delivered before the game...

"[One] result of a playoff would be more injuries, more Wes Welkers happening in college football. Imagine if Wes Welker were Kellen Moore or Mark Ingram or Colt McCoy."

Yes, imagine if McCoy got hurt. Thank goodness that doesn't happen thanks to the BCS. Beyond that, Welker got hurt during the NFL's REGULAR SEASON. What the hell does that have to do with whether we should have a college football playoff system? How do those FCS level kids survive their playoff, anyway? Did the title game resemble a scene from Braveheart and I just missed it?

I'm always skeptical of kids who don't want to compete for a job. Drew Henson was like that, insisting Michigan not recruit any other QBs for two years except for him even though he was supposed to be All-Everything. He turned out to be a disappointment in two sports, despite all the hype. What is there to be afraid of if you're so good? Jevan Snead has been that way too. He bailed on his UF commitment because he didn't want to compete with Tebow. Went to Texas and left after a year because he couldn't beat out McCoy, even though both were playing. After he transferred to a QB desert at Ole Miss, he was able to start two years even though he struggled badly this season. Earlier this week, Houston Nutt indicated there would be competition for the starting job in Oxford rather than it being Snead's by default. Time to leave again - Snead's going pro. Any team dumb enough to spend anything better than a sixth round draft pick on him deserves exactly what they get. Ryan Mallett is making a better decision than Snead by staying at Arkansas, even though he probably would have been drafted higher on his physical tools alone.

NBC is a joke. The network reportedly is looking to move Jay Leno back to his 11:35 time slot and shove Conan O'Brien's show back to either 12:05 or 12:35. They'd supposedly make the move because Leno is tanking at 10 (as everyone fully expected would happen) and it's killed their affiliates 11 PM news ratings. O'Brien has had half a year to try and grow his audience in a new timeslot, with a garbage lead in audience thanks to Leno. He also has to deal with Leno's show trying to book the same guests as his since they're both in Los Angeles and Letterman getting an incredible publicity boost out of his sex/blackmail scandal. That's supposed to have been a fair shot? NBC actually called Leno "one of the most compelling entertainers in the world today" this week. Apparently jokes you can see the punchline for 20 seconds ahead of delivery are considered really compelling stuff by NBC execs. Have a great weekend and I'll see you back here Monday.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Alabama 27, Texas 13

The SEC goes for its fourth consecutive national championship with Alabama against Texas tonight. I'm hoping we get a great game to close out what has overall been a pretty lackluster bowl season. For me it comes down to a couple of things: 1. Texas has only one wide receiver of any significance in Jordan Shipley and 2. Texas has no reliable running game. Nebraska and Texas A&M put serious scares into the Longhorns in their past two games. Couple that with the fact it's Mack Brown coaching in a big game (still only two conference titles ever) and it's very hard for me not to anticipate Alabama winning fairly comfortably. The winner will get invited to the White House, although there's a movement for President Obama to bring in Boise State as well. Perhaps he could arrange a touch football game on the White House lawn to settle the championship.

Jim Leavitt had circled the wagons and successfully kept any USF players from confirming that he had struck a player the way AOL's Fanhouse website alleged he had. The dam is cracking though, as a senior on this season's Bulls squad has now verified the original allegations. If what was alleged in Fanhouse's original report is what happened, Leavitt has to go. Getting a bowl win improved his status a little bit with the public, but shouldn't make any difference if investigators can verify this info. There were rumors on the college football scene over the weekend that this week might be it for Leavitt, but so far that hasn't been the case. Maybe this new confirmation changes that.

A school here in Columbia, SC is hiring a new football coach. The coach will be paid just over 104 thousand dollars a year, with incentive bonuses for postseason success. Sounds like South Carolina's hiring an assistant, right? No, that's what a local high school is spending on its football coach. This is completely insane. Lest you think this is a unique situation because of this particular coach's success rate, another school here has offered a coach 107 thousand to take their job. I've been bothered for a long time by the increasing commercialization of high school athletics, and this is what it's yielding. Unless a school has everything it could possibly need for educational purposes taken care of, there is simply no way to justify spending six figures on a coach in any sport.

The TV blog Warming Glow yesterday featured a clip from perhaps the worst looking pilot ever made. I can't begin to do justice to just how bad "Poochinski" is - you owe it to yourself to take the time to watch this. If this script actually got far enough along that it reached the point where someone paid for it, I shudder to think about what the network programming gurus rejected.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"He's on FIRE!"

The ongoing Florida football staff makeover yesterday led to the expected addition of D.J. Durkin and the unexpected return of Stan Drayton to the fold. Like most observers, I'm surprised to see Drayton back in Gainesville. He's clearly a good recuiter, and he does know how Meyer likes to do things. I just haven't seen any evidence that he's a very good coach. There was zero improvement in running backs at UF during his tenure, and the fumbling problems his players had in Gainesville migrated north to Knoxville when he left. Maybe having Brian White, a guy with extensive previous RB coaching on his resume, already on the staff to help out if needed reduces the worry about how Drayton will do in that role. I'm particularly curious about the next guy added, assuming Vance Bedford does leave. Corwin Brown? Willie Martinez? Taver Johnson? There's some very interesting names in play at the moment.

Percy Harvin is the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. I understand there were teams with anxiety about his off field behaior, particularly after the positive marijuana test, but I still don't understand how he was allowed to drop to 22nd in the draft. I've watched a lot of college football, and covered some really special talents up close. I've never seen a guy with the combination of abilities Harvin has - not just raw speed, but the ability to accelerate while cutting and the physical stature not to go down on contact. He's going to be a terrific player for years. Wish the Bucs would have noticed, but they were busy reaching for a quarterback with on field poor decision making skills instead.

The NCAA made official what should have been obvious to FSU from the beginning - they will not escape the penalties the organization imposed on them as a result of their academic scandal. With Bobby Bowden having been forced out and his chase of the wins record rendered a moot point, they would have been better off not spending a dime on attorneys to pursue this. The NCAA should have issued scholarship reductions to begin with, and asking them to take away the meager punishment they did settle on was absurd.

A popular trend in recent years is to write articles and/or books that purport to explain the "hidden secret" to success in a field using statistics. Some of the conclusions are pretty interesting and have good support. Some come off as more coincidence than anything meaningful. Then there are some which are just stupid, like someone trying to claim Marty Mornhinweg is the next great NFL head coach. Sorry, no. I don't care what demographic info of other coaches says, I saw Marty Mornhinweg try and be a head coach with Detroit. From choosing to kickoff to begin overtime to losing respect from players almost immediately during his first training camp with an amateurish "storming off on my motorcycle in disgust" stunt, it was clear Mornhinweg lacks both the proper personality and strategic judgement to do the job. If he's the guy ESPN's "formula" says is the right choice, their formula is garbage.

I'm not much of a video game guy, but one I used to love to play back in college was NBA Jam. Now, it's making a comeback. This is one of the smartest moves for the NBA in a long time. Kids playing against video game Al Horford and Joe Johnson with Pau Gasol and Kobe will get interested in their teams too. Who knows, maybe if this catches on again people will actually be able to name two members of the Charlotte Bobcats!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Orange Bowl fever - catch it!

I'm surprised that Boise State was able to beat TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, although the Horned Frog D did their job well enough to win. At least there was some buzz for that game, with a pair of undefeated "Cinderella" teams. Find me a soul outside of the two school fanbases excited about tonight's Orange Bowl between Georgia Tech and Iowa and I'll be impressed. I am pleased that this is the last time I'll ever see FOX's band obsessed production of a BCS bowl game with announcers who know nothing about college football (Dick Stockton on play by play tonight - SERIOUSLY?!) again. This kind of impressive attention to detail on the graphics can't be undervalued though.

I meant to mention this yesterday and forgot - the Capital One Bowl was played under inexcusable conditions. Mike Bianchi is absolutely right when he says they need to either fix up their stadium in Orlando or stop having bowls. Graig Cooper of Miami may have lost his shot at any pro football future during the Champs Sports Bowl on Orlando's field when he wrecked his knee. The Orlando bowl people get by on their city's natural tourist appeal, but they do a horrible job putting on their event. Before covering the Papa John's Bowl this past weekeend, the unquestioned single worst bowl I had ever experienced was covering UF and Michigan in Orlando two years ago. When a game is supposed to be the best non BCS bowl out there, the fact I had to debate whether it was actually worse to cover than the game between two mediocre teams at a rotting stadium in Birmingham's ghetto speaks volumes. The SEC needs to make it clear to Orlando - fix the problems or we're not renewing our contract after 2013. No team should be put in the position LSU and Penn State were again.

Tampa Bay's owners either couldn't get Bill Cowher to take their job or were so impressed by Raheem Morris's 3-13 season that they didn't bother to try. Regardless, the incompetent rookie head coach will get the chance to be a marginal second year head coach. Hiring staffers should be tons of fun after Morris canned both of his original coordinators before either one even made it two thirds of the way through the year. Quality assistants are going to be lining up to work for a guy who's on thin ice from the start of the season and has shown zero reluctance to use guys as scapegoats. Oh well, there's always 2011.

Annie Leibovitz has made a career of convincing the famous subjects of her photography to take their shirts off. Word she has another image like that on the cover of Ferbruary's Vanity Fair wouldn't make much of a ripple ordinarily, but this time it's of Tiger Woods. Of course these were taken before the Thanksgiving night episode that sent this story into high gear, but they're still going to be fresh fuel to keep the saga in the press while waiting for more bimbos to emerge or Elin to file for divorce. Given what we now know of Tiger's people trading a cover appearance and interview to American Media in return for them keeping a lid on another potential scandal story, it's fair to wonder what Vanity Fair or a sister publication had on the guy.

Periodically I highlight items here on the blog for their sheer stupidity. This is one of those times. The Washington Redskins did what everyone has known they were going to for months when they fired Jim Zorn as head coach yesterday. Zorn had been a ridiculous hire from the beginning - a guy who'd never even been an offensive coordinator that the Skins hired and then suddenly shoved into the head coaching job when no one competent would take Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's money. Washington Post political columnist Jo-Ann Armao tries to turn the fact Zorn will be paid for the remaining time on his deal into a commentary about there being "no incentive to produce results" in America now. She doesn't understand how Zorn can feel he deserves the money when he "failed to produce the desired results for his organization". Details like Zorn having been put in a job he was unprepared for with an organization that prevents anyone from achieving the "desired results" through incompetence are lost on her. Odds are pretty good that no one in the Post's sports department will be writing a commentary on whether Harry Reid deserves to be reelected. The same concept should apply to the political folks if this is the best they can come up with to say about sports.

Monday, January 4, 2010

After the game in Columbia last year, Parsons deserved a moment like that

I was glad to be there for the end of the Tim Tebow era Friday night in New Orleans. There have been lots of terrific players through the years in college football, but I don't think we've ever seen one connect with the public quite like this. Here's a link to a piece I wrote for with some comments from him and the other seniors. That one's free for public viewing, while my piece on what's next for UF football is behind the pay wall. After talking to people with the program, seeing the emotion on Shelley Meyer's face after the demolition of Cincinnati and watching Urban in his postgame press conference, I continue to believe that anyone who thinks they "know" what's going on with him longterm is deluding themselves. The odds are Meyer will coach again, and I'm sure he wants to, but there is no way to know that will actually occur right now.

I can't do justice to how important the Chandler Parsons miracle shot to beat NC State was yesterday. UF gets credit for a road win over an ACC team while picking up win number 11 going into conference play. With Vanderbilt on the road Saturday and Kentucky in Gainesville three days later, there's a great chance the Gators open at 0-2 in the SEC before the schedule lightens up quite a bit. Heading into that stretch with some momentum makes a giant difference in how they'll be perceived, and a clearly achievable nine win conference season guaruntees 20 wins and likely gets them into the NCAAs. The whole season may have turned on that shot. Having said that, Billy Donovan has got to convince the team to ease up on the three point tries. With a chance to win the game on the final regulation posesssion, there's no excuse for the shot to be from 23 feet out when you've been bricking them all day. Anyone can have a tough day, or even a couple of weeks. It's pretty clear by now, this is not a group of long range marksmen waiting to break out. Their game has to start reflecting that.

USC's AD Mike Garrett issued a press release yesterday announcing the school's decision to self impose sanctions on their basketball program as a result of the O.J. Mayo scandal under Tim Floyd. Garrett never makes himself available to the press for interviews, but included this comment...

"When we've done something wrong, we have an obligation to do something about it and that is exactly what we are doing here."

The amount of chutzpah it takes to put that statement out blows my mind. The Reggie Bush scandal has been public for almost half a decade. Joe McKnight's recent mysterious vehicle usage also has the Trojan football program under serious scrutiny. Any signs that USC is doing anything about either of those situations?

It turns out that when you betray someone by selling their personal life's dirty laundry to the National Enquirer, they get mad. Who could have guessed? Apparently not the woman who took 25 grand from the National Enquirer to discuss her supposed friend's affair with Tiger Woods. Ashley Samson whines to the New York Daily News that she's "bitter" about how she's been treated by Rachel Uchitel, the person whose life she chose to make hell in return for her forty pieces of silver. Not only that, but people in the city whose slogan is "What Happens Here, Stays Here" don't want to do business with her now. Shocking! I honestly wonder what planet some of these kind of people who stumble into the news through their sheer cluelessness grew up on.

What would you think if I told you to check out a show featuring sportswriters on television discussing the sports news of the week, with the occasional off the beaten path item mixed in? Sounds like half of every single day's programming on ESPN, right? All the screaming on Around the Horn or the Skip Bayless vs. Random Black Person show can't disguise the fact that the programs are crap. They feature arguing for the sake of arguing - all heat, no light. Once upon a time though, there was a show called the Sportswriters on TV. It was set in a basement and featured a group of Chicago area sportswriters talking primarily about Chicago sports. It aired on Sportschannel, and it was terrific because it was authentic. The guys on the show knew and liked each other, dressed casually and had personalities that were their own rather than forced and annoying like the ones displayed regularly on ESPN's screamfests. Rick Telander, the one "young guy" on the panel, wrote an excellent piece about it for Sports Illustrated in 1990, and the program continued for another decade after that. The Sportswriters on TV was mandatory viewing for me when I wa in high school and college. I was sorry to see that Bill Gleason, one of the primary panelists on the program, died at 87 this weekend. If you missed seeing him and the rest of the guys work, you missed out on a great show.