2009 Off-Season Roundup
The News Stories You Need To Know ... Jan. 26
Even though it may
be a time of unity and rebirth in Washington, D.C., there is one thing
that continues to divide and enrage Americans all across the land:
college football's postseason. The annual House resolution commending
the sport's national champion (which was Florida, despite what you may
have heard or read) made headlines thanks to a dozen House members that
did not vote in its favor. Texas Rep. Joe Barton, who has introduced
legislation to force a playoff system, was one of the dissenting
voters: "A fine school with a great team deserves better than a
national championship that was decided inside somebody's computer. The
Gators certainly could have won it on the field, but they didn't get the
chance any more than Utah, Texas and USC."
various attempts to spite the BCS certainly are noble, they'll have more
gravitas when they're not spearheaded by someone whose own team has
recently been shafted. That said, how nervous do you think BCS
proponents were that President Obama was going to once again bang the
playoff drum during his inaugural speech?
* No doubt stung by
the House rebuke, the University of Florida announced plans for
multi-million dollar upgrades to The Swamp. Those renovations will be
highlighted by state of the art LED video boards in both endzones. Even
better, the new screens will be in place in time for the 2009 season.
The only question is, will Tim Tebow's halo be visible in high
* The team Florida
vanquished in the SEC title game, Alabama, may still be limping after
the decisive butt-kicking Utah applied in the Sugar Bowl, but Nick Saban
is taking his anger out on... Auburn. He has hired assistant coach James
Willis away from the Plains to replace linebackers coach Lance Thompson
(who left for Lane Kiffin's staff at Tennessee). So just to review, in
two short seasons in Tuscaloosa, here's what Saban has taken from
Auburn: recruits, the Iron Bowl trophy, a prized assistant and the
program's mojo in general. In other words, everything but "War Eagle."
* Lane Kiffin's
former employer, USC, is never far from the CFB headlines. One of the
knocks against Southern California is that they've burnished their
reputation largely by beating up on pretenders from the hapless Big Ten.
They've heeded that warning by scheduling an upcoming home-and-home
series against... Minnesota. To be fair, the 2010 game should feature an
electrifying atmosphere, as it will mark the Golden Gophers' first at
their new on-campus stadium. To be unfair, that game is still against
* Speaking of
unfair, Pete Carroll was widely criticized for hijacking Mark Sanchez's
farewell press conference by saying he didn't think his QB was ready for
the NFL. The NFL Network's Mike Mayock, though, agrees with Carroll's
assessment: "I don't think Sanchez or (Matt) Stafford play
immediately... My problem is I don't think (he's) ready in the immediate
future. He's got 16 college starts. I think another 13-14 starts would
have helped him." In a related story, Carroll reportedly has added
Mayock to his Christmas card list.
* At this rate they
might be canceling Christmas in Palo Alto, where Stanford's athletic
department is projecting a $5 million loss in revenue over the next
three years. As a result, the school that boasts the nation's best
all-around athletic department is considering cutting staff and
eliminating some sports teams. Considering that Stanford visits the L.A.
Coliseum in 2009, the Trojans are hoping that one of those eliminated
sports teams is football.
* Contrary to
popular belief, Michigan has not eliminated football. Despite last
year's waking nightmare, the Wolverines attracted former Syracuse head
coach Greg Robinson, who apparently joined Rich Rodriguez's staff not
thanks to the use of brute force or blackmail, but of his own volition.
Robinson claims he sought out the chance to coach for Rich Rod. There's
no truth to the rumors that Robinson also sought out a root canal,
ruptured plumbing in his bathroom and an I.R.S. audit.
* Maybe what
Robinson sought out was the generous nature of the university itself.
The hiring of Rodriguez, including buyouts and other fees, reportedly
cost UM over $6 million. Kadie Otto, an assistant sport management
professor at Western Carolina and president of The Drake Group, a
national organization devoted to reforming college athletics, said of
that figure, "It says a lot about our value system. For an employee of
higher education to be making that kind of money when faculty wouldn't
even approach that in their lifetime seems to be sending a mixed
message." Easy for you to say, Otto: when was the last time Western
Carolina lost to Ohio State?
* Another team that
beat Michigan last season (quite an open-ended segue, to be sure), Notre
Dame, rarely finds itself out of the spotlight. When he's not busy
fending off questions about the coach who was allegedly going to replace
Ty Willingham (Urban Meyer) or the coach who is allegedly going to
replace Charlie Weis (Jon Gruden), Irish AD Jack Swarbrick still manages
to find the time to rain on the playoff parade: "There is zero momentum
for (a college football playoff). I was on a panel recently in New York
at a conference with three other athletic directors. We were all asked
what percentage of college presidents did we think would be interested
in a college football playoff. And among the four athletic directors'
answers, the highest percentage anyone said was 15 percent." Maybe, but
that's only because Joe Barton wasn't on your panel.
* The other school
that fired Ty Willingham, Washington, saw its brand-new Steve Sarkisian-led
coaching staff earn a quick initiation into the big time: by committing
a recruiting violation. The Husky staff allegedly violated an NCAA rule
regarding simulating game-day environments by allowing recruits to burst
out of the locker room tunnel and through manufactured smoke, the same
way they might on game days. If they'd wanted to really simulate the
game day experience, though, they should have proceeded to charge onto
the field and get thoroughly trounced.
* Elsewhere on the
recruiting front, Meyer might like to claim he's put together the
fastest team in college football, but the fastest recruit in his home
state just slipped through his fingers. Running back Lindsey Lamar of
Tampa, who runs a 10.35 hundred meters, is staying home and enrolling at
South Florida. Speed kills... especially if it only has a short distance
* The recruiting
wars don't just revolve around uncommitted high school players. The big
programs are always looking to pick off disgruntled players from other
colleges. Take Robert Marve: the former Miami quarterback has reportedly
been contacted by Oklahoma about a possible transfer. Bob Stoops
apparently believes Marve is the type of big-time talent that could help
the Sooners return to another BCS title game (and lose).
* If you want deeper
insight into the absurdity of the recruiting wars, even the New York
Times has been sucked into its messy morass. The paper’s editors cast
some doubt about the accuracy of a recent recruiting feature, in which a
highly touted Texas prospect described a party where 'drugs and alcohol
were plentiful and young women took off their clothes and were
"romancing each other."' Some aspects of that story were found to be
embellished and inaccurate. It's nice to know that the Old Gray Lady's
fact-checking now means just watching "The Program."
* Players aren't the
only ones getting recruited this time of year. As noted earlier, so are
star assistants. One assistant who didn't jump ship for rival pastures
was Georgia D-line coach Rodney Garner. He passed up a $400,000 per year
offer at Tennessee to remain in Athens, where he has a one-year deal for
$263,000 per year because, as he put it, "I'm staying for a man, not for
money," referring to his relationship with Bulldog head coach Mark
Richt... who must be the greatest boss ever. How much do you love your
boss? Enough to pass up an extra $140,000 per year in this economy?
* Speaking of the
economy, Detroit's Big Three auto manufacturers might be taking a
beating but that's not stopping Paul Miller Ford of Lexington, Kentucky,
from releasing a special edition 2009 Rich Brooks Edition F-150 Crew Cab
Truck. The Kentucky coach's honorary ride features a customized paint
scheme of true blue, black and silver, along with Brooks signature
decals on the doors, tailgate, fenders and quarter panels. What better
way to celebrate a season in which you finished 7-6, went 2-6, lost four
of your last five regular season games and got hammered by Florida by
* Here's something
to celebrate, for real: the amazing college career of Pat White. After
the West Virginia star wrapped up his college career by becoming the
first player in FBS history to win four bowl games as a starting QB, he
went out and dominated the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. There's a lot
of buzz that White can't play quarterback in the NFL, and if you've seen
him play, you know that's a real tragedy. And yet another reason why
college football is a whole lot more fun. Thanks for the memories, Pat.
215 days and
(Links to stories
referenced in the column...)
Sanchez not ready
House members on BCS
Rodriguez $6 million
Irish AD: No playoff
Rich Brooks Ford