News Roundup - What You Need To Know 1/27
Posted Jan 27, 2009

The news items you need to know about ... with a spin.

2009 Off-Season Roundup

The News Stories You Need To Know ... Jan. 26

By Phil Guidry 

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."

Although these 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 definition?

* 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 Minnesota.

* 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 to run.

* 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 58...

* 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 counting...

(Links to stories referenced in the column...)


Sanchez not ready

Stanford cutting sports teams

House members on BCS

Swamp upgrades,0,4014029.story

Saban assistant

Greg Robinson

Rodriguez $6 million

Irish AD: No playoff

UW violations

USF speedster


NYT recruiting editor&st=cse&scp=2

Georgia assistant

Rich Brooks Ford

Pat White