Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Memoriam: Judge Lionel “Red” Noonan. Roll Tide, sir

image US Navy veteran, former Alabama Crimson Tide Hero and long time Probate Judge Lionel “Red” Noonan has passed away. He died in Washington DC on Thursday, at the age of 86.

Red Noonan was known in Mobile as a man who always accentuated the positive and literally never met a man he couldn’t find common ground with and solve problems.

He volunteered for service with the US Navy immediately after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. After playing football briefly for the Midshipmen after the war, Noonan transferred to the University of Alabama, where he played for legendary head coach Frank Thomas, one of the five men to have a statue erected in his honor in the Walk of Champions at Bryant-Denny Stadium. He played in both the 1946 Rose Bowl and the 1948 Sugar Bowl.

Noonan was inducted into the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame in 2001. He was a member of the Southern Growth Policies Board, Mobile Impact, the Mobile Bar Association and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority, among other organizations.

From 1982 until 2001, Noonan served as Mobile County Probate Judge and oversaw a transformation of the office from a bureaucratic, paper-only behemoth into the digital age.

Judge Noonan was one of the finest men I ever met. Always smiling, and always looking for ways to improve the community he served and the lives of the people he met.

Roll Tide, Red.

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Friday, December 30, 2011

*** BREAKING *** Rocky Picks Bama, Y’ALL!


Rocky, an 18-month-old giant Pacific octopus in residence at the Point Defiant Zoo & Aquarium in Washington, has picked Alabama to beat LSU in the BCS championship game on Jan. 9, 2012.

Rocky at once seemed enamored with the Alabama pick, going to far as to completely ignore LSU as one of his options.

Rocky’s world famous cousin Paul accurately predicted eight winners in the 2010 World Cup.

So there, Honey Badger.

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The looming SEC East threat in... Nashville

Changing the culture of Vanderbilt

Published on College Sports: DC, Maryland & Virginia College Sports News - The Washington Post | shared via feedly
Leaving Maryland for Vanderbilt last December was not easy for Franklin because he had built close relationships with many parents and players, some of whom committed to Maryland primarily to play for him.

“What was hard for me is, I don’t think people realize when I left where the program was. And then when I came back it was in two completely different places. I worked so hard to help to turn that program back around. When you recruit the way I recruit and you sell kids to come to be a part of what you are trying to build, and it was obviously magnified especially the last year the last year and a half, not only was I selling a kid to be a part of Maryland but I was selling them to be a part of my future as well.

“It’s hard knowing what I was saying and doing in those homes and those kids come and I have to walk away. I felt I let them down. I feel like I let them down in a lot of ways because I know those parents and those kids and not only did they commit to Maryland, but they committed to me. So that’s hard. That was really, really hard.

 Read full article.

James Franklin: 'We're Running Out Of Scholarships'

Published on | shared via feedly

Vanderbilt is close to signing its most highly-rated recruiting class in school history.

The Commodores' 2012 class of 20 commitments is ranked 21st nationally by Vanderbilt has landed such highly-touted prospects as defensive end Josh Dawson, running back Brian Kimbrow and wide receiver Andre McDonald.

And there could be more top prospects on the way.

Commodores coach James Franklin told 104.5 The Zone in Nashville on Thursday that he expects Vanderbilt to close well on National Signing Day on Feb. 1

Read the full article.

From winning on the recruiting trail, to winning on the field and getting players to buy into his philosophy, Vandy's Franklin is a coach that is probably going to make some noise in the SEC East next season. To those who counter with the retort, "but it's still Vanderbilt," it's a more confident, more talented and better coached Vanderbilt than at almost any time in the program's history. This comes at the same time that Tennessee and Florida are struggling to regain their identities as traditional SEC East powerhouses. From doormat to third in the SEC East? It could happen and it would be a milestone for the program. Another building block.

Oklahoma State likely facing NCAA major infractions investigation

image In a FOX Sports exclusive, Senior College Football writer Thayer Evans details a troubling situation in the Oklahoma State Cowboys’ football program, in which a man is alleged to have provided improper benefits to current and former football players and refuses to cooperate with the schools’ internal compliance investigation.

From Evans’ report, it appears that the school has done everything in its power to get answers from Gannon Mendez  in its probe of his relationship with the football team. The school has reported minor violations in connection with the investigation including a $5 cocktail and the sales of gaming consoles the players received as gifts from the 2010 Alamo Bowl.

While these are ticky-tack secondary violations that will result in no loss of player eligibility and no sanctions for the school, the NCAA will almost certainly want to explore the depth of access Mendez has had with the football program.

Likely paths for the impending investigation include determination of Mendez’ status as a “booster” according to the NCAA’s definition of that term and whether the school adequately monitored its program to prevent someone like Mendez from providing the types of benefits detailed in Evans’ story.

  • NCAA Regulations
    The University is responsible for insuring that its various constituencies (e.g., University staff and faculty, coaches, student-athletes, alumni and friends) abide by NCAA rules and regulations. Under NCAA rules, all alumni, friends and employees of the University are categorized as "representatives of the University's athletics interests."
  • Representatives of a University's Athletics Interests - Who is a representative of the University’s athletics interests (i.e., a "booster")?
    NCAA Bylaw 13.02.11 defines the term "booster." In part, the rule states: 
    "A booster (i.e., representative of the institution's athletics interests) is an individual, independent agency, corporate entity (e.g. apparel or equipment manufacturer) or other organization who is known (or who should have known) by a member of the institution's executive or athletics administration to:
    • Have participated in or to be a member of an agency or organization promoting the institution's intercollegiate athletics program;
    • Have made financial contributions to the athletics department or to an athletics booster organization of that institution;
    • Be assisting or to have been requested (by the athletics department staff) to assist in the recruitment of prospects;
    • Be assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits to enrolled student-athletes or their families; or
    • Have been involved otherwise in promoting the institution's athletics program.

    Evans’ report indicates that while Mendez has apparently enjoyed an alarming degree of access to players in the ‘Pokes’ program, he is not a season ticket holder, nor has he made any financial contributions. However, this doesn’t rule out Mendez being defined as a booster, since he allegedly has engaged in “assisting or to have assisted in providing benefits” to the student-athletes. If he is defined as a booster, then the school is responsible for knowing about his activities and interaction with the program and preventing him from jeopardizing player eligibility by providing improper benefits.

  • The booster determination leads to the other path the investigation can be expected to take—determination of whether the school has “failed to monitor” or has demonstrated a “lack of institutional control” over its athletics program.

    In addition to Mendez, NCAA enforcement would also likely explore other individuals with “insider” access to the program to determine if Mendez is an isolated “rogue booster” or if there are others committing similar or perhaps even worse impermissible benefits violations.

    Most recently, the NCAA Committee on Infractions concluded that Ohio State University failed to monitor its football program in allowing numerous players to receive cash and other impermissible benefits. The decision came roughly one year after reports of the violations surfaced. Coach Jim Tressel later admitted that he had known of the violations months before the story became public and concealed the information. Tressel was fired and the program was saddled with a loss of nine scholarships over three years and a one-year post-season ban.

    It is far too early to determine what penalties Oklahoma State might face if there are any violations discovered beyond what’s already known. But Mendez’ refusal to cooperate will certainly pique the NCAA’s interest and this story could play out along timeline similar to that of the Ohio State case.

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    Thursday, December 29, 2011

    Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops yanking scholarships

    image ESPN’s Jake Trotter reports today that Oklahoma Sooners coach Bob Stoops is either encouraging some of his 2011 squad to transfer, or has told them that he is not renewing their scholarships for 2012.

    Some members of the team—in Arizona preparing for tomorrow’s Insight Bowl vs Iowa—have described it as a “weeding out” process and some of the comments from Stoops to Trotter would cause the media equivalent of a media meltdown if a big time SEC program were slashing scholarships.

    Stoops hasn’t “named names” and would not address any specific players involved, but some of the current players opened up and talked about the impact the move is having on them personally and the team as a whole.

    "It has affected us drastically in my eyes," sophomore linebacker Corey Nelson confessed Wednesday. "Just losing so many good players, so many good players that had so much potential. It made a lot of guys question whether they should stay here or not from here on out. It also just brought a lot of confusion to the players, trying to understand why these players were leaving, what was the main reason as to why they're leaving.

    "It has affected us all. I think it's still affecting us today. But we're just trying to put it behind us, since we have the game this week. But it still affects us."

    Asked about the situation, here are the comments attributed to Stoops by Trotter, via Trotter’s Twitter feed:


    Stoops’ move and the comments he made this week highlight a problem many see as central to reform of the NCAA and its oversight of how schools manage athletics programs. Following President Mark Emmert’s “Presidential Retreat” last summer, Emmert and a hand-picked committee proposed legislation that would allow schools to offer multi-year scholarships rather than the one-year renewable grants-in-aid in place since 1973.

     The membership has since rejected the proposal, sending it and another measure allowing schools to award a $2,000 cost of attendance stipend back to the board for reconsideration.

    While allowing schools the ability to award multi-year scholarships sounds like a good idea, most such “good ideas” usually run afoul of the Law of Unintended Consequences. In Oklahoma’s situation, Stoops would have to find some way of jettisoning the players he regards as dead weight on the team. The comment in the second tweet would probably be enough—if you’re skipping class or not showing up for practice—you don’t get a free ride at a Division I school, right? But then there would be an appeals process. And there might even be lawsuits, like the ones filed for former Rice player Joseph Agnew.

    The NCAA’s approach to the “problem” of one-year scholarships is akin to using a sledgehammer to reattach a piece of crown molding. You might get the job done but you’re just as likely to cause an uglier problem than the one you had before.

    The issue isn’t that student-athletes are unprotected without multi-year scholarships. The issue is the arbitrary nature with which some coaches remove players from their roster under the one-year deals. None of Stoops’ decisions in the weeks since the regular season ended appear to be arbitrary. There appear to be violations of team rules regarding practice attendance and class work.

    There isn’t a successful coach in college football who would arbitrarily cut good football players from his team. Suggesting that they might do so to make room for an incoming, untried prospect is lunacy. You don’t leave fish to find fish, and you don’t jettison good players for what might be another. Those are the coaches with scruples and successful résumés.

    There are some less scrupulous coaches who might arbitrarily make such decisions, and those are the coaches that student-athletes could use some extra protection from when signing with and playing for them. A legislative proposal removing some of the discretion from the coaches—perhaps through a review board at the conference or NCAA level—would solve the majority of the arbitrariness issues while also avoiding what Boise State called the “recruiting disaster” of multi-year scholarships and bidding wars between schools.

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    Mike London’s success story at Virginia leading him to Penn State?

    image There’s a great profile piece on the Virginia Cavaliers’ Mike London written by’s Auburn Bureau Beat Writer Evan Woodbery.

    London is a Virginia native and after graduating from Richmond, London went professional in something other than sports and became a Richmond Police Officer. Seven years later, he entered the college coaching world and now uses his passion and straight-talk nature to form a cohesive football squad that believes in him.

    London’s name was one of the first to pop up in connection with the Penn State job when the school fired Joe Paterno in November.

    Woodbery explains how London has used his non-athletics contacts in the Commonwealth to stress academic performance and community service.

    But what stands out about London is the fire he has and the way the players feel about their relationship with their coach. What London has accomplished at Virginia is similar to what James Franklin is attempting to do at Vanderbilt—take an academically challenging school and make it into a football power. They’re both doing it with passion, intensity and a no-excuses attitude that players respond to. When big name coaching jobs come open in the future, the Mike London’s and James Franklin’s of the coaching fraternity are going to come up.

    "He's passionate. He'll tell you how he feels," said offensive lineman Luke Bowanko. "He cares about us 100 percent. If he's worried about us, he'll bring us into his office and sit us down. He'll fight to the end for us."

    London inherited an ACC doormat that had won just three games the year before he was hired. He went 4-8 in 2010, then flipped that record into an 8-4 campaign in 2011, earning him ACC Coach of the Year honors. He and his players view the upcoming Chick Fil-A matchup against Auburn as a major milestone the program’s development. They may just want to win that one more than Auburn does, even if Auburn probably has the more talented team.

    Where’s the Penn State connection? Why would the Nittany Lions reach out to someone with no connections to the school? A strong possibility is that they were sent in that direction by the very first individual PSU headhunters reached out to -- Penn State alum and current Miami head coach Al Golden. Golden decided not to pursue the opening after one year on the job at Coral Gables and reports surfaced that London was next on the list.

    Golden and London were colleagues at Virginia in the 1990’s.

    Both London and Virginia moved quickly to deny rumors of a pending move and speculation then moved onto other names. But one has to wonder what might happen after the two programs finish their bowl games this weekend.

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    The Annual IBCR SEC Bowl Slate Viewers Guide

    image With a 6:40 kickoff at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, the SEC’s nine bowl teams begin postseason play. Here’s a rundown of the matchups with kickoff times and what to look for in each.

    MUSIC CITY – Friday, Dec 30, 6:40 ESPN, Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest. Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs were picked to make some noise in the SEC West this year, but slipped to a 6-6 overall record and a disappointing 2-6 in SEC play. Wake Forest is a middling ACC team that also comes in with a 6-6 record. State is favored by 7 but their more physical style of play could be a real problem for the Demon Deacons.

    LIBERTY – Saturday, Dec 31, 3:30 ESPN, Vanderbilt vs. Cincinnati. Like Mississippi State, Vanderbilt went 2-6 in SEC play. Cincinnati comes in as a 9-3 Big East co-champion. Commodores’ coach James Franklin has his team playing at a high level of confidence and had both Arkansas and SEC East champ Georgia on the ropes late in the fourth quarter. This should be another physical matchup and expect the Commodores to play well enough to win.

    CHICK FIL-A – Saturday, Dec 31, 7:30 ESPN, Auburn vs. Virginia. Auburn played poorly against the five best teams they played and were blown out each time. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn are off to new gigs at UCF and Arkansas State. Virginia’s Mike London has resuscitated a Cavalier football team. This should be a fun game to watch—Virginia will try to exploit a leaky Auburn run defense while Chizik’s Tigers will try to get a young quarterback hitting on all cylinders. Take the over.

    CAPITAL ONE – Monday, Jan 2, 1:00 ESPN, Nebraska vs. South Carolina. The Gamecocks are seeking their first 11-win season in program history. Under Steve Spurrier, the program has made a number of strides and has steadily improved its stature in the SEC. Even after a 9-3 season, the Cornhuskers come in as something of a “mystery guest.” Will it be the team that smacked Ohio State and Michigan State, or the team that got blown out by Michigan? Another interesting tidbit—Steve Spurrier is 7-10 all time in bowl games and several of his Florida and South Carolina teams simply don’t show up in the postseason.

    GATOR – Monday, Jan 2, 1:00, EPSN2, Ohio State vs. Florida. Two of college football’s recent heavyweights go at it in a rematch of the 2007 BCS Championship Game. How the mighty have fallen—both teams come in at 6-6 and played poorly during the season.  Of course, the real buzz in this game will be the Urban Meyer story, who left Florida after last season, took a year off from coaching and was hired by Ohio State to replace the fired Jim Tressel.

    OUTBACK – Monday, Jan 2, 1:00, ABC, Michigan State vs. Georgia. In the third of three bowl games set to kick off at the same time, the Spartans take on SEC East Champ Bulldogs. Both teams come in at 10-3. Michigan State was thoroughly embarrassed by Alabama in last year’s Capital One Bowl, so expect them to play with more intensity and purpose this time around. Georgia has struggled against the best teams they played this year, losing to Boise State and South Carolina to start 0-2, then dropping a blowout in the SEC Championship Game to LSU. Is Michigan State up to the same task? This should be another close one, unless Michigan State learned nothing last year.

    COTTON – Friday, Jan 6, 8:00, Fox, Arkansas vs. Kansas State. If Arkansas can’t be in a BCS bowl, then the Cotton is where hog fans want to be. The Wildcats enjoyed one of their best seasons in forever and are excited about the future. The two teams come into Jerry World with identical 10-2 records and the ability to light up the scoreboard with potent offenses. This should be one of the most interesting and high-scoring bowl games on the season, and the fact that it’s the only game on TV that night should draw in the viewers.

    BCS CHAMPIONSHIP – Monday, Jan 9, ESPN, Alabama vs. LSU. There’s been enough ink spilled and bandwidth burned on the legitimacy of the “Rematch of the Century.” Like it or not though, fans tuning in will be treated to a contest between the two best teams in the country. When watching the first 12-round heavyweight bout, you got the sense that these two teams were playing not to lose. There were a lot of points left on the field because the coaching staffs played close to the vest. Do you think that’ll happen again? Me either. I expect the gloves to come off and I expect to see both teams taking chances that were unconscionable two months ago.

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    Wednesday, December 28, 2011

    College coaches and power: How much is too much?

    Published on USATODAY NCAAF | shared via feedly
    Alabama is where Joe Namath is said to have used the school president's parking spot as his own, where it's less a joke than honest truth that the governor toils in the shadow of the flagship university's football coach.

    Current University of Alabama President Robert Witt tore at that football-foremost notion almost as soon as he took the job nearly nine years ago, ousting misbehaving Mike Price before the newly named coach ever worked a game. As engineering professor Clark Midkiff remembers, "It was rumored that a member of the board of trustees did not want him to fire Coach Price, and Bob Witt said, 'It's either me or him.'

    "Were that to be a situation between him and Nick Saban, who would win?" Midkiff says of the man who has coached today's Crimson Tide within reach of a second national championship in three years.

    Jealous over media buzz created by the 2012 SEC schedule, Pac-12 and Big 10 announce interleague plans

    image Jim Delany and Larry Scott can’t stand it. At 9:00 am this morning, the Southeastern Conference released the 14-team schedule for the 2012 football season. The crowd went wild. “The new schedule is here! The new schedule is here! Have you seen the new schedule yet?”

    The commissioners of the Pac 12 and Big 10 were not to be outdone by their big brothers in the SEC. Oh, hell no. So a mere few hours after the SEC’s media splash, the two conferences jointly announced plans to have each member program playing an opponent from the other league every year, beginning in 2017.

    In all seriousness, this is great news for everyone except the Rose Bowl, who is now much more likely to get a rematch of a regular season game in the Granddaddy of Them All. Some of the regular season matchups will be must-see football. Think Michigan vs. USC. Ohio State vs. Oregon. Nebraska vs. Stanford. Tell the truth—you’d watch those games, wouldn’t you?

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    Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rogers mirrors brother Aaron

    Ask Vanderbilt football coach James Franklin a question and there is no such thing as a short answer.

    But when it comes to talking about redshirt junior quarterback Jordan Rodgers' bloodline, Franklin basically gives a Forrest Gump response: "And that's all I have to say about that" response.

    "I actually go out of my way not to talk about his brother," Franklin said. "There's a lot of pressure about that and I don't want him to feel he has to live up to up to anything." 

    Read more.

    SEC Football Schedule: The return of the Third Saturday in October!

    image In a media event worthy of the NFL, the Southeastern Conference has released the 2012 football schedule. Nobody cares about the 2012 schedule until’s CrimsonAudio prepares the Helmet Edition, right?

    That usually doesn’t happen until March, so settle down, y’all.

    The first conference matchup happens early. South Carolina will travel to Nashville to take on upstart Vanderbilt August 30. In a refreshing, almost surprising change: The Third Saturday in October returns. Let us hope that this storied, time-honored traditional matchup between Alabama and Tennessee continues to occur on the Third Saturday well into the future.

    Gone is the notion that the SEC would move to a nine-game schedule. That made absolutely no sense to anyone in the league because it would force each of the 14 member programs to give up an SEC home game every other season. Half of the schools would play four home games and five away, while the other half plays five home and four away. Home games are money machines and SEC home games would have to be pried away from the schools’ cold, dead fingers.

    The team by team slate:

    Sept. 15: at Arkansas
    Sept. 29: OLE MISS
    Oct. 13: at Missouri
    Oct. 20: at Tennessee
    Nov. 3: at LSU
    Nov. 10: TEXAS A&M
    Nov. 24: AUBURN

    Sept. 15: ALABAMA
    Sept. 29: vs. Texas A&M
    Oct. 6: at Auburn
    Oct. 13: KENTUCKY
    Oct. 27: OLE MISS
    Nov. 10: at South Carolina
    Nov. 17: at Mississippi State
    Nov. 24: LSU

    Sept. 8: at Mississippi State
    Sept. 22: LSU
    Oct. 6: ARKANSAS
    Oct. 13: at Ole Miss
    Oct. 20: at Vanderbilt
    Oct. 27: TEXAS A&M
    Nov. 10: GEORGIA
    Nov. 24: at Alabama

    Sept. 8: at Texas A&M
    Sept. 15: at Tennessee
    Sept. 22: KENTUCKY
    Oct. 6: LSU
    Oct. 13: at Vanderbilt
    Oct. 27: vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)
    Nov. 3: MISSOURI

    Sept. 8: at Missouri
    Sept. 22: VANDERBILT
    Sept. 29: TENNESSEE
    Oct. 6: at South Carolina
    Oct. 20: at Kentucky
    Oct. 27: vs. Florida (Jacksonville)
    Nov. 3: OLE MISS
    Nov. 10: at Auburn

    Sept. 22: at Florida
    Sept. 29: SOUTH CAROLINA
    Oct. 13: at Arkansas
    Oct. 20: GEORGIA
    Oct. 27: at Missouri
    Nov. 3: VANDERBILT
    Nov. 24: at Tennessee

    Sept. 22: at Auburn
    Oct. 6: at Florida
    Oct. 20: at Texas A&M
    Nov. 3: ALABAMA
    Nov. 17: OLE MISS
    Nov. 24: at Arkansas

    Sept. 29: at Alabama
    Oct. 6: TEXAS A&M
    Oct. 13: AUBURN
    Oct. 27: at Arkansas
    Nov. 3: at Georgia
    Nov. 10: VANDERBILT
    Nov. 17: at LSU

    Sept. 8: AUBURN
    Oct. 6: at Kentucky
    Oct. 13: TENNESSEE
    Oct. 27: at Alabama
    Nov. 3: TEXAS A&M
    Nov. 10: at LSU
    Nov. 17: ARKANSAS
    Nov. 24: at Ole Miss

    Sept. 8: GEORGIA
    Sept. 22: at South Carolina
    Oct. 6: VANDERBILT
    Oct. 13: ALABAMA
    Oct. 27: KENTUCKY
    Nov. 3: at Florida
    Nov. 10: at Tennessee
    Nov. 24: at Texas A&M

    Aug. 30: at Vanderbilt
    Sept. 22: MISSOURI
    Sept. 29: at Kentucky
    Oct. 6: GEORGIA
    Oct. 13: at LSU
    Oct. 20: at Florida
    Oct. 27: TENNESSEE
    Nov. 10: ARKANSAS

    Sept. 15: FLORIDA
    Sept. 29: at Georgia
    Oct. 13: at Mississippi State
    Oct. 20: ALABAMA
    Oct. 27: at South Carolina
    Nov. 10: MISSOURI
    Nov. 17: at Vanderbilt
    Nov. 24: KENTUCKY

    Sept. 8: FLORIDA
    Sept. 29: vs. Arkansas
    Oct. 6: at Ole Miss
    Oct. 20: LSU
    Oct. 27: at Auburn
    Nov. 3: at Mississippi State
    Nov. 10: at Alabama
    Nov. 24: MISSOURI

    Sept. 22: at Georgia
    Oct. 6: at Missouri
    Oct. 13: FLORIDA
    Oct. 20: AUBURN
    Nov. 3: at Kentucky
    Nov. 10: at Ole Miss
    Nov. 17: TENNESSEE

    Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    Reporters: Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz farts in your general direction

    Iowa Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz became annoyed by reporters pressing him on personnel matters after an Insight Bowl practice yesterday.

    “Boy, you guys have great sources. I passed gas out there about an hour into practice. Did you guys catch that on mic? I'll see if I can muster one up for you right now."

    Love ya, coach.

    via USA Today.

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    It’s late December. Cue the Jon Gruden rumors!

    image It’s that time of year again, folks!

    While the college coaching carousel is spinning down (only Penn State has yet to name a new head coach), the NFL version is just warming up. The final weekend of the 2011 season is upon us and all of the usual suspects are being rounded up as we speak.

    What would an NFL coaching carousel be without rumors of Jon Gruden returning to the brotherhood of football coaching?

    The San Diego Union Tribune cites typically anonymous sources in reporting that if the Chargers fire General Manager AJ Smith, the Rams will pick him up and Smith will bring Gruden with him.

    People familiar with Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s plans said Monday that Kroenke is waiting for [Chargers owner Dean] Spanos to make a move on Smith. If Smith is available, league and agent sources strongly indicated that Smith will be hired as Rams’ general manager and bring along Jon Gruden as head coach.

    Sources said Gruden has decided to return to coaching in 2012 and that his current employer, ESPN, is already preparing for his departure.

    Spokesmen for ESPN and the Rams declined comment on Monday night.

    Smith also declined comment when asked both about his future employment or his association with Gruden.

    Gruden was fired by the Buccaneers following the 2008 season and joined the ESPN Monday Night Football crew for the 2009 season. Although his name has come up each year since then, he has never shown any interest in leaving the broadcast booth.

    ESPN announced in October that the network and the former coach had agreed on a new contract that would keep him in the booth for the next five years.

    "I said I want to get good at this," Gruden said at the time. "I was serious about this from the day I started it and I am serious about wanting to get good at it. I spent 26 or 27 years in coaching, 18 of them in the NFL. I want to focus on this and get better every day."

    Gruden’s name also comes up in connection with high profile college coaching jobs. In 2009, rumors swam that he was the lead candidate for the Tennessee Vols job, eventually filled by Derek Dooley. In 2010, unsourced reports had him agreeing in principle to take the Miami Hurricanes job, eventually filled by Al Golden. Google “Jon Gruden” and “Penn State,” and the predictable parade of Bleacher Report stories linking him to the Nittany Lions top the list.

    The Union Trib is a credible news organization. They may have legitimate sources and Gruden might actually be considering a return this time. But given his comments just a couple of months ago, I’m betting it’s not likely.

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    Nick Saban to Texas? Oh, wait…

    image Sorry, rival SEC fans. DeLoss Dodds is tired of your endless Bunker rants and Tiger droppings about a pending retirement of Texas head coach Mack Brown.

    He’s had it up to here [points to his forehead] of the appurtenant talk radio chatter that Mack is tired of the grind and wants to step aside.

    He’s had quite enough of the cockamamie black helicopter nonsense about Nick Saban being in dire financial straits and wishing to get away from the pressure of coaching at Alabama. So much so, as the story goes, that he’s in line to replace the 14-year veteran head coach of the Texas Longhorns and take over a cushier, less pressure job in Austin.

    How tired is the Texas athletic director of all this nonsense?

    Dodds is extending Brown’s contract.

    “I’m just tired of all the conversations (rumors about Brown’s retirement),” Dodds told the American-Statesman. “Continuity is of the essence. It’s more about stability than anything else.

    “Mack’s comfortable with what he’s doing right now,” Dodds added. “I think he’s very comfortable. He’s enjoying it. I’ve been around him 14 years, and he seems to be into it. “Everything I know points to him being happy and wanting to do it for a while.”

    That giant crunch you just heard was the sound of thousands of ankles breaking as rival fans jump off the “Saban leaving” bandwagon. Nick Saban’s not going anywhere. Mack Brown’s job is among the safest in the country. The seat’s so cold that Brown’s cheeks are turning blue and the faces of the famed insiders are turning red.

    And the cockamamie stories about Saban’s finances and mental health are just so much bullshit, spread by people with a penchant for making things up as they go along and concocting stories so elaborate they’d have made Rube Goldberg blush in appreciation for their silliness.

    Next up will be the clandestine connection between Saban, non-profit organizations and churches near Lake Burton, Georgia and how Saban will have to leave Tuscaloosa to cover his nefarious tracks. Why, this is so big that it’s too much for ordinary people to understand. Or something.

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    It’s the defense, Bruce!

    image We really hate picking on’s Bruce Feldman because as college sports writers go, there aren’t many  better. He has remarkable insight, great sources and a great nose for “the story.”

    But like most of his colleagues, he doesn’t “get it” when it comes to figuring out why certain teams will do better or worse than others. In preseason prognostications, most sports media analysts look for flash, and flash is always on the offensive side of the ball. But after the regular season has ended, many of those prognostications usually look silly and it’s usually because the forecaster forgot or ignored the single most important aspect of college football.

    It’s the defense.

    Defense has always been much more important in college football than offense. Always. There have been quirky seasons where freaks of nature like Cam Newton take a great offensive game plan and make solid defenses look silly. Those are exceptions. They are not the rule and the 2010 season didn’t herald any paradigm shift in how the game of college football is played. Unlike the NFL, the greatest teams play the greatest defense and the teams that do play great defense win championships. Look at each of the last five SEC squads to bring home the hardware, and you will find speedy and physical defensive units.

    Look at Bruce’s preseason top ten best and worst predictions and you’ll see a familiar pattern emerging. To wit:

    1. Oklahoma to win it all: Oklahoma finished 61st in total defense. The Sooners gave up 383 yards per game.

    2. FSU is back and ready to play in a BCS bowl:  Florida State was sixth in total defense, but in each of its four losses losses the Seminoles gave up 300+ yards. Clemson and Wake Forest hung 35 points on the board and those two teams combined to rack up 760 yards.

    3. Maryland could go 8-4:  Maryland ended the season 108th in total defense and gave up a whopping 457 yards of total defense and yielded 34 points per game.

    4. Texas A&M is a top 15 team: The Aggies were 65th in total defense and yielded 386 yards per game. In each of their six losses this season, Sherman’s team had comfortable leads going into the third and fourth quarter, only to see the defense disappear and the opponent rack up whatever points needed to win.

    5. Gus Malzahn - the hottest assistant in college football: Malzahn is a heck of an offensive football coach and he is responsible for at least two (if not four) of Auburn’s seven wins this season. But under defensive coordinator Ted Roof, Auburn has had the worst three year run of defensive production in program history. When the offense is sitting on the sidelines watching the opponent convert third down after third down, it’s hard to get your stock up as a head coaching candidate. Roof was soft-fired and left to take the Central Florida job. See below…

    6. Nebraska is going to win the Big Ten: The Huskers were 36th in total defense and gave up 350+ yards per game. Most glaringly, Pelini’s defense gave up 160 yards per game on the ground, good for only 66th in the country. When you needed a first down on third and three, you handed off the ball and the defense gave it up.

    7. Notre Dame will win 10 games and make the BCS:  Kelly’s Fighting Irish defense fought their way to 34th in the country in total defense and 349 yards per game. Against the best offenses they played, Notre Dame gave up 35 points to Michigan, 31 points to USC and 28 points to Stanford.

    8. At worst, Tennessee will go 7-5: Dooley’s Vols were 28th nationally in total defense at 340 yards per game. That’s quite pedestrian even on the national level but in the SEC, the Vols were in the lower half of the conference in every defensive category. Rushing defense—always a strength in Knoxville—turned out to be the team’s weakness. They gave up 163 yards per game on the ground, good for 69th in the country and 8th in the SEC.

    9. Clemson will struggle again and Dabo Swinney may be forced out: Clemson had a great early run, starting 8-0 before a visit to Bobby Dodd Stadium and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets racked up 383 yards on the ground and late in the fourth quarter, Clemson’s defense couldn’t get a third down stop and get off the field. In the 8-0 start that took the Tigers to a No. 6 ranking, Clemson simply outscored their opponents. Had Chad Morris’ offense not carried the day, Bruce probably would have been right on this one.

    10. UCF would be a borderline Top 25 team: O’Leary’s Knights had a statistically sound defense, finishing the season as the 11th best in the country overall and best in Conference USA. But at the end of the season, O’Leary fired defensive coordinator John Skladany and linebackers coach Al Seamonson. O’Leary dismissed the statistics and called the team’s defensive performance “misleading.” How misleading? Well, letting UAB hang around long enough to kick a winning FG with seconds left on the clock misleading. Don’t look for any significant upswing in the 2012 Knight defense. They hired Ted Roof from Auburn…

    In late summer of 2012, a whole new round of predictions will be written, published and discussed. As the season plays out between September and early December, the biggest disappointments will almost certainly be the prognostications made without careful consideration of the teams’ expected defensive performance.

    Indeed, last summer the buzz about Alabama and LSU centered on quarterback controversies. Those two teams went a combined 24-1 and will square off for the second time this season in the BCS Championship Game. Who would have seen that coming?

    Anyone who understood and expected the two teams to field the staunchest, most ferocious defenses in the country. In college football, offense sells tickets but defense wins championships. When making predictions, ignore that rule at your own peril.

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    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Evaluating the Alabama Defense

    All the hype surrounding the high-flying offenses of Oklahoma State, Baylor, Houston and Oregon proves that the first half of the old adage is accurate. Offense does sell tickets.

    But when Grantland breaks down the Alabama defense, you understand what really wins championships and why the Southeastern Conference will carry home its sixth straight BCS title.

    This is must-know material if you really dig getting into the X’s and O’s of the game of football. But if all you want to do is impress the hell out of people you hang out and talk football with, this stuff helps you explain the versatility of the Crimson Tide defense and its potential for big plays.

    There will be plenty to say about this matchup in the coming weeks. (Especially since the teams have already played — or hadn't you heard?) But for now, despite all of the above evidence of offenses' increasing dominance, because those offenses were in turn dominated by LSU's and Alabama's defenses there is no choice but to declare this season the year that, channeling William F. Buckley, those two teams stood athwart the march of history yelling, "Stop!" It was the year of defense.


    In the example that begins with the snapshot above, author Chris Brown explains how Alabama showed Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson a Cover 2, while cleverly disguising an actual three-deep zone. Step by step, you learn how Nick Saban shows you an alignment you’ve already seen, inviting you to shift emphasis to take what that defensive set gives you. But at the last second, Saban has his defense switch into an alignment designed to exploit exactly what you were doing to exploit his weakness.

    The 3-4 alignment was designed to allow this kind of flexibility and sleight-of-hand. LSU defensive coordinator is just as cagey with his 4-3 playcalling, meaning that the next clash of these two SEC titans is likely to be another hard-fought defensive struggle.

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    Sunday, December 25, 2011

    Bama’s intensity waning, says columnist

    image Via Steve Eubanks of FOX Sports.

    The 43-day layoff for Alabama is exactly seven days longer than the 36-day layoff “suffered” by LSU, who gained an extra week of practice and intensity in preparation for and playing in the SEC Championship Game.

    While the intensity of fans not pulling for the Crimson Tide and Bayou Bengals might have dropped off a bit amid gifts, celebrations, family gatherings, church services and tables full of food, I think I can speak fairly confidently that there’s been no dropoff in this part of the world.

    And suggesting that either team might play with less enthusiasm or intensity because they’ve been off for five or six weeks, well…

    You tell me how much sense that makes.


    Forty-three days. A month and a half. Longer than summer training camp. Longer than Drew Barrymore and Britney Spears' first marriages.

    That’s how long Alabama will have waited between the Iron Bowl and the BCS Championship Game.

    For all its many flaws – and they are legend – the biggest gripe against the BCS is the long, long wait between the end of the regular season and the crowning of a national champion.

    According to Tide offensive lineman Barrett Jones, “It’s weird after you haven’t done it for a few days just to go through the steps and that kind of stuff. Especially for me, I’ve missed a few days this year. To get back out there kind of for the first time full speed in a long time was an adjustment.”

    It will be an adjustment for the fans as well, especially those who went from the highs of watching their teams every week to eating turkey and drinking eggnog for the better part of a month.

    Enthusiasm has an expiration date. And just as the players have to rev themselves back up to full speed, Tide and Tiger fans will have to shift gears sometime after the New Year.

    I don’t think Eubanks quite has his arms around what football means in this part of the world.

    These two programs meet in annual slobber-knockers every November. The last one wasn’t a whole lot different from the one last year, or the year before that. They know each other all too well. The fact that Alabama will have been off six weeks and LSU off for five means absolutely nothing to either team or the fans of the two programs. The only dropoff in enthusiasm will be found in states not named Alabama and Louisiana.

    In November, two great teams met the field, played it close to the vest and ended regulation play tied. That’s usually what happens when you play not to lose. Don’t look for that kind of mindset this time. It’s gonna be off the chain.

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    2011 Sportsman of the Year: Barrett Jones

    When someone comes along as genuine as Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones, you want to cling to every one of his feel-good attributes.

    So many bad things have happened in college football in the past year -- scandals at Penn State, Ohio State and Miami -- that anything positive is increasingly met with skepticism.

    It's why when someone comes along as genuine and humble as Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones, you want to cling to every one of his feel-good attributes.

    Is there actually an athlete, like this winner of the 2011 Outland Trophy as college football's best interior lineman, whose community service comes from his heart, not from a court order?
    Read More.

    Friday, December 23, 2011

    Craig James' attorney seeks depositions from book publishers

    Published on Lubbock Online Local News | shared via feedly

    An attorney for former ESPN college football analyst Craig James has filed legal documents in Collin County District Court, asking a judge to allow him to take depositions from representatives of the publishers of former Tech football coach Mike Leach's book "Swing Your Sword" and Michael Lee Lanning's book "Double T — Double Cross."

    Mike O’Brien, a Washington, Texas-based attorney, wants the depositions from Scottsdale Book Publishing LLC, which published Lanning’s book, and Diversion Publishing Corp. LLC, the eBook publishing company of Leach’s book to investigate a potential claim against them. The petition was filed Dec. 12 in the 199th District Court of Collin County.

    “The best way for me to explain why this is filed, is to tell you it’s the first step in being able to get the truth out about what happened,” O’Brien said. “Craig (James) has been silent waiting for (his son Adam James) to finish his senior year, and Leach has been on a media blitz with two books. For us, it’s time for the truth to come out.”
    read more

    Neither Leach nor Swing Your Sword co-author .Bruce Feldman are involved in the complaint or the motion filed earlier this month. But Leach's lawyer said he wasn't surprised and believes James is pulling a campaign stunt.. 
    “I believe that citizens of Texas know the real Craig James, and the truth will put this matter to rest,” said Leach attorney Ted Liggett.

    This is Texas, y'all. This is a red state, but it's a football state, too. Don't think for one minute that the good folks of the Lone Star State don't know exactly who this knucklehead is and what took place at Texas Tech.

    South Carolina’s Jadeveon “Doo Doo” Clowney in apparent NCAA violation

    Throw the Flag is showing that University of South Carolina’s freshman defensive standout Jadeveon Clowney is likely running afoul of NCAA by-laws prohibiting the use of a student-athlete’s likeness to promote a business or for-profit enterprise. Here’s a flyer for a Christmas-season birthday party hosted by the Gamecocks’ own Cee Cee Whitlock & JaDeveon “Doo Doo” Clowney.”


    The NCAA by-laws apparently being violated here:

    The rules in question are and, respectively: Advertisements and Promotions After Becoming a Student-Athlete. After becoming a student-athlete, an individual shall not be eligible for participation in intercollegiate athletics if the individual:
    (a) Accepts any remuneration for or permits the use of his or her name or picture to advertise, recommend or promote directly the sale or use of a commercial product or service of any kind; or
    (b) Receives remuneration for endorsing a commercial product or service through the individual’s use of such product or service. Use of a Student-Athlete’s Name or Picture Without Knowledge or Permission. If a student-athlete’s name or picture appears on commercial items (e.g., T-shirts, sweatshirts, serving trays, playing cards, posters) or is used to promote a commercial product sold by an individual or agency without the student-athlete’s knowledge or permission, the student-athlete (or the institution acting on behalf of the student-athlete) is required to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics. Such steps are not required in cases in which a student-athlete’s photograph is sold by an individual or agency (e.g., private photographer, news agency) for private use.

    Statements obtained by IBCR from the NCAA indicate that while this may be a technical violation of rules implemented to prevent businesses from exploiting student-athletes’ athletics reputation, there is rarely an eligibility consequence if the student-athlete doesn’t know or permit the activity and he or the school take steps to end it. “There would be no eligibility consequences for the student-athlete as long as they did not have any knowledge and the school issues a cease and desist notice,” NCAA spokeswoman Stacy Osburn told IBCR last August, in connection with the T-Town Menswear non-story.

    IBCR has also reviewed summaries for nearly two dozen cases similar to the Clowney (and TTMW) story. The case summaries were provided as a courtesy by Dr. Anastasios Kaburakis, Assistant Professor of Management and Sports Business in the John Cook School of Business at
    Saint Louis University.

    Not one of them produced permanent losses of eligibility or major infractions cases against the schools involved.

    Nevertheless, Throw the Flag’s find is significant in that South Carolina recently admitted to a series of major infractions in connection with an improper benefits case involving lodging and other violations, and is considered a repeat violator under NCAA by-laws.

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    Thursday, December 22, 2011

    Penn State's "measured" approach suggests NFL route

    Published on | Shared via MailWire

    Penn State interim Athletic Director has issued the following statement regarding the search to replace Joe Paterno as head coach:

     "As we head into the holidays, I wanted to share an update on the search for the next head football coach at Penn State. We are continuing to talk with individuals that we're interested in and work through the interview process. As I'm sure all can appreciate, this is a very important hire for Penn State and, as a result, the search committee is taking a very deliberate and measured approach to the process in order to identify the coach that best fits the requirements of the position. 

    "We look forward to introducing our new football coach at the appropriate time. In the interim, I'd like to wish everyone happy holidays as well as remind all Penn Staters to support our team and its 23 seniors as they compete against the 12-1 Houston Cougars in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas on January 2nd."  
     The school is clearly in no hurry to name the coach who will walk into the most difficult coaching job since Ray Perkins replaced Paul Bryant at Alabama. And the "deliberate" nature of the search indicates that the school is likely leaning heavily towards drawing someone from the NFL rather than the college ranks.

    Penn State remains the only FBS school with an open head coaching position.

    Saban and staff provide wise counsel to juniors contemplating the NFL

    Published on | shared via feedly
    Alabama coach Nick Saban said players eligible for the NFL draft, who express interest, go through an evaluation process. Saban said his staff collects information from as many as half the NFL teams to determine where they might select Alabama's players, or what teams might have interest.

    "Based on that information we've done a pretty good job of getting that because every guy that has gone out the last couple of years has been a first-round draft pick," Saban said. "That's the information that we have. The guys that chose to stay in school were probably second- or third-round draft picks based on the evaluations we got from these teams."

    Published on Montgomery Advertiser - Bama | shared via feedly

    Saban said the decision-making process for Fluker was no different than for any other underclassmen considering the draft. If they were first-round material, leaving school was the right choice.

    If not, another year of development couldn't hurt.

    "Based on the information we had, D.J. made a very mature decision about his readiness and the business part of what he should do relative to his development," Saban said.
    Read more. 

    Bottom line: Few coaching staffs do a better job of advising players when it's in their interest to leave the program early and enter the NFL draft. This is one of the reasons why Alabama continues to recruit so well--prospects with legitimate NFL potential know they'll get the best development and the best advice.

    Terry Bowden: From Tater Tot to Zipper Tot

    Via ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, who caused a bit of a Twitter chuckle with the original headline: Sources: Terry Auburn hired as coach at Akron (see Feedly screenshot below).

    Click here to view full size

    In taking over the Akron Zips, Terry Bowden, aka Tater Tot, will return to the FBS ranks for the first time since 1998 when he was forced out at Auburn after reportedly [ahem] dipping himself into the wrong container of ketchup.

    Akron, hide yo wives, hide yo kids, hide yo secretaries…

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    Neither Bama nor Auburn likely to make hires before bowls, but Chizik’s choice is critical

    image Alternate headline: Auburn’s Gene Chizik to prolong fan anguish for a few more weeks.

    Both Alabama and Auburn enter the holidays looking for new coordinators. Don’t expect either Nick Saban or Gene Chizik to make those hires before 2012 rolls around, but Chizik’s hires will be worth careful scrutiny.

    Alabama will replace offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who takes over the head coaching job at Colorado State after the BCS Championship Game. Auburn needs a matched set—defensive coordinator Ted Roof left for the same job at Central Florida and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn left to take the Arkansas State head coaching position.

    As covered in an entry earlier this week, it’s unlikely that Saban’s new guy will be a splashy coach known for his “decided schematic advantage.” We already know what kind of offense Alabama is going to run in 2012 and anyone expecting the Tide to sling the ball around the field 50+ times in a game will be bored silly. Saban will make his choice, the new coach will be announced (but not introduced) to the media, and it’ll be business as usual in Tuscaloosa.

    Auburn’s hires are much more significant. I’m bucking conventional wisdom and postulating that who Chizik hires as a defensive coordinator will be much more important than the offensive guy going forward. This is especially true if there are no significant changes in offensive philosophy.

    Pete Roussel has a fascinating look at how teams with up tempo offenses affect the performance of the programs’ defensive units. To put it bluntly, teams that rack up points with high octane attacks have defenses that usually suck.

    For example, West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has proven to be one of the best in the business for years.  Since 2007, the Mountaineers have finished 8th, 11th, 31st, and 3rd nationally in scoring defense.  Enter Dana Holgorsen's up tempo offense in 2011 and Casteel's defense dipped to 63rd nationally in scoring defense.

    In Dana Holgorsen's two years as the offensive coordinator at Houston, the Cougars finished 91st nationally and 95th nationally in scoring defense. One year later at Oklahoma State, the Cowboys finished 61st nationally in scoring defense while Holgorsen was the offensive coordinator.

    Holgorsen, however, did help Oklahoma State win 11 games in 2010. And under his leadership this season at West Virginia, the Mountaineers have earned a trip to the Orange Bowl.

    Whether it be at Tulsa or Auburn, the defensive units opposite of Gus Malzahn's up tempo style have finished 100th, 75th, 79th, 53rd, and 80th nationally in scoring defense.

    Tulsa, however, was 21-7 with Malzahn and Auburn won a national championship thanks in large to Malzahn's offensive philosophy.

    Roussel also cites the examples of Chip Kelly at Oregon and Chad Morris at Clemson, whose offenses have also corresponded with mediocre (at best) defensive performance. While all of those teams have won a lot of football games, their defenses have stayed on the field and their performance has been disappointing.

    For the last three years, Auburn has recruited offensive players geared for Malzahn’s up tempo attack. A radical shift in philosophy would likely result in a few years of pain and suffering as the right players are recruited and developed to execute the new scheme. See the 2011 Florida Gators, for example. Given the pressures at an SEC school like Auburn, that would likely mean Chizik goes straight to the hotseat and doesn’t get off until he wins or it detonates. You don’t see that happening, and neither do I.

    Given the pattern described by Roussel and knowing that the offense will stay up tempo, it becomes apparent that Chizik needs to hire a stud defensive coordinator. He needs to swing for the fences and nail the homer. The question is, would that type of coach be willing to take such a risk?

    Extraordinarily good coordinators are ambitious men with proven track records. They’re not always looking forward to an eventual head coaching job (see LSU’s John Chavis), but the best probably are. If your defenses have consistently ranked in the top quartile nationally, do you risk joining a team that is almost certain to dent your numbers and darken your résumé? Not unless it’s for a totally sick amount of money.

    If you’re going to win consistently in the SEC, you’ve got to play ferocious defense. You don’t just fall down in the face of oncoming ball carriers. Who Auburn hires to run the defense will go a long way in determining whether the 2011 season was a run-of-the-mill rebuilding year, or the new normal.

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    Wednesday, December 21, 2011

    No charges in Fiesta probe, says prosecutor

    Published on - College Football | shared via feedly
    More than two dozen Arizona politicians who received free game tickets or trips from the Fiesta Bowl will learn Wednesday whether they will face criminal charges.

    Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery plans a morning press briefing where he'll also detail changes he'd like to see in the state's financial reporting laws for legislators and lobbyists.

    The proposals include either an outright ban on any gifts to lawmakers, or at the least allowing only gifts with a very low value. He also wants clarifications in the gift and reporting laws that he says made his investigation difficult, and he wants some violations to be a felony rather than the current misdemeanor.

    Read more here.

    UPDATE: No charges will be filed. Imagine that.

    College coaching salaries: Who’s getting their money’s worth?

    According to the USA Today College football coach salary database, the list of the Top 10 schools for total coaching salaries has a lovely SEC hue to it. The highest paid staff in the nation is Texas, coming in at a hefty $8.8 million for head coach Mack Brown and his merry band of assistants.

    But the next three are all SEC schools. Alabama is second in the country at $8.5 million, Auburn is third at about $7.7 million, LSU is fourth at $7.6 million. Florida weighs in at No. 6 with $6.3 million and Arkansas follows at No. 7 at just under $6.0 million.

    image For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a total of $70 million, an eye-popping amount of coin for coaches. The money’s well spent when your program is winning, getting butts in seats and putting hardware in the trophy case. Who’s getting their money’s worth? Who’s paying a lot of money for ho-hum results?

    At No. 1, Texas’ return on investment over the last two years is disappointing. After getting hammered by Alabama in the BCS Championship Game in Pasadena two January’s ago, Mack Brown & Co. are 5-7 and 7-5. Is this worth $8.8 million?

    Ask the question of Auburn at the end of the 2010 season and the answer would be a hearty YES! But asking it now gets a much more muted response, doesn’t it? Two of the coaches responsible for the $7.7 million payout are gone to smaller programs. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof was fired and escaped to Central Florida, while offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn found the “right fit” in the feel good story of the year by taking over Arkansas State. The defending BCS Champs had a historic drop off this season, mustering a 7-5 record and getting blown out by the five best teams they faced.

    Florida had one of the most disappointing records in modern program history, but a first-year transition from a spread attack to a pro set took its toll. Will Muschamp & Co. have some work to do on the recruiting trail and are on their way to doing so (if you buy national recruiting rankings as such an indicator). But 6-6 seasons with trips down the road to the Gator Bowl don’t constitute a sufficient return on $6.3 mil.

    Arkansas lost two games this year, and both were to the two teams playing for all of the sugar cubes. Bobby Petrino has the Hogs in the Cotton--a popular bowl destination for Razorback fans. Last season, Petrino & Co. played themselves into a Sugar Bowl berth. Arkansas is on the right path and the money’s well spent, right?

    No. 2 Alabama and No.4 LSU are unquestionable successes in the cost vs. performance analysis. The two programs are set to square off and determine which SEC program wins the conference’s sixth straight national title. For LSU, it would be the second in five years. For Alabama, it would be its second in three years. BCS bowls. Donors opening checkbooks. Years-long waiting lists for season ticket packages. National coaching awards. Players getting invited to awards ceremonies in Orlando, New York and Charlotte and taking home some hardware.

    Alabama and LSU have the best coaching staffs in the country and the results speak for themselves. One of the two head coaches will bring home another crystal ball and it’s hard to argue with that return on investment.

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    Tuesday, December 20, 2011

    NCAA: Ohio State banned from postseason play next season

    Published on | shared via feedly

    The NCAA today stunned Ohio State University’s football program by banning it from postseason play after the 2012 season, multiple sources told The Dispatch.

    The penalty means Ohio State automatically is out of the running for any bowl, or a Big Ten or national championship next year, just as newly appointed head coach Urban Meyer is wooing recruits to the Buckeyes.

    Athletic Director Gene Smith said previously that while Ohio State has been declared a repeat violator that failed to properly monitor its football program, a bowl ban would be out of line with penalties handed to universities with similar violations.
    So much for the media embargo.

    Read the rest here.

    Ohio State Buckeyes fans to learn NCAA fate today

    image We thought this was coming a week or so ago.

    It’s finally official—the public will Ohio State University will learn whether the NCAA Committee on Infractions thinks the sacrificial lamb offered by school officials is enough to satisfy the bloodlust of the media.

    Late yesterday, Athletic director Gene Smith confirmed that the NCAA would hand down its sentence in a 3:00 pm EST press conference today.

    School officials have already been apprised of the sanctions and know what’s coming.

    The news comes almost one year after the school held a press conference to announce that it was suspending five football players for receiving improper benefits—including free tattoos and other goodies—from a tattoo parlor owner about to face indictment for drug dealing.

    The scandal cost coach Jim Tressel his job. The school self-imposed penalties including two years probation, vacation of all wins from the 2010 season and five scholarship reductions over three years. The public reaction to the school’s offer was swift and indignant.

    Officials later learned that they would be charged with failure to monitor—one of the three most dreaded infractions in the NCAA enforcement code—in a rare issuance of a second Notice of Allegations from the enforcement staff. The NCAA almost never issues multiple Notices of Inquiry or Notices of Allegations. It likes all enforcement packages completely wrapped up and placed beneath the tree with a neat and tidy bow.

    It will be interesting to see how the league rules today. Regardless of the outcome, expect a fury of stories from all sides, complaining either that the penalties are too light, too harsh, or just right.

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    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Don’t expect Saban to hire a “splash” offensive coordinator

    image After the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans on January 9, current offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will leave Alabama to take over the head coaching job at Colorado State. The CSU Rams are a great fit for Coach Mac, as his roots are out west and he has many contacts in Mountain West and Pac-12 circles.

    As Jess Nicholas points out over at, any “short lists” propagated by media members and “insiders” are largely guesswork. No one really knows the mind of the Evil Genius, nor does anyone likely have a firm grip on what kind of coach Nick Saban might be looking for.

    I can tell you what kind of coach he isn’t looking for.

    Don’t expect a “guru.” Don’t expect anyone who’s come up with a foolproof new offensive strategy that confounds opposing defenses and racks up 48,321 yards per game. There might be somebody like that willing to come to Alabama and coach the offense for Saban, but if you think he’s going to let some hot shot up-and-comer walk into the Mal Moore Athletic Facility and draw up a high-octane offensive attack, you don’t understand Alabama football.

    Alabama is a power pro-set offensive football team. They beat you by pounding the ball between the tackles, hitting short screens, finding a crossing tight end and occasionally throwing the deep ball against man coverage. Anyone expecting Nick Saban to let his offensive coordinator sling the ball around the field 50 times a game is going to be disappointed.

    Anyone hopeful for a spread devotee is going to be disappointed, too. Saban and his staff recruit to their style and the current roster is built for smash mouth Neanderball. There’s plenty of speed and athleticism on the team, but it has very few of the prototypical spread, veer or hurry-up no-huddle offenses run elsewhere in college football. Once you’ve recruited four years of players to power football, any transition to speedy spreads and funky veers would be painful to watch, and Saban’s too smart for that.

    Because of the similarities between Alabama’s offensive strategy and those of so many teams in the NFL, you can expect the job to get some interest from current NFL coaches. They need not necessarily be current offensive coordinators, either. But someone without play calling experience at either the college or NFL level isn’t likely to make much headway. If current NFL candidates are there and Alabama is interested in one or more, don’t expect any movement to fill the position until their seasons are over (hint: good ones will be playing well into January).

    There are literally dozens of qualified offensive coaches in the mid-majors and professional levels. There are a number of coaches at BCS qualifying league schools too, but only a handful of those would be interested in moving to Alabama if head coaching positions were open (and some are, still). Whoever Saban decides to hire, it’ll be someone he’s comfortable with. That includes promoting someone from within (Hi, Mike!). But if he does go outside the current staff and chooses a new face, you can fully expect to say: “Wait, they hired who again?”

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    Facts are stubborn things, even in intense rivalries

    image When he abandoned his commitment to one school and announced he was attending the other next month, Daphne’s TJ Yeldon dropped a nine megaton thermonuclear device into the recruiting battle between in-state rivals Alabama and Auburn. This 365-day rivalry is as intense in recruiting as it is on game day, so big time switches like yesterday are big news.

    In both RollBamaRoll’s Meltdown thread and in the Twitter compilation found here at IBCR, the immediate reaction from the jilted fan base was: “Bama must have cheated.”

    While these are entertaining for Bama fans to read, it’s the product of lazy reasoning, and here are several points why.

    1. Alabama is an elite national football power with a storied tradition. The program has won 22 Southeastern Conference championships and 13 national championships. Programs like Alabama, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Southern Cal often recruit themselves.
    2. A few days after Yeldon enrolls and begins classes in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will play for its second BCS Championship in three years and its 14th national title overall. That recruits itself well, too.
    3. Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy in 2009. Trent Richardson was a finalist for the Heisman in 2011 and won the 2011 Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. If you’re an elite running back prospect, the chance to compete for individual as well as team honors is a major draw.
    4. In each of the last three years, Alabama has had top players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. In 2011, Mark Ingram was chosen in the first round by the New Orleans Saints and signed a multi-million dollar contract. in the upcoming 2012 Draft, Trent Richardson is widely projected as the second straight 1st rounder who played running back at Alabama. The chance to develop into an NFL star and make millions for yourself and your family recruits itself.
    5. Alabama has the best and the one of the most stable coaching staff in the country. No one has a more demonstrated capability of recruiting, coaching and developing quality prospects and helping them grow into great football players. It’s not just at running back, either. It’s program wide, and playing with the best of the best teammates is a major draw if you’re one of the best of the best at your position.
    6. In 1999, Alabama won an SEC title under Mike Dubose. In 2005, Alabama had a 10-win season under Mike Shula. In 2008 and in his second season at Alabama, Nick Saban took the Tide to an undefeated regular season, an SEC West title and a berth in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama doesn’t need to catch lightning in a bottle to win titles. Right now, there are only two programs in the SEC that can make that claim, both have Nick Saban’s footprints in their sand, and Yeldon wasn’t a big priority for LSU.

    All of these pesky facts will be ignored, especially by the most annoyed of the rival fans. Never mind all of the above, and never mind that without the lightning in a bottle, 7-5 is looking like the new normal. Those aren’t my words. Those are the words of the usually Auburn-friendly Birmingham News columnist, Kevin Scarbinsky. Never mind that the offensive genius who designed the offense that made the lightning in the bottle season work is gone. Never mind that six players have been dismissed from the team for serious violations of team rules and/or criminal offenses.

    Ignore all of that, lazy reasoners. Alabama must have cheated.

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    In the news: What they’re saying about TJ Yeldon’s dramatic switch

    image Late Sunday afternoon, Daphne running back and five-star prospect TJ Yeldon announced that he was decommitting from the Auburn Tigers and signing with the Alabama Crimson Tide, with plans to enroll in January.

    Yeldon had been committed to Auburn since June, but following a major push by the Alabama coaching staff during the recently completed “contact period” of the NCAA 2011-12 recruiting calendar, Yeldon had a change of heart and picked Alabama instead.

    Here’s a rundown of what media outlets in the state and the region had to say about yesterday’s dramatic switch.

    Montgomery AdvertiserYeldon spurns Tigers for Tide

    For the second time this season, a former Auburn football recruit changed allegiances and now plans to sign with the Crimson Tide.’s Don Kausler - T.J  Yeldon's flip from Tigers to Tide 'sent shock waves' through state and nation

    In a move considered seismic by a recruiting analyst, Daphne High School football star T.J. Yeldon changed his commitment Sunday from Auburn to Alabama.

    A switch had been considered a possibility for a few weeks, said Tim Watts, a recruiting analyst for

    Columbus Ledger-Enquirer – Tigers lose prized running back recruit as TJ Yeldon switches to Alabama

    Prized running back recruit T.J. Yeldon switched his commitment from Auburn to Alabama in a statement released on Sunday.

    Yeldon, a 6-2, 210-pound back from Daphne, Ala. is rated a five-star running back by and is widely recognized as one of the nation’s top running back prospects.

    Yahoo! Sports – Running back switches commitment from Auburn to Alabama

    High school football players often change their minds after making a verbal commitment to a school, but when the switch is from Auburn to Alabama, it's newsworthy.

    Daphne (Ala.) running back T.J. Yeldon said in a statement Sunday that he has de-committed from Auburn and has verbally committed to rival Alabama. Eye on Recruiting - Alabama flips four-star back Yeldon from Auburn

    The rumors had been circulating for weeks that Daphne (Ala.) running back T.J. Yeldon would be decommitting from Auburn and flipping to rival Alabama. Sunday afternoon, the four-star running back turned the rumors into news and officially changed his commitment to the Crimson Tide.

    Jay Tate, Montgomery Advertiser – SHOCKING TWIST: T.J. Yeldon now headed to Alabama

    RB T.J. Yeldon, the Tigers’ top committed prospect, on Sunday announced a major change of heart. He now plans to enroll at Alabama in early January.

    This is a big deal. Yeldon is one of the nation’s top three RBs and looked to be the crown jewel of Auburn’s 2012 signing class.

    Opelika – Auburn News – Elite RB Yeldon trades in Tigers for Tide

    The crown jewel of Auburn’s Class of 2012 has changed his mind.

    Daphne High running back T.J. Yeldon — widely considered one of the top running back prospects in the nation — decommitted from Auburn and committed to Alabama on Sunday.

    ESPN Recruiting Nation — Yeldon flips to the Crimson Tide

    There have been rumors swirling in the state of Alabama that ESPNU 150 member T.J. Yeldon (Daphne, Ala./Daphne) would flip from Auburn to Alabama. In the past few weeks it remained a rumor, and Yeldon continued to say he was a pledge to the Tigers. But now that has changed.

    The 6-2, 210 running back sensation ran 231 times for 2,196 yards (9.5 yards per carry) and scored 32 touchdowns for the Daphne Trojans in the 2011 season. He will participate in spring drills and is expected to compete immediately for playing time.

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