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Tuesday
Jun192007

Pundit Roundup

Making Tuesday Fun Since 2006!

***
--- ESPN's Bruce Feldman lists his top 10 defensive players for 2007.

Let's give it up for a rare WAC defender:

7. Dwight Lowery, SJ State, CB: The rangy JC transfer showed an uncanny knack for anticipating plays and made a staggering nine INTs for one of the nice turnaround stories in college football. His JC credentials indicate that 2006 probably was no fluke since he made 13 INTs in 15 games before coming to State. Still, unless he gets more than a dozen picks this fall (which would seem unlikely since he doesn't figure to get as many chances to make plays) it's doubtful he'll get enough hype. Odds to win 18-1.

I'm fairly surprised USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis didn't make the top 10.  There isn't a better pure "nose" in the country at this point in his career.  It isn't a sexy position but the guy gets it done.

From Feldman's notes below the defensive player list:

USC is getting a tight end whose name is probably familiar to Trojan fans: Jordan Cameron, a 6'6" 230-pounder who originally attended BYU on a basketball scholarship, has accepted a football scholarship from the Trojans. His older sister Brynn, plays basketball at USC and had a son with Matt Leinart.

A friend in the recruiting biz has taken to calling Leinart's son "Super Baby".

Look at the bloodlines: 1)Father Matt Leinart, tall NFL quarterback, former elite prep baseball pitcher before arm injuries and decent basketball player.  2)Mother Brynn Cameron.  Tallish athlete, plays basketball for USC's women's team.  3)Grandfather, Brynn's father.  Apparently he's a tall former athlete.  4)Uncle, Brynn's brother Jordan who is a legit two-sport player now on one of the more talented football rosters in the country.  5)Another uncle who is a D-I football recruit at quarterback whose name escapes me at the moment, another one of Brynn's brothers.

That's a lot of athletic/height blood in his genes.  Could be a good one in ohhhh, 18 years.

Also: Friday Mailbag.  Discipline issues at Florida, Miami's Kenny Phillips, Auburn's Quentin Groves, UCLA's Chris Horton,  waiting on Colorado's rebuilding efforts, paranoid Rutgers fans and the statute of limitations on Tennessee's championship running out.

Good to see Feldman giving some life to what I've argued on here for a while: big programs (particularly championship ones) naturally have off field problems.

From John in Jacksonville, Fla.: Yet another UF football player arrested this week. They've got to be approaching some kind of record. That said, there hasn't been much press about any of the arrests aside from "indefinite" (whatever that means) suspensions. Over the last couple years, there have been twice as many UF players arrested than FSU and Miami players combined. Is it that football success leads to lack of discipline off the field or do you think that Urban Meyer's inconsistent approach to guys like Avery Atkins and Marcus Thomas set a bad example?

You do bring up an interesting point about how success often spurs a run of police-blotter business. I feel like it does happen that way. Why? Maybe it's more a streak of a bad luck or maybe it has more to do with players getting inflated heads and feeling like they can get away with anything in the wake of a title. Or maybe now that your team is big news, people are going to look much closer at everything that happens around the program. Or if you're really cynical, you think coaches mortgage their souls for great talent and will cover their eyes as long as they can get a ring. It's probably a combination of all of those things.

I think Meyer deserves the benefit of the doubt, because I'm not sure he's handled any of the disciplining much different than most other top-20 coaches would, save for JoePa perhaps. Although with each offseason headline, that benefit is eroding some.

A few years back, after OSU was in the news for a lot of players getting in trouble, I had a conversation with colleague Chris Spielman who said coaches should come down harder on players and should send a "no tolerance" message. I understand his point, although these are 18- and 19-year-olds and like most college kids, they are going to do some dumb things, and I think it's OK for second chances. But now there is more cause for change than ever before, stemming from the fact there is more of a watchdog element from blogs, message boards, talk radio and a 24-hour news cycle. And don't underestimate the impact of the NCAA's changes to Academic Progres Rates. Even though it's really an academic measure, there is a dotted line to character and that counts more than ever because the APR system means schools will have sterner punishments or else risk losing scholarships down the road.

I commend coaches who try the "zero tolerance" route, but I think we miss the obvious that these measures work about as well at the "disciplinarian" programs as at the "loose ships".  Georgia and Penn State have had as much off-field trouble as USC and Ohio State the last two years.  Who knew?

So far as problem child players doing stupid things at various colleges, I'm not wont to ascribe those troubles to particular schools or coaching regimes.  It's sad but these things happen - a lot.

Funny quote from Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis in the same Feldman article:

Charlie Weis tries to ease some ND fans' concern about his health in this Blue and Gold Illustrated story. Eye-catching quote: "I'm never tired," said Weis, whose days often begin around 4:30 a.m. and don't end until near midnight. "When I go get physicals [regularly], other than the fact that my feet are messed up and I'm pudgy, you can't believe how good my numbers come across. My heart is great, my cholesterol is great, my blood pressure is great. … I should eat more cheeseburgers."

Also: Dawg days at Georgia.

Lost a little in the shadow of Nick Saban's return to the SEC is the fact that it's been a pretty eventful offseason at Georgia. The downside? UGA has had five players arrested for alcohol-related offenses since December. (According to Chip Towers' blog, that means Georgia football players that would otherwise be eligible and contributing will miss a total of 22 games this coming season due to the punishment.)

--- ESPN's Ivan Maisel writes about the nomadic lives of assistant coaches and their families.

Somewhere in a box in the basement of Steve and Amy Hagen's new home near the North Carolina campus lies a quilt. Steve's sister, Connie, made the quilt by sewing together T-shirts representing the teams that Steve has coached across the country.

At the time, Hagen coached for the Cleveland Browns, which means that (a) Connie needed to collect 11 different T-shirts, one for each stop, and (b) the quilt is hopelessly out-of-date.

There's no Fresno State, where Hagen served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season, and there's no North Carolina, where Hagen, having reunited with former Browns coach Butch Davis, coaches the Tar Heel tight ends.

The quilt, like Hagen's career, is patchwork.

Also: Former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite's moving up the coaching ranks.

--- ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski writes about a foundation close to Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer's heart.

Fulmer's first fundraiser dinner earned the Jason Foundation about $12,000. "I thought we raised the national debt," Flatt said.

Fulmer did the dinners, the public-service announcements, the speeches and appearances. And if funds were still short, he reached into his own pocket.

If Flatt asked Fulmer to call a kid who was struggling with depression, the only question was, "What's the phone number?" And he didn't hesitate when Flatt asked him to talk with parents who had lost a son or daughter to teenage suicide.

"If it hadn't been for him … " said Flatt, pausing a moment to compose himself. "I'm not trying to hype this, but I owe what I'm able to do to honor my son and save other peoples' lives to Coach Fulmer."

I mentioned this to Fulmer several days later. He fidgeted on his office couch and stared at his shoes. "I'm not looking for attention," he said.

Turns out the hard-ass coach has a soft spot for anything to do with families. The man goes absolutely Hallmark at the mention of his wife and four children. Even a Bama fan would admire his devotion to them, and them to him.

"I can't imagine losing a child, period," Fulmer said.

--- ESPN's Mark Schlabach writes about the loyalty of Penn State assistant coach Tom Bradley who has spent three decades with the Nittany Lions and coach Joe Paterno.

--- Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel hits on several topics, including Oklahoma's drop from more lofty heights earlier in the era.  Also: Charlie Weis' Notre Dame experience, the weak Big East OOC slate, quarterbacks vs. receivers and Terry Hoeppner's situation at Indiana.

One of the biggest disappointments to me about the coming season is the Big East's non-conference schedule. West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers all figure to be among the most exciting teams in the country -- but on opening weekend, we'll be watching them face Western Michigan, Murray State and Buffalo, respectively. About the only true measuring-stick game early on will be South Florida's trip to Auburn on Sept. 8. I realize there are extenuating circumstances. When the ACC purged the conference a few years back, its members had to scramble to find replacements on the schedule. And I've heard the horror stories, especially from Louisville, about how no one wants to come play in their home stadium. But if I were one of these teams, knowing I'm facing an uphill climb to gain respect nationally, I'd take the Fresno State approach, at least temporarily, and go on the road to play somebody even if you can't get a return game. It may not be the smartest thing to do financially, but if you win, the dividends will be long-lasting.

--- Sports Illustrated's Cory McCartney echoes my sentiments that the WAC is the best non-BCS (err, mid-major) conference.

Colt Brennan and Ian Johnson graced the cover of the WAC's spring preview. The picture featured both players standing with their arms crossed behind the headline "Heisman Hopefuls: Two of the Nation's Best Make Another Run [or Pass] at the Heisman Trophy," with the iconic piece of hardware pictured in the background.

"We did that with a purpose," conference commissioner Karl Benson said. "That was to remind the media and remind the voters in various preseason polls that not only did Boise State finish the season in the Top 10 and Hawaii finish the season in the Top 25 [in the USA Today Coaches' Poll], but both those teams have the premier, marquee, Heisman-type players coming back."

For what it's worth, Phil Steele has the Mountain West ahead of the WAC this year in terms of conference strength.  Once the season rolls around my hunch is he'll feel silly for doing that.

--- CBS Sportsline's Dennis Dodd is playing with NCAA fire here, going to bat for an impoverished walk-on at Ohio State.  The full story here.

Also: Kevin Weiberg's departure from his post as Commissioner of the Big 12 to a vague-sounding executive job with the Big Ten network.  The upshot?  He's in line to replace Jim Delany as Big Ten chief if he ever retires.

Also: The first in a series of articles about spring/early-enrollment for recruits.  Today's focus: Former Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier.

--- Yahoo! Sports' Terry Bowden has put down his playoff quest and instead looks to amend the BCS.

Instead of the four BCS games plus a championship game that we now have, I suggest adding two more bowls to the equation – preferably the Cotton Bowl and the Citrus Bowl. We should add the Cotton because you can't really honor the longstanding relationship of college football and the bowl system without it, and we should add the Citrus Bowl because, well I live in Orlando just a few miles from the stadium and I have a lot of friends down at the club that are going to experience quite an economic impact if we get a game here.

I would play the first four BCS games on the next-to-last weekend in December between the top eight teams in the final BCS standings. I would match them up in a manner that would reward the most deserving teams such as having the No. 1 ranked team play the No. 8 ranked team, No. 2 play No. 7, No. 3 play No. 6, and No. 4 play No. 5.

Next, I would play two more BCS games Jan. 1 between the four most deserving teams from the previous weekend's games. Preferably, this would be the four winning teams.

And finally, one week later, I would play the BCS title game between the two highest-ranked teams in college football based on a final BCS poll taken Jan. 2. Of course, we might want to tweak the BCS poll criteria to ensure that the outcome of the Jan. 1 bowl games is the most important factor in the final poll.

The winner of that game would then be crowned the BCS national champion.

Kinda, sorta sounds like a playoff.  No go.

Also: an explanation/apology for saying he was "so tired of talking about Urban Meye that I wanted to vomit"

--- The Sporting News' Matt Hayes writes that Nick Saban must be insulated from off-field chaos.  He talks with several former 'Tide coaches about their experience, the fans and the job.

Just this spring, Dennis Franchione and some of his staff took a vacation to Las Vegas as a primer before the start of spring practice. Remember now: He's five years removed from the Capstone.

"I'm sitting a slot machine with (my wife) Kim, and a few Alabama fans just come up and start taking pictures," Fran says. "They wanted an autograph, they wanted a picture. I guess I'm not hated by all of them."

Mike Price went into the job thinking he'd beat the system. There are few coaches in the nation as genuine and gregarious. He wanted to be in the middle of it all. Yet even he was surprised by the enormity.

"I was going there to be part of that thing. That's what lured me there, to be what they wanted you to be," Price says. "So I'm walking in the mall the first week or so we're there. You know, my wife is buying some things and I'm just hanging around. Well, soon enough, you hear it through the mall. 'I saw Coach in this store, I saw coach in that store.' Next thing you know, the little store for ladies is overrun by fans. You have to understand, for those people, you are their coach. You are there for them -- they aren't there for you."

Also: turning the lights out on playoff talk for the next few years.

Also: Inside Dish.  Miami's moving, Cal corner Syd'Quan Thompson has recovered from the torching at Tennessee to become one of the nation's best corners and the Mountain West is looking to break its TV deal with CSTV and The Mtn.

--- The Sporting News' Tom Dienhart writes there's no need to shroud Jimmy Clausen's elbow injury in mystery.

Also: much ado about nothing when it comes to Fresno State not extending coach Pat Hill's contract.

Also: fallout from Big 12 commish Kevin Weiberg leaving for the Big Ten.

The usual North vs. South cash discrepancies arguments, burnout, etc.

--- The Dallas/Ft. Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse writes that the Big 12 Conference grew under Kevin Weiberg's watch.

But know this: The Big 12 might not be around or be what it is today if not for Kevin Weiberg. He was the Who's That Hire, replacing Steve Hatchell in the fall of 1998.

At the time, "contentious" was the perfect one-word description for a league created under shotgun marriage circumstances.

As Weiberg put it Thursday, it was "Conference Building 101." Now the Big 12 is in grad school.

--- Sun Sports TV's Whit Watson says all sports are local.

This relates to all the conference TV deals going on right now.

--- The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls writes Texas should ensure there isn't a drug problem with the team after several off-field incidents.

Of course, these two incidents, combined with the legal issues surrounding former Longhorns Tarell Brown and Ramonce Taylor, should serve to mobilize Texas’ efforts to make sure the football program doesn’t have a widespread drug problem and has a proper regard for the law and that the players have a responsibility to behave properly. Again, this isn’t to call out the entire team, but it suggests the Longhorns shouldn’t be casting stones about.

Nobody is immune from this stuff, particularly elite teams.

--- Rivals.com's Olin Buchanan answers his mailbag about Missouri's bad luck with big plays (fifth down anyone? Or the kicked ball touchdown by Nebraska?), the Big East battle for supremacy between Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers, USC overhype, Notre Dame's next quarterback and Nebraska's first three games.

--- Rivals.com's Steve Megargee writes about massive turnover for coordinators in the college game.

More than 40 percent of the 119 Division I-A football programs will enter the 2007 season with new offensive coordinators. Nearly 30 percent of the schools also have new defensive coordinators.

If the most recent offseason offers any indication, these new coordinators probably should look into renting.

Also: football runs in the family for Maurice Crum Jr. (Notre Dame) and father Maurice Crum Sr. (Miami).

--- The Mobile Register's Paul Finebaum contrasts the media treatment of Billy Donovan's job-hopping with that of Nick Saban.

A scolding of the media establishment, if you will.

Also: is Alabama Athletic Director Mal Moore wearing out his welcome?

***
To read articles and blog entries from many other college football writers, be sure and visit CFR's "The Punditry" links.  You can either bookmark that link or find it via CFR's College Football Links section on the menu at left.

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Reader Comments (16)

I think the constant bashing of the Big East OOC is unfair. None of the elite BCS conference teams will play a home and home with anyone OOC unless they are an elite program. If Auburn knew how good USF was going to be, there is no way they would have signed up to play them. WV and Lousiville play Mississippi St. and Kentucky respectively from the SEC, but get no credit for playing "weak" SEC teams. The fact is that the Big East is currently comparable to the other BCS conferences in conference strength, top to bottom, but because they have to play more OOC conference games, there schedule appears weak. When is the last time that Penn State gave anyone (good but of lesser tradition) but Notre Dame a home and home OOC game? Why did Maryland Drop WV instead of a lesser opponent OOC when they picked up Cal?
June 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJim Warman
I have to weigh in here. The line "Georgia and Penn State have had as much off-field trouble as USC and Ohio State the last two years," got me a little perturbed. I know that you don't condemn programs as 'loose ships' or laud anyone as running an especially clean program, but there ARE differences between offenders. Obviously I'm talking about Georgia here.

I don't think many schools punish underage drinkers with an automatic 2-game suspension. I know it's against the law, but I think we can all agree that there is a measure of degree to offenses, and that one doesn't rank too highly. Almost ALL (I say almost to cover my own behind, because I can't think of any exceptions) of Georgia's arrestees are alcohol offenses. Contrast that with the recent allegations of rape and players receiving improper benefits at OSU and USC. I think that situations such as those are a much bigger threat to college football as a whole, and are also greater signs of a lack of institutional control.

I also think Georgia's handling of underage drinking suspensions shows a more serious approach than many others take regarding player discipline. It's simple to say 'Georgia Players Arrested' in a headline, but that's much different than shooting at an apartment or a nightclub, like Florida has had recently. My point there is that maybe it IS fair to condemn certain programs as being dirtier than others.

Also, just a minor thing, but Bruce kind of proves my point by saying Georgia had 5 players arrested this offseason. The number is 4, with one of them getting arrested twice. That's Akeem Hebron, who got kicked out of school for two underage possessions. I think it's safe to say some schools take discipline more seriously than others.
June 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCody
"If Auburn knew how good USF was going to be, there is no way they would have signed up to play them."

Please.
June 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMarty
Marty:

I can tell by the 'please' that you think that USF will be an easy Auburn win.

This will not be the easy game it was supposed to be.
June 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Thomas
No, Joe, it's your assertion that Auburn thought the game would be easy. USF has been a bowl team the last 2 years, why would Auburn think it would be easy?
June 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMarty
Some schools may take discipline more seriously but the outcomes are often quite the same.

My point is that the fact that Georgia can have as many discipline headaches as less-saintly (supposedly) schools weakens the high-and-mighty touting about discipline in the first place.

Discipline is as much punitive as preventative but the preventative aspect quite often fails for those who most stand behind it (see Penn State and that fiasco).

I don't really believe this, but I could argue that the fact that Georgia has problems IN SPITE of its strong discipline record, that shows some lack of institutional 'control' especially in contrast to supposedly loose ships who have less problems. These situations get twisted in a lot of ways and I simply get tired of the petty and disengenuous way various schools' off field issues are treated.

For what it's worth, the Bush thing damages college football nil. He allegedly did it outside of the view of USC or its boosters/fans and didn't impact his on-field contribution or academic progress. It's bad press but the actual competition wasn't harmed.

I don't remember a rape accusation top of my head at Ohio State so I think you're referencing Mark Sanchez with USC? Sanchez was cleared and no charges filed, it's pretty clear from following that situation that the allegation was bogus. I know some people with familiarity with the investigation and it was pretty pathetic how far the LAPD and D.A. let that go along before realizing it was a dead-end.

That's like you or me being on the say, Michigan football team and being falsely accused of rape. Does that really say anything about the program or ourselves when the allegation ends up being untrue? Eh.
June 19, 2007 | Registered CommenterCFR
I WAS referring to Sanchez, but I thought there was another one in the past couple of years (I want to say Wright or something?). If it's a Duke lacrosse situation, then sure, it shouldn't count.

And the Bush situation DOES hurt college football, regardless of what the institution knows about. I think that the reason 'improper benefits' are illegal is that the fact that they occur gives a school an unfair advantage in looking attractive to a prospective player, not a current one. In all honesty, it doesn't affect the competition on the field if unbeknownst to everyone, athletes received a salary. It changes their lives off the field, yes, but if it didn't influence their college choice, it doesn't really change the competitive balance. I think the Bush situation is relevant because it says to potential recruits, hey, maybe I can get paid at USC too. Should USC get severe punishment? If they don't know about it, I don't think so.

Lost in this discussion as well is the Ohio State situation. I was accusing them as much or more than USC, or anyone else. They have had probably the 2nd most success in college football the past 5 years, yet they have had countless infractions (including improper benefits) that go with less severe punishment than an underage drinking arrest! I'm, of course, talking about Troy Smith getting a 1 game (an irrelevant bowl game at that) suspension for taking money.

That is my point. I'll agree that the fact that a tight ship can have just as many infractions does show that there is no real 'control' that a school can exert on its athletes. What is possible, however, is that the infractions and coinciding punishments are substantially less and more severe, respectively, at different institutions. For an open container violation to get a longer suspension than a shooting or improper benefits DOES show that some schools take it more seriously than others.
June 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCody
"I think the Bush situation is relevant because it says to potential recruits, hey, maybe I can get paid at USC too. Should USC get severe punishment? If they don't know about it, I don't think so."

Maybe not severe punishment, but there do need to be consequences for the school when players do things like this. Otherwise you open up a Pandora's box.
June 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTorBear
Yeh, Eric Wright. That was ugly although strangely he was never prosecuted. USC was quick to get rid of him.

I agree from what's made public some schools may take things more seriously than others, but we also don't know what happens behind the scenes.

When Hershel Dennis of USC was accused of rape, he was cleared. However because he broke curfew and put himself in that situation he was effectively benched the entire 2004 season and made an example of. Cost him the chance to steal carries for yet another year from Bush/White. There's often punishment and other ways of dealing with things that we simply do not see.

That's why I call a lot of this window dressing. Ultimately I don't think it's necessarily a coach's job to lay on punishments beyond that of the school and law enforcement. Some cases merit such actions, others don't.
June 21, 2007 | Registered CommenterCFR
What Pandora's box would that be?

Punishment makes sense for say, the Albert Means mess. The school had some kind of involvement. But there have yet to be allegations that USC had anything to do with what Bush/family allegedly did.

I believe in punishment but there has to be a reason for it. It's simply not credible to sanction USC for something they had no direct or even indirect role in per allegations.

In a way, USC is already being punished. The NCAA will probably drag this investigation out another year or two, all the while other schools are hammering USC in recruiting about sanctions, etc. and probably convincing some good players to stay away.

Recruits may look at it like, hey, you get perks on the side for playing at USC but they can also look at it like hey, the hammer's gonna drop on them sometime in the future if I commit there. It works both ways so long as the NCAA continues its investigation.
June 21, 2007 | Registered CommenterCFR
If there were no consequences for athletes and their families getting extra benefits when the school has no involvement, it would be too easy for some schools to make such arrangements under the table and then feign ignorance if/when it becomes public. That is why there needs to be some consequences for the school.
June 21, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTorBear
What school has control of its boosters?
June 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDawgy
According to the NCAA all schools are supposed to have control of their boosters. Is that a difficult task? Yes. Is it impossible to control all boosters? Perhaps in some cases. But what is the alternative to punishing the school for the actions of the boosters?
June 22, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTorBear
CFR, changing the subject, I was going to comment about Oregon State's NCAA baseball championship, but Sunday Morning Quarterback saved me the trouble:

http://www.sundaymorningqb.com/story/2007/6/25/9452/28827
June 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSenator Blutarsky
Heh.

To be fair to the Beavers, west coast baseball this year (like most years) was absolutely loaded. It doesn't surprise me in the least that they had a losing Pac-10 record.

Just the same I HIGHLY doubt they were the best team in baseball. More of a top 10 squad, but about 80% of that top 10 should have included UCI, Fullerton, Oregon State, ASU, etc. The final should have been between two western teams which would have made it more competitive. Some blame should be placed on shaky rankings that tend to overrate SEC and ACC teams in particular. Things are evening out and some years the SEC/ACC are quite strong and have equal/superior teams to the top squads out west and in Texas, but in general the real baseball power is still in California, up and down the west coast, and in Texas.

I remember one year when I felt USC and Stanford were the two best teams in college baseball. For sure, I thought they'd be seeded so as not to meet each other at least until the CWS, if not the CWS championship. Instead, they were made to play each other in the second round which was an absolute crock because easily two of the eight best teams that year should have been given a chance to get to Omaha before bumping one another off like that.

Just the same, it's another sign of a wacked out playoff. I love the tradition and pageantry of the CWS, but like most playoffs it has severe flaws.
June 25, 2007 | Registered CommenterCFR
Hey man! Nice blog you have going on here! Just gonna tell you whenever you write a new article on here to go over to BeTheRef.com and post a link to it on there to get a little bit more traffic here on your blog. Keep up the good work!
June 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

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