College Football’s Inconvenient Truth

Based on his MAC championship turnaround of a Buffalo Bulls football team that had been the worst in Division I-A when he took over in 2005, one would think Turner Gill would have already been money-whipped by a bigger football factory school by now. But no, Syracuse passed him over for Doug Marrone, who has never been a head coach at the pro or college level (although reports say Gill wasn’t really convinced that ‘Cuse was right for him), and in one of the dumber coaching hires since I’ve been following the sport, Auburn decided on Gene Chizik for its head coaching vacancy. Yes, the same Gene Chizik who went 5-19 in two years at Iowa State.

This is the kind of environment black coaches are in, now with their ranks up to 4 out of 119 D-IA schools as head coaches.  Outside the Lines looked at the number in its Sunday report, based on an article by Dr. Richard Lapchick making recommendations on how to remedy the problem — and this was even before Chizik’s hiring.

The OTL show is in four parts. I’ll link to them, since WordPress hates outside video players not YouTube or DailyMotion:

  • Bob Ley’s tracked piece on Gill and the hiring issue
  • Discussion with Mike Locksley, the new HC at New Mexico and Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin
  • Another discussion, this time with Ohio State’s AD, a member of the board of trustees at Michigan State, and Floyd Keith, the head of the Black Coaches Association
  • Roundtable with Lapchick, an NCAA diversity administrator, and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach

OK, so you’ve likely watched all of them by this point — or I hope you have, because Schlabach made an absolutely stunning statement, or it would be to people who think we’ve somehow gotten past institutional racism in less than half a century:

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One Con Eats Coaches Alive, While Notre Dame Can’t Swallow

New Mexico St  Auburn FootballTommy Tuberville “resigning” at Auburn was a foregone conclusion, ever since a previous regime tried to stage a coup d’etat with Bobby Petrino several years back (the president and AD lost their jobs when it got out), Tuberville’s job status has been in limbo no matter how well he does or not (of course, it does not help in the football-mad SEC that Auburn perenially underachieved after 2003, particularly on the offensive end — and Tubs went through enough offensive coordinators to prove it.)  No one resigns and still gets a $6 million buyout, though. It likely went like this:

“We want to go in a new direction.”

“I don’t really want or need to be here right now.”

Mutual parting, as far as I can read into newspaper copy. And really, a paper is actually saying Petrino is a candidate to replace Tubs?

Sly Croom is another matter. Believing he actually resigned isn’t that far-fetched. Mississippi State is far better off than it was five years ago as a program, but now everyone thinks they’ve got a shot with parity approaching in college football — and Houston Nutt doing bang-up things with Ed Orgeron’s recruits in Oxford didn’t help matters. (A 45-0 shellacking in the Egg Bowl by Ole Miss will adjust a lot of perspectives.) It’s never ceased to amuse me how coaches can have epic FAILs on the side of hte ball they coached or coordinated — in Croom’s case, his offense never approached mediocre, but this is not entirely his fault (still not excusing retaining Woody McCorvey as OC, though.)

State’s problem even after its slide back is that it’s still fucking Starkville.  I have a friend who’s an alum there — and he related how little there was to do sometimes; bored out of his gourd. (I chalk part of this up to his being a California native; that’s some serious culture shock for surfer boys.) In a more realistic slant, Nutt is in Oxford with a much nicer campus and battling for recruits in a state with low population, which doesn’t make for great prospects as far as “protecting the home turf” in recruiting goes. One can take your most talented players and stash ’em on defense to build that up, but when it comes to drawing top skill guys….well.

weisofaceIt’s likely the reported $10 million buyout attached that keeps Charlie Weis employed in South Bend, as AD Jack Swarbrick has promised him one more year, in a mess he inherited.  Essentially, Notre Dame could get someone better if it could afford the buyout, but no one thinks there is any particular advantage to going to Notre Dame now that most other football factory D-IA schools can’t offer. Even the NBC contract doesn’t look so hot in the wake of ESPN shelling out for anything and everything college football.

South Bend is eventaully going to figure out that the money train for operating its football team independent of conference is going to bring in less money down the line than joining either the Big East or Big Televen. (Smart money says Big Televen somewhere along the road, which would also get the Irish hoops squads, which are usually in the good end, out of the insanely crowded Big East.)

But the arrogance involved in inking Weis after a near-win against USC (you can tell it’s not going to work out if a loss, no matter how close, spurs on a silly and financially reckless contract extension) is palpable.  So, now ND must sit and wait it out until Weis’ buyout is manageable. A fitting end, really, because although Ty Willingham sucks, he still deserved to finish out his contract.

As for Dabo Swinney going from overly enthusiastic interim coach to head guy at Clemson, there’s an easy way to look at it: who better are you going to be able to pick up right now? Will Muschamp is staying at Texas; Mike Leach has better choices than Clemson. Besides, take that 4-2, pro-rate it for a full season, knock off a loss, and you’re at 9-3, which, depending on whom you lose to, could be good enough to get to the ACC championship. Baby steps, Tigers, baby steps. You may not have Cullen Harper, but the chance of keeping C.J. Spiller for a senior season (which he said keeping Swinney would do) still gives you a good shake in a mediocre conference.

Rushing The Field: Poll Anarchy

Well, seven weeks in and we’ve got the same damned problem we had last year with college football (or non-problem, for without these issues, the sport isn’t as half as fun to discuss or opine on.)  The field has leveled out so greatly that you have three of the top five getting knocked off on a Saturday.

Oklahoma and Texas were essentially trading blows for about three quarters, with Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy upping the ante on who would be favored in the Heisman race. Texas turned it in the 4th quarter: prodding Bradford into picks and getting big play from McCoy (who was 28-35 passing, good accuracy) along with a huge 60-yard run from Chris Ogbonnaya, and the Horns took the win 45-35. However, any analysis of this game without a lament about the sorry Big 12 officials in charge is incomplete. I understand the reasons for stringent rules about roughing the passer or personal foul calls; you want to keep people from getting hurt. McCoy flopped twice on ruhses out of bounds that got called for 15-yard flags, he and Bradford both were given the gift of flags on roughing penalties that shouldn’t have been called, an OU interception that should have been in the first half wasn’t, and the OU punter put on an acting job that Cristiano Ronaldo would have been ashamed of.

The Swamp is an entirely different beast of a stadium, particularly for a new starting QB like Jarrett Lee in his first road game as LSU “supplied the butt” for Florida to whip, in Mike Patrick’s parlance.  Florida got out to a 20-0 lead at one point; LSU closed it to 6 points, but the Gators’ defense finally stepped up, turning the multitude of running backs of LSU into an ineffective rotation, and forcing them to try to win on Lee’s arm — never a good prospect for a redshirt freshman.  Urban Meyer’s squad wound up putting half a hundred on ’em in the first complete game where Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin were not the sole playmakers in the Gator spread.

T. Boone Pickens’ money is apparently going to good use; it’s enough to buy a defense when there apparently was none.  A 28-23 upset of Missouri at Columbia gives Oklahoma State some of the respect they’ve been seeking, as no other team made Chase Daniel look out of sync as often as the Cowboys did (Mizzou fans may be tempted to blame the fact that Daniel was wearing #25 in honor of a fallen teammate rather than his usual #10 jersey), forcing him into crucial picks late.  Zac Robinson was a revelation for those of us who haven’t taken the time to watch him, pulling touchdown passes out of his ass. One in particular impressed me in the second half: he rolled out left and had NOTHING at the time downfield, he’d just avoided a sack, and to avoid another one, he hurled it to a spot in the end zone where he had two receivers against one cornerback — leap, catch, touchdown.

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The Spread Eagle Falls On His Sword

This is what it’s come to in college football. Coordinators don’t even get one damned year now.  Such is the case with Auburn O-coordinator Tony Franklin, whose attempts to put in the spread offense there gave us such moments of unintentional comedic brilliance like losing to Vanderbilt and their back-up QB Mackenzi Adams by a point, giving up a lead to LSU and Les Miles’ gigantic balls at home, and most memorably, an epic 3-2 game in which Auburn United “scored” all 5 points in the game at FC Croom State in Starkville on a field goal and a safety.

Most reasonable observers had an idea that Auburn wasn’t a majorly serious contender in the SEC this year (if you are replacing both coordinators and a QB, you’re not gonna win your conference), and Franklin’s efforts were in equal amounts competency and willy-nilly awkwardness, usually directly proportional to how often Chris Todd was on the field rather than Kodi Burns — not that Burns was particularly accurate as a passer, but at least he could employ the threat of running once in a while, which appears crucial to Franklin’s version; this isn’t Mike Leach’s pass-50-times-a-game variant.

But the blame falls squarely on head coach Tommy Tuberville — for apparently being too impatient regarding the offense and the personnel needed to run it. If Auburn wanted to install a brand new system with athletes who may not be suited to run it, expectations were probably better set at the level of Michigan, going through a complete overhaul with Rich Rodriguez running hte spread offense with players not completely suited for it.  Franklin was at the whim of ureaslistic expectations (such is life in the SEC) and Tuberville’s need to deflect responsibility.

Rushing The Field: Another SEC Barnburner

Seriously, if we’re gonna go through this every week with SEC teams in the night game on ESPN, it’s gonna be a real long, nail-biting season.  LSU pulled out the victory in the Tiger Bowl against Auburn thanks to a late touchdown pass from Jarrett Lee, who was subbing after Andrew Hatch got concussed, to Brandon LaFell to end a game largely characterized by the hard hits on both sides along with fits and starts on offense that have to infuriate Auburn fans. I mean, just watching the passing on Tony Franklin’s offense look spectacular one minute and awful the next has to drive the Auburn faithful nuts rights now.  So much more of the game was about the heavy hitters on defense, and the eight guys LSU rotated in and out on the D-line came through and pounded Chris Todd in the end to secure the win.  Les Miles would also like to remind you about the size of his play-calling balls.

When UGA’s Rennie Curran took Rudy Carpenter’s helmet with him on a sack in the first half of Georgia’s visit to Tempe to face Arizona State, I knew this game was going to be in favor of the Dawgs, and ugly in the second half. Matthew Stafford now has a new target in A.J. Green, who caught for more than 150 yards last night and a score on top of two more touchodwns from the reliable Knowshon Moreno.  Carpenter now has a fifth off-brand orifice thanks to an offensive line that can’t protect him; at least two of them were provided by USC’s Rey Maualuga.

The Tennessee Volunteers just flat out gave up when Florida came to town. The final score does say that the Vols got on the scoreboard, but really, when you’re down 27-0 in the third quarter, do any points after that count?  It wasn’t exactly a spectacular game for Tim Tebow, and that offense still looks a little too dependent upon him and Percy Harvin, but the Vols defense had very few counters and the Vols on offense — well, this is a team with two studs at RB in Arian Foster and Monterio Hardesty whom they can’t open holes for and get the ball to. Jonathan Crompton is still being asked to do way too much.  In joining Steve Spurrier as the second Florida coach to beat Tennessee and Phil Fulmer four times in a row, Urban Meyer would be perfectly within his rights to snark, “You can’t spell Outback without UT.”

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Rushing The Field: That Was Supposed To Be Competitive, Right?

Honest question: is 35-3 a bad enough beating for Ohio State that we can no longer consider them candidates for the BCS championship game? After watching USC’s offensive pick apart the secondary and the Trojans’ front seven on defense get after Todd Boeckman early and often, it seems that Jim Tressel’s ethic and mentality in Columbus may need just as much of a change as Lloyd Carr’s did in Michigan. That wound up with Carr leaving and Rich Rodriguez replacing him, but I am not suggesting such a drastic step.  What it may require is Tressel stretching out his recruiting area — because he can get every athlete in the Midwest and many in the Atlantic part of Big 10 territory that he likes, but he isn’t attracting players that can be difference makers in out-of-conference games.  I don’t think Beanie Wells would have made a lick of difference, either, and you know what? I don’t like the Buckeyes much when they have to play Penn State are their spread offense later this year, either.

They may not be able to get by Wisconsin, who grind out wins. For every play that Fresno State made against the Badgers in the San Joaquin Valley, the Badgers had answers and their defense was able to keep Tom Brandstater in check.

The dirty little secret about USC? They have the easiest path to the MNC game because the Pac-10, usually good for 2nd in conference strength behind the SEC these days, is in a down cycle. USC was one of only two Pac-10 teams that won an out-of-conference game convincingly, and I would rather not count Oregon State-Hawai’i as any sort of meaningful OOC game. Oregon lost another QB and snuck by Purdue in OT, to be fair.

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Above The Rim: Going Jack Bauer On Your Ass

Lakers 130, Suns 124 – Kobe and Shaq, back playing against each other again. Bryant just went balls out late, notching 41 to go with Pau Gasol’s 29 in the Laker win, which was close down to the last minute or so. Shaq played 29 minutes, more than expected, and put in a respectable 15 points and 9 boards. The real test will be how his game continues to flow in the Suns’ offense, while I dream of what it will look like when Andrew Bynum comes back.

Warriors 119, Celtics 117 – Boston is once again reminded why it rules the Eastern Conference, losing the first two games of its Western Conference road swing. Baron Davis nails the game winner with three-tenths left. Monta Ellis pumped in 26, and Andris Biedrins matched KG’s 17 and 15 boards with 21 and 13 boards of his own. Ray Allen got wicked with six threes and 32 points total.

Hornets 104, Mavs 93 – Not exactly an auspicious return to the Mavs franchise for J-Kidd: 9 points, 5 dimes, 6 turnovers (in his first career NBA game, he had a triple double, a harbinger of things to come.) Chris Paul was one steal away from a triple double (31 points, 11 assists, nine steals); does anyone know if there was ever a triple-double with 10 or more steals as part of the stat line?

76ers 124, Knicks 84 – As if there were no more depths for Isiah Thomas to plumb. Philly had scored 100 after three quarters.

Miami 96, Duke 95 – The Blue Devils can’t come back from 20 down after not hitting threes for way too long. Miami gets its first win over Duke since 1962.

Memphis 94, Tulane 71 – Chris Douglas-Roberts scores 29 to keep Memphis undefeated and get John Calipari his 400th win.

Tennessee 89, Auburn 70 – The Vols are led by Ramar Smith’s 19, headed towards a weekend showdown for #1 with the aforementioned Memphis team.

Nebraska 74, Kansas State 68 – The Cornhuskers hold Michael Beasley scoreless for the first nine minutes and shoot 52% to pull off the upset. Beasley still manages to tie Carmelo Anthony’s single-season double-double record.

Photo: AP/Ross D. Franklin