The year started with Alabama winning them all, Jim Leavitt being fired from the program he created and Pete Carroll leaving the program he resurrected.
It ended with Auburn winning them all, Ralph Friedgen being fired from his alma mater and Mike Leach looking for a program to resurrect.
In between, conference membership was fluid, unscrupulous agents ruled the earth and Big Ten arrogance soared to a new level.
Legends and Leaders?
|Cam Newton stormed onto the scene at Auburn, winning the Heisman and taking the Tigers to 13-0. (US Presswire)|
1. Cam Newton: We should have known in mid-October when Auburn's quarterback told reporters that his dad picked Auburn for him. Those words would hang over the whole season when it was later learned that Cecil Newton had offered his son to Mississippi State for a reported $180,000. If you can get past the sleaze factor and the controversial NCAA ruling, we may have laid eyes on the best college player ever. That, only months after Tim Tebow had seemingly retired the title. Newton is heady, personable and, until someone can stop him, the baddest man on the planet. In more than one way, to some. Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti summed up the No. 1 storyline of the BCS championship game when asked about stopping the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Cammy Cam Cam. "I know there's a lot of Cam Right, Cam Left, Cam Throw," Aliotti said. "I guess it adds to the challenge, for lack of a better word, to try to go stop this juggernaut."
2. Conference realignment: It started with the Big Ten sending out a short release on Dec. 15, 2009 stating it was exploring expansion. With a couple of paragraphs, Atlas Shrugged. The Big East freaked because it thought it was going to be raided. The Big 12 almost collapsed because of a failed raid by the Pac-10. Orangebloods.com became a bookmarked website because of the daily dispatches from veteran journalist Chip Brown. His "mole" was speculated to be everyone from Texas AD DeLoss Dodds to Pac-10 commish Larry Scott himself. In the end only a handful of schools changed conferences but it was enough to remind us that 16-team super conferences might just around the corner. The fact that the Big Ten now has 12 teams, the Big 12 now has 10 teams, a top five basketball program (Kansas) was almost left without a home, fawning Big Ten fanboys Missouri never had a chance and Mountain West kingpin TCU is headed to the Big East reminds us that anything is possible. As for the future, keep track of the whims of Texas and Notre Dame.
3. Sweet Home Alabama: The season's biggest stories were created by and went through Alabama. 'Bama is the defending champion. Auburn could be the next one. The schools were responsible for back-to-back Heismans and continuing controversy. Nick Saban kicked off the preseason by calling unscrupulous agents "pimps." Cam, you know about. It's hard to argue against the Iron Bowl as the biggest rivalry in college football. It gave us the game of the year this season. Alabama, the state and its teams, is back to being the center of the college football universe.
4. Coaches behaving badly: If it wasn't Mike Leach suing his former employer (and ESPN), it was Leavitt being fired for allegedly hitting a player. Mark Mangino was given a hefty settlement to go away after allegations at Kansas that he had verbally and physically abused players. Nebraska's Bo Pelini created a national stir when he went after an official and his quarterback in the Texas A&M game. We'll be charitable and assume these are isolated incidents. In this age, though, when prying eyes are everywhere and athletes are empowered and/or entitled, coaches who don't know better need to clean up their acts. As for demeanor, think more Saban and less Pelini.
|It was a sobering sight to see Rutgers' Eric LeGrand carted off the field vs. Army. (US Presswire)|
6. The NCAA: New NCAA president Mark Emmert rode into office Oct. 1 with college athletics in the middle of an agent scandal. The penalties resulting from the Reggie Bush case almost burned USC football to the ground. There was an apparent recruiting party in South Beach over the summer that became the talk of the sport and arguably cost North Carolina its season. Sports Illustrated later revealed that former agent Josh Luchs had paid more than 30 players between 1990-1996. Luchs became the face of an ongoing problem, the scope of which he we are still realizing. There was a movement (from somewhere) that the NFL penalize players after the fact since the NCAA, historically, hasn't been much of a deterrent. That isn't happening because the NFL isn't interested in antagonizing its players association, especially with a potential lockout looming. Emmert came in on a platform of get-tough enforcement. We'll see. In fact, Myles Brand may be rolling over in his grave. The recent decisions regarding Cam Newton and Ohio State essentially said ignorance of the rules is bliss. In the industry, Emmert was largely regarded as a home-run hire. His first three months have produced more questions than answers. If his reign lasts long enough, Emmert could experience, if not influence, a college football playoff and the emergence of super conferences. We'll settle for consistency from the enforcement and student-athlete reinstatement divisions.
7. Little Sisters of the Poor: For an academic with an impressive and diverse record, Ohio State president Gordon Gee showed himself to be a football fool during Thanksgiving week. In an incredibly misinformed screed, Gee said non-BCS schools do not deserve a shot at the national championship. He immediately became the poster boy for Big Ten and BCS arrogance saying, "We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor." Gee added that Big Ten and SEC schools face a "murderer's row" each week. This from the CEO of a school that played Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Marshall in non-conference games this year. Gee later apologized saying, "What do I know about college football. I look like Orville Redenbacher." That didn't stop BCS commissioners from threatening those non-BCS schools during an IMG Forum early this month in New York. The story was largely ignored but was significant for the line drawn in the sand by the power brokers. "Don't push it past this because if you push it past this, the Big 12's position is we'll just go back to the old [bowl] system," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe told Fanhouse.com about non-BCS schools. "You're getting the ability to get to places you've never gotten before. We've jerry-rigged the free market system to the benefit of those institutions and a lot are institutions that don't even fill stadiums." The message: Boise State, TCU and other non-BCS schools have reached the limit of BCS access and money. Challenge the access to that money and the BCS will, in effect, de-certify.
8. USC/Reggie Bush/Heisman: The stunning reality is that had Bush paid off marketer/agent/sleaze Lloyd Lake the Trojans don't get knee capped. As it was, Lake wanted the $300,000 he says he "invested" in USC's former running back. Bush didn't pay and Lake, among others, sang to the NCAA. The association eventually concluded that USC should have known its best player was taking money and benefits. Not an unreasonable conclusion at the time, but in the light of the Newton and Ohio State decisions the NCAA looks a bit inconsistent. The difference being that Bush got the money. We still don't know if Newton did for sure. Bush's incredible selfishness will cost USC football for years. The Trojans are in the first year of a two-year bowl ban and are just embarking on a three-year journey through the loss of 30 scholarships. The school returned its copy of Bush's 2005 Heisman. The Heisman Trophy Trust vacated Bush's win. Bush himself said he would return the trophy but the Trust won't comment whether it was received four months later. The BCS is on record as saying it will vacate USC's 2004 championship once its NCAA appeal is finalized. That may come as soon as next month. The Football Writers Association of America asked for and received its 2004 Grantland Rice national championship trophy from the school. In short, it will be a while before Bush can show his face around Troy.
9. The Spread: The best weapon of modern college football continues to evolve and shape the sport. The zone-read spread-option offense spread (if you will) across the country in the last decade as a passing offense. In 2010, it became the vehicle for punishing running games. Coach Chip Kelly brought his (almost) two-points-a-minute offense from New Hampshire to Oregon where it has emphasized the run. Cam Newton became the SEC's best rushing quarterback in offensive coordinator's Gus Malzahn's spread. Defenses haven't caught up yet. Because the spread continues to be the dominant offense, this was the second highest-scoring season in history.
10. The BCS: Even a book pointing out its many flaws (Death To The BCS) couldn't dent the system that rules our sport. And there were flaws, seemingly one a week. The BCS seemingly bottomed out getting its own math wrong on Selection Sunday. ESPN took the weekly standings announcement prime time. That debate alone has fueled talk shows for more than a decade. In that sense the BCS has been great -- for the media. Bottom line: We're stuck with it, folks, for at least the next three years.
Urban Meyer: The guy is a great coach, but pick a lane, Urb. Florida's coach has resigned twice in the last year citing health, burnout and family concerns. Now he pops up on ESPN and says he likes it as a new career. That doesn't sound like he's spending more time with his family. Fifty bucks says we'll see him at Michigan in a year or Notre Dame in three.
Twitter: At best it is a de facto wire service if you follow the right people. At its worst, it can be a vehicle for faceless, baseless information. Remember the Jon Gruden-to-Miami "story"? Either way, we're reading -- and tweeting.
ADs behaving badly: Maryland's Kevin Anderson ran out Ralph Friedgen after Fridge became ACC Coach of the Year. West Virginia's Oliver Luck made Bill Stewart a witness to his own professional funeral by using him in the process of hiring coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen. Pittsburgh's Steve Pederson fired Dave Wannstedt, whiffed on all his top choices and ended up with a MAC coach (Miami's Mike Haywood). There's got to be a better way of doing this, fellas.
Texas and Florida: Two of the most powerful programs in the country were easily the two most disappointing programs of 2010. What happened? Texas was unmotivated after a title run and unable to run the ball after the departure of Colt McCoy. Pretty much the same thing happened in Gainesville where John Brantley was a bad fit in the Gators' offense post-Tebow.
TCU: Gary Patterson's garishly clad Horned Frogs didn't need the color purple to get attention as they climbed to the top of the non-BCS heap this year. TCU is the first non-BCS program to play in back-to-back BCS bowls. If Patterson's D doesn't implode against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, TCU will finish No. 1 in total defense for the third consecutive year. A move to the Big East in 2012 will give the program something it has desperately sought since being left out of the Big 12 -- BCS legitimacy.