|Dennis Dodd says if Kansas gets to a bowl every few years, Charlie Weis will be fine. (US Presswire)|
Funny thing about spring football this year: It was seldom about spring football.
Coaches gone wild stole the headlines. So did conference realignment. Penn State both awaited a monumental trial and began breaking in a new coach. Oh yeah, and there was something in the news about a playoff.
Here are 25 spring things that were the sport’s biggest issues these past few months:
My Big Phat Sleek Playoff
Remember when a playoff was a non-starter? The commissioners couldn't even bring themselves to say the p-word. No consensus, they said. Impacts the bowl season, they said. The BCS works, they said.
BS, we said.
|More on possible playoff|
Congratulate yourselves. It took public and media outcry to change the system. In late April, the 11 FBS commissioners agreed to a four-team playoff that will begin for the 2014 season. Now it’s up to the presidents to rubber stamp the plan. Start the clock. We now have two years to vet this sucker, openly, publicly.
A playoff doesn't solve all of college football's problems but it does make the sport more digestible. The commissioners should have a final model developed by late June or early July.
Rollin' With His Honey
Twenty-two days in April saw Arkansas go from SEC contender to the depths of scandal and back again.
When Bobby Petrino went out for that April Fool's spin on his Harley with Jessica Dorrell, it proved once again that the cover up was worse than the crime. AD Jeff Long acted decisively, firing Petrino and quickly hiring (back) John L. Smith. The program is damaged but not beyond repair. What is projected by some to be Arkansas' best team in 35 years awaits visits by LSU and Alabama. Having a 63-year-old Weber State alum guide the program for the next 10 months isn't the worst thing in the world.
The Immigration Issue
Brett McMurphy is the only person on earth capable of keeping up with conference realignment. All of it. At any given moment this spring, he was the go-to read on who left, to where and why.
The WAC is dead -- or at least extremely sleepy. Conference USA is bigger. The Mountain West has retrenched. The Big 12 has a new commissioner and is making noise about expanding to ... 12.
And that's just the news from this spring. If there is a book in all this, McMurphy will write it.
The market forces of conference realignment are getting personal. In the past eight months those forces have cost three commissioners their jobs. Dan Beebe was forced out by Big 12 presidents in September. He was replaced Friday by Stanford's Bob Bowlsby. Karl Benson left a faltering WAC for the Sun Belt in early April. The Big East's John Marinatto resigned (wink, wink) on Monday.
All three, in some degree, were scapegoated by their league's presidents. Nearly all of Beebe's recommendations to save the Big 12 (revenue sharing, grant of rights, new media deals) have been accomplished since he left. WAC presidents were incredibly shortsighted in blaming Benson for the defection of Boise State and others. Had he stayed, the WAC would have survived.
Marinatto actually had recovered nicely since the near demise of the Big East two years ago. The league is on the brink of a new TV deal. You can criticize the league's nationwide expansion but it was done to save the conference. Some of Marinatto's biggest critics -- the presidents at Pittsburgh and Syracuse -- were hypocrites when they bolted to the ACC.
These three are committed, honorable men who had a combined 39 years of commissioner experience. All three leagues will make more money, actually a lot more money. But not with the same membership and perhaps not enough money for presidents. Those CEOs, as a group, who have shown a lot less commitment to their leagues than the commissioners whose lives they have altered.
LSU No. 1
The Tigers did nothing in the spring to make anyone think they shouldn't be the preseason No. 1.
LSU should be better at quarterback (Zach Mettenberger), terrorizing on defense and just as quirky with Les Miles.
The state of Ohio State
The Buckeyes look like they're going to get through the current NCAA penalties OK, even with a bowl ban this season.
That doesn't end the drama.
New coach Urban Meyer was accused by The Sporting News last month of playing favorites during his time at Florida.
"Over the last two years he was there, the players had taken complete control of the team," one former Florida player said.
Then came last week's news that a prospect had decommitted because a registered sex offender had posted a picture of the two on the Internet.
One has nothing to do with the other but this is Ohio State. New coach, new era, new issues. The road to recovery?
Penn State football took its first tentative steps back to becoming ... Penn State football.
Approximately 60,000 showed up for the spring game. They got to see what new coach Bill O'Brien said was only 10 percent of the offense. That's probably a good thing considering the quarterback situation. O'Brien gets it in that he knows the franchise needs healing and direction. He is currently barnstorming the region on a meet-and-greet speaking tour.
If healing were only that simple. Jerry Sandusky still awaits trial.
Weis' return at -- wait for it -- Kansas
Good Time Charlie may not win at Kansas but he's going to give it a hell of a run.
Since taking over in December, he has kicked 10 players off the team. He tapped the Notre Dame pipeline to get his starting quarterback (Dayne Crist) as well as several other players with a year of eligibility remaining.
Weis has made Kansas the college equivalent of remaking a roster through free agency. Lawrence may be a strange place to restart a head-coaching career but he does have the place energized. Fifteen-thousand showed up at the spring game and were treated to a couple of trick plays and a new tradition. The Jayhawks went to the student section after the game and sang the alma mater.
Here's why Weis can be successful: If he goes 37-25 in five years at KU, he'll be a hero. That was his record at Notre Dame where he was run out of town. It's all about expectations. All they want in Lawrence is a bowl game every now and then.
Maryland coach Randy Edsall disgraced himself by making the quarterback's life miserable after O'Brien decided to transfer.
It helped draw attention to the unfair control coaches have over players in the transfer process. (See also: Bo Ryan and Jarrod Uthoff). Edsall was a strange hire at the time and has done little to endear himself since coming over from UConn. Note to coach: If you're going to act like a jerk, win first.
Wish there were more coaches like Mark Richt who said "life is too short" to place restrictions on transfers.
Meanwhile, at Wisconsin ...
For the second straight year, Bret Bielema became the lucky winner of the national quarterback lottery.
The difference this time is that O'Brien has two years of eligibility after graduating from Maryland this month. It's not exactly plucking a quarterback off the waiver wire for Bielema but it's pretty darn close. Russell Wilson left North Carolina State last year then lead the Badgers to the Big Ten title.
"The fact that he [Wilson] kind of showed that it's possible was big," O'Brien said.
Collin Klein: Gunslinger
Sometimes it seems like Kansas State's inspirational quarterback led the Wildcats to a 10-win season by sheer will.
It certainly wasn't because of his arm that wasn't accurate enough to get him ranked among the top 75 passers in the country. As a runner, only Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish and Michigan's Denard Robinson gained more yards among quarterbacks.
National coach of the year Bill Snyder may have shown why he as national coach of the year, allowing Klein to show off his arm in the spring game. Klein took every snap with the first-team offense, calling every play but two while completing 47 of 56 for 480 yards and six touchdowns. That represents almost half of Klein's career total of 13 touchdown passes. Stay tuned for another Manhattan Miracle.
Rich Rod in the desert
This is the second reincarnation of Rich Rodriguez since West Virginia. This one might take.
Arizona is Michigan without the pretense. Rodriguez goes from a place with multiple Rose Bowls to a program starving to play in its first. In a league more conducive to his offense, the Wildcats should get there.
Rodriguez has one big request of his players: Think football, all the time.
Worst trend: New uniforms
Not because some of them aren't snappy fashion statements. It's because we care way too much. We are becoming unwitting partners in a school's drive to sell more merch.
Online leaks of new uniform combos are being treated like someone snuck into a Russian missile silo with a lapel camera. This is just not that important, people, unless you're Maryland trying to get your dignity back after some of these abominations.
Reason to like Todd Monken
Oklahoma State's offensive coordinator has a little Mike Leach in him, which is always a good thing.
Check out his classic backhanded analysis of Oklahoma's quarterback situation. The brains behind a Big 12 championship offense was commenting on Landry Jones' slump last year and the emergence of backup Blake "Belldozer" Bell. Jones surprised a few folks by taking private tutoring lessons from quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. during spring break in California.
"It didn't take long when ol' [receiver Ryan] Broyles went down and they started running the 'dozer to think, 'Do we have our guy?' That didn't take long," Monken said. "Landry Jones went from like, 'I'm the man,' to all of a sudden, 'I haven't thrown a touchdown pass, I'm fumbling it over my head at Oklahoma State. I gotta go back and see my quarterback guru.' "
Monken later apologized.
We need you, Mo Isom
LSU's star soccer goalie tried out for the football field as a kicker during the spring. She didn't make it but she showed us she has a life way beyond athletics.
She has an endearing personality. She appeared in a video with Tyrann Mathieu. She appeared on "Ellen." She's going to try out again for the Tigers in the fall. Don't doubt her.
Comparing homosexuals to alcoholics
That's what Nebraska assistant Ron Brown did in explaining why he spoke before Omaha's City Council against an anti-discrimination ordinance.
Brown's faith is well known. What makes this particular stance heinous and a fireable offense is that he is using his position -- tacitly at least -- to push that faith at a state institution. Nebraska officials haven't done enough to censure Brown.
Then there is the issue what Brown would do if he had to coach or recruit a gay player. What makes his stance so hypocritical is that, based on the law of averages, he already has. He just doesn't know it.
Nothing much going on at Alabama ...
The franchise known as the defending national champions has been suspiciously quiet this spring.
Alabama had the nation's top recruiting class. It produced college football's most NFL draft choices (eight, including four first-rounders). The Tide visited the White House as is the custom of the No. 1 team.
Quarterback Phillip Sims transferred but was anyone really surprised? AJ McCarron kind of alerted the world in New Orleans that he was breaking out as a quarterback. In the spring game he threw for 304 yards and two scores (plus three interceptions).
The Tide will start ranked in the top five shooting for a third national championship in four years. If that's quiet, keep hitting the mute button.
... except for those shattered dreams
Breaking news! OK, kidding but you already know where this is heading. Not many schools have so many national championship trophies that it can afford to break one.
Carleton Tinker, father of long-snapper Carson, admitted to being the last person to touch the national championship crystal football before it fell off a pedestal, crashing to the floor last month. The eight-pound, $30,000 bauble will be replaced. Or maybe at the rate it is going Alabama will just go out and win another one before the artisans can ship a new piece of ice.
Big Brother flexes
The NCAA board of directors met late last month still contemplating widespread reform in college athletics. The base question remains: Can the NCAA be reformed?
A four-year scholarship measure passed by two votes. The debate on whether to pay players rages. The board continues to consider a revised penalty structure. The NCAA basically turned over control of the bowls to the conferences -- except for one thing. The association will continue to measure the amount of protein in an energy drink if such a company wants to sponsor the bowl.
That should raise another debate: Is all this more about protecting the NCAA brand or serving the membership?
Not a good spring in the Carolinas
If North Carolina was going to get a bowl ban, it might as well win while breaking the rules. It didn't win big enough in the academic fraud and extra benefits case that cost Butch Davis his job. Carolina's case broke an NCAA violations streak of six in a row by schools that had played in BCS bowls.
At South Carolina, we found out how low the NCAA was willing to go on hotel rates before slapping the Gamecocks with major penalties. Apparently lower than $14.95 per night. That's the rate players were getting at a Columbia, S.C. hotel. That's either a heck of an extra benefit or the worst flop house ever.
Meanwhile, South Carolina was praised by the NCAA infractions committee for its cooperation -- blah, blah, blah -- docked only handful of scholarships and slapped with failure to monitor.
Spurrier steps over the line
We're used to the Gamecocks coach's barbs over the years. Phil Fulmer, Mark Richt, etc. They've all been targets of Spur Dog's verbal spurs.
But where was Spurrier coming from when he said this to ESPN.com about Nick Saban?
"If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they've always won there at Alabama."
Um, Steve, you do remember Michigan State and LSU don't you?
Heisman Watch tinted cardinal and gold
Matt Barkley has a built-in advantage in the Heisman race. Let's just say there are worse things to be than a senior quarterback (who finished sixth in the '11 Heisman voting) for a powerhouse USC team.
Barkley has it all -- the arm, the talent, the looks, the multi-Heisman tradition that rests in the Heritage Hall lobby. His decision to stiff-arm the NFL for a year will make a difference to the voters too.
Don't let a so-so spring fool you. The guy is a born leader. In the middle of this month he and 14 other teammates recruited personally will head out in a mission trip to Haiti.
Cue the Aggie Jokes
Aggieland Outfitters needed a geography lesson after producing this T-shirt. The goof went viral for about a day or two after a map on the shirt included North Carolina but did not show Missouri or Texas in the SEC footprint.
Everyone had a good laugh, Aggie Outfitters apologized and cartographers everywhere were reminded to brush up on conference affiliation.
The drug thing
Just this spring: A scandal rocked TCU with four players allegedly dealing marijuana. ESPN reported that a sizable amount of Oregon players admitted to toking on hippie lettuce. As many as five Georgia players may have failed drug tests.
We live in an age where an All-American corner (LSU’s Mathieu) can be suspended for a reported positive drug test and still become a Heisman finalist.
I don’t know the solution. In fact, I don’t even know if there is a problem.
Which way Notre Dame?
Spring bloomed with promising defensive end Aaron Lynch transferring, impacting an emerging defense. Tommy Rees then went knucklehead, possibly deciding a log-jammed quarterback battle in the worst -- for him -- possible way.
These were not huge issues for Notre Dame but they did help remind that this is a swing year for coach Brian Kelly. This is the season -- his third -- when coaches are expected to have their own players and their system installed. A couple of lower-level bowls and disparaging his players aren't going to get it.