This is how crazy, go-nuts it is in the South when college football season is around the corner ...
A few years ago at the SEC preseason media days, a portly figure emerged from a car into the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. He was mobbed, paparazzi-style, by reporters, fans and camera lights in his face.
The subject in question? Woody Widenhofer, former coach of lowly Vanderbilt.
|Vols coach Phil Fulmer might want to keep looking around him when he's at the SEC media days.(AP)|
Fulmer is reviled by some in Alabama for his role in putting the Crimson Tide on NCAA probation. He gave information to the NCAA that helped land 'Bama in NCAA jail. Conspiracy theorists abound, including an attorney for a former Alabama assistant who says the NCAA overlooked wrongdoing at Tennessee in exchange for the info.
At this point, there are no plans for extra security, according to the Wynfrey's head of security, Capt. Robert Bower. He said the hotel's usual two security guards will be on duty that day. There are no plans for extra security from Tennessee or the SEC.
"Other than having Miss America to protect here, this is pretty unusual," said Bower, who works for the private security firm hired by the hotel. "Coach Fulmer will have two big football players with him, I imagine. One on one side and one on the other."
True, the players scheduled to appear that day might be enough to scare off any knuckleheads. Six-foot-six, 305-pound offensive lineman Michael Munoz and 6-3, 235-pound linebacker Kevin Burnett will be in attendance.
"I understand we could bring him in a different way rather than bring him through the front of the hotel," Bower said of Fulmer.
Don't count on it.
Actually, the SEC media days are some of the most secure among the major conferences. The press conferences are held in large ballrooms on the second floor at the top of long escalators. Several coaches bring their own security in the form of state troopers.
Coaches and players are treated like visiting royalty.
A record 700-plus members of the media have been credentialed.
"Coach enjoys that main lobby area," a Tennessee spokesman said, "taking pictures in that lobby area with fans. We always eat in the hotel."
The situation is another reminder of the dark side of the football-rabid South.
It doesn't help matters that Fulmer is appearing on the same day as Alabama. For the record, Bower doesn't expect any problems, although he has seen them as an usher at the SEC baseball tournament.
"The fans get kind of rowdy," he said. "One time Mississippi State fans wanted to use cow bells. We had uniformed officers go up there (stands). I thought the fans, when they saw it was trying to be stopped, were going to break up the aluminum chairs."
Palm weighs in (again)
Wind him up, let him go. BCS expert Jerry Palm critiqued for us the new BCS math. The new formula was released last week, tweaked yet again.
The human polls and the computers will each count one-third toward the final number. One fallacy, of course, is more reliance on those human polls which are sometimes, well, too human.
"They're not any more perfect than they were before," Palm said of the BCS. "Their goal seems to be conflict avoidance. If you're trying to pick the two most deserving, you're not going to put it in the hands of voters.
"The coaches have a more clear conflict of interest than writers do. Before, using ordinal rankings, if you took one ballot out of the poll, the odds of the rankings changing are small. Now, one ballot could matter. Some coach or voter could be the one who votes a team in or out.
"Who is to say that the coaches, in an effort to boost the stock of these non-BCS teams, vote as a block? Who's to say they won't come up with the idea to vote the team as high as reasonably possible. You could have justified, feebly, voting Miami (Ohio) No. 1 (last season). Their schedule wasn't as good but they had as good a record as anyone else."
Palm was reminded of the 2001 shenanigans when Nebraska switched places in the coaches poll without playing a game at the end of the season.
"The writers had Colorado No. 5, and Nebraska No. 4. The coaches had Colorado 4 and Nebraska 5," he said. "In the intervening week, the coaches did switch their votes after Big 12 title game (Colorado over Texas). They tried to influence who played in the title game. (Nebraska vs. Miami)."
Don't forget what Palm calls the "lovely parting gift" given to Nebraska coach Tom Osborne in 1997. His Huskers were awarded half a national championship after Osborne announced his retirement less than a month before an Orange Bowl victory over Tennessee.
Earlier this week K-State coach Bill Snyder told the story of giving up his vote one year because he couldn't "do justice to it."
"My ballots the last two or three weeks have not been well thought out as they should be," Snyder remembers telling American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff. "I'm guessing they're inaccurate."
Snyder was overwhelmed during the season as are many sportswriters. Here's the irony for the so-called experts: Sometimes the only games we see are the ones we're at.
"Coaches have complete cover in that nobody knows their votes," Palm said. "Coaches should really not be a part of this process. They have a history of not taking it seriously. They have their own self-interest."
Central Florida coach George O'Leary and Miami coach Larry Coker told SportsLine.com earlier this summer that they would have no problem releasing their ballots each week. Currently, the AFCA doesn't allow the votes to be released.
Palm has been a critic of relying on the human polls from the start. He says the team with the longest winning streak -- instead of what might be the best team -- tends to rule the human polls.
The new formula produces a "batting average" for each team in each of the three components. The average will be added together to produce a final number. Whereas under the old system, the lower the number the better, beginning this year the highest numbers win out.
Under the new formula, Oregon (instead of Nebraska) would have played Miami in the Rose Bowl. Florida State, though, still would have played Oklahoma in 2000 despite losing to Miami during the regular season.
"If you want to get the two best teams in the game, you've taken a step backward," Palm said. "If you want to get 1-2 in the polls, you've taken a huge step forward.
"As much as this is a step to fix the conflict, it doesn't fix it. If Oklahoma beats K-State in the Big 12 title game last year, USC is No. 2 in the polls and is left out. You can't put three (teams) into two (places)."
Buffaloes roaming across campus
Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt was asked this week to expand on his March comments in Sports Illustrated about CU players being heckled on campus.
The SI summary: In the middle of the scandal he overheard students say that the football players were "thugs." Two students rode by on bikes saying, "I hate ------- football players."
Klatt received an anonymous message on his cell phone: "You ------- people are ruining the University of Colorado."
"It wasn't so much a berating yell," Klatt said during the Big 12 media days. "You heard whispers. There are some classrooms on campus that are more liberal than others. It was up to us to keep our mouths shut. I wasn't about get in a classroom discussion about any of the things that were going on."
Klatt was asked specifically what kind of classes the comments came in.
"Some guys had these discussions in psychology classes," he said. "I don't want to get into it; then people know exactly what classes I was talking about."
An uneven dozen
The Big East might join the Big 12 in co-sponsoring legislation to increase the regular-season schedule to 12 games.
While the proposal has been criticized as another major-college cash grab, it makes perfect sense. All athletic departments are worried about their bottom line. Adding another game is almost pure profit for the athletic budget.
Nebraska, for example, makes more than $2 million profit from a home game.
And with number of bowls likely to increase next season, there needs to be some available. Last year, during a 12-game schedule, 62 teams were bowl eligible. In this year's 11-game schedule that number goes down significantly.
Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg recently spoke to several major-college presidents who "are concerned about any expansion, whether it's postseason or regular season. That's a hurdle that could prove to be a big one. But I do think this has the greatest potential to provide a broad economic benefit."
Didn't the presidents lose the no-more-football argument when they allowed an extra BCS game that will be played in the second week of January?
- Evidence that the new BCS beginning in 2006 has been devalued. Weiberg said he has heard rumblings that ABC might give up the Rose Bowl to another network bidder. With uncertainty over what teams will be playing in the Rose Bowl and other BCS bowls beginning in 2006, the dollars just aren't there. Weiberg said there is still a slight chance the plus-one model could still be pushed through.
- At the same time Miami is seeking to enroll troubled recruit Willie Williams, it must consider the status of cornerback Antrel Rolle. Rolle was recently charged with felony battery on a policeman. Quick question: How does Miami sign Williams (who is on probation and has been arrested 12 times) and, at the same time, consider suspending Rolle?