Tulane coach Chris Scelfo told CBS SportsLine.com this week that outside coaches have clandestinely contacted a small number of players about transferring.
|Quarterback Lester Ricard and the Green Wave have lost five straight. (Getty Images)|
"In the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States, you've got to stoop pretty low to do that," Scelfo said. "You're lower than dirt."
The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported last month that the school, shut down since Hurricane Katrina, was $200 million in debt. The report added, "don't be surprised" if football gets cut. If that is the case, players would be able to transfer immediately without sitting out.
"Teams are going to use that against us," Scelfo said.
The possibility certainly exists that Green Wave football is finished, but official discussions have not taken place, according to school officials. Navy paid for Tulane's travel and lodging when the Green Wave played there last week.
|Dennis Dodd's Heisman Watch|
|1. Vince Young, Texas|
|2. Matt Leinart, USC|
|3. Reggie Bush, USC|
|4. Brady Quinn, Notre Dame|
|5. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis|
"No particular (university) program, school and activity has been singled out above all others, in terms of level of scrutiny," Tulane president Scott Cowen said last week. "I don't think athletics was hit any worse than any other part of the institution."
The campus opens again in January. School officials are still not certain how many of the 13,000 pre-hurricane students will return to pay approximately $30,000 a year in tuition.
Good signs: Only a fraction of the 1,000 full-time professors have left. Cowen indicated there will be some "flexibility" in achievement scores in order to increase enrollment.
Meanwhile, Scelfo probably won't be able to bring in prospects for on-campus visits until the final two weekends in January.
"Hopefully," he said, "we can hold off as many as we can that commit to other places before they come to our place.
"We're going to try to be as tight as we can (with spending) but get what we need to get done. We still gotta recruit."
Scelfo and his staff have been recruiting with what has been described as a "limited" budget. While operating out of a temporary home, a lot of contact has been made by phone.
Tulane's possible bleak future is a shame on many levels. Two years ago the school's board of trustees voted for the athletic department to remain on the I-A level after a comprehensive review. Before Katrina, Scelfo's program (currently 2-6) was projected to be a bowl team. After the hurricane, Tulane athletics scattered to the four winds. Football finally settled in Ruston, La. Its 11 games will be played in 11 different cities.
Cowen himself led a push for two years to have non-BCS schools gain more access to BCS bowls. Largely because of his efforts, the BCS added a fifth bowl starting after the 2006 season.
Tulane has been nominated -- and is a strong candidate to win -- the Football Writers Association of America Courage Award. The honor has always gone to an individual, but because of the circumstances faced by the team, Tulane is one of approximately 10 finalists for the award.
The discussion is much larger than Tulane athletics. New Orleans is a city trying to get back on its feet. Tulane is a top 50 research institution and one of the city's major employers.
Just a thought, but isn't this a chance for the NCAA, national coaches associations, networks or a private donor (maybe all four) to jump in and subsidize Tulane athletics until it gets on its feet? It wouldn't be setting precedent because these are unique circumstances.
"We talk about investing in our country," Scelfo said. "There are a lot of future leaders in there (at Tulane). I would hope that the federal government would recognize that and do something about it."
The last I-A school to drop a football program was Pacific in 1996.
"It's like a total loss," said USC coach Pete Carroll, who played at Pacific. "One of the great things about college football is being able to follow your school, reminisce and enjoy. ... We'd do anything we could to get it back."
As far as the poachers? Scelfo is not standing still.
"I've reported them to the proper people," he said. "I'm not going to tolerate that. There's people in our business that don't belong in our business."
Luckiest coach alive?
It can be argued that no coach has benefited more from the divisional setup than Colorado's Gary Barnett.
With a victory Saturday at Iowa State, Barnett will be in the Big 12 championship game for the fourth time in five years.
Barnett arrived in Boulder in 1999, fresh from creating the feel-good Northwestern story. Since then, he has only the third-best Big 12 record in conference games (34-20). Only once in his six seasons in Boulder has Colorado had the outright best regular-season conference record (7-1, 2002).
Yet only Oklahoma (four) has appeared in more Big 12 title games during Barnett's tenure.
His CU claims to fame: surviving a crippling scandal while delivering four bowls and averaging seven wins per season. His career overall (92-91-2) and conference records (64-61-1) are barely above .500.
Yet, college football's gerrymandering will be used to his advantage when officials consider an extension for Barnett. His current deal for $1.6 million per year expires at the end of next season. Barnett desperately needs an extension to go recruiting. Either that or school officials must decide -- soon -- whether to get a new coach.
In other words, Barnett is safe because he is the most consistent coach in a mediocre Big 12 North Division.
The Big 12 is one of five I-A conferences split into divisions (MAC, SEC, Conference USA and ACC are the others). In the early 1990s, former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer discovered a little-known codicil that allowed the formation of divisions for conferences composed of at least 12 teams. That opened the door to conference championship games -- and mediocrity.
Barnett is around despite that recruiting scandal and a suspension for disparaging remarks made about former kicker Katie Hnida. In the middle of the swirling controversy, Barnett has delivered winning football, even though it must be cast in the proper light.
His conference record has been achieved in the slumping North. The five other North programs are a combined 38 games below .500 in Barnett's seven seasons. And of those previous three conference title games, Colorado has won only one (2001, 39-37 over Texas). The average margin of defeat in the two losses has been 30 1/2 points.
Barnett basically has outlasted his critics. In the wake of the recruiting scandal his athletic director, president and chancellor were fired or retired. New AD Mike Bohn doesn't have much of a choice. Barnett probably will be awarded a new $2 million-per-year deal some time after the season.
The sex-and-alcohol-for-recruits scandal essentially died in the courts on March 31. A federal judge dismissed the suit of two women who alleged they had been raped by CU football players and recruits at a December 2001 party.
During it all Barnett kept winning football games, which trumps a lot of scandals.
A huge endorsement came over the weekend when a Denver Post Mark Kiszla, a longtime Barnett critic, weighed in.
"The only reasonable choice for CU is to give Barnett a contract extension," Kiszla wrote. "He has earned it."
Flip flop on the web
FireJoePaterno.com is about to change names -- but with what it calls "stipulations."
We don't make this stuff up. This is how fire(your coach's here).coms deal with instant success.
If Penn State goes on to win their conference and plays in a BCS bowl in this 2005 season, this site will permanently be branded with KeepJoePaterno.com and will become a permanent shrine to Joe Paterno.
- Miami's Tyrone Moss is the program's third big-time back in four years to be lost for the season with a knee injury. The others are Frank Gore and Willis McGahee
- Three backs among the nation's current top seven rushers have played against Penn State this season. No. 3 Minnesota's Laurence Maroney (48 yards vs. Penn State), No. 4 Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun (38) and No. 7 Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton (112) have been held to a combined 201 yards below their current averages.
- WAC powers Fresno State and Boise State, both 5-0 in the conference, meet Thursday night. It is the latest in a WAC season two teams have met with undefeated conference records since 1977.
- Figure this out: New Mexico State linebacker Jimmy Cottrell is No. 3 nationally averaging 13.4 tackles. It's obvious he gets lots of opportunities. Cottrell plays for the second-worst defense in the country (481.1 yards per game).
- Before winning at Michigan State 28-21 last week, Purdue had not held an opponent to less than 24 points.
- Who thought Tennessee would be in this situation? The Vols (3-5) must win out against Memphis, Vanderbilt and Kentucky to become bowl eligible. If in-state brother Vandy (4-5) beats Kentucky this week, it will be going to Knoxville with a bowl bid of its own on the line.
- TCU's lone loss to SMU has cost it dearly. Despite the school clinching its first outright conference title since 1958, the Horned Frogs (9-1) are ranked No. 17 in the latest BCS ratings. That is not only behind the teams with the best record in the six BCS conferences (USC, Alabama, Penn State, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Texas), but four two-loss teams (Wisconsin, Florida, Notre Dame and Ohio State). TCU would have needed a top-six finish to clinch an automatic berth. That's what 2004 Mountain West champion Utah accomplished by going undefeated.
Who said it?
"It's more fun winning these games than winning by four or five touchdowns. It really is."
--Steve Spurrier, whose South Carolina team has won its last three games by an average of four points, becoming bowl eligible in the process.