Tag:Adam Jacobi
Posted on: July 21, 2011 8:35 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 10:55 pm
 

Texas A&M AD releases Longhorn Network statement

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Concerns about the Longhorn Network were made official today, what with Dan Beebe addressing them in a statement earlier Thursday. The Longhorn Network was set to air two Texas football games -- including a conference game -- and had made plans to televise high school football games involving Texas recruits, even before the NCAA could make a ruling on its permissibility one way or the other. Fortunately for the rest of the conference, Beebe put the kibosh on that idea Thursday.

Still, that wasn't in time to stop a meeting by the Texas A&M Regents on the issue, and now Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne has become the first administrator to make his thoughts on the network public, in the somewhat ominous statement issued Thursday. The statement is reprinted in full below.

I have continued to have concerns about the Longhorn Network since the original announcement by ESPN and Texas. Since last summer, the Big 12 member institutions have committed to work together in a spirit of unity and equality. Recent news reports concerning this network; however, have created a considerable amount of uncertainty.

We had an agreement in place that Big 12 members would have the right to one non-conference football game and four to six basketball games for third tier, or institutional rights. The concept of the Longhorn Network broadcasting two live football games—with one of these being a conference game—had not been discussed among the Big 12 athletic directors.

Our concerns were heightened further when news reports surfaced that the Longhorn Network would be broadcasting high school football games featuring Texas high school recruits, including recruits living outside the state of Texas. Knowing how restrictive NCAA rules are regarding any collegiate representative contacting prospects, we contacted the NCAA for an interpretation. We are still waiting for the NCAA’s response.

I have continued to communicate our concerns to the conference office and my fellow athletic directors. We are pleased that the Commissioner has started to address these concerns, but many questions remain. These are significant issues for all of collegiate athletics as they relate to broadcast rights, revenue distribution and the recruitment of student-athletes.

Obviously, there's more than a little lingering dissatisfaction here, and if Texas and its new network don't address them to Texas A&M's satisfaction -- which might be asking a lot, considering we're talking about rivals with a very divergent set of opinions on what constitutes an optimal deal -- that could spell disaster for the conference's already teetering stability.

Still, it's also unfair to say that Beebe has merely "started to address" these things. He has already said that, until further notice, Texas can't show high school games on the Longhorn Network or televise more than one game on it, and those rules will go for any other school's network if/when they start up. That is as fully addressed as those concerns can be at this point, is it not?

And still, Texas A&M may continue to claim uncertainty, since Beebe left the door open for those things (but only with the other conference members' approval, and that ain't exactly happening anytime soon). And in these types of situations, "uncertainty" is really just an acceptable way of saying "political cover for acting more selfishly." So this is all music to the SEC's ears, if they want the Aggies or anybody else feeling a little more disloyal to the Big 12 these days.


Posted on: July 21, 2011 5:21 pm
Edited on: July 21, 2011 5:37 pm
 

Auburn's Gene Chizik at SEC Media Days

Posted by Adam Jacobi

It's not usually the case that the reigning national champion's head coach can be "besieged" at the next season's Media Days news conference, but there's no better way to describe Auburn head coach Gene Chizik's appearance Thursday. 

Chizik spent most of the morning on the defensive, especially when fielding multiple questions about a now-infamous exchange between himself and Julie Roe Lach, the NCAA VP of Enforcement. Thursday, Chizik took an opportunity to reframe the exchange as mostly positive instead of contentious in this instance:

It was a real simple question of process to Julie, who happens to be the head of NCAA Enforcement, so I thought there would be nobody better to ask. To be honest with you, it was very informative. There were some clarifications that were made that had to do with process. So I was very appreciative that we got some things cleared up and that I was able to be educated a little bit further in the questions that I had. 

Also, this instance:

Again, without going into the details of any of the exchange in the meeting, I was just trying to get clarification at the time. Again, she was very willing to clarify for me, and I appreciated that. 

Also, this instance:

I didn't see that was at all an angry or agitating exchange at all from my opinion. Again, it was a clarification of process. That's how simple I can make it. 

Chizik did mention, however, that despite the reports stemming from that exchange, Auburn's recruiting for the 2012 class is "really, really going well," and that he expects the program's third straight top-five national recruiting class. 

Chizik was given plenty of opportunities to focus on his players, however, and he did so with aplomb. He lauded returning tailback Michael Dyer -- the BCS Championship Game MVP and one of only three returning starters on offense -- and praised his staff for bringing Dyer into the mix slowly:

Michael Dyer [...] rushed for a thousand plus yards last year. I think one of the things we did with Michael that I think really helped him is we just didn't throw him in there too early. There's a lot of things that happen with runningbacks besides just carrying the ball. Pass protections, things of that nature. I think we brought him along just at the right time. [...] But Michael has a lot of work to do. I'm really proud of him because I think he's really understanding the work ethic and the things that it's going to take for him to be a better back than he was last year. Make no mistake about it, that is our expectation of him.  

As for whether the Tigers could replace Cam Newton and Nick Fairley's production, Chizik took a rather reserved approach to the problem:

I don't know who will be the next Cam Newton or Nick Fairley. What I want is a bunch of guys in there that love football, they love academics, they love Auburn, and guys that lay it on the line like those guys do to give them an opportunity to be productive like them. [They're] hard to replace. We all know that. If I stood up here and said anything different, that wouldn't be the truth. 

All in all, it was mostly boilerplate stuff, and anybody familiar with Chizik's work at these conferences knows that's not out of the ordinary for him. That did lead to one bit of unintended humor when, nearing the end of the session, someone asked him if the ongoing NCAA investigation has taken any joy out of the BCS Championship. His response, without even a hint of a smile and with all the defensive undertones of his other NCAA-related answers:

I've had a blast. I've had a blast. Our players have had a blast. Again, I think one of the things that we do a great job of at Auburn is keeping everything within the family. What an incredible journey we had in winning the national championship. Hasn't taken the joy out of anything. Hasn't changed anything for our players or our coaches or administration. We've had a ball.

Well, if that's having a blast, one would hate to see Chizik when he's annoyed.

Posted on: July 20, 2011 10:00 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 11:54 pm
 

Mississippi State's Dan Mullen at SEC Media Days

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The last coach to speak on Day 1 of the 2011 SEC Media Days was Dan Mullen, head coach of the upstart Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Bulldogs finished 9-4 (4-4) last season, good enough for a No. 15 ranking to end the year (even while only managing a fifth-place finish in the six-team SEC West).

If those numbers seem merely good but not outstanding, objectively speaking, yes, that's true. This is Mississippi State we're talking about, however, a football program with just two nine-win seasons in the last 30 years (1998 and 1999) and a historical reputation alongside Vanderbilt and Kentucky at the bottom of the SEC. So clearly, nine wins is a big deal, and considering the amount of offense returning (nine positional starters and the kicker), it's hardly out of the question for a second straight year.

At Wednesday's Media Days appearance, Mullen credited his fans early and often for that turnaround, citing the 10 straight sellouts thus far, and he seemed to indicate that their continued support is what'll keep Mississippi State performing at such a high level consistently going forward.

For our fans, when I got hired, they were saying, "Boy, if we start winning games, you'll sell out the stadium and things will be great." It actually works in the reverse. You sell out the stadium, you create this game day environment, you're going to start winning football games. Our fans really bought into it. They bought into their role and their responsibility in making our team successful.

Questions about the Bulldogs' personnel were a little light, focusing only on bruising tailback Vick Ballard (968 yards, 19 TDs in 2010) and returning quarterback Chris Relf, a senior in 2011. Ballard was a first-year starter in 2010, coming out of junior college, and Mullen cited the praise from Ballard's coaches as a main indicator of future success. "When the coaches come out, and his junior college coaches say, 'He's the one that makes us go,' that's something that really draws your attention as a coach," Mullen said.

Mullen did not have such high praise for Relf as a prospect, however; Mullen said that in his first year coaching the Bulldogs, he "had a lot of doubts whether [Relf] could play quarterback in the SEC. Chris played his first year, relied on some of his natural ability, ran the ball well, made some good throws, but was very inconsistent." Mullen is now impressed with Relf's development and decision-making, and the coach praised Relf's maturity several times during the interview.

Of note, also, is Mullen's near-unconditional support of Mike Slive's academic proposals, noting correctly that currently, high school academic eligibility and college acceptance standards don't have much in common with each other, and that a high school student-athlete's grades usually climb considerably during his senior year once the importance of academics becomes tangible. "I'm all for increasing the standards," Mullen said. "We just want to make sure there's a plan in place, that we don't just increase the standards but don't have a plan to raise the standards of these young people while they're in high school as well."

One thing Mullen didn't bother mentioning, however, was his team's in-state rival: Ole Miss. Not once was that football program, its school, its fan base, its coach, its players, or any other aspect of its existence acknowledged during the course of Mullen's 40-minute appearance -- not even when Mullen was asked about the "Welcome To Our State" billboard on Mississippi's border that bears his face and his school's logo. Oh, Mullen mentioned Southern Miss and its head coach, Larry Fedora, as two parties that might not appreciate the billboard, but the billboard's real aim -- riling up Rebels fans -- went unmentioned. 

Indeed, Mullen preferred to discuss Starkville and Mississippi State, implicitly thumbing his nose at Ole Miss' famed campus and tailgating at the Grove as follows (emphasis ours):  

"I give our athletic department a lot of credit. They've made our game day not just a game. They've made it an event. If you come to Starkville on a Saturday, it is an event. It's the place to be in Mississippi. There is so much going on for everybody in the family, whether it be out in the parking lot, in the tailgating, in the kids' area outside the stadium, to actually all the excitement of the game itself. They have all bought in, and our fans have done that."

"I think one of the biggest challenges we had was people coming to Starkville.... You just don't pass it by. It's a hidden gem. Everybody that comes to visit us, that's the challenge we've had. Once they come on campus, whether it be recruits, parents, even fans, they say, 'Wow, I didn't know what a beautiful place this is, what a great place to live, what a great community Starkville, Mississippi is.' That's within our challenge."


Posted on: July 19, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:17 pm
 

NCAA gives LSU probation, scholarship reductions

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Oh, what a difference proactivity makes. The NCAA announced today that it accepted LSU's one-year probation and scholarship and recruiting reductions in the wake of self-reported recruiting violations. The NCAA praised LSU's compliance department for its role in bringing the NCAA's attention to the matter, and with that, nothing more severe than that year of probation will be levied on the Tigers.

The violation still qualifies as major, however, and as Cecil Hurt points out, that makes every single member of the SEC short of Vanderbilt to be hit with a major violation since 1990.

The NCAA notes that the prospect in question (not named in the report, but known to be former LSU defensive lineman Akiem Hicks) was provided illegal transportation and lodging benefits from a former LSU assistant coach -- again, not named in the report, but known to be D.J. McCarthy, who resigned abruptly in late 2009 after the NCAA's investigation into LSU began. McCarthy also admitted to using a second cell phone, which he never revealed to the LSU compliance department, to make impermissible recruiting calls to Nicks (who has also since left the team).

As for the scholarship and recruiting reductions, they're relatively minor; LSU's recruiting visits will be reduced by 10% over the next two academic years, and the Tigers will be down two scholarships for this year and next. Both reductions were self-imposed by LSU ahead of time, as was the probation.

Here's what the NCAA had to say in favor of the LSU compliance office:

The committee lauds the institution's compliance office for its efforts to investigate and uncover the violations. The compliance office, and particularly the senior associate director of athletics, continued to ask questions regarding prospect 1's living arrangements throughout the summer of 2009 and into the fall. It refused to certify prospect 1's eligibility and allow him to depart for an away contest on September 3, 2009, because those questions had not yet been answered. Had prospect 1 been allowed to travel and compete before the investigation into his pre-enrollment activities was complete, the institution would likely have committed further serious violations. Because the compliance office was proactive, fully investigated and cooperated with the enforcement staff to uncover the full range of the violations, the institution is entitled to relief as set forth in Penalty C-2 below. Further, the committee imposed no additional penalties on the institution.

The NCAA reserved its harshest penalties for McCarthy, who was given a one-year show-cause penalty effective today, which if he is hired by any other NCAA institution during the time, bars him from doing any recruiting via telephone and requires various administrative duties for himself and the hiring institution. It's functionally a year-long ban, as schools almost never put themselves through such rigorous oversight for the sake of a new assistant coach.

Here's the entire 22-page report from the NCAA on the matter. It's made abundantly clear that McCarthy knowingly and repeatedly violated NCAA rules, even involving two student workers in the process, and that he intentionally misled LSU's compliance efforts on several occasions. For his rather singular involvement, and for LSU's proactive approach to the problem, the Tigers avoided the true wrath of the NCAA, and that is no insignificant achievement.

Posted on: July 15, 2011 6:01 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:19 pm
 

ESPN: Bruce Feldman resumes normal assignments

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Well, that suspension levied on Bruce Feldman for co-authoring Mike Leach's book, Swing Your Sword, didn't last long. In fact, if you ask ESPN, it didn't happen at all. ESPN announced in a statement this afternoon that Feldman had been returned to his normal duties with the company, ending a 20-hour controversy over Feldman's treatment and involvement with the book. Here's ESPN's statement in full:

"There was never any suspension or any other form of disciplinary action. We took the time to review his upcoming work assignments in light of the book to which he contributed and will manage any conflicts or other issues as needed.   Bruce has resumed his assignments."

Now, the notion that Feldman was never under any disciplinary action, frankly, strains credulity. Again, it took 20 hours for ESPN to address this issue, and it's one that could have been resolved in, well, minutes. Further, the idea that Feldman wasn't suspended is apparently news to Mike Leach, who excoriated ESPN on the radio this morning, saying ESPN "isn't going to let little inconvenient details like the facts get in the way of their agenda."

Moreover, the suspension was all but confirmed by Craig James, who expressed surprise on Twitter about the news this morning -- something that SB Nation's Spencer Hall believed to be true in this editorial, which is a little too scathing and scattershot to be of merit here.

With that, then, this issue is effectively settled unless one of the parties feels the need to bring it up again; that seems unlikely. As mentioned before, suspensions almost always degrade a product, especially since Feldman was hardly a limiting agent for ESPN Insider, so ESPN is now better off for having reinstated (or whatever they want to call it) Feldman, so let's leave things like that and move on to more important things. Like video game football.

Posted on: July 15, 2011 3:11 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 10:20 pm
 

Report: Feldman suspended for role in Leach book

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Mike Leach's new book, Swing Your Sword, was released Thursday, and Leach's co-author on the book was famed scribe Bruce Feldman (The Meat Market, 'Cane Mutiny). Small problem: Feldman also writes for ESPN.com's Insider section, and that may prove to be something of an issue when Leach's book contains a litany of complaints against ESPN on-air personality Craig James for his role in getting Leach fired from Texas Tech.

And yet, according to reports, Feldman was given the green light to proceed with the book, and he never engaged in any promotion for the book before or after its release. Non-issue, then, right? Well, wait:

ESPN college football writer Bruce Feldman was suspended indefinitely during a conference call with three ESPN officials this morning.

[They] informed Feldman today that he has been banned from writing for any ESPN entity, is forbidden from appearing on any ESPN platform, is not allowed to Tweet from his Twitter account nor participate in any promotion of a recently-released book in which Feldman played a role.

Such is the report from Sports by Brooks, anyway, and thus far there's been nothing to indicate the report isn't accurate. Feldman, who's normally a fairly active tweeter, has been silent since Wednesday on his ESPN-branded Twitter account @BFeldmanESPN, and no other ESPN personalities are commenting on the matter.

Just about everybody else in the world is commenting, however, and "Bruce Feldman" became a trending topic fairly quickly Thursday night on Twitter. Twitterers made use of the #freebruce hashtag early and often, especially after Sports Illustrated writer Andy Staples canceled his ESPN Insider subscription in protest:

Now, since ESPN hasn't released its side of this story yet, and since all we're working on is one report from one media outlet, it would be premature and assumptive to rake ESPN over the coals for this decision at this point. All reports indicate that Feldman was given the go-ahead to help write this book before the ugliness between ESPN and Leach. So if there was some amendment (whether explicit or tacit) to the arrangement after ESPN became directly involved, obviously, that would be relevant information that hasn't been released yet. We're all operating with limited information, and rather than build 1,500-word arguments based on assumptions that could be disproved by a single PR release before sunrise Friday, it's probably best to wait and learn more from the parties involved.

That all said, it's worth noting that, generally speaking, suspensions from organizations (whether sporting, media or otherwise) rarely improve the product being put out. Dez Bryant getting banned by the NCAA for the rest of his senior season didn't make Oklahoma State or the Big 12 any better or more entertaining, for example, to say nothing of what the NCAA lost when it wouldn't let Ohio State RB Maurice Clarett or USC WR Mike Williams get drafted or come back and play after their second seasons out of high school in 2004. Rules are rules, but taking talent off the field makes what happens on the field worse.

Obviously, that's not to say that all suspensions or other disciplinary actions are inherently bad -- discipline is important, and to keep the examples in college football, nobody would argue that Lawrence Phillips didn't spend enough time off the Nebraska squad after his domestic assault charge during the 1995 season. So yes, clearly, suspensions or firings/dismissals serve a well-needed purpose.

Yet, based on what we know now, Feldman didn't do anything wrong. He helped write a book that a whole lot of people really wanted to see written, and it wasn't even that one about ESPN itself that so many past and present ESPN employees gave testimony for -- under their own names, no less.

No, instead, ESPN is apparently degrading its PR standing (to say nothing of its paid Insider product, to which Feldman actually contributes) in order to punish Feldman and push this notion of ESPN as a faultless company that virtually zero of its consumers actually believe. It's extremely difficult to find a benefit to the company itself in this decision. The product is worse. The public perception is worse. The journalistic freedom within is now demonstrably worse. Exactly what is ESPN trying to accomplish here?

The appearance is that Craig James used his position at ESPN to force enough public pressure on Leach to be ousted from Texas Tech, and is now using his position within ESPN to force Feldman from the ranks at Bristol. If either is inaccurate and James would like to see Leach or Feldman restored to their previous statuses, by all means, we'd be glad to document such a statement. If not, it's hard not to think that ESPN is being used as a bully pulpit, and if that means a college football world without heavy involvement from Leach and Feldman, then college football is worse off for it, and that's no role for ESPN or any other major college football media organization to hold.

Posted on: May 18, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 7:07 pm
 

AUDIO: Adam Jacobi on Aaron Torres Sports Podcast

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Last night, I was fortunate enough to join Aaron Torres of AaronTorres-Sports.com for a quick podcast. And by "quick" I mean "over an hour long." Hey, we like to talk. There might be a stray profanity or two, so mind the kids and coworkers if you're going to listen, but if there is any swearing it's it's mild and sparse. Your sensibilities will not be seriously threatened.

We cover a lot of topics -- as you would hope for an hour of audio, really -- including the latest developments in Jim Tressel's ongoing saga, my bone to pick with the College Football Hall of Fame, the confluence of recruiting and To Catch A Predator, the Big Ten situation in general, and who I'm picking for the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game (HINT: It's Purdue and Kansas State! No it's not.)

Normally, I take this space to expand further on a point I didn't make adequately enough in the podcast, but c'mon, I had an hour, so just go ahead and listen. 

Posted on: November 4, 2010 2:57 pm
Edited on: November 4, 2010 3:03 pm
 

UNC Chancellor: Davis didn't know of violations

Posted by Chip Patterson

Ever since the investigations of the North Carolina football program began this summer, head coach Butch Davis has been placed on a permanent hot seat.  At the peak of the drama many believed that there was no chance that Davis would be the head coach of the Tar Heels in 2011, with some even believing he would be gone by season's end.  But Davis did not crumble under the pressure, and faced each challenge one week at a time with a constantly evolving (and often depleted) depth chart.  Instead of waiting on the results of the investigation, Davis decided to hold out any players who might later be deemed ineligible.  While that led to many players missing games they did not need to miss, it also ensured (to the best of his ability) the integrity of the five wins the Tar Heels have accumulated so far this season.  

Davis' confidence in the program has been mistaken by some as blind faith, but that blindness to the wrong doings within the program may be what saves his job.  University Chancellor Holden Thorp spoke on the issue Thursday with the Board of Governors, and (for the moment) stood behind the Davis as the leader of the football program. 

"There's no information to indicate that he participated in or knew of any wrongdoing," Thorp told the Raleigh News & Observer.  "Mr. Baddour and I are not having meetings deciding his future. He's our football coach."

Now at 5-3 with a 2-2 conference record, the Tar Heels are two games out of first place in the Coastal Division.  While a division title is not highly likely considering the opponents left on the schedule, it is not entirely out of reach.  The Tar Heels travel to Tallahassee this weekend to face an angry Seminoles team looking to bounce back from a loss to N.C. State last Thursday.  Things won't get any easier either, after that North Carolina will host Virginia Tech and N.C. State in back-to-back weeks.  How the Tar Heels fare in this three week stretch of currently-ranked teams will determine if/where the Tar Heels go bowling.  Their final contest of the season, against Duke in Durham, should be a one-win safety net.  But you can't count on anything in late-season rivalry games, especially in the parity-filled ACC.
 
 
 
 
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