Posted on: December 8, 2010 4:44 pm

Urban's heir? Here are some dots to connect

After a spate of firings around college football, Miami last week was the sexiest program in the country with an opening at head coach. The Canes went for Jon Gruden, got rebuffed, then reportedly set their sights on Mississippi State's Dan Mullen.

That was late last week.

Florida's Urban Meyer started to think about resigning, talking it over with friends and family. One of his closest friends is Dan Mullen. Surely they talked about Meyer's future.

That was late last week.

Miami, which rushed headlong into a courtship with Gruden, hasn't issued a peep about its search since late last week. Not a word. Why? The guess here is this: Miami approached Mullen, who told Miami he's waiting on Florida. Surely he wouldn't put off Miami, still the second-sexiest opening out there, unless he had a pretty good idea of his chances at the Florida job.

That's my theory, and I like it. What I don't like, honestly, is the idea that Dan Mullen is the best possible hire for Florida. Or for Miami. What has he proved at Mississippi State in two years? He has been good, yes. Has he been good enough to deserve one of the plum jobs in all of college football?


I'm friends with one of Mullen's closest business associates. I mean, close . And this guy, this friend of mine, insists Mullen is a rising star. I trust this friend, so I'm not here to discount the possibility that Mullen is ready for a job as great as the one at Florida, or the (lesser) one at Miami.

But with just two years as a head coach, Mullen strikes me as a Plan B hire. If he's the first (and only) guy Florida goes after, that's weak. That's like going from Mike Shanahan and Bob Stoops to ... Ron Zook -- which is what Jeremy Foley did almost a decade ago.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 8, 2010 3:41 pm

We need answers, Urban

You're here looking for the same thing I'm looking for: You want answers. You want to know why Urban Meyer is leaving Florida, why now, where's he going next, what does it have to do with Denver, what does it have to do with his health or his family.

Same here. I want to know all of that. Soon enough, both of us will get our wish. But until Meyer meets the media late this afternoon, there's no way to know how to react to this news from left field:

Anger that he would ditch a Florida program at its lowest moment since the Zooker was storming into frat houses?

Relief that he's leaving now, on his feet, instead of later, on a hospital gurney? Because this was a health issue?

Admiration that he would leave one of the best coaching jobs in all of football, college or pro, to be a more attentive husband and father?

Those are the three options on the table. But let me say this: If it's the first option -- if it's anger, because it appears that he's leaving for any reason related to his current job as well as his next one  -- my fury will be uncontained. That said, I bet it's the third. I bet this is all about the family. Whatever it is, we'll know soon enough.

Unless he tells us one thing today, then does something else in a few days or weeks.

He's done that before, as we all know.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Urban Meyer
Posted on: December 7, 2010 8:22 pm

Look -- grandstanding Heisman voters!

Some day, if I play my cards right, I will be granted a Heisman vote. Such a responsibility is given only to the few, the proud, the douchebag.

Well, it was given to six douchebags. The six who have grandstanded their way into the Cam Newton story by announcing that they will not, cannot, shall not, vote Newton for Heisman. So it was written, so it will be. Amen.


Who do you think you are? And I'm talking to all six of you, two of whom I know well, and like very much. This doesn't change anything for me, Mike Bianchi or David Whitley. Still love you guys. But this decision of yours, this holier-than-thou proclamation to protect the integrity of the Heisman, makes me want to vomit.

Newton is eligible to play for Auburn. He is eligible to win the Heisman. Therefore, if he is the best player in college football this season -- and only an idiot would suggest he's not -- then he must get that vote.

Unless of course some Heisman voters were granted not just a Heisman vote, but the ability to see the future. And those voters know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Newton eventually will be declared ineligible this season, which means Auburn will have its SEC title vacated, and Newton will be stripped of any award he wins. If you six voters know that, more power to you.

But you don't know that, and you know you don't. Which brings me back to my question: Who do you think you are?

You're no better than those handful of Baseball Hall of Fame voters who refuse to vote for any candidate in his first year of eligibility on the grounds that, well, if Babe Ruth wasn't a unanimous selection, no one deserves to be a unanimous selection.

That's a douchebag move. And so is this. Because what if -- and there's a very good chance this happens -- what if the NCAA never determines that Cam Newton was guilty? What then? Voters will have held a suspicion against Newton. And if enough voters go that route, the best player in college football in years won't win the Heisman. Just because voters thought they knew something they didn't.

Me, I'd rather vote for the guy and have the Heisman taken from him down the road than the alternative, which is not voting for him and finding out, years later, that I was wrong. That Cam Newton never knew. That Cam Newton's father was guilty, yes, but that Cam Newton himself was innocent. But that someone else won the Heisman trophy because, um, I was a douchebag.

The academic cheating at Florida? Look, that might have happened -- but nothing came of it. Nothing. Florida never found Newton guilty. Florida never even brought him up on charges. Are we now holding allegations, but not convictions, against people? Not in my America, you douchebags.

And that stolen computer in Newton's room at Florida, the one he threw out the window when the police came looking for it? That's bad. Of course it's bad. But bad enough to cost Newton the Heisman? Of course not.

But we're going to add up all of that -- one allegation, one misdemeanor and one suspicion -- and decide that Cam Newton is unworthy of the award? Even if Auburn, the SEC, the NCAA and the Heisman foundation say he is eligible? Awful. Unforgivable.

But what's done is done. A handful of douchebags already have decided to be bigger than the Heisman and to take justice into their own hands.

If any of you read this and decide we're not friends any more, I can live with that. You said what you had to say.

And now, so did I.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Cam Newton
Posted on: December 3, 2010 12:42 pm

An ode to Dan Mullen

The NCAA's unusual announcement about Cam Newton -- someone cheated, but it wasn't Newton -- makes me think kindly not only of the NCAA, but also of Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen.

Mississippi State triggered this saga in January by reporting to the SEC that someone claiming to represent Newton's father was offering the player to the Bulldogs for $180,000. That's what someone at Mississippi State did, possibly Mullen himself, but that's not why I'm thinking kindly of him. Snitching on Kenny Rogers was the right thing to do, but I'm not moved to write happy thoughts about Dan Mullen because he (or someone at his direction) did that.

More impressive is what Mullen didn't do. Because here's what he could have done: He could have said yes to Kenny Rogers.

Mullen could have given in to his ambition, to his cynicism. He could have told himself, "Screw it, everyone else is doing it. This is my shot -- I'm going for it." Mullen could have found a way to justify it as he helped himself to Cam Newton. All he had to do was pay up, or find a booster who'd pay up. Those types aren't hard to find. Boosters willing to do the coach a favor and spend a few bucks on a player? They're everywhere.

Mullen didn't do it. Even though he was one shaky year into his tenure at Mississippi State, after going 5-7 in 2009. Needing positive growth in 2010, Mullen turned down Kenny Rogers. He lost his shot at Cam Newton. Nobody knew Newton would emerge this season as college football's most dominant player since Vince Young, but people knew Newton was special, and few knew it more certainly than Mullen -- who was on the staff at Florida when Newton, as a true freshman, was Tim Tebow's back-up.

Mullen didn't do it, and good for him. That's my conclusion after riding the ups and downs of this story, including a period where I was down on Mullen for reasons that simply don't matter. My initial thoughts, as they pertained to Mullen, were wrong. I'm not perfect, and if an acknowledgement of my own fallibility rubs you the wrong way, go read someone else. Want a writer who never admits he's wrong? I can point you in a few directions.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 27, 2009 10:02 am

Meyer took care of himself, got lucky with Tebow

And I don't mean he got lucky to recruit Tim Tebow. I don't mean that at all.

I mean, my first thought when I read Urban Meyer's quotes that he was resigning because he had to look out for his health and future, was this:

Who was looking out for Tim Tebow's health and future when he was allowed to play in the Gators' very next game after suffering that horrific concussion against Kentucky?

If you're thinking I'll never let that story go, you're probably right: I'll never let it go. Urban Meyer gambled something that wasn't his to gamble. He gambled that the doctors, who were guessing, and that Tebow himself, who was hoping, were right. He gambled that Tebow would be OK if he played against LSU.

The gamble worked, obviously. Tebow didn't suffer another concussion Oct. 10 against LSU. But what if he had? We'll never know what would have happened next. But I know this: That day against LSU, Urban Meyer gambled something that wasn't his to risk.

That said, good for Meyer for resigning at the height of his coaching powers, putting his family and his future ahead of his personal ambition.

But shame on him for not doing the same for Tim Tebow on Oct. 10.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Urban Meyer
Posted on: December 12, 2009 8:15 pm

Shut up, Lane. Just ... shut ... up

Best thing that could happen to Lane Kiffin, and to the Tennessee football program, would be for his voice box to move to Tahiti.

Kiffin's mouth is the biggest reason he's in the headlines for negative reasons, and his mouth has struck again. As for being investigated for recruiting violations, Kiffin stuck his chest out and bragged about it: "They want to know how we're able to get interest from so many great players, and sign so many great players, so I think you have a lot of people coming at us."

True. They do want to know, Lane. Because Tennessee hasn't won in years, and you haven't won (as a head coach) ever, and yet still you get blockbuster recruit after recruit. The world wants to know how you're doing it, and if you keep shooting off your mouth, the world might just take the time and effort to find out.

Kiffin comes from USC, which had the Reggie Bush scandal. Am I saying Lane Kiffin was dirty then, or is dirty now? Hell no. I have no idea how Kiffin is doing it.

But most closets have a skeleton or two, and every time Kiffin shoots off his mouth, it motivates a few more people to search for his closet. That's a fact. Can Kiffin handle the scrutiny? We'll find out. If he doesn't shut his mouth.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 10, 2009 5:41 pm

Brian Kelly is the Notre Dame Litmus Test

Notre Dame ain't what it used to be, and if you ask me, it's never going to be what it used to be -- one of the dominant programs in college football -- ever again. Not without massive changes in admission standards and scheduling, meaning, a relaxation of both.

But I could be wrong about that. Maybe Notre Dame can stay high and mighty when it comes to academic standards and scheduling practices and still return to its greatness of decades ago. Brian Kelly will be the litmus test.

Urban Meyer wouldn't have worked as a litmus test, because Urban Meyer is too good. Urban Meyer could coach at Ball State, and Ball State would become a national powerhouse. Urban Meyer at Notre Dame? Instant powerhouse, and not because it's Notre Dame. But because he's Urban Meyer.

Brian Kelly is a poor man's Urban Meyer, and if you think that's an insult, think again. That would be like saying I'm a poor man's Ernest Hemingway. I'd take that as an enormous compliment.

And so should Brian Kelly fans. He's a poor man's Urban Meyer, which is to say, he has a lot of Meyer's ambition and ego and offensive flair. But he's not Meyer. He's good, but he's no Meyer.

And so my point is this: If Brian Kelly can't return Notre Dame to its previously great heights, then it can't be done. Short of the hiring of Urban Meyer, which, as I've said, wouldn't prove anything because Meyer would win huge at Baylor or Kentucky or, yes, Notre Dame.

My theory on Notre Dame -- great tradition, but it's never coming back -- will be put to the test by Kelly, who's perfect for the job. He runs a crazy-fun offense that will win over recruits, and he has a huge personality that will win over the media, and he's Irish-Catholic to boot. His name is Brian Kelly , for crying out loud.

Kelly is as good a coach as Notre Dame is ever going to get -- but he's not a can't-miss genius. He could possibly miss. And if he does miss? Then I was right: Notre Dame ain't never coming back.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 28, 2009 1:48 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2009 3:02 pm

Urban and Tebow, and OK, this was cool

Two hours before kickoff against Florida State, Florida coach Urban Meyer was on the field, just him and daughter Gigi Nicki, greeting every Gator as the team walked through the stadium and across the field toward the locker room. By 1:37 p.m., the team was gone, but Meyer and Nicki stayed. It was almost as if one Gator had yet to cross the field.

One guess who that was.

Ten minutes later, a handful of sheriff's deputies start walking down the empty stadium steps. They are followed by a single Gator. Of course, it's Tim Tebow.

Meyer meets him at midfield with a hug. Nicki hugs him. They walk toward the locker room, and Tebow throws his arm around Meyer's shoulders as they disappear into the tunnel.

I don't care who you are or how cynical you are (guilty ): If you were here, and you didn't get goosebumps watching this, you're a cadaver.

Category: NCAAF
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