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Posted on: September 14, 2008 1:59 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2008 10:51 am

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

One last reaction from Ohio State-USC:

"I can't believe that we screwed up so badly," Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone told reporters. "I cannot 
believe this is second time this happened to this team. I thought this team made it clear after the national 
championship game -- all the gassers we ran, and all the running we did that we weren't going to mess up anymore. 
Apparently, that wasn't evident."

Second time?

 A lot of history has been made at Notre Dame, not a lot of it on crutches. Notre Dame is 2-0 after beating 
Michigan 35-17 and, if you believe in omens Irish fans, Charlie Weis still has another knee to tear up. Not to go ND message 
board here, but the schedule does look favorable especially if Notre Dame keeps getting six turnovers a game.


Sept. 20, at Michigan State; Sept. 27, Purdue; Oct. 4, Stanford. Do I smell 4-1?

 It was not a good day in the Pac-10. Washington State, Washington, UCLA, Cal, Arizona State, Stanford and Arizona lost by an 
average of 23.3 points. That includes Arizona State's overtime -- but no less humiliating -- loss to visiting UNLV 
and UCLA's mind-bending 59-0 tank job at BYU.


That last score has me wondering how Tennessee is feeling right now.

"A butt whoopin'. We got our butts whooped," linebacker Reggie Carter told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm going home, 
go to sleep, and tomorrow forget about it."

Easier said than done. UCLA's worst loss since 1929 was complete and had me wondering which team competed in the 
Pac-10 and which was in the Mountain West? BYU's Max Hall had seven touchdown passes in THREE QUARTERS. The 
decade-old Mountain West went 4-0 against the Pac-10 on Saturday.

 In Oklahoma's 55-14 win over Washington, Bob Stoops won his 100th game in his 122nd game as the Sooners' coach. That's the eighth-fastest to 100 in history. It's also the second-highest total for a coach in 10 seasons.


Barry Switzer also reached No. 100 in his 122nd game. Legend Bud Wilkinson is No. 3 on the list getting to the milestone in 111 games. Oklahoma is the only school to have four coaches with at least 100 victories -- Stoops, Switzer, Wilkinson and Bennie Owen. Stoops' teams have scored at least 50 points in 24 of his victories.

 What is it with Oregon quarterbacks and knee problems? The Ducks' season hangs in the balance after its third 
starting quarterback in 10 months went down. Justin Roper reportedly tore his left MCL against Purdue and could be 
out as long as two to four weeks. There's not a lot behind Roper. Freshman Chris Harper finished the game against 
Purdue, a 32-26 overtime victory. Bellotti says juco transfer Jeremiah Masoli and freshman Darron Thomas will also 
get looks.


Oregon has had enough problems lately with quarterbacks being injured. Dennis Dixon's injury derailed a possible 
national championship run. In the preseason Nate Costa suffered an ACL injury that has him out of the season.

 It almost went unnoticed that Florida State could still have to forfeit games as part of the penalties involving 
the academic scandal. If so, Joe Paterno could take a commanding lead in the all-time victories race. We're talking 
about Florida State's seven victories from 2007. The legendary coaches are tied at 375 victories apiece after Penn 
State beat Syracuse on Saturday and Florida State clobbered Chattanooga.


 Michigan State and Florida Atlantic combined for 20 punts and 36 incomplete passes in the Spartans' soggy 17-0 
victory. The Owls' Rusty Smith completed only eight of 34 passes.


 Cal became the West Coast Clemson when it failed to show up at Maryland. The Bears scored 21 fourth-quarter 
points to make it cosmetic but their 35-27 loss to the Terps was crippling. Cal was outmatched on both sides of the 
line for most of the game.


 Missouri has scored on its last 13 possession with Chase Daniel at quarterback (12 touchdowns, one field goal). If 
he could only stay on the field. The Tigers have boat-raced their past two opponents (Southeast Missouri State and 
Nevada) so thoroughly that Daniel has been removed in the second half of each game.


In that abbreviated action, Daniel has completed 40 of 46 the past two games for 663 yards and seven touchdowns. 
Against the Wolf Pack, Daniel completed 23 of 28 for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

 You knew East Carolina was due for a letdown. Patrick Pinkney threw a late touchdown pass against Tulane and the 
Pirates are 3-0 for the first time since 1999.


 Oklahoma State continues to amaze. The Cowboys passed only 10 times in a 57-13 victory over Missouri State. Their 
450 rushing yards were the fifth-most in school history. Okie State did this (offensively) last year but were just 
as bad on defense as they were good on offense.


 Looking ahead to next week, it's the SEC's world and we're only living in it: Georgia is at Arizona State, LSU 
goes to Auburn, Arkansas plays Alabama in the Ego Bowl. Oh, and apparently Florida is playing Tennessee too. That's 
three games with both teams being ranked.


 The best of the rest: (These teams weren't good enough to get into my top 25 but deserve mention) 1, Oklahoma 
State; 2, Vanderbilt; 3, Kentucky; 4, Nebraska; 5, TCU; 6, Notre Dame; 7, Northwestern; 8, Boise State; 9, Iowa; 10, 
Florida State; 11, Minnesota; 12, UNLV.


 Heisman Watch: 1, Chase Daniel, Missouri; 2, Sam Bradford, Oklahoma; 3, Max Hall, BYU.


 If you've got the time and the money go to The Huntley hotel in Santa Monica and take the elevator to The Penthouse. It's a Stars War bar scene of young hipsters trying to be crucially cool. The doors of the elevator opened and I immediately felt like a janitor. I can't believe places like this existed. It's a cliche of L.A. Not to drop names but someone said Jamie Foxx was there.
Posted on: September 11, 2008 12:09 pm
Edited on: July 31, 2011 10:43 pm

Memories of 9/11

I was feeling maudlin today about 9/11. The seventh anniversary of the tragedy no doubt is striking everyone different. 

I remember that day I was jogging, listening to Don Imus on my headphones. The I-Man got word that a "small plane" had crashed into the World Trade Center. From then on, everyone's life changed. My mind was swirling so much I immediately went into work mode, checking to see if conferences would cancel games.

Sadly, the SEC was the last conference to cancel its schedule. Then-commissioner Roy Kramer finally put out a verbose statement on honoring the dead, etc. That was on a Thursday less than 48 hours before games were supposed to kick. I clearly remember calling the Gainesville, Fla. hotel where Tennessee was going to play that week. A ballroom had been set up for a meal. Disgusting, I thought.

Nine days later we started playing football again. Nebraska and Mississippi State hosted games, kicking off almost simultaneously in the first games played since 9/11. I remember going into David Wade Stadium in Starksville having my bag searched for the first time. Guards were everywhere with loaded weapons. That was the mood of the day.

A couple of days later, I covered the Alabama-Birmingham-Army game for obvious reasons. The Black Knights were clearly distracted, knowing that a lot of them were about to head into battle. UAB won 55-3. But what I remember most was the class and heart Army had that day. Army's Dave McCracken was a Ranger about head off to war. Current defensive line coach Clarence Holmes was a player on that team.

Coach Todd Berry was fired a few years later but he will always be one of my favorites for his courage and leadership in those frightening days.

This is how I remembered it a year after in 2002.

This is how I remembered it two years ago on the fifth anniversary of 9/11.


Posted on: August 31, 2008 5:39 pm
Edited on: August 31, 2008 8:53 pm

Deep thoughts on a football Saturday

As long as I'm piling on the ACC couldn't resist this one ...

Well, it's not an ACC error per se but why not kick a mediocre league while it's down. It seems that Duke officials 
were shocked when parachutists descended into Wallace Wade Stadium with the game ball about an hour before Saturday's 
James Madison game. One problem. Duke hadn't ordered a game ball. However, North Carolina, eight miles away, did.

 Will we look back on this as the football equivalent of The Beatles playing the Cavern Club? In other words, the 
modest beginning for a monster talent? Terrelle Pryor looked more than capable in his career debut against 
Youngstown State, 35 yards passing, 52 yards rushing and a touchdown.


For up-to-the-minute updates go to Pryor's 24-hour webcam. You've got to see the archived stuff of him having the 
Caesar salad for lunch on Friday. Classic.

 Appalachian State won! The third quarter, 7-3 over LSU.


 Nothing like patience. This from a Detroit columnist: "(Michigan quarterback) Steven Threet needs to start based on his performance 
(against Utah)." After watching that mess in The Big House does it matter?


 Hawaii AD Jim Donovan is a smart, smart man. There are no more SEC teams on the Warriors schedule for the 
foreseeable future. The last two outings against the SEC have resulted in combined losses of 97-20 to Georgia and 


 If you want to put a new name atop the hot seat list, feel free to add San Diego State's Chuck Long. We did get 
our designated I-AA upset late Saturday although it wasn't the earth shaker you might think. Cal Poly beat the Aztecs 
for the second time in three seasons. This time it was 29-27. A San Diego columnist the program "reached the bottom of its existence."


 Big 12 starting quarterbacks threw a combined 20 touchdown passes on Saturday. That's an average of 2.2 per man without two of the  nine starters throwing for a score. The breakdown:  Kansas' Todd Reesing (three), Missouri's Chase Daniel (three), Nebraska's Joe Ganz (four), Kansas State's Josh Freeman  (three), Texas' Colt McCoy (three), Texas' A&M Stephen McGee (none), Texas Tech's Graham Harrell (two), Oklahoma State's Zac  Robinson (none) and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford (two).


 Five years ago to the day Dennis Franchione started his Texas A&M career with a 26-11 victory over Arkansas State. 
Franchione's replacement, Mike Sherman,wasn't so fortunate losing to the Red Wolves 18-14 in his first game as 
Aggies' coach. The usually staid Associated Press called it "one of the most embarrassing losses in A&M history."  

 Nebraska recovered a fumble against Western Michigan. That brings the Huskers to one-third of their total for all 
of 2007.

 Pittsburgh is now 5-13 since starting 6-1 in 2006. 

 How important are those Virginia Tech special teams? Huge. The Hokies had won 17 consecutive games when blocking a 
kick. Ironically, East Carolina's T.J. Lee blocked a punt and scored the game-winning touchdown in a 27-22 Pirates' 
victory. East Carolina became the only team below the BCS level that beat a top 20 team. The other teams 
with a win over top 20 wins on Saturday were Missouri and Alabama.


The Pirates became the first Conference USA team to beat back-to-back ranked teams. They had defeated Boise State in 
last year's Hawaii Bowl. That says more about Conference USA than it does East Carolina. Conference USA is 13 years 

 Injury watch: Georgia's monster defensive tackle Jeff Owens is out for the season with a knee. How many more injuries can UGA stand?...There are varying reports about the severity of Jeremy Maclin's injury late Saturday. Missouri's all-purpose 
king apparently twisted an ankle (X-rays were negative).


 Novenas are being said in Columbus for tailback Beanie Wells. Ohio State's tailback has some sort of right foot 
problem. Again, X-rays were negative. Even if he is 100 percent look for Jim Tressel to seriously limiting Wells' 
playing time this week against Ohio. The Bucks need him healthy for USC in two weeks. We should know something on Monday.


 Most impressive on opening weekend? It had to be USC which slapped around Virginia. Pete Carroll looked like he 
was sandbagging us during the preseason. Three weeks after dislocating his knee, quarterback Mark Sanchez looks 
ready and able to become the new Leinart after throwing for a career-high 338 yards.


"Everything happened just right," Carroll said. "Too bad we let them score."

 If you're looking ahead to Tennessee-UCLA on Monday night consider UCLA's Kevin Craft. The juco transfer 
quarterback faces some uphill odds. The last juco transfer qb to lead a team to a Pac-10 title was USC's Tim Green in 

 Hurricane Gustav's impact is being felt all the way to Alabama. Tulane has already gone threat ahead of the storm 
in preparations for this week's game at Alabama. Troy goes over to LSU in a game that could be a prime candidate for 
cancellation. The Category 3 storm is expected to hit Louisiana on Monday.


 OK, so there is no Terrelle Pryor 24-hour webcam but if you got down this far believing it, gotcha!


Posted on: July 7, 2008 10:43 pm

All Philled Up

Headline: Phil Fulmer will make an average of $3 million through 2014 per the terms of his contract extension.

Question: Would he have taken $2.5 million? Maybe $2.25 million?

The Tennessee coach made $2.05 million last season and while he deserves a raise for getting the Vols to the SEC 
title game, a 50 percent bump in this economic and athletic climate seems a bit much. To me, Fulmer's agent Jimmy 
Sexton deserves credit for this one.

This was a raise clearly dictated by ego -- not Fulmer's or Sexton's, by the way. Tennessee wanted to pay its coach $3 million 
because it can. Everyone else (seemingly) in the SEC is making $3 million, let's show we're big time too.

Sure, the winning percentage (.766, one of the best among active coaches) means something but why such an extravagant raise now? As you'll see by the editorial below that is not sitting well with everyone. The program has continued to  underachieve in the eyes of many.

Since the 1998 national championship, Tennessee's average finish in the SEC East  is somewhere between second and third place (2.27 to be exact). It has two outright division titles in that span (2001, 2004) and two ties (2003, 2007) but is 0-3 in SEC championship games in that span.

Compare that UT's two biggest rivals in the SEC East: Florida has three outright division titles, two SEC titles and 
a national championship since 1998. Georgia has two outright East Division titles and two SEC titles in the last nine years. (UGA won a three-way division title tiebreaker in 2003 but lost the conference title game.)

Given all that, what leverage did Fulmer have for such an extravagant raise? Look, the guy deserves a lot for being 
around this long. He is the senior coach in the SEC but it wasn't like NFL or college teams were busting down the 
door to get him.

Here's another view from Bob Gilbert, a former AP writer and retired UT news operations director ...

In approving salary packages of $20.95 million for football coach Phil Fulmer and $13.85 million for basketball 
coach Bruce Pearl through 2014, the University of Tennessee has thumbed its nose at UT students, faculty, fans and 
common sense and decency.

But worse than that, by guaranteeing Fulmer a contract extension every time his team wins eight regular season 
games, Vol athletics director Mike Hamilton and president John Petersen have set a new low standard for Tennessee.

It means Tennessee can have 8-6 seasons to infinity and Fulmer will still be the Vols’ head coach. All he has to do 
is win 57 percent of his games.

Ironic, isn’t it, that just a few years ago, Fulmer’s staunch supporters were talking about him breaking Gen. Bob 
Neyland’s 82.9 career won-lost percentage? But in Neyland’s era, teams played a maximum of 10 regular season games. 
Today they play 12, and an eight-win season is mediocre.

Moreover, Fulmer has beaten only 14 of his last 26 SEC foes; Neyland won 79.9 percent of his last 26 SEC games.

That is Tennessee’s new standard – mediocrity – under a president and an athletics director who don’t have a clue, 
or even care, about the standard of excellence established by Neyland.

When combined, the salaries for the football and men’s basketball coaches, not counting basketball assistants whose 
raises haven’t been announced, will total $5.935 million for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Fulmer will be paid $2.4 
million and his assistants another $1.9  million, and Pearl will get $1.6 million.

The increases come at a time when the nation’s economy is on the verge of collapse. Gasoline costs $4 a gallon, 
General Motors is on the brink of bankruptcy, Starbucks is closing 600 stores, unemployment is rising, the housing 
market has gone into the tank, our banking system is a shambles, the cost of health care is spiraling out of 
control, and our military is broken because of a U.S. president who believes an ill-conceived war will save his 

What Hamilton and Petersen, with trustees’ approval, have done is fiscally irresponsible, bordering on criminal 
malfeasance. They rationalize that athletics should not be held to the same fiscal standards because the athletics 
department is self-supporting, but they appear completely ignorant of the fact that UT exists to educate students, 
not entertain the public.

The salary hikes for Fulmer and Pearl have triggered a wave of outrage among students whose tuition goes up 6 
percent this year and faculty who’ll receive no raises.

Moreover, several academic and research programs of considerable importance to the state, Audiology and Speech 
Pathology and the Center for World War II Study, were in danger of being eliminated until a public outcry changed 
some minds.

What is worse, Pearl got his new deal despite being on record as saying he’s happy at Tennessee, wasn’t going to 
leave, never dreamed he’s make the money he was already being paid ($1.3 million), and didn’t ask for a raise.

As for Fulmer, no other schools or pro teams are panting for his services, yet the university says his increase is 
predicated on market value. What market value? This is the dumbest assertion ever uttered by a UT administrator.

The Petersen-Hamilton rationalize that the coaches’ salaries come from revenue the athletics department generates, 
not from tax dollars.

The University of Tennessee, founded in 1794 as Blount College, was designated in 1869 as the state’s federal 
land-grant university. And nowhere in that enabling legislation if there any stipulation that the school provide the 
citizens of Tennessee with sports entertainment.

Because of reckless spending for a top-heavy roster of administrators, the UT-Knoxville budget is beginning the new 
fiscal year $11 million in the red. Meanwhile, the athletics departments are spending millions on stadium upgrades 
and other facilities that cater mostly to fat-cat contributors.

UT and its irresponsible leaders have been sucked into what Dr. William Friday, president emeritus of the University 
of North Carolina and former chairman of the Knight Commission on college sports reform, calls the athletics “arms 

To cope with runaway spending, reformers are calling for a variety of changes in athletics philosophy. Among them: 
(1) reducing the length of football and basketball seasons, (2) making freshmen ineligible for varsity competition 
so they have a year to acclimate themselves to academic and campus life, (3) and disclosure of how many athletes get 
passing grades because of soft courses, degree programs designed to keep athletes eligible, and “friendly faculty.”

At the current rate of increases in spending and charges passed onto the fans, Vol sports ultimately will be beyond 
the financial reach of the average fan. Petersen and Hamilton get away with it because the sports media don’t 
challenge the use of athletics to entertain the public.

Nothing will change until fans quit buying tickets and succumbing to extortion.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: April 17, 2008 4:19 pm

National notes

Televising spring games? I'd rather watch dental surgery because, invariably, those games has absolutely nothing to do with what happens in the regular season.

Try to guess from this quote which coach essentially agrees with me.

"To be honest with you, we tried to take a little pressure off the game because spring games are awful ... It's not the best of the best playing against each other. A lot of times you're just trying to find out what young players can do. If you came out to see a well-executed SEC game in the spring you're not going to see that."

 Tennessee's Phil Fulmer on the new NCAA rule that keeps head coaches from going out on the road during the current evaluation period.

"Sometimes you're even offering scholarships to guys you've never met," Fulmer said. "You've just seen (them) on film, or through a coach, or been in a camp once. That's a concern."

One source told me that the SEC coaches voted 10-2 for the rule. That might be a jealous reaction to Alabama's Nick Saban, one of the best recruiters in the country.

 Pray for Joe Daniels. The Ohio State quarterbacks coach is out this spring recovering from a diseased kidney that was removed in February. Daniels, 61, has been fighting cancer since being diagnosed in 2006.

  Rutgers is about to get a commitment from a kid that could be the best recruit in the history of the program. Quarterback Tom Savage of Springfield, Pa. has called a Friday press conference to announce his commitment to Rutgers according to one outlet. Savage is rated as the nation's No. 6 quarterback prospect by one service. 

  All-America safety Eric Berry has been taking snaps at quarterback for Tennessee during the spring. That pleases receiver Gerald Jones who has played the change-of-pace quarterback role for Phil Fulmer.

"That puts a big smile on my face to see him come over to the offense and make big plays," Jones told GoVolsXtra. "We call him Superman because he does the unthinkable."

Jones accounted for 2,700 total yards in his senior season as an Oklahoma high school quarterback. Berry was 35-7 as a starter at Creekside High in Atlanta.

"It just brings a dynamic that you like and makes the defense have to prepare for," Fulmer said. "The physical skills that they do possess (makes it) pretty exciting."

 Ninety-five bucks for a spring game? That's what a ticket broker is getting for Nebraska's game on Saturday. Eighty-one thousand fans with nothing else to do will turn out, some having played almost $100 for a scrimmage. Reserved seats are $10 but the game has been sold out since April 9. By the way, the $95 is more than some regular-season tickets are going for.

 Leftovers from the Dan Hawkins story:

On son/quarterback Cody:

"As our offense continues to evolve and the cockpit gets more buttons and switches and lights on it, that's his forte (improvement). He's not going to be throwing the ball like Kordell Stewart, but he is very accurate and very savvy. The more bells and whistles we can get involved the better we'll be."

On the evolution of the spread offense:

"Maybe what it will come to in the NFL is they'll (quarterbacks) get paid like running backs and you'll have three legitimate quarterbacks. Maybe at some point we're going to get three guys. We're not going to pay them like a running back and and we're not going to pay them $10 million. We'll pay them $2 million."

Receiver Josh Smith on his coach:

"I like his coaching techniques. He pretty much covers all the bases as being there as a father, a brother or a friend. Whatever you need him to be. He has a good way of motivating guys to stay on track."

Receiver Josh Smith on his counterpart on the CU ski team, Josh Smith. The football Josh was able to ski black diamond runs during third day on skis. The slope Josh came to the practice facility and fielded punts:

"I know how to ski. He caught pretty well. I coached him up. Hawk coached him up. Wow, he was pretty for his first time catching a football."

CU assistant Darian Hagan when asked if this current climate reminds him of when Bill McCartney was turning around the program (Hagan is a former CU quarterback):

"I use that in our recruiting. We're really a few guys away from being very, very good."

  I didn't forget about you. Florida coach Urban Meyer is the source of the quote above regarding spring games.



Posted on: March 24, 2008 6:34 pm
Edited on: March 24, 2008 9:54 pm

The conspiracy numbers from the second round

Officials continue to call NCAA Tournament games like they are the Battle for Faluja.

In the second round almost half the games (seven of 16) were bogged down by a foul-a-minute pace. The Tennessee-Butler game had a tournament-high 49 fouls. Taking into account the overtime, there was a foul call every 55 seconds in that game. The worst ratio was in the West Virginia-Duke game which featured a whistle every 50 seconds.

Going into the Sweet 16, three of every eight games (18 of 48, 37.5 percent) are being called at, at least a foul-a-minute rate (minimum 40 fouls in a 40 minutes). The second-round games averaged almost a foul out per game (14 DQs in 16 games). The average fouls per game were 37.125.  

So what, you say? Those of you who attended these games (like me)  were so pissed at the end you wanted to strangle someone.

I'll say it again. A mandate has been handed down by someone to call these games close. It takes away from the appeal of the tournament -- the players. We don't come to see officials, we come to see great ball.


Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or