Posted on: August 3, 2009 6:38 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2009 10:53 am

Urban the latest Four Million Dollar Man

The Orlando Sentinel recently began a series on tough economic times in college athletics this way:

The signs are there, as plain as a Penn State helmet. Athletic departments are bleeding money. Budgets are being slashed. Coaches are going on furlough. Sports are being eliminated.

After decades of excess, is the financial meltdown about to bring nuclear winter to college sports?

Not at Florida, not in the SEC. You might have heard that Urban Meyer received a raise to $4 million per year. You also probably noticed that no one blinked.

1) Nick Saban is already there. Bob Stoops is set to make $5 million (with bonuses) in 2011.

2) Meyer is kicking back $1 million to the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program.

3) Florida isn't on the hook for one dime of the deal. The University Athletic Association is a separate entity that funds UF athletics.

4) If anything, Meyer is underpaid. I mean, two national championships in four seasons?

So we're supposed to be outraged that the state's highest paid employee is the football coach. The only outrage should be at Florida State and Miami (Ok, it's a private school) that those schools aren't earning it.

You knew the raise was coming, but it is the first sign that the SEC is going to further monopolize the sport. It has the best coaches, it will continue to sign the best players. Get used to the SEC winning three national championships in a row and four out of six.

Don't forget league teams have yet to get paid from the monster $3 billion contract with CBS, ESPN et al over the next 15 years. When it does, each of the 12 schools will receive a $17 million check each season. So can Florida afford Urban Meyer? Yes. Should we be outraged. No.

Florida couldn't even win the buyout battle. Meyer owes the school only $500,000 if he jumps. That's tip money for the highest paid coach in the SEC.


Category: NCAAF
Tags: Florida
Posted on: July 24, 2009 10:51 am
Edited on: July 24, 2009 3:31 pm

BUSTED: Spurrier's SEC all-conference ballot

HOOVER, Ala. -- Steve Spurrier came this close to having his retired number taken down at The Swamp and dumped in a swamp.

We now know that the South Carolina coach was the lone SEC coach who didn't vote for Tim Tebow on the coaches' preseason All-SEC team.  Now it becomes a case of damage control. Spurrier was allowed to change his vote to Tebow, diminishing, but not ending, a growing controversy.

Votergate has become a three-day story here at the SEC media days. Tebow was not among the three unanimous choices on the team.  Ever since then, every coach on the podium has been asked about his quarterback vote. With three coaches left -- Spurrier, Lane Kiffin and Les Miles -- the news has brokenthat the South Carolina coach's ballot did not include Tebow.

Spurrier said Friday morning he OK'd a ballot filled by a football operations aide without looking at the names. Ole Miss' Jevan Snead was listed on Spurrier's ballot.

"Some coach made a careless mistake," Spurrier said. "A coach brought it into me and I signed off on it ... It's my fault. It's my responsibility. I apologized to Tim Tebow."

"Tim Tebow is the best quarterback in this league."

The vote is now unanimous. (Coaches couldn't vote for their own guys.) We'll see if Gator Nation accepts the apology and lets the controversy die.




Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 23, 2009 5:25 pm

One SEC coach is either lying or will be busted

HOOVER, Ala. -- By Friday we should know if at least one SEC coach is either busted or lying.

Through two days of the conference's media days, eight of the 12 coaches (minus Urban Meyer) said they voted for Tim Tebow as the preseason all-conference quarterback. One problem. Only three players on the team were unanimous selections and Tebow wasn't one of them.

That's somewhat of a surprise, one would think, given that Heisman Trophy and two national championships.  All the league office will say is that Tebow wasn't unanimous. That's not counting Meyer who couldn't vote for his own guy.

With four coaches to go on Friday, the process of elimination will continue.  On deck are Lane Kiffin, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier and Gene Chizik.  So far no one has fessed up. If the trend continues we'll know that at least one coach is not telling the truth. Maybe that's better than enduring the scorn for leaving Superman off the ballot.

"Before I open it up for questions," said Ole Miss' Houston Nutt , "I just want to go ahead and tell you that I voted for Tim Tebow."

In the tightly wound SEC this is becoming big news here this week. One by one the coaches have stood up at a podium in front of 1,000 credentialed media and professed their undying love for Tebow.

"You guys are going to try to narrow it down to get somebody to spill their guts," Kentucky's Rich Brooks said. "How could I not vote for Tim Tebow? We couldn't stop him the last few years ... It isn't me. I'm not the guy. Good luck on your search."

"I don't know if ya'll are going to find the culprit who didn't vote. You could tell him it wasn't me." Vandy's Bobby Johnson said.

Nutt is a fan. The Ole Miss victory at Gainesville last season, prompted Tebow to make "The Promise." The words are inscribed on the side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Nutt has read them to <em>his</em> team for inspiration.

"I still have the script on my desk," Nutt said.

The Florida entourage was flying here Thursday when Meyer saw an item in a paper about the "snub" and nudged his quarterback.

"Will it give me a little bit (of motivation)," Tebow said. "Yeah I guess but I have enough that gives me motivation right now. It's really not a big deal to me. It's kind of funny because it's this big a deal. How it's happening is pretty funny."

Posted on: July 23, 2009 1:28 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2009 2:14 pm

Brandon Spikes is afraid of crowds.

HOOVER, Ala. -- The SEC apparently has itself to blame for this one.

The conference's media days are too big. That's the reason Florida All-American linebacker Brandon Spikes gave for begging out of a scheduled appearance during Day Two of the media days. Coach Urban Meyer told me, "it's a paranoia thing."

"When he found out and watched some of it yesterday, hundreds of media and all that," Meyer said. "Sort of stage fright."

There are almost 1,000 credentialed media (a record) at this year's event but the crowds are really no different than any other year. There are fans in the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel but that's part of the deal. Plus, the coaches and players get plenty of escorts around so they're not bothered. 

Spikes' absence is odd. He is one of the most personable Gators. Spikes routinely plays in front of 85,000 fans at The Swamp. Stage fright? For now we'll have to take him at his word. Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun called Spikes and later told me the excuse is legit.

"We have to coax him," Meyer added. "(Defensive coordinator) Charlie Strong and he are real close. We almost had him coaxed today. He said, 'Coach, don't want do it.' "

Meyer said that the condition or whatever it is might have played into Spikes' staying for his senior year. He feels comfortable in Gainesville and is very superstitious. Spikes might have figured that he didn't come here last year and the Gators won the national championship. Why change? Can't wait to see how Spikes deals with the NFL combine next year but that's another story for another time.

"You notice he's not Tim. He's not Percy (Harvin)," Meyer said. "Some guys handle that well.

 Spikes was replaced here by linebacker Ryan Stamper who was joined by Tim Tebow and Meyer in the Florida group.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Florida
Posted on: July 22, 2009 11:05 am
Edited on: July 22, 2009 12:49 pm

Mountain West scraps

MWC notes as the its media days wrap up Wednesday in Henderson, Nev. ...

After TCU's Gary Patterson, new San Diego State coach Brady Hoke is easily the most outgoing head man in the league. Hoke is one of those call-me-anytime guys. We've already bonded on one subject. Hoke is familiar with the annual San Diego bacchanalian ritual known as Over The Line. For those of you familiar with Indian Ball, it's Indian Ball played on sand.

With beer and bikinis and bands and all kinds of rude stuff.

Hoke hasn't been to OTL yet but something tells me he will.

 Wyoming was picked last in the nine-team Mountain West. First-year coach Dave Christensen knew what he was getting into when he took the job. Wyoming has had one winning season this decade.

"That's where I would have voted us too," Christensen said.

  Where do Sugar Bowl-winning quarterbacks go? In the case of Utah's Brian Johnson it's the United Football League. The UFL is a new pro franchise that debuts in the fall with a handful of franchises. Johnson went undrafted in the NFL but got taken by the UFL New York franchise.

That was after turning down a job offer from Kyle Whittingham.

"I offered him a job as a full-time job coach, but he wanted to try playing," Whittingham said. "Someday I want to get him back on the staff."

  The Utes aren't going to fall off the map without Johnson. Whittingham loves the three candidates lining up to replace Johnson -- junior Corbin Louks, juco transfer Terrance Cain and early enrollee Jordan Wynn.

Louks, who threw seven passes last season, runs a 4.42. Cain came in from Blinn (Texas) College, juco home of former K-State quarterback Michael Bishop. Whittingham says Cain, "reminds me of Alex Smith."

  Utah has the longest active bowl streak having won its last eight in a row.

 Since joining the league in 2005, TCU has the best overall record, 41-11. A case can be made, though, for it being the least accomplished of the big three (including Utah and BYU). Utah has won a Sugar Bowl and has that bowl streak going. BYU has won the league twice in that span and for a time had the nation's longest winning streak. When it trailed TCU in Fort Worth last year it was the first time in two years it trailed at halftime.

 TCU was the first non-BCS school to finish ranked in the top 12 despite two losses.

  TCU was picked to win the league in a preseason media poll. Patterson already is on record as saying he prefers to come from behind. The last time his team was picked to win in the preseason it finished fifth (8-5).

  Only four schools have won conference titles in the 10-year history of the Mountain West -- Utah, TCU, BYU and Colorado State.

  The league has the best winning percentage in bowls the last five years (14-7, .667). The SEC is second (24-13, .643).

  Only five other teams in the country have won more games than Utah (22) and BYU (21) the last two seasons.

  Bronco Mendenhall on christening Jerry Jones' new mega-stadium against Oklahoma. BYU and OU will play in the first college game in the new stadium on Sept. 5.

"Our coaches and players have earned the right to be selected to for the game,"  BYU's coach said. "I viewed it like a postseason bowl game where they earned their chance because of their body of work. I was willing to trade off possibly an undefeated season ... to continue to improve us over time."

Patterson took it further. His team beat Oklahoma in 2005 and, aside from one bad first quarter, played the Sooners off their feet in 2008. The 35 points allowed in that game were the second-fewest (next to Florida) allowed against OU's offense.

"If you don't play the Oklahomas or the Texases of the world you get a false sense of where you are as a program and how high you can play," he said. "Just playing well doesn't do you any good, if you've got to win those games.

"It has to get to a point where we're recognized enough as a group. Just like Florida loses one game it doesn't make any difference. People talk about Baylor improving, SMU improving. It won't do any of us any good, it doesn't do TCU any good for those programs not to be winning." 


Posted on: June 30, 2009 12:05 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2009 12:34 pm

Picking the SEC

You're tired. We're all tired.

Of the SEC.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't believe the hype. Since it expanded in 1992, the SEC has won seven national championships in 17 years, four of the last six and three in a row. It generally sends the most players to the NFL, approximately 36 a year since 1990. How many leagues can narrow the national championship race to one game? Since 2006, the winner of the LSU-Florida game has been the national champion.

Nowhere else does one agent (Jimmy Sexton) represent half the league's coaches. The SEC produces the most draft picks, the most talent, the best stories. Open a browser. You'll find something about Lane Kiffin somewhere.

This season, Florida opens the season as the consensus No. 1 chasing a third national championship in four years. Only two other schools have accomplished that feat in the wire service era: Notre Dame (1946-47, 49), Nebraska (1994-95, 1997).

Let's not forget those lucrative new TV contracts from CBS and ESPN. In the SEC, money flows downhill -- into league coffers.

Tired of the SEC? Too bad. You'll have to pay attention. Once again, the winner of the league will probably be in contention for the BCS title game.

Picking the SEC ...

West Division

1. Alabama -- They've dismissed the Sugar Bowl as a fluke in Tuscaloosa long ago. They'd rather remember how Bama went undefeated in the regular season and was No. 1 for several weeks. Nine returning starters on defense is a good place to start. New quarterback Greg McElroy better find Julio Jones often. A rebuilt offensive line will try to spring Mark Ingram (12 touchdowns as a freshman). The magic of St. Nick gets the nod in this packed division.

2. LSU -- Don't agonize over Jordan Jefferson at quarterback. LSU has won two national championships with, shall we say, less than dynamic quarterbacks. Crazy Les has the SEC's best running back (Charles Scott) and at least one NFL draft pick (Ciron Black) on the offensive line. After the co-coordinator thing failed on defense, Miles went out and got the best player on the board -- John Chavis, formerly of Tennessee.
3. Ole Miss
-- Until Ole Miss actually does it, they can't be the pick in the West. I know Jevan Snead might be the league's best pro prospect at quarterback. I know Greg Hardy can beat anyone off the edge. I know that Alabama and LSU come to Oxford. I know that Houston Nutt is underrated as a coach.  I just can't get over the fact that after beating Florida, Ole Miss lost at home to South Carolina. There's a clunker out there somewhere that will keep the Rebels from winning the West.
4. Arkansas -- Bobby Petrino has himself a quarterback. That's a good start. Ryan Mallett has the best pure arm in the SEC. The problem is defense and special teams. Petrino has never been known for his defensive prowess. The D surrendered more than 31 per game last season. Until that gets corrected, the Hogs won't compete in the West. Petrino wisely hired old buddy John L. Smith to run the special teams. Mallett punted in the spring. Hopefully, that won't have to be the case in the fall.
5. Auburn -- Let's see, Tony Franklin was fired because players had a hard time picking up his offense. His replacement at offensive coordinator is Gus Malzahn, basically runs the same offense. Let's hope Malzahn is a better communicator because his offenses might play faster than anyone in the country. Gene "5-19" Chizik has a lot to prove after coming over from Iowa State. It won't be this year.

6. Mississippi State -- All the buzz is coming from Oxford. For good reason. Dan Mullen tried to install his version of the spread in the spring with fewer than five receivers on the roster. That will change in a hurry as Mullen says he wants at least a dozen receivers to get playing time. But as his old boss found out, the passing game comes second. Mullen better be able to run the ball first and find some defensive linemen who can come off the edge.

East Division

1. Florida -- How's the view from the top? It is Florida's division, conference and national championship to lose. Every starter is back on defense. A guy named Tebow seems to have won the quarterback job. Now the question is, who replaces Percy Harvin? Meyer says he won't do it by committee. Watch for Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey and incoming recruit Andre Debose to take their shots. After two titles in three years, the further motivation is Florida's first undefeated season.

2. Georgia -- Strange, but the Bulldogs seem like they're going to be OK. Joe Cox doesn't have to light it up in replacing Matt Stafford, just manage the game. Receiver A.J. Green is a year older and bigger. There are two stars on defense -- defensive tackle Geno Atkins and linebacker Rennie Curran. The last time the expectations were this low, 2005, Georgia won the SEC East. It's going to take a win over Florida to do it, so a division title isn't likely. But 10 wins out of this group isn't out of the question.

3. South Carolina -- Steve Spurrier's greatest trait is his honesty. When asked at the SEC spring meetings if quarterback Stephen Garcia was ready to take over he didn't hesitate. Still needs some work, Spur Dog said. If Spurrier can't get the quarterback thing right, what hope is there for the rest of the Gamecocks? They have faded late in each of the last two seasons. Spurrier has averaged seven wins in his four seasons and has produced just one bowl win. At 64, Spurrier is committed. Is his quarterback, who has had legal problems?

4. Kentucky -- UK's run of three consecutive bowl wins might be in danger. Mike Hartline must show he can become a solid SEC quarterback. Randall Cobb remains a wild card, in a good way, as a quarterback, punt returner and receiver. Rich Brooks has his best defensive line since coming to Kentucky. He wants to get the Cats into the top 25 on a regular basis before turning things over to coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips.

5. Tennessee -- Behind the bluster, is this: Tennessee isn't particularly good. The offense is going to be painful to watch -- again. Lane Kiffin has yet to sign the quarterback who will define his success in Knoxville. His best hope at the position might be All-American safety Eric Berry who should get some snaps behind center. If the offensive line holds up, maybe super freshman Bryce Brown can keep the Vols in the hunt. Guru Monte Kiffin gets a head start with athletes on his side of the ball. Defense wasn't the problem last season.

6. Vanderbilt -- After going 26 years between bowls, Vandy just might be getting started. Coach Bobby Johnson gets all five offensive line starters back. The defense that allowed less than 20 points per game is stout as well. It will be typical Commodores in that they will struggle to score but hang in with defense. The Nov. 21 regular-season finale at Tennessee could have a lot on the line.



Posted on: June 5, 2009 3:36 pm

Predicting the bling ...

We're all Heisman candidates in June. Mom, dad, the plumber, the cat. Well, maybe not the cat.

This is the time of year to salute every swinging hick who dares to dream of a trip to New York. With that in mind, here are my Heisman rankings.

1. Colt McCoy, Texas -- It's his time. Among the Three Amigos, it's his turn.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida -- Voters will be wary of making Superman a two-time winner. There has only been one.
3. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma -- Back-to-back ain't happenin' either.
4. Jevan Snead. Ole Miss -- This year's Matt Stafford.
5. Jahvid Best, Cal -- No. 3 rusher last season, should be the nation's leading rusher in 2009.
6. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech -- The hoss in Paul Johson's option offense.
7. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State -- Cowboy No. 1
8. Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State -- Cowboy No. 2
9. Zac Robinson, Oklahoma State --  Cowboy No. 3
10. Case Keenum, Houston -- 5,000-yard passer.

The others -- Arrelious Benn, Illinois; Eric Berry, Tennessee; Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas; Daryll Clark, Penn State; Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame; Aaron Corp, USC; Noel Devine, West Virginia; A.J. Green, Georgia; Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma; Max Hall, BYU; Greg Hardy, Ole Miss; Tim Hiller, Western Michigan; Jerry Hughes, TCU; Colin Kaepernick, Nevada; Julio Jones, Alabama; Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan; MiQuale Lewis, Ball State; Jake Locker, Washington; Taylor Mays, USC; Kellen Moore, Boise State; DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma; Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State; Todd Reesing, Kansas; Jacquizz Rodgers, Oregon State;  Charles Scott, LSU; Brandon Spikes, Florida; Triumph the Insult Comic Dog; The Kobe and LeBron puppets; Zach Galifianakis; Conan O'Brien; Lassie; David Letterman; Iron Man; Alex Trebek, Tina Fey, shall I go on?


Bednarik/Nagurski Award (best defensive player): Jerry Hughes, TCU

Biletnikoff Award (best receiver): Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State

Broyles Award (best assistant coach):  John Chavis, LSU defensive coordinator

Groza Award (best kicker): Kai Forbath, UCLA

Ray Guy Award (best punter): Derek Epperson, Baylor

Lombardi Award (best lineman): Greg Hardy, Ole Miss

Mackey Award (best tight end): Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma

Davey O'Brien Award (best quarterback): Colt McCoy, Texas.

Butkus Award (best linebacker):  Brandon Spikes, Florida

Outland Trophy (best interior lineman):  Ciron Black, LSU

Rimington Trophy (best center): Kristofer O'Dowd, USC

Eddie Robinson Award (coach of the year):  Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Thorpe Award (best defensive back): Eric Berry, Tennessee

Doak Walker Award (best running back):  Jahvid Best, Cal



Posted on: May 29, 2009 3:16 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2009 3:18 pm

Nuggets from the SEC spring meetings

The sideshow known as the SEC spring meetings concluded Friday morning in Destin, Fla. Here are some highlights I've plucked out of the digital recorder:

Sporting News scribe Matt Hayes boiled the Lane Kiffin issue down to its essence when he asked Florida's Urban Meyer: "Why is it everyone is so obsessed with everyone being friends? Somebody needs to apologize. Why? Why can't you just be rivals and not talk to each other and not like each other, what's wrong with that?

Meyer: "Nothing. I don't know if those are stories though. That's not a prerequisite is to be friends."

 Meyer has stated that backup quarterback John Brantley will get playing time in the first half of games, at least, if he continues to progress. Brantley, in his third year in the program, might be the most patient quarterback in the country.

"It's not charity if he [Brantley] earns it. Based on spring evaluation he's earned playing time. He's got another phase to go through.  That's summer and [then] he's got training camp.

"We won't change the offense [for him], we'll change play calls."

 Auburn's Gene Chizik on defending his 5-19 record at Iowa State:

"It was more or less the perfect storm. The league got great quick. We fought a lot of those great football teams, We were in a bunch of games with a bunch of young guys. We played 11 true freshmen last year.

"I knew that it was tough when I took it. Is it tougher than what I thought when I took it? Probably not. I love challenges and I accept challenges. If I didn't I would have stayed at Texas [as defensive coordinator]. I could have stayed there until I decided until not to."

 Georgia coach Mark Richt on Matt Stafford:

"If he can survive the first year or two and he can grow, and Detroit can grow with him, he can be a real fine quarterback."

 Ole Miss' Houston Nutt on the hype surrounding his team which is favored to win the SEC West by several outlets:

"There is a lot of hype right now. Big anticipation. A lot of expectations. All of that is good, but bottom line it comes back to coaches and players.

On quarterback Jevan Snead

"If you take the last five as compared to the first five games, Jevan is a different quarterback. Those decisions he was making so much better. In the Texas Tech game, he throws an interception that is returned for a touchdown and he doesn't flinch."

Is Jevan is this year's Matt Stafford in a way?

"I hope. Matt Stafford was a heck of a guy, first guy taken. Physically what I love about Jevan is tall, strong, smart, humble, work ethic. First one in the weight room when I left at 7 a.m."

On star defensive end Greg Hardy:
"It probably doesn't hurt when he sees (NFL draftees) Peria Jerry and Michael Oher driving different cars. That's a real motivator."

On Tim Tebow and Florida [The Gators ran the table after Tebow's inspirational speech following the Ole Miss loss]:

"He [Tebow] put that team on his back. I've never seen a quarterback make a statement like that. A couple of those weeks, now, without Percy Harvin. That to me makes him special. We didn't know how to handle it, going to class and have everybody slapping us on the back.

"Florida gave us the confidence that we can beat anybody."


Category: NCAAF
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