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Posted on: August 7, 2008 9:02 pm

SI Jinx strikes early

This is going to be a real challenge for the four-letter. Does it go with Brett Favre or Aaron Hernandez?

As you know by now, Favre has been jammed down our throats like Alien laying her eggs. But what does ESPN do about Hernandez, a Florida tight end and native son of Bristol, Conn.? Now that Favre has been traded maybe Hernandez shoots to the top of the overkill charts.

Florida was settle for a capable tight end. Hernandez, a sophomore, just got a higher profile when Florida teammate Cornelius Ingram went down with a torn left ACL. It looks like Ingram's season -- and possibly career -- is over. Too bad because Ingram was one of the best tight ends in the country and part of a top receiving corps.

But if there is a place where Florida can afford a major injury this is it. Florida's offense was/still is loaded. What Florida will lose is experience and depth, not the SEC. Yet. Hernandez was the No. 1 rated tight end by a couple of services coming out of Chris Berman Tech. Oh wait, no, that was Bristol Central.

The kid had a bright future just not this quick. He started three games in '07 catching nine passes for 151 yards. His brother D.J. is a starting receiver at UConn (30 catches, 404 yards last season).

This also bumps up redshirt senior Tate Casey. Casey is more of the blocking type. You might remember him from 2006 when he caught the famous jump pass from Tim Tebow against LSU.

SI hit my mailbox today. Florida is one of the regional covers. It's obvious the jinx has hit early.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Florida, LSU, UConn
Posted on: August 1, 2008 10:03 pm

Georgia, you're on the clock

So now it's on for Georgia, a program that has never been a preseason No. 1.

The Bulldogs debuted at on top of the coaches' poll Friday, which is nice for about 13 seconds in the SEC. Now the pressure builds. The Bulldogs will face something eight coaches this season who have won national championships. The schedule is tougher than breakfast steak. And how weird is this: Florida is ranked No. 5 but was picked over Georgia in the preseason media poll to win the SEC.

Only two teams in the last 10 years have gone wire to wire, USC in 2004 and Florida State in 1999.

 The good news: Five of the last six preseason No. 1s in the coaches' poll have at least played in the BCS championship game. USC broke a streak of five in a row last season.

The breakdown of the last six preseason No. 1s:

2002: Miami lost the BCS championship game to Ohio State

2003: Oklahoma lost the BCS championship game to LSU

2004:  USC beat Oklahoma (preseason No. 2) in the BCS championship game

2005: USC lost the BCS championship game to Texas

2006: Ohio State lost the BCS championship game to Florida

2007: No. 2 LSU beat Ohio State (preseason No. 10) in the BCS championship game. Preseason No. 1 USC finished No. 2 in the coaches poll.


Posted on: July 23, 2008 3:33 pm

Five things you need to know about the SEC

Five things you need to know about the SEC...

1. The East is a toss-up between Georgia and Florida: It's always a problem when the two best SEC teams are from the same division. The conference title and national championship could come down to the Nov. 1 Cocktail Party in Jacksonville.

2. So why is Georgia No. 1? A seven-game winning streak helps. So does having the quarterback that the NFL might consider the best in next year's draft, Matthew Stafford. Throw in tailback Knowshon Moreno and a stout defense and Bulldogs are having an easy time getting over the death of UGA VI.

3. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Tim Tebow. Really. The kid was the first sophomore to win a Heisman. He helped perform circumcision during a missionary trip to the Phillipines. During a trip to Europe some guy who couldn't speak English recognized him. The kid has never so much as sneaked a cigarette in high school. Believe me, someone asked him at the media days.

"There are a lot of leaders out there," Tebow said. "Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of good ones."

4. Fail and you die. There's pressure and then there's SEC pressure. Change is a constant. There are two new head coaches (Ole Miss, Arkansas), but almost half of the league's 24 coordinators (11) have been replaced.

5. The national champion formerly known as LSU is alive and well, kind of.: The Tigers figure to drop a notch or two after being the lucky recipients of a national championship berth despite a two-loss regular season. Quarterback Ryan Perrilloux is gone (thank goodness). Consider it addition by subtraction. There's no way LSU can defend the West, much less the national championship, while breaking in either redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee or Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch.

But the Tigers will make another run at it in '09.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 14, 2008 2:36 pm

Some thoughts on the best coach series...

I purposefully waited until the coaching series was over to go back and dissect the numbers. When picking the 

coaches in each category, I didn't want to be influenced.

Anyway, here is how it breaks down ...

 The big winners were the SEC and Big 10. Surprise! Eighteen of the 66 coaches chosen came from the SEC (27.2 percent). The Big Ten had 13 picks (19.7 percent). Only three of the coaches came from non-BCS leagues (two from Conference USA and one from the WAC).

 Another surprise (not). Nine of the 66 coaches came from schools in Florida.


 The Big 12 and Pac-10 each led with three coaches on the dream staff. Norm Chow (UCLA, offensive coordinator), Pat Ruel (offensive line, USC) and Pete Carroll (head coach, USC) came from the Pac-10. In the Big 12, there were Cale Gundy (running backs, Oklahoma), Bruce Walker (tight ends, Missouri) and Brian Cabral (linebackers, Colorado). The Big Ten and SEC each had two "bests".

 USC and Florida tied for the most coaches on the list, each with five. That means that more than half the staffs at those schools are among the best in the country. That would make sense since the schools have combined to finish No. 1 in the AP poll three of the last five years.

 Thirty-five total schools were represented, including at least two programs from all six BCS conferences. Notre Dame did not have a coach on the list. However, East Carolina, Hawaii, UNLV and Tulsa did.

 The only SEC schools not represented were Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Kentucky and Mississippi State.


 The only conferences not to have at least one coach on a list were the Sun Belt and MAC.


 Nine of the dream staffers have won a national championship. The only ringless member is Missouri tight ends coach Bruce Walker.

Coaches I wished could have made the list but didn't:

 South Florida defensive backs coach Troy Douglas (coached first-rounder Mike Jenkins and fifth-round Trae Williams in 2007).

 There were too many good offensive coordinators. Among those that deserve mention: Bryan Harsin, Boise State; Mike Locksley, Illinois; Joker Phillips, Kentucky; Jim Bollman, Ohio State; Steed Lobotzke, Wake Forest.

 How do you leave off defensive coordinators DeWayne Walker of UCLA and Wally Burnham of South Florida?


 This has nothing to do with the coaching series but I found it interesting that Texas A&M's new president Elsa Murano isn't expecting much out of Mike Sherman in his first season.

"I have great expectations for coach (Mike) Sherman. Poor guy," Murano told the San Antonio Express-News. "We all think he needs to win the championship the first year, which of course cannot possibly happen. We need to give him a chance to rebuild.”

Cannot possibly happen? You've got to love Murano's candor.

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: May 15, 2008 10:33 am

USC you later?

USC's situation is not as bad as it is made out to be. Don't be a lemming -- or an Obama supporter. Think for yourself on this issue.

USC has a problem with agents -- mostly the two major sports seem to attract those with hygiene problems. In other words they're greasy. The NCAA is looking into the, ahem, pasts of O.J. Mayo and Reggie Bush. But death penalty? Whoa, there. Let's operate from the premise that USC didn't know about either case of extra benefits. A source with broad knowledge of the NCAA investigative process, says the NCAA is actually slightly more forgiving when it comes to agents giving extra benefits than it is with boosters. The language in the NCAA Manual deals specifically with boosters, the thinking being that schools have an ability and a duty to control them.

Not so much with agents. This isn't to absolve USC. Bush-Mayo looks bad. Real bad. But unless the NCAA can prove that USC knew or should have known about each situation, the school is likely to skate. Is it fair? Probably not, but as Gary Parrish pointed earlier this week there are Mayo situations going on all over the country. USC being USC, it got caught in the headlights. Do you think "Outside the Lines" does a piece with a jilted agent runner outing, say, Seton Hall?

We'll find out soon enough about Bush. Depositions will be taken next month in the lawsuit against him. The trial is scheduled for March. If it gets that far, I'll be shocked. Bush should have settled with Lloyd Lake by now. I don't know why he hasn't. The negative publicity from the case already has cost him dearly in endorsements.

"Hummer, lost them all, except for adidas," one source told me.

Since both these guys are out of school it will come down to the NCAA deciding if the school knew about the agents. At worst USC is guilty of negligence, not complicity. Did USC want to know? Of course not. It was in the school's best interest to get Bush and Mayo on campus win games. Should USC have known? That's the NCAA's (and the Pac-10's) task.

 If you playoff proponents want a ray of hope, here it is: Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen is rumored to be stepping down next year. (His choice, by the way) Hansen, along with the Big Ten's Jim Delany, is part of the blockade against a plus-one. The new commissioner might be able to slowly melt some cold presidential hearts within the conference.

Watch for the Mountain West's Craig Thompson to go after the job. That makes sense, but there is another name in the rumor mill that will blow your doors off: Notre Dame AD Kevin White.

Hansen is the longest-tenured major-college commissioner having been in his position since 1983.

 Why didn't someone at the BCS meetings in South Florida last month propose an unseeded plus-one? That model seems much more agreeable to the bowls, presidents and schools. Let all the bowls go back to the natural hookups (Fiesta with the Big 12, Rose with Big Ten-Pac-10, Sugar with the SEC, Orange with ACC and/or Big East). The two highest-ranked teams after the bowls would then meet for the national championship.

There are issues: Because of its agreement with two conferences, the Rose Bowl could face a situation where an 8-4 team could upset an undefeated No. 1 team. That doesn't exactly legitimize a national championship game.

A fifth bowl would have to be added to accommodate the non-BCS schools. There's always the possibility that 1-2 teams could play in a bowl, although not much of one. Between 1936 and 1992 (when the Bowl Coalition was formed) No. 1 played No. 2 in a bowl only eight times.

But the dearth of postseason sizzle was why the BCS was formed.

Choosing among the bowl winners still doesn't clear up the problem of selecting the top two teams. If the system had been in place last season, you would have needed federal troops to clear the streets. The top seven teams in the final BCS standings (prior to the bowls, mind you) finished with at least two losses. The No. 8 team, Kansas, went 12-1.

Best guess on an unseeded plus-one in that scenario: LSU vs. Georgia, USC, Missouri or Kansas. Satisfied?

 A fond farewell to Kansas State president Jon Wefald who is retiring after the 2008-2009 academic year. The Miracle in Manhattan never would have happened had not the energetic president taken big, big chances in turning his football program around.

In the late 1980s, he spent K-State into debt in order to hire a top notch coach, pay his staff and improve facilities. Obviously, it worked. You couldn't help but like the guy. He bounced around the press box like a suit-wearing gnome, a cheerleader without being annoying. Warner Bros. is busy turning a screenplay written by Wefald into a TV movie about the Negro Leagues.

His legacy will be greater than 99 percent of the presidents around today. First, he stayed on the job, 23 years by the time he retires. Most of his peers are academic gigolos, jumping from one job to another.

The school continued to go out of the box with Bill Snyder's replacement, Ron Prince. The hire was great at the time, in part, because Prince was one of the few minority head coaches in I-A football. The hire looks like a gamble now because Prince lost his AD (Tim Weiser) and his president while the program has declined.

Wefald leaves with another gamble on his record. Bob Huggins came and went. So did Michael Beasley. For now it worked. Frank Martin took K-State to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years. Can the basketball success be sustained?

 That Tim Tebow circumcision stuff was worth a laugh but if I'm a self-respecting doctor, I'm pissed. Letting a Heisman Trophy winner snip sutures is a bit like letting a civilian in a press box. That's our office. We're the trained professionals who, like doctors, adhere to a code of ethics.

There has to be a professional organization of doctors in Alachua County, Fla. that will weigh in on this. And what about the head of the University of Florida medical school? If I get a minute I'm going to call them and ask them about Tebow.

 I was sitting around and decided to rate the conferences going into next season. What do you think?

1. SEC -- Three of the last six BCS national champions.

2. Big 12 -- All grown up. The Large Dozen enters its 13th season with at least four top 15 programs (Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas)

3. Pac-10 -- The only league to play nine regular-season conference games continues to chase USC.

4. Big East -- Seven deep in 2008

5. Big Ten -- Big drop off after Ohio State.

6. ACC -- Haven't won a BCS bowl game since 1999.

7. Mountain West -- BYU is back!

8. WAC -- Depth throughout. Boise, Fresno and Hawaii should all go bowling.

9. Conference USA -- Two 10-game winners in 2007.

10. MAC -- The league champion (Central Michigan) lost six games<>

11. Sun Belt -- Finally. Three teams at .500 or above.






Posted on: May 5, 2008 10:41 am

Tim Tebow's Heisman candidacy begins ...

... with the snip of a scissors.

Let the Holiday Inn Express cracks begin, but can your quarterback help out with circumcisions?

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Florida
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.



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