Tag:SMU
Posted on: August 8, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 10:17 am
 

What to expect from this week's NCAA retreat

Let's calculate the odds of any real change coming out of this week's NCAA presidential retreat.

All we have is history which has not been kind. In the late 1980s, the nation's college presidents were charged with taking control of athletic landscape amid a time of scandal. In other words, live up to their job description.

So much for that. In the quarter century since 1987 (SMU death penalty) college football has averaged three football major violation cases per year. In one 13-day period in July (during our reform series, consequently), three schools went on probation in football in less than two weeks.

The presidential initiative hasn't failed -- the venerable Myles Brand was the first NCAA CEO to come from the academic side. It has been more uneven. For good reason.

Athletics aren't a front burner item to most college CEOs. They are in charge of what are frequently billion-dollar budgets. Athletics is a small part of that budget. They would be no big deal if the embarrassment factor weren't plugged in.

"Athletics is about two percent of my budget," Penn State president Graham Spanier said, "but probably 10 percent of my time. Clearly, I spend a disproportionate time on athletics. It's the one area that brings credit to you if you do it right. At the same time it's the area of the university that has the chance to bring discredit to the university."

Remember, this is from the CEO of one of two schools with football national championships that have never had a major violation in football. (BYU is the other.)

Look at what has happened recently at Ohio State and North Carolina. The presidents, in a way, have ignored the importance of athletics as their school's reputation took a hit. Ohio State's outgoing Gordon Gee is still being ripped for his March 8 comment about Jim Tressel.

"I'm just hoping the coach doesn't dismiss me."

While watching his football program slowly disintegrate from within, North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp inadvertently committed an NCAA secondary violation.

These are the leaders of the NCAA. And their time is running out.

"I'm deeply worried about football," Spanier told me this summer. "I believe if we don't fix some of the problems in football, [that] in five years it will be as bad as basketball."

That's as damning as it gets. There are a lot of folks in college athletics who believe basketball is so far gone that it is irretrievable. Football still has a chance. That's why this retreat was called, to discuss the big picture but to concentrate on football.

A collection of presidents (Spanier is among them), ADs and commissioners will gather in Indy to discuss academic success, fiscal sustainability and integrity. Those are NCAA president Mark Emmert's words. We'll see if anything comes of them.

The difference this time is we have talking points. Most notably, SEC commissioner Mike Slive proposed a new model at the conference media days. The BCS commissioners basically agree with him.

If the NCAA (read: presidents) don't take significant action on those proposals, the commissioners can throw up their hands and say, "Hey, we tried our best." In a small way, Slive's words publicized the leverage those commissioners hold. Do nothing, and the minutia of the NCAA Manual could drive them to someday break away and form their own division.

That move alone could be driven by the current discussion over cost of attendance. But NCAA president Mark Emmert is against any kind of model that would make players employees.

"I am adamantly opposed to paying student-athletes to be athletes," he told me. "There is merit in having discussion about increasing of the support they get to manage their legitimate costs of being a student."

We're back, then, to the old conundrum of fitting a profit-driven pursuit into an academic/amateur model.

"I would rather do away with collegiate athletics than abandon the amateur model," Spanier said.

 It is more than interesting that it is the commissioners who are suddenly taking the lead on NCAA reform.

"It's a different day when commissioners are almost in competition to see who can come up with the best reform package," Emmert said.

Slive makes perfect sense when he suggests doing away with text and phone call limitations for coaches. This is how modern teenagers communicate. If they choose not to respond to a coach, they don't have to.

"When you really think about it, why can't coaches make phone calls?" Slive said. "Our focus needs to be on those rules and regulations that go to the heart and soul of the integrity we want in intercollegiate athletics."

In other words, smash the Tressels. Ignore the texters.

So it's up to you, presidents. If you don't want to get that integrity back it's time for action. In a vague and complicated way, those commissioners have issued a challenge. It has become clear that the NCAA controls basketball because of the billions being produced by the tournament. The commissioners, though, control football. They created and manage the BCS, which awards $200 million in bowl payouts.

And if you control football, you control college athletics. Slive did what Emmert couldn't, call from specific sweeping changes to the NCAA. Emmert has no real power on the subject. He is a figurehead -- a highly educated and accomplished one, but still a figurehead. He represents 1,200 schools with different constituencies, goals and budgets.

All you have to do is look at the Longhorn Network situation. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe took the lead, issuing a temporary ban on televising high school games. Big 12 ADs voted unanimously last week on a one-year moratorium. With a summit addressing the issue scheduled for later this month, I asked Emmert if there was any NCAA bylaw to cover the televising of prep games.

"Maybe," he said. 

(Here is a full Q & A with Emmert.)

Posted on: February 10, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 2:33 pm
 

National notes leading w/ TCU-Wisconsin

Let's straighten out this TCU-Wisconsin mini-controversy. There's a huge reason the Horned Frogs did not want to play the Badgers for the second time in nine months. Its 2011 schedule is all but full.

TCU took a bit of a beating in the court of public opinion this week when Badgers coach Bret Bielema casually mentioned on a radio show that he had been approached by a third party to play the Horned Frogs in Madison in 2011. TCU turned down the "offer." Words like "rematch" and "ducking" entered the conversation on the always level-headed Worldwide Interweb. 

It wasn't a true rematch in that Wisconsin wasn't willing to return the game. There was no ducking because, in truth, TCU's schedule is about to be finalized. The public just doesn't know about it yet. 

The only other opening on the TCU schedule is expected to be filled by BYU on Friday, Oct. 28 at Cowboys Stadium. Pending the final contracts, that's the way it's going to be. TCU's other non-conference games are against Baylor, SMU, Louisiana-Monroe and Portland State. The Froggies will be playing five non-conference games because there are only seven conference games in its final season in the Mountain West.

AD Chris Del Conte's "Anytime, anyplace, anywhere," blast was in reference to Ohio State after Gordon Gee's "Little Sisters of the Poor," comment during the season. It doesn't apply to Wisconsin which was not committed to a return game. TCU is at a level now that it doesn't have to take one-off games on the road. 

It has future home-and-homes scheduled with Oklahoma, Virginia, LSU and Arkansas.




England, Hong Kong weigh in on the BCS: Nothing like a little foreign influence in the BCS. 

The San Diego State International Sports MBA Case Competition is taking on the postseason system in its annual contest involving some of the world's best MBA programs. Twelve schools are being asked to present their best alternatives for postseason college football. The winning group of students will present their case this summer to Mark Cuban, a noted BCS critic and NBA referee baiter who proposed his own playoff plan last year.

Among the MBA programs involved are San Diego State, UCLA, USC, Cal, Notre Dame, Texas, Florida as well as -- wait for it -- Oxford and Hong Kong University.

"We're really interested in what they say, they have no skin in the game," said Greg Block, a media relations director at San Diego State. 

Per the press release, "The largest hurdle ... is to work around the existing personalities and relationships in the current system, making it possible for an independent, outside company to navigate the existing power structures, earn a profit and enact lasting change that is supported by all (I-A) universities."

A time-saving hint for the MBAers: They might start by calling the Rose Bowl, Big Ten and Pac-12 to figure out how to get those three entities in a playoff. No one inside the system has been able to do it yet.

A winner will be determined Friday night. 



Signed and sealed: If you want to view the inner workings of an NCAA CEO you'll have to wait another 57 years. 

Bumping around the NCAA website this week, I discovered something called the Richard D. Schultz Papers. If that sounds like something akin to presidential papers, you're right. Schultz was the NCAA's second executive director from 1987-1993, following the iconic Walter Byers. During his time NCAA basketball revenue skyrocketed, a football playoff became topical and gender equity became a major issue as Title IX took hold.

The point is, you may have to wait a while to read about it.  Schultz' papers were sealed back in 1993 for 75 years or until 2068. All 111 boxes, taking up 57 linear feet. 

"There are some documents the public will never see," said NCAA librarian Lisa Douglass. 

The records are open only to NCAA employees and to "outside researchers" at the discretion of NCAA librarian, according to the site. I don’t know how much juicy stuff is in there but Schultz was not without a bit of controversy in his career. He resigned in 1993 after an investigation into improper loans given to athletes while he was AD at Virginia. 

Juicy stuff, if you're an NCAA nerd like me and love poking around that that kind of stuff. For some reason Byers' papers are more accessible. Those of Cedric Dempsey, who replaced Schultz and Myles Brand are still being assembled.
Posted on: January 25, 2011 2:42 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2011 3:33 pm
 

Latest conference alignment tremors

Conference USA raised some eyebrows earlier this month when it signed a new deal with Fox Sports Media Group for $7 million per year through 2015-16. That may be the reason why the Mountain West is reportedly targeting Utah State and San Jose State as expansion candidates. CUSA possibilities for the MWC -- SMU, Texas-El Paso and Houston -- are now more than happy in their current league with a new network deal. CUSA also has a new side deal with current partner CBS College Sports. The combined deals represent approximately a 47 percent increase in broadcast revenue. ($14 million, up from $9.5 million according to reports).

As always in conference realignment, it's better to track the networks before tracking the teams. The government's approval of the NBC/Comcast deal last week seems to have caused a mini-tremor in conference realignment.

The Mountain West met again Tuesday, in part, to discuss whether to add two more teams in order to make it more attractive to bidding networks. Comcast, a partner in the league's network, is thought to be a player in a deal that could be worth $15 million per year over an undisclosed period of years. ESPN also may be interested, which is significant because the conference at one time made a conscious decision to move away from the cable giant. A few years ago, the Mountain West presidents told commissioner Craig Thompson to move off of ESPN after tiring of having weeknight game times dictated to them.

The Mountain West's network  that resulted from that move away from ESPN hasn't turned a profit yet.  Comcast, a partner with CBS College Sports in the MWC, has an out clause in the deal if both Utah schools depart the league, according to a source. BYU is going independent. Utah is joining the Pac-12. The current network deal with CBS College and Comcast is worth $120 million over 10 years. The contract ends in 2016.

That's why the MWC may be looking to increase its value. In addition to the loss of BYU and Utah, TCU is bolting for the Big East in 2012. The addition of Hawaii, Fresno State, Nevada and Boise State has made the league look more like the old WAC than a new Mountain West. The expansion to a 12-team league, though, would mean the addition of a conference championship game.

The MWC board released a statement Tuesday intimating it will stay at 10 teams for the time being. The conference presidents are next scheduled to meet in June, although they could get together at the MWC Tournament in March.

It's interesting that one conference moved away from ESPN (Conference USA) while another (the MWC) may be moving toward it. Bottom line: There is plenty of money out there, even for the non-BCS leagues. Texas last week announced a $300 million, 20-year deal with ESPN for The Longhorn Network. The ACC doubled its money last year in signing a long-term deal with ESPN (12 years, $1.86 billion). That perhaps left money for Fox, a bidder for the ACC, to hook up with Conference USA.

Comcast is a national communications company headquartered in Philadelphia. For college sports purposes, it is a regional cable giant that also owns E! Entertainment Television, the Golf Channel and VERSUS. There has been speculation ever since Comcast struck the NBC Universal deal what that would mean for sports properties everywhere. For example, what will happen next with the Pac-12 and Big 12 are next in line waiting to cash in on new network deals? Consider this passage from a USA Today story regarding Comcast:  "The [NBC Universal] deal fulfills a longtime goal of Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to turn his family-controlled company into a global media colossus."

Both the Pac-12 and Big 12 will begin negotiating this year with a new-looking product. The Pac-12 added Utah and Colorado. The Big 12 slimmed down to 10 teams after the loss of Colorado and Nebraska. ESPN and Fox made financial promises to the Big 12 last spring that eventually allowed Texas to stay in and keep the league together.

The Big Ten and SEC remain the big dogs in the college television landscape. The SEC finalized a $3 billion, 15-year deal with ESPN and CBS in July 2009. The Big Ten Network continues to be a force after turning a profit slightly more than three years ago.


Meanwhile, losing the San Jose State and Utah State could effectively kill the WAC. The WAC already is trying to reorganize after the loss of Boise State, Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State to the Mountain West.


Posted on: October 21, 2010 5:33 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2010 11:10 am
 

Halfway Son of Weekend Watch List

BCS bowl projections halfway through the season:

BCS championship: Oregon* vs. Alabama*
Rose: Boise* vs. Iowa*
Fiesta: Nebraska* vs. West Virginia*
Orange: Florida State* vs. Ohio State
Sugar: Auburn vs. Oklahoma

*-automatic qualifier

Notes: Oregon and Alabama win out to advance to the championship game. Alabama beats both LSU and Auburn assuring that there will be no undefeated teams in the SEC. It then beats the SEC East champion to advance. Despite one loss, it vaults over undefeated Boise, the TCU/Utah winner and perhaps even Oregon.  It doesn't matter for the Ducks who stay in the top two because undefeated Boise, Utah/TCU can't catch it in the BCS standings. Meanwhile, other current undefeateds Auburn, LSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma and Missouri also lose locking in Oregon. Alabama would be playing for the first back-to-back national championship since Nebraska in the 1990s. Oregon would be playing for its first.

--The Fiesta Bowl would gladly welcome Nebraska which it hasn't had since 2000. West Virginia would be making a second trip to the Valley of the Sun in four years.

--The Orange Bowl gets one of its more intriguing matchups as Florida State returns to the big time returning to a BCS bowl for the first time since 2005. Ohio State has to settle for an at-large berth after failing to win a sixth consecutive Big Ten title. The Buckeyes return to the Orange for the first time since 1977.

--The Sugar is filled with two at-large participants. Oklahoma returns to New Orleans for the first time since the 2004 (2003 season) national championship game loss to LSU.


Ranking the remaining MICs

11. Urban Meyer, Florida: Let's not forget that 20 years ago, Florida football didn't matter. Post-Zooker, Meyer made it a bigger national power than it was under Spurrier.

12. Joe Paterno, Penn State: No matter how his career ends, JoePa will leave the program in great shape.

13. Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: An example of having patience with a good coach. Beamer started out terribly but the administration allowed him stay. Now he's one of the best in the country.

14. Al Golden, Temple: The nation's hottest young coach has got it back to the point where the Big East should consider inviting back the Owls.

15. June Jones, SMU: The first and only coach to lead the Ponies to a bowl game since the death penalty. That's good enough for me.

16. Mike Riley, Oregon State: Beavers win eight or nine each year and are always a factor in the Pac-10 race. Don't forget the Civil War is in Corvallis this year.

17. Larry Blakeney, Troy: In the same category as Snyder and Paterno on a smaller scale. Would Troy even exist without Blakeney?

18. Pat Hill, Fresno: Never won a WAC title but kept the Bulldogs relevant to the point that they're jumping to the Mountain West.

19. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: It's early but all the signs are good that FSU will soon be back on the national scene.

20. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU: Like Meyer, Bronco is allowed a down year.

21. Bo Pelini, Nebraska: If the NFL doesn't come calling, Nebraska will begin winning championships again under Bo.

22. Bret Bielema, Wisconsin: Saturday's win allowed BB to make this list. Ohio State was his second win over a ranked Big Ten team. Barry Alvarez' hand-picked guy is trending upward.

23. Greg Schiano, Rutgers: The momentum has slowed since 2006 but Rutgers is back among the living under Schiano to the point that the Big Ten is sniffing around.

24. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern: Operating with a low budget against Big Ten giants, the Wildcats are more than competitive with Fitz.

Oregon set the school season scoring record Thursday in the season's seventh game. The Ducks have 386 points and are averaging more than 55 points per game ... Strange how two Big Ten programs defined themselves by invoking Vince Lombardi this week. First Minnesota AD Joel Maturi said, "It's not like he would be replacing Vince Lombardi," of the new coach after firing Tim Brewster. Then Rich Rodriguez said this about his struggling defense: "Listen, Vince Lombardi could come too and [it's] not going to fix some of the problems we have on defense." ... Ohio State (at Minnesota) hasn't lost consecutive games since 2004 ... TCU has lost one fumble this season ... Texas A&M has lost 12 consecutive televised games dating back to 2008. The Aggies play at Kansas Saturday on Fox Sports Net ...

In this Week of the Head Shot in the NFL, it's interesting to note that Arkansas' Ryan Mallett was knocked out of Saturday's game with a concussion. He practiced Tuesday and will play Saturday against Mississippi ... The last six Auburn-LSU games have been decided by six points or less ... Mississippi State is ranked for the first time in nine years ... Until BYU kicked a field goal in Saturday's 31-3 loss, TCU had not allowed a point in almost three games -- 175 minutes, 10 seconds. A third straight complete shutout would have marked the first time in college football since Boston College in 1992.

 

Posted on: November 29, 2009 9:23 pm
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

Far from the national championship chase, SMU celebrated on Saturday.

A drought older than any of its players came to an end. By beating Tulane, the Mustangs are going bowling for the first time since 1984. As bowless streaks go it was only the fourth longest in the country. In terms of historical significance, it was No. 1.

SMU was the first, and to this point only, school to be given the NCAA death penalty. The program was shut down by the NCAA in 1987 due to widespread cheating. The school took itself out of competition in 1988 as well, perhaps out of shame.

No school has been given The Big Haircut since. Maybe schools have gotten the message, maybe they’re just getting better at cheating. Maybe the NCAA has been a bit reluctant too.

Some came close – Oklahoma State in 1988, Alabama this decade – but the wrongdoers always seemed to have an innate sense of putting a toe on the line, but not going over it. That’s because SMU’s case gave rise to “fixer” attorneys and former NCAA investigators who, for a price, could lead a school through the maze that is an NCAA investigation.

While other schools test the NCAA enforcement process, SMU has stayed clean. That’s a plus. On the field, SMU has found it impossible to get back to the competitive heights it enjoyed in the 1980s. Back then it was a top five program featuring the Pony Express – Eric Dickerson and Craig James at running back. It was competing with Southwest Conference and national powers.

But the reason for most of the excellence had a dark side. There was an extensive pay-for-play scheme that was so entrenched that it reached the state governor’s office. Four coaches have tried and failed since the death penalty to get SMU to a bowl.

The school had to scale down just to attempt to stay competitive. It built a smaller, on-campus stadium. It joined Conference USA where, until recently, it was fodder even at that level. Saturday, then, was a history on some small and most unnoticed level in the sport. SMU was “back”, assured of a bowl at 7-5 (most likely the Hawaii) Bowl after defeating the Green Wave.

The fixer, in this case, is June Jones who knows about resurrecting programs. In his second season at SMU, Jones completed on odd circle. The Mustangs are going to Hawaii where Jones coached for nine seasons. So entrenched is his legend that the coach who left the Warriors for more money, the mainland and a modestly better chance of long-term success, is seen as a drawing card for the Hawaii Bowl.

Ten years ago Jones led Hawaii to the biggest one-year turnaround in NCAA history (from 0-12 to 9-4). Despite a small budget and deplorable facilities, Jones then did the unthinkable. He led Hawaii to its first major bowl two years ago, the Sugar Bowl. The fact that the Warriors were 12-1 was less important than what the game meant.

Seeing 20,000 or so islanders walking around downtown New Orleans should stand as state of Hawaii, Sugar Bowl, BCS and college football lore for decades.

So Jones has worked his magic again. Saturday’s result means SMU has the best turnaround in the nation this season (from 1-11 to 7-5). Only one of the seven victories came by more than eight points. Shawnbrey McNeal became SMU’s 1,000-yard rusher since 2003. He was declared eligible the day before the season started.

Former Estonian track Margus Hunter blocked seven kicks. Freshman quarterback Kyle Padron beat out two-year starter Bo Levi Mitchell.

Rival recruiters no longer can no longer lob that 25-year thing around like a grenade. It isn’t going to end with this season, either. These Mustangs are scaled down but they’re much easier to like.

“They talk about the Pony Express and all that, well, guess what, they're going to talk about you guys from here on,” Jones told reporters Saturday. “I really believe that.”

 

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 18, 2009 12:29 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2009 3:14 pm
 

National notes

We all know that the SEC rules our lives. So what are we to make of the release this week of The Blind Side, the much-hyped movie adaptation of the famous book?

To me, it's free advertising for the coaches and schools involved. Free recruiting advertising.

Think that other coaches aren't jealous? The movie features Nick Saban (as LSU's coach), Houston Nutt (as Arkansas' coach), Tommy Tuberville (as Auburn's coach), Phil Fulmer (as Tennessee's coach) and, uh, Lou Holtz.

Sure, they're at other jobs, or out of jobs, but think about what they represent. When they watch the movie potential recruits will see the current coach of Alabama (Saban), the current coach at Ole Miss (Nutt) and a couple of out-of-work coaches who will be getting free advertising -- Tuberville and Fulmer.

I'm all for Tubby and Fulmer getting new jobs. Holtz, well, I think you know my stance on him. This is not the economy of health care, I just wonder if the rest of the SEC coaches, or the rest of college football will be so thrilled about Friday's premier.

Fiesta frolic: The Fiesta seemingly holds the fate of Boise State in the BCS. The bowl would get the second pick after the Sugar Bowl if the rankings remain the same -- Florida or Alabama at No. 1 and Texas at No. 2.

The Sugar Bowl would take the Gators-Tide loser because it would have lost its anchor team, the SEC champion, to the BCS championship game. The Fiesta would pick second because it would have lost its anchor team, the Big 12 champion (Texas). In that scenario, the only threat to the Broncos -- unless Texas is upset – is Oklahoma State. It could finish 10-2 and qualify as an at-large team.

Qualify is a relative term. It was communicated to me this week that the Fiesta Bowl considers its relationship with the Big 12 similar to that of the Rose Bowl with the Pac-10 and Big Ten. In other words, the Fiesta isn’t passing up a BCS-eligible Oklahoma State to take Boise State.

A lot has to happen: The Cowboys still have to beat Colorado and, more significantly, win at Oklahoma to finish 10-2. The Pokes would be going to Glendale having finished second in the Big 12 South with no wins over currently ranked teams.

Boise, then, has to be big Oklahoma fans on Nov. 28. If not, the at-large teams look like this: TCU, Big Ten (Iowa/Wisconsin/Penn State), SEC (Florida/Alabama) and Oklahoma State. The six other slots are taken up by the six major-conference champions.

TCU search: Sometimes you just get lucky. Nine years ago, the TCU coaching search’s was kept  small and secret. Dennis Franchione was going to Alabama. Then-TCU AD Eric Hyman was joined by NFL personnel guru Gil Brandt and TCU trustee Malcolm Louden.

They climbed into a private jet, hitting as many candidates as possible in as short a time as possible. Your loyal blogger recently obtained that candidates list:

Sonny Lubick, former Colorado State coach and former assistant at Miami
Rick Minter, former Cincinnati coach
Watson Brown, former coach at Alabama-Birmingham and current coach at Tennessee Tech
Jeff Bower, former coach at Southern Miss
Dave McGinnis, former head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and TCU grad. McGinnis is now an assistant with the Tennessee Titans.
Dan McCarney, former Iowa State coach and current defensive line coach at Florida

After running through that group, The Thoughtful Three came back and found their guy in their backyard. They picked Dennis Franchione’s defensive coordinator, a guy named Gary Patterson. Things seem to have worked out.

McGinnis never was a head coach after the Cardinals. Bower was let go at Southern Miss a couple of years ago. Brown had a mostly mediocre stay at Alabama-Birmingham. Lubick is retired. Minter left Cincinnati after 2003 and is currently the defensive coordinator at Marshall.

“I watched Gary coach the defense and I knew he was a genius,” said Hyman now the South Carolina AD.

Goodbye, Dick Tomey: The classy, accomplished San Jose State coach retired this week (effective at the end of the season) reminded of the biggest tragedy of his career.

In 1995 while coaching at Arizona, Tomey endured the death of Damon Terrell. During a preseason workout Terrell collapsed due to sickle cell trait and died about a month later. A hospital technician removed a tube leaving an air bubble in Terrell’s bloodstream. He died not from a disease but because of hospital error.

Tomey was given the news during a game that year against Georgia Tech.

“That was gut wrenching … Damon was out of the woods, he was going to recover,” Tomey said. “At halftime of the game they told me that Damon had passed away. They weren’t going to tell a anyone else, because people were watching on television. The hospital had made an error.

“I knew it and I couldn’t tell anybody. I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be anywhere …  I went in the lockerroom after the game. I was about to explode. I had to tell the guys their teammate had died. It was the most gut-wrenching thing. The outpouring of affection for that young man was amazing but the circumstances were clearly the most difficult thing I ever had to deal with.”

The next week at Illinois, Arizona called timeout before the opening kickoff. They formed the letters “D” and “T” with helmets held to the sky.

Most improved: So far it’s Idaho and SMU. They’re tied. Each is five games better than last season.

Idaho has gone from 2-10 to 7-4. SMU has rebounded from 1-11 to 6-4. Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads is the most successful first-year coach to this point improving the Cyclones, 6-5, four games from last season.

 

Posted on: November 15, 2009 9:44 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2009 10:21 pm
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

Here’s why Rich Rodriguez is an odd fit for Michigan and Jim Harbaugh is an odder fit for Stanford … 

Because Harbaugh and Michigan could be close to being engaged to be married right now if it weren’t for those niggling things like contracts.

The same reason that Notre Dame needs to reach out to Brian Kelly right now is the same reason Harbaugh should be playing footsie with his alma mater. But it can't happen for Harbaugh right now. As painful as the transition has been at Michigan, Rodriguez deserves another year. He has only 71 scholarship players (for a variety of reasons), the offense shows promise and, well, Harbaugh isn’t available.

It’s just not a good time. After the second-biggest victory Saturday in his short three years on The Farm – remember USC in 2007? – Harbaugh is hotter than July.  Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby is hurrying to complete a contract extension that would tie up Harbaugh through 2014 at $1.25 million per year.

“Tie up” is a relative term these days. Because of the awkward timing, Michigan/Stanford could lose Harbaugh to another college or NFL team by the time it is ready to make a change after next season. The $1.25 million salary makes Harbaugh one of the highest paid coaches ever at Stanford. It’s also about half of what Harbaugh is currently worth on the open market.

What makes the Cardinal so interesting is that Harbaugh has installed a toughness gene. He talked before the season about playing physical. Sorry, but the words “toughness” and “Stanford football” seldom appeared in the same sentence ever. Until now.

Tailback Toby Gerhart has run for 401 yards the last two games. If he isn’t on the top of every Heisman list this week something is wrong. Owen Marecic started at linebacker and fullback on Saturday. Marecic already has broken a couple of helmets this year.

All of it sounds sooo like Michigan and sooo unlike Stanford that you’d figure that Harbaugh would be in Ann Arbor soon. But it’s too early for Michigan pull the trap door on Rich Rod and too early for Harbaugh to leave.

Here's why USC isn't done: At some point next month, the Trojans will wake up in El Paso and wonder how the hell they got there. It’s called the Sun Bowl, fellas, and it this rate you’re going to be playing in it.

The popular thing this week will be to bash USC and say that Troy has crumbled before our eyes. That would be true if some other team were out there to take control. Oregon leads the Pac-10 for now but still has to go to Arizona and beat Oregon State in the Civil War.

Arizona botched a great opportunity Saturday, losing at Cal which without Jahvid Best.  Stanford, the hottest team in the league, has lost three times, one of them to Wake Forest. Suddenly Oregon State is in the mix.

This is not to say it isn’t bad. It’s real bad at USC right now.

“You could see that everything was not there,” Stanford’s Richard Sherman told the L.A. Times. “They didn’t run as hard. They didn’t play as hard.”

Ouch.

The 55 points were the most given up in the 121-year history of USC football. You never thought you’d see the day where a Pete Carroll team would lose that toughness groove. When you’re bitching about a run-it-up two-point conversion, which the Trojans were in the fourth quarter, that’s just deflecting bigger problems.

The quarterback (Matt Barkley) is a freshman and playing like it.  The defense, led (?) by senior two-time All-American Taylor Mays, has been embarrassed. Turnovers are coming in bunches.

This would be cause for bigger alarm if USC couldn’t get it back, quickly. They can in the same way Carroll began storming the conference in 2002, by playing some of the best defense in the country. It seems laughable to think that now, but the recruiting isn’t going away and, until further notice, the conference isn’t exactly slipping away.

Carroll has lost one game -- one -- in November while at USC (28-1). Barkley is going to get getter. The defense can’t get any worse.  If an 82-year-old man can lead Penn State within sniffing distance of its third BCS bowl in five years, if a small, private school in Fort Worth that doesn’t sell out its games can go undefeated, believe me, USC can get it back.

A lot of fingers will be pointed this week – at coaches and players. Remember this whole thing started with a wake up call in Sin City in 2001 at the Las Vegas Bowl for USC. Waking up in El Paso might be the shock to the system the Trojans need. 

Yes, that’s SMU in first place in Conference USA’s West Division: The Mustangs beat Texas-El Paso becoming bowl eligible for only the third time since their last bowl in 1984. You might remember that the little thing called the death penalty that intervened.

The scuttlebutt is that the Ponies will play in the Hawaii Bowl. June Jones will triumphantly return to the scene of his greatest glories, this time to boost attendance at the Hawaii-less bowl.

Congratulations Ohio State but …:
Until the Luckeyes backed into that Iowa win, an interesting note was developing. Had the Bucks lost, consider that in the games that decided the Rose Bowl berth each of the last two seasons, Terrelle Pryor (and Ohio State) would have been beaten by two backup quarterback – Penn State’s Pat Devlin and Iowa’s James Vandenberg. Devlin came in for Daryll Clark and directed the game-winning drive last year for Penn State. He is now at Delaware.

Vandenberg, a freshman subbing for the injured Ricky Stanzi, led the Hawks back from a 24-10 deficit only to lose in overtime, 27-24.

Not another one!: SEC officials blew another one in the third quarter of the Florida-South Carolina game. Florida’s Brandon James clearly went to knee to field a punt near midfield. It didn’t matter as block in the back nullified James’ long return. Caleb Sturgis eventually missed a 54-yard field goal.

More incredible was the replay official in the Notre Dame-Pittsburgh game. Notre Dame had its final possession cut short when Jimmy Clausen was ruled to have fumbled while trying to throw. The replay clearly showed Clausen’s arm going forward as he was it. The ball came out at an odd angle, but it still came out while he was throwing.  That was one of the more egregious rulings this season.

Stingy Blackshirts: Nebraska allowed its first rushing touchdown allowed in 14 quarters. Big deal. The Huskers rebounded to beat Kansas 31-17 and take the lead in the Big 12 North.

BCS trivia: In case you’re wondering, in the BCS era no unbeaten team from one of the power conferences has been knocked out of the BCS title game by a team with one loss. That possibility still exists for Cincinnati if Texas, Alabama or Florida lose.

Heisman hit: Going to be hard to justify Heisman mention now for Case Keenum. Houston’s two losses have come to Texas-El Paso and Central Florida. Can’t remember the last Heisman winner to lose to two directional schools. Keenum threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns in the 37-32 loss to Central Florida.


Philly excellence: Temple, Villanova and Penn are a combined 24-5. The last time all three had a winning record was 1986 then they finished a combined 24-6. Temple, though, had to forfeit six victories for using an ineligible player (Paul Palmer). Not counting that year, you have to go back to 1951 when the Philly Three finished a combined 16-11.

Heroism: Rowan (Division III) defensive end Matt Hoffman missed his team’s season-finale against The College of New Jersey. On Thursday, Hoffman began donating blood marrow to a 52-year-old man who is dying of lymphoma. Hoffman was one of seven matches found through a search of the national registry.

Dog of the day: Louisville beat Syracuse 10-9 in the dog game of the day. Somehow we’ve missed the fact that the once mighty Cardinals had lost nine Big East games in a row.

The no B.S., up-to-the-minute, not-what-they-did-last year, right now Heisman list

Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford: Hottest skill player in the country. Gerhart has Stanford in the Rose Bowl conversation after running for 178 yards against USC.

Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Stayed consistent running for more than 140 yards against Mississippi State.

Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State: Best quarterback in the country right now.

Dion Lewis, RB, Pittsburgh: Ran for 152 yards including the game-winning 50-yard touchdown run.

C.J. Spiller, AP, Clemson: The most dangerous player in the ACC. Heisman voters usually don’t recognize all-purpose players but Spiller deserves mention especially after adding to his accomplishments with a 17-yard touchdown pass against NC State.

Posted on: November 8, 2009 4:07 pm
Edited on: November 9, 2009 12:14 pm
 

Thoughts on a football Saturday

After watching that replay again from Alabama, how can a reasonable person rule that wasn’t an interception? I’m expecting something out of the SEC office in the next couple of days.

Why I like Alabama on game day … “Sweet Home Alabama” comes on and immediately everyone on University Ave. starts jukin’ and yellin’. Ever see 10,000 folks do the Bama version of the River Dance?

Why I like Alabama on game day II … The houndstooth 1) skirts and 2) beer coozies.

Why I like Alabama on game day III … Yes, they were taking pictures of me as I was in makeup prior to my appearance on CBS College Sports’ SEC Tailgate. You people must find some meaning in your lives.

Get ready for a noisy Boise: The way things are sorting out, an undefeated Boise State is going to be beaten out for a BCS bowl by a two-loss team from one of the power conferences, p.r. firm or not.

The BCS bowl matchups began to get into sharper focus when Iowa lost and Alabama won. Here’s out it works:

The automatic qualifiers are down these teams …

Big Ten: Iowa/Ohio State. The teams plays this week in Columbus so that will sort itself out. Both teams have lost once. Saturday's winner most likely goes to the Rose Bowl.

Big 12: Texas will play either Kansas State or Nebraska from the North Division. K-State controls its own destiny after beating Kansas. Texas might be cruising but could get some blowback at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving or from Nebraska or K-State in the Big 12 title game.

SEC: Alabama vs. Florida in the SEC title game. If they teams stay undefeated before Dec. 5, the winner plays for the national championship. The loser most likely goes to the Sugar Bowl.

ACC: Still a mess but Georgia Tech is the conference’s only one loss team and leads the Coastal Division. Clemson controls its fate in the Atlantic Division. The ACC winner most likely goes to the Orange Bowl.

Big East: Cincinnati is undefeated but still has tough games left against West Virginia and Pittsburgh. With no conference championship game to hinder it, the Bearcats could be headed to the Sugar Bowl to face the Alabama-Florida loser.

Pac-10: It looks as if Oregon, Arizona or Stanford will go to the Rose. The Wildcats and Ducks meet Nov. 21 in Tucson. Despite the letdown loss at Stanford, Oregon still seems to have the advantage. Arizona still has its toughest games to play (Cal, USC, Arizona State). Stanford has to get past USC and Cal before meeting Notre Dame in the regular-season finale,

That leaves four at-large berths. Notre Dame is out after losing to Navy. If TCU stays undefeated and ahead of Boise State in the BCS, it will go, most likely, to the Fiesta Bowl. As mentioned, the Florida-Alabama loser should gobble up a Sugar Bowl spot.  If USC wins out it could get the other Fiesta Berth at 10-2.

That leaves an undefeated Boise having to fight off a two-loss team from a major conference in order to get to the BCS. Things being what they are, which is the same for the past 50 years in this situation, the Orange Bowl most likely would pick a 10-2 Penn State to play the ACC champion.

Sorry Broncos.

Name this team: Its last conference championship came in 2003. Since then it has been a mixed bag. This program has changed coaches twice, beaten Texas twice and produced a quarterback drafted in the first round. This year alone it has given up 66 points to Texas Tech, lost to Louisiana-Lafayette and, amazingly,  is in first place in its division.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce you to Kansas State, 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the Big 12 North after beating Kansas 17-10. In Bill Snyder’s second term as coach, the Wildcats need only beat Nebraska in its final two games to clinch a spot in the Big 12 title game.

Snyder is getting some run for Big 12 coach of the year. We’re fairly sure no COY has lost to Texas Tech by 54 and lost to a fourth-place Sun Belt team in the same season.


USC decline: Before Saturday’s 14-9 victory over Arizona State, USC had allowed 110 points in its last three games. That’s the most in a three-game stretch ever. The Trojans had allowed 113 points combined in the previous 14 games.


Breaking down the big boys: Now that a Florida-Alabama rematch is assured, here’s the three-minute eval of the SEC title game slightly less than a month away.

Advantage Alabama: A better running game (I think) and the revenge motive for last year’s classic loss in Atlanta.

Advantage Florida: Tebow, Tebow, Tebow. As long as he’s taking snaps, Florida has a chance.

Advantage Florida: Defense. By a hair. This is going to be another matchup of the ages. Charlie Strong vs. Nick Saban/Kirby Smart. At this point Florida’s unit seems a bit more active.

Advantage Alabama: Special teams. With Javier Arenas returning kicks and Terrence Cody blocking them, give the Crimson Tide the edge. Kicker Leigh Tiffin is more than reliable. If you’re looking for an edge, this is it. Games like this tend to turn on special teams.

Stuff: SMU needed three blocked kicks to beat Rice and move to within one win of bowl eligibility. The Ponies last went bowling pre-death penalty in 1984 … Alabama hasn’t been 9-0 in consecutive seasons since 1973-74 … In its last 39 home games, Cal is 0-7 against Oregon State and USC, 32-0 against everyone else … My God, did you see Cal’s Jahvid Best suffer that concussion while diving into the end zone? Coach Jeff Tedford actually said his guy was “OK.” No, coach, he’s not OK. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Best’s season is over … Who knew UCLA had lost seven conference games in a row before beating  Washington?

The right now, no B.S., up to the moment Heisman Watch

1. Case Keenum, Houston. Another last-second win, this time over Tulsa. In his last two games Keenum has thrown for 1,081 yards and eight touchdowns. Any questions? My goal in life is to get this kid a trip to New York. He’s earned it. In a perfect world, he’d win the Stiff Arm but because he plays at a Conference USA school it probably isn’t going to happen.

2. Mark Ingram, Alabama. It’s the KIIS system – Keep It Ingram, Stupid. After throwing 25 passes in the first half, Nick Saban changed tactics and had Ingram carry it 16 games in the second half against LSU. The result was 144 yards.

3. Colt McCoy, Texas. It was only Central Florida but McCoy continued a recent uptick with 469 passing yards. McCoy was removed from the game with nine minutes left four yards shy of the school passing record (Major Applewhite, 473 yards in the 2001 Holiday Bowl).

Funny thing, Applewhite might have the school record but because the NCAA didn’t recognize bowl stats back then it officially doesn’t exist. What makes things more annoying is that a few years ago the NCAA started counting bowl stats. I still contend that an intern at each school in the country could go back and add in all the bowl numbers.

The NCAA explains that current record holders would have their names expunged if records were updated. Tough! You count all the numbers, not just some of them.

4. Toby Gerhart, Stanford. Coach Jim Harbaugh is preaching physicality. Gerhart pounded Oregon for a school-record 223 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-42 win.

5. C.J. Spiller, Clemson. If the Tigers are going to win their first ACC title in 18 years, Spiller is going to be the reason. He went for a school-record 312 all-purpose yards against Florida State.

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