Posted on: January 14, 2010 10:39 am

Mark Whipple at South Florida?

Canesport.com is reporting that Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple is the leading candidate to become the new head coach at South Florida.

Skip Holtz was assumed to be the No. 1 guy a couple of days ago but Canesport.com reports that Whipple, Florida assistant Dan McCarney and Michigan assistant Calvin Magee have moved ahead. Magee interviewed on Tuesday.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: January 8, 2010 3:13 pm
Edited on: January 8, 2010 3:24 pm

The end of Jim Leavitt at South Florida

There was something very Nixonian to the end of Jim Leavitt.

It wasn’t the act itself of the South Florida coach allegedly grabbing the throat of a player and hitting him. It was the denials and interference with an investigation that got Leavitt fired on Friday. There was a hint of Watergate cover-up to the whole thing.

It was an unfortunate end to a brilliant career at South Florida and a troubling continuation of a coaching trend. Leavitt has been the only coach the school has known. Thirteen years ago he bought the first footballs, worked out of a trailer for years, coaching the Bulls to the brink of a Big East title.

Now this, a sordid termination letter where athletic director Doug Woolard is very specific about Leavitt’s misdeeds.

He was fired with cause. The school said his conduct was “not compatible with USF’s educational mission and the health and welfare of USF student athletes.”

Health and welfare? Where is the coaching profession headed? This is the third such incident in slightly more than a month. Kansas’ Mark Mangino resigned under pressure after allegations surfaced of mistreatment of players. Texas Tech’s Mike Leach was fired after doing whatever he did to Adam James. Mangino and Leavitt coached together under Bill Snyder at Kansas State. All three coaching with or for Bob Stoops at some point.

Other than, there are few connections except the alleged mistreatment of athletes. Leach is aggressively fighting his firing, alleging that his former employers made “slanderous and libelous” statements about him.  The situation at Texas Tech quickly degenerated into a he said/he said argument as both sides argued over the semantics of “electrical closet” and “shed”.

At this point, Mangino looks the most sane. Allegations of his mistreatment of players went back at least eight years.  In the end, he settled on a buyout with the university. The whole affair was wrapped up in less than a month.

Maybe all three should take something from Woolard’s letter: “The disparity in authority and power between you as the head coach and the student athlete makes your conduct more serious.”

Maybe this will signal the end of the coach-as-bully syndrome. Maybe it’s just the beginning as more parents and players become empowered by recent events.

One player said that Leavitt “flat-out lied” when he denied going after walk on Joel Miller. Another player told an investigator that he “knew he has witnessed a crime.” The most troubling accusation is that Leavitt tried to intimidate walk-on Joel Miller by telling him “choose his words wisely” because the coach was “the most powerful man in the building.”

Of the three recent coaching situations, Friday’s might have been the weirdest yet.  At the time Leavitt was fired, Miller had actually recanted his original accusation that the coach had grabbed him by the throat at halftime of a Nov. 21

“I’m very disappointed,” Leavitt told CBSSports.com.  “I’ll respond at the appropriate time. “

Oh, he’ll respond all right, probably with some “inspiration” provided by Leach’s lawyers.

The next coach could walk into a gold mine. In the fluid Big East, South Florida could win the league as soon as next year. I’d love to see Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney get another shot. He got shafted after 12 years at Iowa State and has rebuilt his rep with a national championship with the Gators.

You can bet agent Jimmy Sexton will be trying to get his client Tommy Tuberville an interview. You even hear the name of Steve Spurrier. South Florida could be his retirement job.

Home runs, all three.

Just like Leach and Mangino, though, you wonder if Leavitt will coach on the BCS level again.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: January 2, 2010 5:46 pm

On the ground in Cali

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – Andrew Hawtrey likes my stuff.

Who is Andrew Hartley? You know him better as the scruffy dude on those Allstate commercials, "Bergwood".  In the latest installment  Bergwood has an equally scruffy puppet on his knee hurling insults.

Yeah, I know. It’s weird but when a semi-celebrity says he likes your writing you take notice. Especially when he sits down next to you moments before the Sugar Bowl last night.

Apparently, Hawtrey/Bergwood came all the way around the Superdome to introduce himself in the press box. Who was I to be a big shot? You take compliments where you can get them.

Anyway, he’s an Iowa fan which ought to help my rep in Hawkeye Nation. If you follow my byline, I’m not exactly a favorite among Iowa readers.

I'm a State Farm guy but that’s not going to keep me from watching the commercials. They’re actually pretty good. They were filmed in the L.A. Coliseum parking lot, Hawtrey said, and were all done over a two-day period.

 The irreverent Bud Light-like quality to the ads has earned Hartley a few moments of fame. Think of him as a Spuds McKenzie for the ‘10s.

 Who can forget this classic from a recent Allstate tailgate?

 Friend: “Where did you meet your wife?”

 Bergwood: “Pilates.”

 Friend: “Ohhh, she’s from Europe.”

 Now, that’s writing. Nice to meet you, Andrew.

In other news, it's been a huge 24 hours for Florida. Hours after winning the Sugar Bowl,Urban Meyer/Steve Addazio picked up two commits out of the Under Armour All-Star -- Chris Dunkley a receiver from Pahokee, Fla. and Dominuqe Easy, a defensive linemanfrom New Jersey.

It's on to the Disneyland ESPN Zone to listen to Saban and Mack. Talk to you later.  

Category: NCAAF
Tags: Florida, Iowa
Posted on: December 28, 2009 8:40 am

What I WAS writing for Sunday...

...had Urban Meyer stayed retired or whatever it was he was doing:

Short of death, there really has been nothing like it in the coaching profession. Knute Rockne was at the top of his game when he died in a plane crash in 1931.

Urban Meyer reacted to his own mortality when he stepped down as Florida’s coach Saturday night. Stunning doesn’t even begin to describe the impact on Florida and the game. The whirlwind, really, has just begun. All signs point to Florida AD Jeremy Foley moving quickly to name a new coach, perhaps by the end of the week.

Here’s a look at the fallout both past and to come:

--More than anything, Meyer’s departure shows the vagaries of the coaching profession. Tommy Tuberville once put the over/under for any coach at one school at 10 years.

Meyer lasted only five at Florida – nine total -- before the stress wore him down. They say there will never be another Joe Paterno, but how many more Meyers will there be given the stress of modern coaching?

Pete Carroll will be entering his 10th season next year at USC and the wear is starting to show. There are academic and NCAA issues within his program. This season’s team was the worst since a 6-6 debut in 2001. Carroll remains one of the top coaches in the game but 2010 will be a key season whether his program remains at the top.

Oklahoma's Bob Stoops saw some decline in his program as well this season. It was injuries mostly that caused a 7-5 season. The bigger concern is that Texas is getting a choke hold on the Big 12.

Speaking of which, Mack Brown is completing his 12th season but already sees the finish line with coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp, well, waiting.

The next great coaches are going to trend more toward Meyer than Paterno. Get in, get out, hopefully with enough money to live on and some championships to solidify your legacy. In that sense, rock star coaches are more like actual rock stars. In both professions, most of the best peak quickly and last – like the Beatles  – about a decade.

The Rolling Stones of the world are as rare as the Bobby Bowdens.

Coaching is an unstable profession, at best. How unstable? When Florida hires its next coach, since 2002 it will have had as many coaches as Notre Dame. In the space of this decade, Meyer has gone from rookie head coach at Bowling Green to arguably the best at his profession to, for now, retirement. That dizzying rush to the top has included four conference championships, four BCS bowls and two national championships.

If he were alive today, those would be Rockne-like numbers.

--It seems that at least one program is going to get blown up in the middle of recruiting season. Unless a pro coach like Mike Shanahan is hired, the dominoes are going to fall down the line. The ripple effect could be significant.

Florida AD Jeremy Foley likely wants to have a coach in place by Jan. 3 when the recruiting dead-period begins (no contact with recruits). That means a busy week as Florida gets ready for Meyer’s last game.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 26, 2009 10:46 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2009 10:52 pm

Dan Mullen leading candidate at Florida

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen may emerge as the leading candidate at Florida in the aftermath of Urban Meyer stepping down Saturday night.

The key to the new hire is the state of the Florida staff. The move must be made quickly and in the heart of recruiting season. In most cases, that means hiring a coach who would want to bring in an entirely new staff or, at least, forcing the new coach to keep the core of Meyer's staff.

That staff is in the process of landing what looks like another top 10 class. Transitioning in the middle of the recruiting season could be messy. That's why Mullen seems like the ideal answer. Florida's former offensive coordinator would be able to keep the staff and recruiting together. Mississippi State finished 5-7 in its first season under Mullen.

Mullen has been with Meyer since 2001 when he was hired as Bowling Green's quarterbacks coach. A member of the "New Hampshire Mafia", Mullen shares offensive philosophies with LSU's Gary Crowton and Oregon's Chip Kelly. All three are from New Hampshire. It was Mullen's offense that made Tim Tebow a star and made his successor John Brantely want to stick around for three years to get the starting job. The key for Florida is continuity.

Mullen is in the process of hiring a defensive coordinator after losing Carl Torbush to Kansas. One player who won't be coming with him is quarterback Cam Newton, one of top junior college prospects. Newton was being recruited heavily by Mullen. Both were at Florida a couple of years ago when Newton was thrown off the team for allegedly stealing a laptop. He has emerged from his juco experience as a five-star prospect.

Mullen just completed the first of a four-year contract that is paying him $1.2 million per season.

Other names attached to the opening include Jon Gruden, Bobby Petrino, Bob Stoops, Steve Spurrier, Kyle Whittingham and Mike Shanahan
Posted on: December 9, 2009 5:39 pm

Scripps-Howard Heisman poll

Another major Heisman indicator. Mark Ingram is the winner of the final Scripps-Howard News Service Heisman poll, by a point over Ndamukong Suh. Yours truly voted in this poll all season.

This is shaping up to be the closest Heisman vote in history. Scripps-Howard is a further indicator with Ingram getting 33 points to Suh's 32. Third-place Toby Gerhart actually had the most first-place votes, four. There were 10 voters nationwide. Here is the breakdown:

1. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama, 33 points (two first-place votes).

2. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska, 32 (2).

3. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford, 29 (4).

4. Colt McCoy, QB, Texas, 16 (1).

5 (tie). Tim Tebow, QB, Florida, 7 (1); C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson, 7.

Others receiving votes: Houston QB Case Keenum 5, TCU DE Jerry Hughes, 1.


Posted on: December 9, 2009 10:29 am
Edited on: December 9, 2009 10:38 am

Louisville gets Strong

Louisville has called a 4 pm ET press conference to announce the hiring of Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.

Louisville officials were in Gainesville Wednesday morning to pick up Strong and take him back to campus. There, he will meet with the board of trustees.

Strong is expected to coach in the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati. Considered one of the brightest defensive minds in the game, Strong comes to a program with an offensive heritage. However, after the disasterous three-year reign of Steve Kragthorpe athletic director Tom Jurich went straight for the best coach available.

The 49-year-old Strong said at last year’s BCS title game media day that he believed race was a factor in his not getting a head coaching job. Strong becomes the fourth African-American since Thanksgiving to be hired at a I-A program.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 9, 2009 10:28 am
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