Category Archives: college football

Union Ruling for College Athletes Bad for NCAA

ncaaThe Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize.

This has the potential of being a HUGE game-changer in collegiate athletics.

If the student-athletes are able to withstand future legal challenges from universities and the NCAA itself, then those athletes will be able to command the following: suitable working conditions, appropriate times for practices, and most of all MONEY.  The working conditions could be anything from clean training facilities (see the mess at Grambling State University), to tricked out locker rooms.  Look at the common denominator in the recruiting arms race in collegiate athletics: flashy, tricked out facilities.  Check out Oregon’s and Florida State’s facilities (newly built or planned) to get an idea.  Simply put, if a school’s facilities are not up to snuff, it’s getting left in the dust on the recruiting trail.

Remember those instances at Michigan and Ohio State when they got popped for too many practices a few years back?  Could you imagine unionized student-athletes bitching about having to practice too much, and not allowing for a life outside of athletics?  Seems far-fetched I know, but you never know.

And of course there is the issue of student-athletes getting paid.  I have been on record of being staunchly against those young people getting paid.  Student-athletes have the type of perks that average college students would give an arm and a leg for – free room and board, access to the best training facilities, better medical care, better dining hall facilities (and food), better living quarters, and – most importantly – access to the best coeds.  As a guy who had part-time jobs in college in order to pay for books and dates, I think that student-athletes get what the need – if not more – from the universities they attend.  Otherwise an inner-city kid, for example, would not be able to attend an institution such as Stanford, Duke, and Michigan.

As for the universities, I think this is potentially bad for colleges everyone.

Most colleges barely break even with their athletics budgets as it is.  If colleges start paying football and basketball players, what about the baseball, lacrosse and volleyball players?  What about women’s sports?  You think the Title IX would be licking their chops over this?  Those colleges that barely break even would pull a Maryland and go broke.

This would also create a bigger gap between the “power conferences” (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) and the “lesser ones”.  You think St. Bonaventure and the like could compete with the likes of Duke, Louisville, Ohio State, Syracuse and Florida for basketball recruits?  Good luck with that one.

All of that said, I think the NCAA needs to blow itself up and start the hell over.  It has some of the silliest rules I have ever seen – remember when some kids got popped for eating too much pasta at a graduation banquet?  Deadspin has a list of some of those stupid-ass violations.  Here is a snippet:

FOOTBALL

Feb. 1, 2012

Violation: Assistant coach Bruce Kittle sent congratulatory text to a student-athlete who had signed with OU.

Feb. 1, 2012

Violation: Assistant coach Cale Gundy sent two congratulatory text messages to a student-athlete who had signed with OU.

May 14, 2012

Violation: Assistant coach Jackie Shipp sent a text message to a recruit who was a junior at the time.

Sept. 12, 2012

Violation: Assistant coach Bruce Kittle sent contact information for one recruit to another recruit, who was a junior at the time, when he meant to send it to assistant coach Josh Heupel. Resolution: For the four violations above, the football staff was precluded from having any written or telephone contact with recruits for two weeks and Kittle, Gundy and Shipp were provided detailed rules education. Contact for the three assistants involved was self-imposed. The NCAA expanded the noncontact period to the whole staff.

Nice job NCAA.

At any rate, couple student-athletes being able to unionize with the on-going Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, the NCAA is entering precarious times.  What happens to the NCAA the rest of the way will be “must-see TV”…

Times Are Good for the ACC

ACCLife has been treating John Swofford well these days.  The commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference (the conference of my youth) has celebrated the crowning of a college football national champion (Florida State), a Heisman Trophy winner (Jameis Winston), and a run of exciting college basketball play (both Duke-Syracuse matchups, Duke-UNC and Virginia’s rise).

It’s only fitting that Swofford made another wise college football choice.  The ACC announced that it has re-upped with the city of Charlotte to host its conference championship game through 2019.

That was not only a good move – it was a smart move.

Since moving the site to Charlotte, the game has sold out twice in four years and averaged about 70,000 tickets sold.  Those figures include last season’s game between Florida State and Duke, which was played before 67,694 fans.  Let’s not forget the ongoing renovation of Bank of America Stadium, which Swofford said will promise a better in-game experience for fans.

Let’s not forget that the championship game had trouble drawing when it was in Jacksonville for three years and Tampa for two.  Sure it didn’t help that Boston College and Wake Forest were in some of those games, but Virginia Tech played in most of those games and its fans travel well and those games STILL had trouble at the gate.  Both Jacksonville and Tampa were piss-poor in making that game attractive.

Now Charlotte is a different story.

Charlotte is itching to be to the ACC as Atlanta is to the SEC – a permanent host of a conference football championship and be defined by that.  Charlotte has gone out of its way to promote the event and is looking to improve upon those efforts.  It also helps that ESPN has a regional office in Charlotte (cue the conspiracy theorists…).

Charlotte is also in the middle of ACC country.  It’s proximity to Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and the NC schools make it easier for fans to travel.  And let’s not forget that Florida State fans travel REGARDLESS of the site.

It seems that all that “Ninja Swofford” touched has turned to gold.  Too bad those turncoats in Maryland will miss out on all the fun come July 1st.

Now about that ACC Channel…

Sam’s Sexuality Not a Big Deal to Fellow Athletes

R0dbK.St.81When NFL draft prospect Michael Sam announced his is gay yesterday during ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”, a lot of people commended him for his courage.  Some people trolled in internet chat rooms and called him every slur (mostly gay, but some racial) in the book.

When I heard it, I had two feelings: 1) oh wow, he had the stones/courage to disclose his sexuality to the rest of the sporting world; 2) okay, it’s time to move on.

I’ve always said that most male athletes do not stress over their teammates’ sexualities.  Athletes already have an idea of what sides of the plate his fellow teammates bat from.  Hell, it’s enough stress for athletes to focus on their own regimens in preparing for games every week.  The mantra is almost always, “as long as that teammate performs and helps us win, who cares who/what he is screwing”.

Sam is an All-American defensive lineman from Missouri who doubles as the Associated Press’ SEC Defensive Player of the Year.  Do y’all think that some of his teammates had challenged him over his sexuality?  My guesses were “no” and “hell no”.  Don’t believe me?  Read what Sam said about his teammates’ reactions for yourselves:

“Coaches just wanted to know a little about ourselves, our majors, where we’re from, and something that no one knows about you.  And I used that opportunity just to tell them that I was gay. And their reaction was like, ‘Michael Sam finally told us.’

“I was kind of scared, even though they already knew. Just to see their reaction was awesome. They supported me from Day One. I couldn’t have better teammates. … I’m telling you what: I wouldn’t have the strength to do this today if I didn’t know how much support they’d given me this past semester.”

Here was his coach Gary Pinkel’s reaction:

“We’re really happy for Michael that he’s made the decision to announce this, and we’re proud of him and how he represents Mizzou.  Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he’s taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn’t matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we’re all on the same team and we all support each other.”

So there you have it.  His teammates didn’t think it was a big deal, and they rode his high sack total (11 1/2 sacks) to an SEC East Division title, a spot in the SEC championship game, and a victory in the Cotton Bowl.  Sam also mentioned that during his Senior Bowl experience, some fellow football players were already aware of his sexual orientation.

The only downside I see in Sam coming completely out of the closet is that the media (namely ESPN) will make such a big fucking deal over it.  Hell, check out ESPN’s website right now.  There are several write-ups right now from what it means in NFL locker rooms going forward to the timing and the NFL’s reaction.

The people who will give Sam the most grief are the fans.  Expect a few anti-gay signs and slur chants at games from opposing fans this season.  The unfortunate part is that the media will make his teammates answer those inevitable “gay questions” because of that fallout.

No matter what fans say or think, there ARE -and always have been – gay players in the NFL.  Maybe now other gay players will feel free to lives and their straight teammates not worry about the media asking those annoying questions.

I’m wishing this young brother nothing but luck in the NFL.

Red McCombs: Racist or Arrogant?

texas-longhornMy father once told me it takes a real man to admit that he has made a mistake and apologize for it.

I made a mistake in lashing out on my Facebook page against prominent University of Texas booster Red McCombs for his dismissive comments on Texas’ hire of former Louisville head coach Charlie Strong to coach its football team.  In case y’all have forgotten what McCombs said about the hire of Strong:

“I think the whole thing is a bit sideways. I don’t have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach. I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator.  But I don’t believe [he belongs at] what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin. I don’t think it adds up.”

I was wrong – and a bit irresponsible – for implying that McCombs was racist.

When McCombs owned the Minnesota Vikings, he retained head coach Dennis Green (a brother), and personally liked him a lot.  When McCombs owned the San Antonio Spurs, he hired John Lucas (a brother) to coach his team.  To this day, McCombs respects the hell out of Lucas.  By the way, just because I do not think McCombs was racist it doesn’t mean that he is not capable of saying racist things.

Nevertheless, I do not know McCombs.  I do not know his heart.  However, what McCombs said was extremely arrogant – and a bit uncomfortable.

Let me touch on the arrogance part of the equation.

In my 40 years of life, I have encountered my fair share of annoying college fans.  They are mostly fans of UNC, Ohio State, and Texas.  Texas fans are perhaps the most arrogant.

You have to understand the culture of the University (and the state) of Texas to appreciate my point.  Football is king in the state of Texas.  The University of Texas is the flagship school of that state, and those rich boosters (many of them flowing in oil money) do more than enough to ensure that the school keeps most of the local high school talent in-state – as well as plucking some from other recruiting hotbeds.  McCombs himself has given over $100 million to the school.

And the enormous financial contributions have contributed to the following: the biggest budget in all of collegiate athletics, the top spot in the Wall Street Journal’s “Most Valuable Team in College Football” at $875 million, the best facilities in college football, and the Longhorn Network.  Y’all know what they say about the state of Texas – “everything is bigger”.

So having shared all of what the university has to offer recruits, you have to figure the mindset of an average Texas booster is that only the biggest names deserve to coach the Longhorns.  Enter McCombs’ comments about Strong.  McCombs reportedly wanted Jon Gruden (as if Gruden would ever leave the comfy confines of Monday Night Football).  McCombs also felt left out of the job search conducted by the new athletics director Steve Patterson.  If that’s not arrogant, I don’t know what is.

McCombs was very dismissive towards Strong’s coaching acumen.  Never mind the fact that Strong finished with a 37-15 record (including wins in the Sugar and Russell Athletic Bowls) at Louisville.  To see someone dismiss someone’s accomplishments publicly like that was a bit uncomfortable to me.

To sum it up, do I think McCombs is a pompous ass?  Hell yes I do.  Do I think McCombs is a racist?  I don’t know.  I will say this: without knowing the context behind the person and the story, perception could very well become reality.

ACC Football Has Arrived – Sort Of…

PrintFor those who do not know, I am a big – check that, HUGE – fan of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

I grew up in near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, only 12 miles away from Wake Forest University.  I grew up pulling for Florida State Seminole football (my mother’s family comes from Tallahassee, Florida).  I hold a Bachelor’s – and one of my Master’s – degree from North Carolina State University.

I’ve written a few rants on my feelings on ACC football here, here, here, and here.  When the conference of my youth let me down, I wrote this.

Given the information I shared, let’s just say that I am in a good mood today.  In fact, I have been doing a happy dance in my head for most of the work day.

Not only did my Seminoles win the BCS national championship last night, they beat an SEC team (Auburn) while doing so.

Y’all don’t understand the inferiority complex ACC fans have had towards SEC football.  The inferiority complex has been with us for years – almost a decade.  The SEC and ACC shared the same footprint before the latter expanded to include Pitt and Syracuse (and Louisville in 2014).  Few of the ACC teams have long-standing rivalries with SEC teams (Florida State-Florida, Georgia Tech-Georgia, Clemson-South Carolina) which for the better part of a decade had been dominated by those SEC teams.

And now we ACC fans can FINALLY rejoice at the end of a college football season.  WE WON A BCS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AND BEAT AN SEC TEAM WHILE DOING SO!!!

Now I will say this: the ACC is not all the way there yet.  Teams in the conference have to be consistent threats to the national championship year in and year out – and it can’t be just Florida State (Miami, Clemson, and Virginia Tech I am looking at y’all).

Moreover, the SEC is not going anywhere.  It will be the big, bad-ass conference as long as its coaches continue to recruit well and play in big games.

As for me, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this.  The best is yet to come.  #GoACC!

Strong a Good Hire for Texas, But…

texas-longhornThe University of Texas announced that it has hired former Louisville coach Charlie Strong to coach its football team.  I think it was a good hire for the Longhorns, as Strong will bring his defensive acumen and his ability to recruit top athletes.

The problem is, I do not know if the move itself will be good for Strong in the long run.

For those who are not familiar with the state of Texas, allow me to enlighten y’all a bit.  I spent four years in a place called Big Sandy, TX which is near the small cities of Longview and Tyler, and an 1 1/2 hour drive from Dallas.  Football – professional, college AND high school – is king in the state of Texas.  It doesn’t matter that the Houston Rockets (1994 and 1995), San Antonio Spurs (1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007) and Dallas Mavericks (2011) won NBA titles.  It doesn’t matter that the NHL’s Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 (damn, has it been that long?).

All that matters to Texans is how the Dallas Cowboys, Texas Longhorns – and to a certain extent, the Texas A&M Aggies – do.

Speaking of the Longhorns, a coach at the University of Texas has to be more than just a master of the Xs and Os.  That coach is to be able to be do everything from smooth egos of rich, powerful boosters to kiss babies (and asses) and a media darling for ESPN’s Longhorn Network.  Legendary coaches Darrell Royal and Mack Brown perfected the art of doing such things at Texas.  In other words, he has to be more politician and showman than football coach.

This is where I worry about Strong fitting in as the coach of the Longhorns.

I am not doubting Strong’s ability to coach – his record at Louisville proves that.  Let’s count the ways:

  • A 37–16 record in four seasons
  • A 3-2 bowl record, including curb-stompings in the Sugar Bowl (over Florida) and Russell Athletic Bowl (over Miami)
  • Two Big East titles

However, I am worried about Strong’s ability to handle the ancillary stuff that comes with the Texas job.  He is not a part-time politician and showman.  He has a quieter public persona.  He does not possess the backslapping, shoulder-rubbing personality needed to massage the massive egos of rich donors.  He does not possess the charismatic personality that would occupy the airwaves for the Longhorn Network.  He prefers to let his coaching speak for itself.

The problem is that’s not going to be good enough at Texas.

Look, we all know that Texas hired Strong on his merits.  Hell, the more cynical fans may believe that Texas hired him because it wanted its own black star coach to counter Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin (you know there are certain folks from certain parts of the country who feel that way).

Ultimately the way Strong handles the ancillary stuff will determine how well he will do as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns.

Mack Brown Deserved Better

texas-longhornMack Brown announced he was stepping down from his head coaching position at the University of Texas after the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon.  He should have been honest and said that he was being forced out by the university.

Sure Brown acknowledged it was time for a change after a 30-20 record and 18-17 mark in the Big 12 over the last four seasons.  And yes, his Longhorns has an 8-4 record this season after losing to Baylor in the de facto Big 12 title game to end the regular season.  Brown is too much of a gentleman who say he was done wrong in the end.

I’ll just say it for him – Mack Brown was forced to resign.

Brown should have been allowed to finish his career at Texas on his own terms.  Just look at all the great things he did for the Longhorns.

Brown resurrected an underachieving football program at Texas.  From 2001-09, when Texas went 101-16, won two Big 12 titles and twice played for the national championship.  He had only one losing season at Texas, going 5-7 in 2010. The Longhorns went 134-34 under Head Coach Mack Brown overall, including 82-22 in Big 12 Conference play.  Brown was by far the Texas’ most successful head coach since the legendary Darrel Royal.

Yet Brown was forced to quit.

That sums up life as a coach – both on the collegiate and professional level.  It is a “what have you done for me lately?” business.  Hell if Brown soured on Texas after winning a national championship and playing for another not too long ago, then what other chance to others have?

The question is now where does Texas go from here?  Lots of names have been brandied about: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher (though he just signed a contract extension), Baylor’s Art Briles, Stanford’s David Shaw.

I do know one thing, Nick Saban played the Longhorns like Parker Brothers.  He knew he would never leave Alabama for Texas, and used Texas’ interest to land a phat contract extension from the Crimson Tide.

No matter who coaches the Longhorns, he will have a hard time living up to the legacy Mack Brown built for Longhorn football.

In Its Last Year, BCS Gets it Right

250px-Bcs_logo_2010#1 Florida State will play #2 Auburn in the Bowl Championship Series’ National Championship game in the Rose Bowl next month.  And I must say, as usual, the BCS got it right.

You see, the sole purpose of the BCS is to pit the two best teams together.  Again, the TWO BEST TEAMS.  Based on the play of this season, it’s obvious that the Seminoles and Tigers are the best two teams.

Florida State has more than passed the “eye test”.  It had thoroughly dominated the teams on its schedule.  It blew away a good Clemson team (the same Clemson team that beat a full strength Georgia team earlier in the season) on the road during prime time.  It made a mockery out of a good Miami Hurricanes a few weeks later.  And it blew away a good Duke team that came into the ACC Championship Game on a nine-game winning streak.

And to those folks who have been bitching about the Seminoles’ weak strength of schedule such as ESPN’s Mike Lupica and CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel, teams cannot control how their conference members perform, and schedules are set often years in advance.  (I made the same argument for Ohio State)

Keep in mind that things in college football runs in cycles.  Alabama and Auburn haven’t always been good in the same year.  Remember this: the SEC was just okay for the most part during the ’80s and 90s.  So yes, believe it or not it could happen again to that conference.

And speaking of the SEC, what better way for the BCS to go out than to pit a representative from the strongest college football in the country against arguably the most dominant team in college football.  Auburn is a team of destiny.  Just look at the way it won its final two regular season games.  If you don’t know how the Tigers won those games vs. Georgia and Alabama by now, you’ve been living under a rock for too long.

Aside from the “Team of Destiny” crap, Auburn has been winning by running the football down its opponents’ throats.  The coolest thing about the Tigers is this: opposing defenses know what is coming, yet they have yet to stop it.  The great Alabama couldn’t stop it.  Georgia couldn’t stop it.  Texas A&M couldn’t stop it (nor other offenses for that matter).  Missouri couldn’t stop it in the SEC title game.

I will say this: both teams have a game to watch on film on how it could beat the other.  Florida State could and should watch the Auburn-LSU game from now until kickoff.  LSU “held” Auburn to less than 220 yards rushing, but more importantly force its QB Nick Marshall to throw two interceptions.

Meanwhile, Auburn could and should watch the FSU-Boston College game from now until kickoff.  Boston College was not only the one team who truly tested the Seminoles, it actually held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.  The Eagles were able to stay close to the Seminoles because, like Auburn, they have a great running game led by Heisman candidate Andre Williams.

The more I am write, the more I am loving this #1-#2 matchup.  Way to go BCS – you got it right on the way out…

Ohio State Should Not Be Disrespected

Ohio-StateBashing Ohio State – excuse me, THE Ohio State University – has become en vogue for the 2013 college football season.

After all, the Buckeyes BARELY beat a mediocre Michigan team by one point in The Big House last Saturday.  I didn’t know what was worse, barely getting by those Wolverines or giving up 41 POINTS to the same bunch who didn’t have much of a pulse on offense for most of the season.

But we all know what the real problem with Ohio State is: it plays in a crappy Big Ten with an even crappier out-of-conference schedule.

We do not want to hear about Ohio State’s 24 game winning streak.  We do not want to hear about the studs they have on offense, namely Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde.  And most of all, we do not want to hear about the job that coach Urban Meyer has done the last two seasons.

I’m here to tell you all this: the hate the Buckeyes have been getting all season long is utterly indefensible.

First of all, winning 24 games in a row is NOTHING to sniff at.  Sure the Big Ten has been down for a couple of seasons, but it is an automatic qualifying (AQ) conference that has more than its share of football tradition and lore.  (After all, you cannot knock a conference that has a tie-in to the Rose Bowl and has the most bank thanks to its money-making B1G Network).  And there’s this: it’s not the Buckeyes’ fault that the rest of their conference sucks.

And, since I believe in fairness, why not knock the Florida State Seminoles’ schedule?  While I do not think the ACC is as crappy as the B1G (though not much better) and they more than pass the “smell test”, the Seminoles’ out-of-conference schedule leaves much to be desired.  Nevada, Idaho and Bethune-Cookman?!  Are you kidding me?

Again, I am not knocking the ACC.  I am a proud alumnus of NC State (except when it comes to sports), and am proud of the fact the ACC will more than likely have a representative in the BCS Championship Game for the first time in almost 15 years (when the Seminoles won it all in 1999).

I just think if folks want to bash Ohio State based on strength of schedule, they might as well take some swings at the #1 team in the country as well.

Back to Ohio State, here is all it has to do going forward: win, and win big against Michigan State.  The good news is the Spartans are ranked 10th in the BCS.  A win over those cats should quell the Buckeye hate once and for all.

Duke Football Is for Real

duke_blue_devilsThe day: November 17, 2013.

That was the day I found out that Duke made the Top 25 rankings in both the AP and Coaches’ Poll.  Not in basketball, but FOOTBALL.

This is the same Duke football program that was thought to be among the worst in major college football.  The same Duke football program that has a hard time competing with its conference powerhouse counterparts (Florida State and Clemson) due to its high academic standards, low undergraduate enrollment, and limited resources (outside basketball).

Yet here are the Blue Devils, ranked #25 and #24 in the AP and Coaches’ Poll, respectively.

Not only are they bowl-eligible again this season, but this is the first time the football program has qualified for a bowl in back-to-back seasons.  The more surprising fact is not only Duke’s 8-2 record – the Blue Devils were one defensive stop shy of being 9-1 (the Pitt game).

How did the Blue Devils get there you ask? It’s simple: great coaching.

Coach David Cutcliffe is doing a marvelous job in changing the culture at Duke.  He is getting 3-star, mid-level talent and coaching them up to be 4- and 5-star players.  His players are buying in, and are now finding ways to win games.  Duke won with defense at Virginia Tech, and beat down a more talented Miami team last Saturday by 18 points.

No one would have said that 5 years ago.

Now, the Blue Devils control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division with the right to get crushed by play Florida State in the ACC Championship game.  That in and of itself is remarkable.

Props to “Coach Cut” for doing the impossible – making Duke football relevant.

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