Category Archives: college football

Latest Round of Realignment a Win-Win for ACC and B1G

Boz7c-KIIAA0D7nbig10-11-nav-logoThe latest round of conference realignment in collegiate athletics officially ended on July 1st.

The Maryland Terrapins departed my beloved Atlantic Coast Conference – where it was a founding member no less – for the Big Ten (along with Rutgers from the American Athletic Conference).  Meanwhile the ACC replaced Maryland with the Louisville Cardinals from the AAC.

While I am hoping the seismic plates of realignment calms down for good, I must say that BOTH conferences made out like bandits.  One conference made an athletic gain while the other a potentially huge financial gain.

Follow me for a minute.

The ACC has long played in the shadows of the Southeastern Conference.  While the ACC has made some huge gains in football the last two seasons, the SEC is still king and is perceived to be the big brother in an otherwise amicable relationship.  With the SEC gaining its own network, the folks in the ACC realized that the conference needs to be taken more seriously and make bigger gains in football.

Enter Louisville.

While Louisville would never be confused with other academically prestigious universities, it has one helluva athletics department.  The strides it has made in college football and college basketball (as well as baseball and soccer) is nothing short of amazing.  Hell Louisville comes into the ACC with the biggest athletics budgets in the conference (now over $87 million).  What Louisville will do for the ACC in football in basketball is make the conference stronger in football and perhaps the best in college basketball.

And with the possibility of an ACC channel looming, that could not come at a better time.

As for the B1G, the acquisition of Maryland (and Rutgers) was solely about money.  The Big Ten Network is a cash cow that was the brainchild of commissioner Jim Delany.  It is making tens of millions of dollars for each school in the B1G.  And with Maryland (and Rutgers) coming on board, the B1G could extend its network coverage into the Washington, DC (and New York City) markets.

And give Maryland credit for this: at least it was honest about its reasons for joining the conference (all about the $$$).  Maryland’s athletic department was broke, and the B1G can give it the financial lifeline that the Terrapins sorely need.

Let me add something here: as a sports traditionalist, losing Maryland hurts like hell.  I grew up watching those Maryland-Duke and Maryland-UNC battles in basketball.  It’s just going to be so weird seeing Maryland as a member of the Big Ten.

“No country for old men” I guess…

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.

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