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The Morning After: SEC Players Implicated, SEC Fans Fret

mushroom-cloudWelcome to the new reality of college athletics.  In this reality, college athletics — the actual athletic events — are only background noise.  The focus instead is on scandal.  One after another.  Week after week.  School after school.

Penn State.



Johnny Manziel.

Oklahoma State and Les Miles.

Alabama, Mississippi State and Tennessee players.




Saturday’s Alabama/Texas A&M clash might as well be hyped as Player Autographs versus Agent Money.

Enjoying it all?  I hope so because with more and more media there will be fewer and fewer secrets.  Some might think complete transparency is a good thing.  In theory, it probably is.  But this writer believes the fact that every $100 handshake — a practice that has gone on since the dawn of college sports — is now going to be uncovered by a website or just a guy with a cell phone camera and a Twitter account, will serve as the death blow for college athletics as we’ve known them.

The NCAA is a doomed organization, but not through any fault of its own.  If everyone has boosters who cheat or players who take money from agents — and they do — then everyone must go on probation or be stripped of wins.  With more and more schools in the NCAA hoosegow, who’ll be left to play the games?

Some of you are likely thinking, “What kind of nimrod believes it’s better if we don’t know about rule-breaking?”  But the point is this: If every jaywalker in New York City was cited or arrested Barney Fife-style, think of the backlog of cases in NYC courts.

Another example: The police in your state know that they can’t catch all speeders.  So they catch a few and hope that the randomness of their ticket-writing scares other drivers into slowing down.  Until now, that’s basically been the NCAA’s plan, too.

Now, however, the NCAA is going to be forced to act again and again by enterprising reporters… or by angry fans with internet access.  Think Alabama and Auburn backers haven’t mastered the art of mudslinging and scandal-finding?

This won’t end well, folks.  We are headed toward the day — and we’ve written this on other occasions — when college sports teams are basically semi-pro squads, complete with bi-weekly paychecks and sponsor logos on helmets and jerseys.  Schools will use them for marketing purposes and the rules will be relaxed to 19th Century Tombstone, Arizona standards.

What we’ve watched and enjoyed for generations is dying.  An omnipresent media will kill it by exposing every toe that goes over an NCAA line.


Here’s a quick wrap on what’s being said this AM:

*  As you know, Yahoo! Sports has revealed that five SEC players received extra benefits (cash) from agents/runners between September of 2011 and December of 2012.  Those players documented — key word — to have received cash were ex-Alabama offensive lineman DJ Fluker, ex-Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox and ex-receiver Chad Bumphis, ex-Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray and current Vol defensive defensive lineman Maurice Couch.

*  Columnist Kevin Scarbinsky wonders if Fluker could be Alabama’s version of Reggie Bush, leading to the loss of a pair of BCS titles.

*  Anyone remember Fluker tweeting in April: “Yea I took $ n college so wat. I did wat i had to do. Agents was tryin to pimp me to I pimped them. Cast da 1st stone.”  At the time, his agent claimed Fluker’s Twitter account was hacked.  Uh-huh.  You can be sure that there will be plenty of angry Tide fans ready to “cast da 1st stone” at Fluker’s noggin if his decision to accept cash hurts their program.

*  Nick Saban said yesterday taht he would handle the Fluker allegations appropriately.  When pressed for answers on the Fluker topic, Saban grew angry and left his presser with the words: “I appreciate your interest in the game.”

The runner in this case is ex-Alabama defensive lineman Luther Davis.  Yahoo! Sports has records suggesting that Davis funneled at least $45,000 to the five players implicated.

Some Alabama players are defending the school’s compliance department.

Here’s the breakdown of the Yahoo! story from a Mississippi State perspective.

Ex-Bulldog Bumphis hung up on a reporter from The Jackson Clarion-Ledger when contacted last night about his involvement in the story.

Here’s a look at things from a Tennessee perspective.  Associate AD Jimmy Stanton said: “We are aware of the article and are examining all of the relevant facts, and we will not comment further.”  UT coach Butch Jones has said that Couch probably won’t play against Oregon on Saturday.  (In reality, there’s little chance he’ll ever play again for Tennessee.)


Here are some quickie thoughts on the report and its fallout:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Further Proof That Manziel Needs A Twitter Muzzle: Controversial Weekend Tweet Spurred By Parking Ticket

chipsIf Kevin Sumlin needed any more proof that Johnny Manziel isn’t cut out for Twitter and other social media, it’s this: The star’s tweet from this weekend was brought on by — wait for it — a parking ticket.

According to The Houston Chronicle, “a person with knowledge of the situation” says a parking ticket — given for parking in the wrong direction and for having windows tinted too dark — led the Texas A&M quarterback to tweet: “Bull**** like tonight is a reason why I can’t wait to leave college station… whenever it may be.”

Manziel quickly took that tweet down and then invited folks to “please please walk a day in my shoes.”

Johnny Football, we have.  I’m guessing everyone reading this has gotten a parking ticket or a speeding ticket that they didn’t believe to be fair.

I once got a speeding ticket driving through Barnwell, South Carolina and when I told someone about it in Columbia they identified the exact spot of my stop and informed me that it’s a known speed trap.  In Knoxville, Tennessee I was once pulled over by a cop in an unmarked car for changing lanes and not signaling.  Of course, there was no one in front of me or behind me in either lane for at least 500 yards so technically, no ticket should have been written.

Having to help a county or city make its month-end budget isn’t fun.  But most people who’ve turned themselves into celebrities don’t react to those tickets by going to Twitter and announcing that they can’t wait to leave the town they’re living in.

Interestingly, Manziel has not tweeted — as of this morning — since his June 16th “walk a day in my shoes” tweet.  So perhaps Sumlin has already put the kibosh on his star quarterback’s social media privileges.

That’d be a good thing.  Because at this point it’s obvious that Twitter is to Johnny Football as a single bullet is to Barney Fife — a mistake waiting to happen.

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The Refs Didn’t Care, But The Football Gods Smote The Vols For Taunting

What must Kansas State fans have thought?

If any Wildcat faithful had stayed tuned into ESPN after their own team was jobbed with a letter-of-the-law, Barney Fife-ish, ticky-tack call in the Pinstripe Bowl, they must’ve been sickened by what they saw.

First, the Pinstripe Fiasco: K-State receiver Adrian Hillborn scored on a 30-yard touchdown catch-and-run with little more than a minute to play.  When he reached the back of the end zone, he gave a very quick salute to the crowd.  Two Big Ten officials tossed their flags over the unsportsmanlike act and the Wildcats were forced to try a game-tying two-point conversion attempt from 18 yards away.  They failed.  And Syracuse won.

Now we usually defend officials around here because everyone picks on them.  They pick on them so much that we now have more letter-of-the-law calls being made.  That’s not a good thing.  Refs should be able to use their judgement as to when a foul impacts play or deserves to be penalized. 

Hillborn’s short, impromptu salute did not deserve a flag.

But in the very next game — Tennessee versus North Carolina in the Music City Bowl — Vol players were running through premeditated gestures for the full sixty minutes… actually more if you include two overtime periods. 

Kansas State fans had to be scratching their heads over what really constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct.  ESPN’s broadcasters certainly were.

* After touchdowns (and even after some run of the mill first-down completions), quarterback Tyler Bray and his receivers did their “loco” finger roll move, something they’ve been doing after big plays for five games now.  The gesture was “inspired” by a rap video.

* After a touchdown pass from Bray to Gerald Jones, both players gave saluting gestures to the crowd.  Their salutes were longer than Hillborn’s, by the way.

* After a touchdown pass from Bray to Da’Rick Rogers, the freshman wideout gestured to the crowd as though he were showing off a title belt.

And yet nary a flag flew.  The real oddity?  Like the Kansas State game, a Big Ten officiating crew was working Tennessee’s contest. 

How can a quick, unplanned salute in a game-changing moment be flagged while numerous planned celebrations throughout another game are ignored?  By officials from the same league?

It seems the NCAA has a little teaching to do this offseason.

As for the Vols, while the officials didn’t punish UT for their taunts, the football gods did.  After tossing an overtime touchdown pass to tie the game at 27, Bray was caught by ESPN cameras turning to the North Carolina bench and giving a two-handed throat slash gesture (photo at left).

Predictably, less than 10 minutes later Bray was teary-eyed on his own sideline after tossing an interception that wound up being a game-loser for his Vols.  Hello, Karma.

For a team that finished 6-7 and never beat an FBS team with a winning record, Tennessee’s players have apparently spent quite a bit of time working on their gestures, celebrations and taunts. 

Maybe next year the Vols should spend more time on boring ol’ blocking and tackling.

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SEC Stat Analysis – The Fife Ratings

How many times have you heard a football coach say, “We can’t beat ourselves?”  A thousand times?  A million?

At we like to track which teams actually avoid shooting themselves in the foot.  And which which team’s — unfortunately — don’t. 

Now who better represents firing a bullet toward one’s own foot than Barney Fife?  So below you’ll find our 2010 Fife Ratings. 

To calculate this rating we compare a team’s total number of plays run against that same squad’s total number of offensive and defensive penalties, total giveaways and sacks allowed.  We look only at team’s results in its eight SEC contests.

In past years we’ve found that this plays-per-miscue rating matches up quite nicely with teams’ SEC records.  Not this year.  Surprisingly, there are several teams (Arkansas, Alabama) who won despite a large number of self-inflicted wounds.  Likewise, a few squads (Kentucky, Vanderbilt) put up bad records while doing very little bungling of their own.  At least they made their opponents actually beat them.

Still, these numbers will tell you which teams had a propensity for making their own jobs more difficult.  After looking at them, you might wonder what the SEC standings would have looked like without all these own-bungles?

Fife Ratings

Total Plays Run
Sacks Allowed
Total Miscues
Miss. State
43 17 14 74
Ole Miss
S. Carolina

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