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Sans Shirt, Pearl Continues To Make Waves (Good Ones) For Auburn Hoops

pearl-dunk-tankWhen you hire Bruce Pearl you get two different people.  You get a basketball coach with a track record of serious on-court success (and some off-court flubs).  And you get a guy who enjoys the hell out of the spotlight… which makes him a walking billboard for your basketball program.

Auburn has yet to reap the awards of Pearl’s in-game strengths, but they’ve already seen in marketing prowess.  First he stage-dived into a mosh pit of AU fans upon his arrival on the Plains.  His introductory press conference was 95% a revival meeting.  He also took to ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning” show to don an Auburn baseball jersey and football helmet.

While Pearl said during his first presser that he would likely keep his shirt on at Auburn, it took less than a month to get him out of it.  Yesterday he took center stage in a dunk tank for an Auburn fraternity’s fund-raiser.


Bruce Pearl goes in the dunk tank for charity


There are a couple of reasons Pearl isn’t the most popular guy in the world when it comes to the coaching fraternity.  (His teams at Tennessee were consistently ranked lower in the coaches poll than in the AP Poll.)  First, he’s still carrying the baggage from decisions he made as an assistant at Iowa that led to him being blackballed to Division II for a decade.  Second, there aren’t many coaches who’ll paint their chests, step into dunking booths, wear football helmets, etc, in the name of promoting the program.  And when fans see Pearl do it, many of them say, “Why won’t our guy be fun like that?”

If anything, Pearl’s ramping up his marketing efforts at Auburn.  He’s averaging a national headline per week.  Either he realizes AU will be a tougher rebuild and is therefore in more need of pub than UT was… or he’s really, really missed the spotlight.

Probably a little of both.

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SEC Headlines 2/13/2014

headlines-thuCollege News

1. What the SEC wants, the SEC gets?  Football Rules Committee proposes changing targeting rule so a penalty can be reversed in some cases when replay overturns a player ejection.

2. Athletic departments don’t get rich off jersey sales.  Texas A&M made $59,690 on jersey sales for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013. (includes all sports)

SEC Coaching News

3. Arkansas cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson reportedly headed to Purdue.

4. Optimistic view of new Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith.  Possible “that Smith is an outstanding young coach who represents one of Bielema’s better hires.”

5. Coaching shuffle at Alabama.  With defensive backs coach Greg Brown off to Louisville, Kevin Steele will coach inside linebackers and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart moves back to the secondary.

6. Florida coach Will Muschamp on evaluating recruits: “I think basketball a lot of times is your best evaluation…”

SEC Football

7. Indoor club seat holders at Arkansas will be able to buy beer and wine this fall, pending a license approval.

8. Matt Hayes on the 2013 Alabama team: “For the first time under Saban, the Tide staff made a significant error in judgment of who should be on the field.”

9. Best SEC running backs of the BCS era?  Athlon Sports says three of the top four came from Alabama.


10. Dismissed from the team for his after-the fact involvement, former Vanderbilt wide receiver Chris Boyd ready to talk to the NFL about a rape case.

11. Monday Morning Quarterback breaks down former Mizzou defensive end Michael Sam’s NFL chances.

12. Jadeveon Clowney on unrealistic expectations. “People expect me to get five sacks, 10 tackles for loss every game, but that wasn’t going to happen the way teams were playing me.”

SEC Basketball

13. Arkansas plays at Missouri tonight.  Razorbacks guard Michael Qualls remembers the atmosphere in Columbia last year.  ”I felt the hate.”

14. Missouri hasn’t won since beating the Razorbacks in Fayetteville.  Mike Anderson: “They’re hungry just like we are.” Game has been moved to ESPN.  

15. Vanderbilt and South Carolina go at 4:00 p.m. eastern today.  Postponed from Wednesday night.

16. Report – Florida part of four-team barnstorming tour in 2018.

17. “Kentucky won the game, but didn’t look like a Final Four team Wednesday night.”

18. 20 years ago today – John Chaney had a message for John Calipari.


19. Snowball fight at Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium.

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Oregon To Don Pink This Weekend; Good Cause, Over-The-Top Execution

Over the last few seasons, the National Football League has handed out pink towels, pink gloves, pink socks and pink cleats to its athletes in an effort to raise breast cancer awareness.  So it was only a matter of time until some school saw the door left cracked open by the NFL and decided to kick it in completely.

And is anyone at all surprised that that school is Oregon?




Yeah, that pink goes well with the black, silver, chrome and greenish-yellow on the rest of the ensemble.

Look, I have no problem with a team wearing pink.  In fact, athletes and teams in other sports around the world have worn pink for years.  And the fact that Oregon is donning the pink this weekend against Washington State in an effort to aid the breast cancer cause should draw kudos as well.

But we’ve now reached the point in college football where no one’s brand is recognizable.  Flip on any game this weekend — any frickin’ game — and you’ll spend the first 30 seconds trying to figure out who’s who.

“Now which team is that with rocks on its helmet?”

“Why are those guys dressed like Batman villains?”

“Why do I suddenly desire a candy cane?”

It’s ridiculous.  And it’s driven by two things.  First, recruits want to wear different stuff.  That’s why a school like Oregon won’t wear the same get-up twice in a season.  Can you believe that major schools now change their unis and their brands in part to give teenagers what they want?  It’s clothing extortion.  Here’s guessing Bear Bryant never said, “OK, Timmy, we’ll wear a black helmet with a green facemask if you sign with us.”

The second reason for all the new garb… well, it’s us.  The schools know that fans will rush out and by a gray jersey at Tennessee, a jersey with gold numerals at Mississippi State, or a black jersey at Kentucky.  And granted, on occasion, it is neat to see a team wear something different.  On occasion.  But now that the occasion is every game every week, the neatness is fast wearing off.

Even if it is for a good cause.


SIDENOTE — One last note on all the pink stuff.  Breast cancer is a horrific disease and by all means awareness and funds must be raised so that women will catch it early and that scientists will someday find a cure for it.  But what I don’t understand — and I say this as a prostate cancer survivor myself — is why the NFL and schools like Oregon don’t make anywhere near the push for prostate cancer awareness that they do for breast cancer awareness.  Most football viewers are men.  And more men will get prostate cancer than women will get breast cancer.  That’s a fact that most do not know.  Probably because no one seems to have time to raise awareness for that disease when a month’s worth of attention is dedicated to breast cancer awareness.

Couldn’t Oregon break out a light blue uniform just once for prostate cancer awareness?

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Chill Out, Alabama Won’t Be Donning Black Jerseys This Year

Oh, my.  That got ugly fast.

The internet almost broke yesterday when the University of Alabama’s online store put up for sale a black-on-black Tide football jersey.  The description of the horrendous, tradition-crushing jersey said: “Designed in the same styling as the gear your favorite players will wear on the field in the 2013 Blackout Game.”





That thing is so ghastly — and impossible to read — that it’s actually silly.

The good news is that the school said it was working to correct the text.  As of 11am ET today, the black-on-black shirt is no longer on the shop at all.


We realize that traditions are changing.  We know that players and recruits now dictate to schools what they will and will not wear.  We know that schools like Oregon never wear the same uniform combination twice.  And we also know that you can’t turn on a college football game without having to spend the first couple of minutes trying to figure out who it is that’s wearing black, “anthracite” or a candy-cane helmet.

Laughably, many schools say they’re expanding their brand by adding dozens of uniform options.  Most of the marketing books I’ve read would say just the opposite.  If you’re brand is everything, you have no brand.

So hopefully Alabama — one of the few remaining schools with an actual, honest-to-God, take-one-look-at-’em-and-you-know-’em brand — won’t be joining all those other schools that have decided to turn their uniform designs over to companies who are more concerned about creating a brand for themselves than for the schools that hired them.  How else can anyone explain this abomination?

Some day, we’ll all look back at this era of college football and view it as we now do 1970s and 1980s baseball uniforms.  Here’s praying that schools like Alabama, Texas and Penn State (even if their tradition is drab), won’t give into the temptation and yield to Nike, adidas, Under Armour or teenage prospects.

Black-on-black with crimson outlining?  Blech.

Update:  Back on the site and described as a “special-edition Nike Limited jersey.”

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Calipari: “If You Kill One Of Mine, I Burn Your Village,” Ex-Cat Not Impressed

gfx - they said itIt’s the kind of quote that mesmerizes a coach’s fanbase.  It’s the kind of quote designed to show just how much a coach cares about his players.

It’s also the kind of quote you don’t read every day.

An excerpt from John Calipari’s new book, “Players First: Success From The Inside Out” has been released online and several passages are interesting.  None more so than this particular snippet:


“I coach for the names on the back of the jersey — not the front.  My players.  They’re sent to me by their fathers, their mothers, their grandmothers, their aunts — whoever in this world raised them and loves them.  Others look a their NBA bodies and consider them lucky.  Future millionaires, just stopping through before they cash in.  That’s not what I see.  They’re kids, some of them as young as seventeen.  They all need me in a different way.  Some want my affection, others my approval.  It’s a burden to be responsible for other people’s children, sometimes a heavy burden.

I go to Mass every morning.  It’s how I start my day and it’s my moment of peace, almost meditation.  If I’m struggling with a player, it’s where I ask myself: How would I want my own son treated?

But I’m also a sinner, as we all are.  If you come after one of my players, I come after you twice as hard.  If you kill one of mine, I burn your village.  It’s the Italian in me.  I’m not proud of that, but it’s who I am.”


It’s also — like every book ever written by an employed college coach — a sales pitch to future recruits and their parents.

No doubt fans of other SEC programs are retching after reading the above selection, but a  Calipari book isn’t for them.  Kentucky fans, on the other hand, will likely accept Calipari’s publication as the 67th book of the Bible.

Regardless of your feelings about UK’s coach or his book, here’s guessing you’ve never seen another coach write the words: “If you kill one of mine, I burn your village.”  That’s a new one.

Former Wildcat Jeff Sheppard, however, does not appear to be frightened by Calipari’s words.  He jokingly referred to UK’s coach as “the enemy” at an event in Ohio — because Sheppard’s Cats played against Calipari’s UMass team in the 1996 Final Four — and he made some serious complaints about his old school’s decision to bring in so many one-and-done players.

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Henderson A Necessary Villain? What A Weak Defense Of Poor Behavior

marshall-henderson-coors-lightYou either love him or you hate him.

If you’re an Ole Miss fan or a columnist in need of a topic sure to generate a response, you love him.

If you believe there’s a difference between showing emotion and showing your arse then you probably hate him.

Rebel basketball star Marshall Henderson is the boldest provocateur to hit a college basketball court since… well… uh.  Who else has ever jumped on a scorer’s table at his conference’s tournament, taken a faux joint from his mouth and tossed it to the ground on national television, and snapped his jersey in the faces of opposing players, coaches and fans?  Some might have done one.  Henderson is the guy who’s done all.  And more.

From his shark fin finger gesture after a made trey to his off-court insults — “They’re losers.” – to his on-the-verge-of-a-technical interactions with officials, there’s never been anyone quite so far over the top as Ole Miss’ talented gunner.

When I said over the weekend that I thought Henderson was the most classless player to ever take to the  hardwood, a number of my friends in the media chafed.  Yet when I asked them for the name of any other college basketballer who’s come close to doing as much taunting as Henderson has done I was met with stares.

Followed by a change of subjects.

The shame of it all is that Henderson is a phenomenal basketball player.  His talents and energetic leadership should be the talk of the sporting world rather than his temperament.  And if he showed any remorse at all for the actions that have led him through four schools (and jail) in four years, his would be one of those tried and true sports/redemption stories that we all love to sop up like Southern gravy.  “He’s overcome so much and turned his life around,” we’d coo.

Instead, Henderson just throws his past in everyone’s face as part of his schtick.  Sorry?  Please.  The arrest record is good for his rep, dudes.

But Henderson’s actions aren’t just fodder for water-cooler talk.  They’re capable of inciting a riot.  After rubbing a Friday night victory into the faces of Missouri’s team (and then complaining that the Tiger players weren’t good enough sports to shake his hand), Henderson had this to say:


“People take it so seriously that it’s funny for a little white guy like me to just come around, talk trash to people and the fans.  Like, what are you going to do in the stands?  What am I going to do on the court to you in the stands?  It’s funny just to mess with people.”


Yes, it’s funny right up to the point that some ticked off fan in the crowd — say at Auburn, maybe — fails to reel in his own emotions and storms the court to trade fists with the biggest instigator this side of Woody Woodpecker.  Oh, sure, Henderson would probably just pull a knife from his sock and cut the guy, but no one really wants to see that any more than they want to see fans and players to duke it out on the floor.

There’s a reason that 90% of Ole Miss basketball games feature officials cooling players’ tempers as the final buzzer nears.  Henderson’s mouth and deeds get under the skin of his opponents.  Now maybe that takes them off their game — advantage: Rebels — but at some point maybe that will lead to a postgame donnybrook.  Don’t say you haven’t thought it possible.

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Vols Draw Line In Sand With Players-Only Meeting; Dooley Says Bama “Drafts” Players

Tennessee is now 3-3 on the season and 0-3 in the SEC after a 41-31 loss at Mississippi State on Saturday.  Top-ranked Alabama visits what will likely be a half-crimson Neyland Stadium on Saturday and UT travels to South Carolina the week after that.  In other words, the Volunteers are staring down the barrel of an 0-5 conference start and a 3-5 record overall.

With a coach on the hot seat and a season on the brink, a couple of Vol linebackers helped arrange a players-only meeting in an attempt to get everyone on the same page.

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UGA’s Murray Has His O-Line Playing For Ice Cream

Aaron Murray knows how to get the attention of an offensive lineman — offer him food.  And that’s just what Georgia’s quarterback did after being sacked five times in the Bulldogs’ first two games.

Before facing Florida Atlantic in Week Three, Murray promised his protectors that he’d take them out for ice cream if they kept his jersey clean.  He’s only been sacked once in two games since and he blamed that one on himself for holding onto the ball too long.

Left tackle Kenarious Gates — all 318 pounds of him — had this to say on the matter:


“It’s motivated us.  We’re playing for each other, and you always have that ice cream in the back of your head.”


Murray said last week’s ice cream trip went on his mom’s credit card to the tune of 50 or 60 dollars.  Which means UGA fans can start worrying about an NCAA investigation… now.  (Kidding.)

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UT-NCSU, AU-Clemson To Wear Home Uniforms In Atlanta; ‘Bout Time

Longtime readers of this website know that this particular writer wants more colleges to play one another while wearing their actual school colors.  Meaning: Dump the white unis whenever possible.

A product of the black-and-white TV era, most schools continue to play by outdated rules… home football team wears the dark jersey, road football team wears the white jersey.  That’s reversed come basketball season, for some reason.

Well, the NCAA recently changed the rule allowing schools to wear their home unis against one another if they both agreed to do so.  Southern Cal and UCLA were the first to push the notion and they should be saluted for it.

Now the Chick-fil-A Kickoff officials are getting with the program, too.  According to the official website for this weekend’s games, Tennessee will wear its orange jerseys and NC State its red jerseys when the two teams meet tomorrow night in Atlanta.  On Saturday, Auburn will wear its blue jerseys and Clemson it’s orange jerseys.

Amen, hallelujah!  This is how college football looked for its first 50-60 years of existence.

Via statement, the president of the Chick-fil-A games, Gary Stokan, says this will be a new tradition for the Georgia Dome events:


“This new tradition is going to create an even more electric atmosphere at a venue already known for being one of the loudest and craziest in college football.  It’s going to give both games a really unique look, and we know the fans will get behind this, to help create a great visual effect both in person and on TV.”


The website tips a hat to HD television for helping to make this switch possible:


“The general rule of one team wearing a dark-colored jersey and the other wearing mostly white is in part due to the early days of black and white television when you needed the added contrast to tell one team from the other on the screen. Today’s high-definition televisions with ultra-crisp pictures essentially take that away as long as there is enough difference in the colors of the jerseys. The dark and light uniform combinations have been adopted by nearly every sport and have been the norm for generations.

But on Friday and Saturday, the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game will break that rule.”


Oh, you can disagree with the politics of the game’s title sponsor.  Heck, you might not like the pickle on Chick-fil-A’s sandwiches, either.  But only a true fuddy-duddy would disapprove of teams returning to the days of school color versus school color.

Nice move, Mr. Stokan.  Hopefully your groups is starting a trend.

That’s not to say schools shouldn’t be allowed to make a choice when it comes to wearing white or not.  (We at are very pro-choice on uniforms.)  Some schools have come to like their “road” looks.  And now that schools enjoy selling 40 different jerseys to their fans for the extra revenue — call it the Oregon Factor — there’s a financial reason to keep the whites around, too.  But for those schools that want to wear their dark unis every week, we’d sure support ‘em.

In fact, if the SEC needs another way to grab just a few more ratings each week, maybe Mike Slive can convince his league’s presidents to become the first conference in the country to encourage darks versus darks whenever possible.

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SEC Releases Cover Of 2012 Media Guide

There’s no #6 jersey to mimic that big #5 from last year’s cover, but the SEC made sure its streak of BCS titles won’t be forgotten.  “Home to Six Straight National Championships” is emblazoned right across the top of the 2012 football media guide beneath the huge words “SEC Football.”

And, yes, Missouri and Texas A&M fans, your schools are represented, too:




















I must say, I feel a bit like Navin Johnson just for writing about a media guide cover.

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