A year ago at this time, Tennessee fans were growing weary of watching ESPN’s coverage of their basketball team. That’s because every broadcast turned into a rehash of the Bruce Pearl situation — his NCAA violations, the timeline of events, UT’s decision to stand by him.
Eventually, the Tennessee administration saw the writing on the wall, ousted Pearl and told the NCAA, “He did it!”
So when the Ohio State/Jim Tressel scandal broke last spring, many Vol fans took to the comment boxes on this site to ask, “Why aren’t ESPN and the NCAA giving OSU as hard a time as they gave our Vols?”
“Why isn’t Tressel out of a job?”
Our answer at the time? Be patient.
Indeed, the Tressel/Buckeye blow-up was ESPN’s go-to story all offseason. Like Tennessee, Ohio State eventually nuked Tressel and said, “He did it!”
In all NCAA cases, the school getting smacked always believes it’s being unjustly penalized. And everyone else believes that school is getting a hand slap from a velvet glove.
Tennessee fans should not be making any such claims about Ohio State today. Here’s why:
* The NCAA handed Pearl a three-year “show cause” penalty.
The NCAA handed Tressel a five-year “show cause” penalty.
* The NCAA did not give the Tennessee program a postseason ban.
The NCAA did give Ohio State a one-year bowl ban for next season (in spite of OSU AD Gene Smith publicly stating that he would be shocked and angered by such a ban).
* The NCAA did accept Tennessee’s self-imposed sanctions.
The NCAA did not accept Ohio State’s self-imposed sanctions and instead chose to nearly double their lost scholarships (from five to nine over a three-year period) and to increase their probationary period from two years to three.
Today’s ruling shows us two things. First, that the NCAA isn’t afraid to smack around a big-time program. Sure, many national columnists will claim otherwise in the hours and days ahead because they know what kind of red meat their readers are hungry for… and can you ever remember a columnist not calling for someone to get rougher penalties and punishments? (We are the Puritans of our age.) But in reality, the oft-repeated idea of the NCAA looking out for big schools has been a myth for 20 years. Alabama fans know what I’m talking about. Ditto Southern Cal fans. The NCAA is no longer going to hit Cleveland State with probation if Kentucky cheats, as Jerry Tarkanian once joked.
Second, the NCAA has shown again — as it did in Pearl’s case — that it has begun to go after coaches who cheat and lie with as much or more ferocity than it does the schools that employ those coaches. Not even national the columnists desperate for pageviews can say the NCAA didn’t hit Pearl and Tressel with plenty of gusto. Perhaps after decades of watching schools cheat, get caught and then cheat again, the NCAA has realized that the coaches — especially those who lie and cover-up — are the ones to spank. If there’s a fear of unemployment, that might just change a coach’s ways.
All spring and summer we knew and we wrote that Ohio State and Tressel would get theirs. Today they did. And they got it a lot worse than Tennessee did, despite the fact that many Big Orange faithful had expected just the opposite.
New Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes knows exactly the type of system he wants to implement in Fayetteville – a simple one:
“Really it’s not about what I know, it’s about what those kids know. That’s what we’re going to concentrate on and understand that those kids know exactly what they are doing. I want feedback from them. … So if you don’t feel comfortable with a call we won’t call it. We won’t call it.”
That’s a novel approach from UA’s new coordinator, who was introduced to the press yesterday. Haynes served as Ohio State’s co-defensive coordinator this past season. Given the cloud hanging over that program in 2011, it’s impressive that OSU’s defense was able to log a Top 30 ranking in both scoring defense and total defense.
After the votes were tabulated December 4, the sports world now knows LSU must defeat Alabama a second time January 9, 2012 to win the BCS national championship. When the Tigers nipped the Tide 9-6 in overtime November 5, some observers felt there was a chance for a rematch especially since Alabama only dropped to No. 3 in the BCS poll. Each week after November 5, all Stanford, Oklahoma State and Oregon had to do was to win their remaining games to receive a selection in the NCAA national championship game. But none of these teams could win all of their remaining games and Armageddon II became a reality Sunday night. Because Oklahoma State beat rival Oklahoma so convincingly in the latest installment of “Bedlam”, many voters had to decide which team to rank #2 in the BCS polls. It was amazing to watch and read some of the comments of college football pundits on how the final game of the season could overshadow the entire regular season. Some voters remember the final game of the season do not take into account the overall body of work during the season.
Alabama received the nod over Oklahoma State because many voters thought since mid-season Alabama and LSU were simply the two best teams in the nation. In one of the closest votes since the beginning of the BCS era (1998) the computers favored the Cowboys by the slimmest of margins .0200 points. However, the human voters representing the USA Today coaches poll and the Harris poll favored the Crimson Tide by .0217 and .0240 points leading to the rematch scheduled for January 9, 2012 in the Mercedes Super Dome in New Orleans. La. As flawed as the BCS system currently is, let’s examine why Alabama was the best choice.
OSU beat more ranked teams than Alabama – This stat is a little misleading. OSU defeated four teams in the final BCS standings – No. 8 Kansas State (10-2), No. 12 Baylor (9-3), No. 14 Oklahoma (9-3) and No. 24 Texas (7-5). By comparison, Alabama had three victories against teams in the final BCS standings, No. 6 Arkansas (10-2), No. 22 Penn State (9-3) and No. 25 Auburn (7-5). However, teams are not the same in November as they were in September. Teams who were beat up and not performing well mature and get healthy later in the season and vice versa. When Alabama beat Florida October 1, the Gators were 4-0, ranked No. 14 in the nation. The Tide beat the Gators 38-10 in Gainesville (one of the toughest venues in the nation).
Victory margin:Oklahoma State scored 592 points in 12 games an average of 49.33 points per game. OSU’s defense which came into the Oklahoma game ranked No. 107 (445.67 ypg) in the nation surrendered 310 points (nearly triple the number of points surrendered by Alabama this season) in 12 games an average of 25.8 points per game. The Cowboys had two close wins 30-29 over Texas A&M and 52-45 over Kansas State. Aggie coach Mike Sherman was fired at the end of the season for going 6-6 and losing to rival Texas 27-25. OSU beat their opposition by an average of 23.5 points per game.
Alabama scored 432 points this season in 12 games (an average of 36 points per game) and the Crimson Tide defense which is number one in the nation in seven categories only gave up 106 points (a nation leading 8.83 points per game). The Tide lead the nation in total defense 191.25 yards per game, rushing defense 74.92 yards per game and passing yardage 116.33 yards. Alabama beat their opposition by an average of 25 points per game compared to Oklahoma State’s 23.5 points per game. Besides the LSU loss, Alabama’s closest games were wins over Penn State 27-11 and Miss State 24-7. The Tide scored 34 points or more nine times this season.
Losses: Alabama: This is simply the biggest statistic in the Crimson Tide’s favor. Alabama lost to the number one team in the nation 9-6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa. Oklahoma State was a 27-point favorite over Iowa State and led 24-7 mid-way through the 3rd quarter. However, Cyclone freshmen quarterback Jared Barnett finished with 376 yards passing and 3 touchdowns to bring Iowa State back to tie the game in regulation and upset the Cowboys 37-31 in double overtime November 18. Iowa State finished the season 6-6.
Teams who did not win their conference should not play in the national championship game: The answer to this claim is to change the BCS rules. No rule in the BCS bylaws indicates if a team does not win it conference championship, it should not be eligible to play for the national championship. If that rule was in effect now and LSU (clearly the number one team in the nation) would have lost to Georgia, then the Tigers would not be playing in the BCS national championship game January 9.
SEC fatigue: Jealousy, envy and regional bias plays a big role in the voting for the Harris Interactive poll and USA Today Coaches poll. No question other regions in the nation are tired of seeing the SEC win five (about to be six) BCS national championships. But the BCS’s primary goal is to put the two best teams in the nation head-to-head. Those two teams are LSU and Alabama.
Fans don’t want to see another rematch and a low scoring 9-6 game: Cowboy coach Mike Gundy has accomplished a lot at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have been in the shadow of “big brother” Oklahoma for too long. Ironically, the last time the Cowboys beat the Sooners in 2002 Les Miles was the Oklahoma State coach. However, Mike Gundy’s “in the heat of the moment” comment immediately after the thrashing of Oklahoma 44-10, that fans would rather see a 39-36 offensive display rather than another 9-6 game was preposterous. First, Oklahoma State has not played a team this season anywhere near as physical as LSU or Alabama’s defense. The Cowboys have a very impressive offense, but the Big 12 does not grasp the concept of defense. The SEC has an incredible four teams in the top five of total defense: Alabama (1), LSU (2), Georgia (3), South Carolina (4) and even Florida (9). The Big 12 members ranked in total defense are: Texas (14), Missouri (61), Oklahoma (62), Texas A&M (66) and Oklahoma State (107). Too many fans now want to be entertained. They want to see 63-60 games similar to what the MAC conference plays weekly. Defense still wins championships and the SEC set the cornerstone for this years ago.
Gundy needs to review the scores of the past five BCS championship games. None of the losing teams scored more than 24 points. Gundy feels OSU would score 39 or 36 points against LSU. The Tigers allowed only 35 points …. for the entire month of November.
The sympathy vote: ABC commentator Brent Musburger implied toward the end of the Clemson/Virginia Tech game (and also former Ohio State running back and ESPN commentator Robert Smith on the BCS Selection Show) that Oklahoma State lost the game to Iowa State because the players and coaches were affected by the death of Oklahoma State women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna. No question, their deaths (plus two other individuals in the plane crash) were very tragic. However, Alabama players, coaches and the Tuscaloosa community also had to deal with one of the most tragic days in history on April 27, 2011 when 52 people were killed by tornadoes. Carson Tinker’s (long snapper for the Tide) girlfriend was killed in the tornado. Alabama players also had to work through the grief of losing one of their own players, left tackle Aaron Douglas discovered dead of an apparent drug overdose May 11.
In conclusion, the winds of change are blowing in college football after the latest controversial poll. New commissioners and realignment are bringing a fresh mindset and much needed new ideas to college football. The current BCS system is in dire need of a “plus-one” game seeding the top four teams. Alabama officials and fans can’t be smug about being in the national title game. The Tide was one computer result away from being in Oklahoma State’s shoes. Still, there is evidence that the rematch between the Tide and Tigers is the best way to go this season.
Brett Beaird and Harold Bugg co-host the Boomo Bugg Show on WYTK 93.9 FM The Score weekdays from 12:00-2:00 pm and the Sportsbuzz on WZTV weekdays at 5:30 and 11:00 pm CT. Brett is also a free-lance writer for Tiderinsider.com and the Huntsville Times.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, “a source inside the current OSU coaching staff said the assistants were informed this morning there will be a change at head coach.” Ohio State is expected to announce Meyer’s hiring today at 5:15pm ET.
We finally went with the “done deal” view on Meyer-to-OSU when The Columbus Dispatch reported the matter closed last week. The reason: Yours truly once worked for The Dispatch Broadcast Group and having lived in Columbus, I know there are three mega-boosters of the Buckeye program: the Wexners, the McConnells, and the Wolfes. The Wolfes own The Columbus Dispatch. If the Dispatch reported Meyer was all but hired by OSU, then you can bet the paper’s source was one of three folks in Columbus who knew for sure. Thus, we bought that paper’s story immediately.
Meyer had denied a deal with OSU for more than a week. But anyone familiar with coaching searches knew that the coach’s claims that no deal was in place and that he hadn’t interviewed were likely a matter of semantics only. Is a lunch an interview or just a lunch? Depends on the person telling the story.
At 6-6 following a loss to Michigan, OSU is expected to fall no lower than the Gator Bowl in the Big Ten’s bowl pecking order this holiday season. Guess who’s expected to land in the Gator Bowl from the SEC’s side of things? Yep, Florida.
WKMG-TV in Orlando reported last week that Meyer was planning to take UF’s current linebacker coach DJ Durkin and strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marrotti to Columbus with him in new roles. So the love in Gainesville for Meyer already might be dimming just a bit. If the ex-Gator coach takes over OSU and coaches against Florida in a bowl game, you can bet Meyer’s popularity in the Sunshine State will take another hit.
Will Muschamp — the man who led Florida to a 6-6 record with Meyer’s leftovers this year — said, “It’s good for college football” that the ex-coach is dropping the “ex.” “If it’s what Urban wants, I’m happy for him.”
And if Meyer and OSU whip Muschamp and Florida in the Gator Bowl, just how happy do you think he and Gator Nation will be?
Well, forget the health and the family. All the tears of joy reportedly shed when papa retired from coaching… just bottle ‘em up, kids. Urban Meyer is heading back to the sideline at much-troubled Ohio State.
Many at Florida have said that they expected Meyer to coach again someday. They’ve publicly wished him well in his future ventures. But that might change if Orlando television station WKMG has its story straight.
The station also claimed that Florida strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti would become the director of football operations at Ohio State.
If Meyer raids the Florida athletic department it’s likely Gator AD Jeremy Foley, new coach Will Muschamp, and many UF fans won’t look quite as favorably upon the man who won two national crowns in Gainesville.
Ironically, there’s a chance Florida could face Ohio State next month in the Gator Bowl.
If you flipped by ESPN this weekend, you likely saw reports that “sources close to Urban Meyer and Ohio State” had told the network that the former Florida coach — and current ESPN employee — had been talking with OSU officials about their head coaching position.
But Meyer told The Gainesville Sun today that that’s just not true.
“The concerns are still there,” he said. “Number one, my health. Number two, my family. Number three, the state of college football.” But then he told the paper the following:
“I’ve done some research into the second one. I’ve found that it is possible to have balance between your job and your family, that there are coaches out there who are doing it.
I’m in a good place right now mentally and physically. So if something happens with Ohio State, I’ll have a decision to make. But there has been no interview. There has been no offer to make s decision about.”
Well that’s as clear as mud. We find it hard to believe that ESPN would run a story about one of its analysts before actually checking with that employee.
So it’s possible the Meyer has spoken with OSU and he’s simply splitting hairs as to what should and should not be considered an “interview.”
It’s also possible that word got out before Meyer told his family of his talks. That’s pure speculation, of course, but Meyer decided — before speaking with his family — to return after a one-day retirement from Florida in December of 2009.
Regardless of what Meyer specifically says, it certainly sounds like he’s getting that old coaching itch again… and that if Ohio State makes him an offer he’ll strongly consider it.
We wonder, however, if OSU officials have paid attention to:
1. What Meyer did at Florida without Tim Tebow (not much)
2. What Meyer left behind at Florida (a team capable of struggling with Furman)
Nobody dislikes politicians more than me. We’ve reached a point in this country when most of them love their party more than their country. If that weren’t bad enough, most of the folks we send to Washington do whatever they can to not fix our serious problems. Instead of the economy and health care they take up silly side issues like steroids in baseball, HGH in football, all while threatening to weigh in on “spygate” and the BCS.
Now — thanks to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell — they’re wasting Americans’ time and money by involving themselves in the current conference expansion/realignment mess.
It’s one thing for politicians to lobby to keep in-state schools together. But when the people we send to Congress decide they need to pull strings to make sure Homestate U. gets a berth in Conference X, well, that’s taking things a mile or 10 too far.
We’ve got some links for you to chew on this morning just to catch you up on all this silliness. Most of it would seem to have bupkes to do with Missouri or the SEC.
On that front, the biggest news yesterday was The Kansas City Star’s report that MU chancellor Brady Deaton is scheduled to go to India next week to speak at an international conference on radiopharmaceuticals. (I happen to be all for that because there are a lot of sick guys out there in sportstalk radio-land. Bah-dum-bum. I’ll be here all week.) The takeaway: If Missouri can’t line up its exit from the Big 12 before the end of the weekend, this mess probably won’t be cleared up until after Deaton returns about 10 days into November. Hooray.
But here’s the fear regarding all this Congressional hanky-panky — while it looks like this is a Big 12/West Virginia/Louisville problem, now that shouts are being heard in the halls of Congress, is it not possible that all of the politicians not happy over realignment might band together and decide to investigate the whole matter? After all, as we’re seeing in Kentucky and West Virginia, what better way to kiss up to the electorate than to fight for the local school when it comes to its football conference.
And if some nitwit decides to further waste our tax dollars by calling for some half-baked hearing on conference expansion, then everything could be put on hold.
Maybe you like expansion and maybe you don’t. Maybe you think the SEC should add West Virginia or East Carolina or East Oxnard Community College. Fine. Super.
But the minute Congress gets involved is the minute things will go straight to Hell. Mark my words. They may be keeping Mizzou out of the SEC at the moment, but tomorrow they may putting a de facto cap on all expansion or causing other leagues to break apart.
For those who don’t like the slippery slope argument, I give you cigarettes and ice cream. As smoking bans were put in place across America — rather than allowing businesses to decide for themselves if they would be smoking or non-smoking — I told my friends that this would open us up to all manner of bans. Obesity is the #1 cause of health problems in our country. Insurance companies know that. What’s to stop their lobbyists from trying to ban all types of fattening foods? Imagine no ice cream parlors, I said.
A couple of years later, trans fats have been banned in New York City and the cities of San Francisco and Boston have now banned sugary drinks from vending machines on city property. Soda taxes are now being proposed across the country. Next stop: ice cream.
Does that make me a prophet? Hardly. It just makes me someone who knows that buffoonish blowhards will act like buffoonish blowhards when given half a chance.
So whether you’re for expansion or agin’ it, you should be on your knees praying that our elected “leaders” don’t get involved in it. Or else things will only get worse.
Besides, shouldn’t Minority Leader McConnell be all for free enterprise with little government involvement? Or is that just pablum he tosses around on the stump? It seems big government is A-OK as long as he’s the big government interfering in the business decision of nine Big 12 schools.
3. But then the Big 12 slowed their expansion plans when McConnell started lobbying the league to reconsider Louisville. WVU sources who had been more than willing to talk about their move to the Big 12 on Tuesday suddenly went silent. (Louisville was believed to be the Big 12′s top choice in expansion right up until WVU stormed past them this week.)
Suddenly, West Virginia politicians had to protect their phony-baloney jobs, too. Senator Jay Rockefeller said:
“The Big 12 picked WVU on the strength of its program — period. Now the media reports that political games may upend that. That’s just flat wrong. I am doing and will do whatever it takes to get us back to the merits.”
Fellow West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin then took things further:
“If these outrageous reports have any merit — and especially if a United States Senator has done anything inappropriate or unethical to interfere with a decision that the Big 12 had already made — then I believe that there should be an investigation in the US Senate, and I will fight to get the truth. West Virginians and the American people deserve to know exactly what is going on and whether politics is interfering with our college sports.”
6. Orangebloods.com – the Rivals site covering Texas — reported this morning that WVU is still the pick to replace Missouri. (Of course that’s the Texas the viewpoint.) The site also claims that it would take a “miracle” for the Big East to free WVU to leave immediately. If that doesn’t happen, the Big 12 won’t free Mizzou to leave immediately.
Again I ask: How strong is the language in these contracts? If the pact states that a school will remain in the league or pay an exit fee to leave, then paying an exit fee to leave should fulfill the contract.
7. While the Longhorns are saying WVU is still the pick, The New York Times reported yesterday that the race between the Mountaineers and Cardinals was “too close to call.”
Amen. There is no greater joke in the current college landscape than the Big 12 conference. Quick, tell me the last time you heard of a Big Ten or SEC or ACC booster weighing in on what their league should do.
Oklahoma and OSU are good together. They should grab the remaining old Big 8 schools — Kansas, Kansas State, and Iowa State — and beg their way into something else, anything else.
Texas — and the remora who cling to them — should all head in another direction where the Longhorns can rule and their peasants can, well, be peasants.
And to think there are those who think Missouri and Texas A&M are making a mistake. The only mistakes were made by the other Big 12 schools who didn’t crawl on their knees toward Mike Slive begging for entry into his cozy conference.
Regardless of what the Big 12 does next, it will be blow apart as soon as its much talked about media-rights deal ends in six years. Adding Notre Dame would only bring in another poor fit with its own massive ego and its own way of doing things. There would be Texas. There would be Oklahoma and OSU. There would be Notre Dame (in some sports). And there would be “the rest.” With everyone pulling in different directions.
Congrats to Mizzou for breaking free. Even if it takes longer than we expected, the Tigers are making a very, very wise decision.
Now somebody tell McConnell, Manchin and Rockefeller to get back to work.
Pearl will be handed a three-year show cause ban (that will keep him out of the NCAA ranks for three seasons) while his former assistants will get one-year bans.
The Sentinel also reports that the two major violations attributed to the football program were deemed in the end to be secondary violations instead. Therefore, the school will receive no further penalties in football, either. Ditto Lane Kiffin and his brother-in-law, former Vol assistant David Reaves.
A couple of observations:
1. It’s hard to gauge when the NCAA has set a precedent and when it hasn’t, but in this case, it does appear as though the NCAA has begun to hold coaches more accountable for broken rules. Pearl and his staff are catching serious heat while the school — which kept them employed for a full season even after their violations came to light — gets off with only self-imposed penalties.
2. This is literally the best possible scenario for Tennessee. It ends what has been an incredibly tortuous two-year period that has seen coaching changes and scandals rock both main revenue-producing sports. UT’s current football and basketball coaches finally know what they’re up against and they can begin to move forward with recruiting, coaching and rebuilding.
3. Former UT athletic director Mike Hamilton was very much involved in Tennessee’s defense process. With this ruling — if the reports are true — should Hamilton be credited with his handling of the crisis? Or was his resignation on the eve of the Vols’ hearing one final blood sacrifice that was needed to appease the NCAA gods? Either way, Hamilton is likely to breathe a sigh of relief over these penalties. His reputation will not be dragged further through the mud.
4. Southern Cal fans can also rest easier tonight. Kiffin, too. Had the NCAA thrown the book at the coach, it could have cost him his job. Instead he and his Trojans escaped unscathed.
5. Ohio State fans are likely trying to figure out what this all means for their Buckeyes. On the surface, it would have to provide fans with some hope that OSU can dump all its woes on Jim Tressel, just as Tennessee handed full blame to Pearl. But every case is different. And the Ohio State investigation continues even now. Just because UT escaped relatively cleanly, there’s no guarantee OSU will experience the same leniency.