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Barnhart Has Five Tips To Fix College Football

From one end of the country to the other it’s been a scandalous start to College Football 2011.  Cam Newton, Willie Lyles, Jim Tressel, John Junker and Stanley McClover have all become household names… and not for the right reasons.

Longtime college football writer Tony Barnhart — who has now taken up residence at CBSSports.com — believes college football has reached a point of no return when it comes to cheating, lying, and swindling.  In his learned view, there are five steps that should be taken to clean up the sport before it’s too late.

You can read his recommendations in full right here, but we’ll give you the gist below along with our own views:


1.  “Find a way for the top 60 to 70 schools that play major college football to work independently from the NCAA.”

Barnhart feels the sport has become too big for the NCAA to oversee it and, if necessary, the biggest schools should strike out on their own. 

Our view: Such a move would require an awful lot of planning and negotiating.  Everything from money splits to recruiting rules to scheduling would need to be meted out and agreed upon by the trailblazing schools.  It might be easier for the NCAA to simply reorganize itself.  As was shown by HBO’s “Real Sports” last week, several NCAA officers make salaries in the half-million dollar range.  Split up some of that money, hire some enforcement crews who work solely on the college football beat, and create a separate NCAA wing that handles only football 24/7/365 and you might have a quicker fix than an all-out break from the NCAA.  Maybe.


2.  “Create a commissioner of college football.”

Barnhart — who credits fellow CBS’er Tim Brando with the idea — feels only one person with ultimate power can rein in all the cheating that’s going on these days.

Our view: This position could simply go to the head of the new NCAA football wing that we proposed above.  But if there’s a split from the NCAA, obviously, someone will need to be in control.  So we have no problems with the Barnhart/Brando proposal.

In a perfect world, NCAA president Mark Emmert could act as college football’s czar.  But at present he’s expected to watch over every division of every sport under the NCAA umbrella.  He doesn’t have the time to be Mr. Football.


3.  “Freshmen will be declared ineligible.”

Man, oh, man, some folks just had heart attacks.  Recruiting gurus and their followers just grabbed their chests.  A few coaches just fell over in their chairs. 

In Barnhart’s view, “There is a whole host of pathologies that are created by a recruiting process that tells 18-year-old children they are stars and should be treated (and paid) like one.”

Our view:  While Barnhart admits that “this will never happen” in an 85-scholarship universe, if the biggest football schools broke off from the NCAA as he suggests, there’s nothing to say that schools would have to keep using an 85-man limit.  They could make the limit 100 and then declare freshmen ineligible. 

Our only concern about this proposal would be from a legal standpoint.  Until 1972, freshmen were ineligible.  But the world is much more litigious in 2011 than it was pre-’72.  It’s not hard to imagine someone — or many someones — suing for their child’s right to be eligible as a freshman.


4.  “Football scholarships become five-year commitments by the school.  In exchange for giving up freshman eligibility, the student-athlete will get a five-year guaranteed scholarship if he stays in good academic standing and doesn’t get in trouble with the law.”

Barnhart would also nuke red-shirting, gray-shirting and oversigning.

Our view: Amen and Hallelujah.  College programs make tens of millions of dollars off of football players.  The least they can do is guarantee a scholarship. 

College coaches makes millions of dollars off of football players.  It should be their job to evaluate talent and develop it.  If a coach does a poor job of evaluating a player’s talent — or character — that should be on the coach, not the player.  College coaches should not have the ability to reshape their rosters each offseason like NFL general managers.  They’re not toying with professionals’ lives, they’re impacting the futures of teenagers in many cases. 

Also, if coaches knew they would be locked into the kids they signed for five years, they would likely work harder to find the types of kids who belong on college campuses in the first place.  (As opposed to those who might become involved in an armed burglary ring, for example.)


5.  “Change the scholarship to include the full cost of attendance.”

Barnhart believes a “stipend of several thousand dollars” — like those that go to some top academic scholarship winners — would end the debate over college players needing spending cash.

Our view: If the goal is to actually provide cash for the players, then this suggestion makes sense.  Let them have enough cash to travel home when necessary, to go out on a date, to buy some clothes.  That’s all good.

But for those who believe such a stipend would help cut down on cheating, we strongly disagree.  There will always be boosters — and some coaches — who look to gain an edge by going above and beyond what everyone else is doing.


Whether you agree with all, some or none of Barnhart’s suggestions, it’s clear that the NCAA has reached a point in terms of PR that it must start taking some serious actions.

When stories of pay-for-play schemes, street agents and dishonest coaches overshadow such topics as the BCS championship race, the Heisman Trophy and the All-American team, it’s a sad day for college football.  And that day is already upon us.

Hopefully, some of the people charged with protecting the game — the presidents and athletic directors at the nation’s biggest football powers — are already discussing some of the ideas Barnhart put for today.  It’s time to stop wringing hands over the all the issues facing the game and time to start finding solutions to those problems.

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Auburn, BCS Title Game Headlines

A few last minute headlines from the Auburn camp heading into tonight’s BCS Championship Game:

1.  For Auburn, history hangs in the balance.

2.  AU won’t be keeping all of the money it receives from the BCS.  (And that’s one reason the SEC is stronger than the non-revenue-sharing Big 12.)

3.  BCS exposure could (should) boost Auburn’s recruiting.

4.  If you’re looking for reasons to root for AU (or Oregon), here ya go.

5.  Cam Newton’s draft status looks bright.

6.  The Tiger secondary is bracing for the Ducks’ aerial attack.

7.  Who’s got the edge position-by-position?

8.  Speed will be the main factor in tonight’s game.

9.  Both teams will be trying to go fast tonight.

10.  Gene Chizik has won a national Coach of the Year award.  (It’s a major award!”)

11.  Chizik wants the Big Ten officiating crew to make sure his team gets time to make defensive substitutions.

12.  Auburn has the blueprint for a national crown.

13.  Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News believes Auburn’s drought will end in the desert.

14.  Tony Barnhart of The AJC provides five reasons why Auburn will win tonight.

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Why Did UF Rush Toward Muschamp?

Jeremy Foley is taking a risk in hiring Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to replace Urban Meyer.

As you’ve surely seen pointed out by other columnists, Muschamp has a few things in common with Foley’s last failed hire, Ron Zook.  Both were defensive coordinators.  Both had never been a head coach.  Both were expected to be great recruiters.

Both were risks.

Florida is one of the three to five best jobs in college football (Texas, Alabama, Southern Cal, Ohio State, etc).  Resources, recruiting base, facilities, 20 years of dominance… all are going for the Gators. 

So why in the world would Foley rush to hire someone who is a risk?  And before you say that all coaches are risks, let me say, “Yes, but some are bigger than others.”

Miami has just hired Temple’s Al Golden.  Golden rebuilt arguably the worst football program in the country and he did so quickly.  Like Muschamp, his name has been attached to every coaching vacancy in the country these last two years.

So who got the better coach, Miami or Florida?  Florida’s hire is “sexier” from a name-recognition standpoint.  Muschamp’s already a YouTube star.

But Golden has a track record.  He’s run a program and run it well.  He’s proven that for at least half a decade he can coach well without having the best talent in America.  Imagine if he’d been allowed to recruit the state of Florida.

Oh, wait.  He will get that opportunity at Miami.

I’m not saying that Golden should have been Foley’s first choice.  I am saying that Muschamp shouldn’t have been his first choice.  With Florida’s name and resources, Foley owed it to Gator fans to search high and low for UF’s next man.  The idea that he focused in on Muschamp and contacted only him is literally breathtaking.  No call to Bob Stoops?  No whisper to Bobby Petrino?  No pebble to the window of Kyle Whittingham or even Jon Gruden?  Why not?  Foley could have always fallen back to Muschamp.


Other Notes…

* The happiest man in the USA today?  John Brantley.  With Major Applewhite reportedly joining Muschamp’s staff as offensive coordinator, Brantley should get a shot to run a “normal” offense.  Applewhite was on the Texas staff that helped Colt McCoy become a third-round NFL draft pick.  Brantley will still need his receivers and O-line to help him out, but he’ll at least be playing in a system that should better suit his skills.

* FootballScoop.com is reporting the following: “We are told that Muschamp is trying to put together a “pretty serious” coaching staff.”  Supposedly, Muschamp is considering LSU running backs coach Frank Wilson, Buffalo Bills linebackers coach Giff Smith, former Memphis head coach Tommy West and the aforementioned Applewhite.  The source told the site, “He has 14 he wants to hire, at least, but you only get 9.”

There have also been reports that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is a target for Muschamp and Florida.

* Anyone else remember another SEC school casting its lot with an unproven head coach and his so-called “super staff?”  For Florida’s sake, let’s hope Muschamp’s “dream job” doesn’t open up a year from now as Lane Kiffin’s did.

* A few Florida fans and media types pooh-poohed the idea of hiring Dan Mullen.  In their view, Mullen wasn’t proven enough to deserve the Gator job.  But isn’t Muschamp — technically speaking — a bigger risk than Mullen?

* Foley could have gone after Mullen or Strong had he wanted to try and keep the Meyer train rolling.  He did not.  So does that tell us anything?  Speculation Alert — It might tell us that Foley had come to wonder whether or not Meyer’s spread-option system would really work in the SEC… without a Tim Tebow or Cam Newton at quarterback.  And those guys don’t come around very often.  (I’ve seen two in 39 years.)

* Tony Barnhart of The AJC doesn’t buy the “risk” talk that myself and so many others are tossing around today.  In his view, “… those who know Muschamp know that he’s been groomed for this since he was a player at Georgia for Ray Goff.  Muschamp has worked at LSU (for Nick Saban), at Auburn (for Tommy Tuberville), and Texas (for Mack Brown).  He is ready.”

* Muschamp does have a great pedigree.  He has everything but a head coach’s track record.  (The same was once said about Stoops at Oklahoma.)  In fact, if darn near any other SEC school had landed him, we at MrSEC would consider it a boffo hire.  And we don’t toss around our “boffos” lightly.  But Florida — and perhaps Alabama — are two of the biggest brand names in college football.  For those two programs, the sky is the limit.  They shouldn’t need to take chances or hire first-time head coaches.

In summary: We believe Muschamp will do well at Florida.  We believe it is a good hire.  We just don’t understand why Foley didn’t at least try to make an even better hire first.

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Remember that in each of the past three seasons, the nation’s No. 1 team has lost on Championship…

Georgia
Content provided by Dawg Sports.

Remember that in each of the past three seasons, the nation’s No. 1 team has lost on Championship Saturday.

Tony Barnhart offers a glimmer of hope.

Go ‘Dawgs! . . . and go ‘Cocks!


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SEC Championship Game Headlines – 12/3/10

1.  Carolina’s Ellis Johnson was surprised by Cam Newton’s abilities in their first meeting this year.

2.  Steve Spurrier has the edge over Gene Chizik in big game experience.

3.  Tickets are are going for $460 a pop on StubHub.com.

4.  This SEC Championship Game might be better than the last two.

5.  Spurrier has been a game-changer in the SEC.

6.  When it comes to title game rematches, sweeps are commonplace.

7.  Marcus Lattimore might be tougher for Auburn to stop this time around.

8.  Lattimore has helped Carolina rise to the top of the SEC East.

9.  Auburn’s Eltoro Freeman is fired up to “just play.”

10.  This writer tabs Auburn to win tomorrow’s matchup.

11.  Tony Barnhart likes the Tigers in “an instant classic.”

12.  Carolina fans are enjoying a brand new experience.

13.  Will Cock fans get to hear “Sandstorm” in the Georgia Dome?



(Don’t USC fans know that nobody listens to techno?)

14.  Carolina defenders know what Newton is capable of… this time.

15.  The coaches explain what’s changed since the teams’ first meeting in September.

16.  Auburn’s front will be another big challenge for the Gamecocks’ O-line.

17.  This writer says barring a rout, Auburn deserves a BCS title shot even with a loss.  (Agreed.)

18.  The Cocks and Tigers will have to adjust to playing in a dome tomorrow.

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Morning Newton Reaction

Our take on the latest Cam Newton bombshell will come just a little bit later this morning, but we first wanted to bring you all the Newton-related headlines from across the web.

Here goes…

1.  As you know, former MSU player Kenny Rogers went on the radio yesterday, reversed field, and claimed that Cecil Newton told two Mississippi State coaches that it would take “anywhere between $100,000 and $180,000″ to sign his son.

2.  MSU booster Bill Bell also told ESPN last night that Newton’s father had asked for money.  “That’s all I want to say about it at this point.”

3.  Tony Barnhart of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes this morning that the Newton story is reaching critical mass.

4.  Kevin Scarbinsky of The Birmingham News reports that “two people with extensive experience in dealing with the NCAA on eligibility matters” told him that Auburn should continue to play Newton.

5.  Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com writes that cheating is worth it – if you get away with it.

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The Latest On The Newton Saga

Wanted to give you a quick catch-up on the latest on the Cameron Newton situation.  Here goes:

* An angry Gene Chizik spoke out today in defense of his star quarterback.  “So I want to make this very clear, because I’m wasting my time addressing allegations that completely, to be frank, blow my mind that they’re even out there because there are federal privacy laws that dictate that these things don’t even get out in public.

“But I’m standing up here on a very important week trying to defend something that is quite frankly garbage.  Is there a wizard behind the curtain, I don’t know.  Is there one?  Is there two?  Are there 10?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  But what I do care about is coming to the defense of not only a great football player, but a great human being who comes from a great family.”

He may say he doesn’t care, but you can be sure that Chizik is wondering — like a lot of folks around the conference — if Mississippi State or Florida sources are behind the stories that keep popping up.

“I’m defending a young man who deserves it,” Chizik said.  “Whatever people want to drum up and dream up, that’s not changing.  Cameron is going to be focused on Georgia this week.”

* Newton himself spoke with the press today, but he handled the session with cool class and showed no anger.  “Am I hurt?  No.  Am I curious?  A little bit.  But it really doesn’t bother me that much.  I’m a blessed individual.”

Newton would not discuss the academic charges brought against him this morning in report by Thayer Evans of FoxSports.com.

“I’m not going to entertain something that happened three months, six months, but two years ago.  I’m not going to talk about it, beating a dead horse.”

He also said that he wants to believe Urban Meyer when he says he’s not behind the information that’s been leaked.  “The coach that I knew, the one I once committed to, a man of integrity, I would hope he wouldn’t say anything like that.”

* Al.com has posted video of both Newton’s and Chizik’s pressers.

* Returning to the FoxSports.com report, the Rivals.com site AuburnSports.com is reporting that “two independent sources with detailed knowledge of the UF academic discipline system during the period in question have disputed the Evans story.”

According to AuburnSports.com’s sources, “no allegations of academic impropriety regarding Cam Newton were sent to the Florida Student Conduct Committee at any time either during or after Newton’s time at UF.”

Here’s the problem with this: Any source talking about Newton’s academic history at Florida is dancing on a razor’s edge.  That goes for FoxSports.com’s source and the two sources of AuburnSports.com. 

Federal privacy laws prevent students’ academic records from being leaked to the press.  If this includes — and it’s likely that it would — possible claims of academic fraud, then someone could be facing some very serious legal charges. 

The fact that Auburn has reacted so strongly to this latest smear tactic should cause FoxSports’ Evans and his source to pucker up a bit.  If someone’s lawyer wants to push this there are legal avenues which can be followed.

One thing is certain, if any part of Newton’s academic history was released to Evans, it had to come from either a source at Florida or someone who was once at Florida during Newton’s time on that campus.

* If it’s found that either Meyer or Dan Mullen had anything to do with Newton’s alleged cheating scandal being brought to light, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that that coach could lose his job.  Yes, skirting federal laws is that big a deal.

The coaches had best be hoping that rogue fans or someone on UF’s Student Conduct Committee acted on their own.

* I say “alleged” cheating scandal because AuburnSports.com does have two unnamed sources to refute FoxSports.com’s one unnamed source.

However, it’s likely that if Evans’ story was false, Newton would have screamed from his podium that the story was untrue.  He did not.  He simply chose not to talk about it. 

* One of the schools which keeps popping up in messageboard conversations regarding this scandal is Oklahoma.  But Sooners coach Bob Stoops said today that he saw nothing irregular in Newton’s recruitment.

He said that he “didn’t notice anything and none of our coaches did as we were recruiting him.”  Of course not.  What’s Stoops going to say one way or the other?

* Finally, Tony Barnhart writes for CBSSports.com today that when it comes to the Heisman race, Newton should not be punished for Reggie Bush’s sins.  Further, Barnhart writes:


“… last week I talked to people at Auburn with intimate knowledge of the situation.  They told me they were ‘extremely confident’ that Auburn, Newton and his father had not violated any rules.  These sources had no qualms about the Tigers continuing to play him.”


* Stay tuned.  There will be much more to come.  You can bank on that. 

And just to reiterate, I wouldn’t want to have been involved in leaking Newton’s academic history to FoxSports.com.  That source should be sweating bullets about now.

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Georgia Is Vegas’ Favorite, But Several Factors Favor Florida On Saturday

As we mentioned earlier this week, Georgia is a solid favorite to beat Florida this weekend in Jacksonville. 

The Bulldogs are on a three-game winning streak while the Gators are on a three-game losing streak.

And all of that is bad news for Mark Richt. 

Georgia fans are starting to believe that they really should beat UF on Saturday — and maybe they should — but a check of the two rosters and all the corresponding star-ratings reveals that Florida still has the better team… on paper.  It’s just that their three mid-season losses have come after the Dawg’s four early-season losses.

Florida has now had the benefit of an open date to prepare for the Dawgs.  They’re a healthier team than they were when we last saw them losing to Mississippi State in The Swamp.  Depending on who you believe, they might have done some serious tweaking to their struggling offense, too.  You can toss in Chris Rainey’s return for good measure. 

A wide-angle view shows Georgia on the rise and Florida in decline.  But zoom in and you can’t help but notice that while the Gators were losing to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State (all ranked), the Dawgs were getting well on a diet of Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.

There’s more.  Tony Barnhart of The AJC points out – with an assist from Brady Ackerman — the following stats:


* Urban Meyer is 5-0 after an open date at Florida

* Urban Meyer is 15-1 at Florida when he’s had more than a week to prepare

* Urban Meyer is 31-3 overall at Florida, Utah and Bowling Green when he’s had more than a week to prepare


I’m not saying that Georgia won’t beat Florida on Saturday.  If Florida plays as it did against Mississippi State, I think UGA will win.  But anyone who studies this matchup for longer than 10 minutes will see that the deck isn’t as stacked toward Georgia as the teams’ recent streaks might suggest.

(By the way, Misters Barnhart and Ackerman can be seen on “Talkin’ Football on CSS tonight at 7pm ET.  I know because a certain B-teamer will join ‘em from the MrSEC Command Center.)

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