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Kevin Ware Decommits From Central Florida

The recruiting saga of basketball prospect Kevin Ware has become more complex.

The former Tennessee signee from Rockdale County High School in Conyers, Ga., told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last night that he’s no longer committed to Central Florida.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on right now, personal stuff that I don’t really want to speak about right now,” Ware said. “I spoke with my family about everything, and I decided it was time to back off on UCF.”

Ware, who was granted his release from UT following the firing of Bruce Pearl, insisted his decision has nothing to do with academics. He said he isn’t favoring any particular school.

“I’m interested in any college that’s interested in me,” Ware told the AJC.

That could include Georgia and Louisville, two schools that showed interest in Ware before he committed to UCF. Could UT enter the picture again?

“Tennessee hasn’t been in contact,” Ware said. “They’ve got other guards coming in.”

That’s true. UT coach Cuonzo Martin signed guards Wes Washpun and Josh Richardson after the Vols granted a release to Ware.

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SEC Lands 2 In Hoops Attendance Top 5

The NCAA released the attendance figures for the 2010-11 basketball season yesterday and the Southeastern Conference placed two teams in the Top 5 nationally — Kentucky and Tennessee.

The top-ranked Wildcats will no doubt draw huge crowds to Rupp Arena next year as John Calipari’s next wave of star youngsters arrive in the Bluegrass State.  But no one knows what to expect at fifth-ranked Tennessee, where the Vols have dismissed a wildly popular coach and face a year of uncertainties when it comes to NCAA sanctions and a thin roster.

The SEC by the numbers:

SEC Rank  National Rank  School  Games  Avg. Attendance 
Kentucky  15  23,603 
Tennessee  18  18,952
18  Vanderbilt  17  13,802 
29  Arkansas  19  11,884 
35  Alabama  19  10,983 
41  S. Carolina  17  10,427 
42  Florida  17  10,186 
60  Georgia  16  8,250 
74  LSU  18  7,153 
10  82  Ole Miss  17  6,360 
11  83  Auburn  20  6,324 
12  94  Miss. State  17  5,710 


* Arkansas finished outside the Top 25 in attendance for the first time since Bud Walton Arena opened.  That likely won’t be the case next year with Mike Anderson now on the sideline.

* Kudos to South Carolina fans for finishing in the top half of the league in attendance despite a last-place finish in the SEC East.

* Florida fans should be ashamed.  Sure the O’Connell Center only seats 12,000, but Gator-backers didn’t even fill their bandbox.  Billy Donovan has won two national titles and led UF to an SEC outright title this past year.  What’s it take to pack a Florida basketball game?

* Good basketball or not, the fans at LSU, Ole Miss and Auburn were bested in attendance by schools such as Utah State, Bradley, Old Dominion and Siena.  That’s a Hall of Shame performance.

* Rick Stansbury is lucky to still have his job.  Not only did his Bulldogs wildly underachieve this year, but State’s attendance was the lowest in the league and ranked below that of UCF, St. Louis, George Mason, and Weber State.  That’s an embarrassment to the SEC.

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NCAA Rules Ware’s LOI With UCF DOA

Frankly, we’re too busy trying to post several other stories to go into the details on this one.

The gist:

* Former Tennessee recruit Kevin Ware has chosen to play ball at UCF.

* He asked UT for a release from his letter of intent after Bruce Pearl was fired.

* The NCAA prohibits players from signing two LOIs in the same year, so his LOI with UCF was DOA according to the NCAA.

* Ware’s stepfather says he’ll still be at UCF when school starts, but he’s taking a trip to Louisville just the same.

For the details, check out Michael Carvell’s work at The AJC.

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Carolina’s Beamer Heads To Papa, Virginia Tech

Shane Beamer is heading home.

The former South Carolina special teams coordinator and recruiting coordinator is joining his father’s staff at Virginia Tech as the Hokies’ new running backs coach.  Tech announced the move late yesterday.

Beamer has coached at Carolina for four seasons.  This offseason, safeties coach was taken from his job description.  Steve Spurrier said he wanted Beamer to focus more on special teams and his recruiting coordinator job.

Spurrier said that Beamer had been looking for a chance to join his father’s staff.  “I think it’s a wonderful move for Shane to get to coach with his dad.  The opportunity to coach with him had never come up, and it came up.  We wish Shane well.”

Spurrier’s son serves on Carolina’s staff, of course.  “Shane did a super job recruiting not only his guys this year but coordinating all the recruiting.  He’s been an excellent coach here.  We understand coaching with your dad is something you should do.”

Now the Ol’ Ball Coach is left to find a new special teams coordinator.  He says he’ll look to fill the slot by hiring a pure special teams guy.  Spurrier said the recruiting coordinator job will likely go to someone else on the staff – a young coach like running backs coach Jay Graham? — because of familiarity within the state. wonders openly if Spurrier will attempt to talk to Tony Levine of Houston, Tim Salem of UCF or Joe Pannunzio who just moved from Miami to Alabama to take over as Nick Saban’s director of football operations.

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The SEC Grabbed Players From 23 States Last Signing Day

Wednesday figures to be a wild day around MrSEC Headquarters.  Obviously, we’ll keep you up to date on how all 12 schools’ classes are coming together as the day progresses.  We’ll also give you a good state by state look at the geographic battles being waged between SEC rivals.

On that front, we thought it would be interesting to go back to last signing day and examine where the league’s talent came from.

In 2010, a grand total of 305 players signed with SEC programs.  Those 305 players came from 23 different states.  Here was the breakdown by state last February:

The Class of 2010

SEC Signees From That State
Pct. of All SEC Signees
37 12.1%
S. Carolina
N. Carolina
New York
New Jersey

A few interesting notes on last year’s class:

* Georgia provided the SEC with more players last year than Florida.  Of course, with Miami, Florida State, South Florida, UCF, FAU and FIU in the Sunshine State, it might not be as easy to raid Florida for players as it used to be.

* Mississippi and Alabama both produced more SEC-caliber talent last year than Louisiana.  The Pelican State should bounce back nicely this year with an improved crop of players.

* More than 60% of SEC signees came from four states: Georgia, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama.

* SEC schools grabbed more prospects out of Texas (15) than they did Tennessee (12), Arkansas (8) or Kentucky (4).

* California (9) produced more SEC signees than did either Arkansas or Kentucky.

* Kentucky produced fewer signees than Ohio, North Carolina and Oklahoma.  (They produced five apiece as compared to the Commonwealth’s four.)

* Be sure to bang around here on signing day.  Here’s guessing there’ll be a crash or too, but just keep hittin’ that refresh button.  Our servers will be smoking by day’s end.

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SEC Headlines 1/8/2011

1. Report: NCAA interview two men about whether they  delivered money to Cam Newton’s father.

2. Newton senior backup Neil Caudle may stay at Auburn as a grad assistant.

3. Auburn linebacker Josh Bynes: “To this day, we’re still not a great team. We’re very good, but not a great team”

4. The offensive tempos of both Auburn and Oregon present challenges for TV production crews.

5. Jon Solomon: “Saban has bumped himself into another bump-rule controversy.”

6. Saban on three of his players departing early for the pro ranks: “The labor situation in the NFL right now is something that each one of these guys has to sort of evaluate as a reality of how it could affect their development.”

7. The Mississippi State Bulldogs basketball team opens SEC play today and gets guard Dee Bost back in the lineup.

8. The Ole Miss basketball team heads to Gainesville to face the Gators.

9. How Arkansas can win the SEC West.

10. The East is the Beast in SEC hoops this year.

11. Georgia tackle Trinton Sturdivant will stay for his senior season.

12. UCF coach George O’Leary blames Georgia for starting the after-game Liberty Bowl scuffle

13. The Georgia basketball team opens SEC play at home with Kentucky today.

14. Patience, Florida football fans, patience.

15. A new routine for the Vols - game days without Bruce Pearl.

16. The Tennessee football welcomes a Notre Dame transfer while Luke Stocker joins two other SEC tight ends at the Senior Bowl.

17. The Kentucky basketball program is disappointed in the Enes Kanter ruling.

18. The Vandy basketball team doesn’t fear the road.

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McGarity Feels Your Pain; Richt Entering A No-Win Scenario

New Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said yesterday that he understands the frustration of angry Bulldog fans.  (No word on whether or not he bit his lip and stuck out his thumb as he stated that fact.)

“You’ve got a certain faction of fans out there that are just disappointed and if they don’t have change, then they’re gonna drop out of the program,” McGarity said yesterday.  He was referring to Bulldog backers withholding donations to the university… which is something that we’ve pointed to for two years as the sure-fire “tell” that Mark Richt is in trouble.  Now that “tell” is being told.

“I know they’re frustrated with football right now, but what is so important is the contributions go to support every sport that we sponsor.  If you have some that are pulling out of the program, in essence, I know they’re frustrated, but they’re basically pulling out of making a contribution that helps us in every facet of our operation.”

Following a Liberty Bowl loss to UCF, McGarity said that feedback from fans was close to 50-50 in terms of supportive/negative toward the football program.

A few other interesting notes:

* McGarity said that Richt “started to show the passion he has for the job” in his season-ending press conference this week.  “I think that’s something Mark needs to do more of — show his passion and express it in ways that perhaps he hasn’t done before.”  This falls right in line with a post from The AJC’s Tony Barnhart earlier this week.  Either Barnhart had already queried McGarity about his feelings regarding Richt or McGarity is paying close attention to what the SEC’s top scribe opines.

* McGarity said that he expects to see “improvement in all areas” of the football program next year.  “We want to see improvement in discipline; we want to see improvement in leadership; we want a passionate football team.  We want every member of our staff, regardless of what sport it is, to be passionate about being here.”

Let’s interrupt all this talk of passion to ask a simple question: Has anyone ever questioned Bill Belichick or Tony Dungy because they aren’t as “passionate” as someone like a Bill Cowher?  Some guys pump their fists, spit or kiss their players.  Cowher did all three.  But some guys look like statues on the sideline and sound half-dead in their press conferences.  Belichick and Dungy have done alright for themselves minus the theatrics.  No one worried about Richt’s passion as he led Georgia to a #2 national ranking in 2007.  And he looked like an escapee from Disney’s Hall of Presidents then, too.

If the spark has left your relationship, you don’t ask your partner to make googly eyes with you just for show.  That’s akin to what’s happening at Georgia.  “In lieu of wins and losses, we want you to scream and yell like a fan.”

But the passion thing won’t work anyway.  If Richt “passionately” loses, fans will still worry about the loss than any new, more-animated sideline gestures.  And if Richt displays more emotion some will no doubt suggest that it’s a sign that the pressure of a declining program is getting to him.

* McGarity said there’s no set number of wins that Richt must record to insure a return in 2012.  “All our coaches know what is expected of them; they are expected to compete for championships, to be in the hunt.  So I’m not here to put a figure on a number of wins and everything.”

* UGA’s new AD also said that he believes one of Richt’s “weaknesses was that he was trying to do so much himself.”  Therefore, McGarity has helped take some administrative duties off Richt’s plate.

Final question: How many times has a college coach reached this level of turmoil and survived?

Let’s say Richt wins 8 games next year.  That would be an improvement over 2010, but would fans pull out their checkbooks again? 

What about 10 wins?  Sounds good, but if the losses are to Florida and Georgia Tech — for example — what would be the result?

Heck, let’s say Richt reaches Atlanta in 2011, but falls back to 6-6 in 2012.  What then?  (Ex-Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer could probably give him a hint.)

Richt has been a very successful coach in Athens as well as a tremendous ambassador for the school and the conference.  But when fans stop making donations and your boss asks to see more passion from you, you’re time is running out. 

Last month we said that Richt should have pursued the openings at Colorado and Miami and tried to get out of Georgia while the getting was good.  He didn’t.

Eventually he’ll regret that.

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UGA To Correct Player Plaques Reading 7-6

In December, prior to Georgia’s Liberty Bowl date with UCF, the Bulldogs held their traditional end-of-season awards gala.  The seniors on the team were presented plaques honoring their achievements in 2010.  (Hold your laughs.)

The Dawgs were 6-6 at the time, of course, but the record on the plaques read 7-6. 

To the surprise of no one, Central Florida players heard word of UGA’s Nostradamus act and used it as motivation in last week’s 10-6 win over the Dawgs.

But UGA officials say there was nothing out of the ordinary with this year’s plaques. 

“Every year we present the senior plaques at our football gala, which is always held before the bowl game,” Georgia associate AD Claude Felton told The AJC.  “One line on the plate is the season record, and we always list it with a win in the upcoming bowl game.  If we los the game, we replace the plate.  We’ve done that 14 straight years and only had to replace the plate three times.”

Too bad Felton couldn’t have gotten that word to UCF’s players before the Liberty Bowl.

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SEC Headlines – 12/30/10 Part One

1.  Things have quieted down in Gainesville during the transition from Urban Meyer to Will Muschamp.

2.  This writer believes Muschamp’s offensive and defensive coordinators “likely are coaching in the NFL at the moment.”

3.  Florida’s quarterback job is up in the air for Saturday’s bowl and beyond.

4.  One overlooked aspect of the Outback Bowl — Penn State offensive coordinator Galen Hall was once Florida’s head coach.

5.  UCF players are viewing tomorrow’s Liberty Bowl with Georgia as “our Super Bowl.”  Here’s guessing UGA’s players aren’t so motivated.

6.  Linebacker Justin Houston knows he needs to start thinking about his stay-or-go-pro decision soon.

7.  Backup safety/linebacker Nick Williams is seeking a transfer from Athens.

8.  Folks in the Peach State are still debating whether or not players should be allowed to sell their jerseys… and the debate includes a UGA player and the school’s new AD.

9.  This writer says the arrival of John Calipari has actually been good for Louisville’s Rick Pitino. 

10.  This scribe also believes Pitino has risen to Coach Cal’s challenge.

11.  When the two coaches clash tomorrow, the ref who ejected Calipari from UK’s game with Mississippi Valley State will be working the floor.  Dun-dun-dunnnnnnnn.

12.  Former U of L player Kenny Payne never thought he be a Wildcat working on Calipari’s staff.

13.  Could this year’s 9-4 squad really be South Carolina’s best team ever?

14.  Steve Spurrier says a lot has changed since he last faced Florida State in 2001… but he still doesn’t want to hear the “Tomahawk Chop” chant all night long.

15.  Starting left guard Garrett Chisholm is expected to miss tomorrow’s Chick-fil-A Bowl due to a sprained knee.

16.  USC is preparing to see multiple quarterbacks from FSU.

17.  The Gamecock basketball team snapped a two-game losing streak with a 56-49 win over Jacksonville State last night.

18.  LP Field in Nashville will turn into Knoxville West for tonight’s Music City Bowl.

19.  Here are five keys for the Volunteers today.

20.  Two rough seasons come to a close when UT faces North Carolina.

21.  Bruce Pearl’s Vols slipped by UT-Martin 68-62 last night.  On Monday the Skyhawks lost 100-40 at Ohio State.

22.  After a great start to the season, Tennessee is getting used to close calls and hard-fought battles against mid-majors and ne’er-do-wells.

23.  Without Lance Goulbourne, Vanderbilt still toppled Marquette 77-76 last night on an Andre Walker layup with 4 seconds to play.

24.  Goulbourne’s two-game suspension is now up.

25.  John Jenkins’ shot “has just gotten a little flat,” according to Kevin Stallings.

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Not All SEC Teams Have Motivation On Their Side

When it comes to bowl season, trying to predict the outcomes of games is more futile than in-season picking.  Teams have sat on ice for a month to six weeks.  No one knows who’ll pick up where they left off… and who’ll leave too many balls on the turf.  There’s a reason you see so many blowouts in the bowls.

So with Xs and Os not often providing an accurate forecast of victors and losers, we at turn to the motivation factor.  When it comes to playing a mid-level team in a so-so bowl at a cold-weather site, the team who wants to be in the game usually finds a way to win said game.

And of the SEC’s 10 bowl teams, which have got Big Mo — “tivation,” not “mentum” — on their side?  We take a look at the X factors below.

(Oh, and for a closer look at that motivational poster at left, just click this story’s headline.)

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Nashville, TN
Tomorrow, 6:40pm ET
Tennessee vs North Carolina (Odds: Tennessee -1) 

The edge:  Tennessee.  Carolina has been through a season to forget.  Suspensions, dismissals, controversies… and now injuries and academic woes at bowl time.  It’s possible that some Tar Heel players simply want to put 2010 to bed.  The Vols, on the other hand, will have a home crowd advantage and are playing for a winning season.  They will also be out to top a school that their own administration thought was too tough for them (in nixing a deal for a regular-season game next year).

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Memphis, TN
Friday, 3:30pm ET
Georgia vs UCF (Odds: Georgia -6.5)

The edge:  UCF.  Georgia fans aren’t exactly snapping up tickets to Memphis.  Dawg players are talking about how their season didn’t go as planned.  Now Georgia is going to be dropped into a game against a Conference-USA champion whose name will wow no one.  Since the SEC and C-USA champs have been paired up in this game the SEC is 4-0… but the biggest margin of victory has been just 8 points.  In other words, #1 in C-USA is apparently comparable to #9 in the SEC.  UCF’s stars will be out to prove that they could have played in the SEC had someone recruited them.  UGA is playing for a winning record, but UCF has more to be fired up about.

Chick-fil-A Bowl
Atlanta, GA
Friday, 7:30pm ET
South Carolina vs Florida State (Odds: South Carolina -3)

The edge: South Carolina.  The Gamecocks have been horrible in their last two bowl appearances.  They want to end that streak.  They were crushed in their last appearance at the Georgia Dome earlier this month.  They want to erase that memory.  And the Florida State program is still one of the “name” programs in the country.  FSU will be out to get old enemy Steve Spurrier, but Carolina should — should, mind you — have the motivational edge in this one.

Outback Bowl
Tampa, FL
Saturday, 1:00pm ET
Florida vs Penn State (Odds: Florida -7)

The edge:  Florida.  But it might not matter.  Joe Paterno and his assistants always seem to have the Nittany Lions ready for their bowl game.  (Ask LSU and Tennessee who have both lost to PSU in bowl games since 2006.)  Florida will be trying to send their head coach and many of his assistants out as winners.  The Outback Bowl marks the closing of an era in Gainesville.  That fact won’t be lost on the UF players.  Problem is — the Gators are expected to bring along that same woeful offense that struggled all season long.  UF has the motivation, but it might not be enough.

Capital One Bowl
Orlando, FL
Saturday, 1:00pm ET
Alabama vs Michigan State (Odds: Alabama -10)

The edge:  Michigan State.  The Spartans want to prove that they deserved a BCS bid.  They want to beat one of the biggest names in college football, too.  Alabama?  How excited will UA players be to play a team that’s not even the biggest program in its own state?  This year’s Tide team was very close in talent to last year’s national championship squad.  But this Tide team lost three games and choked away a huge lead against Auburn in the Iron Bowl.  The difference between Bama 2009 and Bama 2010 was between the ears.  If they listen to Nick Saban, Alabama should win in Orlando.  But Tide players haven’t always listened to their coach’s warnings this season.

Progressive Gator Bowl
Jacksonville, FL
Saturday, 1:30pm ET
Mississippi State vs Michigan (Odds: Mississippi State -5)

The edge: Mississippi State.  Bear with me here.  Michigan might literally be playing for its coach’s head.  That’s pretty strong motivation.  But as we discussed yesterday, that’s also a hefty amount of pressure.  At 7-5, the Wolverines haven’t handled pressure too well in 2010.  MSU on the other hand will be going against the winningest program in college football history.  The Bulldogs will be able to further make the case that State is on the verge of something special.  And Dan Mullen has proven to be pretty good at the motivation thing this year.

Allstate Sugar Bowl
New Orleans, LA
Tuesday, January 4th, 8:30pm ET
Arkansas vs Ohio State (Odds: Ohio State -3.5)

The edge: Even.  Ohio State wants to finally drive a stake through the fact that they have never beaten an SEC foe in a bowl game (0-9 all-time).  A few Buckeyes like Terrelle Pryor might be playing their final game in the Scarlet and Gray, too.  But Arkansas — like Mississippi State — is trying to make a statement on a national stage: “We have arrived.”  The Razorbacks are one of the few SEC squads listed as an underdog in their bowl game.  They have something to prove.  Arkansas fans should be all over New Orleans, but OSU fans also travel in huge numbers.  When it comes to X-factors, this game appears even.

AT&T Cotton Bowl
Arlington, TX
Friday, January 7th, 8:00pm ET
LSU vs Texas A&M (Odds: LSU pick ‘em)

The edge:  Texas A&M.  LSU is the bigger program.  LSU gets more pub.  LSU has had more success in recent years.  It should be easier for the Aggies to get up for LSU than vice versa.  A&M has an advantage in having played at Cowboys Stadium each of the past two years, too.  They won’t be wowed by the giant video board hanging overhead.  The Tigers have the better team — if Stevan Ridley plays — but the Aggies are trying to announce their return to prominence against a superior foe.  The motivational edge goes to A&M.

BBVA Compass Bowl
Birmingham, AL
Saturday, January 8th, 12:00pm ET
Kentucky vs Pittsburgh (Odds: Pittsburgh -3)

The edge: Pittsburgh, but I don’t know that either team has much of an edge in this one.  Neither school is having success selling tickets.  Both fanbases have already turned their attention to their Top 10 basketball teams.  Playing in a ho-hum bowl in a ho-hum city (by bowl standards) a full week into January just isn’t something to get excited about.  Pitt gets the edge because the game will be Dave Wannstedt’s last as the Panthers’ head coach.  His players — you would think — will want to send him out a winner.

Tostitos BCS Championship Game
Glendale, AZ
Monday, January 10th, 8:30pm ET
Auburn vs Oregon (Odds: Auburn -2.5)

The edge: Even.  It’s the national championship game.  Motivation shouldn’t be a problem in this one.  First team to a hundred wins.

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