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Ole Miss’ Kennedy Plays Down Rumors Of Interest In South Florida; Rebel Fans Should Be Careful What They Wish For

andy-kennedy-hands-upJudging from the reaction on Twitter and messageboards, many, many Ole Miss fans would love to see coach Andy Kennedy depart Oxford for the open job at South Florida.  ”Don’t let the door hit you,” seems to be the most common refrain.

This view ignores one rather large question that a Kennedy defection would raise — Just who is UM gonna get that’s better?  Wait, we know.  Bruce Pearl.  Of course.  The man will have his choice between the traditional hoops hotbeds of Ole Miss and Auburn.  Color us skeptical.

Now back to reality — Just who could the Rebels lure to Oxford?  State law prevents the school from giving out contracts of longer than four years (disadvantage).  The school typically sits at the bottom of the SEC with Mississippi State when it comes to the US Department of Education’s annual breakdown of athletic departments’ finances (disadvantage).  No matter how you cook the books, the Rebs just aren’t on the same financial footing as some of their SEC rivals.  The Tad Pad is finally set to be replaced, but the new venue will seat just 9,500 (disadvantage).  You can donate to the cause here, by the way (apparently Fox’s Shepard Smith is “Fired Up!”).  There’s also the issue of racism that must be dealt with on the recruiting trail every time a few morons hang a noose on a statue and pick the scab off old self-inflicted wounds (disadvantage).

But let’s say AD Ross Bjork can turn all those issues into positives.  There’s still one other thing that might deter someone like a Jim Boeheim from leaving Syracuse for Ole Miss (sarcasm).  That’s the fact that Kennedy has done a pretty good job.  In the eyes of any coach on solid-footing the following records look pretty good all things considered: 21-13, 24-11, 16-15, 24-11, 20-14, 20-13, 27-9, 19-14.  That’s a .630 winning percentage and six seasons with 20 wins or more.  Granted there’s only one NCAA bid in that eight-year stretch, but most coaches realize that the tournament bubble can be pretty unpredictable and Kennedy has lived on the tournament bubble.  Plus, it’s not like the NCAA selection committee is doling out bids by the bushel to the SEC right now.

Many a coach will likely look at Kennedy’s record — if he leaves — and wonder if they could do any better.  And if seven seasons of 19 or more wins didn’t please the UM masses before, what the heck would those fans expect of a new guy?

Look, we’re not saying Ole Miss can’t reach for the stars.  Go for it.  But the old line from a Clint Eastwood “Dirty Harry” flick is worth remembering: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Someone can win in basketball at Ole Miss.  Hell, Kennedy has won at Ole Miss.  But replacing Kennedy with a big name — even Bruce Pearl — is going to be tall order for Bjork.

Perhaps Mississippi fans should just look down US 278 a piece if they’re not happy with the words we’ve written here.  Mississippi State forced Rick Stansbury to fall on his sword.  Stansbury had won 293 games for the Bulldogs and taken them to six NCAA tourneys.  He’d rolled up 10 20-win seasons, too.  But the Bulldogs barked, Stansbury got the message, and the school was left to hire… Rick Ray.  Now, he seems a fine fellow and he might win some games eventually, but Rick Ray was not a name MSU fans were dreaming of when Stansbury was put to sleep.  And while State fans blame the last two years — 24-40 overall, 7-29 in the SEC — on Stansbury, there’s no one outside of Starkville who thinks things would have been that bad had Stansbury simply been retained.

For that matter, maybe the Rebels should look to their old rival if indeed Kennedy has interest in the South Florida job, as The Tampa Tribune has reported.  We suggest, however, that Ole Miss fans start being a bit more appreciative of 19- and 20-win seasons.  Look around the SEC.  There aren’t many guys who are doing much better than what Kennedy has done.

Just sayin’.

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Considering What They’re Up Against, Kudos To Ole Miss’ Freeze And Kennedy

gfx-honest-opinionI remove my hat and tip it Ole Miss coaches Hugh Freeze and Andy Kennedy.  Those guys must be world-class salesmen.  Considering the history at their school — and the never-ending string of reminders of that history — it’s dadgum incredible that they can recruit African-American males to play for their respective squads.

You know the latest story by now, of course.  Last Sunday a statue of James Meredith — the first black student at the University of Mississippi — was found to have a noose around its neck and an old Georgia state flag — complete with the Confederate battle flag — draped over it.  Meredith rose to fame when the federal government stepped in to protect him as it pushed for the desegregation the school in 1962.

Three freshman from the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity — who happened to be Georgia natives — were booted from the fraternity before the the frat itself was suspended by it national office.  The three buffoons could face some very serious, life-altering charges if the FBI views that noose as a racial threat against black students on the Ole Miss campus.

The incident made national news from The LA Times to The New York Times.  Back came reminders of the National Guard, Governor Ross Barnett, the race riots that took place in Oxford at the time of Meredith’s enrollment.  (ESPN recently chronicled that episode in a “30 for 30″ special titled “Ghosts of Ole Miss.”)

After the long list of UM controversies come the inevitable reminders of what Ole Miss has tried to do to improve matters on its campus: no more Confederate flags at ballgames, no more Colonel Reb mascot, no more “From Dixie With Love” with its chant of “The South will rise again” before football games.

But as an editorial in The Daily Mississippian — UM’s student newspaper — stated last week, nothing seems to work:

 

“This is disgraceful.  But what makes it all the worse is that it is another disgraceful moment in a series of disgraceful moments.  We are racking them up and bolstering the stereotypes that are ingrained within the national consciousness.  And we, The Daily Mississippian, continue to write editorials about them.  The campus continues to hold candlelight vigils.  The administration continues to create committees, send apologetic emails and preach to us about our Creed.  The Alumni Association offers rewards.

But still nothing has changed.  These events continue to happen semester after semester and year after year.  All of our actions seem fruitless and impotent, leaving us broken, scared, humiliated and with burning, difficult questions: What do we do about it?  How do we stop these events from transpiring?”

 

Rather damning — and bravely honest — from the school’s newspaper, no?

Fair or not, the University of Mississippi’s history is tied to racism.  The Confederacy’s economy — everything about the Old South, for that matter — was based on slavery.  Yet the school’s athletic teams are called the Rebels in a reference to the Confederate States of America.  The school’s athletic teams often wear gray in addition to their red and navy colors.  Hell, the statue of Meredith isn’t far from a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the UM campus.

It is impossible to separate the school or its sports teams from the Confederacy and the racism that was ingrained in that institution.

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SEC Game Previews – 10/4/13

mrsec game preview (2)Ready for Week Six of the college football season?  Or are you like us and still baffled by how quickly we’ve arrived at Week Six?

Ready or not, our weekly game previews are below, complete with opinions and stats on every contest involving an SEC squad.

Good luck to your favorite team this weekend…

 

Georgia State (0-4) at #1 Alabama (4-0)

TV:  12:21pm ET on SEC Network

Opening Line:  UA -56

Current Line:  UA -55

One To Watch:  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  If the first-year-in-the-FBS Panthers spring an upset in this one, it’ll be a clear sign that the end is near.

This and That:

1.  For Alabama, the month of October kicks off with a pair of major goals: Stay healthy and improve.  You don’t want to go losing key starters to injury against cupcakes like GSU, but that’s usually just about the only thing these types of games are good for.  Bama also needs to find a consistency on both offense and defense that’s been lacking so far in 2013.  Of course, Georgia State is so outmanned that no one will know if UA has improved or not.  Kudos to Alabama for playing a neutral site, non-conference game with Virginia Tech earlier in the year, but scheduling Georgia State is ridiculous.

2.  Alabama is allowing 14.5 points per game.  Georgia State is allowing 36.5.  To date the Panthers have played Samford (21-31 loss), Chattanooga (14-42 loss), West Virginia (7-41 loss), and Jacksonville State (26-32 loss in overtime).  Nuff said.

3.  The biggest challenge facing the Crimson Tide this week comes from off the gridiron.  With the news that an assistant strength and conditioning coach loaned money to safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix comes a major distraction.  Clinton-Dix, a key starter, is suspended indefinitely.  The strength coach in question is on administrative leave.  With this coming on the heels of the Yahoo! Sports report that ex-Bama player DJ Fluker was given impermissible benefits during his playing career by a runner (another ex-Bama player) on behalf of an agent (who happens to be a Bama fan), Tide fans can feel free to fret a bit.

Prediction:  Alabama 50, Georgia State 3

 

#6 Georgia (3-1) at Tennessee (3-2)

TV:  3:30pm ET on CBS

Opening Line:  UGA -10.5

Current Line:  UGA -10.5

One To Watch:  Georgia RB Keith Marshall.  With Todd Gurley nursing a bum ankle, his backup figures to take center stage in Knoxville tomorrow.  Vol fans should remember him.  His career-best game came against Tennessee last season (10 rushes, 164 yards, two touchdowns).

This and That:

1.  The Volunteers have to hope that UGA — on the road after an emotional win over LSU — sleepwalks into tomorrow’s ballgame.  It’s happened before.  Mark Richt’s program got smacked around by a combined 47 points in Neyland Stadium in 2007 and 2009.  Having said that, with ex-Georgia coaches John Jancek and Willie Martinez now on UT’s staff, some Bulldog veterans will likely have a little added motivation tomorrow.  And Vol quarterback Justin Worley might’ve given UGA some bulletin board material when he said of the Dawg defense: “There are holes there, but you’ve got to find ‘em and execute when opportunities are presented.”  Here’s guessing Todd Grantham has shared only the first part of that quote with his defenders.

2.  The Bulldogs could be without starting safety Tray Matthews tomorrow.  The freshman “tweaked” a hamstring in practice this week and Georgia’s defense hasn’t exactly been a impenetrable wall with him.  Take a key cog away and there might be one or two more “holes” in the Dawgs’ spotty D.

3.  Georgia has scored 35 or more points in every game this season.  Three of those games were against top 10 teams.  In case you haven’t been keeping up, Tennessee is not a top 10 team.  The Volunteers lack of depth has been exposed and Butch Jones referenced that fact this week.  Against South Alabama last week, for example, UT had two cornerbacks play every… single… snap.  The guys in the new “Smokey” gray uniforms figure to be worn down by an offense that’s just a few hundred times better than South Alabama.

Prediction:  Georgia 51, Tennessee 24

 

#24 Ole Miss (3-1) at Auburn (3-1)

TV:  7:00pm ET on ESPNU

Opening Line:  UM -1

Current Line:  UM -3

One To Watch:  The coaching matchup.  One was coaching high school ball earlier this decade.  His no-huddle spread attack has brought hope to his team’s fanbase.  The other was coaching high school ball earlier this decade.  And his no-huddle spread attack has brought hope to his team’s fanbase.  Well, you get the picture.  There also happens to be a pretty good friendship between Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze to boot.

This and That:

1.  Want an interesting stat?  Here’s one: Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has thrown for 807 yards on the season while Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has thrown for 809.  Both starters have tossed four TD passes, too.  But there is a difference between the Rebels’ second-year starter and the Tigers’ juco transfer.  Wallace hasn’t been picked off in 2013; Marshall has thrown four INTs.  Auburn is minus-two in turnover margin on the season.  AU’s got the homefield advantage, but turning the ball over could negate that in a hurry.

2.  While the focus will be on the two similar offenses, the real difference in this one — if it isn’t turnovers — will likely be defense.  The Tigers and Rebels are within 20 yards of one another in terms of total offense per game.  But UM holds a sizable advantage in total defense allowing 358 yards per game to Auburn’s 439.5.  Both teams can move the football, but Ole Miss has been able to stop the other team on occasion, too.

3.  The Rebels need to get the focus back onto their gridiron work.  Last week, Bo Wallace flapped his gums in the run-up to the Alabama game (only to have it glued shut in a 25-zip loss).  Late this week, UM players were accused of hate speech while attending a play based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a homosexual.  When the Rebs stick to football, they shine a good light on their school.  When they start boasting or making news off the field — sorta/kinda like an Ole Miss hoops player we all know — they make it tougher to root for them.

Prediction:  Ole Miss 31, Auburn 30

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LSU’s Miles And Ole Miss’ Kennedy Need To Boot Hill And Henderson

gfx - honest opinionBoot ‘em.  Kick ‘em off the team.  They had their chance.  Then they had another.  And now its time to go.

I’m talking, of course, about LSU football player Jeremy Hill and Ole Miss basketballer Marshall Henderson.  Both made news last week — during my last semi-vacation of the summer — and I didn’t get to weigh in on their situations.  I’ll do so now.  Here goes: Get rid of them.

Having been so harsh today, if you look back at my track record as one of MrSEC.com’s writers you’ll realize quickly that I’m typically a pretty lenient guy.  I believe in second chances.  And third chances.  And fourths.

I’ve had a few chances of my own in life and I haven’t forgotten that fact.

But.

While people deserve second, third, fourth and more chances in their real lives, the same doesn’t hold true when it comes to their sporting lives.  Playing on a college football or basketball team — and representing a university — is a privilege, not a right.

In my view, there are two things that should get a player heave-ho’d from his college team.  First, any violent crime.  Beat a fellow student or assault another person — physically or sexually — and you should be gone.  End of story.  Hit the bricks.

Second, if a player repeatedly embarrasses his institution he should also be ix-nayed from the program.

Hill is guilty of the first.  Henderson is guilty of the second.  Both should be shown the door.

Last week, Hill — LSU’s leading returning rusher with 755 yards and 12 touchdowns a season ago — pled guilty to a charge of simple battery.  In April, he was caught on cell phone video punching a 20-year-old man in the parking lot of a Baton Rouge bar.  So what’s the big deal with a single punch?  Hill and another man — Robert Bayardo — punched the victim from behind, knocked him to the ground, and the proceeded to celebrate said blindsiding.

Hill’s plea on Friday also opens the door for jail time.  That’s because Hill was already on probation after pleading guilty last year to “carnal knowledge of a juvenile.”  Hill — then 18 — engaged in a sex act with a 14-year-old girl during his high school days back in 2010.  According to Baton Rouge police, he intimidated the girl in question.

As of today, LSU’s Les Miles has suspended Hill indefinitely, but the school has said via statement that the coach will let “the legal process surrounding this matter” come to a conclusion before taking further action.

Sure.  Who doesn’t look at Hill’s track record and this video without thinking, “Hey, that big lug needs another chance to serve as an ambassador for LSU?”  Then again, Miles and LSU looked the other way regarding the failed drug tests of ex-star Tyrann Mathieu — at least according to an NFL source who quoted the player — time and time and time again.  So why should any of us expect Hill to be dismissed from the Tiger team before it’s literally impossible for him to play?

It’s hard to carry the football in handcuffs, you see.  That will make Miles’ decision so much easier.

Meanwhile, down in Mississippi the punkiest punk to ever step onto an SEC basketball court has stepped into trouble once more.  I’m not even going to try and hide the fact that I think UM’s streak-shooting, taunting, hot-dogging guard, Henderson, hasn’t topped my own “most loathed” list since last spring.  I’ve stated time and again that he’s an embarrassment to his school and the conference.  The SEC should have suspended him when he jumped on the scorer’s table and taunted the Missouri contingent during March’s SEC tourney.

At the time, many, many Ole Miss fans emailed and tweeted to let me know that I was just “jealous” of the kid’s mad basketball skills.  Why, Henderson never hurt anybody.

Uh-huh.

Well now he’s hurt the Ole Miss basketball program.  Needless to say, I’ve not heard from any Rebel fans taking his side in the past few days.

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Fair Or Not, Ole Miss Tied To Racism And The KKK Once Again

gfx - honest opinionDo a Google news search on Ole Miss this morning and you’ll soon find the school’s name attached once again to three ugly letters: KKK.  That’s because — as we told you yesterday afternoon — a top cornerback prospect from Alabama recently tweeted out the following message:

 

“Lemme get off Ole miss I’m sorry people y’all ain’t racist….y’all just have KKK marches every month.”

 

Asked if he’d been to Ole Miss, Marlon Humphrey — son of former Alabama and NFL star Bobby Humphrey — followed up with: “yes I went they had a KKK march and everybody decommitted.”

Now, the facts are these:

 

*  The player is the son of an Alabama player and many believe he’ll wind up in Tuscaloosa like his pop.

*  The last time an Oxford KKK rally got any mention in the media was way back in 2009 when anti-Klan protestors actually outnumbered the imbecilic racists in their bed sheets.

Humphrey eventually tweeted a major apology that appeared to be written by someone else: “This tweet is to the Ole Miss Coaching Staff and the Ole Miss family.  I have not been on your campus as a recruit.  I have not felt any Racism from anyone on your campus I am sorry for misleading anyone in thinking that there is any racism coming from the Ole Miss family.”

*  As noted in our story yesterday, Humphrey also offended another group when he tweeted some homophobic views.  (Apparently being prejudiced about skin color is bad while being prejudiced about sexual orientation is A-OK.  Got it, Marlon.  Thanks.)

 

So what do we know?

First, that Humphrey is yet another example of why coaches and parents should ban their kids from Twitter.  When it comes to tweeting teens, the potential negatives far, far outweigh the potential positives.

Second, we know that Humphrey was lying about the KKK rally and the wave of decommitments, etc.

Third, we know that the veracity of Humphrey’s tweets don’t really matter in the least.  Mississippi — the school and the state — has a nasty history when it comes to racism.  Regardless of any change or progress made in the past five decades, all it takes is a tweet from a teenager to tie the words “Ole Miss” and “KKK” back together again.

From Emmett Till to Governor Ross Barnett.  From Medgar Evers to the murders of three civil rights workers in 1964.  From the film “Mississippi Burning” in the 1980s to a 2009 Klan rally that drew more national headlines than actual Klansmen, the school and the state of Mississippi cannot escape their shared history.

Is that fair?  Not for everyone.  I suspect the majority of people in the Magnolia State and certainly those at the University of Mississippi have outgrown the racism of their parents and their parents’ parents.

I’ve been to Mississippi many times.  I drove the entire length of the state last year.  I’ll be back there in just a couple of weeks as a matter of fact.  As a visitor/tourist, I’ve never seen any type of racism with my own eyes.  (Though a pair of shirtless rednecks in Scooba did give me — a fellow Caucasian — a chilly “Where you from, boy” stare at a gas station last summer.)

But here’s the rub.  While it isn’t fair for all Mississippians and all Ole Miss students to be painted as racists with such a wide brush, it is fair for some.

Do you happen to remember why the KKK gathered for their tiny rally in Oxford four years ago?  It was because UM chancellor Dan Jones — after requesting and then ordering students to stop chanting the words, “The South will rise again,” at the end of the fight song “From Dixie with Love” — banned the playing of a favorite Rebel anthem at sporting events.

Jones sent out a letter at the time stating:

 

“We cannot even appear to support those outside our community who advocate a revival of segregation.  Consequently, I have asked the band not to play ‘From Dixie with Love’ at upcoming athletics events.  The absence of this song will send a clear message that the university is neither facilitating nor indirectly condoning the chant.”

 

So much for sending a clear message.  Not only did a few Klan members draw dozens of cameras to the UM campus over Jones banning of the song, but since then there’s been another fight over the school’s on-field mascot.  Ole Miss chose to put a guy in a Black Bear suit on its sidelines.  As silly as that is it disturbed a helluva lot of people who want the old “Colonel Reb” costume brought out of mothballs.  Colonel Reb, of course, is the ol’ Southern gentleman who conjures up images of a simpler time when whitey could peacefully sip his mint julep on the verandah while his darkeys entertained him with a work song from out in the fields.

Now who wouldn’t that image associated with their school in the 2010s?

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UM, MSU: Masters Of Cupcakery… UGA, VU: SEC’s Toughest Schedulers

cupcakes1When it comes to pastries, no SEC school takes as many trips to the corner bakery as Ole Miss.  Over the past five years, the Rebels have played a whopping six schools from the FCS level.  Worse, their non-conference schedule has featured just two schools — two in five years — from BCS automatic-qualifier conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big XII, and Pac-12).

No one in the SEC — not even Mississippi State — has feasted on as many cupcakes and creampuffs as the gang from Oxford.  And MSU has nibbled on its share of sponge cake.

On the other end of the spectrum are Vanderbilt and Georgia.  Some might say that the BCS-level foes they’ve scheduled haven’t always been atop their conferences, but at least they’re playing power-conference competition.  Both schools have scheduled 10 games against squads from BCS automatic-qualifiers over the last five seasons.

For comparison’s sake, we’ve gone back through the 2008 season to see which SEC schools have done the best and worst jobs of non-conference scheduling.  We’ve decided to include Missouri and Texas A&M even though they’ve spent just one year in the SEC.  But keep in mind the Big XII played nine league games in 2011.  So both A&M and Mizzou faced one less non-conference foe between ’08 and ’12 than their new SEC roomies.

In addition, please remember that those recent matchups between Texas A&M and Arkansas were non-conference games until last season.

One last note: We’re well aware of the schedule quirks, broken contracts, and state legislators’ desires that have forced your favorite school to line up games with tin cans on occasion.  And to paraphrase a Tommy Lee Jones’ line from “The Fugitive,” we don’t care.  Below is a simple look at how the SEC’s teams have handled non-conference scheduling in recent years.  It is what it is.

The categories used are “actual competition” (BCS conference foes), “cannon fodder” (teams from non-AQ FBS leagues or independents), and “cupcakes” (FCS-level opponents).

Enjoy…

 

Alabama

Actual Competition: 6 — Clemson, Duke, Michigan, Penn State (2), Virginia Tech

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Kent State, North Texas (2), San Jose State, Tulane, Western Kentucky (2)

Cupcakes: 4 — Georgia State, Georgia Southern, UT-Chattanooga, Western Carolina

Thoughts: Nick Saban has been pushing the SEC to add another conference game.  He’s also in favor power-conference teams playing only other power-conference teams.  But he’s not an idiot.  Until everyone gets on the same page, he won’t be trying to lead the way with Bama’s schedule.  Still, he’s been more than willing to open seasons against name competition.

2013 Schedule: Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Georgia State, UT-Chattanooga

 

Arkansas

Actual Competition: 5 — Rutgers, Texas, Texas A&M (3)

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Eastern Michigan, Louisiana-Monroe (3), New Mexico, Troy (2), Tulsa (2), UTEP

Cupcakes: 5 — Jacksonville State, Missouri State (2), Tennessee Tech, Western Illinois

Thoughts: Meh.  The Hogs haven’t exactly lined up the best of the best of the best over the last few years.  (Hey, another line from a Tommy Lee Jones’ flick.)  Texas and pre-SEC Texas A&M were good games, but Arkansas’ cannon fodder games were truly that.  Then you toss in five games against FCS cupcakes.  Was any Razorback fan happy to plunk down cash to see any of the last 10 schools on that list?  Happily Bret Bielema and AD Jeff Long are locking up future non-conference games against quality foes from the Hogs’ old Southwest Conference days.

2013 Schedule: Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford, Southern Miss, Rutgers

 

Auburn

Actual Competition: 5 — Clemson (3), West Virginia (2)

Cannon Fodder: 10 — Arkansas State, Ball State, Florida Atlantic, Louisiana-Monroe (3), Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, Utah State

Cupcakes: 5 — Alabama A&M, Furman, Samford, UT-Chattanooga, UT-Martin

Thoughts: The same as above.  Auburn had five marquee non-conference games in the last five years.  Their remaining 15 non-conference contests were dreck.  This year’s non-con slate looks to provide more of the same.

2013 Schedule: Washington State, Arkansas State, Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic

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Ex-Miami Coach Claims SEC Teams Cheat More Than His Canes Did

gfx - they said itMaybe we should call this one a “Who Said It?” instead of a “They Said It.”

Over the weekend, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald included an interesting blurb from an unnamed ex-Miami assistant coach as part of a catch-all blog post.  Miami, of course, is under NCAA fire thanks to the accusations of former booster — and current prison inmate — Nevin Shapiro.

According to Jackson:

 

“One former UM coach accused of wrongdoings complained privately that what the ex-UM coaches allegedly did paled in comparison to unreported violations committed in the SEC.”

 

That’s it.  End of blurb.

While it’s short, you can be sure Mike Slive isn’t happy to read it.  Slive worked hard to improve the image of the Southeastern Conference upon his arrival and for a while his efforts seemed to be working.  But then came a textbook scandal at Alabama, John Calipari brought his reputation to Kentucky (whether his reputation is deserved or not), Lane Kiffin and Bruce Pearl drew NCAA attention at Tennessee, and Auburn, well, pick a scandal.

So the SEC’s reputation is once again that of a shady league.  Winning seven consecutive BCS crowns has also led jealous folks from other region to conclude that school’s Down South must be cheating.

But in this case, who is the coach who made the above claim to Jackson.  If the person is current Missouri hoops coach Frank Haith that would be a story.  But I think we can all agree is probably not Haith.

Did the coach making the claim have any evidence of wrongdoing in the SEC?  Had he himself coached in the league and seen illegal activities firsthand?

Until we know who was talking to Jackson — and it’s likely we never will — it’s impossible to take such a claim seriously.  From here it sounds like the same ol’ types of cries we often hear from schools’ supporters whenever the NCAA comes snooping around their favorite campus: “But other schools do a lot worse than what we’ve done!”

Yeah, yeah.  Tell it to the judge.

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A Tip For Rebel Fans: You Don’t Blow Up The Best Coach You’ve Ever Had

andy-kennedy-hands-upAndy Kennedy’s Ole Miss Rebels just can’t seem to get over the hump (or “The Hump,” considering the Rebs’ loss at Mississippi State’s Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday.)  Year after year Kennedy’s squads manage to win 20 games… and still miss out on the NCAA Tournament.  With a terrible strength of schedule number and some gut-punch losses this season (like the one to MSU), it looks like history will repeat itself once more.

But for those UM fans who feel Andy is the worst Kennedy to impact Ole Miss since Jack, a quick look across state should work as a calming tonic, as a soothing balm, and as a warning.

Rick Stansbury had led Mississippi State to 293 wins in 14 seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach.  He’d won 20 games 10 times, including in 2011-12.  A perfect coach?  No.  His last three teams failed to reach the NCAA Tournament.  Also, the turbulence in and around his program during his final two seasons was self-created as the coach chose to sign and coddle controversial team-killer Renardo Sidney.

State fans had had enough.  Stansbury saw the writing on the wall and resigned last spring as MSU’s all-time winningest coach and the SEC’s ninth-winningest coach all-time.

Despite dreams of landing a big-name coach, the best MSU could do was hire Clemson assistant Rick Ray as Stansbury’s replacement.  Ray inherited a mess as most of the Bulldog team pulled up stakes and left as soon as their old coach stepped down.  This season has been one of misery in Starkville — an 8-20 record, a 3-13 mark in the SEC, and a 13-game losing streak that was finally snapped on Saturday.

Ray might turn out to be the best coach in history of college basketball, but it appears the rebuilding job before him will be a difficult one.  Certainly more difficult than what Stansbury would have faced had he not been pressured to resign.

If Ole Miss fans are upset that Ray finally ended his team’s long losing streak against their Rebels, that’s perfectly fair.  But they should compare the two squads’ overall records — 8-20 versus 21-8 — before dialing up a call-in show to demand Kennedy’s scalp.

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Top Commit Nkemdiche Having To Fill Out Paperwork Again

mrsec-breaking-newsOle Miss has gotten off to a tremendous start on National Signing Day.  But the day hasn’t been perfect. 

The #1 player in the country — Robert Nkemdiche who announced he would go to Mississippi early this morning — filled out part of his Letter of Intent incorrectly.  UM officials have sent him another letter to fill out correctly.

No biggie, but Rebel fans want Nkemdiche signed, sealed, and delivered.  As soon as possible.

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UM’s Freeze Gets A Raise

Personally, I’m not a big believer in handing out raises and extensions after a coach’s first season on the job.  Oh, if you have to fend off other schools, I see the logic in fighting to keep your guy.  But one year could be just that… one year.  Who’s to say Coach X is going to ever have a season like his first?  And if he doesn’t and his school has given him a raise, then the ol’ buyout’s probably going to be larger than it should be.

In this instance, Coach X is Hugh Freeze and the school is Mississippi.  He’s getting a half-million dollar pay raise and will make $2 million next year.  His deal was also extended to last the state-maximum of four years once again.  Ole Miss is also going to increase Freeze’s cash for assistant coaches by 10% and it’s renovating its indoor practice facility.

The list of SEC coaches who had a better season than Freeze — relative to their rosters — is awfully short.  The Rebels were expected to be the worst team in the West Division and maybe the worst in the league.

Instead, UM finished 6-6 overall, 3-5 in conference play, whipped Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl (snapping a three-game losing streak to the Bulldogs), and are going bowling against Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.  Freeze’s up-tempo offense also finished fifth best in the SEC.

There’s reason for optimism in Oxford and Freeze is that reason.  And in this day and age — and with Jimmy Sexton as his agent — it’s no surprise that Ole Miss gave it’s coach a raise and extension.  But his first year isn’t even over yet and he could still finish with a losing record.

I believe it might have been smarter business to just guarantee the coach $500,000 in further improvements to his program’s facilities.  That would reward the coach with a bonus — though not a cash one for his wallet — and yet the upgrade would be an investment in the overall Ole Miss football program.  If Freeze were to have another good year in his second season, then give him a nice raise and extension.

But as it stands, if Freeze stumbles and it turns out that his first season remains his best season, Ole Miss will likely have thrown extra cash down the drain rather than into its program.

This is no knock on Freeze, mind you, or on the Rebels’ willingness to support their coach.  I’ve praised Freeze’s work all year.  He and Johnny Manziel were the biggest surprises in the SEC this year.  But handing him a raise and extension after a single season?  UM had better hope he’s not the next Derek Dooley or Joker Phillips, two coaches whose best seasons were their first, who never returned to a bowl after their first season, and who were fired after their third seasons.

Yep, that’s why I’m against the one-year-on-the-job raise/extension.

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