also duty-free guys falling over and grabbing their shins
Bobby Petrino has all the social skills of a PhD student in electrical engineering. This is how you get an NFL team to swear revenge upon you and your clan*. He's a weird dude. So his Arkansas program eschews the usual kabuki dance of medical scholarships and "voluntary" transfers in favor of The Truth™:
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas has granted scholarship releases to two more players from its football program in offensive lineman Cam Feldt and linebacker Austin Moss, Razorbacks coach Bobby Petrino said Thursday through a team spokesperson.
The players are the fourth and fifth to be released this week as coaches perform annual scholarship evaluations. Wide receiver Lance Ray, kicker Eddie Camara and tight end Ryan Calender have also been granted releases from the program.
Arkansas is also working toward granting offensive lineman Colby Berna a medical hardship, which would end his playing career. Berna, a Fayetteville native, has struggled with shoulder problems since high school and didn't play during his two seasons on campus.
The truth comes cloaked in a bit of PR spin, but there it is. Arkansas is straight up cutting five dudes and moving a sixth to St. Saban Memorial Hospital. The usually even-keeled Doctor Saturday breaks out his barrel-aged, 18-year old sarcasm in response to the "granted releases" spin in response, and you've heard it all before here. Surprise! I still find the above completely awful.
But I really mean the headline above: by refusing to pretend he's putting kids on the slow boat to a crappy school no one's ever heard of he may be in charge of a program that flagrantly violates the spirit of the NCAA's principles, but at least he's not lying about it. This puts Petrino above the Sabans and Nutts and Tommy Bowdens of the world in the same way PhD EEs are above the sociopaths who end up at Goldman Sachs selling mortgage packages they know will collapse. I'll take the idiot over the lizard any day. By admitting Arkansas takes the bit about one-year renewable scholarships to its most ruthless extreme, Petrino allows us to talk about whether we want our football programs solely focused on on-field performance.
I'm guessing the answer to that will eventually be "no." The heat has moved from obscure bloggers like yrs truly to coaches and presidents at schools with scruples. The NCAA is faced with ballooning scandals as players react to the system: coaches get theirs by axing anyone that can't help them; players get theirs by taking whatever is offered them. The NCAA can't defend its principles of amateurism at the same time the most successful conference in the most successful sport is dumping anyone not immediately useful. If they do, I suggest they change their commercial tagline to "too many of us are going pro with a glorified associate's degree because we got cut and sent to JUCO."
Bobby Petrino can't be bothered to lie any more because people will badger him in press conferences and we're a step closer to ending, or at least associating costs with, cutting any kid who doesn't work out.
*[A thousand years from now the descendants of Bobby Petrino will be robotic feudal slum lords prosecuting an ancient war with Atlfalcorp no one remembers the origins of. Fayetteville will be underwater and everyone in Atlanta dead in the aftermath of the Great Traffic Jam, but the war will go on.]
Rock Mocked. Are you up for some uncomfortable fun made at Tate Forcier's expense?
That's the hockey team's Mock Rock thing. The marching band won with the football team in second, says AnnArbor.com's Jeff Arnold in an article that emits the faint whiff of sarcasm. Selected highlights:
The band registered a string of six perfect 10.0 scores following a flawlessly choreographed routine … The two top finishes pulled away from the pack of other performances that ranged from the ridiculously creative Pokemon (men's and women's lacrosse) to the wildly entertaining "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (men's swimming); an act that ended in a speedo-inspired tribute to Michael Jackson.
Generic overwritten newspaperese or bitterness at drawing the short straw? We'll never know. I have no idea if the thing was actually entertaining or not since I was watching the basketball game.
In related news, here's an autotuned David Moosman snorting his phone.
Morris benching explained. You were probably saying something along the lines of "aaargh where Morris" with nine minutes left in the game. Even if he had done something wrong he was sitting on seven assists and one turnover at the time—he wasn't exactly a loose cannon. In the aftermath both Beilein and Morris are saying it was nothing except fatigue:
“I caught my breath,” Morris said. “They did a good job of pressuring the ball, and I was guarding McCamey as well. The coaches noticed I got a little bit tired and then when they took me out, we got on a little run before they separated again, but I felt rejuvenated when I came back in the game.
“It was the most rest I’ve gotten.”
Nothing to see here. /barbrady
Draft incoherence. The rejuvenated Bylaw Blog is admirably willing to say certain NCAA regulations don't make any sense, whether it's the NLI or the NCAA's willingness to let drafted kids play as long as they're not basketball (or I guess football) pplayers:
it is a violation to go through a draft if you decided you want to be in it. But it isn’t a violation in some cases if you are drafted and then attempt to negotiate the greatest possible compensation for your athletic skills. And it isn’t a violation to attempt that negotiation in order to enter the draft.
The fact that this is unfair to some student-athletes is secondary. Most important is that entering a professional draft is not sufficient evidence that you want to give up your collegiate eligibility. Entering a draft and deciding any contract offered would not be worth leaving college is no more or less an indication of a student-athlete’s intent to professionalize themselves than deciding a contract offer is not sufficient to leave college and enter the draft in the first place.
I'm not sure what harm would be done by allowing NBA teams to draft underclassmen, work them out at camps and whatnot, have them play summer league, and then send them back to school. Players wouldn't have a do-or-die decision to go pro or not and talented players might stick around another year or two. You'd also get some extra interest from NBA fans tracking their prospects.
That post also contains a discussion about NCAA president Mark Emmert's recent "over my dead body" statement about paying players. These things kind of go hand-in-hand. If paying players is a bridge too far I don't see why the NCAA can't allow players to sign with an agent or take some non-ludicrous amount of money from a pro team that's drafted them. Right now a major source of NCAA corruption comes from agents funneling money to players in the hopes of signing them; allowing kids to sign and take a bit of money wouldn't increase the amount of compensation they're getting.
Amateurism is all well and good if you can actually enforce it. If you can't—and it seems pretty clear that's the case—you should probably repeal Prohibition, make some reasonable concessions, and make your setup a little bit less hypocritical without actually spending any money yourself.
Morons on the loose, except no longer loose. You have probably heard that someone poisoned Auburn's trees at Toomer's Corner, then called into the Finebaum show to brag about it. The Auburn folk I follow on twitter and in my RSS feed spent yesterday pointedly not advocating the wholesale destruction of Tuscaloosa, which proves they're better people than I am. I'd be on the warpath. Here he is:
He was rapidly arrested because he is named "Harvey Almorn Updike" and lives in Dadeville—a town of approximately four people I drove through once en route to the Auburn-LSU game I attended—and told the radio he was "Al from Dadeville." This goes here.
Unfortunately, it's too late for this incident to remove his genes from the pool—he's got kids named "Bear" and "Crimson."
Q: is this literally the worst possible thing a single fan could do to a rival fanbase? I think so. I can't think of another tradition that's so treasured and so vulnerable. You could cut off Bear Bryant's head* and they'd just put a new one on. It's metal. You could kill Uga, but Uga dies every year and they just keep making new ones. The trees are unique: iconic symbols of the university that can expire but don't do it on the regular.
The worst thing is it's not even clever. Boo, Alabama man. Boo.
Etc.: Grant Wahl is running for FIFA president. He's got my nonexistent unimportant vote. More on the first of the 30-for-30 style documentaries about Michigan football. Hockey's senior day is Saturday—a rare opportunity for students to be there. Yost fluff.
College football in a nutshell, according to Finebaum callers
Oversigning continues to be a hot topic now that beat writers are aware of the subject and are keeping an eye out for stuff like a half-dozen players evaporating from the Ole Miss roster in the wake of Ole Miss oversigning by twelve:
In the Ole Miss notebook in Wednesday’s Clarion-Ledger, you probably read the lead note about the impending transfer of WR/KR Jesse Grandy. That’s somewhat significant news, considering how valuable he was as a freshman and the depth at wide receiver.
Later in that note, though, there are a couple of other names mentioned: Dele Junaid and Jared Mitchell. Both were scholarship players who are not on this roster that the school distributed Tuesday night, shortly after the news of Grandy’s departure broke.
But here are four more scholarship players from last year who were missing, as we noted early Wednesday afternoon on Twitter: RB Martez Eastland, OL Terrance Hackney, DE Lekenwic Haynes and DL Alan-Michael Thomas.
Hope you enjoyed your year or three in Oxford, but it's off to South Ballsack for you. Enjoy your degree from something that's not technically a community college anymore, unless it is, except you probably won't be getting one anyway. Don't brush the APR on your way out.
Hopefully this keeps up to the point where the SEC has to do something more than obfuscate the problem and actually, you know, does something about it. Here's Mike Slive:
It was two years ago that we took the initiative and put in an SEC rule that 28 was the most you could sign [in one class] and understanding that the rest of the country might not do that. The rest of the country followed suit and copied the SEC rule nationally and made it 28.
The SEC took an "initiative" to implement something far weaker than the Big Ten and Pac 10 had for decades after Houston Nutt signed 37 kids one year. That implementation is a paper tiger, but Slive's waving his PR magic wand because he's a company man. The SEC's done nothing except implement a cosmetic change. Florida going bats about it forced Slive to gesture towards discussion later this year, but at no point will he ever suggest that the SEC is anything but a forward-thinking bastion of nation-leading ethics.
In contrast, the Big Ten actually grasps the issue:
Do those exceptions relate to the rule that allows three over the [scholarship] limit?
CH: Correct. This is the difference between our rule and what the NCAA rule is. If you have 20 scholarship slots available, our rule would allow you to sign 23, where the NCAA is a firm number. We allow oversigning by three in football. Some have used it, not everyone has. On a year-to-year basis, there are fewer than use it than not. And even within those instances, we may be looking at oversigning by two or even one.
Meanwhile, Nick Saban's feeble attempt to justify his massive oversigning was torn to shreds by anyone who wrote about it. (He then had the audacity to complain about players breaking verbal commitments! Alabama is the only school in the state that blacks out scholarship numbers from FOIAed requests!) Moments later we found out we can add Saban to the list of coaches who yoinked scholarships from players after they had moved into the dorm:
So Jones was asked to delay his enrollment until January. He had to move out of the dorm, and he won't be on an athletic scholarship until next semester. He can't practice with the team, work out with the team or travel with the team.
Instead, he'll be a part-time student this semester, taking nine hours, and he'll live in the condo his parents had leased for his older brother to call home and for the family to share on football weekends.
"It's disappointing when you don't really expect it, but we understand it," said Leslie Jones, the mother of Harrison and Barrett. "We have no hard feelings. We're very grateful for the opportunities our sons have."
[Ed-M: Update: there's more to the story - According to the boys' high school coach in the comments below, he's back on scholarship. Also, Saban had a long talk with the family about the grashirt situation, wherein he probably explained...]. This is followed by the quote that always shows up in these stories:
"College football is a business, and you have to treat it as a business."
Yea, and the legions of SEC fans filled the comments to call the reporter a quisling and the player a piece of meat, and other people were depressed because the people Bud Light commercials work on can still operate computers, and people compared the attempted education of poor kids to Wall Street.
quien es mas macho? always pick the man with the giant gold medallion.
When Doctor Saturday heralded this offseason as oversigning's moment in the sun I thought that was true, but that a lot of sturm und drang would amount to nothing much. A couple Outside The Lines pieces by ESPN and articles demonstrating Alabama players' remarkable misfortune when it comes to medical scholarships would move chatter from disgruntled blogs to media flamethrowers and people in Alabama would not care at all and fin. I might be wrong. It looks like the media pressure has moved chatter from disgruntled blogs to disgruntled… SEC power brokers?
"I don't think the rule we passed is going to solve the problem," Florida President Bernie Machen says. "There are still universities that will oversign and it's going to end up with a student athlete being left out. I think we either have to get the universities to be more serious about it, or the league and the NCAA are going to have to pass more stringent punishments for those who do oversign."
McGarity also said that Georgia football will not allow oversigning -- a practice that some programs participate in and is garnering more attention by both media and regulating bodies. “We will not sign more than 85 scholarship football players,” he noted.
That moved fast.
Once people in positions of power in the SEC start grumbling about a practice, the chance for a meaningful change has come. (Point to Braves & Birds for saying "the programs that ought to be the most aggressive in condemning oversigning are Florida and Georgia" since they're the exceptions to the rule in the SEC. The sources here are not a coincidence.)
That's especially true when the league just put in place some cosmetic modifications by capping letters of intent at 28. These didn't take. Journalists said "hey, wait a minute" when they multiply 28 by four and get a number that's well north of 85 but not well north of the number of kids most SEC schools have promised an education over the last relevant period. SEC schools averaged 27.6 signees from 2002-2010.
More importantly, you now have an SEC athletic director who's bluntly stating the real issue* and saying his team won't partake, and an SEC president who is on the warpath. There's someone calling into Finebaum right now and saying BUT PAWWWWWL, BERNIE MACHEN'S JUST DOING THIS BECAUSE IT HELPS FLORIDA. Even if they're right, being in a position to rail because other rich people are doing shitty things to poor ones—and you're not—justifies itself. Florida's Machiavellian brilliance in is in not being Machievellian.
So we seem to be at a point where kids complaining about getting booted off their not-for-profit educational institution's sporting team leads to action. The Bylaw Blog has migrated to the official NCAA site and provides some indication of what might be feasible to the current membership in a post on oversigning. The strictest version of his proposal:
GIAs to Current SAs with Eligibility Remaining Next Year + Signed Scholarships by Prospects ≤ NCAA Limit
In English this is:
You can't sign a kid to a LOI or scholarship agreement unless you have room right now.
IE, "the Big Ten." Hockey fans might remember Brandon Burlon not signing when the rest of his class did because he was ticketed for a full scholarship Michigan did not have at that instant. (He signed later when Kevin Quick was booted after he stole a teammate's credit card.) In football this is the Big Ten's policy—they theoretically relaxed it by allowing oversigning up to 88, but explaining where you will get the money is onerous and public and it's uncertain if anyone's actually used the option yet.
Even that's a little soft for my tastes, but it would be a massive step in the right direction. Today it seems like it's one coming in the not-too-distant future.
*[The NCAA's 25-per-class limit serves as an unfortunate distraction here because people point out that's an arbitrary rule no one should care about, which is true. If you have 30 open spots it's not unethical to squeeze as many players in as possible, and people attack that strawman as if you're trying to clutch pearls but failing to because you're deranged. Even when that's not happening there's no particular reason for Get The Picture to focus on 25 as a magic number.]
Understand decades of on and off mediocrity because no one is that dead guy
"Understand Michigan." Desmond Howard was busy blowing this up on the teevee a coupe days ago but that doesn't stop everyone in the world from writing columns about how the new guy "must understand the Michigan way" or "came to Michigan three years ago as a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt in an athletic department of blue blazers." Or the university must "regain its identity."
All of this gives me hives. We have learned that someone who naively enters and expects everyone to be nice, as Rodriguez did, is in for a rough time. All things being equal, Michigan should go with a Tresselian non-speaker who regards the media as cancer and bores everyone to death.
This is different than chasing some sort of mystical "Michigan way" that needs to be recaptured. The guys with a connection to the Michigan way before that meant always losing to Ohio State with occasional fun Horrors thrown in are either Jim Harbaugh (not coming) or Les Miles (plain slimy*). The Michigan way is dead, literally and figuratively, and Michigan needs a new way. They seem poised to repeat the mistakes Alabama did as they fruitlessly tried to replace Bear Bryant, ("Mike Shula has a vague connection to Bear! That's the ticket!") except in this case the most OMG BO hire would be awesome but isn't interested.
If Harbaugh isn't coming, just go outside again instead of shoehorning a guy into a spot he doesn't deserve and putting him behind the eight ball from the start.
*[Protests about this will fall on deaf ears. LSU just got hit with much more important NCAA violations than Michigan did. Miles cut a kid who had been on campus for months, offering a "greyshirt" he had never discussed with him. And he 1) cut a quarterback with a form letter, 2) refused to speak to that quarterback about the form letter, and 3) baldly lied about the kid at SEC media days. He's a media firestorm waiting to happen and he might bring Gary Crowton and he might make my head explode by letting the clock run out in the fourth quarter and he's reaching the age when coaches decline precipitously. Hoke is vastly preferable.
LSU fans currently making snarky posts about how awesome he is will be coating him in batter and thrusting him into a deep fryer at the first sign of weakness.]
Meanwhile, exiting… Brock Mealer on Rodriguez:
"He's just always been (portrayed) as a villain, and he's nothing like that," Mealer said. "He's one of the greatest guys I have ever met in my life, and I wish people would just acknowledge that. As little as I know about football, I know his character is much different than people played it out to be."
Someone punch Jeff DeFran in the throat, thanks. It didn't work out and there's plenty of blame to go around but Rodriguez was probably damaged more by Michigan than vice-versa. Is there any coach in recent history who's been fired and still has fans hoping he succeeds wherever he goes next as the media gleefully jumps up and down on his grave? Multiple people who were at the Brandon presser described the mood as "celebratory," or words to that effect.
As of yesterday, no Patterson contact. At least not according to Dennis Dodd:
Gary Patterson had not been contacted by Michigan for its opening as of Wednesday night according to a source close to the TCU coach.
Patterson, fresh off a 13-0 season and Rose Bowl win, is thought to be a candidate for the job left open after the firing of Rich Rodriguez by AD Dave Brandon. Brandon said earlier Wednesday he expects to move quickly to fill the vacancy but arguably the hottest coach in the country had not gotten a call 12 hours after Rodriguez had been let go.
Suboptimal. Or lies, I guess.
Speaking of oversigning castoffs. Michigan doesn't have a coach but the Blade is reporting that a Mike Marrow wants to transfer in. Marrow was a three-star fullback who redshirted at Alabama and then moved closer to home to "deal with the deaths of three grandparents" but could not get eligible at Eastern Michigan and now is looking for a new home. Marrow's two years removed from playing time and has a skillset duplicated by Stephen Hopkins on a team with plenty of RB depth and desperate need on defense—the chance he actually ends up at Michigan will depend on how shattered this recruiting class is on Signing Day. So welcome Mike Marrow, everybody.
Hoke in, Denard out? Hoke on the Oregon offense, which I will remind you is the OREGON OFFENSE and is playing essentially the Oregon offense in the national championship game:
When asked recently about the influence of Oregon’s offense, Hoke subtly revealed his disdain for the tactical shift Michigan experienced under Rodriguez. He is convinced that modern spread option offenses can be counterproductive to the core values of smashmouth football and are, therefore, to be avoided.
“Right, wrong or indifferent, when you’re zone blocking all the time -- when you’re playing basketball on grass -- you practice against that all spring, you practice against it all fall and then you’re going to play a two-back team that wants to knock you off the football,” Hoke said. “I don’t think you’re prepared.
“I think there’s a toughness level (required in college football). I still believe you win with defense. That’s been beaten into my head a long time, but I really believe that. The toughness of your team has to be the offensive front and your defensive front.”
(Oddly, that article is by Tim Sullivan. Not that Tim Sullivan.)
If you're eager to get Michigan started on a painful transition away from the offense they just painfully transitioned to, Hoke's your man. If he's hired we'll get some soundbites about flexibility but they'll be about as convincing as Tommy Tuberville's strained "hhhhyyyarrrrr" upon his hiring at Texas Tech. If there are coaches out there comfortable with the spread offense that's proven itself kind of good across college football they'd be preferable to a guy who professes disdain for "basketball on grass" and doesn't have the track record to suggest he's anything more than average at the other stuff.
And he's not even right. Three of the top four yardage defenses in the country play opposite offense that are pretty much basketball on grass: TCU, Boise State, and West Virginia. It's a bit different if you look at FEI but something like half of the top ten plays opposite a full-on spread: WVU, Missouri, Virginia Tech and Auburn are spreads and Clemson, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Nebraska use a fair number of spread concepts.
I'm not sure you were paying attention. Who's surprised Rodriguez is fired? No one except his players:
"Definitely I'm surprised," said Gordon. "I have a lot of love for Coach Rod. He's the guy who brought me here. He's a guy I definitely respected and I loved him as a coach."When asked what his future plans are, Gordon replied, "I'm here. I came to school for Michigan."Said Gordon: "Yes it is surprising, but it is what it is. You've just got to move on."
This explains something about or secondary.
The batphone rings. ALERT THE MEDIA
I followed Mr. Robinson for one day, which started at 7 a.m. with treatment for his swollen knee, followed by weightlifting, classes, an interview with ESPN Radio, more treatment, meetings, practice, a third round of treatment, dinner and study table. When he walked out of the academic center at 10 p.m., two adults who had been waiting all night for him in the parking lot approached him to sign a dozen glossy photos. I went home exhausted—and I hadn't done anything more than take notes.
FETCH THE DEEP FRYER
(Also that's a John U Bacon story on what went on inside the program that will become an undoubtedly fascinating book.)
Etc.: Penn State denies Bolden a release because Paterno doesn't have enough quarterbacks without him. This will end well. How Gary Patterson's undersized defense shut down Wisconsin. Yes please. Ever notice how it's always Carr's old players talking crap about Rodriguez publicly as the Bo guys remain mum? Nevermind! Of course Lynn Henning thinks Hoke is a great idea. John Niyo says let's wait for a new coach announcement before we hand Brandon over to LSU fans to be battered and fried.