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I'm sure we all agree on a few things around here. To wit: USA #1. Love it or leave it. What makes America great, though? I think we'll all agree on this too: America derives 90% of its strength the NCAA men's basketball tournament. It's a fact. I read it on Bleacher Report. (The other ten percent comes from engineers on H1B visas.)
I was having a conversation with War Blog Eagle proprietor and NCAA tournament fanatic Jerry Hinnen yesterday in which we discussed the various and sundry ways in which expanding the NCAA tournament to 96 teams was an Al Qaeda plot to ruin America. In this conversation, Jerry expressed a hope that the "done deal" post Sports By Brooks threw up was a diabolical trial balloon to gauge reaction. It is then the patriotic duty of everyone with a platform via which to react to react.
This has been everyone's reaction. I haven't seen or heard one person, even in the depths of the contrarian internet or the murky fog of sports talk radio—where one guy suggested that Brandon Graham was a "second or third rounder" yesterday—who thinks the idea of expanding the NCAA tournament is anything other than evil. (I just found some on the Google now, which only goes to show that the Murray Chass was right about everything.) Some guy tweeted that the mere consideration of 96 teams is a harsh blow to this site's pet playoff proposal because it suggests the people in charge of things are soulless mercenaries who care about nothing but short-term dollars. It's hard to disagree.
Where are the crotchety old men? Rose Bowl curmudgeons, where are you in our hour of need? Oh. USA Today. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, formerly the WTA commissioner:
"In professional tennis," he says, "the temptation to increase playing opportunities and go for the short-term economic value in adding tournaments led to significant dilution of value long term and other problematic side effects for the sport. One day, you wake up and realize that, while each expansion decision sounded good at the time, you have lost what was once so special. Once you go down that route, it's exceedingly difficult to put the genie back in the bottle."
Big Ten commissioner and college football playoff bete noire Jim Delany:
"I think nobody would disagree that the 65-team, three-week event … has worked," says Delany, a former chairman of the NCAA committee that runs the men's tournament. "You have David vs. Goliath. You have all sorts of internal story lines year in and year out. It's compelling. It's one of the great sports properties in the world.
"I have no problem with looking at expansion, whether it's small or big. I only say that issue is one that must be managed openly and transparently, (and) I have concerns that it's not." …
"We know, in the first round, you have a lot of David and Goliath (matchups)," Delany says. "What happens when it becomes largely David vs. David?"
What say you now, Orson, that it's Jim Delany taking up cape and shield to defend the nation from enemies within?
Finally, the Onion:
America #1. Love it or leave it. That means get out, men pushing for 96 team tournament. Get out.
Just because that one guy missed them. And because there are a thousand tiny newsbits this week.
Goodbye , Mr. Crankypants. Jim Leavitt is the third coach this season to get the axe for being mean. When was the last time even one coach fired for being a firebreathing monster to his charges? Was it John Makovic? Surely it hasn't been that long. (Gary Moeller doesn't count since his transgression didn't have anything to do with doing something mean and crazy to a student.) Inquiring minds would like to know.
Anyway, while Leavitt's lasting bitterness towards Rich Rodriguez induces a Nelson reaction the cause of that bitterness might come back to bite Michigan. Leavitt tends to react to cheatin' much like Angela Bassett, so I'm pretty sure the animosity stems from Rodriguez's tendency to pirate assistants from USF. Rodriguez yo-ho-ho-ed guys from USF three times (OC Calvin Magee, QB coach Rod Smith, and OL coach Greg Frey) in just a few years.
Now one of those guys might move into the captain's chair in Tampa:
Florida defensive line coach Dan McCarney, former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville -- who has strong ties in the state from his tenure on Miami's coaching staff -- and Michigan offensive coordinator Calvin Magee are expected to be candidates to replace Leavitt, a source told ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel.
Tuberville and McCarney are both semi-retreads who were well-respected coaches terminated prematurely—McCarney led Iowa State to its only sustained success in forever—and probably have the inside track. But Tuberville might end up at Texas Tech and Magee does have more connections in Tampa than those guys. He's virtually guaranteed to get an interview since there's a lot of pressure on schools these days to informally adopt a collegiate Rooney Rule. He'll be a serious candidate.
Losing Michigan's offensive coordinator going into a critical season would be bad. Obviously.
Well hang on just a minute. That Chuck Heater rumor I dismissed earlier now seems considerably more plausible:
For the second time this week, the Dolphins have lost a key linebackers coach to the college game.
Thursday it was inside linebackers coach George Edwards who, according to a source, has resigned his position. Edwards, who the source stressed was not fired, will become defensive coordinator at the University of Florida.
This means that Heater is not going to be the defensive coordinator at Florida and suggests he might either be on the outs with the new guy—thus prompting the trial balloon rumor from Huntington—or amenable to a move back to his alma mater. FWIW, Heater and new AD David Brandon overlapped on a few teams in the 70s.
If they can add Heater it would be a coup. He's been coaching in college since two years after his Michigan career ended and has been a recruiting coordinator since 1998 (he lost that title for a promotion to assistant DC at Florida two years ago). He's almost always coached the secondary in his tenure, so it's a little bit of an awkward fit that would require Greg Robinson to handle all the linebackers, but Heater's positives seem to far outweigh that small negative. He has vast experience, excellent recruiting ties, and would be coming home. It remains to be seen whether there was any credibility in that newspaper report; here's hoping.
We has him. So I'm bringing this article from the News up with a warning to remember the wholesale politics ban around these parts. I think this guy is pretty conservative and thus inclined to like David Brandon a hell of a lot but still, sign me up for some despondency at his removal from state politics:
The precise reasons that University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman so ardently wooed Brandon -- deep management experience, sound personnel judgment, crisp communication skills and an impressive leadership mien leavened with a knack for building teams -- are precisely why Brandon will be sorely missed from the public arena that matters most in Michigan.
This 57-year-old guy who played for the legendary Bo Schembechler is leaving the field too early, long before he's done delivering his best play and long before the final gun sounds.
May Brandon's reign be long and profitable. John Bacon also has a classic Bo story involving Brandon.
It is happening.
Thank you. Darren Everson is, AFAIK, the first person to acknowledge that the Big Ten might not be a nuclear wasteland full of things that are bad at football:
In fact, the Big Ten does just fine year after year—in the early New Year's Day bowls that no one remembers. (It's the big games that have been the embarrassments.) Over the past dozen seasons, the Big Ten is now 13-11 against the SEC in the Outback and Capital One bowls. That is a winning record over a significant time span against upper-level SEC teams in SEC country. …
Another myth that needs to die: the belief that Big Ten teams are boring and stuck in the Stone Ages strategically. Northwestern put on arguably the most entertaining bowl performance since Boise State's classic Fiesta Bowl victory over Oklahoma following the 2006 season.
It's a delightful novelty when someone actual forms an opinion based on data coming into his senses.
Etc.: Three Penn State blogs consolidate into one borg blog. DocSat with sympathy for Colt McCoy. I would also like to extend sympathy to everyone who watched that eye-bleeding game in which both coaches seemed determine to out-caveman each other after the McCoy injury.
Is there a space ray of some variety that explains this? Mark my words: sometime in the next couple years Jim Tressel will be revealed as a Bond villain whose nefarious plot was to create and deploy some sort of negative PR black hole in Ann Arbor.
Unlike all other Bond villains, his plan has been wildly successful. It took freshly minted Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon two days to land a tiny cameo on the Colbert Report in the midst of a segment on Domino's ballsy decision to admit that their core product is terrible:
Getting hired as Michigan AD opens the floodgates. By this time next week Brandon will see a real estate deal go sour, various critical members of the athletic department leave for Arkansas, and a pack of velociraptors with digital recorders tear his tasty flesh into long, delicious strips.
Mmmm. Athletic director velociraptor horror bacon.
At least Brandon is well versed in admitting that the core product is a shambolic mess and taking steps towards actual pizza, be it in food or bowl game varieties.
Yes. This is happening.
Time to call Charles Atlas. Yesterday on the Sporting Blog I pointed out that the Big Ten's bowl performance was somewhere between good and outstanding, depending on whether you want to take peripherals like yards into account, and asked anyone else who writes about college football to notice. Whether they will is yet to be seen.
In the course of it I linked to Rutgers blog Bleed Scarlet's sarcastic reaction to the Big Ten expansion hoopla in an effort to prove just how much crap the Big Ten has been fielding since Ohio State faceplanted against Florida three years ago. When a team whose main accomplishment in the 141 years since it played in the first college football game has been not ceasing to exist is talking smack, you have an image problem that goes beyond rational discussion.
And indeed, Bleed Scarlet notes the post and responds with one of its own that ends like so:
Even if Michigan ever does improve to the point that Big Ten football isn’t a national punchline, the conference as a whole can never fairly receive enough ridicule and disrespect.
What the hell? BS's main complaint appears to be that more people watch Big Ten football even if it's Illinois-Purdue (which was on ESPN) instead of USF-Pitt (which was exiled to Somalia), as if this was a choice ESPN had instead of a long-term contract the Big Ten earned by virtue of having teams people like to watch on television. I mean:
That’s why it’s so maddening that even today, Brian celebrates that the Big Ten is on equal financial footing with the SEC – how is that warranted at all on the merits?
What merits? The Big Ten earns a lot of money because they have a ton of alumni, a culture in which football is important, and a history of success that doesn't evaporate because the conference has struggled through some tough years. Nobody votes except with their dollars and eyes. This isn't a democracy. We're not having a recount. Whine about a lack of Big East respect all you want when it comes to automatic BCS bids—not that the Big Ten has ever spit out the dreck the Big East has with its automatic qualifier—but complaining that it's not fair when it comes to money makes you sound like a fake nihilist with a nine-toed woman.
The Big Ten's recent poor run in the bowls have to do with six letters: USC, which the Big Ten has had to play just about every year since the Trojans can't be bothered against one Pac-10 opponent per season, and BCS, which has dragged more Big Ten runners-up into the big time than any other conference and set up unfavorable matchups down the chain. A few years ago 9-3 Texas played a 6-6 Iowa outfit that had gone 2-6 in conference. Texas won by 3, and somehow the Big Ten's reputation took a hit.
A name to ignore. Probably. I don't think this qualifies as actual information about the mysterious assistant coach opening for reasons that will be bolded. It's an article about Marshall's open defensive coordinator spot:
Is it Chuck Heater?
The University of Florida defensive coach seems like a longshot. Yes, he is the father-in-law of new Marshall defensive line coach Rich Cronin, but this is business.
That's why Heater reportedly is interested in Michigan's vacant defensive coordinator job. ... and vice-versa. Besides that, there still are rumbles about the possibility of Heater staying with the Gators as co-defensive coordinator.
Michigan, obviously, does not have a vacant defensive coordinator job. And since Heater is the "assistant defensive coordinator" on a staff that just lost its defensive coordinator, chances are he's in line for a promotion at a school that isn't Marshall or a poor season or two away from a coaching change. Heater has no history with Rodriguez or Greg Robinson—he's bounced around a lot but never to a spot where either happened to be—and wouldn't be getting a promotion at Michigan. At best he could be the assistant defensive coordinator. The only way this happens is if Meyer brings in a new DC who sweeps out some or all of the existing folk in favor of his own guys.
Harumph. This was covered somewhat in the recruiting post yesterday but a follow-up from me: six players, all on offense, enrolled early but safety Marvin Robinson and quarterback Devin Gardner did not. That's unfortunate because if you asked me to pick the two guys I wanted in early most, I would have picked Robinson and Gardner. I'm still hoping that Gardner can find a way to redshirt this fall—this news definitely increases the chances of that—but if Forcier gets injured, having a slightly more experienced Gardner could be the difference between Rich Rodriguez taking root and getting swept out the door.
That's still less likely to have an impact than Robinson's absence. Robinson is either a safety or an OLB (or "spinner"; from now on I'm just calling the two non-spinners MLBs and the spinner and OLB) and would obviously have been in contention for a starting job somewhere if he enrolled.
Still, it is good to have both Stephen Hopkins and Austin White in early; with the seniors out the door and presumed starter Vincent Smith laid up with an ACL tear that may last into the fall, those two, Mike Shaw, Mike Cox, and Fitzgerald Toussaint will go to war to be 1B to Smith's probable 1A.
Boo, but in a yay way. Hockey picked up a big commit for 2012 in forward Cristoval "Boo" Nieves, who the Hockey News interviewed about a month ago. He was the top player at the USA Select 15s and, FWIW, a guy on Hockey's Future relays that one of the OHL draft scouting services ranks him in the top ten. Apparently he has no interest in that route. That can change, obviously. Please allow me to go weep about Jack Campbell over here.