Saturday, August 13, 2011

Catching up just needs an invitation

Texas A&M is ready to go (for real this time): According to ESPN, a decision has been made at A&M:
Texas A&M intends to move from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference, where it hopes to begin play in 2012, school officials have said.

After 15 years in the Big 12, Texas A&M has been considering the switch for the second time in a year.

A high-ranking source within Texas A&M confirmed to ESPN's Doug Gottlieb on Saturday morning the Aggies were poised to join the SEC. The San Antonio Express-News reported the time frame of their tentative plans to begin competition.
While that sounds definitive, there's still one minor detail: A&M doesn't have an official invitation yet. There'll reportedly be an SEC meeting Sunday to discuss/vote on the situation, but ESPN cites an SEC source as saying that there's "a 30 percent to 40 percent chance the Aggies would not get enough votes for an invitation to the league."

Take that FWIW, because I have a hard time believing that the SEC would shoot this thing down after extensive behind-closed-door negotiations that led to A&M burning a whole bunch of fragile bridges. That'd be very uncool. It sounds like the real uncertainty relates to the so-far-unknown 14th team and what the next step would be if A&M does get an invitation. This quote was particularly interesting:
"We realize if we do this, we have to have the 14th," the SEC official said. "No name has been thrown out. This thing is much slower out of the chute than the media and blogs have made it."
Ouch -- he's obviously referring to me. And I wonder where this other guy is getting his information:
The SEC now likely will pursue Florida State, Clemson and Missouri, a source told ESPN.
As I mentioned yesterday, I'd think Oklahoma and Florida State would have to be at the top of any realistic list, but maybe Oklahoma has been adamant about sticking around in the ever-shrinking Big 12. Missouri seems like an odd choice -- they're probably having a party in their pants right now just thinking about the possibility. Clemson would be of similar quality to Missouri but would at least be a very natural geographical fit, sliding right into the SEC East with South Carolina.

It's a little surprising that the scenario hasn't even been seriously discussed yet (assuming the aforementioned SEC official is telling the truth); that seems like something you'd want to explore before approving a fifth wheel 13th team ... although given all the legal maneuvering and difficulties involved in getting one team, let alone two, maybe it's best to take things one step at a time.

As for A&M, it sounds like there'll be a decision Sunday as to whether an invitation will be extended. If/once that happens, I doubt there will be anything the Big 12 or anybody else can do to stop the inevitable.

Howard Schnellenberger to retire: Anyone under the age of 30 younger than me has little to no recollection of Howard Schnellenberger as a relevant name in the coaching world. But the guy who did the following things ...
  • Ran the offense for the perfect 17-0 Miami Dolphins
  • Built the Miami program that became a juggernaut before Jimmy Johnson and Dennis Erickson rode it to bigger and better things
  • Came back to college to start from scratch a Florida Atlantic program that has been better than respectable for most of its 10 years of existence
... definitely deserves some recognition, and now's a good time since he announced this week that he'll be stepping down at the end of the season following his 52nd year (!) in coaching.

His 57-63 record at FAU obviously doesn't tell much of the story; keep in mind that when Schellenberger got to Miami, the football program was nothing -- it was on the verge of elimination because it was completely irrelevant -- and he turned it into an absolute powerhouse in the span of about five years. He might have gone down as a JoePa-type figure there had he not made the not-so-good-in-hindsight decision to walk away after winning the 1983 national title to take a job with ... drumroll ... a yet-to-be-named USFL team that was supposed to play in Miami but ended up relocating to Orlando and never played a game under Schnellenberger. D'oh.

Schnellenberger went back to college to coach at Louisville and turned a crappy program into something much better toward the end (he left in 1994), then went to Oklahoma for one disappointing season before stepping down and leaving coaching until 2001, when FAU came looking for somebody who knew how to run a football team.

The guy is now 77 and is still outcoaching most of the Sun Belt, which might not be much of an accomplishment but is a nice cherry on top of a damn impressive career. He'll retire with an overall record a little north of .500 (he's currently 157-140) and the gratitude of three schools that were a lot better when he left than before he got there.

ASU loses Brandon Magee for the season: I was thiiiis close to going down to ASU's scrimmage on Saturday, but I stayed up too late Friday night and didn't have the energy and therefore missed out on watching outside linebacker Brandon Magee suffer a horrific, season-ending tear to his left Achilles tendon.

If you're not familiar, Magee is somewhere between above average and good: D-coordinator Craig Bray told me last week that Magee was the most consistent linebacker on the team last year, and he didn't mean it as a backhanded compliment or a slap at Vontaze Burfict's always-hilarious antics.

Fortunately, linebacker is/was the one position on defense where ASU still had some depth -- senior Oliver Aaron is the nominal backup, and both he senior Colin Parker are talented and experienced enough to fill in without a massive drop-off -- but the pure volume of significant losses on defense is gonna take a toll at some point. Just since spring, ASU has lost All-American corner Omar Bolden (torn ACL), defensive end James Brooks (left program for personal reasons) and now Magee. The starting unit has gone from "really good" to "probably good," and the depth has gone from "fine" to "nonexistent." At this point, any serious injury at any position is going to represent a massive and potentially devastating hit to that particular unit.

ASU is probably still the best team (other than USC) in the division, but the big goals -- Rose Bowl, national championship, etc. -- all require getting past Oregon at least once and probably twice, and that's looking less realistic than ever.

Corwin Brown hospitalized after suicide attempt: This is such an odd and sad story. Former Notre Dame defensive coordinator and 1992 Michigan team captain Corwin Brown was involved in a lengthy standoff at his home in Indiana on Friday, and it only ended when he shot himself in the head. He's obviously been hospitalized; it's not clear if his life is in danger.

The standoff started with some sort of domestic dispute that involved shots being fired, and after his wife and kids made it out of the house, this happened:
Brown asked to talk to several friends during the standoff. Shortly before it ended, someone could be heard saying through the bullhorn: "Be a Michigan man today. Step up to your obligation."

Several seconds later the person said: "Please don't let me down. Please!"

Moments later, a fire truck and ambulance rushed to the front of the house.
That's just gut-wrenching. Brown's only 41, by the way, and nobody seems to know (or is saying publicly) what's going on in his life. Whatever it is, hopefully he can get through it.

Cincinnati goes overboard: OK, so I realize that black helmets are the new cool thing to do (for some reason), but Cincinnati is taking things to the EXTREME SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM:

Yeah ... ummm ... didn't Cincinnati already have black helmets? I'm not sure the black-on-black "C" is even gonna be visible on TV or from the stands, and if it's not, what's the point?

Gotta be different grumble grumble get off my lawn grumble.

Penn State players live in excruciating fear: The fact that I got to the middle of the fourth sentence of this story (which someone emailed to me) before realizing that it was pure Onion brilliance and not an actual article says something about the subject:

STATE COLLEGE, PA—Hospitalized after a receiver crashed into him on the field last Sunday, Joe Paterno’s return to practice Wednesday came as a vast relief to Penn State players, all of whom live in constant fear of being the one who inevitably kills the 84-year-old head coach.

"Every game, every quarter, every down, I’m terrified I might be the one who kills Joe Paterno," said junior wideout Curtis Drake, who now refuses to run sideline routes. "It’s not just playing football, either. The tough part is all the little things, like staying 3 feet from him when he's talking so you don't use up all the oxygen in the air, and making sure he's not standing in your shadow, where he could get cold."

I have nothing to add here.

Kevin Wilson isn't amused: A little background on this story: New Indiana coach Kevin Wilson agreed to do an interview with Indianapolis radio hosts Dominic Zaccagnini and Jack Trudeau, who's a former Illinois quarterback. When they introduced Wilson for his interview, the Indiana fight song was playing and Trudeau wisecracked, "Of course, when I played Indiana, they didn't play this song very often, because I don't remember them even scoring against us. Ha ha." That didn't go over so well:

Zaccagnini: You sound like you've been doing some screaming at practice, coach. Are we yelling at the players already?

Wilson: No, we're yelling at media guys that don't have a clue. ... Y'all were referring to fight songs, I remember (Indiana) putting 61 on the Illini back when I was at Northwestern, and they kind of stunk at the time, too. Anyway, I got some things to do, guys. What do you guys need?

Zaccagnini: Here's how you can help us. Tell us how you're going to get IU into a bowl game. They haven't been in three straight years —

Wilson: I think the magic number's winning six games —

Zaccagnini: — I don't want to define your tradition, so you do that —

Wilson: —and the key to doing that is scoring more points than the opposition, playing defense and (the) kicking game. ...

I take a little pride in winning at Northwestern, winning a Big Ten championship. Take a little pride in being at little Miami (Ohio) and beating North Carolina and Virginia Tech and Northwestern when they're ranked. Take a little pride in doing a good job up here. That's what we're looking forward to doing.

Trudeau: Coach, I don't appreciate your attitude, really. We do have a radio show and we do have to entertain and if you don't understand that, then… I'm a little disappointed in a school that needs to have some publicity, some good publicity go your way. I'm a little surprised at your attitude, coach.

Zaccagnini: I'm a little shocked too—

Wilson: I'm trying to take a little pride —

Zaccagnini: — I'm not sure how much in demand you are with the media.

That was basically the end of it, as the radio guys hung up shortly thereafter because they were just shocked and appalled that Wilson didn't wanna participate in laughing at his new school. Dr. Saturday came down pretty hard on Wilson for not having a sense of humor, but I don't blame him. The "hur hur your school sucks" schtick probably isn't that amusing when you're the guy responsible for making it not suck.


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