Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blaming 'logistical issues' is easy but ridiculous

I learned a new formula this week: horrifyingly massive workload + sick kids + sick me = WANT DEATH. Ughgh ...

Anyway, the conference commissioners are starting to say various things about various things related to playoff scenarios. This is interesting for obvious reasons. It's also depressing because the things they're saying are not (entirely) the things I was hoping to hear.

This is from my post a couple weeks ago, specifically the part about the possibility of playoff games being held on campus:
This needs to happen. This soooooo needs to happen for soooooo many reasons, specifically the massive advantage for the teams ranked first and second (the preserving-the-regular-season thing) and the guarantee of actual fans producing actual sellouts rather than guys in suits filling up the JerryDome to create the illusion of a sellout. The possibility of this excites me to a ridiculous degree. There are also some obvious benefits to bowl integration (from a transition standpoint) if they want to go that route, but I hope they don't until the campus thing is thoroughly vested.
Yeah. That. I still want that. I'm probably not getting that.

This is from an ESPN story that came out earlier today:
If Football Bowl Subdivision conference commissioners and the sport's other power brokers approve a four-team playoff to determine college football's national champion, the semifinals and the national championship game will be played at neutral sites and the BCS bowl games will be played closer to New Year's Day, a source familiar with the negotiations told ESPN.com on Tuesday.

... A proposal to play the semifinal games at the home stadiums of the higher-seeded teams is all but dead, according to the source. The semifinal games will either be hosted by the existing BCS bowl games or opened for bidding. The source said it seemed almost certain that the national championship game will be opened to bidding by the existing BCS bowl sites and other cities such as Atlanta, Dallas and Indianapolis.
Lame. Before I rant about said lameness, I should point out that there are a couple of good-ish things included (at least implicitly) in those comments.

The first is the specificness of the details regarding scheduling/sites/bidding/whatnot. There's obviously been extensive discussion about the logistics of a four-team playoff to the point that it seems like by far the most likely end result of all this. The second is the above scenario's lack of reference to Jim Delany's death grip on the Rose Bowl, although ESPN's source says the Rose Bowl's role is still a matter of debate and that Delany, Larry Scott and the Rose Bowl people all "prefer" to keep the Big Ten-Pac-12 thing intact.

I'm skeptical anything's gonna come of that preference given Mike Slive's (correct) assessment of its ridiculousness:
A four-team playoff proposal that would ensure a Big Ten/Pac-12 Rose Bowl semifinal pairing ... prompted a smile from Slive.

"It's not one of my favorites," he said. "What we're trying to do is simplify in many ways. I don't think that adds to the simplification of the postseason."
You don't think? It's absurdly and unnecessarily complicated and is of no benefit to anyone other than the guys who make $500K a year to make sure the Tournament of Roses looks exactly like it did in 1930. I'm gonna be downright pissed if Delany gets that approved after apparently conceding defeat on the homefield-semifinals proposal.

Back to the semifinals, the stupidest part about the whole thing is the stupidly stupid reason for going with neutral sites. Back to ESPN:
The conference commissioners have reached a conclusion that some FBS schools' stadiums aren't large enough to host a national semifinal game and that many college towns don't have enough hotel rooms to accommodate bigger crowds.

"What happens if TCU finishes No. 2 in the country and hosts a semifinal game?" the source said. "TCU finished No. 3 two years ago. Are they really hosting No. 3 Ohio State in a 45,000-seat stadium? Where are people going to stay if Oregon hosts a semifinal game? In Portland? As much as it would be great for the sport to see a game played in Ann Arbor, Mich., Tuscaloosa, Ala., or Lincoln, Neb., some of the logistical issues are just too severe. I think that idea has come home to roost as far as these guys are concerned."
Ummm ... what? The point of homefield advantage is that most of the people who get to buy tickets are the people who normally go to the games at that stadium; miraculously, lodging and transportation are not issues for those people at regular games, even the ones that include College GameDay and LSU-Alabama-type media throngs all that stuff.

I went back through 10 years of regular-season-ending rankings (I got bored after that) and found that the smallest stadium that would have hosted a semifinal game if the four-team playoff format had been in place was Autzen, which has an official capacity of 54,000 but averages a few thousand over that. UNACCEPTABLE.

Because it'd be SO AWFUL if 20,000 random rich dudes got squeezed out of their $250-a-pop seats in favor of, like, actual fans, the kind who would either (a) live in the general vicinity as students/season-ticket holders or (b) fly/drive in and find a place to stay, just like the 10,000-15,000 visiting fans do for every road game at every major venue. Hotels exist; if Oregon hosts a semifinal game, people will stay at the same places people currently stay when they travel to see a game at Autzen.

BTW, the Fiesta Bowl (at University of Phoenix Stadium) and Lucas Oil Field both can seat about 63,000 fans; is it really worth stripping the freaking essence of the sport out of the postseason in order to avoid that once-in-a-century scenario in which TCU or Boise finishes in the top two and can only accommodate 50,000 people at a semifinal game? Not even the NFL Sponsored By Sprint on FOX Brought To You By Coors Light sells out like that; I know because the microscopic city of Green Bay has a football team and somehow does not turn into that city in Andromeda Strain when people go there in December/January for playoff games.

What it comes down to is obviously not "logistical issues" but the opportunity to sell luxury boxes and corporate sponsorships (including comped tickets) and whatnot. Any argument otherwise is so totally laughable that ... I mean ... ARGH. This tweet from MGoBlog's Brian Cook pretty accurately encapsulates my frustration:
The BCS is arguing college football stadiums are unprepared to host college football games.
Pretty much, yeah. And the alternative really screws the fans (as always) since it requires anybody wanting to go to shell out a huge chunk of money for a trip to L.A. or New Orleans or Miami or wherever for a semifinal game and then, in the best-case scenario, do the same thing a week later for the national championship game. Nuts to that.

I kinda blamed Delany earlier for "conceding defeat" but didn't expect much (and not just because he comes up with awful ideas like Legends and Leaders and the Stagg-Paterno Trophy); the on-campus thing was doomed from the beginning because it had no real voice at the table and plenty of voices against it. Delany's interest wasn't the same as the fans' but was more of a "this would kinda help my conference" thing, whereas the bowl reps have been sitting there trying to salvage the very existence of the entities they're representing and the non-Midwest commissioners just want to figure out how to ensure everybody a Scrooge McDuck-esque pile of cash (preferably without leaving the comfy confines of their 60 degree winters). Survival and cash apparently won, which sucks but isn't surprising.

The not-totally-cynical part of me thinks an imperfect four-team playoff is indisputably better than a two-team game pretending to be a playoff. The other part of me thinks about the stupidity of sacrificing games in Ann Arbor and Tuscaloosa and Lincoln in exchange for some luxury boxes and corporate sponsorships and then remembers this:


Monday, April 23, 2012

The Bobby Petrino story just got so much better

No. Freakin. Way.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- A person familiar with the decision says Arkansas is bringing back John L. Smith on an interim basis next year to replace Bobby Petrino.

Smith, an assistant who left the Razorbacks after last season to become the head coach at Weber State, is returning on a one-year appointment, according to the person who spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because the school had not made its decision public.

The person also said athletic director Jeff Long felt Smith would "unite" all the current Razorbacks coaches.
Because if there's anybody to smooth over a public-relations disaster, it's this guy:

This would be awesome if it were an Onion story. It's so much better in real life.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

This is why they can't have nice things

You'd think Alabama would know how to protect a trophy seeing as how they claim to have won like 483 national titles. Apparently not:
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- A piece of history from the University of Alabama's championship run was shattered on Saturday afternoon following the Crimson Tide's annual A-Day scrimmage.

The Coaches' Trophy from this season's BCS national title was accidentally knocked off its podium and shattered by a player's father whose foot got caught on a rug that sits beneath the trophy display.

The handmade trophy sculpted in Ireland is valued at $30,000.
At least it's not expensive or anything. I can only hope the entire scene was as hilariously entertaining as Real Madrid's not-at-all-alcohol-related trophy disaster:


Anyway, Alabama already has a replacement in the works; the original probably isn't salvageable based on ESPN reporter Alex Scarborough's tweet that said "here's what's left" and included the following photo:

Observation: That is not a crystal football. That is a shard.

I'm not sure exactly how the procedure works but assume that the shard will be given a medical hardship waiver, placed in the trophy case and designated with an imaginary national title from a 7-3 season. BOOM SABAN'D.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Catching up has lost control of the program

Aaron Lynch is officially gone: Aaron Lynch was one of Notre Dame's three or four best players last year as a true freshman; he's no longer one of Notre Dame's three or four best players since he no longer plays for Notre Dame. Details:
Notre Dame announced Friday that standout defensive end Aaron Lynch is transferring out of the program and plans to return to Florida, his home state.

"Aaron recently approached me about his desire to leave Notre Dame and return to Florida," coach Brian Kelly said in a release.
This is significant for a couple reasons, the first being that Lynch had 5.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss and 33 tackles last year after coming in as one of the top recruits in the country. He's not readily replaceable despite the existence of the talented-on-paper guys behind him on the depth chart, none of whom have done much of anything in their careers since they play defense for Notre Dame (zing!). The second is that Notre Dame is turning into Cuba; I've honestly lost track of the number of guys who have bailed in the past three months (Dayne Crist, Mike Ragone, Deontay Greenberry, Tee Shepard, Aaron Lynch, et al). All those transfers are explainable in and of themselves but are contributing to the ever-darkening cloud over Brian Kelly that won't go away until he wins and wins a lot.

The circumstances behind the Lynch thing were also kinda weird since Lynch had been making comments all spring about his homesickness and whatnot, which led to a bunch of rumors:
What started with an excusal from practice last Wednesday and Kelly denying that Lynch quit the team ended nine days later with the head coach beginning a last-minute press conference moments after Lynch's release by saying: "As you know, Aaron Lynch has quit the football team."

As for Lynch, word has it that he's headed to South Florida once he gets his release. Assuming that's accurate, he'd have to sit out the upcoming season (he's got a redshirt available) but would have three years left to dominate the Big East starting in 2013.

Obligatory Brian Kelly gif goes here:


I'm shocked and appalled: This is relatively old news now but is worth discussion: Urban Meyer had some issues at Florida, and by "had some issues" I mean "might have had absolutely zero control over what happened with his team."

The thirty-some drug arrests were pretty well documented but not as interesting from a football standpoint as some of the other stuff that The Sporting News published last weekend. A brief summary of said stuff:
  • Percy Harvin, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes missed the 2008 season opener against Hawaii with "injuries" that were actually failed drug tests. Relevant quote: “They were running with us on the first team all week in practice,” one former player said. “The next thing you know, they’re on the sidelines with a (walking) boot for the season opener like they were injured. Of course players see that and respond to it."
  • Conditioning was apparently whatever Percy Harvin wanted it to be. Matt Hayes relays an account from a former player about the team running steps during offseason conditioning when Percy Harvin sits down, refuses to continue and tells the coaches, "This (expletive) ends now." Result: “The next day,” a former player said, “we were playing basketball as conditioning" Hilarious.
  • The pure volume of failed drug tests is amazing. Name an All-American at Florida (other than Tim Tebow, obviously); that guy tested positive for marijuana at some point during his career or at the combine or both. And yes, this is coming from somebody who realizes that like 75 percent of the population under the age of 25 smokes pot. It apparently was so bad that Will Muschamp brought in Bill Belichik to talk to the guys he inherited about NFL teams not wanting dudes who are high all the time.
  • Safety Bryan Thomas was asked to "move on" to free up a scholarship after the 2008 season. He refused because he was on track to graduate the next year and threatened to "tell everybody everything" if forced out. The next day, he was given a medical hardship waiver. He ended up graduating (after three years), transferring to North Alabama and being named all-conference in each of his last two seasons. That's some Nick Saban-esque scholarship allotment.

So ... umm ... yeah. None of those things are totally shocking but cumulatively tell a story of something resembling a real-life version of The Program.

Meyer has since come out and issued some non-denial denials about how they were all "great kids" and there are "no issues with Urban Meyer and the NCAA" and blah blah blah. There's also no official comment from Harvin or anybody else other than some presumably disgruntled players who are talking about stuff that's pretty shady but not necessarily uncommon (lol SEC). Your interpretation of the story probably depends a lot on how much you love/hate Florida/Ohio State.

IMO, this quote from Bryan Thomas pretty well summarizes things:
“As far as coaching, there’s no one else like (Meyer); he’s a great coach,” Thomas said. “He gets players to do things you never thought you could do. But he’s a bad person. He’ll win at Ohio State. But if he doesn’t change, they’re going to have the same problems.

Ronald Powell goes down: Former uber-recruit Ronald Powell has had his ascension to awesomeness at Florida briefly interrupted:
The school announced Monday that Powell, who led the Gators with six sacks in 2011, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during Saturday's spring game and will miss four to six months.
Ouch. Powell had six sacks and nine tackles for loss last year as a true sophomore at defensive end/outside linebacker and was the defensive MVP in both of Florida's two spring scrimmages this year. He also was the consensus top recruit in the country in 2010; he's not lacking talent.

The question now is whether he's out for the season or if he's really only out for four to six months, which seems unreasonably optimistic since that would have him back in about September. I'm skeptical. Missing any amount of time will be relatively damaging to a defense that was really good last year but doesn't have a comparable pass rusher. The potential replacements are guys like redshirt sophomore Gideon Agajbe and junior Larentee McCray, who have pretty limited meaningful experience and nothing resembling Powell's raw talent.

It sounds like there'll be a more specific timetable after Powell's surgery, which won't happen until after the swelling in his knee goes down. Unfortunate.

Speaking of injuries: Colorado is down its best receiver:
Junior wide receiver Paul Richardson suffered a torn knee ligament Monday and will miss the 2012 season. The injury occurred during a non-contact special teams drill.
Richardson missed four games last year with a sprained knee but still had 39 catches for 555 yards and five touchdowns, and he had similar numbers as a true freshman. He's pretty good. Toney Clemons and Logan Gray were the other starting wideouts last year but are both out of eligibility, which leaves ... ummm ... ??? There are a couple of sophomores who got insignificant playing time last year and then nothing.

Given that the quarterback situation looks potentially disastrous and Rodney Stewart has finally graduated after roughly 11 years as the starting running back, adjust your expectations for the Colorado offense from "not good" to "craptacular."

Steve Spurrier can still be an a-hole: This is the OBC's hilariously unfiltered response to an ESPN question about his feelings on the South Carolina-Georgia game getting pushed back to midseason:
“I don’t know. I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
LOL WWWHHEEEEEEE!!! I have nothing to add here.

Mizzou is no longer color-distorted Michigan:
Missouri unveiled some new unis this week that aren't hugely different except for OMG WHAT IS ON THE ALTERNATE HELMET:

The block M is no more; this is not particularly surprising seeing as how Mizzou has been fazing it out for a while due to the typical association with Michigan (Jerel Worthy says hai). I'm on board with that aspect but think the tiger logo is a little overdone and would look cleaner if it had the oval outline that appears on the black helmets and the jersey crest. That said, as far as Nike overhauls go, this one's pretty benign since I can still identify the team, which is always a plus. I'm reserving judgment on the yellow jerseys until I see them in use.

More weird uniforms: Nike's creative budget must be running low since the only noticeable difference here is TCU's number font:

Meh. What's far more interesting than the unis, IMO, is the helmets that have lost the horned-frog stripe from front to back and replaced it with whatever this is:

That's ... like ... sweet? I'm neutral about the scale-type things but prefer the uber-purply purple to the last version, which was more subdued. Obvious observation: Anybody with purple helmets has some liberties not provided to Michigan/Notre Dame/Penn State.

STATUES STATUES STATUES: Auburn has some new statues. One of them is of Cam Newton, which I guess was inevitable once he won the Heisman and somehow got cleared by the NCAA (grumble grumble logic grumble). Anyway, these bronze things are about 150 percent of life size and weigh almost 2,000 pounds. I can't find an actual cost analysis, but The Auburn Plainsman estimates the price for each one at $100,000.

You're wondering where I'm going with this. Here it is: I'm amused that commemorating Cam Newton's awesomeness for all of eternity cost only half as much as Cam Newton himself.

That is all.

Trent Richardson is awesome: Just watch the video and beware of dustiness.

Again, Trent Richardson is awesome. Great story.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Every story ever written about a new defense

Editor's note: You've ready this story 3,000 times and know it by heart except for the names/locations, which I took the liberty of having my 5-year-old mad-lib for entertainment purposes (seriously). Lesson: Every new defense will always claim to be infinitely more aggressive regardless of what scheme is being employed or how good the last defense was. No exceptions.

BIG STATE UNIVERSITY, Your State (AP) -- While the offensive overhaul gets the most attention this spring at Big State University, coach Pink Panther is making a few tweaks on defense, too.

"Aggressive" is the word heard most from players when asked to describe the philosophy under newcomers Panther and defensive coordinator A Yellow Car.

"It's going to be a multiple aggressive defense. We're going to be flying around showing a lot of different looks," linebacker Lightning McQueen said this week.

Safety Diamondbacks has even loftier aspirations.

"One of our goals is to be one of the most aggressive defenses in the nation this year," the junior said.

Not that the Giraffes were slouches on defense under Panther's predecessor, Donuts. But Donuts employed a "bend but don't break" scheme that relied primarily on four-man rushes to get to the quarterback with the secondary dropping back in coverage. Opposing offenses tried to exploit Big State with short passes in space.

And for a second straight year, Big State finished last in the league in red-zone defense, allowing scores on 6,544,321 percent of possessions inside the 20 each of the last two seasons.

So fickle fans anxious to see improvement might enjoy the promise of different defensive wrinkles out of the base four-down scheme.

"Everyone's getting used to the new coaching staff and learning everything that has been thrown at us," defensive tackle Car Wash said. "We just can't wait to keep the train moving."

Wash figures to be one of the leaders of the defense next season along with McQueen, who is limited this spring as a precaution following last year's season-ending injury to his left puppy.

They're three key returnees who should help the rest of the defense get used to incorporating schemes with wrinkles like more disguised looks.

"It's just the spring. We're just trying to keep things a little more simplified," said McQueen, who is expected to return to full workouts by the fall. "There are a lot of places this defense can go in terms of disguises."

The most pressing concern this spring for A Yellow Car is finding 100 new starters in the secondary to replace last season's senior-laden defensive backfield. There is some experience, as three trains saw time in key reserve roles.

The other notable difference on defense has to do with terminology. The "bouncy ball" position on the depth chart under Donuts is back to being called the position actually entails -- stop sign.

"We're not talking about apples and oranges here. You still have to fly to the ball and make tackles," McQueen said about the changes.

"That's what you're going to see come Christmas."

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Before moving on from Petrino ...

Bobby Petrino: He be gone. The announcement was not entirely surprising given the apparently unending depth of weirdness to be found underneath the motorcycle thing (even if there were a lot of people who thought he'd be saved by having won a lot).

The two surprising-ish aspects of the presser Tuesday night were Jeff Long's revelation that Petrino was giving Dorrell money from his own pocket and this tidbit, which didn't actually come from the presser but got leaked at the same time, probably by either Long or the football SID:
Assistant head coach Taver Johnson had been placed in charge of the program while Petrino was on leave, and sources told ESPN.com's Chris Low that Johnson will continue to lead the program. The sources said Long has informed the coaching staff he would like to keep the assistants in place through the rest of spring practice and then open the coaching search to see what candidates are available.
Wooo May coaching search!

The interesting thing about that sentence -- which I might be reading way too much into since it's not a direct quote -- is the wording of the "what candidates are available" part. The candidates who will be available a month from now are the same ones who are available now; it's not a particularly thrilling list. The question is whether Long's talking about just posting the job and finding out which guys who do have a job are interested or if he's talking about taking the next month to vest the guys who don't have a job.

If it's the former, he's presumably hoping for a call from Garrick McGee, who'd be the head coach right now if he hadn't taken the UAB job a few months now, or maybe Gus Malzahn, who for some reason is coaching at Arkansas State but obviously has some Arkansas connections and might be the only realistic option who wouldn't represent a significant drop-off in terms of playcalling ability. Charlie Strong would be swell but probably isn't bailing on Louisville in early summer, especially given the Petrino awkwardness there. Same with Art Briles at Baylor, a program that just gave him a big-money extension after he built it up to something relevant out of a pile of poo.

If it's the latter ... ummm ... ??? Here's a name from ESPN Insider:
Butch Davis, a 1973 Arkansas graduate, has internal support from some prominent players in the university's machine, but he is a complicated candidate.
Hmmmm ... I'm intrigued by your ideas and wish to subscribe to your newsletter. I had no idea Davis was an Arkansas grad, but he's actually of comparable quality to Petrino, which puts him a notch above every other plausible* candidate. Whether Arkansas is interested is another matter; the whole UNC thing was kind of a mess and hasn't been forgotten considering that it just ended like a month ago. That said, he wasn't directly charged with anything by the NCAA and therefore has no show-cause or other limitations, so the only issue would be the PR one. Also, SEC win money win win blah blah blah. Davis would win. I bet he's gotten (or will get) a phone call from somebody at Arkansas with a lot of money and some undetermined amount of pull.

So that'll be interesting. There's nobody else particularly desirable in the "technically available" category, which of course is not the same as the "available" category (insert Todd Graham joke here). That might not mean anything in regards to Davis' likelihood of getting hired but definitely doesn't hurt given the timing of the search.

I don't have much else to add here; it's all 100 percent speculation until the coaching search either starts or doesn't start (possible if Long decides to hold off until after the season). Just know that the preference is finding someone a lot better than Taver Johnson and finding him ASAP.

*Obligatory ridiculous suggestions: Jon Gruden, Jim Tressel, Bill Cowher, so on and so forth.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

And that's the end

A decision has been made:

Bobby Petrino will not return as head football coach at Arkansas, multiples sources have told ESPN.com's Chris Low.

The university has called an 8:15 p.m. ET press conference, at which time athletic director Jeff Long will announce Petrino will not be back.

There's some vagueness there* that makes it sound as if Petrino might have technically resigned; it doesn't really matter. Long (the guy looking very uncomfortable in the picture at the top of this post) apparently decided the PR crapfest wasn't worth keeping the guy I called "the best coach Arkansas has had since Frank Broyles" a couple days ago. I will now reiterate my stance that the affair was overblown and largely unimportant in the big picture compared to the hiring-of-an-unqualified-mistress thing. I'm curious whether Long saw it the same way and thought the punishment was deserved or simply necessary given what this story has turned into (not that it matters, really).

So ... Taver Johnson will presumably be handed the interim job for the season, a season in which Arkansas had some massively high expectations that will now have to lowered just a tad. There's a reason Petrino is/was making $3.5 million a year: He's one of the better passing-game coaches in the country. I feel fairly confident saying that Paul Petrino (in his first year back at Arkansas) is not his equal in that regard.

A potentially useful tidbit about Johnson (and Petrino, I guess) from my post the other day:

He's also never been as much as a coordinator, which isn't a guarantee of failure but isn't a typical road to awesomeness either. It's highly unlikely he'll end up with the permanent job under any circumstances other than a Petrino firing followed by a BCS(-ish) season. The relevance of that is extremely debatable given that he might not ever coach a game at Arkansas; it's an observation that you can absorb/ignore as you like. The point is that there's no definitively capable replacement for Petrino as coach or O-coordinator, so Arkansas's status is heavily dependent on his.

Yeah. That. Petrino has a pretty-dang-impressive 75-26 career record and went 30-10 at Arkansas (in the SEC West!) after a relatively crappy 5-7 performance in his first year. An equal and available replacement there is not unless Johnson turns out to be Brady Hoke.

The good news: Jeff Long has about an eight-month head start on the search for a permanent dude. Also ... umm ... yeah, that's about it as far as good news for Arkansas. Not good times.

What a typically stupid ending to a Bobby Petrino coaching stop.

*Update: It was officially announced as a firing at the news conference because of a "pattern of misleading and manipulative behavior designed to deceive me and members of the athletic staff." Ouch.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Bobby Petrino done screwed up

So ... the Bobby Petrino thing (it's almost like I just typed those words). It's much, much worse than expected, which is why it's now the stickied-at-the-top-of-ESPN story I thought it should have been a few days ago.

The "much, much worse" part has nothing to do with the crash itself and everything to do with the passenger he conveniently forgot to tell everybody except the police about:

Petrino was not cited by state police and was described by troopers as cooperative after the accident on a rural road 20 miles outside Fayetteville.

What has him in trouble is his attempt to keep anyone from finding out he was riding with Dorrell, a 25-year-old former Arkansas volleyball player who he hired just last week.

Dorrell, who has not returned messages seeking comment, was previously a fundraiser for the Razorback Foundation before being selected March 28 as the student-athlete development coordinator for Arkansas football. She is in charge of organizing on-campus recruiting visits for the team, including initial eligibility for each incoming player.
Derp. And this was not an unfortunately timed ride home; Petrino (who's married with four kids) said publicly the other day that he's admitted an "inappropriate relationship" to his family, although he apparently didn't admit it to Arkansas AD Jeff Long until about four seconds before the police report came out:
Long only learned Dorrell was on the motorcycle shortly before state police released their accident report on Thursday. Petrino initially said he was riding alone after a day off with his wife at a lake.
He jus' keeeeeding! Lying to your boss about an accident involving an employee you're having an affair with: Always a good idea. Long is obviously less than thrilled and is saying ominous things about an "ongoing review" of Petrino's job status that might or might not be a step toward the firing of the best coach Arkansas has had since Frank Broyles.

Whether that hypothetical firing is warranted is a subjective matter that depends a lot on your opinion of affairs and not telling the whole truth and the like. There's an easy argument for it. There's an easy argument against it. I'm decidedly on the fence; the issue for me isn't the affair (a purely personal issue) or even the nondisclosure of said affair (which would be rather uncomfortable for everybody) but the fact that he had some sort of "inappropriate relationship" with a chick he just hired for a fairly prominent and presumably decent-paying state job. The chances of that hiring being based on her resume/qualifications and not the relationship-type thing: close to zero. That's not illegal but goes a step beyond nepotism, IMO.

Zoomed out, I'm still not sure that's sufficient to fire a guy (regardless of quality, which is probably a factor to some degree given that there aren't regularly Bobby Petrino-caliber candidates hangin' around waiting for a call from Arkansas). I'm also not Jeff Long, which means my opinion means absolutely nothing since I don't get to decide whether the affair/coverup/hiring awkwardness "adversely affects the reputation of the (university's) athletics programs."

Speaking of which, ESPN has a couple interesting legalese-specific outtakes. The first:
"That (contract) is very favorable to the university," said Matt Mitten, director of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette. "It gives them a pretty broad range of discretion in determining what negatively affected the university's athletic program or what they think in conduct inconsistent with the head coach."
The second:
"They kind of have a problem if they don't terminate for cause because then, if he subsequently does something else, it kind of is an indication the university didn't take all that seriously its ability to terminate for cause when it had an opportunity to do it," said Ray Yasser, a law professor at the University of Tulsa who specializes in sports law.
Valid point, although the same could be said for any coach who's ever done anything that could technically fall within the range of fireable offenses. Every situation is different, first offense, blah blah blah. Whether consistency/fairness makes any difference to Long is (a) the only thing that matters here and (b) totally unknown given his vague statements so far.

There are three possible scenarios here (unless I'm missing something): Petrino gets canned, Petrino gets suspended for some amount of time/games or Petrino gets some sort of private tsk-tsking that bears no relevance on Arkansas football. I have no idea which of those is most likely but am 100 percent certain which of those would be most problematic for Arkansas.

I will now copy and paste some words I wrote the other day about hypothetical concerns:
... if he's really in crappy shape and isn't physically capable of being in attendance, Arkansas might have some issues on offense. Petrino has called his own plays for as long as I've been paying attention to stuff like that and doesn't even have the option of continuity since O-coordinator Garrick McGee left to take the head coaching job at UAB about five months ago.

The guy who took McGee's spot: Paul Petrino. Whether that's a good thing or not is pretty tough to say given that the large majority of his career had been spent working right under Bobby until he went to Illinois and had one pretty good year in 2010 (45th in yardage) and one pretty crappy one in 2011 (85th in yardage). Those data points are (a) wildly variant and (b) have to be filtered through the stink of Ron Zook strategory, which means you should probably pay them even less attention than you would normally pay a tiny sample of unrelated numbers. Woo.

Fortunately for Arkansas, this probably won't be relevant at all; I type just to hear the soothing sound of my fingers punching keys. The most likely scenario (IMO) involves Bobby Petrino healing/recovering sufficiently to be back to his relative norm by July for fall camp, which yay happy times. The alternative scenario involves the healing/recovering thing not going so well and Arkansas getting stuck with some undesirable decisions about its 2012 coaching staff, specifically who's gonna be in charge of it.
The latter decision has already been made: Taver Johnson, who was hired just a couple months ago as assistant head coach/linebackers coach, is now the interim dude in charge. He came from Ohio State (he was cornerbacks coach under CheatyPants McSweaterVest) and therefore might be a coach-destroying witch. He's also never been as much as a coordinator, which isn't a guarantee of failure but isn't a typical road to awesomeness either. It's highly unlikely he'll end up with the permanent job under any circumstances other than a Petrino firing followed by a BCS(-ish) season. The relevance of that is extremely debatable given that he might not ever coach a game at Arkansas; it's an observation that you can absorb/ignore as you like. The point is that there's no definitively capable replacement for Petrino as coach or O-coordinator, so Arkansas's status is heavily dependent on his.

I offer no predictions here other than a conclusion by the end of spring practice (if for no other reason than Jeff Long's desire to not pull at his necktie for an indefinite amount of time), at which point an announcement will be made, Bobby Petrino will sit in front of a bunch of people with this look on his face ...

... and those people will then write a bunch of stuff urging me to THINK OF THE CHILDREN or give him his personal space or whatever.

You can now fast-forward to the end. You're welcome.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Jim Delany must have an impeccable lawn

PLAYOFFS PLAYOFFS TALKIN' BOUT PLAYOFFS. They're happening (in 2014). I've already explained the reasoning behind this in some detail; long story short, it's all about declining interest in the bowl system and an accompanying decline in revenue. Money wins, grass is green, etc.

Exactly how they're happening is the thing that's still up for debate. There were allegedly a gajillion ideas on the table as recently as a couple months ago, when the BCS Important Guys met in New Orleans and talked about various things such as cigars and monocles. There's another meeting later this month, and the pre-pre-meeting agenda shows an apparently remarkable amount of progress given the lack of recent face time.

Officials weighing changes in college football's Bowl Championship Series are focusing on four options, two of them incorporating a four-team playoff, an outline obtained by USA TODAY Sports shows.

The plans range from a long-discussed "plus one" format — after the bowls play out, selecting two teams to meet for the national championship — to a heretofore undisclosed four-team playoff proposal that could expand the semifinals to preserve an annual Big Ten-vs.-Pacific-12 matchup in the Rose Bowl.
O RLY? Nah, that's not sufficient:

Much better.

Anyway, options: There are nominally four of them, although one is officially titled "BCS with adjustments" (that's really what it is) and therefore is not really an option. It's pretty clear that a four-team playoff of some variety is the consensus, which means just reconfiguring the current system to eliminate autobids and tweak the timing of the games isn't a viable solution.

Here's the text:
Basically continue the current arrangement whereby no teams play more than one post-season game, with the following enhancements: (a) change or eliminate annual automatic qualification except for contracts negotiated between conferences and bowls, (b) eliminate the limit on the number of participants from each conference, (c) play the games nearer to January 1, (d) create a format that would accommodate different conference champions participating in different bowl games.
Yeah no.

The legitimate options include the following: a plus-one (mmkay), a four-team playoff (swell) and a "four teams plus" (WTF?). The first two are pretty much self-explanatory, although just to be clear, the plus-one would include something resembling the current bowl system (and not a seeded playoff system) along with some sort of undetermined selection process to choose two teams for a championship game afterward. The third one is totally nonsensical and exists only because Jim Delany continues to hold a position of unreasonable power.

Here's the official explanation:
Four Teams Plus. The four highest-ranked teams meet in two games except that the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions will always play in the Rose Bowl. If the Big Ten champion, the Pac-12 champion, or both are in the top four, that team (or those two teams) would play in the Rose Bowl and the other two games would be filled by the other four highest-ranked teams. Select two teams for the championship game after those three games have been played.
Translation: Jim Delany and the Rose Bowl are sittin' in a tree, marriage, babies, so on and so forth (yes, I am 7 years old). The guy has a Moby Dick-style obsession with keeping the Big Ten champ in the Rose Bowl at any cost. The cost here is the value of the semifinal games: What you end up with is not a four team-playoff but essentially a bastardized version of a plus-one that features three games, one of which might be an outside-the-confines-of-a-playoff matchup like No. 2 Oregon against No. 14 Wisconsin or No. 1 Michigan (obviously) against No. 2 USC (a game Michigan would lose because Michigan always loses to USC in the Rose Bowl). Either way, you'd have five/six team semifinal-worthy teams split into three semifinal-ish games vying for two spots in the title game, and in that scenario, basic math says somebody's gonna get screwed. In number form, 3 =/= 2.

This is why Jim Delany is awful. He's married to this idyllic idea of Big Ten TRADITION (all caps for emphasis) that isn't totally real but, in his mind, must be preserved in its totality at the expense of everything else. I mean, there's a reason the names "Leaders" and "Legends" are in place despite public polling showing something like an 80 percent disapproval rate, which is an amazing consensus for anything.

I like to envision him collecting pictures of cakes ...

... but not real cakes. JUST PICTURES!

The Big Ten does not need the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl does not need the Big Ten. Both entities have somehow managed to continue existing despite the (gasp) breach in tradition about 10 years ago that resulted in back-to-back Miami-Nebraska and Oklahoma-Washington State games. The Big Ten-Pac-12 thing is swell and dearly beloved when it produces Michigan-USC but isn't necessary, especially if it means lowering the conference champion's chances (even incrementally) of getting into the national title game. Trying to take a bowl game and cram it into a non-bowl-based playoff system is so totally impractical that I've decided to add the adjective/adverb "Delany-al" to my vocabulary just for deployment here: It's Delany-al.

As for the alternatives, I'm not a huge fan of the plus-one given the potential for multiple-undefeated-teams weirdness. Example: Take the BCS title game out of last year's equation and you end up with LSU beating somebody in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama beating somebody in (probably) the Orange Bowl and Oklahoma State beating somebody in the Fiesta Bowl. Adding a step would help provide some extra data points but wouldn't always do any of the settle-it-on-the-field thing; this would be especially problematic in the event of a TCU or Boise going unbeaten and not getting matched up with another playoff-caliber team for reference/elimination.

That could still be a problem in a straight-up four-team playoff, I guess, but the inability to find a perfect answer =/= the inability to find a better answer, and (IMO) the four-team thing removes the most possible stupid variables from the equation. BTW, keep in mind that they're working with an already-narrowed-down list here, which means my opinion of whether a six-team playoff with byes would be preferable to a four-team bracket (it would) and your idea for an awesome 64-team January Jubilee are totally and completely irrelevant at this point. The list is the list.

A little more on the four-team-bracket hypotheticals:
As laid out in the BCS summary, a more standard four-team playoff would be seeded and could:

• Fold entirely into existing bowls.

• Stage the semifinals and title game at neutral sites selected through a bidding process. A bowl or bowls could buy in, hosting the games atop their own annual events.

• Place semifinals in bowls, bidding out the championship site.

Or play semifinals at campus sites, again bidding out the title game.
This needs to happen. This soooooo needs to happen for soooooo many reasons, specifically the massive advantage for the teams ranked first and second (the preserving-the-regular-season thing) and the guarantee of actual fans producing actual sellouts rather than guys in suits filling up the JerryDome to create the illusion of a sellout. The possibility of this excites me to a ridiculous degree. There are also some obvious benefits to bowl integration (from a transition standpoint) if they want to go that route, but I hope they don't until the campus thing is thoroughly vested.

That's like Step 7,843 in a process that's at Step 2 right now, but at least it's been brought up. Note: I will retract (most of) my Jim Delany criticisms if he gets on-campus playoff games approved. I think it's safe to assume he's the guy pushing that one given the inherent SEC/Pac-12 advantage built into the current system. Make it so.

Whether that's likely or plausible or something further down the optimism scale is hard to say considering how little seems to have been decided so far; all anybody's saying is that "there are no favorites in the clubhouse" blah blah blah. At least there's an ETA:
"I think we're moving toward consensus," Hancock said. "… I still think we're on track for making a decision before the first of July, before midsummer."
That timeline would indicate a structural decision ASAP (presumably at the end-of-April meetings), which would be leaked within about seven minutes but would allow for the ensuing two months to be spent banging out the specifics like on-campus playoff games, on-campus playoff games and on-campus playoff games. Also something to consider: on-campus playoff games.

Let's do this again in a month, yes?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Catching up sells paper for 21 cents per pad

It must not have been that bad: Bobby Petrino was cleared to return to practice yesterday. He doesn't look so spectacular ...

... but also doesn't seem to be in danger of missing anything meaningful since he's got a full five months to recover before the games start and is already back out there kinda/sorta running things. Hooray for that. Protip: A helmet is strongly advised for future motorcycle adventuring.

Yet he was apparently getting by at LSU:
Morris Claiborne scored a 4 on the Wonderlic. That's out of 50. To be clear, the scoring is weighted and timed and not done on a standard X-correct-answers-out-of-Y-questions scale, but that is still so incredibly awful that it defies adjectives. Context: Vince Young's 6 back in '05 was previously the worst I'd ever heard of. Since you are now wondering exactly how hard it is to get more than six questions right, here ya go:

It should be noted that Wonderlic scores have zero correlation with football ability/success:
A 2009 study by professors from Fresno State University, the University of Georgia and Towson State found no connection between Wonderlic scores and performance during the first three years of a player's NFL career. The group studied 762 players from the 2002, 2003 and 2004 draft classes.
Swell. A 4 is still hilariously awful. Insert SEC joke here.

No news is no news: Florida and Texas re among the many teams with quarterback-battle-type things going on right now. LET THERE BE UPDATES:
“Right now, honestly looking at going through the spring, I don’t know that we will name a starter after spring," Muschamp said. “That to me is becoming more and more evident every day, that both guys (are players) that we can win with, bottom line."
FYI, "both guys" refers to Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskell. Driskell was the backup early in the year but wasn't very good and then got hurt about five seconds after John Brantley did against Alabama, at which point Brissett became the starter by default; he wasn't any better. They cumulatively provided Florida with 46.5 percent passing, two touchdowns (both Brissett's) and six interceptions (four of which were Brissett's). How much the Charlie Weis-to-Brent Pease switch at O-coordinator impacts the selection is hard to say right now. FWIW, Brissett is definitely more mobile.

As for Texas, Mack Brown is being similarly annoying vague:
AUSTIN, Texas -- Sophomore quarterback David Ash says he feels like the leader of the Texas offense.

Coach Mack Brown, however, still refuses to publicly declare a starter and says he's confident that either Ash or junior Case McCoy could lead the Longhorns next season. ...

"Case and David did some good things today," Brown said. "I think either one of those quarterbacks can run the offense we're running."
That last part is debatable. Anyway, there are some numbers to go on here that offer a little of the detail Brown won't: Ash started last weekend's scrimmage and went 5 for 6 on three drives, all of which produced points (two touchdowns and a field goal), while McCoy went 9 of 15 with a touchdown and two picks. From what I saw of those guys last year, that's pretty indicative of their pros/cons. Interpret as you will.

Oregon down another running back: The obvious downside of having USC-glory-days-esque depth at running back is the impossibility of finding sufficient carries for all the options. Result:

EUGENE, Ore. -- Sophomore running back Tre Carson has not enrolled in spring classes at Oregon and intends to transfer.

Carson's move was not unexpected after he had hinted that he planned to transfer earlier this year. Oregon confirmed his departure on Monday.

FYI, Carson's a bigger guy (227 pounds) and thus was never gonna be the feature back in that offense. He also didn't have the OMG DeAnthony Thomas recruiting profile -- he was a low four-star on Scout and a high three-star on the other sites -- but still siphoned away 45 carries (and went for 5.8 yards a pop), which almost matched Thomas' 55. He presumably would've gotten quite a few more this year with LaMichael James out of the way; the guess here is that he wants to be The Guy and correctly determined that it wasn't gonna happen at Oregon. No word yet on potential destinations.

Nebraska wants to be cool: Why stick with what works when you can do something that will almost definitely look stupid?

Tom Osborne doesn't want to get into the business of changing Nebraska's football uniforms every week. Or “do stuff that's really wild.”

But the NU athletic director who made few uniform changes in his 25 years as the Huskers' head coach — the all-red uniform worn in the 1986 Oklahoma game still gets scorn — confirmed that adidas, the school's apparel provider, is designing an alternate uniform for one game next season.

Since the “really serious discussions” about an alternate uniform began two months ago between adidas and Osborne, Nebraska's already vetoed one look proposed by the company. The uniforms will be “futuristic” but “not so dramatic that no one will know which team is out there.”
Sigh. At least Nike's not involved.

Speaking of which: Avert your eyes unless you really like the Bengals' alternates and are not a fan of Texas or anything that is sacred.

Yes, I know they're just practice jerseys. #idontcare #getoffmylawn

Monday, April 02, 2012

Bobby Petrino has some serious owies

So ... the Bobby Petrino thing. It doesn't sound so good; I'm actually surprised this isn't a bigger story considering that one of the better coaches in the country is hospitalized with major injuries after inadvertently taking his Harley (!?!) off-roading.

The damage:
A source close to Petrino told Joe Schad the coach has broken ribs, among other injuries, and is "pretty banged up." The 51-year-old is focused and determined to return to practice as quickly as possible, but it could take some time for him to recover, the source said.

In a statement issued through the university, Petrino's family said the coach "is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery. Our family appreciates respect for our privacy during the recovery and we are grateful for the thoughts of Razorback fans at this time."

The lack of details other than vague descriptions like "banged up" and "stable condition" lead me to believe he's somewhere just short of an 11 on this more-accurate-than-the-real-one pain chart:

Good work, Hyperbole and a Half.

I don't have a lot to add here given the minimal information available, but there are a couple things worth mentioning/speculating. The first is that Petrino does not have to play with broken ribs and/or a punctured lung and/or whatever else he's got goin' on; he could presumably sit in a wheelchair and coach the game from the press box if needed, and that might not even be needed considering that he's got almost five months to recover from what allegedly aren't life-threatening injuries. The second is that if he's really in crappy shape and isn't physically capable of being in attendance, Arkansas might have some issues on offense. Petrino has called his own plays for as long as I've been paying attention to stuff like that and doesn't even have the option of continuity since O-coordinator Garrick McGee left to take the head coaching job at UAB about five months ago.

The guy who took McGee's spot: Paul Petrino. Whether that's a good thing or not is pretty tough to say given that the large majority of his career had been spent working right under Bobby until he went to Illinois and had one pretty good year in 2010 (45th in yardage) and one pretty crappy one in 2011 (85th in yardage). Those data points are (a) wildly variant and (b) have to be filtered through the stink of Ron Zook strategory, which means you should probably pay them even less attention than you would normally pay a tiny sample of unrelated numbers. Woo.

Fortunately for Arkansas, this probably won't be relevant at all; I type just to hear the soothing sound of my fingers punching keys. The most likely scenario (IMO) involves Bobby Petrino healing/recovering sufficiently to be back to his relative norm by July for fall camp, which yay happy times. The alternative scenario involves the healing/recovering thing not going so well and Arkansas getting stuck with some undesirable decisions about its 2012 coaching staff, specifically who's gonna be in charge of it. I'm hoping for the former.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Don't ever try to play running back at Iowa

Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God is becoming ever more vengeful:
The father of Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri confirmed to Hawkeye Insider Thursday night that an MRI performed on his son revealed that he tore his ACL.

"Dr. (Ned) Amendola said it was the ACL, but the good news is that the rest of the knee is solid," Brian Canzeri said. "He's going to have surgery next week and hopes to get back into practice in September."

Brian Canzeri said that he expects his son to ease into things when he's cleared to practice and will most likely redshirt for the 2012 season.
This is just getting ridiculous. The Black Heart Gold Pants post on the subject is titled, "Jordan Canzeri Tears His ACL Because We Can't Have Nice Things (Or Running Backs)," which yeah, pretty much.

Canzeri has been the only guy on the roster with any meaningful experience since Marcus Coker left either voluntarily or not so voluntarily following a sexual assault accusation right after last season. Coker became the starter when Adam Robinson got booted after a drug arrest. Brandon Wegher would have been there to to take over if he hadn't been arrested and suspended; he ended up transferring to Oklahoma. Robinson took over the starting job when Jewel Hampton tore his ACL for the second time. Etcetera.

Summary: Iowa hasn't had a running back not suffer a career-ending medical/legal situation since the Shonn Greene era (!) ended in 2008. Again: This is just getting ridiculous.

Here's a disturbingly hilarious rundown from BHGP that was posted back when the Coker news came out:
That's fourteen defections by twelve players in seven classes of recruits, and that list doesn't even include Class of 2011 defector Mika'il McCall or Rodney Coe, who failed to qualify. Coker's class still includes De'Andre Johnson; should he leave, that would make it seventeen consecutive defections from fifteen consecutive players.

This is no longer funny. This is a plague, and it has no rhyme or reason beyond its indiscriminate effect on running backs.
Correction: This is no longer funny for them. The best part about the Canzeri thing is that it was so incredibly predictable that the now-tweeting AIRBHG (yup) declared its inevitability like four months ago:

Amazing. BTW, that Twitter account is utterly awesome. Location: "Everywhere." Avatar: epic. Responses: hilarious. Here are a couple choice Canzeri-related tweets from Friday:


As for Iowa ... umm ... yikes. A cursory glance at the roster shows a grand total of 28 career carries for 99 yards between everybody labeled with an "RB." In case you're wondering, 18 of those belong to junior De'Andre Johnson and 10 belong to sophomore Damon Bullock, who is now listed as the starter but will presumably be struck down by a bolt of lightning or whatever. Moderately highly touted recruit Greg Garmon might see the field ASAP if he comes in physically ready to play, although it should be noted that he just recently recovered from cancer (he also watched his family's house burn down several years ago and clearly was destined to play running back at Iowa).

I'll cede my closing remarks to BHGP:
Ah, Iowa running back: where opportunity is always knocking. But don't answer: it's AIRBHG and he has a crowbar aimed right at your knee, you sad, hopeless bastard.
That is all.
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