Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fairness and Equality, the NCAA way.

Before a snap had been played in 2010, "pay for play" was the theme of the year. The USC Trojans had been dismantled by the NCAA as a result of Reggie Bush's receipt of improper benefits. South Carolina had dismissed players who lived in a pricey hotel for less-than-marginal rates. North Carolina and Alabama were in the headlines due to a Miami Memorial Day party. At UGA, AJ Green was benched by coaches after word of the sale of his Independence Bowl jersey hit the newswire.

It's hard to say that UNC was a lock to win the ACC in the preseason, but they were sure to field one of the league's most talented roster - until (what was it, 17?) players were removed from competition to open the season. USC lost all steam headed into the 2010 campaign as the opportunity for a bowl and ten schollys per year were yanked away. Georgia's primary weapon, and the one sure target of an unproven quarterback was eliminated for four games - as were the Dawgs hopes for a title. AL did not suffer much from the loss of Marcel Dareus, but how much better could South Carolina have been with the services of NFL-bound Wesley Saunders?

And then, there were two.

The NCAA has taken a great deal of flack in recent days due to their apparent "preferential treatment" of a national title contender and a perennial conference champ. People want blood - but I have to wonder why. Generally, it's because there is an overriding desire for "fairness." These fans believe "my team suffered, why shouldn't yours?" Well, in the case of Auburn and Cam Newton, the reason is simply because there is no proof (exposed as of yet) that is grounds for punishment. Sorry, but hypothesizing about payment is not the same as agreeing to receive payment. If there is no paper trail linking Newton and payments for his services at Auburn, he can not be punished for any wrong doing. It's basic habeus corpus. If there's no body, there's no crime. The evidence is circumstantial.

Now, that brings me to Ohio State.

The problem most people have with the situation at Ohio State isn't so much that the punishment isn't fair, or that it doesn't suit the crime - but that the reasoning behind the specific punishment is unmitigated bullshit. Five games is a hell of a suspension. That punishment essentially cuts the season in half for these players, but it does not kill Ohio State's possible bid for a title in 2010. Now, some will say that the suspension means nothing to players like Terrelle Pryor who could be looking to go pro. They insinuate that all the suspension does is make the decision that much easier - that Pryor will definitely make the jump to the NFL now. Then, this morning, came the news from Jim Tressel that all of the players were forced to make their NFL decisions PRIOR to the bowl trip. According to Tressel, it wouldn't be "fair" for the players to be allowed to participate in the Sugar Bowl and then run off to the NFL. With that, the decision was unanimous - all five players will play, and all five will stay. (I'll forgo discussing the fact that Tressell has no way to force the kids into keeping their "pledge of allegiance" should the Bucks lose the Sugar Bowl, and they decide to jump ship).

So, let's see - what we're talking about is a five-game suspension in which Ohio State faces only two teams (Miami and Michigan State) who could possibly cause the Buckeyes to stumble in their pursuit of a national title. Akron, Toledo and Colorado simply don't have the horses in the stable to compete with the Bucks. But, Tressel and Co have nine months to prepare their team for those five games. They aren't going to prepare for the 2011 season assuming Terrelle and the gang are going to play, then make an 11th-hour decision to remove their best playmakers. No, they are going to prepare for life without starpower and then get it back in week 6.

By the way - week 6 of next season is the Nebraska game. Nebraska is probably the best team on Ohio State's schedule. Luckily, the profiteering players will be back on the field. So, OSU has the services of these kids for the Sugar Bowl. They have a win-able schedule during the time when the athletes are off the field, and they get all five back for the home stretch.

Essentially, there is no punishment for the University involved here. I find that amusing, since it was apparently the University's Compliance Department who was at fault in this case. It was Wesley Saunders who was at fault in South Carolina. Dareus and the UNC players were blamed in their respective cases. Green accepted responsibility at UGA. But at OSU, the "education" of the players was lacking. That's the excuse given for not suspending the players for the Sugar Bowl. The University didn't do a good job of telling players they can't receive money for their trinkets. Also interesting is the fact that the University did not self-report any of it during the season, even given the multitude of examples (prior to week 1) that this behavior was frowned upon. Still, the University receives no punishment other than the hit the statbook will take without the finagling five. OSU will be 5-0 to start the season. They will be in the hunt for Big-10 and BCS championships.

Oh, and they just MIGHT have Sugar Bowl rings to go along with it.

And what did it cost? Nothing but the decaying integrity of the NCAA.

- Go Dawgs

Monday, December 13, 2010


I've never met Will Muschamp, and as such know nothing of the man. I do know Kirby Smart. People have been saying Muschamp will attempt to bring Smart over to Florida with him. If this is true, then it already shows that as a Head Coach, Muschamp already has a handle on how hard it is to also be a coordinator. It's not something many people can do - and if you're going to take over the reigns of one of the most premiere programs in the country you will do yourself a world of good by not splitting your focus.

Many pundits are trying to figure out if this is a good hire. Will Muschamp be able to come in and rescue a faltering program? You know...that program that has won two national titles in the last five years. The one that missed out on a national title opportunity by losing one game in 2009. Yeah - that one.

Wow. Sometimes I wonder what the irrational head of a college football fanatic looks like on the inside.

Anyway, here's what I know about Muschamp. He's been hired in as a DC twice in major college football. He was promoted up to DC in the SEC and held the post with Miami Dolphins as well. In his two most recent college jobs, he improved both defenses in his first season. At Auburn, he improved on the Tigers' already great OPP Scoring avg of 15.5 in 2005 to 13.9 in 2006 (his first year). In his second year, the Tigers fell back to 16.9. Still, that was strong enough for Muschamp to be brought over to Texas. In 2007, Texas' Opp Scoring avg was 25.3. In 2008, Muschamp's first year, 18.8. 2009 - 16.7. The 2010 squad was the first Muschamp defense since his return to college football to give up more than 3 scores per game, coming in at 23.7.

Still, the data begs a question - does Muschamp do a great job recruiting kids or not? He obviously knows football. The immediate improvements show that. Whether it be by scheme or by attitude, when Muschamp has come to a new school, he has improved its defense. However, at both of his recent positions, the defense has fallen back off a few years later. Is this due to poor development? Poor recruiting? Is it possible that the offenses that face his defense figure him out after a couple of years?

I'm sure people will over-analyze the hell out of this hire. They will dig into all of the stats possible and come up with whatever answers they want to find. Here's what I know. Florida's defense gave up 21.1 ppg this year. That's going to change. Florida has the talent. They still have all of those great players Urban hung around to sign last February. Muschamp is going to come in and he's going to fix the defensive problems. Losing Charlie Strong was too much for FL to deal with last season.

For me, there's another big issue at play in this one. Whether or not Muschamp gets Smart (or is truly even looking to do so), the defense is going to get better. However, the offenses in the SEC have really picked up the pace in recent years. If Malzahn does indeed go to Vandy, you can bet the Commodores will have an improved look up there, too (*** I'm reading on ESPN that he has decided to stay at Auburn***). That means that despite Muschamp's best first-year efforts, points WILL be scored against his defense. This means his offense is going to need to keep up.

Who is he going to hire on the OFFENSIVE side of the ball? I think THAT is the big question. Does he go pro-style or spread? Is Major Applewhite up for the gig? It's going to be an interesting thing to watch. Also, how will these kids adapt to their third set of coordinators in three years?

Hopefully they'll adapt with an L in Jacksonville!

Go Dawgs!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

About Coach Joe Tereshinski:

People have been asking me about my thoughts on Joe T becoming the new S&C Coach at UGA. I've seen good things said by David Pollack and Kelin Johnson and a host of other former players. There's reason for that. Coach T is all Georgia, and he's of the "tough it out" school. He is, to my knowledge, not a strength and conditioning scientific guru. However, he is a film study guru and has seen the strength and weaknesses of the entire team play out all season. Reading what has been said about the situation, I'd hazzard a guess that the changes to the S&C staff are not complete as of yet. I think there is going to be an additional hire - someone who knows a great deal about conditioning techniques and the science behind it all. That's what I would think.

Coach T is saying all the right things right now. He's talking about a new approach toward monitoring nutrition and workouts. That leads me to a dangerous question - How did we let it get to a point where kids WEREN'T being monitored? I don't get that. When I was on the team, there was a head S&C coach, two graduate assistants and three or four student assistants as well. There was ALWAYS someone in the weight room tracking what we did. I can't imagine that this team would be organized differently. And at what point did we lose accountability? On our team, we pushed each other. Braxton Snyder used to kill me on the bench press. Sometimes I felt like increasing my strength was HIS goal more than it was mine. Do you get that? My teammates pushed me because they wanted me to succeed. Has that been lacking in our S&C program? I can't imagine that it has. But, it's either what you're doing, or how you're doing it.

Van Hallenger had an interview earlier this year where he mentioned that Alabama and Florida and everyone else aren't doing things Georgia isn't. He was saying that the schools all basically do the same lifts- and that is likely very true. Still, other teams seem able to batter us. So, something is definitely off.

I'm hoping Joe T can diagnose the problem and turn it around. I'm hoping his presence will be a solid motivational factor...because I think it's THERE where our team may have been lacking. Kids who are motivated don't skip reps. Kids who are motivated don't loaf. Kids who are motivated finish every drill, they finish every play, they finish every game. This is what we're looking for out of Georgia in 2011.

I doubt the magnifying class has ever been placed as closesly on an S&C program as it will be for UGA over the next 9 months.

Go Dawgs.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Has Pay-for-Play officially arrived to the 2011 signing class?

Isiah Crowell. I want him to play for UGA. I watched him play against my own highschool team (LaGrange Grangers GO BLUE!) on ESPN a few months back and I really liked what I saw. He has size, speed, good lean, good balance, good vision - all the things you want in a back. He was at UGA-GT wearing Georgia gear (no REAL surprise...what's he gonna wear in Athens, Bama colors?). For months, the speculation has been that he'll choose either Georgia or Alabama.

Until recently.

Auburn has suddenly entered the mix. Amid all of the accusations about the Auburn program and the lengths they may/may not be willing to go to get star talent, Crowell suddenly adds them to a list of potential players in the mix for his services.

For months, Crowell has said he will declare his college choice after the State Championship game, which he is hoping to win with his Carver team-mates.

Until today.

Today his coach announced that Crowell will now wait until National Signing Day to make his decision. The reason cited?
“Isaiah and his family want to make the best decision for his future and they feel that taking his five official visits will give them the best opportunity to evaluate and assess what they are looking for in a school,” McGee told the AJC. “They want to give each school a fair opportunity.”
So, whereas he previously believed he had it all figured out, today it comes out that he needs another two months to make the decision. They want to give each school "a fair opportunity." To do what? The kid has 50 offers. Schools have been working him for YEARS. So now, at the 11th hour, he suddenly wants to give five schools the opportunity to do something. What is that something? I don't know....but I think everyone reading this knows what's circling my brain.

I hope I'm wrong in thinking the timing of this announcement and the NCAA decision on Cam Newton are not coincidental. Look, I'm not saying Crowell is looking for a pay-for-play situation. I don't know him, and truly know nothing of him other than the fact that he is a stellar talent. It's simply interesting to me that the NCAA basically doles out permission to parents and other possible assigns of a student athlete to basically get into negotiations with boosters and high-powered alumni just so long as there's plausible deniability on the part of the university and the student himself, and THEN, a day later, one of the highest-profile recruits in the SEC suddenly opens his recruiting up a bit.

This is NOT a character assassination. I wish God had blessed me with enough talent and ability for schools to have competed for my services. Not so. I let my brain get me into a school I loved, and then I walked on. If players of Crowell's caliber have read the writing on the wall and now are seeking their own monetary fulfillment, I say more power to them. These kids are now learning at 18 that if everyone else is gonna make big money because of your abilities, you should be able to cash in too. They are learning that they should get it while it's good, because the opportunity isn't promised tomorrow. Think of kids who blew out knees as juniors and their draft status suffered. Think of kids with career-ending injuries, who were betting their livelihood on the draft, but then were forced to use a degree in "interdisciplinary studies" to get a job at State Farm Insurance. Why not grab a quick few hundred thousand and toss it into an interest-baring account? Or hey, since all we have to do is claim that the kid didn't know, why don't we just be more overt about it and buy him a new Escalade with the "money we found?"

Tony Barnhardt said today that the NCAA "got it right" with the Cam Newton situation, and I can understand his position. A kid shouldn't be punished for the alleged actions of his father and a booster - especially if that kid is, as a result, up for the Heisman, contending for an SEC title and possibly a National Title. With that kind of success, there's no reason to punish him - especially since there's no way he knew about it, right?

Here's my problem with it - if we're going to continue to pretend that we're holding some kind of righteous place in our sport for "Amateurism" then the NCAA needed to rule in a different manner. Perhaps they will at some point. Perhaps they will, after the BCS title game, decide that there is enough evidence "at that time" to condemn the actions of Auburn, MSU, and Newton. At that point, the most electrifying player in the country will have brought more ratings and more revenue to the sport - the NCAA and SEC will have gotten as much out of his playing career as possible (He's in the 2011 draft for sure) and they can rule harshly.

The only negatives at that point become a vacated mythical title, and the future careers of a bunch of high-school kids who thought it was suddenly OK to go shopping for contracts.

Like I said before, I certainly hope I'm wrong. I hope that Crowell's decision is based solely on the fact that he's a high-school kid who knows that he doesn't have it all figured out. I hope he has made his decision based on the realization that there are many schools where he might fit in, and he should really examine them all to decide which one is the BEST fit. I hope he has made his decision based on what will be best for his long-term future, and in the end, I hope he makes the decision to come to Georgia.

I just hope he hasn't made the decision that we need to pay for it. Cause I don't think we will.

Go Dawgs.