Monthly Archives: December 2010

Explain to me how they finished 6-6, again?

From Jerry Hinnen’s Liberty Bowl preview:

… Because while UCF might have several awfully solid players, Georgia has several All-Americans. Houston led the SEC in sacks, finished second in tackles-for-loss, and was a finalist for multiple national awards; Murray might be the only freshman quarterback in the country to have had an even more impressive season than Godfrey, posting an incredible 24-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio; and Green might be the most purely talented college receiver since Larry Fitzgerald. And even aside from their headlining stars, Georgia can boast an offensive line packed with both experience and future NFL players like senior tackle Clint Boling; dangerous skill position weapons like tight end Orson Charles and running back Washaun Ealey; maybe the nation’s best pair of specialists in punter Drew Butler and cannon-legged kicker Blair Walsh; kickoff returner Brandon Boykin, who’s taken four kicks to the house the past two seasons; two steady senior linebackers in Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble; etc.

All of that talent means it’s something of a mystery how Georgia ever wound up at .500, though plain old bad luck in the form of poorly-timed fumbles and critical defensive breakdowns in close games — the Dawgs went 0-3 in games decided by 7 points or fewer — probably had something to do with it. Their average per-play margin of +1.2 (6.4 gained per snap, 5.2 allowed) ranked first by a wide margin in the SEC East and fourth in the conference behind the leagues’ two BCS teams and Alabama. In short, this is a team that’s been much better than their place in the SEC standings (or their Liberty berth) would indicate, and if they play to that same standard, they should have enough to overpower the less-talented Knights.

Sadly, it’s not going to surprise me if the Dawgs struggle to win tomorrow.  Even though they shouldn’t.

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Filed under Georgia Football

The NCAA, proudly protecting amateurism from amateurs

The day after, Mark Emmert’s poo-flinging response to those critical of the decision to allow the Ohio State players involved in rules violations to retain their eligibility for the upcoming Sugar Bowl remains no less perplexing.  The coda – “Money is not a motivator or factor as to why one school would get a particular decision versus another. Any insinuation that revenue from bowl games in particular would influence NCAA decisions is absurd, because schools and conferences receive that revenue, not the NCAA” – sounds borderline delusional when juxtaposed against the admission of the Sugar Bowl’s CEO that he lobbied for that precise outcome.

But wait, it gets worse.  Exactly how do you square the line the NCAA draws here

… While efforts are being championed by NCAA President Mark Emmert to further clarify and strengthen recruiting and amateurism rules when benefits or money are solicited (but not received), current NCAA rules would be violated and students declared ineligible should a parent or third party receive benefits or money, regardless of the student’s knowledge.

Put simply, had Cam Newton’s father or a third party actually received money or benefits for his recruitment, Cam Newton would have been declared ineligible regardless of his lack of knowledge.

with Casey Martinez’ conveniently timed business opportunity (h/t Team Speed Kills)?

Casey Martinez had a deal with Nebraska nearly a year before his football-playing son, Taylor, did.

The father of Nebraska’s starting quarterback owns the sports apparel company Corn Fed, and he entered into a licensing agreement with the university’s athletic program about a year before his son committed to play football for the Cornhuskers.

Answer:  the NCAA basically doesn’t have a damned clue.

… Both Casey Martinez and Nebraska’s Stephens said the licensing deal had nothing to do with Taylor’s college choice.

In an e-mail, Casey said he was in discussions with universities about licensing deals “when Taylor was a 115-pound 9th grade student.” Stephens said the school made its decision “based on retail interest and fit of Corn Fed brand with our Cornhuskers brand.”

By terms of the agreement, Nebraska gets a 10% royalty on all Corn Fed products it sells. That, according to Stephens, has been less than $500 over a period of more than three years.

The NCAA said the business partnership does not violate college rules, but spokesman Erik Christianson acknowledged such deals “could raise concerns” about recruiting inducements.

No kidding.

All of which brings me to this fascinating debate between Aron White and Greg McGarity.

… Those incidents have led to a debate: Should players actually be allowed to do what they want with those gifts or their own game apparel? Many say yes, including some Georgia players.

“I think if they give it to us, I think it’s ours,” Georgia tight end Aron White said. “In my opinion, you should be able to do whatever you want with it. If yours is more valuable than somebody else’s, that’s because of what you’ve done in your life, in your career, that you’ve worked hard for.”

White said he has had this very debate, including the larger one over whether players should be paid, many times with administrators at Georgia. One of them may have been athletics director Greg McGarity, who presented the NCAA’s reason for having the rule: The chance that unsavory agents or boosters would exploit it.

“What would stop a booster from saying, ‘Hey, I’ll buy your jersey for 50 grand’?” McGarity said. “So that’s why I think it’s in place.”

Sorry, but I think White has the better argument here.  If the real concern is about unsavory agents or boosters overpaying for an item to gain influence, set an official market value for the item, or sell it through the school and split the revenue with the player.  There are ways to control the abuse, if the NCAA is of a mind to do so.

Then there’s this rather curious comment from McGarity.

… There’s also a principle involved, McGarity added.

“Those are keepsakes, kind of like championship rings. If you want to give them to fathers, brothers and family members, I think that’s fine,” he said. “But once you start putting them on E-bay, I think it just kind of cheapens the award, lessens it, and gets it in the hands of the wrong people.”

I understand how that may offend his personal sense of aesthetics, but what exactly does any of that have to do with the stated goal of preserving student-athletes’ amateurism?  And how is it any more offensive for a player to do that during his college career than afterward?  If McGarity doesn’t want to run the risk of the award being cheapened, there’s a simple way to prevent that from happening – don’t give it out in the first place.

I’m not convinced that paying a stipend to college players is a viable option for a number of reasons, but I do find my free market sensibilities offended by schools’ sanctimoniously telling their student-athletes that it’s wrong for them to trade on their names while they engage in the very same practice.  Sadly, what this all really comes off looking like is little more than the NCAA and its member institutions cutting off competition.

So, you tell me who comes off as the more sensible here, Mark Emmert or Aron White.

“I really think a lot of times that the benefits the university receives far outweigh what the college athlete receives,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s a best way to do it. I don’t know how to do it. But I do think a lot of times the student-athlete is put at a disadvantage because we don’t have the time to work, we have full schedules, we have a full academic load, a full athletic load. And beyond that, we still have to try to have time to have a life, to have a social life, to go out and meet people and mingle. …

“So it’s hard. I know they have to protect amateurism and all that. But at the same time it’s not really their property, it’s your property.”

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Thursday morning buffet

There aren’t too many buffet opportunities left for 2010, so dig in.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Crime and Punishment, Gators, Gators..., General Idiocy, Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, Mike Leach. Yar!, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

Mark Emmert doesn’t think we can handle the truth.

One thing’s becoming pretty clear.  Mark Emmert is a thin-skinned dude.

Several media and others recently concluded that very different situations involving student-athlete eligibility should be considered independent of their unique circumstances or interpreted with a “one size fits all” approach.

In particular, they are comparing recent decisions involving The Ohio State University and Auburn University (and others). Some have even suggested the NCAA plays favorites in these types of situations based in part or in whole on financial considerations.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

There’s an “Again, this strays from the truth”, an “another myth with no basis in fact” and an “Any insinuation… is absurd” tossed in for good measure, in case you’re wondering how big a hissy fit Emmert is having over this.

If I can pick at just one bone in the pronouncement though, how do we reconcile this…

In relation to the decision last week involving rules violations with football student-athletes at Ohio State, several current student-athletes were interviewed as part of our fact-gathering process. They indicated they were not aware there was a violation and learned of the issue based on later rules education, which was confirmed by OSU through interviews and supporting documentation.

Inadequate rules education is often cited in student-athlete reinstatement and other waiver cases…

with this statement from a former teammate of the suspended Ohio State players?

… Also in question is Smith’s comments the suspended players “didn’t know” they weren’t allowed to sell their Ohio State-issued items.

One former Buckeye, Euclid graduate Thaddeus Gibson, is questioning Smith’s statements. Gibson was signed by the 49ers this season after being cut by the Steelers, the team that drafted him in last April’s NFL draft.

Gibson told The Lantern, OSU’s student newspaper, last weekend he and the team were told often not to sell their personal items.

“Oh yeah, they (Smith and the coaches) talked about it a lot,” Gibson said.

That’s a pretty big contradiction there.  Either the NCAA’s fact-gathering process could stand a little polishing or the decision makers who based their ruling on that process could.  “Nothing could be farther from the truth” doesn’t really cut it as a definitive report.  As a fan of one of those “and others” institutions that took it on the chin from the NCAA earlier this year, I’d sure like to hear a specific explanation about how A.J. Green’s situation differed from Terrelle Pryor’s.

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UPDATE: Or, to put it another way

I also wonder what Georgia and its star receiver, A.J. Green, must be thinking right now.

If there is indeed such a thing as selective suspensions, which obviously there is, why was Green not allowed to play in some of those tougher SEC games to begin the season against South Carolina, Arkansas and Mississippi State and then sit out that stretch that included Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky?

He sold one of his game jerseys and was saddled with a four-game suspension that began immediately.

More and more, it’s starting to sound like the way to go for players is to plead ignorance, that they didn’t know a certain rule was in place or that they didn’t know a family member was shopping them to a school.

This latest ruling with the Ohio State players sets another dangerous precedent.

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UPDATE #2: Seth Emerson asks a question that’s been on my mind.

… If the jersey-selling incident were only coming up now, and Green (having played all season) was on the verge of winning the Heisman, and Georgia was in a BCS game, would the NCAA have still doled out a four-game suspension, starting immediately?

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Filed under The NCAA

To have and have not

Pretty stark contrast here:

The profit for the 68 teams that play in the six major conferences was up 11% from the prior school year, according to a CNNMoney analysis of figures filed by each school with the Department of Education.

In the school year that ended in 2010, the vast majority of the schools in one of these deep-pocketed conferences posted a profit. Four of them broke even and only one — Wake Forest — reported a loss.

On average, each team earned $15.8 million last year, or well over $1 million per game…

… Bowl-eligible schools in the smaller conferences weren’t nearly as profitable. Fifty-three schools split profits of $26 million. Eight lost money.

Or as a specific example,

Texas Christian University and Boise State were the two small conference teams that met in the big-bucks Fiesta Bowl last year. But TCU’s $20 million in revenue, while the most among the small conference schools, would have put it 47th among the big-dollar conference schools. And that $20 million in revenue was only enough to allow the TCU program to break even.

This is why adopting a plus-one playoff format isn’t going to matter to people like Orrin Hatch as much as it might for you or me.  Our definition of fairness in this isn’t the same.

And to get some idea of where Hatch’s priorities might lead, click on the link at the bottom of the linked article that takes you to college basketball revenues.  As you go down the list there, note how much money Louisville’s program, which is the most profitable one in the country, earned and compare that number to the top five in football.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Bobo on Murray’s room for improvement

Mike Bobo has an interesting observation about his starting quarterback:

… Murray also can become more consistent, said Bobo, who noted a curiosity about the quarterback’s season: He has tended to play better in the second and third quarters of games than in the first and fourth periods.

“I think in the first quarter he gets hyped,” Bobo said. “His mechanics get a little off; he gets juiced on his throws.” As for fourth-quarter slippage, that has been a team-wide problem that will be a focus of off-season attention.

That got me curious.  So I took a look at the tale of the tape, via the always invaluable cfbstats.com.  This is the breakdown of Murray’s passer rating by quarter:

  1. 159.00
  2. 160.56
  3. 181.58
  4. 156.21

It seems that Bobo is on to something here.  Murray’s completion percentage is lowest in the fourth quarter – how much of that is due to the problem Bobo alludes to and how much of that is due to game conditions is hard to say.  (Although, note that when you look at his performance based on the game score, he was at his worst this season when games were tied.)

By the way, I continue to be impressed with Murray’s drive to improve.  It’s one thing that gives me hope that there will be some offset to the inevitable drop off resulting from A.J.’s departure next season.  Now if the coaches could find some way to bottle it and give it out to other players on the team…

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Filed under Georgia Football

Points program

Here’s a nice tidbit from Gentry Estes’ piece examining Georgia’s academic policy which Caleb King ran afoul of:

… Alabama’s written policy uses positive and negative points, with one point issued for “A missed class, tutorial appointment, mentor appointment, counselor appointment or study hall obligation,” and suspension being automatic when the total reaches 10.

UA also gives itself the flexibility to award positive points for, “Demonstrating special effort in the classroom, putting forth extra effort in study hall or by meeting proactively with faculty members.”

Does “demonstrating special effort in the classroom” mean something more than showing up?  Beats me.  You also kinda have to wonder how much input a certain head coach has into the points awarded process.

At LSU, they don’t bother with any pesky window dressing.

… Some are perhaps even less stringent. Asked for its class attendance policy, an LSU official responded, “We wish to advise that the LSU Athletic Department does not have a written student-athlete class attendance policy but does monitor class attendance.”

Before some of you get riled up and start in the comments section with talk about how Georgia shouldn’t put itself at a disadvantage with its rivals over something like this, let Mark Richt shame you back to reality.

“I just think it’s another way to tell our players, tell the players’ families, tell our recruits that we’re serious about academics,” Richt said. “We have a plan for them, and if they follow it, then they’ll be fine. If they don’t, they’ll have to suffer the consequences for it.”

It ain’t, pardon the expression, exactly rocket science we’re talking about here.  Maybe when Mike Slive gets done making sure that no kid tied to NCAA violations gets left behind playing in a BCS game, he can turn his attention to leveling the academic playing field in his conference a wee bit.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., SEC Football

Even in a spread era, it’s still the tight end, stupid.

Absolutely fascinating post over at Smart Football about the chess match going on between offensive coordinators successfully deploying spread offenses, defensive coordinators and their moves to get more speed on the field to counter spread attacks and offensive coordinators’ counters to those counters that’s well worth your time to read.

For example, take a look at this.

… Even if you don’t have a tight end in the program, start to develop one.  Over 80 percent of coaches polled by X&O Labs attack odd defenses by using various tight end formations. Whether by using 11 personnel (one tight end, one back), 12 personnel (two tight ends, one backs), or 21 personnel (one tight end, two backs), the tight end is pivotal in the run game.

We’ve all seen how productive spread offenses like Oregon, Boise State and Florida have been within the last three years.  What separates those teams from traditional spread teams is the implementation and execution of the tight end on normal downs.  According to our research, using a tight end in spread personnel accounts for two valuable advantages:

1.      It changes the structure of the defense: No longer can that safety/linebacker play in space, which is exactly what he wants to do.  Now he’s forced to cover down on a bigger, stronger opponent giving you leverage to get to the alley.

2.      It provides for an instant mismatch in the run game: Many of these hybrids don’t like to get their hands dirty.  These types, who usually weigh in the 180-210 pound range, are forced to balance up and fit in the framework against bigger tight ends.

It’s definitely food for thought for those of us who believe that programs like Georgia’s which continue to run pro-style offenses have an advantage recruiting that position over spread teams.  And that pro-style offenses offer the best way to attack three-down linemen defensive schemes with power running games.

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

The most honest man in college athletics…

may be Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan, who, after successfully lobbying Ohio State officials and Jim Delany to avoid suspending any Ohio State players for his game, offered these words of consolation (h/t Coaches Hot Seat Blog) to Buckeye fans who felt those players should not suit up for his bowl game:

“I appreciate and fully understand the Midwestern values and ethics behind that,” he said. “But I’m probably thinking of this from a selfish perspective.”

I like this comment:

Hoolahan said the Southeastern Conference, which has its tie-in with the Sugar Bowl, was eager to “display its wares against this type of opponent,” referring to an intact OSU squad.

Damn, that Mike Slive sure knows how to work both sides of the street, doesn’t he?

I can’t wait to hear Mark Emmert’s spin on that whole “display its wares” thing.  It’ll probably have something to do with not knowing.

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Filed under Big Ten Football, It's Just Bidness, SEC Football, The NCAA

Cool beans.

McGarity is on a roll today.

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Filed under Georgia Football