Daily Archives: April 14, 2014

Losing is its own reward.

Jeebus – Willie Martinez and John Jancek serve on the staff of a Georgia team that goes 8-5 and are unceremoniously shitcanned.

Tennessee goes 5-7 last season and guess what?  Martinez and Jancek receive one-year contract extensions.

The world has gone mad, I tells ‘ya.  Mad.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

“No one’s going to get a recruiting advantage over an egg-white omelet.”

The saddest thing about this WSJ article about a change in the rules for feeding student-athletes is the use of the word “may” in the header.  As in it’s not a slam dunk for the NCAA to reconsider the possibility that its current regime prevents kids from eating sufficiently throughout the month.

Why isn’t change a given? Well…

Why can’t schools give athletes three squares a day? Poorer athletic departments worry that doing so would burden them financially or lead to elaborate meals such as “pheasant under glass,” said Dave Ellis, a registered dietitian who worked for years with teams at Wisconsin and Nebraska.

True ‘dat.  Pheasant under glass is only for school presidents.

9 Comments

Filed under The NCAA

The Auburn Way

I know we kid about it, but, damn, Auburn, do you really have to get this in your face about who receives a scholarship?

Bruce Pearl looks like a match made in heaven, doesn’t he?

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands

A tale of two fan-friendly experiences

I’m sure I’m opening myself up for a fair amount of grief for what I’m about to post, but I hope you’ll bear with me as I make my point.

You see, I’m about to compare my two days as a sports fan this weekend, one spent at G-Day and the other at the Masters.  I’m not going to make a statement about which is a better spectator sport, to compare what’s expected in the way of fan behavior, or anything similar.  What I am going to discuss is which venue provides a more enjoyable setting to be a fan.

Maybe you don’t think that’s a fair comparison for some reason, but I do.  Both are sources for my attention and for my entertainment dollars.  Both face similar issues in balancing fan attendance and the broadcast audience (although The Masters is less frantic about that concern than Georgia, the SEC and big time college football are).  And both are commercial enterprises seeking to separate me from the contents of my wallet.  But for all the similarities, the treatment I receive in each arena is quite different.

Start with what I got out of G-Day.  Now, that’s a spring game, so the economics are different from what I’m subjected to once Labor Day rolls around.  There’s no parking charge (no game charge, for that matter), the stadium isn’t full and you don’t pull your hair over the traffic snarls.  The in-season experience, as we all know, is quite different.  The only place you can stop your vehicle without an assessment is at a red light.  Entry into Sanford Stadium is a fairly clogged routine.  Tailgating has been pushed and prodded into a diminished state.  Inside the stadium, you’re constantly reminded that many areas aren’t suited for a capacity of 96,000 souls.  Concessions can be a fight to get served and the prices can make you blanch.  Bathrooms are less than pleasant experiences at peak times.  Traffic after the game has been a sadly mismanaged affair for some time now.

Compare that to arriving at The Masters.  Traffic is carefully directed, all the way to your parking space, which is free.  Entering the club is smooth, too, even with similar concerns about security.  Once inside, getting around is a breeze.  Everything is clearly marked and accessible.  The efficiency at which you can maneuver through the restrooms and concessions areas is startling, despite the crowds.  (I managed to pick up three sandwiches, chips and beer and pay for them, all in less than two minutes.)  Even the gift store’s legendary crowds don’t get in the way of an efficient shopping experience – and, believe me, that is one crazed place.  The grounds are as immaculate as the course.

Trust me, it’s a jarring comparison to take in on back-to-back days.

Now, I’ll admit it’s not a totally fair comparison to make in certain ways.  For one, Augusta is a bigger town than Athens and the event it hosts draws a smaller crowd, so no doubt the logistics are easier.  For another, there are differences in what’s expected from the crowds (although it should be pointed out that I saw a lot of Georgia fans yesterday).

Here’s the thing, though.  It’s not that unfair.  No one has forced the university administration to expand the stadium capacity to a point where it’s stretched the resources of both the school and the town to handle in comfort.  And, again, these are both sporting events that are commercial operations.  With that comes a responsibility to treat the people they attract in a way that makes them appreciate the experience.

If anything, that should matter more in Athens than it does in Augusta.  The Masters is an exclusive brand and event that has proven to be remarkably immune from outside pressure.  College football, however, is in the throes of dealing with a public that finds watching a television broadcast of the event in comfort a more attractive option to attending the game live than ever.  And yet it’s the golf event that serves itself up to its visitors better.

There’s a pretty basic trick behind the magic.  The Masters simply floods the place with personnel.  It hires an army of local kids, trains them well and deploys them everywhere from the parking lots to the gift store to the restrooms.  The grounds are constantly maintained (everywhere I turned you could see people discreetly removing garbage).  Sure, that costs money, but it’s spent in a way that you can’t help but appreciate and admire.  It also has the benefit of making sales more efficient, which means opportunity to make more sales.

It’s not like money is a problem in Athens.  It’s just that there seems to be little thought to spending it in a way that makes the fan base content.  I think back to the shameful way North Campus was treated before Michael Adams had his hissy fit and essentially shut down the tailgate experience; much of that could have been resolved with better security, more restroom facilities and a reasonable amount of attention paid to trash removal.  None of that is exactly back-breaking from a financial standpoint for a school with Georgia’s resources.  It’s just that no one in a position to improve things could be bothered with it.  And that’s a story you could repeat in many other ways.

Instead, we’re offered enhanced wi-fi, ever more intrusive piped in music and goofy sideshows like yesterday’s mascot abomination as a solution.  But I don’t weigh the prospect of live attendance on the basis of my short-term attention span.  The home experience is about greater comfort and convenience.  I don’t wait to go to the kitchen for a drink, my bathroom smells nice and I can always find a place to park.  This is the lesson I’m afraid McGarity and his AD peers are missing.  I want what I got yesterday – a feeling that the money I’m shelling out is somehow being spent to benefit my experience in a way that gives me what I have at home, while making me feel glad I came.  Athens and Augusta may be different in some ways, but my wish to be appreciated is exactly the same.

105 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

One and done

In response to Stacey Osburn’s tender question – But do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? – has she noticed how much money Jordan Spieth’s made since he left Texas in the middle of his second year there to turn pro?  Too bad college football players don’t have the same choice available to them.

The NCAA’s problem isn’t that it’s a choice of love or money for the kids.  It’s that the NFL has a staggering love for money.

16 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Stacey Osburn’s talking points are cheap.

If you’ve been disappointed by the NCAA’s consistent unwillingness to recognize the reality behind the recent NLRB ruling and the many antitrust complaints it’s in the process of defending, this isn’t likely to improve your spirits.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said it’s the association’s responsibility to “provide accurate and timely information on matters impacting college sports. Our members requested facts and data on pay-for-play because there was so much misinformation in the media, based in part on public statements from those who are advancing the union movement and those who have brought suit against the NCAA.”

So what kind of spin… oops, “facts and data” does Stacey have for us?

Well, there’s repetition of the irrelevant:

“We know we have work to do. But do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? That’s not the message I want to send.”

“Do we really want to signal to society and high school students that making money is the reason to come play a sport in college, as opposed to getting an education, which will benefit you for a lifetime? That’s not the message I want to send.”

I thought one of the main reasons you went to college was to enhance your earnings ability.  I wasn’t aware there was supposed to be a restriction on when you were allowed to start reaping the rewards of that enhancing – at least there isn’t for anyone in college who isn’t subject to the NCAA.

There’s love or money and nothing in between.

“The overwhelming majority of student-athletes play college sports as part of their educational experience and because they love their sport, not to be paid a salary.”

If only Stacey’s bosses, conference commissioners and coaches felt the same way.

A little mea culpa -

“Student-athletes should not have to worry about their scholarships being pulled if they are injured or ill.”

I’m sure you’ll get right on that.

And of course, a supporting cast providing a steady dose of denial of reality.  Dabo Swinney says, “We’ve got enough entitlement in this country as it is”, but proceeds to advocate giving kids a stipend.  (And since when is doing more to prevent concussion problems an entitlement?)  Mike Slive doesn’t appreciate anyone threatening to screw with the revenue stream he’s spent so much effort on generating.  Baylor’s athletic director – his school is private, by the way – commands the tide to roll back:  “In my view, student-athletes are not employees. They attend a university to earn a degree and participate in the sport they love.”  Larry Scott and Jim Delany believe in ongoing dialogue with student-athletes, not unionization, because meaningful dialogue with parties who have less power has always been a hallmark of Jim Delany’s management style.

I could go on, but, jeez, this is depressing.  There’s a historical precedent to what college athletics is facing in what MLB went through when Marvin Miller engineered the rise of the players’ union, and, along with a little help from Andy Messersmith’s agent, the end of the reserve clause, and it seems like the NCAA and the commissioners couldn’t care less about learning any lessons from that.  I can’t help but continue to feel that Emmert, Slive, Delany and all their cohorts think they’re a lot shrewder business people than they are.  And certainly the presidents and chancellors they work for aren’t nearly as shrewd as the lawyers who are fighting over the right to pick their bones.

This isn’t going to end well for some folks.  But, talking points!  Hey, that worked well for Baghdad Bob, right?

24 Comments

Filed under Blowing Smoke, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

“… as much as football evolves, we need to go outside the box with our thinking.”

Of the many things over the past few seasons that I’ve been impressed with by Stanford football, perhaps the number one item is how well it’s defended Oregon’s fast paced offense.  That’s probably why I’m so taken with this piece on how Derek Mason plans to transfer what worked for him as Stanford’s defensive coordinator to Vanderbilt to deal with the rise of the HUNH in the SEC.

There are so many aspects to the program he’s altering that it’s going to be a fascinating learning experience to see how Vandy’s defense evolves over the coming years.  And if he’s successful, you can damned well be sure there will be other SEC defenses adopting what works.

Definitely worth a read.

9 Comments

Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Observations from the 30, 2014 G-Day edition

Good crowd, beautiful weather.  No serious injuries in the game.  (J.J. Green got his wish as far as the weather went, but wasn’t so lucky as far as his ankle goes. He and Trey Matthews kept each other company for most of the day.)  Pre- and post-game festivities were up to their usual standards for me, so all in all, it was another day in paradise.

On to the bullet points.

OFFENSE

  • Offensive line.  I didn’t leave the stadium in a state of wrist-slitting despair over the o-line, so that’s certainly progress of a sorts.  The main reason for my lessened pessimism is the noticeable improvement in John Theus’ game. He looks bigger and more fit.  His mechanics are better.  And he’s playing with an obvious sense of comfort that I didn’t see out of him last year. He was the only lineman who was able to handle Leonard Floyd’s pass rush consistently; he did that by getting his hands on Floyd quickly and using leverage to keep him under control.  Greg Pyke is a big kid with some strength.  He had a couple of pancake blocks I noticed.  I do get the sense that he’s still feeling his way around the offense, but he looked serviceable.  David Andrews is David Andrews.  The rest of the line is still in flux.  Beard played a good bit at left tackle.  They ran all sorts of kids out of the left guard spot, including Houston, and it’s pretty obvious that no one has stepped up to take charge of the slot.  Still, I thought the Red team line held its own as long as they weren’t facing all out blitzes.  The Black team line struggled a good bit more, but some of that can be chalked up to how much depth there is on the defensive line.  Overall, let’s leave things at “work in progress”.
  • Running backs.  There’s no other way to say this:  Georgia’s depth at tailback is sick.  A.J. Turman impressed me as a tough runner with good instincts who can catch the ball a little, too.  Brendan Douglas looks as solid as ever.  As far as Todd Gurley goes, he may not be 100% healthy yet, but he looked physically fit and commanded the defense’s attention every time the ball was snapped.  He was every bit as dominant as you’d expect.  (Except for blitz protection, that is.)  No offense to Leonard Floyd’s supporters, but there’s little doubt that Gurley is the best player on the team. All told, when you consider what’s going to be added to the mix this fall, it’s hard to see how they’ll have enough footballs for all the backs.
  • Receivers.  Bennett and Conley are money, plain and simple.  Reggie Davis has gotten stronger.  His route running is more polished.  He looks like he’s ready to become a real contributor in the passing game this season.  Rumph inexcusably dropped a couple of balls, but he, too, looks more comfortable with his routes.  My biggest concern with this group was the inconsistent blocking downfield I saw.  If Georgia’s going to use the short passing game as much as we saw Saturday, that’s an area that’s going to have to improve.
  • Quarterbacks.  The coaches can insist all they want that they’re hoping to generate some competition for Hutson Mason, but it’s nothing more than a convenient fiction.  The reality is that there’s a noticeable gap – more like a yawning chasm, really – between Mason and everyone else.  He’s the only one of the bunch who looks like a serviceable SEC quarterback right now, so you’d best hope for his continuing good health and well-being.  My only real knock on him from what I saw is that he still struggles with the deep ball.  (Bennett bailed him out on one overthrow with a sensational catch, but a properly thrown ball would have resulted in an easy touchdown.) Other than that, he’s more than capable of leading the offense.  He showed good command and nice touch on his short and intermediate throws.  He avoided turning the ball over. (Given how good his surrounding cast looks to be, that’s a big deal.) He was also the only quarterback out there who went through his progressions on a consistent basis.  Bauta’s arm strength is nothing special.  He struggled with his mechanics.  Ramsey certainly has a live arm, but he too has a way to go with his mechanics – several of his passes sailed – and reading a defense.  Park looks like a kid who’s been on campus since January, but there’s some talent there.  Next year’s G-Day game should be interesting.

DEFENSE

  • Defensive line.  Another area where depth is impressive.  The Red team line included Ray Drew, who couldn’t be blocked for much of the day.  The Black team line looked good, as well.  Pruitt seems to use four-man fronts more than Grantham did, so I saw a good bit of Leonard Floyd with his hand in the dirt.  Floyd isn’t doing any more pass coverage and looks way more comfortable out there as a result.  Another kid to keep an eye on is Davin Bellamy, who backs up Floyd and showed me something Saturday. I don’t think Georgia’s defense is going to have a problem generating a pass rush this season.
  • Linebackers.  Herrera and Wilson looked solid.  Herrera blitzed a lot yesterday and showed good timing on the delayed blitz, getting at least one sack in the process, as I recall.  Neither was asked to do much in pass coverage, which, again, is a hopeful sign of what to expect.
  • Defensive backs.  It was tough to get a good gauge on this group, with Matthews’ and Green’s absences, but depth certainly looked shaky.  There was a lot of rotating going on, so it was clear that the coaches were using the game to do plenty of on-the-fly evaluating.  Still, I noticed a few things.  Swann looked comfortable playing the star position, which is no real surprise.  Aaron Davis turned out to be more than Pruitt’s pet rock; his coverage skills and mechanics are solid. He’s also got good size for the position.  I’m not proclaiming him a starter in the fall by any means, but he certainly looks like he could be a contributor.  Corey Moore made a couple of good plays.  In any event, I don’t think there’s any question that some of the defensive backs coming in for fall practice will have a real shot at cracking the two-deep.

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • The G-Day format doesn’t lend itself to much here.  The punters, with the exception of one kick that Barber really got his leg into, were disappointing.  Morgan looked fine.  His one miss was on a long one where he was a little wide, but he had plenty of distance.

COACHING

  • Overall, there did seem to be a more business-like approach to this year’s G-Day.  No doubt much of that can be attributed to Pruitt’s stated purpose of using the scrimmage more for evaluation purposes than as a competition, but I got the same sense of things on the other side of the ball.  There was clearly an emphasis on the passing game, which makes complete sense if you’re probing the weakest areas of the team, depth at the secondary and back-up quarterback positions.  And it was pretty obvious there was a reason for all the shifting personnel on the offensive line.  I left the game with the sense that the coaches got more out of this G-Day game than its immediate predecessors.

RANDOM BITS

  • It was amusing to see that the coaches were in mid-season form with the officiating.  There were a couple of questionable pass interference calls and Reggie Davis clearly got away with a push-off of Davis on his touchdown catch, but still…
  • Quayvon Hicks looked like he was coming along catching the ball, but I was a little disappointed with his blocking.
  • This year’s walk on star on offense was receiver Clay Johnson, who made a sensational catch with Quincy Mauger grabbing his facemask.  Don’t know if that’s enough to crack what’s going to be a ridiculously deep rotation once the injured players are back, though.
  • But Uriah LeMay looked good enough that he may be tossed into the conversation at receiver.
  • Tramel Terry played a little safety and didn’t look nearly as lost as he’s been making himself sound.
  • Speaking of not looking lost, the defense actually covered the freakin’ wheel route.  I don’t care if that was only in a scrimmage.
  • However, the defense did get burned on a Reggie Davis reverse that was nicely handled on offense.
  • As far as simplification goes, there was much less hand waving going on than was the case last season.
  • It didn’t dawn on me until the ride home, but there were far fewer missed tackles than we’ve been used to seeing, too.
  • That’s a very good thing, because Pruitt is clearly more aggressive committing his defensive troops to the line of scrimmage than Grantham was.  Linebackers played closer and there were a lot of one-safety coverage looks.  If you think the rush and attacking the line of scrimmage were key components to Georgia’s success on defense before, they look to be an even bigger deal now.
  • I didn’t miss Grantham’s towel.
  • As far as the fan-friendly experience goes, I’ll keep my mouth shut about loud intrusive music as long as McGarity promises never to inflict that Mascot Gallop experience on us again.  That whole embarrassment was beneath the dignity of Hairy Dawg, who doesn’t really possess much dignity to start with.  And I will point out that the fans enjoyed the frisbee catching dogs that were the halftime entertainment way more than the music or the frolicking goobers.  Word to the wise, man.

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Filed under Georgia Football