Daily Archives: July 19, 2014

Another year, another Richt narrative?

I get that Georgia’s drug policy is less tolerant than most schools.  I also get that Richt strongly supports it, to the point that he’s willing to accept the consequences of being tougher than others. He reiterated that at SEC Media Days, when he said,

“No, we’re not worried about that part of it,” Richt said. “We don’t want our guys to do drugs, okay? I don’t want my son to do drugs. We’ve got policies that are stronger maybe than some when it comes to the punitive part of it. That’s kind of what everybody talks about. Georgia ends up suspending their guys a little bit sooner in the policy, which I’ve got no problems with.”

The same can be said for Richt’s stance on player transfers.

Richt also reiterated his philosophy on granting players the right to transfer wherever they like. He was asked about it in the aftermath of the rash of offseason departures that saw two key players go to Louisville and another to Auburn.

“When guys leave our program, my goal for them is that they continue their career and they continue and realize all their dreams,” Richt said. “Life’s too short. They’re young men that make mistakes. If somewhere along the way you learn from your mistake, you turn it around, finish your career strong, I’m happy for the guy.”

After that, things got a little fuzzy.  First, Nick Saban, who’s dealing with his own rash of player problems, followed Richt with his philosophy, which I suppose was supposed to come off as a justification for some tough love, but instead sounded a little like he was pointing fingers.  (The irony of Saban having a former Georgia player on his roster isn’t lost on me.)

“I want you to know that there’s not one player, not one player, since I’ve been a head coach that I kicked off the team that ever went anywhere and amounted to anything and accomplished anything, playing or academically,” Saban said. “That’s not always the answer. Discipline is not punishment. Punishment is only effective when it can help change somebody’s behavior.

“When you have a family and you have someone in your family who disappoints you, we certainly can’t kick them out of our family. I think we have to try to support them, teach them, get them to do the right things because we love them, we care about them.”

I wasn’t the only one who got that impression, either.

It’s puzzling, because I’m not really sure what Saban wanted to accomplish with his stance, other than to try to state a case for why he feels his players may be entitled to more second chances than players at other programs.  And if that’s all that was about, it’s hard to understand why he felt the need to justify that to the media in the first place.

Needless to say, some in the media took the ball and ran with it in one direction.

Maybe Saban will take a cue from the SEC coach once excoriated for disciplinary problems — Georgia’s Mark Richt.

Richt actually seems harder on crime than ever. The Bulldogs dismissed safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons this offseason.

“Just because we’ve got guys suspended isn’t evidence we have a discipline problem,” Richt said. “It’s evidence that we discipline our players. It’s evidence there’s accountability. … Sometimes when you make part of your discipline playing time, it becomes a very public thing. Some of your dirty laundry gets out there in public. I’m willing to take that risk if the process will help these guys grow into men. If we ignore stuff they do and act like it didn’t happen and sweep it under the rug, let them get away with it or whatever, what are we teaching? We are setting them up for failure down the road.”

And that’s certainly one way of looking at it, although Saban didn’t sound like someone waiting for a cue.

But there was also this strange take from SI’s Andy Staples and Zac Ellis, which took a mash-up of the two themes and actually posed the question whether Richt’s morality is interfering with the success of the program.  (It also glosses over the fact that Richt has no control over where a dismissed player lands, but we’ll leave that for another day.)

The thing is, for all this supposed strictness, all the players cited on that clip received second chances at Georgia.  So where’s the sweet spot supposed to be? It sure beats me, but you can bet Richt won’t hear the last of this if Georgia doesn’t at least get to the SECCG this season.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, Nick Saban Rules

Autonomy brings out the stupid.

I’ve never had much use for June Jones.  He was less than impressive as the Falcons’ head coach; his inability to control Jeff George was sadly pathetic.  On the college level, his claim to fame was lifting a Hawaii program from sheer mediocrity to being the most mediocre undefeated team to crash the BCS.  I can’t deny some people take him seriously.  I just don’t understand why.

Take his latest brilliant suggestion in response to the Power Five conferences largely getting their way on NCAA governance.  What came was inevitable, because the big boys hold most of the cards, but at least it sounds like the mid-majors were able to keep the transfer rules from being subject to the new voting protocols.  In any event, at least they retain some level of impact and some remaining relationship.  Jones wants to ditch that, too.

“I think the have-nots should go ahead and move to the spring just like the USFL did. I think that there’s an opportunity to do a complete other side of that division, and I think that if we don’t think that way as a group of have-nots, we’re going to get left behind…”

This may be the first time I’ve seen anyone refer to the USFL as a successful business model.   (Remember, this is the pro league that successfully won a plaintiff’s verdict against the NFL in an antitrust suit, only to be awarded a whopping $3 in damages.)

On the college level, what makes this particularly questionable is that it would be the end of mid-majors scheduling paycheck games against power conference teams.  For some schools, that’s mucho dinero you’re talking about.  Now maybe June believes there’s so much demand for spring football that ESPN and Fox would be falling all over themselves to throw money at the middies that it would more than make up for it.  But if that were the case, you kinda wonder why nobody’s thought of it before Jones.

Then, again, he may simply be pulling it out of his ass, like this:

“I can see in five-to-seven years, possibly, the public would demand to have the two leagues play, just like I think the USFL had in mind, originally, of the winner of the USFL playing the winner of the National Football League.”

For once, I’d love to hear a Jim Delany response to something.

The only positive development I can see out of this for the smaller fry is that it would make things considerably more difficult for programs to move to conferences operating football in a different season and probably do something similar in the case of player transfers.  I doubt that’s anywhere near close enough to make this an attractive option, but what do I know?  I’m one of the dumbasses who would happily watch college football in the spring.

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UPDATE:  The early reviews are in.  Let’s just say the critics aren’t raving.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

Having their best interests at heart

It’s so much nicer when you can come up with a policy that serves both Nick Saban and the NFL, isn’t it?

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules, The NFL Is Your Friend.

They work hard for the money.

Bill Hancock’s disingenuousness aside, we all know why we’re getting playoff expansion.  And I think most people expect we’ll see expansion of that expansion in the not too distant future.  What I’m curious about is whether we’re on the cusp of seeing another fault line exposed, over the matter of player safety.  I don’t mean that in the Bielema sense, either.  I’m talking about asking players to fight through fifteen, sixteen or seventeen games in a year to win a national title.

While head coaches strike me as control freaks (comes with the territory, to some extent), for the most part, none strike me as being willingly ignorant of the toll a college football season takes on a student-athlete physically.  That’s led me to wonder if any of them have thought about what happens when those two issues intersect.  I got some answers last week.

“I would hope that if it expands beyond this, we gotta look at the regular season,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said as SEC media days concluded Thursday. “I think you have to reduce the regular [season]. A lot of people may not agree with that.”

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze agreed with Richt, saying college football would have to cut into the regular season for the well-being of the student-athletes participating. Alabama’s Nick Saban didn’t exactly take a side on the matter, but he did say that if expansion comes, the sport should consider the toll more games would put on players.

“Not having thought much about it, I do think that for college players, with their age, with their responsibility to academics and the things they have to do that we’re pretty much closing in on the limit of how many games they should be playing and how we can still fit them in,” Saban said. “In our league, you’d have to win 15 games to win [the national championship in a playoff]. If you expand the playoff, you’d have to win more than that.”

Under the current format, four teams will compete in the College Football Playoff, meaning there will be two semifinal games before a national championship game. That’s after Power Five conferences like the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 have their conference championship games following the regular season. The Big 12 no longer has a conference championship game.

“I have always been concerned with the length of the season,” Freeze said. “But it’s so financially profitable that I’m not sure that there would be any interest [in shortening the regular season]. If you end up going to a longer playoff, there has to be talk of cutting the season back a game, at least.

“The workload that would be on these young men, I would think you’d have to look at shortening the season some if the playoff is expanding.”

Wow, I had no idea there was a college football topic Nick Saban hadn’t given much thought to, but there you go.

Seriously, the common theme there is awkward.  These coaches may have legitimate concerns about how their kids hold up as a season grows ever longer, but they all report to athletic directors who answer to school presidents who have other concerns they consider more legitimate.  You’ve seen enough goings on over the past ten years, so you tell me – whose concerns are likely to be given greater weight?

The other part of the equation to keep in mind here are that priorities can change over time, if the guys running the show lose track of their calibrations.

While Freeze suggested cutting the regular season by a game, Richt didn’t have a specific number for the regular season. Saban, however, threw out the idea of eliminating conference championship games in order to make room for an expanded playoff and cut down the burden of an extra game between the regular season and the playoffs.

It’s hard to see either of those options being attractive to Mike Slive, who’s trying to build a broadcast network asset while maintaining the value of a crown jewel conference championship game that’s been enormously successful for over two decades.  Also, judging by the current debate over the size of the conference schedule, lopping off a regular season game can’t be something any SEC athletic director wants to consider as an option.

But who’s to say how those things look to those folks a few years down the road?  Before you argue it wouldn’t matter, because no school or conference is voluntarily relinquishing any of that sweet money, don’t forget to factor what a future players union may have to say into the equation.  Life is full of tough choices; it’s just that guys like Slive have been able to dodge most of ‘em over the last decade.  We’ll see how long his luck (or that of his successor) holds up.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football