Daily Archives: November 10, 2015

Meltdown coming.

Hoo, boy.  This ought to be something.

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UPDATE:  “That’s what makes America great,” Richt said at his weekly news conference, “and I think that he handled it well.”

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UPDATE #2:  And now, the players.

The power wielded by Missouri’s football program did not go unnoticed inside Georgia’s practice facility.

“It’s extremely powerful, that athletics, students on the football team, could have that much of an impact,” senior tight end Jay Rome said.

Rome said he’d consider partaking in a football boycott if the situation was important and called for it…

… With the Missouri football team helping campus protesters achieve the ouster of Wolfe and Loftin, Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell said it shows the kind of platform that college athletes can have when it comes to taking a stand on an issue.

“I think that opens the door for a lot of teams to come together and rally behind whatever it is they stand for,” Mitchell said. “The football team is its own community on universities – and obviously with a lot of power as we saw in Missouri. I think we’ll see that more often now.”

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Filed under Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label

Two can play at that game.

So Mark Richt can’t say who his starting quarterback is this week again?

Gus Malzahn thinks that’s a swell approach.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands

“So I just went out there and forgot about it and played for my team.”

I’m sure I’ll be labeled a Pollyanna squish for saying so, but those of you who dismiss the team because of your dissatisfaction with the coaching staff ought to think about Sony Michel before tossing out another blast.

To be clear, while Michel’s injury – a fractured bone in the middle of his hand – is not what would be described as serious, it could have prevented him from playing. He suffered it on the first play from scrimmage against Florida. But despite missing the next few plays in that game, Michel has practiced and played ever since.

What’s more, he’s doing it while taking several shotgun snaps out of the “Wild Dog” formation.

“My team and my teammates, that’s what I do it for,” Michel said. “I could have easily just said, ‘no, I can’t play. My hand’s broken and I can’t play now more because it’s hurting.’ But you’ve got to forget about that and play for the guy next to you.”

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Filed under Georgia Football

“Just said he didn’t want to play anymore…”

A philosophical question:  if a Georgia Tech wide receiver fell in the woods quit the team, would he make a sound?

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Filed under Georgia Tech Football

Violation of team rules

Sorry, but I can’t help but chuckle over this bit from Chip Towers:

The performance of Pruitt’s defenses has been mostly solid his two seasons in Athens. It’s his behind-the-scenes management style and interpersonal-relations skills within the football and support staff that has drawn scrutiny. That is being addressed internally.

You think they’re making Pruitt run stadium steps at five in the morning?

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Filed under Georgia Football

First thoughts on Auburn

This article on Texas A&M pondering changes on its coaching staff after the season ends caught my eye in sort of a misery loves company way, but I found the analysis of what happened in the Aggies’ game against Auburn more interesting.

Texas A&M is not a bad football team. However, when you get this deep into the season desperate teams can work hard to ascertain your weaknesses, analyze them, and figure out a way to exploit them.

Saturday afternoon, you saw a Arkansas team fighting to make a bowl game pull out a stunning overtime victory on the road over an Ole Miss team that had more incentive to win and should have been better across the board. It just speaks to how motivated coaching staffs can be when jobs are on the line because a team is perceived to have underperformed and how players feed off of that energy from the top down.

Saturday night you saw the same thing happen with A&M and Auburn. Auburn had to have that win in College Station or else they were not going to make a bowl game which is quite a fall for a program that was rated in the top five before the season and had made the publicized staff hire in the country in defensive coordinator Will Muschamp…

“When jobs are on the line…”.  Hmmm.  That do sound familiar.

The article breaks down TAMU’s shortcomings, which were temporarily masked by the South Carolina win (that, too, sounds familiar).  On offense,

… Thus, for all of the talent in A&M’s offense, where do the explosive plays come from? Early on, they came from Kirk’s legs. Against South Carolina, Murray either generated them or was such a threat that he opened up the field for others. Outside of Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noil, who both go up and get the ball, A&M really doesn’t have anyone to generate explosive plays, especially unscripted ones. A&M had one long play over 20 yards versus Ole Miss and just two against Auburn.

It also doesn’t help that when A&M has made changes this season that they lose patience if those things start to slow down and revert back to things that don’t work, particularly those rollouts and bootlegs where they pull a lineman or H back. Those players lack the mobility and coordination to make those blocks on the perimeter which means that quarterbacks come under duress and turn the ball over.

A&M gets little push in the running game or misses blocks on a consistent basis. Running back Tra Carson is playing the best ball of his career. He’s running hard and his pass protection is very good. He’s even doing the best he can going outside even though he’s between the tackles runner. Even so, A&M had a second and one near the end of the first half the other night, ran three straight plays, and didn’t gain a yard. They missed multiple blocks in the process on the three plays and even couldn’t make the first down when they had Auburn outnumbered in the box and used a H back and running back to block for the quarterback.

I hear him on the lack of explosive plays and the blocking problems.  As I’ve already mentioned this morning, I don’t know if last week is a sign that Georgia is getting a handle on the latter, but there’s a chance that running for 300 yards against a Kentucky defense that isn’t very different statistically from what the Dawgs face this Saturday is a good sign.

As for the defense,

Defensively, A&M has had issues against the run all season but for some reason they really weren’t noticed until the South Carolina game at home. The Aggies have been giving up almost 250 yards a game since the Arizona State game and it was always blamed on something that they hadn’t seen before or the linebackers (which have been a convenient scapegoat all season).

Unfortunately, when you give 311 yards rushing, it finally seemed to hit home with people that the lack of defense has been a team effort. A&M used six people in the box less than ever the other night versus Auburn but it didn’t matter. Their containment, run fits, and punch have been lacking all season as a group, not just at the second level of the defense. In addition, A&M’s opponents are all using different means to run the ball (Alabama’s power rushing, South Carolina’s quarterback run game, and Auburn’s wing T principles out of the spread) and continue to pile up their best or second best efforts of the season running the ball. That doesn’t happen if you are doing what you need to do.

As a result, A&M’s safeties have been called upon to make tackle after tackle and it culminated in a 39-tackle effort at the Ole Miss game between Armani Watts, Justin Evans and nickel Donovan Wilson. Not only do they rank as the leading, second leading, and fourth ranked tacklers on the team but Watts is the only defensive back in the top 15 tacklers in the SEC.

Fortunately, that hasn’t been Georgia’s problem for the most part this season.  On average in conference play, Georgia’s defense is far stouter against the run than is A&M (3.87 vs. 5.54).  As inconsistent as Georgia’s tackling has been this season, it’s nothing compared to how poor TAMU looked in that department against Auburn.

I mentioned in my SEC Power Poll that there’s a real question about how much of Auburn’s win last weekend could be attributed to its own improvement and how much was a mirage built on the Aggies’ sagging fortunes.  This is what I’m talking about.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Georgia Football, SEC Football

“Gary did about the only thing he could do.”

It’s not about us, we just wanted to use our platform to take a stance for a fellow concerned student on an issue, especially being as though a fellow black man’s life was on the line,” Missouri defensive back Ian Simon said while flanked by wide receiver J’Mon Moore and defensive end Charles Harris. “Due to the end of the hunger strike, we will be ending our solidarity strike to not practice and returning to our normal schedule as football players. It is a privilege to be playing for the University of Missouri’s football team and we are very thankful for this opportunity. We love the game, but at the end of the day, it is just that — a game.

“Through this experience, we’ve really began to bridge that gap between student and athlete in the phrase student-athlete by connecting with the community and realizing the bigger picture. We will continue to build with the community and support positive change on Mizzou’s campus. Though we don’t experience everything the general student body does and our struggles may look different at times, we are all Concerned Student 1950.”

“Let this be a testament to all athletes across the country,” Harris said. “That you do have power. It started with a few individuals on our team and look at what it has become, look at where it’s at right now. This is nationally known and it started with just a few.”

And that’s the scary part, if you are a sports administrator now.  As an athletic director at a school in a Power Five conference (“The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.” – no shit, Sherlock.) told USA TODAY Sports,

“That’s the scary part about it. Something can come out of nowhere in a hurry.”

The person, as well as an athletic director at another Power Five conference school, separately emphasized the need, more than ever before, for proactive and consistent communication with student-athletes.

The first athletic director’s initial reaction was: “Man, I’m glad it’s not me — and then I thought, ‘Are we doing enough to have lines of communication open with our student athletes?’ ”

They aren’t really scared about political statements (probably because they aren’t right-wing hacks like Ben Shapiro, who actually wrote of the players without a trace of irony that “Their only job, after all, is to play football.“).  What they’re scared of is the student-athletes turning their sights on things that cost ADs real money, which, after all, was the implicit threat behind the Missouri players’ stance.  Here’s a scenario from Andy Staples that illustrates that:

Now imagine if players in an entire conference decided they wanted lifetime medical coverage for injuries incurred while playing college football. Or imagine they decided that they merely wanted a bigger cut of the millions that currently go to their coaches, their athletic directors, their locker room waterfalls and to subsidize sports on their campus that don’t make any money. Here are a few potential courses of action and their likely results.

  • They could write a strongly worded letter. That would be ignored.
  • They could sue. That would take years.
  • They could threaten to skip their games. They would have everyone’s attention immediately.

If they did it, the schools, conference and NCAA could do absolutely nothing but begin negotiating. Why? Because those groups gave the athletes the power the moment they got into the business of producing and selling television shows. Then, in an attempt to defend their economic model in court and before the National Labor Relations Board, they took away any opportunity they would have had to threaten retaliation.

The Pac-12 and Big Ten own pieces of their eponymous television networks. The SEC takes a huge licensing fee from ESPN to take part in the SEC Network. All the leagues sell games—television shows, essentially—to networks independent of any conference cable network deal. Media companies pay through the nose for the right to broadcast those television shows. How mad would they be at the people who sold them those shows if the casts suddenly didn’t show up for scheduled episodes?

What could the schools do in such a situation? Nothing. They can’t revoke the players’ scholarships, because the NCAA’s attorneys have spent years spitting out court filings that claim the key reason athletes should not be paid to play college sports is that they are simply members of the student body participating in an extracurricular activity. Northwestern’s attorneys argued to the NLRB that athletes are not employees because they are, in fact, regular students. “Northwestern considers its students who participate in NCAA Division I sports, including those who receive athletic scholarships, to be students, first and foremost,” Northwestern vice president for university relations Alan Cubbage wrote in a statement on March 26, 2014. “We believe that participation in athletic events is part of the overall educational experience for those students, not a separate activity.”

Of course athletes are different from regular students. Of course the athletic scholarship is a form of compensation that has far less to do with school than it does with sports. But when you’ve spent years pretending under oath that athletes are average students and their scholarships aren’t tied to their performance on the field, then you can’t yank their scholarships for organizing a boycott. That’s something regular students do a lot. They belong to a very idealistic age group. Protests are part of the deal on a college campus.

To discipline players who boycott would be an admission that their scholarship is compensation for their athletic participation. (Again, of course it’s compensation for athletic participation. The people in charge have chosen to pretend it isn’t.) It would also be an admission that revenue sport athletes aren’t regular students. Regular students wouldn’t lose their financial aid for protesting peacefully.

You can call it awakening the sleeping giant.

“Our student-athletes are smarter than they’ve ever been before,” the first athletic director said. “We’ve worked hard to educate them about where cost-of-attendance (funding) comes from and tell them about their rights and privileges. They’re more aware than ever before.”

Or creating a monster.  Either way, it’s a problem.  Schools have made their beds and now they’re worried they’re gonna have to lie in them.

It’s about financial control and the fear of that slipping away.  The most unattractive part of this has to be how decentralized the threat is.  In the absence of a national players’ union, a wildcat strike of SEC players that gets resolved has no effect on, say, Big Ten players and schools.  Yet player unionization is anathema to D-1 schools right now.

How carefully can you calibrate throwing bones to the kids to keep a lid on things?  That’s a balancing act that I’m not sure the likes of Jim Delany are capable of pulling off, but we’ll see.  Because one way or another, another blow up is a growing possibility.

166 Comments

Filed under Look For The Union Label, The NCAA