Daily Archives: July 13, 2016

So much for that New Year’s Eve tradition

Bill Hancock, tower of Jello:

… In January 2013, when the CFP announced the 12-year schedule, they touted the idea of tripleheaders on consecutive days, and of taking New Year’s Eve for college football. Hancock said nothing has changed.

Next year, New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday. And in the fourth year, the semifinals will again be played in the Rose and Sugar bowls on New Year’s Day.

“We are committed to this,” he said, adding: “Two years does not make a trend. Let’s watch this. Let’s see what happens.”

Of course, the question is whether people will watch — whether college football’s postseason eventually will become part of New Year’s Eve tradition.

“We had some bum luck with the lack of competitive games,” Hancock said. “Things would have been different with competitive games. How much different, nobody knows.

“We’re very confident that every year will be different and over time these games will be ingrained into a part of the New Year’s Eve tradition.”

Some disappointing TV ratings later, and the tune is changing.

If there’s one thing you can count on with regard to college football’s postseason, it’s the suits panicking when the viewers don’t show up.

13 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Name that caption, I just had to edition

I mean, I did.  I really did.

28 Comments

Filed under Name That Caption

“I kind of stuck my tongue out, wiggled my nose and I felt good about it.”

Six months later, Bert’s ass is still chapped about losing Sam Pittman to Georgia.

9 Comments

Filed under Bert... uh... Bret Bielema

Maurice Smith just wants to play ball.

I’ve posted about this before, but Maurice Smith is an Alabama defensive back who’s left the program and intends to enroll elsewhere as a graduate transfer.  As you might imagine, given that his former defensive coordinator and position coach now reside in Athens, Georgia is a mite bit interested in offering Smith a new place to land.  (As are several other programs.)  Since he’s a graduate transfer, no problem, amirite?

Welp

There’s a complicated situation playing out behind the scenes at Alabama involving a player who is trying to get his release and move on to another school as a graduate transfer.

Senior defensive back Maurice Smith wants to transfer, but has been unsuccessful getting a release despite several attempts during the last month, sources told AL.com.

Smith, who was the Tide’s first-team nickel back during the spring, is now going through an appeal process, according to sources.

It doesn’t sound particularly complicated to me.  It sounds like coaches being coaches.  On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this.

The SEC rule, if you need a reminder, is this:

Now the SEC will allow schools to accept grad student transfers without a waiver if the transfers meet certain standards. Among the criteria for the transfer: always stayed eligible as an undergrad; no significant disciplinary issues at the old school; and earned all possible APR points. If a player doesn’t meet those standards, a school can still go through the current process of seeking a waiver from the SEC office.

Once the transfer comes to an SEC school, the rule requires the player to make progress toward a graduate degree. If that doesn’t happen, the university won’t be able to apply the grad-student exception in that athlete’s sport for three years.

That “progress toward a graduate degree” standard is a bit murky.  And the penalty is pretty much a screw job.  I can see how that might make Kirby a little nervous about taking Smith, if Georgia were where he wanted to go.

8 Comments

Filed under Academics? Academics., Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, SEC Football

“This is my first Media Days, but I am no stranger to the SEC…”

Emphasis on the word “first”.

Since 1996, 16 coaches have gotten their first college head coaching job in the SEC. In their SEC careers, those coaches combined to win 49 percent of their games overall and 39 percent of their SEC games. No rookie head coach has eventually taken his school to the SEC Championship Game at any point in his career since Phillip Fulmer, who debuted at Tennessee during the 1992 season.

Now, obviously, given that most new coaches are brought on because their predecessors didn’t perform well enough to keep their jobs, those percentages shouldn’t come as much of a shock.  And I think we’d all agree Smart walks into a better situation in Athens than, say, Mark Stoops did a few years ago at Kentucky.

There’s one other thing that may work in Smart’s favor.  From a coaching perspective, the SEC is a green league in 2016.

It’s fair to say there has never been this much uncertainty about the long-term careers of so many SEC coaches. In fact, 2016 is collectively the SEC’s least experienced group of coaches in 52 years as the conference rebuilds its coaching depth, according to a CBS Sports analysis of SEC head-coaching careers…

On average, the SEC’s 2016 coaches have been a college head coach for 6.6 years. A year ago, the SEC coaches averaged 10.1 years in head-coaching experience. Since the SEC’s national title run began in 2006, the lowest average was 7.6 years in 2010.

You have to go back to 1964, when the SEC’s coaches averaged 5.8 years of experience, to find a year with head coaching resumes this short. That was Vince Dooley’s rookie year as coach at Georgia. Sound familiar in 2016, Georgia fans?

This is pretty amazing:  during the regular season, Georgia doesn’t face a single SEC head coach with a decade of experience in that role.  Six of Smart’s conference peers he’ll see don’t even have five years’ worth.

19 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

The inevitability of Kirby Smart

From Gentry Estes, who’s covered both Georgia and Alabama previously:

This was one of the most predictable head coaching hires SEC football has ever seen, rumored and whispered about for years around Alabama’s and Georgia’s programs while Smart – a Bulldogs defensive back in the 1990s – earned national attention as an 11-year Nick Saban staffer on the rise (eight of them as the Tide’s defensive coordinator). Mark Richt’s long run finally played out, ultimately ending with an unsatisfying 9-3 regular season in 2015 and a painful divorce, with 15 years being tossed aside in Richt’s firing.

Many understandably scoffed at Georgia’s decision to cut loose Richt, a successful head coach – amid a season that ended in 10 wins. But it was the way losses played out and the way the program continued to fall short of annual expectations in the SEC East (particularly with back-to-back embarrassing losses to a less-than-stellar Florida) that spawned a growing feeling among those who make such decisions that it was time. Things had gotten stale, and after all, there was an obvious replacement about four hours to the West.

It wasn’t a long search. Smart was the only candidate.

And looking back, the whole chain of events seemed more inevitable as time passed, speaking to the unique dilemma of a proud program like Georgia that had become consistently good but rarely great, being too often compared – like others in the SEC – with envy for what has been happening in Tuscaloosa.

Looking back now, it does indeed seem predictable, but — mea culpa! —  a year or two ago, it didn’t seem so to me.  I obviously underestimated Kirby’s ability to remain in good graces in certain quarters after shunning Richt’s offer to return as defensive coordinator.  I also underestimated the degree to which Saban envy consumed a number of influential parties involved in the firing/hiring process.

The reality is that if you’re going to remake the program into Alabama East, Smart really is the perfect candidate to sell that, by virtue of where he’s spent the last decade and by virtue of where he spent the latter part of the nineties.

It’s a plan.  Let’s hope it works.

43 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Nelson Mandela, Black Lives Matter and college football

Greg Sankey opened the door and this al.com writer walked on through.

Is there anywhere else in our society where the lives of a few young black men mean more to so many white people than the end zone of an SEC football team on a Saturday in the fall?

If you’re being honest, then the answer is no.

I don’t disagree, but I’m not sure how much that does, in and of itself, for Sankey’s aspirations.

“Nelson Mandela once said, and I quote,” Slive repeated, “‘sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.'”

Mandela said those words in 2000 in Monaco at the inaugural ceremony for the Laureus World Sports Awards. The SEC wants those words to sink in.

“If you read through those remarks,” Sankey said on Monday, “at the end he says something even more important, I think: ‘Peace is the greatest weapon mankind has to resolve even the most intractable difficulties.

“‘But to be an effective agent for peace, you have to seek not only to change the community and the world. What is more difficult is to change yourself before you seek to change others. Only those who have the courage to change themselves and to know that in all communities without exception there are good men and women who want to serve their communities.'”

Have there been gains achieved through sports?  Sure, but they’re limited and mostly for selfish reasons.  Bear Bryant’s famous decision to integrate the Alabama football team after getting steamrolled by Southern Cal wasn’t motivated by a desire to change society, but rather by a realization that in order to win at the highest level, Alabama was going to have to have black football players.

Right around the same time Bryant made his decision, we saw one of the most iconic images in the history of American sports.

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The reaction to that picture was decidedly more antagonistic.  Much the same can be said about the response to the threatened boycott last season by Missouri football players.

No question that Sankey’s motives do him credit, but I wonder what we’re doing when we push college athletics forward as a vehicle to save the world.  I’m not sure they’re sturdy enough to survive those sorts of expectations.

76 Comments

Filed under College Football

Yes, but is it good for the quarterbacks?

Smart opened up a good deal about the status of Georgia’s running backs yesterday.  More than anything, it sounds like a race against time for the opener.

Returning from a broken forearm usually takes eight to 10 weeks after surgery depending on whether he broke one or two bones, according to orthopedic surgeon Barry Boden of The Orthopedic Center in Rockville, Md.

Michel playing in the opener “will be close,” according to Boden. That will depend on what x-rays revealed, but also depends on a follow-up x-ray four weeks later.

“A lot of the injury is how does the muscle repair itself,” Smart said.

Smart said Chubb, who tore three knee ligaments last October against Tennessee, will be tested most the first time he does “full-live contact,” Smart said.

An injury like Chubb’s usually has a nine to 12 month recovery, but players don’t always return to 100 percent.

When camp begins, Chubb “will do pretty much everything,” Smart said. “He’ll do drills. The thud work.”

Smart said Chubb won’t be able to do everything right away when it comes to being tackled in a scrimmage.

“The psychological factor of him taking the first hits and going through the tackling is going to be a big part of it,” Smart said. “We’ve got people working on him with that aspect.”

What’s interesting is Michel’s more recent injury seems to have introduced a little hesitancy into what has been up until this week a growing tide of confidence in Chubb’s recovery in time for the start of the 2016 season.  Here’s Andy Staples and Zac Ellis, as an example of that.

What’s even more interesting is how the discussion of Chubb’s and Michel’s recoveries leads into speculation about how that affects Georgia’s quarterback battle.  Staples and Ellis talk about that.  Groo suggests that the less likely the top two tailbacks are to play, the more that points to a true freshman quarterback playing.

The less likely Chubb and Michel can play a significant role in the opener, the more likely we are to see Eason. Lost production from the backfield will have to come from the passing game, and I think we’ll need more than we saw towards the end of 2015. Kirby Smart, as a new coach, has the goodwill to take that kind of risk in the opener, and he’ll then have two winnable games to prepare the offense for what could be the toughest stretch of the season.

I grant you that Groo’s point about Smart being able to spend some goodwill in the opener has validity, but there may be other factors in play in the decision about who starts against North Carolina.  For one thing, at least if we’re to take Smart at his word, the timing may not be convenient.

Smart said Lambert, Ramsey and Eason were “pretty balanced in the reps they took,” in the spring.

“The options we’re going to weigh are going to be what gives us the best chance to win,” Smart said.

He noted the distinction that he didn’t say simply “we’re going to play the best player. We’re going to play the best player that gives us the best opportunity to win football games. And I don’t know who that is. If I knew, I promise you, I would tell you. I would give you the information. But I don’t know that.”

Smart said he will sit down with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney during preseason practices to make the big decision.

“We’ll make that decision hopefully sooner than later,” he said.

I don’t doubt that they’d prefer to settle on a choice as soon as is practical.  As we saw last season, August reps are valuable, especially when you’ve got a new offensive coordinator installing his system.  In this specific case, that may be even more so.  There’s going to be considerable uncertainty with the running back rotation, with a strong likelihood that at least one true freshman will garner playing time.  If you’re Chaney, do you want to compound that with a quarterback rotation that goes all the way into the season opener (and perhaps beyond)?

And if you’re going to settle on a starting quarterback early enough in August to gain some stability, how are you going to be able to judge then what Chubb and Michel will be able to contribute in two or three weeks?

Now Smart, to his credit, claims that’s not how he’ll assess things.

“Well, you say if you don’t have either back, which I certainly hope that’s not the case, does it become a situation where you’ve got to go throw the ball better? We’ve got to go look at the long term, not just the first game. There’s more to this season than the first game. We’re not putting all of our eggs in the first game basket. We’ve got to figure out who’s going to be our best leader and give us the best opportunity to win. I don’t think that’s dictated by who the back is or if there’s a back healthy or if there’s two backs healthy.”

But I’m not sure what “the long term” means, exactly.  Is he playing to win the division this season?  Or is he simply using the season as a crucible to determine what talent he’ll build his program around for the next?  The answer to those questions strikes me as having a much bigger impact on his decision than how many snaps Chubb will take in the Dome.

28 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Been there, done that.

Considering which coaches were on the podium yesterday, yeah, there was a fair amount of smoke blowing.

The most controversial issue entering Tuesday centered on Mississippi State’s decision to allow freshman defensive end Jeffery Simmons to enroll on campus following the disturbing video of him punching a woman several times during a fight in March. Simmons was given a lenient one-game suspension and will be evaluated by professionals at student counseling services as well as be required to complete any program prescribed by that office.

Naturally, the school met harsh criticism, which followed head coach Dan Mullen to Hoover, as he defended Simmons’ enrollment.

“It was very uncharacteristic of the personality of who he is, of the person I’ve known before and after,” Mullen said of Simmons. “He’s a young guy that was involved in a family street fight that made a very, very poor decision. But part of our process is, within our program, to help them learn how to make good decisions in their life. That’s what we need to do.”

… New Georgia coach Kirby Smart addressed the eight player arrests that have occurred since he was hired in December.

“It’s obviously concerning,” Smart said, “but I also know what it’s like to be a student-athlete and to be a student-athlete at the University of Georgia and to deal with these issues at other places. … It’s not something that’s new. Now, it’s not something I’m proud of, nor that we condone.

“We have got to do a better job educating our players and making sure we get the right players to make the right decisions. Ultimately, a couple of these are just dumb, bonehead decisions. They’re not disease or issue, they’re just dumb decisions, and we can’t have kids make those because they reflect [on] the entire program.”

Tennessee coach Butch Jones also said that the recent settlement in the university’s Title IX lawsuit wasn’t a “relief” because of the serious nature of sexual assault and how it affects many college campuses. Jones added that the program has had approximately 70 speakers meet with the team over the past couple of years about issues such as sexual assault and sexual violence.

“It’s something that we’ll continue to educate our players on and develop our players on,” Jones said.

Maybe it’s because of the nature of the transgressions involved, or maybe I’m being something of a home boy with this, but there was something about Smart’s “but I also know what it’s like to be a student-athlete and to be a student-athlete at the University of Georgia”  that had a ring of authenticity about it.  I’m sure he’s anything but thrilled about all the player arrests so far this year, but he’s not blind to their context, either.

Let’s face it:  college kids, student-athletes included, do stupid shit.  I was a college kid once; so were you.  The trick for Smart, at least, is to know where the line is between stupid and reckless — and be willing to accept the consequences for judging misbehavior accordingly.

7 Comments

Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football

“This is not about speed. It’s about getting it right.”

According to Steve Shaw, the average number of replays in an SEC game last season was less than two.  Does that sound right to you, or does replay not mean what I think it means?

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Filed under SEC Football