Monthly Archives: February 2017

“We’re going to find out about the whole head coach control thing.”

The most interesting thing at this point about the NCAA investigation of Ole Miss is how most of the world, including me, has gone from thinking that Bjork, Freeze and Company would probably skate around any serious repercussions to the sudden realization that it’s likely a serious hammer is about to drop on the football program and the school’s athletic department.

How serious?  That’s the question.  The allegations are so numerous and significant that nobody has a real baseline of comparison from which to evaluate.

No one SI spoke to for this story downplayed the 15 Level I violations. A former committee member, who asked to remain anonymous, has seriously tracked NCAA cases for more than 15 years and couldn’t recall a case with that many. (Violations used to be classified as major and secondary, which makes comparisons imperfect. Now they are broken up from Level I to Level IV. Level I is the most serious). “In terms of sheer numbers, I can’t recall anything that matches this,” the former committee member said. “I just don’t recall anything that’s more serious.”

That’s almost a little scary, if you’re the school.

The other factor that puts the whole episode into uncharted territory is that the NCAA’s enforcement framework was radically changed a few years ago.  Ole Miss is the first school to be evaluated in the new context.

… In 2013, the NCAA introduced a new penalty matrix. (It did so with the not-so-subtle headline of, “Violator Beware.”) The idea was to make penalties more consistent, something like federal sentencing guidelines. (If you commit armed robbery, there’s a minimum prison sentence. If you commit a Level I NCAA violation, there’s a consistent punishment).

It’s not that simple, though, as the allegations the Committee finds valid will get classified as aggravated, standard or mitigated. And that nuance ultimately determines the punishment, which leaves a lot of room for variables. Not all of the alleged violations occurred after 2013, so the entire case may not even flow through the matrix.

A handful of cases have gone through the new matrix, but all the people interviewed this week didn’t feel comfortable using those cases to predict what could happen at Ole Miss. “The matrix is kind of baffling, and I understand penalties better than most people,” said the former committee member who asked to remain anonymous. “We have seen a few cases all the way through. We don’t have enough of a body of case law to make any statements or accurate predictions.”

Take a peek at the chart. It’s easy to see how with 15 Level I violations, fans of SEC rivals could project years and years of postseason bans. Alternatively, Rebels supporters could be optimistic about mitigating many of the charges and receiving little more punishment. No one really knows.

The only safe assumption is that this matrix, which the NCAA unveiled in 2013, is about to have its first heavy dose of public scrutiny. “Even with a matrix, you have undecided major issues that have yet to be litigated and decided,” Marsh said. “You still have human beings involved [in the Committee on Infractions].”

Gee, kinda like a playoff selection committee, just with sanctions.

There are only two things for certain at this point.  One is that the bleeding is going to continue for a while.

The only consistent thing about NCAA cases is that they unfold slowly. Ole Miss obviously wants this to end as quickly as possible. The school tried to spin the news this week as the end of the investigation.

The reality here is that the hearing before the Committee on Infractions won’t likely happen until the fall. Then there’s an appeals process. And considering the severity of the charges and how much Ole Miss is contesting, it’s hard to imagine things not being appealed. “This is going to be resolved in 2018 if it goes the distance,” Thomas said. “We’re looking at 2018. It’s a matter of when.”

At least we know where Hugh Freeze will be for the next couple of seasons.  And that leads to the second thing we know — Freeze may or may not be a dead man walking, but if he’s not left severely crippled by the investigation, that’s gonna leave another mark on the credibility of the NCAA’s enforcement arm.  There’s too much expected at this point for a light slap on the wrist to mollify those who expect a message to be sent.

… It’s safe to say that Freeze is fighting for his career. At the least, he faces a potential suspension, much like the ones served by Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, UConn’s Jim Calhoun and SMU’s Larry Brown. “This is an interesting test case under the new rules,” Thomas said. “Football has the most scholarships and the most staff. It does raise the question at some point of how close are we going to hold the head football coach to things that happened down the chain.”

The entire college coaching fraternity viewed Ole Miss’s anomalous recruiting success with skepticism. And there’s a strong curiosity in the coaching world of how the NCAA will handle Freeze. “If it’s a willful and intentional violation of rules, he should not be allowed to coach, “ said a Power 5 coach. “The rule says that coaches can’t coach [when NCAA issues occur]. We’re going to find out about the whole head coach control thing.”

If Freeze survives the NCAA process and potential suspension, he still has to win games at a watered-down program. Ole Miss went 5–7 last year and then lured a recruiting class so poor that Freeze labeled it “a penalty to be under the cloud we’re under.” It’s hard to imagine Freeze surviving the fickle NCAA process and the inevitable dip that Ole Miss is expected to take on the field.

Again, it’s amazing to think about the level of self-confidence Bjork and Freeze projected at the beginning of this process, that they continued to show even after the PR disaster of Laremy Tunsil’s draft night.  In retrospect, that looks like nothing more than a bad case of bravado.  The check for that nice dinner, it seems, is about to be presented.

As a Georgia fan, it’s not so much that I have anything personal against Ole Miss.  I don’t take any pleasure out of what may be coming for the fans of the program or the players, like the incoming class, who are going to pay the price for the indiscretions of others.  It’s just that I’d like to see the NCAA, for once, properly go after a program for its wrongdoing (if that’s what’s gone down, of course) in the absence of taking the Georgia Way approach of self-debasement.  There’s a message I’d approve.

27 Comments

Filed under Freeze!, The NCAA

Musical palate cleanser, on cassette and 45 edition

Here’s a song that shuffled up on my iPod this weekend — one of those tunes when you haven’t heard it in a while, you wonder why you’ve ignored it — from Spoon’s brilliant Gimme Fiction, “I Summon You”.

There’s something about the way the percussive acoustic guitar work drives the song that really appeals to me.

By the way, if you’re interested, GF is a great album, one without a single weak cut on it.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

“You knock them right in the face.”

Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey demonstrates that tone-deafness in Waco is not a gender-based affliction.

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UPDATE:  Oops. Sorry!

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Filed under Baylor Is Sensitive To Women's Issues, General Idiocy

Today, in great moments of non-mention

Al.com list entitled “SEC football’s notable NCAA cases over the years” contains nary a mention of Georgia.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, The NCAA

There’s only so much a man can put up with.

Mike Gundy sniffs and Hugh Freeze doesn’t pass the smell test.

Gundy has been among the consumers of ominous updates emanating from Oxford, Mississippi. Last week, Ole Miss announced a self-imposed bowl ban for the 2017 season.

“The first thing I thought about was (OSU’s recent experience with the NCAA),” Gundy said, “and the second thing was the Sugar Bowl and my players and what they went through.”

As he was paid $4.7 million, Freeze’s 2016 Rebels were 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the Southeastern Conference. His fate, and his program’s, won’t be determined until the NCAA finalizes its case.

It is rare that a coach will speak publicly about controversy at another school, but Gundy is a veteran of his own NCAA encounter and emerged mostly unscathed. He must be exceedingly confident that his own program is law-abiding because the OSU coach expresses resentment that Ole Miss’ Sugar Bowl roster might have been assembled at least in part through illegal tactics.

“We’ll never know what we could have done in the Sugar Bowl if it was a level playing field,” Gundy said. “That is the truth. I’m not sure we would have won the Sugar Bowl, but we’ll never know.”

Apparently, Gundy added, “we didn’t all play by the same rules. If everybody is playing by the rules and you get your butt kicked, that’s OK. I can live with that. But when it’s an uneven playing field, that’s not fair.”

I suspect we’ll soon hear how Hugh’s feelings are hurt by this.

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Filed under Freeze!

Mr. Conventional Wisdom’s gonna conventional wisdom.

From stating the obvious as if it’s profound wisdom (“Now let me say this again because some people will miss this: If the charges are proven true, Ole Miss deserves the punishment it gets.”) to lauding Mike Slive’s leadership to chastising those in glass houses, Tony Barnhart’s reaction to the Ole Miss mess is exactly what you’d expect, right down to the punctuation marks.

36 Comments

Filed under Freeze!, Media Punditry/Foibles

Well, now.

I guess you can add one more name to the list of national media not buying into another throwaway year for Georgia football.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken is ready to write off Kirby Smart if the Bulldogs don’t win the SEC East in 2017.

“If Kirby Smart doesn’t win the East next year, he’s a clown,” Wolken said on “Dukes and Bell” on SportsRadio 92.9 The Game in Atlanta on Thursday. “I’m sorry. Point blank. They are so far above the rest of that division in terms of talent right now with the players that they’ve got coming back.

“Give me a break. The expectation for Georgia next year should be winning the East, point blank—period. If they don’t get that done, then I have to seriously question whether Kirby can coach.”

Wolken gives Georgia a pass for the 2016 season, considering it was lacking depth at key positions, but he still believes Smart already has recruited well enough to beat their opposition in the division.

“We’re talking about winning a terrible division where we’ve got teams like Vandy, Missouri. South Carolina is definitely improving, but they’re not ready for prime time,” Wolken said. “Tennessee’s a joke, Florida’s not very good right now. Look at the teams they’re competing against.

“They have no excuse not to win this division next year when you’ve got Nick Chubb coming back, you’ve got Sony Michel. Jacob Eason has got to take a step forward. You’ve got guys defensively; I think they’re pretty loaded on that side of the ball. I’m sorry, they are so much more talented than the rest of that division right now. I don’t want to hear it — I don’t want to hear any excuses.”

Jeff Dantzler strenuously objects, but what about you?  Outside of a replay of the 2013 injury plague, are there reasonable excuses for Georgia not to finish the drill as the divisional favorite this season?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

The SEC’s rising tide

Al.com hit Alabama and Auburn with FOIA requests to show us the money.  You won’t be surprised to learn 2016 was a berry, berry good year.

Here’s Auburn’s story, year over year:

Auburn Athletic Finances

Year Total Revenue Total Expenses Surplus/Deficit
2016 $140,070,593 $124,864,399 $15,206,194
2015 $124,657,247 $115,498,047 $9,159,200

A $16 million increase in revenue and a $6 million bump in profit is none too shabby.

Alabama did just fine, as well.

According to documents filed with the NCAA, the school’s profit increased 13.1 percent in 2016 to $18.7 million.

…To compare to Alabama’s $18.7 million total profit, Auburn’s athletics department reported a $15.2 million surplus. Auburn’s $140 million revenue was a school record, as was Alabama’s $164 million in income.

Georgia, as you no doubt know, isn’t in any hurry to respond to open records requests, so we’ll be waiting a while to hear what a great job Greg McGarity’s done in that regard.  But if you’re of a mind to triangulate, you can find Georgia’s 2015 numbers here:  $116,151,279 in total revenue and $19,591,972 in “surplus” (nice euphemism there).  If things are fairly analogous — and you’d think they would be — Butts-Mehre is positively rolling in dough.

12 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

A fresh set of eyes for the offense?

On first blush, those of you who are frustrated with Jim Chaney should welcome this news.

The Georgia Bulldogs are set to add an analyst that was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at multiple spots the last few seasons.

Multiple sources have confirmed to Dawgs247 that former Minnesota OC and Quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson is set to join the Bulldogs as an offensive analyst.

Here’s his bio from the U of Minnesota web site.

Johnson, who is from Lakeville, Minn., has more than two decades of coaching experience on offense and just recently completed his fifth season as offensive coordinator for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns.

Johnson directed an offense that set multiple school records during his five years at Louisiana. Under Johnson, the Cajuns set school records for total offense (5,914 yards) and points (461) in 2012. Johnson’s offense finished 22nd in the nation in rushing in 2014, as it averaged 225.9 yards per game.

In 2013, the Cajuns set program records for total first downs (283) and total plays from scrimmage (883). Johnson’s offense was also extremely effective in the red zone during his stint at Louisiana, as it finished 10th in the nation in 2014, converting at a 91.2 percent success rate.

Johnson also coached and developed record-setting quarterback Terrance Broadway from 2012-14. Broadway is the school’s record holder in total offense with 9,240 yards. In 2013, Broadway led Sun Belt quarterbacks in passing efficiency and completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,419 yards and 19 touchdowns. Prior to Broadway, Johnson coached quarterback Blaine Gautier, who in 2011, threw for a school record 2,958 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Before you hyperventilate over the prospect of Kirby bringing in a little competition, so to speak, to direct the offense, note what’s missing there — any discussion of how Minnesota’s offense performed in 2016 under Johnson’s direction.

Bill Connelly is here to help with that, though, and his advanced stats profile doesn’t exactly overwhelm.  Yes, Minnesota finished ahead of Georgia in offensive S&P+, but given that the Dawgs were 93rd, the Gophers’ 84th ranking isn’t exciting.  Nor is the rest of what’s there a huge upgrade.  Mitch Leidner was a senior and a three-year starter at quarterback who managed to finish last season with the worst passer rating of his career.

I’ll be interested to hear more about what they’re getting, but as initial impressions go, there doesn’t appear to be much to get excited about.

27 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

War of words

Willie Taggart’s gotten off to a rocky start at Oregon for, among other things, some trouble with the strength and conditioning program that resulted in the S&C coach being suspended for a month and Taggart losing direct control over the S&C program.

Taggart has responded in the most professional way he could.

Head coach Willie Taggart, whom Oregon hired to replace Mark Helfrich in December, said he is no longer speaking to The Oregonian reporter who broke the story, claiming that the reporter’s characterization of the workouts as “grueling” and “akin to military basic training” were inaccurate, unfair and directly contradicted what Taggart told the reporter before the story was written.

Keep in mind that the words used by the reporter were suggested to him by several sources and that a faculty athletics representative who investigated said the story was fair and that coaches made mistakes in the first workout.  Oh, and let’s not forget that three players were hospitalized due to the workouts.

So when you boil it down, Oregon’s head coach has decided to get pissy with the paper covering his team over semantics.  That certainly bodes well for his public relations skills.  Better win big and win fast, my man.

14 Comments

Filed under Pac-12 Football