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Daily Archives: July 12, 2017
Just when you think it’s gonna be a same old, same old, SEC Media Days, along comes an old familiar face to blow up that shit.
Former football coach Houston Nutt filed a civil lawsuit against the University of Mississippi and the Ole Miss Athletic Foundation on Wednesday, alleging breach of contract via defamation of character, in relation to the school’s handling of an NCAA investigation.
Nutt, who coached at Ole Miss from 2008-11 and currently is a CBS television analyst, signed a separation agreement in November 2011 that he alleges the school violated. He is suing the school for punitive damages related to what the suit says was a “long-running … smear campaign” aimed at Nutt.
The suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Oxford, Miss., hammers current Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze and athletic director Ross Bjork for creating and perpetuating a “false narrative” regarding the nature of the NCAA’s long-running investigation – particularly the contents of the January 2016 Notice of Allegations. Citing phone records obtained from the school, the suit details numerous “off the record” communications in January ’16 from Freeze and Bjork to media members that allegedly influenced reporting on the NOA, resulting in stories and social media posts that portrayed the violations as having primarily occurred during Nutt’s tenure.
When the NOA was made public more than four months later, that characterization was proven inaccurate. Of the 13 football violations alleged by the NCAA, nine of them happened during Freeze’s tenure.
Some of the allegations in the complaint have to be read to be believed. For instance, take this loving portrayal of Hugh Freeze:
As far as that cultivation of journalists goes, while the suit doesn’t name names, it’s not hard to figure out where the finger is pointed, as it goes on to list a number of specific tweets (!) referencing Nutt.
Just as amusing is this little tidbit indicating that Nutt unleashed his inner Pork Rind Jimmy to get dirt on Freeze, AD Bjork and SID Campbell:
According to the lawsuit, which obtained phone records for Freeze, Bjork and Campbell, they spoke with those reporters before their stories were posted containing misleading information about the Notice of Allegations and Nutt’s involvement. [Emphasis added.]
“During the 10 days leading up to the crucial weekend recruiting event, Coach Freeze initiated ‘off the record’ conversations with numerous sports journalists for the specific purpose of creating multiple false and misleading news stories, Tweets and other social media comments supporting the above-referenced false narrative, i.e., that the NCAA’s focus was on the former football coaching staff and Houston Nutt in particular.”
Brother, if anybody has experience with people prying into phone records, it’s Houston Nutt. I suppose that makes this situation the opposite of being hoisted on one’s own petard.
With Ole Miss scheduled to show at tomorrow’s slate at SEC Media Days, the timing is exquisite. Between this and the inevitable NCAA questions he was already going to face, if Hugh Freeze doesn’t bow out with a sudden case of stomach flu, he’s either dumber or crazier than I think he is.
Chick-fil-A Bowl chairman Gary Stokan explains why neutral site openers are the logical way to go. You’ll be shocked, shocked by his reasoning.
“I believe that college football should keep its intersectional rivalries, should keep its home-and-home,” Stokan said. “But on the other side, if you’re looking at potentially getting into an area where you want to recruit, where your alumni are, where a financial windfall can take place. In the case of the ACC and the SEC it works because you have four conference games at home, with four non-conference games to schedule. They build their budget on seven home games, so as long as you can schedule seven home games, you’ve made your budget. Now you’ve got one game to schedule. And if you can schedule it in Atlanta and make $5 million, where you net $3 million for a home game, that $2 million is a win. For your recruiting base, coming to Atlanta is a win. Playing in front of 30,000 of your fans is a win. So there’s no real down side.
“It’s harder to do home-and-home, because when you play the away game part of that, you don’t make any money. So if you can do like Nick Saban has done and go neutral-neutral, $5 million one year and $4 million the next year, that’s $5-6 million more than you would have made playing a home-and-home. Do I believe in home-and-home? Most definitely. That’s how college football was built. But when you get an opportunity to play in one of these neutral site games and get a financial and recruiting windfall and where your alumni are, I think it makes sense.”
Tell that to the fans who have to pay full freight for a season ticket package and the inflated ticket cost for one of these mega games, all for the privilege of not seeing their team play at home. Such a deal.
Like it or not, the spotlight is now firmly centered on Kirby Smart and his Georgia Bulldogs. The hype train is returning to Sanford Stadium, placing the Bulldogs back on the national map less than two years after long-time coach Mark Richt was fired.
Smart will be entering only his second year as head coach (at any level), but who cares? Georgia returns 10 defensive starters and a possible superstar quarterback — who is only a sophomore. Georgia is also months removed from signing the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class, which featured 18 ESPN 300 members and four five-star prospects.
The Bulldogs have the luxury of playing in an SEC East division that has spent the better part of the past few years being riddled with instability. Like with Tennessee last season, this is the year we take Georgia football seriously again.
Regardless of how truly inexperienced Smart is at running an entire program, the Bulldogs have become an early media darling and will likely be pegged by most of the scribes at the conclusion of SEC media days to win the East for the first time since 2012. Fair or not, for a team that went 8-5 in Smart’s inaugural season the Bulldogs look — on paper — like a team capable of representing the East in 2017.
Former Georgia offensive tackle and current SEC Network analyst Matt Stinchcomb doesn’t mince words when it comes to high expectations leading into coach Kirby Smart’s second season at Georgia.
“Yeah, absolutely it is,” Stinchcomb said at SEC Media Days when asked if those expectations were fair so soon for Smart. “There have been coaches that have come into this conference to win national championships in year two. Just because it’s your second year at a program, that’s not in rebuilding mode. It’s a program that was notching double-digit wins every season.”
Stinchcomb said Smart is well aware of what was awaiting him in Athens, Ga., when he left Alabama.
“That’s not news to him,” Stinchcomb said. “Kirby was aware of what he was walking into and what the expectations would be. I think a division championship is not only reasonable but, what it looks like for a conference landscape and from a divisional standpoint, should be expected.”
As I posted elsewhere this morning, Smart isn’t stupid. He also, unlike others who shall remain nameless, isn’t complacent. The big task facing him in 2017 is translating attitude into results. That means better coaching and better player development than we’ve seen. Neither should be impossible tasks for someone who’s had years to observe one of the masters of both firsthand.
There’s another part to the great expectations game, one that’s not about the program, but about the coach directly. Aschoff again:
Plus, history is on Smart’s side, as Year 2 has been a banner year for recent SEC coaches. Urban Meyer and Gene Chizik won national championships in their second seasons at Florida and Auburn, respectively. Nick Saban won 10 games and the SEC in his second year at LSU, then led an undefeated Alabama team, with Smart manning his defense, to the SEC championship game in his second year in Tuscaloosa in 2008. Les Miles won 11 games in his second season at LSU (2006), as did Will Muschamp at Florida (2012). Jim McElwain won the SEC East in his first two seasons at Florida.
Richt also won the SEC in his second season way back in 2002, which means that the man Smart replaced still casts quite the shadow over Sanford Stadium.
If Kirby really is the special guy that McGarity and the boosters thought they were getting when he was brought in to run the program, based on the conference’s recent history, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t the time for him to demonstrate they weren’t wrong. Certainly the resources are there, the divisional challenges aren’t too daunting and the schedule is manageable.
They make for an interesting compare-and-contrast.
“For me it’s important that you understand as the head coach of the University of Georgia, I’m proud to be there, but we embrace those (expectations), the coaching staff, we embrace those as our players,” Smart said. “When you come to the University of Georgia, the expectation is to win championships. That’s what we expect to do at the University of Georgia, and that’s the standard we’ll be held to.”
“We don’t want players who don’t expect to win,” he added. “When you come to the University of Georgia … you’re going to be one of the best players in the country, coming from one of the best states in the country, one of the best high school football states in the country. We expect them to come in with that attitude and demeanor. You create that, and it permeates your program by how you carry yourself and perform on the field. And we have not performed on the field from the level we should. That’s something we have to continue to improve on.”
That’s a strikingly different tone than what we heard from Tennessee’s Butch Jones on Monday. The Vols were picked to win the East last year but finished two games behind division champion Florida. The difference in Tennessee’s nine wins and Georgia’s eight? A Joshua Dobbs Hail Mary touchdown pass to beat Georgia 34-31 in the final seconds on Oct. 1. Otherwise, their seasons were essentially the same.
Tennessee beat nationally ranked Florida, and Nebraska in the Music City Bowl; lost to nationally ranked Alabama and Texas A&M; and lost to unranked Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
Georgia beat nationally ranked North Carolina and Auburn, and TCU in the Liberty Bowl; lost to nationally ranked Ole Miss and Florida; and lost to unranked Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech.
But anyone within earshot of The Wynfrey Hotel on Monday knows Tennessee is coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons because Jones pointed out several times that Tennessee is coming off back-to-back nine-win seasons. With six NFL draft picks, the Vols reached the top 10 last fall but finished the season No. 22.
“On the field, we’re very proud of the fact that it’s very, very difficult to win in the Southeastern Conference, and we’re one of only three programs that have won nine games two years in a row,” Jones said.
“This is a results-oriented business and we fell short of our goals,” he added. “But I don’t like to use the term ‘disappointment,’ because when you still look at it, it’s hard to win in this conference. And only three teams have won nine games, and the University of Tennessee is one of those.”
Granted, some of the difference can be attributed to Jones sitting on a warmer seat than Smart, and maybe Jones deserves a little slack because he had to dig out of a deeper hole than the one Smart started with (remember, Richt got fired in the midst of back-to-back ten win seasons). As Matter notes, though, but for one play, the 2016 Georgia and Tennessee seasons were quite similar, so it’s enlightening to see the very different filters through which the two coaches view their last year.
Georgia’s 2017 schedule opens with a tricky test against Appalachian State followed by a first trip ever to Notre Dame, and the fifth game is a journey to Tennessee and the site of Chubb’s gruesome setback.
“I’ll be excited to go back,” he said. “I kind of like stuff like that. I use it for motivation.”
Hoo, boy, Vols.
He’s got some words for his teammates, too.
Gentlemen, you don’t want to disappoint Nick Chubb.
“Jacob Eason is our starter going into the season. Jake Fromm’s got to do something to beat him out,” Smart said on Tuesday at SEC Media Days. “Very similar to a lot of positions. You’ve got to beat them out. But we’re very excited about both of them. Including Brice [Ramsey] we have three talented players.”
It would have been borderline coaching malpractice to start a true freshman QB in back-to-back seasons. Smart ain’t dumb.