Daily Archives: July 13, 2017

The year of almost

That Kirby Smart succeeding as Georgia’s head coach is guaranteed to shore up Greg McGarity’s standing as athletic director is a reality that doesn’t escape me.  Nor does it curb my desire for the football team to win big.

But, damn, I sure wish McGarity would stop going out of his way to remind me about that.

Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity summed up the 2016-2017 athletic year for in one word during a speech for the Rotary Club of Athens at Holiday Inn Wednesday.

“Almost.”

“I don’t look back too often, but sometimes you have to look back to see what you can improve and really, I thought this was the year of almost,” McGarity said.

He pointed to football — the close wins over Missouri and Kentucky and the close losses. He mentioned the close contests in men’s basketball. Second place finishes nationally in women’s track and field and equestrian, and top four finishes in indoor track and men’s tennis.

Close. But not quite there.

“We were so close, but I really, truly now feel this is the year we’re going to get over that hump, because we have so many good things in place and we’ve got a lot of momentum building in our program, inside our world,” McGarity said.

I hope he’s right, even as I cringe at the thought of the inevitable victory lap he’ll take if he is.  It’s never easy being a Georgia fan, I suppose.

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Finding the next Saban

I’m seeing a lot of these “SEC East schools are stupid for hiring Saban disciples” pieces lately.  This is pretty common reasoning:

The two most productive branches of his coaching tree have gone to conferences other than the SEC: Mark Dantonio and Jimbo Fisher have built programs at Michigan State and Florida State. Meanwhile, the SEC’s subsequent efforts to “find the next Saban” have been fruitless, and as long as Saban is on top, he shows no signs of letting a former assistant get the best of him or build a program that lunges past Alabama as the SEC’s standard-bearer.

And yet, SEC programs — exclusively those in the East — keep on hiring them in hopes of making it happen.

The logic isn’t necessarily faulty. Time and a mountain of examples have simply exposed the strategy as specious at best and foolhardy at worst. Hiring a Saban assistant is like playing Texas hold’em, knowing your opponent is holding pocket kings and going all in with a suited jack and queen anyway. You’ve still got a pretty good hand, but what chance do you have at knocking off the big stack at the table?

“Maybe if we hire someone who knows how he ticks, we’ll find a way to beat him.” 

In reality, the reverse appears to be far more accurate. The idea that Saban’s reign as the king of the SEC — and really, college football — will end at the hands of a protégé looks sillier by the day. In fact, the next time a Saban assistant beats him head-to-head will be the first. They’ve all come up empty in nine tries.

Oh for nine… case closed, I suppose.

Certainly that’s not a good track record, but let’s not pretend the rest of the world is doing much better.  Saban’s record at Alabama now stands at 114-19, with six of those losses coming in his first season there.  In other words, his teams have lost a grand total of thirteen games in their last nine seasons.

Never mind that.  Ubben has some tough love for Florida and Georgia on the subject.

Florida football (and underachieving Georgia, while we’re on the subject) does not exist to win division titles and be subsequently sacrificed at the altar of Saban in Atlanta on the first Saturday of December. It’s cause to wonder if those in charge of hiring have paid any attention to the parade of swings and misses at dethroning Saban — or the haymakers that have caused his empire to wobble, even if those wobbles were ever so slight.

That’s not really as good a question as it sounds.  Alabama is dominant because of resources.  If you want to go toe-to-toe with the Tide, you’d best not be lagging behind in the recruiting department.  (A lesson that Kirby Smart grasps more firmly than does Jim McElwain, it seems.)  That’s how Ohio State managed the trick.

Just as importantly, if you want to beat Alabama, you’d better have a transcendent quarterback.  Think of some of the teams that have notched wins over the years:  Auburn, with Cam and Nick Marshall; Texas A&M, with Manziel; Clemson, with Watson.  Does anyone in the SEC have comparable talent at the position right now?  (That’s a rhetorical question, peeps.)

While I question the decision making that led Georgia to hire someone without any previous head coaching experience, I’m not stubborn enough to say Smart should have been disqualified merely for having been a Saban assistant.  If anyone knows where the weak points in Tuscaloosa are, it should be Kirby Smart.  As to whether that’s enough to bring Georgia to Alabama’s level, give me a couple more recruiting classes and a couple more years of quarterback development to see.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules

Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss, a play in three acts

Don’t forget that there are two lawsuits spawned by the NCAA investigation of Ole Miss, the one Houston Nutt announced yesterday and the one a booster filed against two Mississippi State players who are alleged to have spoken to the NCAA about Ole Miss.

Those two filed answers in court.

Attorneys for Mississippi State players Leo Lewis and Kobe Jones have both filed responses in Lafayette County to the lawsuit brought against both players by Oxford-based business Rebel Rags.

Rebel Rags attorney Charles Merkel confirmed to the Starkville Daily News on Wednesday that he has received the responses issued from Lewis’ and Jones’ respective attorneys.

Last month, Rebel Rags brought a lawsuit against Lewis, Jones and Lindsey Miller, who is the estranged stepfather of former Ole Miss player Laremy Tunsil. Case documents also list 15 John Does among the defendants. The case accused Lewis and Jones of defamation, commercial disparagement and civil conspiracy. Rebel Rags claims Lewis and Jones provided false statements to the NCAA about receiving free merchandise when the two players were recruits. Lewis and Jones were each supposedly interviewed by the NCAA during the investigation into Ole Miss.

Merkel said Lewis’ and Jones’ responses featured motions to be severed from the other defendants, motions to transfer venue and motions to dismiss.

John Wheeler, the lawyer for Lewis, told the SDN that he argues in his response that Rebel Rags’ suit is “fatally flawed” as the retail outlet is the only party in the case that has published any potentially damaging comments.
“On the merits, it is not permissible for an individual or entity to attempt to recover damages in civil court for defamation when the only publication of the alleged defamatory comment was made by the plaintiff that is the entity that seeks damages,” Wheeler said. “It’s also important to always remember that truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation. It always has been and always will be. I think it is really important to remember, from Leo Lewis’ standpoint, that any participation he had, if any, in an NCAA investigative process, because he is a scholar athlete at a participating institution, would be by NCAA rules, confidential. It would also be compulsory. He has no choice. He has to participate in those interviews. So whatever he did was compulsory. It was confidential. He hasn’t mentioned anything to anyone outside of that investigative process. For Rebel Rags to claim they’ve been defamed by Leo Lewis, when the only publication that has ever been made about this issue was made by Rebel Rags, I find disingenuous.

“Everything else in the public domain, whether it be from the NCAA or from the University of Mississippi was done with redactions and references to John Does. There was no specificity as to the student-athletes involved, or the boosters.”

Just like with Nutt’s suit, the problem this case poses for the school is that it could lead to sensitive information being pried out under oath from Ole Miss folks through the discovery process.  That is probably not an optimal thing from the school’s standpoint.  Unfortunately, and unlike the Nutt litigation, as the school is not a party to the suit, it isn’t in a position to settle the matter pre-discovery.

Popcorn.  We’re gonna need more popcorn.

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Filed under Freeze!, See You In Court

Tight race for second place

Nick Saban said yesterday that he thinks “there’s a lot of parity in our league”.

If he doesn’t include Alabama, he’s right.

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules, SEC Football

Workin’ for the man isn’t really a job.

Greg Sankey can be such a card.

Greg Sankey knew the exact amount of time between the end of the College World Series and the beginning of Southeastern Conference media days.

He knows because he was there in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 27 when Florida beat LSU to win the national championship. He knows because he was there, too, on Monday, stepping to the microphone to begin media days.

“We used to sing ‘Twelve Days of Christmas,’ ” Sankey joked in his opening address to reporters. “We’re working on ‘Twelve Days of Summer’ as a new song. It does go quickly.”

Chuckle, chuckle.

Remember, this is coming from the guy who said this week that the SEC is following the discussion on expanding the college football season an additional week, with its attendant price of shortening the period between the end of summer school and the start of fall camp.

Then again, Sankey’s joviality may stem from the reality that there ain’t really that much time now, anyway.

More than half of the league is beginning preseason camp in July, according to tentative dates that emerged this week.

The NCAA Division I Council abolished two-a-days this spring, a ruling that resulted in the addition of an extra week of camp. Schools can start seven days earlier than in previous years.

Some are using it. Others are not.

Practices are beginning as early as July 25 at Mississippi State and as late as Aug. 3 at Alabama…

… The Bulldogs don’t complete the second term of summer classes until Aug. 2-3, a week after camp is scheduled to start. LSU will have a short break — just two days — from the time summer school ends (July 27) to its reporting date of July 30. Drills begin July 31.

Coach Ed Orgeron purposely planned the schedule to allow his players to potentially return home before the grueling weeks of camp begin.

“I couldn’t push it any farther back,” he said. “Got to give the guys a couple of days off. We cannot push it back another week. That’s going to dig into our summer school time. We’re starting as early as we can.”

Two whole days to spend with the family.  Ed, you’re a real prince.

For Mullen, even starting as early as possible isn’t enough.  It seems the NCAA has left too much slack in the players’ schedule for his comfort.

The NCAA has made it mandatory that players receive one full day off per week during drills. Complete off days were not mandatory and were somewhat of a rarity in previous years.

Mullen, a previous member of the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee, is against a full day off. He’d like to see the policy tweaked to allow coaches to, say, teach a non-football class on players’ off days.

“Instead of sitting around a hotel on their back for the entire day, bring them in and have two hours of life skills,” he said.

Lazy sumbitches, sitting on their backs.  Good thing the coaches don’t treat them like they’re on a job.

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