Monthly Archives: January 2018

You can never go wrong blaming Auburn.

The reaction of Alabama’s players to the “Central Florida national champs” cheeky narrative is about what you’d expect

… but I do love this one, for obvious reasons.

Hmmm… maybe Gus tanked it on purpose.

31 Comments

Filed under Alabama, Auburn's Cast of Thousands, BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

All the right moves

Allow me to submit the proposition that a man willing to subject himself to this on the recruiting trail (with apparently good humor, mind you)…

… isn’t the kind of man intent on hanging his spurs up any time soon.  (h/t)

20 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Recruiting

Player development, for the win

I thought it might be fun to go back and look at Phil Steele’s preseason projections of Georgia’s standing in each of his 2017’s top individual units, not because I want to take a shot at Steele’s analytical acumen — honestly, I couldn’t find much to disagree with at the time I first read them — but in the hopes that it might provide some indication of the job Georgia’s staff did developing the talent in the course of what wound being one of the program’s best seasons in decades.

Here come the bullet points, with Steele’s ranking and my comments.

  • Quarterbacks.  24th.  (A fair assessment, based way more on potential than on results to date.  It’s just that Fromm exceeded expectations by a wide margin.)
  • Running backs.  2nd.  (Hard to go up here, but I’d argue that Swift wound up with a better freshman season than most thought he’d have coming in.)
  • Receivers.  21st.  (This one is a little hard to judge, given that the passing game wasn’t exactly a point of emphasis.  I would argue, though, that between the improved blocking, the emergence of Wims and that Georgia finished 11th nationally in yards per passing attempt, that the group was a little underrated going in.)
  • Offensive line.  46th.  (I have the feeling next year’s bunch will be somewhat more favorably rated by Steele.)
  • Defensive line.  11th.  (This one strikes me as about right, both then and now.)
  • Linebackers.  6th.  (There were some higher ranked units that didn’t pan out as well as Georgia’s, so, yeah, this one wound up a bit on the light side.)
  • Defensive backs.  16th.  (Before the CFP, I might have questioned this ranking, but as Georgia wound up 15th in defensive passer rating, I can’t object too much.)
  • Special teams.  Unranked, i.e., outside the top 55.  (Yeah, that would ordinarily rank as a major whiff, except nobody else saw this special teams’ season coming.)

Bottom line, no lapses –that’s as much about good coaching as the improvements are, by the way — and three major leaps at quarterback, offensive line and special teams.  Pretty much explains the season, don’t it?

16 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water

Today, in just askin’

Man, this article is so dumb I almost feel guilty sharing it, but an SEC Country writer looks at several 2016 quarterback signees not making it with their teams and goes on to ask the musical question… okay, he can’t even bring himself to ask a specific question, so he leads with “The SEC’s recent history with highly ranked quarterbacks is eyebrow-raising, to say the least.”

Oy.  Some of those kids, like Jacob Eason, were overtaken by equally well-regarded recruits.  Shea Patterson decided to bail on Ole Miss in the wake of NCAA sanctions.  Does anyone really doubt that if he stayed, he’d be starting this season.

Then there’s my favorite example.

Perhaps the most discussed potential transfer is Alabama’s Jalen Hurts. Tua Tagovailoa, a 5-star freshman in the 2017 class, replaced Hurts after halftime of the National Championship Game and led Alabama to a come-from-behind win over Georgia. Hurts has not announced his intentions, but at the very least there will be a quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa this spring.

Congratulations, Holmes, you’ve cracked the case!  Never mind that nothing’s happened yet.

The only thing that’s eyebrow raising of late is that the conference schools have upped their games recruiting quarterbacks.  It’s a strange day when increased competition is eyebrow raising.

8 Comments

Filed under Recruiting, SEC Football

Emmert defends Emmert.

If you didn’t think the NCAA president would lay low after the article in The Athletic asserting he had knowledge shortly after taking office that there was a sexual assault problem with Michigan State athletics, well, you’d be right.

A day after a report suggested the NCAA could have years ago looked into problems at Michigan State, President Mark Emmert said Saturday that sexual assault allegations against Spartans athletes in 2010 were “widely reported” and already being investigated by law enforcement and the school.

Emmert made the comments in an email to the NCAA Board of Governors and other university presidents. Spokeswoman Stacey Osburn provided Emmert’s email to The Associated Press.

If you’ve already gotten the hint that maybe this wasn’t the best defense, don’t let me convince you otherwise.

Emmert noted he met with the coalition’s Katherine Redmond and legal expert Wendy Murphy in November 2010. A letter sent by Emmert, dated Dec. 6 and addressed to Redmond and Parker, was also provided to AP. It detailed programs the NCAA was helping to implement on campuses to address sexual violence and student behavior, though it made no specific reference to Michigan State.

As for his role, Emmert told the NCAA board in his email: “The MSU cases were widely reported in the press and already being investigated by law enforcement and university officials. Kathy did not imply that these were unreported cases or that she was acting as a whistleblower to report unknown information to the letter’s recipients.”

You see the holes there, don’t you?  If not, let the author of The Athletic piece spell out the first.

Evidently, if you don’t spell things out completely for Mark Emmert, he’s at a loss about what you want.  Obviously the many programs the NCAA sponsored at the time that Emmert mentioned in his response have had a great impact at member institutions like Baylor and Michigan State.

The other hole?  “The MSU cases were widely reported in the press and already being investigated by law enforcement and university officials.”?  Really, that’s your defense for avoiding direct involvement?  Emmert wants to go there after tearing up the NCAA procedures manual to go at Penn State even as the Sandusky tragedy was being reported and investigated extensively?  If that was the standard at the time, why is the NCAA wading into what’s happened at Michigan State now?

This is the look of a fish flopping around on the shore, frantically trying to throw itself back into safe waters.  I can’t help but wonder what was going through Stacey Osburn’s mind when Emmert asked her to pass this on to the Associated Press.  If it was anything other than “geez, this isn’t going to end well”, she’s dumber than I thought.

9 Comments

Filed under Crime and Punishment, The NCAA

Getting noticed

Georgia’s current prowess on the recruiting trail, that is.  The obvious — Georgia sitting in one of the most talent rich states, the other P5 school not contesting for the majority of that in-state talent, the athletic department devoting ever-increasing resources in support of the staff and the staff’s approach to recruiting itself — isn’t enough for some folks.

There’s the benign explanation, as pitched by a Michigan commit:

While Michigan’s current class isn’t ranked as highly as in recent years, according to some recruits, that could be attributed to the product on the field.

“Recruits go to the mainstream schools that are having a lot of success in the moment, if you look at Georgia and how they’re doing,” said ESPN 300 tight end Mustapha Muhammad, a Michigan commit. “In Michigan’s case, we didn’t have the best year and that’s why we missed on a few guys.”

I’m sure Georgia’s 2017 run has helped sell the product, but let’s not ignore the momentum that was already in place with Georgia’s recruiting before the ’17 season was even underway.

Then there’s the ol’ “if you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin'” spin.

Yeah, evidently that came straight from the keyboard of a moderator of a recruiting site message board.

The point being not that this can’t be dismissed as arrant bullshit, but that with great success comes a target on your back.  I imagine the Georgia chatter on the recruiting trail grows more harsh and will continue to do so.

45 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

On a lighter note…

How long do you give that relationship?

12 Comments

Filed under Fall and Rise of Bobby Petrino

The enablers among us

I gather from the emails and comments I’ve already received that many of you have read the disheartening pieces at ESPN and The Athletic related to the unfurling scandal at Michigan State over sexual assault that appears to have permeated every level of sports administration from the coaching staffs at the school all the way to the upper reaches of the NCAA.  If you haven’t read them yet, by all means take the time to do so.

I suppose I should say at this point that it was almost a relief to find myself getting so angry as I read each.  It’s good to know that my jaded cynicism still has its limits.

That being said, there’s a huge difference here between being angry and being surprised.  And I am most assuredly not taken aback by the notion that powerful coaches of successful programs at best turned a blind eye and at worst… well,

Over the past three years, MSU has three times fought in court — unsuccessfully — to withhold names of athletes in campus police records. The school has also deleted so much information from some incident reports that they were nearly unreadable. In circumstances in which administrators have commissioned internal examinations to review how they have handled certain sexual violence complaints, officials have been selective in releasing information publicly. In one case, a university-hired outside investigator claimed to have not even generated a written report at the conclusion of his work. And attorneys who have represented accusers and the accused agree on this: University officials have not always been transparent, and often put the school’s reputation above the need to give fair treatment to those reporting sexual violence and to the alleged perpetrators.

Even MSU’s most-recognizable figures, football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo, have had incidents involving their programs, Outside the Lines has found.

Since Dantonio’s tenure began in 2007, at least 16 MSU football players have been accused of sexual assault or violence against women, according to interviews and public records obtained by Outside the Lines. Even more, Dantonio was said to be involved in handling the discipline in at least one of the cases several years ago. As recently as June, Dantonio faced a crowd of reporters who were asking questions about four of his football players who had been accused of sexual assault. Six questions in, a reporter asked Dantonio how he had handled such allegations previously.

“This is new ground for us,” Dantonio answered. “We’ve been here 11 years — it has not happened previously.”

Please don’t get me wrong here.  There are monsters among us who deserve everything the criminal justice system can throw at them.  Larry Nassar is a monster.  Jerry Sandusky is a monster.

But monsters don’t operate, don’t successfully seek out and find their prey over a number of years without institutional support, whether that comes from coaches protecting their programs, their reputations and their seven-figure annual salaries, or from administrators with similar motivations.

On Thursday, Outside the Lines reported that MSU officials in 2014 did not notify federal officials that the university had dual Title IX and campus police investigations of Nassar under way even though federal investigators were on campus that year scrutinizing how MSU dealt with sexual assault allegations. The Outside the Lines report also found that MSU administrators still have not provided to federal officials all documents related to the Nassar allegations.

Don’t overlook this part, either.

The previously unreported cases that Outside the Lines discovered include three reports of physical violence and three reported sexual assaults by football players. Each was investigated by campus police.

As part of a 2014 reporting effort spanning 10 universities, ESPN requested copies of all police reports involving football and basketball players from campus and local police departments over six seasons. In Michigan State’s case, the university supplied the reports but marked out the players’ names — something East Lansing police did not do. ESPN ultimately sued MSU for the release of material, and Michigan courts ruled that the school had violated the state’s open records laws, awarded ESPN the unredacted records, and told MSU to pay ESPN’s attorneys’ fees. When ESPN submitted a subsequent records request last year, MSU took the unusual step of proactively suing ESPN to defend its withholding of the documents. A judge, in dismissing the lawsuit, wrote that a public body filing suit against a requestor could create a “chilling effect” and dissuade people from requesting records in the first place.

The tl;dr version of that:

That a school president could be a part of something like that and turn around and confidently assert that “there is no cover-up” on her way out the door while collecting a large buyout should tell you all you need to know about the institutional attitude of Michigan State.

Of course, as the second linked piece indicates, the buck didn’t stop at the desk of MSU’s president.  No, this one managed to climb higher.  Much higher.

NCAA president Mark Emmert was specifically alerted in November 2010 — six months after he was hired as the organization’s president — to 37 reports involving Michigan State athletes sexually assaulting women.

Kathy Redmond, the founder of the National Coalition Against Violent Athletes, provided The Athletic with a copy of the letter she sent to Emmert urging him to better protect women with new, stronger gender violence policy measures.

In the letter, which was sent after Redmond and Emmert met in person in Indianapolis to discuss the topic, she specifically highlighted concerns about Michigan State. Emmert was unavailable for comment to The Athletic on Friday afternoon.

That sound you hear is that of wagons circling.

If you look up the word naive in the dictionary, it’s hard to improve upon this as a definitional example.

“Mark Emmert was brand new, and he’d initially said, ‘One sexual assault is one too many,’ ” Redmond told The Athletic on Friday. “As soon as I heard that, I thought I might have an ally.”

How’d that work out?

“What I really got from the experience with Mark Emmert was, that governing body governs him,” Redmond said. “He met with me, which was great and I appreciated that. But the governing board has an awful lot of power. … It’s a strange setup. You do kind of get the fox guarding the hen house mentality. You do feel like the NCAA doesn’t like to do investigations because they like their relationships (with university officials and conferences). I think Mark Emmert came in with the right tone but quickly realized, ‘There’s not a lot I can do here.’ ”

I think we just have seen the epitaph for Emmert’s NCAA career.

The thing unanswered here — you may have already thought of it yourself — is that less than two years later, Emmert himself is ripping up the NCAA procedures manual in an effort to bring Penn State to heel.  But crickets on Michigan State.  Until now.

I’ve already asked what Emmert thinks he can accomplish, given that events on the ground have moved quickly in the wake of Nassar’s conviction, but that question takes on a different perspective when Redmond asks it.

“What are they going to look at, exactly?” Redmond said. “We know they haven’t complied with federal law. They haven’t been helpful with investigations, we know that. … Mark Emmert, when he met with me, said the NCAA can’t be ‘state actors.’ So, what is the policy that he’s going for? Or is he looking to create a different one?”

Still, Redmond said she fully supports the NCAA getting involved at Michigan State now and, in particular, probing the welfare and safety of female athletes treated by Nassar. She hopes the NCAA can help and listen to others, even if it hasn’t listened to her policy ideas or her warnings in the past.

“They shouldn’t ignore the whistleblowers, or dismiss them,” Redmond said. “And they’ve done that.”

Why would anyone expect better, knowing what we know now?  The only way things change is if outside force is applied.

It is time to recognize that collegiate sports at the highest level are a fundamentally corrupt exercise.  Money, power and authority combine to make a toxic brew.  The NCAA exists as an institution to enforce the flow of cash to those with power and authority and away from those without.  It is there, in other words, to have the collective backs of conference commissioners, school presidents and athletic directors on the business side of things.  That’s it.  There’s nothing else there, despite protestations to the contrary by the Emmerts and Remys of the world.  To pretend that these institutions are imbued with some nobility of purpose that drives their actions in the athletics sector is to be even more naive than Kathy Redmond was.

One more point of naivete:  if you still believe that events at Penn State, Baylor and Michigan State are isolated incidents, you need to disabuse yourself of that notion and quickly.  Don’t kid yourself.  Power corrupts and there are a lot of powerful people in D-1 college athletics.

I’m not saying that those who enable monsters are more evil than the monsters they enable.  More disgusting, though?  Yeah, I could go there.

68 Comments

Filed under College Football, Crime and Punishment, The NCAA

Today, in euphemisms

Can you say “adjustment”?  I thought you could.

39 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness

About “hands-on” and staff decisions

As we sit here, Kirby Smart has two open spots on the coaching staff, one being the newly authorized one for a tenth assistant and the other to fill the hole created when Shane Beamer left for Oklahoma.  I have no doubt these are high priority decisions for Smart, but unlike a lot of other head coaches, he hasn’t rushed to fill them.  I’m not burning with desire for final decisions, but I am curious about what he’s taking his time over.

One reason I wonder about that — and keep in mind this is the purest, rankest speculation on my part, totally unsupported by any evidence — is whether it’s an indication that he’s pondering the possibility of restructuring the responsibilities of the staff in the course of making these next hires.  What set that off in my mind is something Marc Weiszer tweeted yesterday.

Now, that could mean very little more than the usual talk about getting the tight ends more involved in the passing game, something we’ve heard so often over the years that we discount it a lot more than newly enrolled players seem to.  Or it could mean something more.  Could Smart be thinking about making Chaney a de facto tight ends coach?  If so, would that have any effect on Chaney’s official role as the quarterbacks coach?  While I have a hard time buying into that last possibility, as Chaney has a good record developing quarterbacks, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for an offensive coordinator not to be the QB coach also.  (Saban just elected to go down that road, for example.)

Again, I have no idea about any of this.  I’m just spinning off the top of my head, so don’t take it any more seriously than that.  I’m sure Smart has a lot of options to choose from at the moment.  I’ll be curious to see the result of what he’s looking for and thinking.

Speculate for yourselves in the comments.

40 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football