Today’s reminder that the NCAA is all about the kids

An Eastern Michigan player who transferred from Michigan will not be allowed to travel with the Eagles for their trip to the Bahamas Bowl later this month, according to his post on Facebook.

Samuelson wrote that an NCAA rule blocked him from traveling to the game because he hadn’t yet spent two full semesters at Eastern Michigan, despite spending the full season practicing on EMU’s scout team.

“What aggravates me so much is that a student athlete like myself is penalized in so many aspects for making a decision that ultimately is better for them in every aspect. A coach can leave at any moment and join another team with no penalties whatsoever. What does that say about how we are truly viewed? Not well, I’d say.”

It’s a learning experience, son.  That’s what the NCAA is all about.

2 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, The NCAA

Persona non grata

So, Barney Farrar, who went from being Laremy Tunsil’s go-to piggy bank to being placed on administrative leave by Ole Miss after news of that came to light, will now embark on the next stage of his employment journey.

Hope you’re not looking for a letter of recommendation, sport.  By this time next year, Hugh Freeze won’t acknowledge you ever worked for him.

8 Comments

Filed under SEC Football, The NCAA

Before the Process

Really good article on Rich Rodriguez almost taking the Alabama job after Mal Moore couldn’t get Saban or Spurrier to bite.

The irony of losing RichRod because the hire was handled in such a way that he was able to use it to leverage more out of West Virginia in order to stay while ‘Bama turned again to the Sexton-represented Saban to take the job shouldn’t be lost on anyone.

In the end, this wasn’t a case of rather be lucky than good.  Mal Moore was lucky and good.

9 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules

“I would say that this wont be the only time you’ll see something like this from us.”

The natives in South Bend appear to be a wee bit restless these days.

Last week, athletic director Jack Swarbrick said everything was “business as usual” when asked about the status of Brian Kelly’s job as the Fighting Irish football coach.

But Notre Dame fans and alumni are clearly frustrated. This has been obvious for quite some time with many vocalizing their displeasure for the program and how Kelly has handled certain situations via social media throughout the season.

On Wednesday, they’d had enough. A group of hundreds of fans and alumni raised money to take out a full page ad in The Observer, the school’s student newspaper, against Swarbrick. The ad points out where the Irish have failed on and off the field and calls out the program for not upholding standards.

That ad is a doozy.

Too bad they can’t see the benefit to a throwaway season.

20 Comments

Filed under Notre Dame's Faint Echoes

In search of optimism: the 2016 All-SEC teams, youth, talent and the Process

This post is for all of you who think I’ve been too dour of late about the football program.

I’m not the only one who’s had a reaction to the news that, for the first time since 1990, Georgia failed to place a single player on either the first or second coaches’ All-SEC teams.  In particular, Dean Legge and Chip Towers have made the effort to determine the cause or causes behind the omission.

As you might expect, between those two, I find Legge’s case the less convincing.  Not just because he spends the first part of his post making the argument that Georgia really wasn’t that talented — something that is both highly amusing, considering that he runs a recruiting site that’s pumped out happy talk about Georgia’s classes on a recurring basis, but also misleading in that he’s conflating overall program talent with having an individual player on a given roster who’s sufficiently talented to gain the coaches’ approval.  (See, for example, Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham.)

The better argument to make, and Legge sort of beats around the bush making it, is not that there’s a total omission, but that as a whole Georgia’s numbers lag behind the top programs in the conference.  Sharing the distinction with South Carolina of being the only schools shut out is one thing; being light years away from Alabama’s eleven named and LSU’s seven is the real structural problem.

And, yes, some of the blame for that can rightfully be placed on Richt’s roster management practices and the fall out from the vaporization of the 2013 class.  But not all of it can.  Legge points to how young Georgia’s roster is as an explanation.

But another consideration to consider is that of the 43 Scout 300 players on campus in Athens right now, 28 (or 65%) are sophomores, true freshmen or redshirt freshmen. In addition, in Kirby’s one recruiting cycle he’s signed 33% of the Scout 300 players on the roster. Needless to say that’s a disproportional amount of the roster. That number should be closer to 20%, or one in five; i.e. how many classes Kirby has recruited to UGA.

It’s true that the All-SEC teams skew towards upperclassmen, and that’s to be expected.  But skewing isn’t the same thing as totality.  By my count, there are a dozen freshmen and sophomores populating that list and none of them wear red and black.  That ain’t on the class of 2013, y’all.

Towers’ take, while noting that the overall talent level wasn’t all it could be, is more nuanced.

Georgia didn’t have any players included on the postseason All-SEC team this year for the first time since 1990, or 26 years. Kind of mind-boggling, isn’t it?

But I argue that the Bulldogs had some all-conference players. They just weren’t recognized — or utilized — depending on your perspective.

I got into a pretty good debate about this with a couple gentlemen in the football business for whom I have great respect. They’ll nameless here but, suffice it to say, both have been in the game and I value their opinions greatly.

One pointed to the fact that Georgia didn’t have any players on All-SEC team as evidence that the Bulldogs didn’t have any talent on the roster this year. The other pointed out that there was all-conference-caliber talent on the roster but that it was overlooked because of the crappy overall season and/or because of deficiencies in other areas.

As always, I’d say the truth lay somewhere in between. Personally, I believe Georgia had six or seven players with all-conference talent. Those either didn’t get the recognition they deserved this season or will eventually.

I think that’s closer to a good explanation.  As an example, here’s what Towers has to say about Isaiah McKenzie:

… Isaiah McKenzie probably should have been this season, if not as a receiver but as a returner/all-purpose player.

Think about how McKenzie’s season started? He had 18 catches for 305 yards and five touchdowns in Georgia’s first three games. Now it’s probably unreasonable to think he could have maintained that pace for the whole season. But if he could have, he would’ve finished with 1,220 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns, not including his return numbers.

As it was, the Bulldogs simply got away from feeding McKenzie. He had no touches against Florida, and only four against Ole Miss, four against South Carolina, three against Kentucky and three against Georgia Tech. Again, it’s always a challenge for play-callers to distribute the ball to all the weapons at their disposal. But McKenzie was curiously absent in the gameplan a few times.

That “challenge” was a problem all season.  Just ask Chubb and Michel.

But even that doesn’t explain all.  I thought Georgia’s two best players on defense this year were Trent Thompson and Roquan Smith.  Pro Football Focus named the latter to its All-SEC team, saying, “Smith rounds out the top three, after a season where he impressed against the run and in coverage, and finished the year as our 11th-highest-graded linebacker.”

Yet here’s the thing about both:  neither of them started all season.  Regarding Thompson,

The nation’s No. 1 prospect in the 2015 signing class according to 247Sports.com, Thompson has racked up 48 tackles this season after making 25 as a freshman. Yet his six starts at defensive tackle match his number from a year ago, with his inability to increase that total largely due to the emergence of freshman Julian Rochester.

Those 48 tackles were good for fifth on the team, which is a remarkable amount, considering what interior defensive linemen are asked to do in Georgia’s defense.

Roquan Smith led the team in tackles, despite coming off a knee injury that kept him out of spring practice.  His official resume for this season reads pretty impressively.

2016: Has appeared in 12 games, making nine starts…team’s leading tackler with 82 total stops…also has 5.0 tackles for loss, five QB pressures and one pass breakup…career-high 13 tackles came vs. Georgia Tech…also forced at GT fumble in the game…had 11 tackles (7+4) in win at South Carolina, adding a forced fumble and a fumble recovery…in addition to six stops vs. Vanderbilt, he assisted on a QB sack and broke up one pass…has led team in tackles in each of the past two games: 7 stops vs. Auburn and 7 vs. Louisiana…had 7 tackles in win at Kentucky…made a then-career-high 6 tackles (5 solo, 1 assisted) with 2 TFL against UNC…had five tackles vs. Tennessee…made 4 tackles against Nicholls…added four tackles (all solo) at Missouri…recipient of the Tommy Lyons Football Scholarship.

Yeah, that’s someone who’s worthy of a little more attention.  So maybe a mediocre team season did hurt some individual guys’ chances.

But maybe there’s a further explanation worth considering.  (WARNING:  I’m about to get optimistic on some of your asses.)

Maybe there’s a bigger point being made in Athens… purposefully.  Go back to that Smart comment about why Thompson didn’t start all season.

“Trenton has worked really hard,” Bulldogs first-year coach Kirby Smart said. “He had a spell in the middle of the season there where we thought Julian was practicing better and playing a little better than him, so Julian was playing a little more. Trenton went back to work and outworked him, and we thought he played and practiced well the Auburn week.

“We actually started him in the second half of the Auburn game, but there is competition at certain positions every week, and they know they’ve got to go out and earn it.”

That’s a sentiment John Atkins echoed.

“It just shows you how everyone has to work,” Bulldogs junior nose tackle John Atkins said. “No one spot is safe, and a lot of the younger guys have challenged me, too. Julian and Trent have gone back and forth, but Trent can be very disruptive in the backfield, and you need someone like Trent on your team.”

What that sounds like to me is akin to what Nick Saban’s preached in Tuscaloosa ever since he showed up there.

As for Alabama, its structure doesn’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary. But there does appear to be a level of expectation in Tuscaloosa that’s greater than other top programs. At a place that replaces senior five-star talent with junior five-star talent in most years, offensive tackle Jonah Williams, a former five-star from Folsom, California, stepped into a starting role this year as a freshman.

It didn’t take Jonah Williams long to realize the kind of work that’s required to win at the level Alabama has, which is 118 games over the past 10 years.

“I think Coach Saban is the greatest coach of all time,” he said. “Being a part of that program and the process, if you just buy in you’re going to be successful. They’ve always been successful. All you have to do is buy in. It’s certainly not an easy path but it’s laid out for you. You know it’s going to be hard but if you buy in you’ll be successful.”

Jonah Williams added that while there is plenty of star player, egos don’t accompany the players on the roster. He said there isn’t a spot at Alabama for those looking to be flashy. With that in mind, it would explain why so many five-star athletes choose the Crimson Tide, even when they know there is a chance they may not play right away.

“You need to be willing to grind harder than anyone – because that’s what everyone else did,” Jonah Williams said. “It’s not some magical recipe we made up.”

Said Tim Williams: “There’s no individual person on this team playing for stats. We got guys going to the league next year but we’re just a team. We’re not even worried about that. We’re worried about playing the next game. It’s amazing.”

If you’re a Georgia fan, it’s not just amazing.  It’s totally foreign.  And while that’s something Jason Butt writes the Georgia athletics department is looking for, it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight, a nicety that was perhaps brushed aside a little too conveniently by those folks before the start of the season.  Remember, Kirby spoke of turning a battleship back then, not a speedboat.

Can he do it?  Well, that’s the $64000 question.  I have no doubt his time on Saban’s staff gave him all the reference points he needed for charting a course.  That being said, let’s not forget he’s hardly the first bird to have flown from that particular nest and none of the other chickadees have yet managed to come near, let alone meet, what Saban’s accomplished.

Still, I have hope.  The success on the recruiting front gives me a lot of that, not only because that’s an example of learning from Saban what matters in program building, but because Smart appears well on his way to implementing the lesson.  That’s all I can ask at this point.  Give me talent and attitude and I’ll be more than patient watching the rest of the details fill in.  That’s being optimistic, right?

53 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Why it’s okay to hold them accountable

One more thing about those USA Today salary numbers you should keep in mind this offseason.  If you click on ‘Georgia’ at number 18, the chart for what the school has paid/is paying its head coach over the last decade pops up.  For your easy reference, here ’tis:

  • 2006:  $270,000
  • 2007:  $578,100
  • 2009:  $809,340
  • 2010:  $2,811,340
  • 2011:  $2,811,400
  • 2012:  $2,811,340
  • 2013:  $3,200,000
  • 2014:  $3,200,000
  • 2015:  $4,000,000
  • 2016:  $3,753,600

(I have no idea what happened to the 2008 data, but at least you can figure out the parameters of Richt’s paycheck then.)

There is a lot of interesting stuff to unpack there, but there are two things that jump off the plate for me.  The first is Richt’s salary in 2006, after what was arguably his most successful run as head coach.  To think that someone who had two conference titles in his back pocket, after a twenty-year drought in Athens, could make that little, relatively speaking, is a testament to both the Georgia Way and Richt not having someone like Jimmy Sexton in his corner representing his interests.

Which brings me to item number two.

Kirby Smart isn’t making as much as Mark Richt did in his final year in Athens.  But he is making more as a newly minted head coach than Mark Richt did in any of his other fourteen years at Georgia. Those years certainly had their ups and downs, but there are five conference title game appearances, the aforementioned SEC titles and some BCS bowl games in there to consider, none of which appear on Smart’s head coaching resume (yet, hopefully). Put in that light, that’s a tribute both to Sexton’s negotiating skills as well as the high regard Georgia’s movers and shakers have for Smart.  And, again, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But unless we’re going to say “that’s why they pay him the big bucks” is merely a punchline and nothing more, throwing out that kind of money has to mean something in context, and from my perspective, perhaps that means we’re entitled to something more from both the head coach and the athletic administration than presenting us with a situation in which talking heads suggest dismissing a season as a throwaway year in pursuit of something bigger and better down the road is its own reward.

You are free to disagree, of course.  If you do, though, riddle me this:  what kind of pay bump do you think Sexton’s gonna pry out of the big boys the first time Kirby’s coaching in the conference title game?

56 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

That money ain’t gonna spend itself, boys.

Ah, what to do with the torrent of broadcast money flowing into college football in the age of amateurism?

I think we know the answer to that.

assistants-salaries

The linked article is a hoot… unless you’re a strength coach’s agent, in which case it’s manna from heaven in terms of planting the awareness in the heads of every P5 athletic director in the country that everybody gets to make bank these days.

Iowa’s Chris Doyle is the highest-paid strength coach in the country, with a base annual pay of $625,000. That is the same salary Iowa pays to its offensive and defensive coordinators. Alabama’s Scott Cochran had his base pay bumped from $420,000 in 2015 to $525,000 this fall after a high-profile dalliance with rival Georgia; much a like an assistant coach, Cochran saw his salary rise due to outside interest.

Doyle, Marotti and Cochran each are paid more than 17 public school head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Five strength coaches — Doyle, Marotti, Cochran, UCLA’s Sal Alosi and South Carolina’s Jeff Dillman — are making at least $400,000 annually. Six — the aforementioned quintet plus Oklahoma State’s Rob Glass — make more than two FBS head coaches: Louisiana Monroe’s Matt Viator and New Mexico State’s Doug Martin.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It’s America and people should make whatever the market will bear.  But this is a perfect example of the kind of market distortions you get when you combine lots of money, an artificially inexpensive labor base and athletic directors who have to kowtow to what their boosters and coaches think is appropriate.

The fun will come in trying to predict where the next bubble comes.  My money’s on recruiting directors.

By the way, if you really want some indication of how vast the money flow is these days, check out USA Today’s chart on assistant pay and guess where Georgia ranks among all the schools in the country.  Given B-M’s reputation for frugality, combined with the absence of chest-thumping and/or fretting about handing out those kind of bucks — remember the days when Richt had to come out of his own pocket to pay bonuses to his staff? — that’s pretty remarkable stuff.

13 Comments

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