“It’s Herschel Walker. I don’t have to play him, so it’s all right.”

If you’re expecting Baker Mayfield to provide bulletin board material for the Rose Bowl, I’m afraid you’re gonna be disappointed.

That exchange offered a nice glimpse into the persona of Oklahoma’s record-setting quarterback. The dude knows how to work a room and is quite comfortable at a lectern. And he knows how to butter-up an opponent.

Mayfield insists he wasn’t just trying to endear himself to the Bulldog Nation by offering effusive praise about their greatest player of all time. But one started to wonder when he began to gush about the Georgia defense he’ll face when No. 2 Oklahoma faces No. 3 Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

Mayfield was asked if the Sooners’ had faced a comparable defense to Georgia’s this season

“They’re the best defense; you can’t compare them to anybody,” he said. “They’re in a league of their own and that’s the reason they’re in the playoffs. They follow behind that defense. You can’t compare them to other people because they’re so talented and they play so well together. To say they’re like anybody else would be downplaying how good they are.”

And so it went. If there is going to be any trash-talking in the first-ever meeting between these two powerhouse programs, it wasn’t coming out of the Red Room on Thursday.

Trying to get on our good side, eh?  Sneaky bastid…

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Filed under Georgia Football

Mickey’s big score

You may have heard that Disney is buying part of the Fox empire for a major chunk o’ change.  What’s the game plan with that?  Welp, sure sounds like sports to me.

But buried within the release is the announcement that Disney will be acquiring Fox Sports Regional Networks, a collection of cable channels that are broadcast to local subscribers across the country. (Fox Sports, the FS1 and FS2 networks and the Big Ten Network will remain with Fox.) Assuming the deal passes federal antitrust muster, this portion of the pact could have a seismic impact on Disney-owned ESPN, rearranging a business model that until recently was thought to be the cause of the network’s well-documented financial problems.

For starters, ESPN will be acquiring a massive amount of new content, as Fox Sports’ 22 regional sports networks (RSNs from here on out) control the local cable rights to the following professional teams:

NBA (17): Suns, Hornets, Pistons, Magic, Pacers, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Cavaliers, Thunder, Hawks, Grizzlies, Mavericks, Spurs, Heat, Clippers, Bucks, Nets.

MLB (15): Diamondbacks, Tigers, Rays, Royals, Cardinals, Twins, Reds, Padres, Braves, Rangers, Marlins, Angels, Brewers, Indians, Yankees.

NHL (12): Coyotes, Hurricanes, Red Wings, Panthers, Blues, Wild, Blue Jackets, Predators, Stars, Lightning, Kings, Ducks.

That doesn’t even include college football and basketball, plus Major League Soccer and the WNBA…

ESPN will certainly slap its name on all of those networks, but this goes far beyond mere branding. Cable companies can charge customers top dollar for the right to have RSNs in their cable lineup, with monthly costs that approach the more than $9 ESPN gets monthly from each customer who has ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the SEC Network in their package. The price is so high because cable subscribers view RSNs as essential: According to a 2016 Neilsen survey of 1,500 pay-TV subscribers, the local RSN ranked as the fifth-most-important cable channel in their lineups, ahead of any other cable channel (including ESPN). In some markets such as St. Louis and Detroit — both of which are served by Fox Sports RSNs — the local RSN ranked higher in importance to cable customers than broadcast networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox.

ESPN’s financial woes have stemmed from cord-cutting cable customers who have balked at the high prices cable companies are charging, with the network losing more than 13 million subscribers from its peak of 100.13 million households in 2011. Those losses, combined with steadily escalating rising sports-rights fees, led the network to lay off around 550 employees over the past two years, with the most recent round of job cuts coming late last month.

But customers might think twice about dropping their cable packages if it meant losing access to games played by their local teams. Those games — and the money cable customers pay to watch them — will now be under the ESPN domain.  [Emphasis added.]

Complain about the political leanings of their faces, or cord-cutting, or whatever else suits you, but there is still one essential truth underlying everything:  content is king.  The manner in which we receive our sports will always be secondary to the subject of the broadcast itself.   All ESPN is really fighting about is the access fee.  That’s the bet the WWL is making.  The more it holds, the stronger its leverage.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Bullet dodged.

Well, now, it really is turning into a magical season.

The district attorney’s office in Winder, Georgia, has dismissed criminal charges against Georgia linebacker Natrez Patrick, his attorney told ESPN on Thursday. Patrick was one of two Bulldogs players arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges on Dec. 3.

These were some serious charges, too.

Patrick’s attorney, William Healan III of Winder, told ESPN that officers arrested Patrick after discovering a loose leaf of marijuana in the passenger’s seat of Stanley’s car. Healan said the leaf was smaller than a penny.

“When you get into someone’s car, you’re not going to search it to see if there’s marijuana in the car,” Healan said. “My client didn’t know the marijuana was there. If you’re sitting on a little piece of marijuana that you didn’t know was there, you’re not knowingly in possession of it.”

On a scale of withholding your middle name to emerging from an alley, that fits right in.  So while you may think a dismissal under these circumstances is no big deal, remember whom we’re talking about here and how things usually go in our little part of the world.

***************************************************************************

UPDATE:  You can’t put a street value on this bust.

90 Comments

Filed under Crime and Punishment, Georgia Football

We may never pass this way again.

I put up an item in the Gift Guide yesterday about UGA/Rose Bowl gear, because who knows when we’ll be there next?

I’m not being overly dramatic, either.  It’s been a long time since any SEC team has been to Pasadena for a Rose Bowl.

Before we sign off for 2017, let’s discuss the unique Rose Bowl pairing. As any college football fan knows, the Rose Bowl historically pairs a the Big 10 and Pac-10/12 champion. Even with the Rose’s inclusion in the BCS and later College Football Playoff, this tradition was mostly observed. However, with the Rose serving as a semi-final game and no Big 10 or Pac-12 teams in the playoff, this will be the first time since 2001 that both participants are not from the Big 10 or Pac-12. That national championship Rose Bowl marked the first non-Big 10/Pac-10 clash since the forties. Including that game and this one, there have been nine non-traditional Rose Bowl participants since World War II.

Amazingly, the Big 12 has accounted for five of those spots, with Oklahoma and Texas making multiple appearances. Georgia will be the first SEC team to play in the Rose Bowl since Tennessee in 1944.

I believe Georgia made its only appearance the year before.

I mentioned this to a buddy last night:  from a bucket list perspective, between a trip to South Bend and now this, the 2017 season’s been a helluvan experience for a Dawg fan.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Amateurism ain’t for amateurs.

You don’t get this without telling the hired help they’re only there for an education.

In a sense, that’s an education in and of itself.

11 Comments

Filed under It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

The followers of chaos out of control

I’m starting to see a few things bubble up about how college football deals with the new early signing date that soon approaches.  MaconDawg has a level-headed analysis here, and I think we’ve already seen one aspect of the brave new world take effect:

Schools will drop the axe faster than ever before.

Did you notice that it seemed like a lot of programs, including those in the SEC, accelerated the firing of coaches who might have made it to Christmas in years past? That’s no accident. The early signing period means that schools have been on a truncated time line to secure new coaches and get them out on the recruiting trail. Schools like Georgia with incredibly stable coaching situations will benefit from that certainty in the new world of December signings.

I think that’s right.  The turnover in coaching has been compressed into a tighter time frame because of recruiting considerations, something that is both understandable and yet somewhat foolish — get it right should always outweigh get it done fast — and that does benefit programs that are stable and locked in on their classes.  (You could argue that the only one who benefits more by the time pressure is Jimmy Sexton, and, hey, who am I to disagree?)

One other big factor has yet to fully materialize.

December 20th is the new February 7th.

SB Nation’s Bud Elliott has been reaching out to coaches for some time now to find out what their plan for the new early signing period is. They’ve been pretty clear about it: they plan to sign everybody they can on December 20th. Schools like Georgia that have verbal commits for a majority of their available scholarship slots will plan for most of those verbal commits to sign next week.

December 20th is becoming the new “National Signing Day” to the extent that such a thing exists. With more and more top notch recruits waiting until after NSD in recent years, it’s become a bit of a fluid concept anyhow.

The February signing period looks like it will begin to resemble the spring signing period in basketball. It will be for rounding out classes with that one extra interior lineman or defensive back you need to fill out the depth chart. Or for the guy who didn’t have his qualifying test score in December but now appears set to enroll.

I suspect that’s right, but we won’t know for sure until the 20th rolls around.  In the meantime, Rivals’ Mike Farrell punches the alarm button.

Perhaps one of the reasons the powers-that-be in college football came up with an early signing period was to cut down on late decommitments. It makes sense, right? The decommitment has become out of control in college football recruiting and by giving kids a chance to sign early, surely the number of decommitments will settle down correct? Wrong.

I have never, in my nearly 20 years of covering college football, seen so many decommitments in the months of November and December. And it will get even worse as we approach Dec. 20. Many blame the craziest coaching carousel in recent history, but I see it more as a result of a signing period that is drawing closer and closer.

This is just another example of the NCAA not having any idea on how to control the recruiting process. It seems like everything it tries to fix leads to the opposite reaction that they were hoping for. I’m sure we’ll all be more familiar with what to expect as we go through many of these early signing dates, but for now it appears this has made the decommitment problem a bigger one instead of a smaller one. And that’s never a good thing.

That’s some hilarious bullshit there.  The idea that an early signing period would cut down on late decommitments is something I’ve never seen the NCAA argue.  That “Perhaps” of Farrell’s is doing some very heavy lifting there.  Logic would suggest the opposite would happen, that as schools, particularly the recruiting powerhouses, faced the earlier date, they would have to make their intentions clear in December.  As a result, more recruits would have a better picture of their opportunities at a point when they would still be able to rearrange their goals well before the last minute.  Indeed, that’s why coaches like Saban and Meyer bitched about how the new date would limit their decision making with regard to sleeper candidates who previously were being evaluated up until the February deadline.

If you want a specific example, yeah, we can speculate that Jaevon Becton’s decommitment came as the result of Georgia’s roster management and that it sucks for him, but isn’t it better for him in the medium term that he learn where Kirby Smart stands in mid-December instead of February 6th?

Contrary to what Farrell argues, the NCAA wasn’t trying to impose its control over the recruiting process.  It was, for once, attempting to give recruits a little more transparency from coaches, which is why Saban and Meyer complained.  I don’t often defend the NCAA, but it looks to me like things may actually be going according to plan.  At least until some smart coach figures out a way to game the new setup…

43 Comments

Filed under Recruiting

“It’s an opportunity to find the next good guy to come along.”

With Jeremy Pruitt’s departure, Nick Saban faces a problem he hasn’t had in a while.

It’s why the last two defensive coordinators for Alabama were Saban proteges.

He groomed Smart, nurturing him as a defensive back coach at LSU, the Miami Dolphins and Alabama while teaching him the nuanced pattern-matching coverages that are a staple of a scheme that dates back to Saban’s days as an NFL coordinator.

As a result, Smart was able to step in for Kevin Steele in 2008 and run Saban’s defense through the Tide’s 2015 national championship victory.

He was immediately succeeded by Pruitt, who had also developed a firm understanding of Saban’s complex system as a secondary coach before moving on to become a coordinator at Florida State and Georgia.

Presiding over a unit that has led the nation in scoring defense each of the last two seasons, Pruitt has distinguished himself. The void he leaves is considerable, because there isn’t anyone in Alabama’s organization with the credentials Pruitt had when he came back to the Tide in 2016.

Derrick Ansley has supervised the defensive backs, but he has been a position coach at Alabama for merely two seasons. Tosh Lupoi has worked with the team’s pass rushers, yet has only been an on-field assistant with the Tide one year longer than Ansley has.

That’s why hiring Pruitt’s successor could be one of the most challenging pursuits Saban has faced as Alabama’s coach.

Obviously, this is more like don’t cry for me, Tuscaloosa, than anything.  Saban’s going to have a wealth of choices to select from and if anyone ought to know what he’s looking for, it’s Nick Saban.  Still, the recent situation this reminds me of in a weird way is what Georgia faced in 2015 when the quarterback well ran dry.  In the very short run, that didn’t work out too well.

14 Comments

Filed under Nick Saban Rules