Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Boys Acting Badly

Well it is that time of the year again. No, not the opening of camps although that is coming soon for college football. It is the time for summer arrests and suspensions and we are getting word of more each day. While I am not condoning the bad behavior and feel that scholarship athletes--or scholarship band members--should be held at a higher standard and if they commit serious crimes then they should be punished swiftly, I do feel that we should put the seemingly large number of recent arrests in context. There are a lot of college football players. And while not every arrest makes the paper, nor even every crime leads to an arrest, the reality is that a very small number of college football players break the law. Punish them but do not point fingers at the sport. One of the most recent star players to be accused of a crime is TCU defensive end Devonte Fields, who has been suspended from the Horned Frogs after his ex-girlfriend accused him of punching her in the face and pointing a gun at her. That is serious and comes seven months after fields was involved in an altercation with armed men. There is something wrong here and TCU must do the right thing. This program has made great strides over the past decade and a half but has stumbled of late with a number of players arrested for their involvement in a drug selling operation and other players getting in trouble. And with the team trying to rebound from a 4-8 season we have this situation. But despite the pressure to not do so, coach Gary Patterson must punish his best player if he is indeed guilty. There is no way to get around that as the country needs to see that TCU players are held accountable for their actions.

Friday, June 13, 2014

College Football Trumps Soccer

Look, I love college football. Most of you do too. And I appreciate soccer and the World Cup and root for the U.S. plus Italy as I am Italian-American (I root for the U.S. if those two teams meet). But yesterday's bogus call in Brazil's tainted win over Croatia was the latest reason to prefer college football over soccer. Sure, we have plenty of cheating. God knows there is cheating going on in college football, from recruiting to giving advantages to chosen programs. I understand that and if someone proved that football officials were helping to throw games I would not be that surprised. But, the b.s. call in yesterday's match went a long way to deciding the match as it immediately led to the go-ahead score in a tight match during the second half. At the time that tainted goal was 33% of the game's scoring. There is nothing comparable in football and even the worst call you can think of, even those at game's end with the score close do not compare as the victims of the bad call had numerous opportunities to score throughout the game. Croatia had a handful. Giving a freebie to Brazil is similar to awarding a free touchdown to Alabama in a tied game with Vanderbilt in the fourth quarter and then allowing Vandy only one more drive. And remember that at least of third of Vandy's players would have to be defensive players. And that Bama would be allowed to keep scoring themselves. Etc, etc. It was a joke and allows the entire world to question the legitimacy of the sport and its finest showcase.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pete Carroll Should Keep his Mouth Shut

There was not much gray area when discussing the sanctions that hit USC a few years ago. Most people either felt that they were justified as USC had lost some control over a program that had a number of transgressions or that the NCAA had hit the program too hard as some of the mistakes were committed by individual players and not the program as a whole. One thing both sides agreed on was that coach Pete Carroll knew the sanctions were coming and jumped on the Seattle Seahawks offer in 2010 to escape them. Being that he took the pro job only a few months before the NCAA made its announcement lent a lot of credence to that notion, shared by people on both sides of the debate. It really would be impossible for Carroll to prove otherwise. Yet there he was in a recent interview claiming that he did not jump ship. He left solely because of a wonderful offer and he claimed that he did not know when, or even if, sanctions were coming. He even said that if he had known of the sanctions and their severity he would have stayed to help the program get through troubled times. Please. How could anyone believe him? Why would anyone bother? Leaving to re-prove yourself in the pros is fine but saying you would stay to help clean up your own mess is disingenuous. And USC's hiring Kiffin made the situation even worse, but that is a different story.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Another Loaded College Football Hall of Fame Class

The sheer enormity of college football becomes readily apparent on the day the newest Hall of Fame class is announced as the number of great players and coaches from around the country increases with nary a protest as to qualifications (not sure about John Sciarra's merits, mind you, but he is probably a nice guy). The main bit of head scratching with each class is not over quality but timing. Players like Derrick Thomas, who would seem to be a shoo-in when first eligible years ago just got in with recent players, like Dre Bly of UNC who was good but not in Thomas's class. But Thomas's wait seemingly had nothing to do with his play on the field as the National Football Foundation voters tend to honor guys who remain active and are popular with individual chapters than players who were "just" talented and accomplished. But let's not quibble over when guys got in who final did make it as getting in trumps all. So congratulations to Bly, Tony Boselli of USC, Dave Butz of Purdue, Shane Conlan of Penn State, Joe Hamilton of Georgia Tech, John Huard of Maine, Darrin Nelson of Stanford, Willie Roaf of La Tech, Sciarra of UCLA, Sterling Sharpe of South Carolina, Leonard Smith of McNeese State, Thomas of Alabama, LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU and Wesley Walls of Mississippi plus coaches Mike Bellotti of Oregon plus Chico State and Jerry Moore who gained fame at Appalachian State. More to follow on each inductee.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Another QB, Another Arrest

Quarterback Philip Nelson was not a huge recruit. ESPN lists him as having been a two star QB in the class of 2012 while Scout and Rivals both awarded him three stars. He did, however, win the 2011 Minnesota Mr. Football Award and was probably a pretty big deal in his hometown of Mankato. And when he went to the home state Minnesota Gophers he cemented his status as a big fish in a somewhat small pond by eventually becoming a starter in his first year. Although he never became a star nationally he was competing for a starting job from the get go and in two years as a Gopher he threw for 2,179 in 18 games with a 17-14 TD-INT ratio. A good athlete, Nelson has also rushed for 548 yards with 6 TDs. A coaching change led him to seek a transfer and he landed at Rutgers where he expected to compete for the starting job when first eligible in 2015 at what is now another Big Ten program. But that all changed this past weekend when during an altercation as the bars in Mankato were shutting down--and yes another awful thing happened in the middle of the night after those involved had been drinking--Nelson delivered a coup de grace kick to the head of a downed victim, former Mankato State linebacker Isaac Kolstad. It may take awhile for the truth from that night to become unveiled and Kolstad seems to have been an original aggressor, but there really is no defense for kicking a downed man and Nelson's future is uncertain. Kolstad, more importantly, is fighting for his life and has suffered some amount of brain damage. Nelson's involvement in this attack is yet another incident of a college quarterback behaving badly. But unlike guys like Newton, Manziel and Winston, Nelson is not talented enough to expect protection and a lot of second chances. Sure, other positions have plenty of screw-ups but the QBs have to know that they are the story whenever something like this happens and now Nelson's future is uncertain. And, of course, he has to be involved with a Rutgers athletic department that must feel snake bit. Unless Nelson has a history of this behavior, at least this is one Rutgers black eye that does not seem self-inflicted.

Monday, May 12, 2014

College Football and the Draft

The draft always confounds me for two reasons. For one thing I am always amazed that the same writers who ignore most of the best players in college football during their careers can then have an opinion on them all during the draft process. Sure Johnny Manziel received too much press both as a college football player and a draftee, but other guys, like fellow first round pick from the QB position Blake Bortles, can get ignored while playing. Isn't ESPN, for one, embarrassed when evaluating Bortles that they basically ignored the guy when he was doing the kind of things that got him drafted? The regular college football media are so focused on over-covering guys like Manziel that they do not bother uncovering stories about interesting characters like former BC running back Andre Williams, who just so happened had an unbelievable year running the ball for the Eagles. But the focus is on a few programs and players and the coverage is sometimes driven by the sordid. Actually writing about good players is not going to win these guys any awards. And the basic writer cannot wrap his head around the constant change in rosters in college football and so waits until draft evaluators to tell them who is good and who is not. Which brings me to point number two. A lot of guys are very good in college football but do not project to the NFL. It is usually a numbers thing and guys like Shayne Skov of Stanford go undrafted due as much to a slow 40 time as anything. MSU's Max Bullough's does not have the hip movement to be a drafted NFL LB. Not dancer. Linebacker. The funniest was Teddy Bridgewater who was suddenly too damn skinny to be drafted high in the first round despite always being too damn skinny. The problem for me is that many very good football players who just do not have the measurables that the NFL desires--and remember the NFL did not bother to invite Wes Welker to the combine so it is often wrong--get forgotten. Not being a Johnny Manziel or a player for Alabama hurt them when they starred on the field; not having a bigger, faster body hurts them as pros. They each deserve more acclaim.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Winston and Manziel Remain Connected

I did take statistics back at Bergen Catholic High School but that was a long time ago. I do know that the series of off-the-field issues that now link the past two winners of the Heisman Trophy, Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston, to each other are clearly embarrassing to the players, their families their schools and college football. I just do not remember how many of the same type of thing forms a "cluster". And certainly the legal problems that swarmed around both players are quite different in nature and the purpose of this post is to neither point fingers or offer excuses. I want to make it clear that the coddling and over-promotion of young, amateur athletes--with the treatment of talented quarterbacks up there with the worst of it--is an underlying issue here and one that not only is not being addressed but is actually getting worse. Manziel as a product of the Texas High School football system has been considered more important than his classmates for a very long time. The way his family circles wagons around him when he makes mistakes with no sense of him bearing responsibility shows that he has a home situation that is contributing to his sense of entitlement beyond the high levels of such a sense for being a star QB from Texas. That the media hype train latched onto him during his redshirt freshman year at Texas A&M exacerbated the issue--especially after his head coach gave him a slap on the wrist after his being arrested the summer before that season. Too many adults in Manziel's life have made it clear to him that he could do no wrong--as long as he is winning football games. Winston is a somewhat different case in that he is a monster multi-sport star recruited by all. The sense of entitlement he seems to have comes I would guess from being a highly sought after young athlete. Coaches and other hanger ons tell these young men anything to get them to sign on the dotted line and it is rare that a recruiter's pitch--a successful pitch that is--would talk about the responsibilities that come with the scholarship being extended. The focus for both of these young men was their future earnings at sport. Becoming responsible members of society seems to be a secondary concern. And continual allowances for transgressions is not helping matters. If we go back to Cam Newton that makes three out of the last four Heisman winners having legal issues as college students. This is fast becoming a trend.