Archive for September, 2010
I’ve written before about the importance of pedigree in college athletics, specifically in football. Historically low-grade schools can break into the high-end of the pack for a time through great coaching but most will fall back to their customary place. Because of coaching. The hot coach will eventually leave for a program that is considered to have the necessary pedigree to sustain big-time excellence. Part of that pedigree relates to greater financial resources. But it also deals with history and therefore the school’s attractiveness (no, not of the co-eds).
The distinction I’m trying to make is whether a football program is defined by its coach or whether the football program defines its coach. At places like Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Texas and USC, the institution matters more than the coach. I won’t belabor the point further; you can check out the original article.
We’re now entering a couple test cases at different stages in the road.
Cincinnati and Louisville, which lost very successful head coaches in recent years, will have to prove that the program matters more than the coach. So far, not good. I should hasten to add that even a bad coach can derail a program-first school, as evidenced by the abysmal tenures of Ron Zook and Mike Shula at Florida and Alabama, respectively. No educated college football fan thinks that Michigan can’t get back into the big picture if Rich Rodriguez is fired. But that question legitimately hovers over the Bearcats and Cardinals.
Louisville came within a hair of playing for the national title under Bobby Petrino after weathering the departures of program-builders Howard Schnellenberger and John L. Smith. After Petrino himself left, the hiring of Steve Kragthorpe proved to be a disaster and now the Cardinals are hoping once again to have struck it rich with Charlie Strong. I happen to think that Strong will make an excellent coach. The question is whether they’ll be able to hold onto him if a big-name school comes calling. A program-first school will serve as a destination for hot head coaches, rather than having to continually hire the next up-and-coming assistant coach.
The state of Kentucky has never been a college football hotbed as evidenced by the desultory record of its flagship school, the SEC’s University of Kentucky. The Bluegrass State’s best prep stars probably prefer to go to football-first schools like Tennessee, Alabama or Georgia. But this does present an opportunity for Louisville to become more of the state’s football school, despite its own hoops heritage. Louisville just completed upgrades to its facilities, including an expansion of PapaJohns Cardinals stadium, so it’s showing it has the resources to play the college sports arms race.
Cincinnati is hoping to continue its run with Butch Jones after the departures of successful head coaches Mark Dantonio and Brian Kelly. So far, not good for as the Bearcats are 1-2. I’m not trying to write off Butch Jones just yet but the school’s task to become program-first is a tall order.
I have my doubts about whether Cincinnati can become that school. It’s a commuter school, with one of the smallest budgets in the BCS. It plays in a 35,097-capacity stadium which it struggled to sell-out even last year and despite the most successful seasons in school history, it has struggled to raise enough money for facilities’ upgrades as well as an expansion for Nippert Stadium. It faces the same struggles as any other city school to attract fans who have grown up as NFL/Pro-sports fans first. Until last year, Cincinnati had never even been in the discussion for a national title, much less having won multiple championships like the behemoth in whose shadow it lives, The Ohio State University. I used to believe that with the talent that comes out of Ohio, it could afford to field two high-profile college programs. I still believe that but I have my doubts as to whether Cincinnati can overcome its structural deficiencies to join the Buckeyes or even the likes of Pitt and West Virginia in the college football consciousness on more than a 3-4 year basis.
Photo Credits: Unknown, Brett Hansbauer/UC Sports Communications
Your faithful correspondent spent the past 5 days in LA for a good friend’s wedding reception and was pleasantly surprised to see how crazed the locals are for sports. They’re so passionate that they can’t bring themselves to pay attention.
Amidst the end of the wedding frivolities, it was a group of easterners who broke out into a seemingly random “Pittsburgh’s Goin’ to da Superbowl” chant. Los Angelino’s in our midst brought back the noise and the funk by taking another hit from the hookah. Score: East Coast-1, West Coast-Not Playing.
Admittedly, I did see numbers of people wearing Dodgers or Angels gear (what’s baseball?) and they can be excused for not caring about college or pro football since LA’s pro/semi-pro team is on probation. (Memo to Roger Goodell: This is the fanbase you long to recapture?)
I think it’s safe to say that California’s reputation for not being sports crazed is well-earned. No family shootings or stabbings over sports, no Steelers-polka at weddings? Tsk, tsk. Perspective, schmerspective! I’m getting a pre-nup solely for the purpose of making sure that my childrens be raised to love the black & gold, if I end up with a non-Pittsburgher.
Perennially on the upswing, the Atlantic Coast Conference had a banner weekend with a number of its marquee programs in action against some quality competition.
The University of Miami withstood Ohio State’s best shot and delivered a resounding 36-24 defeat to the Hurricanes at the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio. The score would have been closer if OSU had bothered to be less dominant.
Florida State did its level best to thrust Oklahoma’s Landry Jones into the Heisman conversation as the sophomore signal-caller went 30-for-40 for 380 yards and 4 touchdowns in leading the Sooners to a 47-17 victory that had to have former head coach Bobby Bowden rolling in his grave. Wait, Bobby Bowden isn’t dead? Very well then. Note to self: keeellll Bobby Bowden.
Defending ACC champion Virginia Tech burnished its non-conference credentials, following up last weekend’s close loss to Boise State by failing to come back to beat D1-AA school James Madison. This is the second time in as many years that a D1-AA school has defeated an ACC school from the Old Dominion State.
But perhaps the greatest signal of the ACC’s ascendancy was Virginia’s penalty-filled 17-14 loss to USC. The Trojans were so intimidated by the Cavaliers that they followed last week’s 11 penalties by committing 13 penalties for 240 yards. When asked how the Men of Troy could have played so badly and still won, UVA coach Mike London replied, “Don’t go ripping on Lane Kiffin! He’s just a kid! Come to me! I’m a man! I’m 49!!”
ACC proponents celebrated the conference’s gumption in scheduling such tough opponents, also pointing to Clemson’s epic clash with the Blue Hose of Presbyterian College and Maryland’s beatdown of Morgan State. ACC officials also decried the soft non-conference schedules of non-AQ schools, citing that Boise State’s marquee BCS win has been tainted because the Broncos’ opponent has since lost to a D1-AA school. When pointed to the fact that said opponent was from the ACC, the officials changed the subject to Midnight Madness.
I’ve refrained from commenting on the Ben Roethlisberger situation until the facts seem to have been borne out and punishment meted out.
At first, there was a lot of outrage throughout Steelers Nation. Not a small number of fans wanted his stank ass traded or flat-out cut. It’s not for me to decide how sincere they are in this wish and how many would really have a change of heart if the the team would go 4-12 or worse without him and not be a true Superbowl contender for years to come.
I’ve heard the refrain – “what would you think if that was your daughter?” in response to those of us who would not have him cut or traded. My response – “what if he was your son?” It is common without our polity to believe that the Steelers stand for something other than just winning; that the team and organization strives to represent the best of this city and its far-flung fanbase. It’s what we have long called, the “Steelers Way.” A little (or a lot) sanctimonious maybe but that’s how many of us feel.
Whatever moralizing we have been doing about how much the character of the organization matters, let’s not forget that Steelers players have gotten in trouble with the law before and will get in trouble in the future. James Harrison was charged with domestic abuse for striking his girlfriend in 2008. Eric Green was suspended for 6 games in 1992 for his second violation of the NFL’s drug policy. And most famously, during the height of the Steelers’ 1970s Superbowl runs, Ernie “Fats” Holmes, a decorated member of the original Steel Curtain, fired shots at a police helicopter that was pursuing him as part of a high-speed chase.
All these players were forgiven by the Steelers management and stand in relatively good stead in the history of the franchise. It bears mentioning that however heinous Ben’s actions, he was never charged with any crime unlike the aforementioned players.
So I’ll ask again, “what if he was your son?” I’d want him to be humiliated. Done. I’d want him to be punished. Done. I’d want him to get help. In-progress. I wouldn’t abandon him. I’d want him to turn his life around and become the human-being that I had always wanted him to become. I would not abandon him.
As concerns Ben Roethlisberger, I’m not claiming to be completely altruistic in this approach. He’s a front-line quarterback. There’s a reason that it took Bill Cowher over 14 years to win a Superbowl; he didn’t have Ben. But if the Steelers do represent the best of our “Nation”, then perhaps we would also do well to exercise another worthwhile quality – forgiveness. No, this isn’t Ben’s first strike. It should be his last. But I’m willing to give him one more chance. (stupid fraking jag-off that he is).
Photo credit: behindthesteelcurtain.com
In any loss, culpability must be apportioned. Players stand up and take the blame for not executing the game plan. Coaches stand up and take the blame for devising an inadequate game plan or not making proper adjustments.
In the wake of Pitt’s loss to Utah last night, the Mustache of Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt took the fall.
Said the veteran facial hair, “Don’t blame the coaches or players. As the lead coordinator of Dave’s upper lip, I worked in concert with the Lower Lip to affect game strategy as we saw fit. Tonight, our instincts were wrong.
“I’m confident that as we learn to trust Wannstedt’s ideas, as is the case every season, the game plan will open up sufficiently as, in retrospect, it should’ve for the Utah game.”
Reached via teleconference, the wise and grizzled Mustache of Pitt legend Iron Mike DITKA agreed with Wannstedt’s Mustache’s assessment, saying that Man-Mustache partnerships are complicated and can be influenced by time, experience, temperature, humidity and the wearer’s grooming and combing technique.
Late-breaking developments in the European futbol transfer market as Manchester City FC have announced the signing of God for the sum of €420 million (or fohh-twentee millyon euros). The veteran football said the lure of that sweet, sweet A-rab money proved to be too good to be true and so he is temporarily giving up his all-important duties of providing inspiration and redemption for mortal players or possessing then to engender extraordinary results.
Long-time soccer observers hailed the move as critical to Manchester City’s push to finish in the Top Four of English football and qualify for the Champions’ League, citing GOD’s extensive work for the likes of Pele, Bobby Charlton, Robbie Fowler and Diego Maradona’s Hand.
Tommy Smyth of ESPN, however, downplayed the move, instead intonating that the 19-time World Cup participant will have to earn his playing time on such a talented and expensive squad at the Eastlands. GOD, in a move sure to endearing him to Citizens fans, struck back at Smyth… by striking him down.
Veteran ESPN journalist, John Clayton released a ranking list of NFL starting quarterbacks yesterday. His top five includes Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Favre.
According to our un-sources, MST has learned that Clayton has been reprimanded by the Mickey Mouse Empire for failing to show proper deference to Brett Favre, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo and Carson Palmer in favor of the embattled Roethlisberger.
Longtime broadcaster John Madden was enraged when told of Clayton’s opinions and, in the grand tradition of our pilgrim forefathers, swore to beat him senseless with a giant turkey leg.