The Good, The Bad, The Ugly - Week 1 - September 4, 2017

Welcome back to college football, the weekend was glorious, wasn’t it? We’re left with just Tennessee vs. Georgia Tech on the Week 1 schedule, so I think it’s a good time to play the Good, the Bad and the Ugly game with Week 1. Short of Tennessee losing and Butch Jones being left on a tarmac at Atlanta’s airport, nothing can top what we’re about to talk about.

The Good

Easily the best story in college football this week is UAB. After a three-year hiatus and my friends in Tuscaloosa doing everything in their power to prevent football in Birmingham, the Blazers have returned and were triumphant over Alabama A&M. On their first drive, UAB went 76 yards in fourteen plays and converted a touchdown on fourth down. Solid start.

UAB’s football schedule is mostly “easy,” but a solid showing against Florida on Sat Nov 18 could go a long way in bringing more of the right kind of attention to the program in 2017 and beyond.

Also, nice to see a record crowd for UAB in its return, but the long-term success of the program depends on constant support from fans and the community.

The Bad

This wasn’t a great opening weekend for three of the major football teams in Texas. Texas A&M was up on UCLA last night and forced the Bruins to score 34 points without a turnover is nothing short of amazing. Honestly, I turned the game off and switched to NASCAR then Netflix. If we started the evening with Jim Mora at the top of the coaching hot seat, he was quickly replaced by Kevin Sumlin.

Then there’s Tom Herman’s debut at Texas. For the record, I didn’t think Herman was ready for a job like Texas when he was hired and I’m not saying that Saturday’s loss to Maryland cemented that thought to me, because one game does not make a coach. Herman will have his team playing better, and as Chase will tell you this week there’s a lot that likely needs to happen behind the scenes for the Longhorns to get better. Turning non-Power 5 Houston around is a lot easier than turning Big 12 Texas around. That said, in the earlier three meetings between Maryland and Texas, Maryland had never scored; on Saturday they scored 51.

Last, we must talk about Baylor. I think we knew at some point all the shenanigans related to the off-field sexual assault was going to catch up to them in a big way. Coaching changes, players leaving or refusing to play there, negative press, and the constant stories hurt. Did I ever think it would show itself against FCS Lamar in Waco? absolutely not. Do I think this is absolute rock bottom for Baylor? Not even close.

The Ugly

99-0 was the score between St. John’s University and St. Scholastica (yes, she is real because I’m Catholic and I also checked Wikipedia.) in beautiful Collegeville, Minnesota. Per SB Nation, St. John’s used – and get ready for this one – almost 180 players in this game and wanted to play the fourth quarter with a running clock, but the men of Benedictine from Scholastica said, “No, thanks.”

Amazing.

And as a bonus: The Weird

Lane Kiffin. Down by 23 as his FAU Owls are facing the Midshipmen of Navy, the game is already in its third lightening delay and it is nearly 1am and Kiffin refuses to let the game go. He forces both teams to come back out, btw – Navy had already eaten their post-game meal, only to lose the game 42-19.

We get it, Lane – it’s still all about you.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Wikipedia

Campus Pressbox 63 | Talking Pac-12 Football And So Much More

It's tougher to win at some schools as opposed to others. Sometimes it's due to tradition and other times it's due to academic standards. Even if your school has tough academic entrance requirements, it's still possible to win at a consistent level. Schools like Stanford don't want to hear the excuses.

Who will replace Nick Saban when he leaves Alabama? That's a big question. Will it be an established head coach or will it be an up and coming young coach? Don't worry, Alabama fans. Saban probably isn't going anywhere for the next 3-5 years. But it's fun to talk about.

The entire point of recording this podcast was to talk about Pac-12 football. But as is the case when Damien (@damienbowman) and Seth (@sethmerenbloom) fire up the microphones, tangents are found and fun is had by all. The Pac-12 was discussed though. Damien likes the popular picks to win the divisions. Seth believes we're going to see a couple of surprises in the Pac-12 championship game. Seth did earn some extra credit since he knew who the new coach at California is without looking it up.

And somehow we found ourselves talking about the monetary worth of the country's politicians. How? Who knows! One thing is for certain. Money in politics has always been a key influencer. Politics is a rich person's game.

https://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/fly.fourlights.fm/cpbx/CPBX063-8-3-17.mp3

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Welcome to the SportsHax Digital Archives

The goal of this site is to become a de-facto record-keeping website for long-gone sports sites. The columns and posts preserved here are done so in a respectful manner to the original author's and publisher's. While this site doesn't visually reflect the look and feel of the original site, the content is untouched. All works in this collections are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.

If you have questions or concerns, please e-mail Damien Bowman at damien@packedspeedo.com.

On ESPN, Layoffs, and Life’s Lessons…

Yesterday, ESPN laid off a bunch of people you’ve heard of. For those people who lost their job, yesterday is likely the worst day in their professional lives. Nothing is worse than being let go of a job with likely great pay and benefits and the chance to work with some of the best people in your industry. The unfortunate truth is that the same could happen to any of us anytime at our place of employment. I’ve spent time on both sides of buyouts and layoffs – involuntary separation in corporate speak – and I can tell you it isn’t fun for anyone. I’ve had people threaten me, my family and promise they’ll harm themselves or other people.

This will sound harsh, but the reality is, the day of your termination is the best day of your life.

Being let go gives you another chance at life – personally and professionally – and allows you to put everything into perspective. It reminds you that friends and family are more important than the paycheck you receive and how long you likely been living high on the hog.

A few things about losing your job, or something to think about if you haven’t lost your job: the company you work for is loyal only to its bottom line and if there’s a significant chance something will hurt that, your bosses will do whatever within reason to rectify that.

Bill O’Reilly – ever heard of him? He made hundreds of millions of dollars for FOX News; so much FOX was willing to pay out his victims of sexual assault, keep him around and extend his contract before firing him. Why’d they fire him? Because he threatened the bottom line.

ESPN laid off about 100 people that you’ve heard of yesterday, not because it wanted to, but because those people were affecting ESPN’s bottom line. Bob Igor, CEO of ESPN’s parent company Disney, basically told ESPN to shore up the books or, we’ll replace the people at the top. So, when faced with the prospect of losing one’s executive job or letting go of a bunch of probably over-paid people, what’s the obvious choice: protect yourself and let go of a bunch of people.

Remember, loyalty to the bottom line is all that counts.

Pure speculation here: ESPN probably needed to cut about 300 of its most expensive positions to help make up for the millions of cable subscribers its lost. As a mid-level manager at a company with a couple hundred thousand employees I can tell you easily how this works: attrition where people leave on their own, get fired, die, or retire. In the past year, you can probably name all the high-level ESPN on-air people who left the company through attrition. If you’re a company of any size, attrition is your best friend.

ESPN also (probably) needs to downsize another 100 current contracts this quarter to take the fiscal hit one quarter. It doesn’t matter that some of these contracts are for many years and some are likely guaranteed or have some type of buyout clause. Because when you terminate 100 people you’re not only getting rid of salary, you’re getting rid of benefits. Think insurance, retirement, etc. That shit is expensive also.

[Merenbloom: ESPN’s Sagging Ratings are Reflective of the Network’s Hard-line Liberal Views]

ESPN probably still needs to dump another 100 or so people and will do so through restructuring of contracts and will replace some of the highest 100 earners with kids who will do that same work for a fraction of the cost.

The next question everyone has: why not Stephen A. Smith or Dick Vitale? Because they contribute far more to the bottom line than Jayson Stark and Brett McMurphy. I wouldn’t even want to be in the same arena with the Smith or Vitale, but I’d have steak dinner with Stark and McMurphy and I hate steak.

Again, none of this is said to make anyone feel good, but think about it this way: all of this could happen to you tomorrow. Any one of us could be fired, laid off, whatever from our jobs and there’s likely nothing we can do about it.

So, what’s your backup plan? Do you have enough money saved to cover expenses for six to 12 months? Do you have an alternate source of income?

If you don’t, instead of worrying about highly-paid journalists who lost their job, think about what you would do if you lost your job. That’s the real lesson of this week’s layoffs.

The only person who’s loyal to you…is you.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.com.

2017 NCAA Tournament Notebook: The South - Where Everything is Fine

I’m back. I know it’s been a long time, but let’s get right into it. When Bob assigned me the South region of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, I thought it was a gift and you know what, it was. During the first two rounds (remember, play-in games aren’t part of the tournament), there were virtually no upsets in the South region. The closest call was either No. 12 Middle Tennessee (nee: MTSU) over No. 5 Minnesota or No. 10 Wichita State over No. 7 Dayton, but we all know that’s hogwash. Any team beating a Big Ten team in this year’s tournament makes complete sense, but because anyone (me) who paid even a middling amount of interest knows the Big Ten was terrible in basketball this year. [footnote] Yes, the Big Ten is STILL better in basketball than football. Fight me. [/footnote]. So, if an undervalued Middle Tenn (we’ll just keep making their name shorter and shorter) beats an overvalued Richard Pitino (how long until he goes by Rick or Dick?) Golden Gopher team, then it isn’t much of an upset. I don’t think Vegas is necessarily the key to knowing exactly how every game will play out, but the sportsbooks said MT was 1.5-point favorite over Minnesota.

Seems about right.

The next “upset,” which, again, anyone with a brain knows is complete hogwash, was Wichita State over Dayton. Dayton is a good team, so let’s not knock them, but to even suggest that Wichita State was seeded properly might be as dumb as suggesting that Donald Trump has a chance to become…never mind. The Shockers entered that contest as 6.5 favorite and beat the Flyers by six, so maybe Vegas does know something about how this process should work?

Perhaps it would make more sense to have Vegas setup the brackets?

Round of 32

Chalk.

I mean my bracket doesn’t look anything like I think it should at this point, but the top four seeds all advanced to next weekend in Memphis which I guess is how it’s supposed to be. No. 8 Arkansas gave No. 1 North Carolina all it could handle until the pressure became too intense. The Razorbacks had a good season even if their performance versus Kentucky in the SEC Tournament was childish at best.

We will no longer ignore the elephant in the room, which was Wichita State and No. 2 Kentucky yesterday in Indianapolis. The game was great, in fact it was so good that it should have been played this weekend in Memphis, but again, because the people on the selection committee forgot how good the Shockers are, we watched that game yesterday.

I’m clearly in the corner that Wichita State was under-seeded and yes, they did lose yesterday and probably would have lost to Kentucky next week, but it seems to me that it makes the most sense to have the best teams playing each other later in the tournament so those games are watched by more people.

One very important side note about Wichita State: Lynn Marshall, the wife of Head Coach Gregg Marshall is apparently very animated during games. There’s a report she may have been extremely intoxicated. There is a picture of her (below) standing behind Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde yelling at screaming (not at him like all y’all do) but either in celebration or trying to help the refs get through a tough sequence. I don’t know if she was drunk or how animated she is or what exactly is going on, but that this made the national media should be worrisome to the higher-ups at Wichita State.

I understand fans will be fans and that’s perfectly alright, but the wife of the coach shouldn’t have facility security talking to her about her behavior or have media speculating about how sober she is or isn’t.

Can she have one or 10 beverages before the game? Absolutely. Should it be obvious and on display to everyone because she’s in the front row being louder than the cheerleaders? No, not at all.

How Bad Are the Tournament Officials?

Look, I officiate basketball and at one point in my life I thought I may have a chance to do it consistently at a higher level than high school. For several reasons, it didn’t work out and I have very few regrets about that, but I’ll say this: these tournament games and every game in the college ranks are hard games to officiate. Officials will miss calls and some will be very bad misses.

How those three men missed the goaltending in the Gonzaga/Northwestern game I’ll never understand, but I can say the conversation with NCAA Men’s Basketball National Coordinator JD Collins was not pleasant. I also cannot make an excuse for the amount of contact that have been “no-called” by officials this past weekend. It isn’t a good look. It isn’t what Collins wants to see happen in the tournament, because he has bosses too who are probably looking at all the news and reports and are saying how does this continue to happen?

Are there likely solutions that could make this easier or fix a lot of this? Yes. But consider this, and only this, you me and everyone at home has the luxury of HD televisions and we aren’t constantly in motion trying to get an angle on play or trying to officiate 10 men that are significantly faster and stronger than us.

As much as coaches complain about how they want younger officials, they then complain about how bad those younger officials are at communicating or how they don’t trust them. At the same time, the officials who have been around the longest aren’t nearly as good as they were 10, 15 or even 20 years earlier.

I don’t say any of that to make excuses for the number of bad calls we saw this weekend, but for every bad call we saw there were at least five or more that were correct or where people on Twitter had conflicting opinions. Block, charge, traveling…well, sure pick one…or pick nothing and play on. It’s a choice officials must make decisions in a split-second again without the luxury of replay or beer.

South Region Links:

How did he tip that in? Kennedy Meeks basket helps avert upset for UNC [Scott Fowler/Charlotte Observer]

Three-minute crash: Hogs black out with victory in sight [Bob Holt/Whole Hog Sports]

What's next for Middle Tennessee's 10 returning players? [Aldo Giovanni Amato/Daily News Journal]

Sweet 16 celebrated far and wide by former Butler coaches, players [David Woods/Indianapolis Star]

Bearcats can't contain UCLA, out of tourney [Tom Groeschen/Cincinnati Enquirer]

UCLA to head to Sweet 16 after defeating Cincinnati 79-67 [Matt Cummings/Daily Bruin]

Kentucky ends Wichita State’s season with 65-62 second-round win [Paul Sullentrop/The Wichita Eagle]

Wichita State talked, Kentucky listened and the Wildcats advanced [Kyle Tucker/SEC Country]

I think that’s enough for now. Please check out the tournament notebooks from the other three regions as well as all our 2017 March Madness tournament coverage.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or following him on Twitter @damiEnbowman.

We're Willfully Ignoring Colin Kaepernick and Adam Jones' Issues Because of Their Approach

Over the past year, it seems sports in this country has been taken over by politics when, in reality, the two have been so closely intertwined for years…decades in fact. The current ‘crisis’ involves San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. Their issues, or at least the issues they’re trying to bring to the forefront, are those that have faced our nation since, well, before the Civil War.

I, as someone who participates in sports and owns a sports media website, have mostly been on the sideline throughout this argument because I’ve been of the opinion that sports and politics should remain separate, but I’ve changed my opinion.

I recognize that young Americans of all color see athletes as role models, along with members of the military and law enforcement, as well as doctors and nurses. The truth is that we, no matter what profession we are part of, in some ways are looked upon as heroes for people younger than us. And if the adults would rather their kids not look to people like Kaepernick or Adams as heroes because they chose not to stand for the National Anthem, or because they chose to publicly point out what they see as racism or oppression, then maybe we – the adults – need to look at ourselves in the mirror.

To be perfectly clear, I respect and understand the struggles that members of law enforcement and the military go through, and I do respect Kaepernick’s right to not stand during the National Anthem. I don’t view it as disrespecting the flag or members of the military.

The people who fight every day for our freedom do so because they know they’ll represent people that agree and disagree with what happens in this country on a daily basis. If the only thing we see is Kaepernick not standing for the Anthem or Jones saying baseball has become “a white man’s” sport, then we’re willfully ignoring the issues they’re trying to bring to the forefront.

It is true that men like me, Kaepernick and Jones, who are minorities, have benefited from being great at our jobs and have been paid well by those same “white men,” but the struggle they are trying to bring focus to is those who don’t have a voice. So, while they could shut their mouths and stand for the Anthem, they’re sacrificing the respect that many have for them and endorsement dollars to help those who cannot help themselves. In reality, that’s what being a hero is; sacrificing yourself for the good of others.

No, Jones and Kaepernick aren’t walking into the line of fire every day, though San Fransisco and Baltimore aren’t exactly the safest communities, what they are doing is saying, “I know I’ve had a good life but what can we do for others in my community that aren’t?” I’m also not on board with the assertion that police officers are murdering African-Americans at a historically high rate. And yes, if people didn’t commit crimes they wouldn’t be in the position to have interactions with law enforcement.

But, let’s think about this for a second, for years’ crack and cocaine criminal cases were adjudicated differently in the federal courts until Americans demanded equal laws and sentencing. What’s the obvious difference between crack cocaine and cocaine, well it’s literally black and white. The sentence for crack cocaine was completely different than it was for powder cocaine. Fundamentally, aren’t they same?

So, when I go out with my mostly white friends on a Friday night and they ask me about Kaepernick, their expectation might be that I think he should stand up and shut his mouth. Honestly, I do want him to stand up, but I don’t want him, or you, or anyone else to shut their mouth because it might disrupt the peace and calm that we suburbanites enjoy. When I’m critical of all the “Clevelanders” who’ve never lived in the city, or move when they have kids, it’s because nothing in Cleveland will get better until the people who can make a change, do make a change.

Can't wait til I'm old enough to wear velcro again!

Don’t tell anyone else who writes at Campus Pressbox, but baseball is my favorite sport. I played when I was a kid and tried out when I got to high school. I didn’t make the team. I didn’t cry or claim I didn’t make the team because I was back. I moved on with life and made myself better.

Sometimes someone saying “no” is what makes you stronger as a person, but don’t ever tell someone they should stop talking because they’re already privileged enough. When Jones says that baseball has become a “white man’s sport,” he’s both right and wrong. He’s both willfully ignoring the number of other minorities that are prevalent in the sport and not doing anything in his community to bring additional black kids into the sport.

No, you cannot make kids play baseball if they think it’s boring, but like the National Football League, Major League Baseball can encourage their teams to put more minorities in positions of power. Encourage doesn’t mean enact a version of the Rooney Rule, but say, if all things are equal, maybe it’s best to put a minority in this spot instead of the same guy that’s already been fired three times.

Nothing in this country will change until Americans of all color decide there’s a problem and that we need to fix it. We can hide in the suburbs and pretend like everything is great, but your kids don’t see color unless you teach them to. So, maybe it’s time we stop trying to make things about color and make things about equality.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photos: Damien Bowman/Self.

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I Hate All of Your Teams Except for These 6

Every now and then some random person on the Internet asks me which teams I cheer for, which teams did I grow up watching and which teams I hate. Since we’re so close to the beginning of the season, I think this is a good time to pull back the curtain and tell you about the teams I’ll be cheering for this season. Note: I’m still not going to tell you my teams. Everyone has secrets.

Alabama Crimson Tide

This IS actually a team I grew up cheering for. I went to the 1993 Sugar Bowl where my guy Gene Stallings led the mighty Crimson Tide to a National Championship after defeating the hapless Miami Hurricanes. Keith Jackson, Bob Griese, Bourbon Street and tons of women. I don’t remember any of it, but I’m told it was all there.

Anyway, I expect the 2016 version of the Tide led by Nick Saban to, well, win another title. I am a Bama guy and Saban basically wins it every other year. There will be struggles – the obvious being: Who is the quarterback? Will the defense survive the season without a major injury? How many games will the Tide lose this season?

The last is the most important of those questions, so let’s get to it. Alabama will lose a game this season and it will mean something in the long run. Most likely, the loss comes to, yes, LSU and Les Miles on Saturday, November 5, in beautiful Baton Rouge.

I only give the Tigers a chance at this because I’m not stupid enough to pick against LSU at home, at night. That’s it. If this somehow turned into a 3:30 start (the time hasn’t been announced yet), I’d take Alabama without thinking twice.

On August 31, under the assumption Alabama plays LSU at night, I’ll say this is the Tide’s only loss. Won’t matter. LSU will have two losses and Alabama wins out the rest of the year and, yes, wins another championship. #BookMostOfThat

Navy Midshipmen

Again, this IS actually a team I grew up cheering for. I love Navy, how can you not? The Silent Service, the SEALs, the jets and yeah, Top Gun. Exactly. Navy will not win the American Athletic Conference, the Middies will not beat Houston (I won’t be mad if they do) and they will not make the AAC championship game.

Here’s what Navy will do: Beat Air Force, Beat Army and make Notre Dame shake in their shorts a little bit. None of those three predictions is surprising. I expect a down year for Navy after the graduation of Keenan Reynolds and transition to Tago Smith (probably).  As a result, I expect the overall offensive production numbers to be low.

If you’re available on October 8 and can get to Annapolis, then watching Houston play Navy is worth your trip.

Go Navy. Beat Army.

UCLA

I have a team in the Pac-12 I like, but it isn’t UCLA. I’ve also made it clear I think USC is overrated in every imaginable way. I don't care if my Pac-12 team and USC make me look stupid this year, but if they do, I’m still on the Josh Rosen train. I read Matt Hayes’ profile of Rosen [link http://thelab.bleacherreport.com/a-beautiful-brash-mind/] and it’s worth every moment of your time.

Rosen, much like me, comes across as a straight-shooter. He’s a, “It is what it is and they are who we thought they were,” kinda guy. Rosen knows he’s good and doesn’t give a damn. He says what he wants even if it might hurt him at the next level, but he’s there for his teammates and in the end that’s all that counts.

I’m sure there are other Josh Rosen’s in college football this season, but he has my attention right now and that’s all that counts. Can Rosen and UCLA head coach Jim Mora lead the Bruins to the Pac-12 Championship, sure.

I don’t think they will. I think Stanford has the best chance.

UCLA’s losses this season: vs. Stanford, vs. Utah, and at Colorado (only because it’s a Thursday night). Remember: USC will not be as good at the end of the season as people think they are now.

UCLA over USC.

Clemson Tigers

I have zero connection to the Tigers except for my friend who’s a Tigers fan, so I’ll take it. I also think the Tigers make the playoff this year, but I’m not sure they’ll make it past the semi-final. If Clemson makes it past Auburn this weekend (spoiler alert: they will) then the [Clemson] Tigers should run the table.

That includes beating Florida State in Tallahassee and whatever lower-level team Dabo Swinney and company face in the ACC Championship. Deshaun Watson, Dabo Swinney, and a workable schedule put the Tigers back in the playoff two years in a row.

That’s it. This pick is based purely on how many good starters Clemson is returning and a friendship. Go Tigers…or whatever they say in South Carolina.

Four is probably enough, but I’ll throw two more teams in for shits and giggles:

Michigan State – I like Mark Dantonio a lot and I like Tom Izzo a lot. I think the Spartans have a lot of work to do in a reloading year, but I think having Michigan and Ohio State at Spartan Stadium works in their favor. The primary goal this year should be to defeat Ohio State since the Buckeyes will beat Michigan in Columbus this year.

Create Big Ten chaos, Mark. It’s been forever.

Arkansas – This is sort of a shot in the dark. I like Bret Bielema and I sort of feel like he’s the kid at school that will do whatever it takes to get just a tiny bit of attention. I think that’s why he embraces ‘Bert’ and says stupid things like his kids will never get in trouble.

The Razorbacks might also be the only team in the SEC – and maybe the country – that faces five ranked teams with four at home. It won’t matter, Arkansas will get slaughtered by Alabama and Ole Miss. And ya know what, there’s a chance they face a sixth (SIXTH!!) ranked teams this season.

Look, I know a lot of people think Bielema is in over his head at Arkansas, but as I said earlier this week, it won't matter who else is coaching in the SEC West as long as Nick Saban is there.

That’s it. Those are the six teams I’ll be cheering for this season.

Roll Tide

Go Navy!

Bruin Up (or whatever)

Go Tigers (that fits everywhere)

Sparty On (I wonder if the MSU people like that?)

Woooooooooo, Pig! Sooie!

E-mail me at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com, follow me on Twitter @damienbowman or if you think you’re good enough, join the staff.

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Photo: commons.wikimedia.org

Let Freedom Ring: Time for College Football and for Nick Saban to Retire

Welcome back to college football. Thursday begins five straight days of football, cheerleaders, marching bands and what I believe to be America’s favorite sport [footnote]The NFL has nothing – well maybe gambling and fantasy football – on college football’s superiority[/footnote]. Today, I’ll tell you why the Big Ten East is the most competitive division in college football, the best time for Nick Saban to walk away and four games you need to watch this weekend.

The Big Ten East

The Big Ten’s East division is easily the most competitive division in college football right now. It was the most competitive in 2015 and I expect it to be as competitive in 2016. Between its three major competitors, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, the road team won every game last season.

This season underrated Michigan State and underappreciated Mark Dantonio have both Michigan and Ohio State in East Lansing. To me, they have the toughest row to hoe, but I believe Dantonio to be the best in-game coach of the three.

I give the least amount of weight to Michigan and Jim Harbaugh, and not because I’m sick of hearing about him when he hasn’t won anything at Michigan while Dantonio continues to be the best (football) coach in the state (we know Izzo is the best coach in the state), but because of the losses last season. The last-second punt returned for a touchdown against Michigan State and the embarrassing blowout against Ohio State. I know the Wolverines lost to Utah in the beginning of the season, but those early games don’t count, right? RIGHT??

The last and continual favorite to win the East are the Ohio State Buckeyes and Urban Meyer who some say is currently the game’s best coach. We’ll save that argument for another day, but what’s important is that in the short time he’s been at Ohio State he’s been the best coach in the conference and has recruited the best talent, and when you have the best talent with a good coach there’s a very good chance you’ll win more games than everyone else. What also helps is that Ohio State has not lost a road game under Meyer and face both Michigan and Michigan State on the road. Ohio State’s only home game versus a division opponent is against Rutgers on October 1. Who draws up these schedules?

Here’s where I make a complete ass of myself:

The predicted order of finish of the Big Ten East – Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland.

Most likely to be fired – James Franklin, Penn State.

Most likely to have the craziest ending in at least two games – Michigan.

Most likely to lose an important game because of an interesting officiating decision – Michigan State.

When Will Saban Go?

I talked with Bird and Seth about Nick Saban in last week’s SEC 411. Other than Bird, who is an Auburn fan, almost every other college football person I know agrees the SEC West is Nick Saban’s to lose until he retires. The obvious question becomes, when will Saban retire? My guess is, only God knows. The 64-year-old from West Virginia shows no signs of slowing down heading into his tenth season in Tuscaloosa, and really that’s a shame. Not that I want Saban to slow down, because getting old isn’t fun, but because I like to see new challenges and really, there’s no challenge for him in T-Town anymore. Although, Paul Finebaum and Dan Wolken disagree about the lack of challenges this season.

I’m an admitted Alabama fan, and though the Tide hasn’t won the championship every year Saban has been there, it certainly feels like it has. So, when’s a good time for him to retire? Well, if you ask me it's 66 so he can collect Social Security, or after he wins the championship this year. Shots fired.

Four Games in Five Days

There are four really important games to watch this weekend, so put these on your calendar and watch the rest of the nonsense when you can.

Oklahoma at Houston (Saturday, 12p) There are three games between ranked teams on Saturday and this is the biggest one. This game is between two of college football’s proven commodities. Houston begins its second season with Tom Herman leading the way and welcomes Bob Stoops and Oklahoma to NRG Stadium to start the day. Oklahoma lost in the semi-final last season to Clemson. Houston beat Florida State in the Peach Bowl. This game will be entertaining and flashy, but Oklahoma wins it. And Oklahoma wins every other game this season except for the last one.

USC at Alabama (Saturday, 8p) Everyone wants this to be the biggest game of the weekend, but it isn’t. It isn’t close to the biggest game. The Notre Dame people will be surprised it's not them for once, but USC is the most overrated, over-ranked and over-appreciated team in college football. The Trojans are the poster boys for shooting their load early. USC continually beats easy teams at the beginning of the season then shits the bed when it’s time to play real teams. Well, that won’t happen this season because Nick Saban and former USC head coach Lane Kiffin are making this game personal. Roll. Damn. Tide.

Louisiana State University vs. Wisconsin at Lambeau Field (Saturday, 3:30p) This is the only Big Ten-SEC matchup on the board this weekend, so I’m hoping it’s decent. Living in Big Ten country, I always hear the natives complain that SEC teams won’t travel to the north because of X and Y or this and that. Well, here it is, LSU making the trip north to play one of the Big Ten’s bellwethers in its home state. No, this game isn’t at Camp Randall, but beggars can’t be choosers. As long as LSU has Leonard Fournette and Darius Guice to carry the ball, then I don’t imagine there’s a ton Wisconsin can do. Wisconsin's best prayer is that LSU’s Les Miles does something stupid and the Badgers can capitalize.

Notre Dame at Texas (Sunday, 7:30p) A few weeks ago, I wouldn’t have given Texas a chance to win this game, but now the Longhorns could win it. Six Notre Dame players were arrested last week and while I’m not 100% sure what their impact would have been, enough has been made of it to make me reconsider blindly giving this game to the Irish. Texas lives on its football tradition, but it doesn’t compare to Notre Dame’s and at the end of the day, I think tradition, hard work and Brian Kelly overcome any obstacles those arrests or related distractions may have caused. I love Charlie Strong, but he isn’t long for Texas, which is too bad because I think he’s a very good football coach. It’s them, Charlie, not you.

Links of Love

Q&A: How ESPN's Week 1 college football TV lineup came together [Daniel Uthman/USA Today] I know this type of stuff isn’t always sexy reading, but it’s interesting. ESPN is broadcasting all five of the big neutral site games this weekend. And my guess is all five will be good enough. The best one is listed above. Scroll up, then scroll down.

History says Huskers must get tough at the top (administration, too) to return to the peak [Lee Barfknecht/Oklahoma World Something or Other] The line that says everything about championship-winning football teams, “I’m a firm believer that coaches win games while administrations clear the way for championships.” I think it’s safe to say a few things about Nebraska: it’s doubtful they’ll win another national title in their current form and the administration needs to do what it can to help football be great again. Start with a great coach and stay out of his way. P.J. Fleck seems like the perfect youngster to lead that team. Hire him tomorrow.

With a Friend Nearby and a Big Job Ahead, Brady Hoke is Ready to Fix and Oregon Defense in Serious Need of Repair [Lindsay Schnell/Campus Rush] I like Brady Hoke. He seems like a solid guy who was on the path to be a successful head coach before he landed at Michigan. People rarely turn down their alma mater, especially when that alma mater is Michigan, so I get it [footnote]I didn’t forget about Less Miles or this infamous presser [/footnote]. And to be fair to Hoke, the expectations at Michigan were unreasonably high considering what Rich Rodriguez left for Hoke and the people at Michigan can be unreasonably arrogant.

Sources: NCAA's Ole Miss investigation expands beyond Laremy Tunsil [Pat Forde/Yahoo!] I’m really just getting caught up here, and well, this can’t possibly end well for Ole Miss, can it? Although North Carolina has managed to avoid the brunt of any sanctions from the NCAA, I don’t think Ole Miss will be as evasive. The texts about $300 for Tunsil’s mom aren’t good and the fact that investigators are offering immunity is worse. I suspect the NCAA will do whatever it needs to ensure that this case doesn’t end up like Nevin Shapiro and Miami, but I’ll say this, if anyone on the current roster is part of this then the entire team should be sanctioned immediately. I’m not a fan of imposing bowl bans on student-athletes that weren’t part of the problem, but if there are some here that were, then thanks for stopping in Ole Miss and Mr. Freeze here’s your show cause.

Last, I’d like to thank Kristen Botica, Mitch Gatzke, Bob McDonald, and Seth Merenbloom for taking over a lot of the day-to-day stuff that I used to try and do on my own at Campus Pressbox. They’ve stepped up to give me hours, days and soon a week completely detached to focus on life outside of Campus Pressbox. The entire staff of Campus Pressbox has been exceptionally great also and now begins the chapter where everyone knows our name.

If you haven’t signed up to be a Campus Pressbox Insider, please do. Our $2 per month special runs through the end of the month, then the price goes up to a whopping $3 per month. Benefits include early access to content, our Insider-only comments section, and knowing that you’re helping writers who don’t write at the big site write about their favorite college teams. Also, subscribe to our two podcasts, Campus Pressbox and The SEC 411.

E-mail me at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com, follow me on Twitter at @damienbowman, and if you’re crazy enough to disagree with me then join the staff.

Five Teams with Zero Chance of Winning the Conference Title in 2016

It’s the second half of August which means we’re mere weeks away from the start of college football. While everyone is going to tell you which teams will make the playoff or win the conference championship, I’m here to tell you about five teams that have absolutely no chance to win a conference championship this season. Be angry.

ACC

There are two really good teams in the ACC and then there’s every other team. Unfortunately for all of us,  Clemson and Florida State are also in the same division. In 2016, I think Florida State has the most talent on both sides of the ball, but at this very moment, I think Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is a better coach than Jimbo Fisher. And, I think that’s where the difference lies. Here's where all this gets interesting: I believe after Clemson beats Auburn in Week 1 (Hi Bird), the Tigers will run the table, and win the Atlantic division en route to beating whichever team loses the least amount of games in the Coastal Divison. Here's where the rubber meets the road: I also believe that when these two teams meet Halloween weekend at Doak Campbell, I think Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will lead the Tigers to its first win in Tallahassee since 2006.  There will be rain, wind, and shenanigans. Get ready.

Big 12

This one is a bit tougher to pick, because, honestly no one knows how good Baylor will be [footnote]They’re playing football despite all the nonsense that’s been going on, so let’s stick to the prize right now – football.[/footnote]. I would be absolutely out of my mind to think Oklahoma would have no chance to win the Big 12 in 2016, but ‘No Game’ Bob Stoops, as I call him, hasn’t had two awesome seasons back-to-back in well…ever. BUT, and a Baby Got Back type of BUT(T), I will take the Sooners in 2016 to win the Big 12 because not only will they blow the doors off Oklahoma State, they will find a way to beat Ohio State in Week 3 and roll to their first 12-win season since 2010. So the question becomes which team has zero chance to win the Big 12, and we're not gonna step on Iowa State or Kansas more than we need to, but it's TCU. TCU with Gary Patterson (who I like a lot, but needs to eat less brisket) has absolutely no chance despite how much the media is pumping their chances. Baylor, in its current state of disarray, has a better chance than the Horned Frogs. The purple and white will lose to following teams this season: Arkansas, Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas. Yes, the Frogs will be 2-2 in against the state of Texas and will be no closer to the winning the Big 12 this year as they have been in the past five years*. Where the hell is TCU anyway? Wherever that is, stay there and watch from the middle of the pack. Send the brisket! Calm the hell down. I know exactly where TCU is, but no one who doesn't watch college football knows that it's in Fort Worth.

Big Ten

Is Ohio State the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten in 2016? No. Are the Buckeyes the most experienced team in either division? Yes. Michigan State is the closest in experience and that brings us to the team that has absolutely zero chance of winning the Big Ten in 2016: Michigan. Michigan doesn’t win the East and the conference because of, yep, the Harbaugh Effect. This is not Harbaugh’s year. I do expect Michigan to finally beat Michigan State for the first time since 2012 and the first time in East Lansing since 2007 [footnote]Maybe Brady Hoke was as bad as they said he was? Nah.[/footnote]. It all ends for Michigan on November 12 when the Hawkeyes of Iowa slip one past the goalie and beat the Champions of the West in Iowa City. Oh, and Michigan isn’t beating Ohio State, but keep dreamin’ that dream. I’m one of the few non-Ohio State fans that live in Ohio and even I can’t get behind Michigan beating Ohio State. That first victory since 2011 needs to happen in Columbus, not the whore known as Ann Arbor.

Pac-12

This is also very tough to pick because I don’t know which team is the best in the Pac-12. Here’s what I will tell you, no Pac-12 team will make the playoff because the Pac-12 is not good this year. The season will begin and one team (you know which one) will start strong by beating the Little Sisters of the Poor, then BOOM, they’ll lose on a Thursday night like all overhyped Pac-12 teams do. This is the phenomenon known as Pac-12 Suicide. That’s right, USC will lose to Cal on Thursday, October 27 sending its season into the familiar nosedive we’ve become used to over the past half-decade. No, USC will not beat Alabama (#DontBeStupid) but they will beat Stanford, survive Arizona in Tucson and will lose to UCLA and Notre Dame. Mathematically, they will probably still have a chance to win the division but mentally the Men of Try will not beat the Pac-12 North representative, thus losing the Pac-12. Look, this is totally a stretch, but UCLA and Cal are moving forward while USC lives on hype. Prove me wrong, please.

SEC

This is the easiest pick of them all. The SEC will continue to be won by a team from the West until Nick Saban retires. I’m not suggesting Alabama will play or win the SEC Championship Game, but he’ll single-handedly make every other team in the division get better. That means there can only be one team with zero chance to win the SEC in 2016: Tennessee. I’m a closet Tennessee fan. I enjoy Neyland Stadium. I enjoy listening to the Pride of Southland Band perform Rocky Top 50 times before kickoff, but no, Tennessee is not winning the East and the Vols will not be appearing Atlanta. I’m not on the Josh Dobbs hate train like Seth. I believe the biggest hindrance to the Big Orange’s success in 2016 is Butch Jones. Tennessee will lose to BOTH Florida (no surprise here) and Georgia because Butch Jones does something incredibly stupid. And since the games are back-to-back (Sep 24 and Oct 1), before Alabama rolls the Volunteers in Knoxville on October 15, Butch Jones will officially be at the top of college football’s chopping block. Tennessee would owe Jones $2.5 million every year through 2020 if fired without cause, and Jones can save some face by beating Alabama, but there’s no chance in hell they beat Florida AND Georgia in 2016. If they do, it would be the Vols’ first championship game appearance since 2007. It last won the championship game in 1998.

There it is, five times that have zero chance to win a conference title in 2016. If you're a smart college football fan, I've played Captain Obvious for the almost 1200 words, but for everyone else, don't stop believin'.

*Update: Reader Sam e-mailed to remind me (I honestly forgot and so did my editor) that TCU split the Big 12 with Baylor in 2014. I personally don't consider a split as winning, but I'm including the note because Sam took the time to write a respectful note.

E-Mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

The Next Step for Campus Pressbox

It’s August and that means we are merely weeks away from the beginning of college football and a few short months away from the start of college basketball, so in that vein it’s time we start anew…or as anew as we can. About three years ago when this site started as College Football Roundtable we never imagined it would transform itself into a full-fledged opinion website with columns and a few podcasts, but yet here we are in August 2016. As the site has grown we’ve repeatedly tried to present the best content to our listeners and readers, and now we’re ready for our next step.

Campus Pressbox Insiders

Campus Pressbox Insiders is a premium subscription model that will not only help us continue to create great content, but will give us an opportunity to consistently reward our writers with the compensation they deserve. Campus Pressbox is improving for everyone involved, not just those who become Insiders. Over the next few months we’ll roll out a new site design, improve the speed and responsiveness of our site and include the Insider community in the direction of the site and the implementation of those ideas.

The first step in improving the browsing experience for Insiders is to remove all of the ads that are displayed on the site. Hosting large websites isn’t easy or cheap, so while Insiders will have those annoying ads removed, placements by site sponsors will remain visible.

The next step is an Insider community to which we will move comments on all articles and will provide a moderated place where Insiders can talk about their own team and others without fear of the nastiness and constant competitiveness that many other sites expose its users to.

Insiders will also have early access to feature articles and podcasts. Typically, these are podcasts we may demo and ultimately based on your feedback continue to produce or move in a different direction. These feature articles are something we work on weeks or months in advance and hold until a particular point in time. We’ll release both early to you – because…why not?

Campus Pressbox Insiders isn’t expensive at $3 per month, but for those of you who chose to join us in the month of August, you’ll pay $2 per month as long as you remain a month-to-month member. So, yes, for life as long as you continue to renew, you’ll pay just $2 per month. On September 1, the rate for those who join will revert to $3 per month.

If you’re interested in becoming a Campus Pressbox Insider sign-up here and we're in the process of hiring contributors, so if you or anyone you know would like to join us, click here.

Thanks so much for reading.

Damien Bowman Executive Editor, Campus Pressbox damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com

Photo: BillG/Flickr.

Can the ACC Network Finally Force Notre Dame to Join the ACC in Football?

For many, many years I was among a large group of college football fans who insisted that Notre Dame need not join a conference to remain competitive, but I’m starting to shift my thinking. The creation of the ACC Network, the Irish signing their grant of rights away until 2036 and the College Football Playoff have created a perfect storm that might lead to end of Irish independence. Obviously, Notre Dame wouldn’t do anything until its home television contract with NBC expires in 2025, but by then it will either be painfully obvious it needs to join a conference or that it can survive on its own*. The College Football Playoff contract also expires in 2025.

One of the reasons, other than being different, that I like Notre Dame being independent is because it spreads great football games across networks that aren’t tied to ESPN. I really had hope that the Big Ten would do something similar and break at least partially away from ESPN and give its rights to FOX (which partially owns the Big Ten Network) or NBC. It didn’t happen, and while Notre Dame’s contract with NBC made a lot of sense initially, the school now makes less than almost every other Power 5 school.

What we know: Notre Dame pulls about $15 million from NBC and another $6.2 million from the ACC/ESPN deal, as it stands right now. It’s believed another $5-$8 million in revenue from ACC Network will close the gap between it and most of the other Power 5 schools that aren’t in the ACC, but why the need for income source complexity?

Right. Tradition.

Let’s talk about tradition for a moment. I’m not a fan of Notre Dame playing Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue, or any other team in the Big Ten. I really believe the only thing it promotes are the other schools its playing. Michigan and Ohio State provide no obvious recruiting benefit to Notre Dame. Since I didn't grow up watching Michigan and Notre Dame, it isn’t something I need to see every year.

Side note: I don’t want to see Michigan play Ohio State every year either, but television insists that it’s a great game, when clearly it is not.

I understand that the same history I just derided also says Notre Dame and Navy play each other and I understand the history the two schools have dating back to World War II. Fine.

Keep it.

But I really like when Notre Dame plays opponents that are out of their region and provide them a recruiting benefit. And this is where playing in the ACC will help them recruit. Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York. Seemingly everyone from the Midwest is traveling to those states to recruit and very few are traveling to the Midwest to recruit. Why? Because no one wants to live in the Midwest anymore and there’s no advantage for an up-and-coming prospect to live there.

So, while keeping their ‘traditional’ rivals would keep old school fans happy, it does very little to help recruiting or anything else that seems to matter.

The next, last and most important complication: The College Football Playoff. As long as the committee is going to put an emphasis on winning a conference then Notre Dame is going to take a perceived hit no matter what. Now that the Big 12 has decided to hold a conference championship game, the Irish can’t say they’re not the only team without a chance to play a conference title game.

Joining the ACC as a full time member and consistently facing Florida State, Clemson, Louisville is more important than playing region ‘rivals’ who impact nothing. Notre Dame will continue to sell out its home games and probably the stadiums of the teams it visits for the foreseeable future. The Irish will command – and receive – more money once they become full-time ACC members and the rest of us will wonder why we defended their lack of a conference home for so long.

All this is, of course, pre-mature, because I don’t suspect Notre Dame will be able to join the ACC while its contract remains with NBC. Under any other circumstances, NBC probably wouldn’t care if they joined a conference, but NBC pays all that money for a national schedule and beyond two or three non-conference games, the Irish cannot guarantee great home opponents as part of its conference schedule.

I did mention all of this is pre-mature? Right. Notre Dame will be a full participant in the ACC by 2025 at the latest.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: MGoBlog/Flickr.

Big Ten Links: We all hit Rock Bottom When Steve Spurrier is Wrong

I'm on vacation, but all that means is you'll get more words out of me. I hope you like my words. Here are a few of the happenings in the Big Ten along with a few podcasts I listened to this week. Have a great weekend. Is it September yet? Cornhuskers riding on Armstrong’s shoulder. Let’s get right to it. In order for Nebraska to improve from 2015’s 6-7, 2016 Tommy Armstrong has to be better. Setting career records for touchown passes and passing yardage will be for naught if he has another season of 16 interceptions. Half of that in the Big Ten won’t net many more than the six wins of last season and being lackluster at the end of the spring game doesn’t exactly instill confidence heading into the summer. Armstrong was 8-of-15 for 80 yards, while backup Ryker Fyfe 15-of-21. So, Armstrong will have to carry the Cornhuskers on his arm, and I guess his legs. He’ll have to work on ‘easy’ draw plays and be more precise. His timing will have to be better and he’ll have to grow up on and off the field. In January, Armstrong proposed to his longtime girlfriend and former Nebraska soccer star Jaylyn Odermann. Many in the Cornhusker fan base probably hope this among many other off-field moves will help settle his social life so he can focus on football. Armstrong’s goal is to have a marriage ring and also a Big Ten championship ring. Good luck with the latter.

Going to the Rose Bowl ins’t cheap, especially when you lose. Iowa lost in Pasadena not only on the field but in the bank account in January when the Hawkeyes played Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The Hawkeyes are claiming a $228,000 deficit in spending that will make people wonder how a university in the Big Ten can lose money in a bowl game. The university received $2.5 million from its share of revenue for the bowl, but that wasn’t enough to cover these related costs:

  • About $1.9 million for expenses for the football team and athletics department staff.
  • About $663,500 for expenses related to the marching band.
  • About $166,000 for expenses related to Iowa officials and administrators.
  • UI is reporting total expenses of $2,728,445, leaving a deficit of $228,445.

Due to this and probably other unforeseen expenses throughout the athletic department, UI athletics will close out its fiscal year with a deficit. Iowa does not take student subsidies and is self-supporting, but its revenue is smaller than normal because its football season ticket sales are down despite how well the team performed last season. I guess, the fans want to see if last year was lightening in a bottle.

Small potatoes add up, and I’m sure none of these people could afford to pay their own way, but administrative officials accounted for $165,815 in costs related to tickets, transportation, meals and lodging, and ‘other transportation.’ You can assume ‘other transportation’ is the motorcade from the hotel to the stadium. Can’t have the president of the university or the sexual misconduct coordinator sitting at traffic lights like peons.

When the defensive backs coach compares his unit to being an alcoholic. "It's kind of like being an alcoholic: You have to figure out where you are. If you're rock bottom, then OK, now I've got a chance," said Rutgers defensive backs coach Bill Busch. (I’m sure he isn’t related to Adolphus Busch, but it would be appropriate). Rutgers’ pass defense was not good last year, and yeah, if that secondary wasn’t at rock bottom it was obvious they can see it from where they stand. The unit could get worse, and playing in the Big Ten East certainly doesn’t make their recovery any easier, but newly hired coach Busch seems like a man on a mission. He mentions Michigan State and Ohio State as the two toughest opponents the Scarlet Knights will face this season, and yeah…that’s probably accurate, but what’s more important is the building process. Making practice harder than the games and getting players to understand the decisions making process in practice is supposed to be harder than it is during the game is the ultimate goal.

The telling number: 118. Rutgers’ defensive secondary ranked 118th of 127 nationally in passing yards allowed. 118th.

More Busch:

"I talk to them all the time about how we stress them out here," Busch said. "We stress with the pace, how we go from drill-to-drill — everything is stress. Then I ask them, 'How hard is it on Saturday night when you're playing against Ohio State or Michigan?' The guys that played are like, 'It's really hard.' So you see our method and they get it. They understand that we're trying to prepare them for this fight they're going to be in."

Did I mention the Scarlet Knights were 118th in passing yards allowed in 2015?

When retired Spurrier says something he probably shouldn’t. I’m the biggest Steve Spurrier guy there is. I think he’s a national treasure and definitely one of the funniest guys in college football – retired or not – but sometimes it’s better to not speak on certain things. In many ways though, I think I’m a lot like Spurrier, if someone asks me something I’ll probably just say whatever and then realize after I’m halfway through my answer that I probably should have said, ‘no comment.’ Spurrier appeared on Paul Finebaum’s radio show earlier this week and was asked about the treatment of former Penn State coach Joe Paterno. His response:

"[Paterno] was treated the most unfairly of any coach ever," Spurrier said. "He had nothing to do with that scandal. Nothing at all, and amazingly, what they did to him was completely wrong. I've heard they're having talk of putting the statute back, and they should do that. They really should."

Well. I agree with some of this, and I agree that Paterno in the court of public opinion may have received a slightly raw deal, but Paterno did nothing to bring anyone to his side of the argument. Paterno was hung out to dry by the Penn State administration, but I still have an hard time believing he had no idea what Jerry Sandusky was doing. I’m not suggestion he had complete knowledge, but at some point you have to think to yourself, something about Sandusky and this situation doesn’t seem right. And I think this is where Spurrier and some of the Penn State fans and alumni jump the shark.

Joe Paterno was a great coach and probably a better man, but like all men (and women) everyone makes mistakes. It is not ill to talk of someone after they die if you’re simply pointing out obvious flaws and facts. It would have been better to point these flaws out while he were alive so he could respond to them, but when you’re in the inner circle I get that it’s hard to be honest with the icon in the middle. But what are friends for?

If Paterno and Spurrier were close friends, then Spurrier should have asked Paterno what the hell was going on with Sandusky, and why hadn’t Paterno done something meaningful about it when he found out about it?

And for this reason alone, I cannot support the replacement of Paterno’s statue at Penn State. I don’t mind restoring records or wins because those are reflective of the student-athletes that won those games, but until I’m convinced Paterno had zero knowledge of what Sandusky was doing, then in my eyes, Paterno let a lot of people down.

What to listen to:

  • BuckAround episode 130 with Rich and Maxwell. They preview the Badger’s spring game tomorrow and Dylan from Pennsylvania wants to know if Wisconsin is a football or basketball school. Obviously worth your time.
  • What’s it like to be a Northwestern fan as an NU student, parts 1 and 2. The gang at Inside NU podcast a two-part series asking the tough questions surrounding Northwestern’s student fandom. Part 1 and part 2.
E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Corn Farmer/Flickr.

Big Ten Links: You'll Never Convince me to pay Student-Athletes

Things are looking up for Maryland. In what many would have considered an off-season disaster, head coach DJ Durkin turned a potential negative into quick positive. Last week, I wrote about Maryland defensive coordinator Scott Shafer leaving the staff after such a short time and how quickly Durkin hired Kentucky’s Andy Buh to fill the position. Not only did Durkin hire a new defensive coordinator in short shrift, he picked up verbal commits from three impressive recruits.

What’s the ceiling at Illinois? Lovie Smith is a man of change. From the NFL to college. From early morning practices to late-afternoon workouts. From being part of the NFL contract process to dealing with high school coaches and recruits. While I have no doubts about Smith’s ability to coach, ultimately what will define his tenure at Illinois is his ability to win. Six years at $21 million dollars is a lot of money, which he’ll easily return to the university within three years, but how high can the Illini go in the Big Ten? As a charter member of the Big Ten and second largest university (Minnestoa) in the West Division, expectations should be high. The only other team that’s been consistently good since the conference went to two divisions in 2011 has been Wisconsin. With Smith’s hire, there’s literally no reason Smith and the Illini shouldn’t compete for the division title every season.

Wisconsin, why so cheap? I guess I understand Wisconsin is successful in the West Division of the Big Ten despite paying what seems to be the least amount of money for football coaches. I guess that shows – excuse me Cleveland Indians fans – that a ‘team’ can act like a small market team and still be successful even if it’s going to cause a bunch of turnover every season. I still have tons of respect for Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank for saying Michigan and Ohio State are overpaying their coaches. For the record, I agree 100 percent those dudes are overpaid. As well as Nick Saban. But to totally contradict what I just said, Wisconsin needs to step its game up. While they can hang their hat on Big Ten championship game and Rose Bowl appearances, how many of those have translated to wins? I’m sure coaching turnover has something to do with it.

You have until Friday to order Hawkeye’s season tickets. I can say I won’t be placing an order for season tickets, but based on last year’s success and the outlook for 2016, I expect Iowa to sell a lot more home tickets. Two items of note – 1. Iowa State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska visit Kinnick Stadium this fall. 2. There isn’t a chance in hell Iowa repeats what it did last season. I’d love to be wrong about that.

Jim Harbaugh: the next great commence speaker. “I’m not a football guy, but I know a great educator when I see one, and he always impressed me as a great educator and great leader.” Says Jim Vail president of New Jersey’s Paramus Catholic school where Jim Harbaugh will give the commencement speech this spring. I guess if the NCAA is going to ban satellite camps because of you, then you have to take your message around the country in a few other different ways. One way is to promote yourself and Michigan at commencement speeches. The NCAA had to approve this appearance, so I wonder if Harbaugh will be allowed to wear anything with the Block M on it or if he’ll have to submit his speech beforehand to make sure it doesn’t contain any recruiting subterfuge?

I don’t believe anyone understands NCAA graduate transfer rules. Here’s a smart podcast from our friends at Hammer & Rails as they try to tackle the transfer rule and how it relates to Boilermaker hoopster Kendall Stephens. Later in the episode, there’s a deep penetrating discussion about Tyler Summit, who apparently good at penetration, but bad on picking the people he penetrates.

Big Ten coaches aren’t and shouldn’t be united on camp ban. I think a lot of times we expect coaches from conferences to be a united front. Typically, their wishes are passed up the chain-of-command to university presidents through athletic directors and that’s how things become ‘law’ in college sports. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz doesn’t want satellite camps because he wants them to take place on campus. That’s a novel concept. Coaches like Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh (#duh) are in favor of these camps with varying degrees of restrictions. Is it surprising all the coaches aren’t on the same page? No. Is it surprising to publicly see all the coaches aren’t on the same page? Absolutely.

For the record, I was against the camps before I was for the camps. I’m against the camps in the way that Harbaugh used them as a means to take his kids from their spring break for a glorified recruiting trip. Now that I know many kids who aren’t going to play at the Michigan’s or Ohio State’s of the world are so affected by the change I’m against it. I’m never for taking scholarship opportunities from deserving student-athletes and if this means kids don’t have the chance to go exposure camps then this is bad for the sport.

No, Cardale, you shouldn’t be paid to play college football. You’re crazy if you thought I’d ignore this one. Cardale took to Twitter yesterday to voice his excitement at the prospect of being able to earn an income for playing football. I’m excited for Cardale and all the other student-athletes who will be drafted or signed later this month by NFL teams. It’s the culmination of years of hard work by the athletes, parents and coaches. The reward for missing summers with friends, tailgating before college football games, and spending Thanksgiving with dudes you probably don’t like. That said, I’m still a firm believer that playing college football is equivalent of an unpaid internship for student-athletes who gain on the job experience while earning and opportunity to play at the next level.

In fairness to Cardale, I do think his time at Ohio State has been nothing but a benefit and learning experience for him. I don’t know if last season worked out the way he wanted it to, but since his ‘we ain’t come to play SCHOOL’ tweet several years age, he certainly has appeared to have matured as a young man.

Isn’t that what going to college is all about – growing and learning? Even if you have to sacrifice in the near term to be successful in the long term?

E-Mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr.

Big Ten Links: How The Hell Do I Compete With Last Night?

Well, last night was a hell of a college basketball game. Neither team in the final is a member of the Big Ten, but congrats to Villanova and North Carolina for playing a national final that everyone will remember for probably the rest of their lives. For those of you into One Shining Moment, this is your moment of zen:

Harvey Perlman still hates Pelini; living in 2014

Remember Bo Pelini? He isn’t a fan of his old boss Harvey Perlman at Nebraska and apparently Perlman isn’t a fan of Pelini’s either. Perlman is retiring and when giving his final speech as chancellor of Nebraska-Lincoln, he couldn’t resist taking a shot at the former football coach:

“I’m not going to do a Bo Pelini.”

The audience laughed.

“Do you know what a Bo Pelini is?” Perlman continued. “It is defined in the urban dictionary as an expletive-laced rant expressing outrage on leaving a position you didn’t want anyway.

“Not going to do it.”

Bo Pelini is certainly in the right if someone asks him about his time at Nebraska and his relationship with Perlman, but Perlman is not in the right if he writes this into his speech. At some point, typically after like age 45, it’s time to be the bigger man and at least pretend you’re going to move on.

How do you leave your job after four months?

Ever start a new job and you hate it so much you can’t make it through probation? Apparently, that’s why Maryland’s defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is leaving the program after four months. Shafer cited personal reasons as the need for his departure, so I certainly hope all is right in his personal world, but is this the start of a troubling trend for new head coach DJ Durkin and the Terrapins? Hope not. After the disaster that was Randy Edsall the Terrapins cannot go back to anything resembling that nonsense.

Durkin and company have already answered the next question, ‘who will replace Shafer?’ If your answer was Kentucky special team’s coordinator Andy Buh, then you win $1,000. Buh leaving an SEC perennial bottom-feeder is good for him and hopefully a stabilizing force for Maryland. Good luck.

The Kahki King held his second Spring Game

It’s hard to believe it is time for spring football, but here we are. Michigan’s game was last Saturday and in a surprising and interesting move the Wolverine’s held the game at night. I have to imagine this is the first year the game was held at night as Michigan Stadium has only had lights for about five years, so this change is quite refreshing.

I’m not an X’s and O’s type of guy, but Tom Dienart of the Big Ten Network is, and here are his four observations from that game:

  1. It looks like Wilton Speight—yes, Wilton Speight—has emerged as the leader in the quarterback race to replace Jake Rudock.
  2. Running back Ty Isaac looks good.
  3. The defense looks VERY good.
  4. Michigan will have one of the best collections of tight ends in the Big Ten.

If you want more sights and sounds, ESPN’s Dan Murphy has you covered. Here are the Wolverine’s leaving the field after the game:

I really hope the Big Ten choses a television partner not named ESPN

I know the chances of the Big Ten signing a television deal with any network that isn’t ESPN is between slim and none, but I wish at the very least they’d consider all the possibilities. In my opinion, NBC offers the conference the best exposure for not only its mainline football and basketball games, but the broadcast network along with NBC Sports can augment those two sports as well as the non-revenue and Olympic sports. If NBC isn’t a viable option, again to me, the second best option is FOX. FOX is already a partner with the Big Ten in the Big Ten Network, so that relationship is built, but I think the Big Ten deserves its own place to shine. FOX also the primary broadcaster of Pac-12 games.

Do I think the conference should completely abandon ESPN? Of course not, but ESPN has primary rights or secondary rights holders’ agreements with every other Power Five conference and the Big Ten can shift some exposure in its favor by moving to NBC or FOX.

The Big Ten’s only big competition at NBC? Notre Dame.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Larry/Flickr.

NCAA Tournament: East Region Round Two Notebook

As the East region moves to Philadephia this week, let’s quickly re-visit Sunday's second round action.

The obvious. North Carolina showed us they’re really good.

They took it to Florida Gulf Coast (83-67) and No. 9 Providence (85-66) while allowing fewer than their season average of 69.9 points per game. The Tar Heels will need to maintain that superb below average performance when they face No. 5 Indiana who rolled No. 12 Chattanooga (99-74) and survived an unmotivated No. 4 Kentucky (73-67). The Hoosiers average 82.3 points per making Friday evening’s match-up potentially one for the ages. The biggest question: Does Tom Crean have another great coaching performance in him?

I love you Xavier, but #OnWisconsin.

Look, I’m not a Wisconsin guy; I don’t really appreciate how Bo Ryan inserted Greg Gard as the head coach this year, because frankly I think it’s bush league for someone to think they control their job and their former program after they leave. That said, Gard has done a phenomenal job with this team that many didn’t expect to have a repeat of last season. Sunday’s game versus Xavier was, well, extraordinary. Despite the fact that Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes had another sub-par game, the Badgers were able to erase Xavier’s nine-point lead in six minutes. Then the Badgers won on a buzzer-beating corner three-pointer from Bronson Koenig. All this after Wisconsin was up by 11 in the first half. This is why you love March.

Side note: comedian Bill Murray’s son, Xavier assistant Luke, has reportedly never seen “Caddyshack.” Luke, it’s cool man, “What About Bob?” is about 50 times better.

Mike Brey and the Irish have a drive for excitement.

Was the Notre Dame-Steven F. Austin game the best of the tournament so far? Probably. Despite the three-quarter court buzzer-beaters, the upset of Michigan State, and Wisconsin’s Brandon Koenig’s channeling his ‘inner Steph Curry’, no other game had the back-and-forth of this game, right? No. 6 Notre Dame faces No. 7 Wisconsin on Thursday at 7:27 Eastern. You can bet Thursday’s game will have all the dramatics both teams brought to the table in first two rounds of the tournament.

Who wins the East?

If you don’t think this is the most interesting of the four regions, then you better hope and pray your boss doesn’t send you for a drug test anytime soon. It would be very difficult put the teams in any other order than the rankings in which they already stand, No. 1 North Carolina, No. 5 Indiana, No. 6 Notre Dame and No. 7 Wisconsin, BUT if you use recent history (last year’s tournament) as a guide, it would be tough to discount either Notre Dame or Wisconsin winning the region. To give either of those teams the region win would ignore what North Carolina has done this season, their seed and the respect that Roy Williams commands. As much as I love the drama and funny faces of Tom Crean, I cannot see the Hoosiers advancing to Saturday’s games. So, and I’m sure I’ll be wrong, but give me North Carolina over Notre Dame in the regional final Saturday night.

What the hell else do you have to talk about?

Yeah, the media…and because Bob limited me ONLY to this region, here are some of the best Vine’s, Instagram’s and Tweet’s I could come up with in five minutes.

I don’t think we’ll ever be done with Wisconsin-Xavier, so here’s Syracuse’s Christian White’s fathers' (get all that?) reaction from behind Wisconsin’s bench on that last second shot:

Barstool Sports has another dramatic view of that same shot. The guy in the orange hat, yeah that's White's father. 

Unreal view of Wisconsin's game-winner

A video posted by Barstool Sports (@barstool_sports) on

Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger’s now-famous tip-in:

Steven F. Austin’s coach Brad Underwood talks about Thomas Walkup:

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr.

Spring Break Should be Reserved for Breaking, not Footballing

I understand that college football coaches think their student-athletes need to be focused on football at all times, and I also appreciate the fact that those same student-athletes are paid with scholarships and a chance at the next level. Typically, I’m on board with whatever coaches want their kids to do when done so within the rules the NCAA has established. That said, taking away what little break time these young adults have to hold practice out of state when those same student-athletes can use the time to unwind is …wait for it… wrong. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey wants the NCAA to prevent Michigan from having practice in Florida later this month and while on the face of it, many may say he wants to prevent Michigan to gain any type of competitive or recruiting advantage, the long and the short of it is the same: spring break is for breaking, not footballing.

[College Athletes: Unpaid Interns and Indentured Servants]

There comes a time when coaches AND athletes need decompression time and if that time comes during their traditional spring break then so be it. There are things that should be sacred in life, one of those things should be the ability to limit the amount of time athletes are responsible to their program when that sport isn’t in session.

From the Pac-12 study that says student-athletes are 'too exhausted to study':

One unique note from the survey: Athletes want established what would essentially an eight-hour window where no practices could be held -- from 10 p.m.-6 a.m.

Other conclusions:

• Eighty percent of Pac-12 athletes say they missed a class for a game in 2014-15.

• More than half (54 percent) say they don't have enough time to study for tests.

• Almost three-quarters (73 percent) said they felt a voluntary activity was considered mandatory. Some reported coaches threatening to "kick athletes off the team for missing voluntary activities."

• Two-thirds say sports demands impacted their social lives. "Pac-12 athletes express a desire to make new friends outside of their sports teams."

Currently, FBS players are allowed a maximum of four weeks off per year when they aren’t responsible to their program. Not only is that not enough time, NCAA should mandate that holidays that you and I enjoy or traditional university and academic breaks not be included in that. So, four weeks would become five weeks and any reading time between classes and exams should be added on as well.

For the sake of other sports, I would define ‘aren’t responsible to their program’ as when the sport you participate in isn’t in session. So basketball teams traveling to Cancun over Christmas Break is clearly not an issue, but that same team mandating their basketball players travel to Italy in July should pose a problem.

Many already think it’s a joke to call these young men (in football) student-athletes when its reported many dedicate 50 hours per week to the program and have to find time to study and attend classes around that. The NCAA can do itself and many-student athletes a favor by mandating that typical academic time apply not only to students but to student-athletes.

E-mail Damien at damien.bowman@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @damienbowman.

Photo: Daniela/Flickr.