Headlinin’: Disgraced Evans officially out at Georgia


Making the morning rounds.

Unhappy trails. To no one’s surprise, Damon Evans appears to be officially out as Georgia athletic director following his tear-filled, panty-wielding DUI arrest with a younger woman in the passenger seat last Wednesday, minutes before the start of a new, $550,000-per-year contract. Evans reportedly met with university lawyers over the weekend and is expected to announce his resignation to the UGA Athletic Board this morning. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, leader of the Evans-must-go chorus last week, predicts assistant AD Carla Williams is in line for a promotion to Evans’ chair, along with a nice raise. But the recommendation is far from unanimous. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

You can’t handle the truth. Tommy Tuberville, yet to coach his first game at Texas Tech, has already racked up his first public reprimand from Big 12 offices for predicting the conference’s demise in a Rivals radio interview last week. (I’m guessing that unfavorably comparing commissioner Dan Beebe to former and current SEC commissioners Roy Kramer and Mike Slive didn’t help Tubs’ case.) Beebe called Tuberville’s comments "unfortunate, and contrary to the very strong feelings of unity expressed publicly and privately by the Big 12 Board of Directors and athletic directors," the same guys who were inches away from dissolving the conference last month. [Associated Press]

Another former SEC coach, Illinois’ Ron Zook, can probably expect a call from the Big Ten offices, too. [Orlando Sentinel]

The rich get richer. An "Equity in Athletics" report by the U.S Department of Education reveals that only five of 66 programs in the six automatic BCS conferences failed to turn a profit in football in 2008-09. Four "Big Six" programs actually lost money: UConn ($280,000 in the red), Syracuse ($835,000), Wake Forest ($3.1 million) and Duke ($6.7 million); Rutgers broke even. Compare that to non-BCS schools, where only 17 programs (led by Pac-10-bound Utah) out of 51 managed to keep their head above water – not including the service academies. [Hartford Courant]

My, how you’ve changed. The Salt Lake Tribune reminded Sunday readers that, although Utah and Colorado haven’t played since 1962, the soon-to-be Pac-10 mates are actually old rivals from their days in the Rocky Mountain and Mountain State conferences in the first half of the last century. The Buffs and Utes played 55 times in 56 years between 1903 and 1958, including twice in less than a month in 1943, before drifting off one another’s schedules for good in the early sixties. [Salt Lake Tribune]


I never thought they’d miss this hilarious beefcake birthday card. Missouri safety Jarrell Harrison was suspended indefinitely following a Friday arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor shoplifting from a Columbia mall. (Considering the item(s) in question allegedly came from Spencer’s Gifts, there’s no way the $500 threshold for a felony was ever within reach.) Harrison, a junior college transfer, started eight games last year and spent most of the spring with the first team until a late demotion for missing a practice. [Columbia Tribune]

Quickly… Hundreds of South Florida kids attended a football clinic Saturday organized by the family of late Miami defensive lineman Bryan Pata, whose 2006 murder remains unsolved. … The cash-strapped North Carolina legislature closed a loophole that allowed out-of-state athletes to apply for in-state tuition at state universities, a move that figures to add $9.4 million in scholarship costs to N.C. athletic departments. … Former Tennessee receiver Todd Campbell is transferring to Middle Tennessee State. … And if you’re looking for 88 pictures of newly renovated Michigan Stadium, the Detroit Free Press has your fix.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

Expansion and the ‘superconference’: A very long love story


The Big Ten and Pac-10 both want to expand — the Big Ten is beginning to sound very, very certain about it — and when they do, certainly you have been made aware by now that Things Will Never Be the Same. If you’ve followed the sport for the last two decades, of course, you’re also aware that things have never been "the same" for long in college football, an unstructured, unwieldy, Darwinian ecosystem completely lacking the central brain and susceptibility to top-down logic that’s defined every other sport in America, save maybe professional wrestling. Schools and conferences have always been in it for themselves, and the next phase of that evolution will be every bit as pitiless on those that are slow or ill-equipped to adapt.

If there is one constant, central narrative in the business of college football over the last half-century, it’s the ongoing stratification of the "Haves" and "Have-Nots," and the ever-increasing stakes of falling into the former category. The specifics of the relationship between the insanely profitable, behemoth programs and the aspiring middle class have changed to a degree; there’s far more money to be had today than in the past, and more competition for it. Scholarship restrictions and increased exposure for smaller schools via mid-week games on ESPN and a sudden glut of bowl games have helped distribute talent more evenly. The "Have-Not" schools have more access to a fraction of the loot thanks to BCS payouts and "guarantee" games that keep the lights on for another year in exchange for (usually) a sound beating in front of a packed house at Juggernaut U. But the big trend — the steady consolidation of money and power among fewer programs — is only just reaching another critical juncture in a long, 40-year arc that’s made the notion of the all-encompassing superconference almost inevitable in the long run.

Not that I’m the fatalistic or conspiratorial type (in general, people are not competent to organize and execute master plans over many decades). Consider, though, that every major structural upheaval in college football over the last three generations has served to further separate the elite from the chaff — or, if you prefer, to bring the structure in line with the competitive and economic realities.

In 1973, the NCAA drew a sharp (though very easily crossed) line between the really serious football schools and those still just playing to play when it separated its new "Division I" classification into I-A and I-AA. Within 15 years, every major Eastern independent except Notre Dame — Miami, Florida State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia — had leapt at the chance to join one of the major conferences (or, in the case of the Big East, to form a new one of their own), and the SEC had hit upon the golden idea of splitting into divisions and staging a championship game between the winners; to get to the requisite 12 teams, it added independent South Carolina and poached Southwest Conference heavyweight Arkansas, confining the SWC to the state of Texas and hastening the implosion that would send its remaining "Have" members (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and, for political reasons, Baylor) to the new, SEC-modeled Big 12 and its Have-Nots (TCU, Houston, Rice and SMU) scrambling for cover.

The Big East only narrowly avoided the same fate barely a decade into its football existence, when the ACC nabbed its two most prominent programs, Miami and Virginia Tech, along with Boston College in 2003. By then, the nascent postseason cartel that had begun with the Bowl Alliance in 1992 had morphed into the Bowl Coalition and finally the full-fledged Bowl Championship Series when the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl swallowed their traditionalist pride and signed on in 1998, formally dividing Division I-A into the "Big Six" leagues with automatic bids to the big money/prestige games and everyone else.


In all of those cases, the number of teams that can claim to play in the top tier of college football — structurally and competitively, at least, if not in terms of money, attendance or exposure — has gotten a little smaller. Fewer programs have been able to claim a formal (Division I-A, "Big Six") that clearly separated them from the little guys, with the attendant economic and recruiting advantages. By getting bigger, the Pac-10 and Big Ten, especially — along with the SEC, in certain retaliation to maintain its status and profitability as the premiere conference — stand to make that number even smaller.

The Big East, having narrowly avoided the guillotine earlier this decade, can already see the writing on the wall for its existence as a major (BCS) football conference if the Big Ten poaches two or more of its members to form a 14 or 16-team juggernaut — and possibly for its existence as a football conference, period, in the drawn-and-quartered fashion that did in the SWC. But even if the Big East is the most direct, obvious casualty of a Big Ten power grab, it doesn’t take much creativity to imagine the dominoes falling in a pattern that crushes larger, seemingly more stable leagues.

See, for example, the Big 12, which lays prostrate from the major players in all directions: The trio or quintet of teams the Big Ten plans to bring aboard to become a 14 or 16-team conglomerate could easily include Missouri, a potentially disastrous departure that would cost the conference two of its biggest television markets, St. Louis and Kansas City. The North Division could be further ripped asunder by the Pac-10′s courtship of Colorado (without whom Pac-10 expansion is not really possible) and possibly, if the sky seems to falling around it, Nebraska. To the south, the Miami Herald’s Joseph Goodman isn’t the first to see the SEC making a move for Texas and Texas A&M. Even if the imperialist plunderers leave Oklahoma, a conference anchored by Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas Tech obviously cannot stand as a "major" football league. And there are at least a few people already who think it won’t, a victim of its demographic destiny.

In Goodman’s scenario, the SEC’s blockbuster retaliation also includes an Eastern Front to rip Florida State and Miami from the ACC; other projections have imagined Florida State and Clemson instead, Miami being a relatively small private school with a relatively tepid fan base by SEC standards. In either case, the departure of two of its cornerstone football programs would threaten to relegate the ACC to a kind of second-class, limbo status that it occupied for much of its history (and that the Big East occupies now), a nominally "major" conference that no one really regards as one. In fact, plenty of people will argue the ACC is already a second-class league, and a major hit on the order of Florida State and/or Clemson/Miami could knock it that much further down the pecking order.


That scenario, whether played out relatively quickly or over decades, would leave exactly the kind of landscape Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick imagined earlier this month when describing the catastrophic scenario that might force the Irish to bite the bullet and join the imperialist race:

"The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame," he says. "You wind up with only three conferences. You wind up with two tiers of conferences. Now, all of a sudden, it’s not three divisions in college; it’s four. It’s the big change."

The big change: A future of three swollen conferences — the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-10, possibly by different names — with 35-40 of the strongest, richest programs in the country (still bearing vestigial tails from the Dark Ages, when schools like Northwestern, Stanford and Vanderbilt could compete without compromising academics) standing astride a land littered with castoffs that have coalesced into respectable but decidedly second-rate leagues that no longer have their place alongside the behemoths at the adults’ table.

Of course, a swollen conference of 14-16 teams — by all accounts, an increasing likelihood for the Big Ten — isn’t really a conference at all, in the traditional sense. It’s a conference in the sense that the NFC or AFC is a conference, a collaboration under a large umbrella with scheduling and revenue-sharing agreements among teams that may only play one another once or twice a decade. That’s the really dystopian apocalypse at the end of the track: A pro-style "league" among the top three or four dozen programs in three or four power conferences, eventually shorn even of their academic vestigial tails, with a few power brokers at the top pulling the strings exclusively in the interest of TV contracts, merchandising deals and maximizing revenue. (And yes, with a playoff, albeit one that’s likely even more hostile from Have-Not interlopers than the BCS is now, despite certain Congressmen’s best efforts.)

Note that Swarbrick also says, "I don’t see that happening," and as a short-term vision over the next 10 years or so, there’s no way to present a radically reconfigured future without seeming a little heavy-handed and slightly unhinged. In many ways, though, that scenario — 30-40 of the strongest, richest programs standing astride the rest of the country, concerned mainly with TV contracts, merchandising deals and maximizing revenue — already exists in practice, and has for a long time. When it comes down to it, the decades-long obsession with the "superconference" is a desire for a governing structure that reflects the contemporary reality, as opposed to a chaotic remnant from a hopelessly bygone age whose most sacrosanct assumption about the game as an amateur pastime restrained by an academic, university structure has, for all practical purposes, faded into oblivion. As the stakes increase and the economic bar continues to rise, the sport has been moving slowly, often painfully in that direction for decades.
Eventually, it will get there in some fashion or another, and it probably won’t be pretty, in the same way that Pop Warner and Knute Rockne would probably become visibly ill by the state of the game in the 21st Century. But that’s the thing with radically reconfigured futures: They seem ridiculous until you get there, and you usually haven’t even noticed.

Vote for the Most Classless Act of the 2009 Season

The Wiz is back with the most classless acts of the 2009 season. What is a classless act, you ask? It's any attempt to degrade an opponent, player or the game. It's the stuff that isn't in the summary but often gets mentioned years later after somebody extracts retribution. As they say, what goes around comes around.

At the bottom of the post, readers can vote to select the most classless act. One vote per IP address, so give it careful consideration.

Let's get to the finalists:

Chip Kelly
1. Chip Kelly, Oregon

Oregon leads punchless Washington State, 45-0, in the third quarter of an Oct. 3 game at Eugene, when the Cougars recover a fumble at the Ducks' one-yard line. It takes three plays, but quarterback Marshall Lobbestael sneaks in for a touchdown, cutting Oregon's precious lead to 45-6.

Kelly should have other things to worry about — like keeping his players out of trouble. Instead, he decides to challenge the touchdown call. Although he loses the challenge, the Ducks somehow hang on for a 52-6 victory.

Washington State's Paul Wulff says afterward, "We'll have plenty of motivation moving forward, believe me."

Randy Edsall
2. Randy Edsall, Connecticut

Connecticut defeated Syracuse, 56-31, on Nov. 28, but the Orange won't forget what happened in the final minute. The Huskies led, 42-31, and were facing fourth and 11 at the Orange 28 with 53 seconds remaining. Syracuse was out of timeouts.

Instead of calling a run play to help bring this to a merciful end, Edsall calls for a pass. Zach Frazer throws a touchdown to Marcus Easley, putting Connecticut ahead, 49-31. The Huskies would return a fumble for another score with eight seconds remaining.

Syracuse's Doug Marrone didn't comment afterward, but his postgame handshake with Edsall was described as being "uncomfortable." Orange safety called Frazer's pass "a little cheap shot."

3. Lane Kiffin, Tennessee

The first-year Volunteer coach's body of work was a classless act, from accusing Urban Meyer of cheating to his one-minute farewell press conference, featured above. But with his 4-4 team entertaining an overmatched Memphis on Nov. 7, Kiffin made several jackass decisions.

After taking a 14-0 lead less than six minutes into the first quarter, the Volunteers tried an onside kick.

Leading 35-0 late in the first half, Tennessee called a timeout when Memphis faced a third-and-eight play at the Tigers' 14.

The Volunteers went for it three times on fourth down in the first half.

The take-no-prisoners approach paid off. Tennessee built a 49-7 lead and held off a late Tiger charge for a 56-28 victory.

A smug Kiffin said afterward: "It came to me during the week that I had to make sure they felt my intensity — we're really going after this thing."

Jim Harbaugh
4. Jim Harbaugh, Stanford

The Nov. 14 "double nickels" game. The Cardinal were steamrolling USC, 42-21, when Toby Gerhart rumbled into the end zone. Instead of kicking the extra point, Harbaugh decided to go for two — probably because he couldn't go for three. The try failed, but Stanford tacked on one more score for a 55-21 bludgeoning of Pete Carroll's Trojans.

Carroll was not happen with Harbaugh, asking him in the postgame handshake, "What's your deal? What's your deal?"

Harbaugh retorted, "What's your deal?"

Carroll, when asked about Stanford's try for two, said: "I don't know what they were thinking with that."

Harbaugh offered this: "I thought it was an opportunity, the way we were coming off the ball, the way our players were playing — that it was the right thing to do."

5. Pete Carroll, USC

One would think Carroll would have learned a lesson about being a good sport after what Harbaugh did to him, but USC's coach failed to rise above it in his team's next game on Nov. 28. With the Trojans holding a 21-7 lead over UCLA with 52 seconds remaining, Carroll decided to stick it to the Bruins, calling for Matt Barkley to throw deep to Damian Williams. The play worked for a 52-yard touchdown and Carroll celebrated like a 13 year old at a Miley Cyrus concert.

The benches emptied and the teams nearly went at it. When things settled down, USC held on for a 28-7 victory.

Carroll and USC said afterward that Rick Neuheisel and UCLA deserved it because they were using timeouts with the verdict already decided. Of course, Carroll didn't feel the same way two weeks earlier when Stanford rolled it up on USC.

6. Max Hall, Brigham Young

The Cougar quarterback let his feelings be known after a 26-23 overtime victory over rival Utah.

"I don't like Utah. In fact, I hate them. I hate everything about them. I hate their program, their fans. I hate everything. It felt really good to send those guys home."

Video later surfaced of Hall landing a cheap shot to a Utah player after his winning touchdown pass.

7. Mike Leach, Craig James and Texas Tech

Plenty of blame to go around. Leach allegedly put receiver Adam James in an electrical closet off the press room at Jones AT&T Stadium. That resulted in a complaint by James' dad, Craig, an analyst for ESPN. Leach was suspended and eventually fired, a day before he was due an $800,000 bonus. Leach then said Adam was a slacker and that Craig was a always calling and acting like a LIttle League dad.

Craig said he was merely protecting his son, but documents suggest he threatened the university with a lawsuit for improper treatment of a student-athlete, i.e. his son, who was recovering from a concussion. The only winners here are Tommy Tuberville, the new Tech coach, and attorneys. The fans? The heck with them! Tech just announced a hike in ticket prices for 2010!

Leach's appearance on "Friday Night Lights" was filmed in Austin on Sept. 18, the night before his team played Texas and lost, 34-24. No wonder he lost control of the team in midseason.

Rich Rod
8. Rich Rodriguez, Michigan

You can't do this list without Rich Rod, who continues to drag this storied program to new, embarrassing lows.

No stranger to litigation (see West Virginia), Rich Rod was sued for allegedly defaulting on a real estate loan to build condominiums near Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium. One of his business partners in the failed venture is facing five felony counts and possibly 50 years in prison.

Michigan has gone to 33 consecutive bowl games until Rich Rod arrived. Now they've missed the postseason two years in a row. If that's not bad enough, the NCAA alleges that Rich Rod's program committed five potential major rules violations. Somehow, he's still the coach.

Mike Locksley
9. Mike Locksley, New Mexico

Nothing quite like punching your receivers coach in the face after a coaches meeting. That's what Locksley did, landing a blow to Jonathan "J.B." Gerald in September.

Locksley showed more fight than his team, which finished 1-11 and ranked near the bottom in nearly every NCAA offensive and defensive category.

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The HP Heisman Watch

We are two weeks in and the Heisman race is starting to whittle down somewhat.  Remember, this list is of those who have a shot to actually win the trophy, so others who will get Heisman votes in the end may not be here:

1. Colt McCoy, Texas–McCoy threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns against Wyoming and added an interception, plus 44 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.  On the year, he is 51 of 76 (67 percent) for 654 yards, 5 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, with 41 rushing yards and 1 rushing touchdown.  He won’t face legitimate competition until mid-October and so his position on top of this list is unlikely to budge until then.  For now, he remains the player most likely to win the Heisman.

2. Tim Tebow, Florida–He had a Tebow-esque game against Troy, throwing for 237 yards on 15 of 24 passing, with 4 touchdown passes and no interceptions.  He also ran for 71 yards and a score.  On the year, he is 25 of 39 (64 percent) for 425 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions, to go with 72 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground.  He’ll get a chance to show off this weekend against Tennessee in a game no one would care about if it weren’t for Lane Kiffin’s big mouth.  As with McCoy, his real tests come starting in October and so his position here is unlikely to change until then. 

3. Jahvid Best, Cal–Best ran for 144 yards on 17 carries against Eastern Washington.  He had a touchdown rushing and a touchdown receiving.  On the year, he has 281 yards on 27 carries (10.4 average), 3 rushing touchdowns and 4 catches for 42 yards and 1 receiving score.  While McCoy and Tebow won’t be focused upon until mid-October, Best has a chance to stick out a bit in the next three weeks, as he has games at Minnesota, at Oregon and then the big one versus USC.  If he turns up the production a bit in these next three games, he’ll be in pretty good shape, especially if Cal remains undefeated.

4. Daryll Clark, Penn State–Had another nice game this past week, throwing for 240 yards and 3 touchdowns (with one pick) on 20 of 31 passing against Syracuse.  For the season, he is 49 of 71 for 593 yards with 6 passing touchdowns and 2 interceptions.  His schedule isn’t especially conducive to a Heisman run, but if he keeps playing well and Penn State remains undefeated, he’ll be a viable option if any of the others in front of him screw up.

5. Max Hall, BYU–Hall went 24 of 32 for 309 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception against Tulane.  On the year, he is 50 of 70 for 638 yards, with 4 touchdowns and 3 picks.  Hall gets Florida State this week and it’s a shame for him that the Seminoles looked so bad against Jackson State, as he won’t get as much credit if the Cougars win this one.  If BYU gets through the season undefeated and Hall’s numbers look good, he’ll have a shot at the Heisman if the others ahead of him falter.

6. Joe McKnight, USC–McKnight didn’t do well enough against Ohio State to catapult himself into the upper echelon of Heisman contenders, but he did do enough to stick around for a possible late-season run.  He rushed for 60 yards on 16 carries and caught 2 passes for 45 yards, but many of those yards were clutch in the final minutes of USC’s dramatic win, so he did well when everyone was watching.  On the year, he has 205 rushing yards on 30 carries (6.8 ypc), and 3 catches for 66 yards.  He needs to get to 1,500 yards on the season to make a legitimate case for the Heisman.

7. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State–Bryant played well in OSU’s lost to Houston, catching 5 passes for 75 yards and returning a punt 82 yards for a touchdown.  Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the plays needed to save the Cowboys and so he takes a hit in the Heisman race.  However, this is where being a receiver in the race is beneficial, as he won’t take as much blame for the loss as he would if he were a quarterback.  On the year, he has 8 catches for 162 yards and 2 touchdowns and has 3 punt returns for 111 yards and 1 score.  If he can be the catalyst for a Cowboy run at the Big 12 title, he will start to jump back up in this race.

8. Jevan Snead, Ole Miss–Bye.  Snead is barely hanging on this list.  I doubt whether he will put up the numbers he needs to compete with the other quarterbacks, but as long as Ole Miss is undefeated and he performs well, we’ll keep him here.

Dropped Out:  Jimmy Clausen, Terrelle Pryor–Both these guys can still have great seasons and even get some Heisman votes, but anything they do will mostly serve to set them up for a run at the 2010 Heisman. 

If the Vote Were Held Today

1. Colt McCoy

2. Tim Tebow

3. Jahvid Best

4. Max Hall

5. Dez Bryant

6. Joe McKnight

7. Case Keenum

8. Eric Berry

9. Tate Forcier

10. Jimmy Clausen

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2011 Schedule

Date

Opponent

Location

9/03/11

Minnesota

L.A. Coliseum

9/17/11

Syracuse

L.A. Coliseum

9/24/11

Arizona

L.A. Coliseum

10/01/11

Washington

Seattle, WA

10/08/11

Washington State

L.A. Coliseum

10/15/11

Oregon

Eugene, OR

10/22/11

Notre Dame

South Bend, IN

10/29/11

Stanford

L.A. Coliseum

11/05/11

Oregon State

L.A. Coliseum

11/12/11

California

Berkely, CA

11/19/11

Arizona State

Phoenix, AZ

11/26/11

UCLA

L.A. Coliseum

2012 Schedule

Date

Opponent

Location

9/01/12

TBA

TBA

9/08/12

Syracuse

Syracuse, NY

9/22/12

Stanford

Palo Alto, CA

10/06/12

Washington

L.A. Coliseum

10/13/12

Arizona

Tucson, AZ

10/20/12

Washington State

Pullman, WA

10/27/12

Arizona State

L.A. Coliseum

11/03/12

Oregon State

Corvalis, OR

11/10/12

California

L.A. Coliseum

11/17/12

Oregon

L.A. Coliseum

11/24/12

Notre Dame

L.A. Coliseum

12/01/12

UCLA

Pasadena, CA