Morning Reading: Pete Carroll Thinks the NCAA Overdid It

The NCAA may have gone a little far in its punishment of USC.  A two-year bowl ban and the loss of 30 scholarships can seem like a little much.  But the NCAA wanted to make an example out of the Trojans and for the rest of us, well, it’s funny.  We like watching Lane Kiffin struggle.  It’s like watching a beetle writhe around on its back.  Ultimately it’s going to die and we can get back to a world with one less disgusting bug.
It’s also fun for those of us that just don’t like the Trojans.  USC went from that program with a great history that had become nothing more than average to a power with explosive offenses that we admittedly liked to watch.  Mike Williams made jaw-dropping catch after jaw-dropping catch.  Matt Leinart made throwing a football look abnormally easy.  And the combo of Reggie Bush and LenDale White made Trojan football fun to watch.  It’s okay.  You can admit it. You enjoyed the show they put on.
But after a while it became too much.  There were stories of illegal benefits given to players, the recruiting reach of the program became more than frustrating (I’m still a little peeved Keith Rivers went out west), and we had had enough.  Enter Kiffin.
Although we had developed a number of reasons to not like USC (and yes, most of them were because they were so damn good), Kiffin gave us a reason to hate them.  And we did.  We welcomed the fact that recruits will continue to come, but Kiffin couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag (apologies for the super lame analogy, I haven’t had my coffee yet) so we weren’t all that concerned.  We figured the Kiffin coaching cycle lasted no more than 2-3 years and he would be a coordinator at Second Tier Program State before we could blink.
But the hatred of the Trojans continued.  We welcomed the NCAA investigations and hoped the hammer would come down on USC.  And down it came.  Crushing the next few years of the program.  Making it even harder for Kiffin to finish a season with a, you know, decent record.  The penalties were harsh, but we laughed and laughed some more.  But if we were USC fans, we would be crying and yelling out that the NCAA had gone too far.  Pete Carroll is doing just that.
The former USC head coach is lashing out at the NCAA because he believes the Trojans, his Trojans, were punished for nothing.  Carroll wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing so there must not have been any.  Of course, he has the easy way out.  He’s not the coach anymore.  He’s not even in the NCAA anymore.  Carroll has the cushy pillow that is another job with another employer.  He can say all he wants and not be reprimanded for it.  But at the same time, the NCAA can simply choose to ignore him.  Which is exactly what they will do.

Does This Mean Lane Kiffin Has More Time to Recruit?

It better.  He’ll need it.
The NCAA finally let USC know its punishment for being lowdown, dirty cheaters.  The Trojans’ football program faces a two-year postseason ban, a loss of 30 scholarships, and the forfeiture of a number of wins.
Let’s move right pass the forfeiture of wins.  This is always a silly (sorry, there’s really no better word) punishment.  Those games happened.  We can’t erase them from our minds.  We can’t magically believe USC didn’t win those games.  We saw them happen and still have memories of who came out on top.
The two-year bowl ban and loss of scholarships is what really hurts the Trojans and head coach Lane Kiffin (hehe).  Given the number of high-quality recruits USC pulls in, this could be detrimental to the immediate future of the program.
Think of a kid who has the definite potential to be put into the “three-and-done” category.  He’s all ready to come into USC as a true freshman this fall and is suddenly faced with the prospect that he’ll only get a chance to play in one bowl game during his time there.
This is where the NCAA needs to step in.  This is the typical problem where current players are being punished for what former players did.  Sure a kid could choose to transfer, but then he has to sit out a year.  The NCAA should provide athletes in the situations like this with the ability to move on with no lost eligibility.  After all, they aren’t the ones who broke the rules in the first place.
The NCAA had to do something to USC – they can’t punish Pete Carroll or Reggie Bush – but give these kids a chance to continue their careers at a place that didn’t just get hit with huge sanctions over something that occurred when these athletes weren’t even in high school yet.  They are the ones that suffer in the end (of course, all of this assumes they are squeaky clean as well).

The Long Snapper (5/20/10)

Jamar Taylor will not be moving to linebacker.  In fact, Taylor won’t be playing any position at USF anymore.  The senior running back is no longer a Bull.  Over his career, Taylor showed some flashes, but injuries kept him from getting a chance to really prove himself on the field.  There was talk about him moving to LB for his final year, but that won’t materialize.  Although Taylor wasn’t dismissed from the team, it sounds like academics may have had something to do with him leaving the team.  Taylor will still have one year of eligibility remaining, if he chooses to use it.
I need to figure out a way to get an apparel contract.  The Bull Gator sponsored by adidas or something like that.  Each of the Florida assistants gets $10,000 as part of the program’s contract with Nike.  Not a bad deal if you can get it.  Each coach will also get the use of a dealership car (whatever that means…I’m assuming some sort of loaner deal).  And, oh yeah, the money.  The assistants will earn a total of $2.66 million in 2010, led by new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin at $440,000.  I really should have taken up coaching.  Sadly, I think I’m already past my prime.
Star Jackson is leaving Alabama.  The quarterback was passed on the depth chart, meaning he most likely wouldn’t start once Greg McElroy exhausted his eligibility.  Because of that, Jackson will transfer.  First rumors are that he ends up at Georgia State where one of his high school assistant coaches is now.  By moving to GSU, Jackson will be eligible immediately and have the inside track to start.  And for fun, Georgia State faces Alabama during the upcoming season.  How’s that for a storyline?
What does going 7-6 in your first year as a college football head coach get you?  A $4 million salaryLane Kiffin is getting paid twice as much at USC as he did during his only year at Tennessee.  The Trojans will pay him a salary similar to what some of the best coaches in the nation are getting.  Coaches that typically win more than seven games in a season (Alabama’s Nick Saban won twice that many in 2009).  USC has decided Kiffin is worth it though and they will pay him nearly what they paid Pete Carroll.  Kiffin’s defensive coordinator, his father Monte Kiffin, will make somewhere in the ballpark of $2 million in 2010.  Roughly what he made when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and we all still respected him.  That is if you believe the numbers.  Sources close to Kiffin say they’re exaggerated.  As is the idea Kiffin has the talent to warrant such a deal.
The List: Time for random.
1. I’m thinking the Montreal Canadiens might need to score if they want to win a game in the Eastern Conference Finals.
2. The World Cup is coming.
3. Rafael Soriano
4. John Wall in D.C.
The Sixth Man: Jordan Heath has decided to play for his dad in college.  Stan Heath’s son will walk-on at USF.  He played high school ball at Tampa Prep where he was a two-year starter at point guard.  Heath’s options were limited to mostly smaller schools, but he decided to stay near home and play for the elder Heath.

The Long Snapper (2/17/10)

Fans of other schools tend to give Gator fans a hard time when it comes to the Gators relatively weak out-of-conference schedule.  Each year, Florida does their duty and manhandles FSU in the season finale (the Gators have won the last six by an average of 21.8 points, so yes, manhandle is a fitting word), but other than that, the out-of-conference schedule leaves much to be desired.  Miami is sprinkled in there from time to time, but with no regularity whatsoever.  Remove those two ACC teams from the equation and you won’t find a BCS conference opponent in sight.  The excuse typically sounds like this: “Florida plays in the SEC; the last thing they need to do to prove anything is add tougher out-of-conference opponents.”  It’s an excuse I’ve subscribed to for most of my life until recently.  Why schedule a game with, for instance, Ohio State or Texas when you have Georgia, FSU, LSU, Tennessee, and most likely another SEC West power on the schedule already?  The Gators strength of schedule will never really come into play.  If Florida makes it through undefeated you can write their name in the BCS National Championship Game with ink.  If they make it through with one loss, there’s a great chance too (as evidenced in 2006 and 2008).  So why schedule tougher regular season opponents?  Is “because others are doing it” a good enough reason?  Oklahoma has announced it will play Cincinnati and FSU during 2010.  Georgia played Arizona State and Oklahoma State in 2009.  Tennessee took on UCLASouth Carolina opened the season against North Carolina State.  You’re probably saying “NC State???”  But that’s all it may take.  As fans we want 14-0.  We want the perfect season (although we’ll take a blemish if it still results in bringing home the crystal ball).  But we want it to give us good games against solid teams.  Florida may not need to schedule the USCs of the world, but get some games against the Arizonas and the Texas A&Ms at the very least.
Urban Meyer is a failure.  Not my words.  The words of Hays Carlyon.  If you react at just the first sentence of the article, you may be on your way to tar and feather Carlyon right now.  But read the full article first and then take a minute to reflect.  There is a problem in the Florida football program.  One that is casting a dark shadow on all of the recent success.  At times it’s easy to step back and think of the wins and trophies and be pleased.  We all do it.  But what is with all of the arrests?  The number is staggering at this point.  27 in five years if Carlyon is correct.  For a good number of those, the charges were dropped.  Okay, that’s something to at least consider.  But even if the charges were later dropped, didn’t you do something to get arrested in the first place?  I’m sure there are instances where a player may really have not been at fault, but there are also those where the charges were dismissed for entirely different reasons.  Whatever the case, the arrest number is staggering.  First thought is that there are 85 scholarship players on the roster (and who knows how many others) and it’s impossible for the coaching staff to keep tabs on all of them.  That’s true.  These kids come from all sorts of different backgrounds and value systems.  For each Tim Tebow, you may have a Jamar Hornsby.  A case a yin and yang if you will.  But maybe punishment is the only solution for getting the arrests to stop.  We don’t know the entire story behind the Gary Brown situation, but something needs to be done if Brown stays on the team.  Something to show the other players that if you get yourself into trouble, you don’t play.  Players have been suspended for a game here and a game there, but that’s not enough.  It’s time to end this problem.  Whatever needs to be done, do it.  The last thing we need to hear is that five years from now, that arrest number has doubled.
This time last year, Andy Staples took the task of ranking the 2006 Rivals.com recruiting classes after they, you know, actually played college football for a few years.  Florida finished that year’s recruiting cycle with a #2 team ranking.  When Staples looked back at the classes three years later, he bumped the Gators to the top spot.  This time around, the result isn’t much different.  Florida’s 2007 recruiting class finished atop the Rivals rankings.  Three years later, Staples believes they should remain that way.  The 2007 class produced 10 players who started for the Gators in 2009 (nine of the 10 started for the 2008 National Championship squad) and the new Florida quarterback – John Brantley (it also produced the player who could take the majority of snaps for Auburn in 2010 – Cameron Newton).  The 2006 class tends to overshadow all others because of the big three – Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, Tim Tebow – but the 2007 class should be a close (VERY CLOSE) second.
At least one source believes Florida won’t fall very far at all despite departing talent.  CollegeFootballNews.com has the Gators #2 in their so early it’s hard to take seriously preseason poll.  Think a number two ranking is too high?  Think again.  The talent Urban Meyer has compiled in Gainesville is reminiscent of that put together by Pete Carroll at USC between 2002 and 2008 (the Trojans won at least 11 games in each of those seasons and never lost more than two).  While Florida could stumble, don’t expect the losses to pile up too much.  A first-place finish in the SEC East is definitely attainable and an SEC Championship isn’t out of the question.  Say all you want about how the losses will affect the Gators.  There’s plenty of talent – experienced and raw – ready to step in and continue the success.  Take a moment to remember 1997.  The year after Danny Wuerffel led the Gators to a National Championship, Noah Brindise and Doug Johnson quarterbacked Florida to a 10-2 record.  The Gators would finish ranked #4 and #6 in the two major polls that season.  Not exactly the plummet detractors wanted to believe would occur.
And finally, I don’t plan on getting deep into the rights and wrongs of the judicial system, but two things are interesting about this: 1) a man charged with wielding knives during the altercation which ended with the death of UConn defensive back Jasper Howard is free after posting bond, and 2) his family came up with $450,000.  Hakim Muhammad allegedly stabbed Brian Parker, also a UConn football player, but at least he gets to wait for his trail from the comfort of his own home (disclaimer: that was stated with disgusted sarcasm).

Matt Elam, Ronald Powell, and Sharrif Floyd are all Florida Gators

The big news of the Army All-American Game was the recommitment of Matt Elam to the Gators.  It may not have come of much of a surprise since it had been rumored since he decommitted from FSU, but that doesn’t make it any less important.  If all works out as planned, Elam will be enrolled at Florida on Monday.  At that point, fans can rest easy because he will then officially be a Gator.
Elam’s back and forth may have been frustrating at times, but put it all into perspective.  He committed to Urban Meyer and Florida way back in October of 2008.  Elam wanted to take some visits and see what was out there, but remained a commit to the Gators.  At least verbally.  He grew up knowing Meyer and became very close to the coach.  Then one day Meyer resigns.  The following day he announces he is instead taking a leave of absence.  We can’t imagine what was going through Elam’s head at that point.  So he got confused and decommitted.  In a moment of weakness (we all have plenty of those) he chose FSU as his college destination, but after having a heart-to-heart with Meyer opened it back up.  At that point, it seemed obvious he would come back to Florida and he did.  Yes it was an interested road to say the least, but Elam is a special talent and one we will all enjoy watching in a Gator uniform.
The player the Gators have wanted for quite some time also came through on Saturday.  Ronald Powell chose Florida over USC, which seemed almost given when Pete Carroll left the Trojans to head to the NFL.  One of the top players in the nation (like the other two that became Gators), Powell is more than special.  His performance during the Army game echoes that.  Both a pass rush specialist and a talented tight end, it looks like Powell could really play on either side of the ball.
If you believe the recruiting services, Powell will end up at defensive end.  His speed to the outside is impressive for a player at any level and his strength allows him to power through offensive linemen when necessary.  If the Gators do go to a 3-4 defensive scheme as is being rumored, Powell could fit in nicely as a pass rushing outside linebacker.  Either way, expect him to be getting to opposing quarterbacks a lot.
Perhaps the classiest announcement came from George Washington (Philadelphia, PA) defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.  Floyd had the hats on the table, which seems to be required at this point, but there were no theatrics.  Instead of just picking Florida, Floyd took time to thank a couple of individuals for helping him get to where he is.  He even let his high school coach pick up the hat.  There was no grabbing one hat and then putting it back down.  No shuffling them around.  No drama.  Just a classy announcement from a classy kid.  This is an individual to cheer for.
On the field, Floyd is a load.  6’3”, 300 lbs. to be exact.  His strength is probably his greatest…uh…strength.  He is able to overpower offensive linemen and good luck trying to block him to the ground.  Despite needing some time to develop technique – as many defensive tackles do – Floyd could see a good amount of playing time during his freshman year.  It will only make him better in the long run and remember, in his own words, the long run is not just “the next four years, but 40 years.”
Similar to the Under Armour All-American Game just a week earlier, it was a great day for the Florida program.  Those committed played well and those who announced were highly sought after.  This is shaping up to easily be one of the best classes in the nation.
 

As the Coaching World Turns, Pete Carroll Leaves USC for the NFL

Fans of this site tend to be fans of two specific teams.  Two teams who have had their share of coaching drama in only the last two weeks.  We saw Urban Meyer resign, Urban Meyer take a leave of absence, and Urban Meyer put his leave of absence on hold.  We saw Jim Leavitt come under fire, and then get fired.  Florida and USF fans are no strangers to head coaching issues.  Add that to all of the assistant coach movement going on and you could find yourself with a serious headache just trying to keep up.  Expand your view out to the rest of the college world and two other high profile coaches are out of jobs as well – Mike Leach and Mark Mangino.  And now the big news (as if the Meyer saga wasn’t big enough).
Few programs have had the success USC has over the past decade.  Pete Carroll made the Trojans relevant again and kept them a power year after year.  Along with his staff, he was able to pull basically any recruit he wanted into the school.  There were National Championship and Heisman Trophies along the way.  Carroll almost single handedly made those of us in the East become more aware of the West  As the wins kept coming, so did the talk of the NFL.  Would Carroll ever leave to take another shot of the pros?
Well, now he has.  Carroll leaves USC for the Seattle Seahawks.  As a college football fan, the decision is an interesting one.  The NFL can offer more money – rumor has it Carroll will get $7 million per year – but it also brings more scrutiny and less of a chance to turn a team around.  Carroll had it made at USC.  The Trojans were one of those programs every recruit had on the radar.  They had star power.  They won, and won a lot.  97 times in Carroll’s nine years.  Investigations aside, USC performed on the field.
But athletes and those involved in athletics are confident (read: cocky) by nature.  At 58 years old, it may have been time for Carroll to see what he can do in the NFL again.  He was far from being an awful professional head coach during his first two stints.  Carroll has a 33-31 career NFL record with two playoff appearances in four seasons.  Definitely something to build on.  He also can take comfort in knowing that if things don’t work out, he can basically pick his next collegiate destination.  If the Seahawks don’t improve, athletic directors throughout the nation will take notice and be ready if Carroll were to return to the college game.
Where USF goes next is anyone’s guess.  But where USC goes may be easier to predict.  The leader to get the job at the moment appears to be Oregon State’s Mike Riley.  Riley has done an admirable job with the Beavers since his arrival.  He’s kept them competitive and he knows the Pac-10.  But there’s the question of the NCAA and the Trojans.  Could this be a program facing serious probation over the next few years?  Would Riley want to deal with that?  Would anyone?  The answer in the end is probably yes.  After all, it’s USC.
 

The College Football Season Comes to an End, Mourn It

This is a bad day for college football fans.  We don’t know what to do with ourselves.  There are other sports still in season, but they don’t compare.  I read somewhere that it’s 41 days until pitchers and catchers report to camp.  I nearly threw up.  I tried baseball last summer.  Can’t do it.  College football is the penultimate.  The pinnacle.  And it’s done.  Luckily for us who can’t get enough recruiting is in full force, then there’s spring practice, then before we know it, fall practice and games.
The season brought us – as Florida fans – the end of the Tim Tebow era (and, yes ladies, the end of the Riley Cooper era as well).  Some of the greatest Gators to ever play their respective positions will never again suit up for the orange and blue.  Tebow.  Brandon SpikesAaron HernandezJoe Haden.  More could come with several of the juniors still deciding.  They will all be missed for their individual and team accomplishments.  They were the leaders of back-to-back 13-1 seasons and part of the most prolific run in team history.  2009 brought the Urban Meyer resignation.  Quickly followed by the Urban Meyer leave of absence.  Despite yells of mediocrity from most fans, 13-1 is good.  Exceptionally good.  Good enough for a #3 ranking.
USF, on the other hand, had a forgettable season similar to those of the past few years.  The season wasn’t a bad one, but after a hot start, the end result shouldn’t be praised.  Initially, the year would be defined by a win over FSU in Tallahassee, but all that is now forgotten with the news of Jim Leavitt’s firing.  And not because he was fired due to expectations not being met, but because he was dismissed over a moment in which he apparently lost his mind.  The Bulls now head toward the 2010 season unsure of who will lead them.  B.J. Daniels will be back.  So will Mike Ford.  But from a coaching standpoint, it’s anyone’s guess.
So what do you do know?  Do you immerse yourself in the NFL playoffs?  Sure, that’s a possibility.  Super Bowl odds are out, so make your picks accordingly.  Do you get involved in the world of college basketball?  You could, but until March you may not be able to get too excited.  You want college football and it’ll be back soon enough.  Next season will be here quicker than you think.  At least it better because I, for one, am eager to see how the John Brantley era takes shape.  Until then, USF will find a new coach.  Pete Carroll could move on.  And recruiting…ah, recruiting…will take the forefront.
 

Morning Reading: It’s Time Once Again to Talk about Notre Dame

It’s that time of year to once again talk about the head coaching position at Notre Dame.  As usual, there are two reasons this discussion becomes relevant.  The first is due to the fact that, let’s face it, Charlie Weis just ain’t all that and a bag of chips (more like all that, a bag of chips, a block of cheese, a side of ham, a few burgers, a turkey leg, and a gallon of lard to wash it all down).  The other reason is the one that directly affects those of us that are Florida fans: the Urban Meyer to Notre Dame rumors.
This time around though, I’m not sure us Gator fans have anything to worry about.  We all know that at one point Meyer himself may have considered the head coach of the Fighting Irish to be his dream job.  We all know he may have seriously considered heading to Notre Dame five years ago.  We all know that it may still cross his mind as stories of Weis’ future come up each time the Irish lose another game.  But we also know what Meyer is building at Florida.
Just a few weeks ago, Meyer secured his fifth-straight nine-win season with the Gators.  Nine wins for a power program may not seem too impressive, but coming off the Ron Zook years, it is.  Meyer, like Steve Spurrier while he was at Florida, being good for nine wins a season at least is a very good thing.  Then look at the bigger accomplishment – the national titles.  There have been two so far and deep into this season, the Gators are again in a position to play for another.  Add being able to recruit from talent-rich Florida as well as the rest of the nation as seemingly easily as he can, and there’s little not to love about staying in Gainesville.
Many people will talk about the marquee jobs in college football.  The Alabamas and Michigans of the world.  Notre Dame is said to be atop that list.  It’s been said to be THE program you want to be the head coach of.  But if that’s true, why are we looking at a recent coaching string of Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham, and now Weis?  All had good resumes and good reason to get a job at a premier program at the time they were hired, but if ND is truly the most desirable and best job in the entire nation, why isn’t Mack Brown or Jim Tressel or Bob Stoops or, even, Urban Meyer there now?  Of course part of it is attributed to who the Irish brass go after, but who they’ve gotten recently has been more of “hmm, okay, well let’s see how he does” and not “wow, did you hear Pete Carroll is going to Notre Dame!”
The reason is simple.  It’s not the premier program it’s made out to be.  Don’t get me wrong, the Irish have every opportunity to be one of the nation’s best teams on a consistent basis, but it’s not the drop everything and coach Notre Dame it may have once been considered to be.  Too many other programs also have the name, history, and recognition these days.  Why go to ND when you already are heading up a power?  The way it is now, if Weis does go, there’s just as good a chance the next coach will be Brian Kelly as there is it will be one of the nation’s top leaders.