A news-heavy week (Todd Gurley's suspension, Mike Slive's retirement) has produced some thought-provoking questions. The ones directly below are answered in the video. Keep reading to see how I'd cater Slive's retirement party.
• Why is Georgia tailback Todd Gurley suspended because he was accused of taking money for autographs when Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t suspended last season when he was accused of rape?
• With more money pouring into power conferences and increasing parity, will coaches be more likely to stay at less traditionally successful programs such as Mississippi State instead of jumping to jobs at more traditionally successful ones?
• If I could run any conference, which one would it be and why?
Keep reading for more questions and answers ...
From @jeremycoleman: Can we see some sort of televised SEC commissioner battle in a Thunderdome?
The SEC announced on Tuesday that Slive will retire next summer. (The league also announced that Slive is undergoing treatment for a recurrence of prostate cancer. The prognosis is good, but get well soon, commish.) This means the league will need a new leader, and Jeremy's idea of a Royal Rumble-style tournament to choose the next commissioner would probably thrill the executives at the SEC Network.
However, since the committee the SEC formed is probably going to perform a national search and find current SEC associate commissioner Greg Sankey, there likely won’t be much succession drama. Sankey is whip smart and well liked, and he has been the SEC's liaison to the NCAA for years. He was involved in league expansion and the creation of the network. He's the most qualified person to replace Slive, and he'll do a fantastic job.
Filling Slive's shoes will be difficult, though. The former attorney and judge didn't come through the college athletics machine, so he never worried about slaughtering sacred cows. He proposed a playoff sooner than anyone else with actual juice, getting shot down in 2008. He moved aggressively to expand the league's footprint, and that move created a network that turned a media rights deal signed at the nadir of an economic downturn into a cash cow. Lately, Slive has pushed for more realistic NCAA rules regarding agents and athlete welfare. Unlike many in his business, Slive actually thinks about the real world rather than a fantasyland populated mostly by amateurism unicorns.
So, what happens if Sankey decides he'd rather become a professional CrossFit competitor than take the job? There are other potential candidates. And since the SEC has a committee, those people may as well look at a few CVs before they hire Sankey. Here are a few names to consider.
• Bernie Machen, soon-to-be-former University of Florida president: Machen tried to retire last year, but the school couldn't find a suitable replacement. This attempt, scheduled for December, should take. If Machen wants to keep working, he would fare well as a conference commissioner. He understands the issues. The Mountain West was essentially formed in his office at Utah. At Florida, Machen led the push among the SEC's presidents for expansion and the formation of the network. The former pediatric dentist is usually blunt and candid, which would be a switch from the measured Slive. But it would make things interesting.
• Greg Byrne, Arizona athletic director: Other college sports CEOs want a sprinkle of fairy dust from Byrne, who hired Dan Mullen while at Mississippi State and Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Of course, conference commissioners don't hire coaches, so Byrne's other qualifications are more important. He is a relatively young college athletics lifer -- his father, Bill, was the AD at Nebraska and Texas A&M -- who doesn't think like a college athletics lifer. Byrne is also a gifted fundraiser with a creative streak. He raised the money for a new football complex, and he helped put together the deal for Rodriguez and men's basketball coach Sean Miller (and himself) that awarded the men a stake in an oil-and-gas company that pays out in shares if they're still employed by Arizona in the coming years. That might not keep a deeper-pocketed school from swiping any of them, but it gives Arizona a better chance. It's also the kind of flexible thinking that would serve a conference well.
• Ilan Ben-Hanan, vice president of programming and acquisitions, ESPN: Media rights deals define success or failure for conference commissioners in the modern era. Why not consider someone whose job involves negotiating them? Ben-Hanan is an up-and-coming executive at ESPN who has learned well under rights guru Burke Magnus. Also, Ben-Hanan's role as ESPN's scheduling maestro means he already has plenty of experience negotiating with athletic directors who don't necessarily want to do what he wants them to do.
• Chris Conley, student/receiver, Georgia: Conley, who will graduate from Georgia in December with a journalism degree, understands the governance issues in college athletics better than a lot of ADs thanks to his time spent on Georgia's student-athlete advisory committee and as a non-voting member of the Georgia Athletic Association's board. He has the ear of NCAA president Mark Emmert, and he cares deeply about the college athletics experience. There are only a few minor issues. Conley is young, and he may want to try his hand at the NFL before putting on a suit every day. Or, he may want to head to Hollywood and direct. He has done a bit of that already. Basically, Conley can do anything wants. If he decided he wanted to get into the business of running college sports -- maybe after Sankey finishes his run at the SEC -- then college sports would be very lucky.
From @Athens_Grease: Explain a scenario in which a Marshall team that finishes as the only FBS unbeaten secures a playoff berth.
Obviously, everyone else has to lose. If Florida State beats Notre Dame on Saturday, you can probably forget about it. The Seminoles should easily manage the rest of their schedule. But let's say everyone takes a loss. That's probably not enough. The Thundering Herd would likely still get shut out for a lack of quality wins. Their nonconference schedule included Miami (Ohio), Rhode Island, Ohio and Akron, and then they played a Conference USA slate. That doesn't compare to any Power Five school's schedule in terms of difficulty. It also might not be enough to vault Marshall past a one-loss East Carolina for the Group of Five's guaranteed spot in a big-money bowl. The best bet for the playoff and the Group of Five bowl spot is a chaos scenario similar to 2007. If the committee is choosing from among two- and three-loss Power Five teams, it’s more likely to consider the only team to win all its games.
One thing my experience at the mock playoff selection committee taught me last week is that schools that don't play anyone will get shut out. Obviously, a quality mid-major such as Marshall is going to have trouble scheduling Power Five foes. Brand-name programs don't want to go to Huntington, and they don't want to pay an outrageous sum to potentially lose to Marshall at home. But teams such as Marshall will have to try to figure out how to schedule at least one Power Five opponent or the committee will have no basis for comparison.
Maryland certainly is an attractive job now that the Terps are in the Big Ten. While most schools upgraded competition in realignment, Maryland either downgraded a bit or moved laterally. Nestled in the heart of the DMV -- the term for the recruiting hotbed that includes the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia -- Maryland has better access to talent than any Big Ten schools besides Ohio State and Penn State. Does that mean someone else needs to lead the Terps in that environment? Not necessarily.
Edsall took a lot of heat when he arrived because of a high attrition rate, but things have settled as he has stocked the roster with players who knew what they signed up for when he recruited them. Maryland has improved each year despite terrible injury luck in 2012 (the Terps eventually had to start a linebacker at quarterback) and ‘13 (the two best receivers each broke a leg -- in the same game).
At the halfway point this season, Maryland sits at 4-2 with a nail-biter loss to West Virginia and a blowout loss to Ohio State. Let's look at the second-half schedule.
|Oct. 25||at Wisconsin|
|Nov. 1||at Penn State|
|Nov. 15||Michigan State|
|Nov. 22||at Michigan|
The toughest remaining game is Michigan State, and the Terps get the Spartans at home, after a bye week and the week after Michigan State plays Ohio State. All the other games look quite winnable at this point. A 9-3 record isn't out of the question, but 8-4 is probably more realistic. Given what Maryland has done in recent years, the school shouldn't be firing anyone for going 8-4. If the record drops below that, then have a conversation about whether Edsall is the correct guy.
From @Ben_Fred: Say you are in charge of catering Mike Slive's retirement lunch. Task: One menu item from every SEC city. What makes the cut?
This is the best question I have ever received. Here's the list. Remember, these aren't necessarily my favorite items in each city -- though most are. I picked some to diversify the menu. And yes, I chose a salad. A salad that happens to have bacon dressing. You're welcome.
• Alabama: Ribs from Archibald’s.
• Auburn: Cornbread muffins from Byron’s Smokehouse.
• Arkansas: Bone-in catfish steaks and hush puppies from The Catfish Hole.
• LSU: Brisket po’boys from Pimanyoli’s.
• Mississippi State: Grilled cheese pulled pork from Petty’s.
• Ole Miss: Biscuits and tomato gravy from Big Bad Breakfast.
• Texas A&M: Chicken-fried bacon from Sodolak’s Country Inn.
• Florida: Sausage and bacon deep dish pizza from Satchel’s.
• Georgia: Fried pig ears from The Branded Butcher.
• Kentucky: Smoked mutton from Billy’s BBQ.
• Missouri: Mini burgers from Booches.
• South Carolina: Salad with chopped ham, Hot Bacon and Honey Mustard dressing and mini croissants with honey butter from California Dreaming.
• Vanderbilt: The chocolate shakes that aren’t on the menu at Rotier’s.
• Tennessee: Mac and cheese pulled pork sandwich from Dead End BBQ.