Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football ("Academic School" T-shirts sold separately at Vanderbilt):
MORE DASH: Unrecognizable SEC
SECOND QUARTER: TRANSLATING THE LANGUAGE OF A SORE LOSER
When Dan Mullen (11) started his postgame press conference following Florida’s upset loss to Texas A&M, he said the strangest things. He started talking about attendance—and not in response to a question. He went there on his own, traipsing down a well-worn path in college sports—the Sore Loser Trail.
Let’s look at what Mullen said, and then translate what he meant.
What he said: “It was a great day of football, great atmosphere out there. Crowd was certainly a factor in the game, I will certainly say that. I know our governor [Rick DeSantis] passed that rule, so certainly hopefully our university administration decides to let us pack The Swamp for LSU next week. One-hundred percent, because that crowd was a major factor in the game, so I certainly hope our university administration follows our governor, that we’re allowed to pack The Swamp, that we have 90,000 in The Swamp to have the home-field advantage that Texas A&M had today.”
What he meant: I am supremely ticked off that we lost, and I’m going to deflect the reason why we lost. Ask me about the game, I’ll talk about the A&M crowd. And because we have suffered the most horrific of all misfortunes here in 2020—LOSING A FOOTBALL GAME—it is 100% reasonable to try to browbeat our university into tossing aside all of its virus protocols to help us avoid this calamitous event happening again. Public health guidelines only matter until they cost us in the SEC East race. If I say the word “certainly” four times, you know I’m serious.
But Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel wanted to make sure. So he followed up on Mullen’s “Pack The Swamp” comment, and the coach doubled down.
What Mullen said: “I absolutely want to see 90,000 in The Swamp. The section behind our bench, I didn’t see an empty seat. It was packed. The entire student section must have been 50,000 people behind our bench going crazy. Hopefully that creates a home-field advantage for us next week because now we passed a law in our state that we can do that. I want to see our students out there cheering us on, giving us that advantage.”
What Mullen meant: Texas A&M announced a crowd of less than 25,000 and they’re lying through their teeth. They’re breaking whatever public gathering rules are in place around here, and it’s no fair. Because, again, it contributed to us LOSING A FOOTBALL GAME. Yeah, we gave up 41 points, but I’m going to attribute this loss to crowd noise at a place with a capacity of nearly 103,000. And when I say I didn’t see an empty seat, I’m exaggerating like crazy because everyone watching on TV could see empty seats. But I’m trying to use our governor as leverage to create our own superspreader event in hopes that it maybe lures LSU into a couple of false-start penalties next week.
Fortunately for fans of public health, Mullen’s “Pack The Swamp” movement died a quick death. Athletic director Scott Stricklin (12) said the school will continue to follow its campus health guidelines. School president Kent Fuchs (13) also weighed in on the subject Sunday. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey (14), who sent out a memo last week raising the possibility of monetary fines for schools that don’t comply with in-game health protocols, assuredly was not in love with Mullen’s comments, either. And the state’s NFL franchises have completely ignored DeSantis’s ridiculous declaration that they could fill their stadiums.
Florida has recorded 693 COVID-19 deaths in the last week, according to The New York Times, the most of any state in America. Maybe this isn’t the right time to “pack The Swamp.”
All that said: Mullen’s veiled assertion that Texas A&M is putting more fans in Kyle Field (15) than it’s letting on is an interesting one. Some people have wondered the same thing about Georgia and Sanford Stadium (16), although in both cases the speculation seems to be based on little more than guesstimates based on video and photographs.
But it is a clear sign of these strange times that a sport that has perennially been known for actively inflating attendance figures might now be deflating them.
IN OTHER SEC SORE LOSER NEWS …
As noted in the Dash First Quarter, LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini (17) and his unit have done a lot to make a couple of otherwise struggling offenses look good. That all started with Mississippi State (18) on Sept. 26th, when the Bulldogs threw for an SEC-record 623 yards on the Tigers.
Since then, State has been utterly stonewalled by Arkansas and Kentucky. Stanford transfer quarterback K.J. Costello (19) has gone from winning national Player of the Week awards to fighting for his starting job after throwing seven interceptions in the last two games. And in a sure sign that this is a Mike Leach (20) operation, the head coach is pointing fingers at the players.
"We're going to have to check some of our group and figure out who really wants to play here," Leach said Saturday, after scoring two points and losing by 22 to previously winless Kentucky. “Because any malcontents, we're going to have to purge a couple of those.”
Leach also took some of the blame on himself, saying, “Offensively, we're not coaching very well right now. We have to coach better.” But if you followed The Pirate’s career at Texas Tech and Washington State, he’s never hesitated in ripping his players (collectively more than specifically) when things aren’t going well.
Last year, Leach characterized his Cougars players as “fat, dumb and happy and entitled. I think we have a bunch of free agents running around thinking they're pretty special and then as soon as something doesn't go their way they want to pout. I think it's more collectively soft.”
During his time at Tech, Leach once went down this road: “As coaches, we failed to make our coaching points more compelling than their fat little girlfriends. For one thing, their fat little girlfriends are telling them what they want to hear, which is ‘how great you are’ and ‘how easy this is going to be.’"
With Texas A&M coming to town Saturday, precedent suggests this will be more of a tear-them-down week than a build-them-up week in Starkville.
MORE DASH: Unrecognizable SEC