The state of Alabama has produced college football's past two national champions. It has also produced an endless string of headlines -- some scandalous, some absurd, but all the product of a rabid passion for college football.
Right now, however, a lot of people in that state are hurting. The pictures and videos that surfaced after last week's deadly tornadoes were staggering and heartbreaking. As of this writing, officials were reporting at least 45 dead and more than 300 missing in Tuscaloosa, where hundreds of homes were destroyed. At least 236 people died throughout the state. President Obama visited Tuscaloosa last week and proclaimed he'd "never seen devastation like this."
Football fans, Alabama could use your help.
College football wouldn't be college football without the bitterness and the rivalries, but I'm hoping this is one time when fans can put aside their affiliations and come together for a greater cause.
And now on to the mail:
You hit the nail on the head, Taylor, and it's something I touched on in
And you wonder why these guys talk so much about protecting the regular season?
Now, it's not like these numbers would go down if college football suddenly adopted a playoff tomorrow (in most cases the contracts are locked in for 12-15 years). And some estimates do suggest that a playoff would net three to four times what the BCS contract does. But first of all, that doesn't mean each of the conferences would automatically make three to four times as much. An NCAA-sponsored tournament would require certain operating costs, would likely follow a performance-based distribution method and would be spread more evenly among all 11 conferences. And the well for TV sports properties is going to dry up at some point.
So if you're the Big 12 or Pac-12 and you're already reasonably pleased with the sport the way it is, and now the networks are suddenly tripling and quadrupling your revenue stream the way it is -- what's your incentive for change?
Answer: There isn't one.
If ever there were a definitive case for blowing up the entire NCAA enforcement process and starting from scratch, CouchGate (as I'm now calling it) is it.
In fairness, just because tennis isn't as popular as football doesn't mean its coaches and players should get a free-pass on rules violations, and it sounds like Boise State's coach went all-out rogue. (You can
The ruling makes sense within the context of the NCAA's existing enforcement structure, but makes no sense to a reasoned general public. In what logical world does misinterpreting or disobeying obscure rules about lodging merit the NCAA's most serious charge, but a head coach (Jim Tressel) lying about knowledge of rules violations that would have rendered five of his best players ineligible doesn't? It's cases like these that have people across the sport -- including prominent commissioners like Mike Slive -- encouraging the NCAA to reexamine its enforcement model.
Interestingly, next week about 20 other writers from around the country and I will be participating in the NCAA's first-ever mock enforcement exercise, where we'll be given a hypothetical case and will get to see for ourselves what goes into investigating and penalizing a school. Hopefully I'll come back with a better understanding of how something like CouchGate occurs -- because right now I'm as baffled as Tom.
Miles' message coming out of the spring game -- in which the oft-maligned Jefferson went 4-of-14 for 102 yards, two fumbles and an interception -- went like this: "Kindly disregard what you saw here. Jordan Jefferson is still our starter. He was fantastic the entire spring before today (unfortunately none of you got to see it), and we even gave him a leadership award." Tigers fans hoping former Georgia Bulldog Mettenberger would come in and usurp Jefferson were obviously disappointed.
I don't doubt that Jefferson improved this spring, but he's not suddenly going to morph into an elite passer after three years, new offensive coordinator or not. So Miles' continued loyalty to Jefferson either means that Mettenbeger still has a ways to go to make this a legit competition, or that Miles is trying to deflate some of the expectations hovering over a guy who has yet to take an SEC snap and has had only three weeks of practice. Perhaps Mettenbeger will make his run in fall camp. But remember, LSU managed to win 11 games last year using Jefferson and Lee, so Miles is only going to rock the boat if he's absolutely certain the new guy makes the Tigers better.
I should have known better than to try to fake
I've been told by many of you over the years that you read the Mailbag during your lunch break, which is good, because I would not want to read this week's edition on an empty stomach.
Persa was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the Big Ten when he went down -- and Northwestern was 7-3 at the time -- so certainly his health is the make-or-break issue surrounding the Wildcats this season. But that in itself is part of the problem: Northwestern was too dependent on Persa last year, and once he went down, its season was shot. The defense collapsed late last season, too, but injuries were a factor and that unit should be much improved.
As I mentioned when writing about Iowa last week, that division with most of the western-based schools is fairly wide open, so the Wildcats could certainly finish near the top. But they need to rediscover the running game (sophomore Mike Trumpy seemed to come on late last year) that mysteriously vanished the past couple of years.
At this point, either the program has long since been cleared and no one told us, or we're not going to find out about sanctions for another two years. Believe it or not, UNC has not even received a formal Letter of Inquiry yet. That's the step that comes at the
The NCAA doesn't comment on investigations past, present or future, so I have no informed insight to give you other than that the issues at UNC were obviously far more complicated and tangled than the fairly cut-and-dry Ohio State case. The situation presumably got muddier when one of the main parties allegedly involved, agent Gary Wichard, passed away from pancreatic cancer in March. Here's an educated but admittedly blind guess: The NCAA may be waiting to piggyback off the North Carolina Secretary of State's investigation, which, as of early April, was still very much active and had the benefit of subpoena power. Remember: It took more than four years from the time of the first Yahoo! report about Reggie Bush for actual sanctions to be issued against USC, by which measure UNC could still be in the very early stages.
Which brings us back to the whole NCAA enforcement process/blow-the-whole-thing-up matter.
Busted ... sort of. My fiancee and I were already dating the last time I named a Mailbag Crush (Katy Mixon, who sadly showed up on just one
No question, the blazers are a relic of the old bowl era, when teams didn't play on TV every week and matchups were brokered before the season even ended. Nowadays many bowls practically have their participants decided for them, or are left to choose between at most one or two teams. There is no actual "scouting" necessary.
But keep in mind, other than during the very biggest games at the end of the season, the men and women in the blazers aren't usually the bowls' execs or staffers but instead their volunteers, for whom those trips are a reward for their work. They get to go to some exotic college town, see a game, schmooze a little, take some pictures and tell their friends about it. Also: Ever since the Fiesta Bowl story broke, I keep seeing this sentiment that the bowls ought to be operating like the Salvation Army.
Well, that doesn't help explain why nearly half my e-mails this week were (again) Tressel-related. And why every time I do a radio interview, the host asks me about Tressel. And why a friend I haven't heard from in two years texted me recently to ask if Tressel is going to be fired.
But you'll note I spared you this week. We're going to try to keep the Mailbag a Vest-free zone until there's something new to discuss. Though I guess I botched that already by including this section.