Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Alabama's Nick Sabin Sounds Like a Politician

I will give Alabama football coach Nick Sabin “E” for effort with his speech the other day promoting his team for the BCS National Championship.

He sounded like a good ‘ole politician with his words. Believe me folks here in Iowa can spot a politician and his/her speech a mile away. We have had our share of political talk in the last several months and it will heat up in a hurry as the Iowa caucus approaches.

Sabin apparently decided to walk the campaign trial by reminded college football voters that the two best teams should play for the national championship. It sounds like ‘ole Nick is feeling some heat about a possible LSU-Alabama rematch in the BCS Championship Game. The two schools played during the regular season in the ‘field goal’ bowl. All the points were made via field goals. Frankly, the game was really dull.

There appears some strong sentiment that folks don’t want this rematch to happen. As I stated in an earlier blog, I fall in that category. Sabin’s team didn’t make the SEC title game this weekend, so maybe he wanted to remind people that Alabama is the second best team in the country. Strange but accordingly to the SEC championship game, the Tide isn’t even the second best team in the league.

Actually, I am still pulling for Oklahoma State to be that No. 2 team. The Cowboys need to beat Oklahoma this week to become part of the discussion.

But I don’t blame Sabin for his speech. That’s what politicians do. Sabin is only playing the part. We’ll have to wait for the election results.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Surprise: Urban Meyer Returns to Coaching

Urban Meyer missed his view from a college football sideline. Ohio State had an opening and a need for a stable, proven hire. The Urban Meyer-Ohio State marriage became official Monday.

Walking away from Florida after the 2010 season, many questioned how long Meyer would remain an unemployment football coach. Despite some health issues, Meyer was only in his 40s.

Meyer says his health is good now and wanted to get back into the coaching profession. He was a color commentator for ESPN during the 2011 season.

Meyer took the job before the NCAA announced sanctions on Ohio State. Both parties must be comfortable in facing the potential penalties.

Meyer is obviously going to make lots of money. The pressure will be tremendous, however. Ohio State always has high expectations. The expectations will become even higher now. People want to forget all the problems of the coach Jim Tressel era. Remember this is Ohio State. The Buckeyes expect to win and win big regardless of sanctions.

But you have to wonder if Meyer made the right decision. Will his health go sour again under the pressure of being a type of savior? In the past, he encountered heart issues. This job will put that condition to an extreme test.

Monday, November 28, 2011

College Football's Other Season

The end of the college football regular season is fast approaching. Many teams have completed their regular seasons. Others will next week followed by a bowl game. So it’s time for college football’s other season to begin—the season of coach firings.

The housing industry is in difficult shape but it will receive a little boost in the next several weeks because of the coaching movement. Some fans wanted to put real estate signs in their coach’s lawns in support of their firing. Some fans’ wishes have been granted.

It’s never a good thing when a coach is rumored for the pink slip and comes out with a statement such as “We are making good progress despite the record. We just need more time to turn this thing around. I haven’t heard anything specific about my status.”

Well, several coaches have indeed heard about their status. The house needs to go up for sale.

Kansas coach Turner Gill probably earns this year’s lack of longevity award. Gill was fired over the weekend after just two years as the Jayhawk’s head man.

Over at Illinois, Ron Zook helped his team to a 6-0 start. Then the Illini preceded to loss six straight and Zook was done. I’m surprised he lasted this long. It seems the former Florida was frequently on the hot seat over his tenure at Illinois.

Mississippi’s Houston Nutt resigned during the season. That was one of those wording deals. A common occurrence. The athletic director says something like ‘Either you resign, or we will fire you.”

Those are only three firing examples. There are obviously others. And more to come.

It’s college football’s other season. Just like other seasons, there are both winners and losers. Fans, coaches and real estate agents all agree.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Pains Me

The Alabama-Auburn game, known as the Iron Bowl, usually doesn’t garner much of my attention. But this year, I have a little more interest because of a negative reason.

Alabama sits at No. 2 in the BCS. If the Tide wins today, they will capture a national champion game spot. It’s their last regular season game. Then if LSU beats Georgia in next week’s SEC title game, we will have an all-SEC national championship game. This I do not want.

But this requires me to cheer for Auburn and coach Gene Chizik. Ever since Chizik left Iowa State in a controversial move, it has been hard to cheer for the guy. I guess human nature and hurt feelings have something to do with it. This might be a good day to bury the feelings and turn the page.

Auburn, the defending national championship, is ranked No. 24 and is today’s host. The Tigers aren’t chopped liver but not as potent as last season’s squad. Hopefully, the rivalry and the opportunity to play spoiler will inspire Auburn.

If Auburn cannot provide the upset, I might have to rearrange my sock drawer the night of the national championship game.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Iowa and Nebraska Begin New Rivalry

Iowa and Nebraska are neighbors in the heartland of America. The two schools have played each other in football on occasion as members of different conferences. But today the rivalry takes on a different meaning. For the first time, the two will play as Big Ten Conference brethren.

There is excitement in these parts for the day after Thanksgiving game but not a major build-up. Both teams are having respectable seasons but not stellar ones. This explains the quiet nature and lack of hype nationally.

But the series has a chance to grow. The plan is to have this game as the final regular season contest. It replaces the Colorado game for Nebraska and the Minnesota game for Iowa. The Huskers and Hawkeyes played those opponents in the last game for a number of years.

But change truly happens. Today starts a new tradition. And hopefully in the next few years, the game will become a huge rivalry filled with significance.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all my United States readers. We have much to be thankful for in this country despite our challenges. God has truly blessed us. Enjoy the day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rich Rodriquez Back in Coaching

It didn’t take long for Rich Rodriquez to leave the TV booth and return to coaching.

Rodriquez left CBS College Sports to try to resurrect the Arizona Wildcats. His official appointment was announced this week.

When I first heard the news, I thought another Rodriquez was moving to Arizona—Alex. But then I thought why would A-Rod leave the New York Yankees to go to the Arizona Diamondbacks?

The other Rodriquez is trying to repair his coaching reputation. First, Rich-Rod as he is called, suffered a nasty divorce with West Virginia as he departed his alma mater to go to Michigan. I think Rich-Rod looked at Michigan as his dream job. It was a dream alright—a bad one. Many of the Michigan fans just plain disliked the guy. He also ran into trouble with the NCAA and couldn’t win enough games to satisfy the Michigan faithful. All these factors led to his firing

His spread offense should do fine in the offensive-happy Pac-12. His defenses were generous at Michigan, but defense doesn’t seem to be a problem in the Pac-12. The key is to just literally outscore the other opponent like say, 60-52. Plus, Rodriquez should be in a much lower-key job than the bright lights at Michigan. Despite what the league says, the Pac-12 still suffers from an exposure problem. The time zone factor is the major culprit. Lots of the games start too late for Midwest and East Coast viewers.

So, it will be interesting to see how Rich-Rod plays out in the Southwest. He’s at a basketball school but he no doubt was hired to elevate the importance of the football program. Hopefully, Rich-Rod has learned from his mistakes and will do well in Tucson.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Griffin Lentsch Shoots, Scores, Scores and Scores

Grinnell College is a small liberal arts school in east central Iowa. Its men’s basketball team is a scoring machine. If Grinnell doesn’t put up at least 100 points against its opponent, it’s a bad night for this Division III school.

Well, Grinnell scored 145 points last Saturday, but the amazing stat is Griffin Lentsch tallied 89 of them. Lentsch earned the third best single game scoring total ever across all divisions.

Skeptics can say this guy plays Division III and isn’t going against the likes of Duke, North Carolina or Kentucky. But I don’t care what division it is: grade school, junior high AAU, junior college, Division I or III, 89 is a boat load of points.

I imagine Lentsch’s hand and shoulder were a bit sore after the game. However, he would probably gladly take residence in the training room again for a similar performance.

But now Lentsch has some pressure. He scored that many points in an early season game. What is he going to do for an on core? He has almost all of the season left. And how will he keep that monstrous scoring average?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The BCS is a Mess

I am crying out to a non-SEC (Southeastern Conference) team today. Please, please, somebody move into the No. 2 BCS spot before the national champion game.

The SEC now has a stronghold on the BCS standings with LSU, Alabama and Arkansas in the top three spots. Do we really want a LSU-Alabama rematch? I say no, no and no. I mean how many field goal games can we take?

Upset weekend caused the major shakeup in the standings. Oklahoma State, Oregon, Clemson and Oklahoma all lost games. The Cowboys fell two spots in the BCS rankings to No. 4.

The SEC has owned the national championship in recent years. On this late November day, the conference is sitting in good shape. The SEC has been sticking out their chest boasting and that needs to stop. We need more upsets in the remaining games. The SEC needs some competition in the championship game.

Remember when it seemed like the New York Yankees were going to the World Series every year? Well, the SEC is going to the football World Series every year. The trouble is this year the league doesn’t want to invite anyone else to the party.

We need a choice in the title game. Please, please, somebody help us.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Iowa State Wins Shocker Over Oklahoma State

Iowa State proved Friday night that a big underdog can rise up and bite an undefeated team.

No. 2 Oklahoma State discovered the Cyclones had plenty of bite all night. Final result: a six-point Iowa State victory.

The Cowboys were a 27-point favorite entertaining the game and headed for a possible national championship affair against LSU. When Oklahoma State left the field Friday night, it opened up the national title chase for other one-loss contenders.

Iowa State had never beaten a top six rated team before. It has been woeful against top-rated teams actually. But the Cyclones refused to lose.

Most upsets occur with the underdog jumps out in the lead and hangs out sometimes to the bitter end. Iowa State didn’t follow the script. The Cyclones were down 24-7 in the second half. They stormed back to forge a 24-24 tie. It looked bleak for Iowa State with about a one minute left. Normally reliable Oklahoma State kicker Quinn Sharp came into the game for a 30 something field goal. He proceeded to hook the try and it was no good.

That break was all Iowa State needed. Although it took two overtimes, the Cyclones were the dominated team in the extra periods.

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads helped guide another miracle. Now at 6-4, the Cyclones are bowl eligible for the second time in three seasons under Rhoads.

And although it was windy weather, the Cyclones didn’t need it for the win. Instead, they created their own storm.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Missouri's Gary Pinkel Case a Sad Reminder

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was arrested this week on a drunken driving charge. The Tigers’ head man will serve a one-game suspension and have his salary frozen.

Apparently, Pinkel has been a man of high standards in more than a decade as Missouri’s coach but slipped up big time on this occasion. It’s sad because leaders are called to a higher standard and yes leaders are human beings too.

The rub in this case is the offense involved alcohol. Coaches are always preaching to their players about the dangers of this beverage. Players who are caught in unfavorable circumstances with alcohol are usually punished greatly. But can Pinkel continue to talk about the dangers of alcohol and still have creditability with his players on the subject? Or maybe Pinkel can have a larger influence on the subject because he has gone down that bad path.

Hopefully, Pinkel has learned from his experience and can become a better leader of his football team. His jury of 18-22-year-olds will be watching their coach closely.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Watch Out for the Wind Oklahoma State Cowboys

Iowa State host No. 2 Oklahoma State Friday night and the Cyclones are hoping for bad weather. It’s about their only chance for an equalizer.

Sounds like it could be windy, but no snow or rain in the forecast. Maybe Iowa State should install some large fans to enhance the nature wind. You imagine they could sneak them in behind the stands?

On paper, this football game is a mismatch. The Cowboys, fresh off a blowout win at Texas Tech, are 27 to 27 ½ favorites. Their high-powered offense is difficult to contain and impossible to stop.

Some might wonder if this is a trap game for Oklahoma State with Oklahoma coming up in early December. I don’t see it. If the Cowboys were playing the Sooners next week, then might be it would be a problem. But with a two-week layoff between the Iowa State and Oklahoma games, it’s highly unlikely.

Besides the weather, Iowa State’s chances in this one involve ball-control. The Cyclones must keep the Cowboys’ offense on the sidelines as much as possible and keep from making mistakes. With its offense, Oklahoma State doesn’t need a “short” field too.

Now, about working on that wind…

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Duke's Mike Krzyzewski Record Will Remain

Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski became the No. 1 coach in college wins last night when the Blue Devils defeated Michigan State. “Coach K” now has 903 wins, one better than his mentor Bobby Knight.

Coach K will add a bunch of victories to that total before he retires. But I seriously doubt that anyone will break his record. Records are meant to be broken as the saying goes, but this one is officially now off limits.

There aren’t enough coaches in the business that will last as long as the Coach K's, Bobby Knights and Adolph Rupps. With the massive salaries head coaches make in these times, what is the real incentive to attempt to break the record? Coaches now can put in a limited number of years, take their money and retire to the golf course. Plus, why put yourself through the rigors of college basketball for 30 years? The shelf life of college coaches is just different in this era.

That’s why Coach K's record is so remarkable. The guy has won a huge amount of games in a long period of time. It’s definite history and real cause for celebration.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

College Basketball Junkie

OIf you are a college basketball junkie, these 24 hours are for you. ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon is in full swing.

I count 10 games today on the ESPN networks starting at 5 a.m. in the central time zone. Of course there were games before during the late-night and early morning hours. For example, Northern Iowa played in California and had a 1 a.m. Iowa starting time. Whew. Was the postgame meal dinner or breakfast?

I am looking forward to the Baylor-San Diego State game at 1 p.m. central. Baylor has restocked its roster and it will be interesting to see how the new messes with the old.

Most people will look to the night action. Duke and Michigan State is one game, while Florida-Ohio State is another. The last major draw is Kentucky-Kansas. I wonder while these teams aren’t playing a 2 o’clock in the morning. I know why and so do you. It’s all about television sets and ratings.

Usually it takes me a while to warm up to the college basketball season. I’m coming off the baseball season and football is still in high gear. But if it is ESPN’s desire to tempt me, the network is doing a good job.

Enjoy the basketball junkies.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stanford's Andrew Luck Runs Out of Luck

I was cheering for Stanford Saturday night against Oregon. The Stanford boys are easy to embrace: Andrew Luck, true student-athletes and an outstanding academic institution.

But, you knew heading into the game, the Cardinal faced a difficult test. Stanford had recently survived against Southern Cal in a wild overtime game and frankly it looked vulnerable. Plus, Oregon is a fast and athletic team.

All these factors made it feel that Stanford’s undefeated season would come to an end. The hutch was correct. Match, set, Oregon 53-30.

The game was never close unless you count 0-0. Stanford quarterback Luck is indeed a great talent. But the poor guy needs help. Too many mistakes, took many dropped passes and out-of-sync overall play doomed the Cardinal.

Stanford’s national championship hopes are basically gone. It has fallen to ninth place in the BCS. It’s difficult to leapfrog a number of teams this time of year. The Cardinal need a football miracle and I don’t think it will happen.

But regardless, Stanford will remain an interesting team to watch. Luck is the reason Stanford has won nine games so far this season. With some other luck, they could have been 10-0.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Basketball on Ship III

Friday night’s college basketball game between North Carolina and Michigan State on the navy carrier ship was a great night for America. It was a fitting occasion to celebrate Veteran’s Day with many servicemen and servicewomen in attendance.

Our country has gone through a lot in recent years, but it was great to step aside from the problems and celebrate America and the men and women’s service for this great nation. It reminded me of July 4th in the middle of November.

It was one of the few times I have ever watched a basketball game and concluded that there were no losers. Yes, the Tar Heels did defeat the Spartans on the scoreboard, but both teams were winners on this night. I imagine Michigan State was disappointed in the loss, but what an experience for all the players and staff involved.

Sounds like this might become an annual event playing a college basketball game on Veteran’s Day. I think that would be awesome.

We never have too many opportunities to celebrate this great nation and the sacrifices of our military personnel. Playing college basketball on Veteran’s Day is a fitting tribute.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Basketball on a Ship II

Last April, I wrote a blog about North Carolina and Michigan State playing basketball on a carrier ship. Tonight, the game becomes a reality.

I think it’s a unique and great way to honor veterans on Veteran’s Day.

These are two historic programs and a great way to kick off the college basketball season. Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson will be in attendance. The two starred at North Carolina and Michigan State respectively.

Of course, we Iowans will pay close attention to North Carolina sophomore Harrison Barnes. The Iowa native had a productive first season for the Tar Heels and is posed for a banner second-year campaign. It will be interesting to see how far he can elevate his game.

The college sports world really needs this contest at this time. With the fallout at Penn State, it’s great that this game will steal some coverage from that ugly mess. For a while anyway, we can focus on the true spirit of competition and receive North Carolina against Michigan State too. It will be a special night.

I want to say thank-you to all the veterans on Veteran’s Day. We are honored and certainly blessed by your service. My dad served in Germany in World War II. I remember him on this day too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State's Joe Paterno Had to Go

They can riot all they want to in State College, Pennsylvania, but the Penn State Board of Trustees made the right call in firing football coach Joe Paterno.

Paterno thought he could prolong his fate early on Wednesday when he volunteered to resign at the end of the season. I wondered how that act would work. The Penn State Board of Trustees took care of it late Wednesday night.

Or by the way, Penn State also fired its president—Graham Spanier.

Paterno is obviously the biggest figure to fall in this mess. He now realizes he should have taken greater measures when informed of the alleged sexual child exploitation involving former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky.

Paterno was larger-than-life at Penn State. He no longer receives the title. His rule has ended. The mighty do fall and Paterno went crashing down.

People wonder about Paterno’s legacy. Will this scandal scar it? I don’t know, but at the moment memory is short-term. The stones will continue to be thrown at Paterno for a while. Will he recover? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the house cleaning at Penn State has only begun. It started with the big boys and will trickle down. People might not recognize the place when it’s over.

We have no model for a situation like Penn State. It’s a sad, sad situation that we will have its own model now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Sickening Mess at Penn State

This mess at Penn State becomes more disguising each day. Where this merry-go-round will stop nobody knows.

Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky allegedly was involved in child exploitation. Some are charging Penn State officials including legendary football coach Joe Paterno with cover-up.

Now there is an Associated Press report that Paterno will resign at the end of the season. I still think it might that be that long. How can Paterno continue to coach under this massive cloud? JoePa will face major scrutiny for his remaining days at Penn State.

Some say, JoePa is the fall guy for the university. I don’t know how much responsibility should be his in this terrible case, but he is the CEO of the program. That in itself requires leadership and responsibility.

Nobody at Penn State is showing any leadership. Until someone comes out and explains this tragedy and takes responsibility, all we have is conjecture, hurt, anger and a story that won’t go away.

Penn State is an institution of higher education. Right now if I was grading the school, it would receive a big fat “F.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How Can Joe Paterno Survive?

Happy Valley, Pennsylvania is far from a happy place.

In the last 96 hours or so, the news about the alleged child exploitation by former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has soiled the once proud institution. It seems there is plenty of shared blame attached to the situation. Take your pick from the school’s president to the former athletic director and business manager. Even legendary football coach Joe Paterno is in the firing line.

Paterno’s knowledge of the situation appears cloudy. I imagine we will learn more as the facts continue to become available. But I cannot see JoePa surviving this situation. Paterno is under fire for his association with Sandusky and not doing more than simply reporting what he knew (about Sandusky’s conduct) to the athletic director.

Will JoePa resign this week? I doubt it. The guy is a fighter. Many have called for his resignation for a number of years and the ‘ole guy is still coaching. But will the pressure get to him enough where he will quit following the season?

The charges against Sandusky are obviously extremely serious. The sad thing is there are many dominos falling besides Sandusky. JoePa could be one of those particular dominos.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The College Football Diet

If you are trying to wean yourself from watching too much college football on TV Saturday, this is a great weekend to accomplish the feat.

Other than the huge LSU-Alabama game Saturday night, the offerings are really slim.
You might want to flip over to Kansas State-Oklahoma State (also in primetime) on occasion. The explosive Cowboys are receiving serious national attention and can score points in a hurry. Kansas State was an item until it was thumped by Oklahoma in Manhattan. The Wildcats don’t seem to pose much of a threat playing Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

The laugher game in primetime is Notre Dame-Wake Forest. That’s the other regional game on ABC besides Oklahoma State-Kansas State. I say laugher game because are you serious: Notre Dame-Wake Forest in primetime? Who exactly will watch that game? Who really cares?

So all-in-all, it’s a good day to wash the car, rake some leaves and clean out the garage or basement. You will have plenty of time before LSU-Alabama starts.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Talking LSU and Alabama

nationIf you are a college football fan, you know folks have been looking forward to the LSU-Alabama contest for a few weeks.

LSU is No. 1 in the BCS standings while Alabama comes in at No. 2. The Tide has the home field advantage.

I look at this as an elimination game for the national championship. The loser would have to hope some other undefeated teams lose in the remaining weeks in order for a one-loss grouping. Then maybe the computers would look favorably on a one-loss SEC team.

Some believe a one-loss SEC team should be a national championship contender against undefeated teams. I don’t believe that way. A loss is a loss whether it comes in the SEC, ACC, Big Ten or Big 12.

Anyway, the stakes are high in this one. The winner should be the favorite for the national championship. Both schools have played that role in recent years and seceded in it.

Do you think the loser should get another shot at the national championship?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Giving College Athletes More Money

The debate over whether to provide college athletes with more money than their scholarships will never end. I don’t say that in a negative tone but because it is such a hot button issue.

The issue is in the news again because last week the NCAA made a recommendation that would allow conferences to provide $2000 more to scholarship athletes. I’m somewhat confused on what constitutes the $2000 in value, but I take it the amount wouldn’t be all cash.

Full-ride scholarships presently don’t cover all the expenses/fees the student-athlete occurs. This would help offset those costs. The real costs would come to the particularly university or college. Each school would need to fund student-athletes equally. For example, the softball player couldn’t receive less than the football player or the volleyball player couldn’t receive less than the basketball player.

My concern isn’t equality between sport teams but between conferences. The BCS (or big) schools would probably have no difficulty with the additional expenses. They would just make bigger pitches to the alumni and other supporters of the athletic program. But the small schools in small conferences already struggle to keep pace with the big boys in terms of financial resources. This would place the smaller schools at a greater disadvantage. The big boys already have the pick of the crop in recruiting and this measure would probably continue to provide that deep advantage. Student-athletes considering a school will look hard at the financial package like others pondering a job offer.

So although this recommendation looks good on the outside, it has sticky potential on the inside.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Oklahoma State Cowboys in a Good Spot

Sometimes near the top of mountain is almost as good as being on top.

Oklahoma State is that football team. The Cowboys sit No. 3 in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series). LSU and Alabama are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively but play each other this week. So with a victory over Kansas State Saturday, you figure the Cowboys will move into the No. 2 slot. And No. 2 at the end of the season puts a team in the national championship game.

The Cowboys have a favorable schedule the rest of the season with the exception of playing Oklahoma the last game. The Sooners will play the role of a spoiler after their shocking loss to Texas Tech on Oct. 22. Oklahoma might just take out all its frustrations on Oklahoma State.

But if the Cowboys remain undefeated throughout the season, they will benefit from no Big 12 Conference championship game. These league championship games are great for the conference money chest, but traps for teams hoping for a national championship slot.

So right now, Oklahoma State’s view near the mountain top looks good. But in this wacky world of college football, one quick misstep lands you quickly down that mountain.