The Next NCAAF Head Coach Debate… Kirby’s a Smart Hire

September 1, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

Every season there are a group of assistants many believe are ready to take the next step up into a head coaching position. This year’s crop of qualified coaches who have earned the big corner office features former assistants like Jimbo Fisher (FSU) and Joker Phillips (Kentucky). Today we’re looking at guys who Sports Geek, Bleacher Fan, and I feel are ready to take the next step. All three are proven assistant coaches in BCS conferences. Yet, of course, my guy is the best. Enter Kirby Smart.

Smart is a good ole South Georgia boy, playing high school football less than 100 miles from my hometown before taking his talents between the hedges in Athens at the University of Georgia. Before hitting the big time in the coaching ranks, he was an assistant coach at a small school in Georgia called Valdosta State University, which just so happens to be the alma mater of both Sports Geek and myself. The Geek even met him a time or two, but I never met him. (Editor’s Note: I’ll share a funny story about him here in an argument one day. Stay tuned.) Stops along the way in his coaching career included Florida State, LSU, Georgia, and even the Miami Dolphins, bringing him to his current role as a defensive coordinator at Alabama. He’s Nick Saban’s boy, having worked for him in Baton Rouge, Miami, and now in Tuscaloosa.

Kirby has a lot going for him. He’s young (34 years old), energetic, and is a proven hot commodity as an assistant coach. He is a 2009 recipient of the Frank Broyles Award, which is given to the nation’s top assistant coach. He even contemplated returning to his alma mater to coach under Mark Richt, but he decided to remain loyal to Saban and the Crimson Tide. He got a nice raise, too.

There was really no need to leave Alabama for Georgia. He is the defensive coordinator for the defending national champions, and judging from the pre-season polls and the post-season predictions, the Tide are a favorite to repeat again. A big reason why is Smart’s defense. The Tide defense was second nationally in scoring last season, but nine starters either graduated or moved on to the NFL. However, the depth that Smart helped established should soften that blow. Many of the players that are replacing those starters earned valuable playing time a season ago.

Kirby Smart has “future head coach” written all over him (Editor’s Note: How do you know?). He certainly learned from one of the best, and despite being so young he has some impressive credentials on his resume. It’s highly doubtful Smart would leave Tuscaloosa for another coordinator position. After all, if he won’t leave for his alma mater, where else would he go for the same job? However, he would likely consider leaving for a head coaching job in the right situation. A school would be wise to give this guy a look next winter, quite possibly as Smart is celebrating another national championship.

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The College Coaches Banning NFL Scouts Debate Verdict

August 20, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Normally I subscribe to Machiavellian theory, that the end justifies the means. No matter how drastic the measure, if it achieves the end goal then I see success. But when I consider Nick Saban’s response to the current debacle going on between the NFL and college football, I am not so sure.

Bleacher Fan raises interesting points in his criticism of banning NFL scouts from college campuses. He points out that scouts really have not been identified as the problem, yet they are suffering massive collateral damage in Saban’s war on agents. He also proves an intriguing point that colleges and scouts have a mutually beneficial relationship, and it seems illogical for one interest to punish the other. Like cutting off one’s nose to spite their face, it just seems illogical.

Loyal Homer, however, does not subscribe to the notion that universities need scouts on campus. He highlights an obvious, but oft overlooked point that professional teams are afforded plenty of scouting opportunities between college games and the NFL combine. And it is hard not to agree with Loyal Homer, that college football should return to a more normal collegiate state… before under the table deals ruined the future of young promising athletes.

But in the end I could not find fault with the central premise of Bleacher Fan’s argument, that banning college scouts will eventually negatively impact the notoriety of a school. Regardless of past prestige and acclaim, universities that limit a college athlete’s exposure to potential NFL employers are going to lose out on many professional, career-minded recruits. When top recruits learn they will receive less exposure when playing for a given team (like Alabama) than they would playing for another comparable program (let’s say Texas), then it is only logical for athletes seeking to promote a future professional career to sign with the school that puts them in the best position to catch the attention of an NFL team. The obvious decision is for students to play for the team allowing the most exposure. The loss of top talent will be a detriment to school like Alabama that are taking a stand, principled or not.

Unfortunately for Loyal Homer he was forced to defend a decision that Nick Saban himself has backpedaled from. While the preservation of collegiate integrity by banning any and all problems seems commendable, it also doesn’t seem feasible for the longevity of a successful football program. Saban’s decision to lift the ban after a given date is evidence enough of that. College football needs to remedy the problem of outside interference, but banning the scouts is not the answer.

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The College Coaches Banning NFL Scouts Debate

August 19, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

It is plain to see that the NFL is creating quite a mess for college football programs these days. NCAA investigations into schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – for allegations of improper contact – reveal that the problem of outside interference on college campuses is both very broad and very real.

Alabama head Nick Saban is taking matters into his own hands. He is currently refusing to allow NFL scouts to even attend practices. Other coaches like Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly don’t view scouts as the problem. Kelly has stated that the Irish won’t ban scouts, but will instead attempt to address the situation by better educating student athletes about the issue.

It seems logical that colleges would take steps to keep agents out. But scouts? These guys are not the ones offering cars and houses under the table to amateur athletes. They are the ones with clipboards and stopwatches sweating in the stands trying to earn a living by discovering the next big thing. Scouts help make college dreams of NFL success possible. Are these guys really to blame as well?

Loyal Homer believes scouts do share blame. He will argue that programs are well within their right to ban NFL scouts to preserve their programs. Bleacher Fan, on the other hand, believes scouts should be left to do their job.

One argument will prevail while the other will be shut out faster than a scout with a roll of hundreds at a Crimson Tide practice. Who has the right idea?

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The NCAAF Over Signing Recruits Debate… Do Homework Before Signing

August 5, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Whatever happened to due diligence? In today’s immediate gratification culture, cautious and responsible decision making seems like a thing of the past. Everywhere you look there are examples of people running headlong into risky situations. From credit card debt to the mortgage crisis and everything in between, it appears that people are no longer reading the fine print. It’s a dangerous game because when reality sets in it’s easy to be way over your head. There is no one else to blame but yourself.

That’s why I have no sympathy for college athletes who claim to be “victimized” by athletic programs that over recruit and over sign. Athletes know the risks involved with signing to play a sport in college. Or at least they should.

Let’s go back to that “due diligence” phrase I used earlier. For anyone not completely familiar with the expression, let me break it down for you. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the term as follows:

  1. “The care that a reasonable person exercises under the circumstances to avoid harm to other persons or their property”
  2. ”Research and analysis of a company or organization done in preparation for a business transaction”

Both definitions aptly describe the caution a student and their family should exercise when signing to play a collegiate sport. Especially when scholarship money is at stake.

Considering the amount of information about this controversial practice available on the Internet – there are even entire websites devoted to the subject (see – that it stands to reason a college bound athlete would have means and the ability to research the situation they are getting into. If not, should they really be attending college in the first place?

The Blame Game

Athletes get cut all the time. The situation is unfortunate but inevitable. Whether an untimely injury or poor performance necessitates the cut, the simple fact is an athlete’s grasp on a roster spot is more tenuous than they would probably like to think. The problem is it just doesn’t sit well with the public when a player, one perceived to be a hardworking kid, loses his spot on a team and the scholarship that made college possible in the first place along with it. The public needs someone to blame for the “injustice.” But who?

Contrary to popular belief, coaches are not to blame. What is their great crime? Being proactive and planning for the future?

Coaches know that not every player they scout will turn out to be the player they hoped to get. Similarly, they would be fools to assume that no one on their team is going to get hurt. If schools don’t over recruit they unnecessarily put the program at risk.

Like it or not, college football is a business. The boss – in this case the coach – has to do what’s best for his business. Bosses make tough decisions about who to promote and who to fire all the time. It certainly isn’t easy, but it is a necessary evil. It’s an “evil” the boss does for the good of the company. Coaches are no different. They have to cut players that can’t stay healthy or don’t produce for the good of the team. Imagine the dysfunction that would ensue if an employer refused to fire underachieving workers or chronically absent employees. A football team is no different.

For all you bleeding hearts out there saying, “But Babe Ruthless, these are children. You can’t do that to them.” I say, “The kids have to grow up sometime.”

The real world is ruthless and brutal. The sooner that is learned the better. Colleges would not be doing anyone a favor by teaching athletes that there are no consequences for poor performance, or even just a bad break. Bear in mind that college football players are supposed to be student athletes, with the emphasis on the word “student.” Unlike professional athletes, they aren’t securing guaranteed money. If a student on a music scholarship could no longer perform at an acceptable level, or even at all, would anyone expect a school to continue to provide them with free tuition? Obviously not.

Regarding over recruiting, coaches are just trying to build the best program possible. To stay with the music analogy, it would be like an orchestra conductor bringing in a group of 30 musicians to compete for 20 spots. The director is simply trying to assemble the best ensemble possible. Will there be some hurt feelings? Maybe, but that is bound to happen anytime there is competition. Coaches know from experience that some guys won’t qualify academically, others won’t live up to their scouting reports, and some simply won’t pan out. So the coach is merely doing his due diligence, by protecting the team’s assets, when he accepts more letters of intent than scholarships. Sure recruiters may promise the world. But like anything else, unless a recruiting target has the promises in writing they really don’t have anything at all. There is a reason teachers and guidance counselors tell students not to put all their eggs in the athlete basket. Any number of reasons can knock an athlete off the fast track to a professional career, and college is no different.

No Foul, No Harm

Critics of over recruiting and over signing will be quick to point out the worst offenders as the norm rather than the exception, but this is an unfair generalization. While conferences like the SEC and teams like Alabama have a track record of overindulging when it comes to signing new players, they always end up complying with the NCAA’s cap of 85 scholarship players. There maybe some kids with bruised egos and broken dreams, but they will live. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. No one ever said playing sports is easy. While it may not sit well with everyone’s sense of fairness, if teams are acting within the rules, and there are no rules violations, cries of “foul play” ring hollow.

Surprisingly, the SEC is responding to criticism by imposing its own set of restrictions on over signing policies. The conference set a limit of 28 players per signing class in May of 2009. That’s three more signees than the NCAA limit of 25 players per class, establishing somewhat of a compromise. It will curb the major abuses of the past, when schools such as Ole Miss signed as many as 37 players in one year. This sort of self governance should be reassuring to those who fear the practice. It limits abuses of power while providing schools with the flexibility they need.

Programs are going to do what is in their best interests, and nothing is going to change that. Players have a duty to be well informed about the competitive scenarios they enter into when signing to play with a particular school. It is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to read contracts and understand all the fine print. The excuse of being “just a kid” only lasts for so long.

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The Government Stance on the BCS Debate – Obama Just Say No To Boise State

January 21, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Loyal Homer about whether or not President Obama should invite Boise State and the BCS champions to the White House.

The more debate and press college football receives, the better. While professional football’s season and offseason are now a full time sporting event worthy of several full time staffers to cover the many goings on in the sport year ‘round, college football struggles to share the spotlight. While football is hands down the favored sport in the US, college football takes a backseat to the professional ranks. For this reason, any coverage and ongoing debate that can be created about college football is viewed as a positive thing. After all, any news is good news, right?

The above is one of myriad reasons why the BCS is great for college football. But, this debate is not a referendum on the BCS. It is a discussion around potentially inviting two teams to the White House to reflect the spoils of winning the crown of college football after the 2009 season. One team earned it, and one did not. Alabama won the championship game, Boise State won a secondary bowl.

The question I propose to the esteemed judge of this debate – and to President Obama – why bother? Why invite Boise State to the White House? Here are some compelling reasons to avoid the insistence of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch in inviting Boise State and Alabama to the White House.

First, there is no precedent. Sure, in 2004 President George Bush invited both BCS champion LSU and Associated Press number one team Southern Cal to the White House in honor of their undefeated, championship seasons in college football. That circumstance qualified as a bonafide split national championship where legitimate arguments for the credentials of both teams can plausibly be made. This past season, Boise State did not finish number one in any of the polls to further the dispute. Boise State finished fourth. It is true the team went undefeated, but the competition it played is not deemed strong enough to vault them to a more respectable status in any significant – or insignificant – poll.

Second, there is not one valid political reason to extend an invite to the team from Idaho. Sure, President Obama has voiced displeasure with the current system, but with persistent economic instability, a necessary health care overall that gets increasingly complicated with each passing day, the escalating situation in Iran, the crisis management in Haiti (donate to help the situation in Haiti if you can, by the way), etc. no good political reason exists for President Obama to make the call. It is simply a distraction to what needs to be a routine ceremony that is part of our culture. Complicating it makes no sense, and probably makes the President look politically weaker with strange priorities. I know. Can you imagine that we live in a country where college football is not the most important part of society??

Plus, the White House already released a statement late last week declaring its intention to invite only Alabama. Under the current system in place – the BCS – Alabama is the winner. That is the team that deserves going because there is not legitimate, plausible reason or rationale to invite another team.

Proponents of inviting both teams argue that the dual invitation sends a message that both teams are excellent and both should be invited to the White House, thereby proving that the BCS national championship game – and the system in general – is incapable of determining the best program. Perhaps that argument is legitimate, but it is wasted on the wrong team. As good as Boise State was this season, they are not the example needed to bring the BCS system down. They simply did not play a difficult enough schedule and do not have momentum heading into the offseason on a national scale to move the needle on this topic.

The most damaging sentiment about this issue comes from Boise State head coach Chris Peterson who was quoted by the director of the BCS, Bill Hancock, that he does not wish for his team to go to the White House. Peterson is a smart guy. He does not want his team to enjoy the spoils of victory before they have earned it. He must continue to coach and teach that hard reward yields high reward, that the spoils of victory are sweeter when they are well-earned and widely accepted. Those are not the current conditions, therefore Peterson is wise to avoid even entertaining the idea of crashing the White House party that Alabama legitimately earned within the confines of the current system.

I respect the many sports writers and reporters (yes, there is a different) that have favored the idea, especially guys like Pete Thamel of the New York Times. But while this might be a noble idea, the Broncos are not the right team to base the argument around, and they are not even on board themselves.

I love college football and I love debating. But, in this case, there simply is no good reason for President Obama to invite Boise State to the White House right now. Perhaps when the wars are over, the economy is fixed, health care is affordable for all, and everyone is employed a discussion about the merits of the invite can happen. Until then, the champions earn the rewards of victory. Good or bad, the system picks, and the President and every other fan must respect that.

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The Best Game of THIS weekend Debate – A Statement Game Looms for Ole Miss

October 9, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Bleacher Fan’s argument on what they think is the best game of THIS weekend.

It is finally Friday. For some of us it is a long weekend with Monday being Columbus Day! I am sure Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan have to work on Monday, so pick on them if you have Monday off! As for this weekend, I will be at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee to watch a live soap opera unfold before my eyes when the much maligned Florida State Seminoles welcome the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech to town. We all know that Florida-LSU is THE game of the week. It is too obvious, though, so we are all are staying away from it. Outside of that game, I think that the best game of THIS weekend will take place in Oxford, Mississippi when the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Mississippi Rebels.

A quick look at the SEC standings show the Tide with a 2-0 record in conference (a half-game behind 3-0 LSU) while Ole Miss stands at 1-1, with the loss coming 15 days ago against South Carolina.

I must say that the Crimson Tide have totally surprised me. I thought they would struggle. Granted, the only ranked team it has played to this point is Virginia Tech, but, the Tide have looked impressive – even downright dominant – at times. Even though the Tide are ranked third, I think it is possible to say they are being overlooked a little on the national level. I think we all know which team gets all the headlines in the Southeastern Conference. Tide quarterback Greg McElroy, in quite a shock to Loyal Homer, could actually end up being an upgrade over John Parker Wilson. And on defense, the team is still anchored by one of my favorite college players, Terrence “Mount” Cody.

Ole Miss comes into the game on the heels of a 23-7 victory over Vanderbilt. Do not laugh! It is not uncommon for teams to struggle on road trips to Nashville. Still, what lingers in the mind of most of the country is a pitiful performance in Columbia against the Gamecocks in a nationally televised Thursday night game. Ole Miss does not get on national television much, and it is fair to say the team laid the proverbial egg that night. Quarterback Jevon Snead, for all the preseason hype he had coming in, has been a bust to this point. This game is a chance for Ole Miss to get back on the national radar and climb back into the SEC West. It is a must win for the Rebels if they are entertaining any thoughts of an SEC championship. And believe me, that was the goal coming into the season.

With games still against LSU and Auburn, this is a big game for both the Rebels and the Tide. The SEC West is shaping up to be the best division in all of football, with LSU, Auburn, Alabama, and Ole Miss combining for only one loss at this point. The winner of the battle in Oxford ends up with a leg up on the rest of the division. The loser – especially if it is Ole Miss – faces a steep uphill climb to make it to Atlanta in December!

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The 2009 Best Conference in College Football Debate – Big XII or SEC?

September 2, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that the Big XII is the best conference in college football, and Loyal Homer’s argument that the SEC is the best conference in college football.

No matter how much the fans of the Big Ten, Pac-10, and even the ACC this year would LOVE to disagree, the two most powerful conferences in college football in 2009 are the SEC and the Big XII.

Last season, these teams OWNED the top ten rankings. From the Big XII (South), Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State each spent considerable time in the BCS hunt. Meanwhile in SEC country, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia all took turns at some point during the season respectively ranked as the best team in the nation.

In fact, four of the top five teams in the final BCS standings came from those two conferences, and the National Championship matchup was a clash between SEC champ Florida and Big XII champ Oklahoma. Many also felt that Texas, who only missed the Big XII championship because of a tiebreaker, was JUST as worthy of a national title shot.

The 2008 season was proof of the dominance in college football today by the two most powerful conferences.

After the 2009 preseason polls were announced, it became evident that the experts are expecting more of the same for this upcoming season. Six of the top ten spots in the AP rankings are occupied by schools from those two conferences, including each of the top three spots (Florida
– #1, Texas – #2, and Oklahoma – #3).

But which conference between the SEC and the Big XII is going to be the toughest?

Last year, it appeared that the South division of the Big XII was the deepest, with as many as four teams being ranked in the top ten BCS standings at the same time, but it is the SEC who has claimed the last three national titles, and who are the nearly consensus favorites to win the crown again this season.

Loyal Homer will argue that the SEC is the best conference in college football for the upcoming season. Its continued dominance on the grandest stage has once again set them up as the premier conference.

Sports Geek will argue that the Big XII is the best conference. The level of talent within the Big XII is too deep for the SEC to compete, and 2009 could be the year that the Big XII ends the recent streak of SEC championships.

And football week rolls on!

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