The Criminals in College Sports Debate Verdict

March 29, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

 

I must give my colleagues, Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, credit. After two years of working together, debating all the biggest issues in sports, they managed to bring out yet another first in TSD history!

For the first time ever, I actually disagree with BOTH arguments (well, at least partly).

The question was to debate whether or not coaches and universities should look into juvenile records before deciding which recruits to extend scholarship offers to. Both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, although arguing for very different causes, essentially raised the same point – that character matters in sports.

According to Sports Geek, character matters in the sense that it helps people to gain experience. To Sports Geek, growth and second chances for everyone, not just athletes, to make us all better people. Past mistakes do not always serve as an indicator for future actions, though, and so Sports Geek feels that they should not be held against the children (that, after all, is what they are) who commit them.

On the other hand, Loyal Homer argues that character matters, which is precisely why college sports need to clean up their act. Too much is forgiven in sports, and it is tarnishing the reputation of what is supposed to be honest and fair play among student athletes. Instead, we hear more and more about Player ‘X’ from university ‘Y’ and their escapades that resulted in someone getting arrested, or worse, hurt.

But as I said, I disagree with both of them – Character does NOT matter in sports.

We like to SAY that character matters in sports, and realistically, it SHOULD matter in sports, but it is time for us all to stop perpetuating the lie.

We don’t care about character in our athletes at all. We want our athletes to win, and that’s it. We as a fan base may curse athletes who commit some act of moral or criminal wrongdoing. But then we conveniently turn that ire off when the player brings greater success to our team.

It is true that the Florida Gators had a plethora of criminal charges stocking their active roster for the past five football seasons. But they also have two National Championships during that stretch. What do you think Gator fans care about? Would any of them trade in even one of those two National Championships to clear the names of their beloved team’s roster? Hardly.

When Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes caught TD passes in the New York Jets playoff victory over the New England Patriots, were any of the Jets fans booing them?

How long did it take before Steelers fans welcomed Ben Roethlisberger back into the fold with open arms? My guess is about 20 minutes and 20 seconds into his first game back, when he completed a scoring pass to Mike Wallace.

It is time to stop pretending that we demand our athletes to live to a greater moral standard, because when push comes to shove we do not really care at all.

But now that it is time to step off of my soap box, I still need to crown a winner for this debate.

Just because I fundamentally disagree with the key message in both arguments, that does not mean I disagree with their entire arguments. And while I disagree with the principle of Sports Geek’s position, it is for that exact same reason that I am awarding him the verdict.

Because an athlete’s character does not REALLY matter to us in sports, past flaws should not be counted against recruits. As Sports Geek points out, kids make mistakes all the time. Some may be more serious than others, but that does not mean that they should be excluded from the opportunity to better themselves.

In fact, if we as fans REALLY want to see those games that we love cleaned up, then we absolutely MUST forgive the past transgressions of the kids that make childish mistakes. Those who are supposed to be “responsible” adults should assume that responsibility and actually COACH these kids. That’s right – It is the program administrators that must be held to the higher standard.

Coaches like Bruce Pearl, Jim Tressel, Lane Kiffin, and countless others are the ones setting the example for these kids that it is okay to bend and break the rules as long as you win games, and THAT is where accountability should be held.

In many cases, these coaches will have a greater impact on the lives of the student athletes than anyone else ever could. They need to act as mentors, role models, and leaders for the kids they are guiding. If they can live up to a higher standard, I can GUARANTEE you that the athletes will follow suit.

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The Connecticut Women’s Basketball Winning Streak Debate… The Dominance of UConn

April 6, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless.

Before we begin today’s debate, we should thank Butler and Duke for putting on quite the show last night. I am not sure many of us thought the game would be that competitive, but it will go down as a classic. You all realize how close that last shot from Gordon Hayward came to going in, right? Imagine the euphoria if that had banked in! Nevertheless, congratulations to Duke for winning!

Now, on to today’s debate topic… which is not whether “One Shining Moment” was improved with Jennifer Hudson singing it (though that is a worthy debate in itself).

Today’s debate is centered on women’s basketball and the Lady Huskies of Connecticut. Even if you do not follow women’s college basketball all that much, you probably know that UConn has an extended winning streak. In fact, it currently sits at 77 games. The last time UConn lost was two years ago to the day… on April 6, 2008. The opponent that day? The Cardinal of Stanford… who just happen to be tonight’s opponent in the championship game as UConn goes for 78 wins in a row.

What has happened since UConn last experienced defeat? Hmmm… let’s see. Most of the country had no clue who Sarah Palin was at the time. Lane Kiffin was still coaching the Raiders. I was nowhere close to being married… though I am still nowhere close to being married. The Sports Debates was not anywhere near the radar for any of us. In fact, I had absolutely no clue who Bleacher Fan and Babe Ruthless were at the time. My only communication with any of my colleagues was the daily emailing with Sports Geek.

Despite the success of UConn, many have argued that women’s basketball is a victim of their success. I hate to use this cliché, but all the games are seemingly over at halftime. The closest game UConn has had this season is a 12 point victory over this same Stanford team.

My question for the two debaters today is simply this:

Is it good for NCAA women’s basketball to have such a dominant team?

Babe Ruthless, who is all in favor of dominance in sports, will argue that it is most definitely a good thing to have a dominant team like UConn. Bleacher Fan, on the other hand, will argue that it is not a good thing. Women’s basketball needs parity and that is definitely not the current situation.

Let the record show that this is the first ever women’s basketball debate on TSD, so make it count

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The NCAAF Signing Day Debate – Supply and Demand

February 5, 2010

Read the debate intro, Sports Geek’s, and Loyal Homer’s arguments about whether or not the media puts too much stock into college recruiting.

There are a lot of things that I feel are wrong about National Signing Day. I got another reminder just this week on how out of control the entire recruiting process is when I read the story of David Sills, one of Lane Kiffin’s newest recruits at USC.

What’s the big deal about David Sills? Only the fact that he is a 13 YEAR OLD SEVENTH GRADER!

That’s right, Lane Kiffin, the poster boy of everything that is wrong with coaching in college football, has decided to hand out a scholarship for the year 2015. What’s the point?! He’s not even gonna be there in 2015!

As for Sills, a lot can change between the ages of 13 and 18, both physically and mentally. When I was 13 I thought I was going to be an astronaut. Of course, that was back when my biggest concern was whether or not Optimus Prime’s Autobots could stop Megatron and the rest of the Decepticon horde – Wait a minute, I guess not THAT much has changed for me mentally. Physically, though, the changes that a boy will go through can be drastic, and that’s assuming that Sills doesn’t suffer some injury while playing football in High School, or while skateboarding, or doing any other number of stupid things that KIDS do.

How are kids who haven’t graduated from high school supposed to cope with the pressures of being a national sports star before they have even taken their SATs?!

Unfortunately, it appears that my distaste for the circus of college recruiting is not shared by all (although our good friend ‘Mr. Doots’ is on my side, accurately referring to the idea of scouting 13 and 14-year olds “Creepy”). Sports Geek wins this debate for pointing out that so much attention is heaped onto the college recruiting process because so many people out there care very deeply about it. Simply put, this obsession with recruiting is not a product of media overhype. Instead, it is a product of the media feeding the needs of those so-called “diehard fans”.

Let’s face it, as much as I may complain about the role the media can play as a hype-machine, there is clearly a market for it in this case. It is a simple law of supply and demand. The media wouldn’t focus so heavily on recruiting if people out there didn’t care about it (which is why you never see the professional Jai Alai draft covered on ESPN, I suppose).

Loyal Homer is absolutely correct in pointing out that there is no guarantee that a Five Star recruit will amount to anything in college. That problem, though, is secondary to the real issue. Nobody denies the fact that these decisions are based purely on projections and potential. However, speculation is a very powerful moving force. From Wall Street to the iPad, potential drives a great deal of our life today.

The fact is that head coaches in college football are expected to do two things – win on the field, and build a successful program. The first step to building a successful program is finding the most talented kids and getting them into your school. Although the process of recruiting is purely speculative, it serves as a standard by which all coaches are held at least partially accountable.

Fans and boosters expect strong recruiting from their coaches. It is for that reason that such a big deal is made about recruiting. The media does not place too much stock in recruiting, they are simply enabling an addiction suffered by many across the nation, called ‘collegefootballaholism’.

I may not agree with the excessive, almost worshipful attention given to these boys who just learned how to drive a car last year, but that does not mean that the media is to blame for having overblown the process and making it out to be something that it is not. The media’s focus on the recruiting process is valuable because very large portions of the fan base, as well as the university athletic programs of the NCAA, all perceive it as being valuable. It is the information they crave, and the media is simply giving them what they want.

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The Best Decision About A Coach Debate – The Burden of Success, USC Does What It Must

January 18, 2010

Read the arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan about which football organization/program made the best decision about its head coaching position.



It was a normal feeling morning on campus in Los Angeles. The morning winter air was brisk, but temperatures would warm some later. No worries, right? Good weather, good location, good times.

Then Southern Cal head coach Pete Carroll took a call from the Seattle Seahawks organization, an organization that wished to break promises and fire its current coach, Jim Mora. All of a sudden there was an intense need to move in a different direction, and Pete Carroll was squarely in the team’s sites.

Normally Carroll would dismiss the opportunity out of hand. But, with allegations of recruiting violations and the specter of inconsistencies surrounding the tenure of Reggie Bush, Carroll felt if there ever was a time to leave the university for another position, it was now. And in a blink of an eye, overnight, Carroll was gone. Goodbye sunshine, hello rain (perhaps a metaphor for the decision?).

Coming off a poor season, USC found itself in another strange position – coachless. The situation was so dire and uncertain that recruits were taking the initiative to hold the recruiting class together. One free safety USC commit even started a group on Facebook called “Let’s keep the 2010 USC Football recruiting class together!!”

The school was in a real lurch. All of the necessary steps were taken by the university, with no stop left unpulled. Chris Peterson was called, but unwilling to budge from Boise State. Talks with Steve Mariucci never materialized into anything serious. Jack Del Rio ultimately decided to keep his home address in Jacksonville (for some reason).

The phone system within the USC athletic department probably started smoking with the volume of phone calls made and received over the few days of uncertainty that followed the sudden departure of Pete Carroll. Then USC did something that seemed impossible. A very vocal coach who was already mixing things up in the SEC and engrained at a university with a long and storied football history agreed to speak about the head coaching position at USC. Southern Cal used its leverage made a call upon history to Lane Kiffin.

No matter what fans and media think of Lane Kiffin’s character (which I happen to think is without integrity), USC acted quickly and decisively, saving both the 2010 recruiting class, the hope of the 2010 season, and, of course, the reputation of the university’s football program. Tennessee had such a publically difficult time both retaining Kiffin and attracting new coaching talent that the program no longer appears as the elite head coaching job it once did.

USC was not done, either. Kiffin, who brings his famously successful defensive coaching dad Monte with him, nearly lured UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow back to Troy. USC turned a vacancy into real, believable momentum.

The quick action to get Kiffin to campus also created an environment that star running back C.J. Gable believes he can thrive in… after nearly turning professional. Southern Cal now sits poised for a competitive season in 2010 with a coach experienced at the school and a top tier recruiting class on its way. It sounds as though not much has changed in Troy… just the name of the desk in the head football coach’s office. Credit the fast-acting athletic department in creating an environment for success regardless of suddenly difficult circumstances. No matter how we feel about Lane Kiffin and his integrity – or lack thereof – and poor treatment of Tennessee, its program and its fans, USC did what was right in the near-term for its program in the face of sudden and difficult events.

It is obvious that USC’s goals were short term preservation in order to keep the university moving forward. Who knows what the long term plans are for USC… or Lane Kiffin. Kiffin may simply be a short term fix while USC quietly seeks out a more stable long-term coach. Or perhaps Kiffin proves he is a short term fix and long term solution – he will have the chance to prove it. Regardless of what USC’s long term plans are, or the overall direction of the major college football coaching landscape (and, yes, I do agree with Jay Paterno), the athletic department did an excellent job at holding the football program together in the near term with the aggressiveness that was necessary.

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The Unsigned On The Hot Stove Debate – A Proven MLB Slugger Is Still Available

January 13, 2010

Read the arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek about which still unsigned player is the best remaining on the hot stove in major league baseball.



It has been a heavy sports news week so far, with Mark McGwire’s admission that he took steroids, Pete Carroll leaving USC, and then quickly being replaced by Lane Kiffin. Obviously, baseball is taking a back seat right now, as it usually does in January. However, The Sports Debates is going to take a look at what’s left of the free agency list. A quick look over the list leads me to believe that Jermaine Dye is the best player left on the market.

Jermaine Dye is a proven MLB slugger. His career statistics are solid, with 325 home runs. He has five consecutive seasons with 25 or more home runs. Last season was somewhat of a down one for him, as he had an awful second half (.179 average with six home runs), but he still finished hitting .251 with 27 home runs. He is, perhaps, just passed his prime, as he will be 36 years old on opening day. But that does not mean he is not a key addition to several teams out there.

Three teams appear to be a good fit for Dye, and all for different reasons. Those teams are the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, and the San Francisco Giants.

Dye’s price is quickly dropping as the Spring training draws nearer (not that finances even come into the equation with the Yankees). The Yankees, despite the acquisition of Curtis Granderson, still could use another outfielder with the likely departure of Johnny Damon. Some may say Dye is awful in the outfield, but to answer that, I simply ask, “How good of an outfielder was Damon?” Dye’s bat would likely continue to have some pop in hitter friendly Yankee Stadium. Of course, he could always be a designated hitter, too.

Some of you may remember that Dye was actually drafted by the Atlanta Braves back in 1993. Unfortunately, he came up with another young Braves outfielder named Andruw Jones, and the Braves decided to go with him. He has always been kept in high regard by the Braves. Atlanta possibly has an open spot in right field, if only for a year, since hot prospect Jason Heyward is on the way up. That would give the lineup a big bat it sorely needs, but it would be a right-handed bat. As it is, the Braves lineup is already full of right-handers.

Another destination is possibly San Francisco. Dye was born in California and the people in the Bay area are quite familiar with him, with Dye having played in Oakland from 2001-2004. The Giants obviously need some punch in the lineup. They have added Mark DeRosa, but looking at the depth chart, it appears the team still needs another bat. The interest in Dye by the Giants possibly depends on what they decide to do at first base. If they put Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval at third and not first, DeRosa likely moves to the outfield and there is possibly not a spot for Dye.

Wherever he goes, Dye will be aiming to prove that he still has something left. There’s no doubt he still has pop in his bat. It is a low risk, high reward opportunity for some lucky team, and it is a chance one team is going to be glad to take.

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The Best Game of this PRE-BCS Bowl Season Debate – Overpaying or Securing the Future?

December 14, 2009

Read the arguments from Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan.



Bowl season is quickly approaching. Can you believe it actually begins this Saturday with the New Mexico Bowl featuring Fresno State and Wyoming?

I know many are critical of the bowls. I have the same reservations, but I’m actually a big fan of the bowls. It’s fun to watch all the different matchups. After looking at the bowl schedule, I realize there are some non-BCS bowl matchups that are unappealing to the common football fan. I really don’t remember the games being like that. But, if I had to pick one non-BCS game as one that I thought would be the best game, I would have to pick the Chick-Fil-A Bowl featuring the Tennessee Volunteers and the Virginia Tech Hokies.

The SEC had six teams finish the season with a 7-5 overall record. The bowl representatives decided to take Tennessee out of that group, and I think it was a wise decision. The Volunteers made progress in Lane Kiffin’s first season as head coach. It may be hard to like the guy personally since he definitely knows how to ruffle feathers and often seems to be receiving the wrath of the SEC commissioner’s office or the NCAA for its recruiting practices. But it’s hard to question what he has done on the field as a coach. I would say most of the passionate Tennessee fan base is fairly pleased with the turnaround this season.

The big reason for the turnaround is the strong play from Monte Kiffin’s defense. Lane’s dad made his name as a defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his “Tampa 2” defense. He brought that approach with him to Knoxville and has done quite well. Quarterback Jonathan Crompton was awful at the beginning of the season, but even he showed progress throughout the season. The running back tandem of Montario Harvesty and Bryce Brown really stabilized the offense.

Virginia Tech makes its third trip to Atlanta this New Year’s Eve after suffering two of its three losses in the Peach State earlier this season, with those losses coming against Alabama and Georgia Tech. The Hokies suffered a third loss at midseason to North Carolina, but then closed the season strong with four consecutive wins. This team is built seemingly like all other Hokies’ teams are – on defense. A high standard has been set for Bud Foster’s defense and every season he seems to put a strong defense out on the field. This season, the Hokies gave up less than 16 points per game, while the offense quietly scored over 31 points a game.

SEC fans like to scream that their conference is the best. I have been one of those who have screamed that the SEC reigns high atop the college football world. Last season, a 7-5 LSU team put an absolute whipping on a 9-3 Georgia Tech team in the Chick Fil-A Bowl. It’s going to be interesting to see if another 7-5 SEC team could duplicate the success of LSU in this year’s game.

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The 2009 Best Conference in College Football Debate – The SEC Remains on Top

September 2, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s argument that the Big XII is the nation’s best conference.



As the college football season officially kicks off tomorrow when South Carolina plays North Carolina State, Sports Geek and I have decided to tackle a topic that is rather popular in certain parts of the country. With no disrespect intended towards the other four BCS conferences, let’s be real. The SEC and the Big XII are FAR and away the top two conferences in college football. All you have to do is look at the preseason Associated Press poll. There are five SEC teams in the top 15 (Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, and Georgia) to go along with three Big XII teams (Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State). It is quite obvious that coming into the season that the SEC has a slight lead over the Big XII in regards to which is the best conference.

The best way to clearly answer the question is to look at the top of the mountain and see that the Florida Gators are CLEARLY the best team in the nation. CLEARLY! Even the mighty Sports Geek cannot disagree with that assessment (just a hint of sarcasm there). Last year, on a neutral field, Oklahoma could not beat the Gators in the national championship. Oklahoma has done nothing during the offseason to convince me that if they played again, the outcome would be any different.

Another issue that separates the two conferences to me is the quality of the teams from top to bottom. It is fairly obvious that both conferences have strong teams at the top. That falls under the “No Duh” category. But, take away the top two in each conference (Florida and Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma) and look at the rest of the conference.

Ole Miss is a trendy pick to make a splash this year. They are riding a wave of buzz after defeating Florida last year and then defeating Texas Tech (yes, a Big XII team) in the Cotton Bowl. I am high on LSU this year as they look to rebound from an average 2008 campaign. While UGA may be rebuilding, they still expect to have a strong year. The other three bowl eligible teams (Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and South Carolina) will likely stay competitive. The four “bottom” teams from last year (Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Tennessee) are looking at making improvements. Arkansas should be stronger with the addition of Michigan transfer quarterback Ryan Mallett. Auburn, Tennessee, and Mississippi State are creating some buzz with their new coaches – especially Tennessee.

The Big XII is strong in the middle with Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas Tech. Where I see a difference is at the bottom. Iowa State finished 2-10 last year and Baylor and Texas A &M both finished 4-8. Those numbers say enough.

Last year, the SEC placed eight teams in bowl games compared with seven for the Big XII. I am not seeing a big drop off this year. If anything, a couple of the lower teams could be better. From the best team in the conference to the worst team in the conference, the SEC appears to be a bit stronger than the Big XII.

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