The Brian Kelly Coaching Decision Debate – Know Who Butters Your Bread!

December 18, 2009

Read the debate intro and arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about whether or not Brian Kelly should have coached the University of Cincinnati’s BCS bowl game.

It is not often that someone can win a debate by answering the debate question with another question. That is exactly what happened, and this time it worked in Babe Ruthless’ favor! Babe Ruthless posed the rhetorical question – “Would I drop everything at my current position if I was offered the job of my dreams?” My honest answer to that question is, “Yes, I would.” It is important to finish what you start… MOST of the time. Cincinnati’s former head coach, Brian Kelly, is not building a model airplane or remodeling his bathroom, though. Coaching Cincinnati was Brian Kelly’s job (note the past tense of that phrase). Kelly’s CURRENT job is to be the head coach of Notre Dame. As much as he may have been committed to seeing Cincinnati succeed (and I am sure he will be rooting for Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl), his priority became the success of Notre Dame the moment that he signed his contract.

This is not an attempt to deny Bearcats players and fans their frustration, anger, or disappointment in Kelly’s decision. As Loyal Homer points out, it is a bitter pill to swallow when you have expected support from someone, then at the moment you perceive the greatest need for that person, they are either unable or unwilling to provide the promised support. The fact that they do not like his decision, though, does not mean it is the incorrect one.

Consider the implications had Kelly made the decision to coach Cincinnati in its bowl game. He would have been splitting his time between two universities, each with very different needs. As a result, he would be unable to fully commit himself to either. Notre Dame needs Kelly to focus on building a staff and recruiting to the university. How can he be expected to do that if he is studying film in Cincinnati? Likewise, how can he truly focus on preparing to take on the Florida Gators if his true employer is demanding his time elsewhere? It would be unfair to BOTH institutions if he were to try and split his focus between the two.

Kelly’s decision, although unpopular in the Queen’s City, was the right one to make. Notre Dame is his new home, and his new employer. Having contractually agreed to lead Notre Dame’s football program, he owes them 100% of his time and energy TODAY, not in one month after he coaches more for a school he no longer formally works for.

If it is any consolation to the Bearcat faithful, Rich Rodriguez’s absence on the sideline when the West Virginia Mountaineers took on Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl did not seem to have an impact at all, and Rodriguez has failed to even sniff a HOPE of playing in the BCS since leaving Morgantown. As fate has already seen fit to provide a little karmic payback for what Rodriguez did at West Virginia, perhaps the monkey’s paw has something similar in store for Kelly!

Cincinnati has been dealt a difficult blow, but the worst thing the team could do now is to wallow in self-pity. Instead, use the situation as motivation as they prepare for the Gators on January 1st!

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The Brian Kelly Timing Debate – It is a Question of Commitments

December 17, 2009

Read the arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer about whether or not Brian Kelly should have coached the University of Cincinnati’s BCS bowl game.

It was viewed as the height of treachery.

On December 17th, 2007, despite repeated denials that he was not leaving West Virginia, Rich Rodriguez announced that he would be the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. While there were many factors within Rodriguez’s exit from Morgantown that led to his vilification, one of the biggest reasons for the ill-will was his seeming abandonment of the Mountaineers as they prepared for a BCS Bowl Game. Instead of sticking around and coaching West Virginia in the biggest game of the season, he took the Michigan job and left the Mountaineers without a coach when they arguably needed him most.

In 2009, the University of Cincinnati Bearcats played to a perfect 12-0 record, won a second Big East Conference championship, and are scheduled to take on the Florida Gators in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Like the Mountaineers of two years ago, though, the Bearcats will be without the head coach that led them to a perfect season. Brian Kelly, who just wrapped up his third season as the head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats, accepted the position of head coach at Notre Dame and will not be on the sidelines for the Bearcats as they play to close out their season in perfect fashion.

Understandably, many of the Bearcats players are upset by Kelly’s decision. Quotes like “I’m fairly disgusted with the situation” and “He went for the money” and “It’s like someone turned their back on us” have been heard throughout Cincinnati’s locker room. After having successfully navigated through the entire college football season, it makes sense that the players would feel betrayed, used, or abandoned because their coach has left them for greener pastures. For Kelly’s part, he has defended his decision by stating that his job is now to build a successful program at Notre Dame. While he loved his time spent in Cincinnati, he had to shift his focus to his new job, which meant that he could not coach Cincinnati in January.

Thus, today’s topic – Should Brian Kelly have stayed to coach the University of Cincinnati in the BCS bowl game?

This is a very complicated question. Brian Kelly was forced to choose between two conflicting loyalties. On one hand, Kelly had spent the past three years building a program in Cincinnati, and those years of hard work finally paid off. After building strong relationships with his players and implementing his plan on the field, Kelly had elevated the Bearcat program as close to the pinnacle of success as it has ever been. It only seems right that Kelly should stick around and finish what he started.

On the other hand, he is now a hired employee of Notre Dame. As such, he is paid by the university to make the football program successful.

In debating this issue, Babe Ruthless will argue that Kelly made the right decision by deciding not to coach Cincinnati, while Loyal Homer will argue that Kelly should have stuck around to finish what he started before moving on to his new responsibilities in South Bend.

Burned bridges may be a Bear(cat) to deal with, but does the luck of the (Fighting) Irish make it all worthwhile?

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The Brian Kelly Timing Debate – Just A Little Bit of History Repetition

December 17, 2009

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Currently there seems to be a whole lot criticism of Brian Kelly for his decision to leave the head coaching job at Cincinnati for the head coaching job at Notre Dame before the big Sugar Bowl showdown with Florida. Sorry Cincinnati fans, but you are going to have to face the facts – Brian Kelly is gone and he had the right to leave.

Cincinnati needs to man up about the whole situation because I am starting to get a whole “woe is me” vibe from the Bearcats. That has no place in college football. (Crying?! There’s no crying in football!) In fact, Cincinnati fans should knock off the whole “he left us before our big game” act or else they are going to come off as hypocrites. Though it may seem like an eternity ago to Bearcat fans still riding the high of Cincinnati’s Kelly era success, just three years ago Kelly did the exact same thing to Central Michigan University, but I do not remember too many voices in Cincinnati questioning Kelly’s ethics then. What’s that Bearcats? Coach got your tongue? (Get it? They are cats… the Bearcats… whatever, you get my point.)

I am sure that many at Central Michigan felt equally “betrayed” and “abandoned” – if not more so – when the Chippewas lost the coach that brought the programs its first winning season in seven years for a bigger, flashier coaching gig. I am sure that many Chippewa players felt stabbed in the back when their beloved coach left them before their big game – the Motor City Bowl. But I do not remember too much sympathy coming from the Cincinnati fans. In my opinion, Kelly’s detractors can either admit that since Kelly left Central Michigan before their big game it is only fair that he leaves under similar circumstances or they can form a support group for hypocritical crybaby college football fans. I think they should choose the first option, though I find the latter far more interesting.

Kelly brought the Cincinnati program to the top of the Big East Conference. He brought them an undefeated regular season in 2009, and somehow he is the villain for using this success to get a promotion. All of Coach Kelly’s critics need to put themselves in his shoes. Sure, he might have made promises to the team that will now go unfulfilled. Yes, he is leaving them just before one of the biggest games in the school’s history, but would you really do anything differently? If you think Coach Kelly is selling out, ask yourself this question and really, really try to be honest about it: “Would I drop everything at my current position if I was offered the job of my dreams?”

Kelly has earned a promotion and, like anyone else, he has the right to accept it. If a Double A pitcher gets the call to move up to the majors during the minor league postseason, should he turn it down so he can stay with his teammates? No, that would be ludicrous because a shot at the big leagues is his ultimate goal. Similarly, Kelly’s ultimate goal should be to coach winning football at the highest level of competition possible. That is exactly what the job at Notre Dame offers him.

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The Terrelle Pryor Growth Debate – Is Pryor Used Poorly or Just Not That Good?

October 29, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Bleacher Fan’s argument about whether Ohio State is using Terrelle Pryor poorly or Pryor simply is not playing up to potential.

College football recruiting has become a popular topic in the sports world. It is almost a sport within a sport. National Signing Day is an exciting day for many fans that gives them hope for the future. For those who are at the top of the college football landscape NSD offers an opportunity to reload. For those programs that are not on top it is a chance to rebuild. There is always general excitement for fans no matter which situation a program falls into.

Flash back to March 19, 2008, over a month past the official 2008 signing day for college football. Highly touted high school quarterback Terrelle Pryor had yet to announce where he would attend college and play football in the fall of 2008. But, on that day in March Pryor announced his intention to attend Ohio State, despite the fact that his skills, on the surface, seemed like a better fit for Rich Rodriguez’s offense at Michigan. Stop the presses!! Now Ohio State is a national title contender for the foreseeable future, right?

As always, there is more to the story.

Pryor began his freshman year last season with much fanfare. He received increased playing time in a blowout loss to Southern Cal, and finally was named the starter in the Buckeyes fourth game of the season against Troy. In the Troy game he threw for four touchdowns. Throughout the season, he steadily improved, and he even ran for 110 yards against Illinois. The Buckeyes finished the season with a 10-3 record, which included a close 24-21 loss to Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. Pryor had a decent year. He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, an award that preceded being named the Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year for the 2009 season.

Things have not gone as smoothly this season, though. He has not necessarily taken the next step that some expected, and fans and others associated with the program are frustrated. The Buckeyes are currently 6-2, including an ugly loss to Purdue a couple of weeks ago. Pryor already has nine interceptions on the season. Jim Tressel is feeling a little heat for the first time in Columbus. Sports Geek expressed concerns about Pryor in a debate right after the Southern Cal game last month. Pryor’s high school coach, Ray Reitz, voiced his displeasure recently with how Pryor was being used in the Ohio State offense. Some have called for Pryor to be moved to wide receiver to better utilize his athleticism.

What is the answer? What is the main cause for Terrelle Pryor’s struggles? Cue The Sports Debates!

I am asking two Ohio citizens and passionate Buckeye fans to debate this topic. Both Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan have followed Pryor’s career closely.

Today’s question: Is Terrelle Pryor struggling because Ohio State is using him in the wrong way or are his struggles self-inflicted?

Sports Geek will argue that Pryor’s struggles are due to his underperformance and that he has no one to blame but himself. Bleacher Fan will argue that the improper utilization of Pryor’s talents has led to his struggles.

As always, we welcome your feedback. In the meantime, the floor is yours debaters!

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The Best High School Football State Debate – Part 1: Georgia versus Ohio

September 3, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that the state of Ohio has better high school football and Loyal Homer’s argument that Georgia has better high school football.

I am relishing this debate topic. Some of my greatest sports writing and reporting memories come from covering high school football. Two quick examples – one from each state (of course!).

I was in Warner Robins, Georgia sitting in the office of former Houston County High School head football coach Doug Johnson. My fiancé (at the time… now wife) was visiting from Ohio. This is important to the story, because she stands at 4-feet 11-inches. Imagine her gasp when a trim, 6-foot 5-inch defensive end, Kyle Moore, walked in to the office for our interview. He was only a sophomore at the time, but already scouts from around the country were taking an interest. He had power, and speed, and quickness, and enough toughness to get noticed by Pete Carroll, head football coach at Southern Cal. The highlight reel Carroll saw after Moore’s sophomore season was over likely contained one of the more memorable moments of Moore’s career. Against rival Northside (where now New York Jets wide receiver Chansi Stuckey was a recent graduate), Moore ran down quarterback Ferlando Williams for a 12-yard sack as Northside was driving to win the game, but needed to convert on an important third down. Moore ran down and tackled Williams from behind. Did I mention Williams had a 4.5 40-yard dash time? It was amazing, and all 12,000 people in attendance, no matter what color shirt they wore, oooed and ahhhed and the remarkable, clutch play.

At a football game in Barberton, Ohio I witnessed an even more dominant performance by an incredible high school football player. Barberton, for those of you who may not know, is also the hometown of legendary Michigan Wolverines football coach Bo Schembechler. It was also the home of the late, legendary decorated Olympian and former professional football player Jeep Davis. While Barberton has several legendary sports figures to boast about, it received a visit from one in the making on one brisk early Fall evening in 2005. Future Syracuse running back, Delone Carter, was in the stadium with his team from Copley, just down the road. What transpired after kickoff was truly remarkable. Carter proceeded to rip off one long run after another – including open field spins and jukes – on the way to a blowout victory. The mixture of power and speed was enough to get fans from both sides of the field to acknowledge.

High school football is compelling for many reasons. The talent is as raw as the emotion. No other sport – at any level of competition – lives up to the constant coaching reminder “leave it all on the field” more than high school football. I have been fortunate enough to experience high school football in both states. Experience is an important word, here. It is more than just watching a game. It is talking to the players and coaches and fans. It is smelling the grass. It is the tinny echo of an outdated PA system announcing a tackle. It is hearing the roar of 12,000 plus and a standing room only crowd to watch a high school football game.

This debate is important. It is important to highlight the greatness of high school football, that traditional Friday night pastime in towns big and small all over the country. It is also important to educate. Some high school football fans and players can have a difficult time seeing their teams, conferences, regions, and state’s football objectively. I totally get that… it is the right of a fan. But, hopefully, this debate will bring some additional perspective. I am proud to present the debate question:

Which state has better high school football: Georgia or Ohio?

Bleacher Fan, an Ohio native, will argue that Ohio has the best high school football. Loyal Homer, a Georgia native, will argue that Georgia has the best high school football.

Make sure your opinion is heard, too. Add your comments to each article in an attempt to influence my decision.

Having lived and worked in both states, I can honestly say I am objective about this debate. I look forward to reading the arguments.

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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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