Posted: 2:01 a.m. Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
ACC Operation Basketball is less than a week away, but football is still in full swing, so I thought I’d weigh in on some current gridiron issues:
THE BCS SELECTION COMMITTEE
Pat Dye doesn’t think that Condoleezza Rice should be on the selection committee for the BCS four-team football playoffs.
“All she knows about football is what somebody told her,” Dye told WJOX radio. “Or what she read in a book or what she saw on television. To understand football, you’ve got to play with your hand in the dirt.”
Of course, Dye has been lambasted in the media for having the temerity to suggest that “a woman” doesn’t have the qualification to be on the committee. His critics point out that Steve Wieberg, who covered college football for 30 years for USA Today, and former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese – who are also on the committee – never played college football.
They are not on the committee, but neither did Duke football coach David Cutcliffe or Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson. More than a dozen current NFL coaches didn’t play college football.
The backlash against Dye is something to behold. And, to be honest, his “hand in the dirt” image is pretty stupid.
But, as much as it pains me to admit it, I think Dye is absolutely right about Condeleezza Rice. She is NOT qualified to sit on the panel that will select the four contenders that will compete for the national title in 2014 and beyond.
I hate that my opinion aligns me with Dye, one of the more sleazy college coaches of my generation. I was working at the Durham Sun in 1979 when Duke made the decision not to renew its contract with East Carolina after the contract expired in 1981.
People wondered why the series was cancelled – the annual visit by the Pirates generated big crowds (at a time when Duke was desperate for athletic revenue) and produced some good games on the field – the two teams were 1-1 at the time of the decision (and would be 2-2 after the first four years of the contract). But Duke officials became aware of some shady practices in Greenville – practices that started under Dye and would continue under Ed Emory. My best contact in the football office at that time used a golf metaphor to explain the cancellation: “When you’re playing golf with a guy who’s cheating, what do you do? You stop playing him.”
[Note: Dave Hart would later clean things up in Greenville and Duke would resume the series.]
I don’t know about Dye’s one year at Wyoming, but his tenure at Auburn was rife with rumors of illicit payments to players. The Auburn program at that time was run by a Montgomery banker named Bobby Lowder, who personally hired and fired coaches. Nothing was proved about Auburn’s practices until Eric Ramsey, an Auburn player who was reportedly upset that the school’s athletic dorm was still segregated by race in the mid-1990s, taped conversations with boosters to prove his allegations of illegal payments. He claimed that Dye oversaw the payments and personally helped him secure a $9,000 loan.
In the end, Dye was never directly linked by the NCAA to the scandal, but Auburn wound up on probation and Lowder booted Dye out the door.
So you can see why I hate to agree with Dye on the Rice issue.
But I do think it is ridiculous that a person with no football background should be on the committee. It’s not about Rice being a woman. It’s about Rice being nothing more than a fan.
Look, I understand that Condi Rice grew up in a football family. I’ll grant you that she passionately follows her Stanford Dancing Trees and THINKS she knows a lot about college football.
That’s the trouble, fans always think they know more than they do.
You only have to listen to a radio call-in show or read an internet message board to understand the gap between a fan’s certainty and reality. Even the Duke Basketball Report, which I think is an unusually reasonable and well-moderated internet message board – but to read it consistently is to wonder how many games Mike Krzyzewski might have won if he’d just listen to the wise fans and go deeper in his bench and have his teams shoot less 3s or would schedule more road games. There are times when I read the board and can’t understand how the bum has kept his job for 34 years.
I still remember the concerned Iron Dukes who tried to run him out of town as late as mid-season 1984. In fact, I’m old enough to remember when UNC fans hung Dean Smith in effigy – not once, but twice in the 1965 season.
I’m sure they thought they knew basketball – just as Rice thinks she knows football.
I love the passion of fans … but you don’t want to them running your program or sport.
One of the big problems with the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee – aka the Selection Committee – is that it contains too many administrators and not enough basketball people. Last year’s committee contained more members with baseball backgrounds than actual basketball experience – ex-Harvard coach Peter Robey was the only real basketball voice on the committee. Two former head baseball coaches and one former basketball coach? Maybe that’s how they so badly botched the bracketing of the 2013 tournament … there was no one there to tell them they were drastically overrating West Coast teams or that it was absurd to match the tournament’s top No. 1 seed and the top-ranked No. 2 seed in the same region.
The proposed BCS football selection committee has its share of administrators too – Tranghese, Lt. General Michael Gould (the former superintendent of the Air Force Academy), former NCAA vice president Tom Jernstedt, Clemson AD Dan Radakovich (who made his name in promotions) … but it’s got some football people too – Archie Manning, Oliver Luck, Jeff Long (who was an assistant coach at Duke among other places, including a long association with Bo Schembechler).
Where does Condi Rice fit in that picture?
I won’t get into politics and my low opinion of Rice based on her performance as George Bush’s National Security Advisor in the leadup to 9/11 and the Iraq War. That has nothing to do with it. I’d complain just as loudly if Hillary Clinton was proposed for the committee.
I’d rather see the selections made by football people and not by administrators and definitely not by politicians – of any gender.
DEFENDING THE NCAAA
Let me begin by saying that I have little respect for the NCAA – an organization formed more than a century ago to reform college sports. The NCAA as it exists today is an inept, inconsistent and often unfair bureaucracy.
But it does have a place in college sports and it’s not nearly so awful as its critics try to pretend. It’s become fashionable to bash the NCAA based on incomplete and often erroneous information. Even worse, the blatant cheaters in college athletics have used the NCAA’s flaws – and its bad image – to justify their violations.
Let me offer a fairly recent example.
A couple of weeks ago, Arian Foster – now a star running back for the Houston Texans in the NFL – told ESPN that he took illegal benefits at Tennessee in 2008. But he doesn’t apologize for breaking the rules … he puts the blame on the NCAA.
“My senior year, I was getting money on the side,” Foster said. “I really didn’t have any money. I had to either pay the rent or buy some food. I remember the feeling of like, ‘Man, be careful.’ But there’s nothing wrong with it. And you’re not going to convince me that there is something wrong with it.”
That is, to put it mildly, absolute male bovine excrement.
The NCAA scholarship may come up short in some areas, but it does provide full room and board for athletes. There are training tables and there are direct cash payments for times when the training tables are not operating. The scholarship provides for dorm rooms and for the cash equivalency for those who would rather live off-campus. There is also an emergency fund available for students in real need.
Of course, normal meals and housing may not be enough for some prima donnas. The NCAA room allowance won’t pay for a penthouse apartment … and the meal allowances may not fund a daily filet mignon and lobster dinner.
But there may be another factor at work here.
I was talking to Duke senior Sydney Sarmiento about Foster’s comments and he confirmed that the scholarship he gets covers all essentials. He lives off-campus and receives a housing allowance to pay for his apartment.
“They give kids a lot of money,” he said. “And sometimes those kids have never had any money and they don’t know how to handle it. If you get $6,000 for a semester, do you understand that you’ve got to budget it to last all semester?”
That comment reminds me of a story I was told about a Georgia Tech basketball player from more than a decade ago. The team had flown to Puerto Rico for an early season tournament and players were given their meal money for the entire trip. But on the first morning there, one of the players approached the trainer (who usually handles such things) and asked for more meal money, claiming to be broke and hungry.
The trainer asked him how he had plowed through four days of meal money in one night and the player answered calmly, “Whores, man, whores.”
I guess that’s the NCAA’s fault too.
CLOWNEY PROTECTING HIMSELF?
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has been the focus of an intense debate lately over this refusal to play in a game despite clearance from the school’s medical staff. Steve Spurrier helped ignite the controversy by his contrasting comments – his postgame words made it sound like Clowney was malingering, but his midweek comments seemed to suggest that Clowney had a right to be a malingerer.
Critics have wondered if Clowney is trying to protect himself and his projected No. 1 draft status from injury. And defenders point out that he has a right to protect his future (and his future earnings) instead of risking everything to help South Carolina beat Kentucky (the game he skipped).
It is interesting that Clowney was on the sidelines a year ago when teammate Marcus Lattimore suffered a horrific knee injury against Tennessee and went from a projected first-round draft pick to the 131st pick in the draft (and one who has still not played in the NFL).
On the other hand, could Clowney be hurting his draft status by demonstrating (in the words of one critic) “that he doesn’t have sufficient love of football”? Or that he’s a selfish kid who is more concerned with his own welfare than the fate of his team — it can be argued that he SHOULD be more concerned with his own welfare, but if you take that position, you have to acknowledge that any pro team lined up to draft him has the right to be leery of a selfish player who has so little regard for team welfare.
It’s an interesting debate – both ways.
My position is simple. It’s the same opinion I’ve had for years about players who are contemplating entering the NBA draft early or maybe transferring to find more playing time or a bigger role:
I believe that the off-season is the time for a player to be selfish and to look after his own welfare. I believe that in-season, a player’s commitment is to the team.
That means that if a player objects to how a coach is using him or wants to showcase his skills to the pros, he should shut up and follow the coach’s orders and play for the team. The minute the season is over, the player should look after his own interests – and if that means bailing on the coach or the team, then so be it … a kid has to think about his future,
I have absolutely no respect for Larry Drew, quitting on UNC’s basketball team in midseason. I have nothing but good wishes for Elliot Williams or the Wear twins who left Triangle schools in the off-season looking for better opportunities to shine. And I’ve never ripped a kid for going pro early – I might have questioned the wisdom of the choice, but not the player’s character or his right to make that choice.
In Clowney’s case, I don’t know if he’s protecting himself to preserve his status as a pro prospect, but if that is the case, then Clowney should have followed the advice of several commentators who suggested that he quit the South Carolina football team last spring. He wouldn’t have been eligible for the draft, but he could have spent the year working out and staying healthy and would almost certainly be the first pick in the 2014 Draft.
But once he elected to return to the Gamecocks, I believe it was he was committed to return and play all out in whatever role his coaches asked of him.
However – and I hope my reasoning is not convoluted here – I’m not sure the critics are right about Clowney sitting out to protect his draft status. I don’t know the inside details, but I do know that injuries are tricky – and that even a player cleared to play might not be ready to play.
We saw that late last season with Derrick Rose, the former NBA MVP, who was cleared to play for the Bulls, but elected to sit out the entire season. Rose caught a lot of heat from critics who thought he was malingering.
I don’t know. But I’ve long been haunted by the story of Roger Maris and what happened to him.
In May of 1965, Maris was hit by a pitch in his right hand. The team had him x-rayed in Washington, again in Minnesota and for a third time back in New York. The team told Maris – and the media — that the x-rays showed nothing. They urged him to play. Although he missed quite a few games, Maris, labeled a malingerer, continued to take fielding and batting practice. It wasn’t until September that Maris visited an independent doctor and found out that he had in fact broken a bone in his hand. He played with bone chips and suffered a detached ligament.
The untreated injury essentially robbed Maris of all his power. He never again could grip the bat properly with his right hand. He hit just eight home runs in 46 games in 1965 and 13 in 119 games a year later. Now, it’s impossible to tell whether or not prompt treatment would have fixed the problem. But the point is that Maris didn’t get that treatment. Instead, with the Yankees struggling, he was lied to and was pressured to play.
Adding to the Yankees mistake, the team’s disgraceful treatment of him soured Maris on the game and the franchise. He retired after the 1966 season, but was lured back into the game by Augie Busch, the owner of the Cardinals. Maris, with no strength left in his right hand, no longer had any power, but he remained an effective all-around player. He platooned with a young Bobby Tolan in rightfield for Cardinal teams that won the world championship in 1967 and the NL pennant in 1968.
Now, I’m not saying that the South Carolina medical staff is misleading Clowney (or that the Bulls are misleading Rose), but I do believe that a player is the ultimate judge of his own health – in and out of season.
Of course, this whole story may blow away. Reportedly, Clowney is back on track to play this weekend against Arkansas. If he returns to the lineup and plays hard, the debate will disappear.
PS One more point – the much reviled NCAA allows schools to provided insurance for players who have pro potential and are at risk to losing it from injury. It’s not the multi-millions that Clowney could earn in the NFL, but he can legally obtain protection that would pay him quite a bit of money.
THE ACC BOWL PICTURE
The ACC has three 5-0 football teams for the first time in conference history. Baring a monumental upset Saturday when Boston College visits 5-0 Clemson, the league will see the most important ACC football game in more than a decade when Florida State (currently 5-0 and ranked No. 6 in the nation) visits Clemson (currently 5-0 and No. 3 in the nation) for a nationally televised game next Saturday night (Oct. 19).
The winner of that game will be firmly in the national championship picture. And Miami – currently 5-0 and No. 13 in the nation (and vastly under-ranked after victories over Florida and Georgia Tech) is still waiting in the wings. The ‘Canes will play FSU in Tallahassee on Nov. 2, but won’t get a shot at Clemson until (possibly) the ACC title game.
The point is that the ACC is finally playing itself into the national picture. This is the best position the ACC has been in since 2005, when both Miami and Virginia Tech were ranked in the top 5 into November – that year Virginia Tech lost to FSU in the ACC title game and ended up in the Gator Bowl; Miami lost its regular season finale to Georgia Tech and ended up in the Peach Bowl.
The ACC hasn’t appeared in the national title game since 2000 (specifically, the Jan. 1, 2001 Orange Bowl), when FSU lost to Oklahoma (unless you count Miami’s title in 2001 and title-game loss to Ohio State in 2002 before the ‘Canes joined the league).
There’s no guarantee that it will happen this season. If Alabama and Oregon win out, they will almost certainly meet in the BCS title game.
But it’s significant that both Clemson and FSU rank ahead of Ohio State in almost every early BCS projection … and the Buckeyes have almost no chance to jump in the rankings because the Big Ten is so weak. It’s possible that Stanford could vault an undefeated ACC champion if the Cards beat Oregon and sweep the tough Pac 10, but neither Ohio State nor Louisville are in position to do it.
DUKE’S BOWL CHANCES
Heading into Saturday’s game with Navy, Duke is still in reasonable position to earn a bowl trip for the second straight year – something that’s never before happened in school history. The bar is the same as it was last season – six wins.
A friend of mine was wondering if six wins would guarantee Duke a bid. He pointed out that last season when 6-6 Duke was invited to the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, just six ACC teams qualified for bowls. Actually, eight teams met the NCAA standard, but Miami and North Carolina were blocked from competing in a bowl game (UNC because of NCAA sanctions; Miami because of self-imposed sanctions).
But even if the ‘Canes and Tar Heels had been in the mix a year ago, Duke would have still gone bowling – although the destination might not have been as appealing as Charlotte.
The ACC currently has eight solid bowl tie-ins and one more conditional bowl spot. If two ACC teams qualify for the BCS (a distinct possibility), then that’s nine bowl spots and a possible 10th. An ACC official told me earlier this week that he’s more concerned with filling all the ACC slots than having a qualified team un-invited.
The last time an ACC school met the NCAA standard for a bowl and didn’t get invited (other than teams penalized like UNC and Miami last season; Miami in 2011 and Clemson in 2004) was in 2001, when a 6-5 Wake Forest team stayed home.
If Duke gets to six wins – certainly not a given – the Blue Devils will almost certainly go bowling. Of course, they can remove the “almost certainly” from that sentence very easily – just win 7-8-9-10 games.
What are the chances of winning at least three more games?
The last two weeks have shown the volatility of college football and the danger of making such projections.
A week ago, any rational observer would have given Duke a much better chance to get a win at Wake Forest than at home against North Carolina State. Then the Deacons knocked off the Wolfpack in Winston-Salem – so which is the most vulnerable upcoming Duke opponent now? North Carolina looked like a formidable opponent coming into the season … but that was before the Tar Heels were shredded at home by East Carolina and opened 1-4.
The point is that things change even over the course of the season.
Several weeks ago, when both Wake and Virginia Tech were struggling, I told a friend that I wished we were playing both teams in September. I knew the Jim Grobe and Frank Beamer are two of the best coaches in the ACC and would eventually get their teams straightened out.
Amazing – but not surprising – to see a Deacon team that lost at home to a terrible Louisiana-Monroe team and get killed 56-7 at Clemson, bounce back to defeat N.C. State. And that Virginia Tech team that had to go overtime at home to beat Marshalln was replaced by one good enough to manhandle Georgia Tech and North Carolina on successive weekends.
And Duke can – and will – change (hopefully for the better) over the next two months. So projecting a Duke-Wake game in November or a Duke-UNC matchup on the last weekend of the season is an exercise in futility.
So no real projections, except to say that of Duke’s final seven games, two appear to be very, very difficult – at Virginia Tech on Oct. 26 and home against Miami on Nov. 16.
None of the other five opponents is scary, although there’s not a sure win in the bunch. Duke’s task is to win at least three of the five games against Navy this Saturday, at Virginia the next week, at home against N.C. State on Nov. 9 and at Wake and at UNC on the last two weeks of the season.
It’s certainly do-able – heck, five more wins and 8-4 regular season is not a ridiculous goal.
If the Blue Devils do beat Navy this week, then travel to Charlottesville and win on the day after Countdown to Craziness, we may to pause to countdown and see how far this Duke football team can go.