31 May 2008

Tebow to Sue "The Rivalry, Esq."

Sixteen minutes after an allegedly false news report leaked on an amateur college football webblog (see below), attorneys for the University of Florida at Gainesville, Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, and the Florida chapter of Focus on the Family threatened to take action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida against the publishers of "The Rivalry, Esq."

Counsel for Tebow maintained that the "groundless" criticism of the star's private sex life, "implied to be factual, and to represent a negative image" constituted libel -- the common law tort of defamation, warranting injunctive and declarative relief.

"What these kids don't realize is that there are real consequences for the creative exposition of their online super-egos," Attorney H.E. Pennypacker, a graduate of the University of Florida Levin College of Law said in a prepared statement. "These aren't public figures acting in a public capacity -- they're real student athletes with real feelings."

Asked to comment, co-author of "The Rivalry, Esq." Jonathan Franz said at first he wasn't concerned.

But then he realized that his first year Constitutional Law course didn't actually cover defamation. "Yeah, I sort of overlooked that detail -- we spent our whole semester on the Commerce Clause. If this were about whether Congress can regulate the local production of wheat, for example, I'd totally kick ass. Still, after checking it out on Wikipedia I'm confident they don't have a claim."

"What these kids don't realize is that there are real consequences for the creative exposition of their online super-egos...These aren't public figures acting in a public capacity --they're real student athletes with real feelings."

Franz's partner Filler was unavailable for comment -- a representative in Detroit speaking on the condition of anonymity indicated that he plans to retain Sean McGinley, a Charleston attorney famous for his role defending Rich Rodriguez in his current contract dispute with West Virginia University.

Franz, on the other hand, suggested he might look to former Attorney General of Ohio Marc Dann, who recently resigned from office amidst allegations of misconduct, immorality, and pending resolutions of impeachment.

Asked if he really thinks Dann would be willing to help, Franz replied, "I heard the guy is helping his wife sell Tupperware in Youngstown. At least this (case) might involve deposing a number of co-eds from the sunshine state. That's good clean fun."

While adamant he will not return to the practice of law, Marc Dann did indicate that he sides with his fellow Buckeye. "If the guy (Tebow) is really so sensitive about his body, he shouldn't be running around in front of millions of viewers in nylon dazzle pants. He's practically advertising the goods."

Franz said that despite the pending action The Rivalry, Esq. will continue to feature new content as planned. "The 'rivalry' is bigger than any one person. It's about a community of ideas and we're not ready to give up on that just yet."

26 May 2008

The Ann Arbor Spread

Will the Spread Offense, or whatever modification of the offense that Rich Rod chooses to run, succeed in the Big Ten? Will the 2008 version of the Rich Rod Spread fail miserably and make Michigan fans yearn for the Lloyd Carr I-Form? Hmm…

Rich Rodriguez’s move from West Virginia to the University of Michigan has made the question “How will the WVU Spread Offense translate to the UM football program” the hottest question of the 2008 college football season. So let’s break down this hot question by first looking at the theories behind the Spread Offense, then looking at the WVU spread, and then finally looking at what Michigan’s offensive situation in 2008 dictates. Maybe then some light can be shed on what the mysterious Ann Arbor Spread will look like.

The basic theories behind the spread offense involve:

Isolating one part of the field and taking defenders out of the play
Misdirecting the defense
Many different players touching the ball
Offensive sets that threaten run or pass on every play

The West Virginia team that Rodriquez led to so much success did all these things and had perfect personnel to execute. Super quick Pat White would fake the dive to Owen Schmitt (an NFL fullback), sprint out wide and either (1) run himself, (2) flip the ball to super quick Steve Slaton or Noah Devine, or (3) drop back two steps and throw. Everyone who played against Rich Rod’s Mountaineers knew the running attack was coming, and most teams couldn’t stop it anyways. The success he had was even more impressive because the majority of college offenses have turned into passing offenses.

Rodriguez has inherited a Michigan team which has been running a very conservative combination I-Form / Pro Form Offense and has wasted no time changing the atmosphere on the offensive side of the ball. Two stars, Mario Manningham and Ryan Mallett, both left because they felt they wouldn’t be featured in the Rich Rod Spread – Rodriguez shrugged his shoulders and moved on. Returning veteran offensive lineman Justin Boren left because he didn’t like running to the line of scrimmage (as many teams running the spread do) and he didn’t like the higher intensity of the coaching staff. And in the Spring Game, to no ones surprise, the Wolverines showed option (albeit with many fumbles) and showed the ability to pass off the option also.

"The 2007 Wolverines gave us a historic loss to Appalachian State and a loss to Ohio State so one-sided that Jim Tressel ran the ball Woody Hayes-style the whole 2nd half because he realized Michigan had no offensive ingenuity and/or skill to overcome a 14-0 lead."

The Wolverines are a mystery right now – no one knows how Rodriguez will tweak the offense. Will he run 75% of the time, like he did at West Virginia? Will a Michigan quarterback emerge who can balance athleticism with good decision making, as a spread quarterback must do? Will the combination of a new offense and players unfamiliar with the spread be too much for the offense to succeed?

My answer…

Who cares? The 2007 Wolverines gave us a historic loss to Appalachian State and a loss to Ohio State so one-sided that Jim Tressel ran the ball Woody Hayes-style the whole 2nd half because he realized Michigan had no offensive ingenuity and/or skill to overcome a 14-0 lead. Rich Rodriguez and his spread offense is exactly what the University of Michigan football program needed.

Michigan needed someone/something to get the fans and media interested in the program and help people stop talking about Lloyd Carr’s inability to beat Tressel. Most importantly, Michigan needed a change on the offensive side of the ball – no Michigan fan will easily forget this typical offensive sequence from the 1999-2007 Wolverine offense:

1st down, running play for 3 yards
2nd down, running play for 1 yard
3rd down, 7-step drop followed by Sack/Incompletion
4th down, punt

Maybe the Rich Rod Spread will result in fumbles and embarrassments. But right now, the change is a chance worth taking.

23 May 2008

2008 Pre-Season Rankings

There is no such thing as a pre-season ranking.

There are predictions, ambitions, and equivocations, but no legitimate standings. That's why I find myself irritated every time ESPN Columnist Mark Schlabach, sunburnt, unshaven and recovering from a 6 day, 7 night stint at Disney World in Orlando for his 4th grade daughter's spring break, takes it upon himself to assemble a list. (Ed. I don't really know if Mark Schlabach just got back from Orlando or if he even has a daughter, but it seems like the kind of thing an off-season college football columnist would have going on).

In case you didn't click on the link Ohio State is No. 1. Which means, well...nothing. Or does it?

"Rising" to the occasion of inpermanence is something the Buckeyes do better than any team in the country. Since 2005 Ohio State has been ranked No. 1 more weeks than anyone in the FBS. In fact, they've been ranked at the top more times than the next closest four teams combined. (Source: CollegeFootballPoll.com, BCS Standings).

"There is no such thing as a pre-season ranking."

But football is a game of ends, not means -- a tension that's had a strange impact on the national consciousness.

LSU enjoyed the spoils of their 2007-08 National Championship for all of 24 hours before the new cradle of rankings boiled them back to the Bayou. In their place, Almighty Georgia gained a handsome consolation for being passed over in New Orleans: the confidence of the pundits for 2008-09.

But status quo doesn't sell magazines. It doesn't tune-in viewers -- especially in the off-season. So, citing the resolution of National Signing Day and spring workouts, Schlabach stirred the pot again.  "...With an extraordinary number of juniors and seniors returning" he writes, "Ohio State seems poised to become the first team in the 112-year history of the Big Ten to win three straight outright league titles."   

But is that really anything we didn't know back on January 9th, when Schlabach's first "Top 25" hit the press?  (Okay, one James Laurinaitis not withstanding.)  To showcase spring momentum reference the landing of top-ranked dual-threatster Terelle Pryor, the "Block O" recruits, the potential for a double-headed attack, low injuries, big-game familiarity, and the general climate of optimism in Columbus.  

Don't dock the SEC favorites, then quip "Georgia might be more explosive and talented than Ohio State, but the Bulldog's schedule is much tougher."  Schedule?  That's an immutable characteristic; something a team can't change.  The last time I checked, a pre-season Top 25 wasn't a descriptive predictor of how things would shake out, rather, it's purely normative: who should walk into September with everything to lose.

If you think Georgia is more talented, put Georgia at the top.  Period.

Anything else is sensationalist; chumming the saltwater for SEC sharks thirsty for blood.  

15 May 2008

Let's hope Buckeye Nation gets the memo...

As Graham shows us, iconoclasm can be redeeming. Somehow he's managed to twist and pervert the sanctity of our universal stadium language, the heroic voice of Buckeye Nation, into some freak relic of the unimaginative, and, dare I say, uneducated masses. Yes Ohio fans, it's true, the Michigander doesn't like our four stadium corners approach to recognition. (Although, I will admit, the "I" section -- usually the bunch in the closed end of the Horseshoe is always a little slow to the punch. What's the deal?)

"Pry-or" - "Bor-en"

So, I suggest we get rid of the "O-H-I-O," and any variation thereof, and head in a new direction. From now on whenever a fellow Buckeye is in the vicinity and you feel the need to acknowledge your carnal spirit in a unintelligent fashion, say "Pry-or." To which they will naturally respond, "Bor-en."

Not bad, huh? And I'm confident our friends from up north will approve.

Problem solved.

10 May 2008

Wait Wait Wait...How does one spell Ohio again?


As a Michigan football fan, I am disgusted and underwhelmed whenever I see Buckeye fans chant O-H-I-O and accompany this intellectually challenging chant with arm motions. This repetitive chant is not original or witty (i.e. when an inspired crowd cleverly mocks an opposing player). The chant is not deep and meaningful, like an English soccer crowd singing a one hundred year old drinking song. The O-H-I-O chant leads me to believe that many Ohio State fans are not very educated and truly rejoice when they realize they can spell the name of their beloved state.

"The O-H-I-O chant leads me to believe that many Ohio State fans are not very educated and truly rejoice when they realize they can spell the name of their beloved state."


As a college football fan, I think the O-H-I-O chant is the kind of ritual that is as important as football game and the players themselves. The chant shows pride and tradition (however simple that tradition is). The chant breeds familiarity: if you're an OSU fan screaming O-H-I-O in the Horseshoe, you're surrounded by 100,000 of your closest friends.

It is easy to be cynical about college football. College football is a behemoth system built on the hard work of unpaid young men, work that borders on exploitation. Furthermore, the BCS system has made college football even more of a business than it ever has been. For these very reasons, the simplicity and tradition of the O-H-I-O chant makes it a vital part of college football. So next time you see fans with O-H-I-O on their lips and there arms raised, do not instinctively throw tomatoes or obscenities their way. Just appreciate the spirit and purity of thousands of people being of the same mind and sharing the same passion, college football.

09 May 2008

Notre Dame is No. 1

If you're under thirty-five the incontrovertible bewilderment you just felt at reading the headline for this post exemplifies how far the Gipper has fallen. In the modern, modern era, Notre Dame is not a power. Notre Dame is not an elite. Notre Dame is a pushover (starting with their offensive line).

Now I know, every gold-laced leprechaun in South Bend just rushed out of the communion line to defend their beloved Irish. I can feel the fires of hell heating the hardwood floor beneath this infidel's Birkenstocks. A chorus of winged-seraphs chanting, "Eleven National Championships...800 wins...seven Heisman Trophy winners..."

Brady Quinn is on his way down from Cleveland to kick my ass and steal my girlfriend.

If I may finish. Notre Dame's problem is not their program, but rather, the attitudes of two concentric branches: the executive (Mr. Weis), and the judiciary (the fans). At the risk of unraveling a seventh-grade Civics lesson, the separation of powers theme translates nicely into the football arena. The executive enforces, the judiciary interprets (ahem, invents), and when they both work together foreign citizens (visiting teams/fans) tremble [see Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944)].

Graham well expresses that the Notre Dame of the present is like a hegemon that just lost a war with say, Vietnam. After nine consecutive bowl losses, and a 3-9 season (including a loss to Navy for the first time in 43 years) Notre Dame is wounded and embarrassed. My beloved Ohio State Buckeyes are not exactly strangers to the effect. But rather than working through the frustration on the field, Charlie is lighting up at press conferences, and fans are storming chat rooms.

"Brady Quinn is on his way down from Cleveland to kick my ass and steal my girlfriend"

Michigan is not your problem Charlie. (Technically, they're not really ours either). Your team is your problem, and for that matter your solution. Find a way to identify with your players and build meaningful, interpersonal relationships with them -- say, instead of complaining to the media or flying to Boston in the middle of the season to testify at your second medical malpractice trial. Laugh at yourself, and the public's hyper negative obsession with you, and remember, in the great words of Ovid:

"Envy assails the noblest. The winds howl around the highest peaks."

Perhaps once comfort and confidence return to the Notre Dame lexicon, 5-star recruits will stop showing up in limousines and leaving on stretchers.

And for love of all things decent, don't ever wear a hoody on the sidelines.

(As a gesture of good-faith I won't even mention the number 617).

08 May 2008

Talk to Chuck...Unless You're From Michigan

If no one has taken a look at Charlie Weis' latest statements regarding, well anything, I will go ahead and post them:

"I always been one to never make excuses and not go about airing it," Weis said. "We’re going to start on September 6 with San Diego State. I think that the first opportunity we’re really gonna have to make a statement is that day.

"And then we’ll listen to Michigan have all their excuses as they come running in and saying how they have a new coaching staff and there’s changes. To hell with Michigan!"

Weis also commented on his recruiting philosophy:

"I could get hoodlums and thugs and win tomorrow,'' Weis said. ''I won't do it that way."

With these comments, Weis's reputation as an uncompromisingly crass coach with a sense of entitlement will be solidified. And one must wonder where exactly Charlie Weis is coming from. Didn't he just take College Football's most storied program through a 3-9 season? Shouldn't all his top recruits be making some kind of impact? Why is Chuck so rude?

"Everyone likes large sweaty men in fun hats, it's jolly."

I think Charlie Weis's biggest problem is his roots. He comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree and seems to have inherited Bill's surliness and also Bill's disdain for the media. Charlie Weis seems to think that just because he was the head O Coordinator for a Super Bowl winning coach who dislikes the media, he can treat the media and other teams exactly the way Belichick does. I am sure Charlie approves Belichick's dead fish handshakes to opposing head coaches or the way Belichick walked off the Superbowl field with 1 second remaining, upstaging the champion Giants.

The superiority complex and ability to belittle others works well for Belichick; he has embraced the Gordon Gekko meets Darth Vader comparisons and has become respected for his constant winning and fantastic in-game adjustments. But Weis has taken the most storied program in College Football and given them a record breaking 3-9 season and a chance for pundits and broadcasters to mock them for a full year. And yet Weis still fires salvo's like "to hell with Michigan" and also (indirectly) asserts that other schools win only because they have thugs and hoodlums. This is the equivalent of losing a fight and then mocking your opponent as he is sitting on you, victorious.

As a Michigan fan, I am of course excited to have Mr. Weis on the schedule year in and year out. Weis's arrogance and rudeness seems to substantiate all those stereotypes of the Notre Dame Superiority Complex and allows Michigan fans to mock, ridicule, and boo the Irish all they want. He spices up the rivalry much more than say, Jim Tressel, who wins games in a classy manner and doesn't resort to outright insults or complaining.

Here is my advice for Chuck: If you want to continue with the whole "arrogant coach who knows better than all of you" persona, win some games and develop a cute trait, something the media can grab onto to make you more human (because everyone loves a winner!). Belichick always mumbles into the microphone after his troops have destroyed another opponent, Woody Hayes tackled players on the field just to show he was crazy, Bob Knight made crazy faces...My suggestion for you is to sweat profusely at all press conferences (think Billy Bob in Varsity Blues) and wear a fun hat...Everyone likes large sweaty men in fun hats, it's jolly.

02 May 2008

The John Cooper I Saw

I'll start by congratulating John Cooper on a commendable 23-year tenure commanding D1 sidelines. His 68.1% overall winning record firmly cements him as one of the best football minds in the modern-era.

Cooper's cognitive opus, however, exposes exactly what he lacked: an understanding of team dynamics, approachability, and pride in a team's history and tradition. (Charlie Weis struggles in the first two columns). Like an executive VP at a medium-sized financial services firm Cooper saw programs as opportunities to sharpen skill sets and resumes. His mission was not to be a Buckeye, but rather, the best. As a child at the Horseshoe in the mid-90s, I always felt the man in the oversized windbreaker was more interested in scanning his clipboard for the next play than the players themselves.

Yes. That's why he was good. Distanced from the emotion of the game, Cooper was able to concentrate on its mechanics. But that's also why he couldn't appeal to the soul of the sport. The Game was a game. Week 11. Nothing more, nothing less.

"Cooper won games on Thursdays, not Saturdays"

I've always been impressed that after the 2000 Outback Bowl ouster Cooper stuck around. He didn't go the NFL (at least beyond its scouting office) and he didn't go back to Phoenix. Instead he lives in Columbus, in a comfortable corner of the city that still blames him for a decade he can't change. Cooper takes the garbage out on February mornings in the rain just like the rest of us.

So, I'd like to profile a different Cooper. A Cooper I saw on January, 1st, 1997. I was twelve years old with my dad in Section 14 of the Lower Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Jake "the Snake" Plummer's eleven yard scramble put Arizona State 1 minute and 40 seconds away from the school's first National Championship. Cooper must have felt some admiration in watching the program he carried to a Rose Bowl victory in 1987 on the threshold of immortality. Or perhaps not. Perhaps it was like watching a startup firm you left before the dot-com boom become silicon royalty.

Irregardless, Cooper put down his clipboard, placed his hand on Joe Germaine's shoulder pads, and wafering the bill of his block O cap, put two fingers into the air. He then turned his back and wondered down the sideline. Fifty-nine seconds later Germaine hit David Boston in the north west corner of the end zone from five yards out for the game.

There's no better encouragement than preparing a team to play and stepping aside. Cooper won games on Thursdays, not Saturdays. Maybe that's why he was always No. 2 at the end of the season. Then again, out of 118.

That's not so bad.

01 May 2008

Being an apologist for Jim Delany is easier than it sounds

Jon - Wonderful, enlightening, and surprisingly restrained (ha) post regarding our buddy, Jim Delany. I think one of Jim Delany's comments about the Plus One format and the Big Ten is quite telling. Delany commented (and I paraphrase): "Hey, if you look around, you will not see that much support for a Plus One format or a playoff, I would assume."

Delany is probably correct, oddly enough, because Delany spends time in boardrooms with college trustees, presidents, and businessmen who directly profit from the BCS and its set up. The BCS has been a tremendous boon for D-1 Major Football Conferences because of the way the bowls are setup. Gregg Easterbrook, the resident ESPN Page 2 football writer (mostly NFL, but he delves into NCAA) explains the numbers but I will sum it up: Every Big Ten program receives a fixed amount of TV money under the BCS format, so there is no changing format. Every year, the University of (Insert Big Ten School here) receives a set amount of TV and advertising money. The Big Ten gets 7 bowls, the Universities many programs get support, and everyone is happy. As Easterbrook points out, the BCS system is working exactly as it was planned out.

"Do you hear UCLA and North Carolina whining about not having a chance to play in the NCAA basketball final this year?  No...you never will"

Obviously, the idea that the BCS is working...is in the eye of the beholder. Jim Delany sees consistent money and exciting bowl match-ups (2008: Ohio St. v LSU, UM v Florida, Illinois v USC) and sees no problem. The normal NCAA football fan sees 1) computers deciding the best team in the land when a playoff system would be much better and 2) a hugely successful corporation (NCAA D-1 Football) rejecting the chance for the football equivalent of March Madness and seemingly rejecting a chance for more money.

But I will stop being an apologist for the BCS and Jim Delany for just one moment. If Jim Delany and others stood up at press conferences and said "We are making money and you get to see great matchups," I would feel better about things. But periodically, they will jump in and offer these rationalizations:
  • The BCS has done a wonderful job picking the championship match ups.
  • Adding more games would upset the players lifestyles and their academic schedules.
These half hearted "BCS Support" statements annoy me to no end. Why?
  1. It never fails that every year, 1 or 2 teams who feel they deserve to be in the national championship will end up complaining and complaining about their exclusion; and they end up turning a joyous season (not Christmas, Bowl season) into a time for wining. Do you hear UNC and UCLA whining about not having a chance to play in the NCAA Basketball final this year? No...you never will.
  2. To hear Athletic Commissioners whine about one extra game in January to protect an academic schedule makes me think out loud: "Aren't you the same commissioners who now allow a normal D-1 team to play 13-15 total games?"
Enough BCS for the night, lets enjoy and applaud John Cooper's admission into the College Football Hall of Fame. Much, much applause from the State of Michigan...oh would you look at that, the entire state is on their feet for this man. Wow - this man is truly revered in the State of Michigan. No idea why (check out the 5th paragraph).