Posts Tagged ‘NCAA’

2011 New Year’s Resolutions Around the Gridiron

We have been gone for a few days, squeezing out the last of the holiday festivities before getting back to reality.  As we head into 2011, we have made our list of resolutions, hoping to accomplish at least a few of the things we long to do this coming year! 

In that spirit, we offer the following New Year’s resolutions for some of our favorite (and not so favorite) football-related individuals and others from 2010.

Mike Shanahan

I resolve to faithfully read the “Miss Manners” advice column so I can learn the meaning of respect and apply it to those around me, particularly legendary quarterbacks who have earned it. 

I resolve to go to my local Barnes & Noble to purchase “Coaching Football for Dummies” in hopes that I can learn SOMETHING useful to salvage my professional career.

The New York Jets

We resolve to hire Strength and Conditioning coaches who work on OUR players and not the other team’s players.

We resolve to recognize that women are more than just Barbie Dolls and can actually contribute to sports.

Brett Favre

I resolve to get rid of my cell phone.

I resolve to take the hint from the injuries Gods and finally retire for REAL.

Randy Moss

I resolve to keep all thoughts about the superb abilities of former coaches and teammates tucked away securely in my head, especially during post-game press conferences.

I resolve to keep all comments regarding catered foods and canines to myself.

Roger Goodell

I resolve to keep Vince Lombardi from turning in his grave by never postponing games due to snow and wind.

I resolve to keep the word “Wussie” from ever being associated with the NFL again.

I resolve to keep the NFL from turning into the National Flag League by concentrating on REAL player safety issues instead of legitimate hard hits.

Cam Newton

I resolve to never listen to my father’s advice.

I resolve to take lots of pics with my Heisman, since I will undoubtedly be returning it within the next few years.

Ohio State

We resolve to stop being an NFL player factory and at least APPEAR to provide an education.

We resolve to duct tape our President’s mouth whenever he attempts to discuss football.

Eli Manning

I resolve to stop giving the camera that Gomer Pyle  “Gaaw-aawl-ly” look when I throw an interception.

I resolve to call my big brother and get advice on how to transform my naïve country boy persona into one fitting a New York quarterback.

NCAA

We resolve to fairly enforce our rules and not allow players from big football programs (read Auburn and Ohio State) to get off the hook.

Tucker Carlson

I resolve to actually practice the Christianity I profess and learn that forgiveness is one of its tenets.

I resolve to never speak about football, or any other sport, again.

I resolve to loosen my bow tie, in hopes that it sends oxygen to my brain so that I think before I speak.

Michael Vick

I resolve to finish my story book-like comeback with a fairy tale ending and take my team to the Super Bowl.

I resolve to continue to be THE most exciting player in the NFL while showing the world that redemption is truly possible.

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Does the NCAA Stand for “No Cam Accountability Allowed”??

We have been supporters of Auburn’s Cam Newton all season long.  His performance has deservedly made him the leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.  He’s the first player in the SEC to have passed for over 2,000 yards AND rushed for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.  Newton has the led the Tigers to a number one national ranking and, in all likelihood, a real shot at the BCS national championship.  On Saturday, he and Auburn will play for the SEC championship in a game versus South Carolina.  Looking at these stats, it is easy to justify Newton’s position as the #1 Heisman hopeful.

“Pay to play “allegations have been swirling around Newton and his father, Cecil Newton, for weeks.  The accusations were that Cecil and a former Mississippi State Bulldog player (who is now the owner of a scouting service) worked together to asked Mississippi State boosters to pay $180,000 in order for Cam to play for the Bulldogs.  Both Cam Newton and his father have denied all allegations.

For weeks, Cam Newton has refused to speak to the media about the ongoing NCAA investigation.  Instead, he has continued his phenomenal performances and has handled the scrutiny and pressure quite well.  Last weekend, he brought the Tigers back from a 24 point deficit against #9 Alabama.  The victory was a real testament to Newton’s incredible athletic abilities and focus.  Cam accounted for all  TDs in the comeback and his performance truly reinforced his first place standing in the race for the Heisman.  Based on ability alone, Newton should win the Heisman hands down.

But the past few days have brought new information to light.  The NCAA has been investigating the pay-to-play allegations since the summer.  Based on their investigation, they ruled that a violation of NCAA rules had been committed by Cecil Newton and Kenny Rogers, the former Mississippi State player.  Specifically, on Monday the NCAA ruled that a violation of Cam Newton’s amateur status had occurred.

Following NCAA guidelines, a school must rule an athlete ineligible if they are told that a possible violation has occurred.  Therefore, on Tuesday, Auburn ruled Cam Newton ineligible to play and then immediately requested that he be reinstated.  The very next day, Wednesday, the NCAA cleared Newton to play “without conditions”.

The NCAA statement said, in part…

The student-athlete’s father (Cecil Newton) and an owner of a scouting service (Kenny Rogers) worked together to actively market the student-athlete as a part of a pay-for-play scenario in return for Newton’s commitment to attend college and play football. NCAA rules (Bylaw 12.3.3) do not allow individuals or entities to represent a prospective student-athlete for compensation to a school for an athletic scholarship.

The NCAA went on to say that they did not have “sufficient evidence” to prove that Cam was aware of his father’s attempt to sell his athletic services.

These fast and unexpected developments have certainly raised a few eyebrows.  Isn’t it quite convenient that the NCAA could reinstate Newton so quickly, given the importance of this weekend’s game against South Carolina?  If Newton had not been ruled eligible to play, Auburn’s chances against South Carolina would be greatly diminished.  If Auburn were to lose, the third ranked BCS team, TCU, would be the next contender for the national championship game.  Is it possible this factor influenced the members of the NCAA?  Yes, it seems that given the money and prestige of the BCS, the idea of a much less prominent school like TCU in the title game could have influenced the NCAA’s decision.

Furthermore, given the strict and rigid rules of the NCAA, how could they so easily accept the idea that Cam Newton was unaware that his father was trying to sell him to the highest bidder?  The NCAA routinely cracks down on small, simple violations by athletes, like accepting a dinner invitation or small gift!  In this case, there are SERIOUS allegations and now, apparently, enough evidence to implicate Newton’s very own father.  Frankly, it is just plain hard to believe that Cam was not aware of his father’s actions.

The NCAA’s ruling that Cam Newton is eligible to play was made by the body’s reinstatement committee.  However, the NCAA’s enforcement staff, a separate and independent group from the reinstatement committee, is continuing its investigation.  While Auburn may very well go on to win the SEC title and the BCS National Championship, and Newton may win the Heisman, the case is far from over. 

When allegations surfaced about NCAA violations involving Reggie Bush and USC, it took 4 YEARS for the case to be closed.  That case resulted in Bush returning his Heisman award and USC receiving major sanctions against the football program.  So, for Auburn and Cam Newton, the NCAA ruling is good news in the short term.  In the long run, this latest ruling could be meaningless.

Cam Newton’s football performance this season is Heisman worthy.  There is simply no argument about it.  With only 4 days left for voters to return their Heisman ballots, it is quite likely the winner may have already been selected.  We believe Cam Newton will win the coveted award.  What is unclear is whether he, like Reggie Bush, will be forced to relinquish the Heisman should more proof about what he knew come to light.

The NCAA’s lenient ruling in the Cam Newton saga truly is puzzling.  Given the stakes involved, it is more than surprising that they simply took Cam at his word that he was unaware of his father’s illegal and immoral actions.  For whatever reason, it seems the NCAA has decided to stand for the “No Cam Accountability Allowed” body, rather than the stringent, authoritative governing organization it has always been. 

Only time will tell whether the NCAA made the right call on Cam, or whether they were influenced by outside forces to allow him to continue his run for the Heisman, SEC title and possible national championship title.  What is clear, however, is that the NCAA’s latest Cam Newton ruling opens the door for other student athletes to simply deny knowledge of any potential violations committed by others on their behalf.  The ruling has set a dangerous precedent and is a potential serious problem for future NCAA investigations into player conduct.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game! A College Doubleheader on the Baseball Diamonds…

Two Major League Baseball stadiums host college football games today.  New York’s Yankee Stadium will be the site at 7 pm tonight for the Army Black Knights vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish game.  Chicago’s Wrigley Field hosts the Northwestern Wildcats vs. the Fighting Illini of Illinois in a game dubbed the “Allstate Wrigleyville Classic”.  Playing football in baseball venues is not new.  It is a decades old tradition that is being brought back to life this weekend.

 Army and Notre Dame have played in a number of baseball stadiums in New York, including Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds.  In 1925, the teams met at Yankee Stadium for the first time, playing on the hallowed grounds nearly every year until 1946.   The last time the two teams played there was 1969.

Now the Bronx has a new Yankee Stadium and this will be the first time it is hosting a college football game.  The baseball diamond has been entirely transformed into a football field.  The concept of using the venue for football games was part of the original architectural plans for the new stadium.  As a result, preparing it for tonight’s matchup was fairly simple.  Just after the baseball season ended, goal posts were installed.  Sod was put down a few weeks ago and the field fits perfectly within the stadium.  It looks like an ideal location for tonight’s game between these two historic, college football rivals!

Northwestern and Illinois are long time rivals as well, with a history dating back to 1892.  Today’s contest will be their 104th game against each other.  The last time the two Big Ten rivals played at Wrigley was in 1923.  There hasn’t been a college football game played at Wrigley Field since 1938.  The last professional football game was played there in 1970.

Wrigley Field has been transformed for today’s football game, but it was a much more difficult challenge.  The Chicago venue is smaller than Yankee Stadium, so one goal post is actually attached to the outfield wall!  In some areas of the field, there is less than one foot from the field to the brick walls.  As a result of this tight fit, the NCAA decided that both teams will drive toward the west goal post when they are on offense.  The phrase “Go West, Young Man” certainly feels appropriate for today’s game!

Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium are each unique and steeped in their own rich histories.  They offer the perfect venues to revive this long time tradition.  So grab some “peanuts and cracker jack” and enjoy today’s doubleheader featuring some of the most historic rivalries in college football.

Badgering the Badgers – Is Sportsmanship Missing in Wisconsin?

Tonight’s college football game features #11 ranked Alabama vs. Georgia State.  Georgia State?  Yes, the Tide is not facing Georgia or Georgia Tech this evening.  They are playing a first year program.  The Tide should easily roll over Georgia State’s young and inexperienced roster, giving their backups a chance at some game play.  Alabama faces #2 powerhouse Auburn the day following Thanksgiving in what is dubbed the “Iron Bowl”.  A “soft” game like tonight’s will give them much needed time to prepare for Cam Newton and the ferocious Tigers.

Alabama is predicted to win against Georgia State tonight by about a 40 to 50 point margin.  Expect Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban to take his starters out early.  It will be interesting to see just when he sends his back ups in and how far he runs up the score.  Running up the score has recently become a point of controversy.  After last weekend’s 83-20 slaughter of Indiana by the Wisconsin Badgers, the topic has once again been brought to the table.

The large margin of victory caused sports commentators throughout the country to jump on the anti-Wisconsin bandwagon.  Wisconsin was similarly criticized earlier in the season when they crushed Austin Peay 70-3.  In a game against Minnesota, the Badgers were up by 25 points with just under 7 minutes left in the game and went for a 2 point conversion.  Wisconsin’s 83-20 massacre generated lots of talk in the college football sports arena this week about the Badger’s lack of sportsmanship this season.

Wisconsin’s huge score certainly appeared excessive to anyone who simply looked at the numbers scrolling across the bottom of their TV screen last Saturday. It is easy to see the 83-20 score and listen to the pundits who claim it was unsportsmanlike and leave it at that.  But to accuse the Badgers of such disrespect, you really need to know the particulars of what happened.

Let’s look at some indisputable facts about last Saturday’s game.  First, the game was tied 10-10 in the 2nd quarter when Indiana’s starting QB got injured.  When he left the game, the Hoosier offense simply fell apart.  Even when Wisconsin put their backups in, it seemed Indiana had lost their motivation and desire to win.  How is that Wisconsin’s fault?

This is college gridiron.  It is not Pop Warner or Pee Wee youth football.  At this level, players and coaches need to be competitive and play hard.  When the backup players enter the game, are they supposed to go light? Of course not!  They are out there to try and execute plays!  It is the responsibility of the coach, in fact it is his paid JOB, to prepare all the players on his roster.  That means letting them gain real game time experience when the victory is already in hand. 

The main play that critics point to in last Saturday’s game is the 74 yard TD pass by Wisconsin half way through the 4th quarter.  For anyone who actually watched the game, the pass was the result of a broken play by their THIRD STRING BACKUP QB!  The Badger’s coaches did not call this long pass play, it just happened.

Stories like the 83-20 defeat by Wisconsin make sensational, scandalous fodder for sports pundits.  Did these same pundits point out the two games earlier this season where the Badgers took a knee late in the game to run out the clock, rather than go for the score?  Where were these same critics when Oregon crushed New Mexico 72-0?  Did sports writers and commentators cry about Boise State’s 48-0 and 59-0 shut outs of weaker opponents earlier this year?

Those of us who actually watched the game, or those who COACHED in it, have a much different opinion about whether or not Wisconsin showed a lack of respect and sportsmanship for its opponent. Indiana Head Coach Bill Lynch said he does not feel Wisconsin ran up the score.  Instead, he put the blame on his own team who simply lost their ability (and will, it seems) to stop the Badgers.

Earlier in the year, superstar QB Peyton Manning was playing the NY Giants. The Colts were leading by a big margin and there was no doubt the victory was theirs.  I remember watching Peyton, late in the game, arguing against a referee’s call.  Despite the fact that the game was in hand and that his little brother was taking a beating, Peyton’s competitiveness and drive could not be suppressed.  At game time, it’s just who he is.  As I watched him vehemently argue with the officials, I truly admired his passion and intensity.  It is what has made him one of the most successful QBs in the NFL. 

That same drive and competitiveness that Peyton Manning exhibited is expected in college football.  Wisconsin demonstrated it and earned a nice lead in the game.  Then the Badgers allowed their backup players to go out and execute plays.  They didn’t send them on to the field to simply stand around.  If Indiana was unable to stop them, perhaps the same critics who want to create a salacious story about sportsmanship should instead analyze why the Indiana squad seemed to simply give up.

Heisman Watch – After Cam Newton, Who is #2?

The “pay to play” allegations around Cam Newton continue.  This past weekend, speculation was rampant about whether the Heisman frontrunner would be suspended by Auburn.  Newton played and his performance was once again stellar.  He led the Tigers to a 49-31 victory and an SEC West Title.  Newton had 151 yards rushing and 2 TDs and 148 yards passing, for an additional 2 TDs.  He is the first player in SEC history to rush for 1000 yards and pass for 2000 yards in a single season.   

But since allegations and rumors about Newton still swirl around him, are Heisman voters looking for their second choice?  Fair or not, the Heisman voters are certainly going to consider the “what if” scenarios when it comes to Newton and the prestigious award. 

Voters do not want another Reggie Bush-like scandal that found the 2005 Heisman winner had received improper financial benefits while at USC, thereby making him ineligible.  This past September, Bush forfeited his Heisman before the Heisman Trust could meet to decide whether they were going to strip him of the award.  So, despite Newton being the best player in college football at the moment, voters may indeed look at the next possible candidate. 

Right now, the #2 prospect appears to be Oregon running back LaMichael James.  The sophomore is part of college football’s number one ranked team.  His speed and elusiveness have helped him rush for over 1400 yards this season.  Don’t let James’ size deceive you.  He may be only 5’ 9 “and 185 pounds, but he plows through defenders with his shoulder down like the big brutes.

This past weekend’s game against Cal he managed only 91 yards due to an ankle injury suffered in the second half.  Despite the injury, he fought his way through the final minutes of the game.  The Ducks faced third down and 5.  James put his head down and pounded his way for a first down to help run out the clock and avoid another Cal possession and possible upset.

The Heisman ballots are due by December 6.  The NCAA investigation into Cam Newton will likely take months, perhaps even years, as was the case with Reggie Bush. Since a resolution is unlikely, voters are left with a tough decision.  They can vote for Newton based on his spectacular 2010 performance and hope the allegations around him are unfounded.  Or they can go to their second choice as a means of preserving the “excellence with integrity” aspect of the Heisman. 

In a criminal matter, suspects are innocent until proven guilty.  In an NCAA investigation, no such notion exists.  If Newton is indeed innocent of all the allegations, it is unfair that he could lose the Heisman based solely on accusations and rumors. But, voters are human beings.  The Newton scandal will cause many of them doubt and to simply vote for their second choice based on their gut instinct.  For LaMichael James, being second best may just win him the Heisman this year.

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