It’s been a while since I’ve checked in. Hectic holidays as they say. I hope everyone out there had good health and good times and did not become just a little bit worn out by family time.
So, it is on to 2011, although it will be hard-pressed to top 2010.
After all, on New Year’s Day 2010 how many of us predicted the following:
--Tiger Woods not winning a single golf tournament anywhere, anytime, anyplace all year.
--The Saints winning The Super Bowl; The Giants winning The World Series; Butler coming with an inch of winning The NCAA basketball championship and Graeme McDowell, Louis Ousthuizen and Martin Kaymer winning major titles.
--LeBron James making perhaps the worst marketing decision any athlete has made since Andre Agassi looked into a camera and said, ‘image is everything.’
--The New York Yankees targeting a big-money free agent and NOT getting him.
--The Detroit Lions finishing the season on a four-game WINNING streak.
--The Washington Redskins turning their season into a soap opera/circus.
Wait, I digress. The Redskins becoming a soap opera/circus is as predictable as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer winning major titles in tennis and The New York Islanders battling for the top draft pick.
So much has changed in sports through the years, so much has stayed the same. I tend to hang onto traditions, which is why I watch The Rose Bowl every New Year’s Day regardless of who is playing. This year’s game was great and seeing TCU hang on to win was gratifying to all of us who think the BCS Presidents should all be put to sea in a rowboat for the good of all mankind. Yes, that includes my new best friend Gordon Gee—even though he did tell Pete Thamel of The New York Times that he was planning to eat crow for dinner after TCU’s win in Pasadena. Of course he was eating it in a fancy New Orleans restaurant getting ready to watch Ohio State play Arkansas sometime in January—who among us knows when the college season actually ends these days. (Unrelated note: The college season is now so long that Pittsburgh will be playing under its third head coach since the end of the regular season when it finally plays whatever meaningless bowl it is playing in this coming weekend. Talk about a long season).
Back to Ohio State for a moment. I really think it is time for the NCAA to burn its rulebook. After all why bother having rules if you are going to make up different rules to suit yourself every time something happens involving a major (read moneymaking) school.
Look, we can debate the fairness of the rules forever. But here are the facts: Cam Newton WAS ineligible according to the rulebook. It says if you or any representative (that would include your own father) solicits money, you’re ineligible even if you never receive a dime. The NCAA says Cecil Newton solicited money from Mississippi State. That’s the end of the story. EXCEPT the NCAA says, no, even though it isn’t in the rules, since we believe the player knew nothing (just like Sargent Schultz knew nothing) he’s okay to play. I would ask Auburn fans one question—because I have nothing against you or Cam Newton or Gene Chizik and your former AD David Housel was one of my all-time favorite people in sports: Do you think for one second if your football team was 6-6 and playing in whatever bowl Kentucky is playing in that Cam Newton would have been eligible? If you say yes, PLEASE call me so I can sell you this beautiful plot of oceanfront land I own in Nebraska.
Now we have the case of The Ohio State Five, one of whom happens to be the team’s biggest star, quarterback Terrelle Pryor. They have been found guilty of selling memorabilia, getting discounts (at a tattoo parlor for crying out loud) and receiving ‘special treatment,’ a real NCAA no-no. Again, are the rules silly? Perhaps. But the NCAA says the violations are serious enough to merit a five game suspension.
Now, we can sit here most of the day and make the argument that what Newton went un-punished for is a lot more serious than what the Buckeye Five are being punished for but that’s not the point. The point is this: If they’re guilty, they’re guilty—they go to jail NOW not next September. Except the NCAA, apparently after being lobbied by The Sugar Bowl, says it is okay for them to play in The Sugar Bowl and THEN sit out the first five games of next season. Here are the five games: Akron and Toledo at home (I think they can get past those two); at Miami—coming off a 7-6 season with a new coach—Colorado (another new coach) and Michigan State—perhaps a tough game but a home game too. When do they become eligible again? For the game at Nebraska. What a shock.
Personally, if I was Pryor, all pledges to come back aside, I’d bolt for the NFL as soon as The Sugar Bowl is finally over. This isn’t new stuff for the NCAA by the way: back in 1991, it declared Nevada-Las Vegas ineligible only to move the penalty back a year because, um, UNLV was the defending NCAA champion and had everyone back and CBS really needed The Rebels eligible for ratings.
This is what the NCAA does and then it sits back and claims it has never, ever done anything wrong or done anything with the bottom line in mind. Oh please.
Meanwhile, on more pleasant topics: It was wonderful to see Air Force and (especially) Army win their bowl games although disappointing to see Navy lose. Still, all three had great seasons, combining for a record of 25-14. If you don’t think that’s a remarkable feat at military academies in times like these, you aren’t paying attention.
Maryland also won its bowl game—the Terrapins earning the right to travel 10 miles to downtown DC to play in frigid RFK Stadium in return for their 8-4 bounce-back season. The game was the last for Coach Ralph Friedgen, who was un-ceremoniously fired 10 days before the game by new Athletic Director Kevin Anderson. Basically Friedgen, who was 75-50 in ten seasons at Maryland, was fired for not selling enough tickets. Gee, what a surprise that Maryland people don’t get all that excited about ACC football.
Anderson had a plan though that seemed to make some sense: Bring in Mike Leach with his scorch-the-earth offense and mouth. Controversial, sure, everyone knows what happened at Texas Tech but if Leach won and threw for 500 yards a game no one at Maryland would care. If nothing else he would bring national attention to the school.
But Anderson was apparently overruled by the academic side of the school. Leach, they decided, carried too much baggage. And so, to replace Ralph Friedgen, Maryland hired…wait for it…Randy Edsall, who has done a fine job at Connecticut the last 12 years—just as Friedgen did a fine job at Maryland for the last ten.
Wow. The wolves are already at Anderson’s door and he’s been at Maryland for four months. I guess in the end, 2011 isn't going to be all that different than 2010.