It’s good to be back. So what did I miss?



It’s good to be back.  I have missed you guys (and ladies) the past two months.

Because we need to catch up, this entry will be a tad long today so please bear with me.

So what have I missed? There is so much but let’s start with these five:

1. Lane Kiffin, the gift that keeps on giving: Over the weekend somebody predicted this would be the No. 1 story when I returned. He was right, of course.  How could it not be?

 After a less than quality experience with the Oakland Raiders, Kiffin takes over at Tennessee and decides to completely change the culture in Big Orange Country. He has succeeded. After 17 years of having a button-downed head coach (Phillip Fulmer) who chose his words carefully, Kiffin decided it was time for Tennessee to, rhetorically speaking, start kicking butt and take some names. 

I’ve heard some people rip into Kiffin as a young coach who is not too bright. I don’t believe that for a minute. I think Lane Kiffin knows exactly what he’s doing. When he accused Urban Meyer of cheating, Kiffin was walking into lunch room on the first day of school and smacking the biggest, baddest dude across the mouth just to announce his presence.  Yeah, he got a reprimand from the commissioner but he also fired up a Tennessee fan base that sorely needed it.

There were several fun incidents after that, the latest being the claim by a South Carolina signee that Kiffin told him  “he would be pumping gas” like the other players from that state who signed with the Gamecocks. Kiffin denied he ever said it but by this point it really didn’t matter if it was true or not. Because of what Kiffin had done and said before, to the media it “sounded” like something he would say so it got traction.

Now Kiffin has Al Davis, the very strange owner of the Oakland Raiders, trashing him (through his minions) in a letter to the Tennessee president. Not really sure that’s a bad thing for Kiffin.

That’s why Kiffin has to be measured in his comments in the future. Once the national media paints an image of a coach, especially if it’s bad, it takes a long time and a lot of wins to change it. It took Les Miles four seasons, 42 wins, and one national championship at LSU before some people would admit that he’s a pretty good football coach.


2.  Alabama’s textbook case: How serious? Understand that when the NCAA is involved, nothing happens in a vacuum. The NCAA has a long, long memory.

Here is what I mean. Normally, jay walking is not a serious offense. But if you go before the same judge a bunch of times for various transgressions, he might be tempted to send you a message with a punishment that goes beyond the seriousness of the crime. And then you have to hire a lawyer and fight like crazy on what appeared to be something fairly minor.

That is the situation that faces Alabama football.  In the fall of 2007 the school had to sit five football players because of what it said was a glitch in its method of providing textbooks and other educational materials to athletes. This glitch allowed “friends” of the athletes to also get these materials, whose reported value was around $1,600. If you think that sounds like chump change in a multi-million dollar enterprise that is Alabama football, it is. But it also misses the point.

Alabama went before the judge, better known as the NCAA’s committee on infractions, on Feb. 20. The COI normally makes a final decision about 4-6 weeks after that meeting.

The judge probably wanted to know why, after getting everything BUT the death penalty in 2002, Alabama would allow ANY glitches like this to happen.

Nobody knows what is going to happen in this case. If somebody tells you they do, they are delusional—or lying. But you can’t dismiss it as minor until the judge SAYS that it is minor.


3. Florida State academic scandal: Is this it for Bobby Bowden? As an old coach once told me, “there is breaking the rules and then there’s cheating.” And Florida State admits there was academic cheating going on in its athletic department. The school admits that tutors played fast and loose with some on-line courses. When athletic officials found out about it, they declared the athletes ineligible and imposed a number of sanctions, which included loss of scholarships and suspension for the first three games of the 2008 season for the football players involved. They fired the employees who took part.

But the NCAA Committee on Infractions also wants Florida State to vacate all of the victories in which the offending athletes participated. That could cost the school an NCAA track championship. It could also cost Bobby Bowden, the second winningest coach in Division I-A history, 14 wins from his current total of 382.

Florida State is going to appeal this part of the NCAA’s ruling and I believe the school will prevail because there is a precedent. In 2006 Georgia Tech won an appeal on an academic fraud case claiming the penalty of vacating football victories was excessive and inconsistent with previous cases of this kind. The appeals committee agreed.

But what if this appeals committee does not agree?  Bowden, who trails Penn State’s Joe Paterno by one victory, would not have a chance to retire as college football’s all time winner. Would he coach this season and retire? Would he retire before the season?


4.  The Bryce Brown Sweepstakes:  Let’s see if I have this straight. Young Mr. Brown just couldn’t get enough of the endless recruiting process and decided to drag it out until today, when he will announce his decision to the world at an elaborately staged event .  We can only pray that hats will not be involved. Mr. Brown has an “advisor,” Brian Butler, who is a former manager of a cell phone calling center and, until some good reporting by the New York Times, was selling information on the recruitment of his client via a website.

 I have one piece of advice for the team who signs the running back from Wichita. You had better make damn sure this kid is worth it because every move he makes in college will be scrutinized to the extreme. And if he screws up—and a lot of kids do because they are kids—the press will be brutal. This kid, and his “advisor,” had better not have any skeletons in their closets because the NCAA is looking for them as we speak. I’m not saying don’t sign him. But do it with your eyes wide open.


5. The Andre Smith meltdown: This one just broke my heart. The day that Andre Smith walked onto the Alabama campus he was the starting left tackle, which is a hard thing to do in the Southeastern Conference. He was the best player at his position in college football. NFL teams dream about drafting a guy they can put at left tackle and not worry for the next 10 years. Andre Smith was one of those guys.

Then it all fell apart. He got kicked off the team for dabbling with people representing an agent. Then he hired an agent who really only had one job: Get Andre to the NFL combine in good shape. It didn’t happen. Andre showed up fat, announced that he wasn’t going to work out, and then left without telling anybody. He got trashed by the NFL experts, who put a big premium on future professionals ACTING like professionals.

He probably helped himself a little at last week’s pro day workouts in Tuscaloosa. But I thought for the right team that Smith could be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. He is that good. Miami needed a left tackle in the last draft and made Michigan’s Jake Long the No. 1 pick. His contract included $30 million of guaranteed money. Let’s see where Andre is drafted and how much money he is guaranteed.  Then you’ll know what this cost him.  Very sad.




153 comments Add your comment


March 16th, 2009
7:03 am

I must have been asleep…..I didn’t know you were gone.


March 16th, 2009
7:26 am

Alabama cheating again? No surprise there.. and shame on them for not telling their recruits about about the Feb 20th court date. That’s pretty low.


March 16th, 2009
7:27 am

Should have kept the blog going throughout signing day….may take a while for people to come back. Now, did you just say that “The Dawgs” will win the National Championship in ‘09 or was that last year?


March 16th, 2009
7:37 am

Lane Kiffin vs. Al Davis – has there ever been a pair with less credibility?


March 16th, 2009
7:55 am

Geoff, Jim Harrick, Sr. and Jr. ring a bell? Bahahaha.
Welcome back, Tony. Are you covering any spring practices.

Spartanburg Gamecock

March 16th, 2009
7:56 am

It is great to have you back. I really enjoy your college football analysis. Keep up the good work.


March 16th, 2009
7:57 am

it’s great to have tony back, the ajc was missing a huge part of it’s overall coverage without him!

some things never change with alabama once again being cited by the NCAA with yet another possible infraction, and fsu with a huge infractions of ncaa rules that one wonders if the school deserve the ultimate , the death penalty being applied to them as well.
i know it was little SMU who has no impact on the national scene thatthe ncaa hit over the head, so bobby and the boys will get a pass once again!

clearly, there is a double standard with ncaa and the country as well.

Saint Nick

March 16th, 2009
8:03 am

Falconsfan, Bama didn’t cheat first of all, 5 kids made a very stupid mistake. A team has to gain a competitive advantage to be classified as cheating. Saban suspended these guys for 4 games after they found out what was going on. The NCAA WILL do something but it won’t be more than 3 years and 3 scholarships. What is sad is that USC can have players parents “renting” houses from agents, receiving $200,000+ as a promise to sign with an agent, and everything else that has gone on out at SOCAL and they get a pass, THAT IS SAD!!!!!!!RTR!!!


March 16th, 2009
8:05 am

I know this is supposed to be football but you forgot to mention the train wreck Dennis Felton left behind at Stegeman Coliseum.


March 16th, 2009
8:14 am

I like you Tony but give us something we don’t know.


March 16th, 2009
8:14 am

St. Nick, you’re right. Alabama’s crime is small this time. But I think the coach and admin at Alabama have a moral obligation to tell their recruits about a court date with the NCAA that is two weeks after signing day. They withheld that information and it could have made an impact on recruiting.

[...] returns. Nothing new inside as he’s catching up, but MY THAT’S LARGE FONT. The AJC, now embracing the large-print crowd to appease the last people reading newspapers: the [...]

Saint Nick

March 16th, 2009
8:32 am

Agreed, Thay should have told these guys and maybe they did, Oklahoma is on probation because of the Rhett Bomar situation and they still played for the NC. Maybe they told these kids the situation and expected a small penalty, Who knows. But I will agree if they said nothing at all, that is wrong… but what school doesn’t mislead recruits?????


March 16th, 2009
8:32 am

Dear Mr. CB–good to have you back. Now we got you, MB and DOB. Don’t need nothing else. Your pal, Leland


March 16th, 2009
8:35 am

Train wreck at Stegman? Not exactly a train wreck, just a bad basketball team. There is already some young talent in place. One or two good recruits with a new coach could change everything immediately. Maybe they struggle and get last place in the SEC next year. Maybe they are a top 25 team and make the tourney. It is that wide open. Totally depends on the coach they hire and a little like snagging at least one big recruit. Maybe the couple guys they have coming in already will be good.


March 16th, 2009
8:40 am

Welcome back Mr. Barnhart! There really hasn’t been anything too lively to report on other than Kiffin’s mouth. Had Florida State and Alabama remained out of the ethical spotlight, then they would have merited reportable news.


March 16th, 2009
8:41 am

Brew – fans of George O’Leary shouldn’t throw stones.


March 16th, 2009
8:41 am


Is it the same Judge Ken Stabler went in front of?


March 16th, 2009
8:42 am


I missed your comments but I gotta tell you that you are way off on the Kiffin deal. Go back and listen to him. He is just a spoiled brat kid that not only doesn’t deserve to coach in the SEC he shouldn’t be a head coach anywhere. He is a complete moron. So you think he knew what he was doing when he stated he got rid of employees that didn’t keep up and his AD had to put him in his place.
He sounds like the new kid in school that after a week or so everyone has grown tired of and realizes he is a abnoxious loud mouth. After a couple of the bigger kids kick his rear he just goes away.
Come on Tony I thought you would do better especially on your first day back.

Atlanta Jackets

March 16th, 2009
8:42 am

Welcome back Tony. The Jackets have taken over the boards since you left. A good portion of your coverage should be on the Tech program. The world is interested in what’s brewing down on the flats. The happenings of the cheating conferences are less important. It’s like reporting on junvile deliquents. Stick with the big stories, like Tech spring practice. How is the Robot doing? I expect big things from Nesbot.

Old Dawg

March 16th, 2009
8:46 am

Good to see you’re back. I saw you book, “Southern Fried Football,” in Rockpoint Books in Chattanooga yesterday and recommended it to a man looking for his grandson’s birthday present — and he bought it!

One question: If Alabama does receive any sanctions, will this year’s signees be able to void their scholarships and sign anywhere else? It only seems fair since the coaching staff didn’t alert the players about the possibility of NCAA sanctions.

MacArthur O. Means

March 16th, 2009
8:48 am

Bryce Brown is starting to smell kind of like that Ohio State loser running back from a few years ago. What was his name?

Lane Kiffin is an idiot. I don’t care how you spin it.

I like Bobby Bowden. Joe Paterno is the devil.

Stumpy's Bear

March 16th, 2009
8:51 am

Tony, I’ve checked the blog almost everyday since you’ve been gone. Thanks so much for giving us college football junkies our favorite blog back. Are you back just through spring practices?

Saint Nick

March 16th, 2009
8:52 am

Old Dawg, Are you serious????? If they signed a letter of intent, NO!!! If they Didn’t, yes and they have to sit a year and they won’t want to go to Tech or Georgia!!!!

[...] Tony Barnhart is back and blogging for the AJC and his first order of business upon returning was to list the four biggest stories that bubbled up in the SEC since January.They are (in his words):1) Lane Kiffin, the gift that keeps on giving2) Alabama’s textbook case: How serious?3)  The Bryce Brown sweepstakes4)  The Andre Smith meltdownClick here to read his views. [...]

Tony Barnhart

March 16th, 2009
8:55 am

Old Dawg,
Based on my reading of the NCAA rules, Alabama recruits would not be allowed to transfer and be immediately eligible should the school receive sanctions.

EDSBS, you got me on the font size. First one was way too small. Second one too big. We’ll get the right one.

Bill. We will just to agree to disagree on Lane Kiffin. I’ve done this long enough to know that things are rarely what they appear to be on the surface. But I will agree with you on this. Nothing he is doing, planned or unplanned, will matter if he doesn’t win enough games in a few years.

[...] value of precedent Jump to Comments Tony Barnhart’s college football blog is back, larger than ever.  Today’s post is pretty much an exercise in catch up, which is what you’d [...]

Say What

March 16th, 2009
8:58 am

Saint Nick: The fact these players were able to buy books for friends shows a lack of institutional control which is the worst of all NCAA infractions. Now with Bama just off probation who knows how hard they are going to get hit. It could get ugly.

Music City Dawg

March 16th, 2009
9:02 am

You are right on the money about Kiffin. I think he will be good at UT, and a lot of Dawg fans aren’t going to be very happy about it….


March 16th, 2009
9:03 am

Ole Nick will hang around Bama for another year or so, and he’ll win some games, but the heat will catch up to him for a lot of Broken promises and he’ll end up in the Northeast at a Big Ten school for 4-5 mil a year and leave Bama in tears and a train wreck. I hate it, but watch. Leopard don’t change it’s spots.

Colorado Dawg

March 16th, 2009
9:07 am

Tony – Welcome back brother. It is good to have your blog up and running. Let us know some of the key issues you will be watching for with teams in spring practice.


March 16th, 2009
9:08 am

i thought bryce brown was miami bound ???

agree w/ Andre Smith story -sad sad story


March 16th, 2009
9:15 am

As a Clemson fan, I want no part of this Brown kid. High maintaince is an understatement for him. Plus, the Tigers are going focus on Spiller in 2009 and Brown would have a major problem with that. So this kid can take his act to The U as far as i’m concerned. Go Tigers!

Old Dawg

March 16th, 2009
9:27 am

Saint Nick. I really don’t care where the go, just that they have the opportunity to play college football and enjoy the experience. Having covered college football in the past, I know that athletes get frustrated when the team they sign with is on probation. I knew the rules in the past but it’s been a while since I’ve covered college sports.

Thanks for the answer Tony.

Gen Neyland

March 16th, 2009
9:33 am

Most of us with more gray whiskers then not, carry a measure of respect for the college Head Coach that stands first for his team, second for his team and lastly, for his team. I have shared the same sentiments as Tony here. Kiffin had a plan, albeit, a plan that seems off base to those with coaches established in programs around the nation that allows their program to sell itself by virture of the longetivity and success of the standing coaching staff. Kiffin’s tactics reached many recruits. No, not a slew of 4 or 5 stars, but enough to begin with. There were no QB’s left out there he favored to run his offense into the future when he arrived Atop Rocky and Kiffin said it best when he answered,(I’ll paraphrase)” We’ll not waste a scholarship on just any QB. We’ll go with what we have in 2009.” Do I expect him to win the East in 2009..? No. Do I expect him to place or show..? Yes, I do. That is my expectation for 2009. He’ll do a better job playing his strengths than Clawson did. My question to any and all out there would be this,”Are you afraid his first signature win will come at your expense?”…


March 16th, 2009
9:38 am

MacArthur … that was Maurice Clarett with THE Ohio State University. Is he out of jail yet?

On Lane Kiffin … I’m just waiting for the time he derides Vandy and Kentucky. I mean, any job worth doing, is worth doing right, right?


March 16th, 2009
9:41 am

Glad you are back Tony (I was right about predicting the first story by the way), the other AJC bloggers did a good job stirring up fluff topics while you were away (AKA Lane Kiffen went to the grocery store and pumped his own gas yesterday) just to get a rise out of everyone. Now that you are back, I hope we get actual spring practice stories and other topics that have some validity and not the fluff/rise topics.

Tony Barnhart

March 16th, 2009
9:41 am

Bryce Brown verbally committed to Miami long ago but kept visiting. His brother plays there.

To Stumpy’s Bear: Thanks for asking. I will definitely be here on this blog until preseason practice begins in August.


March 16th, 2009
9:41 am

im pretty sure andre smith got suspended not for contacting an agent but because his uncle contacted an agent. big difference.

why feel sorry for him? its all on him. hopefully he graduated.


March 16th, 2009
9:43 am

Welcome back, Tony!! I hope they keep the link on the front page for a good while so every one knows the blog is back.

Good analogy to Maurice Clarett, MacArthur. Whoever signs this kid may have to hold their nose while they do so.

General, that was a little bit less than a ringing endorsement. Doing some noseholding yourself? Kiffin may very well produce, but if he’s the prototype for the coach of the future, this “grey hair” is going to lose interest in college football.

Paterno is the devil?!?!? Where the heck did that come from, MacArthur? You lost the points you earned with said good analogy.


March 16th, 2009
9:52 am

Lane Kiffin is doing all of this by design? What part of his USC or Raiders gig did you miss? Please don’t encourage the hillbillies to cheer on another death blow to sportsmanship. Call Kiffin and Tennessee for what they are: classless, shameful, and dumber than a box of hammers.

Gen Neyland

March 16th, 2009
9:54 am

azcat225 : I wasn’t in the ‘Fire Fulmer’ camp. I was a part of the ‘Can Clawson’ mentality, kinda like those of the Bulldawg nation that aren’t crazy over their DC. Also, I was a big Chavis fan. I will be somewhat reserved until the pudding shows some proof. BTW, Kiffin has let it be known that there are 21 starting jobs available. Eric Berry’s isn’t one of them…


March 16th, 2009
9:57 am

Thank you Tony,
It’s great to have this column back. You’re the first journalist/media person who I’ve heard characterize the Andre Smith activity as ’sad’ and I wholeheartedly agree. A writer I heard from in Birmingham described the kid as basically decent who had never been in any trouble before and bulldozed the SEC for three years. The way he’s been crucified in the media is a little much I think. I mean the only person he’s hurt is himself and that’s supposing he’d be so much happier with $30 million guaranteed as opposed to $10 million. Don’t you think some of these kids simply lack the emotional development their age would indicate?


March 16th, 2009
10:03 am

Yhe latest problems at Alabama can be laid at the feet of Mal Moore. How he has remained so long as AD mystifies me. If you know any French, his first name is quite appropriate.


March 16th, 2009
10:05 am

Lane Kiffin won’t last long. Monte has been out of the college game for almost 30 years. The fact that he was a great NFL co-ordinator doesnt mean squat now that he’s in college. College KIDS are much different than professional adults. Just ask Charlie Weiss!!! Dude has 4 super bowl rings and is lucky South Bend hasn’t run his fat a$$ out of town!!!! I’ll believe the Kiffin’s success when I see it.


March 16th, 2009
10:09 am

General: I agree wholeheartedly with you about Chavis. LSU got better when they announced that was where he was landing. TN didn’t lose out with the elder Kiffin, but another member of the SEC got better.

I had heard that about the TN roster, also. At least L Kiffin is bright enough to leave Eric alone.

And Layla is easy on the eyes…


March 16th, 2009
10:17 am

I have to wonder what in Lane Kiffin’s resume gives folks the idea that he can attract and ‘coach up’ young men to the point that they will succeed over young men that have thrown in with the Georgia’s, the Alabama’s, the Florida’s and, yes, even the South Carolina’s. He hasn’t done a thing in his career that merits the kind of confidence that, first, Al Davis showed when he first hired him – shoot, he wasn’t even USC’s number one OC – and his performance at Oakland certainly didn’t add any positives to that resume, so why in blazes do the UT fans think he’s gonna cash those checks that his mouth keeps writing? Oh, that’s right, they hired him and cognitive dissonance tells you that they have to let him fail before they pull a Bill Battle on him. Good luck, cause if you’re wrong it’s gonna be pretty embarrassing.


March 16th, 2009
10:19 am

Ok, after reading post after post about Layla Kiffin, I had to look her up for myself:

Notice that she’s the only one not wearing orange. Beauty and brains! The total package.


March 16th, 2009
10:22 am



March 16th, 2009
10:25 am

Rumor, Rumor, Rumor, that’s all this is. But for most SEC fans who have invested a couple of years of stored dislike(envy) toward nick saban and his close encounters of the 3rd kind with football recruits. There have been dozens of documented recruiting violations since he grabed the elephants by the tail(or trunk). He promised the red elephant club members and tide fans alike, a national championship. The only way he could full-fill that promise was to improve the talent.

The rumors “The NCAA is investigating coach saban, and the red elephant club related to questionable recruiting issues including;,payments to recruits and/or to friends or relatives, gifts to players and/or to friends or relatives, illegal personal contact between a coach and prospect, illegal communications with a prospects by a active coach or red elephant club member(booster), and a few more activities that could be gleened as borderline illegal recruiting.

That is why it is taking so very long for the NCAA to deliver a penalty for the $1600 books for cash violation. Why would bama refuse to make public the letter of inquiry from the NCAA for over 6 months after its delivery? Something to hide from recruits. Maybe not illegal but certainly unethical.

Thanks Tony. Looking forward to great information and even better opinions.