It’s Friday and, as always, we are going to leave the floor entirely open for you. You may raise any topic as long as it’s clean. I’m getting ready to head to Destin for next week’s SEC Spring Meetings. We will join you from there on Monday.
Here are five topics to get our Friday conversation going:
1. Richt’s marching orders to coaches: Keep it simple. Jeff Woolverton of 790 The Zone and I taped an interview with Georgia coach Mark Richt yesterday that is scheduled to run today on the “Brandon and Woolvey” show between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
In that interview Richt said something that I am hearing from more and more head coaches these days.
Richt told me that when his staff reassembles this summer to prepare for preseason practice, his No. 1 message to them will be: Keep it simple.
I’m paraphrasing here, but Richt’s point was that as offensive and defensive schemes get more and more complex, coaches have to be careful not to overload players with more information than they can process and still play at full speed. If you do that, the players spend too much time thinking about what they are supposed to do and not using their athleticism to make plays.
Bobby Petrino gave the same marching orders this spring to his defensive coordinator, Willy Robinson, whose unit was dead last in the SEC (401.15 ypg) last season.
Richt’s hope is that this philosophy will positively impact two problem areas. Georgia’s defense only forced 12 turnovers last season (2 fumbles, 10 interceptions). Georgia also committed 105 penalties in 13 games.
George O’Leary told me a long time ago: “Football is a simple game. It’s coaches who make it complicated.”
2. SEC Commissioner Mike Slive earned his $1 million bonus: The SEC’s 15-year, $3 billion television contract with CBS and ESPN has put the conference on a good financial footing for the foreseeable future. The SEC’s presidents recognized that recently and rewarded him with a $1 million bonus. Folks, trust me when I tell you that this man has earned every bit of that bonus.
First of all, the TV contract took some vision and some guts to pull off. Slive hired Chuck Gerber, one of the best TV guys in the business, to help negotiate the deal. The deal got done in August of 2008, right before the bottom fell out of the economy. The timing could not have been better for the SEC.
Since he arrived in July of 2002, Slive has shown strong leadership through a number of issues. He put a stop to conference members turning in other conference members to the NCAA. He read his football coaches the riot act last spring when some of them were sniping at each other in the media. He instituted a no-tolerance policy on complaining about officiating. When Urban Meyer violated the policy, Slive fined him $30,000. You don’t mess with the former judge.
And as Kevin Scarbinsky of the Birmingham News points out, he deserves most of that bonus for simply putting up with Lane Kiffin for a year.
Did I mention that the SEC has won four straight national championships in football?
Yep. The commish worked hard for that bonus. His current contract runs through July 31, 2012.
3. Only in the South: I often get asked about the big difference between the South and other parts of the country when it comes to college football. Here’s another example:
A Southern politician can cut the arts. He can cut school lunch programs. He can cut the size of the state’s work force. He can cut just about anything he needs to. But Bubba, don’t ever-EVER-joke about cutting the salary of the head football coach of the state university.
Tim James, a Republican candidate to be Alabama’s next governor, got into some hot water during a campaign stop when he joked about cutting the $5 million salary of Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Fact No. 1: James played football at Auburn as did his father, former Alabama Governor Fob James. Fob James, in fact, was Vince Dooley’s roommate at Auburn.
Fact No. 2: Saban led Alabama to a 14-0 record and the BCS national championship last season.
Fact 3: If you are an Alabama politician, when in doubt, don’t forget Fact No. 2.
As Paul Finebaum points out, James compounded the gaffe by not laughing it off as a verbal misstep from an Auburn man. James should have gotten in the car, driven to Tuscaloosa and begged Saban for a photo op.
James should know that even if he becomes governor, he will still be only the second most powerful man in the state.
4. Cross, Stallings reach the College Football Hall of Fame: Congratulations go out to my CBS College Sports colleague Randy Cross and former Alabama coach Gene Stallings who were named to the College Football Hall of Fame on Thursday. Cross played on a Rose Bowl team at UCLA and then had a 13-year career with the San Francisco 49ers. He lives in Atlanta.
Coach Stallings won a national championship at Alabama in 1992 and won 70 games in seven seasons with the Crimson Tide. Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez was the other coach named to the Hall of Fame.
The rest of the players in the new Hall of Fame class included: Clarkston Hines, WR, Duke (1986-89); Dennis Byrd, DE, N.C. State (1964-67); Ronnie Caveness, C, Arkansas (1962-64); Ray Childress, DL, Texas A&M (1981-84); Sam Cunningham, RB, Southern California (1970-72); Mark Hermann, QB, Purdue (1977-80); Desmond Howard, WR, Michigan (1989-91); Chet Moeller, DB, Navy (1973-75); Jerry Stovall, QB/HB, LSU (1960-62); Pat Tillman, LB, Arizona State (1994-97); Alfred Williams, LB, Colorado (1987-90).
Tillman passed on a pro football career to enlist in the military in 2002. He was killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2004. His induction will be an emotional one.
The 12 players and two coaches will be inducted during ceremonies in New York on Dec. 7.
5. Think Rich Rod wishes he had taken the Alabama job?: Rich Rodriguez had an opportunity to become the head coach at Alabama in 2006. Instead he stayed at West Virginia and in 2007 took the Mountaineers to a No. 2 national ranking and to the brink of playing in the BCS championship game. In 2008 he became the head coach at Michigan. He is not having a lot of fun.
This week Michigan self-imposed a series of penalties after admitting to four major NCAA rules violations. It reprimanded seven people, including Rodriguez, who has posted seasons of 3-9 and 5-7 in Ann Arbor. Most of the rules violations dealt with excessive practice time, really a misdemeanor in the grand scheme of things. But when your football program has been pristine forever, it’s a tough pill for the school to swallow.
Understand that Rich Rod has made some enemies since he got to Ann Arbor. For 40 years, starting with Bo Schembechler in 1969, Michigan has done things a certain way. Rodriguez does things his way. That has gotten him sideways with some powerful folks.
But let’s be clear on this: These NCAA violations will simply be the pretext to ease him out the door if Michigan doesn’t show some kind of significant improvement on the field this season. If Michigan beats Ohio State (which it won’t), all is forgiven.
Hope you have a great Memorial Day weekend.
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