If we needed any further proof that college football is now a year-round sport, we just got it.
The Braves are in first place and are the hottest team in baseball.
Chipper Jones, a lock-solid Hall of Famer on the first ballot, is thinking about retirement.
The NBA Playoffs between the two most storied franchies in the history of the league are headed to seventh and deciding game.
The Atlanta Hawks just hired a new coach.
But what has been the hottest story in sports for the past three months? College football and the possible changing of the landscape.
Fortunately for the college football fan, cooler heads prevailed and the change will be minimal. And there will be no change for 2010.
What it all means is that this is going to be a very short summer for all of us who care about the sport. SEC Media Days in Birmingham begin on July 21. I have a feeling that is going to get here in a hurry.
So, in order to keep some promises to Mrs. Barnhart, I’m going to take another shot at a vacation that was interrupted by conference expansion. Unless something fairly dramatic happens (and I think we’ve had enough drama for one summer), I’ll be back on July 12.
Until then, let me share some burning questions to get us to the preseason meetings:
1. How would you like to go on the road with Nebraska this season? The Cornhuskers will be playing their final season in the Big 12 and will have conference road trips to Kansas State (Thursday, Oct. 7), Oklahoma State (Oct. 23), Iowa State (Nov. 6), and Texas A&M (Nov. 20). The trips to Stillwater and College Station could be very interesting.
2. Are we really supposed to believe that Pete Carroll was shocked–SHOCKED–at the NCAA penalties against USC? To hear the Carroll tell it, the NCAA just basically made this stuff up about Reggie Bush. He didn’t take the handouts from an agent. His parents didn’t live in a house for which they did not pay. Old Pete, who bolted for the Seattle Seahawks before the sanctions went down, just doesn’t understand how the NCAA reached the conclusions it did.
I heard that somebody else drew this analogy first, but when Carroll went public with his amazement at the NCAA penalties, I was reminded of this famous scene from “Casablanca,” the best movie ever made. Pete Carroll is playing the role of Captain Renault (Claude Rains).
3. Does everybody completely understand what a game-changer the USC sanctions are? Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports made this point and I completely agree with it.
Every now and then the NCAA says “Enough!” and slaps somebody hard. They did it to Alabama in 2002. And it doesn’t have as much to do with overt cheating as it does with the kind of culture schools allow to grow and exist for the sake of recruiting expediency.
This is a very simplistic explanation but it goes something like this: “Come to our school and we’ll treat you like an NFL star BEFORE you become and NFL star. We can’t give you stuff, because that would be wrong. But if you just look hard enough, it’s out there. Now don’t be obvious about it because then we have to do something. But at our school (wink-wink, nod-nod) we’re not going to be looking very hard to catch you doing this stuff.”
Kids are not stupid. They know where the rules are tight and the rules are loose. They are kids. A lot of them want to go where the rules are loose. That’s why the adults have to enforce the rules.
Here’s the big change: Schools have been put on notice that if they recruit an elite athlete like Reggie Bush, they have to double the guard on him. At at the slightest sniff that he or his family have their hands out to anybody, you sit him down and declare him ineligible. Can you stop it? Of course not. But if you find out about it or even suspect it, you’d better do something about it. That’s the new standard created by the USC case.
The culture, of course, has its roots back in high school and is fostered in the recruiting process with children having press conferences. That’s been going on a long time and that’s not going to change. But the colleges have been put on notice. They have to change.
4. Was conference expansion all about the money? Of course it was about the money. And that is not always a bad thing.
I’m always amused when people say schools shouldn’t go for the money. That’s easy for them to say because they don’t have to pay the bills.
The same people who complain that schools want more money would be the first one standing in line to fire the athletics director if he let a top notch assistant coach get away to a competitor because the AD didn’t want to double the coach’s salary. Those fans who decry the role money plays in the sport would be the same ones who complain that their school doesn’t have an indoor practice facility which puts them at a disadvantage in recruiting.
Are their excesses? Sure there are. Schools are certainly chasing the money so that they can continue to pay their football coach $3 million-plus and build NFL style weight rooms.
But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t demand that your school compete at the highest level and then complain about the steps your school has to take to stay at that level. You are either in or out. There is no middle ground in this game.
Have a great summer, friends. See you on July 12.
Please follow me on Twitter: