Do Slive Comments Signal the End of Auburn-Georgia?

By Posted on: April 23rd, 2014 in Football 5 Comments »

Mike SliveIf you are of a certain age, you remember how big the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry used to be in the Midwest. Once thought untouchable, the game is now a distant memory. Like that series, conference realignment threatens to kill the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive made headlines on Monday when he announced that a decision would be made next month on whether the league would move to a nine-game conference schedule. Such a move could potentially mean the end of rivalries like Auburn-Georgia and Alabama-Tennessee.

“Last spring in Destin (Fla.), our presidents said to us, ‘Study the formats and we want a decision in time for the 2016 season,’ which is now,” Slive said. “So we’ve been working on that since then.”

The formats being studied include:

Eight-game league schedule with permanent crossover rivalries

Eight-game league schedule without permanent crossover rivalries

Nine-game league schedule with permanent crossover rivalries

Nine-game league schedule without permanent crossover rivalries

While nothing is certain, most believe a nine-game slate is likely. With the college football playoff beginning this year, there is pressure on schools to play quality opponents.

Adding an extra conference game would accomplish that for most teams. The discussion centers on how to fairly schedule the three out-of-division games. While Auburn falls in the group pushing for a permanent crossover opponent, others like LSU favor a round-robin approach.

Conventional wisdom says that Auburn, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee should have enough clout to maintain the one permanent game. But don’t be so sure. With 14 teams now involved in the decision, anything is possible. There has been a lot of talk about an unbalanced schedule rotation if these traditional rivalries are left in place.

“We tell them that all of the formats — every one of them — has a series of advantages and disadvantages,” Slive said. “There’s no one that lines up with all advantages and there’s no one that lines up with all disadvantages. So people are going to have to make a decision knowing that whatever decision they make is going to have some advantages and some disadvantages.”

The Pac-12 and Big 12 have already moved to a nine-game conference schedule and the Big 10 will do so in 2016. Another factor in moving to the new format is the formation of conference television networks. The SEC Network is launching in August and the idea of one extra league game is appealing to both ESPN and the conference.

Another option on the table is to stick with the current eight-game format and enter into an agreement with another conference to match up schools from those leagues. The ACC has already floated the idea with the SEC.

Slive said a decision will be made no later than the end of May. Let’s hope Georgia doesn’t go the way of Tennessee and Florida on Auburn’s schedule.

My Soul Will Forever Yell War Eagle!

By Posted on: April 22nd, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article, Football, News, Other Sports 6 Comments »
tiger-trail-226948ae08eccf05- Doc Robinson, anthony hall, auburn media

Auburn great, Doc Robinson with Auburn Media Relations Director Chuck Gallina, and former Auburn AD David Housel at 2014 Tiger Trail Induction Ceremony. (photo:Anthony Hall/Auburn media relations)

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend Auburn’s walk of fame (the Tiger Trails) induction ceremony by a tailgate friend from Texas. Holly Byrd usually attends the event to represent the Greater Houston Auburn Club. However, this year Holly was recuperating from a back injury and ask that I do her a favor and attend in her place.

Holly needed help getting items autographed to be auctioned for the Houston Auburn Club scholarship fund. Since I had never attended one of these events and this gave me the opportunity to help a member of the family as well as future students, I was glad to help out. However, while I thought I was doing Holly a favor, turns out she did me one.

You see I was not prepared for the type of night that lay ahead. I just thought there would be a handful of people there to witness some presentations. But there were close to 200 people that gathered for the festivities in the Auburn Arena. And folks I was wowed by what I experienced. It was honestly a blessing to be in attendance.

The event was MC’ed by former Auburn AD David Housel with legends and former inductees like Lloyd Nix, Buddy McClinton, and Terry Henley among the attendees.

Unquestionably a family event, it reminded me of my wife’s family reunions. I say that because while I didn’t personally know most of those gathered, there was a spirit which was truly ‘all in the family.’ Auburn people share that special bond and it is the basis of what makes Auburn University so unique. It didn’t matter if you were an Auburn All-American, a coach, or just a fan; everyone mingled and talked like they were at a family reunion.

It was great fun talking with Coach Malzahn, Coach Pearl, Coach Person, and Coach Tuberville as well as with this year’s inductees. A big highlight for this writer was to meet and talk with one of my childhood heroes … All-American and First Round NFL Draft pick Ken Rice; who was there on behalf of  his friend Cleve Webster.

Yet the best came not during the social hour but during the program and the nominees acceptance speeches. For a sentimental guy like me it was a moving experience. As the stories flowed from those like Tommy Tuberville who spoke of his two great running backs Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams to David Marsh, who talked about cancer victim and former Auburn swimming coach Richard Quick‘s love for Auburn… the entire evening was an inspirational affair – one which just reinforced my love for Auburn.

I’m not ashamed to admit that tears welled up in my eyes more than once as each recipient spoke of their love for their alma mater and the impact being a Tiger had on their lives. Four time All-American soccer player, Megan Rivera said, “I came away from Auburn not only with an education but with life experiences that made me what I am today.”

Carnell ‘Cadillac’ Williams along with Ronnie Brown were First Round NFL Draft picks. “Coming back to get inducted,” Williams said was, “An awesome feeling. It just goes to show you what kind of place Auburn is.”

David Housel who said, “The Tiger Trail symbolizes the past that we celebrate today as well as our hope for  the future,” asked Brown to hold up his one year old son, Rhys, from the podium. Housel added, “One day Rhys will be a young man and will walk the streets of Auburn and look down and say that plaque is for my daddy, Ronnie Brown.”

Perhaps the best moment though came from former NBA star and Auburn All-American point guard Doc Robinson, who summed up the feelings of Auburn people everywhere when he ended his acceptance speech with:

“I want to thank my Auburn Family, my teammates and the coaches who were here then. Without them, none of this would be possible. – My heart will forever bleed Orange and Blue and my soul will forever yell War Eagle.”

Me too Doc, me too!

Editor’s note:
If your an Auburn person, you owe it to yourself to attend next year’s induction. You can bet I’ll be there.

A Day to Celebrate

By Posted on: April 21st, 2014 in Football 3 Comments »
Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

Photo by Julie Bennett/al.com

You’ve got to give a lot of credit to Auburn officials. They know how to throw a party. Arriving on campus Saturday morning for the annual A-Day game, it became apparent immediately that the day was part celebration and part football.

The actual game was enough to keep the casual fan’s attention through halftime, but the real action was during timeouts and halftime. It would be hard to top the star power on-hand to help celebrate Auburn’s 2013 SEC Championship and look ahead to a new season.

Bo Jackson. Ken Griffey Jr. Picabo Street. Bruce Pearl. Carnell Williams. Ronnie Brown. Zeke Smith. Tre Mason. Chris Davis. Tommy Tuberville. The list goes on forever. It made for an unforgettable day on the Plains of Auburn.

We’ve all watched Chris Davis make that run a million times now, but it was extra special watching it on the Jumbotron with 70,000 cheering Auburn fans. Kudos to Jay Jacobs and his staff for making Saturday special…

It’s real easy to take Bo Jackson for granted. He’s always around the program, supporting it anyway he can. But you know, it would be just as easy for him to stay tucked away in Chicago.

There are so many stars who never return to their alma mater once their playing days end. To continue to give back is a blessing for all of us. His Bo Bikes Bama charity is huge now, but he gives back in other ways, like sending all three of his kids to school at Auburn.

Bo’s becoming every bit as special off the field as he was on it…

Like we talked last week, it’s hard to get a read on a team by watching its spring game. Auburn is no different. But you had to be impressed with the running of Corey Grant and Cameron Artis-Payne.

The same goes for newcomer D’haquille Williams. Sure he was playing against defensive backs that will see spot duty this fall, but it doesn’t take a Philadelphia lawyer to figure out this kid can catch a football.

“He is a playmaker, there is no doubt,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.

Williams finished the afternoon with five catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.

“That was just a little sneak preview,” receiver Quan Bray said.

For the first time since the Tuberville era, Auburn may finally have a second and third option at wide receiver. Throw in Sammy Coates and an improving Ricardo Louis, and Auburn’s offense has a chance to be better than last season…

While Nick Marshall looked even better, Jeremy Johnson still looks to be a work in progress. With Marshall carrying the ball so much, the idea of Johnson being one play away from starting, has to worry coaches.

While the raw talent is obviously there, Johnson looked out of sync at times. Then again, he was working with the second team offense, so maybe he should be given a pass (no pun intended)…

I thought it was interesting that ESPN was on campus handing out cards urging fans to call their cable and satellite providers about the upcoming launch of the SEC Network. So far, only Dish Network has signed on nationally to carry the station.

With Auburn hosting Arkansas in the network’s televised opener, time is of the essence for both ESPN and Auburn fans. Look for things to get worked out in the final days leading up to the broadcast. If not, get ready for the outcry.

Until next time…

Tigers Take to the Air on A-Day!

By Posted on: April 20th, 2014 in Football 6 Comments »
A Day four

Nick usually had all day to throw.
(All photos by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! On a gray windy day in Auburn, the starting Auburn “Blue” team totally dismantled the “White” backups, 58-3. It was as lopsided as any A-Day I’ve ever witnessed. What was truly impressive was that once again Auburn fans turned out in support of this team. Despite the threat of inclement weather, over 70,000 orange and blue-clad fanatics showed up to support the Tigers!

     It was a day for celebration, as awards were handed out, including SEC Championship rings and trophies. Highlights from last season’s miracle run played frequently on the jumbotron. I think everyone’s favorite was the “kick-six” from the end of last year’s Iron Bowl. I’ll bet that got played 20 times or more, and it never failed to generate a roar from the crowd! Beating Bama never gets old!

     Offensively, the Blue team pretty much did as it pleased in this game. Nick Marshall came out slinging the ball on the first four plays, and it was clear that the Tigers have been working on the passing game. The Blues threw the ball 37 times, to just 25 rushing attempts. The Blue team generated 657 total yards, and 8 offensive touchdowns. Still, lest anyone forget last season’s rushing juggernaut, there were enough power plays that looked very reminiscent of late last season.

 A Day Two

 Artis-Payne takes the ball behind some crushing blocks.

     The starting “White” defense featured a lot of players who’ve not been on the field much in the past at Auburn. Some of the guys impressed me individually. Linebacker Kenny Flowers showed a nose for the football, and he won Defensive MVP honors. The white bunch was a patchwork unit that was prone to giving up big plays, like a 59-yard coverage-bust TD pass to Quan Bray, and a 54 yard “lost contain” pitch play to Corey Grant.

 A Day Three

 Contain guy (the defensive end) is on top of the QB. Who’s gonna catch Grant on that pitch?

     The white offense didn’t fare so well. Facing Auburn’s remaining healthy starters, the white team managed just 85 total yards, and one field goal. This spring, the defense played a lot more of a single safety over the top, and the second safety being down near the line of scrimmage. New field safety Derrick Moncrief showed particular adeptness at cutting off running plays to the outside, and forcing the runner back into traffic in the middle. Auburn’s healthy top-level defensive linemen dominated the second team offensive line, and disrupted the offense in the backfield.

     There weren’t any live special teams returns, but there was more kicking than I expected. Auburn will field a new kicker and punter next fall, redshirt freshmen both, and A-Day was our first look at them. Kicker Daniel Carlson showed a strong leg, and hit a 50 yard field goal during the game. He missed a second one from that distance. Punter Jimmy Hutchinson did well also, with a 40.6 yard average. This was by no means an easy day for kickers. There was a brisk 20 MPH north wind blowing the entire game, with occasional sprinkles of rain.

Unit Reviews, after the jump!

Defensive line: Auburn’s starting unit of Gabe Wright, Ben Bradley, Angelo Blackson and Elijah Daniel was stout. If there was a weakness, it was a lack of an outside speed rush. Constant disruption from the tackles inside made up for that. Among the reserves, Gimel President caught my eye. He won a few one on one battles with tackle Shon Coleman, and forced Marshall to step up in the pocket. I’m not sure why he wasn’t credited in the official stats.

Linebacker: This year’s group seemed much more comfortable than last year’s. Starters Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost hardly played, though. This made room for guys like Kenny Flowers and Cameron Toney to play a lot, with Toney playing on both teams. Toney racked up 9 total tackles. The linebackers benefited from having a safety on one side, and the star on the other helping in run support. Too often last season, a linebacker was responsible for handling half the field on his own. Justin Garrett played a lot of star, and he looked back to last spring’s form.

Cornerbacks: This bunch was surprisingly strong. I know that is going to sound odd on a day when the Blues put up 386 passing yards. Starters Jonathan Mincy and Jonathan Jones gave up nothing. The reserve quarterbacks tried to force it in there anyway, and it was nothing doing. Both starters showed excellent ability to shield the receiver away from the ball. New corner Trovon Reed played extensively, and pretty well. He had a couple of nice pass breakups, and showed the ability to stay with Auburn’s deep and speedy receivers. Kamryn Melton also showed pretty good coverage speed, but less ability to keep the receiver from catching the ball. Melton drew the unfortunate task of trying to cover D’haquille Williams, a lot of the time.

Safeties: With only one safety over top a lot of the time, the Tiger defense was more vulnerable to the deep ball, and was lit up several times. With a lot of SEC starting quarterbacks graduating and moving on this spring, this may be by design. Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson may want to make the new quarterbacks in the league prove they can make those throws, while choking the life out of offenses closer to the line of scrimmage. I mentioned above that I was impressed by Derrick Moncrief. That guy comes up in run support very quickly, and makes sure tackles. He also showed coverage skills, when asked, swatting an out-route pass to Stanton Truitt away.

Punting: Jimmy Hutchinson had 5 punts for a 40.6 yard average. What’s not shown in the stat book is that all 5 of those punts were in the first half, for the White team, kicking against that 20 MPH wind. I watched a lot of the punting in pre-game warmups, and basically the coaches made ‘em all kick against the wind the whole time. There were impressive punts by Tyler Stovall and Jack Bjork during warmups. In fact, I think Bjork consistently had the best distance.

Returns: These weren’t live or pressured, so I mainly watched for who was out there fielding. Robensen Therezie dropped one punt, but it was a ball that the wind had pushed sideways, Therezie was running full speed to try to get to it, and he was out there with a cast on his broken hand.

Placekicking: Daniel Carlson has a very strong leg, and I expect we’ll see lots of touchbacks once again this fall. Carlson was 2 out of 3 on field goal attempts, with the miss coming from 51 yards. He hit a 50-yarder earlier. Carlson also did miss 1 extra point. Again, these were difficult conditions, with the wind, damp balls, and a new holder back there. Jonathan Wallace looks like he’ll be the holder this year. That gives Auburn some intriguing options on extra points, with Wallace able to both run and throw it!

Offensive line: On the starting unit, Reese Dismukes sat the game out, and JUCO transfer Xavier Dampeer started. Dampeer did an excellent job on a damp, windy day. I don’t remember a bad snap the whole game, and everyone of them was a shotgun snap. Avery Young got the start at right tackle. This unit pass protected pretty well, giving up no sacks, and looked just like last year’s road-grading unit on the ground game. The team has some work to do on depth, though. The second unit had problems with Auburn’s starters on the D-line.

Tight Ends/H-Backs: C. J. Uzomah was head and shoulders above everyone else, consistently taking on his guy and locking him out of the play blocking. Uzomah also made a tough catch over the middle in traffic. Brandon Fulse got the start at H-Back, and kind of had an off-game, for him. It’s a bit different engaging defenders from the backfield, and he’s still adjusting. It’s important to remember that Jay Prosch looked similar early, last season. It’s really a difficult, thankless position to play. I thought that Gage Batten had good day at times, too.

Receivers: These guys got a chance to shine, in a pass-heavy scrimmage. Sammie Coates made a one-handed circus grab in traffic, and he’s really come along as a blocker. D’haquille Williams made quite an impact on a touchdown reception late in the first quarter. He was locked up in the endzone with defender Kamryn Melton, who had good position. Marshall floated it to Williams’ outside shoulder, and Williams executed an in-air spin to secure the ball and get both feet down in bounds. Williams has great hands. But just as importantly, he’s aware of what’s going on with his quarterback. When the quarterback is getting pressure, Williams comes back toward the QB, and finds a visible spot to wait for the ball. Just when we thought he was going to be marginalized, Quan Bray had a sensational game, running good routes and making big plays. Melvin Ray was another guy who caught my eye, with an ability to get separation and catch the ball.

Running backs: For those wondering how Auburn might replace Tre Mason, A-Day gave a pretty emphatic answer. Both Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant were outstanding. They didn’t get many carries, but they did damage when they did get the ball. The two combined for 17 carries, 225 yards and a couple of touchdowns. For those keeping track, that’s a ridiculous 13.2 yards per carry. I felt badly for redshirt freshman Peyton Barber. He toiled in obscurity all last fall on the scout team, then busted his tail throughout spring this year. On his first carry, he ripped off a 13 yard run against the starting defense, then sprained his ankle and missed the rest of the game. I know he had to have been upset!

Quarterback: I think a lot of people were wondering if starter Nick Marshall’s accuracy would show improvement. After he completed several out of bounds early, the answer was starting to look like “not really.” As the first quarter went on, Marshall found his groove, accounted for the wind and dampness, and started hitting his man. He showed willingness to check down and move the chains, and the ability to avoid pressure and keep his eyes downfield. While I’d have liked to have seen a better completion rate than 59 percent, one really can’t argue with 10.72 yards per pass. That’s better than any starting quarterback in the SEC posted over the course of the season last year. Zack Mettenberger was tops in the league at 10.4. Jeremy Johnson did not have as good a day. He faced constant pressure, his receivers were blanketed, and conditions were tough. I think the coaches have worked him a lot on the zone-read, and perhaps not as much in the passing game.

     My major conclusion after watching A-Day is that teams are going to have a tough time stopping the Auburn Tigers. The defense will be improved, and more aggressive up front, I think. Auburn will have to get better, because this coming fall schedule gets a lot tougher than last season, ending with road trips to Athens and Tuscaloosa. Buckle up those chin straps, folks!

     A big thanks goes out to AubTigerman, and his friends and family for attending this game with me, and putting up with my chatter. As usual in Auburn, I enjoyed myself, made new friends, and loved celebrating our SEC Champion Auburn Tigers! War Eagle, and have a happy Easter holiday!

A Day One

Tigers are taking off!

A-Day is Here!

By Posted on: April 19th, 2014 in Football 24 Comments »
A Day 2nd line

A-Day open thread.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! It’s Auburn football game day once again! It’s A-Day on the Plains, and this one will be nationally televised on ESPN. The game starts at 2:00 PM Central Daylight Time. It’s a great opportunity for us Tiger fans to see what this year’s team looks like, and what they’ve learned during spring drills.

     For those attending the game, rain gear may now be in order. A low pressure center in the Gulf of Mexico is funneling moisture into eastern Alabama, and showers are possible. It will likely remain cloudy most of the day, and the temperature will hover in the mid-60s.

     It should be a fun event, especially with a halftime celebration of the 2013 SEC Championship team. This morning, I also enjoyed reading about two two new inductees to the Tiger Trail, Carnell Williams, and Ronnie Brown; both of whom were introduced by their former coach Tommy Tuberville. I remember those days fondly!

     As always, feel free to participate in this thread. I’ll be in Auburn, watching it live. War Eagle, and enjoy the game!

Five Questions for A-Day.

By Posted on: April 17th, 2014 in Football 13 Comments »
Crowd Watching A Day

Will the fans pack the stadium again?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! Spring drills draw to a close this week, punctuated by the annual A-Day game at 2:00 PM Central Daylight Time. This year, the A-Day game will be televised live on ESPN. The ticket office at Auburn Arena opens at 8:00 AM, and stadium gates open at noon. The weather should be good for this game, with a high in the mid 70s, partly cloudy skies, and only a tiny chance of rain.

     Every year, I like to single out five areas to watch on A-Day. Most folks will tell you that nothing is learned from spring games, but I believe there are indicators of what’s to come. Dropped balls and missed throws are of concern, regardless of the time of year. It was telling in 2012 that the offense ran most of its plays to the left side, with green blockers on the right. That presaged an offense that only averaged 10 points per game against SEC competition the next fall. What will we learn this spring?

     My first burning question is a tribute to the state of the program. I wonder if the stadium will be filled up again this year. I sat there in amazement last year, as fans just kept streaming in! Here’s hoping for a similar result, this year. Last year, I don’t think officials were ready for a crowd that size. This year, I think they’ll have a better handle on it. If you attended last year and were disappointed by things like concessions running out early, I believe things will be better this year. With the game on ESPN, folks may stay away. My biggest advice would be to get there early. It’s general admission, and good seats go fast. It is no fun trying to climb to the rafters of the place while the game is already in progress.

     Question number 2 is who wins the war of the trenches? The offensive line must replace All-American left tackle Greg Robinson. By recent accounts, Shon Coleman is ahead at that position, while the coaches have been moving the other contenders around. Will this unit pick up where they left off last season, plowing defensive lines into hamburger? The defensive line has been somewhat of a mash unit this spring, although there is still plenty of depth, particularly at the tackle spot. I’m looking forward to seeing the “Rhino Package,” with Gabe Wright and Montravius Adams playing at defensive end. Can Auburn’s o-line move a front that averages 300 pounds per man?

     Question 3 is will the passing game be improved over last season? I’m not looking for the New England Patriot offense, here. I’ll be watching for accurate throws, good route running, and no dropped balls. One indicator that’s mostly held true for years is that if the quarterback can’t accurately throw the quick screens on A-day, the offense is going to really struggle the next fall. We saw bad throws in 2009, but were saved the next fall by Chris Todd, who’d missed spring with an injury. In 2010, Neil Caudle and Barrett Trotter were on fire, and Auburn won it all that fall. Last spring, I was again concerned, but Nick Marshall and Jeremy Johnson came in for fall camp and took over.

     Question 4 is who will replace Jay Prosch at H-Back? We’ll be watching to see if Auburn’s new crew there will be able to clear the way like Prosch did. This should be easy enough to watch, with most action happening on the perimeter of the line. By most accounts, we’ll see C. J. Uzomah at tight end, and Brandon Fulse at H-back when the real games start next fall.

     Question 5 is will Auburn show improvement at linebacker this spring? Last season, Auburn’s linebackers started very slow, but were flowing better to the ball on running plays by Iron Bowl time. Other than Star Robensen Therezie, the others were a liability in pass coverage. This year, all of the presumed starters are upperclassmen, for the first time in years. Hopefully, they’ll look like it this spring.

Quick-hitters, after the jump!

     Talk of movement on the offensive line earlier this spring has quieted down. Evidently, Chad Slade is back at his normal right guard spot at least some of the time this week, Avery Young is playing both right tackle and right guard, and Patrick Miller comes in at tackle when Young moves inside.

     Your starting secondary for A-Day is shaping up, from boundary to field, with Jonathan Mincy at corner, Derrick Moncrief and Jermaine Whitehead at safeties, and Jonathan Jones at the field corner. Trovon Reed would probably be the first man in, when the Tigers go to a nickel look. Finding a fourth corner will be important. Candidates include Kamryn Melton, T. J. Davis. Newcomers Nick Ruffin and Kalvarez Bessent will arrive this summer.

     There’s reportedly intense competition for the top spots at the receiver positions. Most folks agree that it will be hard to get Sammie Coates, and impressive JUCO transfer D’haquille Williams out of the lineup. Battling for slot receiver spots are Marcus Davis and Melvin Ray. Ricardo Louis has been hampered by injuries this spring. It’s a deep and talented corps, and playing time will be at a premium.

      In the running back competition, as expected, Cameron Artis-Payne is probably leading the pack. But Corey Grant will certainly have his touches. Peyton Barber might be the best pure runner of them all, but he doesn’t know the offense nearly as well as the other two. Playing on the scout team last fall didn’t help, as the scout team is trying to emulate each week’s opponent.

     I plan to attend this year’s A-Day game, and will be trying to get to a good seat when the gates open at noon. I’ll put up an open thread for those watching at home before I hit the road Saturday morning. I’ll note any last minute developments at that time. War Eagle, folks! A-Day is here, and we’ll hear those pads popping once again!

‘The Times They Are A Changing’ – Whether NCAA Likes it or Not

By Posted on: April 16th, 2014 in Baseball, Basketball, Featured Article, Football 2 Comments »
NCAA2.0

When news broke Tuesday of the NCAA’s change in the meal policy for student athletes it hardly registered a blip on the sports media radar screen as a big deal. The governing body’s Legislative Council approved a change that will now allow unlimited meals and snacks to all Division I student-athletes, including walk-ons. That’s big news – not for the immediate impact of the change but as a precursor for things to come.

The NCAA always is a reactionary body and the change is a direct result of what has been blowing in the wind the past year. In general, the Ed O’Bannon law suit and the NLRB’s ruling allowing Northwestern athletes the right to form a union; and more specifically in this case, the comments made last week by  this year’s Final Four MVP Shabazz Napier who said that he often had, “hungry nights when I go to bed and I’m starving.”

On the surface, you would think that the NCAA’s action is a no brainer. Most people probably didn’t even realize that student athletes (all of whom are involved in heavy physical training) were limited to three meals a day with no snacks in between. However, the NCAA if anything is never out in front of a problem. They only react to situations. Such is the m.o. of a bureaucracy.

Shabiz is not the first athlete to complain of not having enough to eat. But make no mistake, this action is of much larger significance than more food for student athletes. This is the NCAA trying to close the barn door after the horse has already escaped. I’m afraid concessions like this may be too little too late.

The NCAA is attempting to say, ‘see there is no need for a union rep because we are responsive to the needs of our student athletes.’ Don’t get me wrong, I fully support providing athletes with all their nutritional needs and other expenses. What I don’t support is the unionization of college athletes.

Like Nero, the NCAA has been fiddling, while a firestorm of discontent has been growing larger around them. It would be easy to point the finger at Mark Emmert and since this has occurred on his watch, he certainly bears some culpability. However, it is far greater problem than one man. Again, it is due to the slow mechanization of a bureaucracy as well as resistance to change.

The larger question here, is what will become of college football as these issues are played out in the courts? I will go on record here and say this is one man that thinks the unionization of scholarship athletes is a bad, bad idea. I know there is an insane amount of money in Division I college football and the ‘full cost’ of the athletes has not been covered. I get that. But college players are either scholarship athletes or they are employees – they can’t be both.

As scholarship athletes they are currently receiving a free college education worth anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000 a year depending on the college. In reality, colleges spend more on athletes when you add in their meals, their free weight training, conditioning, nutritional help, books, free medical, and academic tutoring.

On the other hand as an employee, the athletes would share in the profits, be able to sell their likeness and autographs, and have the right (as in the NFL) to player representation as well as collective bargaining. Anyone ready for the loss of a football season because of a labor dispute between management and players?

Also as an employee the employer would have the right of dismissal. In the business world when an employee is not pleasing their employer they are subject to being fired. Imagine coach ‘A’ doesn’t think that player ‘B’ is working out. He/she has an attitude or maybe seems to be injury prone. As an employer, Coach ‘A’ just fires them. How does that help the student get an education?

Because the NCAA has not responded appropriately or in a timely manner to student athlete needs and concerns, we are now faced with this quagmire of an uncertain future. The NCAA’s free food rule change is only a band aid to a much larger issue and a harbinger of bigger changes ahead. To quote that great American musician and song writer, Bob Dylan :

“The wheel’s still in spin, and
There’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the winner now will be later to lose
For the times they are a-changin”

Whether the NCAA likes it or not.

Kerryon Johnson, Nation’s No.2 Athlete Commits to Auburn

By Posted on: April 15th, 2014 in Football 1 Comment »
-822b59ea091dab59kerry Johnson

                                                                                                                                  (photo:Bob Gathany, al.com)
One of the top players in the state of Alabama and the nation’s No. 2 athlete, Kerryon Johnson committed to Auburn this afternoon.

The 6-foot, 200-pound 5-star running back rushed for 1,784 yards and 28 touchdowns at Madison Academy. He also had 67 tackles and five interceptions on defense and help lead Madison Academy to back-to-back 3A State Football Championships.

Johnson who finished third in the Mr. Football voting this year was recruited by several of the top programs in the country but made his final decission choosing between Auburn, Alabama, and Florida State.

In making the announcement, Kerryon said that his commitment was firm and that he plans to be at Auburn for next year’s spring practice. He said the family atmosphere was a real selling point for him. “I feel great at Auburn and I wouldn’t expect that to change.”

Video of Kerryon Johnson’s 2013 season highlights: