Writing On Wall For NCAA Amateur Status

By Posted on: March 18th, 2014 in Basketball, Featured Article, Football 15 Comments »
emmert

Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed in US federal court in yet another attempt to tear down the amateur distinction of big time college athletes at big time college institutions in an ultimate attempt to get fair compensation for student athletes in the respective multi-billion dollar industries in which they toil. This new suit, against the NCAA and the five largest conferences, challenges the lawfulness of the “wage” assigned to football and basketball players to being capped at the value of an academic scholarship, presumably under existing anti-trust legislation. With recent suits also pursuing the NCAA on similar grounds, could it finally be 3rd and 25 for college football? Watch for the pooch kick here soon.

While no reasonable person can defend hundreds of millions in value added to major programs’ bottom lines by a countless parade of high-profile athletes with little more than tuition and board as the carrot, no sane college football fan can discount the negative effect of direct money payments to players on the integrity of the sport. While this type of compensation and resulting corruption have gone on ever since we’ve had the game of football, the modern age brings the spotlight full on the big money sport it truly is. With major programs generating billions in revenue, the lavish amounts of money heaped on from ticket sales, television, and merchandising is too much to ignore anymore.

It’s un-American to think that  players’ images on TV and in video games can earn these types of dollars cumulatively but can provide no more than books, lodging,  and two semesters a year for the individual himself. It’s also unreasonable to think that the schools themselves, who have been building their brands for in excess of one hundred years in most cases, have no intrinsic value other than a revolving cast of semi-employees who filter in and out of their ranks every year. Why must it always be 3rd and long?

How did football and basketball end up like this, with the colleges serving as de facto farm systems for the sports, unlike baseball, which does provide a real alternative for those who wish to become semi-pro and those who want to remain amateurs until they get their education? We’ve so bastardized the systems and they’ve grown unchecked for so long that it may well now be impossible to separate those two distinctions again.

One must know that direct payments in the open to amateur athletes will only drive the illicit payments further underground and to ridiculous amounts. The NCAA investigative arm would never be so busy as it would be once direct compensation was approved for athletes. The corrupting influence of money over and under the table would kill the sport entirely as the integrity of the sport, schools, and individual players will be under constant scrutiny. Larger schools could always pay more than the smaller ones–the same with conferences. Recruiting would literally morph into a draft.

No one wants to think about the alternative of the pros establishing legitimate farm systems for football and basketball. Even if the NFL and NBA could, the lure of college athletics would still be strong. What 18-year old kid would want to play in front of nobody for $50,000 a year if he could instead strut his stuff in front of  a home crowd of 90,000 and a national TV audience? It would be a much harder decision than you think. You can’t break the stranglehold of decades of national prominence and tradition overnight–for any price. I’d like to think we’d still root for our schools even if we only fielded intramural level teams, but college fans are a lot more sophisticated than they were even two decades ago. Everything in the sport is evolving.

I think it’s inevitable. Athletes are soon going to get a better compensation package than they’ve been getting. So many lawsuits, so much money, and so many good arguments about the fairness of it all are swaying the sentiment. The only details are in what form the compensation will be. Here’s some of the things I think I know what it CANNOT be:

  • An inducement for a player to be recruited by a particular school
  • Anything based on wellness or non-injury
  • Differences in conferences
  • Media attraction, TV appearances, individual awards, or star power

I think a good starting point for compensation would be in a deferred fund for players of a division–FBS, FCS, etc– after their eligibility was exhausted. Call it the ultimate collective bargaining agreement. They all earn as a collective body and share in the rewards after their college careers have ended. Having the compensation deferred would help protect their amateur status, if not in word, then in perception. A share of all revenue they help earn would go into the pot, to be drawn on eventually for such issues as medical treatment, continuing education, and perhaps a pension.

No one should pretend to have all the answers on such a large, complicated, comprehensive issue as justly compensating college athletes a fair wage for the revenue they help generate, but we should try to get ahead of it very soon and do it voluntarily–instead of having it ordered as a judgement in a huge lawsuit.

How would you help solve it?

Nostalgia Friday: Auburn vs. Alabama 1993

By Posted on: March 14th, 2014 in Football 6 Comments »

It was one of Auburn’s most unlikely seasons. While they were not the long shots we saw in 2013, the 1993 Auburn football team was nowhere to be found on the college football radar as the season started.

Taking over following the Pat Dye era, Terry Bowden was the surprise pick of the Auburn search committee and expectations couldn’t be lower heading into his first campaign.

Following a nasty, months long investigation by the NCAA involving former player Eric Ramsey, Auburn was not only on probation and ineligible for bowl play, they were also banned from television. In fact, they were the last major program to be subjected to this penalty – one that likely will never be implemented again.

Bowden’s bunch captured the hearts of Auburn people across the country, but only a select few ever saw them on the field.

Auburn ran through its 11- game schedule unscathed and perfect. The crowning moment came on November 20, 1993 at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Auburn defeated Alabama 22-14. It’s remembered as one of the greatest wins in Auburn football history.

The above video is from the coaches cameras because no broadcast cameras were allowed. Auburn would go on to finish fourth nationally in 1993 and while they didn’t win the SEC in the record books, they were clearly champions of the SEC.

Tigers Will Be Tough Again in 2014!

By Posted on: March 13th, 2014 in Football 6 Comments »
Linemen

Titles are won on the line of scrimmage.
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody! We are just five days away from spring drills, although you’d hardly know it by looking at the thick layers of frost on the windshield this morning. After a grueling winter of tough workouts, the Auburn Tiger football team is ready to hit the practice fields, and work towards a terrific season. What’s been impressive this offseason has been a unity of purpose displayed in the comments of these fine young men. To a man, the team seems determined to do everything they can to take another step forward, and win another national championship. That they came so close last January, and came up 13 seconds short has left them hungry for more.

     Auburn has a plethora of skill players on offense returning this season, including Coach Gus Malzhan’s first ever returning starter at quarterback in Nick Marshall. The situation has us all dreaming of scoring 50 points per game and setting new offensive records. But, it’s important to remember how titles are won. We’ve seen teams win the SEC with average quarterbacks, average linebackers, and even average running backs. What you won’t see is a team win the league with mediocre play along the line of scrimmage.

     Make no mistake. Auburn had the second most prolific scoring team in school history last season because Greg Robinson, Alex Kozan, Reese Dismukes, Chad Slade, Avery Young and Patrick Miller absolutely road-graded SEC defensive lines on a weekly basis. Likewise, Auburn made timely plays on defense because of a 12 man defensive line rotation that ensured fresh, talented defenders on the field throughout the game.

     Most of the offensive line returns, with only Robinson headed for the NFL. There is talent and depth there, and coach J. B. Grimes did an outstanding job tweaking Auburn technique last season. There is reason to be optimistic that this year’s bunch will be even better. It should be one of the highlights of spring to watch Avery Young, Patrick Miller and Shon Coleman battle to avoid being the odd man out. It’s going to be fun to watch three offensive tackles of this caliber!

     On the defensive line, Auburn returns a lot of good tackles, but might have a numbers issue at defensive end. With the talented Dee Ford, along with reserves Kenneth Carter and Craig Stevens leaving, some new faces must step up on the outside. I think senior LaDarius Owens is a proven product on the run-side of the line, as he held onto the starting job all last season. Who’ll be that “rush end” is a whole different story. Will sophomores Carl Lawson or Elijah Daniel grab that spot and hold on? Or will it be a committee approach, with room for newcomers to shine immediately?

     Even with Nosa Eguae graduating, Auburn is as deep at defensive tackle as any team in college football. Gabe Wright grabbed a starting job and held on down the stretch last season. Montravius Adams, Ben Bradley, Angelo Blackson and others made plays in the middle. Adams may have the most upside of any tackle. And Jeffery Whitaker returns for a 5th season with his knees as healthy as they’ve been while he’s been at Auburn.

     Another interesting spot to watch will be in the secondary. Safety Jermaine Whitehead and corner Jonathan Mincy are proven SEC players. Auburn will be trying to find some answers behind them. Last season’s safety starter Joshua Holsey will still be rehabbing a knee this spring. A starting corner opposite Mincy must be found. Auburn has some talent here, but much of it is unproven. Jonathan Jones played in spots at corner last season. Converted running back Jonathan Ford is said to be a natural at corner. Finally, Trovon Reed will try his hand at defensive back, something he was recruited for by many schools five years ago.

     There won’t be a lot of live kicks and punts on A-Day, so we won’t learn anything much about the return teams, although I do count dropped balls and cringe on a yearly basis. The best time to watch kickers on A-Day is during the pre-game warmups. I’ll be really interested in who has the big legs, and who nails most of their field goal attempts. Auburn is likely to field a team in 2014 with a pair of redshirt freshman kicking legs, as Daniel Carlson and Jimmy Hutchinson are expected to win the kicking and punting battles, respectively.

     The running back battle is going to be interesting to watch, too. Seniors Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant are the heirs apparent, after both rushed for over 600 yards each last season, off the bench. Artis-Payne has gone on record as saying that his goal this season is to be the SEC’s first ever 2000 yard rusher. The two experienced guys may be pushed by redshirt freshman Peyton Barber, who was said to be a scout team monster last fall. Barber is around 230 pounds, and dangerously shifty and fast. My guess is that he’ll find a way to contribute.

     One of the biggest obstacles to an Auburn repeat SEC title this fall is the schedule. On paper it’s much tougher than 2013. There are land mines early, and a particularly brutal November. Auburn has Arkansas for an opener, then travels to Manhattan, Kansas for a Thursday prime-timer against K-State in week three. Louisiana Tech makes for a high-powered homecoming, then LSU comes to town a week later. The rest of October is on the road at Starkville, an off-week, then Auburn hosts South Carolina. November begins at Ole Miss, Texas A&M at Jordan Hare, Georgia in Athens, Samford, then Bama in T-Town. That’s road trips to Oxford, Athens and Tuscaloosa in November. Gone from the schedule are the likes of Western Carolina, Florida Atlantic and Tennessee.

     I’ll go ahead and go on record now stating that I’ll likely be attending Auburn’s A-Day game on April 19th. I’ve been to three of the last five, I always have a great time, and it’s been a good way over the years to load my camera up with tons and tons of clearer shots during ever-increasingly rare daylight football at Auburn. I dig into those A-Day archives regularly!

Too Late Not to Draw Battle Lines Over Slowing Down the HUNH

By Posted on: March 12th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 22 Comments »
battle lines

Last week the debate over slowing down the Hurry-Up-No-Huddle offenses was put to bed when the NCAA’s Rules Committee withdrew their 10 second proposal to slow the college football game down. However, that doesn’t mean the debate is going away. Not while Nick Saban and Bret Bielema still have a pulpit to speak from.

Feeling the heat from ninety three college coaches and numerous media types, the committee wisely decided to follow Gus Malzahn’s recommendation and table the proposal.  But make no mistake, the issue is not dead. There will be numerous studies over the next year by those who wish to stop the HUNH; in an effort to find evidence – any evidence that could show it pose’s a safety threat to athletes.

You can cloak yourself in the garb of “player safety” all you want but even the most delusional bammer knows in his heart this is about wins and losses. As Texas Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury said, “The last three losses (Saban’s) had, have been against, you know, some up-tempo teams.” Coincidence? Not hardly.

Saban has never made a secret of his distaste for the innovative offense. He fired his first salvo against the HUNH after the 2012 Ole Miss game when he said, “Should we allow football to be a continuous game? Is that the way the game was designed to play?”

But the battle lines were clearly drawn when the odd couple took it upon themselves to fly to Indianapolis in an effort to influence the Rules Committee to change the way the game is played. It will remain a hot topic at media days and conference meetings for the next 12 months.

The outcry over the Indy trip was a new experience for Saban. Usually accustomed to being portrayed as the king of college football, it had to be both surprising and frustrating for the little emperor to have his actions questioned by a normally adoring media.

After keeping silent for two weeks, and feeling the backlash from the coaching community, Saban finally came out and said he had nothing to do with the 10 second proposal. – Yeah, right.

Then sensing the possible failure of the “safety” excuse, Saban came up with the notion this week that he really wants to protect the refs by making sure they’re in place at the start of the play. It’s just another line in a continuous web spun by the tortoise to slow down the Hare.

First it was :
* Should we allow the game to be continuous?
* Next he jumped on the Bret Bielema “safety” wagon.
* Now he says he is concerned about the refs being in place.

That last one is no more legitimate than the safety ruse. Besides any officiating problems that might occur can be addressed by adopting the Big 12′s practice of having eight officials in conference games.

It is painfully obvious that what he is most concerned about is a competitive advantage or more accurately being at a disadvantage. Someone has built a better mousetrap and either Nick can’t or he won’t go back to the drawing board to figure a way to stop it short of asking for the rules to be changed.

Steve Spurier who runs a traditional offense at South Carolina says he’s had no problem defending against the HUNH. His Gamecocks have beaten Clemson’s high octane offense the last three years. Spurier said there is no big secret to it,” To me, the No Huddle is part of football.” He continued, “Our goal is to stay on the field and run that clock and all (the opposing offense) can do is sit on the sideline and look at each other.” That’s simple enough.

But what is disturbing is the people that still allow themselves to be influenced by Saban. Steve Shaw, the SEC’s Coordinator of officials told Al.com Monday, “My hope is that people won’t draw the battle lines. We’ll have a year cycle to debate this, not just for safety, but the competitive balance of the game.”

Did you get that? He’s referring to Saban’s position of a ‘competitive balance.’ While saying he doesn’t want to see people take sides on the issue, he may have tipped his hand with this statement. He seems to be leaning toward Tuscaloosa himself.

Anyway, it’s too late for the college football world to not be divided into battle lines over this issue. That ship sailed when Saban and Bielema chose to fly to Indianapolis to try and pull a fast one on the other coaches.

Should the NCAA continue to allow football to be played at a fast pace?

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How About a Cold One in Jordan-Hare Stadium?

By Posted on: March 10th, 2014 in Football 16 Comments »
beer

Fraternity boys across the South must be pinching themselves today. Is it really true? Might the SEC allow beer sales during college football games? They are at least going to take a look at it.

SEC officials plan to discuss the subject during league meetings this spring, with an eye on perhaps allowing neutral site games such as Georgia-Florida and Arkansas-Texas A&M to sell beer at those venues.

Many believe this is a first step in allowing beer sells campus wide. LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva is one who is open to the idea.

“(Selling beer at football games) would enhance the fan experience,” Alleva recently told al.com. “I don’t think that’s something that would necessarily be a negative for drunkenness and it might curtail the drunkenness if you sold beer.

“Right now, they drink excessively in the parking lot before they come in because they can’t get alcohol inside. Perhaps if they had access in the stadium, they wouldn’t drink as much when they come in. I think it’s something we have to talk about.”

I’m shocked it’s the LSU guy who’s leading the charge.

Of course, if you have enough money, drinking is allowed at Jordan-Hare Stadium. It has been for 25 years. Just pony up the 60 grand for a private suite and you can drink until you drop. Believe me; I’ve done it – as someone’s guest.

There was a time in my life where I’d been turning back flips at the suggestion. Now I’m not so sure. There are already enough morons sitting around me that come in juiced up prior to kickoff. The idea of them drinking for four more hours is something that gives me pause.

A lot of people bring in their stash now. I’ll never forget the time I was behind the young student pushing his friend through the gate in a wheel chair. The chair bound student handed the attendant his ticket, while a blanket draped his legs.

There was nothing unusual about it until they got 25 feet inside, at which point the handicapped student rose from his chair, chunked the wheel chair and out came a keg of beer that quickly disappeared into the student section.

I stood there in astonishment and admiration. Do we really want to take that kind of ingenuity away from our young people by making beer sales legal?

The discussion suggests a complete 180 degree change from the SEC’s past policies on alcohol. Just eight years ago, the league asked CBS to stop referring to the Georgia-Florida game as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. Now it’s looking at taking the party inside.

In an era where season ticket sales are on the decline due to the advent of inexpensive big screen, high definition television sets and satellite providers who carry every league game, schools are looking at ways to enhance the game day experience.

The fact that commissioner Mike Slive has been quiet on the subject suggests that changes may ultimately come.

“Up to now, we like our rule,” Slive said. I think this is an area where we want to walk slowly and carefully.”

That’s a long way from being opposed.

Financially the move makes lots of sense. From a common sense standpoint, it’s completely idiotic. We all take our football too serious in the South. Allowing beer drinking to move inside after a long day of tailgating will cause big problems. Ask the NFL.

When families stop coming, the sport will suffer. I’m all for having a beer or six before the game. But let’s keep the party outside. Who needs to keep drinking when you’ve got Gus Malzahn’s team on the field?

There’s nothing that can top that.

Auburn’s Major Sport Head Coaches.

By Posted on: March 6th, 2014 in Baseball, Basketball, Football 6 Comments »
Head Coach

Where do they stand?
(Photo by Acid Reign.)

     War Eagle, everybody. Fat Tuesday has come and gone, and it’s the season for giving things up. Frankly, I’m for giving up cold and ice threats, and trading in for storms, bugs and the stink of blooming Bradford pear trees. Spring football just can’t get here fast enough! So, which of Auburn’s Big Three sports head coaches would you be willing to give up for Lent?

     For Auburn fans, much is right with the world when the football team wins championships. Head football coach Gus Malzhan’s job is safe after leading Auburn to a “worst to first” SEC Title in his first season. Time will tell if success is sustainable. Remember, Terry Bowden won his first 20 games at Auburn.

     The Tiger football team scored a victory of sorts yesterday, as the NCAA Rules committee tabled a proposed “ten second rule” aimed at slowing down hurry-up offenses. Despite frantic lobbying by Nick Saban and Bret Bielema, I think wiser heads prevailed. While the debate is hardly over, college football fans are safe from this rule for this year, at least.

     Nick Saban reached for new levels of ridiculousness in the argument this week, comparing hurry-up offenses to smoking cigarettes. So Nick, you’re the self-appointed Surgeon General of the NCAA now? And I suppose you have peer-reviewed studies linking the hurry-up to cancer? No? I will give Saban credit for having his fall guy Bret Bielema ready just in case.

 

     A week ago, I cautiously spoke to minimal improvements in Auburn’s mens basketball program, what I thought were Tiger chances of reaching the post-season and saving head coach Tony Barbee’s job. Since that piece, the Tigers have imploded. First, the Tigers bricked a double-digit loss to a bad Alabama team, then was blown out at home on Senior Night by Tennessee.

     The Vols took leads of 10-0, 22-4, 27-6, and posted a 44-20 halftime lead, en route to an 82-54 win. Tony Barbee now has 50 SEC losses in just 4 seasons, and took a 28 point beating on his home floor against a team that was just 4-8 on the road. On top of that, Barbee walked out of his post-game press conference after being asked about his job security. Stick a fork in him. He’s done. All that remains this season is a road loss to Texas A&M, and an early exit from the SEC tourney. Even if Barbee is kept on, he loses 4 seniors and will be starting from scratch again next season.

     Auburn baseball woes continue with a 4-3 loss to Alabama in the Capital City Classic. A throwing error gave the Tide the winning run, but the real story was that Auburn only managed 3 hits in the entire game, against a very mediocre 6-5 Crimson Tide team.

     Auburn’s baseball record stands at 5-5, and the tough SEC season is just starting. The lightning rod for criticism thus far has been new head coach Sunny Golloway. I’ll give the man this. He’s not shy about speaking his mind. He’s still insisting that Auburn will make it to the college world series in Omaha this season. I’m betting that he’s seen a UFO or two, and has spotted Bigfoot, too.

     Golloway has shaken the team up with some dismissals and demotions, and most folks agree that the team’s effort has improved. Were these things wisely handled, as Golloway tossed them out into the court of public opinion? I’m not so sure, but I would rather have a coach that tells it like he thinks it is, rather than say, the “good practices this week and things of that nature” we got from a former football coach on a weekly basis while the program was free-falling off the cliff.

     I like a coach who tries to educate his fans. Golloway has repeated that his batters are taking too many called third strikes. That’s a legitimate strategy point, although a bit of a simplistic statement. If guys always swing when the count’s at two strikes, the pitcher will throw it in the dirt every time at that juncture. Galloway preaches being aggressive, and I think he’s right on that score. College baseball has become a pitching and fielding game, after the rules committee dumbed-down the bats a few years back. You’ve got to get runs any way you can. Gone are the days of the 19-17 home-run derby.

     I’m looking forward to the tales of spring football! Auburn has a lot of talent and momentum returning, but there are some areas of concern, as with any team this time of year. I think the biggest area of concern will be the defensive secondary. Jermaine Whitehead and Jonathan Mincy are proven winners. Everyone else healthy on the roster saw action mainly in the second half against teams like Western Carolina and Florida Atlantic. Auburn will be trying to develop some pass defenders, with Marshall and Johnson throwing rockets at them. Should be very interesting!

     Other areas of interest include the defensive line, linebacker, and special teams. Auburn must replace three defensive linemen who took part in the recent Pro Day, but there is a stockpile of depth returning. Who’ll come out on top, and will they be as slow this year to make noise as last year’s group was?

     Auburn must replace Cody Parkey and Steven Clark, who were pretty stellar performers during their careers kicking the ball at Auburn. Will the newcomers struggle, or be stars? How does Auburn replace suddenly-superstar Chris Davis in the return game? Quite honestly, I think the linebacker questions are mainly about depth. I think Frost, McKinzy and Therezie will be good SEC-caliber defenders. Who’ll give them meaningful relief off the bench?

The Bane of Heightened Expectations II

By Posted on: March 5th, 2014 in Football 3 Comments »

Greetings, O football-starved compatriots of the Orange and Blue!  It’s been quite a while since I have darkened the door of our corner lot (or express drive-thru, if you prefer) on the information superhighway.  As someone who readily admits to a lack of technical knowledge of football, I thought I would let that annual orgy of anticipation and prognostication known as National Signing Day come and go, and get out of the way of those on our staff with more ability to comment upon those happenings.

In addition, I am just now getting over our defeat from early January.  Not angry, bitter, nor even disappointed–just a really, really sad feeling when I think of Auburn.  Feeling this way is of course ridiculous, when compared to the real-world things I and many people close to me have been experiencing—births, deaths, illnesses, all those things much more significant than football—not to mention the fact that we exceeded our wildest dreams for last year.  Nonetheless, this loss hit me harder than any other loss since I started caring about sports in general and AU in particular.  Sand Mountain Tiger wrote a good piece here some time ago, capturing most of what I felt.

However, I can now finally put those feelings aside (yeah, the same way I can our rooking in 1983) and start looking ahead.  This brings me back to something I wrote here following the aTm game:  Although we exceeded anything we could have expected in the last campaign, that only raises our expectations even more for next year.

Even with the notable player losses to both graduation and early draft exit, AU is looking like a monster for next year.  Our coaching staff is intact.  The installed offense will not be derailed (despite certain crimson-clad coaches’ efforts to the contrary), and our remaining and incoming personnel appear to have reloaded the Gus Blunderbuss for another loud series of BOOMS.  Furthermore, I do not think we will ever have to worry about these young men fighting till the end in any game.  With all of this going for us, we have set a high standard to measure the success of next year’s campaign.

My definition of success doesn’t rest on a particular win-loss total; rather, I see it as a function of two factors…. 

First, it is a matter of WHO we have to beat.  I honestly feel that any season that doesn’t include a beatdown of LSU (to get us off that one-out-of-the-last-seven schneid) and a win against either or both Bama or the Dawgs (so all that “lucky” talk stops RIGHT NOW) will not be a success.  One other defeat to a worthy team in a worthy battle would be acceptable, along with maybe a loss in an epic-level SEC Championship Game.  A win and a loss in the new playoffs would be still be a beautiful thing for AU, as would a bowl victory if we somehow end up Number Five in the eyes of the selection committee (and if that happens, then damn their eyes).

If you factor in all those things, I don’t think many of us will be very happy without squeezing out an 11-2, 11-3, or 13-2 season next year, including at least a split in the post-season.  Still, I think calling next season a good season hinges on our performances against our Big Three (LSU, UGA, and Bama).

But there is one more factor involved in a successful season for me.  2010 and 2013 cannot appear as flukes.  For Auburn to assume its rightful place among  the powers of the football earth, next season must include stuffing a metaphorical sock in the pie-holes of ANYONE who thinks AU is a second- or third-rate program.  Of course, some pie-holes are larger than others, and require a larger sock to muffle; some pie-holes may be too large for anything to quiet them down, being directly proportional to the orifice at the other end (looking at you, Finebaum).

I take great pride in the point Coach Chizik made several times during his tenure:  Auburn was great before any of us walked the campus, and Auburn will be great long after we are spread onto the playing field (either literally or figuratively).  WE know that.  WE also know that AU is more than eleven teenagers chasing a leather spheroid across a patch of grass.  But let’s face it—we also want to be on top.  We want to be able to say “WE’RE NUMBER ONE!”  But even more so, we want to be in a position to say that the object of our fandom is LEGIT—not lucky, not a fluke, not winning due to “dirty play” or improper activity.

I find it comforting that, in our minds, we don’t have to win championships (or even make them up) to feel that sense of validation.  But I really, really, REALLY am tired of hearing all the baloney from certain other fanbases, either through the internet or face-to-face.  I want a season next year that, if it can’t keep those folks quiet, at least makes them look like patent idiots for trying to question AU’s legitimacy.

I have pondered and pondered what would make me happy with Auburn football, and I think I finally hit upon it.  I just hope that we can finally succeed in this endeavor.  After that, of course, the expectations will go even higher….

Michael Val

(who was playing with house money last year, and is going ALL IN again next year!)

Question: On the EVE of the ‘Saban Rule’ Vote … Will Bert and Nicky Get Away With it?

By Posted on: March 5th, 2014 in Featured Article, Football 23 Comments »
9GvKO95-360 - Bielema & Saban

It’s all coming to a head tomorrow. The ‘Saban Rule’ that is, it’s scheduled for a vote on March 6th by the NCAA playing rules oversight panel. If it passes it could take effect in the 2014 season. The rule would allow defenses time to substitute between plays as well as give defenders some ability to time the snap because play couldn’t start until there are 29 seconds left on the 40-second clock.

Both Saban and his protégé Arkansas head man, Bret Bielema have ostensibly proposed the rule in the interest of player safety. But if you truly believe that argument (and your not a Bama or Arky fan, I have some beautiful beach front property I would like to sell you in the Arizona desert.

The proposal is nothing more than a direct assault on the No-Huddle, Hurry-Up offenses that three SEC West Teams use against Alabama and Arkansas. For example, Auburn would have been penalized four times against Alabama if the rule had been in effect in the 2013 Iron Bowl.

It’s a well known fact that both these men revealed their true intent last summer during SEC Media Days when Bret Bert told everyone he was going to make the proposal. Then Nick followed up by reiterating  a question to reporters he had brought up in 2012, “Should we allow football to be a continuous game? Is that the way the game was designed to play? Is this what we want football to be?” 

While Bielema told the committee he talked about it at the January meeting of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), mysteriously no one at the meeting remembers anything about it. In fact, Cincinnati Coach Tommy Tuberville, who serves on the board of AFCA, told the AP the subject never came up at the association’s annual convention.

To say that coaches across the country felt blindsided by the news would be an understatement. Mr. College Football Tony Barnhart said …

“There are a lot of really mad coaches at the way this rule change was handled.” ESPN polled the 125 Division I coaches and found that 93 were against any rule change that would alter the pace of the game.

Within hours of the almost clandestine way the proposal was handled, coaches began to speak out against the rule. The loudest outcry predictably came from Coaches who run fast paced offenses but not exclusively.

South Carolina Coach Steve Spurier immediately labeled it the “Saban Rule.” Spurrier told USA Today. “So, you want to talk about the ‘Saban Rule’? That’s what I call it. He took it upon himself to go before the rules committee and get it done.” He continued, “They tried to change the rules. But I don’t think they’re gonna get away with it. It’s ridiculous. Let’s let everybody keep playing the way they’ve been playing.”

There is not enough space to list all the comments but on the eve of the committee’s vote we have composed some of  the more interesting …

 Coaches’ response from around the nation:

* Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M – “There’s a number of problems with how it was handled, just popping up out of nowhere. It struck a bad nerve. All the evidence points to a meeting where one coach got in front of the committee to plead his case ….. There’s also another side to this whole issue. When it comes to player safety, no one can find a coach in college football that doesn’t make that paramount. There is no evidence out there that suggests that this is a player-safety issue. It’s a move to eliminate the amount of creativity that goes into the game, that’s bad for the sport.”

* Mark Richt, Georgia – “I feel like if you can train offensive players to play five or six plays in a row, you can train defensive players to play that many plays in a row, too. I personally don’t think it’s a health-issue deal.”

* Butch Jones, Tennessee – “I want to see data produced from an injury standpoint. I don’t want opinion. I want facts and figures. Show me the numbers … Every program has a style of play, just like every basketball team, from pressing to pushing the ball down the court. Same thing in football. That’s what makes this game; the strategy that goes behind it.”

* Noel Mazone, UCLA –  ” “Why don’t we just do away with the play clock and wait for the defense to say they’re ready? We could have the quarterback go over to the other team’s sideline and ask if it’s OK to snap the ball.”

* Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech said he thought Nick Saban was motivated by self-interest. “I mean he showed up to the meeting and made it be known, and I know that the last three losses he’s had have been against, you know, some up-tempo teams.”

* Bobby Bowden, Fla. State (retired) and Vince Dooley, Ga. (retired)  ”People like offense. Unless they can just show evidence that boys are injured by doing that … leave it alone. Leave it like it is.”

* Dabo Swinney, Clemson – “Most of the time, when you look at defenses, they rotate their defensive line the whole game. Those offensive linemen play just about every snap. So we’re going to sit here and cry for guys who are playing 30 snaps when you’ve got guys on the other side playing 70? Give me a break. It’s an agenda, that’s what it is … The whole thing is ridiculous.”

* Mike Leach, Washington State – “It’s irrational at every level, nothing about it makes sense… The thing that’s most shameful about this is it’s a clear manipulation, through self-interest, by people who don’t want to coach within the parameters where strategy and ingenuity [have] taken the game. So now they want to manipulate the rules, and in needing an excuse to do this, they try to hide behind player safety. It’s ridiculous.”

* Rich Rodriguez, Arizona – If there was big concern with (safety), wouldn’t the teams that practice fast be concerned with it? We don’t have any more injuries because we practice fast. Perhaps Rodriguez gave my favorite response when he made a you tube parody about the two whining twins. If you haven’t seen it, click on this link. It’s a must see video.

After the outpouring of coaches coming out against the Saban Rule, Bert and Nicky have felt the heat and are tweaking their argument. Bilema now says it’s not about injury but about deaths, callously and insensitively citing  a Cal player’s passing in an off season training incident as proof. He doggedly continues to say the rule will pass.

For his part, Saban (in an effort to restore his tarnished image) says he wants people to believe he had nothing to do with the 10 second rule. Sorry Nick, that dog just won’t hunt. It’s like Coach Spurier said, “(You) “took it upon yourself to speak to the Committee and try to persuade them to take action,” And “They (Bert and Nick) tried to change the rules. But I don’t think they’re gonna get away with it.”

I hope the Old Ball Coach is right. But I’m not so sure. The little emperor usually gets what he wants. One way or another.

Do you believe the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will pass some form of the Saban Rule?

  • No (75%, 400 Votes)
  • Yes (25%, 135 Votes)

Total Voters: 535

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Poll Closed