The Silliest Of Seasons

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.29.2017


This time of year (mid to late November) is known as the ‘silly season’ in college football. It’s silly because of several reasons. First, the money spent to remove coaches and hire new ones. Second, the search process which as some schools have shown can be an absolute disaster. Football is a game and if you remove yourself and look at the big picture, what has occurred over the last few weeks or so is absolute nonsense.

Full disclosure, I am a graduate of the University of Tennessee and a very proud alumni.

Over the past few weeks universities (or major boosters) have paid out a minimum of $55 million to remove head coaches. That’s right. $55 million to pay coaches to leave. Meanwhile people in this country, who love these football programs and struggle to make ends meet, have to sit back and watch a coach like Butch Jones will get $205k a month for the next 40 months to not work. The best deal, how bout former Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin will get some $10+ million in the next 60 days to not coach football. Texas A&M doesn’t even get a deal on the payout if Sumlin takes another job. How bout that for an exit package!

Why are these buyouts so high? Well partially because the whole industry has gone off of the deep end. Arkansas head coach Brett Bielema was fired shortly after the teams last game of the season. In fact the media got the PR release immediately after the game which may have occurred before Bielema got the news.

Speaking of deep end, let’s talk about Tennessee and the fiasco that is still occurring there. Athletic Director John Currie fired head coach Butch Jones and was very frank and professional in the press conference following the firing. He gave off an air of professionalism and the expectation that Currie was planning far ahead and a new head coach would be in place soon. Several weeks later Currie tried to hire former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. That outraged the Tennessee fanbase, media, alumni, boosters and even politicians to the point of protests on campus. It was so bad that Currie had to (from what we know) withdraw the offer and go back to the drawing board. That drawing board saw him get turned down by Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and apparently be overruled on bringing in Purdue’s Jeff Brohm.

But back to the Schiano debacle. The pulling back from Schiano showed a few things; first that social media and boosters can stop a hiring if they don’t like it. Second that people associate anyone with the Penn State at the time of the Jerry Sandusky abuses as tainted goods and finally, the expectations at a Power 5 school like Tennessee is to have a “splash hire” and someone who can put their team back in the running for national championships. For some at Tennessee that means former Tampa Bay and Oakland head coach Jon Gruden. A coach who hasn’t roamed the sidelines of a football game in a decade and hasn’t coached at the collegiate level in almost 30 years.

Let’s be honest, all this is beyond the pale. This is college football where the players are not paid yet millions of dollars are being shelled out to fire coaches and hire new ones all the while the universities that the players represent saddle students with enough loan debt to make an economist have an extra shot of tequila. Social media turns into the digital equivalent of a forrest fire and fans get so fired up that they protest or confront coaches who might leave as one did at Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher’s weekly radio show.

Athletic Directors are beholden to big money donors who bless or curse hires. Coaches change jobs and receive millions of dollars while the players they recruited are stuck and can only transfer to schools in a lower division or sit out a season. They do not get to share in the riches  of revenue but put their bodies on the line for 12 games a year and then some. It’s time for this industry to look in the mirror and say that enough is enough.

College football is a wonderful sport but it is officially out of control. While the passionate fans found in Knoxville, Gainesville, College Station, Lincoln and Fayetteville among others deserve a quality program for the support they give, at the end of the day it’s still just a game being played by unpaid participants. The amount of money, time and attention being paid to firing and hiring coaches could and should be spent elsewhere. It doesn’t appear that this will change any time soon so do what you can do enjoy the fiery spectacle.

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What to Watch Fri. 11/13 – Sun. 11/15

All times are Pacific

Friday November 13th

San Jose Sharks at Detroit Red Wings  – 4:30pm NHL Gamecenter: These two had some legendary playoff series back in the day.

USA vs St. Vincent & The Grenadines – 4pm ESPN2: Let the road to the 2018 World Cup in Russia begin.

USC at Colorado – 6pm ESPN2: Colorado is better than their record shows. USC has some NFL level talent. At night in Boulder is a tall order for the Trojans.

 

Saturday November 14th

Georgia at Auburn  – 9am CBS: Fact is, if Mark Richt and Georgia win then he may have saved his job.

Texas at West Virginia – 9am ESPNU: This is a swing game for both when it comes to Bowl eligibility.

Miami at UNC – 12:30pm ESPNU: Last time Miami was in the state of North Carolina they won by lateraling the ball like eight times. UNC is on a roll though.

Alabama at Mississippi State – CBS: Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs have one last chance to beat the Tide and prove that they are a force to be reckoned with in the SEC West.

Memphis at Houston – 4pm ESPN2: The over on this game should be like 150 points.

Oklahoma at Baylor – 5pm ABC: Game of the day and OU has always had problems defending Baylor. Question is, can OU keep place offensively?

FourtnetteArkansas at LSU – 5:15pm ESPN: Like old school, run oriented offenses and hard hitting defenses? Well this is your game. One is coming off a tremendous win in OT while the other got beaten down pretty good.

 

UFC 193 – 7pm PPV: Ronda Rousey takes her winning ways to another continent (Australia) to square off against Holly Holm. Hidden gem on this card is Mark Hunt vs Bigfoot Silva in a rematch of their legendary 2013 fight.

Washington State at UCLA – 7:30pm ESPN: Washington State lost their first game of the year to Portland State who plays in the FCS. People were calling for head coach Mike Leach’s job. Boy how things have changed.

 

 

Sunday November 15th

Toronto Argonauts at Hamilton Tiger-Cats – 10am ESPN3: It’s playoff time in the CFL and this is a great way to start it off. Both have had to overcome injuries at key positions and it’s the equivalent of a ‘backyard brawl.’

Minnesota Vikings at Oakland Raiders – 1pm FOX: A year ago we wouldn’t dream of making this a ‘must watch’ game but man, what a difference a year makes.

BC Lions at Calgary Stampeders – 1:30pm ESPN3: The defending Grey Cup Champion Calgary Stampeders begin the final run of head coach John Hufnagel’s career. They are heavy favorites but don’t count out the Lions.

Toronto Maple Leafs at NY Rangers – 4pm NHLN: Always a fun game to watch.

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks  – 5:30pm NBC: Two top teams in the NFC West square off the end your weekend.

The Sunday: Slips and Misses

And That’s Not Travelling?

We know it’s early in the NBA season but how do multiple steps without a dribble get by the refs? They are professionals right?

 

The Slip

Arkansas Head Coach Bret Bielema was so happy about his teams OT win at Ole Miss that he couldn’t wait to jump….

He was probably still blown away by this play that kept Arkansas alive in OT.

 

No Direction

Ken WhisenhuntThe Tennessee Titans fired Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt less than two years into his regime. Not only that, they fired him with starting quarterback Marcus Mariota out, they recently took the 5-1 Atlanta Falcons to the wire and he convinced one of the greatest defensive minds in NFL history (Dick LeBeau) to come to Nashville this past off season.

It is clear that the Titans ownership (or lack thereof) has no clue what they are doing or what direction they are going. It is a franchise that is being run remotely from Houston. The best thing that can happen for Titans fans is for the franchise to be sold to an owner who actually has a plan and cares about the franchise.

Were Those ACC Officials?

Nebraska defeated #7 Michigan State on a 30 yard touchdown catch that shouldn’t have counted. The Nebraska wide receiver was clearly out of bounds but the refs said he was pushed (meaning intentionally). It doesn’t really appear that way. Michigan fans may call this karma.

While that is bad, the following was called as a taunting penalty. Seriously.

Unstoppable?

The Golden State Warriors are the defending NBA Champions. Guard Stephan Curry is the reigning MVP. So far they are 7-0 in the 2015/2016 season and Curry has scored 20 points in a quarter three times already. To give you some perspective, Oklahoma City’s Brian Westbrook lead the NBA in that category last year and he did it four times….all season. Yes, Curry is taking it to the next level

That Just Happend

North Dakota State Zack Vraa made arguably the most outstanding catch of the weekend. Best part? Watch the defender afterward.

NDSU WR Catch

Meanwhile this happened in Pocatello, ID to end the Montana vs Idaho State game in overtime.

Transfer Dreams

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

We posted a blog earlier this called ‘College Football Free Agency’. It reflects the trend in college football in which graduate players transfer schools for one last season on the gridiron and one last chance to impress pro scouts. While a player like former Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams has a lot of experience and success behind him, many transfers -graduate and undergraduate- don’t and end up leaving fan bases crying in their college football alumni mugs.

Wilson-NCSTATEEveryone wants to think of transfers, in particularly quarterbacks (QB), as the next great QB savior. Just like Troy Aikman did at UCLA or Scott Frost at Nebraska or ever Ryan Mallett at Arkansas. Really everyone wants it to be just like when Russell Wilson transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin and led the Badgers to a Big 10 title and berth in the Rose Bowl. Reality is Aikman, Frost, Mallet and Wilson are more of the exception than the rule. For everyone one of these guys there is a Danny O’BrienSam KellerRobert Marve or some other highly hyped kid who made a fan base believe they had a chance at a conference title.

O’Brien was barely ok at Maryland and then transferred to Wisconsin where the Badger faithful had dreams of another Russell Wilson dancing in their heads. Bottom line, he wasn’t very good. He could never win the QB job and ended up transferring to Catawba. Keller is more known for leading the lawsuit against EA Sports than for his QB play at Nebraska where he transferred to from Arizona State. Marve was highly touted, played at Miami and then moved on to Purdue where he couldn’t stay healthy on some pretty awful Boilermaker teams.

Mustain-ArkThe two most cautionary tales for fans should be those of former #1 recruits Mitch Mustain and Jake Heaps. Mustain started his career at Arkansas but transferred to USC after his freshman year. He played more games in one year at Arkansas than he ever appeared in at three years at USC. Heaps went from BYU to Kansas and then to Miami (he is originally from the Seattle area). He could never lock in a starting job at three different schools despite showing promise his freshman year at BYU.

Players transfer for all kinds of reasons but just because they transferred doesn’t mean they are going to fit in at their new school and lead it to victory. There are more cautionary tales than successful stories. While we’re probably only seeing the beginning of the transfer binge, especially when it comes to graduate transfers, it should go without saying that transfers are not always a saving grace. So for those fans in Eugene, Tallahassee, and Athens, just remember that the odds of this new transfer QB being the next Aikman, Frost or Wilson are pretty far off.

Extended Reading:

Jake Heaps

Mitch Mustain

Grantland

College Football Free Agency

The Sunday: Scuffles, Farewells, and Finishing

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

The college football regular season is done for all intents and purposes. While nothing has truly been decided on the national scale, a lot has been decided on the state level. And sometimes it wasn’t all that pretty.

The Scuffle:

Rivalries are called that for a reason. While Kentucky vs Louisville in football isn’t always a ratings grabber it is an intense rivalry. This one got started before the game did and Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino was even involved. He appeared to push a Kentucky assistant coach during the second of two pre game confrontations.

Farewells: 

Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pellini was fired on Sunday after another 9-3 season. In fact, in all 7 years of Pellini’s tenure the Huskers have won 9 or more games and lost a minimum of 3. Worst part about this is that it probably means an end to the Faux Pellini twitter account.

Faux Pellini

 

Saturday also saw the probable end to the storied career of Thierry Henry. The Frenchman has played for the biggest clubs in the world, won every trophy the sport has to offer and as a parting gift left the media with four words, ‘Well done New England’. 

 

Finishing 

Several college football teams finished 500. Some of those teams will go to a bowl game. Some are happy to be 500 and going bowling while others see their season as a failure. Those who are excited are Tennessee, Illinois and Arkansas. Those who are not are Florida and South Carolina.

Tennessee, Illinois, and Arkansas had to scratch and claw with young teams to get to this point while South Carolina and Florida started the season with expectations of competing for a conference championship.

Two performances of note from rivalry weekend in college football. Arkansas QB Brandon Allen tweaked his back against LSU two weeks ago. By the end of the game against Missouri it was clear that it was effecting his throws. He continued to fight and while the Razorbacks fell to Missouri it was a gutty performance.

Brandon Allen

The other performance was that of freshman Deshaun Watson. The Clemson QB is something special to watch and this week he did it with a torn ACL. That’s right. He apparently tore his ACL in practice and played against arch rival South Carolina anyway.

The college football and MLS seasons are rapidly coming to a close. With it comes the end for some but a beginning for others. What is always means though is a time for the body to heal for yet another season.

 

Saber Rattling by Saban and Bielema

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Make it two coaches now in the SEC who want rules to slow down the fashionable no-huddle, up-tempo offenses.  Their reasoning, player safety. Their real reason, they don’t know how to stop it.

One of these coaches is Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban who’s teams have won 3 of the last 4 National Championships. The other is Arkansas’ new man Bret Bielema. Both are former Defensive Coordinators which makes their reasoning seem all the more odd.

It’s a slippery slope that Saban and Beilema are standing on. Their trying to play the injury card. However, if they were genuinly concerned about player safety then they would be working with Bill Polian and look at expanding the field. The wider field plays into the wheelhouse of the no-huddle, up-tempo offense so there is no way Saban and Beilema would back that. Hence, their argument for a rule change. ‘

There is another way though. We wrote on this site late last year about how to stop or at least prepare for the no-huddle, up-tempo offenses spring up like weeds around college football (and in the NFL):

First, they have to stop approaching defense with a ‘well it worked in the past’ philosophy. While there are lessons that can be learned and schemes poached, there has to be a fresh approach to the basic practices  The best place to start is with the substituions. Stop them. While several years ago substituting in players for certain defensive packages worked it won’t when you play teams like Oregon or
Arizona who never huddle and snap the ball quickly. If you want rotate players to keep them fresh throughout the game you’re going to need 22 players and not 11.

Defenses can stay fresh by rotating the starting 11 between series. While this may leave some playmakers on the sidelines for a couple of series it will, in the long term, keep those players fresher to make plays throughout the game.

Second, defensive players have to now be the most conditioned athletes on the field. Rotating super giant lineman to clog the line of scrimmage isn’t going to work. Having well conditioned athletes with great technique is. Anticipate having to leave 11 defenders on the field for an entire series.

The bigger question is why do these coaches want to stop these offenses? When you look at both of these coaches styles it is the very old school, traditional, smash mouth football. They both start with defense and their offenses are designed to run the ball. They are very traditional thinkers and their philosophies have won them a lot of games.

What these no-huddle, up-tempo offenses do is threaten their livelihood. If they were to change their defensive schemes and go get fast players with good size as opposed to big, strong and fast players then players would eventually stop coming to these schools.  Why? That’s not what the NFL wants and most of the kids coming looking to play big time college football have dreams of playing the NFL. Playing at Alabama and Arkansas can greatly enhance your chances if your one of these young players.

In the end this may be a hallow threat from Saban and Beilema. But when two successful coaches are both saying the same thing then their threat should be taken seriosuly.

 

Gunner Kiel…the Next Mitch Mustain and Brent Schaeffer.

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

We wrote some time ago on why recruiting rankings are nonsense. We’ll here’s another example, Gunner Kiel. Recently the former #1 quarterback (QB) recruit announced that he was transferring to the University of Cincinnati from Notre Dame. Should you care? No. Why is this news? Because ESPN.com felt the need to post it and Kiel was the former #1 QB coming out of high school according to Scout.com and Rivals.com.

The truth is that Gunner Kiel has done nothing on the collegiate level to deserve any kind of recognition. Kiel flirted with more schools than Kim Kardashian has boyfriends. He committed and then de-committed from 2 schools that we know of (Indiana and LSU) and now transferred to Cincy all the while gaining more media attention. Makes you wonder if he is doing it more for attention or for playing time.

Kiel isn’t the first player to playing musical university’s nor will he be the last. Kiel should pay attention to two previous examples though, Mitch Mustain and Brent Schaeffer.

Mustain was the #1 player in America coming out of high school in Arkansas. It’s a long story but he ended up transferring to USC after 1 year at Arkansas (in which he started 8 games going 8-0). He never started a game for USC and currently plays in the Arena Football League. Schaeffer was the 1st ever true freshman starting QB on opening day in SEC history. Schaeffer platooned with fellow freshman Erik Ainge for a year and then transferred to a junior college and eventually ended up at Ole Miss playing wide receiver. He is currently out of football.

What we learned from Mustain and Schaeffer is that, as Derrick Brooks has said, ‘everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die to get there.’ Everyone wants to jump from good to great but good takes a long time. You don’t just jump to great. Kiel, and others, have yet to learn this and it’s hard to learn when ESPN and Rivals and Scout.com are telling you how great you are and how you should be starting and succeeding NOW! Well, that guy ahead of you on the depth chart and that guy behind you…they’re just like you Gunner. People with talent who have been told that they are great and should be starting.

If Mustain and Schaeffer would have been patient, developed, been a good teammate, and perserved then who knows what would have happened. They didn’t. Will Kiel settle in and be patient, develop, be a good teammate and perserve? Who knows but from what we’ve seen so far doesn’t lead us to believe that he ever will.

The Silly Season

UT-HIRE

Some people call the last week of November and the first two weeks of December the “Silly Season.” Why? It’s when the college football media explodes into a frenzy of speculation over which college football coach will be fired and hired.

Hot jobs and hot coaches vary year to year. The best example of that is former Florida International Head Coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal was let go after a 3-9 season. The two previous years he led FIU to bowl games and even tied for first place in the Sun Belt conference. He was considered one of the hottest coach’s in the college football head coaching rumor mill last season. Now he’s out of a job.

This years hot name was Louisville’s Charlie Strong. He led Louisville to a co-Big East Championship and BCS Bowl berth in his third season at the helm. Strong eventually turned down a reported $4 million a year from the University of Tennessee to remain at Louisville. His reasoning and passion are very evident as you can see in his speech to the media and fans.

A name that was not on anyone’s list but at least he thought he’d keep his job was John Embree at Colorado. He’s was let go after two season’s at his alma mater. There is an argument about what the biggest surprise was, Brett Bielema’s move from Wisconsin to Arkansas or Tommy Tuberville’s move from Texas Tech to Cincinnati.

Arguably the “best” job available this year was the head coaching position at the University of Tennessee. After several subpar years (four losing seasons in the last five years to be exact) Athletic Director Dave Hart went looking for someone to bring back the glory days to the Volunteer Nation.

Apparently Hart was turned down by former Super Bowl winning coach and current Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden. After he said no Hart then turned his attention to Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong. Both ended up saying no but not before the folks at Tennessee believed fully that Strong was their guy. The belief was so strong that people were tweeting the plane tail number of Tennessee’s major donor Jimmy Haslam claiming that the plane was either on it’s way to pick up Charlie Strong or was on it’s way back with him. After all the false hope Tennessee, the supposed best available job in college football, was still vacant and the Volunteer Nation was left wondering, “would former coach Phil Fulmer come back?”

By Friday morning Tennessee found it’s guy with the hiring of Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones. Jones was also ending his own coaching interview tour. He interviewed and turned down the jobs at Purdue and Colorado respectfully. He and Hart met for the first time Thursday evening in Lexington, Ky which would be about the mid point between Knoxville and Cincinnati. Around 5:45am Jones informed his Athletic Director that he was going to Tennessee and at 2:30pm EST he was formally introduced as Tennessee’s twenty-third head coach.

JONES-UT

He and Hart apparently hadn’t slept and until Thursday had never spoken about the coaching position.

With the “best” job filled and other potential candidates signing long term extensions you can see why it’s called the “Silly Season.”

As of Sunday December 9th the following head coaching positions are still available:

Wisconsin, Texas Tech, Colorado, Louisiana Tech, Arkansas St., FIU, Kent St, Southern Miss, Temple, Western Kentucky, and Western Michigan.

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