A fun twist has arrived! Through my old blogging friends from our Sportingnews.com days now at The Sports Blog Nation along with Hog Database’s always generous participation, an assist from the expansive hogblog.org, and the most considered input from our Esteemed Guests, we bring you our real interviews brought to you virtually with not one national college football writer but with FOUR. Written by a very talented writer and good friend, he blogs under the name of Guardian of the Galaxy, although all mashed together. For this post I take pride in throwing a few blocks (of words here) and not the one carrying the ball. – SharpTusk
Suppose you were able to round up a few of the best college football writers/bloggers in cyberspace with some lure like “free shrimp cocktail followed by a lobster surf and turf.” Then, when they arrived for their free lunch (which they’d be on like sausage gravy on a biscuit!), you shackled them to the table in your sports man cave, aka your basement blog studio, turned on the old dentist’s lamp that dangled by frayed wires from the ceiling, and watched their saucered eyes as they discovered in horror that they were about to be grilled by a bunch of (gulp!) bloggers?
We did just that, allegedly, and we had ways of making them talk. After the third glass of tea with no bathroom in sight, they sang in four-part harmony. We promptly made them quit because you know how irritating barbershop quartets can be. We took notes and ate shrimp (what was it ‘Tusk, fried, broiled, barbeque and what else?) while they talked and not necessarily in that order. With THAT we can say:
WELCOME TO THE 2011 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON AND THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL ROUNDTABLE!
Announcer: The 2011 College Football Roundtable is produced by The Sports Blog Nation in association with Hog Database under the constant watchful eyes of the NCAA, the SEC, and millions of viewers like you.
guardianofthegalaxy (GoG): Our guests today are college football experts Spencer Hall, George Diaz, Tom Dienhart, and Matt Hayes. They have graciously agreed to discuss the state of college football with TSBN writers Pablo de Tejas, Petr Johan, myself, and SharpTusk from Hog Database.
George Diaz worked at The Miami Herald and Cincinnati Post before joining The Orlando Sentinel sports department in 1989. Diaz joined the Sentinel Editorial Board in July of 2006 and also began writing a local and state column at that time. As a senior editorial writer, Diaz specialized in Latin American issues, immigration, social services, pop culture and sports. He returned to sports as a columnist in April of 2009. Follow Diaz on twitter at @georgediaz .
Tom Dienhart is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He has covered college football on a national basis for over 15 years. Follow Dienhart on twitter at @TomDienhart.
Matt Hayes is the national college football writer for Sporting News and Sporting News Today. A recent article by Hayes touched on some of the topics raised in this interview. The NCAA only needs our list of 10 commandments to function, Sportingnews.com, August 11, 2011. Follow Hayes on twitter at @Matt_HayesSN .
GoG: We’ll let SharpTusk kick this off with a question with national implications and proceed around the table:
SharpTusk (ST): How do you think the teams rank in the SEC West?
Dienhart: Bama, LSU, Arky, AU, MSU, Ole Miss
Hayes: LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss
Hall: Arkansas, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, Auburn, Ole Miss. Good lord, that’s a deep and nasty slice of football material there.
Pablo de Tejas (PdT): What do you think the NCAA will do to Ohio State?
Hall: Since they don’t even know their own guidelines, it remains a complete crap shoot at this point. The NCAA vacillates between leaning on what they know (the Cam Newton case) and making up things on what they believe to be true (USC) and then arbitrarily applying punishments made up off the back of their ass. SO…..nothing? Let’s go with nothing, the “$1 bet” in this game of NCAA Price Is Right.
Hayes: Without a charge of lack of institutional control or failure to monitor, it won’t be much. And it won’t be worse than what USC received — when it most certainly should.
Diaz: I think the worst is over for Ohio State after NCAA investigators found no evidence that the school failed to properly monitor its football program or any evidence of a lack of institutional control. That’s always the Big One. And Ohio State seems to have dodged the proverbial bullet in that regard. We shall see when the envelope is opened Aug. 12.
Petr Johan (PJ) : Along those lines, given that the difference between the amateur and the professional is increasingly blurred, what would you do to protect the sanctity of the true amateur?
Hall: There is no true amateur at the D-1 level if amateur means “unpaid player.” They receive some benefit, no matter how marginal, for their talents. (And believe me, in some cases it is extremely marginal when we’re talking about athlete benefits. Free sandwiches, guys!) Players should be allowed to profit off their names like any other university student; that’s true equality with the rest of the student body, and is the only way to preserve the academic apparatus from the corruption of a university sponsored black market economy in football talent.
Diaz: Is there such a thing as a true amateur these days? Other than non-revenue sports, college athletics has turned into a big business that essentially cuts out the athlete from the riches. The situation at Ohio State reflects that disconnect. Kids selling memorabilia. A player can wear a jersey and make millions off sales for the school, but he doesn’t collect a penny. The system is completely out of whack. I wish I had a clear solution, but I don’t. You sense frustration all over the country as more and more schools are embroiled in controversy. The rules are out of date and need sensible revising. Good luck with that.
GoG: Although I have several questions, I would like to let my friends ask what they want. I do have one question that I will allow myself. Text, twitter, facebook – How have these new technologies affected the way you do your job?
Hall: Twitter is the only one that’s really changed the way we do things, because it’s such an immediate, global chat room kind of experience. It’s the meatball surgery of online media medicine: quick, slapdash, and during a game entirely necessary because it can add so much to the experience so quickly. Later, you take it to the blog for specialists to work on, but Twitter is basically now where most of our content starts.
Hayes: Twitter really has taken over media. I don’t like saying this because I began my career at a newspaper, but I use Twitter as my news source. I only read the paper here in Orlando on the weekend, when I have time to sit down with a cup of coffee and read about travel or food or specific news in my city.
GoG: Thanks Gentlemen. I had never thought of Twitter as the M*A*S*H of online media, Spencer, but it’s an apt description. It’s also amazing to think that Twitter is a driving force in the development of edsbs content and a news source for a Sportingnews.com writer. Pablo would like to ask you all about a few high-profile college coaches and get your reactions.
PdT: Should Chip Kelly start thinking about putting his house in Eugene on the market?
Dienhart: If what Willie Lyles is saying is true, then, yes, Chip may need to call a Realtor.
Hall: No, because I think Oregon is thinking the same way we are here: there’s no telling what the NCAA is going to do or what they can prove, so let’s cut ties, be up front, and stand by our employee until it’s untenable. In this case they have to catch him in a direct lie of the sort Tressel told, and thus far there’s no proof that Kelly lied to the NCAA. (There’s proof he may have lied to reporters, but that’s practically a sport with coaches, and not against the NCAA’s bylaws.)
Diaz: Recruiting shenanigans? What recruiting shenanigans? Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens recently said “I have full confidence we are absolutely doing [business] the right way.” We all know what that means. Kelly is toast. His next big call is going to be “Will I pick Mayflower or Allied?”
Hayes: We don’t know what street agent Willie Lyles has. He says he has a paper trail. If he does, and if it clearly shows that Oregon was paying for influence — not scouting reports — I can’t see how Kelly keeps his job. But those are big “ifs.”
PdT: When and where will Urban Meyer coach again?
Diaz: At first I thought that Meyer would come back, possibly next season. It’s in his DNA. Obviously Ohio State would be a natural fit if not for the probationary issues. But the more I think about it, the greater the odds that Meyer will stay put at ESPN. It’s a great gig and keeps him close to the game. I truly believe that Meyer flamed out at Florida and there was an obvious disconnect between his responsibilities to the team and the fact that he simply couldn’t gather the enthusiasm to do his job. I don’t know if he can light the fire again. ESPN it is.
Dienhart: Many people say Ohio State. But can the Buckeyes REALLY hire a coach who couldn’t control his players at Florida? Remember, there were 30 player arrests while Meyer was UF coach.
Hayes: He’s not going to Ohio State for two reasons: all coaches want to build instead of following someone who already built it. He’s also waiting for, in the minds of many, a better job: Penn State. A university with serious academic standards, deep tradition, pristine facilities and a fertile recruiting base. The big question: is this JoePa’s last year?
Hall: I think he’ll be at Ohio State in 2012. I have absolutely no evidence to support this besides raw, stupid instinct, but it just seems too logical for all involved as long as Urban’s health issues are resolved.
PdT: When will Mike Leach will return to the coaching ranks and what are some possible destinations for him?
Hayes: I’m just not sure anyone is going to touch him while his lawsuit with Texas Tech is still pending. There’s too much potential for distraction. I can see a few spots where he’d fit well: Ole Miss, Arizona or Arizona State.
Dienhart: He needs to clean up all of his lawsuits before he will get another job. And I think that may happen after 2011. A likely spot: New Mexico.
Hall: The timing is indefinite. He’ll have to come back sooner rather than later, if only because people will start to think of him as an ex-coach and commentator, and not as a viable candidate for open jobs. The possibilities are everywhere, really, though the UCLA job comes to mind only because it might be available soon and because he’d fit right in coaching in the PAC-12.
GoG: In college football, questions always arise about teams and their struggles to become accepted whether as a Division I school or part of the elite. Petr and Pablo would like to get your thoughts on those struggles.
PJ : There are now 120 NCAA class 1 football teams. Do you feel that schools such as Lousiana–Lafayette really belong on the list? Shouldn’t it be shortened to100 teams.
Hall: I think as an ecosystem there’s very little in the way of fairness, since those schools aren’t even competing at the same level or for the same reasons. Then again, one great advantage of the current system often left unsaid: those schools can raise revenue by taking paid beatings from the major powers in lucrative road games. There’s no “should” or “belong.” There’s only what works for the member schools. For the moment, they seem fine with it, and until they’re not individual rationales will trump any overarching concerns about a logical or equal order.
Hayes: There’s a lot of thought now to the top 50-60 schools breaking away, forming their own division and using a national playoff. To do that, they’d have to break away from the NCAA. And once that happens, any semblance of rules and penalties for rule-breakers are history. Until then, they will continue with 120 FBS teams. The NCAA will not tell a program to move down to FCS.
PdT: Which teams from a non AQ conference will be BCS busters in 2011?
Dienhart: Boise State is the top choice. SMU is another possibility, along with Houston.
Diaz: The obvious picks are TCU and Boise State, now that Utah is in the PAC-12. Of the two, I like Boise State a lot more since the Broncos return Kellen Moore and six other starters on offense, and seven starters on defense.
Hayes: Boise State
Hall: We’re still stuck on Boise and TCU (one more year!) here thanks to accrued credit, though Hawaii and Houston are always in the running to run roughshod through their conference and threaten a claim on a BCS bowl. But shy of saying UCF could run the table, no, no obvious surprises in this category.
GoG: Speaking of running the table which ‘Tusk hopes his Razorbacks do, he is looking for the answers to a couple of questions that will help to evaluate the Razorbacks’ 2011 season.
ST: Would you agree or disagree with this statement and why? For the 2010 season, Greg McElroy was as important to Alabama’s offense as Ryan Mallett was to Arkansas’ offense.
Hayes: Yes. Not only in 2010, but even more in 2009. I don’t think Alabama folks – and many, many others — realize the impact McElroy made at Bama. Saying A.J. McCarron or Philip Sims can step in and “manage” the offense like McElroy is severely minimizing the critical work he did the last two years.
Dienhart: I disagree. Bama was about running and playing D.
ST: In my mind, LSU lives and dies offensively on the level of Jordan Jefferson’s play. Do you agree or disagree? If you agree, do you see anything about the streaky nature of his play changing in 2011? If you disagree, who do you anticipate will be LSU’s workhorse(s) in 2011?
Hayes: I agree. But I also think his days of a streaky player are over. At one point in every player’s career, everything clicks. I believe that was last bowl season for Jefferson, who saw that JC star Zach Mettenberger was coming aboard and knew that his days as LSU’s QB were numbered unless he finally started getting serious about playing the position. Those 15 bowl practices were critical in his development, and he went out and played the best game of his career against a very hot Texas A&M team. I expect him to carry that over to 2011.
GoG: What would any good discussion of Arkansas be without a discussion of the Texas Longhorns. Ask away Pablo de Tejas…
PdT: How will the revamped Texas Longhorns do in 2011?
ST: HEY, HOLD ON A SECOND! Pablo de Tejas?!? What is that? “Tejas” is Spanish for “Texas?” YOU’RE A LONGHORN FA…..
GoG: Wow. Old feelings run deep with those two. I think everyone is alright here. They’ve shaken hands like Frank Broyles and Darryl Royal back in the day. And the Aggies want to go to the SEC?… Mr. Dienhart, the question was about Texas’ 2011 season….
Dienhart: I think it’s a 5-7 win team. I think the D will be OK. But I think the offense will struggle. There are issues at QB. And is the o-line tough enough to run the ball? And is there a top RB on the roster?
Hayes: I love the hires of Bryan Harsin (OC) and Manny Diaz (DC). Both will be terrific head coaches one day. The Longhorns still have plenty of talent; enough to win 10 games. But QB Garrett Gilbert has to play with confidence, and I’m not sure he can regain composure after last season (much like Florida’s John Brantley).
Hall: They feel like an eight or nine win team, mostly thanks to the talent on hand, two outstanding new coordinators, and a manageable schedule with only two real tests on the road (not counting Oklahoma.) But then again, I thought they’d be fine last year HAHAHAHA [explosion.]
GoG: Now would be a great time for a couple of questions on the social aspects of sports which parents out there may be interested in and (turning his head) you all might listen too…
PJ: It has been said that the reason for more injuries in professional sports is that the players are taught to play dirtier. Do you agree?
Hall: No. It’s physics. People are bigger, faster, and heavier. F=ma, and F gets pretty big when you’re talking Nick Fairley putting his m with some serious A on Aaron Murray’s shoulder. Dirty or not, the numbers are daunting when you consider the beef moving around in contact sports.
Hayes: Not at all. There are more injuries because players are bigger, stronger and faster at every position on the field. Trust me, when I’m standing on the sidelines at a game, it’s a scary deal. When I’m on the sidelines at an NFL game, I fear for my life.
PJ: Does play in all sports begin too early? Are parents too influential in pressing their child(ren) to play a particular sport to satisfy their own egos?
Hayes: No to both. It’s a personal choice. If you want to do it, do it.
Hall: Oh, I have no idea. Probably? Because people aren’t that bright, are generally mediocre (i.e. average) parents, probably. I don’t think organized play can begin too early, because play is so important to people period, not just children. I have no idea why parents press kids to be successful in sports, but judging from the numbers of people who make it to college athletics and then the pros, parents are terrible scouts and worse judges of their children’s athletic prospects.
Diaz: It’s difficult to take a broad swipe at this. There are always going to be parents who take things way too seriously, but I think the vast majority of parents are engaged and do the right thing _ they get involved, offer encouragement but don’t press the issue. I also see a lot of junior leagues taking matters into their own hands and having strict rules about player and parent conduct. That’s the perfect way to nip it in the bud _ stop the nonsense before it gets out of control.
GoG: We have time for one more question…
ST: Regarding SEC Officiating – Do you have a feel for whether the public perceives that SEC officiating is “protecting the franchise?” How do you characterize the public’s perception of SEC Officiating? If, in your opinion, SEC officiating suffers, what is the best way for the SEC to correct that perception? Is simply getting calls correct enough?
Hall: I think the public’s biggest beef with SEC officiating is most likely on celebration or unsportsmanlike calls, and that’s more a result of the rule (fuzzy, interpreted in a hundred different ways) than the officials’ myopia or negligence. The perception in the SEC is going to depend on whether you were on the wrong end of that call, and in all cases but unsportsmanlike calls, they get most of them right.
They also happen to be very responsive to criticism, often answering questions about calls mid-game on Saturdays from Birmingham, btw. Effort is not lacking on their part, and that’s all you can ask for besides accuracy.
Hayes: It’s just a matter of getting the calls correct — on the field, and in the replay box if needed. The big play in question was Patrick Peterson’s clear interception that was ruled incomplete. He had two feet in bounds and the call was not reversed. Things like that — where everyone with a television can see the correct call — lead to issues. If officials are blowing calls, find different officials. The PAC-12 fired 11 officials after last season.
GoG: That’s it from the always lively roundtable – Thank You very much for participating, gentlemen.
Free sandwiches, guys! More tea?