A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning.
SPRING REVIEW: DEFENSE
When Dominique Easley went down with a season-ending injury last year, Florida’s defense was never the same. Injuries to other players had plenty to do with the deteriorating situation on defense, but nothing impacted the Gators like the loss of Easley. There is no Easley this year, but it was evident during the spring that the Gators don’t lack for athletes who are capable of playing and producing at an SEC level. There are concerns, though. While the Gators look better off the edge with Dante Fowler Jr. and Bryan Cox Jr., freshmen might have to play key roles in the middle of the defensive line. While Antonio Morrison, Michael Taylor and Jarrad Davis have experience at linebacker, the Gators have only nine on scholarship and three of them are coming off serious injuries. There will probably be a freshman at the corner opposite Vernon Hargreaves III and the safeties are inexperienced. Will Muschamp complained about the number of missed tackles after the Orange and Blue game, a recurring problem throughout the 15 spring practices. The good news is that Muschamp likes his personnel, likes his defensive staff and is still considered one of the best defensive minds in college football. The bad news is we won’t know until the fall if the Gators will be significantly better this year than last. Trending: Treading water.
A GOOD STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
With all the appeals that are expected from the union vote at Northwestern, it might be a few years before a decision is rendered. Meanwhile, the five power conferences (plus Notre Dame) will have their own subdivision of the NCAA starting sometime this summer. Whether staying within the framework of the NCAA is a smart idea is something we won’t know for a while, either, but it’s a step in the right direction, particularly because the first draft of the plan includes 15 athletes – three from each conference – having a vote in any legislation that is passed. For years, players have voiced their concerns to deaf ears. It’s about time they had a say in the process.
MORE ON THE POWER CONFERENCE PLAN
The power conferences are in universal agreement that they will provide the following to player: (1) financial aid including full cost of attendance and scholarship guarantees; (2) insurance including policies to protect future earnings in a professional sport; (3) sufficient academic support especially for at-risk athletes; and (4) travel for families, free tickets for families to games in which their kids are playing and expenses such as parking. Some of the other issues that will be addressed are changes in recruiting rules, transfer issues and eliminating rules that currently make it impossible for an athlete to make money from music, art or writing a book while on scholarship.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE MIAMI BEACH BOWL?
Just in case you keep score of these things, there will be 40 – count’em – bowl games in 2014, one of which will be the Miami Beach Bowl, which will pit BYU (yeah, Mormons and Miami Beach … yeah, I get the connection … sarcasm) and a team from the American Athletic Conference. I’m sure a Tulsa-BYU matchup will have the folks down at the Lincoln Avenue Seniors Center clamoring for tickets. But, this bowl game does lead into the next question: Will there be enough 6-6 or better teams available to play in the post season? Last year only 79 teams posted at least a 6-6. UNLV and Idaho could post winning records but because of their low APR, they won’t be bowl-eligible and word is that there will be several others. Does the word saturation ring a bell?
RIP DR. JACK
If you are old enough to remember the 1977 NBA championship series between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Portland Trail Blazers, then you probably remember Bill Walton running up the court, hands over his head rolling in a circular motion. Although it seemed like a sign for George McGinnis to do something stupid, it was Walton signaling in the offense from the Blazers’ head coach, Dr. Jack Ramsey. Dr. Jack, one of the smartest basketball coaches who ever lived, died Monday at age 89. Pat Riley once said, “He’s probably forgotten more about the game than I know.” As a college coach, Dr. Jack took St. Joseph’s to the Final Four in 1961. In 1996, Dr. Jack was named one of the 10 greatest coaches in the history of the NBA. He was a great teacher of the game who understood that each player is an individual who has a separate set of buttons to push. He was also one of the great interviews of all time if you ever wanted a coach to explain in terms you could understand exactly what was going on.
MORE FALLOUT ON DONALD STERLING
I understand why people are outraged at Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling for racist remarks caught on tape by TMZ. In all likelihood, he’s going to get rung up in a big way by new NBA commissioner Adam Silver today and the sanctions might include losing control of the team or else a very lengthy suspension combined with a hefty fine. My question is why has it taken this long for someone to light up Donald Sterling? In listening to so many NBA insiders and owners Monday, it’s not like this is a first-time outburst. His racial commentary goes way back and it’s well documented dating all the way back to the 1980s. When Al Campanis and Marge Schot let their mouths get the best of them, Major League Baseball forced them out. When Richie Incognito was caught being a racist by the NFL, he was suspended indefinitely. He may never get back in the game. I think it’s time the NBA stopped sweeping the likes of Donald Sterling under the rug. Time to light him up.
KIM ANDERSON NEW MIZZOU HOOPS COACH
Given the success of Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) and Bruce Pearl (Tennessee, now at Auburn), it’s a wonder why more schools haven’t given successful Division II or Division III coaches a chance to coach in Division I. Ryan won four Division III national championships at Wisconsin-Platteville where he went 353-76. Pearl won a national championship at Division II Southern Indiana where he fashioned a 231-46 record. By the time Ryan and Pearl got to the big time as a head coach, they had already cut their head coaching teeth and understood the nuances of game and personnel management. Missouri is hoping it has the next Bo Ryan or Bruce Pearl in Kim Anderson, who won the 2014 Division II national title at Central Missouri after getting his team to the DII Final Four two other times. Anderson is a Missouri grad, who played for Norm Stewart and spent 12 years as a Stewart assistant before taking the Central Mizzou job. This is a very good hire for Missouri, which screwed up three years ago when it hired Frank Haith to replace Mike Anderson. Haith bolted first chance he got after a diminishing return for three consecutive years. Kim Anderson is a Missouri guy who loves the school and knows what it will take to be successful.
QUESTION FOR TODAY
The question for today comes from Danny Busseni, who asks, “How will the new NCAA rule about unlimited food impact walk-ons? There are reports that they can get free food. A walk-on at Florida, for example, can come to school on a Bright Futures scholarship which pays nearly everything and still get a Pell Grant. Free food would make that a pretty good deal.”
As I understand the rule, walk-ons who participate in football summer conditioning, skills instruction and film review could get a free meal on those days when they participate. The walk-ons will also get free meals during August training camp because school is not in session and when they are on the travel roster and away from school once the season begins. During the season, walk-ons will be able to purchase one training table meal per day and with unlimited food available per the new rule, that would seem like a pretty good deal. Where I think this will have the greatest impact is on baseball and other non-revenue sports where partial scholarships are the norm. There are no partial scholarships in football or basketball, but this could definitely impact recruiting for baseball which has to split 11.9 scholarships among 25-30 players. If Kevin O’Sullivan can give tuition only, for example, the rest of the cost of attending is picked up by the athlete. I would think the purchase price of one training table meal wouldn’t be a whole lot different than the cost of a meal ticket in a school dining hall although there would certainly be a lot more food available.
Each day one question will be chosen as Question for Today. Submit your question to: firstname.lastname@example.org
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison has spent a good portion of his later adult life trying to satisfy a spiritual need within, which was the inspiration for his 1997 album “The Healing Game.” One of the best songs on the album is “Rough God Goes Riding” which depicts a Messiah returning to earth with a vengeance. On this live video of Morrison performing the song, look in the horn section for Candy Dulfer on the saxophone.