Just what we need: 4 more bowl games

Just what we need. More bowl games. There were 32 of them last year but apparently having 64 of the 119 Division I teams playing an extra game isn’t enough so it is being reported that there is a proposal for four more games on the table.

One of the bowl games being proposed will be played at St. Petersburg’s very own Plastic Palace, also known as Tropicana Field. That’s a bad baseball venue and it will be an even worse football arena. The St. Petersburg Bowl is proposed to pit a team from the Big East against another team from Conference USA. The thought of a post-season matchup between Syracuse and Rice really gets the juices flowing, doesn’t it? How many locals from the Tampa Bay area do you figure flock to the Trop to see that game?

Why is it that college football feels compelled to reward mediocrity, which is what is going to happen if four more bowls are added? If college football really cares about its product and wishes to keep this monstrosity called the bowl system, then do the right thing and eliminate a bunch of them. Make it so a bowl game is a true reward for a very good season. There’s no way a 6-6 team should get a bowl game and the extra 15 practices that come along with it.

Here is a theory why we have a bowl system: it allows college presidents to duck the unpleasant duty of firing a coach for a mediocre performance. Instead of firing a coach for mediocrity, presidents can point to this fine fellow and talk about the progress he’s making. Beats the heck out of firing him. Don’t buy for a second that same old same old about concern for academics if the season is extended. Teams that make the NCAA Basketball Tournament miss an entire month of school. The football tournament would be played mostly in December, when there are holidays.

Another theory, this one why college football coaches aren’t united in their desire for a playoff system: with bowls, you get the equivalent of another spring practice to develop your young players. If there is a playoff, your team is eliminated after it loses so if you are one and done, you don’t get all those extra practices. And, most playoff designs have 16 teams max. The bowls let more teams get in an extra three weeks of practices so that’s why the coaches support it.

So don’t expect a playoff system that will produce a real national champion. Expect more 6-6 teams playing more meaningless games and more idiots trying to convince us that the bowl system has been good for college football.

NOT IF, BUT WHERE?: It’s not a question of if Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey will go in the first round of the April 26 NFL Draft, just a question of where. Most mock draft projections have Harvey being selected somewhere between picks 12 and 18 and it’s doubtful he will fall any further than that. Things are nearly as certain for wide receiver Bubba Caldwell, however.

Todd McShay of ESPN’s Scouts Inc. has Harvey going in pick number 13 to the Carolina Panthers while ESPN’s draft guru, Mel Kiper, has Harvey going in pick number 18 to the Minnesota Vikings. Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline has Harvey going with the seventh pick to the New England Patriots.

McShay has Caldwell going in the second round to the Tampa Bay Bucs with the 52nd pick in the draft. Kiper doesn’t have Caldwell proected in the first two rounds, however. Caldwell did a 4.37 40 at the combine so there’s no question he has the speed. What could be holding him back could be a history of injuries — a broken leg suffered in 2005 and a sprained knee that kept him out of a few games in 2007.

Center Drew Miller has a chance to go in rounds six or seven, while tackle Carlton Medder figures seventh round or free agent.

BUT IN 2009: The Gators could have the first pick in the entire 2009 NFL Draft if Percy Harvin comes back from heel surgery and plays healthy the entire 2008 season. It’s entirely possible that Harvin could do a 1,000/1,000 season and that kind of production could vault him to the number one selection. He’s got legitimate 10.4 speed in the 100-meter dash and he’s 4.3 or slightly below in the 40. There aren’t many players out there with Harvin’s speed and moves and his production when he’s healthy has been off the charts.

Of course, there will be plenty of speculation about Tim Tebow in 2009. Right now, all signs point to Tebow playing at Florida for four years but if he does a back-to-back Heisman — which is possible — his draft stock could be through the roof. JaMarcus Russell got a six year, $61 million contract last year. Could Tebow top that?

The better question is could he turn his back on that kind of money and come back for his senior season? $61 million buys a lot of assistance to the orphanages supported by the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association.

If Brandon Spikes improves on his productive 2007, he could find himself projected as a first rounder in next year’s draft and if he’s projected that high, he won’t be back.

Tackles Phil Trautwein and Jason Watkins also figure to get drafted next year and Louis Murphy’s speed will ensure that someone selects him.

THE WHEELS OF JUSTICE, NCAA STYLE: As they are about to discover in the cultural capital of Leon County, the wheels of NCAA justice turn VERY slowly. The NCAA has been in and out of Tallahassee since January to interview and re-interview suspects, culprits and administrators in the athletic department of the Harvard of the Panhandle in regard to the academic cheating scandal.

Quick question? How many of you took Music Appreciation (that’s the course that FSU athletes felt compelled to cheat in order to receive an A)? How many of you made an A? How many of you could have made an A if you had been comatose?

Anyway, the NCAA investigators have returned to Indianapolis to condense their findings into a preliminary letter of inquiry, which is the zany NCAA’s way of saying “we have the goods on you; now come up with a good enough story that we’ll have mercy on you when we drop the hammer.”

Don’t expect the preliminary letter to be delivered to FSU any time soon. The NCAA has as much as six months to deliver the preliminary letter and FSU has already been informed that there will be no June or July hearing to answer the charges.

Once the preliminary letter is delivered, the NCAA has to give FSU adequate time to come up with a defense so right now the earliest estimate is that FSU could go before the committee in October. More likely, it will be January.

That’s right. January. Right smack dab in the heart of recruiting and just two or three weeks before National Signing Day.

If you’re a diehard Gator, you’re pinching yourself right now. About the only thing better than this is a national championship and the Gators just might get that, too.

Now FSU has already imposed sanctions — a whole bunch of players that got caught cheating way back when were suspended for the Elvis Impersonator Bowl back in January and those that weren’t seniors are suspended for the first three games of 2008. Of course, one of those first two games is against a Tibetan monastery and the other is against the flag football all-stars from The Villages.

Oh, and the football players now have to go to class. Talk about harsh punishment, that’s it.

The NCAA is not required to accept self-imposed sanctions. In fact, recent history says they won’t, so the specter of harsher sanctions will be hanging over the Seminoles heads until they appear before the infractions committee. If it takes until January to answer the allegations, this could torpedo a recruiting class.

It has been reported that FSU is hoping the NCAA will reduce football scholarships by two per year over a three-year period but considering this whole shebang is about academics — the one area that the NCAA considers sacred because it’s the only area it has complete control — that’s probably a most conservative estimate. So, when FSU starts putting its class together, does it reduce by two scholarships? How about four? Six?

And what about recruits when they start realizing that FSU is going down? Do all of them stick with FSU? Or do they jump ship while the jumping is good?

This will be the SEVENTH time FSU has been hit with major NCAA sanctions, joining such notables as Auburn, Texas A&M and others that are just behind Arizona State and SMU as the most penalized programs in NCAA history.

IS PERRILLOUX WORTH IT?: Ryan Perrilloux has been a magnet for trouble ever since he arrived on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge so you have to wonder if it’s really worth it to let him back on the team after a suspension for academics and violation of multiple team rules. Les Miles either has Perrilloux straightened out once and for all or else he’s taking a huge gamble, the kind that could wreck the chemistry of his entire team if there is another slip-up. Considering Perrilloux’s history, you’d have to put your money on the side of another slip-up.

If Perrilloux is unable to stay out of trouble, then LSU is going to have serious problems. Neither of the backup quarterbacks has shown much this spring and this is an offense that figures to be less productive in 2008 no matter who is under center.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.