Thoughts of the day: February 4, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning.


Gator Country’s very well connected recruiting guru Andrew Spivey has made his final predictions and if he’s on the money, then expect the Gators to close the 2014 recruiting class in most impressive fashion. Here is how Andrew is calling it: (1) Treon Harris will flip to Florida from FSU; (2) wide receiver C.J. Worton will complete the FSU flip and be a Gator; (3) offensive lineman Derrick Kelly will chose the Gators over LSU and possibly FSU; (4) offensive lineman Damian Prince will choose the Gators over Maryland; (5) corner Adoree’ Jackson will pick the Gators over Southern Cal and LSU and (6) corner J.C. Jackson will remain a Gator and won’t flip to Miami. Add those six to Florida’s already strong recruiting class and the Gators should definitely finish top five. Hats off to Andrew who probably needs a coffee IV just to stay awake this time of the year.


The assumption is that Chris Walker will use the final 10 games of the regular season and then the SEC and NCAA tournaments as a mini-audition for the NBA Draft, which will be held in June. Given Walker’s circumstances and the way the NCAA treated him, could anyone blame him for bolting? But there is a compelling reason why it might be worth his while to hang around for one more year. While Walker was academically ineligible in the first semester and then had to wait out the NCAA in the second, the NBA scouts have had as many as 20-22 games to evaluate as talented a freshman class as we’ve seen in college basketball for a long time. Walker is most certainly a first round talent if he bolts, but will he get enough playing time to showcase lottery pick skills? The monetary difference between being a top ten pick and being picked 20-25 is substantial. If he were to stay and get a chance to play 30-35 games next season, he is certainly talented enough to play his way into the lottery and perhaps a top five pick.


Wednesday more than 3,000 high school football players will sign a three-page document called the National Letter of Intent (NLI). Dennis Dodd, the fine college football columnist at CBSSports, says the NLI is nothing more than indentured servitude. Some of his main points: (1) The NLI is a contract that binds a kid to a certain school. It is a one-year contract but at the end of the contract – for example if the coach decides not to renew it – the kid has to sit out a year if he wishes to play football somewhere else. The coach, meanwhile, can opt out of his multi-year contract and go somewhere else without penalty. (2) The NLI binds a kid to a school, not to a football program or to a coach. (3) Offseason workouts by NCAA rules are voluntary. If a kid decides he doesn’t want to attend, the coach can choose to (a) not play the kid or (b) not renew his scholarship which means the kid has to sit out a year. There has to be a better way of doing things than this.


Conventional wisdom says you build a team through the draft, either by stockpiling #1 picks or doing it the Bill Bellichick way, which is to trade #1s for multiple picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. Then you have the Seattle Seahawks, who drafted only 18 of the 53 players on their roster and only four of them are former first rounders. They picked up three players through unrestricted free agency and traded for four others. All the other guys were either free agents straight out of college or guys who were recycled from previous NFL experience. The Seahawks are very young, very good and very well coached. There is a really good chance they’re going to be around a long time. There is more than one way to build a football team and it just goes to show you that just because a player isn’t drafted doesn’t mean he isn’t good enough to play in the NFL.


Prior to the Super Bowl, Pro Football Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter stated how unimpressed he was with Seattle’s receivers, saying they were “appetizers” who lacked a main course. That prompted Seattle’s Doug Baldwin, who caught five passes for 66 yards and a touchdown to state after the game, “That dude [Carter] who said that we were appetizers, he told me to Google him, and I did Google him, but I didn’t see any Super Bowl appearances, and I also saw two losses in conference championships. I have a Super Bowl ring, and I would gladly show that to him. And if he doesn’t have time to come see it, tell him he can Google it.” Take that!


An argument could be successfully made that the Cleveland Browns would qualify for that honor. They hired Mike Pettine, who was let go after three seasons as the Jets’ defensive coordinator and spent last year coaching the easily forgettable defense of the Buffalo Bills. This is a guy whose name wasn’t exactly a household word the 11 seasons he spent in the NFL prior to getting hired by the Browns. The Browns could have hired Dan Quinn, who is a household name after the defense he put on the field for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Quinn interviewed once with the Browns but they wanted a second interview. Quinn refused until after the Super Bowl because it would interfere with Super Bowl preparations, which is understandable. So the impatient  Browns went with a nobody with a lackluster resume. Quinn, meanwhile, will be coaching the best defense in the NFL one more year and will probably cherry pick a head coaching job after the season. The same Browns who fired their head coach after one season in which they gutted the team earn Dummy of the Year. Quinn may look back on not being hired by the Browns as his lucky day.


Back in December, the NCAA decided to investigate Washington D-line coach Tosh Lupoi for allegedly paying $4,500 for tutoring and online classes for a recruit who didn’t quality. When former U-Dub coach Steve Sarkisian took the Southern Cal job, he couldn’t take Lupoi because he was under investigation. New Washington coach Chris Peterson wouldn’t touch him either. Since then the NCAA has contacted Washington to tell the school that it didn’t find anything and that further investigation isn’t warranted. Meanwhile, Lupoi is out of a job and his reputation is smeared forever. Just one more reason to despise the NCAA.


I learned two things from the Super Bowl halftime show. (1) Bruno Mars can dance like James Brown. Too bad he can’t make you break out in a “Cold Sweat” like the Godfather of Soul could make you. I paid to see James Brown. I wouldn’t pay to see Bruno Mars. (2) The Super Bowl was held in New Jersey. Why didn’t the Super Bowl honor one of  Jersey’s finest – Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi or Frankie Valli? I realize they had Springsteen at the Super Bowl a couple of years back but it’s not like it would have hurt to bring him back.


Since the Super Bowl didn’t feel the need to use the local talent I’ll let you decide. If you hung around at halftime then you saw Bruno Mars. I have no clue what he sang but he did a show and he danced a bit and showed he can pound some drums. Would you pay to see Bruno Mars? Would you pay to see Springsteen sing “Dancing in the Dark”?

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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.