Thoughts of the day: April 25, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning.


Nine. That’s all the scholarship linebackers on the Florida football roster for 2014. Six. That’s the number of scholarship linebackers who were healthy enough to participate in spring practice. If Alex Anzalone, Matt Rolin and Jeremi Powell come back 100% from their injuries, then the Gators have the absolute minimum depth you need to make it through a 12-game season. If they are slow to come back or if a couple of players go down for any length of time, it could get dicey on the defensive side of the ball. If everybody stays healthy, then this could be a very good unit. In Michael Taylor, Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis, the Gators have three very good tacklers who have a good nose for the ball. Morrison and Taylor will get the reps in the middle while Davis emerged from spring practice as the clear #1 at the weakside. As for backups, Daniel McMillian had some positive moments during the spring as did Alex McCalister, who swung between Buck end and Will linebacker. Veteran Neiron Ball finished the spring as the starter on the strong side but he also played some defensive end. If Anzalone, Rolin and Powell all come back healthy and ready to contribute, then this unit could be very, very good in the fall but the key is going to be health. All nine of these guys have to stay healthy. Trending: Up.


The Northwestern University players will vote today on whether to unionize, but don’t think for one second we’ll know the results for quite some time. Ballots will be impounded after the vote and only opened up if the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, DC sides with the players. It is likely to take months before a decision is made and even then, expect appeals on both sides.

Whether or not the players can unionize and go through the collective bargaining process, we’ve likely seen the end of college athletics as we know them now. This case is only going to bring to the forefront issues that should have been addressed many years ago. The players do have legitimate grievances and why the NCAA has taken this long to take them into consideration can only be described as abuse of power. Had the NCAA taken a common sense approach and listened to the players who make all these sports possible, it could have taken on such important issues as long term care for debilitating injuries suffered while playing a sport or paying for athletes to finish school and earn a degree after their eligibility is compete. Instead, the NCAA sat on its hands and is now in for the fight of its life.


Back in 2007 when he first took the job as Alabama’s head coach, Nick Saban said that any former Alabama football player that had not earned his degree could come back to school and he would pay the cost of tuition and books out of his own pocket. That was a terrific gesture and one the NCAA should have embraced. Coaches are being paid astronomical sums of money these days and what better way for a coach to give back to the school paying him all this money than to make sure every player from the past can complete his degree? A great idea for sure but the NCAA shot it down. Earlier in the week, SEC commissioner Mike Slive stated that one of the goals of the power conferences when they form their own NCAA subdivision – expected in July or August – is to pay for players to finish their education after their eligibility is expired. With the Ed O’Bannon case ready to begin in a matter of weeks and the Northwestern union vote on the table for today, it does make you question the timing of Slive’s announcement.


1. If athletes are employees, can they be fired when they have a bad year?
2. If athletes are employees, does that mean their scholarship is now taxable income?
3. If athletes are employees, do they have to pay for their healthcare coverage like the other employees of the university?
4. If athletes are employees does that mean the athlete can do anything he wants on his own time and coaches have no say in off the court activities?
5.  Could an athlete who had a great season demand a raise before the next season?
6. Could coaches fine players for insubordination or violations of team rules?
7. How would players as employees and members of a union change the recruiting rules? Would coaches be able to tout lower deductibles for insurance and higher salaries?


Herschel Walker is 52 years old and hasn’t played in the NFL since 1997. He still says he can play in the league, however. Speaking to USAToday, Walker said, “I can play in the NFL today. I couldn’t take every snap. But running backs nowadays don’t play every down. Now they send in the choir section. Physically, I can still do it.” Wilt Chamberlain said the same thing about playing in the NBA when he was in his 50s. Herschel was perhaps the greatest physical specimen to ever play running back in the NFL, but it’s been 17 years since he handled that kind of contact and 20 years since he was productive. Even if he’s in great shape, he wasn’t that good at the end of his career so what makes him think he could be productive today?


What exactly is an offer that isn’t committable?  You hear about recruits that have an offer but it isn’t a committable offer I am don’t understand what the logic is to offer a kid when they can’t actually commit to the offer.

At a spring media gathering a couple of years ago in which both Brent Pease and Dan Quinn explained their offensive and defensive base, terminology and personnel packaging, Will Muschamp said that a committable offer only comes from him and that it’s not committable unless it’s in writing. I’m not sure what Urban Meyer’s policy was about the written part, but he, too, said that a committable offer had to come from the head coach. In other words, a scholarship offer from an assistant coach isn’t committable. Also, coaches will give players conditional offers. For example, a kid who’s borderline on the grades who wouldn’t be approved by compliance/admissions for an official visit on campus, might get a conditional offer that says, “If you get your grades to an acceptable level, then we will offer you a scholarship.” For a plan B type, a coach might say, “We have these players rated above you, but if you improve your play beyond their level OR if one of them drops out for some reason, then you would be next on our list and we would offer you.”

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Paul McCartney once called “Without You” by Badfinger the “killer song of all time.” The song was written by Pete Ham and Tom Evans on Badfinger’s “No Dice” album which also featured a terrific song written by Ham called “No Matter What.” Ham and Evans were so talented and Badfinger built a huge following, but Ham committed suicide in 1975 and eight years later, Evans also committed suicide. I have always wondered what could have been with these guys.

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.


    • We could only be so lucky if snowprint went into hibernation for the foreseeable future. Thanks for the piece franz.