Thoughts of the day: October 23, 2013


A year ago this time, the Florida Gators were 7-0 and elbowing their way into the national championship conversation. Five turnovers against Georgia quelled the national title talk but it didn’t stop the Gators from making it to the Sugar Bowl. Now with a five-game gauntlet remaining that makes a 6-6 finish seem like an accomplishment, the Gators are being projected to play Rutgers in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham. Win that bowl and you get to go home to Gainesville. Lose it and you have to stay another week in Birmingham.


Three stats that jump at you when you begin to analyze Florida’s offensive statistics are yards per play, rushing yards per attempt and yards per pass attempt. The Gators are averaging only 4.9 yards per play, which is dead last in the Southeastern Conference. The Gators are 12th in rushing yardage and passing yardage but dead last in yards per rushing attempt (3.7) and 12th in yards per pass attempt (7.1). Leading rusher Mack Brown is averaging just 3.6 per carry and his longest run of the year is 23 yards. Florida’s leading rusher, Matt Jones (339 yards), is out for the season and he ranks 12th in the SEC in rushing. Solomon Patton has all four of Florida’s pass receptions that went for 38 or more yards. Patton is Florida’s leading receiver (28-426), which ranks 14th in the SEC. Quinton Dunbar leads Florida with six receptions that have gone for 20 or more yards. Florida has 14 passes that have gained 20 or more yards and only six rushing plays that have gained at least 20 yards.


Southern Cal athletic director Pat Haden thinks Miami got off the hook easily, which is true. He also thinks the NCAA was way too harsh on Southern Cal, which is not true. Southern Cal got what it deserved. Miami didn’t but it is ridiculous to compare the two. Just because the idiots in charge at the NCAA bungled a case they couldn’t lose with Miami doesn’t change the fact that Southern Cal was corrupt, guilty and didn’t help itself by following the arrogant direction of then athletic director Mike Garrett, who all but dared the NCAA to come after the Trojans. To its credit, Miami did self-impose two bowl bans and a ban on playing in the ACC Championship Game last year, but that’s a pretty small price to pay for 10 years of corruption that involved more than 70 athletes.


The loss of three scholarships a year for football and three over three years for basketball is such a light penalty you can’t even call it a slap on the wrist. The only strong statement the NCAA made was hit UM with lack of institutional control, which is a serious penalty only if Miami commits major violations in any sport. If Miami stays clean, then it’s a nothing penalty with no harmful side effects. The reality is that Miami should have been nuked but instead its football program hasn’t been harmed other than spending a few million on legal defense. As friend Pat Forde writes for Yahoo Sports, “The school quickly announced there would be no appeal. Which is a clear indication Miami knows what it’s gotten away with.”  Given the nature of the allegations – and former UM safety Randy Phillips, a former NFL player says it’s all true – Miami should have gotten the death penalty for both football AND basketball. It is a day that for the Miami administration to be happy. They got away with the college sports version of murder.


I’m amazed that sewer dweller Frank Haith, the former Miami and current Missouri basketball coach who is so slimy he makes John Calipari seem like the Pope in Waiting, only got a five-game suspension. Haith gets off with a wrist slap while Bruce Pearl got a five-year vacation from college basketball for lying? Bruce should have been punished and was, but what Haith did is infinitely worse. The only possible good thing that can come out of this is that Haith is now officially on the NCAA radar to the point that even the NCAA equivalent of a parking ticket could land Missouri in deep NCAA linguine and send Haith to the exit where he belongs. If there were any ethics or decency at Missouri, they would jettison this stink bomb immediately.


NCAA president Mark Emmert must have learned his trade in Washington because he does a reasonably good impersonation of our elected officials who have turned ineptitude into an art form. This man couldn’t competently run a stay-at-home business where he’s the only employee much less one that is charged with running a sports organization that governs the lives of hundreds of thousands of athletes. Given the way he has poisoned everything he’s touched since taking over, Emmert should be unemployed, not running a billion dollar enterprise. His handling of the Miami case is proof positive that the Peter Principle is pure truth. The man is an incompetent and needs to be fired immediately. And, if the schools in the power conferences do the right thing – they should do it now – they will secede from the NCAA, form their own organization and leave the NCAA to the leadership of brainless Mark Emmert types who will let all the have nots do their soccer mom imitations and give everyone a trophy.


Alabama coach Nick Saban is on the stump for adding one more SEC game to the schedule to replace the current eight-game setup. Saban believes that his plan for a nine-game schedule would allow historic rivalries to stay in place while also allowing more cross-divisional games. Although a majority of the SEC coaches are opposed to adding a ninth game – and probably more than a few of the league’s athletic directors – the idea of adding the game is probably a matter of when not if. The Big Ten just last week approved a move to a nine-game league schedule.


Nobody likes those paycheck games at the beginning of the season and the one that’s typically inserted for homecoming, but they do their part to balance the books at Florida. While going to a nine-game SEC schedule might eliminate a paycheck game, it would bite into Florida’s budget. Florida is committed to playing Georgia in Jacksonville and there is that small matter of the home and home arrangement with Florida State that isn’t going away. In a nine-game SEC schedule, Florida would play four home games and five away games in league play. The Georgia game would have to count as one of Florida’s yearly home games so that means the Gators would play five SEC games a year away from Gainesville. That’s a serious disadvantage. Add in FSU in Tallahassee every other year and you’ve got a serious budget problem brewing because UF counts on playing seven games in Gainesville every year to stay in the black. Georgia would have a similar problem because it faces Georgia Tech every other year in Atlanta.


When I saw Chris Botti’s concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra on PBS back in 2008, I became an instant fan. He’s maybe the best trumpet player in the world now that Doc Severinson and Herb Albert are long in the tooth and thin in the lip. One of the things I’ve grown to appreciate about Botti is that he’s more than willing to share the stage and the limelight with other talented people. One of my favorite songs that he’s done is “Cinema Paradiso,” performed with the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma and backed up by the Boston Pops.

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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.