Thoughts of the day: January 20, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning.


I’m not sure anyone appreciated just how good a defensive coordinator Dan Quinn was during the two years he spent at the University of Florida. Everyone assumed that it was Will Muschamp’s defense and Quinn was the obligatory figurehead, but if you saw Seattle make play after play against the San Francisco 49ers Sunday to get the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, then you know that Quinn was nobody’s figurehead. Now that’s not a knock on Muschamp or to say that the two of them weren’t the perfect fit, but that 2012 defense was truly special and Quinn has never been given enough credit for how good it was.


When Quinn was hired as Florida’s defensive coordinator, Muschamp said the reason was that Quinn did as good a job of coaching pressure with the front four as anyone he had ever encountered. We saw that in 2012 and saw it again Sunday with the Seahawks. Yes, the Seahawks blitzed just as the Gators blitzed when Quinn was here, but the bulk of the pressure in his scheme comes from the front four. The occasional blitz is for impact and to create sudden change. Of Florida’s 30 sacks in 2012, 20.5 came from the front four while five came from linebackers and 3.5 from the secondary. In most passing situations, the Gators were able to drop at least six into coverage, which has plenty to do with Florida picking off 20 passes that year. The Seahawks used the same strategy this year and led the NFL in interceptions.


Now that he’s led the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl, you have to wonder if Peyton Manning will ride off into the sunset if he comes away with a championship. He is 37 years old and while he certainly has the talent to play another two or three years, he did miss the entire 2011 season with a serious neck injury. Would one more championship be worth the risk of another serious injury? Or would he choose to go out like John Elway. Elway won two Super Bowls and quit at age 38. Elway’s legacy is that he left the game as a champion and there’s something to be said about that. Peyton just finished a record-setting regular season in which he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. If he caps that with a Super Bowl ring, how can he ever top that?


One of the reason so many of the SEC member schools are renovating and expanding their athletic facilities is because the average payout from the Southeastern Conference has grown from $11 million per school in 2006-07 to $20.8 million in 2012-13. That number figures to grow by a couple million per school this year and then could hit the $25-30 million mark in 2014-15 because of the new SEC Network. When you’re a school with limited resources such as Ole Miss — $51 .7 million in 2012 – that growing return on SEC membership comes in rather handy. Ole Miss is expanding Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and building a new $100 million basketball arena. Without the SEC revenues, it’s highly doubtful Ole Miss would take on such ambitious projects.


The top five SEC athletic budgets in 2012 were (1) Alabama $108.2 million; (2) Florida $105.1 million; (3) LSU $101.9 million; (4) Tennessee $101.2 million and (5) Auburn $96.3 million.  Ten of the league’s 14 schools had athletic budgets in excess of $80 million and revenues in excess of their budget. In terms of revenue, the top five in the league were (1) Alabama $124.9 million; (2) Florida $122.8 million; (3) Texas A&M $119.7 million; (4) LSU $114.8 million; and (5) Auburn $105.9 million. Only Missouri (budget $66.9 million; revenue $50.7 million) operated at a loss.


Last week, University of North Carolina reading specialist Mary Willingham reported to CNN that her research of 183 football and basketball players from 2004-12 showed that 60% read at the fourth-to-eighth grade level and 10% below the third grade level. The university wasted no time in discontinuing her research, claiming that it’s flawed. In light of the academic scandal that has enveloped Carolina’s athletic program on top of the NCAA violations with the football program, the last thing the school needs to do for its public image is to fire the messenger. For years, UNC was considered one of those schools that does everything the right way, but what has happened in the last five years seems to indicate a school consumed by winning to the point it’s willing to cut corners. Maybe that’s not a correct assumption, but it’s a perception furthered by UNC firing Mary Willingham.


The NCAA has had its convention and for all its talk about a new day with a new direction for Division I, Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel is not the least bit impressed. Mandel says the old NCAA and the proposed new NCAA look an awful lot alike and some of the athletic directors in attendance said that they see the same old, same old, which is to say the presidents will try to run the new organization instead of the athletic directors. Let’s be perfectly clear about one thing: letting the presidents run the NCAA is about like sitting you in the cockpit of a 747, giving you an owner’s manual and expecting you to fly the plane. Oh, sure, there is a chance you can get it off the ground and maybe even have a smooth flight. Donkeys can fly, too. If the new NCAA Division I is going to be run by presidents, committees and subcommittees, then we’ll have more bureaucratic mess not less.


Did you catch Richard Sherman’s boast that he’s the best corner in the NFL and that the game-winning interception – caused by a pass he deflected away from the 49ers’ Michael Crabtree – is what you get when you send a “sorry receiver like Crabtree” his way? I’m tired of the Richard Shermans of pro sports and there are clones of this big mouth in every professional sport. I guess I always have appreciated the guys who let their game do their talking, the kind who have nice things to say about their opponents and thank their teammates after big games. Richard Sherman? Wouldn’t bother me in the least if he’s looking for a new line of work sooner and not later.


There are few blues songs more gripping than the late Etta James’ performance of a song she wrote called “I’d Rather Go Blind.” This is a song that just stirs emotions, especially this performance of the song done as a duet with the inimitable Dr. John.

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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.