Roy’s Ramble (12-1-19)

Thanksgiving—I was very appreciative of being able to spend the day with my parents, my sister Sharon and Kayla Bradham and her children.  It was great to host them all and be able to share a full evening together.  It was also great to have some time with my kids over the weekend and hear about my daughter’s first semester in college at Madison. We were also able to share in the celebration of the Badgers clinching a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State and we will be looking for a much better performance than the game in Columbus in October. 

Most importantly, I am thankful for all of the good things in my life.  A place to live, plenty of food, plenty of clothes and many friends and family to share happy occasions with.  I hope to continue to do a lot of work with the Sports Philanthropy Network to help many organizations make positive impact in their communities.

Dean Smith Letters—These are some amazing letters that I found online.  They were written from legendary North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith to a young basketball player named Michael Jordan.  You can see the attention to detail Smith has and the eye for the game.  What I also found interesting in these letters is the fact that you can see how they impacted Michael’s game at the NBA level.  It would be very interesting to see other letters from Dean Smith or other coaches in terms of how they want to see their players improving in the off-season (and then looking back on these letters after a player becomes a star).

Nick Saban—Alabama losing 2 regular season games is almost unheard of.  The loss yesterday really had to sting because Alabama mostly controlled the game.   The first pick-6 was relatively normal, but the second one was a horrendous throw and an enormous turning point in the game.  Instead of an 8-point Alabama lead it turned into a 100 yard INT return for Auburn.  But the lasting image of the game will Nick Saban’s tirade at the extra time added at the end of the first half.  By all rights, Saban is 100% correct.  There is no way that the clock should have been stopped or that Auburn should have been given time to kick that FG (which was ultimately the difference in the game).  The second dispute at the end of the game seems different to me. Auburn pulled off a good trick play and Alabama got caught with too many players on the field allowing Auburn to run out the clock. As in any close game, there are so many individual plays that can make the difference.  Besides the two big disputes, you have a relatively short missed FG and a defense that was clearly not up to Alabama’s recent standards. Still, it is hard to see how so many Tide fans are calling for Saban’s head.  As I wrote recently, be careful what you wish for Alabama Fans.  You might not make the playoff this year, but I would not bet against Saban next season (and if I were one of his assistant coaches, I would not plan on much sleep).

The Hedges—There were some very funny images of people trying to get through the hedges at Auburn after the win.  It would seem that if you were a fan at Auburn you might have a better game plan of how to get on the field after a big win.  Surprisingly, Alabama is 0-7 at Auburn when both teams are ranked. 

Jim Harbaugh Press Conference—After becoming the first Michigan coach to be 0-5 against Ohio State, Harbaugh was obviously quite testy at his press conference.  It might not have risen to the level of contentiousness as Mike Leach does at Washington State, Harbaugh was clearly irritated by questions of what Ohio State did better.  It is going to be very interesting to see where Michigan is slotted for a bowl game and how the sentiment around Ann Arbor in the off-season will impact the Harbaugh era.  Many Michigan alums were unhappy going in to the season and Michigan lost to the three best teams they played (Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State).  They were not even close against Ohio State or Wisconsin and needed a huge comeback against Penn State to get within striking range, a comeback which appeared to be the turning point for Michigan to play well for the second half of the season.  While Harbaugh has made Michigan more competitive than the last two coaches (Hoke, Rodriguez), he hasn’t been able to get over the hump in the way that many expected.  This will be an interesting story to watch in the off-season.

8-Team PlayoffI recently wrote why I think the 8-team playoff will save college football.   The enormous pressure on coaches is just another reason.  With only 4 teams making that playoff, there is virtually no margin for error for any team not named Alabama, Clemson or Ohio State.  You look at Championship Weekend and there are very few teams that can really improve their spot and only a couple (Georgia, Utah, Oklahoma and maybe Baylor) that can likely play their way in.  By contrast, an 8-team playoff would still have a lot of room for movement not only into the field but also into the matchups and into the home-field advantage.  What would be better than seeing and SEC team travel to the Midwest for a game in a snowstorm?

Coaching changes—One of the things that I hate most about this time of year (and also Black Monday after the NFL season), is seeing all of the coaches who lose their jobs. These guys gave their hearts and souls to the programs that they are working for.  Clearly it is a business and they all understand that it is part of the profession, but too many of us fans fail to recognize the impact these decisions have on all of the family members, especially the children uprooted to new schools or faced with abusive attacks on their parent in the media and on social media.   It was refreshing to see the positive press release Northwestern put out after the decision to move on from Mick McCall as offensive coordinator after a truly dreadful offensive season, one which ironically ended up with their best offensive performance of the year.

Josh Shaw betting—The NFL doesn’t play games when it finds out that one of its players has been gambling on NFL games.  Josh Shaw was a backup player on injured reserve who laid some action at a Vegas casino, supposedly due to his misinterpretation of the rules. Though he did cooperate fully, he is suspended through 2020.   According to the NFL’s own language it would appear to prohibit fantasy football but you frequently hear players referencing their fantasy teams.  Maybe they are all just playing for fun. 😊 Here are six other things you might not know about Shaw, including the fact that he fabricated a story while at USC about leaping off a balcony to save his drowning nephew.

Medical IndependenceOne disturbing story this past week was about the lack of medical independence on many college campuses.  According to NCAA regulations, the sport coaches are not supposed to be in charge of the hiring and firing of medical personnel for their programs.   Unfortunately, it has become apparent that there are still way too many coaches who control this aspect of their programs leading to enormous conflicts of interest and unreasonable pressure on the athletic trainers and other medical personnel. The NCAA itself has provisions for dealing with this situation but it appears that they are rarely enforced or even investigated.

Arena Football Bankruptcy—The Arena Football League filed for bankruptcy this week.  The league has had many lives and there is no reason to believe that it is gone for good.  There is always a huge appetite for football, but one important element of the league may be replaced by the XFL.  The development aspect of arena football is limited because too many NFL positions really do not have equivalent positions in arena.  The XFL will be a better developmental mode but the desire to see football is likely to create another desire to resurrect this league.  Its biggest obstacle is likely to be the concussion crisis since players are going to be increasingly reluctant to sacrifice their brains and bodies for the meager financial rewards of arena football, especially if it is not a true developmental option for the NFL.

If you didn’t have a chance to see some of the other things I have been involved with or written recently, take a look here:



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