Saturday, February 03, 2007

GO COLTS. AND WILSON.

As a Falcons fan (when it comes to the pros), I have no vested interest in the outcome of the Super Bowl on Sunday. However, I will go ahead and say that I am rooting for Indianapolis to finally win the first ring for Peyton Manning. You might have heard of this kid ... he was pretty good at Tennessee. Has a few rarely-shown commercials. Kind of quiet.
Great stats. Barking. No rings. In other words, his college days all over again.
In case you're wondering, the Bears have the only South Carolina player in SB XLI. Rod Wilson, touted on the team's Web site as a "promising young linebacker prospect" -- he was All-SEC at the position -- is nonetheless a backup, so I don't feel compelled to root for the Bears. (Wilson could have been a Syvelle Newton Award Winner. Only then it would have been the Rod Wilson Awa...never mind.) But if Wilson could have a good game in a losing effort, that would be pretty close to perfect.

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MY SELF-EVALUATION

In my day job -- you know, the one I'm actually compensated for -- "navel-gazing" is seen as a bad thing, to be avoided at all times. Journalists don't evaluate themselves, and we increasingly seem gun-shy about even defending ourselves against the inevitable cries of "They display an obvious liberal/conservative/pro-war/pacifist bias."

But, in the blogosphere, where writers like myself are faceless, often nameless and even less accountable than those in the MSM, I think taking an occasional break to publicly evaluate/praise/flog yourself is probably a good idea.

I hope to develop and post a Code of Ethics/Publishing Standards/I like slashes tonight, and to evaluate against that in the future. But here's my stab at the first year. After reading it, please feel free to pile on or say what you liked or didn't like, or would like to see.

THINGS I THINK I DID RIGHT:

1. Posting regularly. I was almost-daily, though I missed a day here and there. Since the season, I've probably missed a few more days than average, but I see missing a day during the season (when more people are looking for information) as bigger crime. It was pretty rare for me to miss any major story involving South Carolina -- though I'm sure if I said I never did so, someone would point out the time I didn't discuss Spurrier's being arrested for ripping the head off of a defenseless cat and then eating the ears for dinner. Which, as far as I know, is completely made up. Though he could have been forgiven if he did so after the Florida game.

2. Getting better. At first, I kind of bounced merrily from topic to topic with no real idea of where I was going. I see this as a beginning mistake. I also had the instinct to crack jokes without doing a lot of analysis or thinking. Both got better as the season went along. If you're not improving, you're probably moving backwards. And I felt like I improved throughout the year.


Exhibit A: Leigh Tiffin

3. Good writing. Not great writing. Not superb writing. I'm not the blogosphere's answer to Charles Dickens; I doubt I even reach Joseph Conrad territory. But I'm legible, use grammar goodly, and am honing this whole "writing for humor" aspect.

4. The bowl previews. Voluminous, timely and consistent.


THINGS I COULD DO BETTER:

1. Focus on South Carolina. I don't want this to become a South Carolina-only blog. That's why I dubbed it "South Carolina, SEC and college football." That pretty much covers everything. But, at times, I got away from South Carolina a little too often during the season. I expect to be more consistent with the "5 things" feature next year, and hope to have a post-game anaylsis feature for non-Orange Crush games. All in an effort to make sure I have the Gamecocks completely covered before I veer off into mocking the girth of Charlie Weis and the brainpower of Rich Brooks. (Which, I must admit, seemed a bit out of place this year.)


Not quite this bad, but still.

2. More consistent with all features. The "5 things" criticism pretty much applies to almost every other feature. Predictions for top-25 games were, well, sporadic at best. I flirted with an "Overtime" item for the post-Saturday rubble of every week, but dropped off after a few weeks. About the only things I did from start to finish were The Ranks and the bowl previews. Part of this was getting in a rut. "The Word" worked for a few weeks, and then it got to be kind of old hat. Something better must be found for next year.

3. Having a point. Sometimes I just posted thinking, eh, this is kind of amusing. Which is fine and all, but kind of empty. I should have tried harder in some cases to pull everything together.


MEA CULPAS:

1. Link whoring. I did a little bit of this in the early days, though I tended to call it "self-promotion."


Come on by and look at Brandon's marvelous blog!

I would, in atonement, name and link to the potentially offended now, but that would kind of defeat the whole point. So any of them reading this, I apologize. To be honest, I didn't know at first that this was a faux pas. But now I do.

2. Ray Ray McElrathbey. I've already posted on this screw-up. But I really feel like it was one of my worst miscalculations of the season. I was trying to be contrarian and get a poke in at that school to the west at the same time. I ended up sounding like a callous jackass.

3. The freak-out of December. I was probably a bit too breathless on all the Alabama rumors. That's what you get for going to the Bama message boards, which swirled with the kind of rumor and innuendo of the like message boards have not seen since ... since ... well, since the week before the Spurrier-to-Bama rumors took off. For the record, I now think Alabama made Spurrier say no. I do not believe those who maintain it was a done deal but somehow Mal Moore screwed things up. Was there ever an actual, honest offer on the table? Who knows? But I overreacted.

Final Grade: B-minus to B. I'm grading on a curve here, seeing as how this was my first year. I think I was above average ... but not by too much. Excellent would be a huge overstatement.

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THANK YOU DAD FOR ... OUCH! STABBING PAIN! IN BACK!

There's no such thing as a sure thing in life. Especially if it includes deals made in smoke-filled rooms that end up not being made at all.

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Newly named Army football coach Stan Brock, who was recommended for the job by the retiring Bobby Ross, has decided not to retain Ross' son Kevin on staff.
"I decided it was important for the program to go in a different direction," Brock said in a statement released Thursday. "I continue to work toward building the best staff possible to lead our cadet-athletes and hope to be in position to announce the makeup of the entire staff shortly."
Kevin Ross said he was shocked at the decision and that his father also was upset.

One would imagine.

The decision was made last Saturday -- the day Brock accepted the job.
"My dad was under the assumption that I would be staying," Kevin Ross told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown.

Remember that time in high school when your dad told you to ask that girl out and she said "no"? Yeah, this must be like that times 100.

Kevin Ross said he was unsure of his future plans.

Again, one would imagine. But C&F is guessing dad's advice won't mean much.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

BUT WILL THEY MAKE BLAKE LOOK FAT?

USC is considering switching uniform manufacturers from Nike to Under Armour, the company most famous for creating a commercial making everyone hope it's okay for Ralph Friedgen's face to get that red.


We must protect this house! (And the Bojangles next door.)

The relevant particulars:

South Carolina officials are in negotiations with Under Armour to make the Baltimore-based manufacturer the official apparel provider for many of the Gamecocks’ athletics teams.
With the apparel deals set to expire this year for USC’s football program and other sports, athletics department officials are looking for a company that can outfit a number of different teams.
“Right now, our focus is with Under Armour,” USC athletics director Eric Hyman said Wednesday. “We’re deep into discussions with them, and how exactly it’s all going to crystallize, I can’t tell you right now.” ...
“It’s a way for a team to stand out,” said Matt Powell, an analyst with SportsOneSource, a sporting goods research and analysis group. “Nike really dominates the space. If a team wants to be a little different or take a little different look, I think Under Armour’s a great way to go.”
Under Armour was founded in 1996 by former Maryland football player Kevin Plank, who developed a prototype of a microfiber T-shirt to replace the sweat-soaked, cotton T’s he wore as the Terps’ special teams captain. ...
“Contractual issues take time, but we want to do it as soon as possible,” Hyman said. “However long it takes to do it the right way.”


As long as they don't do this, I'm fine with it.

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THOMPSON GOES TO TENNESSEE(-MARTIN)

I must admit that I have been scooped on a South Carolina story by EDSBS.
If, of course, missing the transfer of a QB who was quickly sliding down the depth chart counts as being scooped. (HT: EDSBS)
Transfer? Yes. Significant? Eh.
The likelihood is that Thompson read the writing on the wall. Blake Mitchell is the starting QB. Chris Smelley is the backup. And Stephen Garcia is now The Savior of the Program.
Which left Cade Thompson with a promising career in clipboard holding.
But, still ... UT-Martin?

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ENVIRONMENTALISTS? IN BERKELEY? YOU JEST.

Sometimes, satire writes itself. Which brings us to the tree-sitters who are blocking the construction of Cal's new football facilities.


The Bears' worst enemy. Behind the Trojans, of course.

The relevant particulars:

BERKELEY — A judge on Monday halted construction of an athletic center near UC Berkeley's football stadium, saying a trial should determine whether the new building would be safe in an earthquake.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller issued a four-page preliminary injunction on Monday, nearly a week after three groups of plaintiffs asked her to prevent the university from starting the $125 million project.
UC Berkeley attorneys have said the building would be the best way to keep athletes, employees and other students safe. The dangerous Hayward fault bisects adjacent 84-year-old Memorial Stadium, and the university has said it needs to move athletic offices and training rooms out of the stadium before it can start extensive renovation. Construction had been scheduled to begin early this year. ...
But a varied group of critics also has cropped up, including protesters who have refused to come down from oak trees on the site of the proposed Student Athlete High Performance Center. The university plans to remove some of the trees to make way for the building.
Approximately six tree-sitters in the oaks after the injunction Monday said they planned to stay perched there until the trees were saved permanently. As reporters and supporters milled around the grove Monday afternoon, one protester yelled, "Yeah, that's right, stick it to the man."
Tree-sitter Thomis Skotarek said by cell phone he and the other protesters did not trust the university to honor the injunction.
"They've been sneaky," he said. "You never know what they're going to do."

Actually, Arizona and USC-West knew exactly what they were going to do. But that's beside the point.

First of all, you wonder how many Cal fans knew before now that their football stadium sits atop a fault line. Or maybe we've just misunderstood the recent looks of Cal fans. We thought they were reacting to the play of their team. Perhaps they were really recoiling in horror at the swaying of the stands.

Second of all, you wonder which reporters won this plum assignment. "Yeah, you go stand around in the forest and wait for the spotted-owl lovers to make a statement."

But the unintentional satire goes on. Here is, reproduced below, the picture accompanying the above story and its caption. This is completely straight up.


ZACHARY RUNNING WOLF, who says he has been sitting in a redwood tree for 59 days, answers reporters' questions Monday after a temporary injunction was granted stopping the removal of coast live oaks next to Memorial Stadium at UC Berkeley.

And then he returned to his meeting with Robin Hood.

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A RECRUITING SPURRIER ARTICLE

This might appear to contradict C&F's anti-recruiting post from a few days ago, but there's a nice SI.com piece about Spurrier's recruiting efforts since he came to South Carolina.

C&F links to it for a few reasons, the main one being that it seems the national media (whom C&F doesn't beat up on as much as other fans (cough cough alabama cough cough)) has finally gotten over the "it's great to have him back in college football" stage with Spurrier.

You know, the one where the team or whether it's successful is of little importance because it's all about Spurrier. And as much as C&F loves having the man for a coach, the team should be more than a backdrop for his witty remarks. He was respected at Florida for what he did with the Gators -- not for being Steve Spurrier.

But the article also shows a healthy attitude about what all the stars mean:

Is it a big enough factor to help propel the Gamecocks to their first SEC title? Time will tell, but Spurrier and South Carolina are off to a good start.

There is one important philosophical point to the article that has less to do with the practical concern of whether these are "the" players: Spurrier is getting the players he wants.

Having seen what he did in Florida, that is more important to C&F than the number of stars behind their name.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

BOBBY ROSS LEAVING ARMY

Bobby Ross has retired as coach of Army. At one point in time -- say, back when Bobby Ross was only 178 years old -- that would have been big college football news. Now, it's ... interesting. Sort of.

The relevant particulars:

The former NFL coach, who had a 9-25 record at Army, will be succeeded by offensive line coach Stan Brock.
"I think there's a point in time when you feel like it's your time to retire, and I think I've reached that time," the 70-year-old Ross said in a statement. "I think there is an issue of having a certain degree of energy, which I feel is very important for anyone leading a college football program. I feel that I was lacking in that area."

Funny, that doesn't seem to stop Joe Pa.


The picture of youthful vigor.

The 48-year-old Brock, who played for Ross on the 1995 San Diego Chargers team that reached the Super Bowl, said he was surprised, even though he and Ross had talked about the future.
"He knew it was my ultimate goal, but the timing was a shock," said Brock, who has never been a head coach at the Division I level but had five years of head coaching experience in the Arena Football League before coming to West Point with Ross. "I thought coach was going to be here."

Two points: First of all, this guy sounds incredibly "Aw, shucks" for Army. You almost expect him to say, "They will play hard and they will play happy."

Second of all, C&F would submit that coaching in the Arena Football League has little to do with your ability coach football. With the exception, of course, of AFL football.

Still, there have been signs of progress. Army won seven of its last 17 games under Ross, and nine of the last 16 losses have been by 14 points or less. In the three seasons (2001-03) that preceded Ross's arrival, Army was 4-32, suffering those 32 losses by an average of 21.6 points.

When this is your "sign of progress" -- "Hey, we're just getting our butt viciously kicked, instead of getting it stomped into the dirt" -- it probably is time to go.

Now, if they can just get that guy running toward the line of scrimmage rule in CFB, Army might be set.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

PEELING THE ONION: Where will the Bush story end?

C&F believes it was Woodward and Bernstein who made the investigative reporter phrase "peeling the onion" famous. If Woodward and Bernstein were sports reporters, and if they hadn't become famous 35 years ago, they might be interested in a story that currently spans from L.A. to New Orleans and possibly even to New York.

The Reggie Bush scandal keeps growing.


Could make Bush and/or Pete Carroll cry.

For those of you who haven't been following the story, it started with some Yahoo! reports that Reggie Bush's family might have accepted illegal benefits from would-be agents. In the latest installment, Yahoo! drew on court documents to surmise that there could be tapes proving Bush took gifts he shouldn't have, because of these picayune things called eligibility rules.

Now the Los Angeles Times is jumping on, this time with a story claiming Bush wanted to be a part of the sports agency. (HT: Wiz of Odds)

The relevant particulars:

Former USC football star Reggie Bush was involved earlier and more deeply than previously reported in efforts to create a sports marketing agency that has been the focus of lingering controversy, according to lawyers for disgruntled partners in the failed venture.
The lawyers said it was Bush, along with his stepfather, LaMar Griffin, who proposed the agency as a way for the Heisman Trophy winner to avoid paying a percentage of his earnings to an established agent when he turned professional.
The NCAA and Pacific 10 Conference are investigating whether Bush violated rules of amateurism. If that is proved, USC could forfeit victories spanning two highly successful seasons and Bush could be forced to surrender his Heisman.
Attorney Brian Watkins said his client, Lloyd Lake, one of the agency's partners, planned to cooperate with collegiate investigators.
Watkins told The Times that Bush was present at several early meetings of the agency's founders and was active in pushing the idea of creating New Era Sports & Entertainment. Bush later introduced USC teammates to New Era backers Lake and Michael Michaels, the attorney said. [Emphasis is C&F's]

Now, C&F is no lawyer, and has certainly not read the eligibility rules of the NCAA. He has better things to do.


This comes to mind.

However, it seems to C&F that if taking illegal benefits from an agent is a no-no in the eyes of the NCAA, then wanting to be part of a sports agency and proposing to draw your teammates into the act is a major no-no. Almost as bad as having a Native American mascot. Almost.

The other thing that strikes C&F as significant is Lake's willingness to cooperate with collegiate investigators. If that includes turning over tapes, giving significant testimony, etc., this could get very ugly for Bush and, potentially, USC-West. Very ugly.

And there's a huge question here. Though Cohen says there appears to be "no information or indication that USC had actual knowledge of any of this," it's hard to believe that Reggie Bush was shuttling players in and out of a sports agency without anybody in the USC-West athletics department catching on.


FBI guys who missed Hanssen in charge of USC-West compliance?

And so the layers come off the onion, piece by piece by piece. Thing is, you don't know how many layers an onion has until you reach the core.

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