Cavalcade of Whimsy: Dabo Swinney's Contract Extension, The Athletic & Robert Lee

Cavalcade of Whimsy: Dabo Swinney's Contract Extension, The Athletic & Robert Lee


Cavalcade of Whimsy: Dabo Swinney's Contract Extension, The Athletic & Robert Lee


Cavalcade of Whimsy: Dabo Swinney’s Contract Extension, The Athletic & Robert Lee

All that’s going on in the world around college football before the big Week 1

Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …

It’s free. The $50 annual version would only suck about half as much.

Check out all the past Cavalcades

And if this doesn’t work, I’ll simply come out of retirement to fight McGregor in a rematch

I’m sorry, but you’ve been freeloading on the witty banter and fine fellowship of this column for way too long.

So to keep up with the grand experiment of The Athletic, welcome to the Cavalcade of Whimsy pay model.

To continue reading, here are your plan options to consume my brand of web-based sports content that’s worthy of Junior’s juice money.

One-Time Free Trial: But you flip for the double-meat on my roast beef sub.

$10 Plan: You get the column with full-frontal profanity, including pretend words that sound bad and get me yelled at, like jerkweed. Wait, you already get that …

$20 Plan: I cut-and-paste an interesting article by a real writer who knows proper punctuation; & – like, grammer and s{pelling and    editing and Stuff.

$30 Plan: I cut-and-paste everything The Athletic does and send it to you.

$40 Plan: Pay me, or Art Briles will arrive tomorrow as the new assistant coach of whatever sport your kid plays.

$50 Annual Plan: I come to your house and write the column for you; prepare a delightful coq au vin; take your kids to see that Emoji movie; text your mom with feeling; listen to your significant other talk about his/her day; make sure all the toilet seats are down; and finish it all off by performing the entire score of the H.M.S. Pinafore.

“Drop the ‘The.’ Just ‘Facebook.’ It’s cleaner.”

I really, really hope The Athletic works.

The writers are fantastic, Stewart Mandel and Seth Davis are great dudes who are perfect to handle college football and basketball, respectively. And yeah, it would be nice if a sports media business model with great content actually rocked.

But I’ve been doing this now for over 25 years and have seen every idea, every new thing, and every sort of business plan to try getting this dog to hunt – and it’s hard.

Here’s the problem with the pay-for-play idea. No matter how great the writers are, at the end of the day, you still have to find money for them if they’re not their own publishers and don’t run their own businesses.

If the writers are big enough, and good enough, and have a large enough following, it’s possible they can pay for themselves – but they still have to pay for everyone else, too. There isn’t a lot of money in writing sports content on the web, which is why most of the stars are at The Athletic in the first place.

It’s simple math. One high-level writer is probably used to getting at least – to be very conservative – 100-150K a year, and probably well over 200 for the biggest of guns. At $60 for an annual subscription, that writer has to be worth at least 3,000 subscriptions just to make it worth anyone’s while.

That’s actually not asking for the world, but they still have to pay for the lesser writers who don’t have the must-pay-for following. They have to pay for the tech guys. The travel. The expenses. The meals. The secretaries. The editors. The producers. The graphics people. The HR department. The middle management. The offices. The utilities. And toughest of all, the bosses and upper-management types who are probably vastly overpaid compared to the ones who crank out the content.

Oh yeah, and there’s the $2.1 million in venture cap seed money.

On the plus side, as Scout and Rivals have figured out – along with XM and Netflix, in terms of entertainment – once you’ve got a subscriber, you’ve got them. They’re invested, they get used to using the product, and they stick – it becomes a habit.

However, when it comes to what The Athletic is doing, anything they write that’s really good will 1) get repurposed and aggregated, which doesn’t help because the promotional link will hit the pay wall, 2) miss a truly big audience because the free traffic won’t be there compared to the big sites and/or 3) will have a hard time finding relevancy among the masses who don’t want to pay.

Again, I hope there’s a niche here. Good luck, guys and girls. Make it happen.

And for his first guest … Rex Ryan

In the “that could’ve and will be me not deleting this fast enough and Russo will hammer me for it” Tweet of the Week …

And so … 

Danny Kanell had a rough few months after being let go by ESPN, but you’d think SiriusXM could’ve done him a solid and released a better promo shot.

Awwwww, that’s cute

Clemson thinks it locked up Dabo Swinney through 2024 with an 8-year, $54 million contract extension.

If Dabo really is Saban-Urban-Stoops good when it comes to staying power, then – sorry – some Alabama/Texas/Texas A&M/USC/Notre Dame-level school will booster-up, throw over the $6 million  in pocket change for the buyout, and then – by 2020 and beyond – double this deal.

But that’s not the point.

Athletic directors – STOP. Why aren’t you learning your lesson when it comes to big money contracts and extensions? It almost never, ever, ever works out, and then you’re hamstrung.

What did we learn from the Brady Hoke Michigan problem? Lose at college football, lose in the athletic department. But if you’re saddled with a big ugly contract extension for a head football coach, you probably can’t afford to pay him off, and you probably can’t afford to keep on losing, and you probably can’t afford to hire on another big-money head coach who’ll help you win while you’re still paying off some guy to not coach for you anymore.

Between Jim Mora Jr., Kevin Sumlin, Bret Bielema, Rich Rodriguez, Todd Graham, and Butch Jones – six of the hottest-seat coaches going into the season – that’s over $70 million in bad paper if they’re all let go. That doesn’t even include Brian Kelly, whose deal terms aren’t disclosed.

Athletic directors, if a high-profile head coach wants to go elsewhere to get paid, let him go. Let someone else make that mistake.

What if Dabo goes 6-6 this year? What if he goes three years without a conference title?

But he won a national championship and has the program playing consistently well, right?

Ask Les Miles how that goes.

And just to be safe, Stadium made the bold decision to move veteran play-by-play man Harvey Lorenzo Charles off of the Houston vs. UTSA call

Here’s why the world sucks.

The entire east-central portion of Texas is being washed away in a biblical flood. Beyond the billions of dollars being lost in property damage, and the unimaginable destruction going on as we speak to the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, the toll being paid in suffering and misery by people who’ve lost everything in the devastation is incalculable.

Meanwhile, North Korea seems to be having a blast lobbing things over Japan, the Russia fiasco is getting spicy, and there’s a mass shooting in New Mexico that’s not seeing the light of day in the pecking order of big breaking news stories.

And yet, I know with 1000% certainty that if the ESPN Robert Lee thing happened right now, it would be the biggest trending thing on social media.

And yes, I was the first on Twitter to comment on the not-really-that-clever concept that Bob Ley should take over

ESPN takes a lot of deserved flak for a whole host of things, but it caught a bad break on the Lee fiasco.

Robert Lee didn’t get fired by ESPN.

Once the news first broke that Lee was taken off the Virginia game – thanks to the unfortunate timing of an announcer with that name being assigned to do a game at Ground Zero in a gigantic national nightmare – and because Clay Travis went Clay Travis with the leak, the knee-jerk reaction was that ESPN canned him, or took away a guy’s gig for no reason that any sane or rational person would care about.

And why not? After all, when everyone last paid attention to pre-football season ESPN, it was mercilessly cutting and slashing a whole slew of journalists and talents just so that Bill Lumbergh’s stock could go up a quarter of a point.

But Lee was simply reassigned to do the Youngstown State – Pitt game, and it was really no big deal.

You know how this went down.

Someone at ESPN caught that it was Robert Lee doing the Virginia game. Not wanting to deal with getting mocked and ridiculed – or having to deal with this at all – it was no problem switching announcers.

After all, it’s not like this was Chris Fowler being taken off an assignment. This was a relatively unknown, with-all-due-respect-interchangeable – but extremely competent and professional – part of the ESPN3 announcing system.

So ESPN did the right thing, because once word got out that it was a guy named Robert Lee calling a game in Charlottesville at this ridiculous time, social media would’ve blown up goofing on the situation.

From For The Win, to Deadspin, to snarky writers like me, ESPN would’ve been pummeled. Not that it would be wrong, or politically incorrect, or anything like that, but because … it was a guy named Robert Lee doing a game in Charlottesville, and it would be low-hanging fruit.

It would be like Baltimore broadcaster Gerry Sandusky doing a Penn State game in mid-November of 2011.

No, it wasn’t ESPN being lefty-leaning, or too sensitive, or too soft. It was leak on a big nothing-burger that became yet another thing for a slew of overheated people to pretend to be upset about.

Five Cavalcade of Whimsy footballey opinions and, like, other stuff

Five conversation starters at your next dinner party, and/or to impress that special someone at the right moment …

5. The nicest head coach in college football

There’s so much garbage and so many negative things going on, the Kirk Ferentz’s of the world need more attention.

From the University of Iowa: “Kirk and Mary Ferentz have committed $1 million to help University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital researchers in their work to improve survival rates for premature babies.”

And not just because this hits way too close to home … clap …. clap … clap … clap, clap, clap, clapclapclapclapclapclap.

4. Hawaii vs. UMass

Hawaii and UMass, could you do us a solid and keep playing each other?

These two ended the 2016 regular season with a 46-40 Rainbow Warrior win that went down to the wire. The two combined for 653 passing yards with a whole host of fun plays.

This year, Hawaii pulled it off again, with a touchdown pass in the final seconds for a 38-35 win. The two combined for 689 yards in the air in a second straight tremendous back-and-forth battle.

But you don’t pay the extra to get the Eleven Sports channel and didn’t see it. Sorry.

3. Future Schedules

It sounds fun and exciting when two big name programs schedule a home-and-home, but not when the guys who’ll play in it are currently watching Doc McStuffins.

UCLA and Wisconsin announced an agreement to meet in 2029 in Pasadena and in 2030 in Madison.

So if you’re 70-year-old Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, and you’re scheduling a game that’ll happen when you’re going to be 84 …

The subscription-based Cavalcade of Whimsy version actually finishes that thought.

2. Why there’s so much hype

Here’s your crazy fun fact. The Chicago Bears were so bad that they overpaid to move up one spot – and rightly so, if that really was their franchise guy they couldn’t lose – to draft Mitchell Trubisky.

However, three former Chicago starting quarterbacks – Jay Cutler at Miami, Brian Hoyer at San Francisco, and Josh McCown at New York – are all going to be starting in Week 1 in your National Football League.

Let that sink in, and then watch Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold a little more closely this weekend.

And with that in mind …

1. Rookie quarterbacks

I heard a sports personality hot take that DeShone Kizer looked like the same mediocre quarterback he was at Notre Dame.

Forgetting that 1) he was fantastic at times in 2015 and 2) he had played for the Cleveland Browns for all of about four quarters.

So Patrick Mahomes isn’t quite ready. So Deshaun Watson might have to sit behind Tom Savage. So Trubisky will have to wait until Bear brass realizes that it’s okay to give a guaranteed $19 million to a backup like Mike Glennon.

And looking back at last year, people are worrying that Jared Goff is a bust? Paxton Lynch – who was supposed to be a project – isn’t ready yet?

It’s really, really, really hard to find a special starting quarterback, but it’s not hard to come up with a competent one if he’s developed and given a little time to work through the mistakes. This 2017 crop of rookies will be fantastic – but they just got started.

This week’s reason why Nick Saban didn’t suspend me for the season opener against Florida State …

About to dive into slice No. 2 at 4:30 am outside a downtown Chicago bar after our fantasy football draft, a homeless guy raced to the garbage can to grab the remains I just threw out. Totally full, totally exhausted, and totally too fat, yeah, I gave the guy 1/8th of the crust of my second piece of pizza.

I know. Not a dry eye in the house.

The sure-thing, 100%, rock-solid lock, sell the house, sell the kids, no doubt about it picks of the century for this week

PICK SO FAR: 3-1 SU, 1-2-1 ATS

It was the soft opening. I needed to work everything out.

I’m not going to get into a twist by picking UMass to beat Hawaii in that fun firefight, and the Stanford thing got out of hand fast. My big play I told all my degenerate friends was the over between the Minutemen and Rainbow Warriors. Set at 61.5, it was a breeze with the two coming in at 74.

But you don’t care. I went 1-2-1, and you are what your record is. So to crank it up for the real Week One …

1. Cal +11.5 over North Carolina (UNC outright)
2. Georgia Southern +34.5 over Auburn (Auburn outright)
3. Iowa -11.5 over Wyoming
4. Nevada +24 over Northwestern (Northwestern outright)
5. Michigan -3.5 over Florida
6. Alabama -7 over Florida State
7. Illinois -6.5 over Ball State

BTW, my picks thrown out there in last week’s edition.

1. FIU +17.5 over UCF (but UCF to win)
2. Marshall PICK over Miami University
3. Boston College -2.5 over Northern Illinois

C.O.W. shameless gimmick item …

The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world

1) Overrated: Trying to sell the idea that Mayweather vs. McGregor was any good

Underrated: #Periscope #MayweatherMcGregor

2) Overrated: Ohio State ranked No. 2

Underrated: Urban Meyer’s bad-ass offseason facial hair (which needs its own Twitter handle)

3) Overrated: All the upgraded showtime flash and whoop-dee-doo around NFL broadcasts

Underrated: Al Michaels’ tone-deaf whining about Eric Reid, the length of the game, Head Linesman being changed to Down Judge, and about how he might get ripped on if he ever chooses to comment on any other topic.

4) Overrated: Worrying at the immediate moment that the Louisiana Superdome isn’t a neutral site

Underrated: BYU fans desperately trying to get their tickets changed from Houston to New Orleans

5) Overrated: The 1979 national championship (in terms of how good the game actually was)

Underrated: Jud Heathcote

Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault …

I wrote it with one eye on everything that’s going on in Houston. Thoughts and prayers are only good if they lead to real help. For what seems to be the best place to donate, go to the Greater Houston Community Foundation Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund.


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