Cavalcade of Whimsy: Will The Feds Go After College Football?
After turning the college basketball world upside down, will the FBI investigate college football, too?
2017 Cavalcade of Whimsy
Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …
“If everyone is a Cavalcade of Whimsy fan, how do we let our opponents use this in the recruiting process with fake news? Sometimes, again, we have to check ourselves. What are we here for? What’s our values and principles that guide our life every single day? And I appreciate everyone reading this.
You guys have a job to do, and I’m respectful of that. I’m friends with a lot of you guys reading this and I appreciate it, but there comes a certain time where enough is enough. Thank you. You guys have a great day. I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday and Go Fiu.”
“This place with the drama … “
Oh, Butch Jones. I could never quit you. You amuse me too much.
You think the media is against you? Fake news … we love you. We need you.
But I digress.
Tennessee fans burned things, rioted, and screamed and painted obscenities after Lane Kiffin left to take on the USC gig. The place takes its football very, very personally.
Which is why, all things considered after a rough run under Jones, Volunteer fans have seemed shockingly … patient?
There have been scandals, and there have been issues, and there have been coaches like Derek Dooley giving it a run, but considering how utterly mediocre Tennessee has been since winning the first BCS Championship after the 1998 season, how is there anything but a total and complete fan meltdown?
Tennessee hasn’t lost fewer than four games in a season since 2004, hasn’t come within ten miles of the national championship since gagging away the 2001 SEC Championship, and it hasn’t beaten Alabama in ten years.
YOU’RE TENNESSEE FOOTBALL. You’re bound by absolutely nothing.
The recruiting classes have been terrific under Jones, and an emphasis on having a winning football program obviously isn’t an issue.
There’s a great history, the fan base is properly ginormous, and the place is an NFL talent factory when it’s humming.
If it’s possible to be Tennessee and be a sleeping giant, yeah, it is. And yet you think this guis going to turn the program into a thing again?
Since taking over in 2013, Butch Jones has a 33-23 record, is 14-20 in SEC play, and against Florida, Georgia and Alabama he’s a fantastic 3-11 – and it’s going to be 3-12 after the Vols lose to the Crimson Tide in a few weeks.
But hey, Tennessee. if you’re cool with Florida and Georgia squaring off for the SEC East title, and it’s solid that Bama will end up going off to play for another national championship, then great! There’s more to life than college football, right?
But, of course, the real barrier to getting rid of Jones appears to be …
The $6.8 million reasons Butch Jones is still the Tennessee head football coach
It’s time to accept that college football buyout payments are baked into the overall cake.
That’s a lot of bad paper if you want to give Jim Mora Jr. $10 million or so, or if you want to ask Mike Riley to leave with a $12 million check. But that’s how the world works. That’s the cost of doing business now.
It’s like the airline ticket I just purchased. It said it was $132 one-way, but after taxes, fees, and the possibility of checking a bag, it’s probably going to hit around the $185 mark.
The big-time head coaching buyout is the Resort Fee tacked on to the hotel room. Cry and whine all you want, but you know you’re going to have to pay it. You willingly chose to to stay there, because who knows if someone else will take the sweet room if you don’t, and everyone else has to deal with this, too.
To turn the dial to totally tasteless, the college football coaching buyout is summed up best by paraphrasing the great Charlie Sheen – someone who actually knows something about winning.
You don’t pay college football coaches to coach, you pay them to leave.
“It’s the Butch and Ricky show. You get those two guys, you are in the Final Four, next year.”
Let’s just cut to the chase here.
1) Is college football about to get the hammered like college basketball just did?
Probably not, and here’s why.
First, to understand how the federal prosecutors roll, 1) they don’t do ANYTHING unless they know they have an Alabama over an injury-plagued Savannah State sure-thing winner, 2) you don’t want them to know who you are, and 3) if they know who you are, it’s over, and you had better do everything they say and ask.
The college basketball scandal was a layup.
College basketball had normalized the process of helping top players to go to certain coaches and certain schools thanks to all the tournaments, all the camps, all the key shoe companies, and all those who allegedly would do what it took to make sure they got a piece of the talent pie.
The FBI investigation went after the low-hanging fruit of what everyone already sort of knew and accepted as the norm. But college football is a totally different part of the equation.
While the feds and the Justice Department appear to be tackling the alleged corruption around college basketball as a whole, it’s harder to do with college football since there isn’t the same sort of institutionalized funneling of players to schools.
If college football gets hit in any way, it’ll be if the authorities laser-focus on one particular coach or one brazen program that appears to go too far.
Will the FBI try to figure out which boosters are handing over bags of cash to college football prospects? Nah – not unless there’s a booster club taking cheating to a whole other level, and even then that might fall more under the jurisdiction of the NCAA.
But the main difference here comes down to the shoe companies. They want the college football programs; not the players.
What shoe brand does Ezekiel Elliott, Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers wear? It’s not obvious, right? But the shoe brand of a top NBA star is a massive deal, and that’s been the fuel that drove this whole college basketball problem.
College football has 99 problems but a shoe ain’t one.
2) Will everything that’s going on with college basketball make one lick of difference in the world of college athletics?
OF course not, and you haven’t been paying attention if you think otherwise.
Oh, by the way, how did Penn State do last week against Indiana?
After all the dust settles on all these college basketball investigations, indictments and firings, you know exactly what’s going to happen.
It’ll be March, there will be brackets, there will be an NCAA Tournament, and you and the rest of America that doesn’t care a lick about the college basketball regular season will be glued to every single solitary second of whatever Directional School State vs. Mid-Major Tech Sweet 16 game is coming down to the wire.
3) Does all this mean that players will get paid?
Of course not, and you haven’t been paying attention if you think otherwise.
Who’s paying them? Exactly how much money do you think these athletic departments have after funding all the non-revenue sports? How are you organizing all of this – by the way, how’s that unionization thing going?
How much are you paying the Heisman caliber quarterback compared to the third-string backup punter, compared to the woman’s field hockey player – oh yeah, Title IX – compared to the shortstop on the softball team?
4) So what’s the answer?
First, enough of your crap, pro leagues. Ditch the one-and-done – NBA, if you can’t figure out who’s the next Kobe and who’s the next Kwame, that’s on you – and NFL, expand your rosters with more guaranteed spots and no more three-years-out-of-high-school rule. College isn’t for everyone.
And colleges, let sports be a major. Just like dance, just like music, just like whatever it is I got my degree in. If a guy wants to major in football or basketball – because that’s why he’s at that school – then fine. Let him. Or her.
What’s demonized and criminalized is actually the answer.
If a shoe company wants to drop millions of dollars on an eight-grade point guard – fine.
If a Jim Bob Booster wants to give Johnny Four-Star a car – super.
The colleges can’t and shouldn’t pay for athletes, but let the market dictate the system. Agents, endorsement deals, a slush-fund from the local Loyal Order of Moose Supper Club – knock it out.
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. Sam Darnold arm was moving forward
You were probably sleeping, but the final key play in Washington State’s win over USC should’ve at least have been reviewed for a very, very long time.
There was an open hand as Darnold was being hit after he couldn’t read the blitz, but his arm was definitely going forward. It got blown off in the excitement of the moment, and Darnold didn’t raise a stink, but for a play like this, it should’ve been Zaprudered by the replay guys.
4. The anti-FOX broadcast
Sort of like The History Channel, reverse mortgages, and the Apple Watch, the broadcasting team of Mike Patrick (still fun) and Tommy Tuberville (potentially really, really strong with a little more time) appears to be geared towards a certain Greatest Generation demographic.
And that comes with a few moments of performance art, like this from Tuberville in the Florida State-Wake Forest game when describing a huge play from Derwin James, FSU’s star safety: “Derwin Jones had the forewith to knock it out.”
You keep your Tony Romos and your gimmicky parlor tricks – I LOVE him calling games, by the way – and would it kill you to get me another blanket? It’s freezing in here.
3. GET YOUR PSA SCREENING
(BTW, not kidding, my internet connection dropped as I wrote this. If you’re into signs of any sort … )
For a variety of reasons, knocking on wood, sky-pointing, and giving all thoughts and prayers – for real – as I write this with absolutely no snark intended whatsoever.
How does Kent State handle head coach Paul Haynes?
He just returned from the sidelines after taking some time off after recovering from surgery for prostate cancer. But his team is – to be kind – not very good, and under normal circumstances he’d be on the hottest of hot seats.
Kent State is a tough, tough spot to coach, but still, going 13-39 in five years, and with another disastrous record almost certain, this is where the whole concept of football being “bigger than a game” kicks in.
2. Maryland quarterbacks
Let’s just hope he doesn’t spontaneously combust.
Maryland is way, way too familiar with quarterback problems and injuries over the past several years. Four got a shot last season, and in 2015, too.
So far this season, starter Tyrrell Pigrome went down for the year early on against Texas, superstar recruit Kasim Hill was knocked out of the UCF game with a torn ACL, and then third-stringer Max Bortenschlager had to carry the team.
He did just that, hitting 18-of-28 passes for 154 yards and two scores in the 31-24 win over Minnesota.
Do that against Ohio State, and D.J. Durkin is Coach of the Year, and Bortenschlager will be a household name.
1. Saquon Barkley vs. Indiana
It’s not exactly Dan Dakich slowing down Michael Jordan in the Indiana 1984 NCAA Tournament win over North Carolina, but it might not be all that far off.
Yeah, Saquon Barkley is an an all-purpose yardage machine, but does your Heisman winner average 2.8 yards per carry against Indiana? That’s crazy, right? Not really.
His performance against the Hoosiers is actually an improvement after running 33 times for 58 yards and two scores – averaging 1.76 yards per carry – in the 2016 win, and not playing in the game in 2015. That means Barkley has rushed 53 times for just 114 yards against IU over the last two seasons, averaging 2.15 yards per run.
He’d have run for 114 as a Cleveland Brown vs. Cincinnati on Sunday.
This week’s reason why Nick Saban didn’t suspend me for the season opener against Florida State …
Give it up to the more than 10,000 coaches with the patches on their arms late week to raise awareness for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the most prolific genetic killer of young men.
1 in 3,500 boys will die from this brutal, brutal problem. There is no cure, and the life expectancy of these young men is just around the late 20s.
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: 30-8 SU, 22-13-1 ATS
I had a bad, bad, bad week, so I’m happily taking my second straight 3-3 record ATS and living to fight another day …
NC State +4 over Louisville
Western Michigan +6.5 over Buffalo
Arkansas -2.5 over South Carolina
West Virginia +13.5 over TCU (but TCU straight up)
Kentucky -10 over Missouri
Miami -3 over Florida State
C.O.W. shameless gimmick item …
The weekly five Overrated/Underrated aspects of the world
1) Overrated: The Traveling Wilburys
Underrated: The Heartbreakers
2) Overrated: Hugh Hefner
Underrated: Listening to men of a certain age try to artfully discuss what Hefner and Playboy meant to them without saying the real reason why Hefner and Playboy meant a LOT to them
3) Overrated: Kareem Hunt
Underrated: My fantasy league’s system listing players with first initial and last names in the live scoring, meaning I just lost to KHunt
4) Overrated: The old three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust Big Ten
Underrated: Joe Tiller
5) Overrated: When dying, having to pick what’s behind Door No. 1, Door No. 2, Door No. 3 or walking away with the deal of spending all of eternity with basic cable
Underrated: Monty Hall
Sorry if this column sucked, I wasn’t my fault …
I invited Troy to a nice game and some fine fellowship, and all I got was this lousy tweet …