Category Archives: Sports

COLLEGE FOOTBALL HYPOCRISY 101

“It’s all about the kids.”

I love it when college football and basketball coaches say that right after they make a move that’s all about themselves. That’s what Paul Chryst did when he officially became Pitt’s most recent former football coach Wednesday night.

(He’s Pitt’s third coach, not counting interim coaches, since 2010.)

At the press conference to introduce him as Wisconsin’s new coach, Chryst talked about how hard it was to leave Pitt after only three years as head coach: “It was also hard because of the players at the University of Pittsburgh, and that’s why we do this.”

Why “we” do what?

Sign meaningless contracts and make meaningless promises to young men, who make potentially life changing decisions based on your promises?

Paul Chryst, who grew up in Wisconsin, played and coached for the University of Wisconsin, took his dream job and the prevailing notion is that nobody should blame him.

Many of his Pitt players supported him on Twitter immediately after the move became official.

Okay, let’s give him that. You can always be forgiven for taking your dream job when it’s offered to you, but could we be spared the “It’s about the kids,” or the “We’re in this for the players” routine?

Paul Chryst is in it for himself. If it really were all about the players, he would still be Pitt’s coach.

It’s about Paul Chryst taking his dream job.

If the players feel abandoned or cheated, or if the athletic director, who gave you your first head coaching job, is fired because of your decision to leave, too bad.

Pitt fired Athletic Director Steve Pederson about 40 seconds after Chryst was introduced in Madison.

Chryst isn’t the first college head football coach to walk away from his players or his commitments to better himself.

It’s done so often that a coach is rarely criticized for it if the job is seen as a step up for him — or, of course a dream job.

How much criticism do you think he received from the Wisconsin media?

College football coaches, many of whom are guilty of exploiting kids, who have no chance of succeeding academically, as they squeeze as many eligible seasons as they can get out of them (See the University of North Carolina.), are in it for themselves.

If they cared about the kids and living up to their commitments, they might be willing to sign contracts that actually mean something. You know, the way the national letter of intent players are required to sign, means something.
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Big time college football has been a cesspool for a long time and there is no reason to believe it’s not getting worse every year.

The University of Michigan has reportedly offered San Francisco 49ers head coach and former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh $48 million for six years. That would make him the highest paid coach in college football — a million more per year than Nick Saban at Alabama.

There’s a lot of stupidity going around in college football but it’s hard to believe the people in charge at Michigan would be offering a football coach $8 million a year if they didn’t think it would be profitable for them.

Harbaugh is said to be torn between going back to his alma mater, where he can get back to having it be about the kids and listening to what’s being offered by other NFL teams after his inevitable split with the 49ers.

If he would take Michigan’s $48 million offer, Harbaugh would be getting a $3 million raise from his salary with the 49ers and he would be making as much as the two highest paid coaches in the NFL, Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints and Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks.

But, as we all know, it’s not about the money in college football.

It’s all about the kids.

PITT JUST AIN’T IT

It’s scary to think that I’ve been following Pitt football for almost 60 years and covering it for 37, and I think it may be time for people to come to the same realization that I have.

Pitt is not a national power waiting to happen.

There were a couple of decent Pitt teams (Mike Ditka) in the late 50s and early 60s and an excellent team in 1963 that went 9-1, with the only loss being to Roger Staubach and Navy.

From the mid 60s until 1973 Pitt football was worse than it is now.
Much worse.
I remember when they had to have a mercy clock in the second half against Notre Dame.

If it hadn’t been allowed to run, Pitt might have lost by 100 points.

Pitt was almost as pathetic as the Steelers, and, trust me, that’s saying something,

Things changed in 1973 when Johnny Majors was hired.
Keep in mind that, at the time, Johnny Majors was the hottest coach in the country.

He just happened to show up at the same time that a kid named Anthony Dorsett was graduating from Hopewell.

He was told to bring in as many players as he wanted and not to worry too much about their level of literacy.

That was the beginning of the nine year period that Pitt and Pitt fans keep telling themselves can happen again.

It can’t.

Not unless Pitt hires a superstar coach, who can immediately compete with the top programs for players, cheats more and/or lowers its academic standards.

The first thing everybody connected to the Pitt program –including fans—needs to do is lower the expectations.

Dave Wannstedt didn’t eliminate the impatience but he had Pitt on the way to respectability.

Respectability looks pretty good right now.

Whoever is up next has a long way to go to get there.

WHO GETS TO PICK PITT’S NEXT FOOTBALL COACH?

J. Steigerwald column for 12.13/14.14

Make a list of every person living within a 50-mile radius of Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. Put the name Steve Pederson at the bottom of the list.

Everyone, in the order in which they appear on the list, should be given the chance to hire Pitt’s next football coach, before Pederson.

Steve, in case you didn’t know, is Pitt’s Athletic Director.
He’s the guy who fired former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt in 2010.

He hired Mike Haywood in December of 2010.

He fired Haywood two and a half weeks later after Haywood was arrested on a domestic violence charge.

He hired Todd Graham on January 11th, 2011.

Eleven months later, in December, 2012, Graham sneaked out of town to become the coach at Arizona State.

He hired Paul Chryst eight days later.

Now, it’s all but a foregone conclusion that Chryst is about to become the new head coach at Wisconsin.

You could say it’s not Pederson’s fault that Graham and Chryst left and you would be half right. Graham’s resume showed him to be a guy who was perfectly willing to make a long term commitment to a school and then bolt after a year or two.

Chryst said all the right things about being committed to Pitt for the long term and Pederson had no way of knowing that Chryst’s dream job at Wisconsin would come open so soon.

But, Pederson fired a Pitt guy who had gone 27-12 in his last three seasons. Wannstedt didn’t want to coach anywhere else. If he had been more successful at Pitt, do you think he would have left for Wisconsin or Arizona State?

Pitt is now the punch line in any joke about college football programs that can’t hold on to its head coaches. Wannstedt wasn’t perfect, but he’d still be here if Pederson hadn’t run him off and there’s every reason to believe he could have done better than Chryst’s 19-19 the last three years.

If Wisconsin wanted to hire the most successful Pitt coach of the last five years, it wouldn’t be Chryst. It would be Wannstedt.

Fifteen days before Mark Nordenberg stepped down as Pitt’s Chancellor, he gave Pederson a five year extension through 2018.

Looking back on it, Nordenberg should have told Pederson to take a hike and extended Wannstedt.

– If you are one of the many area sports fans who believes that the only reason the Pirates don’t spend money is the Nutting family’s cheapness, you need to ask yourself if either the Rooney family or the Burkle-Lemieux partnership would be willing to cut into their profits or lose money in order to compete in a non-salary cap world.

Burkle is a billionaire a few times over and in 2003 his payroll was $50 million less than the New York Rangers and his team was involved in some serious salary dumping.

-There are life lessons that kids, who are involved in youth sports, can learn. That’s the good news. The bad news is that sometimes the lessons send the wrong message. The coaches at Douglass High School in Oklahoma sent the wrong lesson to their kids when they went to court to get the results of state football playoff game reversed.

Douglass was behind Locus Grove 20-19 and on its own 42 when Qua’Sean Sims caught a screen pass and ran up the sideline for an apparent touchdown, but while he was running, a Douglass coach ran down the sideline and bumped into an official.

Douglass was penalized 15 yards and the touchdown was called back. The referee blew it.

An automatic 15-yard penalty was the right call, but the rule book says it should be enforced after the touchdown.

Douglas lost 20-19 and Locus Grove advanced to the state semi-final, but not before the game was delayed for a week while a judge ruled on Douglass’ appeal to have the game replayed or at least resumed after counting what should have been the winning touchdown.

Maybe you can find a lawyer to tell you why the judge didn’t throw the case out of court, but the big problem is with the Douglass coaches who refused to accept the loss and took it to court.

The first lesson should have been that it’s only football and that football and life are not always fair. The second lesson should have been that the secret to not being the victim of bad calls is to play well enough to overcome them. Try not to be one point behind with a minute to go.

Instead, the coaches sent the message to the kids that, in the 21st century, instant replay is always there to protect you and there is nothing that happens to you that a lawsuit can’t overturn.

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW, GET OUT OF MY COURT ROOM

There are life lessons that kids, who are involved in youth sports, can learn. That’s the good news. The bad news is that sometimes the lessons send the wrong message.

The coaches at Douglass High School in Oklahoma sent the wrong message to their kids when they went to court to get the results of a state football playoff game reversed.

Douglass was behind Locus Grove 20-19 and on its own 42 when Qua’Sean Sims caught a screen pass and ran up the sideline for an apparent touchdown, but while he was running, a Douglass coach ran down the sideline and bumped into an official.

Douglass was penalized 5 yards and the touchdown was called back. The referee blew it.

An automatic 5-yard penalty was the right call, but the rule book says it should be enforced after the touchdown.

Douglas lost 20-19 and Locus Grove advanced to the state semi-final, but not before the game was delayed for a week while a judge ruled on Douglass’ appeal to have the game replayed or at least resumed after counting what should have been the winning touchdown.

It wasn’t just the coaches who believed that a court should intervene in the outcome of a high school football game.

After the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association said the referees mistake was inexcusable but that it was prevented by state and national bylaws from protesting the game, Oklahoma City public school officials got Judge Bernard M. Jones II of District Court in Oklahoma City to issue a restraining order preventing Locus Grove from playing in the state semi-final.

The attorneys for Douglass argued that the OSSAA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying Douglass’ petition to overturn the result.

Maybe you can find a lawyer to tell you why the judge didn’t throw the case out of court, but the big problem is with the Douglass coaches who refused to accept the loss and took it to court.

What’s next, asking a judge to overturn the result of a Little League baseball game based on the video on somebody’s cell phone?

Fortunately, Judge Jones ordered that Locus Grove’s win over Douglass will stand: “While mindful of the frustrations of the young athletes who feel deprived…it borders on the unreasonable…to think this court more equipped or better qualified than (OSSAA) to decide the outcome of any portion of a high school football game.”

In other words, “Rub dirt on it and get back in there and play.”

As difficult as it may be for some people to believe, there was a time when an official’s ruling was final.

The technology didn’t exist that made it possible to see an instant replay.

And the technology was around a long, long time before the NFL became the first major professional league to allow calls to be overturned based on video review.

CBS introduced instant replay in 1963. Major League Baseball waited 50 years before deciding to use it to overturn umpires’ calls.

Living with the human errors made by human officials was a part of sports.

The first lesson for the kids on the Douglass football team should have been that it’s only football and that football and life are not always fair.
The second lesson should have been that the secret to not being the victim of bad calls is to play well enough to overcome them. Try not to be one point behind with a minute to go.

For as long as sports have been played, coaches have been telling their players that one play or one bad call rarely decides a game.

Instead, the Douglass coaches sent the message to their kids that, in the 21st century, instant replay is always there to protect you and there is nothing that happens to you that a lawsuit can’t overturn.

IF UNC DOESN’T DESERVE DEATH PENALTY, WHO DOES?

Congratulations to Roy Williams.

He has been able to keep a straight face while saying that he had no idea that many of his basketball players at North Carolina were taking sham courses in the Afro-American studies program.

This is the institution of higher learning that, according to a whistle blower in the UNC Athletic Department,has, for decades, been giving scholarships to athletes who read at somewhere between the fourth and eighth grade level.

The results of an independent investigation by former federal prosecutor Kenneth L Wainstein were released on Wednesday and if the NCAA doesn’t issue the death penalty to UNC’s athletic program, then it is even more useless than anyone could have imagined.

The scam was first brought to light by Mary Willingham, who worked as an academic counselor for UNC athletes. She spoke of “students” who couldn’t read beyond the fourth grade level and a few who couldn’t read at all.

That led to Wainstein’s investigation.

In simple terms, the scam involved steering black athletes toward courses in Afro-American studies. Whatever grade they needed to remain eligible was the grade they received without the inconvenience of, you know, going to class or taking tests.

But, really, why should anybody be surprised that kids, who are reading at an elementary school level, would have to cheat to stay eligible?

One of those players was Rashad McCants. He told ESPN’s Outside the Lines in June that Williams helped him manipulate his transcript from the fall of 2004. He replaced failing grades that semester with passing grades from summer school courses to keep him eligible.

Williams appeared on the show with 11 of his former players and said – with a straight face – that he didn’t know what McCants was talking about.

According to the investigation, five of the players on UNC’s 2005 national championship team were enrolled in a total of 39 bogus classes.

So, when does that 2005 championship banner come down?
Williams should have been fired by now.

Maybe you believe that he didn’t know what was going on, even though UNC football coaches have admitted to being aware of the scam, but I’m not buying it for a minute.

How many kitchens did Williams sit in over the years and promise the parents of a potential recruit that he could be trusted to make sure that their son would get a good education?

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt has already fired four people and put five others under disciplinary review. Personnel laws prevent her from making their names public.

I’m betting that Williams still has his job.

Folt has some plausible deniability since she’s only been on the job since 2013, but, based on the pervasiveness and long history of the corruption, it’s hard to believe that someone didn’t at least mention it to her at a cocktail party.

Folt could do the right thing – fire multiple coaches and impose the death penalty on her own football and basketball programs instead of waiting for the NCAA to come up with reasons not to do it- but I wouldn’t bet on that happening.

The NCAA will get around to ruling on the UNC case after it conducts a study on the effectiveness of allowing athletes to spread cream cheese on their bagels.

Don’t bet on the national media putting much pressure on the NCAA. The reaction, based on what I’ve seen since the results of the investigation were released on Wednesday, has been a long, collective yawn.

And this story is not one that should only interest the sports media. It’s not just about basketball and football. It’s about lousy high schools that graduate kids (mostly black) who have trouble reading The Cat in the Hat.

Where’s the outrage over kids who read at the fourth grade level being able to get a high school diploma?

And who thinks that the University of North Carolina is the only institution of higher learning that allows this to go on in the interest of justifying billion dollar TV contracts?

I once watched a college football player at a major university put the free books he had just picked up on the first day of the semester under his desk. Three months later, I saw that the books hadn’t been touched. I also know that he didn’t go to one class that semester.

He was given the answers to tests before he took them.
He made the Dean’s List.
That was in 1970.

NFL AND POLITICIANS THICK AS THIEVES

Don’t you just love those venerable, old stadiums and ball parks? Wrigley Field. Fenway Park. Dodger Stadium. Lambeau Field. The Rose Bowl. Edward Jones Dome.

In case that last one kind of caught you off guard, it’s the dump where the St. Louis Rams play.

The Rams want a new stadium and they, with the help of the NFL, are using a not so veiled threat to move to Los Angeles in order to get it.

The Edward Jones Dome opened in 1995. Yep, 19 years ago.

Remember when teams used to play in the same building for 50 or 60 years? That was when team owners paid for their own buildings.

As of 2012, 125 of the 140 teams in the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NHL and Major League Soccer, were playing in stadiums built or refurbished since 1990. Most, if not all of them, were paid for mostly with tax payer dollars at a cost of more than $30 billion.

You’ve heard all the arguments about what a great idea it is for local and state governments to subsidize pro franchises.

They’re usually made by consultants paid for by team owners, or stupid and/or corrupt politicians. Economists who study the effect of the new stadiums after the fact tend to blow that theory out of the water.

Greg Mankiw, who’s chairman of the economics department at Harvard, did a survey of economists and 85% of them said that local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises.

What do you suppose the local “leaders” were telling the fine citizens of St. Louis in the early nineties when they were trying to sell them on the idea of spending a quarter of a billion dollars on a stadium for the team that was going to be re-locating from Los Angeles?

Georgia Fronteire, the owner of the Los Angeles Rams, was tired of sharing a stadium with the California Angels and decided to move when she found out that the local politicians weren’t dumb or corrupt enough to give her one of her own.

So, here we are 19 years later and the usual promises and threats are being made.

There will be even more economic benefits with the new stadium than they got from the old dome and the Rams are threatening to move again.

To L.A., of course.

They would like a new $700 million stadium and would like the local taxpayers to pay for it.

As usual, there is plenty of media cheerleading being done on the part of the local thieves…er, team. In his St. Louis Post-Dispatch column on Tuesday, Bryan Burwell showed lots of impatience with the team and local politicians for not coming up with a deal that would keep the Rams in St. Louis.

Nowhere in his column did he question whether giving the Rams one dime of other people’s money to replace a 19 year old stadium was a good idea.

Nothing new in St. Louis.
It has happened and will continue to happen in cities all over North America.
The Rams will get their new stadium.

The NFL will let everyone know that it is willing to pay for half the cost of a new stadium in Los Angeles. More teams will threaten to move there and one eventually will.
That will open up another jilted city for an expansion team.

Remember Cleveland?

The jilted fans will be easily convinced that a new stadium will bring jobs, improve the quality of life in their neighborhood and help them overcome the embarrassment of losing a team.

Owners will get richer and politicians will be re-elected.

They all should be arrested.

GO PRO, YOUNG MAN. GO PRO

The next thing Todd Gurley should sign is an FXFL contract.

In case you hadn’t heard, the FXFL is a new professional football league and it’s tailor-made for a guy like Gurley, who appears to have been a little anxious to start making money for running with a football.

Gurley is almost universally considered the best running back in the country. He’s 6’1”, 220 pounds and he’s averaging – are you ready?- 8.2 yards a carry in college football’s best conference, the SEC.

Apparently Todd was studying too hard last year to notice that Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M got in a lot of trouble with the NCAA for creating the suspicion that he was getting money for his autograph.

Manziel’s “suspension” was for only half a game because the NCAA couldn’t prove that he ever received direct payment for signings.

Georgia has suspended Gurley indefinitely until the investigation into his alleged violation is completed.

So, here we have a 20 year-old football player who’s averaging more than eight yards a carry and may not be able to carry the ball again this season because of a stupid violation of an even more stupid rule.

Seems like a perfect time to turn pro.

Unfortunately for Gurley, the NFL has a really stupid rule of its own that prevents guys like him from playing until they are a full three years beyond high school graduation.

In a sane world – one in which there is no pro football monopoly – Gurley would be able to say, “Whoops, I violated a stupid rule. I don’t want to play college football anymore. I’d prefer to be paid for playing and I think I’m just as ready now as I’m going to be next August.”

The NFL would have you believe that this stupid, un-American rule is in the best interest of college student-athletes. You would only believe that if you were as stupid as the rule.

But, watch how the media will focus on Gurley’s stupidity and even more on the stupidity of the rule he violated and watch how they will ignore the stupidity, not to mention the immorality of the NFL rule.

Here’s where the FXFL comes in.

At least this is where it should come in.

The league consists of four teams made up of players who have had tryouts with NFL teams in the last three years. ESPN3 has agreed to televise its games, which began last week.

Todd Gurley should be able to tell the NCAA and the University of Georgia to take a hike and he should call the FXFL and say he’s available to play next week.

The FXFL, of course, would benefit from the publicity and sell lots of tickets to Gurley’s first game.

This is unlikely to happen because the FXFL is in the process of kissing the NFL’s behind in hopes of developing a working agreement similar to Major League Baseball’s affiliation with minor league baseball.

It would be nice if Gurley could sue the NFL for the right to play based on anti-trust violations but a kid from Ohio State, Maurice Clarett, tried that in 2004. He won his case in court, but the decision was overturned by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

The judge who rendered the decision was Sonia Sotomayor, who’s now on the Supreme Court and may or may not be an NFL season ticket holder.

Remember the outrage from the national sports media last year when Manziel was being persecuted for allegedly making a few bucks with his autograph?

Remember how the NCAA was ridiculed?

The NCAA has since agreed to tweak its rules to give more power to teams in the five big conferences, which could eventually lead to players being paid.

But the NFL’s ridiculous and stupid rule that prevents perfectly qualified players from playing in the only major pro football league in America will get no tweaking.

And watch the lapdog media give the NFL a pass and focus instead on the stupidity of a 20 year-old college kid.