With blog, MySpace, Podcast, we're on cutting edge
Posted: Wednesday July 19, 2006 11:25AM; Updated: Wednesday July 19, 2006 1:53PM
Do Adrian Peterson (left), Rhett Bomar and Oklahoma deserve their top-five hype?
Submit a question or an opinion to Stewart.
I don't claim to be technologically savvy. I think it dates back to my childhood, when my family was the last among my friends' to get an answering machine, a VCR and a CD player. I didn't buy my first cell phone until -- gasp -- 2002. I'm still walking around New York with a bulky, 2004-era iPod while other commuters whiz by me with newer models the size of a pencil. And I think my computer's Internet Explorer is about 3.2 versions out-of-date. So you'll have to excuse me if I'm a little late in coming around to the newest forms of online journalism.
But when I finally decide to go in on something, I go all out. So, I'm pleased to announce three exciting new changes to the way I'll be covering college football this season.
First, as of July 19, I have officially joined Blogdom. I'm extremely excited about my new College Football Blog, which will give me a chance to chime in on the latest developments in the sport outside of the Mailbag and conventional columns, and for you, the readers, to offer feedback. I will be posting new entries several times a week between now and the start of the season, and once the games begin my hope is to make it a near-daily fixture. I think it will be particularly useful on game weekends, when I can react to significant results and performances as they happen and also give you a little flavor of what's happening on campus when I'm out covering games. I may use it to share outtakes and other nuggets from interviews with players and coaches. Like with the Mailbag, I may venture off topic from time to time. I hope you'll make it a part of your daily Web surfing routine.
Secondly, I recently took the plunge that 94 million other people already have and created a MySpace page. If you're not familiar with the Web's new most popular destination (it recently surpassed Google), it's a networking site where you create a profile of yourself and then link it to those of other users. Despite the fact that the average age of MySpace users tends to be about 14, I've decided to use it to conduct a little experiment. My goal is to create an online community where you, the Mailbag audience, can network with each other. You all have at least one common interest: college football. Maybe you'll meet someone to tailgate or go to the sports bar with this fall. Maybe you'll recognize someone with season tickets near yours. Who knows -- maybe you'll find love. If you're not already on there, all you have to do is create a profile, then send me a "friend" request. Once I approve it, your profile will show up on my page and vice versa.
Finally, once the season arrives, I will be co-hosting a weekly college football Podcast on SI.com along with senior editor B.J. Schecter. In case the written word isn't enough for you, B.J. and I will preview the weekend's big games, debate hot topics in the sport and generally enhance your quality of living, one half hour at a time.
So, we now have three new ways to interact. Please note, however, that the Mailbag is not going anywhere, and I'm still going to need your questions. Like these....
How come Oklahoma is getting so much respect before the season? By "so much" I mean top five or better. Seems to me everyone still drinks the Bob Stoops Kool-Aid despite the Kansas State (2003), LSU (2003), USC (2004) and TCU (2005) debacles, not to mention losing to Oklahoma State twice and last year's Texas game. -- Howard Katz, Fort Worth, Texas
I'm guessing from the Texas dateline that Howard isn't the most impartial critic of Mr. Stoops. While many of those losses were indeed embarrassing, they also represent most of the small number of games he hasn't won in the past five years. So Stoops must be doing something right. That said, I have been surprised by the near-universal belief out there that the Sooners are going to jump right back into national title contention following an 8-4 finish last year season. Part of that is probably due to the fact that there are no clear-cut favorites in '06, but it also shows a heck of a lot of faith in Stoops, considering these Sooners aren't nearly as proven as their predecessors from earlier this decade.
Obviously, there are a lot of reasons OU looks good on paper. First and foremost, the Sooners have a running back who gained nearly 2,000 yards as a freshman. Kind of a big plus. They return seven starters from the nation's fourth-best rushing defense, including a pair of ends, Calvin Thibodeaux and C.J. Ah You, who combined for 17 sacks last year; a third, Larry Birdine, who was ahead of both on the depth chart last year before missing the season with a torn biceps; and a preseason All-America linebacker, Rufus Alexander. This is a defense that held high-flying Oregon to 14 points in the Holiday Bowl. Not too shabby.
If you're picking Oklahoma to win the national title, however, you're making at least two rather large assumptions: that an offensive line with only one returning starter won't struggle out of the gate like it did last year, and that second-year QB Rhett Bomar will be able to handle more responsibility. Adrian Peterson is Adrian Peterson, but there's only so much he'll be able to do if his line can't block for him and/or defenses don't fear the passing game. I'm not saying it can't happen, but I do find it interesting that Stoops, who was starting to take on some of mentor Steve Spurrier's cockiness back in '03-04, recently said he's "not comfortable" with this year's No. 1 endorsements.
Would you please, PLEASE back me up in saying that "although it is wrong and against all rules and moral standards and all of that good stuff, just about EVERY school at some point has helped student-athletes pass a class in some way or another." Everybody is jumping all over Auburn's case and trying to make the school out to be some awful institution when, honestly, it just got caught. It angers me that people try to ignore the fact that their local high school and favorite college does the same thing, yet they don't feel bad about knocking Auburn. -- Ryan Moore, Birmingham, Ala.
Ah, yes, it's the age-old "everybody does it" defense. You know the expression, "If everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?" Apparently, Ryan and the many, many Auburn fans who have expressed the same sentiment over the past week would answer "yes." Because the last time I checked, just because everyone else is doing something wrong doesn't necessarily make it right.
For those of you unfamiliar with what we're talking about, last week TheNew York Times published a front-page exposé in which Auburn sociology professor James Gundlach, looking every bit like a sociology professor, ratted out a colleague, Thomas Petee, who was administering "directed-reading" courses -- i.e., independent study -- in which students were apparently required to complete very little work yet received good grades. Among the beneficiaries were 18 members of Auburn's undefeated 2004 football team, including star running back Carnell Williams. According to Gundlach's research, the players averaged a 3.31 GPA in Petee's courses compared with a 2.14 in their other classes.
It's understandable that Auburn fans are upset at seeing their school's name being dragged through the mud, but while other similar situations are almost surely occurring on other campuses, the only way they can come to light is with the help of a voluntary whistle-blower like Gundlach. If I were an Auburn graduate, I'd be less embarrassed by the bad publicity than the obvious lack of integrity by one of its faculty members. But I realize that's not the way of the world. Seeing as it's highly unlikely that the NCAA will administer any sort of sanctions in the matter -- this is a clearly a university academic matter more than it is an athletics issue -- I'm sure Auburn fans will ultimately harbor more indignation toward the Times for running the story than the dirty professor.