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Posted: Wednesday December 3, 2008 11:48AM; Updated: Thursday December 4, 2008 5:56PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >
COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

Dealing with mid-major backlash, UF's BCS title shot and more (cont.)

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Sylvester Croom's 21-38 record in five years, and nothing else, was the reason for his resignation at Mississippi State.
Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images
Stewart Mandel's Mailbag
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The BCS and NCAA basketball selection committee have striking similarities (opinions of humans matter with the computers acting as an RPI of sorts) with one key difference -- the selection committee is formed by active, public participants with an interest in fairness. Would the BCS be better served using this model -- appointing active ADs and commissioners -- than a private ballot system that has proven to be volatile?
-- Aubrey Perry, Portland, Ore.

There's no question the current selection panel leaves a lot to be desired. The coaches' poll has zero credibility and about two-thirds of the Harris Poll panel consists of persons with no active connection to the sport. As a truly astonishing example, read this mind-numbing revelation courtesy of The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel. Prior to last Saturday's game, he spoke to Harris Poll voter Pat Quinn, former sports information director at Oklahoma State, who was apparently under the impression -- dead serious -- that Penn State was still undefeated.

If college football ever goes to an eight-team playoff, then yes, I could see instituting an NCAA-like selection committee, but as it stands today, asking a finite (and publicly listed) group of people to choose two teams would be an inordinate burden. Can you imagine the sheer amount of lobbying (and subsequent hate mail) they'd be subject to? The basketball committee takes a little bit of heat over those last few bubble teams -- but those teams are Nos. 32-34, not Nos. 1 and 2.

Stewart: Does it make any sense that Georgia Tech is the highest ranked ACC team, yet they're not playing for the conference championship?
-- Alex, Pickerington, Ohio

It does, but there's a very unusual circumstance at play. Try to wrap your head around this one.

The Jackets are not going to the ACC title game because the team they tied with, Virginia Tech, BEAT GEORGIA TECH HEAD-TO-HEAD.

With the resignation of Mississippi State's black coach, I heard several sports commentators, including several "of color" and several that I assume would be referred to as "colorless," comment on the lack of black coaches in NCAA football, accusing schools of everything but blatant racism. I don't see any of them giving credit to the fact that under Sylvester Croom, Mississippi State posted one winning season, 8-5, and four losing seasons with four wins or less. That would be enough to get any coach fired, black or white, for any program trying to build quality. Would you not agree?
-- Travis, Florida

If you've been watching the same analysts I have -- and I'm guessing that's the case, seeing as I watched about 13 hours of football coverage last Saturday, the day Croom resigned -- then it seems to me you're taking their words and completely twisting them. I have not heard one commentator or writer criticize Mississippi State for parting ways with Croom, just like I didn't hear a single person criticize Washington for firing Ty Willingham. They didn't win games, they're out. Period.

The issue many in the media, myself included, are bemoaning, is the fact that the number of black head coaches in Division I-A was so low to begin with that the dismissal of three in one year (Croom, Willingham and Kansas State's Ron Prince) has cut what was an already abysmally low number in half. I'm assuming one of the commentators "of color" to which you're referring is CBS' Spencer Tillman, who had some pointed comments about the never-ending cycle of schools neglecting to even interview black candidates for their openings.

In doing so, I thought Tillman brought up a fantastic example. Tennessee on Monday hired Lane Kiffin, who may well turn out to be a great head coach but, as of now, has little experience. As Tillman pointed out, there is not a single thing about Kiffin that makes him more qualified for that job than Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who's been a coordinator in the SEC for 10 years. (Kiffin was a coordinator at USC for two and has never worked in the SEC). We don't know whether Strong would have wanted the job, but seeing as Tennessee apparently could not to wait until after the SEC championship game to finish its search, apparently it didn't care to find out.

I was wondering if there has ever been a team in the history of college football with so many top recruits that has failed to perform as much as Note Dame has this year. They looked completely outmatched against USC -- it was truly pathetic. I am perplexed, can Notre Dame's coaching be that bad?
-- Marc N., Channahon, Ill.

Based on comments like these, you would think Weis is the first coach in the history of the school to have his highly ranked recruiting classes turn out to be busts. News flash, people: Notre Dame, with few exceptions, has always landed supposedly top-notch recruits.

Case in point: SuperPrep rated Weis' past three classes No. 2, No. 10 and No. 9, respectively. Impressive. Guess how that publication rated Bob Davie's first three classes (1997-99)? No. 9, No. 3 and No. 8. Almost identical. Just how his winning percentage (.583) was almost identical to Weis's (.571).

As best I can tell, the only Notre Dame recruiting class of the past 15 years that actually lived up to its billing was Willingham's 2003 class, which included Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Chinedum Ndukwe and John Carlson -- and which SuperPrep ranked fifth. Whether that same core of players would have wound up reaching consecutive BCS bowls without Weis, we'll never know. All we know for sure is that Weis' current group of players is not very good.

Is part of that poor coaching? Obviously. But that can't be the whole explanation. I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague Andy Staples, who wrote recently that Notre Dame's recruits have been inherently overrated for years ... simply because they're being recruited by Notre Dame. Would you believe that in 2006, James Aldridge was a higher-rated running back than LeSean McCoy and Knowshon Moreno? I'm sorry, but that's not a case of "lack of development" -- McCoy and Moreno are simply much, much better athletes.

It's the same phenomenon in basketball with Duke and its McDonald's All-Americans. Basically, if you're a recruit, and Duke likes you enough to sign you, you're going to be named a McDonald's All-American. Only about half of them wind up living up to the hype, but the difference is, that's still enough to win in basketball. In football, you need far more than just Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph to pan out if you want to win football games.

After Mike Sherman's dismal debut in College Station, I'm trying to make a case to my fellow Aggies that it was a bad idea to hire a former NFL head coach given recent performances of former NFL head coaches in the college game. I think you've covered this topic before, but can you give a summary of the facts and your opinion of these types of hires, in general?
-- James, Houston

Actually, I can summarize it quite succinctly: Weis, Bill Callahan, Chan Gailey, Al Groh, Mike Shula (NFL coordinator), Karl Dorrell (NFL assistant) ... need I go on? The college and pro games are two different animals that require two completely different skill sets, the most important being motivational. Pete Carroll has been the one glaring exception to the rule in large part because psychology/motivation is his forte. The others were mainly known for Xs and Os.

Stewart, what will it take from Knowshown Moreno to be mentioned in the Heisman race? The guy is only a sophomore and is leading the SEC in rushing, yet it looks like he won't even crack the top five. Shouldn't we just go ahead to change the Heisman rules to make only QBs eligible for the award?
-- Jake, Sandy Springs, Ga.

Indeed, I watched the Georgia-Georgia Tech game last weekend and could not have been more impressed with the running back ... but who is this Moreno you speak of? The guy I saw run for 214 yards -- I believe his name was Roddy Jones. He was wearing a yellow helmet, if I recall.

Stewart Mandel's book Bowls, Polls and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign Over College Football, is now available in paperback.

 
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