Why TV money hurts playoff hopes; more mail (cont.)
Congratulations on the nuptials, Stewart. Married for 13 years and The Redhead says I still love married life! Enjoy!
You can pretty well guess by my hometown who my team is. Can you make heads or tails of the quarterback situation at LSU? Does Les Miles stick stubbornly to his seniors, Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee? Does he throw all in on juco transfer Zach Mettenberger? There's no cupcake to warm up with as the Tigers open in Dallas against Oregon.
-- Ron Fuchs, Baton Rouge, La.
Miles' message coming out of the spring game -- in which the oft-maligned Jefferson went 4-of-14 for 102 yards, two fumbles and an interception -- went like this: "Kindly disregard what you saw here. Jordan Jefferson is still our starter. He was fantastic the entire spring before today (unfortunately none of you got to see it), and we even gave him a leadership award." Tigers fans hoping former Georgia Bulldog Mettenberger would come in and usurp Jefferson were obviously disappointed.
I don't doubt that Jefferson improved this spring, but he's not suddenly going to morph into an elite passer after three years, new offensive coordinator or not. So Miles' continued loyalty to Jefferson either means that Mettenbeger still has a ways to go to make this a legit competition, or that Miles is trying to deflate some of the expectations hovering over a guy who has yet to take an SEC snap and has had only three weeks of practice. Perhaps Mettenbeger will make his run in fall camp. But remember, LSU managed to win 11 games last year using Jefferson and Lee, so Miles is only going to rock the boat if he's absolutely certain the new guy makes the Tigers better.
Ah, to be an Auburn fan and thus the proverbial stepbrother in the state of Alabama. Our team finally wins a title but no one can let the Cam Newton scandal go. Our beloved oaks get poisoned by a lunatic. And the first reference you make to Momma Goldberg's is for a branch in Tuscaloosa? Seriously, Stewart? Head to the original (it's what a college sandwich shop should look like) and get a Momma's Love all the way.
-- Randy, Canton, Ga.
I should have known better than to try to fake any sort of culinary expertise. The first time I do, I show off my ignorance and potentially touch off the next Auburn-Alabama feud. Therefore, I'm going to resign my role as Sandwich Guru after just a week. But before I do, I should probably let you know (based on reader recommendations) to hit The Pot Belly Deli in Clemson; Hogan's Heroes in Gainesville; Zingerman's (a personal favorite) in Ann Arbor; Macri's Deli in South Bend; So Long Saloon in Manhattan, Kan.; and the world-famous Grease Truck at Rutgers. (Word of warning: Do not go near the Grease Truck if you have any sort of cholesterol issues.)
As a fellow Northwestern alum and hard-core sandwich aficionado, may I submit the roast beef with blue cheese sauce on a baguette from Al's on Noyes St. as a contender? Also, assuming our man Dan Persa is back to at least 85 percent come September, do you see the 'Cats as a top five team in the new Big Ten?
-- Jeremy, Tenafly, N.J.
I've been told by many of you over the years that you read the Mailbag during your lunch break, which is good, because I would not want to read this week's edition on an empty stomach.
Persa was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the Big Ten when he went down -- and Northwestern was 7-3 at the time -- so certainly his health is the make-or-break issue surrounding the Wildcats this season. But that in itself is part of the problem: Northwestern was too dependent on Persa last year, and once he went down, its season was shot. The defense collapsed late last season, too, but injuries were a factor and that unit should be much improved.
As I mentioned when writing about Iowa last week, that division with most of the western-based schools is fairly wide open, so the Wildcats could certainly finish near the top. But they need to rediscover the running game (sophomore Mike Trumpy seemed to come on late last year) that mysteriously vanished the past couple of years.
Any word on when the NCAA will get around to (probably) hammering UNC? I realize that the NCAA usually takes a while in these cases, but at this rate, it might be midseason before the Heels know if they're allowed to play in a bowl this year.
-- Brian Murdock, Charlotte
At this point, either the program has long since been cleared and no one told us, or we're not going to find out about sanctions for another two years. Believe it or not, UNC has not even received a formal Letter of Inquiry yet. That's the step that comes at the beginning of an investigation, usually well before the notice of actual findings, which itself precedes the hearing before the Committee on Infractions, which ultimately issues a ruling. Ohio State is about to go through that entire process in a roughly seven-month window; it's been 10 months since the first headlines about Marvin Austin and agents, and apparently, UNC's process hasn't even begun.
The NCAA doesn't comment on investigations past, present or future, so I have no informed insight to give you other than that the issues at UNC were obviously far more complicated and tangled than the fairly cut-and-dry Ohio State case. The situation presumably got muddier when one of the main parties allegedly involved, agent Gary Wichard, passed away from pancreatic cancer in March. Here's an educated but admittedly blind guess: The NCAA may be waiting to piggyback off the North Carolina Secretary of State's investigation, which, as of early April, was still very much active and had the benefit of subpoena power. Remember: It took more than four years from the time of the first Yahoo! report about Reggie Bush for actual sanctions to be issued against USC, by which measure UNC could still be in the very early stages.
Which brings us back to the whole NCAA enforcement process/blow-the-whole-thing-up matter.
I have a new conspiracy theory. It seems as if your decision to end the Mailbag Crush coincided with your relationship with your soon-to-be wife.
-- Paul Kemp, Birmingham, Ala.
Busted ... sort of. My fiancee and I were already dating the last time I named a Mailbag Crush (Katy Mixon, who sadly showed up on just one Eastbound and Down episode last season), but it's true that there has been no new Crush since the engagement. It could be a coincidence, it could be a subconscious thing or it could just be that the gag got old, because my bride-to-be was actually fine with the Crush continuing. In fact, she enjoys it whenever I write about TV, celebrities or anything else that breaks up the boring (to her) football segments of the Mailbag.
In light of the recent Fiesta Bowl fiasco ... is it really necessary for bowl execs to travel around the country (in garish blazers, no less) and "view" each team in the weeks leading up to the bowl season? I don't know for certain, but I would imagine that they are living pretty high on the hog when they travel around the country to watch teams play live. Other than the junket aspect of this ... is anything gained from these trips? Wouldn't it be more cost effective to just stay home and watch 10 games on TV like I do each Saturday? Talk about corruption.
-- Alex, Caldwell, N.J.
No question, the blazers are a relic of the old bowl era, when teams didn't play on TV every week and matchups were brokered before the season even ended. Nowadays many bowls practically have their participants decided for them, or are left to choose between at most one or two teams. There is no actual "scouting" necessary.
But keep in mind, other than during the very biggest games at the end of the season, the men and women in the blazers aren't usually the bowls' execs or staffers but instead their volunteers, for whom those trips are a reward for their work. They get to go to some exotic college town, see a game, schmooze a little, take some pictures and tell their friends about it. Also: Ever since the Fiesta Bowl story broke, I keep seeing this sentiment that the bowls ought to be operating like the Salvation Army. Shame on these so-called nonprofits for paying their CEOs high salaries and spending money on entertainment. Newsflash, people: Nonprofits are businesses, too. They spend money to make money. Bowls are no different. So long as there's no owner or shareholders profiting from the business, and so long as they're not doing anything illegal, I don't think society is going to crumble because the Chick-fil-A Bowl pays to send two of its volunteers to a Florida State-Clemson game.
You wrote: "The Tressel scandal has consumed college football for much of the past two months." No, it hasn't. It may have consumed a handful of sportswriters, but it's petty and boring to the rest of us.
-- Charles, Oklahoma City
Well, that doesn't help explain why nearly half my e-mails this week were (again) Tressel-related. And why every time I do a radio interview, the host asks me about Tressel. And why a friend I haven't heard from in two years texted me recently to ask if Tressel is going to be fired.
But you'll note I spared you this week. We're going to try to keep the Mailbag a Vest-free zone until there's something new to discuss. Though I guess I botched that already by including this section.
Should Gregg Popovich be blamed for Game 6 loss?
How will momentum factor into Game 7 for Heat and Spurs?