More mail (cont.)
Is the fact that the NCAA is now changing how it punishes schools actually a quiet admission that it overstepped its bounds and really punished Penn State without authority to do so?
-- Matt, Manassas, Va.
No, the movement to overhaul the regular enforcement process has been in the works since well before the Penn State situation. If anything, it was a response to the year of scandal that began roughly with the USC sanctions in the summer of 2010 and encompassed North Carolina, Cam Newton, Ohio State, Oregon and others. NCAA President Mark Emmert and VP of Enforcement Julie Roe Lach both took office in the fall of 2010, at which point they undertook a review of the process. The coinciding outbreak of scandal presumably motivated the presidents to take action, beginning about a year ago. But it's certainly amusing that the board of directors' endorsement of the new enforcement model came just a week after we learned the whole thing can be circumvented if warranted.
I'm on board with most of the proposals. Certainly we can all agree that not all major violations (in the current parlance) are created equal, hence, it makes sense to create new classifications. Stiffer penalties for egregious violations -- in particular those that hold coaches more accountable (like suspensions for misdeeds of their staff) -- are welcome. And I've long felt the area most in need of an overhaul is the Committee on Infractions. The NCAA is planning to expand and diversify its roster, thus allowing it to process cases more quickly. I only wish it had gone one step farther and made the committee a full-time vocation rather than the voluntary side job that it is.
Having said all that, Bylaw Blog publisher John Infante, who knows more about this stuff than any of us, says the new model (which would go into effect Aug. 1, 2013) isn't actually all that big of a change.
With Auburn having a change at both OC and DC, what impact do you think the new hires will have this season in the formidable SEC West? Can Scot Loeffler have the same results he had at Temple in his first year with the team's young talent on offense? Brian VanGorder needs to be able improve passing over Ted Roof's tenure, but do you see the ability for him to bring back the success the defense had under Will Muschamp or Gene Chizik as defensive coordinators?
-- Fred, Orlando
I've got a lot more confidence in VanGorder than I do in Loeffler. The former engineered some terrific defenses during the first part of Mark Richt's tenure at Georgia, finishing in the top 10 nationally from 2002-04. Since then he's racked up five years' experience as an NFL coordinator. Auburn basically upgraded from a run-of-the-mill journeyman in Roof (now at Penn State) to potentially one of the premier coordinators in the country, provided he can readjust to the college game. And Chizik has recruited particularly well on defense since he got there. With nine returning starters, including some very talented defensive linemen (Nosa Eguae, Corey Lemonier), I'd expect the Tigers to improve significantly from last year's 81st-ranked unit.
Loeffler, on the other hand, has his work cut out on offense. Much will depend on the development of sophomore quarterback Kiehl Frazier. By all accounts Frazier has improved over the offseason, but Loeffler seems an odd choice to oversee his development. Loeffler, you may recall, was the quarterbacks coach Urban Meyer brought in his last year to help develop John Brantley. That didn't take. Prior to that, most of his experience came at Michigan, working with pure drop-back guys like John Navarre and Chad Henne. In his first year as a coordinator last year at Temple, Loeffler basically rode the Owls' running backs. Frazier was a true dual-threat quarterback in high school who came to play in Gus Malzahn's system. Either Loeffler has immersed himself in the ways of the running quarterback after working with Meyer and Steve Addazio, or this will be an awkward marriage much like his two-year stay in Gainesville was.
Still trying to figure out why the Heisman goes to a player who has the best talent around him. Maybe that's why a lot of Heisman winners are not successful in the NFL. Another joke is schools that actually spend a lot of money on a promo campaign for their player. Where did amateur athletics go?
-- Terry Moores, Mancos, Colo.
Indeed, where would Robert Griffin III be without all those Baylor five-star recruits around him? And apparently the decay of amateur athletics can be traced to those Byron Leftwich bobblehead dolls.
Has Chick-fil-A just "campaigned" its way right out of contention for one of the two remaining premium bowl spots for 2014? If you are the BCS commissioners, why would you even consider such a toxic partner that would bring such bad press?
-- Ryan Taylor, Atlanta
[Note: The following is an intentionally apolitical answer. If you feel compelled to respond by espousing why Chick-fil-A is either a bastion of bigotry or upholder of morality, I'm sure CNN, MSNBC or Fox News would be happy to hear from you.]
It's an interesting question, and one I've found myself thinking about during the recent controversy. Seemingly overnight Chick-fil-A became the most polarizing brand in the country -- the subject of protests and boycotts but also the beneficiary of so many supporters it set a sales record last Wednesday -- and it just so happens to be one of the most visible brands in college football. You've probably heard by now about the mayors of Chicago and Philadelphia vowing not to allow the company to open franchises in their cities, but you may have missed this headline: the University of Louisville's president and provost announced they "will not be eating at Chick-fil-A anytime soon." I can only assume this means they would not allow the school to participate in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game if invited.
We'll find out soon enough whether the Chick-fil-A controversy was a momentary blip in the news cycle or a long-term issue for the company. Will the season-opening NC State-Tennessee and Clemson-Auburn games be subject to protests outside the Georgia Dome, or will this be out of mind by then? I can't imagine the BCS commissioners would be thrilled at the idea of marriage equality advocates protesting outside one of their new Final Four games. But keep in mind, Chick-fil-A does not run the game. It's a sponsor, and its contract with the Atlanta bowl expires after next season. Also, keep in mind that with the BCS package, ESPN, not the bowls, sells the title sponsorships (Tostitos, Allstate, etc.). Assuming that arrangement continues going forward, the Atlanta bowl could theoretically land one of the Big Six games, and then it would be up to the network that lands the rights to decide the sponsorship question.
It's something to keep an eye on in the coming months, as the bidding for spots in the new rotation is expected to commence shortly after the season.
Which former Notre Dame coach will win more games this fall -- Charlie Weis at Kansas or Bob Davie at New Mexico?
-- Bruce Elgersma, Lakeville, Minn.
It's going to be pretty rough for Davie, taking over a New Mexico program that's gone 1-11 each of the past three seasons. Two wins this year would be a huge accomplishment. Weis, meanwhile, recently declared that the Notre Dame and Kansas jobs are "the same," which I take to mean: He can produce the same 3-9 record at both places. So, for this year at least, advantage Charlie.
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