Thursday, December 31, 2009

on Meyer, stress and balance

Meant to put this up a few days ago, but I'll post it now, since the Sugar Bowl is so close: with Urban Meyer's (very public) health problems and crisis of identity now coming to light, nearly every relevant writer has offered an opinion. In an effort to post something fresh, my friend Peter & I decided to come at it another way. Peter, as some of you who read this blog know, is both a pastor at Cullman FUMC , a husband and a father and someone who recently endured a very complicated brain surgery (he's doing fine now, as this post will attest). You may remember him from a 2008 post in which he explained, in chapter and verse, how evil the University of Georgia really is.
This one is slightly more serious: I asked Peter to give his thoughts, both as someone who's endured health problems and someone who would offer counseling. Feel free to read and offer your own thoughts in the commentary section.

will: Of course, by now you know as much as anybody about what's going on with Urban Meyer in Gainesville. Here, then, is my theory about what happened.
I think the health problems are legit — we know, for example, about the cyst on coach Meyer's brain (per an story) and the resulting migraines. We also know he's had some heart problems (he said so himself during his bizarre press conference Sunday). Obviously, it's tricky to speculate, but all these health problems can be caused (not to mention exacerbated) by stress. And not too many professions have a higher stress level on a day-to-day basis than a big-time head-coaching job: you're up early, stay late, spend your off hours making recruiting trips or breaking down an extra game tape (as we know, coach Saban admitted to forgetting his own anniversary a few weeks ago). My guess: he had some kind of health-related trouble over the holidays and his wife said, "Enough." (Note: since I posted this, his wife's 911 call has come to light.) So they had the heart-to-heart, and Meyer pulled the plug. Walking away. No more.
Only then he thought about it, and realized what was actually happening. A legendary control freak, Meyer realized he was, essentially, giving up control of the thing he enjoyed doing the most. And he was giving it up for good: if, say, Bob Stoops or John Gruden or Butch Davis (who must have been furious about this turn of events when he found out during his bowl game) comes walking through the door in Gainesville, you think he's handing back the reins in a year or two when coach Meyer says, "Ya know what? I think I might coach a little this year." Not a chance.
So he did the only thing he could do: change his "resignation" to a "leave of absence," put one of his weaker assistants in charge (Steve Addazio, who might as well be Lurleen Wallace at this point) and tell everybody he'll come back when he's ready. He'll be back at full speed by August and everybody knows it.

Which is why, methinks, your perspective is sorely needed here. You've suffered through a pretty traumatic year, and I'm curious about your thoughts on the balance between spirit, work and family, as it relates to your health. Is there a right time to walk away? How much control can you give up without giving up everything? And what would you tell Urban Meyer, if he came to you for counseling (aside from "run the score up on Georgia every chance you get")?

Peter: As I'm thinking about Urban, probably the best way for me to analyze it is to look at the decision-making process that I went through as someone in a public position making a pretty substantial health decision - how to balance the demands and importance of my work with the need to maintain my health, how to make a decision regarding the course of action and involve family in that decision, and how and when to share that decision with the general public.
You don't get into a job like coaching or preaching or public service without it being important to you and being something you consider significant. Because of that, it can be difficult if not impossible to let off the gas, so to speak, even when your involvement can become self-destructive. To be successful takes sacrifice, and the best leaders model that. Even when doctors say "this stress is making it worse," you'll fight back with "well, how much stress can I take? how soon can I get back to work?" I'm reminded of the story my neurosurgeon told about the lady who had epilepsy that they believe was triggered by stress who was sitting in bed, the day after brain surgery, working on her laptop. It takes something major to force you to address your health.
Although making a decision seems pretty self-explanatory, for someone in a public position you quickly learn how to separate your work life and family life. It's not unusual for spouses to feel comfortable being involved in your work on a public level (whether as a clergy spouse, a politician's spouse, or a coach's spouse). When you start having kids, though, there's some degree to which you encounter some resistance either from internal guilt (feeling like you're using your kids for your own benefit rather than letting them grow up themselves) or from the kids themselves, who want to be known as something besides "preacher's kid," "coach's kid," etc. To have a "family life" where you just don't have to talk about all the other mess going on in your job is something that people in public, high pressure positions often want.
People in public positions get advice from a wide variety of sources, some of it good and some of it bad. You learn to trust certain people who are experts in certain areas. When the area is you and your health, the temptation can be to just let the consultants be your doctors and yourself. You seek out the very best in medical care, which can sometimes mean that you get to the place where doctors aren't completely sure which of multiple options will be the best. In my case, there were two schools of thought that each had solid research backing, and it came down to who to trust. Involving your family is vital in that, and it can sometimes take some effort not to consider your family just another "stakeholder" who needs to be informed of the decision once it is made, but to actually involve them in the decision making process.
Then, once the decision is made, you have to decide when and and how to announce it. Once the "cat is out of the bag," you're going to be getting ridiculous amounts of advice from every angle. Our strategy was to make the decision as a family with medical guidance before giving indication publicly that we were considering surgery. It's hard enough to make a choice regarding major health issues (which typically involves gray areas where doctor's aren't completely certain) when it's just you, your family, and your doctors - when you add every random person on the street giving their advice, it can get nearly impossible. So, as we were thinking about it, we decided to not make an announcement until we had everything set (type of surgery, time it could happen, etc.). Maybe that was Urban's approach, maybe he's still figuring out what to do.
So, now the "cat's out of the bag" for Urban - something's going on with his health, some sort of major medical issue and they're considering options. Maybe he had a heart attack, maybe it's related to the brain cyst, who knows. He's trying to figure out how to balance the different components of his life, whether he can continue doing what he wants without whatever medical procedure they're looking at, and how wide to stretch the circle of "who's in the know." It appears he initially decided to go ahead with something health wise, throwing football out the window and dealing with his health and family. Now, he's trying to push the envelope, keeping some degree of connection with coaching by taking a "leave of absence." He also initially appeared to be involving his family intimately in his decisions, based on the "I've got my daddy back" comment I've heard attributed to his daughter and his wife's involvement in the initial stages. Now, some reports are saying he made the decision to make it a "leave" with Jeremy Foley before even consulting his family. Either he's changing his mind and wavering, or he's planned this as a way to rev up his team. If he's wavering, he's gonna have a harder time in my mind making a decision now that everybody's going to be offering advice than he had when he could ask who he wanted.
My advice for Urban? You've got to trust somebody. You became successful as a head football coach by controlling things, by making the decisions and telling people what to do. Your health and your family don't work on those parameters. If you're going to straighten things out with your health and your family, you've got to trust your family to be involved in decisions and trust your doctors when they tell you that you're killing yourself by doing what you're doing. You can succeed in football doing things the way you've done them, and you'll keep climbing the ladder and dancing on the top rung. Life ain't just football, and some day you're gonna want to make up for lost time on some of those other ladders that don't have 2 minute offenses. Those ladders require some trust and foundation, and you earn those the hard and slow way.
Oh yeah, and do run the score up on U(sic)GA. Always.

the party that was 2009

And for the customary self-aggrandizing blog post reviewing 2009 here at the DBH Dance Party. You're welcome, in advance.

In 2009, we ...

• Sorted out the wreckage of the Sugar Bowl.
• Pleaded with Mal to fire Mark Gottfried.
Paid respects when the hammer finally dropped.
Forecasted the SEC in 2009. Were we close? We were close.
Invited in Kurt Branch for a "Lost" preview.
• Tried not to projectile vomit when the PLoI came out.
Danced after Anthony Brock's Hail Mary in Knoxville.
Argued about fate vs. choice in a "Lost" post.
• Ranted about the stupidity of 34 bowl games.
• Observed that winning the Saban way is kind of boring.
Raised an alarm about the direction (still ongoing) of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry.
• Felt angry, betrayed and relived after the NCAA sanctions were announced.
• Quixotically attempted to identify the decade's best SEC program.
• Attempted to properly eulogize the passing of Bill Robinson.
• Lazily re-ran an old column about Alabama at the quarterback position.
• Pondered whether coaches should be judged by championships alone.
• Explained why computers are better than humans at football polls.
• Evaluated the validity of the two-quarterback system.
• Poked fun at Saban and the Capstone Report.
• Discovered the identity of the 2009 Crimson Tide.
Laughed at my friend The Warblogler for his petulant whining. Hoped that would help him see how ridiculous it is. Failed.
Slowly realized our team was ascending to the head of the class.
• Shared midseason thoughts with Jamie.
Made the trek to Lexington for win No. 5.
Exposed Ole Miss as a fraud.
(By the way, the early pick as next year's Ole Miss? Nebraska. Just wait.)
Stormed out of Bryant-Denny after losing to ... aw, never mind.

Wondered why Lane Kiffin couldn't at least attempt to comport himself with some class after that game.
• Noted that Nick Saban and Les Miles coach two completely different styles of football.
Surveyed the landscape after another SEC West crown.
• Brought back little brother for basketball conversations.
Breathed a deep sigh after surviving in Auburn.
• Attempted to properly appreciate Terrence Cody.
Celebrated a championship, with a lot of strange emotions.
Gave Mark Ingram a figurative hug after the Heisman ceremony.
Wondered "what if?"
Showed off our family pictures. They're still the greatest people in the world.

And really, that's about it for 2009 here at the DP. Thanks as always to those who read, comment and follow here — and, to paraphrase Casey McCall from Sportsnight, if you had half as much reading this blog in 2009 as I did writing it, then that means I had twice as much fun writing it as you did reading it.
Happy New Year, one and all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a "Lost" Wednesday: 9 new trailers

Found this one the other day on The ODI — it's 9 season-6 promos in one clip.

I owe you guys a couple posts before the New Year gets here, so be on the lookout.

Monday, December 28, 2009

the Monday after Christmas

As the handful of people who read this blog regularly have noticed, there's been an absence of posting here lately. Um, did anything happen while I was gone?

Everything blog-worthy here — Urban Meyer's schizo routine, Craig James getting MIke Leach suspended, even the impending Texas-'Bama Armageddon — can wait for now. Right now, I'd like to just post a little about Christmas, and what it means to me.

Know what all these pictures have in common? They're pictures of me, obviously ... with my family.
See, I've been incredibly blessed in this life. In nearly 29 years on this Earth, I've called eight different towns "home" at one point or another, and that doesn't account for the number of different houses where I've slept and received mail. Each time I've had to move, it's been kind of a bummer — after all, moving is an unbelievable pain, and relationships change so much with each change of address.
But the upshot has been a number of lasting relationships, the sort of things I can't really even put into words. "Family" is more than just blood relations, after all — with each new town and each new story, there's an addition to the family (and in some fantastic cases, members of our extended family give birth to new members, which is awesome).

And that's what Christmas offers me — a chance to worship, as well as a chance to re-connect with my extended family. God has truly put in my way some fantastic people, the shoulders upon which I stand.
Thus, one last Merry Christmas to you all. Back with more later.

(One last note: my wife finally decided to get in on the blogging act. Please visit, follow and comment frequently. She can definitely use your encouragement.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a "Lost" Wednesday: new promo

Thanks to the ODI for turning us onto this new trailer for Season 6.

basketball-blogging, whit-heath style, part ii

Editor's Note: The second installment of what I hope will be a regular feature once basketball season truly cranks up in January: me emailing my brother Whit, a youth minister and aspiring hoops coach, to get his unabashed thoughts. You can read the first installment here. Please also note: these questions were emailed late last week, before the team's Saturday-night meltdown vs. Kansas State, but Whit's answers came in today, and are thus current up to the minute.
If you have questions you want Whit to answer – and yes, we'll accept questions about his relationship status as well as his knees — please feel free to leave them in the commentary section, or email

(One other note: Someone at RBR is already examining Alabama's prospects for the postseason. Enjoy.)

Q: So now you've seen a little bit of our boys and what they'll be for the 2009-10 season? Initial impressions? Is there one thing about the team that impresses you? That concerns you?
A: Coach Saban and Coach Grant share the common theme of their teams working to find their identity during their season. The football team has obviously found their identity and they compete at superior levels with superior talent. The basketball team still has a good bit to do in order to find their identity.
My initial impressions of this team were very different than I expected them to be. I expected to see a group of guys that were still trying to adjust to their new coach and as a result slightly confused. I found a team that is going to run up and down the court, a great conditioned team, and a team that will be fun to watch.
I suppose the one thing that impresses me is that these guys are in great shape and as a result press very regularly. "I ain't expected that." It will be a lot of fun to watch our guys press people when they get off the bus. I do expect this basketball team to beat a few teams that they shouldn't.
The one thing that concerns me about this team is their defense. Their defensive intensity is a lot of fun to watch, but our guards trap as a part of the zone defense and it has caused some trouble. When our guards go to trap, our backside defense just falls apart and we're left with a 2-on-1 half-court set. It has caused a good deal of problems, and if our guys continue to trap at the time line, the backside defense will have to make plays in order to win.

Q: What was the biggest difference you saw between our squad and the Purdue team that beat them the other night?
A: "They're fast, they're big, they're dirty... plus they're fast."
That's the only thing that I could think about while I watched the Purdue game. My good friend, a trainer with the team, told me that Bama continued to run a zone because we couldn't match up with them on the inside. I have played basketball for a while, and have never been a person of any size, BUT I promise you that I could play defense on people a few inches taller than me. It seems, however, that our big guys can't muster up enough physical play to stop other forwards and centers from embarrassing them.
The biggest difference between our guys and Purdue the other night was that our guys were not as physical as Purdue. "Not as physical, you say? Well what does that mean?" It means that the other night in Coleman Coliseum, Alabama's forwards and centers were boxed out, out-positioned, and embarrassed on countless pick-and-rolls. In order to beat a top team, our guys are going to have to find some heart. They're going to have to find some kind of drive that pushes them to play until they pass out or get knocked out. It's as simple as that.
The other problem I have with Alabama is our shot selection when we get befuddled. It never fails: an opposing team makes a small run during the game; Bama in-bounds the ball to a guard who inevitably dribbles around the top of the key while his four teammates stand, don't move, and stare at the ball handler; then, the guard usually gets a screen and drives or puts up an ill advised three pointer.
I don't think that Coach Grant designed a play like that so I'm not entirely sure what can be done if the players are the ones screwing up, other than graduate those players.

Q: Based on what you've seen, who's the best college basketball team right now? In the SEC?
A: I haven't seen too much SEC basketball. I think Florida is a great team, but they come off to me as a team that is too goofy to win big games.
The only team that I have seen more than a few times is Kentucky. Yeah...they're awesome. John Wall is a beast. He seems to move a lot faster than everyone else on the court.
I think Kansas and Kentucky are the two best teams that I have seen this season. I know Texas is number 2, but I haven't seem too much of them. I do know that Damian James is really good and he's a lot of fun to watch. Also, Jai Lucas is playing now for Texas after transferring from Florida and sitting out for a year. It will be fun to watch him play alongside Balbay and watch those two run teams up and down the court.

holiday links for your reading enjoyment

Since a good number of the home readers are already on vacation, I owe you some links to help you pass the time. Before we begin, though, enjoy this.

Pretty beautiful, no? (h/t: RBR & Gentry)

Our links today deal almost exclusively with a relatively big game you may have heard about. The one played on Jan. 7. You've heard? Well, enjoy these, then.
— First, on coaching: Gentry gave us the Saban-Muschamp angle today; Saban went on his (very predictable) rant against "media" yesterday; Saban forgot his anniversary (yikes); and here's a great feature illustrating how the Saban contract (lampooned nationally as fiscally irresponsible) has paid off considerably.
Also on the coaching subject, Mr. SEC gives us a coaching carousel update. Remarkably, it appears we're going to keep our staff intact for now.
— History section: as I'm sure you've heard by now, Alabama has never beaten Texas in football. In fact, the boys at RBR have done a fantastic job in this department recently, with a series of stories related to Texas, as well as one related to the Rose Bowl.
Of course, because this is the history section, we must discuss last year's bowl game, a game that was so unhappy it nearly caused a trial separation at my house. Fortunately, this game is the only one that matters.
One other history-related note: Chris Low totally stole my idea by ranking the programs over the course of the decade.
— Finally, player notes: McElroy says he holds no grudges against Texas; Kareem Jackson is exploring his NFL Draft status; and, since you're only as good as your backup QB, here's a story about A.J. McCarron.
In prospective player news, the future of Tide punt returning may very well be Corey Grant. Which, obviously, is pretty cool. Also, in former player news, several of our boys are in the ASHoF Class of 2010.

Back with more later. Roll Tide.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Tuesday 'tube on Monday: moments to last a lifetime

Today's going to be a busy day — we've got early deadlines with the holidays and all — so here are a few of the plays that made this 2009 season what it was.

Roll Tide. See y'all later this week.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bart's all-decade team

My friend Bart — who you may remember from this entry prior to the Tennessee game — put up a facebook note this weekend containing his entries for the all-Alabama team of the 200s. The list is based in part on this article at Crimson Confidential ("I just ain't paying $5 to participate"). Here, then, are his entries:
QB: Greg McElroy
RB/FB: Mark Ingram, La'Ron McClain
WR: Freddie Milons, Tyrone Prothro
TE: Terry Jones, Jr.
OL: Wesley Britt, Antoine Caldwell, Justin Smiley, Andre Smith, Mike Johnson
DL: Jarrett Johnson, Terrence Cody, Kindal Moorehead
LB: Demeco Ryans, Rolando McClain, Freddie Roach, Saleem Rasheed
DB: Javier Arenas, Charlie Peprah, Roman Harper, Rashad Johnson
K: Leigh Tiffin
P: Lane Bearden
RS: Javier Arenas
Coach: Nick Saban
Offensive MVP: Mark Ingram
Defensive MVP: Demeco Ryans

Feel free to post your own thoughts in the commentary section. See you guys next week.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Lost" Wednesday: the sad story of Sayid

This week, I started re-watching the "Lost" saga, beginning with Season 1 (note: there's still time for you to do this also, if you want to join in on the fun — if not, feel free to skip this post & go do something productive with your life).

A number of tragic stories are a part of the series through five seasons. I don't think it's much of a stretch, however, to say that none is more tragic than Sayid Jarrah.

Aside from being a full-fledged killer — the scene where he kills the guy on the golf course — Sayid has very few moments that don't make me sad. Recall that it was Sayid who attempted to lead the group immediately following the plane crash, only he couldn't because too many of the survivors suspected he was responsible for the plane crash (him being Middle-Eastern and all). Then he attempted to locate a distress signal, only someone (Locke, it turns out) hit him in the back of the head and destroyed his equipment. And, of course, he immediately fled the camp after torturing Sawyer, because he swore he wouldn't.
All this happened to him in the first few episodes.

Here, then, is a rundown of Sayid's sad existence since Season 1:
• Knocked out and tortured by Danielle Rousseau for no good reason.
• Hooks up with Shannon, only to come back to camp to find out that, while they were gone, Shannon's brother died.
• Shannon takes a bullet and dies. Instead of a chance to grieve, Sayid is instead knocked out (again), tied to a tree and held prisoner for a little while. Eventually they let him go, and presumably all is forgiven.
• Meets Benjamin Linus, beginning (arguably) the most complicated relationship on the entire series.
• Starts torturing Ben, even though he said he wouldn't.
• Plans a giant diversion to trap the Others and foil Michael's betrayal of them; unfortunately, the plan fails twice and Sun nearly dies. Eventually they all just give up and go back to camp.
• Gets told he's "weak and frightened" by some dude named Mikhail.
• Goes to rescue Jack and Kate, but gets captured and tied up. Again.
• Devises another plan to trap the Others, which works until he gets captured and interrogated, before being saved at the last minute by ... Hurley. Congratulations, dude.
• Captured and held at gunpoint again by Ben and Locke, the former of which calls him "stupid."
• Reaches the freighter off-Island (finally) but gets detained in sick bay. Eventually finds Michael working on the freighter for some damn reason.
• Goes back to the Island to start rescuing people and gets kidnapped by the Others. Again. As an added bonus, his efforts to get people off the Island to the frieghter kind of backfire when the damned boat explodes. Nice.
• Finally escapes from the Island, meets up with long-lost love Nadia (all memories of Shannon apparently matter no longer) ... only to have her get run over by a car.
• Meets back up with Ben Linus after Nadia's funeral; Ben immediately puts him to work as a killing machine. It is unclear whether the whole thing was Ben's doing all along.
• Finally makes something of himself, joining a charity organization ... except the Locke shows up and convinces him to come back to the Island. Eventually Ben shows up to say Locke is dead. Which he is, because Ben killed him. Or something.
• Kills a man watching Hurley, springs him from a mental institution, kills two more people, except he's incapacitated by a dart. Hurley has to save him. Again.
• Gets assaulted again in the hospital by someone posing as an orderly. Kills that guy.
• Attempts to get away again, except he gets drunk at the airport and for whatever reason goes to bed with Ilana, Miss "What-Lies-in-the-Shadow-of-the-Statue" herself. Gets captured and forcibly put back on the plane. To the Island.
• Lands back on the Island in 1977, only instead of finding the rest of the survivors, winds up being captured by himself, mistaken for an Other. Gets captured and interrogated. Again.
• Amazingly becomes the object of wonder for ... young Benjamin Linus, who brings him food and talks with him.
• Gets tortured with something that resembles acid. Tells the DHARMA folk the truth about what he knows of the Island, only they don't believe him because ... well, would you?
• Sprung from jail by young Ben, Sayid pulls a gun from Jin ... and then shoots the young Linus.
• Improbably runs across the team of Jack, Kate and some others, then agrees to help them with their far-fetched plan to blow the Island all to hell. Attempts to sneak through the DHARMA camp, gets recognized, gets shot.
• Has two very sad quotes right before the final battle:
"You can't stop the bleeding."
"Nothing can save me."

• Presumably blown to tiny Mediterranean smithereens when Juliet sets off the hydrogen bomb.

Of all of that, his relationship with Ben Linus is the one I find most fascinating. Did Older Ben recognize Sayid when they first met in Season 2? Is that why he's been going out of his way to make the poor guy miserable, because he remembers him as "that Iraqi who shot me when I was little?" Did Ben kill Sayid's wife? Did Ben cause Shannon to get shot? And why would someone as intelligent as Sayid continually be snookered by Ben's rather simple schemes?

Wherever we start Season 6, I hope something good happens for this poor guy. He's been through enough already.

As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the commentary section.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday 'tube: hardwood time

The beginning of basketball season is always a little strange for me: unlike baseball or football, basketball doesn't open with any kind of fanfare — in fact, usually the season opens rather quietly, and more than a month goes by, and then football lulls for a few days ... and there's basketball stepping up to fill the void. Which is why every year I'll turn on Alabama in some early-season non-conference game (like, say, last Saturday's game vs. Purdue) and wonder who in God's name half the guys are on our team (either because I don't recognize them or because they're brand new).

Anyway, the hoop team has already suffered its first crushing defeat of the season — I watched bits and pieces, and it appears our new coach (like our old one) isn't aware that you're allowed to call timeouts during games when the other team is making a run. As an added bonus, some of the 8th-year seniors on the front row in the student section managed to embarrass themselves on national TV by getting themselves thrown out. Good times.

Here, then, are a few basketball-related videos I enjoyed. Roll Tide.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"what-if," 'Bama style

As you can imagine, I've been thinking a lot about Alabama football lately (shocking, I know), particularly what this last decade has been like for us as fans.

I've been a fan of 'Bama football, of course, since the 3rd grade (the year I finally decided to stop trying to please my mom and dad at once and commit to one side or the other — my teacher at the time had a lot to do with this). But this decade has involved my coming of age as a 'Bama fan, partially because I became an adult this decade (graduated from college, got a job, got married, got a mortgage and so forth), partially because of media proliferation and the digital age (which allowed us access to message boards, team-specific sites and even the blog you're currently reading). So I feel I'm in as good a position as any to assess the decade from the perspective of Tide fans.

Unfortunately, assessing the decade is already a played topic — as evidenced by the myriad "Best of the Decade" posts at Dr. Saturday. Even I got into the act during the summer.

Originally planning to do a retrospective of the entire decade, I boiled it down to four different "what-ifs" for the decade. This post is inspired partly by Paul Finebaum's recent column regarding the thank-yous we all owe in the wake of the championship, partly by Bill Simmons' "What-If" NBA column from last summer. Consider yourself warned.

1. What if Dennis Franchione had never left Alabama?
Hired from TCU to replace Mike Dubose in the wake of the embarrassment that was 2000 (and really the entire tenure in Tuscaloosa had a twinge of embarrassment), Franchione was universally beloved by Alabama fans pretty much from the moment he took the job. It's worth noting, for the sake of honesty, that Fran was actually the third choice of Mal Moore and the UA administration that winter: originally the university wanted Butch Davis from Miami (who spurned the university by saying he was "happy at Miami," then fled for the Cleveland Browns two weeks later), then Frank Beamer from Virginia Tech (it's not clear how serious this was at any point), both of whom were scared off by the internal problems with the administration and the trustees and the pending NCAA probation.
So Mal and Dr. Sorensen decided to cast their lot with Coach Fran, who won our hearts and minds by a) immediately establishing a plan and organization within the department and b) actually making the players work hard during the offseason (legendarily lagging under Dubose). I can't emphasize this enough: he owned Tuscaloosa from the moment he got there. His Web site, (doesn't exist anymore), made him the first coach I ever knew of to communicate with his fans directly. He brought all kinds of ridiculous slogans with him, like "Hold the Rope" and so forth, which Alabama fans ate up like cotton candy. His wife, Kim, was treated like royalty (we later learned she was unhappy with the move almost from the moment it happened). And when ESPN's Gameday broadcast came to Tuscaloosa for the 2001 season opener vs. UCLA, Fran came to visit the set to an ovation that hadn't been seen in some time.
As for the actual on-field results, those actually weren't bad, either. Blessed with a relatively talented roster in 2001 (Lou Holtz famously said "You don't go on probation for recruiting bad players" before his South Carolina team played 'Bama that season), the team struggled to a 4-5 mark through 9 games, including down-the-stretch collapses against Carolina and Ole Miss. They limped into the Auburn game after having to come from behind in the fourth quarter at home to beat a putrid Mississippi State team.
Then came this.

Everything — I mean everything — was falling into place for Fran after that game. The team finished 7-5, beating Southern Miss (postponed after the Sept. 11 attacks) and then Iowa State in the Independence Bowl. Alabama responded by offering Fran a massive extension, essentially making him and his family the kings of the state.
But then fate (and the NCAA) intervened.
After the threat of NCAA sanctions hung over the program for over a year (beginning in earnest after the Albert Means scandal broke), the hammer finally came down in January 2002, bringing on the phrase "staring down the barrel of the gun" and a host of debilitating sanctions.
(Note: The worst part in the aftermath was hearing the university's compliance department pat itself on the back, as though they'd somehow saved us from ... I'm not sure. Something worse than what we got.)
Anyway, the upshot of the sanctions from Fran's perspective was simple: the coach said Moore and the university hadn't been entirely honest with him regarding the severity of the NCAA case, and then Fran said he heard "rumors" that more sanctions might be coming down (ridiculous, but he apparently believed it, giving him reason to start looking for other jobs).
The '02 season dawned with a ton of promise, sanctions or no. 'Bama scheduled Hawaii as a de facto "bowl game," and carried on with a commitment to play for pride and pride alone. And it worked: the Tide played second-ranked Oklahoma off its feet in Norman, then proceeded to win the SEC West (on the field). The team broke a 7-game losing streak to Tennessee and looked like the best football team in the SEC for most of the conference.
In fact, the Franchione era peaked in mid-November of that season: playing a Nick Saban-coached LSU team in Baton Rouge, Alabama played its best game all season, whipping the Tigers 31-0 on a frosty night in Death Valley (note: not only was that LSU team the defending SEC West champs, they actually won the national championship the following season). I remember going to that game: Fran actually came out in pregame warm-ups and leaned against the goal post, Bryant-style. I'd like to argue he didn't know what he was doing, but ... well, he did.
That was as good as it got for Franchione — at some point in '02 rumors cropped up about Texas A&M preparing to fire the benevolent R.C. Slocum, and Fran emerged as the school's leading target. Originally dismissed as far-fetched, the rumors gained steam as the team prepared to face Auburn, a game they ultimately lost 17-7 (the beginning of the infamous 6-year losing streak). The coach deftly ducked any job-related questions after the game, and after the following's week win over Hawaii in the "bowl game."
The next week, he was in College Station in front of the media.
(Note: Obviously, there was no nice way to handle this situation, if you're in Fran's position. But he and A&M handled it in the worst possible fashion, refusing to answer any questions from anybody about the manner in which he left Alabama, even telling reporters from Alabama he'd meet with them after taking the job and answer all their questions ... only to blow them off two hours later. I can't forget the look on Mike Raita's face while he was reporting live from College Station. I thought he was going to throw up on live TV.)
(In fact, the only time Franchione ever addressed his departure from Alabama was in a self-serving tongue bath written by Ivan Maisel on, which made it seem like 'Bama fans drove him away and were mean to his wife, who never wanted to leave Texas in the first place. It was more than a little embarrassing.)
(As you can tell, I've never really gotten over this chain of events.)
So what would've happened had Franchione stayed? We (sort of) have an answer to this question: Franchione was exposed as a fraud in five seasons at A&M, going 32-28 and never seriously challenging for any title of any sort (they did beat Texas in his final two seasons, which is a little unbelievable). Further, his two recruiting classes at Alabama (2001 and 2002) gave us the seasons that were 2003, 2004 and 2006.
But you can kind of blame those aborted recruiting classes on powers beyond his control, right? His first class was the result of an accelerated timetable (taking over in December as he did), the second the result of scholarship limitations and Alabama's tainted reputation. And would he have done any better with the resources provided by Alabama, as opposed to what was offered at A&M?
We'll never know — he fled for A&M's lucrative deal, paving the way for the next stop on our tour ...

2. What if Mike Price never took that trip to Pensacola?
So a wounded Alabama program chose to cast its lot with Mike Price, easily the most successful coach at Washington State. He was coming off a season in which the Cougars reached the Rose Bowl vs. Oklahoma, and had finished 20-5 in two seasons. It's an impressive enough mark on its own, but at a football graveyard like Washington State? It's arguably the best coaching job anyone did anywhere for those two seasons. There was no doubt he was going to win at Alabama, and win big.
Then, of course, the famous "golfing trip:" Price's ... whatever it was in Pensacola came to light, and he was fired within 10 days. A few thoughts about that:
• The day Price was canned remains, to this day, the weirdest thing I've ever covered. First, the Board of Trustees convened a farcical "meeting" in public at the Capstone Sheraton, took "public comments" (which came from Shaud Williams, some dude from the crowd who "speaks for the fans" and Cully Clark, speaking for the faculty) then adjourned into executive session for most of the rest of the day. We couldn't leave for fear they'd come back while we were out. Finally Dr. Witt came back and announced he'd decided to fire the guy, took questions ... then walked off the podium and actually ceded it to Price and the heartbroken players. Who gives a forum to a guy they just fired?
• The main reason Price was fired, instead of just being publicly reprimanded or penalized like Mike Dubose ... was because of Dubose. The university decided, in the wake of the scandal in 2000, that CMD had lost the respect of his players in 1999 when he was caught in his own web of lies. They were determined not to go through that again. Consequences be damned.

Whether Price would've won at Alabama remains one of the more fascinating "what-ifs?" on this list. Since leaving Alabama — and let the record show he sued Sports Illustrated for the story that smeared his character and received a settlement — he's overseen a program at Texas-El Paso that started awfully strong (two 8-4 seasons, two bowl bids) but hasn't registered a winning season since (this season they're 4-8). Could Price have recruited well at Alabama? Would he have lost four straight to Auburn, the way his successor did?
We'll never know. Price got his walking papers, and we got another huge "what-if" ...

3. What if Alabama had hired Sylvester Croom instead of Mike Shula?
Three candidates emerged in the proceeding coaching search after Price was canned: Richard Williamson, a Bryant disciple then coaching with the Carolina Panthers; Sylvester Croom, also a Bryant disciple, coaching in Green Bay; and Mike Shula, considered a capable young assistant with the Miami Dolphins.
Williamson was likely never a serious candidate, though he did have the support of a number of old-timers. That meant the two main candidates were Shula and Croom. At the time, Croom seemed like the better hire: his and Shula's resumes were basically the same, except he had more experience.
What else? Oh yeah: Croom is black.
To me, it looked ideal: Alabama could hire a perfectly capable black coach, the first in SEC history, and turn the negative media firestorm (from the Price scandal) into a positive one. Also it was believed he would be a boon to recruiting, since he provided something more players could readily identify with (note: this might have been true if this were 1980, instead of 2003).
Anyway, Alabama ultimately hired Shula, who labored for four unimaginative and dull seasons before his ouster in November 2006. After some moderate negative attention from the national press (I think Jesse Jackson even passed through town briefly) Croom ultimately got the job at Mississippi State in 2004, where he served five seasons before being forced out last year (combined record of Shula and Croom: 47-61).
Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that Croom had been offered that job in 2003. Would it have worked? The results say no: Croom's teams at State were almost exclusively all-D no-offense, and the one successful season he had — the 8-5 team that won the Liberty Bowl in 2007 — lived almost exclusively off turnovers and the other team's boneheaded mistakes.
So let's just say UA did hire him in '03, then circumstances played out exactly the way they did under Shula, only with Croom as the head coach. And let's say the administration decided to fire him, just the way they did with Shula.
That's a fascinating "what-if," right? Alabama's reputation might have never recovered. Sometimes the moves you don't make matter more.
It's worth noting, though, that Shula might have come back for one more run at it, except ...

4. What if Nick Saban had signed Drew Brees in the summer of 2006?
I don't need to sell you on Nick Saban's chops as a college football coach, not with his team at 13-0 and gunning for a national championship (currently on a 25-2 run the last two seasons). In fact, about the only thing anybody can say negative about Saban, looking over his career, is, "Well, he failed with the Dolphins."
It's true that Saban will be remembered as a failure in Miami, mostly because of the messy way he left town (which I just can't defend).
But did he really fail? Saban's first Dolphins finished 9-7, even closing the '05 season on a 6-game win streak (concluding with a two-point upset win over the Patriots). In fact, going into the '06 season, the team was considered by some a sleeper pick for the Super Bowl.
However, he needed a quarterback — despite having Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and a rock-solid defense, Miami was playing with a huge hole at QB (Gus Frerotte, with a little Sage Rosenfels sprinkled in). Fortunately for the 'Fins, two marquee quarterbacks were on the market that summer: Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota) and Drew Brees (San Diego).
Both were considered risks: Culpepper had just come off an unhappy season with the Vikes in which he'd been part of the surreal "Boat Trip" scandal, and had shredded his knee midway through the season; Brees was already considered trade bait because of Philip Rivers' impending ascension to the QB spot in San Diego, and then capped off '05 by destroying his shoulder in a nasty injury.
So Miami basically had to choose. Culpepper was the more athletic of the two, and had the bigger upppside (people forget this, but Culpepper could throw the football three miles). So Miami, at Saban's behest, grabbed him up.
To quote the Knight in "The Last Crusade," he chose ... poorly.
With Culpepper as their quarterback — trying to run the West Coast offense, which DC simply wasn't equipped to do — Miami was a mess in 2006, opening 1-6 (for more, read this Simmons column from that time period), with an "injured" Culpepper eventually giving way to Joey Harrington. They finished 6-10, the 'Bama job came open ... well, you know the rest.
So, what if? Suppose Miami had signed Brees — still lighting it up and setting all kinds of passing records with New Orleans, who's already been to the NFC Championship Game once and is currently undefeated? Wouldn't they have been a better team? Would Saban have been so willing to skip town with a team that had a chance to be a perennial power?
Somehow I doubt it. Which, obviously, is why, as my mother says, "Something good comes out of everything."

hold your head up, 22

Allow me to be the last 'Bama blogger to congratulate our Mark Ingram on his Heisman Trophy win last night, the first in school history and a very emotional moment for him and lots of others.

I'll be honest: the Heisman and the buzz that surrounds it gets more irritating by the season — the award is the only thing in college football more arbitrary and ridiculous than the BCS, and the media attention paid the award is just silly (personified by Kirk Herbstreit's piece on ESPN last night in which he actually broke down the voting by region, like he was talking about the Electoral College or something). And honesty also compels me to say that I've no idea whether Ingram was the most deserving candidate this season: I watched him all season and never once thought, "This guy looks like a Heisman Trophy winner." Furthermore, it's weird to think of an Alabama guy winning the Heisman — for some 'Bama fans, the lack of a stiff-arm trophy in Tuscaloosa has always been something of a point of pride ("Our boys don't care about individual glory — they come to Alabama to win championships").

That aside, it's hard to feel anything other than pride for No. 22 today. He worked his butt off all season, and has earned every bit of the accolades he got (it's a small victory for Auburn fans, too, since they get to say their defense shut down the 2009 Heisman winner).
For all he accomplished this season, one moment stands out over the rest of them: the fourth quarter of the South Carolina game, when the offense had been so putrid for three-and-a-half quarters (through a combination of horrible play-calling and horrible quarterback play) that the coaching staff basically gave up and said, "Let's just snap Mark the ball and see if he can do something." And he did.

So, congratulations, Mark. And Roll Tide. Your fans are awfully proud of you today.

Now go win that ring.

Friday, December 11, 2009

of playoffs, and how best to make them work

Almost everyone, it seems, is a BCS hater, with the notable exception of people actually on the BCS payroll. Even Congress appears to be getting involved. At this point, people's disposition toward the BCS is now so negative that thus far the best argument anyone can come up for keeping the stupid thing goes something like, "Um ... well, can YOU do any better?"

(Note: One of my favorite things to hear people say about Congress' potential involvement is the tired, "Don't they have more important things to do?" And the answer is yes, but they do them badly. Would you rather have Congress focused on the BCS or pushing through a massive health care bill with damaging long-term ramifications? The BCS or illegally wiretapping millions of Americans without their knowledge? The BCS or giant bailout programs that reward people for taking foolish risks with money that wasn't theirs to begin with? I thought so.)

Anyway, we CAN, in fact, do better. Over the past week, a number of different playoff proposals have been advanced in and around the blogosphere.

(Another note: Why EA Sports hasn't yet added a "Playoff" option to people's Dynasty formats on the NCAA series is beyond me. Are they on the BCS' payroll, also? Let's get a Congressional sub-committee on this.)

Before we begin to seriously address any of these proposals, we must answer two rather large questions:
1. How much do we want the regular season to mean?
2. Should the bowl games stay or go?

As you know if you've kept up with this blog at all, I personally have vascillated on the subject. My original idea was for a 6-teamer, which would a) allow us to keep the bowl system basically as it is now and b) keep the regular season meaningful (because the top-6 would all be capable and deserving of national consideration, and the top-2 would receive bye weeks); at some point I settled on the 16-team idea, essentially arguing that we should blow up the whole friggin thing and start over (bowls be damned).

Let there be no mistake: anything beyond a "plus-one" or 6-team model is a call to overhaul the entire college football system. You'd have to reduce the regular season by at least one game (possibly 2) and get rid of conference championships. And the bowls will go the way of the dinosaur. If you're OK with these things, then let's do it. But you should at least think twice about it.

(Note: I say, if we're going that route, we should also reduce the size of Division I by at least half, then make a rule that nobody gets to play below its division. That will improve the quality of play in Division I, also.)

Anyway, here are a few other ideas:
— At, they imagined a world in which the entire top-25 plays in a staggered format.
The NFL uses a 12-team playoff, Division I FCS uses a 16-team, Division II a 24-team, and Division III a 32-team so really anything is feasible. With that mindset I took the final BCS top 25 and made a 25-team bracket, with the top seven teams each getting a first-round bye.

This is a novel concept, but offers too much room for ... something crazy. It's one thing for a 6 seed to catch fire and win the basketball crown, but in football? I'm not OK with that – the champion should be the champion of the entire season, not just the last 3 weeks of it.
— At The Sporting Blog, they offered this (very catchy-sounding) alternative idea: The Tournament of Champions.
It's more than just semantics, actually. Invite the conference champion from all 11 FBS leagues into a tournament, adding in the FCS National Champion to make a 12-team playoff. Sorry Notre Dame, if you ever want to get into the Tournament of Champions, you'll have to suck it up and join a conference.
With 12 teams, four would get byes, and those four teams could be determined by a modification of the BCS rankings. Personally, I'd put more weight on overall strength of the conferences; because each team is representing their conference as its champion, the rankings would be weighted toward conference RPI. For example, this playoff system would not include Florida -- they'd play in one of the remaining bowl games (just like they are doing this year, by the way) -- but due to the overall strength of the SEC, thanks in part to the Gators' fantastic season, Alabama would easily earn the top seed, and a first-round bye.
In theory, this system protects four of the six BCS conferences from playing a first-round game, with the fifth seed playing the FCS Champion. If it were weighted on team success, TCU would have a bye this season, but based on the overall strength of the Big Ten or Pac-10, Ohio State or Oregon would be awarded the bye over the Mountain West Champion.

One problem: conference affiliation seems like an arbitrary way to earn a playoff spot. Is it fair, for example, for the champs of the milquetoast Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives to have a shot at a national title? Over a team like Florida? Really?

Of course, any system is flawed; even March Madness, as Wilbon writes, won't stop screwing around with its format. But all of these ideas sound better than the tepid BCS, which has reached such absurd heights, even SNL took notice.

But what do you guys think? What's your best idea for a playoff proposal? Do we keep the bowls? Lose them?
Feel free to give your input in the commentary section.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

some youtube bonus: let's go be champions, boys

As promised here earlier, highlight vids from the two sweetest wins of 2009 are up ... and they're here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

honoring the best in college football

I'm sure you've noticed by now, but Alabama has received numerous awards over the past few days, including the SEC Coach of the Year, as well as Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year. In a few days, we may hear one of our boys' names called for the Heisman Trophy, a sentence that looks so weird I had to re-read it multiple times.

Anyway, today the best player on this team -- arguably the best player in the nation at any position -- was honored: Rolando McClain received the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.

The things Rolando does so well aren't immediately evident to people who don't understand football (see But it's a joy to watch him play football -- he's the smartest player on the field, he knows everything the other team does before they do it and he always (ALWAYS) makes the play. You couldn't ask for anything else in a football player.

So, congrats to Rolando. Roll Tide.

Tuesday 'tube: looking back

The good people at have put together some rather stirring video highlight reels from this 2009 season already. Here are some of my favorites. When I can find the ones from the Auburn & Florida games, they'll be here quickly.

For now, enjoy what we have.

It's been too much fun so far. Roll Tide.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

week 14 thoughts: what a long, strange trip

Tim Tebow wasn't the only one crying Saturday night in the Georgia Dome. The Gator senior — a classy individual with an inspiring Christian witness who should be damn proud, win or lose — obviously was the one who wound up on TV with tears in his eyes, to everyone's eternal amusement (apparently, even the people running the jumbotron at the Georgia Dome had an axe to grind with him — he wound up on the big screen late in the fourth quarter, presumably so the Alabama crowd could jeer the poor kid one last time).

Another person feeling all weepy, though: me. Standing there, as the confetti came down, and the SEC commissioner announced, "Your 2009 SEC Champions ... the Alabama Crimson Tide" ... I mean, I couldn't help it.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. For most of 2009, I've been told repeatedly that my team isn't all that good. Even last week, as I was hugging my wife in celebration of Alabama's stirring come-from-behind win at Auburn, I heard the angry man behind me say to no one inparticular, "This'll be their last win of the year. It'll be just like last year."

And anyway, 2009 was supposed to be Tim Tebow and Florida's coronation season before it ever really started. One Florida writer, at SEC Media Days, while ribbing Paul Finebaum and Alabama fans, said the real reason Alabama fans hope Urban Meyer goes to Notre Dame is that deep down we know Meyer is the successor to Bear Bryant's throne.
"Nick Saban isn't the next Bear Bryant," he said. "The next Bear Bryant works in Gainesville now."

But that wasn't where all the emotion came from. I stood there with tears in my eyes because of something deeper.
Think back on this decade in Tuscaloosa, if you will. Remember, everything started with eternal optimism: our team, off an SEC Championship season, was ranked third in the preseason. There was every reason to believe we were headed into a new golden era at Alabama.
The past 10 years haven't been anything remotely like that, though. That 2000 season crashed and burned, along with the MIke Dubose era. He's one of five different guys to hold the head coach's job on Bryant Drive. We've endured losing seasons in 2000, 2003, '04 and '06. We lost 7 of 8 to Auburn. And we've been nowhere near an SEC Championship, much less a national one.
"You delusional Bammers need to stop living in the past. Those championship years are in the past. You're nothing but a redneck school with redneck fans that doesn't mean anything anymore."
I never thought I'd be there on Saturday.

I didn't believe we could win this one Saturday. Shocking, I know. I ticked off a laundry list to my wife (who was mostly angry that I was interrupting her study time) of reasons we wouldn't do it.
"They're good on defense, and we've looked like garbage on offense every time we've played a good defense. And they have a great kick return team — we haven't covered kicks all season. And they have a bull playing quarterback, and I don't know if we can hold him four quarters."
There was one caveat, though.
"The one thing is, we haven't played our best game yet. If we can play our best game, we can do it."

Whether this effort was perfect, I'm not sure. But it came close. Offensively, Alabama called a great game. Defensively, 'Bama played solid, managed to avoid a huge play and contained Tebow pretty much all day.
Most important, though: Alabama wanted it more than Florida. It was most evident in a handful of game-changing plays: Greg McElroy charging out in front of Trent Richardson to throw a key block; the same G-Mac tightroping the sideline to pick up a first down; Rolando McClain taking away Tim Tebow's legs on a designed run; and, of course, the 8-minute drive to break Florida's back that featured multiple third-down conversions. Even Florida's players described Alabama as "hungrier" after the game.
That, as much as anything, marked the key difference between 2008 and 2009. A hungrier Alabama football team finished the job the '08 couldn't quite do. And now this team has a chance to play for a national championship.
By the way, that team that never had a chance to play for a national championship in 2000? Yeah, they played the first regular-season Alabama game of this decade ... at the Rose Bowl.
I can't believe I'm here.

Some other thoughts from a championship Saturday ...
— Some fun trivia tidbits that Alabama accomplished Saturday: first, of course, they continued their notable streak of owning at least one conference championship in each decade, something they wouldn't have had otherwise. Second, they get to face Texas in the BCS MNC game, a team Alabama has never beaten in 8 tries. And finally, they managed to protect the legacy of some of their illustrious predecessors — Florida, coming into the game, owned a 22-game win streak, and the two longest in SEC history belonged to Alabama (28, in the '70s and the 1990s). And if Florida had won, and kept winning ... then they'd have come to Tuscaloosa next year, sitting on 28. Yeah. Really.
— Jim McElwain, as I said, called a fantastic game Saturday. I apologize for all those times earlier this year when I suggested he had died in the coaches' booth. Those coaching adjustments were fun to watch, though — Florida figured out in the first half that it needed to pressure McElroy more, and then Alabama adjusted with some screen passes and quick slants.
— By the way, file this under sentences you never though you'd hear: "Your SEC Championship Game MVP, Greg McElroy." But he deserved it — you couldn't have asked for a better game from the kid, at any level. Further, he's demonstrated a very keen, adept nature in interviews this season, from his dressing down of a reporter for suggesting he get the ball to Julio more and onward. Saturday was no different: he was keenly aware of how many SEC championships Alabama already had, and talked of the pride of being a member of a part of history. And he was even described by Gary Danielson as "Tebow-esque" after one scramble. Awesome day for that young man.
— That reminds me: apparently Gary & Verne didn't fare so well Saturday. I've tuned in and out on the replay, but I keep hearing Gary make reference to Carlos Dunlap's absence while completely ignoring the fact that Alabama has played without one of its best defensive players (Dont'a Hightower) since September. So that's no good.
— A couple of key penalties really hurt Florida Saturday. They got hit for defensive holding on a play where they'd sacked McElroy in the second quarter; a stupid roughing-the-passer foul on a botched screen in the third; and a bad offsides later in the third, on third down on a play where they should've punched 'Bama off the field. None of the calls were egregiously bad, but they all came at awfully inopportune times.
— Gary Danielson referred to McElroy's touchdown pass to Colin Peek as a "gimmick play" roughly 17 times in 30 seconds. Not sure if that's fair: the play came out of Alabama's Wildcat set (the Wacky Pachyderm, as my brother Whit calls it), only McElroy was lined up at QB instead of a tailback. It was relatively ordinary, though.
— Speaking of that pass, I need to apologize to everyone in my section for briefly flipping out after that play and quoting Tony's speech from Rocky IV.
He's worried! You cut him! You hurt him! You see? You see? He's not a machine, he's a man!

I promise, I'm not insane. Not completely, anyway.
(By the way, a guy on the row in front of me responded to that moment by proudly showing me his Rocky t-shirt. I'm not sure if I should laugh or cry.)
— One other crazy stat: Nick Saban's almost inviolate record vs. teams to whom his teams have previously lost. This is a mark of well-coached teams: they rarely lose to the same squad twice.
— I almost left out one of the best moments of Saturday night, which featured a Florida student losing a passing contest to a girl.

— Here are the latest BCS standings, and the BCS bowl picture. If you were hoping for BCS chaos, it's not all that exciting.
Of course, because I must be consistent, I still believe in the 16-team playoff system used at lower levels of college football. However, what about my original idea for a 6-team playoff? This is one season where it would perfectly.
I know, it sounds weird. But hear me out on why it works:
• First of all, no team that finishes outside the top-6 probably should have a shot at a national title. Not in a 13-game season.
• It would allow the top-2 a reward for being in the top-2 by giving them bye weeks.
• You wouldn't have to radically altar the regular season (which you'll have to do in a 16-team format).

Here, then, is what it would look like in my head:
Dec. 19
(5) Florida at (4) Cincinnati
(6) Boise St. at (3) TCU
Dec. 26
Lowest seed vs. (1) Alabama
Next-lowest seed vs. (2) Texas
Jan. 2
BCS National Championship Game

• Suddenly, every team deserving of a national-title shot now has a legitimate one, right? Florida has to regroup and regroup quickly, getting ready to face a scary-looking Cincy squad.
• I did put in a provision to reseed after the first round, and only because the number-one team in the nation has to be rewarded somehow.
• The one problem is location, and only because I can't figure out a fair way to do that. My original idea was to play the first round on the campuses of the highest seeds, but that would give those two institutions and communities an additional home gate that the other schools would probably want. And if you play these games at bowl sites, the fan bases will have to shell out ridiculous amounts of money to attend. So I'm open to suggestions on that.

Oh well. For now, as I've said before, we should be happy where we are. Roll Tide.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Did this just happen?

I have no idea what to say. Maybe Rocky can say it for me.

Friday, December 4, 2009

just do one thing for me

Remember "Rocky II?" Of course you do. Allow me to summarize, just in case you forgot:

Rocky Balboa has just survived a 15-round encounter with the heavyweight champ, Apollo Creed. Remember: Rocky had already made up his mind before the fight that he had no chance of actually beat the champ. "I just wanna go the distance. If I can go that distance, and hear that bell ring, and me still standin there ... then I'll know I wasn't just another bum from the neighborhood." He accomplished that goal, maybe even won the fight (depending on who you ask).
Anyway, after roughly 90 minutes of wasted time, Apollo goads him into a rematch, and right around the time Rocky agrees to the fight, his wife Adrian goes into a coma after birthing their first child. There's another 15-20 minutes where very little happens, as Rocky refuses to train and stays by Adrian's bed day and night.

And then this happens:

As an Alabama fan, this is how I feel going into the SEC Championship Game, 2009. In 2008, I felt like Rocky must have when someone told him he could have a shot at the world heavyweight title — all I wanted was for us to go the distance, prove we belonged. I think our boys did that — maybe we lost the game, but we fought Florida harder than anyone else had all season and missed winning the game by a handful of plays down the stretch (some 'Bama fans have disagreed with me, but Florida won that game much more than Alabama lost it).
This version isn't like that. This time around, we still look like underdogs — Vegas even installed Florida as a 6-point favorite coming in. Going the distance, obviously, will be an accomplishment.
But it's not what we should want. Alabama hasn't come this far for a moral victory. The goal should be nothing more than to win the game, to win the championship.

So, to echo Adrian, do something for me.



Roll Tide.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday lines: put the ring on m' finger ... and change me

Some of the most fun the next two days may actually be happening in Tuscaloosa, where the Super 6 takes place today and tomorrow. The full schedule is available at, and from what I can gather, Friday should be great fun — Jackson-Cherokee Co. (4A) 11, Reeltown-Clay Co. at 3 (2A) and Hoover-Prattville at 7 (6A). Lot of future stars on display. All the games, I believe, will be broadcast on CSS.

Anyway, here are this weekend's lines, presented with much trepidation, courtesy of

Oregon State (+10) at Oregon

Houston (-3) at East Carolina
(Note: Has anyone seen Skip Holtz lately? His name hasn't come up in this Notre Dame thing at all?)
West Virginia (+1.5) at Rutgers
Cincinnati (-2) at Pittsburgh
Fresno State (+3) at Illinois
Arizona (+7) at USC
Florida (-6) vs. Alabama (Atlanta)
California (-7) at Washington
Georgia Tech (-1) vs. Clemson (Jacksonville? ... I actually don't know)
Texas (-14) vs. Nebraska (Arlington)
(Note: Scary game if I'm a UT fan. The only other game this team has played against a high-caliber defense was vs. Oklahoma, and they only scored 1 touchdown. Yeah.)
South Florida (+7.5) at Connecticut
Wisconsin (-12) at Hawaii

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

in appreciation of Terrence Cody

Coming into the 2008 football season, Nick Saban's second at Alabama, a number of questions existed, on both sides of the ball.

For me, the biggest and most pressing were on the defensive side of the ball. Saban's preference for a 3-4 defensive scheme is a relatively simple one, but certain personnel are necessary to run it — specifically, someone has to man the center spot, keep the interior linemen off the linebackers and allow them to fly around and make plays. It's no coincidence, for example, that Ray Lewis won his only Super Bowl championship with Tony Siragusa playing the nose position.

Alabama didn't have that person in 2007. The nose position was manned by a hodge-podge of different guys, and the defensive numbers showed it (Alabama's '07 defense was one of the worst Nick Saban ever coached, at any of his coaching stops).
Here's what I wrote, for example, after Auburn whipped Alabama all over Pat Dye Field for a 17-10 victory:
No scheme Saban or Kevin Steele could design ... could keep Auburn from pounding them up front with that big offensive line. And by the way, that's the same thing Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU and even Mississippi State were able to do consistently to Alabama this season. Whether it's offseason training, recruiting or a mere attitude adjustment, Alabama has got to get better up front defensively. If you can't stop the run in this league, you shouldn't be able to win consistently.

There was a lot of hope coming into 2008, for a number of reasons. But the question of how to fix that problem on defense hadn't been fully addressed.

The answer to the question, it turns out, was Terrence Cody.

From the moment he set foot on campus, Terrence Cody has been a star at Alabama. And a starter. I remember the first time I wrote about him in August of that year — I didn't want to jinx it, but I recognized it almost immediately: here was a guy, I thought, who could make this defense really work.
He's done that, and then some. Stats can't truly quantify what Cody means to this defense. Without him, Rolando McClain wouldn't be an All-American candidate. Without him, backs like Charles Scott and Monterio Hardesty might have torn us to shreds.
The story of his weight, obviously, is a well-documented one: the coaching staff told him to drop 50 pounds (from 400!) before they'd allow him to play. And he's done that.
We've talked a lot on this blog about the survivors of this decade: last year's senior class, for example, who endured three years of losing and misery before finally getting their turn at a championship (that came up just short).

Terrence Cody hasn't endured any of that at Alabama. Since he's been here, he's been a part of a team that has won 24 games out of a possible 26. Of a team that's going to Atlanta Saturday for the second time in as many years. Of a team that's been ranked in the top-5 in the country since early October. Of last year.
That's who Terrence Cody is. He's a winner. He's a beast. He's one of the faces of this program, and this program is among the nation's best.
He should be remembered for that. And he should always be remembered for this.

This Saturday's game will be a slugfest. There's no doubt about it. And winning the game — that 25th win of 27 games — will require an effort so massive, I'm not sure even Cody can manage it.
But regardless of the outcome, Alabama fans should stand and applaud this man. He represents everything we love about Alabama football.