Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Family Conversations: Part of Your Hot Summer

By now you've figured out the point of this "Family Conversation" thread — my cousin's husband (cousin-in-law?) Jamie, an Auburn fan and graduate, and I trade emails about Auburn football, Alabama football and life in general. One day we may collaborate on some sort of "Sane Fans' Podcast," which will probably be fun and will attract exactly 0 downloads. In any case, if you want to read last week's installment, click here.

will: To me the most remarkable part of the unending Cam Newton saga was the defiance on Auburn's part. Essentially the vibe from Auburn everyone got down the stretch was, "Yeah, we're innocent and you can suck it." It was like watching an NBA player feign amazement when the official blew the whistle and pointed in his direction. "What ... me? What'd I do? Y-you're just biased against me - that's the problem!" I understand being defensive, but the self-righteous indignation frankly got old.
Look, if Auburn skates on this, and it's really over, fine. But let's stop this thing where we throw stones at everyone else while pretending our boys are as pure as the driven snow. Had Cam stayed at Florida, or gone to Mississippi State, we'd all be sitting around wondering how much he was getting paid to do his thing.

Jamie: The reason that I think Aubs had the "everyone can suck it" attitude is because after the original story broke, it was like every 2 bit writer/blogger on the intranets turned into Woodward and Bernstein in an attempt to be the one to put out the next bit of juice. Here is the type stuff they came up with.
It reminds me of when the Vice President of Madison hotels hires the janitor to find out things about Billy's progress in school and he comes back with "Mrs. Lippy's car is green". There was no conspiracy against Auburn or Cam Newton. It was just horrible journalism. What is funny is that the deeper people dug, the less they found. Look, I have 0 doubt that neither Cam or any other athlete at AU are close to being choir boys. The reason I fully believe Auburn did NOTHING wrong as it related to the Newton family is that everyone and their sister wanted to be the one to have the dirt, yet no one could find it. Sports Illustrated ran with a piece on Ohio State that was really not that big of a deal. yet when they investigated Cam and Auburn, they didn't find enough to write about. HBO went after Cam, found nothing, so they had to go another route. (whether the HBO 4 were telling the whole truth I really don't know). The NCAA investigated and the president said "We found nothing". So the pattern: outsiders who make judgments on innuendo say Auburn is guilty. Everyone who has actually investigated can't find anything wrong. Funny how that works out. I don't think we will have to skate because I really and truly believe there is nothing for Auburn to have to skate on. I would say otherwise if I believed it. It's funny, I am tired of talking about it but at the same time, I really like keeping the topic in the forefront because I want to be right there waiting when we are officially cleared. Of course, if I have swung and missed, I will not run and hide then either. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Jamie: Would you be in favor of raising scholarship benefits for collegiate athletes (legally paying players)?

will: I think the model that makes the most sense here is the college baseball model, which allows the athletes to work with the professional clubs and maintain their NCAA eligibility, but also requires them to stay in school at least 3 years. You'd probably see a lot more athletes playing a year or two at JUCO, and you'd still have issues with agents, but at least you'd remove some of the hypocrisy of this absurd "amateur athletics" charade we're all carrying on now.
To me, what we're really missing is a partnership between the NCAA and NFL. The NCAA carries on as though the professional ranks don't exist. We'd all be better off if the two could work together here.

Jamie: Who takes over THE Ohio State University in 2012? Do they go the AU route and hire a Terry Bowden to get them through, or try to go big time from the start?

will: They'd better hope their interim coach doesn't light up the world in '11 — if they go 10-2 or something without Pryor — a real possibility given how weak the conference is and how good they should be defensively — the clamor in Columbus to make Fickell the permanent hire will grow and grow. Long-term, that would be a disaster.
Two other thoughts:
• I know the "What's the best job in America?" question has been done to death in sports media, but Ohio State is arguably the best job in college football, if only because a) you're the biggest and best-known school in a talent-rich state; b) you have a rabid fan base and unlimited operating resources; c) you're in a relatively weak conference, top to bottom. Compare that to, say, Auburn, which is the second-place school in its own state AND has to compete with the rest of the SEC.
• If ever there was a time for poor Michigan State to make a move, this would be it, right? Ohio State is vulnerable; Michigan is at least two years away; they have most everybody back. Of course, since it's MSU, they'll probably go 7-5.

Jamie: What has winning a National Championship done to Gene Chizik's rep? 5-19 coach who rode superman or legit top coach in college football?

will: No matter what happens from here on out, Gene Chizik will always be the coach who won a national title at Auburn. That's his identity from now on; honestly, if he mailed in this year, it would be hard to blame him. I won't even quibble about all the bounces Auburn got in '10 because, frankly, going 14-0 takes luck. Alabama in 2009 doesn't go 14-0 without about a half-dozen breaks. That's just the way it is.
Two thoughts going forward:
• Chizik needs to do something to establish that he is in control of his program. Fair or unfair, the compilation of the Newton scandal, Nick Fairley repeatedly taking cheap shots with no repercussions and the other off-field stuff gives an air that he doesn't have command of his locker room. I'm not necessarily blaming him — don't forget, Jimmy Johns was famously arrested during the first full summer of Saban's tenure — but it has to be something that concerns him.
• In my opinion, Auburn needs to encourage Trooper Taylor to go somewhere else. I'm sure his recruiting prowess is substantial, and we all enjoy watching him jump around on the sidelines like a little kid ... wait, no we don't. And that's one of the ways he can hurt Auburn long-term: his showboating antics are an embarrassment to the program and give programs more motivation to kick them while they're down. Moreover, some of his other off-field actions — specifically, his lawsuit against Auburn city schools over his son's corn rows — are painting AU in a negative light in the community. It's sending the message that the rules don't apply to him or his family. That can't happen.

Jamie: We have discussed this in private and my feelings on the lawsuit deal are known. Regarding his antics, whatever is done within the rules, fine. Fact is Darvin Adams and Terrell Zachary had about 10 catches between them before Troop got there and they both turned into upper level receivers. He can be annoying, especially to opposing fans. I guess he's no different than this guy in that respect.

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