Tag Archives: 2011 college football season

Should NCAA Punish Penn State?

(Credit: Robert J. La Verghetta)

In the “findings” section of the Freeh Report, the independent investigation into the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, the investigators note one of the many causes for the failure to protect the victims and report the crimes to authorities: “A culture of reverence for the football program that is ingrained at all levels of the campus community.”

Let me be clear: The Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal is a Penn State issue. It is not a Michigan or an Ohio State or a Notre Dame or a Texas or a Southern Cal or an Alabama issue, even though these schools may have a “culture of reverence for the football program.”
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LSU vs Alabama: BCS Boycott

I am not going to watch the BCS National title game.

This is significant to people who know me. To those of you who don’t, consider I have never not watched a college football national championship game. I rarely miss a major bowl or a regular season matchup of top-10 teams. Except for a couple that were played while I was travelling, I saw parts of every bowl game this season, GoDaddy.com bowl included.

But I won’t be watching LSU versus Alabama tonight.
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Urban Meyer Balances Football and Family

Lou Holtz is wearing a tuxedo. It is the summer of 1987 and Holtz is the head football coach at Notre Dame. His youngest daughter, Liz, is in her prom dress—it’s the biggest night of her young life. Her date rings the door bell and Holtz answers.

“I never got to go to the prom when I was in high school,” he says. “This is my last chance. I’m going with you and my daughter.”

Liz was mortified. Her date was shocked. But Holtz was just having fun. He was a very busy man, so he had to make the time he did have with his children memorable.
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Gifts Make Nondescript Bowls Appealing to Players

Go ahead and laugh. Scan the list of bowl games this year and have your chuckles: The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The BBVA Compass Bowl. The Aflac Duck Bowl.

OK, that last one wasn’t real, but the others are and have been the butt of plenty of jokes among college football fans. After all, there are 35 bowl games. The Orange and Sugar are household names, but the New Era Pinstripe Bowl? Not so much.

While we make fun of the bloated bowl field—70 of the 120 eligible schools are going bowling—the players themselves make out quite well. In exchange for a couple of extra weeks of practice, they get an all-expenses paid trip to a warm place.* But the best part may be the gifts: electronics, jewelry, apparel.
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The BCS Is Not Fair, But Do Bowl Games Even Matter?

There has been a lot of fuss over the bowl selections this year, and rightfully so. Reading the official BCS stance helps clarify the choices: “The BCS is designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game.”

I think people have a problem with the fundamental mission of the BCS (in other news, people do not like root canals!).

This year, many fans do not want to see Alabama in the national championship solely because their opponent, LSU, already beat them. These people, myself included, think the national championship should be about determining the best team (how about that?!). Oklahoma State or Stanford or Boise or any team other than Alabama would be a better choice than Alabama, since we already know LSU is better than Alabama.
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From the Minor Leagues to College Football

Perhaps you knew someone like this in college: The guy who enrolled a year or two before you but was still there when you visited campus a couple of years later. People would joke about his age, maybe make a reference to Van Wilder.

Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden is sort of like that guy, except his classmates probably don’t make fun of him since he has led the Cowboys to an 8-0 record and No. 3 BCS ranking. Weeden is 28, which makes him older than 15 starting quarterbacks in the National Football League, including Aaron Rodgers, who is in his seventh year in the league and owns a Super Bowl ring.

Weeden is a dark horse for the Heisman Trophy, and if he won he’d be the second oldest recipient: Florida State’s Chris Weinke, the 2000 Heisman winner, was a few months older. Like Weinke, Weeden was a minor league baseball player before he enrolled in college.

The New York Yankees drafted Weeden, a right-handed pitcher, in the second round of the 2002 draft, nine spots ahead of current Yankee star Curtis Granderson.* He was sent to the Dodgers in the trade that brought pitcher Kevin Brown to New York, and finished his baseball career in the Royals organization. In five years he posted a 5.02 ERA and never made it past advanced Class A.

*It seems like the Yankees draft a lot of college football players—some out of high school and others after they’ve already played college football. In addition to Weeden, they have drafted John Elway, Daunte Culpepper, and Drew Henson. I’d like to look into this more.

While Weeden wasn’t so adept at throwing to a catcher, he has excelled at throwing to wide receivers. He enrolled at Oklahoma State in 2007 and became the starter last season, setting the single-game record for passing yards. This year the senior—and I mean that in more ways than one—ranks in the top 10 in the country in touchdown passes (22), yards per game (338), and completion percentage (71). He is on pace to become the Cowboys’ all-time leading passer.

I have been thinking about whether it is fair to allow a player on the field who is a decade older than some of his competitors. There are definitely some advantages, though being older does not guarantee success. Take Ohio State’s Joe Bauserman, another pitcher-turned-quarterback. After three years in the minors, Bauserman arrived in Columbus in 2007. At 26, he opened this season as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback partly because his coach valued his experience—presumably, not just in the Ohio State system but in life in general. It didn’t exactly work out. When the Buckeyes’ offense sputtered, Bauserman was replaced by an 18-year-old true freshman in late September, and has since been demoted to third string.

Two years ago, Boston College received a commitment from a 25-year-old who had spent six years in the minors, Dave Shinksie. A few weeks into the season he was named the starting quarterback, but he lost the job last season. Shinskie is now 27 and riding the bench for the 2-7 Eagles.

What do you think? Should the NCAA enforce some sort of age limit for college athletes? Do older players, particularly quarterbacks, have an advantage?

Dayne Crist: Three Yards from Glory

Editor’s note: The following is a guest column written by Anthony F. Kahn.

Do not walk next to Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist in a thunderstorm. Do not go 50/50 with him on a lottery ticket. And definitely do not go up with him in a hot air balloon. I’ve met and spoken with Dayne, and he is extremely polite and respectful. But he has to be the unluckiest college football player in America.

As a sophomore in 2009, Crist blew out his knee while doing mop-up duty for Jimmy Clausen against Washington State on Halloween. By all accounts he worked extremely hard to rehab his knee to get ready for the 2010 season. On a team with a new coach, a new offensive system, and a relatively inexperienced offensive line, Crist won his first ever start, giving Brian Kelly a victory to begin his Notre Dame coaching career.

After doing a credible job through the first eight games, he blew out his other knee against Tulsa, almost a year to the day of his previous injury. He would miss the remainder of the season (again) and go through a grueling rehab process (again). To make matters worse, he was “Wally Pipped” by freshman Tommy Rees.

But Crist, a senior, participated in this year’s spring practice and beat out Rees for the starting job in Notre Dame’s opener. Things went downhill quickly from there. But in the quirky world of sports, it would have taken only three yards for Crist to have had a decent chance of being on the Notre Dame top ten list of quarterbacks.

Yard One

The first life-changing (as far as football is concerned) yard came in the second game of the 2010 season at Notre Dame Stadium against Michigan. On the 12th play of ND’s opening drive, Crist completed a pass just short of the goal line. On play 13, Crist snuck it in for a touchdown. The fact that the receiver didn’t break the plane on the previous play, however, proved quite costly, as Crist took a blow to the head during his carry. Experiencing double vision, he did not return to the game until the second half, when ND had fallen behind 21-7. Crist helped put the Irish in front late in the game, but Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson showed the first signs of his greatness, scoring with less than 40 seconds left to give the Wolverines a 28-24 victory.

Yard Two

Notre Dame began this season with a relatively weak schedule, a top-25 ranking, and great expectations. The Irish opened against South Florida that was supposed to serve as a warm-up for the first night game ever at Michigan Stadium the following week. After a touchback, Notre Dame started the 2011 season at its own 20 with Crist at quarterback. Six plays later, ND faced second-and-goal on the South Florida two. After one Irish running back was stopped less than a yard from the goal line, Kelly turned to another to try and punch it in.

But this is “Yard Two” for the unlucky Crist. The Notre Dame replacement back fumbled and a South Florida defender picked it up and ran 96 yards untouched for a touchdown—a 14-point swing to start the season. From there, Crist’s world began to crumble: 5-of-15 passing for 38 yards with an interception after the initial drive, an apoplectic coach, and a 16-0 halftime deficit.

When the second half began, Rees was taking the snaps. Notre Dame ended the day with an 0-1 record and a new starting quarterback. Crist’s hard-earned job had lasted all of 30 minutes.

Crist in the 2010 season opener, one game before “Yard Two.” (Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Yard Three

Fast forward seven weeks. After an 0-2 start, Notre Dame rolled off four straight wins before Southern Cal came to town for the first night game in South Bend in a generation. A win here and the only thing standing in ND’s way of a BCS bowl are four relative cupcakes and a win at Stanford two days after Thanksgiving. But after a little over 26 minutes of play, the Irish have bumbled their way to a 17-0 deficit.

Late in the third quarter, however, ND was down just seven and driving in USC territory. That’s when Rees got hurt and Crist entered the game, leading the Irish to the three-yard line. But for reasons that are unclear, Kelly decided to replace Crist at this critical moment with Andrew Hendrix, who took the ball himself, coming up less than a yard short of the goal line. That was “Yard Three,” and it may have been the cruelest yard of all.

Instead of leaving Hendrix on the field, Kelly sent Crist back in for his second 40-yard sprint in less than 30 seconds. And for the first time in the game, he put Crist under center instead of in a shotgun formation. Disaster was only seconds away. After a botched snap and an unlucky bounce, a USC defender scooped the fumble and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown.

A play you would expect to go against you about once every 20 years had happened for the second time in four home games. It was another 14-point swing, another stadium-deflating play, and another loss blamed by many on Dayne Crist.

Five games remain in Notre Dame’s 2011 season. Where it will end is anyone’s guess. Maybe Crist will get one more chance to get the monkey off his back. And as evidenced above, one can certainly ask how Dayne Crist’s life would be different if even one of the three yards had been gained. We’ll never know.

But in the long run, with a Notre Dame degree in hand, and considering the other positive attributes Dayne possesses, I’m pretty sure he’s going to experience a 180-degree change with respect to his luck for the rest of his life. And no one deserves it more.

—Anthony F. Kahn