5-at-10: UTC athletics in good hands, reasons to believe in the Vols, and underrated sports movies

5-at-10: UTC athletics in good hands, reasons to believe in the Vols, and underrated sports movies

July 24th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

Gang, we are way behind. Like Bandit and Snowman behind.

From the "Talks too much" studios, hold onto to your tail Fred.

UTC athletic director David Blackburn

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Blackburn weighs in

As we discussed at length here yesterday, the big-boy schools are dropping not-so-subtle hints that the future of college football could be a big five and everyone else.

Our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer caught up with UTC AD David Blackburn on Tuesday, and Blackburn was concise and clear in his discussion of the potential landscape. Read Weeds' column here.

Blackburn also spent some time with our radio show Press Row (1-3 p.m. on 105.1 FM) on Tuesday afternoon as he headed to the Southern Conference media event. He impressed us with his balance and poise. He was able to stay on message and still offer insight. (Personal side note: If we were a UTC alum/fan, we would have been saddened to see Rick Hart leave because Rick did a lot of good things for the program, but we would be incredibly excited to see what Blackburn could potentially build on the foundation that Hart has established. Dude comes across as a pro.)

Blackburn believes, as Jomo said here Tuesday, that losing BCS-money games and the potential split of the haves and the have-nots in college football would hurt UTC but not cripple it.

We think the big-five split, or Division 4 as some are calling it, has the potential to overhaul the complete face of college sports. The arms race will escalate for the rich and almost end for the not-so rich.

We feel somewhat obliged to lean toward Blackburn's view because, well, he's a college AD. We're the 5-at-10. Blackburn did note one thing on Press Row that could be a life line to the have-nots in college football if Division 4 becomes a reality. If the Big 5 conferences negotiate a 10-figure TV deal with ABC/ESPN per se, it's hard to believe all the other networks will simply get out of the college football broadcast business, so maybe there will be Fox Sports or NBC Sports or CBS Sports - each a new all-sports channel either on the horizon, on the dial or on the drawing board that will be in need of programming - for other leagues in relatively sizable markets. It was an interesting point.

Also on our radio show, Blackburn said the landscape may not be much different in five years but could very well be totally different in 10 years. He also said he expects big things from everyone involved in UTC athletics in the next 12 months, and after listening to Blackburn talk, we know that a) he includes himself in those expectations; and b) we are inclined to agree with him.

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Tennessee's strength

There are a lot of nay-sayers about this year's UT football team. Those nay-sayers have a lot of ammunition, too.

Who's the quarterback, they ask? Who's the play-maker, considering the top four wide receivers are gone from a team that failed to reach a bowl game for the third time in five years? Who's going to step in at the debacle at cornerback?

(Wow, the nay-sayers do have a lot of fair questions.)

We'll counter with this, those same questions were asked about the 2010 Auburn Tigers, who shared similar preseason strengths and weaknesses to this Tennessee team.

Auburn had an experienced and salty offensive line. Auburn had a savvy and seasoned middle linebacker. Auburn had a transfer defensive tackle who became a true difference-maker and a first-round pick.

Granted, Auburn found (some say bought, we prefer found - nothing was proven folks, move along) a Heisman winner at quarterback and all of the cosmic tumblers clicked when Cam Newton took off. So no, we do not expect Tennessee to win a national title. We do believe that a few good bounces and a winning lottery ticket at quarterback could make this Vols bunch way better than people expect because of the following:

• The offensive line may be the best in the SEC, which means it could be the best in all of college football.

• A.J. Johnson is a defensive anchor at middle linebacker that is both athletic and solid. Good times.

• The Vols are stout up the middle defensively with Johnson, defensive tackle Daniel McCullers and safety Brian Randolph. That's a very good thing.

Sure there are tons of questions, but there are reasons to believe too. (Yes, it's late July, there are reasons for us all to believe.)

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PEDs

We're so tired of steroids.

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez reacts after hitting a grand slam to tie the game 4-4 in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, June 12, 2012, in Atlanta. New York won 6-4.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

But the changing landscape among the players, and the outrage at Ryan Braun is noteworthy and encouraging.

We've said for a while now, that until the clean players want the cheaters caught and punished, nothing will happen. That tide seems to be starting to turn.

Plus, there are even rumors that baseball is discussing ways to try to impose a lifetime ban on Alex Rodriguez. While we don't ever see that standing, it would be a very bold and pronounced step.

Maybe baseball is finally serious about cleaning this up? Thoughts?

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This and that

- SoCon media days are here, and the TFP's Johnny Frierson is there. Check back for updates at timesfreepress.com and we may see if he can join us on Press Row today for some updates.

- Ron Jaworksi ranked his top QBs in the NATIONAL Football League and counted them down on ESPN. Hey, Jaws is terrible in the booth, but no one watches more tape and is more preapred. His top four are Rodgers, Manning, Brady and... Flacco. What? Jaws must have been watching Seinfeld reruns. If the Denver safety doesn't take a bad angle on the Hail Mary in the early playoff rounds, Flacco would be luck to crack the top 14 rather than the top four. Better than Eli, Brees or Matt Ryan? We'd take Luck over Flacco right now, too. PUH-lease.

- The state of Florida has dropped the charges against Gators linebacker Antonio Morrison, who was arrested after barking at a police canine. Ah, the dog days of summer. (Yes we have a million of them. Morrison's favorite baseball player? Babe Woof. Or maybe Bill Madlock, aka the Mad Dog. His favorite hoopster? Chuck BARKley. Favorite rapper? Lil' Bow Wow. Favorite movie? Antonio and Hooch. Let's just move along, huh?)

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Today's question

Friend of the show and TFP golf ace David "The Uch" Uchiyama sent along this little head's up that the beloved movie "The Sandlot" turns 20 this year.

Wow, 20?

We'll put "The Sandlot" on the Rushmore of underrated sports movie and feel really good about it.

What's on your Rushmore of underrated sports movies? Everyone knows, Hoosiers and Rudy and Rocky and The Natural et al., are big-time Big-Timers. But what are the four on your Rushmore of underrated sports movies that people may not name right away?

Discuss, and we'll have our list before we head to the radio station for Press Row today from 1-3 p.m. on ESPN 105.1 FM.