5-at-10: Friday mailbag

5-at-10: Friday mailbag

March 15th, 2013 by Jay Greeson in Sportscolumns

Gang, thanks for another great week.

From the "Talks too much" studios, we Christen thee the Flying Wasp; bless thee and all who sail on her.

Chattanooga head coach John Shulman talks from the sideline.

Photo by Contributed Photo

From JMC47

John is an excellent coach. So is Wes Moore. What if each had coached the other man's team this year? Does anyone really think Wes would have had the male Mocs at the top of the heap in the SouCon? No. He wouldn't.

The Mocs roster is not in the class of the likes of CofC, Davidson, or Elon. The roster has no point guard, a center who, though a really nice guy, has one move which rarely works (jump hook), limited perimeter shooting, etc..(the roster of the Sweet 16 team that beat UGA and ILLINOIS included 4 STARTERS WHO WERE JUCO PLAYERS!)

Now let's ask the other question. If John were coaching the Lady Mocs, would he have taken them to the Big Dance today like Wes did? Most likely, the answer is yes. The Lady Mocs' roster is far superior to every other team in the conference and that is the main reason why they are so consistently good.

Of course, the real question is: WHY DOES ANYONE OTHER THAN THE CHANCELLOR OR THE AD AT UTC THINK THAT THEY HAVE THE RIGHT TO DECLARE THAT SOMEONE ELSE SHOULD BE FIRED FROM THEIR JOB? I recognize that this type of behavior has become the norm. But....it's wrong.

AND

Also, the polls from last year and this year about Coach Shulman show that the fans aren't lined up with the local sportswriters. Last year's poll was 58% in John's favor and this year's poll is remarkably close considering that the team just suffered a heartbreaking loss to end the season. Even in this tough time for the Mocs, your poll just doesn't support your claim that the support for Coach isn't there.

Why is this paper so against him? When the Mocs pull off a good win, it's usually buried on page 8. If they suffer a tough loss.....you can bet it's on page 1.

Maybe when our own paper starts supporting our own city's university instead of bowing down to an orange city the very same size as our own things will get better?

JMC47,

Thanks for the letter and the chance to respond. Because you obviously care deeply about this topic, I am going to skip the 5-at-10 "third-person" references and do my best to avoid sarcasm and snark.

I'll address your points one-by-one:

Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore stresses the importance of rebounds to players during a recent game at McKenzie Arena.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

Point 1: Wes Moore vs. John Shulman: I believe that Wes Moore is a much better basketball coach than John. I believe that if Wes coached the men this season they would have been better; and if John had coached the women they might have won the SoCon. But the elephant in the room in that comparison is that arguably the largest responsibility of college coaches is assembling their roster. So, other than the no-junior-college-transfer handcuffs, Shulman's roster is the product or shortcomings in recruiting of John and his staff.

And while the 1997 magical Mocs may have had a slew of JuCo transfers, I'm not a big believer in transfers as the be-all, end-all solution. Look at the river of D-I transfers the Mocs have had in the last few years, and other than this year's noticeable improvement and production from Z Mason, which among those transfers would you call a success?

Point 2: Why does anyone other than the chancellor or the AD think they have the right to declare someone else should be fired? Really? How about anyone with a vested interest in the program. People who care about the program, be them donors or supporters or columnists and radio personalities that are paid for their sports opinions. Now the chancellor and the AD are the only ones with an opinion that ultimately counts. If you do not want people to care about the program - to be invested in the success and the failure and feel passion - then the program will die. You are not asking for unconditional support, you're expecting blind loyalty. But in sports - and in a lot of ways life in general - to expect blind loyalty from the fan base or the media or the community or customers or anyone outside of your immediate family is not only unrealistic, it's naive.

Point 3: The polls aren't lined up with the sportswriters opinion. I assume you are speaking of the poll the TFP ran that asked should John be fired. I am not sure what the results were when you submitted your question on Monday, as of this morning, 60 percent of the 483 votes were in favor of firing John. But that is a poll on the internet that is hardly scientific, no matter which way it swings. That said, I believe a vast majority of the public - at least that part of the area's public who know the Round House from the Patrick Swayze classic Road House - believe John's time has come and gone. And the strength of my believe is the level of apathy that has consumed this program. I went to five games this year, not one was well-attended. Not one was energetic. The fans of the program are making a statement with their decision not to go and their actions at McKenzie. The relative silence of turnstiles - and forget the announced crowds, there are guys who have made their bones talking about how they "caught a fish THIS big" that look at the UTC attendance numbers and go, "Wow, that's whopper" - and in the gym have been deafening.

Part 4: "Why is the paper so against him?" The paper has never been against John. In fact, I really like John and respect John. He's a good guy. This hasn't worked, but that doesn't mean he's anything less than the good guy I believe him to be. In fact, there have been several folks who have asked me directly why we haven't been "harder" on John or called for his job before now. As for placement of the Mocs basketball stories this year, well, it's my job as the sports editor of our paper to reflect interest, not generate it. And there were a slew of high school basketball games this year that were better attended than Mocs games. Period. In fact, when it comes to fannies in the seats, I'd be willing to bet that the Lady Mocs drew roughly as many (and maybe more) fans than the Mocs this year. The interest in UTC men's basketball has been at an all-time low in my almost 11 years in Chattanooga. And I appreciate your question, and while I can't remember a big Mocs win that was entirely inside (unless it was on the road and we did not send our beat writer David Uchiyama), the line between winning and losing almost never decides whether a story goes to the Sports front or stays inside. It's not the outcome, rather the size of the game, that predetermines story placement. This may be a little too inside baseball, but let me explain quickly how the planning process works at the TFP sports section on a daily basis. Since there are so many moving pieces and people and possibilities, I put together a plan each day of where everything will go. A lot of factors and research go into these decisions, and there is some gut-feeling and some purposeful attempts at balancing the sports and schools for variety. But with all that happens from when that plan is hatched around 5 p.m. - long before games are even started, much less over so we'd know the outcome - and when we have to be done by deadline, very rarely do we move story placement around. Does it occasionally happen? Sure it does. But it's rare that a big win or a big loss determine if a story goes out front - there are some folks who think every time their team loses I put them on the front because "I hate this team/coach/sport" or "I love their rival team/coach/sport."

Part 5: "Maybe when our own paper starts supporting our own city's university instead of bowing down to an orange city the very same size as our own things will get better?" Please. UTC athletics gets more ink from the Times Free Press than any school its size from any paper in the country. And that's across all sports. Ask anyone who has come from another market about how well we cover UTC by comparison. Ask Russ Huesman about how much UTC football gets compared to when he was at Richmond and the Spiders were winning national titles and getting two stories a week in their local paper. Ask SID Jay Blackman to compare the coverage his program got when he was in New Mexico. We have five different writers handle various beats in the Mocs program. Most places would kill for the kind of coverage we give UTC sports. And amazingly, you're asking at the same time for more coverage and more sports front coverage, but you don't want any of our columnists or me to share an opinion or discuss the elephant in the room. As for the coverage of the University of Tennessee, well, I view my job as being the steward of the sports section of our paper. And it is our paper - the community's - I'm just in charge of it for the time being (and the Good Lord willing a long time to come) and make the best decisions I can. But to say there is not a huge amount of Tennessee interest in this town would be at best a mistake.

I think John did one of his better coaching jobs this year, taking an unknown team to a middle-of-the-pack finish in their division. But the in my view the ship has sailed. After nine years, he's 145-146 overall - that's including non-Division I games - and has a losing conference record. To expect anything different than .500 basketball and frustration seems like the personification of Twain's definition of insanity. And to let him to continue to coach begs the question if the goal of UTC men's basketball is to be a .500 basketball team?

Again, I spent a lot of time thinking about this and wanted to answer your question honestly and directly. Thanks for reading the TFP and the 5-at-10.

(And now we'll return to the 5-at-10 and attempts at the occasional one-liner. Yes, Spy, we said attempts.)

----

From Atlanta Al

Hope this is not too late for your mailbag, but what do you make of Steven Jackson to the Falcons? With Tony G. back and Jackson on the roster, is this the best offense in the NFC?

Thanks and thanks for the 5-at-10, it's an every morning stop for me.

Atlanta Al,

We think Steven Jackson is an upgrade over Michael Turner for sure. And we love that the Falcons are pushing their chips in to make a run for it all.

We think the Falcons will be on the shortlist of best offenses in the league, and the big five skilled position accounting firm of Ryan, Jones, White, Gonzalez and Jackson is as good as there is in the league.

Still, a three-year deal for a running back that will be 30 before the season starts and has had at least 250 carries every years since his rookie season seems little long. Jackson is an improvement, but he is not an answer for the future.

We like the Falcons' aggressive nature in going after the ring now, but we still hope they use their second-round pick on Marcus Lattimore to have a long-term solution at running back.

----

From AReader

Where are all of these awful college basketball uniforms coming from? Did you see Notre Dame or Cincy?

AReader,

Great point. And it's a great thing that Billy Packer has been put out to pasture, because he would have had kittens on air about this.

Although a 73-year-old curmudgeon having kittens on air would be something to behold. It would be the front-runner for the 10-grand on America's Funniest Home Videos.

Let's check in with Jim Nantz and special guest Charles Barkley if Notre Dame and Cincy met in a Final Four and wore their Lime Sherbet and Camouflage uniforms:

Jim Nantz: Hello friend, welcome to Atlanta, the site of the Final Four and the home to Varsity.

Chuck: The Varsity is good. Hmmmmm, chili dogs. Frosted Orange. Onion... What in the world is that?

Jim Nantz: Great point Charles, the new uniforms are quite fetching.

Chuck: Does fetching mean TURR-ible?

Jim Nantz: No Charles, fetching is, well, winsome and eye-catching.

Chuck: Winsome? Who are you Alex Trebek? Winsome you lose some, and those uniforms are losers. Man, if I'd worn one of those Coach Mac would say I look like the world's largest duck blind.

Jim Nantz: OK, thanks Charles. To today's matchup, who do you like the Irish or the Bearcats?

Chuck: Neither. My eyes are bleeding and your talking about fetching and winsome. I need a chili dog. And a blind fold. (Chuck leaves)

Jim Nantz - to no one in particular: It's still better than working with Phil Simms.

----

From Laughing Boy

5-at-10,

Gossett has a game story earlier this week on an area high school pitcher hitting mid 90s, fact or fiction?

Laughing Boy,

Fact.

While we readily admit the two biggest numeral lies in sports are 4.4 and 90, as in 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash and a 90-mph fastball.

We asked our high school baseball ace Ward Gossett about it, and here's why we say fact.

First, he saw the gun hit 93 in the third inning, and while radar guns can fluctuate, moving up or down 5 mph is on the high end of the scale. Second and more importantly, there were 20 big league scouts there, and that many big league scouts in attendance means someone with potential first-round grades.

Know who has first-round grades? Right-handers who really throw 93 and kids that really run 4.4s.

----

From Ben R. (in two e-mails)

If the Vols get to Friday (in the SEC tournament), I think they are in. What do you think?

Johnny Vols Fans everywhere need this?

(Second e-mail addition on Thursday around lunch)

Hey, after getting Jalen Hurd to commit and if the Vols can secure a tournament bid, this would be the best week in UT sports since....?

The 5-at-10 is awesome.

---

Ben R.,

Thanks for the kind words and feel free to swing by any time - don't cost nothing.

We agree with our ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's point here that the Vols need a win today over Alabama to feel good about Sunday's selection show.

And you bring up a great point: This has been high times for the Vols, and Hurd's commitment can't be overstated right now.

In fact, we spoke with friend of the show Brad Shepard, who writes for Rocky Top Talk, and he was discussing the point that this could be the type of start that could yield a similar recruiting bounty as the first full signing class Nick Saban landed at Alabama. And the comparison has merits, in that each has been built with a foundation of some big-time legacies and each came with the lucky timing of being a great year for in-state talent.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Rest easy Alabama fans or UT bashers, this is not saying Butch Jones is Nick Saban or will recruit at that level, but the comparisons are there. Todd Kelly for UT; Barrett Jones for that Alabama class. Hurd is a five-star, top-10 national talent; Julio Jones was a five-star, top-10 national talent.

Somewhat ironically, UT's NCAA hopes in our eyes rest on the outcome against the Tide. A win and Sunday's a rubber stamp. A loss and Sunday becomes Super Stressful.

That said, a win today - to punch the dance card and to pop the Tide's bubble - would complete as sweet a week for UT fans since Bruce Pearl and the Vols made the Elite Eight and may be the best football week - Kelly committing on Sunday; Hurd on Thursday - since 2004. Which is both sad and energizing.

----

From LongShot

Someone mentioned this week about a TV comedy final four. That sounds awesome. If there was an NCAA-like TV comedy bracket who are your No. 1 seeds and who make the Final Four?

LongShot,

Great question, and one we hope everyone chimes in on. Ground rules: These are 30-minute sitcoms. Variety shows would be another category, and trying to rank SNL would be tough.

Our No. 1 seeds will be: Cheers, I Love Lucy, All in the Family, Seinfeld.

Our 2 seeds will be: Simpsons, Cosby Show, M*ASH, Honeymooners

Our 3 seeds will be: Mary Tyler Moore, Frasier, The Office, Taxi

Our 4 seeds will be: Friends, Arrested Development, Modern Family, Dick Van Dyke Show

We'll have our bracket and winners later. And feel free to weigh in on any and all of the above topics.