5-at-10: SEC tourney talk, Saban’s silliness, college football’s real problem, visor tip for Press Row

Former University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban, left, talks to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the conclusion of a roundtable on the future of college athletics and the need to codify name, image and likeness rights for student athletes, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Former University of Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban, left, talks to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at the conclusion of a roundtable on the future of college athletics and the need to codify name, image and likeness rights for student athletes, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, March 12, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — We're running low on days — man beach time is like dog years on steroids, you blink and it's Wednesday — in the sand, so let's move quickly.

SEC hoops

The SEC tournament starts tonight.

In the macro, the discussion we had earlier this month about Power Five conference tournaments is applicable.

I do not think any SEC team not already in the big tournament could play its way into the Big Dance with anything short of a win Sunday and the automatic bid.

(Side note: Before we go any further, the solution to this is scheduling. The SoCon tournament finished Monday, right? Flip the weeks. Have the power conference tournaments go first and end last weekend, Monday and Tuesday in prime time. The committee gets a much better idea of wins and time and perspective for seeding. Then have the mid-major tournaments Monday-Friday or Saturday, staggered throughout the final two days on major networks for the cash and the exposure. Plus, we'd get to see more of Oakland and Samford and the other teams as await the brackets and try to decide which 12 seed is frisky. Thoughts.)

As for Nashville, while a dance ticket is unlikely to be snatched this week, seeds could be improved.

As for me, I have a couple items of import to discuss about the SEC tournament:

The first is this link to the "Bets and Ballgames" podcast I did with Brian Edwards breaking down potential matchups and some picks for the draw.

In that chat, I believe that UK coach John Calipari is a) more motivated, b) having more fun and c) more aware of the importance of getting to Sunday this week and to the Final Four through the rest of the month than he has been since the undefeated team. Not saying he's on the hot seat, but I do believe his ears have been burning, and he's well aware that this team is very good and if the main dish is not as good as the ingredients, more and more of BBN are starting to blame the chef.

Second, and this is more question than comment: Is this the heyday of modern SEC hoops? The schools have rockstar coaches. The facilities are top-flight. Well other than the Stegasaurus (Sorry, BD). Multiple mock drafts — I love the draft, you know this — have two SEC players among the top three college players picked.

So, thoughts?

College football hypocrisy

I have said it more times than maybe any sports take I have offered in the 13-plus years I've operated in this space.

Nick Saban is the best to ever blow a whistle in college football.

Then. Now. Always.

But Saban's laments before Congress about how players getting paid have destroyed everything he believed and loved about college football in his 50 years in the business is poppycock.

Moreover, it's so hypocritical it made Mark Emmert cringe.

Look, I believe Nick left the confines of Tuscaloosa because of NIL and the portal, but not solely on their impact on the culture and the game.

First, it severely damaged his two greatest assets, which were convincing five-stars to a) wait their turn and b) that if they came to Alabama and worked hard enough to become a starter, they would be millionaires in three years.

NIL makes five stars demand being millionaires now.

Yes, that change makes all of us who grew up with fight songs and Keith Jackson's "Whoa Nelly" and Bear's hat and Bo over the top and Munson being Munson and all the pageantry of the past in a game that is more cultural passion than say the NFL, which is a pop culture phenomenon.

Those concerns are valid, and I believe Saban should be involved in whatever the limits, ceilings and guardrails are potentially and legally available to help maintain some semblance of fairness.

But, Nick, if you were so worried about the corruption and the influence that money brought — and you were so committed to Miss Terry's emotional pleas — then why didn't you stay in Toledo where you got your first head coaching job?

Those kids wanted to be molded and taught and guided and led.

Moreover, you earned roughly $1 million a month when you retired from Alabama. Yes, $1,000,000 a month. That's $33,333.33 a day. And you were worth every single penny.

But it's hard for a lot of us who barely make what you made on a random Monday-Tuesday in March to listen when you start blaming the desire for money and the power of almighty dollar for ruining the game that gave you a nine-figure net worth.

Sure, you're the GOAT and again, you were worth every penny, but the dudes doing the heavy lifting under your masterful instruction deserve to be washed in the cash waterfall, too.

The system is flawed, but that's because your buddy Emmert and the rest of the leadership a decade ago when the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit was filed put their heads under their pillows, their fingers in their ears and all quoted Jenny from "Forrest Gump" and said, "Dear God make me a bird so I can fly far, far away."

Saban was and forever will be the GOAT.

But his Scrooge-like diatribe before Congress was short on solutions and way too much bah-humbug.

Speaking of greed

Yikes, the emerging details of the playoff expansion make it worse than I even feared.

I have forever said that expansion will never, ever be about fairness or inclusion. It will only be a money grab that will detract and devalue the greatest regular season in sports.

If the 12-team format was in place last year, here are some of the other great Saturday showdowns in the fall that theoretically had no stakes because both teams are dancing:

Alabama-Georgia in the SEC title game; Alabama-LSU; Alabama-Texas; Washington-Oregon (both times); FSU-LSU; LSU-Missouri; Georgia-Missouri; Ole Miss-LSU; Ole Miss-Alabama; Michigan-THE Ohio State; Michigan-Penn State; THE Ohio State-Penn State.

And that's just off the top of my head and does not even enter into the fray that the ACC would have greatly benefited in a 12-team playoff with FSU laying down so Louisville could have won the ACC title and get two teams in the draw.

But the 12-team field will have the shelf life of warm mayonnaise if the power players in the SEC and the Big Ten have their way.

They want 12 to become 14 with the top-two seeds and a bye going to the Big Ten and the SEC title game winners.

Yes, you read that correctly, so, let's say last year, Iowa played the game of its life — and last year, Iowa getting back-to-back first downs could have been considered that very thing — and beat Michigan in Indy.

So a 10-3 Iowa would be the 1 seed. Perfect.

That's not fairness or inclusion. That's the biggest dogs at the poker table looking to protect the broadcast value of their league title games.

Heck, the SEC and the Big Ten are even tossing out ideas of possibly getting four guaranteed bids in each conference and the rest of the map splitting the other four. Heck, we're so far into this, the counter offer is a 3-3-2-2-1 model (with the group of five added on, provided the Pac-12 can survive).

The SEC and the Big Ten are also looking to split 58% of the CFP TV revenues with the rest of college football dividing up the rest.

Heck, at least in the NCAA basketball tournament — which has almost completely gutted the entire regular season and most of the power conference tournaments — the division of the billions from March Madness is divided based on participation and production as teams get more for them and their conference with each W.

College football's future is reverting back to the core of football. Bigger is better. Power pushes everyone else over.

And who can stop the Big Ten and the SEC from taking a lion's share of everyone else's milk money. Because as the concepts are ever-changing, if the Big Ten and the SEC don't get their way, who's to say they won't take their oblong ball and form an NFL triple-A league.

Yeah, expansion's a huge step to fairness and inclusion, right?

(And yeah, Nick, it's the players' greed that's changing the college football we all know and love, right?)

This and that

— Major league visor tip to David Paschall and Wells Guthrie as Press Row aired its last show Tuesday. They were gracious enough to have this ol' gasbag on for a segment, and it was a fun reminder of what it once was. They will be missed for a multitude of reasons. Here's hoping some station has some interest in local talent as well as picking up the ESPN national shows.

— Speaking of Paschall, you know the rules. Here's his first look at UGA's spring football practice.

— After Saban's hollow speech to Congress, there's a "50-50" chance Congress will pass legislation about the governance of college football, according to Ted Cruz. Yikes, as bad as college football is spiraling, the only thing I can possibly think that could make it worse is Ted Cruz and Congress getting involved. Holy bleep.

— Speaking of bad news, so Tweedle Don and Tweedle Dumble secure the GOP and the Democratic nominations in the slew of Tuesday primaries. I have said it before, and I am sure I will type it again, but how a 77-year-old Donald Trump facing indictments and an 81-year-old Joe Biden who has clear memory issues are the two best choices to lead this nation is heartbreaking.

Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way:

Which phrase describes Saban's speechifying best: "Spot-on, Coach" or "Hypocritical blowhard" gang?

Which NFL free agent signing was the best?

Which team are you betting on to win the SEC hoops tourney?

Side question without a which: Did Saban's diatribe change your excited level of his presence on GameDay on in whatever ESPN role he may play? Because dang that was full-blown bellyaching and Stadler and Waldorf-level complaining for what is supposed to be TV's version of a tailgate.

As for today, March 13, let's review.

"The Searchers" premiered on this day in 1956. Side note: That's Spy's favorite movie.

On this day in 2022, Tom Brady un-retired.

Rushmore of best athletic careers after coming back from retirement.


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