5-at-10: Caitlin Clark, Poppie moves on, Lady Vols are mediocre, Shohei’s scandal, NFL rule change

Iowa guard Caitlin Clark reacts during a second-round college basketball game against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa guard Caitlin Clark reacts during a second-round college basketball game against West Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, Monday, March 25, 2024, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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Hoops hoopla

Lots happening in the world of women's college hoops Monday.

Caitlin Clark and Iowa survived and advanced. The foul disparity was eye-popping. Iowa shot 30 free throws; West Virginia shot 5. Heck Clark, who was all over social media with a "Shut the (Bleep) up" scream after a bucket and a foul, was 11-of-12 from the line and the entire Mountaineers roster was 3-of-5.

Locally, there was the news of former UTC coach Shawn Poppie's decision to head to Clemson to lead their women's hoops program. Here's more from Gene Henley, and in truth, it's hard to blame him considering the considerable pay raise that would come from going from SoCon to ACC.

It's also completely fair to expect that UTC AD Mark Wharton will make a quality hire if history is any guide.

Here are a few names Gene tossed out as possible replacements for Poppie.

Then there also was the final score from NC State as Wes Moore's team ended UT's season. Which becomes an interesting talking point for me.

UT Lady Vols basketball is in free fall.

Holly Warlick was given the reigns when legend Pat Summitt walked away because of her health diagnosis.

At that time Summitt's Lady Vols were right there with UConn as the standard across the entire sports and was arguably the biggest brand in the game.

Heck, 20-some years ago, I can remember Pat Summitt being rumored as the leading candidate to coach the men Vols during one of their transitions.

Now, UT is a has been.

Did you know UT has not won any type of SEC bling since winning the regular season title in 2015. Worse still, wanna guess when the last time the Lady Vols were in the Final Four?

Try 2008. This will be the 16th straight year without UT in the semifinals. In the 16 years from 1992-2008, UT made 11 Final Fours.

And we referenced Holly Warlick earlier, and she started the free fall, but Kellie Harper just ended her fifth season, and one has to wonder how much longer she will remain at her alma mater.

One can also wonder what would have happened if Moore, who was at UTC and winning in big ways before heading to NC State and lifting that program to national prominence, had been hired — he was rumored at the time Summitt stepped down to be on the shortlist — in Knoxville.

Interesting possibilities.

What is currently not interesting though is UT Lady Vols hoops, and I firmly believe the sport is better when UT is the UT Summitt built.

Shohei the money

So Shohei Ohtani held a news conference and emphatically denied any role in the gambling scandal that he alleges involved his former interpreter stealing more than $4 million to cover lost bets.

Not sure if you saw the news conference or not, but a) was disappointed in the lack of truly pressing questions and b) no one has offered any explanation how an employee had access to Shohei's bank accounts to the tune of $4 million.

There are way too many inconsistencies in this story for me to believe Shohei was not involved in all.

Not sure why anyone with a potential to earn a billion bucks in salary would risk that, but, yeah, gambling can be a powerful allure.

And for the folks saying how could anyone bet $1 million on a sporting event, well, it's the reason Jordan or Mickelson gambled so much on sports.

It's not necessarily the winning that matters, it's the juice. Yes, winning is fun, but the thrill of having money on a game comes with the risk.

And if you're MJ or Mickelson and you're worth half a billion a $20 parlay that pays $250 is hardly going to get your attention.

The stories of Mickelson's practice round betting were legendary at Augusta.

(Side question: Did anyone read the book by Billy Walters, the famed gambler who went to jail for insider trading that Mickelson had a role in? If so was it any good? Discuss.)

At the Masters, there were tens of thousands wagered and with presses, that could have been just on one hole for Mickelson's crew.

But, like renowned poet laureate Vanilla Ice told us in the 90s, "Magnetized by the mic when I kick my juice" and gambling is about the juice.

And Shohei's drama still has a lot of juice — and truth — to be squeezed in my mind.

Hip to be square

So the NFL made a rule change Monday in an attempt to make an unsafe game safer.

It's a noble concept, and again like Vanilla Ice suggested, "If there's a problem, yo, I'll solve it."

But safety can never be solved in tackle football.

It's bigger and faster and stronger humans than most could ever envision sprinting face-first into violent collisions on over play.

That will never be safe.

But the NFL has now banned the hip-drop tackle, which is exactly what it sounds like.

Hey, I was uneasy about the targeting rule changes back in the day, but the players and coaches adjusted and the culture has truly changed. That's a good thing for everyone.

Could say the same thing about the horse collar too.

But the hip-drop tackle — defenders wrapping both arms around a ball carrier and dropping their hips onto the ball carrier's legs — is a different animal.

And the prospects of adding a controversial interpretative rule to a game that already has trouble truly distinguishing what a catch is — and nevermind the fact we still use three old dudes with sticks and chains to measure the progress in a game based in the acquisition of yardage — seems downright implausible to me.

Anyone wanna wager that at some point next playoffs, there is a controversial game-changing "hip-drop tackle call" coming?

(Side note: I am genuinely curious as to what the official's gesture and charade-like antics will be used for the "illegal hip-drop tackle call" this season. Will it be like this guy from the criminally underrated "Unnecessary Roughness" with the criminally underrated Scott Bakula and the perfectly rated Kathy Ireland?)


This and that

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the Vols transfer O-Lineman who is a big dude.

— My bracket is humming. I have 14 of the Sweet 16. (My entire family picked Auburn to at least get to the Final Four and two of them had AU winning the whole thing. I figured that was more than enough overlap, so I had AU losing to San Diego State.) My two misses — New Mexico and Kentucky. Thanks Chas. (Kidding. Mostly.)

— Deion Sanders says his son Shadeur and his star Travis Hunter will dictate which teams they want to play for in the 2025 Draft. Prime Time said it will be an "Eli situation" in reference to Eli Manning and his crew saying they were not going to play for the Chargers back in the day when Eli was the No. 1 overall pick. I get it. Thought that was interesting, and Deion should not get more or less heat than Archie and Eli did back in the day. Also, this is a fair time to remind everyone that the two people who have blocked me on Twitter are Deion Sanders and David Carroll. Coincidence I guess.

— Man the images of the Baltimore Key Bridge collapsing are stunning. Prayers up for those folks. Imagine just driving along and BOOM.

Today's questions

True or false, it's Tuesday. Morning Ernie.

True or false, Alabama football is going to face a monstrous step back the way UT Lady Vols hoops did after losing an all-time legendary head coach.

True or false, you have watched at least part of the women's tournament.

True or false, you believe Shohei Ohtani was not involved in this gambling mess.

True or false, your bracket is busted.

True or false — and I stole this from one of the regulars, but it's a good one — John Calipari has coached his last game for UK.

Wow, so much to get to above, but as for today, March 26, let's review.

Tennessee Williams would have been 113 today.

Does he make the Rushmore of famous folks with the same first name as a state?


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