Tennessee football in a word
Which way Wednesday starts this way:
Which word best describes the Tennessee football situation? I thought of this during the onslaught of flummoxed, frustrated and flat-out ticked-off Johnny Vols Fans who pulled up a chair and rang up the hotline on Tuesday's Press Row.
Show producer and UT fan Wells Guthrie used "tired." Regular caller Robert used "predictable." There was "embarrassing" and someone dropped "disgusting."
I can see all of those after the 38-30 loss to Georgia State.
Here's another one:
Not just for Jeremy Pruitt, who moved to No. 1 spot on the CoachesHotSeat.com.
How painful and expensive is this going to be for the city of Knoxville, which budgets every year on making tens of millions on every home football Saturday?
How about the program as a whole, which needs the ticket revenue to help fund those projects for facilities and recruiting as well as the others sports in K-town?
How about for the admissions? As we detailed last week in the mailbag, the impact of Saban's success on the University of Alabama as a whole is staggering and undeniable. That must mean the reverse can be true as well, no? A team that once had a proud football program stagnating and stumbling could hurt admissions as a whole, no?
That was a costly loss — for way more folks than just the coaches, friends.
Coaches — and NCAA — celebrating
There's going to be some day drinking going on in Auburn, Ala. And Baton Rouge. And Tucson, Arizona. And, well, just about everywhere with a major college basketball program and a coach who may or may not take some liberties with the rules of the NCAA.
According to Dan Wetzel, who has been covering the FBI investigation into college hoops better than anyone else — feel like there may be a Wetzel book in the works on this one — a federal judge ruled Tuesday night to deny the NCAA access to the FBI evidence in the corruption trials across college basketball.
So lift your glass, Bruce Pearl. And Will Wade, Sean Miller, Bill Self and every locale that had an FBI satellite office set up between the vape store and the tanning salon in the strip mall off the highway.
In fact you start listing the folks breathing easier, and you must include the NCAA, too. In no way does the NCAA want actual proof that every program with a deal with Nike, Adidas or UnderArmour is cheating their sneakers off.
Absolutely no way.
Because proof would lead to actions by the NCAA, which long ago quit investigating and now is only reactionary in the most benign ways against the ATM programs because the tail is wagging the dog and we all know it.
Let's review the facts. Everyone cheats. Everyone. Yes, Dickie V, Duke and Coach K do, too. Because if UK or U of L or UCLA or anyone this side of the University of Phoenix offered Zion Williamson $50K to play hoops, do you think Zion picked Duke for that super-high-quality one semester education he got? Right.
OK, that's the baseline. Everyone cheats, and more importantly everyone knows everyone cheats. And as crazy as it sounds, the fact that everyone cheats — and in turn the star players who are not getting an education and are generating billions for the sport and tens of millions for the star-studded coaches — may be the most redeemable thing about college basketball ethically. At least that way, the stars like Zion Barrett or Coby White or Tyler Herro or whomever get paid. Paid slave wages by comparison — If Zion got, say $100K last year for one season, what did he generate for Duke, Coach K, the sport, the NCAA, ESPN and CBS, et al., $250 million? — but wages nonetheless.
So with that baseline, the NCAA knows two things first and foremost and everything it does is traced back to these two simple, fundamental and undeniable truths:
— The NCAA men's basketball tournament is the golden goose for all of college sports. The NCAA does not exist without it, and all the championships and postseason tournaments are funded by it through the NCAA office. (Yes, football pays the bills at the programs, but March Madness writes the checks for everything done on a national scale.)
— Any punishment — be it football or hoops — to a true revenue-generating program that could a) cause a true blue blood not to be in the NCAA tournament or b) cause a Power 5 conference to start exploring whether the big boys should take their balls and go somewhere else must be weighed with extreme caution and be completely justified.
Because, in scenario a) you cannot have March Madness without the Dukes, UKs, UNCs and Kansases. This is not debatable, because as much as we all love our brackets and our upset picks, you never have a David-over-Goliath story without David. And no one gives two rips about David beating David. That's the A-Sun tournament, for Pete Newell's sake.
And scenario b) is obvious. If the Power 5 pulls out, then the rest of college sports as we know starts the death spiral. How will the Group of 5 survive? How would the Southern Conference survive? Because if the Power 5 formed its own championship level organization, how much would CBS be willing to pay the next time the NCAA tournament deal — with consistent No. 1 seeds Gonzaga and Villanova dominating selection Sunday — runs out? Nickels on the dollar by comparison. It would be the NIT within five years.
(Can you guess how many non-Power 5 programs were a top-5 seed last March? Three. Gonzaga was a 1, Houston was a 3 and Marquette was a 5.)
So as Pearl and Wade and Self and the coaching crews across the land are lifting a champagne glass at 7:30 a.m., Mark Emmert and his boys in Indy are just as giddy.
Because without access to the evidence the FBI unearthed that confirmed arguably the worst-kept secret in modern sports, the NCAA can go right along putting its head in the sand and listening to Dickie V talk about how great and noble and pure everything is come March.
NFL power poll
Gang, I will continue our NFL power poll this year. It will still go on Tuesdays. (In truth, I forgot yesterday. Hey, whatever.)
Side note: We will have our NFL preseason picks for the awards and team finishes in Thursday's 5-at-10. Deal? Deal.
Also, side Press Row note: We are going to try to have a fantasy football expert on most Thursdays in the 3 o'clock hour this season. Part of that will be a rapid fire at the end, and if you want to submit a very specific roster question about your team, add it to the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will ask him. If we get more than we have time for, it will be on a first-come, first-serve basis. Deal? Deal.)
Quickly, let's do our NFL power poll, and as always, this is based on the here and now.
1. New England. Duh, and yes, I have them one even if the Chiefs have passed them as the betting favorite to win the whole shebang.
2. Kansas City. Love the conversation about whether Patty Mahomes can top his 50-TD, 5,000-yard season. Well, here's a thought that without Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs may actually need him to throw it more. Speaking of fantasy, here's betting that sooner rather than later a) Sammy Watkins, the Chiefs' No. 2 WR and number 3 option in the passing game, will be a hot fantasy prospect, and b) in deeper leagues Mecole Hardman, the former Georgia speedster the Chiefs drafted in April because they thought Tyreek Hill was going to be suspended, will become a valuable asset.
3. Philadelphia. The roster construction may be the best in the NFL.
4. Los Angeles Rams. Let's see what you got for all that coin, Jared Goff.
5. Cleveland. Yes, I've bought the hype and am on the bandwagon. (Not a believer of the Bears, however.)
28. Buffalo. Yes, the Bills have added some intriguing pieces and the roster construction is solid. But Josh Allen is still prominently involved as the quarterback, so yeah, that's a no-go.
29. Arizona. Hey, I hope the marriage of Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray works. Seems like it could be a ton of fun. Know who else has a keen eye pointed on the desert and the Cardinals? One Lincoln Riley, because if Kingsbury flourishes, there will be no shortage of private jets landing in Norman, Oklahoma, trying to give Riley a bag of cash to coach on Sundays.
30. Cincinnati. Did you know that Andy Dalton is a) still in the league, b) still a starting QB and c) is in the top 60 all-time in passing yards — ahead of guys like Bradshaw, Stabler and Namath — and with a relatively normal 2019 will move into the top 45 all-time — ahead of guys like Len Dawson, Randall Cunningham and Steve McNair?
31. Washington. Tough division, tough scenario for any quarterback — be it a 10-year vet or a rookie — with that offensive line and your best weapon in the passing game being Jordan Reed, who is perpetually questionable to return. The defensive front is aces. The rest of the roster is garbage. Here's betting that Jay Gruden is the first coach sent packing.
32. Miami. Wow, this is arguably the most obvious tanking job in professional sports history. They dealt their leading tackler (Kiko Alonso) for some dude with 20 career tackles and their best player — and one of the better left tackles in the league — for draft picks. Man, with the Marlins, the Dolphins, the Heat rebuilding and the Hurricanes 0-1, tough time for the sports folks on South Beach.
This and that
— Braves played. Braves won. Two quick things: a) When Josh Donaldson is crushing like he is now, well, that line-up is hard to handle, especially 1-through-4; b) How nasty was Mike Folytnewicz, who went five innings, allowed two hits and no runs on just 76 pitches? If Folty strings a few of those together because he has electric stuff, well, the fight between he and Teheran for the fourth spot in the playoff rotation will be interesting.
— Ezekiel Elliott agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys. He signed an six-year extension to the current two years left on his deal. Quick reaction: Hard to not think Elliott, who got a RB-record $50 million guaranteed, won in the short term and Dallas won in the long term. The difference being that the money does not matter to Jerry Jones, so whatever. A measley $50 million guaranteed is found between the cushions of Jones' office couch. But being able to spread that number out over the next eight years could very well make this a four-year deal at $12.5 million per, and then the Cowboys release Elliott when the miles start showing.
— Speaking of the Cowboys, talk will turn to Dak Prescott, and I still do not believe Dallas should give him monster dollars. Truly. But I think that the Rams just erred on giving Jared Goff a monster extension, too. I understand it, but it will not be long that the money-ball baseball theory that is based in buying wins will overcome the urges and needs of front office folks who buy job security and mediocrity by extending quarterbacks who are merely starters because there are no better options on the roster, as opposed to truly franchise quarterbacks.
— Buckets, what an all-time collapse last night for the Mets, who scored five in the top of the ninth to take a 10-5 lead only watch the Nationals score sixth in the bottom of the ninth — capped by Kurt Suzuki's three-run walk-off homer — to win 11-10.
— How predictable was the first week of college football season for ranked teams? Well, the AP top 25 went 24-1 (that counts Florida in Week Zero and that one loss was Oregon, which lost to ranked Auburn), and according to ESPN stats and information, it's the most wins in a week since 1989 when the poll was expanded to 25 teams.
— "Hard Knocks" ended last night. I was disappointed in this season, especially since there was very, very little on Richie Incognito, Vontaze Burfict and others and not a whole lot on Josh Jacobs, either.
— As bad as it may feel right now in the 865 for Jeremy Pruitt and Co., man, oh man, Willie Taggart's critics have to be circling the wagons and pinching those buyout pennies. This story is quite damning. https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/florida-state-center-addresses-conditioning-issues-after-willie-taggart-cites-dehydration-for-boise-state-loss/ It includes this quote — "Conditioning wasn't our strong suit," offensive lineman Baveon Johnson said, "That is what we plan to work on and plan to improve this week ... I feel like it was just conditioning overall. That is what we need to get better at." — and clearly paints a picture that FSU was not ready for the heat and the Boise State Broncos were in better shape. Ouch-standing.
— Maybe we all should try to handle adversity like the Louisville cheerleader who got a broken nose from an errant Ian Book throw Monday night and has become a Twitter sensation for her grace and sense of humor about it.
Which way Wednesday will continue.
Which word would you use to describe UT's season-opening loss to Georgia State?
Which way does it go for Roger Federer after losing in five sets to some dude ranked out of the top 75? Will he win another major?
Which college coach celebrated the most when news broke that the FBI was going to keep its evidence sealed?
On this day in 1682, Edmond Halley observed a comet and named it for himself. So there's that. Halley's Comet is the Babe Ruth of comets, right?
Paul Harvey would have been 101 today. He could tell the rest of the story better than anyone ever.
Tom Watson is 70 today. Beyonce is 38.
Rushmore of all-time NCAA cheaters. Go.