FILE - Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn argues a call during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama in Auburn, Ala., in this Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, file photo. Central Florida hired Gus Malzahn as its football coach Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, a little more than two months after he was fired by Auburn.(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt, File)

If you can't beat 'em

OK, in the strangeness of the pandemic — a time that finds us in a perpetual state of uncertainty, unfamiliarity and unknown — that has proven logical thoughts to be so far off base they have become unrecognizable, maybe we should just expected the unexpected. In every way.

Case in point, with UCF hiring Gus Malzahn the FBS head football coach hiring circle is complete.

First crazy part of this: This coaching carousel — in a money-crunching time without a 2020 March Madness and limited football attendance — was much, Much, MUCH bigger than I ever expected. I can remember saying and writing multiple times that very few coaches would get canned because of the budgetary concerns and demands during COVID.Well, the coaching carousel and Alabama being the best were arguably the most familiar aspects of college football 2020.

There were multiple firings and hirings, from some of the biggest names in both the Power Five and the Group of Five for that matter.

And, maybe the craziest part of all of this is the biggest winner in all of this was the school that faded on the field down the stretch, lost its coach and AD in the hiring process, and emerged standing in the sunshine with smiles all around.

UCF faded to 6-4 last year and lost two of its last three games. Former head coach Josh Heupel and AD Danny White moved north to Knoxville.

So the Knights brought in AD Terry Mohajir — who was at Arkansas State and helped build that program to respectability — who brought in Gus Malzahn, who has to be grinning ear-to-ear.Malzahn gets a better QB at UCF, almost-no-expectations by comparison to what he dealt with at Auburn, and two very clear outcomes.

Either Malzahn takes athletic QB Dillon Gabriel and wins right away and becomes a buzz-worthy name when the next round of big-boy jobs open-up next year. Or, and this one feels more likely, Malzahn relishes the relaxed Group of Five experience, and redrafts this program in his way and brings in his guys — dude has been good at staff building through the years at every position but OC and OL.

Then in five years (or sooner) when the college football playoff expands, UCF could be in a better position to win a natty than Auburn. Or Tennessee for that matter.



Tennis and talking sports

I watched a little Aussie Open this morning. Yes, shocked me too, but amazingly a few things caught my eye.

First, Rafael Nadal lost in five sets to some fella named SissyPants. (Yes, his name is Stefanos Tsitispas, but it sounds so much like SissyPants, that if they spoke English at his grade school, well, dude got the BID-ness on the playground with a name like that.) Nadal had won the first two sets and had won 222 of the 223 times he took a 2-0 lead at a major championship.

It was referenced multiple times that this was the final match at the first major of the year that was going to be played without fans. Crowds will return for the semifinal sessions Down Under, and I will return to see the familiar sounds and sites of a full venue at a big event. (Well, if I wake up in time and if I have a little side action on the matter. War Action 247.

Side note: The conversations we have had about golf and the lack of fans aiding talented players who have never been able to win a major event apply to tennis too. Tsitispas vs. Nadal in a full house with the place going nuts is an edge to Nadal who has a monstrous experience edge in that scenario.

It also reminded me that when we discuss excellent broadcasters who were all-time great players, we frequently forget John McEnroe, who is, dare I say, aces.  

It also leads me to a couple of other broadcast booth briefs.

First, here's the inevitable news that Phil Mickelson is exploring options to become a broadcaster. He will be aces for sure. If we drafted current athletes, Mickelson may be the Trevor Lawrence of current sports stars. I think he'll be much better than the other names being bounced around like Brees, tight end Greg Olsen and others. I think Philip Rivers will be excellent. I also think that if he wants to do it, Freddie Freeman has a chance to go the Smoltz route of Hall of Fame career on the field, major analyst on the national games in the booth.

Then, there's Joe Buck telling Colin Cowherd that as a 'mental trigger to just chill' Buck and Troy Aikman used to kick back the occasional tequila cocktail in the broadcast booth. I have to admit that Buck's makes both of the exceedingly more likable for some reason to me. Thoughts?


Speaking of a hard-hitting volley

OK, we have covered the conversations about increasing the minimum wage around these parts in recent weeks as the Democrat-controlled Congress and White House have made this a priority in their upcoming budget.

I think we as a group — which is an intriguing mix of checks in several different boxes on the scale of political descriptions — have agreed on a) the minimum wage needs to be boosted, and b) $15 feels arbitrary and too high considering the ramifications on unemployment and other aspects.
Well, here's a counter-proposal from Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton that proposes a gradual increase in the minimum wage while also adds teeth to the laws against undocumented workers.

"Congress hasn't raised the minimum wage in more than a decade, leaving many Americans behind," Romney told the AP on Tuesday. "I'm introducing a bill with @SenTomCotton that would increase the minimum wage while ensuring businesses cannot hire illegal immigrants."

The details have not been released — and the devils are certainly in those details — but this feels quite interesting.

And potentially promising. On a lot of fronts.      


This and that

— Speaking of golf, here's the story Chas referenced last week about how the kindness of a stranger got Kamaiu Johnson into the game of golf as an eighth-grader and how it led him to a PGA Tour career. It's an awesome story, and it's another example of how sports saves the lives of so many young people in our country. It also gives Malcolm Gladwell's 'Outlier' theory that, in very broad strokes, asserts anyone can achieve greatness in any field if they commit 10,000 hours to study, practice, refinement, etc., of that craft.

— On Get Up this morning, they spent a segment talking about LeBron James listening to football offers heading into the 2011 NBA lockout. James was 26 at the time. I have said for almost a decade that if LeBron had picked football over hoops — a mistake considering there is no path to billions in the NFL unless you are an all-time QB or an owner — he would have been an All-Pro. In fact, that's not the question. The question is which position would James be best for his skills.

— Certainly it's not a shocker, but the realization of the impact of the financial disasters of 2020 will make this headline the norm for most local organizations that are not food deliveries and/grocery stores: "Chattanooga airport suffers worst year since 1983." Here's more from TFP BID-ness ace Mike Pare, who likely should be in the 'You know the rules' stratosphere of TFP aces. Paschall is a bona fide college football expert; Weeds is a college basketball wizard; Hargis is the prep sports guru. Well, Mike Pare is a pro's pro, people.

— Speaking of TFP aces — and already established rules — here's Mark Wiedmer on college hoops, pondering whether the SoCon should reward the regular-season or conference champ with the league's automatic NCAA birth.

— Not sure how we missed it, but Monday was the 25th anniversary of Happy Gilmore. It's a distant second on the Rushmore of golf movies, which starts with far-left Caddyshack and includes Dead Solid Perfect as a comfortable third. From there, and maybe Tin Cup or one of the cheesy dramas about The Legend of Baggy Pants or The Greatest Game Ever and Ever that are forever interchangeable. Not the deepest pool for specific types of sports movies, especially compared to baseball and boxing.


Today's questions

Which way Wednesday starts this way:

> Which local business genre was most negatively impacted from the pandemic?

> Which should get the SoCon ticket to dance, the regular-season winner or the tournament champ?

> OK, let's assume that other national broadcasters look for the "mental trigger to just chill" from a cocktail, let's mix (see what I did there Spy) and match the big names with their drink of choice: Nantz? (I think he is a pricey white wine guy to be honest.) Vitale? Bill Walton (Although here's betting dude is way more likely to get trigger from a pharmaceutical.) Romo? Barkley? (In fact, of all the guys around, it's kind of a stunner that Buck and Aikman have admitted to this before Barkley, because if there was one national dude to pick that had a CoCola on the job, Chuck and the TNT crew would be a minus-300 favorite.) Others?

> If you were an NFL coach and had LeBron — at 26 he was 6-9, 250 and ran a 4.5ish 40 — which position is he playing?

> Which offseason college hire was the best, and which one after Malzahn was the second best?

As for today, Feb. 17,  let's review. Happy birthday MJ, who turns 58 today.

Rushmore of MJs — people, things with MJ initials — and be creative. Go.