Tuesday, July 31, 2007

After Much Debate, An Alliance Is Formed

Kicking and screaming, I agreed.

Never before have I partnered with a Wisconsin Badger.

Well, there was that glorious evening during Halloween madness in Madison when a perky brunnette opened up her dorm room and her [CENSORED] for me during a drunken bout of love-making. I digress.

With this post, I begin my second consensual relationship with a Badger fan. Blasphemy you say? It gets worse. Other scoundrels are in the mix as well: Hawekeyes, Buckeyes, Nittany Lions, etc., etc.

I'm talking about, of course, the blogger consortium known as Big Ten Bloggers. For a period of months, fellow Big Ten bloggers and I sat in a room that resembled The War Room from Dr. Strangelove. Motions were made. Votes were taken.

In the end--after my attempt failed by the smallest of margins to introduce a PJS-authored Wonderlic-like test aimed to exclude the wretched Badgers--the Big Ten bloggers alliance was created. About this time I threatened to leave. Someone referenced the location of the door. I sat back down.

So it is then that I join bloggers like Black Show Diaries, Around the Oval, MGO blog, For The Glory Of Oldstate, Hawkeye State, our allies at Gopher Nation and our arch nemesis, among others to form a new entity.

What will we bring you? Virtual roundtables to start with. But meetings are being held at all hours of the night to come up with other collaborative ventures. The ideas are flowing.

So today, after that 100 percent accurate, long-winded intro, I bring you the first installment of the Big Ten bloggers roundtables. After I lost a third vote to exclude all things Badger, an alliance formed against me to allow Badgers Sports Fan to author the first roundtable. What follows are the questions posed to each blogger and my responses to them. At some point, the responses will be compiled and organzied neatly on one of our blogs.

Drum roll please.

1a. The press and the coaches will be predicting the Big Ten champ at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Wednesday. That's fine, but overdone. In lieu of boilerplate predictions of who will come out on top, which Big Ten team will be the most surprising? Remember, surprises can be good or bad; the underdog who comes out of nowhere to share the title is just as surprising as the favorite who winds up with five losses and no bowl bid.

I see two surprises. As much as it pains me to say it, I see the Wisconsin Badgers hoisting a championship at season's end. While that might not be a huge surprise, I also see Ohio State struggling to hold down the third spot in the conference behind Michigan. I also think it will be a surprise to people if Tim Brewster proves he can coach. There's a whole bunch off negativity flowing about his coaching track record--you know, that he's always coached tight ends. Glen Mason brought the Gophers a running game and mediocrity. Brewster has brought passion. I think it will surprise folks when he finishes .500 in his first season.

1b. Imagine it's December, and the consensus in the media is that your team's season was "surprising." Is this a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? What would have to happen for you to consider your team's season surprising?

It's a good thing. The 'experts' are primarily predicting a fall from mediocrity to an 11th place finish. One upset victory and a perfect non conference record could turn the heads of some naysayers.

2. A preseason player of the year will also be dubbed in Chicago. For your team to succeed, which player or unit is going to have to put forth a "player of the year" performance? What's the one position that would take your team to the next level if it performs above expectations?

Tim Brewster's version of maroon and gold will feature the spread offense. It's fair to argue that to run said offense successfully, a stable of capable receivers is a must. If the Gophers have one outstanding weakness, it's at the wideout position. Ernie Wheelright has the opportunity to step up and play a leading role. And he has the talent to do so. But he'll need someone like sophomore Eric Decker to play a large role as well. The running game should be solid with Amir Pinnix. And there is an opening at quarterback with the departure of Bryan Cupito. But for any of the potential starting quarterbacks to have success, they'll need competence from the wide receiving corps.

3. Which Big Ten team's out-of-conference schedule would you most want to have this year? Why? Do you think your team will have out-of-conference losses this year?

Um, I'd take anybody's nonconference schedule. When your team faces North Dakota State, Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio) just about any schedule looks good. And out-of-conference losses? If Brewster loses any of these games, his honeymoon period will end quickly.

4. Here's a chance to look like a complete genius in a few months: pick the biggest in-conference upset that will happen this season. Justify your prediction!

Minnesota v. Wisconsin the last week of the year. A rabid Metrodome crowd. A Minnesota win. Something tells me this has happened before with a Rose Bowl bid on the line. Justification? Who needs it when fate is on your side?

5. Say something nice about the Big Ten school whose name precedes yours alphabetically. Say something mean about the one that comes after.

The Indiana Hoosiers no longer have a madman roaming the sidelines for the basketball program.

Michigan: Chris Webber is still a moron.

And, yes, I realize I didn't answer this question correctly. But I wanted to take a cheap shot at Chris Webber. I'm pleased Bobby Knight is gone and Northwestern, well, I like the 'Cats. We typically try to schedule you for our homecoming games, and you provide us a random road win during the hoops season. I'm glad the 'Cats are in the conference. And Michigan State? The sports anchor from one of your television stations, Hondo Carpenter, is trying to arrange some sort of joint venture with me after I bashed a previous post of his. I'm a little scared of Hondo. But I won't kiss any Spartan ass.

6. USC: great football program, or greatest football program? Also, how about that SEC? Damn, those guys are fast!

USC will be a perennial BCS contender until Pete Carroll moves on. I would have been incredibly excited if the Minnesota Vikings had hired him, our former coordinator, when we brought in Brad Childress. Carroll has the name cachet, a tradition-rich program and enough recent success to sustain as long as he wants, so long as he doesn't cheat.

And the SEC, I'll just say I'm glad I'm not an Ohio State fan, having to suffer two embarrassing losses to the SEC's best in consecutive national title games.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Big Ten Expansion: Dollars vs. Sense

Why expand the Big Ten from 11 teams to 12? Simple: Money. The Big Ten Network--which has yet to launch and is a topic of concern on many message boards--was the first cash cow brought to us by Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

And if cash is the one and only consideration in expansion, it's somewhat unfortunate, because it would rule out a couple schools that make sense. To me, that would rule out a team like Iowa State. While the geography works, a second Iowa team wouldn't be the cash-cow Delany is likely after. The lack of riches has also been an argument against Nebraska.

There are numerous possibilities that would make sense. Notre Dame is always bandied about as a potential 12th team. Unfortunately they've never seemed inclined to come aboard. Any self-respecting college football fan knows how much $$ Notre Dame would add to conference coffers. And, quite clearly, a Notre Dame addition would add value to the Big Ten Network.

But for puropses of speculation, I'll run through a handful of programs that might make sense because of either financial riches or athletic prowess.

** Pittsburgh Panthers: The basketball program would be a nice fit in the Big Ten. A Pittsburgh addition would also give Penn State an in-state rival in the conference. This advances the conference east and into a mid-size market in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, like Minneapolis, is more of a professional market and is more urban than your typical Big 10 school. Pittsburgh, however, is a top 30 media market nationwide--behind Minneapolis according to Nielsen. In my opinion, the school makes sense financially and in terms of bringing a competitive program to the conference.

** Nebraska Cornhuskers: In mgoblog's very thorough look at contenders, the blogger argues that becuase Nebraska only brings cachet in football, that they'd be a mistake as a 12th team. I disagree. Penn State came to the conference as a football stalwart and a basketball afterthought. Nebraska would do much the same, and help advance the network, er, conference west. It's been pointed out elsewhere that adding Nebraska doesn't do much in terms of adding a team that would bring in new, big markets for the BTN. I can't disagree with that, but the excellent football tradition would be a nice addition.

** Syracuse Orange: It's in a state contiguous with the eastern part of the conference. And adding Syracuse would open up the New York markets and give Penn State an eastern rival. That all sounds great. But let's remember, Syracuse isn't a New York city school, it's located in the northwestern New York hinterland, much closer to dreary Buffalo than the big city. Again, according to Nielsen, Syracuse is a mid-70s market nationwide.

** North Dakota State: I'm not serious.

** Missouri Tigers: Both its football and basketball programs have been, well, a lot like Minnesota's. That is, nothing much to talk about. The addition would open up a new state for recruiting and television dollars and move the network south. When pitted against eastern schools like Syracuse and Rutgers, in terms of financial benefit Missouri takes a backseat. But St. Louis is a top-30 media market, and in my opinion, the school would make good geographic sense. The Tigers would work to create border rivals with Illinois and Iowa.

** Rutgers Scarlet Knights: Pretty much every writer who has addressed this issue has tossed Rutgers into the mix. The argument is, as Black Shoe Diaries lays out, that the Scarlet Knights would bring the New Jersey and New York markets into the mix and expand the conference east. But it also adds a school that has had limited athletic success.

I leave out Notre Dame because I don't see the Irish giving up their current indepndent football status. But others disagree. Steve Grinczel at Spartans Insider does the best job I've seen breaking down the who, what, when and why of a 12th team.

On why the Irish might be thinking differently:

The conference would allow Irish basketball to regain its late '70s status and add major brand-name cachet. There could even be talk of a Big Ten ice hockey championship, and the non-revenue sports would get an immediate upgrade with Notre Dame's excellence in that area.

Maybe Notre Dame felt it had nothing to gain football-wise from joining a conference, but the rest of its athletic department did. Plus, its campus occupies Position A in Big Ten geography. While that hunk of land in Southwestern Michigan -- I mean Northwestern Indiana -- is a distant outpost in the Big East, its priceless property in Big Ten land.

Can you say "Ca-ching"? The presidents could, and were content to sit there like the big oil execs waiting as long as it takes to get their drills into Iraqi oil.

Let's hope that is true, and Notre Dame sees the benefit in coming aboard. But if it doesn't happen, my only hope is that Delany brings someone in that brings more than dollars. Nebraska might not bring the cash, but it makes the Big Ten the foremost football conference in the land. Would you rather travel to Nebraska on a Saturday afternoon in November to cheer for the marron and gold amid a sea of red or to New Jersey to watch Rutgers? I'll take the tradition and pride over the bottom-line.

Touching On The Twins

I've said before that because there are so many wonderful Twins bloggers I wouldn't weigh in on the Minnesota professional baseball team too often.

But as I sit here Sunday afternoon, watching Pat Neshek on my Extra Innings baseball package, I can't help but cheer for GM Terry Ryan to take what the Star Tribune's Joe Christensen calls "the dreaded seller route."

For most fans who watch every single game, the idea of trading Torii Hunter is ridiculous. But for a fan who can watch this team without sentimentality, the idea of trading Hunter and others this year makes perfect sense. I know it's tough to waive the white flag when you are a team that has made some memorable second half runs, and has otherwised owned the AL Central. But for the long-term benefit of the club, Terry Ryan should pretend Torii Hunter is the new version of Chuck Knoblauch and make a deal, or two, or three.

This year, the Detroit Tigers are unreal. Their offense is the best in the bigs. Their pitching staff isn't far behind. The Cleveland Indians, aren't far behind the Tigers. In the Central, the toughest division in baseball, the Twins have too many holes tmake things work. Third base has been embarrassing. Our myriad left fielders makes one long for Dan Gladden in the worst way. DH has been a joke. Our bullpen, traditionally the Twins' best asset, has weaknesses.

These holes can be filled by trading Torii Hunter, Luis Castillo, Carlos Silva, Juan Rincon and even Joe Nathan. It should be clear that Silva won't be aroud much longer. Next years rotation of Santana, Liriano, Garza, Baker, Slowey/Perkins should be excellent--which is reason enough to start preparing for 2008.

I realize Torii Hunter is a fan-favorite. But he doesn't seem the type, like Kirby Puckett, to give Carl Pohlad a hometown discount. Should we hold on to him and he bolts in free agency, we'll get two draft picks. Should we lose Luis Castillo, Carlos Silva or others to free agency, the Twins likely receive no compensation.

I've enjoyed following the Twins this year. And I just don't see a postseason run in the cards. My hope is Terry Ryan makes a deal, to put the Twins in position to capatilize on Santana/Liriano and Mauer/Morenau next year.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blah, Blah, Bloggers Hating On Minnesota

In my continuing goal to provide you the Minnesota football previews penned aroud the blogosphere, I bring you previews today of varying quality.

Let's start with a preview that clearly includes little to no research. It's from Rumors and Rants. Here's there take on the maroon and gold. They pick Minnesota to finish 11th in the Big Ten.

They are switching quarterbacks because Brian Cupito graduated and their receivers are a question mark because, well, they never passed the ball before. Any step away from the old system is a good step, we suppose. Also, their defense was terrible and, though they are switching schemes and coordinators, still has the same personnel. If they play their absolute best, Minnesota can win five games. They could also lose every single one of them except for Florida Atlantic. Minnesota fan can find consolation in the fact that one day, the team may again be at least decent. Hopefully not too decent, Indiana could use the win.
A few points here. First, the idea that the Gophers football team may some day be decent is a misguided statement. The Gophers have been decent, consistently decent, during the Glen Mason era. An overabundance of average football is what got Mason canned. It's possible the Tim Brewster-led Gophers will be less-than-decent this year, but that would be a step backwards. Secondly, to say that Minnesota never passed the ball, and I realize this was sarcasm, is silly when you consider Bryan Cupito is the school's all-time leading passer. It's true that Mason was a run-first guy, and he did that with success. But it's a mistake to believe the Gophers never passed. The blogger rightly points out our receiving corps appears weak on paper, but the blogger apparently didn't pay too much attention to offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar's statements that he would take advantage of Mason's personnel and run more this year than he might like to. Spread offense doesn't equal 90 percent pass.

A week or so ago, fellow Big Ten blogger Brian at Mgoblog penned another negative Minnesota preview. The difference here is Brian put a boatload of effort into his analysis and most of it I tend to agree with. The blogger's take on Minnesota fans' giddiness over Brewster's arrival is top-notch--unless of course you are like most Minnesota fans and want to read only how Tim Brewster will take the football team to Pasadena.

The gift of gab is the key to Brewster's ascension. He's scandalously light on actual coaching accomplishments but has a reputation as a "monster recruiter." Assuming that he will raise the level of talent Minnesota brings in is a dubious proposition based on fine work he did under Mack Brown's tutelage. Recruiting Vince Young to Texas is an entirely different matter than recruiting him to Minnesota. The Gophers have made a serious misstep by bringing in a neophyte with a rep as a recruiter instead of someone who can spin straw into gold. Because Minnesota, recruiter or no, is going to see lots of straw.
I don't disagree with Brian that recruiting in Minny is a far different task than in Texas. And I've said previously that Brewster will need to coach, something he doesn't have a track record of, if the Gophers are going to improve.

The blogger goes on to predict a best case scenario of 6-6 and a worst case scenario of 0-12. I think the latter is a little far-fetched. And what does Brian really think? He lays out his thoughts after taking Sunday Morning Quarterback and yours truly to task for suggesting Minnesota was medicore last year, and that it was doubtful the Gophers would go from OK to awful.
Ah, if only Minnesota had actually been mediocre last year. They were not. They were outgained by their opponents by 50 yards a game, and the true Lovecraftian depths their defense descended to were masked by an outpouring of opponent generosity that will not repeat. The three best player's on last year's offense are gone. There are no suitable replacements at quarterback, and the run game that has long been the rock Minnesota planted its flag upon has been discarded.

Meanwhile, Brewer has never coached a football team before. Everett Withers hasn't been a defensive coordinator since 1997. Mike Dunbar's terms as offensive coordinator have been under gurus Jeff Tedford and Randy Walker, who functioned mostly as their own coordinators. The offense is radically changing to a scheme no one is surprised by anymore. The defense has like 2.5 players on it.

There is one conclusion here: disaster. Minnesota blows one of its non-conference games, scrapes a win in conference, and ends up 4-7.
Then we have Penn State blog Black Show Diaries, where Mike does a thorough job breaking down the Gophers' offense and defense. He concludes like this.
Here we have a team learning a new system implemented by a coach with no head coaching experience. They are going to a spread offense while breaking in a new quarterback with only two legitimate wide receivers to throw to. Left tackle is a serious concern as is the entire defense. Heavy distractions as well as depth issues loom over this team with the dismissal of EJ Jones, Dominic Jones, Keith Massey, and Alex Daniels. The kickers are meh and nobody knows who is going to return kicks now. All of this has the looks of a train wreck about to happen. I think Minnesota will drop two out of conference games, but they'll get one back somewhere in the conference schedule. Magic Eight Ball says 3-9.
I don't disagree with Mike's analysis of the maroon and gold's challenges. But assuming that Minnesota will drop two-of-four against North Dakota State at home, Florida Atlantic away, Bowling Green at home and Miami(Ohio)at home is absurd.

Now, I'm not a homer-type. I'm not shy about criticizing our hometown teams or predicting complete and utter failure. Minny fans have taken me to task for criticizing Saul Smith, among other people. But I stand by the predicition I made in a guest blog at Hawkeye State, where I argued that the Gophs would sweep the out of conference schedule and win three Big Ten games. I'll deliver a more thorough Gophers preview here in the weeks to come.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tubby Offers JUCO Forward

A slew of night meetings has kept me unusually busy this week, and I didn't notice until now that Tubby Smith offered a JUCO forward from Missouri State West Plains Community College.

Paul Carter, according to Rivals, is a 6-8 190 pound slasher type with the ability to play outside the perimiter. According to reports Carter has long-and-lean type that I gather would project as a small forward. Depending on how he does academically, it's possible, according to Rivals, that Carter, a 2008 recruit, could have three years of eligibility.

My searches aroudn the Internets didn't produce a whole lot more information on Carter. If anyone has more info, do drop me a line.

As far as the Class of 2008 goes, Tubby has already landed Rivals 3-star point guard Nathen Garth and has offered six others.

I'm of the belief that Tubby should use his 2008 class to set the program up for success. His 2009 class could be the make or break class of his tenure when he has a chance to bring two top-notch Minnesota prospects on board in Royce White and Rodney Williams. A solid 2008 class accompanied by those two Minnesota standouts would go a long way to putting the maroon and gold back into the upper echelon of the Big 10.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Eavesdropping On Glen Mason's BTN Interview

What follows was leaked from a very inside source. This is a conversation that you likely would have heard had you been lucky enough to get entrance into negotiation talks between the Big Ten Network and Glen Mason. As I'm sure you are aware, our former gridiron leader has a new gig with the Big Ten Network.

Big Ten Network: So, Glen, what can you bring to the Big Ten Network?

Mediocre Mason: Clearly, guys, I have a record. I’ve competed in the Big Ten. And if it weren’t for that damn Metrodome, I probably would have won a Big Ten title. The Metrodome really hurts recruiting, you know.

BTN: That’s a debatable point, Glen …

MM: Recruiting is even tougher now in Minnesota, with the open-air stadium on its way. Kids don’t want to play outside a climate-controlled facility.

BTN: Glen, you’re not the Minnesota coach anymore, there’s no need for excuses.

MM: Right. Sorry.

BTN: Anyway, we’re more interested in what insight you can give viewers.

MM: I can give color commentary from a coach’s perspective. If a team has a big lead in the fourth quarter, and is punting inside its 20, I’ll be able to relay from experience what the punter should do in the event all hell breaks loose.

BTN: Undoubtedly you have a good sense of the Minnesota program, but the others?

MM: Ohio State was going to hire me before they went the popular Division 1-AA route to hire Jim Tressel. Lots of programs are going the no-name coach route these days.

BTN: Sounds like a pot-shot at Tim Brewster.

MM: Not at all. Timmy will do fine if he can circumvent the tough academic standards at the U.

BTN: Hasn’t that theory been debunked?

MM: It’s hard to recruit at Minnesota.

BTN: OK, Glen. As a color analyst or in-booth guy, you’ll be a member of the media. But you seem to have a certain disdain for the media. How will that work?

MM: I have a record of being open and personable with Minnesota fans. They didn’t call me PR Glen for nothing. The media loved me. Ask Sid Hartman.

BTN: They called you what?

MM: PR Glen. You know, because I did a yeoman’s work pumping up the media and public at large. The Minnesota media and fan base loved me. Honestly.

BTN: How will you react if you are calling a game and the student section offers up a “Fire Tressel” chant?

MM: I’ll give them a cursory glance. Then I’ll probably run quickly to the AD’s office to drop off my resume.

BTN: What were some of the high points of your tenure in Minnesota?

MM: If you didn’t notice, I installed one of the most high-octane running attacks in the country. We put up 424 rushing yards against Michigan and 411 against Wisconsin. That’s good work for one Saturday afternoon.

BTN: Didn’t you lose those games?

MM: I didn’t lose those games. It was bad luck. It’s not my fault. Look at the numbers. I’m God’s gift to football. I know it and, well, I know it.

BTN: What was the best part of being in Minnesota?

MM: The $3.6 million stipend I received on my last day didn’t hurt.

BTN: You have any reservations about accepting a job with us?

MM: Not really. But don’t expect miracles. This is a new network. It will take time to build this program up. I am God’s gift to broadcasting. But I can’t work miracles with a program that has no record of success. Expect mediocrity for about 10 to 20 years. In the interim, don’t be surprised if you hear my name bandied about at CBS or ESPN. I’m coveted. It’s my personality, I think.

BTN: We’ll let you know, Glen.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Soiree

And by soiree I mean short items, including links, some related to the UofM, that don't merit individual headlines.

** If you're not doing anything today why not drive to the southwest corner of the state and watch PR extraordinare Tim Brewster take part in a parade in, where else, Brewster, Minn. If my name was Charley Walters, and I wrote a series of blurbs for the Pioneer Press, I'd wait until tomorrow and write the following: "That was Tim Brewster dining at Shaker's in the city of Brewster Saturday, after taking part in a parade to celebrate Brewster Fun Days."

** Orlando Tubby Smith had a lengthy conversation with Gator Country. There's nothing jaw-dropping in the interview, but it does include the requiste conversation about why one would leave the rabids in Kentucky. Predictably, Kentucky Nation is dissecting every word Tubby utters. I'm not sure the UK fans will ever be able to wrap their hands around the fact that Tubby left them. Perhaps, Tubby wanted to coach in a, shall we say, realistic atmosphere. What UK fans fail to realize is every traditionally big-time program has suffered ups and downs during the last two decades--think UCLA, Duke, UNC, Louisville etc. And by ups and downs, I mean an occassional #8 seed in the March dance. Imagine if the Dukies went nuts when Coach K had a--by UK standards--down year by failing to advance in the tourney.

** Nevermind the take above, some writer from the Star-Telegram in North Texas tells us, citing nothing, that "Former coach Tubby Smith, who is now coaching at Minnesota in a much quieter basketball environment, either couldn't or wouldn't recruit with the passion that UK fans required." The same writer, and this is what gives us cause to ignore his take, uses the phrase "True that" in the article. I've made few rules here, but I promise to you, my avid PJS reader, that I will never put those two words together to form a two-word sentence. Promise.

** Jon Marthaler, who runs The National Anthem Before a Cubs Game, suggested in the comments section in the previous post, that my NCAA Football 2008 Gophers would struggle in a simulation of the 2007 season. Well, the boys lost to Bowling Green and beat only Northwestern in the B10 portion of the schedule. I was fired and unable to try and cheat to land a sweet Minnesota receiver.

** Via the Greet Machine--a highly entertaining blog--we learn that Timberwolves point guard Troy Hudson held a CD release party at First Avenue in Minneapolis. The blogger writes: "I don't want to be too dismissive of Thud's music or his talent, though. Not being a fan of "the rap" or "the hip-hop" young folks are listening to today, I can't say for sure if Thud's music is fresh or not. ... In fact, I hope he is so successful he never dons a Timberwolves jersey again. Its a win-win for everyone!" Couldn't agree more. And while I enjoyed the cheap shot on T-Hud, PJS readers really ought to check out this classic blog entry if you need a laugh.

** PJS News Alert!! High Priority: College students, athletes or otherwise, party. They drink alcohol, sometimes before they are 21!! Who knew? Also, once in a while, college students participate in consensual sex or physical contact. What's the world coming to? This is certainly fit to print in the New York Times.

OK, maybe not. But it's fit for trashy local television news. Minneapolis ABC affiliate KSTP did a tabloidish piece this week on the MySpace Web pages Gopher football players have created. Not surprisingly, the pages show Gopher players consuming alcohol, dancing with girls and not completely dressed. In one scene, a Gopher football player puts his bare ass on another player's head (Love the comraderie boys). In this "investigative" report, KSTP apparently is suggesting that because of a horrible decision by four players, all college football players are completely out of line. Watch the video here.

A couple things. 1) Every journalist, about two years ago, did stories about MySpace. It's old. 2) College kids drink alcohol. It'd probably be good if our athletes didn't. But that's not realistic. What we need to ask them is to be responsible. If they have pictures on their MySpace page filled with a heaping pile of white Columbian powder, than by all means "investigate."

Finally, the UofM Communications folks worked themselves into a slight tizzy over this, suggesting that some of their players' reputations were tarnished. One player, who KSTP suggested was holding a pitcher of beer, claims it was rasberry ica tea. For the sake of argument, I'll buy that. But UofM's communications gurus declined to work with, or answer questions from, KSTP on the story. Guys, you can't complain to a media outlet if you won't work with it on the story. If the communications department was doing its job, and had say returned a phone call from KSTP, perhaps the segment is tamed down. Or at least the "investigative" reporter would have known she was looking at a pitcher of ice tea.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Please Excuse ...

.... a 24 to 48 hour hiatus, while I simulate the first season of NCAA 2008, do whatever it takes to land the best receiver in Minnesota, name him Michael Floyd, open an outdoor stadium on the Universtiy of Minnesota campus, and let Clint Brewster fire touchdown after touchdown to Floyd. Oh yeah, and take Gopher Nation to Pasadena! I'll settle for the Peach Bowl, I suppose.

Gophers In Sampson's Top 3

Three-star Rivals center Ralph Sampson III told Hoopmasters that Minnesota is in his top three.

As for Ralph Sampson, the 6-foot-11 220-pound post from Duluth, GA
Northview, he told us his early leaders are Minnesota, Georgia Tech and Georgia,
but we expect the list to grow.
Sampson, son of the former Virginia great, has been a target of Orlando Tubby Smith's for some time. For a period, only the Gophers and Yellow Jackets were after the Georgia prospect. But now others are on the trail.

As I've said before, it's a good sign that Tubby was following Sampson before everyone else. And it's encouraging that out of his current top three, Minnesota is the only out-of-state school on that list. It's a coup for Minnesota to be mentioned in this conversation.

We've been following Tubby's recruitment of Sampson all summer, and are pleased to see Sampson has interest in coming to the U.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Brewster Dismisses Four Players Inovlved In Investigation

Minnesota football coach Tim Brewster issued a statement today indicating that Dominic Jones, and the three other Minnesota football players under investigation in a sexual assault case have been dismissed from the team.

In a statement, Brewster said: "It is an honor and a privilege to wear the uniform of the University of Minnesota and we have exceedingly high expectations for each of our student-athletes. We spend a considerable amount of time addressing our players regarding their personal conduct and we will not compromise our values. We are establishing a culture of integrity and we will demand that our players are held accountable for their actions."

Dominic Jones, a standout cornerback, was charged Monday with third degree sexual assault. Teammates EJ Jones, Keith Massey and Alex Daniels are still under investigation. According to Associated Press reports, being dismissed from the team does not mean the players' scholarships have been revoked.

In my opinion, this is a good move for Brewster. Anything but zero tolerance in this case would be a mistake. The players will have a chance to prove their innocence. Until then, I agree with Brewster's decision to give the team a chance to operate without this cloud hanging over it. This should also send a message to every other player on the roster and future recruits.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Basketball Recruiting Update

Names keep popping up as Tubby Smith tries to land talent to turn around the basketball progarm. While the only commit so far under Tubby is Rivals 3-star point guard Nathen Garth, others are now indicating high interest in the maroon and gold.

This update includes a couple new names since my last rundown of basketball recruits. This list is just of who has been offered.

** Stan Simpson, Chicago, Ill.: According to Scout.com, Minnesota is in the top 4 of Simpson's choices, along with Indiana, Arkansas and Kansas State. According to the Indianapolis Star, Simpson mentioned IU first when listing his choices. Simpson is a 6-9, 220 4-star big man according to Rivals and is ranked as their #24 power forward in the Class of 2008. Simpson was one of the first recruits that surfaced when Tubby took over. It's a good sign that the maroon and gold is high up in his thought process.

** Devoe Joseph, Ontario, Canada: The Gophers would seem to have decent odds at landing Joseph. Joseph is the 22nd best 2008 shooting guard according to Rivals. He currently has offers from Duquesne, Washington St, Santa Clara, Fairfield and other mid-majors. But others are apparently in the mix for Joseph, including B10 foe Michigan, as well as St. Johns, Connecticut, Va. Tech and Texas A&M. Guard play has been a weakness for the Gophers, so landing Joseph would be a step in the right direction in fixing that problem.

** Eloy Vargas, Hollywood, Fl.: The highest ranked PF propsect that has received a Minny offer is Vargas, a Rivals 4-star player ranked at #17 in the country at his position. Hes 6-10, 210 pounds. But Vargas indicates he has 'high' interest in Pittsburgh, which has offered. And the competition for Vargas is steep, with the Gophers in a recruiting battle here with Louisville, Clemson, Texas A&M and Miami. Vargas also indicates interst in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio State, but according to Rivals, those schools haven't offered. It would seem Tubby and the Gopheres are a long-shot to land Vargas.

** Colton Iverson, Yankton, SD: South Dakota big man (6-9, 240) Colt Iverson lists high interest in the Gophers, according to Rivals. The three-star big man also has high interest in Nebraska and has been offered by Penn State, Cincinatti, New Mexico and Washington St., among others. Iverson is described as a high-energy big man, who crashes the boards and runs the floor with energy.

** Ralph Sampson III, Duluth, Ga.: If there was a recruit that Tubby Smith had his eyes on before everyone else it is Sampson, the son of the former Virginia great. For a time, only Georgia Tech and The Gophers had offered Sampson. But some excellent showings at summer camps has valuted Sampson from a below-the-radar big man to a coveted commodity. Sampson now has offers from Georgia and California and has received interest from UCLA and his father's alma mater among others. Among the schools after Sampson, the only one Rivals has reported he has visited is Minnesota. Sampson is 6-11, 225 and has reportedly improved his interior game considerable over the last year.

** Scottie Haralson, Jackson, Miss.: Described by Hoopmasters as "one of the South's best kept secrets," Haralson has indicated that Minnesota and Tubby Smith are at the top of his list. “Coach Smith is recruiting me very hard, and he tells me that I can be a big part of what he is building at Minnesota,” Haralson told Hoopmasters. “Minnesota really sticks out to me at this point, but I am going take my time with the process.” While Rivals hasn't ranked Haralson, it does report that he has received interest from myriad schools, including Tennessee, Penn State, Ole Miss and Auburn. Haralson is a 6-4, 210 shooting guard.

By my count, Tubby still has four scholarships available in 2008 after Nathen Garth's commit. Landing three of these players--Simpson would be the best 'get' at this point, in my opinion--would go a long way to turning Gopher Nation around.

Since this rundown only included who Minnesota has offered, it didn't include Festus Ezeli. He is another prospect that Tubby Smith was high on before the competition was reported on the scene. At this point, only Oregon State has made an offer.

I didn't link to the Scout and Rivals articles where some of this information was culled, because the services are subscription only. I encourage any fan interested in following recruiting to get a subscription. It's worth it.

At What Price Pasadena?

I realize that the players involved in the sexual assault weren't recruited by Tim Brewster. And I realize that all people make mistakes. But I'm curious what most Minnesota fans would like to see Brewster concentrate on in his recruiting. Should he shy away from talent that comes along with a red flag or two? No athlete or student is perfect, but should Brewster put an emphasis on off-the-field behavior? Or should he turn a blind-eye to high school shenanigans and put more stock in gameday production? Every year coaches have to make these calls. Take the risk or take a pass? What would you rather see Brewster do?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dominic Jones Charged With Sexual Assault

The Star Tribune reports today that Minnesota football player Dominic Jones has been charged with third degree sexual assault, after a lenghty investigation.

Attached here is the juicy stuff, and by juicy I mean thoroughly disgusting. This is the charging document, and it isn't suitable for those not wishing to read graphic sexual exploits. I'm not going to quote it here, but by all means read the document in its entirety if you want to know what really is alleged here.

To summarize: Lots of vodka, dorm room, passed out college student, college football players, ejaculation, DNA evidence and digital documentation. DISGUSTING!

Not that it matters, but Jones is a star Gophers cornerback.

Alex Daniels, Keith Massey and E. J. Jones, also Gopher football players, remain suspects in the case.

My initial reaction, aside from being completely sickened, is that Tim Brewster needs to act quickly. Innocent until proven guilty and all that, but the last thing any Gopher fan should want is athletes like this in the program.

Brewster has issued a statement. It states: "This disappointing news for our entire team. The student-athlete arrested last night has been suspended from the football team and cannot participate in team activities. The three student-athletes previously arrested in conjunction with this matter will remain suspended until more information becomes available."

I understand not wanting to rush judgment on any of these players. But unless the charging document is completely false, it would appear this situation calls for more drastic measures than suspension.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

FOX Likes The Gophers

Not all Minnesota football previews have been highly negative. FOX Sports' preview released online today suggests an 8-win season is a possibility.

As I finally sat down and began breaking down the season ahead of us, I pegged the squad at 7-5, but I certainly see the opportunity for 8 wins. Here's what FOX writes:

The season will be a success if ... the Gophers win eight games. Starting 3-0 is a near lock, and playing North Dakota State, forgetting the issues of last year against the Bison in a 10-9 win, makes it four almost-certain wins. The offense will be strong enough to beat the lesser Big Ten teams, while the experienced defense might be improved enough to beat teams like Purdue and Iowa.

Key game: Sept. 22 vs. Purdue. The Gophers outplayed, out-gained, and out-executed the Boilermakers in West Lafayette last year, only to lose 27-21. With Ohio State coming up the following week, and a relatively easy three-game stretch to follow, a win over Purdue could possibly mean a 7-1 start, if everything works out well.

The Purdue contest--the first B10 game--could make or break the Brewster's season. A win against Purdue would put the Gophers at 4-0 when Ohio State comes to town. Assuming the lads can't top the perennial national title contender, they will be 4-1 heading into two winnable road games at Indiana and Northwestern. The North Dakota State game follows, before the schedule brings Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. Splitting in those games would equal 9 wins, if the Gophers clean up against Indiana and Northwestern. Nine wins are possible, but eight should be considered a very good season. I'm predicting 7 because I don't see us winning both of those early road games (at IU and Northwestern).

Sunday Shorts

The day job sent me out of town for a few days, which is responsible for the lack of updates. But I'm back, and plan to get back into the swing of things.

First, let's check out what's been going on across the Internets the last few days.

** The first two installments of Hawkeye State's Big Ten Football Preview are up. The Enlightened Spartan penned the MSU preview for Hawkeye State and Illini Talk wrote the preview for Illinois. The Iowa blogger asked me to put together the Minnesota preview. I think my preview should be up this week.

** Women treat Greg Oden well. OSU blog 11W has been all over this story and provides us a link to the video embedded below. Oden answers questions about the photo of a fine young woman who apparently rolled up her skirt. Check it out yourself.

** And finally, before I pen my football preview for Hawkeye State, I'll update my criticism on ESPN's weird Who's Now segment. I wrote previously that the segment on SportsCenter is silly, among other things. Now, the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader has switched up the format. Instead of Stuart Scott, Kirk Herbstreit, Keyshawn Johnson and Mike WIlbon, Round 2 of the segment will be hosted by Mike Greenberg (bad), Kevin James (why?) and Jessica Biel(hot). So, they've taken a bad segment and switched it up with a comedian and a hot chick? At least they realized it sucked the way it was. Now, hopefully at least Jessica will be featured prominently.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Filed In the Unfortunate News Department ...

Highly coveted Cretin Derham Hall wide receiver Michael Floyd doesn't have the Golden Gophers in the top echelon of schools he is considering to attend in 2008.

According to this article from Gator Country, Floyd lists Florida, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan as the leaders in the quest to land the Minnesota standout. He told the publication what stood out to him about those four traditional football powerhouses.

Notre Dame- “They throw the ball and I like Coach Weis. He’s a cool guy.”

Ohio State- “I like all their coaches up there. They’re all really cool.”

Michigan- “Their wide receivers coach is real cool. I know a lot of guys that are on campus and they’re great people.”

Florida- “I haven’t been there yet, but I know they want to win. They’re only looking for the best players to do that. Their goal every year is a championship.”
It's hard to fault a kid for looking real hard at playing for these four schools. All of us rooting for the Gophers would love to see him suit up in the new spread offense in TCF Bank Stadium. But unless TIm Brewster pulls off a big upset, the propsects of Floyd staying home, and helping to resurrect the program, are beginning to look bleak.

UPDATE: The Pioneer Press weighed in this afternoon after talking with Floyd. Apparently Floyd soured on Minnesota somewhat after a recent unofficial visit. He also told the paper Minnesota is in his second tier of candidates with Iowa and Wisconsin. Here's an interesting line from the PiPress article. I'm not exactly sure what to make of it.
Expressing concern about the "atmosphere" and about the talent level of the defensive backs who would challenge him in practice at Minnesota, Floyd told the Pioneer Press today that his top four choices are Florida, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Floyd, who also took unofficial visits last month to Wisconsin, Michigan, Notre Dame and Ohio State, said, "It was just so different when I went to those places. It wasn't what I expected at the U. I didn't like some of the people I met. Some people said they really wanted me to come. Other people I met just seem to be saying it."

Festus' Stock Rising

A very nice article on Yahoo today highlights why the interest in Festus Ezeli is rising.

Ezeli's skills, while still raw, are not far from those of former Newark high school prospect DeVon Hardin 4-5 years ago. Still just 17 years old, Ezeli has that muscular, freakish-athleticism that you simply have to see to believe. His wingspan spreads an impressive 7-foot-5 – which is slightly longer than former Cal great Leon Powe.
Ezeli is at the RBK U camp in Philadelphia this week. And he's turning heads. This next report from Rivals.
Here is a guy that will be the center of attention for a number of programs this week and the rest of the month. The 6-foot-8 Nigerian is prep school bound (maybe New England academic powerhouses like Brewster Academy or New Hampton) and he'll go there with a handful of offers. The rugged big man has a frit to his game that few have shown here at the camp already. He had nine rebounds and three blocked shots in a tight win. UCLA, Ohio State, DePaul, Cal, Oregon State, Virginia and others are involved. Mix in the fact he's a big time student with off the charts numbers on the academic side of things. Ezeli will be a name that receives plenty of ink here this week. Believe that.
Minnesota wasn't mentioned in that mix, but Tubby Smith was one of the first to notice Ezeli--which would mark the second time during Tubby's short stint here that he has been high on a big man before anyone else caught on. Ralph Sampson III is another example, and while he has some cachet to his name, he hadn't been popping up on the radar screens of big programs until recently. Tubby found Ezeli early on.

In April, Ezeli's coach told Rivals that Tubby was the first knocking on the door.
At this point I would say Minnesota just has interest although I would not call it hard. Some of the other schools have come after him looking to visit.
The various recruiting services don't have any information on where Ezeli stands with the colleges. As it appears he will attend prep school for a year to get more accustomed to U.S. academics, there might not be a rush to offer Ezeli. But the interest is certailny out there for this young man who graduated high school in Nigeria at age 14. He's described in the Yahoo piece as a "very intelligent kid" who wants to either go pre-med or major in business.

Ezeli's full name, in case you are wondering is Ifeanyichukwu Festus Ezeli (yes I had to copy and paste that). And since we are partial to intersting names here at PJS, the Ezeli sweepstakes have us paying close attention.

And while it's hard to tell how much interest Tubby Smith has in Ezeli or how much the propsect has in the U, it's a good sign, in my opinion, that Tubby was on the scene first in the recruitment of Ezeli and Sampson.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Brewster Lands Texas Tight End

Football coach Tim Brewster took a step forward in his 2008 recruiting class, landing Houston Lamar High School tight end Eric Lair, a three-star player and the No. 36 player at his position in the country according to Rivals.

In landing Lair, the Gophers outworked Oklahoma, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Nebraska, among others, according to Rivals.

Lair is 6'3, 215 pounds and can run a 4.46 40, which makes him perhaps a nice fit for Mike Dunbar's spread offense.

The Rivals article, which is subscription only, includes among other good tidbits this quote from Lair's high school coach.

... He is a big kid who can split out and create some mismatches in the passing game. He is also a very strong kid who can put his hand down on the ground and block for you. I believe he bench pressed 185 pounds 25 times and can max out at 320 pounds."

"I think Eric's game will be something that the Big Ten is naïve to, besides maybe Purdue, in that they will be splitting out some bigger guys to create those mismatches with linebackers and corners.
This seems to be good news for Brewster and his coaching staff. A tight end who can operate in the open field would be a welcome addition to the spread offense, especially with the reasonable concerns about the squad's lack of depth at the receiver position.

This is the first good recruiting news in a few weeks. A couple weeks ago we saw the first coveted Minnesota recruit in the Brewster era, Joe Schafer, leave the state. He picked Wisconsin over Minnesota. And we saw Matt Scott, a three-star dual-threat quarterback decide on Arizona over Minnesota.

The Lair verbal comes as somewhat of a surprise, considering the recruit has never visited campus. But it's a pleasant surprise.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

ESPN Jumps The Shark .... Again

The self-proclaimed World Wide Leader has given us yet one more reason to petition some billionaire to launch a new all sports network. Idiocy isn't new for ESPN, however. I'm thinking of Sean Salisbury fighting with John Clayton, Steve Phillips pretending to be your team's GM or Stuart Scott hosting just about anything.

The latest piece of evidence that ESPN cares little about actually covering sports--well, that it isn't shamelssly self-promoting because its airing a specific contest--is a new SportsCenter segment called Who's Now. This segment includes a large bracket which pits today's athletes against one another to determine Who's Now. That apparently means who is the coolest, most hip superstar in today's professional world. If you've had drinks with Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan you may get bonus points, or so it would seem.

It's not surprising that Stuart Scott is involved in this. But it's unfortunate that PTI's Michael Wilbon, Kirk Herbstreit and Keyshawn Johnson have lent their personalities to such drivel. It was even more distressing to hear Wilbon pimping this segment on Washington Post radio as the 'next big thing' because it's untraditional. He actually even took some sort of credit for it, suggesting that he and Tony Kornheiser paved the way for this with PTI.

I must say I agree with Dallas Cowboys 24-7, which writes that Who's Now is "P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C!".

It should be called "Who the F--- Cares?" What I want to know is whose idea was this?
The Blog of Hilarity has a good explanation for the Cowboy blogger.
An idea that was clearly created in the marketing rooms ("Hey, they like brackets, they like athletes, let's make something with both those for the summer!"), in an effort to artificially manufacture news, ESPN's running a tournament to determine "Who's Now". What's the criteria or the logic behind it? Who knows! But they've got fancy graphics and legitimate commentators like Mike Wilbon completely selling out and taking it seriously, so that's gotta count for something.
For Stuart Scott, this is the latest ridiculous idea he's been at the center of. Before this came "Dream Job" and "Stump the Schwab"--both extremely long-lasting programs (heavy sarcasm intended).

For the World Wide Leader, the Who Cares, er Who's Now segment is just the latest example of why a new sports network is needed to compete with these clowns. I'd prefer--I know this is crazy talk--highlights and analysis of games and decision-making over a contrived segment about who generates the most buzz.

Friday, July 6, 2007

More Negative Minnesota Football Previews

In what is becoming a weekly ritual, more highly negative Minnesota football previews are being penned aroud the blogosphere and by the typical college football pundits.

It's been hard to find someone predict the Golden Gophers, under the new tutelage of Tim Brewster, will finish in position to extend Glen Mason's bowl streak. The consensus seems to be that Brewster's first version of the maroon and gold is rotten enough to finish 11th in the Big10.

Sunday Morning Quarterback does a good job of running through what the various pundits are saying about our Gophers. Street & Smith's predicts a 10th place finish. Athlon? 11th. Phil Steele agrees with Athlon.

SMQ doesn't take a position on Minnesota's eventual finish in the B10, but it questions the logic of a total regression.

What's really interesting about the expected downturn in this fate isn't only that Tim Brewster has essentially the same set of players to guide into the Insight Bowl, but that everybody likes Brewster, and his staff. Among those who foresee the kind of doom Minnesota hasn't known in a decade, we find that Brewster's "non-stop energy and enthusiasm created a buzz around the program that had been missing" as he "reached out to the general fan base, high school coaches and recruits in a way that Mason never did," "restored the team's confidence and rebuilt a shattered psyche" and brought hope that "the program might finally elevate past mediocrity." His offensive coordinator, Mike Dunbar, is "a terrific hire...who did a GREAT job as OC at Northwestern from 2001-05," where his balanced spread led the league in total yards twice. His only effort at Cal was the highest scoring in the Pac Ten last year. Which equals...significant regression?
Yes, SMQ, many seem to think so. Count Spartan Nation among the haters. The blog wrongly points to the glorious days under Glen Mason, like in these paragraphs for example.

Oh how soon people forget. Someone forgot to tell Minnesota before Glen Mason arrived that they had a football program. The perennial doormat was horrendous with only three bowl game appearances in over 20 years and facilities that were not even on par with a division two program let alone a Big Ten squad. Glen Mason changed all of that and after placing the Gophs among the most consistent programs in the nation, he was sacked last season after a very disappointing 44-41 loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Because of the hard work of Mason and his staff, the Gophs were entering a great era with a new on campus stadium coming (thanks to Mason) and other amenities. Now they bring in a guy with no HC experience and who lastly was a TE coach with the Broncos. Minnesota should be an elite job, but evidently a guy learning how to be a head coach on the job is O.K. there.

What Spartan Nation fails to add here is that meltdowns like the one against Texas Tech were commonplace during the Mason era. Did Mason help the program take a step forward? Absolutely. Was he the guy to take another step? Gopher Nation didn't think so. He lost his job for many more reasons than the Texas Tech embarrassment.

The negative previews are coming almost too rapidly to relay to PJS readers. Armchair GM also predicts a 10th place finish. Here's the gist of what this writer believes.

The arrival of Tim Brewster has created enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the program. The former Denver Broncos tight end coach has displayed his PR skills by his promise to recruit more Minnesota-based players. Depth remains the biggest problem for the Gophers. They are extremely thin at receiver and in the secondary. These issues aren’t going to be resolved within the season. The quarterback, whether Mortensen or Weber, is inexperienced. There are just too many question marks remaining for the Gophers to become a contender in the Big Ten.

They do have a chance to become bowl eligible. They have three easy non-conference games against Bowling Green, Miami (Ohio), Florida Atlantic, and North Dakota State. Three of the four are at home and the Florida Atlantic game is at a neutral site. They also get to play Northwestern, Indiana, and Illinois. Seven wins is a strong possibility, but so are four.

There seem to be a few common themes in the negative football previews. As best as I can tell, the pundits and bloggers:

1) note that Brewster has no head coaching experience. This is true, but from day one he's been sold as a recruiter, and has brought in Mike Dunbar, a well-respected offensive guy and Everett Withers, who has performed everywhere he has been.

2) suggest that Glen Mason was moving the program up in the world. This is also true, but that would imply that Mason had a team he could compete with, but not Brewster. If Mason were still in Minny, would Spartan Nation predict a B10 slide? I doubt it. Mason didn't leave the cupboard bare.

3) point out that the "winnable" B10 games are on the road. We should go 4-0 in the nonconference schedule, these writers admit, but pulling off even one B10 victory, with primarily Mason's players who were able to notch a few Ws is apparently inconceivable. I don't buy that.

I'm the first one to say Gopher fans need to take a wait-and-see approach with our new head football coach. He needs to perform before we construct a Tim Brewster statute in front of TCF Stadium. When I write my Minnesota preview, I won't dare to suggest Brewster will take Mason's team to the Rose Bowl. But a 10th or 11th place finish for a team that has consistently been mediocre--not bad--is a stretch as well.

(And the photo, by the way, is to encourage Minnesota fans to think positive, in the face of tiresome negativity.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


Over the next few months I'm going to try and highlight some of the blogs linked to on the right side bar. I see the blogroll as an endorsement of sorts. And I am trying not to add every blog that could possibly be linked to, because I sort of feel that each additional link devalues the others. That's not to say I'll never add blogs, in fact at some point I hope to expand and provide links to bloggers representing teams from other BCS conferences.

I've also removed a couple links over the past couple months. I had linked to a couple other Minnesota sites, which seem to either be defunct or on a permanent hiatus. I don't want to send readers to a blog that isn't current. That said, I understand some bloggers take vacations, so I'll try to be cautious about removing a blog.

For now, I've linked to some of the best Big 10 bloggers, Minnesota bloggers I read on a regular basis and some general college sports Web sites.

I'd like to take a minute to highlight three of these sites today, and I'll continue to do this as the summer drags on.

I'd like to start with a personal story. A journalist colleague of mine, who runs Zombie Nation, a Penn State blog, was off to a fine start. But my friend, Mike, is battling the sometimes-brutal Crohn's Disease. Mike might be the biggest college football fan I've ever met. He can recite specific plays in Minnesota-PSU games better than I can. He's a wealth of PSU football knowledge. As he battles on in and out of the hospital, my thoughts and well wishes are with him. I hope some of you will stop by his blog and wish him well. When he's healthy, Mike at Zombie Nation will be a great addition to the many great PSU blogs. Get well, buddy.

Another blogging community with a slew of great blogs is Ohio State. Today, I'd like to highlight Pfef's Sports Blog. The writer, a high school junior, is currently breaking down the OSU football team position by position. Pfef is a blunt, honest and a young writer with great potential. A high school junior!

And finally, I bring your attention to a blog I just recently added. Lake The Posts, at least as far as I can tell, is the only blog in the college sports blogosphere dedicated to Northwestern University sports. The blogger is currently counting down from 25 the best NU football games.

Monday, July 2, 2007

I Heart Dan Monson

To many in a BCS conference, it would seem to be a step-down going from the Big 10 to the Big West. Dan Monson, ever the optimist, sees only positives in the move. The outquotes, which I plan to mock, are from an ESPN article by Andy Glockner.

"I think a lot of people at the mid-major level aspire to get to the next level," Monson said. "I've been there and tried that. The competition and money at the highest level -- all those things you dream about -- don't make you happy. What makes you happy is winning. Whatever the level is. That's what I want to get back to."
We're looking forward to winning too.
Since Monson is not from the area, it will take some time to get up to speed on the local recruiting scene.
Um, that didn't work so good in Minnesota. Then again, sometimes Dan did well enough to land some big-time talent (Kris Humprhies, Rick Rickert, etc) but he wasn't able to keep them around or keep everyone happy.

Beyond the advantages of being in a region ripe with talent and having enviable weather and proximity to the beach, Brown believes having a coach with major-conference credentials like Monson will help the 49ers quickly reload a roster that lost its top seven scorers from last season and has no returning player who averaged even 10 minutes a game.

"Coach Monson is a national name," Brown said. "He has done so much with Gonzaga, Minnesota, USA Basketball. That's what we're pushing. We're selling coach."

Who knew ESPN did satire?

What could be a larger hindrance than Monson's lack of familiarity with the area is that Long Beach State is the third straight program Monson has taken over while it was on probation (the 49ers had recruiting issues under former coach Larry Reynolds' staff). Did any of this -- the step down in exposure, the new location, the sanctions -- make Monson reconsider jumping right back in?

"I didn't want to take a bottom job in a mid-major league just to be a head coach," he said. "I would have sat out if I didn't land at a job where I could have success. I had been talking to friends at high-major programs and, if winning was my No. 1 priority, then I could go to a program that is a top-10 or -20 program and be on the bench [as an assistant] and take a step back from the media and be out of the spotlight, and dealing with the parents, and all the decisions that come with being a head coach. That did kind of cross my mind, but this is a good situation and I'm excited about it.
Long Beach 49er fans, get ready for years of excuses that begin and end with a finger pointed at the previous regime.

And that ends my potshots at Dan Monson. I think I just needed to get that out at some point. I grew tired of many things about his program. I'll try not to dive back into Danny-bashing at any point.

I'd like to add that Minnesota fans have a coach in a somewhat similar position. Monson downgraded to Long Beach State after being fired. Tubby Smith downgraded to our maroon and gold after essentially being pushed out of legendary Kentucky. Both coaches have something to prove. And I hope they both prove the critics left behind at their former teams wrong. I'll just be rooting a little harder for Tubby.

Kentucky Faithful Discuss Tubby's Recruiting Ability

I'm not going to editorilize on the topic at hand, but I want to relay to Minnesota fans what Kentucky-nation is saying about Coach Tubby Smith. They've taken the opportunity, now that Billy Gillespie has had some success recruiting for Big Blue, to open up the "Tubby Smith is a bad recruiter" can of worms.

Scout.com questioned Tubby's tenacity. And the always even-keeled A Sea of Blue lent considerable space to answering a question that won't go away for Kentucky fans. Why did Orlando Tubby Smith get the reputation of being a less than stellar recruiter?

First, from Scout's Kentucky Report

Rival coaches say it’s not hard to see why Gillispie has been so successful. They merely point to his work ethic. They say he’s everywhere on the recruiting scene and never misses a chance to see a recruit or contact a recruit. He’s not afraid to make early decisions on players -- something Smith didn’t like to do -- and he will not back off talented players who are being touted as potential early defectors to the NBA.

Those same coaches, as well as recruiting analysts, are careful not to criticize Smith’s work ethic. However, one has to wonder if Smith was as relentless on the recruiting trail as what Gillispie has been.

Gillespie has had quite the beginning to his tenure in Kentucky. He inked Patrick Patterson, a West Virginia standout who by many accounts was poised to attend UK to play for Tubby. But Gillespie has piled on the good news.

Five-star DeAndre Liggins of the 2008 class has given a verbal. Four-star Alex Legion of the 2007 class is on board. And Dakotah Euton, a 5-star talent in the 2010 class has also agreed to come play for Gillespie. There are others, too, but that gives you an idea why Kentucky-nation is quite pleased with Gillespie's progress on the recruiting front.

So, A Sea of Blue attempts to answer the question of why Tubby is perceived to be a lesser recruiter..

Before answering, the blog lays out five popular theories: that Smith is lazy, that he doesn't like to recruit, he puts too much on his assistants, his coaching style keeps kids away and he simply gets outworked.

I think there is much more to it than the simplistic explanations offered above. Most of these explanations seem easy to dismiss. For example, I don't think anyone can reasonably suggest Coach Smith was lazy – hard work was his stock in trade. Putting too much on his assistants? More likely a symptom than the problem. Coaching style? Maybe, but not likely the major reason. Outworked? Possibly, but not demonstrably. The most likely reason appears to be that Coach Smith didn't love to recruit. I can't offer definitive proof of that, but there is some evidence out there that he actually doesn't like recruiting that much.

The evidence, A Sea of Blue admits, is relatively weak. One article, an unabashedly pro-Tubby article, from the Atlanta Journal Constitution suggests simply that Tubby prefers to coach--crazy, that a coach would prefer coaching!!--and that Smith needs able, aggressive assistants surrounding him, something he may have in the form of Vince Taylor and Ron Jirsa. The second piece of evidence A Sea of Blue cites--and, again, the blogger admits the evidence is weak--comes from Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis. Davis writes that Tubby's disdain for recruiting is an "open secret."

Smith is as good a bench coach as there is in the game, and I have never heard a bad word uttered about him by his peers. (Trust me, that's rare.) But he also has a well-earned reputation for being disorganized. It's an open secret he doesn't like recruiting, which is why the program's strategy never seems to have a plan B, C and D. As a result, Smith often has to scramble for mid-level players after his primary targets head elsewhere. As for the way he runs his own team, well, ask Tubby on a Wednesday what time practice begins on Friday, and there's a good chance he won't have an answer.

A Sea of Blue goes on to point to Tubby's reluctance in bringing in top-25 prospects, who might only be around for one year before jumping ship to the NBA. The blogger also notes the complexity of Tubby's offensive and defensive schemes--something I'll try to break down for you at some point using my limited knowledge gained from an AAU coaching gig.

In the end, as I've said here before, it doesn't much matter what Kentucky fans think of Coach Smith now that he's in MInnesota. I've also said recently, and it deserves repeating, that the jury is still out--heck it hasn't even been paneled--on Tubby's ability to recruit in Minnesota. Time will tell.