You can also count me among those who think Lane Kiffin’s hiring as absolutely ludicrous. Look, I understand you don’t need to hold his 5-15 record with the Oakland Raiders against him. Norv Turner did poorly in that dysfunctional mess and now he’s got a Super Bowl-caliber team in San Diego. And I also understand that Kiffin going 7-5 his first year in Tennessee is no shame. But it’s not a great credit either. The Vols lost to UCLA, their only signature win was over a bad Georgia team and they were humiliated by Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. What was Kiffin done to merit this kind of promotion? Unless of course it’s not really a promotion, and the forthcoming NCAA investigation is going to result in crippling sanctions. Either way, it’s a strange story indeed.
Catching up some older news that I didn’t really touch on while the bowl games were going on, I’m in the group that’s very skeptical of the firings of Mark Mangino, Mike Leach and Jim Leavitt. In the cases of Mangino and Leach, if what they did was accurately reported, it’s inexcusable. But Leavitt’s seemed a lot more mysterious. And I am among the cynics who think these stories of player abuse are going to be the newest tactic of the universities to get out of paying long-term contracts when they want to get rid of a coach. At this time last year, Texas Tech was desperate to re-sign Leach. You’re telling me that not one whiff of any mistreatment ever got out prior to this? That his treatment of Craig James’ son was an isolated incident? Or that if it wasn’t, no one in the program ever so much as whispered anything? Come on. The only justice in this is that coaches have never felt bound by the terms of their contracts and always look for outs, so why should athletic programs be any different? But the whole concept of college athletics teaching teamwork and honor takes another hit.
This post is essentially going to wrap things up for the year here at the Notebook. I will be back with some comments on recruiting after LOI day in February, and over the spring and summer I’m hoping to add more and different material to the sidebars. But otherwise, it’s going to be quiet time until August.
The College Football Notebook was the first part of an emerging series, The Sports Notebook, which will have four different arms by the end of the summer. You can visit The College Basketball Notebook right now for almost-daily commentary on hoops, and baseball and pro football will have their own sites in preparation for the 2010 season. It will be a busy and exciting year for the Notebook family and I’ll post an update here when baseball makes its March debut.
To conclude, I’m taking a look back at some of the things I wrote in August, and having broken them down into the best and worst of the preseason comments….
"Brian Kelly at Cincinnati is coming off a conference championship and Orange Bowl bid. And a guy with a name like Kelly hailing from the Midwest, think he might not be attractive to Notre Dame if Charlie Weis can't get it done?"
"Winning eight games is a very good bet, and give them (Clemson) an outside shot at the division if redshirt frosh Kyle Parker is ready behind center."
"The (Northwestern) Wildcats are very capable of getting into the league’s top four and I expect them to do just that…for a New Year’s date"
"Look for the much-maligned Big Ten to get two BCS bowl bids again, with those going to Ohio State and Iowa..."
"Oklahoma loses a lot and simply bringing Bradford back isn’t enough to make them a national title contender. The Sooners lose four starters on the offensive line and will start a freshman at center. They should be okay defensively and combined with Bradford, this will make them a good team, capable of reaching a big bowl game. But another run at the big prize is asking too much."
"I have no such qualms about Texas, who not only returns McCoy, but gets their O-Line back intact. There’s some replacement work to do on the front seven, but overall I give the ‘Horns an edge on OU in a rivalry that’s one of the fiercest in the country."
"Cincinnati has a lot of rebuilding to do in its attempt to repeat. The Bearcats must replace ten defensive starters. While they still have explosive quarterback Tony Pike calling the shots and he will be supported by a respectable running game, I doubt they'll be able to stop anybody at a rate sufficient to win another championship."
"The Yellow Jackets were dealt a humiliating 38-3 loss by LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl though, and the defense has to be rebuilt. In a league where you can slip from first to ninth in the blink of an eye, that’s enough to raise doubts about Tech’s bowl prospects this year. Simply returning to the postseason party would have to be considered a success for Johnson in 2009."
"...in a league where every contender has its flaws, (N.C.)State has the fewest on their side of the draw. I like O’Brien to win the division"
And these last three doozies. The worst part of it is that each one is in very sound-bite friendly format. If this were a political campaign my rivals would have a field day having me do voice-overs of these picks in the background as the attack ad rolled across the TV screen…
"Nevada will be the fourth different midmajor team in four years to crash the BCS."
"The (Oregon) Ducks are not a credible challenger in this league and will have to fight just to make a bowl game."
"I do not see the Tide as a serious threat to go all the way this year."
Ugh. On that note, see you over at the college hoops notebook and back here in August.