Random thoughts on a warm spring day ...

The latest installment from Phillip Marshall covering a wide variety of topics.

Last weekend's series at Alabama must have been maddening for Auburn baseball coach Steve Renfroe and his team. With a good pitch here or there, the Tigers could have been celebrating a crucial series win in Tuscaloosa. Instead, they are reeling from suffering their first sweep of the season.

Certainly, the season is far from over. Winning six out of nine from Vanderbilt, Georgia and Arkansas would probably get the Tigers into the Southeastern Conference tournament. Winning more than that would probably mean a regional bid.

It could happen. A sweep of Vanderbilt this weekend at Plainsman Park is certainly not out of the question. Georgia hasn't been much since starting its SEC season 8-1. Arkansas is tough at home, but the Razorbacks are, after all, in last place in the West.

There were actually some good signs last weekend against an Alabama team that now seems certain to win the West and is on the verge of locking up the overall SEC championship. The biggest question might be how quickly Renfroe's youthful team can put that disappointment to rest and focus on the task at hand.

A JUICY TALE

I've never met Juicy Locke, father of colossal football flop Eric Locke. I'm sure Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer wishes he'd never met him either.

Locke, of course, went from Murfreesboro, Tenn., to Alabama to be the next David Palmer. Then he left Alabama for Tennessee, where he did nothing on the field and allegedly charged up $2,400 on a teammate's credit card off the field. He was kicked off the team and kicked out of school.

Ol' Juicy wasn't happy. He accused Tennessee of improper conduct when Eric transferred. Turns out Fulmer met with Juicy for 15 minutes before Eric had actually left Alabama. That's a no-no. Tennessee imposed a penalty of two scholarships on itself and some personal sanctions on Fulmer.

Chances are, the NCAA will see that as enough, though there are no guarantees. Alabama fans are screaming bloody murder, claiming Tennessee should get hammered like the Crimson Tide did.

The truth is there is no comparison between the two. Alabama's case was far more serious and wide-ranging. And Tennessee, of course, doesn't have the added baggage of two other recent major infractions cases.

A RISING STAR

My guess is that new Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik will be a head coach before many years have passed. He is extremely impressive personally and, according to those who should know, he is a terrific coach.

Not since the days of Brother Oliver have I heard Auburn defensive players talk with as much enthusiasm about their coordinator. Coaches who have competed against him say he is a terrific strategist and is at his best on game day.

A CHANCE FOR CRAIG

Word is that former Auburn star Dameyune Craig is going to get a real shot at being the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins and new head coach Steve Spurrier.

I hope so. Craig was not only one of the more talented quarterbacks ever to play for Auburn, he was a class act and he was a winner.

I'm no expert on pro football, but I'm convinced he'll be a winner at that level, too, if he ever gets the chance.

FRESHMAN TO WATCH

When Auburn begins preseason practice in August, you might want to keep an eye on freshman tailback Tre Smith.

It won't be easy for Smith to find playing time at a loaded position, but he could be something special. He could have gone elsewhere and faced less competition. Instead, he vowed to come to Auburn ready to compete.

You have to like that.

PAYING PLAYERS

There has been much discussion about Rob Pate's belief, expressed eloquently in his unpublished book, that college athletes should receive some financial compensation.

In a perfect world, he would be right. There's no question that college athletes, particularly football players, pay a tremendous price in terms of time and grueling work.

But it's not a perfect world. Such a stipend couldn't be limited to only football players or to only athletes in revenue-producing sports. It would have to go to every athlete on scholarship. Could Auburn afford that? Yes. Could Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, LSU, Kentucky, Arkansas and South Carolina afford it? Yes. Could Ole Miss or Mississippi State? No.

The truth is that athletics is not a money-making venture at most schools. For every Jordan-Hare Stadium, packed with 86,000 fans there are dozens of arenas that are never full. It is easy to look at the most prominent schools and have the feeling it is that way everywhere. It isn't. What's the answer? I don't have one. But if I was a player at Auburn or Alabama or any other such school and I saw coaches and administrators getting rich, I would also wonder where was the fairness in all of that.

Until next time...


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