The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the 2002 Auburn football Tigers and other teams across the Southeastern Conference.

Mike Slive is being paid a lot of money to be commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. Good thing. It looks like he's going to earn every cent. The SEC's image has taken a beating of late, and things only seem to get worse. Just take a quick look.

*Alabama and Kentucky are already in the NCAA's jail, prohibited from postseason play in football and penalized large numbers of scholarships.

*Former Tennessee quarterback Tee Martin all but admitted to a Pittsburgh columnist that he did, after all, take money from former Mobile Register sportswriter Wayne Rowe. Martin said he was a different person then. He didn't elaborate on how different he might have been several weeks ago when he insisted that he never saw any of the money, which Rowe said was provided by Tennessee booster Dianne Samford. The spin coming out of Knoxville is that it would be a secondary violation even if he did take the money. Yeah, right.

*Arkansas has been told the NCAA wants more information on its internal investigation into charges that a booster overpaid football players for summer jobs and paid some that did no work at all. Arkansas' investigation first found the violations to be secondary. Later, the school said they were major. When the NCAA wants more information, that's always bad news.

*Mississippi State seems headed for big-time NCAA trouble. Head coach Jackie Sherrill said as much at the SEC Media Days in Birmingham.

*LSU has admitted some problems in its academic support program, though the problems don't seem serious enough to likely result in a lot of trouble.

If you are keeping score, exactly half the league has NCAA troubles of some sort. Who knows who could be coming next?

Many Alabama fans are wildly celebrating Tennessee's problems. I feel sure Ole Miss fans are enjoying watching Mississippi State squirm. But the truth is, what's going on is awful for the SEC as a whole. When one school gets into trouble, it's an embarrassment for the league. When six are in trouble all at one time, that's more than an embarrassment. That's downright humiliating.

What can Slive do? Not a lot, really. He can plead with schools not to turn on each other. He can help schools investigate allegations of wrongdoing. He can't change the booster culture at Alabama or the arrogance at Tennessee. He can't tell the NCAA not to bother investigating Mississippi State or wash away the dirt at Arkansas.

The only answer is for the SEC members to make a commitment to do things right and to work together to solve problems instead of turning on each other like so many jackals.

Will it happen? I wouldn't count on it.


Wednesday evening's scrimmage was not overly impressive, but then who would have expected it to be? It was Auburn's fourth day in full pads. It's still 2 1/2 weeks before the opener at Southern California. Much remains to be done.

The focus, of course, is on Jason Campbell and Daniel Cobb, who are competing to be the starting quarterback. That race is getting close to the finish line. Offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino said Wednesday he plans to make a decision after Saturday's scrimmage.

Were I a betting man, which I'm not, I'd put my money on Campbell. But I wouldn't feel real confident about it. Cobb still could make a late move. An outstanding performance Saturday might even win him the job.

Nobody won it Wednesday. Both quarterbacks had some good throws and some bad ones. Both had some good ones dropped. Here is one man's opinion of some the good and bad in the scrimmage:

GOOD: The running of freshman tailback Tre Smith. It becomes more obvious every day that Smith is going to be on the field come Sept. 2. He's too good not to be.

BAD: Auburn receivers dropped too many passes, again. Jeris McIntyre dropped a perfect strike from Campbell for what would have been a touchdown.

GOOD: The defense, even with most of the starters on the sideline, was still good enough to get the best of the offense.

BAD: The offense wasn't good enough to take advantage of the reserves on the other side of the ball and score a lot of points.

GOOD: The running game, even without Carnell Williams, was impressive. Ronnie Brown and Smith are competing hard for the job of backing up Williams. My guess is Brown will hang on early in the season, but Smith won't be far away. He's headed for stardom.

GOOD: Cobb and Campbell said all the right things when the scrimmage was over, both saying this team would be good regardless of the outcome of their competition.

BAD: They didn't throw all the right passes, especially when the pressure was on.

GOOD: Redshirt freshman Steven Ross did a good job at offensive weak tackle.

BAD: He got the opportunity because Mark Pera went down with a groin injury that could sideline him for a significant portion of preseason.

Overall, Wednesday's scrimmage wasn't great and it wasn't bad. It did nothing to convince me the Tigers will contend for a championship and nothing to convince me they won't.

Until next time...

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