The resignation of Florida wide receivers coach Joker Phillips caught everyone by complete surprise. Tuesday morning he was out on the field, coaching during Will Muschamp's football camp and that afternoon he was absent but it wasn't exactly dramatic. Nobody suspected anything. After all, it's camp, there are potential recruits on hand and Joker was the recruiting coordinator. Then came Wednesday afternoon and the announcement without any warning that he had resigned and was being replaced by former Gator quarterback Chris Leak, who spent 2013 as a graduate assistant on the Florida staff. ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy was the first to allege that NCAA recruiting violations were involved in the resignation, but there has still been nothing to corroborate that claim from the University of Florida.
A day later we still don't know all the details, but Charles Robinson and Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports have reported that (a) Florida was turned in by someone with ties to the University of Miami and (b) a photo of Phillips and a high school recruit that was allegedly taken at a Miami restaurant during a recruiting dead period was offered to the NCAA as evidence.
What we don't know is if this was incidental contact. The NCAA has what is known as "the bump rule" for coaches who inadvertently find themselves in contact with a recruit and it simply can't be avoided. If that is the case, then it's not a lot different than any self-reported violations that number in the 100s over the years. Every school that recruits at a high level self-reports at least a few of these every year and probably 80% of them are actually incidental, unplanned contact. But, everybody knows that if you report enough of them you can get away with one or two that have the look of incidental but are actually planned out in detail.
If Florida reports to the NCAA that the contact was incidental and the NCAA buys the explanation, then it will go down as a secondary violation and the punishment is the equivalent of making every member of the coaching staff write "I will not cheat" 100 times and turning it in to the NCAA after school monitor.
But if it was simply a case of incidental contact, then why the resignation? When was the alleged photo offered to the NCAA? Was it back in December, when some speculate the alleged incident took place? And if it happened way back then, why did it take so long for the NCAA to be notified? Or, did the NCAA have the evidence for months and only notified Florida this week that it had the goods on Joker Phillips? Had Florida self-reported one thing and then the alleged witness told a different story and produced a photo to back up his allegations?
If the NCAA rules – or has already decided – that the contact was not incidental but planned in advance and captured for immortality on someone's cell phone, then the Gators have a potentially serious problem on their hands. A planned contact during a dead period is indeed a major violation and while this might not seem bad enough to merit a major, remember this: when the Gators went on football probation in 1984, one of the violations was Dwight Adams' heinous crime of buying a Sprite and a pack of Juicy Fruit for Dale Dorminey at the Gainesville Airport. That was ruled a major which proves that with the NCAA there is no rhyme nor is there any reason for how they go about deciding what is heinous and what should be laughed off.
All this might seem to be much ado about nothing, but when you consider the timing of Joker's resignation, it raises far too many questions. You would think that if this were (a) secondary and (b) Joker had reported to UF compliance that he had bumped into a recruit in Miami during a dead period that no resignation would have been necessary. That he resigned leads one to think that either Florida is being pro-active to a fault and taking no chances with the NCAA or a line was crossed somewhere.
If this is viewed as a major, then it is in Florida's favor that UF is the only Southeastern Conference school without even one major violation against any of its sports teams since 1990. Jeremy Foley won't tolerate breaking NCAA rules and Jamie McCloskey runs an aggressive compliance department that assumes nothing. Combine Florida's history of compliance and the resignation of Phillips and it could keep this incident from being viewed as a black mark on the Florida athletic program if there is more to this than simply a secondary violation that got blown out of proportion by someone with a cell phone camera.
Okay, so he was probably the worst quote ever when he was Florida's quarterback from 2003-06. That doesn't change the fact that teammates would have run through a wall for him or that he was always the best prepared player on the team. It also doesn't change the fact that he kept the promise that he made before he ever enrolled and led Florida to a national championship.
So how does all this translate to Leak as Florida's new wide receivers coach now that Joker Phillips is gone? Well, it says plenty that he's the kind of guy who inspired teammates to play hard for him. I would suspect that he will inspire Florida's wide receivers to play hard, know their assignments and be difference makers. I would also suspect that it will translate well on the recruiting trail where coaches who keep their promises become superstars when it comes to landing big time talent.
It also says plenty that Leak was always the best-prepared player on the team. You expect that of a quarterback. You also expect that of a coach. If a coach is always well prepared, then players will follow his lead.
Let's face it. When it comes to productivity and acting the part of best prepared, the last four years haven't exactly been memorable for Florida's wide receivers. Granted, they were better last year under Joker Phillips than they were the previous two years under Aubrey Hill or that disaster of a 2010 under the tutelage of Zach Azzanni, but did Florida's wideouts do anything to distinguish themselves in 2013? Not really, which means there is only one way to go and that's up.
So while Chris Leak might be a former quarterback who hasn't really worked with wide receivers before, he does have the kind of qualities it takes to do a great job. And besides, where is it written that a coach has to have played the position he currently tutors when he was in college? If that is a requirement, then explain Kevin Sumlin, the offensive genius of a head coach at Texas A&M. He was a linebacker at Purdue in his playing days.
The two-man NBA analysis team of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson isn't bad, but if you've ever listened to Doris Burke analyze a basketball game then you know that ABC is really wasting her by using her as the sideline reporter during the playoffs. She should be offering her insight while the game is going on rather than having to wait for a time out to ask a question that gets a one-sentence answer. I keep hoping that ESPN will do the smart thing next fall and relegate Dickie V to the studio (long overdue!) so that Doris Burke can take over as the primary college basketball analyst. She's that good.
And, for those of you who don't know her background, back when she was the point guard at Providence (maiden name was Doris Sable), she led the Big East in assists as a senior. The point guard on the men's team that year was Billy Donovan.
One day, one controversy. Croatia was done in by a flop by Brazil's Fred (I have no idea what his last name is; they only go by one name down there), whose bad acting somehow "fooled" the referee, who awarded a penalty kick. Neymar (no last name, see Fred) buried the penalty kick to give Brazil a 2-1 lead, which was stretched to 3-1 before the opening match of the World Cup was in the books. This was home cooking at its worst. The Brazilians are good enough that they don't need any help. FIFA should be ashamed.
Which will you be watching more closely this weekend: the US Open or the World Cup?
I never really understood Donald Fagen's lyrics but there are about 40 Steely Dan songs that I sing along with any time they come on the radio. Very few people who listened intently to music in the 1970s could sing the entire song "Deacon Blues" off Steely Dan's 1978 album "Aja" but the moment they hear the line "they call Alabama the Crimson Tide" they instantly join in with "they call me Deacon Blues." This was probably the best song off that seven-song album that also included "Peg" and "Black Cow." When I was out walking today and listening to music, I got a pleasant surprise when "Aja" shuffled on. I sang along the next 45 minutes. I still don't know what the hell I was singing about but I like the music.