If you really want to know what Jim McElwain is all about consider this simple sentence offered up Tuesday when he held his pre-spring practice press conference in the south end zone: “After every event we have a follow-up meeting to say, 'How do we make it better?'”
McElwain is fully aware of what he’s inherited at the University of Florida. He’s got some very talented players, for sure, just not enough of them. On the offensive line and at linebacker, for instance, there are major shortages of talented bodies which means McElwain and his staff are going to do some creative things scheme-wise until they can recruit enough players so there are no big holes that need filling. Right now there are far too many holes for a football program of Florida’s stature.
Meanwhile, McElwain has the task of taking what he has and in the matter of the four weeks and 15 days of spring practice finding who can do what and then putting together a team with obvious strengths and weaknesses he hopes he can disguise until help arrives. As he takes the Gators through spring practice, McElwain and his staff will meet after each practice, evaluate the progress and the personnel and then ask that question, “How do we make it better?”
That’s how you rebuild a football program and strengthen it to the point that it won’t suffer a breakdown like we’ve seen the past four years. McElwain works on an 18-month plan in which each day is accounted for but he knows you don’t get overnight where you want to be in 18 months. It is a one-day-at-a-time approach in which the success of today is simply the starting point for what has to be accomplished tomorrow.
This is the approach that is going to get Florida football back to a championship level.
“It takes a lifetime to build character. It only takes one moment of stupidity to erase what it took a lifetime to build.”I got that from Dean Smith some 40 years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. I was reminded of those words on Monday when I saw that very stupid video of the University of Oklahoma chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Not only did those young men taint their own legacy for a lifetime – imagine what happens when one of them goes to get a real job and that video surfaces – but they helped undo more than 40 years of progress in Norman, Oklahoma.
Back in the 1970s when football teams in the SEC were probably 70-30 white to black, Oklahoma was probably 70-30 in the opposite direction. Not only was Barry Switzer winning national championships with predominately black teams, but he was winning big with black quarterbacks such as Julius Caesar (JC) Watts and Jamelle Holloway. Because of the appeal of Switzer and the Norman community, OU recruited nationwide. I remember the Gators losing Elvis Peacock of Miami Central to OU in 1974. It’s not that Doug Dickey was a racist or that Florida had racial issues. It was simply the perception that Barry Switzer and OU didn’t care about color and that Norman, Oklahoma was a very cook place for a black athlete to spend four or five years. It was magnetic.
That perception has prevailed for more than 40 years but now all those years og good will and good relations have been turned upside down by a bunch of stupid SAE frat boys. It’s going to take some serious damage control by Bob Stoops, Lon Kruger and all the other coaches in all the other sports to overcome what the frat boys did and even that might not be enough.
We’ve already seen the first fallout. Tuesday, 2016 4-star offensive tackle Jean Delance (6-5, 270, Mesquite, TX) revoked his commitment to Oklahoma all because of that video. Don’t be surprised if recruiting nosedives in the coming months. For the time being, at least, no one is going to remember that OU was the home of players like Watts, Billy Sims, Keith Jackson, Lee Roy Selmon, Joe Washington and Greg Pruitt, but they will remember the SAE frat boys who probably cheered until their lungs burned and drank until they couldn’t stand after black kids scored touchdowns or dropped in 20 points not all that long ago.
Florida State University has asked a federal court to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by the former FSU student who accused Heisman Trophy quarterback Jameis Winston of rape. Even though FSU has admitted that it was aware of the accusations of rape one month after the alleged crime and did not report this to the school’s Title IX office, the school claims that this is “insufficient to establish actual knowledge on the part of FSU.” FSU attorneys also say that neither head football coach Jimbo Fisher nor associate AD Monk Bonasorte knew the identity of the alleged victim or that she was an FSU student.
Given all that has happened in Tallahassee – the TPD tainted evidence leaving the state attorney without enough evidence to prosecute; the disciplinary committee seemed to stack a hearing that would keep Winston eligible for the college football playoff semifinals; shoplifting at Publix; a vulgar, sexist outburst in an FSU dining hall – should anyone be shocked if the request to dismiss is granted? Figure it will be simply business as usual in Tallahassee.
Ndkamukong Suh just signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins for six years and $114 million. “Economic voodoo” is how Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post describes it because only $60 million of the money is guaranteed. Even though it doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to, $60 million is still a lot of money but Svrluga points out in his Tuesday article in the Post that most of these big contracts we keep hearing about now that the NFL’s version of the silly season has begun aren’t exactly what they’re cracked up to be. The difference between real money and voodoo money is substantial and very few of these players will ever see anything close to the large amount that gets publicized when they sign.
A couple of weeks ago pitcher Max Scherzer, who went 18-5 last year with the Detroit Tigers, signed a seven year deal worth $210 million with the Washington Nationals with the money paid over a 14-year span. Scherzer will get every dime of his money. Suh, in all likelihood, will only see the $60 million guaranteed that he’s owed by the Dolphins. Remember that 8-year, $132 million deal that Calvin Johnson signed with the Detroit Lions, the richest long-term deal in NFL history? Only $60 million is guaranteed.
Svrluga points out that NFL football might be the most popular sport in the country, but when it comes to taking care of its players financially, nobody can beat baseball. Writes Svrluga, “Somewhere, at a spring training camp in Florida or Arizona, there’s a little-known baseball player who is guaranteed more money in his deal than one of these free agents from football over whom we’re all slobbering.”
To read the entire article, click on this LINK:
The University of Massachusetts – the same UMass that had its trip to the Final Four in 1996 vacated by the NCAA for some funny business while John Calipari was coaching the Minutemen – will honor Calipari by retiring his number this weekend on the 20th anniversary of that team. This does not settle well with Dan Shaughnessy, the columnist for the Boston Globe, who used Tuesday’s space in the newspaper to torch UMass for its decision.
Wrote Shaughnessy: “Really? Bill Cosby’s jersey is not available?”
Comparing what Cal does to Cosby, who has been accused of sexually assaulting numerous women over the years, is a stretch, but it does put Cal’s time at UMass in a bit of perspective.
A couple of interesting quotes from the Shaughnessy column:
“Calipari is a man who stretches the rules, and wins. He won at UMass. He won at Memphis. He took both schools to the Final Four, but both appearances were “vacated.’’ They were erased. You know the drill. Ineligible players. Phony SAT tests. The usual. So, while Coach Cal and Pitino are the only coaches to take three schools to the Final Four, Cal’s also got more vacancies than a Days Inn in downtown Detroit. And our state university is going to honor him? Again?”
And then there was this:
“UMass looks pathetic. It’s bad enough that the school bosses have signed off on a ridiculous, costly, and futile plan to play Bowl Subdivision football. Now they are once again honoring a man who produced a program that ultimately disgraced the school.”
Unfortunately, Shaughnessy is 100% on the mark both when it comes to Calipari, whose Kentucky program is a pipeline to the NBA thanks to what many consider questionable under the table agreements with the sludge on the bottom of the septic tank operatives who broker the best players on the AAU market, and to UMass, which should know better. There is no question that Calipari is a fine basketball coach, but his accomplishments will always pale against those of coaches who won big without resorting to making deals with the slimier elements of AAU basketball.
Do you believe the fallout at Oklahoma will be short-lived or do you think it’s going to take a long time to get past the damage of this incident?
I have a growing appreciation for the music of The Revivalists, a rock and soul band from New Orleans that does a terrific live show. The band has done two albums, the best of which is “City of Sound” which was re-released in 2014 with a second disc that includes an hour of live music. They will be playing the Wanee Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park on April 18 along with Widespread Panic, Gregg Allman, Gov’t Mule, Hot Tuna and Earth Wind and Fire. This is a live version of “Concrete” from “City of Sound.”