Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; Mar. 12

A few thoughts to jump start your Thursday morning...

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

1. The SEC will make a decision about cost of attendance this weekend: While the Southeastern Conference holds its annual basketball tournament in Nashville the next four days, the league’s athletic directors will be meeting and topping their agenda is cost of attendance. Cost of attendance – the amount of money schools are willing to give athletes over and above their athletic scholarships – has already been approved by the five power conferences and Notre Dame that make up the 65 power schools that will dictate the direction college football takes. It’s not a question of will there be cost of attendance, just how much each school in the league will pony up.

Right now it’s up to each school to decide how much money beyond room, board, tuition, books and fees it’s willing to pay. Athletic director Jay Jacobs told USAToday last month that Auburn is likely to go with a figure of $6,000 with an additional $1,500 if they enroll in summer school. That’s considerably more money than the rest of the SEC schools have been thinking about.

Jacobs’ reasoning for the higher numbers?

Speaking to USAToday, Jacobs said, “Certainly having a higher number than most in the Southeastern Conference is going to be helpful [in recruiting]. Having the lowest number in the SEC could be hurtful.”

The last thing the SEC or any of the other conferences want or need is a bidding war for recruits, which is what will happen unless there is some sort of standard set and that standard is going to have to take into account that cost of living varies throughout the country. For example, $5,000 is going to go a lot further in Starkville than it is in Los Angeles, so a measure of common sense needs to be injected into the decisions.

The SEC needs to take the lead on this issue and establish a reasonable cost of attendance, then go about the business of selling it to the other conferences. If the power 65 can’t agree on this issue, it’s going to be a can of worms for college football.

2. One last hope for Florida hoops: To avoid their first losing record since the 1996-97 season, all the Gators (15-16) have to do is knock off Alabama today and Kentucky tomorrow. Then, no matter what happens on Saturday they will be guaranteed no worse than a .500 record. That is the tallest of orders but strange things happen in March once college basketball’s regular season comes to an end.

While no one expected the Gators to repeat last year’s success when they ran the SEC table – 18-0 in the regular season and 3-0 in the tournament en route to 30 straight wins and the Final Four – no one could have predicted a season so filled with injuries, suspensions, missed free throws and blown layups. You don’t have to wear orange and blue tinted glasses to see how easily this team could be sitting at 21-10 rather than 15-16.

The Gators should knock off Alabama today to even the record at 16-16. Bama is down two starters and hasn’t beaten the Gators in years. Kentucky on Friday? If the Gators were to win it wouldn’t top Villanova knocking off Georgetown in the NCAA championship game in 1985 for greatest upsets in college basketball history but it would make somebody’s short list.

And since it’s March, anything can happen but for the Gators to beat Kentucky in an arena where there will be so many UK fans in attendance that it seems like Rupp II, the following things will have to happen: (1) Michael Frazier will have to shoot unconscious; (2) Dorian Finney-Smith will need a double-double; (3) Jon Horford will have to play so far above his head that people are humming “You can call me Al” as they leave the arena; (4) Kasey Hill will have to beat people off the dribble, get in the lane, get fouled and actually hit the free throws; and (5) two of these four – Devin Robinson, Eli Carter, Chris Walker and Alex Murphy – are going to have to play like heroes.

3. Anthony Grant’s fate at Alabama may be decided today: Alabama athletic director Bill Battle loves Anthony Grant. He loves that under Grant’s leadership Alabama basketball players go to class and graduate, maintain one of the higher GPAs in school history, don’t have character issues that show up off the court and play hard every single possession wire to wire. When Battle looks at those things, it’s a no-brainer: Anthony Grant is Bama’s basketball coach next year.

When Battle listens to the fan base, which has largely disconnected with Grant, it’s a toss-up whether Grant stays or Grant goes at the end of this season. If Alabama (18-13) beats Florida (15-16) today in the SEC Tournament (1 p.m., SEC Network), it Will Pretty much secure an NIT berth and give Battle a reason to stand by his man. If the Tide loses to the Gators – Grant is 0-9 against Florida and former boss Billy Donovan – Battle may have no choice but give in to the masses and let Grant go.

Battle blogged early in the week that he thinks Grant has done an admirable job considering point guard and second leading scorer Ricky Tarrant was lost for the season after game #19 and other starters have missed a combined 19.5 games to injuries. While those might be compelling arguments to keep Grant for at least one more year, the argument that might resonate the most with Grant is 9,184. That’s what Bama drew last week for its Senior Night game with Ole Miss in 15,000-seat Coleman Coliseum. As much as Battle likes Grant the bottom line speaks volumes.

What else speaks volumes is Bruce Pearl. In one more year, two at the most, he’ll have the Tigers contending in the SEC. You can count on that.

4. Kelvin Taylor needs to be freed: Kelvin Taylor has carried the football 227 times for 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those sound like decent numbers for a season but unfortunately, that’s two seasons worth of work at Florida. This is a kid who needs the football in his hands. He is that type of back who gets better the deeper you get into the football game. His dad was like that, too. Give Kelvin 15 carries in the first three quarters and then cut him loose in the fourth and you get games like Georgia, when he carried the ball 25 times for 197 yards and two touchdowns. The next week, he only got 13 carries against a Vanderbilt defense that wasn’t nearly as formidable as the one he torched the week before and he got only 34 carries in the next four games combined.

Perhaps there were some issues between Taylor and the previous coaching staff but whatever the reason, Taylor has been under-utilized in each of the last two seasons. The hope is that Jim McElwain will take a look at Fred Taylor tapes then watch some high school film on Kelvin Taylor, which could lead him to conclude that he’s got a back who needs carries to be effective.

5. THE SEC WILL BE LUCKY TO GET A FIFTH TEAM IN THE NCAA: Kentucky (31-0) and Arkansas (24-7) are mortal locks. Kentucky will be the #1 overall seed no matter what happens at the SEC Tournament. If Arkansas gets to the finals, a #4 seed could be there for the taking. That leaves Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU and Texas A&M all needing some help to get their dance cards punched.

Georgia (20-10): The Bulldogs have the #41 RPI and #39 strength of schedule. The Bulldogs don’t play until Friday when they face the winner of Thursday’s South Carolina-Ole Miss game. One win gets the Bulldogs into the semifinals and that will punch their ticket.

Ole Miss (20-11): The Rebels have the #50 RPI and #46 strength of schedule but they are 3-7 against the RPI top 50. They face South Carolina Thursday and if they win that one, Georgia on Friday. Figure the Rebels need to win two.

Texas A&M (20-10): The Aggies are #55 in RPI and have the #78 strength of schedule. They’re hurt by a 2-6 record against the RPI top 50. They face Auburn today. Lose that one and they’re out for sure. Win and they still better beat LSU Friday or else it’s the NIT.

LSU (22-9): The Tigers have the #48 RPI and the #80 strength of schedule. Against the RPI top 50 they are 5-2. Their first game in the SEC Tournament is Friday against the winner of Auburn-Texas A&M. The Tigers are probably in no matter what they do Friday, but just to be on the safe side, they need a win. If they’re at 23 wins, they’re dancing.

Prediction: Kentucky, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU will get in but if the Aggies win both Thursday and Friday, the SEC will get its fifth team.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Do you think it should be up to each school to determine cost of attendance money or do you think there should be a conference or even a national standard?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

The Doors released their much anticipated third album on Fourth of July weekend 1968. It featured 11 songs and just under 33 minutes of music and though Rolling Stone wasn’t exactly enamored with it, “Waiting for the Sun” quickly rose to #1 on the Billboard charts and “Hello I Love You” became the #1 selling single in the country rather quickly. What made The Doors so popular was the unmistakable baritone of Jim Morrison, who spent some of his formative years were spent at St. Petersburg Junior College and FSU, where he was arrested after a prank following a 1964 football game. The arrest hastened Morrison’s departure to Los Angeles where in a matter of two years he was a rock and roll superstar. Today’s music is “Love Street,” one of my favorite cuts from “Waiting for the Sun.”


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