It’s Tuesday so it’s Hindsight Day. Here is a hindsight is the best sight and my OPINION on what would have happened if …
1. As the University of Florida neared its date with the Committee on Infractions in 1984, rumors swirled that the NCAA was seriously considering the death penalty for the Gators. Florida had received a Notice of Allegations of 107 infractions, some for such heinous crimes as giving Dale Dorminey a couple of T-shirts, a Sprite and a pack of Juicy Fruit during his official visit. Now, there were indeed some very serious accusations of improper benefits but this was the first time Florida had been lit up by the NCAA in 23 years and that 1962 penalty was for an improper recruiting contact that resulted in a public reprimand. Because Charley Pell had been linked to the NCAA violations that put Clemson on probation, rumor had it that the NCAA was going to make Pell the example for all wrongdoers past, present and future even if it meant taking down the entire Florida football program.
Two things happened when Florida went before the Committee on Infractions: (1) Charley Pell basically fell on the sword for everyone who had done wrong on his watch and (2) the Florida administration offered Pell as a sacrificial lamb in exchange for “leniency.” Pell was fired but did Florida receive any leniency? When the sanctions came out, UF was only allowed to sign 20 for the recruiting class of 1985, then was reduced to 85 scholarships (95 was the max at the time) for 1986 and 75 for 1987. Florida was not allowed to play on television or go to a bowl game in 1985-86. The effects of the scholarship reductions were felt until 1993.
OPINION: To this day I believe the Florida administration was spooked by the NCAA into firing Charley Pell. Oklahoma and Barry Switzer, after all, got caught red handed in 1973 and again in 1980. The 1980 sanctions were for two years with no bowls or television. Oklahoma stood by Barry Switzer both times. Clemson got sanctioned for two years in 1982 and while there were violations that occurred when Pell was the head coach, more than half the violations that put Clemson on probation were on Danny Ford’s watch. Clemson stuck by Ford. Clemson, by the way, had been hit with public reprimands for recruiting violations in 1975. Auburn stuck with Pat Dye when he got hit with NCAA probation in 1980 while Auburn was already on probation from HBC Doug Barfield from the year before. Miami got hit up by the NCAA in 1981 and had scholarships reduced and a bowl ban, but that group helped lay the foundation for a 1983 national championship team and the ensuing dynasty that was The U in the 1980s. Miami didn’t fire Howard Schnellengerger.
Now it is true that the NCAA did give SMU the death penalty in February of 1987, but that was only after SMU had been put on probation four times from 1974-85. Those were habitual cheaters. While Florida certainly racked up a lot of violations, a good portion of them were of the ticky-tack variety such as the aforementioned Dorminey incident. To this day I believe that if Florida had stood its ground and while admitting to wrongdoing, sticking with Pell, that the NCAA would not have dropped the death penalty hammer.
Now, what would have happened if Charley Pell had remained Florida’s head coach? Let’s start with the basics: Charley left Florida with what was, for all practical purposes, an NFL team. That 1984 team featured six O-linemen who would play in the NFL including first rounder Lomas Brown. There were three first round running backs (Lorenzo Hampton, John L. Williams and Neal Anderson). There were four wide receivers who went on to play in the NFL including first rounder Ricky Nattiel. There were four future NFL D-linemen, six future NFL linebackers, three future NFL DBs, one punter and one placekicker who also saw time in the league.
Would Florida State and Miami benefitted from the Florida sanctions? You can answer that with both yes and no. There were certainly some players that Miami and FSU got that would have been Gators, but Pell was such an incredible recruiter that I believe to this day that Florida wouldn’t have missed much of a beat during the probation years if Pell had been leading the program. Just as Oklahoma actually thrived while on probation, I think Florida would have, too.
There are some folks who remain convinced that Florida would have been preceded SMU with the death penalty had Pell not been offered as a sacrifice. Charley did himself no favors by taking the fall for assistants like Sonny McGraw and Jim Parker, who were responsible for a bulk of the violations, but if UF wasn’t going to stand by him, then he wasn’t going to let his assistants take the biggest hit. He went down with the ship.
You won’t convince me that the NCAA would have given the death penalty if UF had stood by Charley Pell, nor will you convince me that Pell wouldn’t have won a national title. In retrospect, it all worked out fine because Steve Spurrer came home in 1990 and led Florida to its greatest 12 years in history with six SEC championships and one national title, but I do wonder in hindsight what might have been if UF had stood by Charley Pell.
GATORS REMAIN #1 IN COLLEGE BASEBALL POLL
Although they split two games in Columbia with #7 South Carolina, Florida (37-7, 14-6 SEC) remains #1 nationally in the college baseball polls. Florida and Texas A&M (35-9, 14-7 SEC) stayed at #2 followed by #3 Miami (33-8), #4 Mississippi State (30-14-1) and #5 Florida State (29-12). Other SEC teams ranked in the top 25 are #7 South Carolina (34-9, 15-5 SEC), #8 Vanderbilt (34-10, 13-8 SEC), #12 Ole Miss (33-12, 12-9 SEC) and #17 LSU (28-16, 11-10 SEC).
The Gators are home tonight in a non-conference game against Bethune-Cookman (23-22) of the MEAC.
BIG TIME TRANSFER FOR AMANDA BUTLER’S GATORS
Amanda Butler has to be dancing in her office now that the Gators have landed Utah State transfer Funda Nakkasoglu, an Australian transplant who has scored 1,149 points and averaged 19.1 points in her 58 college basketball games. Nakkasoglu, a 5-7 guard, led the Mountain West Conference in scoring last year at 20.8 points per game, which was good for 21st nationally. She was the MWC Freshman of the Year in 2015 and first team All-Mountain West in 2016.
Nakkasoglu will have to sit out the 2016-17 season per NCAA transfer rules but will have two years eligibility remaining starting in 2017-18.
CONSENSUS ALL TOO EARLY HEISMAN WATCH
These 10 guys are pretty much the consensus of all the sports sites for the all-too-early 2016 Heisman watch. Here are the candidates and maximum two sentences of what I think of their chances.
Leonard Fournette, LSU: He is truly a man among boys and if LSU can come up with any kind of passing game to keep it 7-on-7 in the box, he will do better than last year’s 1,953 yards and 22 TDs.
DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson: He threw for 4,104 yards and 35 TDs, ran for 1,105 and 12 more last year. He could dwarf those numbers this year with most of Clemson’s offense coming back.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford: His numbers last year were off the charts (2,109 rushing yards, 8 TDs; 45-645 and 5 TDs receiving; 1,200 kickoff/punt return yards and 2 TDs) last year but Stanford has to replace four O-linemen, a QB and both wide receivers.
J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State: If Urban Meyer had turned the offense over to him from day one last year, the Buckeyes might have repeated as national champs. They won’t win it all this year but they’ll set the foundation for a title when Barrett is a senior.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: Other than Watson, no QB in the country has more weapons to work with than Mayfield, who threw for 3,700 yards and 37 TDs last year plus ran for 405 and 7 more.
Greg Ward, QB, Houston: Ran for 1,108 and 21 TDs, passed for 2,828 and 17 last year. Will voters overlook that he plays against an American Athletic Conference schedule?
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: FSU returns all five starters on an O-line that allowed Cook to run for 1,691 yards (7.38 per carry) and 19 TDs as a sophomore. He could have Star Wars numbers this year.
Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia: He was off the charts good (747 yards, 8.12 per carry, 7 TDs) before he got hurt in game six last year. If he’s back 100% he could be scary good.
DeShone, Kizer, QB, Notre Dame: As a sophomore he threw for 2,880 yards and 21 TDs and ran for 520 and 10 more. With the Notre Dame publicity machine behind him he could emerge as a top three contender if he improves his numbers this year.
Chad Kelly, QB, Ole Miss: He’s the only QB who beat Alabama last year and he’s got the talent to do it again in 2016. Last year he threw for 4,042 yards and 31 TDs, ran for 500 and 10 more.
THREE GUYS I THINK WILL BE NFL BUSTS
1. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon: The San Francisco 49ers took him with the 7th pick of the first round. He looks really good coming off the bus and during warmups. I am enough of a football junkie that I watch the late night games from the Left Coast so I’ve watched a ton of Oregon and Pac-12 football. He’s got the look of a combine warrior to me. He doesn’t play tough and I think he will get mauled by the left tackles in the NFL.
2. Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia: His sack totals declined all three years at Georgia but that’s not why I think he will be a bust. Did you watch how Florida’s offensive tackles stood him up on run plays? He got a half sack in 2013 and another half sack in 2015 and both were coverage sacks when there was only so long the OT could block. His combine measurables say he’s destined for stardom. I’ll trust the film that he’ll bust. The Chicago Bears took him at #9. He should have been drafted but a #1? For this guy? Please.
3. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: The Cleveland Browns took him with the 15th pick of the first round. His speed says he should have been drafted and so do those 20 touchdown passes he caught at Baylor last year, but he would have caught another 10-15 TDPs if he hadn’t dropped so many passes. Guys who drop passes in college usually drop passes in the pros because the DBs in the pros tend to make you pay in a big way for a dropped ball.
Two women have accused Ray Lewis III, son of Hall of Fame linebacker and ESPN analyst Ray Lewis, of criminal sexual assault. Lewis spent two seasons at Miami, then transferred to Coastal Carolina.
Byron Cowart and starting corner Carlton Davis III were among four Auburn players who were arrested over the weekend for marijuana possession.
Detroit Tigers’ ace righthander Justin Verlander is officially engaged to super model Kate Upton.
A research analytic group hired by the Big 12 Conference has concluded that the Big 12 would be better off with 12 teams and a conference championship game. Now, the question remains who would the league go after if it expanded to 12 teams? Houston would love to make the jump from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12 but the Big 12 already commands the Houston television market so that might keep the Cougars out. UCF is the second largest school in the country and would give the league a footprint in the recruit rich state of Florida so that would probably be a strong option. Memphis would add an outstanding basketball program and would put a Big 12 stake in the heart of SEC territory so that is probably another viable option. BYU wants in but the school’s refusal to play on Sunday (in any sport) probably eliminates the Cougars. Cincinnati would crawl backward to be in the league, but it doesn’t bring enough positives.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Looking back, should Florida’s administration have stood by Charley Pell in 1984 or did it do the right thing in firing him?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
In my lifetime, I’ve seen The Beatles (Jacksonville, 1964), Elvis Presley (Miami, 1977), the Rolling Stones (Lakeland, 1978) and Queen (Baton Rouge, 1980). The Beatles had the greatest songs. Elvis had the greatest voice. Freddie Mercury was the ultimate front man for Queen, the combination of voice and outrageous energy. The Beatles broke up and John and George died. Elvis and Freddie Mercury are gone, too. That leaves Mick Jagger still fronting for the Rolling Stones, who first toured the US in 1964. I found this 1998 concert of the Stones from Bremen, Germany and had to make it the Music for Today since it has a great version of “Gimme Shelter.”