SCOTT: Jury still out on Orgeron

Can you blame Ole Miss fans if they aren't quite sure what to think of first-year coach Ed Orgeron?

    Orgeron has lost two of his original assistants to alcohol-related incidents, and has since lost 12 members of his first Ole Miss signing class.

    While the defense improved under Orgeron the offense struggled mightily. The reported tension on the coaching staff led Orgeron to fire veteran offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone after just one season, even though Mazzone had two years left on a guaranteed three-year contract worth $250,000 per year.


      Then the Rebels closed out a 3-8 season, their worst record since 1987, with a miserable 35-14 loss to archrival Mississippi State.


      As if that's not bad enough, Orgeron and his coaches have also been accused of tampering with Tulane players. As if Tulane coaches didn't face enough of a challenge this season dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, at least one Ole Miss assistant contacted a Tulane assistant regarding Green Wave players possibly transferring after the season.


      Three weeks ago Tulane coach Chris Scelfo told that an unnamed school was trying to take advantage of Tulane's football program by contacting Green Wave players about transferring.


      Scelfo said, "In the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States, you've got to stoop pretty low to do that. You're lower than dirt. I have reported them to the proper people. I'm not going to tolerate that. There's people in our business that don't belong in our business."


      Ole Miss athletic director Pete Boone tried to pass off the situation as a misunderstanding, saying he simply wanted Orgeron to father information about Tulane's players in case something happened with the Green Wave's program. Boone admitted the Ole Miss coaches had heard rumors that Tulane's football program will be forced to disband because of financial problems brought on by Hurricane Katrina.


      "I had heard from two different sources that said the board of trustees had met and they were $200 million in the hole and they were seriously considering not doing football. I also heard from another person that Scelfo himself had told some coaches that they probably weren't going (to play)," Boone told The Commercial Appeal. "What I did was I went and told Ed they may want to at least look at some of those kids in case they don't. I hope they do because that would be the greatest thing in the world, but don't be caught off base.


      "One of our coaches knew one of their coaches, and he just called him and asked him and the guy said I don't know anything about it. That was it. I thought it was the proper thing to do. If you're going to call somebody, obviously you can't call any players. You want to talk to somebody you know and just find out."


      Boone said no Tulane players were contacted, but Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson obviously doesn't buy all of Boone's explanation.


      "I'm not going to engage in any public debate over semantics," Dickson said. "We handled it in what we thought was the right way. I went through the conference office and asked them to handle it, then I went to the institution."


      Orgeron has since come out and defended the actions of his staff, saying Ole Miss did nothing wrong by simply asking a Tulane assistant coach about the possibility of players transferring to Ole Miss if Tulane dropped football.


      "I just know that we did the right thing," Orgeron said. "We called an assistant coach and said that we heard that football may not be going on at Tulane, and we would like to go through the proper channels when the time comes. That's all that happened."


      That's all? OK, so no one violated any rules, but some in the football world say Ole Miss violated Tulane anyway.


      "It's totally unethical," Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said. "I don't know if it's illegal. If they contacted players, it was illegal. But contacting a coach, that's very unethical and you don't do something like that. That's pretty low."


      Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky also got involved in the war of words, saying "We didn't get involved in the reporting of (the incident) but I think it's a shame, that in a situation as serious as this was to the people in New Orleans and Tulane University, that you would have a kind of predatory, competitive looting going on.


      "I guess that just tells you that we've put so much emphasis on winning that coaches in all our sports are working every angle they possibly can."




      At 5-2, with losses to Iowa and North Carolina and victories that have left coach Tubby Smith less than impressed, it's obvious Kentucky could use some help from center Randolph Morris.


      Instead, the only game Morris is playing is the waiting game.


      Morris put eligibility in limbo by having a relationship with the agency. NCAA rules prohibit a written or oral agreement between a player and an agent and the NCAA Legislative Review and Interpretations Committee recently ruled Morris did make an agreement, albeit oral, with sports agency SFX when he decided to explore his NBA draft potential last spring..


      The University of Kentucky does not plan to appeal the NCAA ruling on Morris' relationship with SFX, but Kentucky will instead appeal to have Morris' eligibility restored.


      Kentucky plans to bring Morris' case before a hearing of the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff sometime this week.


      In the meantime, 6-8, 200-pound junior Rekalins Sims is starting at center for the Wildcats because Kentucky's three 7-foot centers - 7-3 junior Shagari Alleyne, 7-foot junior Lukasz Obrzut and 7-2 freshman Jared Carter – so far add up to more than 21 feet of wasted time and potential.


      "If they were shooting 60 percent from the floor, hell, they'd be out there all the time," Smith said. "If they were grabbing six to eight rebounds ... they'd be in there. That's pretty obvious. They're not doing it. Maybe they're not capable of doing it."


      A young North Carolina team outrebounded Kentucky 37-30 on its way to an 83-79 victory at Kentucky on Saturday.


      "We had trouble with some of the same issues that we've had all year long -- rebounding the ball," Smith said. "That was our primary concern."


      Until Morris returns or one of the other big men learns how to be a true post player, Sims remains Kentucky's center, even if he's not built for the job.


      "Till somebody evolves and says that's my spot, I own it," Sims said. "No one has established that. None of those guys have stepped up and said, 'I'm taking the spot. ... It's going to be tough to get me out of here. I'm going to play to my potential every time.'"



      Don't look now but Florida is ranked 11th in the nation and 7-0 for just the third time and the first time since 1984-85. Not bad for a team that's supposed to be rebuilding this season.


      When stars Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh left early for the NBA draft (and were never selected), the expectation surrounding the Gators were unusually low.


The players, led by sophomore forward Corey Brewer and sophomore point guard Taurean Green, had different expectations built on a new ideal of putting the team first. That's something that can be hard to do when players spend most of their time assessing their pro prospects.


"I derive a lot of pleasure watching these kids play," said coach Billy Donovan, reached 200 wins quicker than any other coach in school history when Florida routed Central Florida 80-47 on Saturday. "We don't have guys in the locker room talking about not scoring enough points or not getting enough shots. They play the right way. They really do."


That quality was obvious from the other bench.


"They are on a team agenda," UCF coach Kirk Speraw said. "They play with a lot of emotion and a lot of activity.

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