Around the Horn

What's up with the Big East? Why does holding never seem to get called? Charles Babb gives some thoughts and opinions on those topics and more today.

Cincinnati and the Big East

How far has the Big East fallen?

During the most recent bowls in December and January, several ESPN commentators were talking about the possibility that it could be the best overall conference. Though that was certainly more hype than reality, the Big East fared well against solid competition. As a group, Miami played for the national title losing in overtime; Virginia Tech took out a pesky Air Force squad; Pittsburgh dispatched Oregon State by 25 points; West Virginia may have lost their bowl but improved greatly during the season; and Boston College pasted Toledo. Plus, the Big East was shortly expected to dump one of their perennial bottom dwellers and replace them with a surprisingly tough Connecticut.

Now, the conference is in a serious fix. They lost their top two teams to the ACC and probably will lose Boston College if the courts do the right thing by ruling against their sham of a lawsuit. That will leave them with only Syracuse, West Virginia, Rutgers, Temple, and Pittsburgh. With that lineup, the loss of the BCS berth is almost assured as they will barely be any better than the Mountain West or even the Mid American Conference.

Even worse, the teams they are trying to use to replace the departed members are Cincinnati and Louisville. For their part, Louisville is improved, but they are not exactly Virginia Tech. The Cardinals have just five seasons in their entire history with nine wins or more, and arguably the biggest win ever for this program came against a sub-par Florida State team. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is not even the second best team in the state of Ohio. They proved that last week when they lost to Miami. In fact, I would argue that they are not even the third best team in the state given the performance of Toledo in recent years. The last time Cincinnati won nine games was in 1953 when Sid Gillman was still their coach, and for all the excitement surrounding their recent improvements the Bearcats are an extremely modest 21-17 in the last three seasons.

Holding Defensive Linemen

Is this still a penalty?

In game after game that I watch this year, I am struck by the egregious holding violations committed by offensive linemen, and the officials are not throwing the flag. It is not like these are situations where it is a borderline call. These are clear instances where a lineman is being dragged down by his jersey or having it stretched so much that Yao Ming could wear it.


I asked Jim Tressel about this at his Tuesday press luncheon. He responded by saying, "Well, the first thing we tell our defensive linemen is being held is no excuse, because you're going to get held, and you better understand that."

Clearly, though he is neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, Tressel and his staff are dead on with this prognostication.

"We do get held a lot," continued Tressel. "We get held a lot on special teams. The officials train hard and work on their thing and they get evaluated just like -- you can say that we do a lot of things not as well as we should. So I'm not saying that I want to go train the officials. They're working hard to become as good as they can, just like our guys are working as hard as they can to become as good as they can."

If the coaches know it and the offensive linemen know it and the defensive linemen know it, the officials have to know it. They see the game film from week to week. So, the question is, why in the name of Vince Lombardi is it not being called more often? I am not talking about ticky-tacky penalties. I am talking about examples like I watched in the Alabama-Arkansas game when the Razorbacks were being dragged to the ground or even tackled by offensive linemen. I am talking about examples like that of David Patterson of Ohio State who was mugged so badly on one play last week that I kept waiting to see the Northwestern offensive lineman brandish a gun and go sprinting off the field with a wallet and some jewelry.

For Tressel, that the officials are not calling penalties speaks to the human element of the game and is an argument against instant replay.

"I think it's one of the reasons why I'm not a real instant replay guy is, if you're going to worry about whether a guy's foot was one inch out of bounds, how about the arm drags and the jersey pulling and all that stuff that happens play after play after play, are we going to have to go back and replay those?" he asked. "And if no, well, then don't replay any of the stuff that's not called properly."

What about the players? What do they think of the obvious non-enforcement of a penalty according to the rulebook?

Tim Anderson seemed almost philosophical about it.

"When you talk about whether they're calling it or not, as long as it's fair both ways," he said. "As long as they're not calling them, you know, if they're not calling our guys, fine. But once they get to the point where they're calling it on one team and not the other, then I think there's a problem. But if they're not calling it either way, then in my mind, they're just letting us play, and that's fine with me."

Ben Hartsock explained it from a more technical perspective.

"I think one of the biggest techniques of an offensive linemen is getting your hands inside," said Hartsock. "Coach Bollman, our offensive coordinator, you get your hands on a guy before he can get them on you and get them inside. Once you get inside hand position on anybody, offensively or defensively, whoever gets their hands on first and on the inside generally is going to win the battle. And I guess a small advantage of that is once you're on the inside, if you do grab a little cloth, it's never going to get seen, and it's almost become part of the game. I don't think you can expect many guys to block with their fists or however you think. When you get your hands on the inside, but whenever you see somebody get their hands on the inside of a jersey, start pulling down shoulder pads and stuff like that, that's when it gets pretty obvious."

So the question still remains – if this is something that is on the rulebook as illegal, why are the officials allowing it to become just a "part of the game"?

Why not force teams to play fairly? If an offense cannot block the defensive line legally, then force them to either improve or lose? Certainly that would be fairer than turning a blind eye while they drag down defenders and rip their jerseys off of them like some pack of lust crazed teenage girls who run into a rock star.

Don't give me that stuff about "letting the kids play." If the referees really wanted to provide a fair and equitable environment for the players to play the game, then they would enforce the rules. By not enforcing penalties, they are merely allowing one side or the other to get away with cheating.


With Tulane's president on a crusade to get the non-BCS conferences included in the BCS, it does not do his argument much good when his school tanks a game against Texas by a score of 63-18.

They can talk about how unfair it is until they are blue in the face, but there is no way anyone can say that Tulane or even Northern Illinois belongs on the same field as LSU, Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State, etc. These are programs that are middle of the road teams. Yes, they might occasionally jump up and bite a top team. Yes, they have talent. However, they have no place in the top bowls. To send them some place like the Sugar or Rose Bowl would do nothing but create a lousy bowl with horrid attendance and awful television numbers. It would be unfair to both the non-BCS team as well as the program forced to play them.

This is simply socialism with a politically correct front slapped on top of it. Tax the rich (BCS leagues and bowls) and force them to pay for items that for the general public (non-BCS leagues).

The last time I checked, the United States was a Representative Democracy where those that work hard and deserve their pay are given it in a free society. If the non-BCS teams want to be in a BCS Bowl, then they should earn it against tougher competition.

Bobby Bowden writing a letter on behalf of a repeat rapist?

You have to be kidding me.

A week after his star quarterback was fined not once but twice for parking in slots for the handicapped, it has hit the wire that Bobby Bowden wrote a letter on behalf of a former player jailed for robbing, shooting, raping, and then leaving a woman for dead. Apparently the convict is up for resentencing and this might just help his cause when it comes time for reexamination of the case by a judge.

Before anyone asks -- Yes, I do believe in second chances.

After all, it might not be well-known but Jeffrey Dahmer converted to Christianity and was actually passing out Bible literature before being beaten to death. Nor was his conversion a sham from what I can gather – it was real. The minister who studied with him as well as guards and fellow prisoners indicated that Dahmer truly was a changed person. Meanwhile, the inmate who killed him was known to believe that he was in fact the Messiah.

The problem I have here is that there must be justice. Dahmer may have been truly repentant, but in order to fulfill the demands of justice needed to serve out his sentence and pay for his crimes.

The former Seminole must as well and the fact that Bobby Bowden wrote a letter on his behalf is disgusting.

This is not an instance where maybe the player was wrongfully convicted. No, Michael Gibson, a former Seminoles running back, has also been convicted of two other rapes.

How in the world can Bobby sleep at night writing this letter for a convicted felon such as this individual? What if it had been his child or his daughter-in-law or maybe his grandchild who was brutally raped, shot, robbed, and left bleeding on the floor in the hopes that she would die? Would he be so gung-ho about writing a letter of commendation?

Somehow I doubt it. So the question is, what gives him the license to write that letter on behalf of this rapist?

Bowden needs to use all that money of his to buy himself a clue.

Notre Dame and the ACC

Talk about your whirlwind romances.

Notre Dame and the ACC courted briefly before discovering that the Domers were not about to jump into bed with the conference. Notre Dame simply wanted to tease them with whispers of membership before revealing that they would never consider joining their football program to such a group.

The ACC should be handed a towel for its face. It has egg all over it. Now they are going to have to go back after Boston College and hope that the courts do not block them. They would have been better off to take BC this summer instead of playing the fool.

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