It has been a while since the last Bits article, but that is simply because news moves so much slower in the offseason.
Slick Rick and Washington.
How about Rick Neuheisel?
So what has been the reaction of Washington?
Apparently they are tiring of the constant negative press and the growing
perception that not only is Rick Neuheisel a character of dubious character, but
they are paying him millions of dollars and allowing him to act that way.
This past week Lee Huntsman, the interim president of the university, and
Rick had a little "chat" just to make sure everyone was clear on some items
of importance. Though I was not present for the "conversation, my guess is
that it went something like this…
Lee: "Hey Rick… Do you like coaching here at Washington and the $1.2 base salary we pay you?"
Rick: "Why yes sir, I sure do. Let me just tell you how much I –"
Lee: "Great. Then sit down and shut your big mouth. We here are beyond tired of hearing about you getting in NCAA trouble, talking to players on scholarship at other universities, interviewing for other positions, and generally making us look bad. Further, we are unhappy about how parents might perceive a coach who is constantly caught in lies and half-truths. You can either clean it up and act like you have just a smidgeon of class and decorum, or you can go coach elsewhere. Capiche?"
Rick: "Well sir, let me explain. You see it is all a big misunderstanding. I –"
Lee: "HEY RICK – YES OR NO? YOU LIKE YOUR JOB? YOU WANT TO BE HERE TOMORROW?
Rick: "Umm… yeah."
Lee: "GOOD. THEN SHUT UP AND STOP EMBARRASSING THIS UNIVERSITY. I DO NOT WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN OR HEAR ABOUT YOU AGAIN UNTIL SPRING PRACTICE. IF I DO, YOU CAN PACK YOUR BAGS."
Rick: "Yes sir…
And may I just say how wonderful that red head of yours matches with your
tie today. If you don't mind, I
will just let myself out now."
How bad is the current situation? The
interim president refused to answer questions about Rick's future at the
university in the case of another faux pas.
He did however note that Rick and he were now clear on the expectations
at Washington. Further, Neuheisel
also seems to have had "conversations" with the Athletic Director because
she noted that in the future, Rick has agreed that he will not be interested in
other positions when they come open…
Coaches Skipping Town After Signing Day…
Until just a few weeks ago, I increasingly leaned toward an early signing period. I felt jaundiced by the numbers of young men simply exploiting the attention and the capacity to manipulate schools according to their latest whim.
Now I am not so certain.
While a student athlete is bound to play for a school (unless released from their scholarship), coaches can pick up and leave any time they wish. I understand the concept of being offered a better job, etc. That is fine. If you get a better offer then sometimes you have to go for the good of your family and career.
My problem is that several of these coaches barely waited until the stroke of midnight after signing day was complete with all the players trapped into their letter of intent – to announce that they were leaving their respective school. I wonder how many of those young men might have liked to know the coach was leaving? I wonder how long those coaches had been talking about this new job possibility on one phone line and telling the recruits how wonderful it would be to coach them on the other?
One cannot help but question the integrity of such individuals.
Again, I understand if a coach is called with a job offer or promotion out of the blue (say with the Oregon State situation), but I completely disagree with coaches who merely wait until the ink is dry on the Letters of Intent and then sprint to the nearest airport for their new destination and position.
Barry Alvarez the New Athletic
Director at Wisconsin?
I have to be missing something here.
From the outside, this does not appear to be a very good move unless
Barry is a fabulous organizer and delegator.
Recently the figures for every
athletic department in the country were published.
They were illuminating to say the least.
Collegiate athletics is big business.
This is not something that is new but has been the case since the
1950's. However, with the
pressures of title IX and budgetary constraints of the last decade – Athletic
Departments do not need a coach or a former football star.
They need an individual who can build (or already has) name recognition and
the ability to devote themselves to a job that may require 80+ hours a week.
Barry has the name recognition but
not the time. One of these two
positions he now holds (and possibly both) is going to suffer. There is no way around it.
Barry is an extremely capable individual and arguably one of the top 3
coaches in the Big Ten right now. It
is just that he is human. Humans
can only do so much before they reach a breaking point at which point everything
they are responsible for begins to decay and crumble.
If Barry spends too much time away
from the football team, there are only two possible outcomes.
(1) His players will decide
that while the cat is away the mouse will play.
They will begin to sneak around a bit and either find trouble or trouble
will find them. The direct result
might be a situation similar to the one at Notre Dame in Holtz's last few
seasons there. The players managed
to land the program on probation when Lou was preoccupied with he and his
wife's health problems. (2)
The players and program will not get in trouble, but the loss of the
coach's single-minded attention will result in more losses and fewer wins.
Fewer wins for the football program will result in unhappy alumni.
Unhappy alumni are not going to open their wallets at fundraisers
organized by the athletic director, especially to the head coach that they view
as responsible for those losses. The
whole thing then potentially becomes a vicious circle.
Because of losses on the football field, Barry works harder to raise
funds to meet the budget and has to spend less time on film review and with the
players. The players, without the
undivided attention of one of the top coaches in the conference, do not perform
as well and lose more often…
The only possible way that this
recent development makes sense is if Barry wanted a raise, is looking to retire
soon, nobody else wanted the position, or if Barry has the football program so
healthy that it is on autopilot. I
doubt it is the final option, but only time will tell if it was any of the
Football Players in Other Sports
Salley has been providing some serious depth for the Buckeye hoopsters.
Apparently O'Brien had all but forgotten Nate's desire to play both
sports. When Nate showed up one
morning to practice with the team, he was uncertain how to find a way into the
building and just started pounding on a locked door.
Jim was getting annoyed with whoever was pounding on the door and wanted
someone to run that individual off only to discover it was Nate coming to play
basketball. Maybe Salley is not
going to set the world on fire, but he has provided some needed minutes for a
team beset with injuries.
Russ Rogers has had an embarrassment
of riches on the Buckeye Track Team. Mike
D'Andrea, Drew Carter, Harlen Jacobs, Maurice Hall, Michael Jenkins, and
Brandon Mitchell are some of the football players who are competing in two
sports. Drew Carter in particular
deserves special mention as he has been winning the long jump event at multiple
meets. He recently jumped a
distance of over 24 feet and just missed gaining a provisional
qualification for the NCAAs this Spring.
Apparently, the football team has
some very talented athletes – which is good news for Ohio State but very
unwelcome news to this fall's opponents.
Walton Hired By Saban
Buckeye fans will remember Tim from the early 1990's. He played defensive back and was a part of the 1993 squad which finished 10-1-1. Since leaving OSU, Tim has been working hard advancing through the ranks as a young coach and making some noise along the way. He served 4 years at Bowling Green as running backs and defensive secondary coach. In 2000, he accepted a position at Memphis University where for the next two seasons his secondary performed well above expectations. This caught the eye of Paul Pasqualoni when Syracuse had a position open in 2002, and he brought Tim aboard.
The latest move for Tim Walton is an excellent opportunity. Saban is a coach who is on the rise at a successful program – which means his assistants that do well will get great opportunities to advance even further in the coaching ranks. The secondary lost three starters this past season and will be a young group, but the talent is there for Tim to work with and develop. If he can help create the kind of defense Saban loves and the SEC fears, look for Tim to get another promotion – and soon. Maybe he will even end up back at Ohio State when the inevitable raids on the Buckeye coaching staff begin…
If You can Beat ‘em, You Get to Join ‘em!
I am once again impressed with the personnel decisions of Bob Stoops. In 1999, Bob lost Leach to Texas Tech. He replaced him with Mark Mangino and won a national
championship in 2000. In 2001, the
Sooners struggled mightily to gain even the shortest of distances in the running
game. Mangino left for the head
coaching job at Kansas after the season, and Bob promoted Chuck Long to the
position of Offensive Coordinator. Meanwhile,
he scouted for the exact right man to help what ailed his spread offense.
He found him in Kevin Wilson. Wilson
had been the architect behind a Northwestern spread attack that was based upon
the run setting up the pass (the opposite of OU's attack).
Within just one season, Wilson transformed OU from a soft team that could
not run the football to a balanced offense that was as physical as anyone in the
nation. When the annual Sooner
staff raids commenced this season and Bob Stoops lost his tight ends/special
teams coach Kevin Hayes to the Cincinnati Bengals, he looked around to find the
right man for the position. His
hire? Bob landed Kevin Sumlin.
Sumlin spent this past season at Texas A&M.
Only 38, Slocum placed him in charge of reviving the offense when they
averaged only 16 points in their first three games.
Sumlin not only brought the offense back to life, he had it walking on
water the rest of the season with a stellar 33 points per game average –
including an upset of then #1 Oklahoma. After
the season, Kevin accepted a position at Colorado, but when Stoops called – he
appears to have all but broken a leg trying to get to reach Norman to accept the
I am just very impressed with the coaching staffs at Oklahoma, Southern California, Ohio State, and Arizona State right now. They are positioning themselves for long-term success with quality individuals who seem to understand the game of football. Oklahoma deserves particular kudos for Bob Stoops' ability to replace multiple coordinators who left for head coaching positions and each time actually improving the performance of the team with the new hire.