THE HEAT IS ON!!!

Mike Fasano comes out of retirement to talk about the coming football season and what will be the hot topics this fall. Will college football get another earthquake or just some aftershocks? The coming season just might have both.

Whew! It is sweltering. It is August in New Jersey and that means swimming pools, Italian Ice, air conditioning and just about anything else that will put the cool on the hot.

But it is not just me who has to cool down. Everywhere I look … The heat is on.

GREG SCHIANO

No coach in America is on a hotter hot seat than Rutgers' Greg Schiano.
Don't argue with me on this.
Yes, I know what you are going to say.
Yes, Schiano proved that Rutgers could be competitive in the Big East.
Yes, Schiano proved he could take Rutgers to a bowl … and …
Yes, Schiano proved that Rutgers was good enough for a BCS bowl. (And don't give me that Texas Bowl crap. The Knights got robbed.)

Yes, Schiano has done it all …

… except …

… he hasn't done it all. In fact, Greg hasn't come close to silencing his biggest fan and most bitter critic who is …

(Drum roll please)

Greg Schiano.

Yes, Greg Schiano is hot under the collar. How dare he be denied a national championship. He, after all, is Greg Schiano.

In the summer of his discontent, Greg Schiano covets more that just a top 10 ranking, more than coach of the year and more than news clips out the kazoo. He doesn't want a number 10 ranking or a number 5 ranking and - for that matter - he doesn't want just any BCS bowl.

No, Greg Schiano wants it all.

And guess what?

It is within reach.

Unless you have been summering on Pluto you couldn't miss something very unusual in college football recruiting. It has to do with TTHSFS's. "TTHSFS" stands for "Typical Texas High School Football Star". Your average TTHSFS is about six foot four, 235 lbs and runs the forty in 4.3 flat. He is a totally different species, a wunderkind, a freak of nature in cleats. These days if you ask a TTHSFS where he's going to college, he'll say something like, "Well, I like Florida, USC, Texas, Notre Dame and Rutgers. I think those will be my visits."

Gawd almighty!!! Am I hearing that right? A TTHSFS has Rutgers in his final five.

Yes, I did hear that right and it isn't just with TTHSFS's. It is happening in Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and every other place where freakishly gifted athletes play football.

Rutgers is hot, red hot, scarlet hot. The Knights possess the electric excitement of a team on the rise and there is nothing in all of football that can match that allure.

Greg Schiano knows this. He knows that with one more year like last year, RU will harvest a crop of Pro Bowl talent that will turn Miami green with envy and leave Penn State drooling.

For someone who wants to succeed as much as Greg Schiano, this season is the hottest of hot seats indeed. The stakes don't get any higher than this.


URBANIZATION AND THE ACC

But Greg Schiano isn't the only one feeling the heat. Think about poor John Swofford. In 2003 Swofford's ACC raided the Big East Conference.
The plan was mathematically simple and precise.

It had two phases.

Phase One.

Destroy the Big East, grab its recruiting grounds and appropriate its media market.

Phase Two.

After the league expands to 12 teams, add a showcase playoff and establish the ACC as perhaps the strongest in the nation.

That was the plan but . . . uh ... how do you put this?

Things didn't quite work out as planned.

Three years later things have indeed changed for the ACC, but not in the way they planned. Last year, the ACC's ability to get their teams ranked had far more to do with reportorial inertia than actual team talent and everyone knew it. Their playoff game attendance would have embarrassed Piscataway High School. And the Sagarin ratings had them battling with Conference USA for a place in the national pecking order.

All hail John Swofford.

But that was last year. Okay, it was bad. But what about this year?

Well, John Boy, things just got worse.

You see, Urbanization has come to ACC country.

These days, not only does the ACC fail to field the best team in the south. They no longer even have the best team in State of Florida, thanks to Urbanization. Urban Meyerization, if you will. After a national title, it is now the University of Florida - not Miami or FSU - that is the destination of choice for Sunshine Staters looking to stay home. And Urbanization looks to be on the increase. Yes, there are plenty of great athletes in Florida but the University of Florida is now skimming off the cream and the ACC can't fill twelve rosters with what's left; especially with everyone else in the nation trolling Florida for talent.

So just where will all these ACC teams recruit the athletes needed to get themselves back on track?

The backup plan, of course, was to colonize the Northeast.

But to use a Jerseyism - "fugeddaboutit".

Rutgers, WVU and Pittsburgh are vacuuming so much talent that even the Jersey Turnpike is squeaky clean. That, together with incursions from the Big Ten, doesn't leave a lot to choose from.

The deep south offers little solace these days either. It was rough enough competing with Tennessee, Georgia and LSU. Now, Alabama has gone and mortgaged the State to hire Nick Saban. In just a few short months Saban has recruited enough four star athletes to populate a small galaxy. Rumor has it, he is only warming up.

Where will the ACC find recruits in the bunches it needs to turn the league around?

It's a good question but no answer jumps out.

For the ACC the heat is on … and that brings us to the next denizen of the sweat box …


BOSTON COLLEGE

Boston College's former coach Tom O'Brien absolutely loved the ACC. When BC was given an offer to jump conferences, O'Brien was the first on board. He thought that the Eagles would soar like … well, like eagles in their new conference.

Well, it turned out that they did and they didn't. When they entered the ACC, Boston College was still "Big East tough" and they manhandled their ACC opponents.

But what did it get them?

Less than zero, it turns out.

The ACC rewarded Boston College in a very special way. They bestowed post season trips to assorted Tidy Bowls on the Eagles while sending "southern" ACC clubs to top echelon matchups. Boston College was embarrassed. They were infuriated. But it had a different effect on Tom O'Brien. After a couple of Podunk Bowls, TOB saw the error of his ways. Indeed - when North Carolina State came calling - O'Brien bolted BC so fast his clothes caught fire.

Now BC is left to face its problems. They have no natural rivalries, no natural recruiting grounds, no reputable away games within driving distance, no proven coach and are treated like a poor relation in their own league.

Their new coach, Jeff Jagodzinski, still has the considerable talent that O'Brien recruited but that, of course, is the problem. How will he replenish it?

You see, the Eagles used to treat New Jersey like their private hunting grounds. They would stock up on Jersey talent, they would win bowls with Jersey kids and then - fat and happy - came back for more.

When they left for the ACC Boston College apparently thought that that arrangement was eternal.

It wasn't.

Now, the Eagles find themselves cat-fighting for Rutgers' leftovers. So far this year, every time Knights went head-to-head with BC in a recruiting battle, Rutgers won. In fact, they didn't just win, they won hands down. BC fans will claim that they are still getting their pickins in New Jersey. That's true in a sense, but they are only getting kids RU chose not to offer - that's not a good sign.

This could spell disaster for the Eagle program. Without New Jersey, BC just doesn't have many places left to find talent in the Northeast. Yes, they can still recruit in ACC country, but due to the failure of "colonization" other ACC teams are fighting harder than ever to keep home grown kids at home. That shouldn't be hard. How many southern studs grow up dreaming of playing ACC football in New England? Not many. And if you need any proof, compare BC's early verbals with NC State's - you'll see exactly what I mean.

That's not all. The word is that Greg Toal may miss the entire 2007 season. That has made a bad situation even worse since the new coach will have to win in order to recruit. And without Toal, winning isn't a given - even against ACC competition.

So how does BC handle this?

Well, Jagodzinski, by reputation, is a good coach.

All I can say is that he better be.


NOTRE DAME

Notre Dame is also on the hot seat.

No, it is not because their only offensive weapon was drafted by the Cleveland Browns.

No, it is not because LSU wiped up the Sugar Bowl with them last year.

No, it is not just that they have lost nine bowls in a row.

And, no, it is not because everyone is getting tired of seeing the Irish go to prestigious bowls only to get their clocks cleaned like clockwork.

No, Notre Dame is on the hot seat because of something else. They're on the hot seat because of something in the wind.

A few days ago a Midwest news writer reported that the Big 10 expansion was again on the table. Well, of course, the first name that comes to mind is Notre Dame.

Right?

Wrong. The article mentioned Notre Dame in passing but mainly talked of adding Syracuse or Rutgers as a 12th team.

Now, was that a news writer's speculation or does it go deeper than that?

"Deeper than that" might mean the article was a Big Ten telegram to the Fighting Irish saying, "you leprechauns better get on the bus before the driver shuts the door."

Indeed, you can bet that that article was on the desk of every administrator at South Bend. And just maybe it was meant to be.

You see, several years ago the Big Ten came courting the Fighting Irish. The Irish administration was all for the move and the treasure trove of Big 10 money it would bring. Notre Dame worked out a best-of-all-worlds deal where they kept their TV contract and still shared in the Big 10's loot. From what I heard from insiders at the time, it was a done deal.

That "done deal" was undone when unrealistic Irish alums screamed bloody murder.

"Notre Dame?" they questioned, "part of a league?" they asked.

They answered themselves.

"Never!" , they said.

An embarrassed Notre Dame administration was forced to knuckle under and killed the deal.

An embarrassed and angry Big 10 left in a huff.

And - just like Don Corleone - the Big 10 won't ask twice, once they've been refused a first time.

If someone is going to make a move this time, it has to be Notre Dame. And you can bet in South Bend, the athletic administration is having some sleepless nights trying to figure out just what's in the wind.

To allow the Big 10 to extend themselves to the Atlantic would be a disaster for Notre Dame. They would be members in a basketball league that might no longer exist and they'd be surrounded by amega-conference with which they simply could not compete.

On the other hand if the Irish go hat-in-hand to the Big 10 offices that just wouldn't cut it with influential alums and their influential wallets.

Where does it leave the Irish administration?

Here's my advice for Notre Dame alums. Don't send money to South Bend. Send Ambien - the administrators need it more.

As does . . .

MIKE TRANGHESE

The Big Ten expansion issue won't be lost on Mike Tranghese for reasons that are obvious. (But send him some emails on it just to be sure).

Although some folks are saying that the Big Ten will grab Texas, it can't happen. Big Ten by-laws specify that expansion teams can only come from states adjoining current members schools.

That leaves out the Longhorns who probably have no interest in being the Boston College of the Big Ten anyway.

Where else does the Big 10 look?

The heat is on for Mike Tranghese.

So there you have it. 110 in the shade. Forget about getting past the dog days of August. This heat spell will last till the new year and maybe beyond. The year 2007 could end up being one of the most eventful in the history of college football.

So don't miss it. I'll see you at the game. I'll see you at the stadium. I'll see you at the tailgates.

See you in September.

Just remember to bring the sun block.


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