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Friday links (12.16.2011)

• Minnesota Golden Gopher football will have new jerseys next year and the athletic department is releasing them to the public “Major League” style, by stripping away a glimpse of the new threads each day much like the Cleveland Indians did with the cardboard cutout of owner Rachel Phelps.

Today, they released the picture on the far right, which I’m guessing to be directly above the middle of he helmet. A few people are saying it looks like a Michigan M, which at this point, I would agree with. Matt from FBT theorized that it will be part of “Ski-U-Mah” across the front of the helmet, which would be pretty cool.

Follow the official Gopher Football Twitter feed for updates, at least until a photo officially leaks. The helmet will be released in full on Monday, with the full jerseys coming in January.

Rumors online say that the helmets will have a matte maroon finish (no sparkle helmets!), with the helmet logos separated on each side with numbers and the traditional “M” on the other. While the “43” picture lends credibility to that, the numbers also wouldn’t be raised quite like they are usually if they are on the side of a helmet. I would guess that is a picture of the back of the helmet.

In looking back over the year, ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg grades the Gophers at a “D” for 2011. I’d argue, but the team lost to both New Mexico State and North Dakota State, in addition to getting beat 58-doughnut at The Big House. I wrote about my feelings of the season for FBT here

Looking to 2012, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune writes that the Gophers will be looking to the junior college ranks for help. Also, let’s put the “Gopher football can’t compete because the athletic standards are too difficult” supposition officially to bed. The U of M is a great university, but it isn’t Stanford and it isn’t an Ivy league school. It’s not even Baylor, as this blog post from Miller finds, as the Gophers welcome Martez Shabazz, a junior college recruit from Texas who wanted to attend by Baylor, but “they wouldn’t take (his) Ds.”

• Texas A&M hired Kevin Sumlin (for some reason the auto-correct wants to change his name to “Shannon,” hmm…). Coaches By The Numbers  

I obviously wanted Sumlin for the Gophers way back when (last year), but now I wonder how well Sumlin will do in a packed SEC West. As CBTN writes, “the Aggies will be joining the SEC West, which includes AlabamaAuburnLSUArkansas,Ole Miss, and Mississippi State. To say the very least, football life is about to get much harder for A&M (three of these teams have won National Championships since 2001).

Meanwhile, Auburn’s Gene Chizik accepted a job at Arkansas State. Yes, Arkansas State is a real thing and not a southern re-boot of the sitcom “Coach.” Somehow, Chizik passed on a $3 million per year contract at Vanderbilt last year and then took this small school job, which was actually a pay cut from his Auburn gig as offensive coordinator. Oh, and he was seen as the mastermind behind the Cam Newton-led National Champion Tigers in 2010. 

I’m going out on a limb that Auburn coaches are running from that program as soon as they can for fear of NCAA impropriety, but I’m really basing that on nothing. The move, coupled with defensive coordinator’s Ted Roof’s exodus, makes me think that something else has to be going on. 

What a difference a year makes. For a round up of all major coaching moves in college football, check out Coaches By the Numbers’ analysis table

• The Minnesota Twins are apparently ready to move on from Michael Cuddyer, as they signed a poor man’s version of Cuddy, Josh Willingham, to a three-year, $21 million deal. Aaron Gleeman writes that Willingham has been generally a better player than Cuddyer, and with letting Cuddyer go to the Rockies, the Twins secure a draft pick and save more than $10 million over the life of both three-year deals.

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted that the Twins will take the money saved in the Willingham signing to possibly add a pitcher.

Elsewhere, Parker Hageman at Over the Baggy wrote on Tuesday about how Willingham was built for Target Field, in that being a dead pull hitter his power numbers will stand up at spacious Target Field better than Cuddyer’s did. 

Want to see how the Twins’ salary numbers are looking for the upcoming year and how close they are to dropping the payroll closer to $100 million? Check out Cot’s Baseball Contracts for all of the updated numbers, and also see how much of a bonus Scott Baker would receive for finishing third place in the AL Cy Young race. (It’s a $50,000 bonus.)

• Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov has announced he’s going to challenge Vladimir Putin in Russia’s next presidential election. 

I’m just going to go out on a limb and say this will end badly. Just for some background, read Bill Simmons of Grantland’s old ESPN column about how Prokhorov got his money. I didn’t use “earned” there, because he apparently used bribes years ago to gain controlling interests of certain companies, which led to him becoming a billionaire several times over.

Now, the NBA apparently did due diligence to make sure he was legit and wouldn’t land the basketball owners in a worldwide scandal. That said, presidential candidates tend to have a higher amount of scrutiny that the regular Joe Public. Especially in Russia. When you’re trying to unseat Putin. 

You might be better off trying to stage a military coup than willing a supposedly honest election against Putin. And I wouldn’t recommend that, either. This isn’t going to end well.

• Writer Christopher Hitchens died on Thursday and this piece from Slate’s Matt Labash, “Sneaking into Iraq with Hitchens" does as good a job as eulogizing him as any. 

• Also, Louis CK is selling his “Live at the Beacon Theater" for $5 on his website. He financed everything himself and is trying this out as an experiment. Call him the comedian "Radiohead," I’d love to see more bands use this exact model as well. It’s a lot harder to download something off of the Internet for free when someone writes you a personal note saying they financed everything themselves and also when they are putting it out for $5.

But seriously, it’s funny. Go buy it.

• So far, The Roots’ “Lighthouse” is my favorite track from unDun. The record is really solid so far, so here’s a link to Lighthouse, which you can listen to while you peruse “Questlove’s Celebrity Stories.” 

Years ago, before Twitter and even Facebook, there was Okayplayer, the Roots’ web site. Quest often posted there about his run-ins with people, tracks he was working on, etc. Reading Questo’s Celebrity Stories makes me feel like it’s the winter of 2001 and I’m home from college on Christmas break, listening to Bilal’s “First Born Second” while sitting in my brother’s room (my mother’s basement) reading OKP and downloading new music.

Sigh. Growing up.

Filed under Minnesota Gophers College football Links Michael Cuddyer Josh Willingham Mikhail Prokhorov Gene Chizik Christopher Hitchens louis ck The Roots

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Friday Links (Great Return) :: 12.9.11

In an effort to again blog more on this site with more than just Gopher football-related things, I’m going to bring back the weekly links of interesting stories from throughout the week. We start out in the Toy Department:

• The NBA just became the most uptight fantasy football league ever

Last night, word leaked that the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets had completed a three-team trade that would ultimately send Chris Paul to LA. The deal would have left the Lakers with enough pieces for then acquire Dwight Howard, thus making a super team, or you know, exactly the kind of thing the lockout was supposed to prevent.

As Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes:

"… The Lakers had reached an agreement to acquire Paul in a deal that would have cost them Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Under terms of the deal, the Lakers would have sent Gasol to the Rockets. The Hornets would have received Odom, Rockets guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragicand forward Luis Scola, league sources said.”

But not so fast, my friend! (c) Lee Corso

After owners seemingly complained — and that’s important since the NBA actually owns the New Orleans Hornets — the trade was reversed, killed by NBA Commissioner David Stern. Now, there’s all kinds of blowback about Stern stepping in, especially on a deal that probably was the best one the Hornets could or will receive. 

Earlier this year, we had a deal in our fantasy league where an out-of-contention team traded away Ray Rice to the first-place team for four players who were borderline starters. People, well, OK mainly me, thought it was an awful deal and let everyone know. However, as commissioner I didn’t think the deal could be blocked unless there was a thought of collusion going on; if two teams want to make an awful deal, well that’s ultimately their decision. One owner wanted us to block the deal, simply because it was unfair. We ultimately allowed the trade.

No, Cavaliers owner and Comic Sans enthusiast Dan Gilbert is not in my fantasy football league.

Today, Dwight Howard is going to ask for his trade to New Jersey, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard. 

• Minnesota Twins reliever Matt Capps is the party guest who you only invited because you felt obligated to do so — he’s the lonely brother of your wife or something like that — but then he posts up right next to the keg, gets way too drunk and refuses to leave. The Twins gave Capps and his Bob Wells-in-relief routine a one-year, $4.75 million contract; according to Aaron Gleeman, the deal also has a $6 million option or $250,000 buyout for 2013.

Over The Baggy’s Parker Hageman writes a bit more about Capps’s slider and how the arm trouble/pain that Capps experienced might have been the cause of his loss of velocity and movement.

• The Twins also traded away Kevin Slowey to the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named later, which ended up to be minor league reliever Daniel Turpen. I’d act like I didn’t have to check that name three times to make sure it was correct, but then I’d be lying. Last year, he went 2-4 with 11 saves and a 4.83 ERA in 48 appearances (one start) at Double-A Tulsa. He also walked 35 with 33 strikeouts.

The news of Slowey’s departure pleased Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune, who apparently must have had his dog kicked by Slowey, if not some other beef. The departing pitcher leaves with never fulfilling on his Brad Radke 2.0 promise that many bestowed upon him as a prospect. It’s disappointing to see Slowey on his way out, especially when the Twins’ current pitching rotation seems so unsettled. It’s too bad that Slowey’s legacy will not be as the Twins’ next pitcher to find success through locating his fastball and hitting spots on the corners of the strike zone, but as the only Twins player to score in the 1400s on the SAT or to quote Greek mythology in a post-game presser. Here’s one post-game quote:

The sixth inning was a microcosm of my season. Just an absolute dearth of consistency.” 

• Moving on to players who once used a sports interview cliche in an interview about the birth of his first child (I can’t find the link, but trust me, he did), the Twins continue to be in talks with Michael Cuddyer. The Twins have reportedly offered a $24 million deal, over three years. A rumor broke Thursday night, per Lindsay Guentzel, that Cuddyer was holding out for either $2 million more (not sure if that’s per year or total) or a four-year deal. 

• On almost the exact opposite side of transactions, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Burbank, West Hollywood, Pasadena and any other city not named “Compton,” signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal. It’s hard to see Pujols, 32 in January, return value in the later years of such a deal, but then again, if the Angels are going to give another huge contract to someone, it might as well be the best hitter in baseball and not another aging outfielder like Gary Matthews, Jr., Torii Hunter or Vernon Wells. (To be fair, the Blue Jays signed Wells to that deal, the Angels just decided to trade for him and pay him.) 

Meanwhile, by forsaking Miami, Pujols doesn’t have to question if he sold his soul every time he looked in the mirror at what would have been his ridiculous jersey.

Using “ridiculous” as a segue to college football, Kansas University football hired to Charlie Weis to become its new football coach, replacing the fired Turner Gill. Coaches By The Numbers hasn’t offered up a full Hiring Analysis yet, but they rated the move a “C.” Earlier in the week, Arizona State was near to completing a deal with current SMU coach June Jones, but it seemingly fell apart upon a tepid booster response. Jones’s $2 million buyout was apparently not what held the deal up.

It sounds like Florida fans, meanwhile, would have likely paid any buyout on their own if it meant getting Weis away from the offense’s controls. I can’t make too much fun of KU; mainly because I thought Gill would be a good hire and also because the memories of a certain tight ends coach being brought in to coach my favorite team are still quite vivid.

Paul Myerberg at Pre-Snap Read brilliantly puts the hiring into context, writing:

.. (Weis) went 16-21 over three seasons with his own players and his offensive system fully in place. … (His) offense with the Gators finished the regular season ranked 102nd in the nation. 

The Jayhawks needed a builder, not a maintainer. Weis is neither of those. Notre Dame proved this out: he took his predecessor’s players to greater heights, but showed an utter inability to develop his own players. … Weis will need to identify second-tier talent and turn it into first-tier talent to win the Big 12. 

Identifying and developing: his Achilles heel in South Bend.”

• About a week ago, I wrote something on my blog about Tim Tebow and then deleted it. The basic gist was that people who hate Tebow are really reacting to ESPN’s coverage of him and not necessarily him as a person of faith or as a quarterback better suited to the option. (One reason I hate the Worldwide Leader: ESPN’s Hannah Storm asked another sportscaster this week on SportsCenter, “Now that they are winning, do you think the Broncos will open it up?!” Sigh. She obviously doesn’t get it.)

I also wrote that I hoped Tebow succeeds, mostly because I enjoy watching option football and offensive styles that are left of center. (Running the option is bread and butter everywhere else, but obviously not in the NFL.) 

After all, I’m not a religious person, but I don’t care if someone I don’t know is, that is ultimately his or her business. Eventually, I realized that it was silly to criticize the media for over-covering him and then writing about him on my blog, so I deleted it. 

Anyway, one of my favorite writers on the planet, Chuck Klosterman of Grantland, filed a beautiful column on Tebow:

"… he makes blind faith a viable option. His faith in God, his followers’ faith in him — it all defies modernity. This is why people care so much. He is making people wonder if they should try to believe things they don’t actually believe.”

• My wife and I recently moved to North Dakota and one thing continues to fascinate me: The oil boom on the west end of the state. It’s created a bit of an “Old West” environment in certain otherwise sleepy towns and that’s not my hyperbole, that comes from the people who live in these areas. Small towns that previously had 1,000 people have watched their population increase five times in only a few years.

(Yes, that was a subliminal transition from Klosterman to North Dakota.)

To learn more about it, you’d do well to check out "North Dakota: The Rise of an American Petrostate" by Abe Sauer, care of The Awl. 

Through processes known as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — I’m really trying not to make a reference to Mr. Burns’s Slant Oil Drilling Company, here — companies are able to reach oil at a fraction of what it would have cost a few years ago. Getting oil at an attractive cost has caused an enormous oil boom - you can even now spot the Bakken oil field from space

To underscore the immersion of this oil rush, a Hotel 6 in Williston, N.D., had a standing offer from Halliburton to rent the entire hotel months before it was even completed.

On a weeknight two years ago, my wife and I were driving back from Portland, Ore., through North Dakota. We stopped in Dickinson, N.D., late at night to rest our weary eyes and grab a hotel for the night. We stopped at five different hotels and couldn’t find one room. Eventually, I asked a front desk worker if The Who was in town. He replied, “The oil companies rent everything out. Even if they aren’t using the rooms, they rent them so they can have workers around the clock on the rig.”

The Roots released a new record, unDun. It’s a concept album following the life of a Philadelphia street hustler, told in reverse, from death to birth. I’ve just downloaded it off of Amazon, I’ll have more to say about it later as I get a chance to deconstruct it. Seriously though, Amazon.com has the digital album for $3.99. Get it here.

Also, here’s a video where ?uestlove and Black Thought find out from which African country they are descendants: 

 

• I’ve already posted about the greatness of my friend Aaron Bergstrom’s Top 100 of 2011 list, but I’d like to highlight a song in particular that I can’t stop playing, "Empty Streets" from Ghost Beach. I know absolutely nothing about this band, but I love this track. There are links at Aaron’s site

 

Filed under Links The Roots Minnesota Twins Matt Capps Kevin Slowey Michael Cuddyer Charlie Weis Fracking Hydraulic fracturing Ghost Beach

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LINKS: The ‘Grinning Devil look-back, Kill offers effusive praise’ edition

Glen MasonI have some other things coming soon and since power has been spotty this week, I’ll keep this rundown short:

Did Glen Mason deserve to be fired because of the Gophers’ on-field play or did his attitude eventually cause people to turn against him? MV over at FringeBowlTeamBlog offers a well-thought out retrospective on the Mason years, concluding that it was his personality and not necessarily his record that ended his tenure at the U. Posts like this are the reason that FBT is such a great daily read for Gopher football fans. Compared to the people who preceded and followed him, Mason is Vince Lombardi. The idea of firing him so that the program could take another step forward is still something that, years later, I can agree with. However, as anyone else with a pulse who enjoys Gopher football has said, it’s clear Tim Brewster wasn’t the right hire. If the idea was to proceed past the fourth-quarter collapses and the fringe bowls, then it was the right move. But it stands to be said that Mason was the best head coach the Gophers have had in two decades. [FBT]

• Jerry Kill appears to be a brilliant hire for the Gophers, Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders/Football Study Hall/SB Nation finds in his exhaustive season preview of the Gophs. It’s really a great read, which also touches briefly on the Glen Mason era and what it would take for the Maroon and Gold to once again reach that level. He also offers an explanation of the term “Glen Mason Territory.” [SB Nation]

• Jerry Kill offered some positive words concerning MarQueis Gray’s progress during his Gopher Revival Tour. The Strib’s Phil Miller files the story, with Kill saying that Gray “flat surprised us” during spring practice. All spring Kill held himself back from praising the QB too much, even suggesting after the spring practice that Max Shortell would come in and compete for the job. Here’s thinking this is the second phase to the “break ‘em down, build ‘em up" approach. [Star Tribune]

• Sandy Stephens was (finally) named to the College Football Hall of Fame. Stephens was the Gophers’ first black quarterback, as well as the first quarterback of color to win Rose Bowl MVP. I’ll have more coming later this week about him, but here’s the story from 1500ESPN’s Tom Pelissero. [1500ESPN]

Filed under Minnesota Golden Gophers Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Glen Mason MarQueis Gray Links Sandy Stephens College Football College Football Hall of Fame Jerry Kill

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LINKS: Gopher football Mother’s Day Edition

In this episode:
• Why the Minnesota Golden Gophers should win at least five games in 2011;
• Why MarQueis Gray is more likely to run for 1,000 yards than pass for 3,000;

• A Cedar Rapids Gazette journalist writes that he likes Ryan Field more than the Big House; he also says Beaver Stadium is his favorite in the Big Ten without even the slightest snicker or laugh;
• How a Boise State tennis coach driving an tennis player to a bank to deposit thousands of dollars she illegally gave to the athlete relates to Boise State football recruits sleeping on couches, and how that in turn relates to Jim Tressel turning a blind-eye to a “gold pants for a used Chevy Tahoe” scheme.

Also, don’t forget — in your best Mark Wahlberg voice — to say hello to your mother today.

Gophers Spring Practice (Credit: Pioneer Press)• ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg released his “Post-Spring Power Rankings,” ranking the Golden Gophers 11th. (I have to admit for a second I thought, “How can the Gophers be lower than Indiana?!” Then I quickly remembered that there are now 12 teams. Early morning blogging. Image credit: Pioneer Press)

Here’s Rittenberg’s take: “New coach Jerry Kill made his demands crystal clear this spring, and we’ll now see how many players are up to the task. Kill said Minnesota must get a lot tougher, a process that typically takes a season or two to fully sink in. Quarterback MarQueis Gray drew favorable reviews and established himself as the leader of the offense, and the linebackers should be a strength this fall. Many question(s) remain, however, especially along both lines and at receiver.”

I’d rather expectations start low for Jerry Kill rather than, I don’t know, people parading around with a patch of grass from the Rose Bowl, but I think Kill’s squad has the ability to approach six wins this year.

I can’t begrudge Rittenberg for putting the Gophers at the bottom; most would put Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota in a three-way toss up, with Northwestern and Michigan not far ahead. Yes, that means that at least five teams in the Big Ten are going to be middle of the road, not including Indiana at the bottom. The teams right above that group aren’t separated by much either: many have Iowa taking a slight step back, due to heavy losses on both offense and defense; and Michigan isn’t ready to win its division quite yet. Meanwhile, the Gophers have a favorable schedule this year; they don’t face Ohio State or Penn State and get to face Iowa and Illinois at home. Those are two winnable games, as are other home games against New Mexico State, Miami (OH) and North Dakota State. The road schedule includes winnable contests at Purdue, Northwestern and Michigan. Now, only an insane person would count those as bankable victories, but those are eight games that the Gophers should be able to keep close; five of which are at home.

Maybe the above paragraph only convinces the people over at Homesota.com, but last year’s team made a marked improvement by the end of last year with wins against Illinois and Iowa. Also, count me in the class that believes the change to mobile quarterback MarQueis Gray will account for at least a win or two, as will the coaching change to Kill and Co. from the likes of Tim Brewster and Kevin Cosgrove.

This might be a dangerous question, but how can this Gophers team not improve from last year? After 15 practices, Jerry Kill’s coaching staff already has the players operating under a completely different mindset. The main two losses were defensive tackle Jewhan Edwards and quarterback Adam Weber, but defensive line is a position of relative depth and Weber’s graduation is addition by subtraction, in that the move puts Gray behind center.

This team has talent — the cupboard isn’t bare — but it was rudderless the past few years under Brewster and the revolving door of coordinators. It’s tough to take too much from spring practice, but the positive change in intensity and play from players like Troy Stoudermire is palpable.

The defensive backfield and overall depth are big questions marks — which Michael Carter will show up this year, will Kim Royston recover from injury, will Da’Jon McKnight need to be a one-man receiving army — while the team’s starting QB has thrown a total of 23 collegiate passes. But barring injuries and those questions, the Gophers should approach five wins. Does that put them above the cluster of Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue? We’ll see.

• Elsewhere, Rittenberg rolled out his spring summary ammunition, profiling his “Potential 3,000 yard passers" — Gray was mentioned as an outside candidate — and his "Potential 1,000 yard rushers" — Gray wasn’t. I have a post coming soon about Gray’s projected 2011 stats and in previewing that, I think Gray has a much better shot at reaching 1,000 yards by foot than 3,000 by air. (Over at FringeBowlTeamBlog, MV agrees.) For one, we’ve seen what Gray can do by running the ball and we’ve also seen what question marks exist with the Gophers receiving corps. Added to that, Kill’s system didn’t have a 3,000-yard passer in three years at Northern Illinois.

• Is Penn State’s “Beaver Stadium” the best stadium in the Big Ten? It is according to Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette it is (he didn’t rank Kinnick).

The Gophers’ home comes in sixth; while the most surprising entry is Michigan at No. 8. Hlas also really likes Northwestern’s Ryan Field, although he lists reasons like, “I like the fact that, with the toughest academic standards and smallest stadium, Northwestern can still field teams that can beat anyone on any given day.” That seems like a good reason to support Northwestern to be in the conference, but I don’t see how that line of thinking brings into account things like sight lines, game atmosphere and bathroom/concession lines when ranking stadiums. (If I’m dancing like a three-year old while I wait for a urinal, I’m not going to be comforted by the Rockwellian-romanticism that, “Gosh, it sure is great that a private school can compete in the Big Ten, that totally makes me forget about this warm stream running down my leg.”) But hey, I can’t blast Hlas too much, he ranked TCF Bank No. 6.

I’m still enthused by the new-stadium smell of TCF Bank — compared to the stale, old urine cake smell of the Metrodome — and I also like the Gophers’ new digs more than Kinnick in terms of bathroom and concession lines. But Minnesota still has miles to go in terms of gameday atmosphere and pre-game festivities; Iowa City on a fall Saturday is a thing to experience in person (and then struggle to recall later).

Boise State Quarterback Kellen Moore• Allowing a potential recruit to sleep on the couch or the floor of another student’s room — sometimes as simple as $2 and some loose change from the couch cushions — is an NCAA violation, according to this report about Boise State University’s football program apparently violating NCAA secondary violations.

In response, the football team will forfeit three scholarships over the next two years and also three preseason practices next year; the NCAA will decide June 10 if that is enough of a punishment or to lower the ax further on BSU. (Note: The photo of Kellen Moore in no way asserts that he was involved in anything unethical; it was just a stock photo of the Broncos best player.)

The football program was involved on the fringe of a much larger investigation of the Boise State athletic department, particularly the tennis team, which has been accused of severe penalties, according to the Idaho Statesman. How severe are the infractions? Severe. How about a coach driving an athlete to a bank to open what was essentially a slush fund, which the coach then filled with more than $1,000 to provide for an Intensive English Program that would allow the athlete to qualify for Boise State enrollment?

Meanwhile, the football team had arranged for recruits to stay with other current BSU athletes, sometimes for free. Since that isn’t an option offered to all prospective students, the Smurf Turf thoroughbreds got flagged.

Here’s the actual wording from BroncoSports.com:

The NCAA alleged that, during the summers of 2005 through 2009, the assistant football coaches and staff members arranged summer housing and transportation in Boise with other student-athletes, sometimes for free or at a reduced cost, for 63 prospective student-athletes so they could participate in otherwise valid summer workouts. In each case, the prospective student-athletes were provided housing by existing student-athletes and slept in spare rooms, on couches or sometimes on the floor. The total dollar value, as determined by the NCAA, for all of the housing, transportation and meals provided to the 63 prospective student-athletes over five years was $4,934.

As Matt “Dr. Saturday” Hinton of Rivals/Yahoo Sports figured: “A total benefit of $4,934 accumulated over five years comes to less than $1,000 a year, and accumulated over 63 individual cases amounts to an improper benefit of $78.32 per case. The actual number is a little higher: In 23 of the 60 cases, recruits paid the full value of housing, transportation and meals themselves. … Values of individual benefits ranged from a low of $2.34 to a high of $417.55, all for free or reduced-cost housing and transportation, and all of it later paid back by the recruits.”

It will be interesting to see what the NCAA does here, being that Ohio State University is also under investigation due to players who sold game-worn jerseys and team memorabilia for tattoos and, in one case, a used Chevy Tahoe. Actually, more issues with car sales are being investigated, according to ESPN. (Oh, and tOSU ballcoach reportedly lied to NCAA investigators about his knowledge of the larger memorabilia scheme for several weeks/months.) A certain population of college football fans online have opined that the NCAA is often light on the big programs, while hammering the smaller ones.

If Boise State’s football program — essentially the college football version of the Tampa Bay Rays winning the AL East — gets hammered by the NCAA while Ohio State gets slapped lightly on the wrist, then they might as well just allow the helmet schools to operate SMU-type slush-funds, while the other guys adhere to a set of antiquated rules that no one seems to follow anyway.

• Here’s an interesting read also from Hinton comparing the current size of the most recent top NFL Draft picks to when they entered college. (In Julio Jones’s case, he actually lost weight from his reported figures, while some of the other guys seemed to morph into completely different people.)

Of the top 20 picks, I thought it would be interesting to see how the college recruiting stars broke down. Now, when Rivals evaluators rank players, they aren’t necessarily ranking the player’s NFL potential, they are ranking their possible success at the collegiate level.

Top 20 picks:
(6) • Five star: Cam Newton (FL), A.J. Green (GA), Julio Jones (AL), Patrick Johnson (LSU), Tyron Smith (USC), Blaine Gabbert (MIZ)
(5) • Four star: Jake Locker (UW), Robert Quinn (UNC), Michael Pouncey (FL), Corey Liuget (ILL), Adrian Clayborn (IOWA)
(8) • Three star: Von Miller (TAM), Marcel Dareus (AL), Aldon Smith (MIZ), Christian Ponder (FSU), Nick Fairley (AUB), Ryan Kerrigan (PUR), Nate Solder (CU), Prince Amukamara (NEB),
(1) • Two star: J.J. Watt (WI, CMICH).

There’s nothing here that shouts “Recruiting rankings are meaningless!”, but it is worth noting how many three-star recruits can become solid, if not star, contributors at the collegiate level with hard work and the right system.

Filed under Big Ten Football Boise State University MarQueis Gray Minnesota Golden Gophers Football NCAA violations NFL Draft Ohio State Buckeyes links TCF Bank Stadium Big 10 Football Stadiums

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Minnesota’s unexpected mediocrity may have hobbled Bobby Cox on his way to becoming an All-America but he is still quite a football player. And, whatever happens, he will be the last to complain. A young man who grew up in a near slum, ran away from home when barely 14, worked at odd jobs for a living, survived a hasty teen-age marriage and divorce, and then verged upon tramp athleticism only to wind up as the hero of a great university with a beautiful wife, a host of friends and a rosy-hued future dead ahead does not complain of adversity.

Sports Illustrated: Bobby CoxRoy Terrell, writing about then Golden Gophers quarterback Bobby Cox for the Nov. 4, 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated. That’s right, in 1957, the Gophers had a quarterback who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, had already survived homelessness for more than several years and also had been involved in a slush fund at the University of Waashington.

A great look back at a story about a young man and redemption. [SIVault]

Filed under Good Reads Links Long Reads Minnesota Golden Gophers Minnesota Golden Gophers Football sports illustrated vault

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LINKS: Easter Sunday Resurrection, Gopher Football Spring Practice Edition

MarQueis Gray, Jerry Kill at Gophers Spring Practice

(Photo credit: BornAndRaisedGopher, GopherHole poster)

• We’re talking about practice, man. Practice. Marcus Fuller from the Pioneer Press posted a Golden Gophers pre-spring game depth chart on his blog and while we’ve already heard a lot about the lack of depth at wide receiver this spring, a tackified imprint is left once you look at all of the players listed “(injured).” (And am I the 1,000th person to use the Allen Iverson practice joke? Not yet?)

The good news is that Da’Jon McKnight isn’t expected to miss time in the fall and is being held out largely for precautionary reasons — the precaution being that MarQueis Gray can’t throw the ball to himself every play**. Brandon Green has been held out largely all spring as he returns from a knee injury. Reports have been positive that he will be ready by spring, but at the same time, there has been no emphatic statement supporting that. Otherwise, you also have backups Victor Keise and A.J. Barker listed out. (Not to mention Eric Lair at tight end, who was also held out.)

** - Or can he?!?

Sure, this team looks to have a three-headed rushing attack, but someone has to be running patterns who can catch the ball. If McKnight and Allen end up alright by the fall — and if Marcus Jones continues to improve, rather than regress into the Gophers’ “Fastest Guy Who Can’t Regularly Catch the Ball” — the Gophers will be OK at receiver.

• While we’re at it: here are some submitted photos from GopherHole posters who attended the spring game. If you’re a Gopher football fan you don’t need to already know this, but check out FringeBowlTeamBlog for everything Gopher-football related, he has several coffee links, positional breakdowns and just general good information about your favorite Fringe Bowl Team.

Jerry Kill declined to officially name MarQueis Gray the starting quarterback, in this story that Fuller filed for the dead-tree edition. Kill refusing to call Gray the starter is about as significant as former Gov. Tim Pawlenty refusing to announce his plans to eventually run for President. As Fuller notes, Gray was the only quarterback running the first-team offense through all 15 spring practices. Rate it as more of Kill continuing to perfect his hard-sell, “I’m still not pleased,” Lou Holtz impression. The Gophers are officially off until August, but are expected to follow strength and conditioning coach Eric Klein’s strict training regimen until then. Kill was apparently quick to remind everyone that "incoming freshman Max Shortell of Kansas City, Kan., would be arriving with high expectations of competing with Gray for the starting job in the fall.” The irony being that Gray is already decidedly more athletic than Shortell and if Gray isn’t ready as a passer, what makes anyone think Shortell will be ready as a true freshman?

While Fuller notes that Gray didn’t exactly look like Johnny Unitas winging the ball around TCF Bank Stadium — he completed exactly one pass longer than zero yards — Fuller also gives Gray the benefit of the doubt, as the junior was without his top three receiving threats, on a team that has, hopefully, three receiving threats (as noted earlier).

• The Gophers appear to have a kicker this year. The Star Tribune’s Phil Miller posted a quick “five things learned at the spring game.” Miller’s largest takeaway being: “Chris Hawthorne can kick. The transfer from North Carolina State made both field goals he tried, a 30-yarder and a 50-yard boot that easily cleared the bar and had the crowd buzzing." Here’s hoping that having to white-knuckle through any extra point attempt or field goal try longer than, well any field goal try, is a thing of the past.

• The injury bug bit Bucky this week, as Wisconsin’s Curt Phillips will miss all of 2011, after suffering a setback in recovery from an ACL injury. Obviously, no one likes to see this kind of thing happen. According to the ESPN report, Phillips has twice undergone ACL surgeries and had been expected to challenge sophomore Jon Budmayr for the starting QB spot.

Ohio State Buckeyes Digital Camouflage• What Would Patton Say? The Ohio State Buckeyes broke out a military-tribute helmet for their spring game (and practices), turning their silver helmets into digital camouflage. A few traditionalists have been panning them, but I kind of like the design as a one-off, military tribute idea. Then again, I’ve always liked the San Diego Padres camo-jerseys too, in terms of a military tribute. (For the record: camouflage as an urban clothing trend though was about as awful as size XXXXL white T-shirts.) The helmets will be signed by Coach Jim Tressel and then sold for charity. Tressel even took part, wearing a camo-hat pants and tan desert boots. I would make the pre-requistite, Gold Pants/Camo pants memorabilia joke here but since it’s for a good cause and during a time of war(s), I’ll hold off. (As long as we’re talking about non-traditional helmets, I hope the Gophers kept the white ones for the upcoming year.)

The Buckeyes also broke out four (?!) quarterbacks during their spring game, as they scramble to replace Terrelle Pryor for the first five games of the season.

• In Josh Groban Fan Club news, former Michigan-chapter president Rich Rodriguez told ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg that he regretted taking the Michigan job and leaving the Couch Burning Capital of the U.S. (the world?). As much as everyone piles on RichRod, I’m guessing he’ll return to coaching in the next year and that he will be successful again.

Still, Rodriguez’s biggest flaw was that as soon as he came to Ann Arbor, he cast aside Ryan Mallett, at the time a returning sophomore who had been rated the No. 2 quarterback in the nation as a high school prospect. Every coach wants to install his own system, but the truly great coaches can tailor their systems to their personnel. You take inventory of what you have and you figure out a system that works. I believe the precedent was set during the litigation of Square Peg v. Round Hole sometime in the 1300s.

The cupboard isn’t bare by any means at Michigan and if new coach Brady Hoke can get the defense turned around, that offense gets even more scary. There’s no denying the skills of Denard “Flick The Light Switch and Jump Into Bed Before It Gets Dark” Robinson.

Filed under Big Ten Football Links Minnesota Golden Gophers Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Spring Practice Ohio State Buckeyes Wisconsin Badgers Digital Camouflage Michigan Wolverines Rich Rodriguez and Josh Groban

0 notes &

LINKS: The Jerry Kill file

(Photo credit: Associated Press. Note: I’m away from my computer today, but later I’ll post my own Photoshopped image with Kill’s mug tacked on a manila folder. I know, exciting.)

After watching Monday’s press conference, we know this about Jerry Kill: he out kicked in his coverage in matrimony, beat cancer and he promises to, as everyone chuckled to themselves later while making bad Kill puns, “stroke the post.”

Now that everyone has had the chance to complete the three stages of a Gopher football coaching hire — first, dry the tears of disappointment (no Chris Petersen?); second, quell rage at Joel Maturi for floating the idea of a “Tubby Smith hire" and, third, reasonably consider the program and Kill’s resume — here are some links to learn a bit more about the new coach:

Filed under Minnesota Golden Gophers Football Jerry Kill LINKS college football

1 note &

Never has it been laid more bare, and never did it feel so empty. It felt like a break, the moment when the tide crested, when we looked at the games, and their players, and ourselves, and wondered: Why in the world are we watching these awful people? It was a question impossible to answer.
Will Leitch, “Never has being a fan felt so stupid.” [NYMag] His column perfectly sums up “The Decision.”

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