Posts Tagged ‘No Pass Out Checks’

From the Ashes Rises a Phoenix: Western Kentucky Postgame Thoughts

No Pass Out Checks | Gate 21

Western Kentucky vs. Tennessee
Postgame


7

Toppers
1
2
3
4
Tot

WKU

0
0
7
0

7

Tennessee

0
28
7
28

63

Final

63

Vols

Well, there are so very many positive things to say about this game that it is hard to really know where to start, thus, I’ll just start at the top, here are the stats for the game:

Team Stats
Western Kentucky Tennessee
First downs
6
40
Rushing
3
23
Passing
2
16
Penalty
1
1
3rd Down Efficiency
1-for-11, 9%
7-for-9, 78%
4th down efficiency
0-for-1, 0%
0-for-1, 0%
Rushes-Yards
29-27
44-383
Passing Yards
66
274
Return Yards
178
97
Completions-Attempts-Int
10-17-1
25-32-2
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-25
0-0
Punts
9
0
Fumbles Lost
2-2
2-1
Penalties – Yards
9-82
6-45
TOTAL NET YARDS
189
710

The stats speak loudly.  Tennessee racked up a whopping 710 total net yards.  Last season the Vols managed only 3,225 yards on the season, today they produced over 20% of last season’s total yards in a single game.  They scored more points than they have since the 2000 game against the Arkansas Razorbacks.  Even more surprising was the balance in the offensive yardage between the pass and the run.

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Alabama gets caught cheating, Kiffin plays with chalk

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21

Somewhere, in front of a chalkboard—his hands coated with chalk dust—Lane Kiffin is smiling…

For the past several months Tennessee fans and the general sports-watching public have heard a near endless discussion about the various secondary infractions which have occurred since Lane Kiffin (a/k/a “the Blackjack General”) took the reins as the head football coach for the Tennessee Volunteers.  Needless to say, some have taken every available opportunity to criticize the University of Tennessee, The UT Athletic Department, Smiling Mike Hamilton, and the Blackjack General himself.  Some of it has amounted to little more than sniping and smack-talk, while others have been decidedly more direct.

Rightly or wrongly, Tennessee has self-reported (or is in the process of investigating with with an eye toward reporting) six secondary violations of NCAA Rules, the most recent coming—as HSH reported just the other day—as a result of the Blackjack General’s recent appearance on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” where he discussed, imagine that, secondary infractions with ESPN’s Bob Ley.

A “secondary violation” is defined in the NCAA Manual as follows:

A secondary violation is a violation that is isolated or inadvertent in nature, provides or is intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage and does not include any significant recruiting inducement or extra benefit.  Multiple secondary violations by a member institution may collectively be considered as a major violation.

•  2008-09 NCAA Division 1 ManualPDF Document § 19.02.2.1 (emphasis added)

To put this in layman’s terms, secondary violations are the functional equivalent of talking in the NCAA’s rather large and particularly boring class.  Or, perhaps, in Lane Kiffin’s case, they amount to showing-off for all the girls (or in this case, recruits) in the back of class to impress them and passing notes reading:

I like you.  A Lot.

Do you like me?

Check One:  ___Yes  ___No  ___Maybe

— Lane

While this sort of thing—in both Mrs. Elliott’s 6th Period English Class and in the world of NCAA compliance—are annoying, they are largely harmless.  While it is true (again, with both Mrs. Elliott and the NCAA) that enough of these sorts of minor errors along the way can land you in the proverbial Principal’s office, as long as you say you are sorry after each instance (and UT has self-reported all such violations) and space the occurrences out by a day or two, usually there is little punishment to be meted out, aside from being made a spectacle in front of your peers…

… or by having to stay after class and write on the blackboard.

Kiffin-Chalkboard

Kiffin at the Chalkboard

Hence, while Lane Kiffin and the UT Athletic Department are probably getting a little tired of having to deal with the issue of secondary violations, they have been merely a bump in the road thus far.

The Alabama Crimson Tide, on the other hand, is now facing a decidedly more serious situation…

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So, did the Butler do it?

No Pass Out Checks | Gate 21

Brian Butler has been called many things by many people, not all of them are nice.

Butler is a former rapper and call-center manager, and a seemingly respectable football trainer based out of Wichita, Kansas.  At present, Butler is the principal and operator of the Potential Players recruiting service through which he serves as a self-styled, come-lately, “recruiting adviser” to high school football standouts across the country.  A “gifted” self-promoter, he is also the subject of a recently announced investigation by the NCAA.

Brian Butler working a recruit (NY Times / Simmons)

There are many questions being asked about Butler by many people, especially those recruiting high school standout Bryce Brown (which includes Tennessee).  The fundamental question, however, centers on whether he is essentially seeking to act as a sports agent for players being recruited by college football programs.

For now, at least, there is no definitive answer to this query.

The reason that this is an issue is that Butler has widely taken the position that the only way that college recruiters can speak with high-schoolers that he is “advising” is by going through him.  To many, this appears—at least outwardly—that Butler is serving as an “agent” rather than simply as an “adviser.”

Again, why does anyone care?  Under NCAA bylaws, current and potential student athletes are prohibited from retaining agents, and requires that all prospective athletes undergo an amateurism certification process, which includes, among other things, certifying that the athlete has not agreed to be represented by an agent.  On the issue of agents, NCAA Bylaw 12.3 states that:

An individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport. Further, an agency contract not specifically limited in writing to a sport or particular sports shall be deemed applicable to all sports, and the individual shall be ineligible to participate in any sport.

See NCAA Operational Bylaw 12.3.1 (PDF )

The NCAA’s website offers additional guidance stating that:

…a student-athlete (any individual who currently participates in or who may be eligible in the future to participate in intercollegiate sport) may not agree verbally or in writing to be represented by an athlete agent in the present or in the future for the purpose of marketing the student-athlete’s ability or reputation. If the student-athlete enters into such an agreement, the student-athlete is ineligible for intercollegiate competition.

Also, a student-athlete may not accept transportation or other benefits from an athlete agent. This prohibition applies to the student-athlete and his or her relatives or friends.

The term “agent” includes actual agents, runners (individuals who befriend student-athletes and frequently distribute impermissible benefits) and financial advisors.

It is not a violation of NCAA rules if a student-athlete merely talks to an agent (as long as an agreement for agent representation is not established) or socializes with an agent.

• via: Overview of NCAA Bylaws Governing Athlete Agents | NCAA.org

Thus, Butler acting as the only means of communication with a recruit could be troubling and potentially a violation of NCAA rules, hence the NCAA investigation.

This raises a particularly thorny set of issues for high school athletes and their families, college athletic departments, high school coaches, college boosters, the NCAA, and State Legislators.  That’s right, I said State Legislators.

For these reasons, I am personally of the opinion that someone—whether it be Butler, athletes, college institutions, or otherwise—will end up paying for what amounts to an infraction that lies in the proverbial “gray area” of the NCAA’s rules.  A violation in spirit, if not in the letter.  The problem is, however, that whether Butler’s conduct violates many rules or none all depends on the perspective applied to the facts, and for the record, I make no assertion that I know or understand all of the facts.

Still, let’s use a hypothetical to illustrate the complexity of the situation.

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The natives appear restless … or are they just resting?

No Pass Out Checks | Gate 21

Apparently, University of Tennessee students are getting a bit restless these days when it comes to the BasketVols—so restless, in fact, that they’ve decided en masse not to come to the games at all, and have chosen to stay home and take naps (or something along those lines).

According to Basilio only 312 students showed up for the Vols’ game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at the Tommy Bowl (a/k/a Thompson-Boling Arena).  Tennessee currently has nearly 30,000 students, so that adds up to around 1% of the total students bothered to come to the game.  Now admittedly, that game was played on Valentines Day, and maybe “love” was in the air, but only 312 students?  I know from my time on the Hill, there are usually plenty of undergraduates who don’t have dates at any given time (or ever, in the case of some folks).  Unlike football, students don’t have to get a ticket, and need only provide a valid student ID to get into the games, so the cost and annoyance argument is out the door.  Given the fact that students came in throngs last year, it appears that the students have simply gotten fickle and expect a little more from the program than what they are currently receiving.

So why have the students seemingly given up on this team?

I was a student at the University of Tennessee from 1994-1998.  When I arrived on campus as a freshman, the Vols were coming off their worst season in the history of the school.  The 1993-94 Vols won a grand total of 5 games under, then, coach Wade Houston who apparently did not even understand the rules of basketball.  Thus, my expectations were low when the 1994-95 season rolled around, despite the fact that Tennessee had a new head coach, Kevin O’Neill.  Still, I can say with conviction that I attended every home game that season and watched the Vols claw their way to an 11-16 record.

Great basketball, it was not.  Still, I went nonetheless.

Now I am not going to call into question the loyalties of the student body as a whole—we each make our own choices and decide what is important to us personally.  I suppose, given the lengths to which I have gone as a fan of the Big Orange (including running the Gate), I am one of those fans that you can count on to show up anytime the real Gate 21 (into Neyland Stadium) or the doors of the Tommy Bowl are open.  I suppose I am one of those nut-jobs who blindly supports the Vols regardless of the circumstances (this is not entirely true but, for the purposes of this article, it fits).  I guess that is why I always attended the games when I was a student.

Either way, only 312 students at the game is pretty slim pickings, and I am pretty sure — at a minimum — that out of the tens of thousands of students at UT, there are more than 312 students who, like me, are certifiable head-cases when it comes to supporting the Vols.

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The Cost of Sports — Part 2: Jerry Maguire and Professional Sports

No Pass Out Checks | Gate 21

As I discussed in Part 1 of this series on the cost of sports, at Tennessee, the price can be high when it comes to paying your way into Neyland Stadium — a truth of which Nashville’s Thomas Luck is all too aware.  I discussed the issue purely in terms of the experience at Tennessee mainly because it is what I am familiar with.  Tennessee was but a lens — the reality is largely the same at all schools with a major athletics presence.

The world of professional sports, however, makes the college ranks look like small potatoes in the way it is wed to the almighty dollar.  Given the current uncertain economic times, however, I question whether professional sports in particular can continue in the way it has for so long.

I suppose that sports fans should not be surprised at the notion that professional teams would necessarily focus on money, after all that is what professional athletics are all about: getting paid to play.  I suppose Rod Tidwell (from the movie “Jerry Maguire) summed it up best with the oft quoted line “Show me the money!“  What I think is a bit surprising is how willingly and uncomplainingly professional sports fans have accepted the “money first” approach of all the teams in all the major leagues.  The increases in costs passed along to professional sports fans over the last generation is really quite staggering.

Video: Show me the Money!!

But don’t take my word for it…

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The uglier side of the coaching carousel…

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21

Well, in case you were so overcome with joy at the news that “Kiffin the Elder” (a/k/a “The Full Monte) would be joining Coach Kiffin next Fall in Knoxville—and I can completely understand why you might be—the news out of Auburn is much less pleasant.

Apparently, “War Eagles” are cannibals because at present, the Auburn Tigers are voraciously eating their own…

First of all, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am not purporting to offer any thoughts on whether Gene Chizik was a good hire from a “football” perspective.  First, aside from my remembering that Chizik was on the Auburn staff as a defensive coordinator in the 2004-ish era, I really don’t know enough about the man’s essentials to assess him one way of the other.  I have never been (nor do I plan to become) a devoted follower of the Iowa State Cyclones either, thus I also lack the knowledge to weigh whether Chizik’s 5-19 record as the head coach in Ames really means that much or not.

Second, as a Tennessee fan, I have little room and even less desire to point out the shortcomings of other programs at this particular point in time (“ahem… pot, meet kettle”)…

Third, I don’t have to really even get into the substance of Chizik’s qualifications to realize that all hell has broken loose on the Plains.

There are some very restless natives in Auburn.

Since Gene Chizik’s announcement as the new head coach, the Tiger faithful have literally declared a civil war on a scale which boggles the mind and confounds reason.  The only reaction I have been able to draw thus far is that, based purely upon the reaction of the fans, alumni, and talking heads—completely irrespective of his abilities—Gene Chizik is going to have a very tough time winning at Auburn.

The reason for this is that, with the exception of Auburn AD Jay Jacobs, and perhaps Kirk Herbstreit, there appears to be no one among the Tiger faithful who is, was, or believes that they will ever be happy with this hire.  Of course, this is an understatement of prodigious proportions—somewhat akin to saying that GM is undergoing a “minor financial adjustment” or that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has made some “unpopular decisions.”  Only two words accurately describe the situation among the Aubies:

Cataclysmic Meltdown.

For example, listen to the guy ranting and raving in the background as Jay Jacobs returns to Auburn after sealing the deal with Chizik over the weekend.

Jay Jacobs Gets a Welcome Back to Auburn

Wow, now that is some serious fan support!

Now, mind you this is occurring before the official announcement has even been made.  This was not, however an isolated incident.

This pretty much sums up the thoughts in Auburn

This pretty much sums up the thoughts in Auburn

Over at Track ‘em Tigers, the reaction was enough to induce vomiting (you simply have to read through some of the comments), and I am pretty certain that a few of the commenters have since committed suicide.  In particular, the guy who wrote this letter:

Mr. Jacobs

I have no words to express how I feel about the hiring of Chizik as the head football coach at Auburn University. How can anyone be this devoid of wisdom. I have been an Auburn fan for 40 years. I went to school during the Barfield years for goodness sake. During this entire period I have never once even considered wavering in my allegiance to Auburn.

As of now I will turn in my tickets. (scholarship) I will not send another dime of support to the University, and I will join all efforts towards the removal of you and everyone else involved in this ridiculous hire.

You and Dr. Gogue may think you can sit in your ivory towers protected by the powers that be, (and you know to whom I am referring) but you forget Auburn is a grassroots university. Hard working men and women made Auburn the great university it is today. I hold fast to the belief that it is the spirit that lives in these same men and women which will cause us to band together and throw you and the rest of your crowd out on your ears.

It cannot happen soon enough!!!!

• via: Track ‘em Tigers — WarEagle99

The comments over at al.com’s Gold Mine Blog were fairly similar in their lack of … excitement.  My personal favorite was:

Excuse me while I go take down generations of Auburn memorabilia and burn my diploma.

• via: al.com — BigBlueHey

Of course, we all know that comments are often submitted in the heat of the moment, and are less than well thought out—I’m as guilty of that as anyone.  The bad news is that, by and large, even the cooler heads have shown strong misgivings at the hiring of Chizik.  One such “cooler head” is that of Will Collier at From the Bleachers who writes:

All that stuff about “don’t panic” and “they sky is not falling” and “Auburn will hire a good coach?” Never mind all that. Dogs and cats are, in fact, living together in the luxury suites of Jordan-Hare Stadium.

* * * * *

Gene Chizik is almost certainly the worst candidate interviewed during this utter farce of a coaching search. He is a poor recruiter who has completely failed to date as a head coach. Chizik’s own friends in the coaching community openly scoff at the idea of him being a head coach for a major program.

For Auburn’s program, he will be the equivalent of Mike DuBose, although hopefully without the cheating.

* * * * *

I don’t say this lightly, but, Fire Jay Jacobs. And while you’re at it, fire his buddy Tim Jackson, who inexplicably was invited along for the interviews, despite the fact that Jackson is Auburn’s… ticket manager. That makes as much sense as asking a halfwit greenskeeper to sit in on interviews for a corporate CEO.

• via: From the Bleachers

Two more particularly well done pieces can be found at The War Eagle Reader and The Pigskin Pathos as well as some ranting and raving from A Lifetime of Defeats.

All of this begs the question, when does exercising your constitutionally (and in my opinion morally) protected “bitching license” leave you in the proverbial Catch-22?  It seems to me that even if Gene Chizik were the second coming of Vince Lombardi or (to put it more into context) Shug Jordan, that he is now doomed to fail.  In other words, no matter how good he is as a coach, he is already disliked by the fanbase before a single down of football has been played.  I understand that the Auburn faithful are not happy with the hire, and that many feel Tommy Tuberville was essentially fired for no good reason, but at the end of the day if you are an Auburn fan, if you don’t rally around your new coach, it is all but assured that the program will implode for at least 2-5 years, if not more.

Fortunately for Auburn, some of those in the blogosphere have recognized this, including Joe Cribbs Car Wash and Fields of Donahue who writes:

Alright, our new head coach is Gene Chizik.

We’re not happy.

It sucks.

The only thing to do now is support him. I don’t care if he was miserably bad at Iowa State. He is our coach now, and we need to get behind him…

• via: Fields of Donahue

I feel for the Auburn folks.  The Tennessee Volunteers are just coming out of the gloom of what is, without question, the single most difficult football season I’ve ever lived through.  All season long Orange Nation spent a great deal of time ripping one another to shreds before Smiling Mike Hamilton and the Great Punkin finally quieted things.  Like it or not, at least Smiling Mike had the decency and good sense to address the issue with Fulmer in as transparent and public a manner as was probably possible.  That helped start the healing process, and probably accounts for the general sense of excitement surrounding the ascendancy of the Blackjack General as Tennessee’s new football coach, despite the fact that many still have questions about his experience.  That is also precisely why Auburn AD Jay Jacobs is currently public enemy number one down on the Plains.  Still the situations are really not all that dissimilar.

That’s the odd thing.  From where I am sitting—from a purely “factual” perspective—both Tennessee and Auburn are looking at largely untested and unknown head coaches putting on their headsets next fall.  The only difference is that Tennessee is doing everything it possibly can to help boost their new skipper to success, while it seems that Auburn is obliterating every possible chance for their new hire to enjoy the same.  Both men have a tough road and a lot of work ahead of them, but—as things currently stand—it would appear that Kiffin has a much better chance of success simply because the fanbase is uniting behind him.

Right now, I am really appreciating Smiling Mike…

Hopefully, the Tennessee fans out there who are quick to attack will pay attention to this debacle at Auburn and learn.  Sometimes you have to come together, sometimes you have to put differences aside, sometimes you have to bite your tongue.  That is what it means to be part of a team or, as I have described it, a family.  Establishing a tradition always requires unity and sacrifice.

Learn from this, Orange Nation, lest you follow the Tigers down that bitter primrose path…

– Go Figure …Email lawvol


Image Courtesy ofJoe Cribbs Car Wash

Will Northern Illinois be a Lesson in Leadership?

No Pass Out Checks | Gate21

Running a little behind, still hacking up a lung and sputtering, but moving purposefully…

As I mentioned earlier, the Northern Illinois game will be a watershed event.  That is especially true considering the news coming from the football program today.  Contrary to what most fans and prognosticators may have believed pre-season, this weekend’s game may be the single most important game of the season for the Tennessee Volunteers.

First, if the Tennessee Volunteers are going to turn this season around, it starts this weekend.  On one level, there is the obvious goal of getting another win in a season where those have been increasingly difficult to come by—thereby closing the win/loss gap for the season.  This helps on paper and in terms of respectability, but that sort of thing means nothing unless the team also progresses.

More importantly—in a fundamental sense—this team needs to find its identity, to find its leader…

This team has yet to “find” itself and to define its persona as a team.  At present it has two distinct and different identities, reflective of the fact that it is essentially two different teams.  On one hand, the defense—though not perfect—has shown its mettle as a hard-knocks, full-tilt, never quit squad of young men.  This is especially true in the case of Eric Berry and Rico McCoy—two of the more visible leaders for the defensive unit, which has been solid since the start.  This defensive unit has has refused to concede anything, even when facing near-impossible odds.  The defense has come ready to play.

The old adage is that “offense sells tickets, but defense wins games.”  I believe this to be true, but there are always extremes which serve as exceptions to the rule.  Thus far, the 2008 Vols are such an exception.  Actually, that is not entirely true.  When the offense takes care of its business, then defense wins games.  Some semblance of an offense is required if a team is going to succeed.  The defense, to its credit, has not engaged in finger-pointing, but must be getting tired of making excuses for the lack of offensive production.

In my opinion (which mean nothing) the defense has done enough to win all of the games this year—especially versus the UCLA Bruins and Auburn Tigers…

The offense, however, has really failed to do its part from the very start.  The offense does not seem to have improved at all as the season has progressed and a fair argument can be made that it has actually gotten worse.  For the record, I do not blame Offensive Coordinator Dave Clawson for this.  While I am hardly an authority, I do not think we have even begun to see the real face of the “Clawfense.”  I simply do not feel that he has had a chance, or the players, needed to give his changes “legs” on which to run.

No, the reason for this lack of leadership on offense is not due to coaching, but in the lack of players stepping forward to lead the team.  While I agree that coaches can and should help mold leaders, I do not believe that they can simply create them out of nothing.  Real leadership ability comes from within.  Thus far, it seems that the Tennessee coaching staff has found no one who has both the desire and the ability to lead on offense.

It is obvious that Jonathan Crompton wants to be a leader—or that he believes himself to be one—but the fact is that he has yet to show the ability lead.  Does he have what it takes?  Perhaps, but I am not going to pretend that I actually know.  What I will say is that, based upon his performance on the field he has not yet shown it.

To be effective, those being “led” must believe that their leader will help propel them to victory—this is true in any endeavor, football or otherwise.  Part for showing that ability is shouldering the load, part is walking the talk, part is putting team before self.  So far, Crompton has seemed more focused on “being the guy” in title, than he has been on “being the guy” in fact.  That is not to say he cannot rise to the occasion, just a recognition that so fare he has not.  In fairness to Crompton, no one else on offense has exactly stepped-up either.

Given the fact that, it has been announced that sophomore Nick Stephens will start this weekend at quarterback, it seems apparent that the Great Punkin agrees…

Traditionally, leadership comes through experience.  This year, however, sophomore Eric Berry has shown that is not always true, as he has grabbed hold of the mantle of leadership for the defense.  Perhaps, another sophomore—Stephens—will do the same for the offense.  While this season will likely not be a championship year for the Vols, it has yet to be determined what the ultimate legacy is for this team.  Could this season be the start of the next era of Tennessee football—albeit a bit bumpy from the outset—or will it devolve into a disaster on the order of “The Season of Which we do not Speak (2005).

Is Stephens ready to lead?

Is Stephens ready to lead?

For my part, I am not looking for the Vols to be world-beaters this year.  I am, however, looking for improvement each week.  I am looking for this team to take steps toward the future.  I am looking for purpose.

More importantly, I am looking for this team to actually become a team—not simply a defense and an offense who happen to wear the same color jerseys…

The defense is doing its part.  It is now up to the offense to “find itself,” for its leader to step forward and meet the defense half way.  Either way, this week’s game against the Huskies will like be either one more step toward failure or the first game of a new season.  I hope the orange-clad faithful will put their issues with the coaches aside and support this team—and its new quarterback—fully.  Though I understand the frustrations that Vol fans are feeling, I personally believe the fans owe that to this team and Nick Stephens.

This season is not over—not by a long shot.  For Nick Stephens, the season is only just starting.  For the rest of Orange Nation, this season officially starts over on Saturday night.

Sometimes in life we learn by trial and error—this can be true in any setting.  Sometimes we learn as much from failure—sometimes more—than we do from success.  I have a feeling that Nick Stephens will be focused, first and foremost, on doing what he needs to do to win.  Succeed in mastering the basics, and Stephens will have taken a huge step toward showing everyone that he is ready.  For Nick Stephens’ sake, for Phillip Fulmer, Dave Clawson, Eric Berry, for this team, for each and every person who wears the orange and wears it proudly, I hope we discover who is ready to lead.

I also hope we learn from the mistakes of those who were not…

Go Vols, Beat the Huskies!!!

– Go Figure …Email lawvol


Image Courtesy of: UT Sports.com / the University of Tennessee
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