Friday, June 12, 2009

The Works, vacatin'-style

Vacatin', all I ever wanted! Vacatin', had to give wins away! Vacatin', on probation all alone!*

The Fallout. The anticlimactic nature of yesterday's big reveal of the NCAA's Textbookgate sanctions--the final tally of which included the vacating of 21 wins, including a fat wad from 2005--didn't keep every Tom, Dick, Harry, Reginald, Alphonso, Gertrude, Maurice, Beatrix, and Ivan on the Internet from weighing in on the issue. I thought the most concise, to-the-point, accurate summary of the situation came from a Barrett:
So, what do the sanctions mean for the football team? Well, nothing.

Nobody really cares that wins were vacated. Players won the games. Fans in the stands saw them. Fans at home watched on TV. Gamblers won or lost money on them (legally, of course). Vacating wins is really just a glorified slap on the wrist – and this transgression deserved a glorified slap on the wrist ...

Make no mistake though, the COI has put Alabama on notice that it's “staring down the barrel of a gun” yet again. This marks the fourth time in 14 years that Alabama has been penalized by the NCAA. A fifth time anytime in the near future, and Alabama would be in some serious trouble ... (F)or the next five years (three on probation, two more as a repeat offender), the entire Alabama athletic department will be more scrutinized than the Zapruder Film. That's not good for a program that's already spent the better part of two decades under the NCAA's microscope.
I think that just about covers it. For the Auburn fans out there baying for more Tide blood--and honestly, why are you? It's our football team's job to beat them, not the NCAA's--Will has some keen thoughts regarding the difficulty of finding an appropriate punishment in cases like these:
Forfeits are always a weird sanction. They're at once the most appropriate and the most meaningless of penalties. Appropriate because fundamentally, a team that competes with ineligible players does so outside the rules and should not be allowed to claim a victory won in that fashion, but meaningless because few people take a forfeit seriously after the fact. I doubt that the various directional schools who lost to Alabama in, say, 2005 are going to put up any billboards over their new 1-0 record book "win."
The vacations might mean something if we were talking about stripping the Tide of an SEC title, but it's not the NCAA's fault 'Bama never managed to win anything of consequence in the years in question. Yeah, from my perspective Bama's rap sheet means that a couple of docked schollies would have been justified, but I can't say the violations in question demanded it ... and past that, what else can the NCAA do other than force the vacations and prepare to slap them again, harder, if anything else comes up?

That's not the tone taken by any number of national columnists, though, who saw a chance to hop on the ever-popular NCAA IS TOOTHLESS soapbox and seized it with both, uh, feet. Unfortunately, this led to several pieces like this warmed-over bit from SI's Andy Staples, who argues that the Tide's getting off easy is evidence the NCAA is too scared to punish big-name teams. Of course, even he admits that the NCAA didn't have a basis for "a stiffer penalty in this case," and that USC's punishment hasn't actually been determined just yet, and that the Florida St. most certainly does care about the vacated wins imposed by the NCAA ... but still! The NCAA doesn't punish big-time teams! (Just don't ask, apparently, what teams he's referring to.) Staples goes on to argue it should be like the good-old days, when, um, the NCAA obliterated SMU as a viable football program in what every college football fan on the planet (save for Staples, I guess) now views as a brutal overreaction. I do think the NCAA could stand to pack a little more wallop with its sanctions (the practice of allowing teams to pre-punish themsevles with reduced scholarships that were sitting around unused already is particularly silly), but arguing that this Alabama case deserved similar draconian treatment to what SMU got 20 years ago ... sorry, Andy, but it's just not working.

More. Jay G. Tate's excellent coaching profile series continues, with a look at Jay Boulware and his stickler-for-detailism that helps explain why Chizik brought him over from ISU in the first place:
Boulware is Auburn's most detail-oriented coach. While fellow assistants like Curtis Luper and Jeff Grimes talk more about hustle and attitude, Boulware asks his players see things on a smaller scale. He is a stickler for footwork, hand placement, stances. I watched him berate TE Bailey Woods during spring drills for aligning too far away from the tackle.

The offending margin measured less than a foot. That didn't matter to Boulware.
I don't have to repeat my distrust of this kind of precision in the off-field arenas of dress codes and locker cleanliness, but on the field? Get as anal as you you wanna be, coach.

Interestingly, on a staff laden with guys rumored for a head coaching position someday, Tate says he also "expect(s) to see Boulware gain regional/national relevance during the next 10 years." That anybody sees that kind of potential in Auburn's special teams coach says something (I hope) about the quality of the staff Chizik put together.

And speaking of the Chiznick, he made an appearance this week at an Auburn club in Gainesville (Ga.). Nothing earth-shattering, but, you know, he was there.

This wasn't news? I haven't seen this anywhere else yet, which is weird, since tracking secondary violations is so quickly becoming a kind of Fulmer Cup-style offseason diversion all on its own, but ... Phillip Marshall is evidently reporting that Auburn will self-report secondary violations stemming from the Big Cat Toomer's rolling. Hardly surprising, but moving the incident from "Auburn may have been guilty of ..." to "OK, yeah, Auburn has admitted they were guilty of ..." seems worth a headline or blog post or two from the rest of the Auburn beat hacks, even if the practical upshot--as explained ad nauseum in Big Cat's wake--is nil.

Not getting easier. The Auburn men's basketball team will be pretty much NCAA-or-bust next year--where "bust" is defined as "Jeff Lebo loses his job"--but it doesn't look like the rest of the league is going to make it easy, as this article from Beyond the Arc neatly summarizes. I'm not convinced at all Miss. St.'s Renardo Sidney will be eligible--when Tim Floyd's USC gives up on you, you know you're at the very top of the sketchy scale--but the 'Dogs will still be quality, for all of Calipari's slitheriness Kentucky's going to be all their hyped up to be, Tennessee and Florida will be Tennessee and Florida ... the good news is that the opportunities for the big in-conference wins that Auburn didn't have this past season will be out there. The bad news is that they're going to be as hard to come by as ever.

(And hey, now that I've brought him up, did you know that Tim Floyd resigned without speaking to a single one of his staff members or players? Man, big-time college hoops is just chock-ful of class acts, isn't it?)

BlAUgosphere. PPL brings us a wrap of Auburn's fortunes in the MLB draft, with a whole bunch of quality tidbits, including a baseball scouting report of Brandon Jacobs, educated guesses as to whether Luke Bailey and Drew Madrigal will make it to campus, why the first-round selection of Nick Franklin was a shock, and some deserved rah-rah for the two current Tigers taken in the draft. Good stuff.

Elsewhere, the Pigskin Pathos is spinning an, um, intense yarn about the Tony Franklin era. It's like reading a good short story out of a fancy magazine, except that it's about Auburn and it's on a blog.

Etc. In this week's sign of the impending apocalypse, South Carolina's football team has apparently extended a verbal offer to a ninth-grader ... Doug casts SEC: THE MOVIE with predictably hilarious results ... if you can control your gag reflex in response to the multiple references to "the Crimson Nation," this long, well-researched piece on Tide anti-legend Ears Whitworth is well worth the effort (via RBR).

*Just for the record, I tossed this video up here not only for the parody stylings, but because this is a freaking perfect pop song. Belinda, I got your back forever, baby.

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