As we reach the end of February, what else would make sense to start the day’s discussion than – - college football. And let me start with the recent news that Southern Mississippi suspended freshman running back, Antwain Easterling, for unspecified reasons. Now before the cries become too loud about why that is even marginally interesting, let me give you the back-story about Antwain Easterling.
Whilst still in high school in Florida, he was considered one of the top prospects in the state but found himself charged with “lewd and lascivious battery against a 14-year old” just a few days before his school was to play for the state championship. He was released on bond and was allowed to play in the state high school championship game. Let’s just say that was not a high water mark for the people making decisions about right and wrong in the Florida high school system.
All of a sudden, recruitment of Easterling cooled off. Southern Mississippi was one of the few recognizable schools that offered him a chance to play. Last season – as a freshman – the former Southern Mississippi coach suspended Easterling for a game. Now the new head coach at Southern Mississippi has suspended him again without saying why. Please recall this incident come March Madness time when the NCAA will run those sappy ads about all the college athletes who go on the noble life endeavors and who competed because of the glory of the competition itself. That happens in “non-revenue” sports; in money-makers like football, this is the kind of scholar-athlete who has access to a scholarship.
Meanwhile, Tennessee punter, Britton Colquitt, was arrested recently on charges of DUI and of leaving the scene of an accident after he allegedly hit a parked car. Why is that interesting? Well, this would be Colquitt’s fifth alcohol-related incident while in school but he remains on the team and on scholarship there. Excuse me, but might that not be a violation of the NCAA rule where an athlete is receiving a benefit that would not be readily available to an ordinary student? Coach Phil Fulmer defends his handling of Colquitt saying that he tries to judge these things on a case-by-case basis and to do what is best for the person in each case. That sounds good and noble. It also sounds as if Fulmer needs to find the phone number of the nearest detox center and AA chapter if he wants to do what is best in this case…
Finally, in addition to Darren McFadden’s amazingly fast time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, there are stories that McFadden may have fathered four children by four different women – or will have once two are scheduled to enter the world early this summer. This guy is not even out of college yet and is responsible for four papooses? That sets him up to challenge legendary players such as Shawn Kemp and Travis Henry in the “Most Likely To Screw The Crack Of Dawn” Competition.
Moving to college basketball, the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) set a record for the worst Division 1 season ever; they went 0-29 this year playing their final game in Orem, UT against Utah Valley State. Yeah, that’s a natural rivalry in the making if ever I saw one… Anyhow, here is a chilling statistic from the NJIT season that may be even worse than the team’s season record:
Field Goals Made for the season: 550
Turnovers committed for the season: 577
In the Big Ten, Tubby Smith has done quite nicely in turning around a moribund basketball program at Minnesota. The Gophers are 17-9 at the moment; they finished last year at 9-22. It is truly a shame he is not all that good as a basketball coach. That is why he was fired at Kentucky, right? Oh, for the folks in Lexington: How’s that working out for you?
In the world of sports broadcasting, ESPN and Sean Salisbury have parted company. What ever will all of us do next year without the Baron of Bombast? Salisbury said this was a mutual parting of the ways, which he brought to a head by asking for a “seven figure contract.” ESPN responded with the contractual version of “Via con Dios” as well they should have. This matter would merit little comment without the explanations offered by Salisbury:
“I’d grown tired of being punished for not being an NFL superstar. Analysts who don’t work as hard as me, don’t prepare as hard as me, and don’t have my resume were making more than me just because of their ability to throw or catch a football.
“I have created a brand and it’s time to expand into other opportunities in TV, radio, Internet, publishing, movies and public speaking, among others. My resume speaks for itself.”
Let me say that in the past year or so, ESPN has found a way to relieve themselves of Salisbury, Joe Theisman and Michael Irvin. Surely Theisman and Irvin had more distinguished NFL careers than did Salisbury and they probably earned more money than he did. But none of the three – with no regard to their on-field abilities or limitations – was all that good behind a microphone. To put a perspective on this however, the best football player on ESPN is probably Emmitt Smith and he is just plain awful on the air. No matter how good he was on the field, there is no reason that Emmitt Smith should continue to infest the public airways. Nevertheless, it is the second part of Salisbury’s statement here that concerns me; he thinks he has turned himself into a brand.
Please understand that Crystal Pepsi was a brand; so was Edsel. Despite the newspeak of “branding”, all brands are not good – - and when it comes to “movies”, I don’t see Sean Salisbury being on the A-List for key roles in meaningful films any time soon. In fact, the thing that his “brand” probably points him toward are those Saturday morning football gambling shows where folks yell into the microphone to tell us how they are a documented 85% against the number and that you have to call them now on their 1-900 number to get this week’s 50-star selection that is guaranteed to cover or the rest of the year is free… You know the shows I am talking about; you have all seen them and you have all changed the channel after watching them for about 3 minutes.
Finally, here is an observation from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“FSU quarterback Xavier Lee announced he is entering the NFL Draft. There is a phrase for that. It is called ‘retiring from football.’ “
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…