Tag Archives: college

OU/Texas: The Best Rivalry In College Football?

Image from "EDU In Review" - click link for commentary on Top Ten Red River Rivalry Games

(Note: Originally published Oct. 1, 2010)

by Rob Loeber

College football is full of rivalries, and there are some great ones…

Michigan/Ohio State has tradition, but hasn’t been worth much the last few years.  The Iron Bowl between ‘Bama and Auburn is the best of what the South has to offer, but it still misses the mark.  Oregon and Oregon State call their battle the Civil War, but something about Ducks fighting Beavers just doesn’t inspire me all that much.  Bedlam is up there for sure, but you get the feeling it means just a little more to the side in orange.

OU/Texas is the gold standard in rivalries and here are the reasons why.

The Cotton Bowl is the perfect setting.  It’s almost exactly halfway in between Norman and Austin.  The stadium is split at the 50 yard line.  Sooners on one side, Longhorns on the other.  Show me another event like this in all of sports.  Go ahead show me.  You can’t do it.  The atmosphere alone makes this game what it is because you can feel the tension in the stadium and all around the fairgrounds.  Nothing but burnt orange and crimson as far as the eye can see.  The Texas State Fair is part of the experience.  Ride the ferris wheel, win a teddy bear, eat something fried, eat something else fried, almost get sick, drink beer, feel better, watch football.  If I’m not mistaken that might just be the meaning of life right there. Continue reading OU/Texas: The Best Rivalry In College Football?

On The Horizon: Best Laid Plans

When I had my children, the plan was to spread them out four years apart. In part, to save my own sanity, but also to be able to pay for college one at a time. So much for planning. My oldest started college four years ago; three schools and three majors later…he is still there. This fall my youngest enrolled at OSU giving me two tuition bills. Ouch!

In this week’s video blog, I follow my daughter Geena around as she enrolls and we learn about the high cost of higher education.

~Alisa Hines


On the Horizon: Best Laid Plans from Alisa Hines on Vimeo.

Want To Be A Coach? No You Don’t.

Scott Brooks' job only looks glamorous, there's many more moments full of frustration. (courtesy aolnews.com, nba/getty images)

The coach is always an easy target.  If your team looks bad, the knee-jerk reaction is always to blame the coach.  If players aren’t living up to their potential, must be the coach’s fault.  If there’s a key breakdown at a crucial moment in the game, the coach is clearly an idiot.  If your team’s fortunes don’t turn around immediately, this coach must not be the right man for the job.  If your kid isn’t getting enough playing time, the coach must have no idea what he’s doing.

Professional and collegiate coaches get paid big bucks, and I’m sure many of you would trade places with them in a heartbeat.  Not me.  No thank you.  I’m not sure the paycheck is worth the constant pressure, scrutiny, hatred, name-calling and second-guessing that coaches put up with from fans, players, and media.  Even if you can handle it, what about the toll it takes on your family?  Every day, your kids get to hear about why you stink at your job.   Entire websites are created just to promote and encourage your firing.  Your demise is almost imminent from the moment you take the job, because there is no sympathy, no grace, and zero tolerance in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of sports.  These days, owners fire coaches like it’s a bodily function.

Let’s say you’ve got thick skin, and can get past all the material pointing out every reason why you’re an imbecile.  Good for you.  Now all you’ve got to do is take a group of men, women, or children and turn them into winners.  Do that by managing several different personalities, varying backgrounds, an assortment of skill levels, and a dizzying array of attitudes.  You have to know who to coddle and who to criticize.  Who gets treated tenderly and who gets a dose of tough love?  Make sure you earn your players respect, but don’t be too hard on them.  Keep things fun and entertaining, but not too fun, because then you’ll lose that respect.  Keep players happy with minutes and playing time, and you better know how to massage the ego of your stars and high draft picks.  And if you happen to be a high school coach, good luck explaining to parents why Timmy didn’t make varsity.  That’s a fun conversation.

Continue reading Want To Be A Coach? No You Don’t.

Laying Blame for College Sports Scandals

As a sports fan, I am no longer shocked or surprised by anything.  I’m guessing I’m not alone here.  Athletes get arrested at an alarming rate.  Rarely does a day go by without hearing of some sort of cheating, whether its performance enhancing drugs or marital infidelity.  Suspensions, violations, and probations are now expected during the course of any professional or college sports season.

Manny Ramirez got busted for taking a female fertility drug.  Yawn.  Brett Favre allegedly sent pictures of his privates to a woman while playing with the Jets.  Whatever.  Ben Roethlisberger had an “encounter” with a college student in the bathroom of a bar.  Double yawn.  Tiger Woods led a secret life, and slept with who knows how many women in who knows how many states.  I give it a shoulder shrug and a raised eyebrow.  Even if Lance Armstrong, the last hope for integrity and truth in sports, is proven guilty of doping, will we really be blown away?  I might bat an eyelash, but I’m not going to be floored.  In fact, my initial thought will probably be something along the lines of, “that took longer than I expected.”  Sad but true.

Scandal has become synonymous with sports.  It’s like acne on a teenager, it’s assumed.  We’re not nearly as appalled at the sports landscape as we used to be.  When was the last time you really gasped at a scandal?  It’s been a while hasn’t it?  There’s no more surprise, no more shock, no more asking “how can this be!?”  American sports fans are desensitized and apathetic toward all of it.

Former NFL agent Josh Luchs confessed to paying players (photo courtesy of SI.com)

 The latest example came this week when Josh Luchs, a former NFL agent, admitted to Sports Illustrated that he broke NCAA rules and regularly paid college football players.  In his first person article, Luchs says he gave hand outs to players in hopes they would sign with him.  I appreciate Luchs’ candor and the glimpse behind the scenes of what really goes on between agents and college players, but am I stunned by any of his revelations?  No. 

This is simply another kind of behavior that has come to be expected in the world of college athletics.  At this point, if you’re like me, you’re almost completely numb to any kind of NCAA violation.  Big schools cheat.  Small schools cheat.  Coaches have impermissible contact with recruits.  Players take money.  And the world turns.

Sure, there have always been schools out there breaking the rules, but today these violations are so pervasive it’s hard to find a university that doesn’t have a blemish on its record.  Our alma mater may cheat, but as long as we’re winning, it’s pretty easy to look the other way. 

I think I’m ready to come out of my scandal induced coma, and propose some real changes.  Not because I’m angry or disappointed or betrayed, but because I’m just so sick and tired of hearing about it.

There is plenty of blame to go around here, but a good chunk of it lands right in the lap of the NCAA.  It’s an archaic, poorly run bureaucracy that needs to be fixed.  When I think of the leaders of the NCAA, I think of a group of old men sitting around a table in a dimly lit room.  They are wearing glasses, suspenders, and bow ties, and they’re churning out new rules so quickly that their typewriters are smoking.  They are so far removed from what life is actually like on a college campus.  They know nothing of what a coach has to deal with or what it’s really like to be a “student-athlete.”  And they don’t care.

Listen up NCAA…there are TOO MANY rules.  How much time, effort, and money do you spend as an organization just investigating infractions?  I’m willing to bet it’s a bunch.  Why?  Because you’re creating rules faster than you can enforce them. 

Why not lighten up on the recruiting rules?  There are hundreds of rules coaches are expected to follow, and I can’t blame them for slipping up from time to time.  There is a limit to the number of phone calls and number of texts a coach can send.  There are only certain times of the year when recruiting is “open.”  It’s kind of like deer season.  There are certain periods when the recruit can sign a letter of intent.  There are rules for how a coach can recruit a high school junior and different rules for a high school senior.  There are rules for when and how a recruit can take a visit to a campus, and there are rules for what can and cannot happen during that visit.  Try reading the NCAA recruiting guidelines for division one football.  Go ahead try it.  It will make your head spin. 

A simple logo for a complex organization (courtesy ncaa.org)

The NCAA could do away with most of these rules.  The NCAA will tell you there must be a level playing field, and the kids have to be protected.  Remember the NCAA really cares about the kids.  Since when is a high school kid incapable of turning off his phone or throwing away his mail?  Let coaches pursue the kids, and let the kids decide when and how they want to.  Less red tape would mean fewer violations, fewer probations, and maybe coaches could get back to coaching.

Not only do these silly rules cost the NCAA money to enact and enforce, they cost the universities millions of dollars every year.  Every school now has to hire a compliance staff to keep up with the ever-changing NCAA legislation.  These compliance officers are paid to make sure players are eligible, see that no violations are occurring, and educate the coaching staffs to the new rules.  Have these compliance staffs solved the problems?  Are there fewer violations now than there used to be?  No and not even close.

This isn’t to say that some rules are needed.  I don’t think players should be allowed to take money from agents or have contact with agents.  But it’s the agents who deserve the brunt of the punishment, not the players, and certainly not the entire program.  Should the current players on the USC football team really suffer because Reggie Bush accepted benefits from an agent?  It’s absurd.

Why should current Trojans be punished for Reggie Bush's transgressions? (courtesy renovomedia.com)

The NCAA seems to think more regulations will equal cleaner programs.  It’s a nice concept, but it’s wrong.  There are more regulations than ever, and there’s more cheating than ever before.  Everyday brings a new headline.

UConn Men’s Basketball Team Admits Major Violations, Florida Football Misuses Facebook Commits Four Minor NCAA Violations, NCAA Accuses Michigan Coach of Violations, Memphis Forced to Vacate Wins from Final Four Season, NCAA places Alabama football on Probation, Trojans Hammered for Lack of Institutional Control…

And on, and on, and on we go.

I’m not naive enough to think that cheating can be eradicated from college sports or any sport for that matter.   Coaches and players will continue to come up with ways to cut corners and gain a competitive edge.  Those that do should be punished.  However, I’m exasperated by the callous nature of the NCAA and the complete refusal of this institution to look inward and recognize that widespread changes need to be made.  I don’t think we have to be so far away from cleaning up the landscape of college athletics.  I’m frustrated by the stubborn refusal of an organization to change.

I think I will remain mostly numb but I don’t want to feel this way anymore.  So please NCAA, please help me change.  Help me to see violations as the exception, not the norm.  Help me to care, help me get rid of the cynical sports fan inside of me.  That way if I am shocked, it will mean that scandal is rare instead of prevalent.  I want to feel again, I want to care, I want to be the sports fan of my youth.  Please NCAA, look deep into the blackness that is your soul, and try to change so I can change.

Cardiac or Clutch? Who are these Cowboys?

Thursday night football?  You betcha.  I’m on board.

You get to watch an absolute thriller between Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, take a day to catch your breath, and then its time for OU/Texas.  What’s a meal without an appetizer?  Thursday games may drive coaches nuts because their weekly routine gets messed up, but its a treat for the fans and the schools can’t argue with the national TV exposure.  All eyes were on Stillwater last night.

Those that watched saw something of a schizophrenic OSU squad.  Stumbling out of the gates, the Pokes look rattled early.  Maybe they were trying to hard to prove something after taking criticism for beating three puffballs.  Maybe they were too busy admiring themselves in those black uniforms.  Those are solid by the way.  Maybe the Aggies were just the looser, more prepared team.

No it wasn’t the prettiest game, but the Cowboys deserve credit.  Anytime you win, the glass has to be half-full.  Brandon Weeden proved he can face adversity, brush it aside, and play inspired football.  Being 26 years old probably helps, but this was a game Weeden needed.  When you start the game 6 of 13 with two interceptions, and finish by completing 22 of your last 29 with two touchdowns, you’ve earned the respect of your teammates and hopefully the respect of everyone in orange.

The OSU defense gave up 535 yards of total offense.  Improvement is needed, no doubt.  But Bill Young’s unit also came up with four interceptions, none bigger than Shaun Lewis’ pick with under a minute to play.  As long as the Pokes can keep forcing turnovers, they can hang with the best.

Cardiac Cowboys has become a popular phrase in Stillwater.  No question OSU has a flair for the dramatic.  But Thursday night, Clutch Cowboys sounds a bit better.  How else can you describe coming back from a 14 point halftime deficit, making a game changing play in the closing seconds, and connecting for a game winning 41 yard field goal?  Clutch fits…for now.

Dan Bailey's 41 yard field goal lifted OSU to a 38-35 victory over Texas A&M (courtesy Tulsaworld.com)

We’ve seen this before from OSU.  Last season the Cowboys started 6-1, then cooled off and dropped three of their last six games.  In 2008, the Pokes jumped out to a 7-0 record, only to lose four of their final six contests.  The 2006 Cowboys showed promise after starting 3-0, but faltered in three of the next four games.  Only time will tell if the optimism generated last night can last for an entire season.  The schedule gets much more difficult as OSU will play three of its next four away from Boone Pickens Stadium.  But let’s face facts here, the Big 12 South looks ripe for the taking.  Oklahoma hasn’t exactly looked dominant, Texas has some serious chinks in its armor, and the Texas Tech offense doesn’t seem nearly as intimidating under Tommy Tuberville as it did under Mike Leach.

Way to early to crown any team, or make any bold prediction, but don’t sleep on these Cowboys just yet.