Are You Ready For Some Football? Week One Trash Talk

We may have started Trash Talk last weekend because of college football, but we start it in earnest this weekend because not only are the student athletes back in action, the NFL regular season is officially underway.

Now, before getting to the games, let’s talk about the so called “student athletes” for a moment. The Charleston Southern Buccaneers are a small school playing football in the lower NCAA Division 1 tier. Today they play a non-conference game against nationally third ranked Florida State in Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee. On television. Maybe the biggest game setting the players at tiny Charleston Southern will ever experience. Except not all of the student athletes will get that chance, because the NCAA, as led by Mark Emmert, are usurious assholes, and the administrators at Charleston Southern are worthless idiots. 14 of the Buccaneers are suspended.

You see, mistakes were made. From USA Today:

Fourteen football players for Charleston Southern have been suspended for the school’s game against No. 3 Florida State on Saturday.

The punishments announced by the school Friday are part of NCAA violations involving 32 players in the program related to book purchases. Each player is serving a one-game suspension with the school staggering the penalties across multiple games. During Charleston Southern’s first two games,16 players serve their punishment. Two additional players will serve their suspensions at a later date.

What heinous crimes did these pirates engage in? Rape? Murder? No, those are crimes that Florida State Seminoles routinely engage in and get away with. Charleston Southern players don’t get that kind of coddling. These Bucs – gasp! – bought some school supplies at the campus bookstore. Buccaneer player Ben Robinson explained it thusly:

“So basically about 30+ players on my team including me have been suspended for using book money to buy other things in the book store like pencils, binders, and electronics, out of our school bookstore. We would have left over book money and the workers in the bookstore advised us to spend the money because we would not get it back, so we did. Now the school and NCAA are saying that is against the rules. So we all have to pay a fine and sit out a game. About 30mins before practice started I was given the option of sitting out this week against FSU or next game against a conference opponent.”

Thats right, the players used scholarship money placed on their accounts at the school bookstore to buy pencils, binders, lab books and other items necessary to attend class. BECAUSE THE COLLEGE EMPLOYEES TOLD THEM TO. And now they are being punished for it. Not the college administrators that failed to guide them, the players that did what they were told.

This is shameful and unjust. The fact that a pompous jackass like Mark Emmert and the worthies at the NCAA allow this to occur is reprehensible. The further fact that the administration at Charleston Southern appears to have blithely accepted this bogus punishment without fighting tooth and nail, loudly and publicly, for their students is despicable. Nobody would even know about this atrocity if Robinson and a couple of other players not have discussed it on their social media. The Charleston Southern Buccaneer players have now been punished as much, if not more, for buying necessary school supplies than Jameis Winston was for raping Erica Kinsman. What a pathetic joke Emmert and the NCAA are.

As for the actual games this week in the NCAA, the schedule is a little thin. Last week had ridiculously great matchups and exciting games, given that it was just the first week. Wow, that was fun. Not this week though. There are no ranked matchups, and, really, few even interesting games. Penn State at Pitt may be okay. The two best bets are probably out west, where high scoring Texas Tech comes here to Tempe to face the Sun Devils. The game may be in Sun Devil Stadium, but I am not sure ASU can keep up with the Red Raiders in a shootout. And Todd Graham’s gambling blitz all the time defense is pathetic. Devils are 2.5 point favorites, but I wouldn’t take that bet, I think Klif Kinsgbury’s boys leave with at least a double digit win. BYU at Utah could also be interesting.

But the pros are another thing. The NFL is already rocking and rolling with Thursday night’s barnburner at Mile High between Denver and Carolina. Speaking of sick, it is hard to fathom how Goodell and the NFL can claim to be so concerned with player concussions and let Cam Newton blithely continue playing dazed and confused as he was Thursday. So, the money grubbing craven nature of the NFL is unchanged.

Probably the best game of week one is the Patriots here in Phoenix Sunday night to face Larry Fitzgerald, Pat Peterson, Honey Badger and the Cards. Jimmy Garoppolo will be at the controls instead of Brady, who was of course screwed by the petty lying ass dishonest Roger Goodell because the duplicitous morons at the NFL can’t understand the laws of physics. But not just Brady will be be missing against the Cards, so too will Gronk and starting offensive tackles Nate Solder and Jonathan Cooper, who are all also out. As in didn’t even make the trip with the team. So, this means a Cards win at home, right? Nope, not going there, the Pats still have Bill Bel you know. Game is NBC’s Sunday Night entry, and should be a great one.

The Steelers at Skins on Monday Night should be excellent. I may be in the minority, but I don’t think Kirk Cousins and Washington were a fluke last year. They are finally letting professional football people run the ship instead of Dan Snyder, and it is paying off. Big Ben and the Steelers are, as always, formidable though. I rate it as a pick em. Giants at Cowboys also seems kind of interesting, if for no other reason than to see how Dak Prescott does in a real game. Kid seriously tore up the preseason, and Trent Dilfer is all over ESPN saying Tony Romo will never get his job back. I’m not buying that in the least, Jerry Jones loves Romo, but am excited to see Prescott.

The Raiders at Saints might also be of interest. Saints are always tough at home in the dome, but it just feels like the Rayduhs are a better team now. Packers at Jags should also be good. Jacksonville is a team on the rise, but Aaron Rodgers is getting Jordy Nelson back, so I’ll take the Pack.

In a bit of hilarious news you can use, things got a little dicey last night on Long Island. There was a sushi chef fight! From the New York Post:

A knife fight broke out at a Long Island sushi restaurant Friday, with one angry chef nearly turning a rival into human sashimi.

The violence at the Ichiban Sushi restaurant on Montauk Highway in Oakdale left one of the kitchen combatants so sliced up, he had to be rushed to Southside Hospital. His injuries were not life threatening, police said.

Police busted Kong Chen for assault. It was not clear what caused tempuras to flare.

Well, that’s it for this week. Crack open a few cool ones and enjoy the games. This week’s music is via Aretha and Blue Lou Marini from the Blues Brothers.

Update: emptywheel here, sneaking in to show off what Tommy was doing while his team was beating the Cardinals.


Did Northwestern Unionizing Just Cause Real NCAA Reform? No, Not At All

Well, the likely answer is no, but the ground is certainly finally shifting underneath the NCAA to such an extent that they are worried. The step of trotting authoritarian boob Mark Emmert out on for a series of television appearances sure didn’t work.

But, yesterday, somewhat quietly, the NCAA announced a proposed restructuring of its root governance model:

The board endorsed the restructuring process, which is aimed at allowing the division to be more nimble, streamlined and responsive to needs – particularly the needs of student-athletes – during its meeting Thursday in Indianapolis. The Steering Committee on Governance, made up of university presidents, drafted the restructuring plan.

Under the proposal, the division would still be led by a Board of Directors composed primarily of university presidents. However, new voices would be added: the chair of the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee; the chair of a new group tentatively called the Council; and the most senior Division I member of the Faculty Athletics Representatives Association’s executive committee. The council chair would always be an athletics director, giving that constituency an automatic spot on the board.

The Board would focus chiefly on oversight and strategic issues, while leaving much of the day-to-day policy and legislative responsibility to the council.

The council, composed of at least 60 percent athletics directors, would have 38 members: one from each conference plus two voting student-athletes and four commissioners (one from the five highest profile Football Bowl Subdivision conferences, one from the remaining FBS conferences, one from the Football Championship Subdivision conferences and one from the remaining conferences). The council would be the final voice on shared-governance rule-making decisions.

The steering committee suggests creating three bodies that would assist the council in its work and comprise the “working level” of Division I: an academics-focused group, a championships-focused group and a legislative group. Council members would determine implementation details, including what other groups are needed, how the groups will be populated and reporting lines. The steering committee also emphasized the need for a nomination process that is competency-based and diverse.

In order to allow the five highest-resource conferences (the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12 Conference, Big Ten Conference, Pac-12 Conference and Southeastern Conference) to address their unique challenges, the model would grant them autonomy to make rules on specific matters affecting the interests of student-athletes.

Sounds all nice and glossy, no? Not so much though upon closer inspection.

First off, it appears timed to be a direct attempt to deflate the unionizing vote at Northwestern today. Emmert and the NCAA just can’t help but be oppressive jerks can they?

Secondly, it enshrines into the root NCAA governance that the major football and basketball conferences are all that really matters and the rest of the universities and colleges in the NCAA are second tier and unimportant. As the AP stated in their report:

If approved later this year, schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC could implement some rules on their own and would get more voting power over legislation that would affect every NCAA member school.

Sadly, that looks exactly right under the restructuring plan. Now, there is some value in giving a bit of autonomy to the super conferences, but not to where they can exercise their greed to the detriment of all the rest of the smaller conferences and member institutions.

Notably, while the NCAA proposal has taken care of the NCAA’s own institutional power, and cravenly concentrated more of it in the big money conferences, notably absent are attendant concrete proposals that actually aid the student athletes, provide for their well being and insure their existence in the face of injury.

As further evidence of the NCAA’s continuing malevolence, at the same meeting in which the restructuring proposal was approved, the NCAA also voted to screw the athletes just a little more by restricting their ability to transfer. The exact provision is to eliminate hardship waivers that permit athletes having a just cause for needing to transfer to another school the ability to be immediately eligible and, instead, just gives them an extra year of eligibility. In short, the NCAA just decided that instead of helping such athletes, they would screw them by stringing them out.

In other related news, the National Labor Relations Board announced also announced Thursday that they would grant the request/appeal lodged by Northwestern University challenging the previous regional decision to permit the players’ attempt to unionize. From the NLRB official announcement:

The National Labor Relations Board has granted Northwestern University’s Request for Review of the Regional Director’s March 26, 2014 decision in 13-RC-121359. The Regional Director found the University’s grant-in-aid scholarship football players are employees under the National Labor Relations Act. The election will take place on April 25, 2014 but the ballots will be impounded until the Board issues a decision affirming, modifying or reversing the Regional Director’s decision.

The Board intends to issue a subsequent notice establishing a schedule for the filing of briefs on review and inviting amicus briefs, to afford the parties and interested amici the opportunity to address issues raised in this case.

It is not totally clear, but it strikes me that should the Northwestern players vote to not unionize, the NLRB matter may be technically moot and die of its own weight.

However, what is clear is that should the players vote to form a union, their secret vote won’t be know and/or certified anytime soon, and will play out over months, if not years.

So, in short, status quo for the corrupt NCAA.

How Long Until ESPN Brand Is Damaged By Money Trumping Safety?

ESPN stands perilously close to damaging its brand with repeated recent moves that appear to place their income stream ahead of safety. After working closely with Frontline for well over a year on a project documenting the effects of concussion injuries in football and especially in the NFL, ESPN on Friday removed their name from the effort, only a few weeks before the documentary was slated to air. Today, Kevin Brockway is out with an article in the Gainesville Sun noting the frequency with which the University of Florida has been forced to schedule early season home football games during early afternoon hours when heat indices are at dangerous levels for both athletes and spectators.

The New York Times noted yesterday that ESPN wields overwhelming power when it comes to setting the times for college football games to start, in some cases not announcing kickoff times until only six days before the game. Brockway’s article in the Sun shows the impact of ESPN’s decision-making here in Gainesville:

When the Southeastern Conference unveiled its week one 2013 football season start times, the collective groan from Gator Nation was heard from Key West to Pensacola.

For the fourth time in the last six years, Florida was stuck with an afternoon kickoff for its season opener. This Saturday’s 12:21 p.m. start time against Toledo at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium will force fans to again stock up on sunblock and bottled water.

But we aren’t talking about a mere inconvenience with the starting time. Figures on fans treated for heat-related illness in previous years speak to the danger of kickoffs at this hour in August and September:

The burning question is why? Why would the SEC schedule an early-afternoon game for its southernmost member during a month when the average heat index (which measures heat and humidity) is at its highest point of the year?

The answer lies in television, and some factors beyond the SEC’s control. Nonetheless, Florida administrators aren’t happy about the prospect of another sweltering Saturday opener. They consider it a fan safety issue. In 2011, when Florida began the season against Florida Atlantic (7 p.m. kickoff), only six fans were treated by medical staff for heat-related problems. Last season, when Florida opened against Bowling Green (3:30 p.m.), 105 fans were treated for heat-related issues.

A 12:21 kickoff is likely to be even worse than a 3:30 kickoff if rain showers don’t intervene, as the stands on the west side of the stadium usually are in the shade by 3:30 but not at 12:30, while shade doesn’t hit the seats on the east side until early evening.

As for the concussion documentary, here is how the Times described ESPN dropping out of particpation:

On Thursday, ESPN, which has spent heavily in recent years to build its investigative reporting team, abruptly ended its affiliation with “Frontline,” a public affairs television series that was weeks from showing a jointly produced two-part investigative project about the N.F.L.’s contentious handling of head injuries. The divorce came a week after the N.F.L. voiced its displeasure with the documentary at a lunch between league and ESPN executives, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

As might be expected, there are now denials from the NFL that they exerted pressure and from ESPN that they bowed to pressure. Those denials do nothing to improve the optics of the situation, however, and it remains indisputable that ESPN withdrew its support just before the documentary slamming the NFL’s handling of concussions aired.

ESPN is in very dangerous territory right now. If Saturday proves to be especially hard on fans at early afternoon games in the South, the record is already clear on whom to blame for shifting games from their traditional evening kickoffs to the worst possible time for fan and player safety.

Conflation of Military and Sports to Give Us Basketball Game on Ship Used for Rendition, Torture

Colorado-born Abdulrahman al-Awlaki will never get to choose between college sports and the military. A drone strike ordered by Obama killed him in October.

The sickness in American culture today that praises violence has seeped into college athletics in a manner that leaves me cold. I am appalled when college football or baseball teams “honor” the military by incorporating camouflage motifs into their uniforms. College sports are college sports and the military is the military. Yes, in both college sports and the military young people of the same age group are the primary participants, but sports at one time were merely entertaining pastimes and the military ultimately comes down to being about killing and maiming. Directing the team spirit of college sports toward military praise always comes off to me as an attempt to move praise of the military to a level of unquestioning support that can only have bad consequences.

We have been reminded recently that unquestioning support of college sports also leads to bad consequences. The debacle at Penn State was enabled in large part by the elevation of the Penn State football coaching staff to a level where they were treated as completely above the law, even when it came to sexual abuse of young boys. Unquestioning support of the military (George W. Bush: “You’re either with us or against us”) likewise has enabled it to move above the law. The Great War on Terror under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney relied heavily on the illegal practices of rendition and torture. Barack Obama, as suggested by Tom Junod, seems to have moved another large step beyond the law into extrajudicial killing:

But what if the the kind of militant who was captured and tortured under Bush is the kind of militant who is simply being killed under President Obama?

Listen to the announcer’s words near the beginning of this YouTube of the national anthem being played at a game at this year’s NCAA College World Series in Omaha. Why is it necessary to say “And now ladies and gentlemen, please join us in honoring America and those who support our freedom at home and abroad” at a college baseball game? Isn’t honoring the country enough? Why do we need more of a military reference beyond the military color guard? This was not a one-off event. Virtually the same script was used at every regional and super-regional game I attended here in Gainesville where teams were vying for the right to go to Omaha, so it clearly is part of the script put into place by the NCAA. Normal home games for the Gators during the regular season did not employ the language.

But now the conflation of the military and college sports has moved to a level where the symbolism is just too warped for me to allow it to go unchallenged. Last year, I was content merely to spout lots of snark on Twitter about conflating college sports and the military while the 2011 Carrier Classic was played on the USS Carl Vinson. This year, however, my Florida Gators will be playing in the game and it will be held on the USS Bataan. I have written previously on the Bataan. It has a particularly upsetting history, as I quoted Clive Stafford-Smith and the Reprieve project: Read more

NCAA, Mark Emmert, Unitary Executives & The Death of Due Process

Once you step beyond the tragedy of Aurora, the big news today centers on Penn State and the aftermath of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and Louis Freeh. There is a lot of news, and implications to come, from today’s events.

First, and unsurprisingly, Penn State yesterday took down the fabled statue of JoePa. Abandoning larger than life symbols, whether human or otherwise, is never easy. And it is not just the specter of human faces in this regard either, witness the difficulty (irrespective of which side of the equation you reside on) of moving beyond “Redskins” and “Seminoles” as team mascots. But Paterno’s statue at PSU, by now, was more a testament and reminder of gross and wanton failure, not success. A defeating duality if there ever was one for a supposedly inspirational piece of art. The statue had to go the way of JoePa himself, and it now has.

The second part of the news, and discussion thereof, however, will have far greater repercussions. That, of course, is the actual penalties handed down to the Penn State football program. They have just been announced and are as follows:

1) A $60 Million fine to be applied to anti-child abuse charity and organizations

2) A four year ban on bowl appearances

3) A scholarship reduction of 10 initial scholarships year one and 20 overall scholarships per year for a period of four years.* Current athletes may transfer without penalty or limitation

4) Imposition of a five year probationary period

5) Mandatory adoption of all reforms recommended in the Freeh Report

6) Vacation of all football wins from the period of 1998 through 2011. A loss of 111 wins from the record book (109 of which were from Paterno)

These are extremely harsh penalties. In some terms, competitively anyway, the scholarships are the key element. A loss of twenty per year for for four years, when prospective players know they will never see a bowl game in their career, is crippling. It will be fascinating to see how PSU survives this blow.

USC provides the best analogy, as it is just finishing up its sanction of a two year bowl ban and loss of ten scholarships per year for three years. While the Trojans will be eligible for a bowl game again this year, they still have one more year of the scholarship reduction to get through. USC has remained competitive and, in fact, is considered to be a major contender for the championship this coming year. Penn State, however, has much longer terms, especially as to the Read more

Trash Talk: NCAA Shame, Ephs and Jeffs

Marcy is correct, the article this week in the Atlantic magazine by Taylor Branch is an absolute must read. Entitled The Shame of College Sports, the article opens with a 2001 investigatory hearing in front of the Knight commission, a NCAA oversight board where slimy promoter Sonny Vaccaro matter of factly tells the Commission exactly what is going on in their sport; the Commission is incredulous, in denial and clearly thinks Vaccaro is scum. The reverse is, of course, the truth.

The list of scandals goes on. With each revelation, there is much wringing of hands. Critics scold schools for breaking faith with their educational mission, and for failing to enforce the sanctity of “amateurism.” Sportswriters denounce the NCAA for both tyranny and impotence in its quest to “clean up” college sports. Observers on all sides express jumbled emotions about youth and innocence, venting against professional mores or greedy amateurs.

For all the outrage, the real scandal is not that students are getting illegally paid or recruited, it’s that two of the noble principles on which the NCAA justifies its existence—“amateurism” and the “student-athlete”—are cynical hoaxes, legalistic confections propagated by the universities so they can exploit the skills and fame of young athletes. The tragedy at the heart of college sports is not that some college athletes are getting paid, but that more of them are not.

It is a long article that stretches in time from the beginning of college football in the late 1800s through the Cam Newton sham “investigation and disposition” prior to last season’s BCS Championship game. Coming on the heels of the stunning article on the corruption surrounding the Miami Hurricanes football program, it is a pretty stark reminder of just how filthy big time college athletics really are.

Many people have taken to advocating that college athletes be paid – above and beyond their scholarship terms – for their “services”. College basketball analyst Jay Bilas rants about doing so near daily in his Twitter stream. Personally, I am not sure that is the solution either. Do athletes at USC and Notre Dame get paid more because their brands bring in more? How much do each athlete get paid? Does Andrew Luck get paid a lot more than his left tackle? What about the universities not in say the top 64 programs, whose programs may not even be profitable, what do they do? What about basketball, baseball and track athletes? What about the girls and Title IX? I don’t know what the answer is, but I don’t like this one.

Interestingly enough, two of the most notoriously dirty major programs square off today when the Ohio State Felons take on the Miami Hurriconvicts in Miami. Nearly ten years ago, these two teams played for the National Championship (which Ohio State, true to their criminal form, stole from the Hurricanes on a horrid no-call on interference in the end zone in the last seconds). Now it is just another game. If only they could both lose.

To try to find a ray of clean and hope in this sick muck, let’s talk about teams that still play for the love of the game and the sport. Or so I am told. That’s right, I’m talking Ephs and Jeffs! The Williams Ephs open their 2011 season today at the always tough Bowdoin at Whiitier Field. While bitter arch rival, the Amherst Jeffs, open their season on the road against the fierce Bates Bobcats. Man, the stories we could tell about these games. Hopefully Marcy, Neil and/or Adam Bonin will come along and tell those stories cause, well you know, the ASU Sun Devils didn’t ever play those guys, I got nuthin!

In other games of note, Boise State already just tore up Toledo last night, and don’t be fooled, Toledo is a pretty good team. The BCS needs to get their heads out of their asses and give Boise some love. And Kellen Moore is simply amazing. The one truly huge game this weekend is Oklahoma down in Seminole land to take on Florida State. Oklahoma is, as befitting the number one ranked team, the favorite; but I dunno, I think FSU may be a sleeper here and, if their QB picks up where Christian Ponder left off, will win. I am agains personally interested in seeing Arizona State, who travel to Illinois. Been quite a while since ASU has been able to withstand prosperity, so being ranked at number 22 is a little scary. If Brock Osweiler has another big game, they should be okay, but the running game is not that good right now.

As to the pros, well the Deetroit Lions are the story of the year! The Kitties get KC, who got their asses kicked last week, at home in Ford Stadium. Look for Deetroit to go 2-0! Bears and Saint and Pats versus Bolts are the only other real excitement this week. I am going to let Marcy and Randiego battle that preview out in comments.

SPECIAL UPDATE!! – Uh, it turns out we gots some restless natives in these here parts, and they been demanding extra coverage. In another CRITICAL game, likely rivaled in scope only by the epic Cowboys/49ers tilt, Colt McCoy and the Cleveland Brownies are on the road at the Colts, and the Brownies are road favorites by 3. Wow. I must say, however, the fate of this game lies with Peyton. Peyton Hillis that is;the other one ain’t walking through that door. Oh, and speaking of Deetroit, Rosalind is right, the Tigers clinched their division yesterday. Congratulations, you gotta love Jim Leyland and Justin Verlander, who may yet be the first 25 game winner in MLB in decades (since Bob Welch).

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