UF Prez Calls for Raise for Meyer — School Slashes Budget by $42M

University of Florida president Bernie Machen has come out stating head football coach Urban Meyer deserves a raise.

“He should be [the SEC’s highest-paid coach],” Machen said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “He’s the best.”

LSU coach Les Miles is currently the highest-paid coach in the SEC, arguably the strongest football conference in the NCAA.

While I do agree with Machen’s idea in principle, of course performance should be rewarded and Meyer is the best coach in the nation right now, this is not the right time for a raise. Why? Because on Tuesday the school announced over $42 million in budget cuts. This is in addition to $69 million that was slashed over the past two years. In the middle of this budget crisis, it doesn’t seem like a raise for the head football coach should be among the school’s top concerns.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge college football fan. I get it – Florida doesn’t want to lose Meyer to a higher bidder that could come calling. However, this should be a decision that the university and Meyer should come to an agreement on so they both come out of it looking good. There are other needs the school has and could use that money for, like things that directly affect its student-athletes, that are more important in the greater scheme of things. Florida and Meyer should both remember, college is an institution for learning first. And yes, football is a huge revenue generator for the school, but even considering that, I think the money that would go toward a Meyer raise could affect many more students if used elsewhere. Waiting and not working out a raise right now will make both the university and Meyer look far better in the eyes of the football community and greater community at-large.

Kentucky BBall Faces Image Problem

I just finished writing a post about John Calipari needing to fix his image due to NCAA allegations made against his former school, Memphis, while he was the head coach. Cal was just named new head coach at Kentucky following the 2009 NCAA tournament.

Then I go to the ESPN homepage and see the following headlines:
Ex-UK coach Gillispie suing school, seeking $6M
UK recruit Wall pleads guilty to misdemeanor

If you’re keeping track at home that’s three, yes three, negative stories involving the Kentucky basketball program (counting the Memphis allegations because of Calipari) to hit in less than 24 hours. This should be a fun time for the Kentucky athletic department’s PR people…..

Another Scar for Coach Cal?

Today I saw the story break on ESPN that Memphis’ basketball program is facing NCAA charges that a former player cheated on his SATs. The player only played for the team for the 2007-2008 season and 2008 tournament.

The story states that if the allegations are proven true, Memphis could have to forfeit its Final Four appearance from that year. Then Memphis coach John Calipari was not named in the NCAA report, but in terms of image that doesn’t really matter. In 1996 Calipari lead UMass to its first Final Four appearance, but the school ended up having to vacate the appearance because of NCAA violations. He’s also been criticized throughout his career for low graduation rates. Due to the past violation by a program under his watch, Calipari will undoubtedly receive criticism for this current Memphis allegation regardless of whether or not the school is convicted. That’s just how image and reputation work. You don’t have to be convicted to tarnish your image.

Coach Cal will now face an uphill battle in his new job as head coach at Kentucky to reverse the negative connotations associated with him. I’m sure the PR people for Kentucky’s PR department will advise Calipari to do some volunteer work in the community, but I think this stigma associated with him is something that will take more time to change. It’s not an easy fix to simply throw out the image of community-friendly Calipari. He’s been involved in the community at past stops – that’s not the issue. This is something bigger that can really only be fixed through improved graduation rates and proper recruitment of stand-up high school seniors. It will be interesting to see what Calipari does at Kentucky.

My Super Bowl Prediction

With the Super Bowl just about 4 days away, it’s time for me to make my prediction.

I think the game will be pretty close, closer than many think. The Cardinals are a good team; the Steelers don’t hold as big of an edge as many believe.

Let’s break it down:

The Cardinals definitely have the better offense because it has the ability to just go off. They can score points in bunches. Pittsburgh has a solid offense, but they don’t have that big play ability to go off. However, they’re more run oriented than Arizona, meaning they can control the game clock and manage the game a little better. My vote for the better offensive team still goes to Arizona though.

The Steelers have the better defense, hands down. The Cardinals have a much improved defense over the regular season, but it’s still not as strong as the Steelers’ unit, which is the best in the league.

For special teams, I think the two teams are pretty close. I give the slight edge to the Cardinals though because I think Neil Rackers is one of the best kickers in the game.

The two coaching staffs are extremely good as well. Tomlin and Whisenhunt are both very good coaches in just their second year at the helm. I’m also looking forward to Pittsburgh’s D-Coordinator, Dick LeBeau, matching wits with Arizona Offensive Coordinator, Todd Haley. I actually can’t make a choice with this one. The two staffs are both good and it’s too close to call.

I think Pittsburgh possesses the intangibles, the main of which is experience. Many Pittsburgh players were on the team back when the Steelers beat the Seahawks in Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year. They all learned from that and know what to expect. Their nerves won’t be as quite on edge as many of the Cardinals will at the start of the game. Kurt Warner has been to the big one before, but have many of the other Cardinals’ players?

Looking at my categories, if I would just calculate who won the most categories it comes out as a tie, 2-2 with one tie. I think the intangibles put the Steelers over the top. My call is Steelers, 24-20.

But just for the record, I will be rooting for Arizona. How can you not (unless of course you’re a Steelers fan or hater)? They’ve been so bad for so long, it would be great to see them win this one.

What Would You Ask the President To Change in the Sporting World?

Today was an historical day for our country with the swearing in of President Barack Obama. He has a lot of things he will now have to devote his attention to. However, much has been made about the new President’s love of sports. After President Obama voiced his opinions on the BCS system, many thought changing that flawed system would be one of his goals. He has since stated that he will not use his powers as President to try and initiate changes to it,  but many in the sports media have still contemplated possible changes he could make. Mike and Mike even provided listeners with the one thing in sports they would like to see President Obama change.

Just for the record, I personally think the newly sworn-in President has much more important matters to think about than issues in sports.

But just for fun, I’d like to hear from you. If you could ask President Obama to change one thing in sports, what would it be?

Super Bowl Storylines for the Next Two Weeks

Does anyone like that we have to wait 2 weeks now to watch the Super Bowl? What’s the point of the two week span from the NFL conference championships to the Super Bowl? It’s money…… Well, it’s actually buzz, which then leads to money. Two weeks gives the NFL a second week for the media to run storylines and talk about the big game, building buzz for it beyond those that watch the NFL each week. These storylines, that will run everywhere from ESPN to blogs to the major networks, will reach new people that they hope to pull in to watch the Super Bowl. Then they hope to convert those casual fans into more loyal ones. Example: Let’s say a guy’s girlfriend hears about Kurt Warner and his story, tunes into the big game and roots for Kurt’s Cardinals, and always will remember what she heard about Kurt. Maybe she becomes a Kurt/Cardinals fan and will be interested in catching some of his games next year.

I know what you’re thinking – that’s not going to happen. In most cases, yes, but it could, and the NFL hopes so. Most of the storylines will not appeal to people that don’t regularly follow the league. Most of them will be for those of us that watch week in and week out, but every once in a while you’ll get a story that has mass appeal.

The storylines have become pretty predictable:

  • Kurt Warner’s journey revisited (grocery store to Super Bowl…and now back to the Super Bowl again.
  • Cardinal head coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm playing their old team, the one that passed over both of them when choosing a head coach in favor of Mike Tomlin.
  • The Anquan Boldin saga: Was his heated sideline conversation with offensive coordinator Todd Haley blown out of proportion? Or are there really negative feelings between the two?
  • Ben Roethlisberger and his concussions.
  • Mike Tomlin – will he become the second african-american head coach to win a Super Bowl? I sense some Tomlin/Tony Dungy storylines as well. Tomlin coached under Dungy and was mentored by him, and Dungy of course was the first african-american coach to win a Super Bowl.
  • Power/physicality vs. speed/finesse. The Steelers are the former while the Cardinals are the latter.

I’m sure there will be many more, this is just a starting point. Enjoy the stories these next two weeks!

NFL Conference Championships: Post-Games Wrap-Up

Now that yesterday’s are over, let’s see how I did. Last week I predicted that Pittsburgh and Philadelphia would be left standing at the end of the day for an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl. I was half right, going 1-1 with my picks. The Steelers did beat the Ravens, but the Eagles lost to the Cardinals.

The Cardinals-Eagles game was a tough one to pick. I’m not very surprised Arizona won. Read my prediction post, I made this comment in reference to the Cardinals:

And I actually think they could win the game.

They’ve become a good, solid team. They showed that last week in Carolina and proved it to the world yesterday against Philly. We all know about their offense, but their defense has come around. Yes, this really is a championship caliber team.

Did anyone see the sign an Arizona fan was holding during one of Fox’s crowd shots?

“We are who we thought we were!”

(In reference to the famous rant by former Cardinals coach Dennis Green, of course. By the way, has there ever been a better rant by an NFL coach? That one is legendary in my mind. Much better than even Jim Mora or Herm Edwards.)

An interesting point, it doesn’t seem like this Arizona team has not changed much since Green was the coach. Is Ken Whisenhunt the difference? Or has the team finally matured together? Or were they just a few personnel changes away from making the jump (like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie)? Hard to say.

I think Pittsburgh proved, after beating Baltimore for the third time this season, that it really is the class of the NFL. They were one of the top teams at the beginning of the season and remained that way for the duration.

My prediction for the Super Bowl will come closer to the big game, since the NFL makes us wait for two weeks….during which we’ll see every angle possible outlined by the news media (which actually could make for another post in itself – stay tuned for that……..)