Sprints Is Not Surprised that Tennessee Is Under Investigation // 12.10.09

THE TENNESSEE INVESTIGATION

This was inevitable
Boy Wonder is now firmly in the crosshairs of the NCAA. Everyone who is surprised can raise their hands. The allegation: that members of the "Orange Pride" -- a group of often female greeters who meet recruits during their visits to campus -- were extraordinarily interested in a couple of recruits.

Marcus Lattimore, a running back who made an unofficial visit to Tennessee but said he would not enroll there, said multiple Tennessee hostesses attended a game at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C., in September. He said they brought signs, including one that read, "Come to Tennessee."

"I haven’t seen no other schools do that," he said. "It’s crazy."

Of course, Mr. Lattimore has a good head on his shoulders.

"You don’t want to go to a college where they ain’t pretty," Lattimore said.

Yes. NFL prospects and academic niceties must not be allowed to interfere with the most important thing: Women.

Rick Evrard, a former N.C.A.A. investigator and a partner in Bond, Schoeneck & King, a law firm that specializes in helping colleges deal with N.C.A.A. issues, said he could not comment specifically on the Tennessee case. He did say, generally, it was not common for the N.C.A.A. to interview recruits interested in a particular university or to ask them about a particular program.

Kiffin’s numerous secondary N.C.A.A. violations could be a factor or might have prompted the investigation.

"Secondaries mean something to the N.C.A.A.," Evrard said in a telephone interview. "It’s very telling if an institution continues to report secondaries particularly if they’re in the same category. If you keep doing the same thing over and over and keep reporting it, that would trigger the N.C.A.A.’s enforcement staff to possibly go in and look at some of that activity."

Wait. I thought secondary violations were completely meaningless and we shouldn't pay attention to them. Of course, I'm sure this NCAA investigation is all "part of the plan." It does keep the logo and colors in the news.

Tennessee: "Both university and NCAA guidelines are a part of the Orange Pride’s orientation and training. If those guidelines were violated, we will take appropriate action."

It helps if you know the rules
One of the recruits' fathers says Tennessee did nothing wrong. It doesn't help that the article makes it pretty clear he's unfamiliar with the NCAA's rules. Which is probably also why he says of his son and the student involved that "they talk an awful lot," which could actually be yet another violation.

Gate 21 doesn't like it
The Vols blog sees the investigation as less than good news for UT.

It seems to me that a recruiting tool which pairs attractive young women with potential football stars who are approximately 18 years old for the sole purpose of convincing them to play for Tennessee is destined for disaster.

What could possibly go wrong?

Or you can just come up with an excuse for everything
This has been played up as a solid defense of the Vols, so let's take a look at parts of its argument. (There are some good points, but it also includes a lot of distraction.)

Because if the players have already publicly committed to the university before the trip occurred, it's hard to argue that the players at Byrnes High School were making their decision based on any hostess trip or any hostess sign at a game.

That's a pretty compelling point that should have been examined in the New York Times article. Not just whether the trip occurred, but whether it had any actual influence.

Actually, that's irrelevant as far as the NCAA is concerned. Schools can get in trouble for violations even when a player decides not to come to that program and still can't commit violations even after a recruit has committed. It might be a nice PR point, but that's it.

And how about using "nearly 200 miles" as the distance instead of writing, "three hours in a car." Is it really that surprising that a college student would take a road trip of three hours? Especially in the South, for a football game? Is it even that uncommon for someone to drive three hours to watch a sporting event? Nearly 200 miles makes the trip sound much further, especially to east coast readers.

Say what? I'm a football fan and the only games I've ever traveled 200 or nearly 200 miles to see were South Carolina play Tennessee and the 2002 Outback Bowl. I don't think there are many people anywhere who would drive 178 miles to see a high school football game to which they had no connection other than having met a couple of the players a few weeks earlier. (And putting an approximate distance like that is really not at all unusual in journalism. I really don't think that extra 22 miles, which represents a whopping 12.4 percent increase in the trip, is added to make things sound more "exotic.")

That makes it seem likely that this story was the result of a tip from a rival program. Why would a rival program tip off Lane Kiffin and Tennessee?

Because we're in the midst of a huge recruiting period and Tennessee is a hot program, with Rivals' overall No. 5 ranking in the country.

To me, that's a more interesting story than the one the New York Times wrote. That is, who stands to gain from this story being written?

No, the more interesting story is whether Tennessee broke the rules. Who gave the tip to the Times is really of secondary interest. But this better spin than even Boy Wonder himself could come up with: Being under investigation proves that Tennessee is back!

No Vol hostess has ever seen an NCAA rulebook, and they don't receive specific training in NCAA rules. Now, they do receive NCAA training, but it's of a very basic level.

What? What kind of NCAA training would they receive if it's not training in NCAA regulations? I would assume whatever 'basic' NCAA training they receive would include a little primer on how to not break the rules. If not, then Tennessee really should be thrown under the bus for this.

Because even if they had tangible proof that UT had encouraged these girls to take that trip, we'd still have to determine whether or not these hostesses are full-fledged university representatives and how significant that encouragement was.

Except that it's already been pretty widely reported by even non-NYT outlets that they are university representatives. But that won't matter much to Lane Kiffin apologists.

Tennessee fans can't have this both ways. They like Lane Kiffin's swagger, defended his numerous secondary violations and appreciated him bring Tennessee back into the news by drawing attention to himself and the program. This is the other side of that coin.

STRONG TO LOUISVILLE / JOB RUMORS

Finally
Charlie Strong gets what he earned several years ago.

"When we were offered this job me and my wife (Victoria) looked at each other and it was very emotional,'' said Strong, who coached the Florida defense since 2003 and helped the Gators to the 2006 and 2008 national titles.

And then he paused and put his head down for several seconds to fight back the tears. Finally the crowd applauded and he recovered.[para] "Because you just never knew it was going to happen,'' he finished.

There is no one outside the SEC that I'll be cheering for harder over the next few years. Congratulations to formerly one of the most underrated assistant coaches in the business.

Bill Gonzales is NOT going to Louisville
This is a real denial.

"No — I am NOT going," said Gonzales, 38, the Gators’ primary recruiter in South Florida.

Gonzales, who coaches WRs for Florida, had been mentioned as a potential offensive coordinator for the Cardinals.

Who will replace Strong at Florida?
Maybe an insider.

If Meyer decides to fill Strong’s defensive coordinator job from within, the top two candidates are defensive line coach Dan McCarney and safeties coach Chuck Heater. McCarney was previously the head coach at Iowa State for 12 years, while Heater has been with Meyer since their days in Utah.

You could always just move Steve Addazio over.

Kirby Smart will not say he's not going to Georgia
Which is taken in today's environment as equivalent to "Show me the money."

Yet Smart said there's no homesickness for Athens on either front.

"I'm happy at Alabama," Smart said. "And my wife's happy at Alabama. We're not looking to go anywhere."

That is notably not saying that he and his wife aren't going anywhere.

That said, this is probably a little bit premature
And why I'm still skeptical about the Wikipedia entry that says that Nick Saban is actually a Kenyan Muslim communist.

OTHER NEWS

The exodus begins
Some prominent players are considering leaving the Gators for the NFL.

Bruce Black told me Wednesday that it is a 90 percent certainty that his son, strong safety Ahmad Black, is leaving early for the NFL Draft. He said the other top junior players from Lakeland — offensive linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey and tailback Chris Rainey — also are planning to leave.

Consider: There are no repeat-championship dreams to keep these guys around this year.

Nick Saban stands to see even more money if he defeats Texas
Actually, isn't $200,000 less than what Saban gets for most of his wins?

Alligator Army offers a list of 'Fatal Flaws'
Among them: Tim Tebow, Steve Addazio (no surprise there) and the fans.

Wow
Someone set up a Facebook page for "Tebow Crying." This person needs to find more productive things to do with his or her time. Like watching reality television. (HT: Swamp Things)

The fight for Erk Russell goes on
The Mayor has nominated him for the College Football Hall of Fame.

How much does it cost to have Sylvester Croom 'resign'?
$3.5 million.

Every Big East coach will lead Notre Dame
Now they're talking about Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall. As long as he leaves before Jan. 2.

Is the Pine Box heading for South Bend?
Tommy Tuberville's name crops up. (HT: Capstone Report)

Since they can't get health care reform passed, they'll do the next best thing
That is: Bar the BCS from calling its title game a title game. I've already addressed why I think saying it's not a title game is ridiculous, but apparently Congress thinks they have time to address this.

"We can walk across the street and chew gum at the same time," said the subcommittee chairman, Illinois Democrat Bobby Rush, one of the bill's co-sponsors. "We can do a number of things at the same time."

Why a Congressman from Illinois is worried about the BCS is anyone's guess. But having spoken with members of Congress and heard many of them speak on television, I have serious doubts about their abilities to walk and chew gum at the same time, much less handle a health-care debate, two wars and a slow economic recovery and address the college football playoffs at the same time.

See ya at Beef's
Ladies and gentlemen, the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. (HT: SBNation.com)

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