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Sprints Covers the World // 06.22.09

Play Ball! Today marks the beginning of the national championship round of the College World Series, a best-of-three series between the LSU Tigers and the Texas Longhorns. The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which has one of the greatest newspaper names ever, points out that both teams have a solid college baseball tradition and had great seasons this year.

It pits two of college baseball's marquee programs who own the second- and third-most NCAA titles, not to mention the No. 1 seed vs. the No. 1-ranked team.

Meanwhile, And The Valley Shook and Burnt Orange Nation swap questions and answers to give a good idea of the series ahead.

The action begins this evening at 7 p.m. ET.

A minority problem. The Orlando Sentinel does the obligatory off-season piece about minority coaches not getting enough head coaching jobs. (Thanks to kleph for bringing this article to my attention.) Obligatory or not, it's an issue that needs to be covered, even if the answers are frustratingly few. The Sentinel goes for the vogue solution: A college version of the Rooney Rule, which requires each NFL franchise to interview at least one minority candidate. This is probably not something the NCAA can do, leaving the movement to state governments.

If states fail to demand action, then the movement at bringing more minorities into the ranks will continue at its current slow pace.

I have a few quibbles with this statement. First of all, there's no evidence for the assertion that state inaction means for a fact that minority hiring "will continue at its current slow pace." If anything, the rate of minority coaches hirings has sped up in the last few years, even if that means going from "glacial" to "slightly less glacial." Secondly, the Sentinel's own report casts doubt on the idea that interviews translate into additional jobs.

"The people who are interviewing these individuals have got to take a chance," said Georgia AD Damon Evans, himself a minority and on the Coaches Forum panel. "Just to do the interviewing — to say you've done that — isn't enough. Right now in anything you do in life, you've got to take a risk or chance to see how that turns out." ...

Charlotte Westerhaus, NCAA vice president for diversity and inclusion, said 27 minorities interviewed for 22 vacant head coaching positions this past offseason.

In some instances, an interview requirement wouldn't change the outcome of a search. When South Carolina focused on Steve Spurrier in 2004, there was no reason to interview a minority candidate because there was no reason to interview another candidate -- if you can get one of the greatest SEC coaches of all time to come to your school, you do it. (Results being what they are, perhaps the school should have expanded its search, but there was no way to know that at the time.)

On the other hand, C&F's favored solution of making sure we get more minorities into the coordinator ranks doesn't seem to be working, either. (There are indications that there are more minority coordinators, but that it's not making a huge difference in the number of minority head coaches.) And anyone who's done more than one job interview in his or her life knows that you get better at doing them as your experience increases.

But again: The problem is hiring, not interviewing. Increasing one does not automatically increase the other, and there's little reason to believe it will. The latter, after all, simply requires a change in practices. The former requires a change in hearts.

After the jump: Nick Saban vs. the recruiting sites, Kiffin's verb tenses and an SEC-Pac-10 bowl ...

Alabama hits the books. Academics and the Crimson Tide intersected in numerous items over the last few days, most of them not in ways that were flattering to Alabama. First, Roll Bama Roll's outsidethesidelines covers all the different reasons and punishments Bama could appeal, and finds that the university will likely focus its fire on the vacated wins for a variety of reasons.

Meanwhile, the way the sanctions were apparently described to some recruits has Nick Saban growling at Scout and Rivals, which will inevitably result in all his recruits being demoted to two-star prospects and having his class come in at No. 119, ahead of Idaho.

Yet Saban says some reporters for recruiting fan sites have been unfair in what they are telling prospects about Alabama's situation. He said that the writers have been passing on to 2010 prospects incorrect and potentially damaging information about what the sanctions mean for UA.

"That should be addressed by somebody and should be brought to bear," Saban said. "If people are just covering recruiting with honesty and integrity, (there's no problem). But all those guys that work out there for (recruiting sites) are for the school. Everybody roots for a team. And they get information for a team." ...

Yet what Saban indicated is his feeling that coaches fed information to reporters -- whether from,, local affiliates or others -- who would then deliver a negative messages to recruits.

This is an interesting problem, and it points to one of the reasons I've always regarded recruiting coverage in general (including that in the MSM) and these sites in particular as a bit sketchy. Many of the reporters on these sites are doing the best job they can, but the amount of seedy and murky information that floats in the recruiting ether is hard for anyone to pick through. And the sheer number of people involved in recruiting -- not to mention the fact that almost all of them want to see their favorite team do well -- increases the level of noise exponentially. (Then there's the whole thing of asking 17-year-olds about their calf size and making their choice of colleges a matter of intense public interest, but I digress.)

On the other hand, I'm not sure that there's anything that can or should be done about it. You really want the NCAA playing cops and robbers on this?

Amid all of this, Dre Kirkpatrick gets the okay to play at Alabama.

Lane Kiffin and RECRUITING. One of these days, I'll promise to never talk about Boy Wonder again and mean it. Over at Rocky Top Talk, hooper chimes in with a worthy addition to the debate, but I have to differ with a major part of his premise.

Those who argue in Kiffin's favor tend to stay in past tense, looking at what he's done at UT to date. Those against Kiffin tend to argue in future tense, finding evidences to expect failure and extrapolating them to the upcoming seasons. When we do that, the argument becomes one of a concrete concept with an abstract solution (has he been successful in the offseason goals of a head coach?) to one of an abstract concept with a  concrete solution (will he be successful and win games?).

Except that draws the window of time far too tightly, and limits "the past" to a period in which Tennessee fans at least think the burden of proof falls on Kiffin's side. It doesn't include 5-15 -- something that Kiffin's critics bring up constantly, and something that is most assuredly in the past and most assuredly gives an indication about how good a head coach he can be. (And before you say, "NFL has nothing do with college," consider that Steve Spurrier's winning percentage in the League was 125 points higher than Boy Wonder's and Nick Saban's was more than 200 points higher.) It also seems to omit the enormous amount of bad will that Kiffin has stirred up across the SEC, which at least to me seems higher than most new coaches.

Meanwhile, Kiffin's RECRUITING Juggernaut is still searching for a quarterback -- any quarterback, really.

"Just get a kid with a brain. A brain and an arm, I think that goes a helluva long way," [UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney] said.

Well, yes. Compared to what Tennessee currently has in the pipeline, I imagine it does.

Character, on the other hand, appears to be optional.

There were a handful of things missing and likely stolen according to a source close to the situation. The police were called and incident reports were filed.

The source in question has participated in many camps over the years and said this is frequently an unfortunate part of such events.

Nothing to see here folks. Move along.

But who will ESPN side with? Over at California Golden Blogs and in the FanPosts here at Team Speed Kills, chowder floats the idea of an SEC-Pac-10 bowl game.

Just as long as it's not played in San Antonio. I've been to the Alamo Dome for football, and I felt like I was watching the game in a dungeon. Actually, I like the idea of the game in St. Louis. While chowder is correct -- there is nothing to do in St. Louis after you see the Arch -- it's centrally located and easy to get to. Too bad the whole conversation is theoretical.

Weekend stories. The weekend brings with it an opportunity for reporters to go a little bit longer -- more ads and less news, you know -- and bring us more in-depth stories. Or more newsworthy, for the cynics. The State has a piece of epic length about basketball players (particularly those from S.C., natch) who take their careers to Europe, though it finds the money can be valuable to players from modest means -- assuming, of course, the teams pay up.

The Clarion-Ledger draws on recent interest in NCAA compliance to find out exactly what these "compliance directors" do. While the piece is interesting enough, the job sounds extraodinarily boring.

Finally, the Lexington Herald-Leader pegs a story about Bear Bryant's former players to Father's Day, and hits on something that a lot of people don't realize about the "tough" coaches like Bryant and Woody Hayes.

"I'll give you an example," said [Neil] Lowry. "I was a sophomore and had been redshirted. I hadn't even played yet. And he was the one that told me that my mother died. She was just 47, so it wasn't expected. I had no money. But he bought me a train ticket home. It was illegal, but he didn't care. He did that for me. And I was nothing."

I haven't done something I've wanted to -- review a book that came out a couple of years ago called "War as They Knew It," about the epic clashes between Hayes and Bo Schembechler. The thing that comes out of the book about old-school coaches, and particularly about Hayes, is that they actually cared about their players beyond the football field. Sometimes, with today's coaches and expectations, you wonder whether that's still true.

Wind Sprints. Sans Jeremy Jarmon, Kentucky is still looking for a defensive end ... Katharyn Richt is going back to school to get a nursing degree. Because her family's likability numbers really need a boost ... Tennessee fans will recognize Tim Floyd's replacement at Southern Cal ...