OK, quick. One day and all is quiet in Columbus, Ohio. Why? Because the Smiths, yes, I’m talking about all the Smiths (that being Zach Smith, his ex-wife Courtney Smith and current OSU athletic director, Gene Smith,) have all realized for now that being interviewed or commenting publicly on this situation is not in their best interest. See Courtney Smith do her interview where she has now had to defend her position? Give her lots of credit and an A for her courageous actions in coming forward as the true victim in this case but give her an F for trying to attempt to answer the critics and those who have trashed her reputation. How about Zach Smith going on live television yesterday? He denied everything, of course, declaring Meyer spoke to him three years ago about these allegations and corroborating they were false. He added Meyer had no responsibility as the accusations were being investigated by the Powell Police department. In trying to exonerate Meyer, he threw him under the bus. Horrendous. When later presented with direct evidence of a text conversation wherein he apologized to Courtney after she described him strangling her in Punta Cana, he denied knowing anything about violence against her. Pathetic.
Then there was coach Urban Meyer’s prepared statement whereby he admitted he “failed” in stating earlier “there was nothing” in 2015 to Zach Smith being accused of domestic violence by his then wife. This resulted in him being criticized by all as a “liar” in his ridiculous attempt to perform damage control. It didn’t work. So now he is in hiding.
Finally, there is Gene Smith, the AD. He was thrown under the bus by Meyer when he claimed he followed protocol and by Zach Smith when he stated coach Meyer had heard from AD Smith about these accusations in 2015 after Meyer confronted him. What did Gene Smith do? So where is Gene Smith? He’s AWOL. Not in the office. Not granting interviews. Not preparing statements. At least someone has advised him to ignore everyone before he puts his foot in his mouth, too. In the end, they all must go. That’s what’s next.
What’s next at Alabama? Well, they are the defending national champions. This is Nick Saban’s 12th year and he has five national championships, an unheard of accomplishment in this day and age of college football. Sure, the Tide lost eight starters to the pros on defense and there was obviously going to be a question on who starts at quarterback, but Bama doesn’t rebuild under Saban, they just reload. Then controversy arrived. Two-year starter Jalen Hurts knew he would be competing for the starting job against Tua Tagovailoa because of his play in the Tide’s comeback win in the championship game. That was a given. It’s where the competition is at now which has ruffled feathers in Tuscaloosa.
Hurts has led Bama to two consecutive national championship appearances, a tremendous athlete with unquestioned leadership ability. He is also the cornerstone of that team, 26-2 as a starter. While we see so many professional and amateur athletes celebrating a great play with selfish celebrations, screaming, dancing, removing their shirts, etc., this guy scores a touchdown and looks for his teammates not a selfie. He is articulate and a true “team player”. Just look at how he supported Tagovailoa after being benched last year and then being interviewed after the game. A class act.
In this interview, however, he expressed disappointment and frustration with the way this “competition” has played out in the offseason. For his part, he never said anything until now. For Saban’s part, he was asked just two weeks ago if he expected Hurts to be on the opening day roster? His answer? “I have no idea”. Are you kidding me? Hurts stated “no one came up to me the whole spring, coaches included. No one asked me how I felt…it’s too late, the narrative has already been created”. He’s right. Saban has been noncommittal on the quarterback competition but a QB controversy has never been good for any team. So here’s the rub. Both players and Saban know that the loser in this competition, is probably transferring, especially with the NCAA’s new transfer rule which allows any player to transfer without losing a full year of eligibility as long as he does not participate in over four games. So what do I think? I think it is Tagovailoa’s job to lose and if Hurts is on the bench, he’s gone. Now if Hurts by some chance wins the job, Tagovailoa is gone. How do I know that? Because he told the world he was transferring last year if not for his participation and dramatic play in last year’s championship game. That’s what’s next. Maybe. As the music group ABBA reminds us so many times in Mama Mia..”The Winner Takes It All.”
Practice just started and there is optimism in so many places where there has been constant disappointment? Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, UCLA, Florida, etc… Why? Because there are either new coaches or new players via transfers to replace other coaches or players who have one thing in common. Failure. At least that is in the eyes of their administrations or alumni, not necessarily to this writer.
For Nebraska, it is the beginning of the Scott Frost era. He is the perfect hire, a Nebraskan, a Husker, a player and a national champion who came home from Central Florida to return as Nebraska’s head coach. Of course, he’s making seven million a year for five years so don’t sweat it. Nebraska got no discount. But that’s the going rate and after going 4-8 in Mike Reilly’s last year or first year of an extended contract, there is a high degree of optimism in Lincoln. There should be. Scott has won everywhere he’s been, including at Oregon where he helped revolutionize college football’s offense by emphasizing speed and tempo. The spring game was a sellout of over ninety thousand and most are hoping for a renaissance. I’m hoping they just beat Akron in their first game or there will be immediate second guessing. Nebraska is a team and a state which are mutually attached. Their program’s storied history has been off the national stage for over a decade. They get little respect from the polls and their recruiting has been average. For the people of Nebraska, their passion is with their football team exclusively. Frost knows all about what Nebraska football means to the state. I, for one, hope he succeeds. The midwest and south are the areas of this country where college football is celebrated the most and when Nebraska is great, it’s good for college football. That’s no knock on the East or West coast, it’s just a general observation because when you talk about the Midwest and South, you know college football is a part of their culture.
Speaking of culture, next is UCLA where Chip Kelly, who was an NFL bust, takes over as head coach and again the Bruins are hoping that he can compete against their crosstown rivals USC for the PAC 12 championship on a yearly basis. After all, he did it at Oregon, a school far away from the fertile recruiting ground of Southern California. That’s what UCLA thought when Jim Mora was hired but after six years of up and down seasons, he was unceremoniously shown the door. That’s what they also thought when they lured ex-Bruin Rick Nueheisel from Washington ten years ago to return home to the team he had quarterbacked in college but after declaring there was a “new team” in the City of Los Angeles, he lasted four years and was fired. Kelly is undeniably an offensive genius. Some coaches are just made for college football and not the NFL. See Nick Saban. I think this is a great hire. I think he puts the Bruins on the map. I think every game he coaches will be interesting. To me, the biggest obstacle at UCLA, is the fact that one must travel to Pasadena to play your home games. Have you ever been in LA traffic? Some days that’s forty minutes and others it’s two hours. You might want to leave extra early or you’ll miss the kickoff. Then there is also the problem with the weather, which is always good and takes away from “the only thing to do” mentality at other schools. Finally, UCLA has always been and always will be a basketball school. That’s their legacy. They want to compete for a national championship, but the alumni and the administration is more focused on its basketball team. Maybe Kelly can change the culture, but it will be challenging.
At Michigan, it’s not about the coach, it’s about the new player: Shea Patterson, who transferred from Ole Miss, will immediately compete for the starting job. There are other players including redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey and returnee Brandon Peters, but most Wolverine faithful believe he is their guy. Michigan always has had a solid defense. Most saw the achilles heel at the quarterback position and think Patterson is the answer. Interestingly, quarterback Will Speight, who had another year of eligibility at Michigan but was seen as a liability, decided to transfer to UCLA where he is hopeful on being the Bruins starter this year. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Patterson, a former five-star recruit, never really showed much at Ole Miss so it says here the jury is still out whether he even starts. We’ll see what’s next.
Finally, this a big year for the Big 12 the PAC 12. Why? Because those have been the conferences which have had teams left out to of the CFP since its inception. The PAC 12 has fourteen members spread along the entire west coast and into Arizona, Utah and Colorado. These are mostly large schools with huge alumni and the resources available to compete at the highest level in all sports, including football. So why does it seem that USC gets all the attention. Last year, they went an abysmal 1-8 in bowl games. Whatever little attention they got, they deserved. But they all share equally in revenue produced by the conference despite the notoriety and attention the USC receives in football.
The Big 12 is different. First, just ten schools. A round robin schedule. In football, it’s just basically Texas and Oklahoma which dominate the conference’s dialogue (no offense to TCU, West Virginia or Oklahoma State who are solid programs capable of beating anyone on any given day). That’s the national perception of this league and if this conference is going to survive, it needs Texas to be great. Texas hasn’t been great for a long time. Texas and to an extent Oklahoma, also dominate this conference where it really counts which is at the bank. Yes, there’s Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, West Virginia, etc… but rarely are any of these schools consistently competitive. The conference needs new blood to survive and when this television contract expires, look out. Let the buyer beware. Texas is up for sale. They’ve shown it in the past (see Texas A & M) and they will rear their ugly head in the future. It’s the power of money. That’s what needs to be watched and what’s next in the long term.