Sports Outside the Beltway

Did Saban Run Up the Score?

Mike Tomasky and Matt Yglesias both argue that Alabama head coach Nick Saban showed a distinct lack of class by scoring a meaningless touchdown with 47 seconds left in last night’s championship game.

Almost to a man, their commenters vehemently disagree. And they’re right to do so.

Alabama Texas Scoring Summary (ESPN) I’m an Alabama alumnus and fan, so I’m biased. But having the backup running back score on a run up the middle with nearly a minute left in a national championship game you’re only leading by 10 points isn’t exactly rubbing it in.

Indeed, one need only to look at the beginning of the game to see why: Texas had already scored twice in roughly a minute.

This wasn’t the local high school powerhouse up against a weakling school from across town. Or even Steve Spurrier running and gunning when he’s up 40 points against some Division II school. It’s a run up the middle against the second best team in the country with the national championship on the line.

And, frankly, Alabama had already come perilously close to giving away a game they had wrapped up by playing ridiculously conservatively. Alabama’s offense essentially sat out the second half, playing not to lose rather than to win. That allowed Texas and their freshman quarterback to find a rhythm and come back to within a field goal with 6:15 left in the game.

It took a dynamic play on defense to end the Longhorn’s momentum and take the game back. A fumble recovery after a hard-hitting sack gave the Alabama offense the ball back a few feet from the goal line and Mark Ingram pushed it in three plays later to get the margin back to 10.

When they got the ball back with 2:01 remaining, Texas apparently didn’t think the 10-point margin meant the game was over. They were throwing the ball, hoping for another quick score. Instead, they gave up another interception, giving Alabama the ball back inside the 30 with 1:48 left.

Texas still had timeouts remaining, so Alabama couldn’t just take a knee and run out the clock. They ran the ball and, combined with a Texas penalty, got the ball on the 5 with 1:41 left. Two runs later, Trent Richardson scored, putting them up by 16 with 47 seconds left.

Surely, this brutality was too much for the Longhorns, who broke down crying and went looking for their mommies?

Not so much.

With 47 seconds left, they kept playing football. They got another nice pass completion but then threw yet another interception with 27 seconds remaining.

Naturally, the evil Saban immediately called for a trick play to get another quick score?

Well, no. With the game in hand, the quarterback took a knee and ran out the clock.


South Florida fires football coach Jim Leavitt

He had a record of 94-57 at USF and been the only football coach the school has ever had. From ESPN-

South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt was fired Friday following an investigation of an allegation that he struck one of his players in the locker room.

In confirming his dismissal, Leavitt told The Associated Press he was “disappointed” and the allegation was “absolutely false.”

South Florida said the findings of its investigation into the alleged incident will be discussed at a 12:30 p.m. ET news conference. In its statement, the university did not mention Leavitt’s status as coach.

A South Florida staff member told ESPN’s Joe Schad that a staff meeting has been called for noon ET, at which time the entire coaching staff will be officially fired. A meeting with the players is not expected.

Leavitt has been under investigation by the university for allegedly grabbing and striking special teams player Joel Miller at halftime of a November game against Louisville. The allegations against Leavitt originally were made by Miller’s father, Paul, in an online report. Paul Miller has backtracked from original comments that alluded to contact Leavitt allegedly made with his son’s neck and face.

Miller has since said Leavitt only grabbed his shoulder pads. Apparently the school is believing the first version of events.

Honestly, I don’t understand why abuse of college athletes is even tolerated by society. What would lead to criminal charges if it happened outside the world of sports, or happened to young men and women just a few young years younger, would result in criminal charges for the abuser. Instead excuses are made and the victims get criticized. What is wrong with this picture?


Alabama Beats Texas 37-21 for National Championship

The Alabama Crimson Tide won its 13th* college football national championship tonight by beating the Texas Longhorns 37-21.


Head coach Nick Saban (L) of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Heisman trophy winner Mark Ingram (R) hold the championship trophy after their team defeated the Texas Longhorns in the NCAA’s BCS National Championship football game in Pasadena, January 7, 2010. (Reuters Pictures)

For most of the game, it didn’t look like they wanted to.

The Tide won the opening coin toss and, uncharacteristically, chose to start with its shaky offense rather than its best-in-the-nation defense. It promptly ran 3 ugly plays and then, inexplicably, a fake punt which they botched in spectacular fashion.

Texas looked to get an easy 7 points but — in the key play of the game — its Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback, Colt McCoy, was injured on a freak play where he didn’t even go down.


Texas Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy (C) is injured as he is hit by Alabama Crimson Tides Marcel Dareus (R) in the first quarter in the NCAA’s BCS National Championship football game in Pasadena, January 7, 2010.

True freshman Garrett Gilbert was thrown to the wolves and the drive stalled with a field goal.

Alabama then apparently thought the ensuing kickoff was a punt and didn’t touch the live ball, giving it right back to the Longhorns. The drive once again stalled, though, and they settled for 3.


Marcell Dareus scored a touchdown on an interception return in the first half (UA photo).

Bama then scored two touchdowns on offense, first on a long, grind-it-out drive featuring their Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram, and then on a 49-yard run by his understudy, Trent Richardson.

After some mediocre play back-and-forth, it appeared that Texas was content to go into the half down 6-17. Instead, they decided to have their shaky frosh QB toss a shovel pass from deep on his side of the field, got it picked off, and gave Bama a free TD to end the half 24-6. Amusingly, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who made the lick that took McCoy out of the game, did the honors.

But Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to try to run out the entire second half with an incredibly cautious offense. It nearly worked but Gilbert suddenly found his game and Texas scored two quick touchdowns to bring it to 21-24 (they made a 2-point conversion) with 7 minutes left.

Finally, the Bama D made a huge play, stripping the ball near the goal line. Three plays later, Ingram went in for a touchdown and put the game away. A desperation pass from Gilbert was soon picked off in garbage time, padding the Tide’s score with a free touchdown.

Stacy McCain had the live blog. Here’s the ESPN scoring summary:


All-and-all, a rather bittersweet win, both because McCoy’s injury provides a huge What If? and because Alabama really didn’t play very well most of the game.

As with Florida’s Tim Tebow after the SEC Championship game, McCoy was both understandably emotional and superbly gracious.

The game would have gone much differently had he been healthy. My strong guess is that both teams would have played much better and, certainly, the outcome would be more satisfying. I’m happy to have Alabama hoist another trophy, of course, and genuinely think they’re the best team in college football this year. But I’d have much preferred to see them beat an intact Texas team and to play a more characteristic ballgame.

*The number is in dispute. The NCAA counts 8 “consensus” titles and as many as 18 total; the Capstone counts 13, including an incredibly dubious 1941 title. Until the BCS started in 1999, there arguably was no such thing as a championship in the highest level of college football. Several of Alabama’s early championships, including their 1924 and 1925 undefeated seasons capped by Rose Bowl wins, were “awarded” years after the fact. And they both won and lost championships in the years when the polls were voted upon before the bowl games.

Note- This post also appeared at Outside the Beltway.


Los Angeles Angels announcer Rory Markas dead at 54

He also used to do Milwaukee Brewer, Los Angeles Clippers, and USC Trojan broadcasts. RIP.

Los Angeles Angels broadcaster Rory Markas has died. He was 54.

Markas was found dead at his home in Palmdale, Calif., on Monday and the cause of death was not immediately available, Angels spokesman Tim Mead said Tuesday. Markas had surgery for a blood clot on his brain in late 2008.

Markas was with the Angels for eight seasons. Many remember his call in the 2002 World Series when center fielder Darin Erstad was about to make the final out: “Erstad says he’s got it! Erstad makes the catch! The Anaheim Angels are the champions of baseball!”

Markas also did broadcasts for the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Clippers, USC men’s basketball and Pacific Coast League baseball. He had been a sports reporter for KNX Radio and a sports anchor for KTTV.

During Markas’ six seasons with the PCL, he spent three years doing radio broadcasts for the Salt Lake City Gulls and three for the Vancouver Canadians.

“The entire Trojan family is shocked and saddened to learn of this sad news about Rory,” USC athletic director Mike Garrett said in a statement released by the school. “We held him and the outstanding broadcasting work he did for us in the highest regard. He was a consummate professional and a well-loved individual. He’ll be a very difficult person to replace. We want to extend our support and condolences to his family.”

“Rory was one of the great professionals in the business,” said Jim Hefner, who worked with Markas as the analyst on USC radio broadcasts, in the USC statement. “But more importantly, he was one of the nicest, kindest people I’ve ever been around. I’m sure that everyone who worked with him will truly miss him. He was one of a kind.”

He was honored with two Associated Press Sportscasting awards and received the 2008 Radio Play-by-Play Award from the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Association.


Kentucky Football Coach Rich Brooks retires

He took the Wildcats to four consecutive Bowl games. I find it interesting that the AP article below mentions Brooks time as head coach of the Rams but fails to mention his similar duties at the University of Oregon. Brooks, a Oregon State graduate, was only the Ducks Head Football coach for 17 seasons, was coach of the year and took Oregon to the Rose Bowl in 1995 and their first ever Pac 10 Championship. He deserves most of the credit for reviving Ducks football.

Update- The AP article has been updated and now includes a mention of Brooks time at Oregon but still neglects to mention his winning coach of the year while he was the coach of the Ducks.

Kentucky coach Rich Brooks has announced that he is retiring after seven seasons coaching the Wildcats.

Brooks made the announcement on Monday. He will be replaced by offensive head coach Joker Phillips, who agreed to become Brooks’ eventual successor two years ago.

Brooks finishes his career with a 39-47 record at Kentucky. He went 130-156-4 overall in 25 seasons overall at the collegiate level. Brooks posted a 13-19 record coaching the NFL’s St. Louis Rams in the mid-1990s.


On a happy note- Florida State defeats West Virginia 33-21

Today’s Gator Bowl proved to be a fond farewell for Seminoles Coach Bobby Bowden. From AP-

Bobby Bowden watched the clock run down to :00, then took his last walk to midfield as his Florida State players jumped up and down, thrusting their helmets into the air.West Virginia Florida St Football

The coach went out a winner, carried off by the Seminoles.

Jermaine Thomas ran for two touchdowns, Florida State scored 20 straight points to take control and the Seminoles knocked off No. 18 West Virginia 33-21 in the final game of Bowden’s storied 44-year career as a head coach.

Bowden finished with a 389-129-4 record, and most importantly to him, a 33rd consecutive winning season. Next week, Jimbo Fisher takes over at Florida State, which finished 7-6 for the third time in the last four years.

Bowden did a great job in Tallahassee, but as can be seen by the recent record of the Seminioles, he outlived his usefulness to the program. Almost all coaches get to point with a school or professional team when the ways that so often worked in past just don’t cut it any more. I liked Bowden and will miss him, but it was time for a new coach at Florida State. Is Jimbo Fisher that person, I don’t know. We will find out soon enough.


Crystal Ball Time

My annual sports predictions for the upcoming year. Due to some unknown reason, I skipped doing this a year ago. What matters is I came back, right?

1 Cleveland beats the LA Lakers for the NBA Championship
2 Indianapolis defeats Arizona in the Super Bowl Crystall ball
3 San Jose defeats Washington for the Stanley Cup
4 St. Louis beats the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series
5 Tiger Woods returns to golf, wins at least one tournament but no major championships. That is a risky prediction in light of the fact that Tiger has won majors on 3 of this year’s host courses.(Augusta National, Pebble Beach, St. Andrews)
6 Phil Mickelson wins the US Open
7 Michelle Wie wins at least two tournaments, one of which is a major championship
8 Ji Yai Shin is LPGA player of the year
9 A non-Korean golfer will be LPGA rookie of the year
10 Yu-Na Kim wins figure skating gold at the 2010 Olympics
11 The Miami Dolphins don’t make this year’s playoffs but have a winning 2010 season
12 The Miami Heat make the playoffs but lose in the 1st round
13 The Florida Marlins have a winning record but don’t make the playoffs
14 Urban Meyer doesn’t return as coach of the Florida Gators
15 Joe Paterno announces his retirement after the 2010 Penn State season is complete
16 The Florida Panthers don’t make the playoffs
17 The Florida Panthers trade Goalie Tomas Vokoun
18 Manny Pacquiao loses to Floyd Mayweather
19 Kansas defeats Purdue for the NCAA Basketball Championship
20 Texas defeats Alabama in the BCS Championship game
21 Army has a winning football season and gets a bowl invitation
22 Washington Redskins fire Coach Jim Zorn
23 Serena Williams wins at Wimbledon
24 Versus and Directv finally settle their dispute
25 A North American horse racing track closes its doors.
26 Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula World Drivers Championship
27 New York Rangers fire Coach John Tortorella
28 The New Jersey Nets don’t finish with the worst record in NBA history
29 Connecticut defeats Tennessee for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship
30 At least half these predictions are wrong

We’ll come back on December 31st 2010 and see how I did.


Texas Tech fires Coach Mike Leach

He was threatening to sue the school before the firing. From ESPN-

Texas Tech fired coach Mike Leach on Wednesday, two days after he was suspended by the school as it investigated his treatment of a player with a concussion.

The school handed a termination letter to Leach’s attorney, Ted Liggett, minutes before the two sides were to appear in a Lubbock courtroom for a hearing on the coach’s suspension.

Liggett said Texas Tech general counsel Pat Campbell approached him outside the courtroom and told him that win, lose or draw in the hearing, Leach was out effective immediately.

Liggett told the judge there was no need for the hearing on Leach’s request that he be reinstated to coach the Valero Alamo Bowl. Texas Tech plays Michigan State on Saturday in San Antonio.

As for Leach’s reaction, Liggett said, “Well, he’s not thrilled.” Liggett said he planned to file a lawsuit on Leach’s behalf against the school “soon.”

“We can guarantee that the fight has just begun,” he said.

Leach was suspended by the university on Monday as the school investigated his treatment of receiver Adam James. The sophomore alleged the coach twice confined him to small, dark spaces while the team practiced.

I hold to my original opinion, Leach didn’t just deserve to be fired but prosecuted criminally. He involuntarily confined a injured football player. There is no excusing it. I’d find myself behind bars or so would any employer and deservingly. Leach shouldn’t be any different.

This kind of abuse of athletes is probably more widespread than the public knows and the Leach and recent incidents at Army and Kansas should be a siren call. These people can’t just do anything to the young men and women put in their charge and if a coach steps over the line, they should face stiffest of punishment.


Texas Tech suspends Coach Mike Leach

I’ve heard many a tale of coach abuse of college athletes, but never imprisonment or kidnapping. From ESPN-

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach has been suspended while the school investigates complaints from a player and his family about treatment after an injury.Mike Leach

The school said in a release Monday defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill will be the interim coach and lead the team in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Jan. 2 against Michigan State. McNeill will remain in charge of the team until the investigation is complete.

The player, Adam James, is a redshirt sophomore wide receiver for the Red Raiders and the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James.

A source close to the family told ESPN’s Joe Schad that James sustained a concussion on Dec. 16, was examined on Dec. 17 and told not to practice due to a concussion and an elevated heart rate. The source said Leach called a trainer and directed him to move James “to the darkest place, to clean out the equipment and to make sure that he could not sit or lean. He was confined for three hours.”

According to the source, Leach told the trainer, two days later, to “put [James] in the darkest, tightest spot. It was in an electrical closet, again, with a guard posted outside.”

An attorney for Leach said that while James was secluded twice, the circumstances were not as portrayed in that account.

If Leach had James involuntarily confined under any circumstances, he just shouldn’t be fired but criminally prosecuted. He had no right to imprison anyone for any length of time.

The Lubbock Avalanche Journal has more-

Leach had until Monday to write an apology and when he did not, the university felt it had to take action.

“This was not taken lightly,” the source said, adding that Leach did not show any signs of remorse or did not say he wouldn’t do it again. The player suffered a concussion at practice on Dec. 16 and Leach thought the player was faking.

The article went on to say Leach didn’t have James confined just once but twice. Texas Tech should fire this idiot and Texas prosecutors bring him up on criminal charges. Leach should spend some time behind bars and be shown how it feels to be imprisoned and have your rights taken away.


Florida Gator Coach Urban Meyer to step down due to health reasons

This news is simply shocking

Florida coach Urban Meyer, who was admitted to a hospital because of chest pains following the Southeastern Conference championship game, is stepping down because of health concerns.

Meyer resigned Saturday, calling it quits after five seasons in Gainesville and two national titles. He leaves Florida with a 56-10 record that includes a 32-8 mark in league play and a school-record 22-game winning streak snapped early this month against Alabama.

Meyer says he consulted with his family, his doctors, school president Bernie Machen and athletic director Jeremy Foley before deciding it is in his best interest to focus on his health and family.

While I’ve never been a Gator fan, I wish Meyer well and pray his health concerns aren’t too serious.

Meyer will coach the Gators one last time in the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati. Who the U of F will hire to replace Meyer, I haven’t a clue. None of his assistants stand out IMHO, so I think the University will hire an outsider.


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