Friday, December 22, 2006

Turdistan Held Hostage: Day 25

Another delusion bites the dust:
Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban issued a specific denial regarding the University of Alabama's vacant head coaching position, saying for the first time on Thursday: "I'm not going to be the Alabama coach."

This was the strongest of the five denials Saban has given reporters in Miami. Saban had been at the top of Alabama's wish list to fill the opening created on Nov. 26 when Mike Shula was fired.

Our top-secret source in Tuscaloosa indicates that AD Maw Mooah is planning to move to a secure undisclosed location well before tomorrow's Festivus Airing of Grievances gets underway.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Separated At Birth 2: Judgment Day

What two things do Quentin Groves and The Terminator have in common?

Number one: They kill people.

Number two: They'll be back.

In related news, UAT quarterback John Wilson is missing, and presumed scared.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Turdistan Held Hostage: Day 11

It's official: UAT has been ROD-JECTED.

Okay, Maw Mooah, what's Plan D? Or was that Rodriguez? What do you do when you offer a coach from the Big Least double his salary, and he STILL won't take the job?

I think Nelson Muntz said it best: HA-Ha!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oops, He Did It Again

Paul Gattis, a UAT graduate and current Alabama beat writer for the Huntsville Times, isn't having a great couple of weeks. Not only did Gattis have to watch his alma mater lose to Auburn for the fifth straight time, he hasn't exactly been great shakes in reporting on the lumbering circus that is UAT's coaching search.

Less than two weeks ago, Gattis rushed to press (including pushing out a much-discussed early draft onto the Times' web site 12 hours before dead-tree publication) the following report:
Mike Shula will return as Alabama's coach in 2007, but there will be changes to the football program, a knowledgeable source said Tuesday.

High-ranking university officials have no intention of making a change in the head coach, according to the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Shula was fired four days later. Oops.

Yesterday, Gattis took another swing, again relying on unnamed "sources" regarding UAT's "I want my two dollars!" stalking of recently-successful coaches:
Alabama is expected to interview Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban this week as well as West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, according to multiple sources.

But sources also caution that the search is fluid, changing at times on an hourly basis.

It appears, though, that Alabama is ready to make its push for Saban - who has been considered at the top of the list. Sources have also indicated that luring Saban away from his job with the Dolphins won't be easy.

Meanwhile, West Virginia concluded its season Saturday night against Rutgers - clearing the way for Alabama to talk to Rodriguez.

Saban and Rodriguez looked to be the favorites to replace Mike Shula.

Not quite. Both Saban
Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban on Sunday again denied interest in the vacant head football coaching position at the University of Alabama.

And for the first time, a source familiar with the search from Alabama's side said the university has been told that Saban does not want to be a candidate, and that Alabama no longer considers him one.

... and Rodriguez once again denied any interest by Monday morning:
Alabama athletic director Mal Moore had not contacted Rodriguez as of early Sunday evening, and WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong said Sunday afternoon Moore had not called him to ask permission to speak with his coach, although that is merely a courtesy.

Rodriguez has indicated privately to friends that he is not interested in leaving WVU and would not under any circumstances interview for a job.

… although Rodriguez will apparently listen to the sales pitch:
"If they want to go through a whole process of asking his goals and how he would do this or that, it’s just not going to happen," said a source close to Rodriguez. "But if they want to simply make him an offer, sure, he’ll listen. He’s not crazy."

There is a general belief among insiders in the West Virginia program that one of the reasons Rodriguez will not flatly dismiss the possibility of going elsewhere is that he still feels that WVU officials have not done all they can to help him build the facilities and the assistant coaches’ salaries at WVU.

Ah well, keep at it, Paul. You'll never get another vote the AP poll, but you can still keep holding the rope for your side.

Interestingly, for a school that never misses an opportunity to brag about its own "class," UAT has to date ignored the apparently-sacrosanct customs of coach hiring. From the above Rodriguez article:
Rich Rodriguez has no discussions, formal or otherwise, scheduled with Alabama officials, but on Sunday he was contacted for the second time by the headhunter hired to assist the school in its search for a new football coach.

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore had not contacted Rodriguez as of early Sunday evening, and WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong said Sunday afternoon Moore had not called him to ask permission to speak with his coach, although that is merely a courtesy.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

There Is No Spoon

Florida won the SEC Championship last night, surprising not a few people, including me. I'd figured that Arkansas would trample the Gators flat, but since I've been completely wrong in predicting virtually every major game this year, I guess I should have expected the actual outcome. But good for Florida, they earned it the hard way. They deserved to have a championship this year.

Unfortunately for the Lizard Legions, it'll be the only one they get. Regardless of how the ongoing insanity of the BCS plays out tonight and early next month, Florida will not win a national championship this year. But that's not their fault. You can't "win" something that doesn't actually exist.

I have a very vivid memory of my first encounter with “national championships” in college football. It was early January, in the 1970’s, and my dad and I were watching the evening news. I was probably eight or nine years old.

The sportscaster announced the results of the final Associated Press football poll, and my dad said, “I can’t believe so-and-so won the national championship over such-and-such.” I don’t recall the exact year, or even the teams in question.

“What do you mean, ‘won the national championship?’” I asked. “All they are is number one in the AP poll.”

“That’s the national championship,” Dad replied.

“No it’s not,” I insisted. “It’s just a poll of people who write for newspapers. That doesn’t mean anything.”

Dad never managed to convince me otherwise, and I’ve never had any reason to change my mind since then. To this day, I have to shake my head at Auburn fans in particular who give so much credence to “championships” that are based on nothing more than a popularity contest conducted among a few sportswriters.

I’m well aware that my opinions on this subject are in the minority among football fans, and that includes my fellow Auburn fans. People have been sold for so long on the myth of the poll “championships” that like Frankenstein’s monster, they’ve taken on a life of their own. Some schools I could name place the value of their entire existence on how many times one publication or another has ranked their team at the top of a final season’s poll.

And hey—being ranked number one is a good thing. I’ll be as happy as anybody the next time Auburn ends a season with a number one ranking. It’s good for a program, it impresses impressionable eighteen-year-olds who’re finishing high school, and it gives the t-shirt and bumper-sticker makers lots of new designs to sell.

But that doesn’t turn a number one ranking in a poll into a championship.

Don’t believe me? Go look it up yourself. The NCAA keeps a complete list of all the national championships won by every member school, at every level. Click here, and look up the number of championships won by, say, the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Everybody back now? Good.

Now, were you surprised by what you saw there? Were you just a bit nonplussed when you read the following summation of the complete history of Alabama’s actual NCAA championships? For those who were too lazy to click through, here’s the result, from the NCAA’s own official records:

Total NCAA Team Championships: 4
men's championships: 0
women's championships: 4
coed championships: 0

That’s right, kids. UAT can boast four national championships. Not six, or twelve, or fourteen, or any of the other numbers stitched on red polyester between here and Pascagoula. Four. And they’re all in women’s gymnastics. (For those who insist on keeping score, Auburn has won eleven national championships, six of them in men’s swimming, four in women’s swimming and one in women’s track.)

There aren’t any football championships listed for either school for a very good reason: neither team has ever won one. But the Tigers and Tide shouldn’t feel too bad about it, ‘cause neither has anybody else. You can search the official record books until Doomsday if you like, but you won’t turn up a national championship for any team in Division 1-A football.

There are lots for the other divisions, of course, because they all have season-ending playoffs. No wonder you don’t see the actual numbers quoted very often—it’s quite a comedown to realize that Troy State (2) and North Alabama (3) both have more legitimate national championships than either Auburn or Alabama.

“But Will,” you’re spluttering, “of course there’s a national championship. What else do we talk about all the time?”

I’m glad you asked.

What you’re talking about are not championships. They’re awards, and there’s a big difference. Championships are decided by the outcomes of competitive sports. Awards are given out based on subjective criteria, and are inevitably subject to human opinion. Wins and losses—and championships—are not.

Now, awards are wonderful things in and of themselves. There’s nothing wrong with getting an award. We’re mighty proud of all those Heisman Trophies and Lombardi Awards and Outland Trophies down in the Lovelace Museum, and why shouldn’t we be?

In the same vein, they’re mighty proud (to say the least) of all their poll “championship” awards up in Tuscaloosa, and again, why shouldn’t they be? It’s a very nice thing to get an award that says you have the best team in the country, even if it is no more than a representation of a few sportswriters’ and/or coaches’ opinions.

But that’s all the poll “championships” are. That’s all they’ve ever been, and that’s all they ever will be. They have exactly as much credibility as a poll of you and your best football-fan buddies would have--maybe less, since sportswriters, being human beings, are as subject to human frailties like bias and laziness as anybody else, and a coach voting in a secret “championship” poll that includes his own rivals is pretty darn close to the definition of “conflict of interest.”

How much value you should place in a poll “championship” is directly related to how much you value the opinions of sportswriters, or of coaches who’re in competition with your own favorite team. Again, they’re nice things, but all they’ll really tell you is what a small group of people felt like one morning in January. Are you really so willing to rate the success or failure of your team on that criteria? Heck, if we placed all our trust in media polls, we wouldn’t have had an actual election in 2004, and John Kerry would be living in the White House.

Let’s cut to the chase: Florida will not be the national champion this year.

Neither will Michigan, or Boise State (next time you complain about AU or UF getting rooked, just imagine how the Utah and Boise and Tulane fans must feel), or even Ohio State.

There won’t be a national champion in Division 1-A. There never has been a national champion in Division 1-A. There have just been a lot of awards. Nice things to get—but they’re not championships. You can't "win" something that doesn't exist.