THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, JULY 2, 2019
IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, FORGIVE CHARLEY PELL
“In an era of excess, both within and outside of college sports, you might argue that Pell’s transgressions were particularly egregious. But given that nearly half of the major college football programs were sanctioned at some point during the 1980s — given how one scandal after another plagued college sports during the decade, leading into an über-scandal in Dallas — you might also wonder, in retrospect, whether Pell was merely trying to keep up.” – Michael Weinreb of The Athletic
The University of Florida football program got one of the most severe NCAA probations in history in 1985 when the NCAA charged the Gators with 107 major violations. The sanctions cost Charley Pell his job, plus there was a two-year bowl and television ban and scholarship reductions that crippled the UF program into the early 1990s, long after Pell was gone. For the longest time, Pell was considered by a majority of Gator fans as a pox on the program. Even today there are Gator fans who believe Pell was a rogue coach who all but invented cheating.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
There were violations – and lots of them – committed when Pell ran the UF program from 1979 until game three of the 1984 season but he was no different than any dozens of coaches who were taking liberties with the rules. For that, Pell and UF paid a steep price but don’t think for a second Pell was a rogue. Hardly.
It’s not like those who were caught cheating were the only ones. After all, this was the SEC where one coach, on the condition of anonymity, said, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t winning.” There was so much cheating going on – not only in the SEC but nationwide – that the NCAA didn’t have enough investigators and even if there had been adequate numbers of investigators there weren’t enough man hours or available resources to catch even half of what was going on.
Yet when it came to cheating in the SEC in the 1990s, Charley Pell was considered the poster child. In a 2006 magazine interview I did with Gator great and College Football Hall of Famer Wilber Marshall, he laughed when the subject of cheating came up. “Charley Pell was the one coach who didn’t promise me anything,” Wilber told me. “I had cars, money, you name it offered and most of these schools never got probation.”
Wilber and many other former Florida players believe the NCAA was out to get Pell and Florida. I’ve talked to a lot of non-Gators who played in the SEC in that era who don’t disagree. Should we give Charley Pell a pass since nearly everyone was cheating? No, but Charley shouldn’t wear the guilt for everyone else who was.
If you’re still not convinced to forgive Charley Pell, then consider this: When he took over at Florida, the athletic department was seriously close to insolvency. Charley took a look at the situation, rolled up his sleeves and became a one-man fundraising machine that literally saved the UF athletic program. He did what the people at the top either refused to do or were incapable of doing. If you appreciate the extraordinary athletic program we have at the University of Florida, then you need to thank Charley Pell because it wouldn’t have happened without Charley.
Here is a school-by-school list of NCAA jail-time offenses by all 14 SEC schools.
ALABAMA: 1964 (football); 1995 (football); 1999 (men’s basketball); 2002 (football); 2009 (19 sports including men’s football and basketball); 2017 (football)
ARKANSAS: 1965 (football); 1997 (men’s basketball); 2003 (football; men’s basketball); 2007 (men’s indoor, outdoor track)
AUBURN: 1956 (football); 1958 (football); 1979 (football; men’s basketball); 1980 (football); 1990 (men’s basketball; men’s tennis); 1993 (football)
FLORIDA: 1957 (football); 1962 (men’s basketball); 1985 (football); 1990 (football; men’s basketball); 2015 (football)
GEORGIA: 1978 (football; men’s basketball); 1982 (football); 1985 (football); 1985 (men’s basketball); 2004 (men’s basketball); 2014 (men’s, women’s swimming)
KENTUCKY: 1953 (men’s basketball); 1964 (football); 1976 (football; men’s basketball); 1988 (men’s basketball); 1989 (men’s basketball); 2002 (football)
LSU: 1986 (football; men’s, women’s basketball); 1988 (men’s basketball); 2011 (football)
MISSISSIPPI STATE: 1967 (men’s basketball); 1975 (football); 1986 (men’s, women’s basketball; softball, women’s golf; women’s tennis); 1996 (football); 2004 (football); 2013 (football)
MISSOURI: 2019 (football; men’s basketball; softball);
OLE MISS: 1959 (football); 1986 (football); 1994 (football); 2016 (women’s basketball; women’s indoor/outdoor track; women’s cross country); 2017 (football)
SOUTH CAROLINA: 1967 (football; men’s basketball); 1987 (men’s basketball); 1991 (men’s basketball); 2005 (football); 2015 (football; men’s basketball; men’s indoor/outdoor track; women’s indoor/outdoor track); 2017 (football)
TENNESSEE: 1986 (football); 1991 (football); 2011 (men’s basketball); 2012 (football)
TEXAS A&M: 1957 (men’s basketball); 1966 (football); 1969 (football); 1977 (men’s basketball); 1988 (football); 1991 (men’s basketball); 1994 (football)
VANDERBILT: 1992 (women’s basketball)
THE LIST FOR TUESDAY
Which SEC teams face the toughest October?
1. AUBURN: October 5, at Florida; October 19, at Arkansas; October 26, at LSU.
Auburn doesn’t have a home game and bookends what should be a blowout win at Arkansas with roadies to Florida and LSU. If the Tigers lose two out of three, the fire Gus Malzahn folks will be shouting at the top of their lungs.
2. SOUTH CAROLINA: October 12, at Georgia; October 19, Florida; October 26, at Tennessee.
The Gamecocks go back-to-back with Georgia in Athens followed by Florida at home. That’s the toughest two-game stretch for any SEC team in October.
3. FLORIDA: October 5, Auburn; October 12, at LSU; October 19, at South Carolina.
The homer with Auburn followed by the roadie to LSU will tell us plenty about how good this Florida team is. A 3-0 October and the Gators could find themselves in the top five nationally.
4. TENNESSEE: October 5, at Georgia; October 12, Mississippi State; October 19, at Alabama; October 26, South Carolina.
There isn’t an easy game on the October schedule and you can pencil in losses to Georgia in Athens and Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Prediction: 0-4
5. LSU: October 5, Utah State; October 12, Florida; October 19, at Mississippi State; October 26, Auburn.
The Mississippi State road trip could be troublesome if the Tigers go white knuckles with the Gators the week before. The two toughest games – Florida and Auburn – are at Tiger Stadium.
6. TEXAS A&M: October 12, Alabama; October 19, at Ole Miss; Mississippi State.
The October 26 game at Kyle Field with Alabama could be make or break for the Aggies. Win it and they might win the SEC West. Lose (and lose big) and it could make 2019 a wait until next year type of season.
7. MISSISSIPPI STATE: October 12, at Tennessee; October 19, LSU; October 26, at Texas A&M.
The bad news is ending the month with LSU and (at) Texas A&M. The good news is the November schedule should be easy if the Bulldogs come out of October without feeling shell-shocked.
8. KENTUCKY: October 12, Arkansas; October 19, at Georgia; October 26, Missouri.
The road trip to Georgia is sandwiched between winnable homers with Arkansas and Missouri.
9. ALABAMA: October 12, at Texas A&M; October 19, Tennessee; October 26, Arkansas.
The only tough game on this October schedule is the visit to Aggieland where Jimbo Fisher will try to become the first former Nick Saban assistant to score a win over the old boss.
10. GEORGIA: October 5, Tennessee; October 12, South Carolina; October 19, Kentucky.
Georgia needs to waltz through October because November could be a real beast.
11. OLE MISS: October 5, Vanderbilt; October 12, at Missouri; October 19, Texas A&M.
Two of the three October games (Vandy and at Missouri) are winnable but it’s likely a reverse two out of three for the Rebels.
12. MISSOURI: October 5, Troy; October 12, Ole Miss; October 19, at Vanderbilt; October 26, at Kentucky.
The Tigers have the kind of schedule that can make Kelly Bryant look a whole lot better than he really is. Kentucky is about the only real losable game in October.
13. ARKANSAS: October 12, at Kentucky; October 19, at Auburn; October 26, at Alabama.
Last year’s season to forget is going to be followed up by this year’s season to forget.
14. VANDERBILT: October 5, at Ole Miss; October 12, UNLV; October 19, Missouri.
Since the Commodores are likely to start out 1-3, it’s imperative they right the ship in October. If they can’t at least go 2-1 against this schedule it’s going to be tough for Vandy to get anywhere close to break even.
Wednesday: Toughest SEC schedules for November.
SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR TUESDAY
From Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic on one of the reasons why Kevin Durant chose to take less money from the Brooklyn Nets to play with Kyrie Irving instead of staying with the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry:
“Systemically, they had some issues. The Warriors preferred to move the ball, create offense by creating seams with motion. While Durant could play that game, that wasn’t his preferred style, especially when paired with players who couldn’t take advantage of the openings. And, invariably, Durant would get frozen out while Curry and Klay Thompson jacked up shots that would be ill-advised for others but were the foundation of what the Warriors built. And when the offense ran through Durant and it didn’t work, Durant took the heat.”
Randall Cobb, who recently signed with the Dallas Cowboys, reflected on his former team, the Green Bay Packers, with the Wisconsin State Journal:
“It’s like the ex-girlfriend that broke up with you. When you see her five years later, you hope you’re in a better situation than you were before – married, with kids, and you’re able to say, ‘Yeah, I did better without you.'”
Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated on the joke of an NBA franchise the New York Knicks have become and why they are striking out so significantly in the free agent free for all:
“The New York Knicks are a rusty port-a-john inside a toxic waste dump on the most expensive real estate in the country. They have a well-respected coach (David Fizdale), a smart general manager (Scott Perry) and an owner who is so willfully, relentlessly, unashamedly foolish that he continues to sabotage his own franchise.”
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF
Carson Beck, the Mandarin High School QB who decommitted Alabama, then committed and decommitted Florida before selecting Georgia threw out this nugget to Al.com when talking about how he arrived at his final decision: “And I just absolutely fell in love with their coaching staff, and honestly the reason I chose Georgia is I feel like those coaches can develop me to get me where I want to be.” Hmmm. Alabama brings in Steve Sarkisian, who most recently called the plays for Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons while Georgia lost the guy (Jim Chaney) who developed Jake Fromm and replaced him with James Coley. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Of course, it makes great sense for Florida because Anthony Richardson is the perfect fit for a Dan Mullen offense.
The Pillsbury Throwboy, aka former Kentucky and New York Giants backup QB Jared Lorenzon, is hospitalized and in ICU where he battles infections plus kidney and heart issues. He was listed somewhere around 500 pounds recently.
New Arkansas hoops coach Eric Musselman will have four transfers on his roster when the season cranks up in November. Musselman says that’s the way of the world in college basketball these days: “A transfer comes with experience, and you are able to look over his body of work. A DI transfer, you have some sort of body of work to build off when you evaluate them on film. So, yes, they are part of our recruiting philosophy. It was really successful for us in Nevada. We feel like the transfers we’ve added right now are going to help. It’s the landscape right now, just any field, business, that you are dealing with, there is constant change. It evolves. Right now, the transfers, whether its football orbasketball, is a big part of the landscape.”
Coach O has added former Southern Cal and Los Angeles Rams coach John Robinson to the LSU staff as a special consultant. Robinson, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, posted a 104-35-1 record in two stints at Southern Cal (1976-82 and 1993-97) with five Pac-10 championships and four Rose Bowl victories.
Auburn’s 2020 football opener will be against Alcorn State of the Southwest Athletic Conference.
Quentin Millora-Brown (6-9, 205) who averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a freshman at Rice last year, is transferring to Vanderbilt.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Los Angeles Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs died in his hotel room. No cause of death has been reported … UConn’s move from the American Athletic Conference comes with a hefty price and makes you wonder where the money is going to come from. The UConn athletic department is already $41 million in the red and will have to pay the AAC $12 million to leave plus $3.5 million to the Big East to join … Former Washington Redskins QB Mark Rypien has been arrested in Spokane, Washington on suspicion of domestic violence. He was the MVP of the Redskins Super Bowl XXVI win over the Buffalo Bills … In the month of June, Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer went 6-0 with a 1.00 ERA. He struck out 68 batters in 45 innings … At Wimbledon, 15-year-old American Cori Gauf beat Venus Williams in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4 … Former Gator and New York Mets rookie first baseman Pete Alonso (28 homers, 64 RBI) has made the NL All-Star team as a reserve.