published Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

5-at-10: UT football, Braves promise and big boy programs threaten college football

Gang, let's move at a quick clip.

From the "Talks too much" studios, come on feel the noise, girls rock your boys.

Tennessee Year 1

Let's believe that the Vols are in Year 1 of the rebuilding effort. That's a fair assumption, right?

  • photo
    Butch Jones, Tennessee's new head football coach, speaks during a 2012 news conference.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Recruiting is going swimmingly, the hopes of this fall rest on four question marks at quarterback and really only have a light at the end of the tunnel with a seven-win ceiling. So, the lengths of success and disappointment are somewhat muted. It's a honeymoon period with a mail-order bride — there's some good, some bad and possibly some really ugly.

That's mostly a good thing in Year 1 for Butch Jones, who has done admirable work in rebuilding the connections and the recruiting ties that made Tennessee a power program from 1992-2002. There have been blips UT flashes since then of course, but the slide has been pronounced and magnified by the successes around the league and the emergence of former also-rans like South Carolina and Vandy in recent years.

Tennessee needs good vibes and positive steps. That's one of the reasons the epic recruiting roll that has the Vols atop the rankings of Rivals, Scout and 247 is such a big thing.

Yes, those rankings mean little in the grand scheme of things of today. And yes, every UT commit could change his mind and go somewhere else between now and February. But to dismiss the roll and the cause and effect that has Jones and Co. in the conversation with some of the most talented players from around the country at a time when the program seems fractured is noteworthy at least and bodes well for the days ahead.

As for the season on the horizon, David Paschall and the TFP sports editor broke it down on yesterday's Press Row — our radio show Monday-Friday from 1-3 on 105.1 FM. There are five games against top-15 opponents that appear to be tough sledding. A slew of the others are winnable, and there are if-games with Auburn and Vandy in Knoxville in Novemeber.

The Vols' biggest question hinges at who will be taking the snaps, and in truth that question likely has multiple answers. The key to these Vols finding the postseason rests on whether Jones and Co. have found an answer before the midseason bye week. If Tennessee is set at quarterback — this is not to imply excellent, rather just set and comfortable and improving — heading into the late October double-up of South Carolina and Alabama, then six wins seems very doable for these Vols and seven is in the conversation.

If a rotation or a platoon or 'riding the hot hand' is still the M.O., well, there's always this awesome recruiting class.

————

Welcome Back

OK, there was little on the TV last night after getting the tots down, so the Mrs. 5-at-10 joined us watching the end of the Braves game.

  • photo
    Atlanta Braves left fielder Reed Johnson, right, leaps in the air, celebrating Braves center fielder Jason Heyward's ninth inning catch of Justin Turner's flyout to seal the Braves 2-1 victory over the New York Mets in a baseball game Monday, July 22, 2013, in New York.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"This is the first time we've watched the Braves in a while," she quipped. She was right. And we were rewarded.

The Braves scored twice in the rain in the ninth inning to grab a 2-1 win that was saved by Craig Kimbrel, who was saved by a game-ending diving catch by Jason Heyward, who returned to the lineup after his 15-day DL stint.

Heyward's catch was excellent. He raced into left-center field, extended at the last moment and caught Justin Turner's sinking line drive as two Mets runners were churning around the bases. It was one of those diving catches that doesn't get made without truly extending and it was timed perfectly.

It also showed a couple of strengths that we some times take for granted with this Braves bunch. Sure we know that Uggla and the Uptons could strike out at the Bunny Ranch, but let's be positive for a moment.

Defensively, this bunch is both rangy and solid, with gold-glove potential at short, first and in a couple of outfield spots. The bench is spectacular — considering the number of injuries this club has suffered through and the fact that they still have the largest lead in baseball. The bench delivered again Monday when pinch-hitter Reed Johnson singled in the winning run with two outs in the ninth. (Side note: Johnson is hitting .379 as a pinch hitter this year. Well-played indeed.)

We know these Braves are going to struggle to score runs in the postseason, when the competition improves and every at-bat is magnified. Well, the opposition could face the same hurdles.

Thanks Braves for a fun end to the evening.

————

Let the speculation begin

At the Big 12 media days, conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby pulled no punches. He echoed the sentiments and the whispers of the other big five conferences that the current NCAA structure needs a serious examine.

His quotes are telling — and foreboding. Give it a read:

• "It's probably unrealistic to think that we can manage football and field hockey by the same set of rules. I think some kind of reconfiguration of how we govern is in order." (Translated: We want to pay our football players.)

• "I really do think we need to reconfigure the leadership of the [NCAA]. I don't think we can at this point in time move forward, and we certainly haven't been able to configure an agenda that made the changes we need to make." (The NCAA enforcement issues give us a great chance to flip the switch and keep all the football money for ourselves. If you don't like, we'll take our helmets and go somewhere else.)

And just to be sure that he was not talking about tweaks to the current system, here's one more:

• "This is not a time when trimming around the hedges is going to make very much difference." (Tweaks and policy mean nothing — we want to keep all the scraps from Longshanks football playoff table.)

Bowlsby was quick to say that he does think solutions can be found within the NCAA, but Bowlsby's alarm comes a week after Mike Slive did something similar in Hoover at the SEC media event.

Here's the 5-at-10's personal view of what the power conferences want:

1) They want to control the college football playoff money the way they controlled the BCS playoff money. They are willing to allow the NCAA to keep it's bargaining power in regard to March Madness — the NCAA basketball tournament, which generates about 95-percent of the NCAA national office's revenue — but the future 10-figure contracts for the college football playoffs is a different matter.

2) They are looking at ways of trying to pay stipends to athletes in the revenue producing sports only. They want this to only apply to them and to the power sports that are football and men's basketball. This is contingent on point 1, and is offered more as a cover-our tail proposition and a huge recruiting tool rather than a measure of sharing. (Side note: The power conference presidents are not into sharing. At all.)

3) They want the NCAA rule book overhauled and in a lot of respects neutered. They want the rules-breaking coaches to pay the price, and there's merit to that in most cases. But when school's lack control, there has to be consequences — the power leagues want those consequences as tepid as possible. Every president and commissioner is terrified of a Penn State deal.

This is not the first time we're hearing this, nor will it be the last. The big-boy schools will continue to float the "we'll take our crystal football and go home" rumors and innuendoes until they get what they want. Is it a threat? Sure, it is. These academicians do not want to have to swallow their text books and join a semi-pro football league any more than the fans want to see it. But those same academicians want even less to lose money from the chemistry program because of revenue sharing with the FCS schools and the small conference folks.

Plus, after watching Boise State share in the revenue while spending significantly less, they have to slam that cracked door before a real playoff opened the chance for dozens of other programs.

And if you don't think this could happen, here's saying all it would take is three whispers to the right people — Trump, Jerry Jones and Rupert Murdoch could have a $1 billion and broadcasting rights settled by lunch — and the bids would be enormous.

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson told CBSSports.com columnist Dennis Dodd: "It will surprise me if they [BCS conferences] don't get what they want." And then... "The other five conferences will have to decide at what level we can afford to participate in it."

The discussions even have a nomenclature — folks are floating the Division 4 tag — and the possibilities of that upper crust league reworking the rules — of recruiting, of scholarship limits, of fees rights and player payment — are endless.

Small schools such as UTC better hope the NCAA figures out a way to avoid that, because if the big five split off, the future is bleak for everyone else. In fact, if the big five split and take whomever with them they want, here's saying that will be Div. I football and everything else will fade into some hybrid of Div. III with limited and partial scholarship deals.

Strange times indeed.

————

This and that

— The interwebs around these parts almost melted yesterday when some rumors were floated that former Ridgeland star Vonn Bell was part of THE latest crew to find trouble at THE Ohio State University. Late last night, Vonn texted our prep ace Stephen Hargis and said he was not in any of that mess and not in trouble with the team. Bell was not among the four Buckeyes mentioned in the release about their off-the-field misgivings. That is all.

  • photo
    Danny Ring has transferred from the Naval Academy to play defensive tackle for UTC.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

— Nice addition for the Mocs, getting Danny Ring from Navy, as UTC football ace Johnny Frierson tells us here. We believe with a couple of breaks, this UTC football team could be playing well into December, and the depth and talent of this monster defensive line is a monster reason for those lofty expectations.

— Ryan Braun has accepted his suspension without pay for the rest of this season because of PEDs. Shocking, we know. A-Rod's suspension should be coming soon. Two quick things about Braun, who now is with Raffy Palmeiro in the "No WAY I did this.... except when I did this" group: 1) Is there any baseball player from this generation that would shock you to hear used PEDs; 2) Did you see that when defending Braun during the last round of accusations, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on The Twitter he was willing to bet his salary on it? OUCH-standing, and where will Aaron be sending that $4.5 million check.

————

Today's question

We're going to flip the script. If you have a question, bring it. Whatcha' want to discuss?

That said, if you need a talking point, we're always open to the question about whether there is a MLB player from the last 20 years who would shock you if he was in some PED mess? Well other than Roger Clemens of course.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
LaughingBoy said...

Part of what makes college football great is when a Sun Belt or MAC team knocks off a team from a power conference, or at least what's perceived to be a power conference. It's even better when you have the occasional FCS team beat a "big boy". I don't want those matchups to end.

Braun should get 162 games, through half of next year, too.

Ohio State will eventually get what we thought Miami was about to get, the hammer.

July 23, 2013 at 10:18 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Ohiyo minna-san (Good Morning Everyone)

Nice to wake up to the sound of Russ's voice on Jeff & Co. via 'GOW streaming audio. Yeah, it's getting closer.

Based on Frierson's write-up, D-Ring "might" get some game time out of the gate. And apparently JR maybe calling Stovell's name out a lot over the broadcast with Ron Moore out of the picture.

Some local news from the 5 & 10 Dallas Office.

Straight from the DMN: Talks are on the way and it's pretty much a done deal. Da Boys are moving out of Valley Ranch. Frisco (yes, the place that hosts FC Dallas, the Roughriders, and the FCS game) are in planning on including the Cowboys practice facility as part of the "Frisco Station Project". The reasons for the move are obvious: No indoor playing facility, no dining hall, structure is almost 30 years old, etc. Also, I imagine some ethnical reasons were factored in but I'm pretty sure that was not discussed nor will I elaborate on this color-blind, "smell-free", family forum. :P (FYI, I am the minority in my neighborhood)

G-dawg:

Enjoyed your slam yesterday of the Cleveland Daily Banner. Although I expect a very, very, stern letter by Dr. and Mrs. Morningwood's overpaid attorney over your comments about their daughter's college choices and why it IS front page news.

No major questions for the peanut gallery as much as concerns. What you discussed basically is what led to the destruction of the then-SWC. I know the SMU death penality was the nail in the coffin but the fact Longhorn nation was the conferences cash cow and had to share with lesser revenue generating schools had never sat well with them. What I find even more scarier is if worst case scenerio does happen, if you think UT and Alabama tickets are too pricy NOW...yeah, welcome to Jerry's World. Where only the "Preston Hollow" of fans can afford to attend the games.

July 23, 2013 at 10:32 a.m.
MocTastic said...

With respect to Braun, if you go back to all his televised remarks when he was caught the other year, he never really claimed that he was clean, he just hit on procedures of the testing. It was clear to me then he was guilty.

Watch closely this breakaway of the BCS schools in football as JG says. The eventual result will be them also breaking away from March Madness and having their own basketball championship. If you are ESPN/CBS/etc and you have to bid your money, do you bid to show a tournament with all the big conferences in it, or do you bid to show a tournament with Gonzaga, Butler, an OVC team, a SoCon team and a SWAC team in it? You know the answer.

The big schools will see that huge money apple sitting there and go for it. Splitting it alot less ways will make sense to them. This will reshape college athletics in ways you would never think.

As I understand it much of the NCAA Championships in the minor sports are funded by March Madness money. Take that away and will the small schools be able to send their baseball team to Omaha for a week for the CWS? Maybe not. You will see minor sports disappearing left and right. Women sports will have less of a hit due to Title IX, but they will take cuts also.

This is NOT a good thing for college sports. Pray it does not happen.

July 23, 2013 at 10:42 a.m.
John_Proctor said...

A personal observation here. For Vonn Bell to be involved some sort of trouble at OSU it would take a complete reversal of his character as well as his forgetting every lesson his family taught him. I'm not saying it can't happen, only that if it does, it would be a 180 degree change in character. The curse of the interweb is that every rumor takes on a worldwide life of its own. And that's all I'll say about that.

July 23, 2013 at 10:56 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- would disagree with you on a "big 5 conference" split from NCAA affecting UTC. UTC is already in FCS, and the split, as has been talked by big 5 conferences does not include basketball, only football. The schools that would be hurt would be the MTSU's, Kent States and Georgia Southern's of the world. FCS is already split, so dont really see how it would affect UTC. The only possible effect would be elimination of football "money games" and FCS schools are already anticipating that move anyway. And besides, Big 5 conference's dont give up any football bowl or future playoff money to FCS schools now.

July 23, 2013 at 11:14 a.m.
JonathanMCook said...

MT-

With football, the gap between the haves and the have nots are pretty much in clear and present site. Now grant you with the transfer rules where BCS caliber players going to a Sun Belt or FCS school for more game time tends to sometimes even the odds and allow a Louisiana-Monroe to beat a Florida State but those games are far and few between. Basketball on the other hand, especially March Madness, is different. It's probably one of the last major college events where "name branding" is moot (unless your North Carolina, Duke, Xavier, or Kansas). People watch to see the Gonzagas, VCUs, George Masons, and so on take the "University of" demigod to the woodshed. I don't see the NCAA doing anything that would drive a wedge into something like that. But that's just my observation mind you.

But your concerns are understandable. Believe me, I'm not like'n it either.

July 23, 2013 at 11:17 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

Apologies for long long absence...however, was able to work around the paywall this once...On the Vonn Bell incident, seems most of those rumors (from my research) were started on Clorox Orange message boards, and then the fire was fueled by that outstanding former QB Erik Ainge...I have a lot of respect for Butch Jones, perhaps he needs to have a talk with some fans AND former players about showing some class...I refrained from listening to talk radio yesterday, so as not to have to fight the urge to call in...

July 23, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.
chas9 said...

Now that you've broken down the UT schedule, you can do the UK sched in one word: "Ditto." They're almost identical.

Both teams play Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Vandy, Mizzou, WKU and Bama. The Cats' powerhouse opponent Louisville matches The Vols' Oregon. UK opponents Mississippi State, Miami (Ohio), and Alabama State match UT opponents Auburn, Austin Peay, and South Alabama.

By bedtime September 7 we'll have the measuring stick of a common opponent (The Hilltoppers), and the two finish their schedules against each other at Commonwealth Stadium.

I agree that Butch's big boys will end up 6-6. Though I love Stoops and expect serious improvement, Big Blue won't do that well. But in 2014, watch out.

BTW, did you see the Dennis Dodd piece calling Louisville the "Best in College Sports" for 2012-13? Hard to argue with his logic.

July 23, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

Braun in 2012: I am very pleased and relieved by today's decision. It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side. We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances. I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year."

And another time: "If I had done this intentionally or unintentionally I'd have been the first one to admit it. I truly believe this substance never entered my body....Today is for anyone who has been wrongly accused and everyone who stood up for what's right....Ultimately, as I sit here today, the system worked because I was innocent and I was able to prove my innocence."

I can't find the quote, but I heard it over and over again on the radio this morning, where he said something like, "I swear on everything I hold as important in my life, my values, my morals, my beliefs, that I did not take steroids." Can't find that quote though, so you'll just have to take my word on that one.

The rest are copied and pasted from last year. So, MocTastic, I don't think you're right that he didn't explicitly deny that he did it last year. This guy denied it explicitly, directly, every which of a way. The "I'm an open book" and "I'm innocent" lines seem to be the most obvious statements ever of denial. I wasn't sure if he had done it or not. I was unsure, because he so adamantly defended himself. Turns out it was all a lie. Not particularly surprising. Once his name was in Biogenesis, I figured he was guilty. Only so many times there can be smoke but not believe there's fire (kind of the same thing I always said about Lance Armstrong and got shot down by people more times than not).

July 23, 2013 at 11:27 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang —

Great start to the day.

Here are some bullet items because we're crunched for time.

Braun has become the face of denials and lying about PEDs. Forget Raffy waving his finger. In fact, in a bizarro world of honor, at least he fully lied about his PED use — a whopper of a denial — as opposed to hemming and ha-ing and sounding like a junior senator asked about missing funds.

9er —

Fair point about UK, which is with Auburn and Tennessee on the swing between 4 and 8 wins depending a few things, namely QB play.

Jomo —

The move would hurt in perception and it would hurt in any future attempts to get TV dollars, a situation that all conferences must address. There is only so long that schools can keep losing money at football, and if the big five leave, those losses in football — financially and in regard to perception — will only mount.

UTC and the other smaller athletic departments may expect the money games to stop, but when they actually do stop, that's a mid-six-figure hole in a small seven-figure budget. It will hurt, and how long will UTC be able to augment those losses.

Plus, if the Big Five leave, the cost for supporting the Big Five schools will escalate, and there are a slew of folks who donate to UTC after donating to UT or UGA or Alabama. If the asking price to support the Big Five goes up, that could cost UTC some secondary donations.

JP and OG —

As we discussed on the radio yesterday, the allegations were completely different than the history of the Vonn we know.

July 23, 2013 at 11:38 a.m.
fechancellor said...

This is the city, Chattanooga, TN. Many residents enjoy High School football in the fall. If you are devotee of college ball, it's here. The University's Round House has seen the likes of Gerald Wilkins, Willie White and others I can picture but not remember the names pounding the hardwood. Findley Stadium, a small but cozy place is the home of a football program on the rise. Baseball you say, historic Engle Stadium was the place where a business person could take in a game under the shade of a porch. Today, minor league baseball is s served up in a broiler. If these opportunities for low cost entertainment available to Chattanoogans seem tame for some there the rivers, hang-gliding or mountain sports in easy reach. When sports editors discount the achievements of sports heroes who have gone before to build up new ones, that's when I go to work. I carry a library card.

It is Tuesday July 23, it was a bit cooler in the city, but the humidity is oppressive. We're manning the day watch at the Hixson Library. My name is Chancellor. My partner is Bill Gannon. The boss is the Chief Librarian Anna Ragsdale. As Gannon leafed past the Zeb Patten plea bargain in the CTFP in search of a lead, he also keeps our place in line for a PC. I went outside for a smoke and to think over the work we put in on the Patten case and the unjust verdict. There will much to do later, so I took the opportunity now.

July 23, 2013 at 11:46 a.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- if the Big 5 leave to take a bigger share of the money, then why would their donations need to go up ? that doesnt make sense. Also, for point of reference UTC athletic budget is already in 8 figures, so not so sure a $450,000 money game couldnt be replaced from other sources, not easy, but not as big a percentage of the budget that it used to be. I think clearly, the FCS schools might come out of this in better shape than the schools in the MAC, Sunbelt, WAC, etc . . .

July 23, 2013 at 11:48 a.m.
MocTastic said...

JG, went back and watched the youtube of Braun's victory speech,he did deny steroid useage in that. This ESPN article details their appeal http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/7608360/milwaukee-brewers-ryan-braun-wins-appeal-50-game-suspension and it was not based on innocence, but procedural issues according to the article.

JoMo, you could very well see all the non BCS Div I-A schools and the FCS schools reforming somewhat into one division. I agree, less impact maybe at our level than the smaller I-A schools. We would be staying somewhat static, while they would be moving backwards.

July 23, 2013 at 12:07 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

jomo-

Agreed. To a point. While UTC's athletic budget appears to be eight figures now, I'm going to hold on whether the annual money game with University of take-us-to-the-woodshead-while-wearing-a-ball-gag-and-liking-it really makes that much of a difference. Simply because while obtaining high-level funding is not as sexy to watch as "Chaos" in the Roundhouse (predicting mind you) and is up there with paint drying, I really want to see how and if Blackburn can make it rain in the high numbers as everyone is expecting him too. Just an observation mind you.

July 23, 2013 at 12:11 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Jon M Cook, you have yet to appear on www.mocfans.com, we await your arrival.

July 23, 2013 at 12:15 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Gang —

Great debate, and we'll get back to the discussion at hand. We're headed to do the radio show from 1-3 p.m. on ESPN 105.1 FM, and we're planning to be joined by David Blackburn around 2:30 to discuss these vary things.

As for the increase in support levels, Jomo, you already know the answer to that. When UT is looking around knowing it needs a new indoor practice facility to compete the with new indoor practice facility that Alabama just got, well, where's that coming from?

It's a spend and collect mentality that has become an arm's race that is impossible to sustain.

FE to the C —

Just the facts, man.

Yeah, JMC, why aren't you back at mocfans?

July 23, 2013 at 12:40 p.m.
MocTastic said...

A little reminder of how last night's Braves game ended for those who could not stay awake https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-gZU5PJDBvGE/Ue3qFo4NsqI/AAAAAAAAAv8/UgZ81VlXqEc/s450/Untitled-1.gif

July 23, 2013 at 1:28 p.m.
mcpell3 said...

5/10 - You are absolutely correct on the spend & collect arms race in BCS football. Very similar to the new stadiums in the NFL.

July 23, 2013 at 2:02 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Sorry I'm late. Just got back from lunch with the folks from the movie studio (I'm not up for a part. But they did take me to lunch.)

I would be surprised to see Craig Grebeck or Craig Counsell guilty of taking PEDs.

July 23, 2013 at 2:59 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

The NCAA has been dead and buried so many times now I have lost count. They have survived to this point, but I have serious doubts about the college football landscape bearing much resemblance a decade from now to the game as we know it today. If sports truly follows the lead of the society it exists in, it only makes sense that the big five will eventually break off and leave the rest to fight for scraps. The rich and powerful programs in college sports have adopted the role of victim while the downtrodden programs are being portrayed as leeches sucking the lifeblood from all that is great about college sports. Hunter S. Thompson said: "It's a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat s**t and die." I wonder if Mark Emmert has that message of hope engraved in a plaque on his desk.

JMC, I will heed your warning for I would hate to get a rise out of the Morningwoods. They are an upright and rigid unit.

July 23, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.
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