Pac-12: Joe Paterno

Does a coach define your program? Think Alabama and Bear Bryant, Penn State and Joe Paterno and Florida State and Bobby Bowden.

Does he cast a shadow that's hard to escape? Or is your all-time winningest coach mostly incidental?

[+] EnlargeJeff Tedford
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesCoach Jeff Tedford is Cal's winningest coach of all time, but is he the face of the program? is looking at the winningest coach for each FBS program today, and the results from the Pac-12 are interesting.

Some teams are trying to regain the past glory of a legendary coach (Arizona State and Frank Kush, Colorado and Bill McCartney, UCLA and Terry Donahue and Washington and Don James).

Some teams all-time wins leader paved the way for present glory (Oregon and Mike Bellotti and USC and John McKay).

Some are just names on a list, Hall of Famers or otherwise, men glaring at us from black and white photos (Pop Warner for Stanford, Lon Stiner for Oregon State, Ike Armstrong at Utah and Babe Hollingbery for Washington State).

And for some teams, well, things are complicated.

For one, Jeff Tedford, who has been hot-seated by many reporters and California fans, is the Bears all-time winningest coach. Then there's Oregon State's Mike Riley, who most feel is sitting on the second-warmest seat in the Pac-12. He needs just three victories to eclipse Stiner as the Beavers winningest coach.

A guy who might identify: Arizona's winningest coach Dick Tomey. Tomey went 12–1 in 1998 but was forced out in 2000.

Hey, look at this patch of grass. It's lovely. Not perfect, though. Is that a clover? Hmm. What about the grass ... over there?

The most interesting names, of course, are Kush, McCartney, Donahue and James. Each is the standard for his program. Even fans too young to have witnessed their tenures know who they are. While these coaches' programs have experienced varying degrees of success both before and after them, no one has been able to duplicate their consistency. And those who have tried over the past couple of decades seem as though they shriveled up under the shadow of the legends who preceded them.

While fans fervently cling to the "It happened before, so it can happen again" position, the truth is comparisons are sometimes unfair. College football is much different than it was before the BCS era, which none of these four experienced.

But that doesn't keep fans from hoping for a second-coming.

Confirmed: Kelly is staying at Oregon

January, 23, 2012

Chip Kelly is staying at Oregon.

Oregon fans ... you can now breathe. By holding your breath, you turned purple and, well, you know that's not what you want to do.

This has been confirmed by the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were deep in the process of trying to lure Kelly out of Eugene and into the NFL this past weekend.

"His heart is with college football and Oregon and he's no longer being considered," Mark Dominik said Monday, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

A handful of news outlets had reported that Kelly was leaving Oregon. George Schroeder of the Eugene Register-Guard, however, was the first to report Kelly's change of heart.

This hullabaloo leads to two questions: 1. How long will Kelly stay at Oregon, as it is now evident the NFL intrigues him -- an idea that was just a theory before? 2. Does this provide the Ducks a boost of momentum -- he's staying because we are awesome! -- or is there some damage control to undertake?

Oregon fans got to experience what it would feel like to lose Kelly, who is 33-6 at the Ducks' helm after winning three consecutive conference titles. Some panicked. Some said, "We'll be OK." Some felt a little of both.

The first reaction of many will be that it's now clear that Kelly will eventually leave. That's not necessarily true. A flirtation that doesn't lead to a divorce can often lead to a renewed loyalty and sense of purpose. Recall that Joe Paterno was, in 1972, out the door at Penn State to coach the New England Patriots.

But Kelly is incredibly competitive, so the juice of competing at the highest level might eventually overcome him. And the non-coaching aspects of leading a major college football program also might wear him down.

Just not yet.

The immediate reaction among the Ducks' rivals was that perhaps some of Kelly's top recruits might waiver. And Oregon did lose a committed player over the weekend. Kelly reportedly missed a recruiting trip to Sacramento during his chats with the Bucs. The guess here is he'll be making a few phone calls today.

Are bridges rebuilt immediately, only with stronger materials? "He loves us, he really loves us!"

Or are questions going to linger? "He flirted once, which means his eyeballs are prone to wander."

The answer -- in some ways unsatisfying -- is "both."

Ah, but too much introspection and navel gazing won't lead to any permanent insight, though Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens now knows that his "Plan B" file needs to be kept updated.

The Pac-12 blog's advice to Oregon fans is to live in and enjoy the present, perhaps with even more appreciation for this golden age of Ducks football. Kelly isn't leaving. His 2012 team is loaded. His focus is back on winning a fourth consecutive conference title.

There will be plenty of time to fret about 2013 and beyond.

Opening the mailbag: More on Graham crackers

December, 16, 2011
Happy Friday.

Follow me on Twitter.

To the notes!

Zach from Mesa, Ariz., writes: Not sure how I should feel about Todd Graham coaching my Sun Devils. Seems like a used-car salesman and he really hasn't done anything.

Mike from Philly writes: I'm not going to call you an idiot, even though that might help get this published, but you've missed the mark on Graham. Not sure if he can coach, but he's completely full of it. He's a liar. He's spineless. Why would anybody want him to lead their sons?

Ted Miller: Got plenty of feedback on my admittedly quasi-Machiavellian takes -- and here -- on Todd Graham bolting Pittsburgh after one year for Arizona State and texting his departure to his players instead of meeting with them face-to-face. I have many thoughts on this, but I'd rather not do another 1,000-plus word column. So I'll try to be brief. Briefer, at least.

Let's start with this: Recall just a week ago when Graham said, "I don't know how else I can say it. I've said it on three different occasions. I'm not going to be the Arizona State's coach."

Oh. Wait. That wasn't Graham talking about Arizona State. That was the best coach in college football. That was, gulp, then Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban, talking about Alabama, not Arizona State, and who just days after saying that became... wait for it... wait for it...

Alabama's coach!

And what did Saban say when he later sat down with ESPN Chris Mortensen, who asked if Saban's disingenuousness would be an issue for him in recruiting going forward?

"The number one thing for me, Nick Saban, whatever anyone thinks, is to be a good person," Saban said. "Honesty, integrity, loyalty, being fair and honest with people is always been the trademark of what I've done."

So know that when Graham talked about how important "relationships" were for him Wednesday, that same forehead slap of indignation over the unintentional irony has happened before. And will again. It's the nature of their business.

You cannot compare Saban's and Graham's resumes, of course. But Saban has long been a climber at the highest level while Graham has been scratching and clawing -- some might suggest scurrying -- to arrive at an A-list job. That means you often leave unhappy people in your wake.

Do any Alabama fans care about Saban's messy departure from Miami? Are you kidding? No coach in America is more beloved by his fan base. Why? Have you looked at Saban's win-loss ledger and trophy case?

Same goes for Bobby Petrino at Arkansas, who didn't even finish his only season with the Atlanta Falcons before bolting for the Razorbacks, leaving behind only a note for his players.

Graham, suffice it to say, is not alone in the Hall of Coaching Transition Infamy. Don't gloat Arizona fans. You might recall your new coach, Rich Rodriguez had some issues at West Virginia, too.

Then let's consider this name: Mike Riley.

Riley left Oregon State in 1998 after just two season -- his hometown team! -- for the San Diego Chargers, where things went badly. But he got lucky. The Beavers were willing to re-hire him in 2003, believing he'd learned the proverbial "the grass is always greener lesson." No coach in the nation has been more loyal to his university since then while not getting super-rich. At $1.3 million a year, Riley is now the second lowest paid coach in the Pac-12.

He could have doubled his pay when Alabama came calling. He could have tripled his pay when USC came calling. But he remained loyal. And he's been praised for it. Which is nice.

Yet now, despite averaging nine wins a year from 2006-09 at a program that didn't post a winning season from 1971-98, two consecutive losing seasons have him sitting on the conference's hottest seat heading into 2012. There's a vocal minority of fans who believe he should be fired now. A larger percentage believe he needs to make a staff overhaul. My belief is he won't survive a third consecutive losing season.

If Riley had been "disloyal" to Oregon State and bolted in 2010 for USC -- he was widely seen as then-athletic director Mike Garrett's first choice -- he would have more job security today than he does now and a far more financially-secure future for his family. This side of the story is rarely considered, but such cautionary tales pass by word of mouth among coaches -- i.e., watch your back and look out for No. 1.

Maybe Graham is a double-talking con artist. Or maybe his circumstances and opportunities just have been different than other coaches, particularly in terms of timing. Maybe he felt like he and his family being unhappy at Pittsburgh was a good enough reason to leave for a place they wanted to go.

What Arizona State fans need to know is this: This is a tempest in a teapot. It's the story of the week. If Arizona State wins eight games next year, there will be grins all around in Tempe. And if the Sun Devils go to the Rose Bowl within five years with Graham, his exit from Pitt will, at most, be a curious sidenote.

Brian from Pullman, Wash., writes: In your post "Imagining the perfect coach," you said that "There are only 10 or so destination jobs in college football -- places where there really isn't a move up." I'm curious to know which universities you believe are on this list.

Ted Miller: My list of 13 destination jobs would include (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas and USC.

Of course, everyone's personal list would be different. I'd rather be the coach at Stanford or California -- Bay Area! -- than Nebraska or Oklahoma. But the quality of area restaurants is more important to me than most coaches.

And immediate circumstances matter. Even before the Penn State scandal, following Joe Paterno would have been an extraordinary challenge. No one likes to be the man after the man.

Factors? Tradition, stadium size, all-time winning percentage, recruiting base and revenue.

Lolita from Riverside, Calif., writes: My name is Lolita Anderson. I am Dres Anderson's mother. I am so elated! Thank you so much for my son's recognition. You absolutely made our family's Christmas! By the way what rubric do you use when making these decisions? This is Awesome!!! Go Airforce! Go Utes!!

Ted Miller: Most of it has to do with on-field performance.

But some of it is based on having a cool mom.

The real work starts for Todd Graham

December, 15, 2011
There's the real world. There's the theoretical world. And there's the world of spin.

The real world: Todd Graham left Pittsburgh for Arizona State and didn't even get a notable raise on his $2 million salary because he'd rather be the head coach at Arizona State than Pittsburgh. His reasons? Really, it doesn't matter in Tempe. That's a question Pittsburgh should ask of itself, not Graham. It could be revealing.

[+] EnlargeTodd Graham
Garry Jones/AP PhotoFollowing one season at Pittsburgh, Todd Graham is now Arizona State's new football coach.
The theoretical world: Todd Graham should have stayed at Pittsburgh because he said it was his dream job and he talked to his players about commitment and told boosters about his commitment to the future and because a high-character person would honor commitment above all else. And he certainly wouldn't announce a breakup with a text message.

The world of spin: Todd Graham was Arizona State's first choice and everyone is thrilled. Graham feels horrible about the way he left Pittsburgh because he loves and respects everyone there. It just couldn't be helped.

You want absolutes of honor, character and integrity in college football? Two names: Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel. How are your absolutes doing now?

You believe in absolute honesty? When you last broke up with a girlfriend/boyfriend did you say: 1. It's not you, it's me; or, 2. You've gained 10 pounds since we started dating and your laugh drives me crazy. And I hate your friends. Except for the one I might ask out.

What did Todd Graham have to say about how he left Pittsburgh during his introductory news conference at Arizona State?
I want to first start and talk about my players from Pitt. The last few hours have been extremely gut wrenching for me, obviously for my family. I love those guys. I'm very proud of the growth that they had this year, both on the field, off the field, in the classroom and in the community. I'm very proud of them. You never want to leave a program, and I never dreamed that I would have to leave a program under these circumstances.

The timing of these processes are extremely rapid, and it did not allow for me to address the team, and that is very hurtful. I've never had to endure that, and I really regret that. I really regret that I didn't have the opportunity to do that. I reached out to them in the only way that I knew how, the only means that I had at my disposal because I absolutely did not want them to hear about this on the news. I wanted them to know first. The only other alternative I had was not to communicate at all, and that was just unacceptable to me.

I plan on my return to Pittsburgh to reach out to them and to communicate to them. Obviously my staff that's there has communicated, as well, and those young men, I just want them to know that I love them. Coaching and teaching is a passion to me, and that's something that's very, very important before I talk about anything else, that I want my players from Pitt to know that I love them and I'm proud of them.

You can believe it or not.

If Graham loved his Panthers and was proud of them, why did he not insist on delivering the news of his exit personally?
Well, obviously this transpired this morning in a rapid pace, and it was last night and this morning, and there wasn't an opportunity to have a team meeting and be able to meet with them.

Now, these processes move very quickly and very rapidly, and that's the tough thing about this business and about coaching. I've had experience with that before, and if there was anyway possible, again, that's — I never want to do that, and that's the greatest regret you can have, and it's the most horrible feeling that you have. But again, I reached out in the only way that I knew how because I absolutely was not going to just have them see this on the news.

In other words, Graham put what he termed "a gut-wrenching experience" in his left hand and the opportunity with Arizona State in his right and decided to endure the one because of the appeal of the other. He made a tough decision that many people make in the job market, only the news media wasn't Tweeting about it all day Wednesday. And there are, whether folks back East are willing to admit it or not, real world reasons why Arizona State held such great appeal to Graham.

ASU athletic director Lisa Love admitted she was aware of Graham's now even more justifiable reputation as a mercenary climber who constantly eyeballs better jobs.

Said Love: "I love the fact that [Graham's wife] Penny's parents are sitting right here and they drove up the road. I love the fact that Todd has family here. I love the fact that Desert Mountain was a place where they were investing and prepared to invest in property and believed him. I believed him. I can tell you that I saw that on job movement, but I believed him."

Trust. It's dangerous. But Love needed a coach after a muddled 17-day search that Wednesday's spin couldn't smooth over, and there was Graham -- eager, affordable and with a fairly solid resume. Ergo, leap of faith.

Of course, track records don't disappear. What if Georgia or Ohio State comes calling with $4 million a year? Why should Arizona State fans believe this is a better dream job than his last dream job, a phrase that the effervescent Graham throws around a lot.
Question: Because of your track record, how do you convince Sun Devil Nation, future recruits, the football team, everyone affiliated with ASU that you're here for the long haul?

COACH GRAHAM: I think the only way to respond to that is just being here. Obviously it was, like I said earlier in the remarks, that this is a dream opportunity for our family. It's obviously the first decision I've ever made that has actually benefited my wife and benefited our family. You know, I think that the only way you can do it is, like I said, I'm going to work hard to earn their trust, and I think trust is earned, so that's all I can do.

Right. Actions, ultimately, are real world tangible. Words are for worlds of theory and spin.

But words are all there are at present, and many of the words are going to be negative about Graham, and not completely without justification. Graham's perfect grasp of massaging talking points Wednesday evening often strained credulity. For example, he celebrated former Sun Devils greats Pat Tillman and Terrell Suggs. Suggs took a shot at him on Twitter, and Tillman, an absolutist on integrity in both word and deed, would not likely have been at the presser clapping for Graham had he not given his life for his country.

Graham also seemed to be unaware of the term "irony."
Question: When you get settled in, what's the first thing you do to get this program going in the Todd Graham way?

COACH GRAHAM: One word: Relationships. Start building relationships. That's a key component.

He's — officially — referring to the theoretical world. But he's — in reality — speaking of relationships of convenience. You do your best to get along with folks at your office whom you might not like. You talk as pleasantly as possible to annoying neighbors because, well, it seems smarter than telling them they are annoying gasbags. You nurture your world and love your family and friends.

A football coach enters relationships of convenience with a football program. He's got his AD. He's got his school president. He's got boosters who want to play golf with him. He's got to shake hands with lawyers who will offer unsolicited advice on using the tight end more and being more "attacking" on defense. He's got 85 scholarship players who need to be pushed, prodded and coddled in ways unique to their individuality. There is lots of talk of family but it ultimately is a business based on what the scoreboard says.

The real world will be more difficult for Graham because of his present standing in the theoretical world, and no spin can change that. He doesn't have a clean slate. Some will resist giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Relationships? What about those guys at Pitt?

But if Graham is who Love and school president Michael Crow say he is, "just being here" is a reasonable point A for hope. Point B be will be maintaining a recruiting class that seemed headed for a top-25 national ranking before Dennis Erickson was fired.

And the endgame? That's where the real world intrudes over all else: Winning, winning, winning.

Mailbag: Pac-12 culture vs. SEC culture

June, 24, 2011
Welcome to the last thing you must do before your weekend begins in earnest: Read the mailbag.

This is your brain. This is your brain if you follow me on Twitter. This is your brain if you don't.

To the notes.

Corey from San Francisco writes: So I watched the video about overtaking the SEC, and I find it sort of silly. Do you really think any conference will overtake the SEC any time soon? Will you at least admit the SEC is the best conference? And if so, I'd be curious about your explanation why.

Ted Miller: The SEC is the best conference during the BCS era. There is no way to argue the point: Five consecutive national championships and six different teams with BCS titles. No other conference boasts more than two.

Overtake the SEC? Hard to say. My first response is not anytime soon, at least not as college football is configured at present. If Larry Scott's grand vision of the Pac-16 had gone through, with Texas and Oklahoma among the Big 12 teams defecting to the Pac-10, things might feel very different today.

But this annual debate is a little redundant. So, Corey, I want to focus on the final part of your note: why?

I think it's about more than talent, fan frenzy and money. It's about culture. It's about the total buy-in at places where football is more important -- for better or worse -- than anything else.

There are a lot of good football teams out there as we head into 2011. Plenty of them are capable of winning every game. But the most challenging opponent for many top teams isn't the one on the opposite sideline. It's themselves. It's getting up for every game with maximum focus and preparation and not blowing one or two (or more) games to inferior foes.

My hypothesis is the football culture that surrounds SEC football, that most of the SEC players were raised in, provides that little extra bit of focus and dedication that helps a team avoid the Saturday brain cramp that turns a potential 12-0 team into an 11-1 team. Or a potential 11-1 team into a 9-3 team. Or worse.

The most obvious example in the Pac-10 would be the most successful program of the past decade: USC. The Trojans should have won more than its two national titles under Pete Carroll. In fact, the only defeat USC suffered from 2002-2008 in which you could say the Trojans weren't significant favorites was to Texas in the national title game after the 2005 season. And they were favored in that game. Go through the schedules yourself.

Further, I've also had numerous conversations with Pac-10 players through the years when they've talked about their team losing focus, taking a season for granted, partying too much, a locker room fracturing, etc. Those sorts of things happen everywhere in team sports, I just think they happen more in big city football out West than in the more insular enclaves in the Southeast. And I've lived long periods of time in both places, so I'm not just throwing mud at the wall here and hoping it becomes art.

Yet this cultural challenge -- some might offer that it's actually a healthy perspective -- is not insurmountable. Good coaches can create winning cultures. Let's start with something that might make you cynics roll your eyes: slogans and gimmicks.

The most important thing Chip Kelly brought to Oregon was not its up-tempo, spread option offense. It was this: "Win the day." Or, as the denizens of Autzen Stadium now know it, WTD.

And how many hokey things did Jim Harbaugh do and say at Stanford? "Enthusiasm unknown to mankind!" Gas station work shirts to demonstrate a blue collar attitude. Winning with "character and cruelty."

Even Carroll's "Win forever," was the endlessly repeated mantra of the USC dynasty.

That's why Cal fans may not want to mock coach Jeff Tedford's "Team matters" T-shirts this spring. It may prove to be a stroke of inspiration -- in multiple senses of the term.

You -- or players -- can be cynical about these sorts of things, or about an all-encompassing football culture, but how often does cynicism get cited as a foundational value of a successful venture? Other than a stand-up comedy.

The SEC has great talent, great coaches, big stadiums and lots of money. But its passionate football culture has played a role in the conference's rise.

Can the Pac-12 duplicate that? Probably not, top to bottom. But a program -- or programs -- can. They've just got to create their own obsessive, winning-is-the-only-thing-or-I-will-die, culture.

Ken from Bothell, Wash., writes: With the Pac 12 beginning to digest its new teams, what would be the next logical move for expansion? Obviously, a lot is likely to happen prior to the conference making a move, but do you see Mr. Scott trying to get into the Texas market again?

Ted Miller: Digest! Buffalo sounds tasty, but I'm not sure about Ute.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott believes there will be further conference expansion in the future, and his huge brain seems to be three steps ahead of everyone else, so I'm going to go ahead and agree with him.

In fact, he recently told John Henderson of the Denver Post this:
Do you see future expansion? “Long term I do. What I found in the process we went through, there were a lot more value for the schools that would be unlocked long term if there were further consolidation. I don’t think we’ll see anything in the next two years.”

Texas continues to be the big fish, but the Longhorns new network complicates its potential membership in the Pac-12. Still, the marketplace changes quickly. Who knows what the landscape will look like in 2020?

Tyrell from Salt Lake City writes: You were incorrect in regards to football profits last year for Utah. Utah was just shy of $5 million in profit (you can find the numbers from the same Sportsbiz website). That would have put them in ahead of a couple of PAC-10 schools, and considering they were receiving less than $2 million per year from the MTN West -- somewhat impressive. All that said, the new PAC-12 deal can't get here soon enough!

Ted Miller: Yeah, I messed that up -- didn't realize the list was only AQ schools and that's why Utah's numbers from the Mountain West were not included.

Sort of embarrassing because if I had considered it for a moment, there was no way that the Utes were running a $2 million-plus deficit in football. Dumb.

A number of notes on that oversight. Apologies.

Roger from The Woodlands, Texas writes: This was in Wednesday's lunch link regarding a [Publication name withheld] article: "Since the shakeout of last summer with Colorado and Nebraska's decisions to leave the Big 12 Conference, and subsequent frenzy that ultimately ended with only Utah joining CU in the Pac-10, word from several athletics administrators is that CU is having serious buyer's remorse. The splitting of divisions and even the playing of a league championship on home sites has been openly ridiculed within the new Pac-12. The conference in-fighting CU thinks it is leaving in the Big 12 has already ramped up at the Buffs' new home." Have you been hearing any of this? Are you holding out on us?

Ted Miller: It's notable that article is no longer posted. And didn't include a writer's name on it.

Have I heard anything like that? Nothing. Zero. Such sentiments do not exist.

If there is a person out there associated with Colorado experiencing buyers' remorse, please email me.

The only possible explanation would be that Colorado has to buy a new bank vault because its Big 12 version isn't big enough to store the soon-to-be incoming revenue from the RICHEST TV DEAL IN COLLEGE SPORTS HISTORY.

Or perhaps some are broken up about road trips to Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, Phoenix, Tucson and Los Angeles instead of Lubbock, Waco, Norman, Manhattan and Ames?

L Wallace from Yuma, Ariz., writes: That stat about Wazzu being ranked ahead of 5 teams Utah played last yr was striking. I say the most underrated challenge for Utah will be the upgrade in Coaching. I think [Utah coach Kyle] Whittingham is the 3rd best Coach in the P12. However, he and [TCU coach Gary[ Patterson and [Boise State coach Chris] Petersen enjoy such a huge advantage over their peers in the MWC & WAC. In the P12 Utah will face OC's and DC's that are future HC's. They will face dozens of coaches with varying degrees of NFL and bigtime BCS experience. They will face programs that enjoy more resources, video, computer, scouting technology and tools. The "Schematic Advantage" that Whittingham enjoyed in the MWC will be severely tested in the P12.

Ted Miller: Interesting theory.

You would think that the richer programs in the Pac-12, which have more resources for preparation, including coaches who command better salaries, will present a more consistent strategic challenge on a week-to-week basis.

We shall shortly see, eh?

David from Beaverton, Ore., writes: Is it just me or do you notice college football fans start to emulate the characteristics of their team's coach over time? As a Beaver, I noticed Beav fans had a bit of a swagger when Erickson was our coach and for the most part, the fans are more even keeled with Mike Riley. At Oregon, Bellotti and Kelly can and have appeared, how should I put this "a little arrogant" at times and there is a large group of their fans that more than fall into that camp. Trojan fans seemed to have a confident swagger with Carroll, that previously was a quieter confidence in the McKay/Robinson eras.

Ted Miller: Hmm. My first reaction: What might have happened if Jim Harbaugh stuck around Stanford for another five years?

Maybe. But I don't know if I'm really feeling your theory. For one, I've never felt that Mike Bellotti seemed "arrogant." Not any more than any other successful coach.

Do a lot of Penn State fans look and act like Joe Paterno? Bobby Bowden was one of the true gentlemen in coaching; not sure if the Seminole fan base is known for the same. Just as Ohio State fans aren't really known for their senatorial bearing, like the coach formerly known as Jim Tressel was.

Are Arizona fans wound as tightly as Mike Stoops? Will Washington fans shortly adopt the California cool of Steve Sarkisian? How are Cal fans like Jeff Teford?

Or did you just want to drop in a tweak of Chip Kelly?
Penn State assistant coach Jay Paterno, son of Joe, eyeballs a nasty, 90 mph slider and blasts it out of the park in this column.

His topic? Paying college athletes, a idea that has developed plenty of momentum of late. His position? Athletes already have a pretty good deal.
Paterno: Let me start the argument by making a proposal to parents and students alike. I am going to ask you to work no more than 20 hours a week for 21 weeks – with at least one mandatory day off every week. For another 23 weeks you'll work no more than eight hours a week. You'll get eight weeks off. (These are all NCAA-mandated time limits).

You will receive fall, spring and both summer sessions of education, plus room, board and all fees paid. For the 604 hours you put in, you'll get an education valued at $33,976 in state and $50,286 out of state (using last year's numbers from Penn State, the latest available). Keep in mind that number does not include several hundred dollars per semester for books and supplies, which are covered under the NCAA scholarship.

At those rates, the student-athlete on full scholarship to Penn State will earn $56.25 per hour if he is an in-state student and $83.25 per hour if he is an out-of-state student.

Proposals to pay college athletes are not fresh topics for the nattering nabobs. It's a near-annual summer column for sportswriters who mostly focus on pro sports. It typically includes this grandiose assertion: "The coaches make millions and the universities make tens of millions but the athletes, who do all the work, don't get squat."

And our current state of affairs -- hello, Columbus -- certainly has ripened this topic.

Yet, there really isn't even a need to reason with these folks. You just say -- or type -- "Title IX," and the debate ends. Everything else is hot air.

You can't pay just revenue-generating football and men's basketball players. Gender equity is the law of the land. So, end of story.

Paterno also points out that students-athletes have plenty of ways to get more, need-based money:
Paterno: If you and your family have financial difficulties, this scholarship also allows you to receive any Pell Grant money you are qualified for up to the federal maximum of $5,550 per year. There's also a needy student fund allowing for several hundred dollars a year to buy clothes.

Further, Paterno touches on the foundation of this entire debate: The odd cynicism we have about education.
Paterno: But forget the NFL or NBA for a moment. If I offered that deal to every parent in this country, how many would grumble and say that it isn't enough? But no one discusses this side of the argument. Even members of the media will say this whole thing isn't really about education.

There is the rub. There is the problem.

Lots of folks out there think everything is a hustle. That college sports is awash in corruption and hypocrisy. And, sure, there's a lot of that. But the fact that many so easily wipe away the value of a free college education speaks more about their dubious values than of the imperfect system of college sports.

Carroll tops with NFL players

October, 14, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

The Sporting News asked 43 NFL players which college coach they’d most like to play for -- other than the one they did.

USC's Pete Carroll was No. 1 with 12 votes. Three other Pac-10 coaches got one vote.

Here are the results, provided by the magazine.
  • ­ 12 votes: Pete Carroll (USC)
  • ­ 8 votes: Urban Meyer (Florida)
  • ­3 votes: Mike Leach (Texas Tech), Randy Shannon (Miami)
  • ­ 2 votes: Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech), Lane Kiffin (Tennessee), Joe Paterno (Penn State), Nick Saban (Alabama), Steve Spurrier (South Carolina)
  • ­ 1 vote: Bobby Bowden (Florida State), Dennis Erickson (Arizona State), Chip Kelly (Oregon), Ken Niumatalolo (Navy), Bob Stoops (Oklahoma), Jeff Tedford (California), Ron Zook (Illinois)
Here's what the players said about Carroll, according to the magazine:
Broncos CB Champ Bailey: “I don’t like coaches that are uptight all the time.”

Vikings DE Jared Allen: “I keep it on the West Coast because I’m a West Coast-type of guy. That’d be pretty cool. He seems like he has fun. It seems like he really enjoys coaching, and his players enjoy playing for him, with practical jokes and stuff like that. It seems like our personalities would mesh well together.”

Bills FS Donte Whitner: “It seems like the guys that come under him are ready to play in the National Football League. He runs everything. He gives his guys a lot of freedom, just as pro coaches do, so when you make that transition to the next level you are prepared and you know what to do with the free time that you have. [Ohio State’s Jim] Tressel is the same way.”

Pac-10 lunch links: Locker showing promise in pocket

April, 23, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

It really don't matter if I lose this fight. It really don't matter if this guy opens my head, either. 'Cause all I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm still standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood.

Pac-10 Bowl season: Redemption at 5-0

January, 13, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

The ultimate "theme" of the Pac-10 bowl season is obvious: Redemption.

And apology.

So the redeemed Pac-10 would like to take a moment to formally accept the college football nation's apology for all the nasty things that was said about the conference during the regular season.

And, to keep things civil, the Pac-10 also would like to apologize for putting a footprint on the forehead of the college football nation to force it to provide that apology with a 5-0 bowl run through four ranked teams and four BCS opponents and a Mountain West foe.

The Pac-10 also will accept a "thank you" from the SEC for agreeing to a system that prevents USC from playing the top team in the SEC, thereby allowing the SEC to claim four national titles since 2003 against teams -- Ohio State and Oklahoma -- that have combined to lose eight consecutive BCS bowl games.

The Trojans, winners over Ohio State and Oklahoma by a combined count of 90-22 in meetings during that same span, just wish somebody from down South would come out and play.

Wait... it would be fun... don't run away!

Wow. Your conference does have great speed.

The bowl season improved the Pac-10's nonconference record to 19-17 [Ed. note: This was corrected from 19-19] and 7-8 vs. the top 18 of the final regular-season AP poll.

No BCS conference played a comparably difficult nonconference slate. Perhaps ever.

Arizona won its first bowl game since 1998, 31-21 over BYU.

California's 24-17 Emerald Bowl win over Miami provided a showcase for running back Jahvid Best to jump onto 2009 Heisman Trophy short lists.

Oregon's 42-31 bludgeoning of Oklahoma State -- 35-14 in the second half -- which included quarterback Jeremiah Masoli twice pancaking Cowboys defenders, sent a message that you've got to bring your big-boy britches if you want to play out West.

Oregon State, playing without the Rodgers brothers, Jacquizz and James, who accounted for more than 50 percent of the Beavers' offense this season, held Pittsburgh to 178 total yards in a 3-0 victory.

And, of course, USC got all USCish on Penn State in the Rose Bowl, rolling the Nittany Lions 38-24, a game that, at 31-7 at the break, even Joe Paterno admitted was over at halftime.

Penn State shows up too late

January, 2, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

PASADENA, Calif. -- He's been alive 82 years, so Penn State coach Joe Paterno doesn't always lean on coaching clichés.

  Jody Gomez/US Presswire
  USC quarterback Mark Sanchez carved up the vaunted Penn State defense in a 38-24 Rose Bowl win.

So it shouldn't be too surprising that he basically admitted he thought the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi was over at halftime with USC holding a 31-7 lead.

"I thought it had gotten away from us," Paterno said. "Until they got to 31, the last touchdown, I thought we had a shot at it."

USC had outgained Penn State 341 yards to 177 at the break and was dominating on both sides of the ball. The Trojans were 6 of 8 on third down conversions, while Penn State was just 1 of 5.

The Nittany Lions rallied furiously with 17 points in the fourth quarter as, to use Pete Carroll's term, the Trojans "curled up," but the deficit was too large to spare them from suffering the Big Ten's fifth consecutive defeat in a BCS game by 14 points or more.

The Big Ten entered the game with the worst bowl winning percentage among major conferences over the last 6 seasons (.368). The conference is 1-5 so far this bowl season with Ohio State playing Texas in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5.

Penn State was much better in the second half, even with running back Evan Royster out with a knee injury. The Nittany Lions outgained the Trojans 233 yards to 133 in the second half and brought their devout fans to their feet in the final minutes as they imagined a miracle comeback.

"I think coach said it best in the [post-game] locker room," quarterback Daryll Clark said. "We just got going a little too late. And, you know, we were doing some things that we haven't been doing all season."

Like penalties. While digging the first-half deficit, Penn State, the nation's third-least penalized team, was flagged seven times for 45 yards. One offsides penalty negated a fumble from USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, and the Trojans went on to drive 86 yards for a 7-0 lead.

Penn State's touted defense was overmatched in the secondary by USC's passing attack and athleticism on the perimeter. Mark Sanchez and company picked the Nittany Lions apart.

"I thought our secondary was a little bit tentative," Paterno said. "I don't think we played particularly well in the secondary."

But, in the second half, the Penn State offense made USC's top-ranked defense look average.

USC has allowed only 17 plays of 20 or more yards this season, fewest in the nation. Penn State produced four plays over 20 yards.

"They were good," safety Taylor Mays said. "They didn't back down at all."

It just was too little, too late.

Sanchez gives his best, but is it his last for USC?

January, 1, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

 Jody Gomez/US Presswire
 Mark Sanchez completed 28 of 35 passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns.

PASADENA, Calif. -- It was supposed to be about a pair of bone-rattling defenses, but USC quarterback Mark Sanchez and his supporting cast rewrote the script and gave themselves starring roles.

Sanchez carved up the Penn State secondary like a holiday bird, completing 28 of 35 passes -- an 80 percent completion percentage -- for 413 yards with four touchdowns in the Trojans' 38-24 victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi. He also ran six yards for a touchdown, so he had a hand in each score.

And, yes, he said, he was a little annoyed that many so-called pundits had described the offense as the runt little brother to the Trojans' big-bad defense.

"We're a silent but deadly offense -- if you think about the defense too much we might just have a day like this," Sanchez said.

The offense scored 24 points in the second quarter, which is double what Penn State had been yielding this season.

"He made some really good plays," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "As a coach, you have to admire kids who do things like that under pressure. He just had a heck of a football game."

Coach Pete Carroll's effusive post-game praise for Sanchez included terms like "phenomenal" and "Favre-like," but the part that would stand out to Sanchez was Carroll placing the junior into the ranks of the previous Trojan quarterback greats.

"He played the same kind of football that Carson [Palmer], and [John David] Booty and [Matt] Leinart played," Carroll said. "There's no doubt that he's just as capable of being the best player in America, given another year."

That other year is in question because Sanchez is considering entering the NFL draft early. He refused to engage the subject directly after the game, and scanning his comments for subtext feels fruitless.

One moment Sanchez talks about a Trojans offense that could welcome back 10 starters in 2009, but the next he's agreeing his Rose Bowl performance should help his draft prospects.

His MVP performance largely redeemed a year in which he put up impressive numbers -- ranking 11th in the nation in passing efficiency and finishing with 34 touchdowns passes -- but also played inconsistently at times and was doubted by a vocal portion of the Trojans demanding fan base.

"The season has been maybe a little up and down for him, but we know what type of player he is and we trust in what he can do for our football team," safety Taylor Mays said.

Part of Sanchez's problem was an offense that leaned toward conservative much of the year because the defense was yielding only a touchdown a game.

But for the Rose Bowl he doffed the knee brace he'd been wearing since a preseason injury -- he repeatedly used the word "free" to describe how he felt during the game -- and the handcuffs came off the passing attack with dramatic results.

Highest completion percentage, Rose Bowl history
2009Mark Sanchez, USC80.0*
1951Chuck Ortmann, Michigan78.9
1986Chuck Long, Iowa 78.4
2006Vince Young, Texas75.0
1935Millard Howell, Alabama75.0

"I was on today," Sanchez admitted. "My arm felt live. We were clicking."

The downfield focus was by design. It's clear from the post-game locker room that the Trojans felt they could exploit the Penn State secondary and its cover-3 scheme.

"Anytime you play a team that plays cover-3, there's a lot of lanes in the middle of the field and we were able to find the holes with our speed," said receiver Damian Williams, who caught a game-high 10 passes for 162 yards.

Williams added that Sanchez "better come back."

If he does, the Trojans offense would take center stage while the defense rebuilds.

"With everybody coming back on offense, we're going to be a phenomenal group," Sanchez said.

Sanchez almost assuredly would be on the preseason list of Heisman Trophy candidates. If he comes back.

But if he bolts, he could end up an early-round or even first-round NFL pick this spring.

So what's it going to be, Mark?

"It's going to be hard to say goodbye to this place," he said. "I don't think I can do it."

The Trojan nation, back in love with Sanchez, will hold its collective breath.

Will USC or Penn State provide best answers to Rose Bowl questions?

January, 1, 2009

Posted by's Ted Miller

PASADENA, Calif. -- Redundant questions are part of any BCS bowl game buildup, but two predominant inquiries served to annoy the participants in the 95th Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi more than usual.

For No. 8 Penn State: "So what do you think if USC's top-ranked defense?"

"I've lost count how many times someone has asked about USC's defense," Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark said.

For No. 5 USC: "Penn State beat Oregon State, 45-14. If you're so great, how did you lose to the Beavers?"

"For whatever reason, that game for us was one that was not respected in a sense, and Oregon State proved that anybody who thought that was wrong about the year they had," USC coach Pete Carroll said.

The value of these and other microanalyzed curiosities will be shortly revealed, as the Trojans and Nittany Lions go nose-to-nose on a beautiful Southern California afternoon.

A third well-explored topic: Motivation.

Penn State is playing in its first Rose Bowl since 1995. USC is playing in its fifth over the last six seasons, and the Trojans began the year thinking national championship or bust.

"I would never back away from any opportunity to play [Florida or Oklahoma]," Carroll said. "I think with our defense that we have we can beat anybody. I don't have any question in my mind that could happen. I think Penn State is just as worthy as all of those teams."

That is part of it. It's possible that if one team wins impressively, it will earn a handful of No. 1 votes in the final polls.

As for that USC defense, it enters the game on pace to finish with one of the best statistical seasons in the last quarter century. The Trojans are holding opponents to 7.8 points per game. No team has gone an entire season allowing fewer than eight points per game since Auburn in 1988 (7.2 ppg).

"These guys pack a punch," Clark said. "But I feel our offense does, too. This is going to be a 12-round bout."

(Read full post)

Welcome to the circus: Impressions from Rose Bowl media day

December, 30, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Just finished Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi media day.

Penn State for 30 minutes. USC for 30 minutes. Get your questions in.

Here are some first impressions:

  • Penn State coach Joe Paterno began his moderated news conference while sitting on a platform by telling reporters to get on with it because he was in a hurry.
  • USC coach Pete Carroll began his news conference before the news conference actually began. Reporters gathered around him casually on the stage. He kept talking well after the 30-minute horn sounded.
  • USC's players were much louder. They counted down the final seconds and then jumped up to leave.
  • Penn State's players don't do a lot of media during the season, but quarterback Daryll Clark didn't seem like he was overwhelmed. He actually seemed to be enjoying himself. Thoughtful guy.
  • Question Penn State's players are tired of: "What are you guys going to do against USC's superhuman defense?"
  • Question USC's players are tired of: "You guys lost to Oregon State. Penn State whipped Oregon State. What the heck happened?"
  • Paterno and his players rejected the notion they are playing for Big Ten pride considering the recent lack of success in BCS bowl games against USC and the SEC.
  • USC's junior quarterback Mark Sanchez said he's not thinking about the NFL until after the game, but there were moments when he seemed to talk about the Rose Bowl game as his career finale. Please, take that with qualification as only an impression, but more than a couple of reporters raised their eyebrows. Of course, he may have just been faking us out.

More later... got to do a podcast.

Pac-10 lunch links: Norton lashes out at UCLA

December, 29, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

This will be four days of HoneyBaked ham and it still tastes really good.

Rose Bowl: USC (11-1) vs. Penn State (11-1)

December, 7, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

There's a chance an impressive win by either team might earn a scattering of protest No. 1 votes in the final national polls. But even without major national title implication, this is an intriguing matchup between a pair of traditional national powers led by big-name coaches who couldn't be more different. The popular storyline will be the Nittany Lions "HD" offense vs. the USC defense. It's interesting to note, however, that the Lions touted offense is nearly a statistical dead heat with a Trojans unit that's been maligned all season. USC averages 453 yards and 37.5 points per game; PSU averages 452 yards and 40 points per game. Oh, and the Lions aren't too shabby on defense themselves, ranking fifth in total yards (264) and fourth in scoring (12.4 ppg). Of course, USC, playing in its fifth Rose Bowl in six years, in many ways is in a no-win situation because of a nationwide lack of respect for the Big Ten. The Trojans also have dominated the Big Ten of late, winning eight straight against the conference by an average of 25 points, including four consecutive BCS bowl games.