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Tuesday, November 2, 2004
A diversion for the voting public

By Ivan Maisel
ESPN.com

Just to warn you: if you do not plan to vote and didn't vote, you may not read this column.

Two Mondays ago, Florida fired Ron Zook. On Monday of this week, Washington forced Keith Gilbertson to step down. And you thought your Monday stunk.

So let's get ahead of the curve. Write in and tell me which coach gets a pink slip next Monday -- and the Monday after that. Tell me now, because these Monday firings are screwing up my work schedule. I've got things to write, and the more time I have to plan, the better.

Now that Jon Stewart's work is done -- assuming the election really will end tonight -- do you think there's any chance we could get him to start covering college football? Can we get a Jon Stewart to cover the BCS? That might be an idea for Geno, if he ever actually writes something funny.

Here's my election tidbit for the day: Pittsburgh in 1976, Georgia in 1980, BYU in 1984, Notre Dame in 1988, Alabama in 1992, Florida in 1996, Oklahoma in 2000. Notice how none of those presidential-election-year No. 1s have won another national championship? What I'm telling you is simple: if your team wins this year, enjoy it, because you won't see another No. 1 for decades.

Unless, of course, the Sooners win. If so, then my Official Veteran Scribe Analysis is: Uh, never mind.


Wouldn't it be memorable if Oklahoma lost at Texas A&M on Saturday, and students at Auburn, in their dorm rooms for a bye week, rushed into their own stadium to tear down the goal posts? John Schiffer
Stow, Ohio

John, I'm annoyed I didn't think of that myself. The Auburn cops are annoyed you thought of it at all.


Where is the love? Why is Braylon Edwards of Michigan not getting any Heisman hype? Not only is he the best receiver in the country, he only hauled 3 touchdown passes and 189 receiving yards to kill MSU in the Big House?

Edwards for Heisman, let's get the bandwagon rolling!

Yawar Murad
Michigan '96
London, England

Edwards' problem is twofold: one, he doesn't return kicks as well, the way that Desmond Howard did when he won in 1991. Two, many of the teams ranked ahead of Michigan have Heisman candidates who are just as deserving.


I'm a Michigan alum and bleed Maize and Blue, but am stuck in LA for the next few years for grad school.

I was watching the UM-MSU at the bar where in Santa Monica where the alums all go and was honestly a bit irked when it was delayed fifteen minutes for the end of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game. At the time, though, I just thought to myself, "Hey, this is coming down to a last-minute kick, and I'd be livid if they cut a Michigan game in the same situation." I excitedly watched OSU's upset hopes sail wide left and then moved on to three-and-a-half of the most agonizing quarters of Michigan football since New Year's. But we faithful stuck with it and our 300-strong crowd went wild when Brian Thompson recovered the onside kick and Braylon snatched the 36-yard TD. When the D stuffed State with 5:00 remaining, we shared that euphoric energy that only masses of true fans can generate -- I could actually feel the chill of an October wind gusting through the Big House.

"We are now sending the signal over to Washington, where the Trojans of USC are getting ready to face the Washington State Cougars."

We were stunned.

The bar manager went through every channel on ESPN Gameplan and couldn't find anything but the pregame warmup for USC-WSU. I've been on the West Coast for a-year-and-a-half now, and I know they don't care about the Big Ten, so I would understand for the main ABC affiliate to switch coverage. For ESPN/ABC not to have a single one of its hundred or so channels that were covering college football that afternoon stick with such a game, however, is a travesty.

I'm sorry to be one of this week's many complaining fans (and with the Florida fiasco, I'm sure you have your hands full of them), but I needed to complain to ESPN/ABC and the computerized phone system just hasn't done it for me.

Thanks and keep up the great work

Ben Conway
UM '03
Los Angeles

Mark Mandel of ABC Sports responds:
Bottom line is we stay with a end of a close game everywhere except the home markets of the next game, which get the start of their game. So, if he was living in Michigan, he would have seen the entire MU-MSU game. Since he was in LA, he saw the end of a great OK-OSU game, most of the MU-MSU game and the start of the USC game.

Maisel responds:
Ben, you need to think of this sort of stuff when you pick a graduate school. I say it's your fault.


I wanted to add one more name to the list for Washington head coach candidates: Dennis Erickson.

Always a great college coach, but proven to be an average-to-mediocre NFL coach (though the San Francisco experience may not be really his fault), Erickson is a native of the Puget Sound area and would bring back the prestige to the program. He is also getting to an age where "job-hopping" may no longer be appealing to him.

Although, he is a long-time friend of both Gilbertson and Mike Price, taking over for his friend may be somewhat awkward. And despite the 49ers' terrible record, there is no guarantee Erickson will be available in the coming months.

Whoever the new coach turns out to be, it should be very interesting for the next couple of months.

Thanks.
Dan Sixkiller
St. Louis

The official policy of this column is that anyone named Sixkiller who writes in regarding Washington gets published, because there was never a more exciting Husky quarterback than Sonny Sixkiller. I e-mailed Dan backed and asked if they were related, because I am a Professional Reporter, and I noticed that they had the same last names.

Dan responds:

Yes. Sonny is my cousin.

I thought Erickson would add a lot of drama to the Pac-10 next year, being the former coach at two of Washington's rivals (Washington State, Oregon State).

Erickson might also set the record for most teams coached in one conference. That would be worth looking up.


You should have pointed out in your article (Monday) that while Oklahoma scored its touchdown (against Kansas) with 35 seconds left, Utah took a knee on second down at San Diego State's three-yard-line on Saturday. They also took a knee on the one at the end of the game earlier in the year, I can't remember for certain which game it was though. Texas A&M called a time-out against Utah in the season opener to score a touchdown at the end of the game to bring the score to 41-21.

Go Utes

Derek Pond
Salt Lake City

If there are any poll voters who reward sportsmanship, Utah may benefit. I doubt there are.

And I don't think Bob Stoops ignored sportsmanship. I think he assessed the BCS formula and made the decision that he thought was best for his team. I respect that.


Ivan, I know I may be getting a little bit ahead of myself as far as Tennessee's national championship aspirations, but don't you think the Vols deserve a little more love than what they are getting in the national polls right now? UT is currently 11th/9th. In both major polls, UT is actually ranked lower than a team they beat (Georgia, 5th). UT's only loss came against a dominant Auburn team. I know all the one-loss teams must shake out somewhere in the polls, but UT being ranked behind UGA is not only embarrassing, but illogical. Additionally, with games remaining against Notre Dame, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt (definitely the soft part of the schedule), UT is looking at 10-1 before meeting Auburn again in the SEC title game. I just wonder what the pollsters might say if UT were to run the table, of which they are very capable, beat Auburn, and end up in a BCS bowl.

Give a little love, Ivan?

PS: By the way, great call on the "upset alarm" on your Friday 3-point stance.

Chip Frazer
U.S. Army
Heidelberg, Germany

Chip, tell me you've learned the words to "Rocky Top" in German.

I don't understand why Tennessee is behind Georgia, and the coaches' vote is making the coaches look silly. This is a great case for making the coaches' votes public, but the coaches are unwilling to do so. I don't think Tennessee can beat Auburn, but the Vols that blew out South Carolina in the second half are good enough to challenge anyone.


I know you'll probably chalk this one up to LSU another conspiracy theorist, but please help me out a bit. How is it that FSU and LSU both have 2 losses, but FSU is four spots ahead in the polls? FSU had losses against No. 10 Miami and unranked Maryland, while LSU lost to No. 3 Auburn (by one point) and No. 8 Georgia.

At first I thought it was because LSU has struggled against bad opponents like Oregon St. and Troy, but then I remembered FSU did the same thing by almost losing to two even worse teams in Syracuse and Wake Forest. Please help. Am I a conspiracy theorist, or is the system actually this faulty?

Curtis Heroman
Baton Rouge

For all of you readers who have written and asked for more letters from LSU fans, well, we aim to please. Curtis, now that you mention it, I can't believe LSU is 17th, either. The Tigers haven't beaten a team with a winning record, and beat the two teams they've played that are 4-4 by one point in overtime (Oregon State) and three points in the final seconds (Florida), respectively.

That wasn't your point, was it?


Please tell me what is the media's fascination with Rick Neuheisel? The media is under the impression that Rick Neuheisel was given a raw deal, being fired solely for the gambling incident. The gambling incident was "the final straw". He had lied, cheated, and ran a very loose program.

Another thing that I do not understand is why the media thinks he is such a good coach. At both Colorado and Washington he had initial success playing with the previous coach's players. Then after the second year, when he started playing with his own recruits he is .500.

Finally you gave the impression that Seattle blames Neuheisel for everything. That is not true. While a lot of the current struggles can be traced back to Neuheisel's tenure, the truth is blame also goes to Barbara Hedges and the UW administration in general for hiring Neuheisel in the first place and for not holding accountable for his actions after he was hired.

Gene Gordon
Issaquah, WA

If I ever get worried about a lack of e-mail, all I have to do is type "Neuheisel" or "LSU". Sometimes, this job is like stealing money.


Ivan, you put out great work, I always enjoy the Mailbag and it's varying viewpoints. Here's mine. While I am a huge fan of The Ol' Ballcoach (Steve Spurrier) and a UF alum, I am not sure he can come riding back into town and bring back the glory days with a snap of his fingers. As Stevie himself said, as you look back on his accomplishments at UF, it seems even tougher now than it did then. I believe it will take one of coaching's up-and-comers to bring the Gators back. And if nothing else, at least the Zooker could recruit, so with the talent Ron Zook leaves, whoever comes in will have plenty to work with. I would have to believe that one of these young coaches would be salivating about taking over the program with all it has going for it. We'll just have to see what (athletic director Jeremy) Foley can do, and let's hope he has learned a thing or two over the last two-plus seasons about hiring coaches. Rob Campbell
Kingwood, TX

I don't know what Spurrier is going to do. Neither does Jeremy Foley, and I would bet that neither does Spurrier. He's going to think about it. There's only one coach who will be judged as harshly against Spurrier's record as Zook was, and that's Spurrier. Any other coach could measure his success against Zook.


I am not trying to excuse OU for their bad second half against OSU, but why do all the GameDay and studio talking heads want to erase the bad games also played by USC? Virginia Tech -- Granted, it was the first game of the season but VT is not in their class and was ahead 10-7 at halftime. The second half and game momentum was changed more by the bad officiating than USC. Stanford -- Down 11 at halftime. Only scored twice in the second half with the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter and Stanford basically was handing them the game at that point. Cal -- The Bears were nine yards from the winning touchdown inside two minutes to go in that game. Leinart was clearly outplayed by Rodgers. Again, no excuses for OU or anyone else not playing well every week, but can't announcers somewhere be a little more objective about USC? It's beginning to sound a bit like that "best team ever" speech they kept repeating about OU last year. And when that team didn't live up to the media's own created expectations, they were tossed aside and are still being penalized for last year's mistakes. Will USC pay next year if they don't win it all this year? S. Lewis
Kansas City, KS

With all due respect, what color are the hash marks in your world?

Let me point out a couple of things about USC. Teams are supposed to get better each week. That's how it works. USC beat the fourth-ranked country (Cal), and has won its last three games by at least 30 points. So complaining that the Trojans only did this or that in August and September doesn't carry much weight.

And do you really think that Oklahoma was tossed aside last year because it didn't live up to the media's expectations? I thought it was because Kansas State beat the Sooners, 35-7. I also don't understand how Oklahoma is being penalized for last year's mistakes. The Sooners are ranked second in the nation. You want penalized? Look at Auburn and Wisconsin. They're undefeated leaders of major conferences, too. Right now, they're on the outside looking in.


Ivan:

Here is a prediction for you regarding the much-talked-about corps of freshman running backs that are currently burning up the gridiron. They might all be gone by the end of their sophomore season and here's why: If Mike Williams goes high in the draft and has a good rookie season (which I believe is likely) he will have shown that a player sitting out a season for a non-drug/injury/discipline reason can still thrive in the NFL. If that happens, why on Earth would a college underclassman coming off a banner season risk injury or subpar season by playing his junior year when he could spend the year training for the combines, spending his agent's advance money and, who knows, maybe do something as quaint as attending classes and studying? I think QBs and linemen might gain from sticking around another year but running backs and receivers? No way.

Alex Hartl
Las Vegas

Alex, you're thinking like a banker, and not like a 19-year-old who wants to play the game. And for every Williams that would do what you predict, there will be a hundred who don't, just like for every Kobe, there are dozens of kids who try to go to the NBA early and fail.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.