Category Archives: Editorial

The FBI Sets its Sights on NCAA Basketball

Stop the presses! An FBI investigation suggests that “influencers” surrounding high school basketball hot-shots are getting paid by shoe companies and agents to steer kids to preferred One-and-Done programs!?! Who would have thought it possible? Maybe the better question…is anyone really surprised?

I have no doubt that there are blue-blood basketball programs and blue-blood wannabes that have a river of illicit money flowing to families, coaches, and other influencers that surround the top 30 or so recruits in the country. College coaching staffs may know exactly what is going on and are involved in the money flow. They may know what is going on and simply turn a blind eye. Some programs are not part of the system. They are likely the ones not getting many top 30 recruits.

This is not a question about whether college athletes in revenue sports should get paid (they should). This problem is about the leeches in current system that abuse their relationship and influence with high school kids for profit.

The reality is that every year there is a very small group of high school players who are ready to play in the NBA. The unfortunate reality is that there are another 30 or so kids every year who think they are ready to play in the NBA but are not. Unfortunately, this larger group of “not ready, but think they are” have “experts” and “advisors” whispering in their ears that they are the next Joel Emblid, Jahlil Okafor, or Karl-Anthony Towns, when they aren’t.

Like Ben Simmons, Jabari Parker, Jamal Murray, Stanley Johnson before him, it didn’t take a genius or any special eye for talent to watch Marvin Begley III play basketball and conclude that he was a stratospheric talent. Were there “handers” who profited from O-A-D decisions of these phenoms? I don’t know, and for these players, it doesn’t really matter. It is not these kids who suffer from the actions of the leeches. The only problem for hyper-talented of players coming out of high school is the inconvenience of having to delay earning millions by 12 months with the charade of one year in college.

The bigger problem rests, not with the kids who become one-and-dones and sign big NBA contracts, but with the hundreds of kids over the past 10 years who thought they were O-A-D’s  because their “advisors” told them they were and they weren’t. These players made decisions based on advice and information that was tainted. The players, not the advisors suffer the consequences of bad advice. Crestfallen players languish on the bench at one-and-done factories, realizing they were not as good as they were told. They are recruited-over by the next year’s hot-shots and the dream of the NBA becomes a bridge too far.

Who pays the price for this tragedy? Not the advisers. Not the agents. Not the shoe companies. The kid who would have been far better off going to a program where he would have been the star, where he would have actually played lots of minutes in front of large TV audiences, where he had a chance to get an education, and where, given strong coaching he had a chance to grow into a professional basketball player. He is the one who draws the short straw and suffers the consequences, while the leeches are off in search of their next protege.

I would suggest that “advisors” who get paid under the table to steer kids to preferred programs are not advisors but rather predators, just like any other predator who satisfies their own needs and desires taking advantage of kids. They don’t care about these kids, they care about getting a payday. These players are kids, from a stand point of maturity and in the eyes of the law. Most of their families are not well-schooled in the world of big-time recruiting. These predators who work their way into in the circle of trust of both the players and their families are are leeches, blood suckers. They are the worst kind of threat to the best interests of these kids and their families.

It is my bet that if the FBI goes public with the results of their investigation, there will some big names in college basketball running for cover. We also will learn the names of shadowy figures who, for the right payday, steered high school recruits to the basketball factories that wanted them.

Speculation at this point? Sure. Is there really any doubt that there is illicit money changing hands in an industry that generates billions of dollars annually and the athletes play for free? Pull my finger and it plays Mozart.

The Biggest Disappointments in the Big Ten, 2017 Edition

It’s been a long and somewhat peculiar season but the Big Ten regular season is finally over. Rivalry games have been played the tickets punched to Indiana. There were some interesting twists and turns along the way but what about disappointments? What were the biggest disappointments of 2017 in the Big Ten?

Inconsistencies

Penn State started the season out looking like a potential College Football Playoff contender. The Nittany Lions even survived a night game at Iowa which most visiting teams do not. Then Penn State dropped two in a row to Ohio State. Ohio State, on the other hand, had an understandable loss to Oklahoma but got absolutely blown out by Iowa later in the season. Michigan State seemed like they’d turned things back around but then were beaten by Northwestern.

Just what could have the Playoff rankings looked like if just one of these programs had shown some consistency? If Ohio State hadn’t gone from looking like the best defense in the country to swiss cheese in alternating weeks, would the Buckeyes Playoff hopes still rest on the outcome of the Big Ten Championship game? Or if Saquon Barkley had kept pace, could the Big Ten have had its first Heisman Trophy winner since Troy Smith in 2006?

Regardless, the Big Ten came off as a much weaker conference for all its ups and downs for the season.

Minnesota

Man, was anyone not riding the PJ Fleck train after last season? Not a lot of guys could’ve gotten a random catchphrase at a MAC school to get such play and be so beloved by the nation. Fleck did just that and parlayed that into an offer from Minnesota and somehow a contract extension despite having just now completed his first season.

Instead of lighting the world on fire, Fleck lead the Golden Gophers to a 5-7 record which is their worst is a stark departure from the 8-4 season prior. Fleck didn’t even end the season on a high note. His team got blanked in a pair of 30-point losses to Northwestern and Wisconsin. Add on to that, Demry Croft the starting quarterback is planning to transfer.

Maybe PJ Fleck isn’t ready for the big times in the Big Ten. It’s not even the first time that I’ve wondered just that. Time will tell but at least for now, Minnesota ranks as one of the biggest disappointments for the Big Ten in 2017.

Michigan

I debated ranking this above Minnesota but for those of you that aren’t Michigan fans, let me explain:

There are two types of Michigan fans. The first type is the rationale fan that understands the limitations of the teams and has reasonable expectations. This type of fan is unfortunately quite uncommon in the Maize and Blue fanbase.

The second fan is the fan that believes that Michigan is a perennial contender for the National Championship despite any evidence contrary to the fact. These are the fans that believe John O’Korn who is not as good of a quarterback as an ear of corn would’ve beaten Michigan State if it hadn’t started to rain. This particular group of fans is, unfortunately, the vast majority of Michigan fans so just based on fan expectation, Michigan is the bigger disappointment than Minnesota.

I don’t know if there was another team that entered the season with as much hype and expectation as Michigan despite not really having a track record for, well, anything at this point. Jim Harbaugh has a massive reputation heaped on him by fans and the media and an 8-4 season doesn’t really meet those expectations. Given the level of quarterback play, 8-4 was a miracle but still a disappointment

Maybe the postseason will provide the Big Ten with some exciting successes but if the regular season is any indication, probably not.

Email Tim at tim.bach@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Campus Pressbox Lost One Of Our Own; Mike Tews Will Be Missed

Campus Pressbox recently received word that one of our writers, Mike Tews, passed away over Thanksgiving weekend. While I didn’t know Mike personally, everyone at Campus Pressbox, myself included, talked with him on a consistent basis. Technology makes it possible for strangers to also be the best of friends in many regards. And when sports is the focus of the blog site, it’s even easier to form connections with like-minded people who are spread across the country.

Mike was a Campus Pressbox veteran. He was one of the first hires made by the site. That was way back when we were known as The College Football Roundtable. The site has evolved over time and Mike was a contributing member from the very beginning.

As a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Mike was a Badger. But he also adjusted well when asked to go beyond his Wisconsin roots. If something was going on in the Big Ten, Mike could always be counted on to write opinionated, responsible content. In a word, Mike was always a professional.

Mike may have considered Ohio State to be the toast of the conference but his Badgers are well positioned to rule the conference this year. I only wish Mike was still around to see Wisconsin take a swing at the Buckeyes. And it would only be fitting for Wisconsin to pull off what Mike would consider to be an upset and roll into the Playoff. Just imagine if Wisconsin wins the national championship.  Mike would have enjoyed the emotional roller coaster that every fan dreams of riding with their team.

When Wisconsin takes the field at Lucas Oil Stadium, keep Mike in your thoughts. I know all of us at Campus Pressbox will be.  And if you have time, please go back and read Mike’s articles. He was not only a Wisconsin fan but a true Big Ten fan so there’s something there for everyone.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com 

 

The College Football Playoff Is Not Going To Expand

Jim Harbaugh appeared on a morning sports talk radio and had some interesting opinions on things. I’m not talking about who’s going to be the starting quarterback at Michigan because no one cares, that season is over. What I’m referring to is Harbaugh’s opinion on the College Football Playoff.

The Michigan head coach thinks that the playoff field should be expanded from the current four teams. That’s not a surprise, a lot of people want that. What is a surprise is how many teams Harbaugh thinks should be allowed in. Harbaugh doesn’t want six or even eight. He wants 16 or at the very least, 12.

I’ve got two arguments against why he’s not talking any sense. One of them is why it’s a bad idea and the other is why it’s never going to happen. Neither of them has to do with Harbaugh only wanting it because it looks like that might actually be his best shot to win a title while at Michigan.

There’s a lot of arguments against why a larger playoff field is a bad idea but most of them aren’t taking into account a 16 team field. They’re more based on the argument for the six or eight-team expansions. Those expansions would be fine in my opinion but the double-digit field takes away the one thing that separates college football from every other sport: the regular season.

The regular season in college football is unlike any other sport, both professionally and collegiate. A team’s season lives and dies with every single game every single week. You lose in Week 7? Well, you’re probably screwed. Lose in Week 3? You might be able to recover yet. Compare that to college or pro basketball for a second. Their regular seasons are pointless, especially college basketball when 68 teams get to go to the postseason. You see teams without winning records go to the postseason a fair amount in all sports.

Except for college football.

The regular season means everything and if the field expands to 16 teams, the sport loses that sense of urgency to win every game. Take last season for instance. The Michigan-Ohio State game that went to double overtime in 2016 wouldn’t have mattered because both of them and Penn State would already be going to the playoff. Would players have played as hard if there was nothing on the line? Probably not.

So that’s why playoff expansion is a bad idea but let me tell you why it’s not going to happen.

Slowly but surely, non-Power Five schools have been creeping into the AP and College Football Playoff polls. Houston, Western Michigan, Temple, and more have all made appearances in the last few years. The Houston Cougars even finished 2015 ranked inside the top ten. That’s a trend that despite the reluctance to let go of the traditional “blue blood” programs that have the name recognition, people have started to realize that these teams can be and are pretty good.

What’s this got to do with the College Football Playoff expanding?

Glad you asked.

If the playoff field expands at some point a non-Power Five school is going to make it in. Suppose Boise State gets in and are set to face the USC Trojans. During the first quarter of the game, the starting quarterback for USC tears his ACL and Boise State wins that game. Suppose they come out firing on all cylinders and take down a Michigan State team that just can’t get in sync. The Boise State Broncos manage to run the table and are unexpectedly crowned the champions of college football.

Seems like it’d be pretty cool, right?

Not unless you’re a Power Five commissioner and you like money.

Per Forbes, a team makes their conference $6 million just by simply appearing in the College Football Playoff. That’s chump change when you consider what conferences can make from all the bowl games. Check this out: the Big Ten made $132.5 million from postseason bowl games last season.

$55 million base payout.

$6 million for Ohio State’s berth in the Fiesta Bowl which is a College Football Playoff game.

$4 million for Wisconsin’s berth in the Cotton Bowl.

$40 million for Penn State’s berth in the Rose Bowl.

$27.5 million for Michigan’s berth in the Orange Bowl.

All those major bowl games are out the window with an expanded playoff field so the Big Ten has 132.5 million reasons to not want expansion. Let’s all be honest with each other for a moment: money talks. Everything is driven by what makes someone money and postseason play is an absolute cash cow for these conferences.

College athletes can’t get paid and you think these conferences are going to share their money with even more teams and conferences that get into the College Football Playoff?

The University of Memphis has a better shot at making the playoff this year than we do at seeing a 16 team playoff so just go ahead, get comfy, and get used to a four-team College Football Playoff.

Email Tim at tim.bach@campuspressbox.com and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Are We Spending Too Much On College Football?

Earlier this year, Clemson opened a new $55 million, 142,000 square foot complex for the Tigers football team complete with a slide in the main lobby, a barbershop, a nap room, a players lounge with a bowling lane and an outdoor village that has mini-golf and a sand volleyball pit. It was just another building constructed as part of the endless facilities arms race in college football that is continually getting more expensive and outrageous as time goes on.

When I first read about this, I scoffed and said what a ridiculous waste of money. Throwing it all away on a silly funhouse just to entice top-notch recruits to commit to Clemson and entertain a football team while there are so many other more important things to spend money on. What about the main purpose of higher learning at colleges? What about the academics and the intellectual stimulation and growth of students and athletes? Are we spending too much on college football?

It’s no secret college sports departments are making more money than ever with endorsements, licensing deals, massive television contracts and donors willing to spend a lot and outdo other universities. Those with fewer resources must get money elsewhere through state government or mandatory student fees. Yet, no matter how they get the money, it’s a safe bet it’s going towards athletics, mainly in the form of facilities.

The prevailing thought is that better facilities lead to an advantage in the endless recruiting contest by appealing to young men and are a vital component if you want to win. However, even when upgrades are completed, it’s only a matter of time before another school makes an even grander palace and you’re left in the dust.

I have yet to find a study to show if there is a correlation between better facilities and better recruits. I assume it would be positive for traditional powerhouses but not for your average program because the top dogs have more resources to construct state-of-the-art complexes and hire top-level coaches, who I think are bigger recruiting tools than the buildings anyways. You put Nick Saban in an antiquated barn and he’d still probably win it all.

Facilities spending is one of the biggest reasons otherwise profitable or self-sufficient athletic departments run deficits. In 2016, “HBO’s Real Sports” reported only 24 Division 1 schools are making money through sports which means over 300 are losing money at a combined $2 billion per year.

In 2014, according to a Washington Post review of financial records from athletic departments at 48 schools in the five wealthiest conferences, these 48 spent $772 million combined on athletic facilities, an 89-percent increase from $408 million spent in 2004, adjusted for inflation. Those figures include annual debt payments, capital expenses and maintenance costs. USA Today estimates about $100 billion has been spent in the span of 11 years on college sports.

In my heart, I feel something isn’t right spending it on purely entertainment and that there needs to be a cap or limit of some sort but the more I think about spending on college sports, the less offended I get.

It would be hypocritical for me as a football fan to say there is too much spending when I enjoy attending games in nice facilities and understand winning isn’t free. Plus, I feel there is nothing that can be done about it anyways no matter how out of hand it gets. In a free market society, institutions can and will spend money how they see fit. If donors don’t like it, they can stop donating. If students don’t like it, they can spend their tuition money at a school that focuses more on academics.

Here’s the cold hard truth: Yes, the spending is absurd especially for fun and games but absurdity wins (just ask Dabo Swinney, Nick Saban) and college sports are the gateway to recognition, fame, and public appeal for universities. Plus, college sports benefit society in priceless ways that can’t be measured.

Also, I believe that sports are oftentimes a scapegoat for wasteful spending when it happens in so many other areas of life. Should we stop buying cars over $25,000, buying houses over $200,000 and spending over $300 at a fancy restaurant? What about the government spending billions for questionable reasons? We complain about how money is being used when we ourselves spend so much on mindless self-indulgence. We say the wealthy should help the poor and yet would you sacrifice everything? See…it’s not that simple.

Spending will continue to rise and more complaints will come but in the end, sports are needed just as much as academics. Yes, academics are the main purpose of college, but left alone, the experience would be a very boring one.

E-mail Mike at mike.tews@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051.

Photo Credit: 401K 2012 on Flickr

Traveler The USC Horse Doesn’t Represent The Confederacy Any More Than The Coliseum Represents Slavery

When there was an outcry to replace the Ole Miss mascot, Colonel Reb, I understood it. I could also understand the changing of mascots in other instances as well. So when I saw the news in the LA Times about the pressure being placed on the University of Southern California (USC) to change its mascot, I began reading the article with the best of intentions.

Traveler is the name of the horse that the Trojan rides on and that is the problem as described by Saphia Jackson and the USC Black Student Assembly. The Black Student Assembly was not pleased with USC not issuing a statement about the Charlottesville terrorist attack that injured USC student Aubtin Heydari. Traveler is considered to be reflective of USC’s support of white supremacists.

We should not be surprised that a university boasting a mascot named after Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s horse, Traveller, would be tongue-tied following the attempted murder of a student activist fighting for racial justice.

There’s just one problem. Traveler, the USC mascot, was not named after Robert E. Lee’s horse. It’s a difference in spelling for starters. Traveler with one “L” compared to Traveller with two “LL’s.” But in the eyes of the USC Black Student Assembly, it’s close enough.

Details should matter. Facts should matter. Close enough shouldn’t cut it. But in this case, none of that matters. Using the logic presented by the USC Black Student Assembly, let’s really drill down into the tradition of USC football and take a closer look at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

It’s obvious that the home of the USC Trojans is named after the Roman Colosseum. If you don’t know the history of the Colosseum, let me tell you, it’s appalling and I can’t believe that USC would be so insensitive as to name its football stadium after the Roman structure.

In A.D. 70 Titus conquered Jerusalem. The financial reward that came with this victory is what funded the building of the Colosseum. That reward included approximately 100,000 Jewish prisoners who built the Colosseum as slaves.

By naming its football stadium the Coliseum, it’s obvious that USC is glorifying slavery. Oh, Coliseum and Colosseum are spelled differently? The Coliseum wasn’t built with slave labor? You’re saying that there is no substantial association between the construction of the Coliseum and the Colosseum?

Traveler vs. Traveller. Coliseum vs. Colosseum. You say potato, I say ‘potata’. It’s all ridiculous. But one of these situations is being taken seriously.

We live in a world where feelings are what matter. The name of this poor horse is making a group of students feel bad. And this magnifies the problem with acting primarily on feelings. Feelings are based on emotion and emotion doesn’t often include objectivity and truth. Emotion can be based on whatever we want it to be based on.

Acting purely on emotion also places us in a position of ignorance and that’s exactly where the USC Black Student Assembly finds itself. In a state of ignorance.

There are plenty of legitimate issues for the USC Black Student Assembly to draw our attention to. But none of those issues include a horse. Claiming a horse represents the Confederacy when it really doesn’t won’t help the student activist group create the change they want to see.

Traveler the horse doesn’t represent the Confederacy any more than the Coliseum represents slavery.

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E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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There’s A Place In Men’s Sports For Female Coaches

CBS reporter Chip Patterson recently asked college football coaches if they thought there would be a female on-field assistant coach by 2017. 79% of the coaches said that they believed there would be.

I’m not a person who believes that gender determines if a person should or shouldn’t be working in a profession. If a person is qualified for the position then hire them. Male or female, it should make no difference.

Lakatriona Brunson was the first woman in the state of Florida to be hired as a head football coach. It’s been a rocky road for Brunson’s teams, but that’s not because she’s a woman. That’s just life as a head football coach. And remember, Brunson coaches in one of the most competitive states in the country.

Brunson did play in the Independent Women’s Football League. Having played the game certainly helps establish her credibility but it shouldn’t be a vital characteristic for becoming a coach. There are six coaches in college football who never played and they have been successful; Mike Leach, Paul Johnson, David Cutcliffe, Chad Morris, Sonny Dykes, and Hugh Freeze. So, to suggest as some do that a woman couldn’t coach football due to not having played the game is ridiculous.

Mike Francesa has a different opinion on the matter. Francesa believes it would be difficult for a woman to manage a group of men. I say that gender doesn’t matter if you’re a true leader.

One of the first arguments against Francesa’s opinion that came to mind was female executives in the business world. Francesa does applaud women for being successful CEOs and believes that women as business leaders makes sense. But he considers sports to be different.

“I have no problem with women advancing in business, they have every right to do and they will do it as well as men, maybe better. Same thing with politics, we’ve seen that. … In male sports at the highest level, running young athletes, bringing them along on the college level, coaching them, teaching them, disciplining them, trying to turn them into a cohesive group, is probably harder now, with all the trappings we have, than it’s ever been before.”

For starters, all those responsibilities that Francesa mentions about coaching exist in the business world as well. A great CEO or manager is teaching, mentoring, disciplining, and getting their department to perform as a cohesive group. This is a shaky argument from Francesa.

I would also say that the reasons Francesa gave for women not being cut out for coaching jobs in men’s sports are reasons why it would make sense. We are constantly told that the down fall of the American family and the issues with many young people are due to single parent households. Those households have a mother figure with an absentee father. It stands to reason that if a person grew up with a strong female figure in their life that it would be easy to show respect to another female in a position of authority.

The lack of women coaching men’s sports isn’t something that I consider to be a problem. However, if there are women who want to coach men’s sports and choose to take the necessary developmental steps towards achieving that goal then they should be supported.

Comment on this story in our free forum.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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The University of California System, The LGBTQ Community, and Anti-Semitism

After the state of North Carolina repealed parts of its LGBTQ legislation, the NCAA made the decision to once again make the state eligible to host NCAA championship events. The state of California has now issued a travel ban pertaining to eight states – Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Texas. California state employees are banned from using tax money for travel to any of these eight states.

The reason for the ban is due to the interpretation that these states either have legislation in place that discriminates against the LGBTQ community or, in the case of Kentucky, has enacted legislation that allows student organizations to discriminate against certain groups of people on campus. It is believed that the Kentucky legislation is also focused upon the LGBTQ community.

The Golden State forbids its employees from using tax money to travel to Kentucky. State leaders claim to be taking a stand against discriminatory practices and don’t want to give the appearance that they support those beliefs by providing revenue to a state such as Kentucky. This ban could have potential ramifications on California public universities playing away games in the eight states mentioned.

This is nothing but virtue signaling. Again.

The reason California’s apparent action against inequality is virtue signaling is that the state doesn’t apply this wide stroke of the morality brush across the entire spectrum. If California were to be consistent, its leaders would first look at themselves and what their own public universities have been permitted to get away with.

Anti-Semitism is alive and well within the University of California system. A study done in 2016 by the AMCHA Initiative, documented this wide-spread anti-Semitism.

According to the anti-Semitism watchdog group AMCHA Initiative, 69 anti-Semitic incidents occurred on 20 different California campuses during the recent academic year. UC Berkley led the way with eight instances, followed by UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz with seven each.

Back in 2015, UCLA student Rachel Beyda stood before the student council’s nomination committee. Rachel was hoping to be nominated to the student council’s Judicial Board. Her loyalties and her ability to be impartial were called into question based on her religious affiliation. Rachel is Jewish and her nomination was first rejected based on her religion. Again, this was based on religious discrimination. A faculty advisor was eventually able to convince the board to revisit her nomination and she was eventually named a member of the Judicial Board.

I urge you to go back and click the link on Rachel Beyda’s name if you haven’t already done so. Pay attention to the title that was etched on Adam Nagourney’s article; In U.C.L.A Debate Over Jewish Student, Echoes on Campus of Old Biases. “Old” biases? If these were truly old biases, the events surrounding Rachel’s nomination never would have taken place and The New York Times wouldn’t have had a story to publish on March 5, 2015.

In 2016, the University of California’s Board of Regents issued its Final Report of the Regents Working Group On Principles Against Intolerance. This report helped institute the system-wide policy known as the Principles Against Intolerance. University of California organizations that engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric believed the report discriminated against them. The truth of the matter is that this policy is nothing but window dressing as it’s more bark than bite when considering the lack of consequences for violating this policy.

In 2015, at the University of California-Berkeley, it was reported that the phrase “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” was found written on a bathroom wall. During that same year, a swastika was found on another university building.

The stance that the state of California has taken with Kentucky and the other seven states is mere virtue signaling. State legislators are telling the world that they stand against discrimination wherever it’s found. Except, of course, in their own state. And except when it’s anti-Semitic discrimination.

It’s true that California hasn’t passed legislation that allows anti-Semitism. But legislation isn’t needed for the state to issue what amounts to the sanctioning of anti-Semitism. If this weren’t the case, I’d expect a louder outcry of condemnation from the capitol building in Sacramento.

What the state’s lawmakers did in 2015 was “unanimously approve a measure urging the University of California to condemn all forms of anti-Semitism.” The word “urging” suggests that the tone coming out of Sacramento was if you do it great, if not, no big deal.

California is taking a firm stance when it comes to the perceived discriminatory policies of other states. If your state’s school wants to schedule a California team to a home-and-home, it had better think about how it treats discrimination. As for the schools within the University of California system? Those schools continue taking non-committal, soft stances on what goes on at their campuses when it comes to anti-Semitism. The state of California doesn’t seem to have much of an issue with what goes on in its own house.

The state of California could take a more definitive stand against anti-Semitism. It’s just more convenient and less controversial to take that stand with the LGBTQ community.

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

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Sieging Atlanta Twice: Will the SEC Do It?

Whoa Nellie! We may not have Keith Jackson calling college football any longer, and that is a tragedy considering some of those whom we do have to endure as announcers today; however, the game is as popular as ever and the 2017 season is fast approaching.

Over the years we have seen multitudinous adjustments to the game that many of us hold so dear. Rules have been altered. We saw the implementation of the BCS. And three years ago brought about a dramatic change that we thought might never occur in our lifetime, a playoff for member schools of what is now known as the FBS.

Yes, things have changed dramatically but our passion for college football has not.

“I believe the winner of the Iron Bowl could very well win the SEC and represent the conference in the College Football Playoff.”

When I was growing up in Lower Alabama we, essentially, had one pre-season publication to rely on. That was Street and Smith’s College Football Yearbook, and the publication continues to hold a spot near to my heart. On its cover would be a brilliant color photo of one of the players who was considered to be one of the very best in the country for the upcoming season.

Auburn’s own Pat Sullivan graced the 1971 coveted spot and, indeed, did go on to win the Heisman trophy that season.

Back in 1971 there was no ESPN, Fox or CBS sports channels on television. You had your local news with a sports segment that lasted about 5 or 10 minutes. And I’m talking about those few minutes to cover all of sports, college and pro, football, baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, et al.

And pre-season information? There is a bottomless pit of magazines, e-zines and dot com sites to gather info from. For purposes of this column I have chosen four magazines from which to draw the basis for my word to you today: Lindy’s, Athlon, The Sporting News, and yes, Street & Smith’s.

Phil Steele has not published his hard copy and that is the reason for it not being included in our ratings compilation.

What I have done, just as I did in the 2016 pre-season, is take these magazines’ ratings of SEC teams and average them into a consensus.

In alphabetical order:

Athlon has Alabama number one, Auburn nine, LSU 11, Georgia 15, Florida 16, and the Tennessee Vols 19.

Lindy’s also has Bama at one, Florida 15, Auburn 18, and LSU 11. Georgia and Tennessee are not to be found in the top 25 here.

Sporting News keeps the pattern of the Crimson Tide in the number one slot, Auburn is 10, LSU 13, Georgia 14, Florida 18, and Tennessee 23.

Finally, ol’ Street & Smith’s. Guess who’s numero uno? Yep, it’s the University of Alabama! LSU takes the 10 slot, Florida’s Gators are 13, Georgia is 14, Auburn is 16, and Tennessee 24.

And now your consensus SEC picks. Alabama 1; Auburn 13.25; LSU 13.75; Georgia 14; Florida 15, and Tennessee 22.

It is very interesting to note that no other SEC teams made any of these four publications’ top 25. Not one!

My humble opinion on this? Making Alabama tops in the SEC is a no-brainer. Why pick anyone else? In the entire country? That’s arguable. See Florida State, Ohio State, Washington, and, possibly, Southern Cal. Those seem to be the big dogs at this point in the discussion.

The rest of the SEC? I do like Auburn as number two in both the West and overall in the conference as a logical pick. What do I think will actually occur on the field? I believe the winner of the Iron Bowl could very well win the SEC and represent the conference in the College Football Playoff.

The East? Once again, this division could be won by default with it being a crapshoot between the three teams that are consensus picks in the magazines. I like Kentucky as a dark horse in the Easy. LSU will have a big say in the West.

But, currently, all of this is mere noise. Alabama and Florida State kick it off in 77 days. That’s when it gets real brothers and sisters. Buckle up! It should one heck of a ride!

Social Media and Money; A Match Made in Hell

The sports world has always had players with big personalities and big opinions. When you’re dealing with individuals who have big personalities, you’re having to deal with big statements and big actions. Saying that we have to “deal” with these larger statements and actions is a contemporary mindset. There was once a time that athletes could say and do what they wished without fear of jeopardizing their jobs. We now live in a world where we would rather use the statements and actions of these superstars to get them fired while using those same behaviors to place residual pressure on their employers.

Back in 2017, Buccaneer’s quarterback Jameis Winston spoke at Melrose Elementary school. Winston was offering these young kids motivational words of wisdom. He was trying to genuinely make a positive impact in the community. Winston knew what his message was and he knew how he was going to deliver that message. Then, as is the case when working with elementary school aged kids, things went off script. And as The Tampa Bay Times’ Tom Jones said, “…there was a piece of his message that was off. Way off.”

What was “way off” about Winston’s message was the interpretation of some of his words. Some of his words were interpreted to be putting little girls in their place. Winston was then forced to apologize as his verbal transgression ravaged social media along with the shouting head shows seen on the ESPN family of networks.

There was the situation that Colin Kaepernick helped create for himself. You don’t need a refresher course on his act of kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Whether you agree with his actions or not, the fact is that he had every right to kneel. Fans also had every right to agree and disagree with him. And NFL executives had and continue to have every right to be apprehensive about offering him a roster spot.

Current Seahawk’s player Michael Bennett has made some thought provoking statements about his team talking with Kaepernick while declining to offer the quarterback a contract. Bennett was correct when saying, “nobody likes race and politics in sports. That’s one of those things nobody wants to talk about and for him to bring race and politics in sports it struck a lot of people the wrong way.’’

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when race, politics, and sports could mixed. And it could be argued that mixing race and politics has been a catalyst for positive change. But that was the proverbial then. And this is now. What changed? Well, i’ll get to that.

Baylor Lady Bears’ coach Kim Mulkey was forced to issue multiple apologies after making comments in defense of her school surrounding the school’s sexual violence controversy. Mulkey has the reputation of being transparent with her words. She’ll tell you exactly how she feels and what she believes. ESPNW’s Michelle Voepel went so far as to say, “It would be instructive for her to reflect on how, in trying to defend what she says is “all the good” that’s at Baylor, she initially sent a very different message.” There was even the implication made by some, such as Dan Bernstein, that women shouldn’t feel safe at Baylor as long as “…people like her (Mulkey) are still there.”

So let me get this straight. Winston gets himself in trouble for suggesting that women should be silent and remain in the background, while Mulkey gets in trouble for being a strong, vocal woman? #GotIt/NotGotIt

At a party in 1985, John Riggins told Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “come on, loosen up, Sandy baby, you’re too tight.” People weren’t demanding that the Redskins cut him from the roster. Can you imagine a modern day male athlete referring to a prominent female as “baby?” Can you imagine that same male athlete telling that same woman that she was, “too tight?”

Missouri basketball legend Steve Stipanovich shot himself in 1981. He even went as far as to make up a story about how it happened only to have to come clean about the incident. This didn’t turn into a statement about the NRA as it did when Plaxico Burress shot himelf. And it certainly didn’t call into question Norm Stewart’s stance on gun ownership. However, when Missouri football coach Barry Odom spoke about the gun policy for his team, he had to go into defensive mode as he drew the ire of the NRA.

Anthony Peeler was the star of Missouri’s basketball teams from 1988-1992. Forget about Twitter and Facebook, we were barely using personal computers back then. During his Sr. year, Peeler was arrested “…on suspicion of weapons and kidnaping charges after allegedly threatening a female acquaintance with a gun.” Not only was Peeler still drafted, but he was the 15th overall pick in the 1992 draft. The Missouri basketball program wasn’t considered a rogue program whose coaching staff needed to be gutted and opportunistic activists didn’t offer to speak to the team about the (perception) of a toxic rape culture.

So what changed in both professional and collegiate sports? Why is the reaction to controversy so different now that it was decades ago? That’s easy. It’s all about social media and money.

In professional sports, there are mega endorsement contracts of both players and stadiums. Nike, Addidas, Under Armour, Sprite, McDonalds, insurance companies; the list goes on and on. Everything is about branding. And if something occurs that creates even the perception that the brand was tarnished, well, that means lost revenue.

Just look at Kaepernick. Other players, like Brandon Marshall, supported Kaepernick and chose to kneel for the National Anthem as a show of solidarity. Marshall lost two of his endorsement deals over it.

At the league level, the NFL has lost viewership. Is it solely due to the Kaepernick led National Anthem protest? Who truly knows. But the decline in viewership has been influenced by the protest. And that means a potential loss in money when television contracts are negotiated.

As for the financial impact at the collegiate level, look no further than the University of Missouri. Enrollment has been on a steady decline since Jonathan Butler led his Concerned Student 1950 protest. Attendance is down, dorms are being closed, and staff and nontenure-track faculty are being let go. And all of this is happening as tuition is being increased at the university. Those resort style dorms and student unions aren’t going to pay for themselves.

And the force that propels the Brinks truck for both professional and collegiate sports is social media. Money and social media is a partnership made in the extreme bowels of Hell. Yes, a true match made in Hell.

Social media gives us all the opportunity to be branded. And, to quote myself, everyone, including myself, feels a need to have a good old hot take. Hot takes get you a thumbs up on Twitter. Hot takes get you retweeted. Hot takes get you noticed.

[Merenbloom: Recapture Your Youth This College Football Season]

And when a person gets noticed on social media, the mob mentality takes over. Players lose endorsement deals, teams and leagues lose revenue, and universities see a decline in enrollment. Are those negative financial ramifications justified in each instance? Reality says no. But the nefarious marriage between social media and money says yes.

 

E-mail Seth at seth.merenbloom@campuspressbox.com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Pixabay

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