Friday, February 15, 2008

Alabama grabs a generous mittenful of the Deadly Yellow Snow ...

Great googly-moogly! This Brian Cook vs. the Alabama Blogger Universe has truly reached the point of a genuine throwdown. There are so many posts on this subject that I simply must look at as many as possible before my fingers fall off.

By the way, the "Best of the Day" will be back tomorrow. I'm running low on time today.

OK, into the breach. First, we have His Blognificance, Orson Swindle at EDSBS noting the dustup for the second time this week, and linking to OutsideTheSidelines post at RBR:

Roll Bama Roll responds to Brian Cook’s slam of Alabama’s 4732 scholarship class this year. Many insults are paid to Brian’s hair, but as someone with an NHL-worthy playoff beard right now, we can’t say shit other than Brian is oversimplifying the case a bit (Alabama skoolz, represent!), but he’s not totally wrong here.
What is the whole hair thing about, anyway? So Brian looks like I did in 1975 -- at least he still has hair, unlike yours truly.

So, perhaps understandably, Brian Cook responds from his own blog, MgoBlog, rather than Fanhouse where he started the dustup. He decides, for whatever reason, to expand his scorn to the entire SEC rather than just Alabama:
There are two separate issues here.

Issue #1. Alabama is unlikely to actually have the nation's top recruiting class because a large chunk of it isn't going to get to campus. This is an irritation I have with the guru rating services and not an issue with Alabama per se. The best example of this phenomenon was Auburn's class last year, thirty-strong and top-ten on signing day but reduced by a third by the time fall practice rolled around and decidedly not top-ten.

This is indisputable. We even looked up the numbers last year. SEC teams often sign guys with little or no chance to qualify, and their swollen classes end up looking better than they actually are. The average SEC team experiences an attrition rate double that of the average Big Ten team, but this is not accounted for.
Does this remind anyone of the famous Jim Delaney letter to Big Ten fans? That's where Delaney essentially suggests that Big Ten schools were simply too good for many of the recruits that wind up in the SEC:
I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics. Each school, as well as each conference, simply must do what fits their mission regardless of what a recruiting service recommends. I wish we had six teams among the top 10 recruiting classes every year, but winning our way requires some discipline and restraint with the recruitment process. Not every athlete fits athletically, academically or socially at every university. Fortunately, we have been able to balance our athletic and academic mission so that we can compete successfully and keep faith with our academic standards.
Brian Cook took up that cause in this post, and Senator Blutarsky at Get the Picture had some fun with what Brian had to say:

The rest of Brian’s post, which purports to be an examination of the “ethical obligations” schools have with regard to educating their recruits, reminds me of that famous quote from Bismarck about sausages: “To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.” Anyone who wants to watch college football without being consumed by doubt over the academic standing of the kids suiting up needs to become a fan of the Ivy League, fast.

For the rest of us, the issue isn’t (or shouldn’t be) whether some kids are admitted to college with lesser academic credentials, or that somehow these same kids are able to progress towards a degree once in school. We know that happens at all D-1 schools, and for a variety of reasons, like legacies, financial contributions, affirmative action, athletics, etc.

Uh huh. The current debate is essentially a belated and expanded continuation of the one started by Delaney's letter, with Cook and MGoBlog carrying the water for him. Not that Cook's original Fanhouse post pointed this out, because that was all about Saban and Alabama, but with his recent comments Cook has now expanded it to include the earlier debate.

Meanwhile, Roll Bama Roll isn't quite done yet. Todd at RBR decides he needs a crack at Brian Cook to go along with OTS's earlier remarks:
I won't bother with Issue #1 since it's a personal beef between Cook and the recruiting services, and I couldn't care less about how or why he thinks Alabama shouldn't be considered the #1 recruiting class in the nation until the fall. But Issue #2? Fuck you. He can blather on and on about OTS's "voodoo math" and moronic points since OTS called him out on his haircut (and in this very post I've already referred to him as a "dick") and therefor name calling is fair game, but this is where he's a gigantic ass that should shut his whore mouth:
I could do without all the gratuitous profanity from both bloggers, and the whole "hair" thing as well. Personally, I think #1 is kind of important, and there was a lot more there for my interests that perhaps for Todd's. I reject the condescending argument that essentially boils down to "The SEC is better because it sets low academic standards so they can sign better athletes." That is wrong on so many levels. First of all, if the Big Ten places their academic standards so as to exclude more people from joining it's hallowed halls and getting an education, I'm not sure that's something to be particularly proud of. Second, the Big Ten may think of itself as the Ivy League, but it isn't. What this boils down to is just more excuse-making for a brand of football who's time has largely come and gone.

But on his second point, Brian Cook and I are in far more agreement than disagreement:
The fucking point is that fucking Alabama is going to kick kids off the fucking team for no fucking reason. The point is not that violating the NCAA's made-up limit is evil. The NCAA limit is there because the NCAA would like you to not kick kids off the fucking team, but for various reasons the rule's pretty easy to skate around. The issue is not 32 > 25. The issue is that 70 + 32 > 85.
I'm not sure he's right about the reasoning for the rule, but I agree that kids should not be kicked off the team if they are offered a scholarship, accept it and qualify for it. We have had this discussion around UK circles (albeit for the basketball team -- we never have to worry about a surfeit of talent in football), and I am firmly on Cook's side of the argument. If Alabama does wind up withdrawing scholarships from qualified players just to bring on a better player, that is a real problem, and they should be ashamed.

But before we get into all this bitterness and foul language, shouldn't we wait for that nefarious event to happen? Bobby Petrino did just this very thing a player a few years back, only he did it before the player actually made it to campus. In other words, he just blithely broke his word to another young man who had committed to a scholarship offer because he found someone better. That is just plain unethical.

Moving right along, Third Saturday in Blogtober has a few words for Brian, and the most relevant point he makes is this:
But what I do want to hit on is the fact that Brian is guilty of the same thing he’s often called out members of the MSM for over at MGoBlog. Knowing not of which he speaks. Brian has no clue how many players Bama signed aren’t going to qualify, no matter how many hacks he references. Even if he did know, he makes it out like it would be the school’s fault for the player not having the grades.
This is a fair point, and one, I think, Brian Cook would have done well to consider. If Alabama engages in unethical conduct by getting rid of players who came in good faith, fully qualified, then he has a right to scream to high heaven. But the truth of the matter is, attrition due to grades, injury, lawbreaking, etc. are unfortunately routine and the high probability is that at least 15%-25% of not only Alabama's class, but of other large classes all around the USA, will wind up not qualifying for one reason or another completely unrelated to how well they play.

Why take on this issue now? The only reason I can figure is that he wants to make a partisan case, an excuse, really, for the fact that the Big Ten has failed so miserably against the SEC, and continues to look like maybe the third or fourth best football conference in the land. I could be wrong. He'd probably tell me I'm wrong. I don't care. That's what I think, this is my damn blog, and ... there you go!

Finally, the Tide Druid weighs in and says it's all about getting licks in on Saban, and basically says that Cook is no better than the World Wide Leader in that regard:
When you’ve been fed the ESPN spin that Saban is worse than Bobby Knight himself, it is probably a natural urge to take a pot shot at Saban to make your new coach look better. Of course, it could just be due to the fact that Saban used to coach at Michigan State.
I don't know, I suppose he could be right. Who knows what loathing lurks in the hearts of bitter rivals, and sometimes a coach that you hated at your rival carries the burden of that hatred with him forever and ever, amen. Still, if Cook is just trying to gig Saban, why is he whacking on the whole SEC at the same time?

Finally, Nico at Roll Bama Roll decides it's time for everyone to chill:
Okay everybody. Calm down. Bama fans calm down. Michigan fans calm down. This has turned into a parade of ridiculousness on both sides. I don't have time to fully address this right now since I'm about to go out of town for the rest of the day, but suffice it to say that I think both sides have escalated this well beyond where it should be. It's okay to disagree but I don't like the personal attacks and I don't like the generalizations about people because of their place of origin. This has all gone way too far.
I think he's right. When the ugly language comes out, it's time to pull ourselves back in to rational debate, not wild invective. It befits neither side of the argument to descend into complete emotional chaos over this, and cooler heads need to prevail.


Unknown said...

Hell hath no fury as a Bama fan scorn. It was fun while it lasted, and I, too, was sad to see it degrade into what it did. But this is still college football, it was bound to happen.

That guy said...

It's Feb. 16 and the major topic in the SEC blogosphere is Alabama's football recruiting class. Why am I not suprised?

BestOf, how about it both our schools (UK and VU) bolt the SEC for the Big Ten? I'm tired of playing schools whose fans only care about basketball that one year a decade when they're pretty good at it.

Just to opine a little on the topic, oversigning has been happening for years and everyone in the SEC has treated it as a dirty little secret. It's absurd that the recruiting services don't discount classes on that basis, but really they're all about selling subscriptions to Alabama (or whatever) fans by saying nice things about their recruits rather than doing journalism, anyway.

I posted some thoughts on Delaney's letter back in January. I'm very double-minded about this. Viscerally I want to defend the SEC, but in reality I know that it's exactly the sort of cesspool that people like Delaney portray it as, and that I should support his efforts to clean college sports up.

I was listening to Indianapolis sports radio the other day, about the Sampson mess, and what struck me was this: IU fans are actually embarrassed. Not making the excuse that it's just jealous Illinois and Purdue fans spreading rumors, not saying everyone does it, but really embarrassed at the reputation of their school.

I want to be in a league where fans are embarrassed when their school does something wrong.

- PhilipVU94

BestofSEC said...


Yeah, I think everyone went just a little overboard there. Pissing contests rarely bring out the best in people.


I have often hoped we could see more basketball fanship in the SEC, but the truth is, it will never happen. Unfortunately, the Big Ten is not much better -- They have only IU and Michigan State as places where basketball is held in equal esteem with football, and I'm not so sure about Michigan State.

As to Delaney being right, I don't think he is, but he isn't totally out to lunch, either. I think the Big Ten pride in their academic standards is fine, but I think that using them as an excuse is not.

The unfortunate thing is that it is more a commentary on the elementary and secondary schools in the South than anything else. It's just a fact that kids in the Big Ten states are, as a whole, better prepared for college than in most Southern states. It's difficult to be too hard on schools trying to be competitive, and the fact that Southern classes are more likely to suffer attrition before they ever arrive on campus is sad, but a fact of life.

What bakes my noodle is the possibility that Alabama would actually cut qualified players to whom they had offered scholarships. That is unacceptable, and should be condemned. I'll wait until it happens, but I will certainly be paying attention. This is Saban's first recruiting class at Alabama, and how he handles the oversigning will be instructive as to his ethics.