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23 Dezember, 2011

A Failure in Leadership: OSU, Tressel and the Sanctions Levied by the NCAA

Much ado has been made on the blogosphere WRT the OSU investigation, and the penalties that were released this week. Most notably are the people in a tizzy about the ONE year bowl ban imposed by the NCAA. When reading OSU blogs, and even the B1G blog on ESPN, the common theme coming out of Columbus was that there would be no post season ban. A scholarship reduction was expected, and the show cause against Jim Tressel was the believed outcome. The line has been firmly drawn in the sand (by OSU fans in my opinion) as to how egregious these findings are. In short, if you are a OSU fan, they were too harsh. If you are a UM fan they hardly registered a slap on the hand (USC fans tend to lean towards this side as well for obvious reasons.), and the rest of the college football world thinks its about right. The way I see it it is about right. There was some rule breaking going on in Columbus. Many people, coaches, students, and players, knew about it and did nothing. It took a federal investigation into a drug distributor to bring it to light, and even then there was an attempt to cover it up. I will try not to go winding down the rabbit hole on this, but come on Vest, it was a federal investigation, did you really think you could hide this from everyone???

A good friend of mine is a student at OSU, and is even involved in the athletic program there. He has first hand knowledge not only of the situation, but has met and talked with the Vest at least a time or two. He has the same background as me, and has and continues to stand by the Vest through all of this. Admirable. His point is that the Vest did what any good leader would do and take the fall for his boys. And now the NCAA has punished the school beyond what the offender has done. I agree that Tressel, when faced with a lose lose scenario, did what he should have done, and fell on the sword. His "resignation" enabled OSU to build their case that this was not a recurring problem, it was contained to one bad apple, and therefore, with the apple gone OSU could be expunged. The fallacy to this argument is the events that preceded it all. Leadership doesn't start at the point that extreme action has to be taken. As leaders we always try to protect the boys. To a fault at some times. With nothing else to compare this to (I am not a head football coach at a major university)  I am left with comparing this to the countless inventories that are due every month. If there is a discrepancy on one of the inventories, the report must be made immediately. The ass chewing and even possible punishment handed out is much less severe than if you fail to report it and hope it all goes away. Bad news does not get better with time. There is a lot more to effective leadership than just "protecting your boys." How were the boys protected when he let them play in a game he KNEW they should not be playing in? How was he protecting his boys when he lied to the NCAA about the same thing? How is he able to protect his boys now that he is no longer coaching the team? No, the Vest had an obligation, not to HIMSELF, but to his BOYS, to report his knowledge of the incidents as soon as he learned of them. Is it unpopular to do this? Of course. He would without a doubt have gotten an evil eye or two from the players and fans. As a leader he has to be able to deal with that, and do what is right for his team. Hiding it only compounded the problems and in turn he ruined the chance any of those kids had at a decent year, and by proxy draft stock and so on.

Look at Terrell Pryor. His legacy at that school and across the nation is one of a selfish child. If the Vest does the right thing in the beginning TP sits a game or two, plays his senior season, and concludes his career quite possibly on a high note with no bad PR in his way to a top round draft pick and a potentially great career in the NFL (as a TE, but that's another post).

I don't see how to defend the Vest's position on this. He claims fear for his players safety. By my estimation, he was not the best person to know that. In fact, to best PROTECT his boys, he should have involved whomever he needed to to ensure that they were safe. No, as sad as it is, he lied not to protect his boys, but to protect the image he had conjured up for himself and the school he represented. That is a failure of leadership in my book. I am sure that he has influenced far more young men for good than the other way around. As is always the case, 1000 good things are wiped away by ONE single bad decision, and no one knows that any better than the Vest right now.

As for how severe the punishment was, well I think the end state here is that there were several players breaking the rules, and the head coach knew about it and did not report it. That it was only a small dollar amount probably saved OSU on this one. The rabbit hole of how ridiculous the rules are on this will be explored another time, but suffice it to say that I do not agree. My contention during all of this is that the shear number of players involved and the continued onslaught of reports that came out of it insinuated a lack of control. But that is why I am not levying the punishment. I know nothing of what ACTUALLY happened. Given what is in the official reports though, I would say things are copacetic. OSU will hardly be phased by this. The post season ban for next year hurts as I see them as a competitive force in the, ahem, Leaders division. I also see UM as the, ahem, Legends favorite, and as such will NEVER pick OSU over UM in ANY situation, regardless of how hopeless it is. So I do not see Pasadena in their future next year. Is it fairly annoying? Yes, but totally recoverable. Meyer is already recruiting the heck out of the midwest, and by all accounts should continue to do so. The loss of scholies is not brutal. THREE in one season for THREE seasons is hardly a death blow. It might cause some depth issues down the road, but if dealt with correctly, should not effect the overall strength of the team.

In closing, to the Buckeye fans, I leave you with this. Persevere through the nonsense that is the NCAA. Try not to wrap yourselves too tight around the penalties. I know it is tough that the school is punished for the wrongs of a few, but such is life. The future is bright there. UM/OSU will continue to be The Game. In TWO years the fans will hardly remember the names of the ones who sold gear.

Fortitudine Vincimus

Merry Christmas!!

07 Dezember, 2011

UM vs MSU: The Controversy

(ed. note: This is a total venting post.)

Holy crap. If I hear one more fan, blogger or random college football guru say one more time "MSU got shafted, and UM is going to a better bowl game even though MSU beat UM in the head to head by two touchdowns" I am going to scream. As anyone who follows football knows (and the people mentioned are presumably this type) the distributive property (DP) NEVER works out in college football, or athletics really in general. Just because team A beats team B, doesn't mean that it will beat team C, whom team B beat. Never works. Just look at this scenario. UM beats Notre Dame, who beat MSU. So that means UM beats MSU, right? Nope. And MSU loses to Nebraska, who then should beat UM right? No again. So why do these self proclaimed pundits keep saying that MSU was such a better team. Lets break it down shall we.

ND beats MSU, well pounded really. MSU was on the road. Against UM, ND lost on the craziest 72 seconds in college football history. They too were on the road at UM. So, how does this even out? Well you could say that UM offense is much more explosive than MSU, which is a true statement, and was therefore able to keep pace with a ND offense that was pretty good, but definitely not great. So we will say for arguments sake that the UM offense was able to feed off the momentum of being at home and keep pace with ND, whereas MSU was flustered and never recovered. Still, you have to give the UM squad the benefit of the doubt here as they showed the rest of the season that the offense is explosive. UM wins this battle.

UM loses to MSU. By two touchdowns. While on the road. Bad Denard showed up in the fourth quarter and threw it to the wrong team, who then ran it in for a TD. Basically, UM was one bad throw from tying the game. That is what good defenses do though, they make the other team make mistakes. So we have to give them credit here. UM lost by two touchdowns, got it. Moving on,

MSU loses to Nebraska (UNL). By three touchdowns. On the road. Bad Sparty showed up and got worked by a UNL team that was hot and cold all season. There was no one play here. It was all bad for Sparty who was never in it. Then UNL goes to the Big House and gets curb stomped to death in a game that also was never really close in the half that mattered. A loss here is a loss though, and since both UM's win and MSU's loss were in convincing fashion the winner has to go to the team that won.

UM loses to Iowa (shudder). Also on the road. By eight points. Also should have had at least a chance to tie it if not for sub-par officiating. Difference here of course is that UNL is ranked while Iowa is just rank. Hmm....  Oh yea, and Sparty played them on the road the following week and manhandled them. So, Iowa is a loss for UM.

Meanwhile, in the win category UM handled the teams it was supposed to handle. Example: Minnesota. Worked them over to the tune of 50 plus points. MSU, barely beat them. Now teams change throughout the course of a season, one of the principal reasons that the DP does not work, so since I am arguing against the DP, I can't use that here. So even though I feel I can argue this for UM, we will call this example a push.

And on and on.

If you are scoring at home, we have a push, and two wins for each team in this simulated Distributive Property Mash Up.  Equaling out in a split decision. These teams are on equal footing by this logic.

So you see, there is no way to compare teams via the distributive property like that. The way the ranking system works is this: lose, you drop in the polls. Win, you move up ONLY if teams ahead of you stumble, or you win so big against a good team that the pollsters have to move you up. MSU lost early to ND, which didn't allow them to enter the polls till later in the season. UM ripped off 6 straight wins. MSU loses again to UNL, drops back in the polls. After the MSU game, UM won, and then lost to Iowa. Then they didn't lose again until..wait, they haven't lost since. Like it or not, when MSU went to the CCG, they lost. When they lost they were forced down in the polls. Is it unfair? Maybe. But think about this, it happened to ALL the teams that lost. No one singled Sparty out and said they specifically could not go to a bowl game. They just fell victim to the same process that every other team in the country is also a part of. In the final BCS standings, there are only three teams separating them. With 120 teams and 11 conferences in play here, three spots is not that bad. So fergodssake, let it go already!!!

Well I will do what I always do, endure all the nonsense and smile knowingly when karma, or good will, or fortune, or whatever you call it deals the equaling hand.

Fortitudine Vincimus

UFC Welcome Post

With the UM football season winding down (no game until Jan 3rd), and Dallas losing to the Arizona Cardinals (see the carnage of clock (mis) management here), and thereby causing me to lose hope once again that they will pick up their 6th super bowl ring, lets take a little time and explore my UFC musings.

First off, I love combat sports. It really is the only sport where the "players" are out to end the contest by obliterating their opponent. Whether it is by a brutal knock out, or by forcing them into submission, the primary goal is to beat the opposition. This strikes many as brutal and to an extent it is. There is a higher set of rules though, that I feel the good ones follow. These are the fighters that I choose to root for. Arrogance, cockiness, "swagger" (i really, really hate that word) is not an attribute of these fighters. They respect all, and fear no one. They willingly take to the cage to engage their opponent in martial combat. Most relish the contact, but all strive for that balance between taking contact and delivering their own. After the fight they will often help their opponent up, check to make sure they are ok, and may even embrace them as brothers. Its more than sportsmanship. The good ones look forward to the combat, and once done, they always respect their opponent more. Not all are friends of course, but there is almost always a mutual respect for each other. The code I mentioned above is summed up very well in one of my all time favorite movies Ronin. In one particular scene, a supporting character (Jean-Pierre) asks the lead character, played by Robert Deniro, if he understands the warrior code. The need to serve something higher than themselves on the field of combat. What is left if there is no longer that serving need? Only, "a man without a master". In a personal musing of mine I have compiled pages of quotes, most of them centered around the warrior ethos. That quote, and I encourage you to look it up to read it in its entirety, is definitely my favorite. It encompasses my belief that Honor comes before arrogance, Servitude comes before cockiness, and winning will only come with the desire to do both to the best of your ability.  The fact that in today's society you can achieve great things by using pure athleticism is disconcerting to me. To see grown men mix words with each other is shameful and lacks a certain respect for them mutually. All the instigating words spoken before the matches are mostly propaganda forced upon the fighters by the promoters, a sad price to pay for the sport. But there are certain fighters who have been able to side step the back and forth and choose to let their actions in the ring speak for themselves.

Ok, so I will now step off my soap box and continue on to reviewing some recent results in the ring, and talk about a couple of upcoming fights. The TUF (Ultimate Fighter TV series) finale ended spectacularly for the two winning fighters in the show, and sort of fizzled for the main event between the coaches. I grudgingly accept that Bisping won this fight by totally dominating an opponent who I don't particularly care for, but rooted for nontheless because of my dislike for Bisping (see above and think OPPOSITE!). Mayhem was not prepared for this fight physically, or emotionally. He had not fought in over a year, and his previous fights had been in the underwhelming Strikeforce promotion. This amount of time off is usually reserved for injuries (of which he had none) or a lack of contract. In either case though the challenge in this sport is staying in fight condition, which you do by fighting. No amount of sparring or treadmill time can equate to the pressure, weight cut, and build up of fight week. It is all very taxing and I think it showed. Additionally he spent the last few months in verbal sparring matches with Bisping as they were coaches on TUF. Whether Bisping got into his head no one knows, but I am sure it was an inefficient way to train for a fight.

Meanwhile, in the undercard, the latest addition to the UFC, the featherweights and bantamweights, went toe to toe for their respective contracts. The bantamweight fight between John Dodson and TJ Dilleshaw was a huge upset. Dodson, who annoyed most of the fighters in the house by not respecting his team and leaking vital fight information to his buddies on the other side, came out swinging and effectively took away the wrestling of ground and pound artist Dilleshaw. Dodson was a huge underdog due to his height disadvantge, but showed you can win at a high level without reach (although his reach was actually pretty even with Dilleshaw, monkey arms??). In the featherweight match top class Brazilian Diego Brandao handled Dennis Bermudez fairly easily, although he did get knocked down early in the first. This kid is good. He has a rather sizable chip on his shoulder that I would like to see go away as he has more success, but for now  he is a good up and coming fighter for this packed division. One thing about the little guys is that they rarely have a slow match. Their conditioning is always top notch and rarely do fights go the distance. I was extremely glad to them added to the UFC.

The next season of TUF promises to be a good one as Uriajah Faber and Dominick Cruz square off as coaches. For those of you who do not know the history behind this rivalry, check it out here. See Faber's take here. And Cruz's take here. Bottom line, it will make for good TV. Also, it will be live and on FX as opposed to Spike, so something else to look forward to. Dana White really is a marketing genius.

I am looking forward to the Jon Jones fight coming up, as well as Georges St Pierre (aka GSP, but not to be confused with THAT GSP). More to follow on those fights as they get closer.

Fortitudine Vincimus

06 Dezember, 2011

B1G Title Game, and Why the Sugar Bowl is the Best Place to Go Bowling

The Big Ten Football Championship Trophy

UM's reward for the 2011 campaign 

(ed. note: Sorry this is coming out a few days late. I had to modify the content due to its lateness, so it has less to do with the B1G championship game, as it was intended, and more to do with the Sugar Bowl. Enjoy!)
UM football has the weekend off this week, as it is Championship Week, and well, they did not qualify for the game. An overall good season has one black mark on it. The loss to Iowa. This was about the only game that I watched where I just didn't think they came to play. They were pushed around up front on offense and defense, and just generally failed to compete. I can't sit here and say that they lost because of a blown call on the last play of the game in the end zone. They were down by eight, not six or seven. Completing the two point conversion would not have been easy given how they struggled to move the ball that game. So no, that game was lost well before the final drive. If the team had played like they were capable, they would have won. Simple as that. With the win, they would then be playing for the B1G championship this weekend, but instead they are at home watching.  As it stands, UM is waiting for the bowl selection process to play out and grant them a BCS bowl (more on that in a bit).

Just because UM is not playing doesn't mean they don't care who wins (well I care who wins anyway)

From what I have read, read, and read again, UM is being slotted in the Sugar Bowl. At first, when the projections started flowing in, I had reservations. UM benefited from a generous schedule. 8 Home games. An away game at Northwestern, where the UM fan base out numbers the NW fan base. Missing Penn State, and Wisconsin. Not to say that they have not impressed with their wins. In fact,  I firmly believe that on a neutral field UM defeats either one of those teams. But playing them would wear on the team, and that is no small thing. So while I am super excited to watch the team play, I am not super excited about losing another bowl game. Enter the Sugar Bowl. The projection has UM playing against a ridiculously overrated Houston team. Follow that link and tell me where a team is going to be challenged. And I thought UM's schedule was easy. The only team from a big six major conferance that they played was UCLA. And before you say that they have to be good since they are playing this week for the PAC 12 championship, I must remind you that USC is currently serving their penance for Reggie Bush's sins. Otherwise, USC is in that game and UCLA is playing in the "Yikes, How Bad do we Suck" Bowl in Albuquerque, NM. Ok, so they aren't that bad, but still, Houston squeaked out that win. I think that this game benefits UM in so many different ways. One, they get put back on the national stage. A feat that the fan base of UM has been waiting a long time for. Two, its winnable. Yes, lose and get ridiculed. But win, and UM is back in the conversation for best teams in the B1G. Not to mention they should get a favorable ranking next year, which is ultra important for making a National Championship run.

So that just happened. While UM was always a bit of a shoe-in for this bowl, I think I can safely say the college football world was appalled at the pick of Virginia Tech (yes that VT)  to be their opponent. As I was drafting this post, real world/work/vacation kicked in and I had to delay the posting. I am glad I did. WOW. Ok, so now it is reality. Reality bites. I think all college football fans are disgusted with the way this all plays out. As much as I love UM, there were at least 2-3 other teams more deserving of a spot here. Bowls are about money first, storylines second, and good matchups of the best teams available a DISTANT third. Let's examine the pick here:

 Michigan (BCS #13)averages 34 points per contest and the Hokies  (BCS #11)average 28. Many fans complained/will complain about the LSU-Alabama game because of lack of points. That should not be a problem in this game. Of course both teams sport above average defense, tied for 7th nationally at 17.2 points/game. But no one thinks this will be a defensive struggle. These teams score, and while UM has improved their defense dramatically this year, VT will get theirs one way or another.The fact remains though, that these are two teams who have faced little in the way of real talent this year. UM is 1-1 against teams currently ranked in the top 25. VT is 0-2 with BOTH losses coming against THE SAME TEAM!!

That provides the third picking standard. Now, lets examine the first two, and most important, criteria.

Money: UM fans travels well. With alumni scattered around the country (and world for that matter) there has never been a problem getting fans to buy tickets, and by proxy hotel rooms, food, gas and all the other money making endeavors that come with going to a different city to watch a football game. No doubt, UM fans will be spending money over the new years holiday in New Orleans. Considering that the Sugar Bowl forks out $18,000,000 (!) for this game, it is still a business and needs to regain something out of it. (BTW don't ask me how they make this money back. I have no idea. I am sure advertising and TV contracts help, but I just don't understand how they make this money year in and year out) VT, meanwhile, has a history with the SB, and likely will travel well, as they have in the past for this game.

Storylines: I can't speak to the VT angle on this as well as the UM angle, but I will try. VT has only two losses, as mentioned above. Although they were to the same team, they have good balance on offense and defense, plenty of history with the bowl, and like it or not, made it into the ACC championship game (ask MSU how it feels to finish second in the conference and not even get an invite to the BCS). VT fields a "Beamer-like" team, with speed and athleticism at all positions, and a strong defense. Their running back ranks 7th nationally in yards gained, and their special teams are.... ok that is the only un"Beamer-like" thing about this team. They are actually pretty horrible in that area for the first time in forever.

As for UM, well besides the massive defensive turnaround mentioned above (108th in 2010, to 7th in 2011) this is a program steeped in college football lore. In recent seasons, however, it has fallen on some hard times. The RR era was a failure. The fans (not just me, but I am included) are begging to be recognized in the national spotlight again. We have the B1G coach of the year (and maybe nationally) and two of the best coordinators in the game to back him up. We have last season's Big11Ten player of the year in Denard Robinson, and although he threw waaaaay too many interceptions this year to receive any accolades, he remains the most explosive player in all of college football.

So of course I have my own interests at heart here, but UM has played one heck of a season. The team enjoys a great chemistry and WANT to play another game, just to be together. With their softer schedule they could use a win against another high ranked team to validate how well this team really has performed. One of the responsibilities of playing in a high visibility bowl game is to perform  well not just for your school, but for the conference. The B1G has been baaaaad in bowls lately and UM has a chance to change that.  Most of these points would still hold true for any of the other bowl games this year. The reason it isn't any other bowl game, though, is because "This is Michigan fergodssakes!".

Enjoy the bowl games everyone, endure the silly names and the mismatches. Enjoy the holiday season. Best of luck to your team (unless they play UM, or any other B1G team). As always,

Fortitudine Vincimus.