Welcome to August!
Mrs. College Football and I just got back from a late July getaway to London where it will not surprise you to know that the subject of college football never came up. The biggest sports argument I encountered across the pond was Manchester United vs. Manchester City. I’m a Manchester United guy but with Wayne Rooney leaving the team that might change.
But I digress.
So what did I miss during our time at Westminster Abbey, Highclere Castle and the Winston Churchill War Rooms?
A lot, it would seem.
Here are the top five college football things I missed while across the pond:
1—The incredible mess at Ole Miss got even worse: The night before we caught our plane to London my phone blew up with the news that Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze had resigned after being confronted with what school officials called “a pattern of personal conduct” that it found unacceptable. With an interim head coach (Matt Luke) and the cloud of an NCAA investigation still hovering over the program, it is going to be a very strange season in Oxford. The Rebels can’t go to a bowl due to self-imposed sanctions.
I feel sorry for the players, who had joined with the administration in backing Freeze to the hilt. The Rebels open with South Alabama and UT Martin at home and then go to California. Then they play nine straight weeks.
Everybody will say the right things until the team starts losing. Then it will be difficult—if not impossible—for Luke to keep it from splintering apart.
2—Coaches electing to bring players in to practice early and then complaining about it: It’s math, really. New NCAA rules effectively eliminated two-a-day practices in preseason but still allow coaches 29 practices to get ready for the first game. The answer was to bring players in a week early, which many coaches complained about. I don’t blame them. Five weeks is a long time to prepare both physically and mentally.
However, I would gently point out that the coaches always had the option of reducing the number of preseason practices to 25 or 26 and sticking to a four-week preseason. But coaches, being coaches, would never do that.
3—Coach O closes practice: New LSU Coach Ed Orgeron could not have been nicer or more accommodating when I visited there in the spring. So it came as a surprise when the normally-transparent Coach O decided to close the entire practice to the media in the preseason. Most coaches allow the media in for at least one period of practice, usually individual drills. The only people who care about this issue are the media. I get that. But keeping the media from watching a minimal amount of practice has nothing to do with winning or losing. Never has.
4—Da’Shawn Hand was (literally) asleep at the wheel: The Alabama defensive tackle was arrested early Saturday morning in Tuscaloosa and charged with DUI. The Tuscaloosa News reported that a police report revealed that Hand was asleep behind the wheel of the car. The keys were in the ignition, according to the report. Hand has a good track record as he is on the Student-Athlete Advisory committee and has twice made the All-SEC Academic Honor Roll. The arrest touched off a pretty lively debate on how head coach Nick Saban will/should handle whatever discipline will come.
Will Hand miss all or part of the first game with Florida State? Doubt it.
Is the fact that he wasn’t driving a mitigating factor? Perhaps.
Getting behind the wheel of a car in an impaired state—even if you don’t start the engine—is a damned serious matter. So what would you do if you were Nick Saban?
5—Player chooses YouTube over college football: Now THERE’S a headline we wouldn’t have written five years ago. UCF kicker Donald Del La Haye is a budding young entrepreneur with 91,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. He makes money from the site. Good for him. The NCAA told Del La Haye that he could keep the channel and continue to make money if he didn’t use his status as a college football player to promote it. When he refused to make the modification to the channel, the school had no choice but to declare Del La Haye ineligible. He tried to make the case (On YouTube) that the ruling was not fair.
Fair has nothing to do with this. This is the next great battleground for the individual rights of college athletes. The fact is Del La Haye and his YouTube site will become more popular than ever because of the controversy.