Yesterday was Gregor Johann Mendel’s 189th birthday, and I’m sure he doesn’t look a day over 188. There’s no doubt in my mind that Gregor goofed around with peas because he couldn’t stand the taste of them. Perhaps his mother never told him not to play with his food. As a result of one or both of these things, Mendel experimented meticulously with the green pod fruit and came up with the concepts of dominant and recessive traits, and a new science called genetics, which sort of helped to explain all that evolution gobbledygook that Charles Darwin was going on and on about. At the time Darwin wrote about his theory of evolution, not many people understood how something like that might work until Mendel’s research was widely recognized around the turn of the 20th century. We sure could use another Gregor Mendel today. He might be able to devise some experiments to help us figure out why the NCAA is basically going to allow ESPN to act as a street agent to promote Texas Longhorns football.
The source of great buzz on the interwebs yesterday was the issue of the gigantic and transparent recruiting advantage ESPN’s $300 million Longhorn Network will give the University of Texas. Outrage and derision should have been a constant since the original announcement of the network. Since then, many of us have been scratching our heads and wondering how ESPN was going to air high school ball games in a way that wouldn’t automatically give Texas an unfair advantage in recruiting. I wondered why the remaining members of the Big XII not named Texas were remaining members of the Big XII. By all appearances, Texas wants to be an independent in football anyway, as long as that comes with an automatic BCS berth. It stands to reason that a high school coach and/or athletic director would very much like to see his team’s games televised on the Longhorn Network. Because high school coaches have considerable influence over their players and give meaningful guidance during the recruiting process, it unquestionably incentivizes a coach to recommend Austin as a destination in an effort to wink, wink his school’s way into a TV game. Coach Eric Taylor wouldn’t be so disreputable, but many would.
The NCAA has been spending a lot of time and resources investigating many schools of late, including our own beloved university in Old Columbus Town. LSU and Georgia Tech got recent smacks, while Auburn may soon get taken to the woodshed. There’s still the whole Oregon-Will Lyles mess to deal with, too. Yet, for all its digging, investigating and sleuthing, the NCAA has yet to put the kibosh on the idea of high school football on the Longhorn Network, which is an unfair advantage hidden right there out in the open. ESPN Programming Vice President Dave Brown (head of the Longhorn Network) has recently suggested publicly that the Longhorn Network might just show some games featuring kids who have verbally committed to Texas. Keep in mind that these are not players who have signed national letters of intent. They are merely verbal commits, and we know how those can go (hi, Kyle Kalis!). Access to high school kids by the Longhorn Network is, by extension, access to high school kids by the University of Texas, which says to me, in giant neon letters, extra contact. Extra contact with recruits is an NCAA no-no, so I’m not sure how this can possibly work, while simultaneously being ethical and not giving Texas a recruiting advantage.
Understandably, the Longhorns’ in-state rivals from College Station are noticeably upset. Rumor has it that the Aggies are talking about seceding and joining That Conference Down South. Who could blame them, really? Texas A&M already has a decided disadvantage in recruiting both in and out of the Lone Star state. They are the proverbial little brother in the state of Texas and at times have been surpassed by Texas Tech and have recently been threatened by Baylor, of all schools. Joining the SEC might actually bolster the Texas A&M image. If the B1G Network had become the Wolverine Network and began showcasing high school games from the state of Michigan and neighboring states, would we not be shouting from the rooftops and talking secession? It’s beyond the ridiculous that this whole one-school network thing has seemingly risen before being thought out by the NCAA, but that’s what has apparently happened. For Texas and ESPN, it’s a winning proposition. For college football, not so much.
The four-letter has issued its early season football broadcast team schedule: Among the horrors contained in the broadcast schedule for the WWL: Beth Mowins, Pam Ward, Jesse Palmer, Brian Griese and a weekly double dose of [#FireCraigJames]. While I may appear to be
misogynistic by including both Mowins and Ward in the previous sentence, I see nothing inherently wrong with a female football play-by-play broadcaster. It’s just that Beth Mowins and Pam Ward make me want to stab myself in the eye with an ice-pick. Particularly Ward. I wish it could be all Nessler/Blackledge, all the time (as Gus Johnson is not on the WWL). I like Mike Patrick, but with [#FireCraigJames] alongside, I will likely feel like lighting myself on fire. Would an announcer-free game of the week featuring background music from the Decemberists and the Black Keys be so hard to arrange in place of Pam Ward/Danny Kanell?
Bye-Bye, Little BROden: Greg Oden’s younger brother Anthony was dismissed from the Arkansas Razorbacks football squad – you know, the team that was beaten in a bowl game in January that never happened – after a second offense for driving while intoxicated. The younger Oden, who was also charged with possession of a controlled substance, was competing for a starting tackle spot this fall. I guess you could say that this opens his recruiting back up. Before signing with Arkansas, the 6-8, 260-pound Oden considered Indiana, North Carolina State, Nebrasky and Oregon State. Dismissing Oden from the football team was not the only headache for Bobby Petrino this week.
Fragel Rock Infected: Tight end Reid Fragel Rock caused some palpitations among Buckeye Nation Tuesday night with this post on Twitter. In case that doesn’t open properly for you, it reads:
Not one to ask for this kind of favor over twitter.. But please send some prayers my way. Headin to the ER
Understandably, this was met by some of us with a good deal of concern. Fragel, by his own Twitter narrative, was a guest in the hospital overnight with an apparent staph infection in his leg. Fragel Rock tweeted that he got a tetanus shot and IV fluids, but added that the doctors caught the infection early and he’d be “ready to rock in about a week.” As Vico said so succinctly, “Whew.”
Women’s World Cup Thoughts: Those savvy enough to appreciate the beauty, elegance and tactics of soccer, and not Neanderthal enough to think only men’s sports can be interesting, might still be smarting from a horrific Team USA collapse in the Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday. I’m right there with you. Soccer is, like many other sports, a game in which you can dominate play and still not get the result. Missing scoring opportunities is fatal in all sports, and Team USA blew any number of chances to put the game away, both in regulation and extra time. Despite not doing so, Pia Sundhage’s bunch still had the better opportunity to win in penalty kicks (a ridiculous way to decide a game, but let’s not go down that road right now) with a goalkeeper widely regarded as the best in the world. Penalty kicks, when taken correctly, are virtually unstoppable. Hope Solo did stop one, and nearly a second, but her teammates let her down by missing their first three attempts. I have been watching soccer a long time and I don’t think I’ve ever seen three straight missed PKs.
I wasn’t impressed with Sundhage’s decision to start the kicks with Shannon Boxx, whose kick was shaky against Brazil. She needed the referee to award a re-kick to convert in that game. Nor was I thrilled with the inclusion of late sub Tobin Heath or Carli “Couldn’t-Find-The-Net-All-Tournament” Lloyd. Those weren’t the only decisions I questioned Sundhage for (such as not subbing in Amy Rodriguez, who wasn’t having a stellar tourney, but at least she had scored three goals against Japan this year; or taking the always-dangerous Megan Rapinoe out of the game), but those happened late and are the most easily recollected. Regardless, it was heartbreaking. It seemed the team deserved a better fate. It’s a cruel game sometimes.
Team USA can look back at some positives, despite the loss. The team simultaneously shone a spotlight on soccer and on women’s sports. For a short time, America was captivated not just by soccer, but women’s soccer. The USA vs. Brazil match was as compelling a sporting event as I’ve ever witnessed, and was an excellent example of the good (drama, exquisite execution, late-game heroics) and bad (officiating, flopping) in soccer. I hope you found it as enthralling as I did, whether you previously followed soccer or women’s sports or not. However, we didn’t need this new low by the WWL’s top news program.
And finally: Leopards, y’all.