The Dash dons some riot gear for this week's run
Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Riot gear (1) sold separately at Orange Bowl concession stands):
Thug U Is Back, Minus The Titles
Come on back, Butch Davis (2). All the work you did scrubbing clean the image of the University of Miami (3), and now it's been stained by a fresh coat of scum.
Larry Coker (4) continued your good work. For a while. But it's seemed to get away from Coker the past two seasons, and never more so than in the Saturday night fight at the Orange Bowl with Florida International. It got away so far that Coker should be forcibly unemployed by season's end -- at the latest. And you can take do-nothing athletic director Paul Dee out with him.
The Hurricanes did massive damage to the reputation they had scrupulously rehabbed since the mid-1990s. And FIU, which until Saturday night had no image whatsoever beyond Division I-A pretender, has now earned its own rep: Thugs In Training. The Golden Panthers and their coach, Don Strock (5), deserve every bit as much blame as the Hurricanes -- but they've got a long way to go to match rap sheets with Miami.
The many good guys on the Miami roster and the many good people at the school will protest strenuously that this is not a program with an overabundance of thugs. But you are how you act. And the Hurricanes' actions of late fit that label as snugly as the hand of Anthony Reddick (6) fit around the bars of his face mask, as he swung his helmet like a cudgel at FIU players Saturday night.
Here's your checklist, Hurricanes. If you:
A. Brawl with the opposition in the tunnel coming off the field following a 37-point bowl loss
B. Have players on your team recording a spectacularly profane rap song about group sex
C. Stomp on the midfield logo of another team in what could only be an intentional pregame attempt to antagonize
D. Use your cleats, helmets and fists as weapons in a five-minute brawl with another team -- no matter who started it
Then guess what? You're Thug U. You singularly lack class. And your coach and school administration seem either powerless or uninterested in doing anything to alter that. According to Miami media reports, Coker's initial response to the mayhem Saturday night was fairly dismissive of the ramifications. Said Coker: "This won't be a big negative on the University of Miami."
Strock, meanwhile, was promising severe consequences for his Thugs In Training. (FIU followed through by dismissing two players and indefinitely suspending 16 others.)
By Sunday, Coker had gotten a grip and at least said the right things. But the initial punishment arrived at by the Miami administration and the Atlantic Coast Conference -- one-game suspensions -- was an absolute joke.
Upon further review, league and school located some spine and at least made Reddick's suspension indefinite. That's at least closer to season-ending, which is what he deserves. It also would be the proper punishment for fellow safety Brandon Meriweather (7), whose classy decision to stomp on the legs and backs of FIU players already under assault has not yet earned him more than one game in the cooler.
The Dash is glad the ACC and Miami rethought the Reddick suspension. The question is why they couldn't get it right the first time, given the video evidence of a young man intent on performing assault and battery. Hello, John Swofford (8)? Are you disciplining or enabling?
When the ACC commish spearheaded the league's expansion movement, he knew he was getting a Miami program with tons of hardware and tons of baggage. The cost-benefit analysis undoubtedly said the Canes were worth the risk. Yet so far they have added only problems to the ACC, not prestige.
Beyond the conference office, you also have to wonder about the Miami leadership. Where is the outrage over this assault upon the school's credibility? Where are the tangible punishments that indicate they really might not tolerate this stuff? How can FIU so obviously take this more seriously than The U?
Not that this is shocking to The Dash. When this Web site brought the above-mentioned rap song to the attention of the school last year, it issued a statement saying, in part, "Any students whose voices can be identified will be subject to appropriate discipline and/or counseling." If the first dollop of discipline was ever doled out -- even just an after-practice wind sprint or two -- it's news to The Dash.
Then the school comes up with blanket one-game suspensions after one of the worst brawls in college football history. That's a fine way to reapply that Thug U label you so detest, Miami. It fits. Wear it until you've rehired Davis for a second cleanup job.
Other Ambassadors Of The Game
The Canes and Golden Panthers did so much to hog the stupidity spotlight last week that they overshadowed some other deserving nominees. Namely Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue (9) and the Wisconsin band (10).
The headline read: "Dogs put in their place."
Quoth the Guv: "From the front page to the business page and now to the sports page, it is as if the AJC gleefully awaits lousy news about all things Georgia and pounces with their poison pens whenever bad things happen to the good people of our state."
Did The Dash mention that Perdue is up for reelection? Fewer political strategies are safer than knocking the media and sucking up to the most popular sports team in the state.
More amused than chastened, the AJC offered readers the opportunity to write their own headline on Georgia's next game, against Vanderbilt. Then Georgia gagged against the Commodores, opening the floodgates. Longtime AJC college football sage Tony Barnhart (12) told The Dash that within 20 minutes after the game, more than 400 suggested headlines had been sent to the AJC's Web site.
The first one: "Dogs put in their place -- again."
The Dash mingled with some Badger band members once at an NCAA Tournament regional in Syracuse. Just watching them in action for a brief period of time made The Dash's liver hurt -- although nobody appeared to be harmed on their way to cross-eyed drunkenness.
The Dash's solution to all the madness: Let Miami and FIU play each other every Saturday the rest of the year, with the Wisconsin band in the stands and Perdue writing nice, positive game stories and headlines from the press box. They deserve each other.
And Now For Something Completely Different
Supporters of eternal underdogs did have a few results to cheer Saturday. Namely:
Vanderbilt 24, Georgia 22 (16). Vandy coach Bobby Johnson (17) has seemed achingly close the past couple of years to a breakthrough of some sort in Nashville -- and by breakthrough, we're not talking a league championship or BCS bowl. We're talking any kind of bowl. The Commodores haven't been to one since 1982. They still might not get there in 2006, but coming from behind to win at snorkeling Georgia reaffirms the program's direction. That's a good thing for the SEC's academic stronghold.
Colorado 31, Texas Tech 6 (18). From the long-angle view, the Buffaloes don't belong on the same list with Indiana and Vandy. But plummeting from a 2005 bowl game to 0-6 in 2006 -- including an opening loss to I-AA Montana State -- might have made Boulder the saddest spot on the map this fall. Congrats to first-year coach Dan Hawkins (19) on finally finding the win column in his new job.
Arguing Season Has Officially Opened
With the release of the first Bowl Championship Series Standings this week, the debating, politicking and all-out grousing has begun. Among the questions raised by the current standings:
• Three teams have separated themselves from the rest: Ohio State (20), USC (21) and Michigan (22). Given USC's seeming vulnerability, is there a chance for Buckeyes-Wolverines Part II in the championship game?
It certainly would seem possible if the Trojans stumble against Cal (23) and/or Notre Dame (24) -- but probably not without some help from USC, whose strength of schedule should increase in its final four games. If Ohio State and Michigan play a close game Nov. 18 in the Horseshoe, there is a chance that they're 1-2 in the BCS Standings thereafter -- or could wind up there by Dec. 3, after the last regular-season and league-championship games have been played. The BCS hasn't yet produced an intraconference title game.
• Who's maddest?
Probably Tennessee (25), which finds itself at No. 11 -- one spot behind Cal, a team the Volunteers pasted 35-18 to open the season (it was 35-0 late in the third quarter).
• Where are the biggest disparities between the computers and the humans?
But the most significant impact of the BCS unveiling is upon The Dash itself. With the BCS having changed its rules to broaden its pool of applicants, The Dash thought it thematically consistent to change its Dashette application process. The ends-in-a restrictions on the names of the Dashettes excluded too many willing applicants and invited the possibility of lawsuits or congressional intervention. So in The Dash has expanded its selection process to include anyone (OK, any women) who has at least one name ending in a.
Ladies and gentlemen, the newly inclusive Dash presents Melissa Theuriau (30). Melissa said she's a fan of the Buckeyes and especially linebacker James Laurinaitis (31), one of the few players in college football who can match Melissa's surname vowel count.
Boiling Point Locales
With the season reaching critical-mass stages, The Dash identifies half a dozen hot spots (outside of South Florida) to watch closely in the coming weeks:
Florida quarterback (32). Chris Leak is and should be the Gators' starter, but freshman Tim Tebow's footsteps are louder than ever coming up behind him. We'll see how Leak handles that through an off week and into the Cocktail Party game against Georgia (which is starting its hotshot freshman QB Matthew Stafford). Tebow certainly has not displayed the polish or playbook command of Leak, but neither has Leak displayed the toughness or enthusiasm of Tebow. Which might be why Urban Meyer is playing both in mix-and-match fashion.
So far he's used Tebow more as an X-factor guy, changing the pace and look of the offense is certain situations (most often red zone and short-yardage plays). Much of Florida is wondering whether that role might expand in the near future. But perhaps Gator Nation understands the quarterback situation better than given credit for from the outside; an Orlando Sentinel online poll Tuesday morning asking who should be Florida's starting quarterback against Georgia had 70 percent of respondents favoring Leak and just 30 favoring Tebow.
Replay booth (33). The SEC said this week that its replay official was correct in not overturning the on-the-field fumble call against Leak at Auburn Saturday night -- even though photos show the ball coming out of Leak's hand as his arm is moving forward. Sure looks like an incomplete pass to The Dash -- and to quote the NCAA rule book, " Any intentional forward movement of (the player's) arm starts the forward pass. If (an opposing) player contacts the passer or ball after forward movement begins and the ball leaves the passer's hand, a forward pass is ruled " But that's only part of the problem. Meyer had to burn a timeout to get the play reviewed, when it clearly was a play that needed further scrutiny. Why? Where is the competence from above? Combine that with the Oklahoma-Oregon debacle -- and the seeming drain replay has placed on the on-field official s, who seem to be at their worst this season -- and you have a system that isn't working as well as it should.
Oklahoma tailback (34). Replacing the irreplaceable Adrian Peterson falls to juniors Allen Patrick and Jacob Gutierrez, who have spent most of their Saturdays playing on special teams. Patrick fumbled twice against Middle Tennessee State earlier this year. Gutierrez is playing this year after tearing an ACL in the 2005 Holiday Bowl. In other words: good luck, Paul Thompson. The heat's on you even more now.
Head coach's office at North Carolina (35), Arizona State (36) and Michigan State (37). Change is coming.
Sun Devils coach Dirk Koetter hasn't been able to beat good teams often enough in Tempe. ASU's seven-point loss Saturday to USC was its ninth straight against a ranked opponent, and the Devils have given up an average of 38.5 points in those defeats. But it's not just terminally soft defense. Koetter's decision to hitch this season to sophomore quarterback Rudy Carpenter -- at the request of his players -- also has backfired. Playing without pressure after filling in for injured Sam Keller, Carpenter led the nation in passing efficiency last year with a rating of 175.01. This year: 128.46.
For Spartans coach John L. Smith, the end should almost be a relief in East Lansing. Radio talk show hosts literally are screaming themselves hoarse in denunciation of Smith and his players, which is good for no one. He's one game under .500 in four seasons at Michigan State, and every season has been marked by a spirit-breaking tailspin: a three-game November losing streak in 2003; losing four of the last five in '04; six of the last seven in '05; and the current four-game skid that started with the epic give-back against Notre Dame. At least Smith should depart with a lot of Michigan State's cash.
Putting Out An APB For
LaVell Edwards' initial star quarterback at Brigham Young, Gary Sheide (38). His name has been eclipsed from the record books by all the stars who followed, but it was Sheide, in the early 1970s, who commenced the pipeline of QB talent to Provo. Anyone with information on Sheide's whereabouts, please apprise The Dash.
Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that former Missouri quarterback Phil Bradley (39) is alive and well and working as a special assistant to Donald Fehr with the Major League Baseball Players Association. The Dash heard from Phil's son, Curt Bradley, whose acorn fell not far at all from the tree. Curt is a two-sport college athlete himself, playing football and baseball at Northern Iowa.
The Dash missed out on papering Toomer's Corner (40) Saturday night/Sunday morning in Auburn but witnessed enough revelry amid the acres of RVs parked outside Jordan-Hare Stadium to make up for it. Best sight was the monster RV that was blaring Earth, Wind & Fire well after midnight, while "ESPN GameDay Final" played on the flat screen TV built into the RV's side. Victorious Auburn fans were dancing under a canopy lit with orange Halloween lights, undoubtedly intent on War Eagle-ing one another until dawn.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- First-place Angels lose Richards 6-9 months
- Sources: Wolves expect to land 76ers' Young
- Steelers' Bell, Blount apologize for 'distraction'
- Eagles RB McCoy: Thumb 'definitely hurts'