Commentary

Sifting through the fans, coaches and games on the trash heap

Originally Published: October 16, 2007
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football ("Spike the ball!" T-shirts sold separately -- and going fast at Cal-Berkeley [1]):

Trashy Fans

The Southeastern Conference smacked Kentucky for $50,000 for its third violation of the league's sportsmanship policy in less than a year when the stands emptied at Commonwealth Stadium after the Wildcats shocked LSU on Saturday night. The Dash has no problem with that -- and no problem with the right of the overjoyed populace to flout the policy and storm the field, provided nobody gets seriously hurt.

But it's time as well for the SEC to start nailing schools whose fans pelt the playing surface with debris during and/or immediately after games. If the goal is to ensure the safety of the players, then surely that should extend to protecting them from trash, bottles and flying high heels (2).

Kentucky Wildcats fans
Mark Zerof/US PresswireThe SEC fined Kentucky $50,000 for failing to prevent fans from rushing the field.

Those were among the garage sale of projectiles fired onto the field Saturday at Mississippi (3) after officials overturned a call that could have given the Rebels a chance to tie or win against Alabama (4). Yes, a pair of red pumps wound up on Vaught-Hemingway Field, and they weren't on the feet of this year's homecoming queen.

Rebels fans were taking a page from the Crimson Tide playbook, after Bama fans hurled dozens of cups, pom-poms and other flotsam at Georgia's celebrating players last month.

A suggestion for the SEC to consider: The next time play is delayed for removal from the field of even a single object from the stands, penalize the home team 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Second time it happens, penalize it 30 yards. If it happens a third time, eject the head coach.

And if it happens at the end of the game, as was the case at Alabama, assess the penalty on the first play from scrimmage in the next home game.

Oh, and a fine would be OK with The Dash as well. Whatever it takes to reinforce the quaint notion that it's not permissible to act like spoiled 3-year-olds when your team loses.

It's been a great year of SEC football and a sorry year of SEC fan comportment. Not only from Alabama and Ole Miss, but at Florida (5) (where fans threatened the towing company owner who dared turn in safety Tony Joiner for trying to retrieve a car from impoundment at 5 a.m.) and LSU (6) (Tigers fans reportedly left hundreds of obnoxious messages on Florida QB Tim Tebow's cell phone).

Given all that, The Dash gives props to two coaches with much better manners than their fans.

Georgia coach Mark Richt (7) forcibly discouraged his players from jumping on the Vanderbilt logo after beating the Commodores on a last-play field goal. "It was a bunch of baloney," Richt told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

And LSU coach Les Miles (8) went out of his way after a heartbreaking loss to find winning coach Rich Brooks (9) and apologize for not shaking his hand amid the on-field melee Saturday night.

Keep Your Real Estate Agent On Speed Dial

College football is a zero-sum game, which means that for every Rich Brooks success story in the coaching ranks there is someone on his way out of a job. Here in the second half of this enjoyably nonsensical season, these are the 10 men feeling the most heat:

Bill Callahan (10), Nebraska

Year: 4th.

Bill Callahan
AP Photo/Dave WeaverBill Callahan and the Huskers have suffered back-to-back blowout losses.

Record: 4-3 this year, with the final five opponents all owning winning records. At 26-18 overall, Callahan has the lowest winning percentage of any Cornhuskers coach since Bill Jennings (1957-61).

Breaking point: Consecutive blowout losses to Missouri (41-6) and Oklahoma State (45-14), the latter being the worst loss in Lincoln since the Jennings days. Okie State's 38 first-half points were the most Nebraska has ever allowed before halftime.

Sticking point: Callahan got a contract extension before the season that would make canning him more expensive, but don't look for that to be an insurmountable obstacle.

Bad stat: Callahan is 3-8 against ranked opponents, and two of those wins were over counterfeit teams who were gone from the AP Top 25 by season's end.

Chances of survival: About the same as the nation's capital relocating to Grand Island. When the guy who hired him, athletic director Steve Pederson (11), gets whacked at midseason, Callahan should know that his number will be called next.

Dennis Franchione (12), Texas A&M

Year: 5th

Dennis Franchione
AP Photo/LM OteroThe Aggies are 1-4 against Texas Tech under Dennis Franchione.

Record: 5-2 this year, with the final five opponents all owning winning records -- and four of them on the road. Franchione is 30-25 overall at A&M, just 17-18 in the Big 12 -- not what the school had in mind when it gave him a $2 million-per-year contract to leave Alabama.

Breaking point: Revelation of big-dollar booster newsletter in apparent violation of NCAA rules, Big 12 bylaws and Franchione's contract definitely hurt. So did an embarrassing Thursday night loss to Miami and a four-touchdown loss to Texas Tech on Saturday.

Sticking point: A buyout would cost a whopping $8.5 million, according to The Dallas Morning News. Unless, of course, Fran's VIP Newsletter scam gives the university cause to release him.

Bad stat: It's not just that Franchione is 1-4 against rival Texas Tech and Mike Leach; it's that he's been blown out in three of the four losses.

Chances of survival: When your own "insider VIP boosters" are ratting you out and nobody in the A&M administration is sprinting to give Fran a vote of confidence beyond year's end, it ain't a good sign.

Houston Nutt (13), Arkansas

Year: 10th.

Houston Nutt
ey Hitt/Getty ImagesThe Razorbacks are 38-39 in SEC games under Houston Nutt.

Record: 3-3 this year, with three crushing tumble-from-the-lead losses. Nutt is 70-47 at Arkansas but has now slipped back below .500 in SEC games (38-39).

Breaking point: After dealing with angry players, meddling parents and mutinous fans during the offseason from hell, even going undefeated wouldn't make it all go away. But a 0-3 SEC start -- with South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU to go -- could be the deal breaker. Nutt tacitly acknowledged the crisis Sunday by pointing out to reporters that his contract runs 'til 2012.

Sticking point: Who will make the call here? New athletic director Jeff Long, who replaces icon Frank Broyles, or chancellor John White?

Bad stat: Arkansas' three wins this season (Troy, North Texas, Chattanooga) come against teams with an average Sagarin Rating of 131.

Chances of survival: Dwindling faster than Darren McFadden's chances of winning the Heisman.

Karl Dorrell (14), UCLA

Year: 5th.

Record: 4-2 this year, with no-show upset losses to two teams that were winless at the time: Utah and Notre Dame. Dorrell is 33-23 overall.

Breaking point: Being blown out by wounded Utah was not in the game plan for a team that began the season with more experience than any in the country: 20 returning starters, 25 seniors. Following that up with a home loss to the Fighting Irish only further underscored the erratic nature of Dorrell's tenure. Quarterback injuries can only explain so much.

Sticking point: The Bruins are 3-0 in the Pac-10. What if they win the league? Can you fire a guy when he goes to a BCS bowl?

Bad stat: Of Dorrell's 23 losses, 11 have come when his team was favored.

Chances of survival: Four of UCLA's final six games are against ranked teams, so there is an opportunity to salvage the season. But past Bruins history shows that road games against bottom-tier teams Washington State and Arizona will be just as difficult. A coin flip by AD Dan Guerrero would almost be fitting.

Greg Robinson (15), Syracuse

Year: 3rd.

Record: 1-6 this year, with an inexplicable upset of Louisville serving as the lone bright spot. Robinson is 6-24 overall, with exactly two Big East victories.

Breaking point: The glimmer of hope ignited by the huge upset of the Cardinals was extinguished the next week with a loss at Miami (Ohio). And it didn't help last week when Robinson referred to Rutgers as a "one-hit wonder" and proceeded to lose by 24 points. The Dash isn't usually supportive of trapdooring a coach after just three seasons, but the Orange were 16-20 in the three previous seasons and have fallen off a cliff under Robinson -- whose hire was a reach to begin with.

Sticking point: Rich Brooks was rotten for three years as Kentucky, too.

Bad stat: The Orange's offensive ineptitude has been impressively consistent throughout Robinson's tenure: 22 out of 30 games they have scored fewer than 20 points, and they've lost all 22 of them.

Chances of survival: Ruining South Florida's season on Nov. 10 might be Robinson's last, best hope to earn a fourth year on the job. And that's about as likely as Jim Boeheim's cutting a rap album.

Sonny Lubick (16), Colorado State

Year: 15th.

Sonny Lubick
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiSonny Lubick's Rams are mired in a 13-game losing streak.

Record: 0-6 this year, with every opponent scoring at least 24 points on the Rams. Lubick is 105-71 overall.

Breaking point: Air Force beat rival CSU 45-21 Saturday, showing what fresh blood can do. New coach Troy Calhoun, who replaced longtimer Fisher DeBerry this year, has re-energized the Falcons -- and probably reinforced to some Rams fans that it's time for the 70-year-old Lubick to retire.

Sticking point: Lubick is the single greatest thing ever to happen to football in Fort Collins -- a class act and a winner. It would be awkward pushing him out the door, given that the field is named after him. It also would be hard to find another coach willing to work so long and so well at a school that lacks much of the funding and facilities of its peers.

Bad stat: The Rams have somehow lost 13 straight dating back to last year, a shocking slide for a program that was so solid for so long.

Chances of survival: It figures to be the coach's call, and he's not saying. Nobody wants to go out like this -- but returning to an inexperienced team in 2008 might even be worse.

Mike Stoops (17), Arizona

Year: 4th.

Mike Stoops
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireFour of Arizona's 14 wins under Mike Stoops are over I-AA teams.

Record: 2-5 this year, with one victory over a I-A opponent. Stoops is 14-27 overall, with four of those wins over I-AA squads.

Breaking point: We might not have reached it yet, but a home loss Sept. 15 to New Mexico sure didn't help. For the first time since 2001 Arizona did not play a nonconference game against a team from a BCS conference; losing to the Lobos did not make the scheduling shift pay off.

Sticking point: A competitive loss at USC Saturday and productive recruiting keep hinting at better days to come -- it's just a question of when. And it's not as though Stoops has neutered a powerhouse. This is a program working on a streak of eight straight nonwinning seasons.

Bad stat: Arizona is absolutely abysmal running the football under Stoops. The Wildcats rank 113th in rushing offense this year and were 93rd, 88th and 110th in Stoops' first three years.

Chances of survival: The folks in Tucson have to know by now that they got the lesser end of the Stoops football gene pool. But it's unclear whether a fourth straight losing season is enough to make a change.

Bill Doba (18), Washington State

Year: 5th.

Bill Doba
Bill Doba's Cougars are 0-4 in the Pac-10.

Record: 2-5 this year, with zero wins over BCS conference opponents. Doba is 27-27 overall, 14-23 in league play -- and only 8-21 in the Pac-10 after his first season. The Cougars have lost six straight league games and 13 straight against ranked opponents.

Breaking point: Not there yet, but a fourth straight bowl-less season could be tough to swallow. And it would take quite a run to avoid that now.

Sticking point: It's probably tougher to win consistently at Wazzu than anywhere else in the conference, which should be taken into consideration.

Bad stat: The Cougars' defense is allowing 47.5 points per game on the road.

Chances of survival: Only the administration knows for sure.

Tommy Bowden (19), Clemson

Year: 9th.

Record: 4-2 this year, currently riding a two-game losing streak. Bowden is 64-40 overall at Clemson, including six straight seasons of at least three league losses -- and at 2-2 in the ACC, headed for a seventh.

Breaking point: Somewhere in the distance. The consecutive losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have the natives restless again, and there is a critical three-game stretch to close the season against Wake Forest, Boston College and South Carolina.

Sticking point: No current coach has rope-a-doped through more rough spots in his career than Bowden, and he might do it again.

Bad stat: Clemson is 5-6 in its last 11 games.

Chances of survival: Beating the Gamecocks always helps, and Bowden has done that seven times in nine tries. If South Carolina remains in the top 10 until Nov. 24, this would be an especially opportune time for a Clemson victory.

Phil Bennett (20), SMU.

Year: 6th.

Phil Bennett
AP Photo/Steve ColemanPhil Bennett and the Mustangs have limped to a 1-5 start.

Record: 1-5 this year, backsliding after three straight seasons of improving records. Bennett is 18-46 at one of the toughest places to win in the last 20 years, ever since the NCAA shut the Mustangs down for a year for serial rule breaking.

Breaking point: Could come as soon as SMU whiffs on bowl eligibility and spends a 23rd consecutive year missing the postseason.

Sticking point: How certain can the school be that the next guy is going to do better?

Bad stat: SMU has lost eight of its last nine road games, including all three this year by at least two touchdowns.

Chances of survival: There's a lot of noise in the system, to quote Ron Zook's phrase as the end drew near at Florida. Zooker went down at midseason his last year; don't expect that here.

Not On The List

Lloyd Carr (21), Michigan. Remember back in early September, when half of America had Carr fired and the other half was wondering why it wasn't happening immediately? The Wolverines' five straight victories changed the subject. Fact is, most people in Michigan believed all along it would be Carr's call, and it still figures to be. No matter what happens.

Michigan hasn't beaten any great teams, but it has positioned itself to be a factor in the Big Ten race. If it wins out and beats nemesis Ohio State in Ann Arbor Nov. 17 for the league title and a BCS berth, Carr may choose to walk away to ringing applause. That would be a long way from losing to Appalachian State.

Bill Lynch
AP Photo/Darron CummingsBill Lynch has the Hoosiers one win away from bowl eligibility.

Extraordinary Circumstance

Bill Lynch (22), Indiana. Lynch stepped in as interim head coach during the summer when Terry Hoeppner was dying of cancer. He's done very well in a trying circumstance, leading the Hoosiers to a 5-2 record -- very close to achieving Hoeppner's goal of "playing 13." But the last time IU promoted an interim coach it wound up in a stormy five-year relationship with basketball coach Mike Davis. Lynch is the former head coach at Ball State, so he's hardly a piker -- but can he push a team into the top half of the Big Ten for an extended period of time?

Two Age-Old Dilemmas

What happens when the two winningest coaches ever seem intent upon dying on the sidelines? We'll see …

Bobby Bowden (23), Florida State. The wholesale staff makeover hasn't worked. The Seminoles are a wholly unimpressive 4-2 and, for the seventh straight season, have substandard quarterback play and no means of fixing it. The school is shopping for an athletic director to replace Dave Hart, whose contract expires in January 2009 and who will not be retained. Maybe the difficult job of forcing out a stubborn legend falls to the next guy.

Yesica Toscanini
Wireimage.comThe Dash wouldn't consider ending Dashette Yesica Toscanini's employment.

Joe Paterno (24), Penn State. Even if JoePa isn't looking to throw down with passing motorists, his players sure aren't avoiding legal scrapes these days. On the field the Nittany Lions aren't bad, but neither are they a national contender. They're not light-years away … but can anyone see Paterno making another title run?

In Absolutely No Danger

Dashette Yesica Toscanini (25) has been signed to a long-term deal and management is very pleased with her performance.

Games Not Living Up To The Names

In many college football seasons not afflicted by the paranormal, this would be a blockbuster week of games. But South Florida and Boston College and South Carolina and Kentucky are in the top 10, which means all bets are off. Way off. Which means these four blue-blood matchups have become no-consequence scrums between relative commoners:

Florida State at Miami (26). The two schools that did as much as any to put speed and flashy offense at the game's forefront in the 1980s have devolved into punchless plodders. The Seminoles bring the nation's No. 93 offense into the game. The Hurricanes are No. 95. First one to 14 wins.

USC at Notre Dame (27). This was the Game of the Year as recently as 2005. Today it's a matchup of a team that couldn't beat Stanford's backup quarterback at home against a team that couldn't break 20 against South Bend St. Joseph's High School. Though it appears the Fighting Irish have found a more productive quarterback. His name is Evan Sharpley (28), and his passing numbers are markedly better than hotshot freshman Jimmy Clausen's. It should be noted that the junior originally committed to the scourge of humanity, Ty Willingham (29), whom meteorologists are blaming for the drought conditions throughout much of the country.

Texas A&M at Nebraska (30). Being called the Buyout Bowl in some quarters -- and nobody's picked it up for TV. The most interesting aspect of this game could be the on-field discussion between Callahan and Franchione during warm-ups. Winner feels mildly better, loser feels terrible.

Tennessee at Alabama (31). Put it this way: The annual Third Saturday In October rivalry was displaced in the SEC TV pecking order by Florida at Kentucky.

Control Freaks

Which players most control their teams' destinies? The ones with the ball in their hands the most, dummy.

The Dash gives you the six biggest monopolizers of the pigskin. Get these boys into the whirlpool postgame:

Justin Willis (32), SMU: 208 pass attempts, 90 rushes, 298 touches out of SMU's 427 plays. Plays involving Willis: 69.8 percent.

Graham Harrell
AP Photo/LM OteroGraham Harrell's 347 pass attempts have resulted in 3,151 yards.

Tyler Sheehan (33), Bowling Green: 260 pass attempts, 43 rushes, 303 touches out of Bowling Green's 446 plays. Plays involving Sheehan: 67.9 percent.

Graham Harrell (34), Texas Tech: 347 pass attempts, 19 rushes, 366 touches out of Texas Tech's 541 plays. Plays involving Harrell: 67.7 percent.

Adam Weber (35), Minnesota: 288 pass attempts, 87 rushes, 375 touches out of 556 plays. Plays involving Weber: 67.4 percent. (Huge load for a freshman.)

Willie Tuitama (36), Arizona: 306 pass attempts, 25 rushes, 331 touches out of 494 plays. Plays involving Tuitama: 67 percent.

Tim Tebow (37), Florida: 148 pass attempts, 105 rushes, 253 touches out of 382 plays. Plays involving Tebow: 66.2 percent. (The Gators are averaging just 64 plays per game -- a very low number.)

Putting Out An APB For …

… Former Colorado Buffalo and 1994 Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam (38), who swiftly busted out of the NFL and, subsequently, out of the Canadian Football League as well. Anyone with information on the Buffs' No. 2 all-time rusher, please apprise The Dash.

Meanwhile, The Dash is pleased to report that last week's APB subject, former Virginia Tech quarterback Jim Druckenmiller (39), is reported to be alive and well and living in Memphis, where he works in sales. Kin to Druckenmiller say he liked the Memphis area from his XFL stint with the Memphis Maniax and relocated there a few years ago.

Point After

When thirsty in Lexington, Ky., The Dash recommends hitting the Horse and Barrel (40) downtown. Good beer selection and lots of wood -- floors, tables, bar, etc. And you never know when, say, two dozen LSU fans will invade the place and drunkenly erupt in "Geaux Tigers!" cheers.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.