All breeds are welcome in the mailbag

Maisel's Mailbag

Originally Published: April 29, 2004
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

The argument for the plus-one postseason will test the philosophical resolve of university presidents. Will they maintain their opposition to extending the football season in order to rake in more money? I think that they will, because it's an easy -- and shallow -- way to prove that academics are still the dog and sports are still the tail.

The only sign of presidential interest that I read or heard this week came from Nebraska president Harvey Perlman. He has football street cred -- he is the leader of a campus where a coach who won 75 percent of his football games was fired. Perlman described the plus-one idea as a "long shot" in USA Today.

Oregon president David Frohnmayer didn't paint that "rosy" of a picture to me. Plus-one will not address the concerns about the BCS formula, or about finding the best two teams to play in the national championship game. I can come up with any number of doomsday scenarios that would match last season's fiasco. Plus-one is a money grab. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Just don't confuse pushing for plus-one with a panacea for the ills of college football.

So let's click past the spam and get on the mailbag.


Steve Spurrier
At least one fan wouldn't mind seeing Steve Spurrier on the Texas sideline.
If the UNC Tar Heels have another horrible season could there be a mutually beneficial outcome of the Ol' Ballcoach (IM: for anyone not from Florida, the Ol' Ballcoach is Steve Spurrier) taking over for John Bunting. I think John has done a good job given what he has to work with, but the administration at UNC could make a big-time splash by landing Spurrier. With the ACC getting much tougher next year with the addition of three more teams, I think UNC needs to go in a different and exciting new way. The couple of years have been tough on the Tar Heels with NC State grabbing so many local recruits -- somebody please make the bleeding stop! By the way, the state of North Carolina has some great golf courses for the Ol' Ballcoach.

Thanks,
Nate Farmer
Bellevue, WA

The biggest issue that Spurrier has is deciding whether he wants to recruit or not. During his tenure, he and the Gator coaches were notorious for the lack of hours they put into recruiting. You can get away with that at the University of Florida, in a state where the talent is as plentiful as the mosquitoes. Well, you can't, but Spurrier could. But I don't think he can get away with that in Chapel Hill.


I want to thank you for your excellent article on Coach John Cooper. It was touching, and rang quite true with me. You see, I was a walk-on who played for Coach Cooper as a true freshman when he was the coach at the University of Tulsa in 1981. I saw action in 3-4 games that year. I also blew out my ACL and posterior cruciate ligament in my left knee during early two-a-days my sophomore year.

The thing that still amazes me about Coach Cooper is that he always treated me the same as any other player on the team (which was well), despite my walk-on status. Once I was on the team, I was on the team. He visited me in the hospital after my surgery ... Even when I no longer had any utility to Coach Cooper as a player, he treated me like gold. He encouraged me during the rehab process, but cared enough about my future to see to it that I would not damage my knee any further. When the team orthopod recommended that I hang it up, Coach Cooper agreed, and explained to me why someday, I would thank him (it had something to do with walking normally and playing with my kids someday). Of course, I did and still do. He encouraged me to stay in school and let me still be a part of the team. None of which he had to do.

Years later, when I was in law school at KU, I called him at Ohio State and asked him if I could list him as a reference on my resume. I'll never forget what he said. He told me "Rick, if you can ever make any money by using my name, you do it. You don't have to ask. Just do it. I'd be happy to be a reference on your resume."

That's just the kind of guy he is. We haven't had much contact since then, but he has left a positive and lasting impression on me, as well as hundreds of other young (and not so young) men who have had the privilege of playing for him. He was and is a role model, and one of the good things about college football.

I am very pleased that you have given the college football world at large just a brief glimpse of this side of Coach Cooper.

Rick Cipolla
Tulsa

John Cooper
Former Buckeye coach John Cooper is apparently still revered in Columbus by many.
Good article about John Cooper. I remember in the period before he was fired, my friends and I talked about how it would be great if Coach Cooper could move into a Coach Emeritus position where he could contribute to recruiting and the overall direction of the program, but put someone else in charge of day to day operations and especially game-day decisions, for which Coach Cooper was notorious. We likened him to being a great commander-in-chief, but a lousy general. We obviously are very happy with the job that Coach Tressel has done with the program, but I think our recruiting, especially outside the state of Ohio will be hurt by the absence of Coach Cooper. I hope that one day Coach Cooper can return to Ohio State as some sort of ambassador of good will.

Matthew Gifford
Columbus

Judging by my e-mail, Cooper is much more respected among Buckeye fans than I thought he would be. Plenty of people wrote in complaining about him. The raw-meat crowd saw a story praising Cooper as an attack on Jim Tressel, which is like saying that a story about Drew Brees is an attack on Philip Rivers. But plenty of people echoed the above letters. Y'all are just a higher breed of fan.


Dr. Zam's comments (in the April 22 mailbag) that the football accomplishments of Army and Michigan are less impressive because they occurred prior to 1936 is logically equivalent to claiming that the Roman Army wasn't strong because they fought before the invention of the firearm.

Chris McCall

I wish I had thought of that, but if I had, I wouldn't have caught all of those great naps in World History.

While we're on the subject -- Brad Pitt in a gladiator movie? I just don't think that I'm the target audience.


If it turns out Mike Williams is not allowed into the NFL in a supplementary draft, under no circumstances should he be allowed back into the NCAA to play football at USC. Why? Not because he violated his amateur status by signing an agent or because he knew the risks involved when he signed up for the draft under iffy circumstances, but rather because my Virginia Tech Hokies are playing USC on Aug. 28th in D.C. and we need as much help as possible.

Lets face it, we've looked bad the last couple of years. If we beat USC (And we have a chance -- I honestly don't believe that we will be destroyed by USC) that would start us back on the road to respectability. Am I a bad person for only worrying about my team?

Manveer Heir
Blacksburg, VA

Maybe y'all aren't a higher breed of fan.

No, just kidding. Manveer, I think you're looking for The Ethicist, the column in the Sunday New York Times Mag. In these parts, you're a mentally healthy college football nut.

You didn't wish Williams ill. You didn't wish that he get hurt. You just wish that he not show up at FedEx Field on Aug. 28. I think we're all down with that. Just remind me not to get on your bad side.


What are the pros and cons of Mike Williams returning to USC?

If he returns, he is likely to increase his draft rating for next year, thus gaining millions. He is also likely to win another college championship. He will also be a contender for the Heisman.

The drawbacks would be 1) Going back to school and having to deal with classes whereas he could otherwise party all year. 2) Giving back the money he got from people like his agent. 3) Risk injury.

Looking at the risk of injury, while real, is not that significant. What percentage of college football receivers end their careers because of injury? WRs are one of the longest-lasting postions in football -- look at Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Michael Irvin, etc.

Also, Mike Williams could perhaps buy himself insurance just like Willis McGahee did.

As a fan of college football, I am concerned that Williams' agent has sent him out of country to shield him from sound advice.

Please consider writing an open letter to Mike Williams before it is too late for him, before summer classes at USC start.

Alex Sassani, MD
San Diego

Alex, you had me until the injury argument. The percentage of wide receivers who get hurt may be small, but it only takes one hit. Michael Irvin may have played for a long time, but he had to quit the game because of injury. McGahee has yet to prove that he is the back who got hurt against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Look, I hope he comes back to college football, too, but for the same sort of selfish motive that goaded Williams to leave -- and that's goading you to ask him to stay. We're all out for ourselves, right?


Just read the story about the appeals court upholding the decision that Mike Price had no entitlement to a hearing before or after his termination at Alabama because "he had not signed a contract with the university.'' I suppose this really puts a monkey wrench into the old Southern code of 'My word is my bond,' and 'A handshake is an agreement.'

Let me get this straight: he agrees in principle in December of 2002 to the seven-year, $10 million deal, prepares for spring practice and the recruiting period, probably has been paid during this period of time (or was eating Top Ramen just like other college students), then gets humiliated state-wide when his termination is broadcast live. But he has no rights to ask WHY because he hadn't signed a contract? If someone is working the position and being paid for working the position, doesn't that seem to insinuate the university has committed some resources toward an employee?

Just down the road apiece at UTEP, Billy Gillespie did not sign a contract and walked away to Texas A&M after the basketball season. UTEP paid him his $145,000 all year even though he had not signed a contract. What a strange country we have become, especially within the realm of "Big Time'' collegiate athletics, where a contract is a contract ONLY if you sign it and ONLY if you care to fulfill the terms of the agreement.

Sincerely,
Jeff Hand
Las Cruces, N. Mex.

My word is my bond, but my money stays in my pocket.

Alabama adhered to the law, as opposed to doing what's right, while punishing Price for not doing what's right.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel's Mailbag.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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