Situation Room: Harper mishandled Bowden aftermath
Heat falls on Fulmer and Tennessee
By Rece Davis, ESPN.com
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Cullen Harper and Clemson have suffered through a disappointing season.
Last week, the hot seat scorched a high-profile assistant at Auburn. This week, it torches a head coach.
Who would've bet before the season that Clemson would beat everyone to the punch with the first coaching casualty? Not me.
A major criticism of Tommy Bowden's tenure was the inability to get everyone on the same page at the same time. Great starts were undone by faltering finishes. Pratfalls out of the gate were salvaged by sprints to the tape.
A microcosm of Bowden's tenure was the wildly disparate reaction to Bowden's departure by RB James Davis
and QB Cullen Harper
. Davis was moved to tears. Harper seemed moved by vengefulness.
He sent a text message to our Joe Schad saying Bowden got what he deserved. I was so stunned after hearing Joe's report I immediately started making calls thinking there had to be a misunderstanding. Nope. I'm sure Harper was hurt, angry and disappointed over being benched. Perhaps he felt he was being made the scapegoat despite trying to play with an injured shoulder. Maybe Bowden didn't handle his situation properly. But Harper should've been man enough to shoulder a bigger share of the blame.
It was said that people weren't buying into what Bowden was saying anymore. Isn't it a senior quarterback's job to be a leader, an extension of the coach on the field? Doesn't it reflect on him if the locker room is divided?
By no means should Bowden be absolved for letting a talented team devolve into head cases that would baffle Dr. Lou, Frasier Crane and Freud himself. Coaches are paid handsomely to unify teams and build winners. But Harper's parting swipe didn't make Bowden look nearly as bad as it made the Clemson quarterback look. The remark, more suited to a petulant child than a grown man, might have been an embarrassment to his family, too, had Harper's father not piled on by saying Bowden's demise was "karma."
Harper, who to his credit later said he wished he could retract the statement, has a right to say whatever he wants. We like athletes who are candid. But candor without class reflects poorly on one's character. By most accounts, Harper is a good young man, albeit one who had a lapse in judgment. His callous words might stick to him longer than they'll stick to Tommy Bowden.
So can this fractious, fragile team unite against Georgia Tech behind a new quarterback, Willy Korn
, and new interim coach Dabo Swinney? I think Clemson will play with more passion than it has all season as long as things go well.
The real test is: How will they respond if things go wrong? Swinney is popular with the players. They surely realize the rest of the season amounts to a six-game audition to see whether Swinney can move from long shot to legitimate candidate. Swinney has already made some executive moves.
He ousted offensive coordinator Rob Spence and e-mailed the Clemson student body urging them to come to a "Tiger Walk" before the Georgia Tech game so players could feel their support. He seems to have a handle on the bruised psyches. Now let's see if he can get a grip on Clemson's catastrophic season, not to mention the Yellow Jackets' option attack.
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Phillip Fulmer didn't get a ringing endorsement from Tennessee's AD, but the players have his back.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton didn't exactly extinguish the fire nipping at Phillip Fulmer's hindquarters with his "we'll evaluate after the season unless it gets really bad" stance on the Vols coach's future.
Tennessee has played great defense.
That should be enough against Mississippi State. Unlike the Clemson situation, it seems that the players are unified behind their coach even if the fans aren't. Tennessee looks the part of a winner. Playing the part has been problematic.
The Vols still seem capable of a breakout game. Virtually nothing that happens Saturday against Mississippi State would qualify as a "breakout performance," but it is a chance to gain a little momentum before the ultimate turnaround shot next week, the rivalry match with second-ranked Alabama.
Mark May, Lou Holtz and I will get a firsthand look next Thursday night at a couple of teams who've endured varying degrees of coaching turmoil when we go to Morgantown for the Auburn-West Virginia game.
I'll be especially interested in whether either can establish an offensive identity. Even if they can't, no need for hot seats here. Bill Stewart is too new. Tommy Tuberville has been too successful. That's not to say that both wouldn't appreciate performances that would equate to a little asbestos for their seats.
Just in case.
Lukacs: The Genesis of the Roar
With a sparkling 7-0 start, Penn State has been generating roars from the characteristically colossal home crowds all season long.
Ned Dishman/Getty Images
The lion's roar still gets fans -- and players -- pumped at Beaver Stadium.
As for genesis of the
roar, well, that's a whole 'nother Nittany Lions story.
It's the story of a pioneering stadium sound effect that purportedly predates all others, from Purdue's train whistle and Houston's air-raid siren to the feral football "copycats" at Arizona, BYU, LSU, Missouri and Northwestern. It takes place in 1968, a year freighted with great significance for Penn State football.
To Penn State partisans, the Beaver Stadium lion roar has been an enduring and energizing part of the Happy Valley football experience for four decades. As the Michigan Wolverine and their supporters will undoubtedly discover Saturday afternoon, it's also annoyed opponents and their fans for the same amount of time, causing some -- reportedly Alabama fans -- to compare it to the sound made by a high-powered toilet flushing.
Listen for yourself.
According to the lion roar legend, Joe Trimarchi, a sales rep at WMAJ-AM, a State College radio station, went to his cart machine and selected a recorded lion roar as a "sounder" to preface sports news in 1967. In those days, stations had stock sound effects contained in cartridges of looping analog tape (think 8-tracks) that were housed and transported on wheeled "cart" machines.
Penn State sports information director Jim Tarman heard Trimarchi's roar and inquired about using it at PSU athletic events. The roar made its debut at a Penn State-Lehigh wrestling match later that year, migrated to Lions basketball games and, thanks to Trimarchi, to Beaver Stadium in the fall of '68.
Trimarchi, who also worked as a spotter at football games, lugged his bulky cart machine up into the press box and, by pressing a button, signaled not only the beginning of one of the most unique, yet unknown, traditions in college football but also Penn State's rise to national prominence. The lion roar would literally be heard throughout the country as Penn State embarked on its first undefeated season under a youthful head coach named Joe Paterno.
For Lions fans, the roar quickly became as essential a part of the Saturday sound track as anything played by the Blue Band.
"Joe was a pretty savvy guy; he knew the appropriate times to play it," said Dean DeVore, an AccuWeather meteorologist who also works as the public-address announcer at Beaver Stadium. "There's an etiquette about it."
The signature stadium sound effect has long followed the conclusion of the Penn State drum major's famous 50-yard line flip and the team huddle after the pregame stretch, as well as Penn State first downs and touchdowns. The growl has celebrated sacks and fired up the crowd to support the defense on third downs, too.
Yet change is inevitable, even at a place as tradition-bound as Penn State. Gone are Trimarchi and his cumbersome cart machine: The father of the roar retired in 2006, and the roar has been digitized. The roar's new caretaker is sound technician Blair Drake. Drake, along with communications director Guido D'Elia, is responsible for integrating the roar and the Blue Band with new stadium standbys such as Zombie Nation's "Kernkraft 400" to create a raucous atmosphere and entertainment spectacle that DeVore calls "the greatest show on Earth."
While players, P.A. announcers, sound technicians and perhaps one day even coaches -- yes, even coaches -- will come and go at Penn State, there will always be one certainty.
"The lion roar will be here forever," said DeVore. "It's iconic."
John D. Lukacs is the consultant to College GameDay.