June 17, 2009

Offseason has been full of intriguing stories

Summer is a time for looking ahead.

Web sites doing countdowns and annual magazines appearing on newsstands show the anticipation for the upcoming season. But according to the calendar, summer doesn't officially begin for a few more days. Therefore, before completely looking ahead, we'll take one last look back on an offseason that offered entertainment, drama and controversy.

Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin riled South Carolin a's Steve Spurrier, Florida's Urban Meyer and Alabama's Nick Saban to such a degree that SEC commissioner Mike Slive told league coaches to quiet down and play nice.

But Congress wasn't playing nice when BCS representatives were called to Washington to defend the bowl system. Perhaps Texas Rep. Joe Barton was just grandstanding for votes.

Speaking of votes, the American Football Coaches Association announced that starting in 2010, their poll, which helps select the national championship game contestants, would be via secret ballot. In addition, the Big 12 voted not to change its controversial tiebreaking procedure and President Barack Obama's sense of humor may cost him some votes in the 2012 election.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno would vote to add another team to the Big Ten, though his idea seemed to get a thumbs down from the conference commissioner.

A star player was stricken with a disease that threatens his life. Another star player was kicked off his team. One failed a drug test. One was left out in the cold to avoid failing a test.

Here's a look at 25 of the top stories from the offseason.

25. MARSHALL PLAYERS ARRESTED: Two Marshall standouts running back Darius Marshall and cornerback DeQuan Bembry were suspended after being arrested on drug charges in western West Virginia. They were originally charged with felony drug trafficking. The charges eventually were reduced to misdemeanor possession.

24. OUT IN THE COLD: Texas Tech coach Mike Leach often takes an unusual approach to dealing with different issues. He demonstrated that again in March when he forced wide receiver Edward Britton to study at midfield of Jones Stadium in 30 degree weather with snow flurries. "Ed didn't like showing up and studying at places I felt like he needed to and like the academic people asked him to, so he can study out there on the 50-yard line," Leach said. Britton got the message and was back at practice a few days later.

23. RECRUIT SCHOLARSHIP: North Carolina pulled its scholarship offer to defensive back recruit Angelo Hadley after he ran into trouble with the law. On April 5, Hadley was arrested on felony lewd and lascivious battery for having sex in February with a 14-year-old girl while his older brothers stole jewelry, cash and a shotgun totaling more than $17,000 from her residence in the Tampa, Fla., area. Later in the month, he was charged with three third-degree felonies for burglary and firearms possession emanating from the same case.

22. ON THE LINE: Heading into spring practice, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops questioned his offensive linemen's attitude and work ethic in the offseason. "Those guys at this point whether their work ethic or attitude those are the things that need to improve," he said. "They haven't had the winter everybody else has had. Right now, they are the weak link of our team." Tackle Trent Williams is the only returning starter. Stoops had a better outlook after spring drills.

21. RUN, JIM, RUN: To promote USF's spring game, coach Jim Leavitt "sprinted" 40 yards in 5.72 seconds before an April practice. Two days later, students ran 40-yard dashes in a combine before the spring game. Anyone who beat 5.72 seconds received T-shirts bearing the message, "I'm Faster Than Leavitt."

20. GATOR OR NOT: Florida coach Urban Meyer said that critics of his Gators even former Gators aren't really Gators. Meyer reportedly was irked at Gainesville talk-radio host Shane Matthews, a former Florida quarterback who criticized the Gators' offensive strategy in a loss to Ole Miss last season. "If you want to be critical of a player on our team or a coach on our team, you can buy a ticket for seat 37F. You're not welcome back in the football office. You're either a Gator or you're not a Gator," Meyer said at a Gator Club appearance in May. Hmmm this coming from a coach who last year said Notre Dame was his dream job. Word is Meyer and Matthews talked it over, and all is well in Gainesville.

19. LEWIS DISMISSED: Quarterback-turned-receiver Kellen Lewis was dismissed at Indiana for violating unspecified team rules. Lewis had set 16 school records as a quarterback, but he was moved to wide receiver during spring practice.

18. JARMON INELIGIBLE: Kentucky's defense suffered a major setback when defensive end Jeremy Jarmon was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after a failed drug test. Jarmon said he had taken an undisclosed supplement for 15 days before learning it was banned. Jarmon had 4.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss last season.

17. SPRING FLING: Ohio State set a spring-game attendance record with 95,722 fans, who paid $5 per ticket to get in. Some of the proceeds went to charity. Alabama previously had the record for highest spring-game attendance with 92,138 in 2007.

16. OBAMA JABS IRISH: President Barack Obama was heckled for his views on abortion when he delivered the commencement speech at Notre Dame in May. A few days later, he did some heckling of his own at an Indianapolis fundraiser. Obama said his controversial appearance at Notre Dame paled in comparison to what to do about the Irish football team. "That's an issue we may not resolve within my four years," Obama said. Notre Dame is 10-15 in the past two seasons the most losses the Irish have endured over a two-year period in their history.

15. KELLY SUCCEEDS BELLOTTI: In mid-March, Chip Kelly became coach at Oregon after Mike Bellotti, the most successful football coach in school history, stepped down and took over as athletic director. In two seasons with Kelly as offensive coordinator, the Ducks led the Pac-10 in scoring and total offense and set school records in both categories. Because of that performance, Kelly was named Oregon's "coach-in-waiting" in December 2008. He didn't have to wait long.

14. MARESH RETURNS: About nine months after undergoing open-heart surgery and with a benign mass in his left calf, Minnesota freshman linebacker Sam Maresh suited up for spring practice.

13. CORP EMERGES: After a solid spring showing in which he demonstrated a firm grasp of the offense and rarely was intercepted, sophomore Aaron Corp was named USC's starting quarterback. Three of USC's past four quarterbacks have become first-round draft picks and two won the Heisman Trophy. Although coach Pete Carroll indicated the competition will continue in August, Corp will go to camp as the No. 1 quarterback. Perhaps an even greater surprise was that Mitch Mustain, the once-heralded prospect who transferred from Arkansas, now is third on the depth chart.

12. IN THE STRETCH: Determined to re-establish a recruiting presence in Mobile, Ala., seven Auburn assistants piled into a white stretch limousine decorated with Auburn decals and flags to visit several area high schools. "One of our goals is to fight and get Mobile back. Mobile is paramount to Auburn football," coach Gene Chizik said.

11. VERBAL SPARRING: Texas Tech's Leach expressed dismay that his quarterback, Graham Harrell, who led the nation in passing, wasn't selected in the NFL draft but Texas A&M's Stephen McGee was. "I'm happy for Stephen McGee," Leach was quoted as saying. "The Dallas Cowboys like him more than his coaches at A&M did." McGee was injured much of last season and lost his starting job to Jerrod Johnson. Leach's quote led to an exchange through the media with Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman, who voiced his displeasure with Leach's comments. The Aggies hope to make Leach pay for his words on Oct. 24, when they play the Red Raiders in Lubbock. Well, maybe not. A&M hasn't won in Lubbock since 1993.

10. KANSAS STATE SUES: Kansas State filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate a "secret agreement" that would provide former coach Ron Prince $3.2 million in deferred payment. The suit claimed that former K-State athletic director Robert Krause made the deal without the knowledge of president Jon Wefald. The deal reportedly would pay Prince $800,000 in 2015 and '16 and $1.6 million in 2020. Prince was fired after a second consecutive losing season and was replaced by former coach Bill Snyder, who came out of a three-year retirement.

9. PAULUS TOUR: After completing his basketball career, former Duke point guard Greg Paulus was courted by several schools in need of a quarterback. Paulus was a star quarterback and received scholarship offers from Miami and Notre Dame when he came out of Syracuse (N.Y.) Christian Brothers Academy four years ago. He's eligible to immediately play football because he did not redshirt at Duke and completed his degree in four years. Paulus said he was contacted by about two dozen schools. He considered Michigan and Nebraska, among others, before opting for Syracuse. Orange coach Doug Marrone said Paulus will be given a fair chance to win the starting job.

8. NO CHANGE IN BIG 12: Coaches in the Big 12 voted down a proposal to change a controversial procedure used to break a three-team tie in divisional standings. Last season, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech finished in a three-way tie in the South Division. Oklahoma, which had lost to Texas, advanced to the conference championship game because it ranked one spot higher than Texas in the BCS standings. A change was proposed in which the lowest-rated team in the BCS standings would be eliminated and the tie then would be broken by head-to-head outcome of the remaining teams, but the conference opted to stand pat.

7. SECRET BALLOTS: The American Football Coaches Association announced that in 2010, the votes in the USA Today coaches' poll, which helps determine the teams in the national championship game, will be kept secret. In an effort to ensure voter integrity, the ballots had been made public the past three years. What's to keep coaches from voting for their cronies or against their enemies? Just the honor system. That always works in college football, doesn't it?

6. ALABAMA VACATES WINS: Alabama actually was glad when the NCAA ruled it must vacate wins from 2005-07 as punishment for athletes in several sports, including football, for improperly obtaining textbooks for other students. Alabama was placed on three years' probation but did not lose any scholarships.

5. FLORIDA STATE'S WOES: The Seminoles had a variety of offseason issues. Wide receiver Preston Parker was dismissed from the team after an arrest for DUI. The NCAA denied wide receiver Corey Surrency's appeal for an extra year of eligibility. The NCAA also ruled the Seminoles would vacate 14 victories as punishment for a scandal in which two dozen football players were among 61 athletes involved in cheating on tests for an online music-history course. Those vacated wins effectively would knock coach Bobby Bowden out of the race with Penn State coach Joe Paterno for the most career wins. Bowden has 382 victories, one fewer than Paterno. Florida State has appealed.

4. PATERNO CALLS FOR EXPANSION: Paterno told a group of reporters in New York that the Big Ten should add a 12th member and stage a football championship game. Paterno said his suggestions for expansion were typically met with snickers. Paterno said the Big Ten should seek a northeastern team, such as Syracuse, Rutgers or Pittsburgh. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany did not embrace Paterno's suggestion.

3. HERZLICH'S ILLNESS: Boston College All-America linebacker Mark Herzlich, the ACC's defensive player of the year last season, was diagnosed in May with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of cancer often found in bone or soft tissue. Herzlich has said he was told he has a 70 percent chance of full recovery, but his football career likely is over.

2. AN ACT OF CONGRESS: U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced legislation that would prevent the NCAA from using the term "national championship game" unless it's in the outcome of a playoff. Barton joked that the "C" should be removed from BCS and compared college football's postseason system to communism. ACC commissioner John Swofford, the coordinator of the BCS, was called to a Congressional hearing to defend the system. In addition, Alamo Bowl chief Derrick Fox told Congress bowl games raise "tens of millions of dollars" for charities. But a report by Yahoo! Sports showed that all the bowls combined raised just $3.2 million for local charities last year.

1. KIFFIN'S COMMENTS: Not long after Lane Kiffin was named Phillip Fulmer's successor at Tennessee, he rankled South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, Alabama's Nick Saban, Florida's Urban Meyer and officials at Pahokee (Fla.) High School, who he suggested might interfere in Tennessee's recruitment of Nu'Keese Richardson. The most embarrassing incident was Kiffin's accusation that Meyer broke NCAA rules in recruiting Richardson. Meyer did not break any rules but Tennessee did break secondary rules when a recruit was mentioned by name on Kiffin's Twitter and Facebook accounts. Furthermore, another violation was committed when Kiffin was shown talking with a prospect on ESPN's "Outside the Lines." On the plus side, Kiffin assembled a top-10 recruiting class that included Bryce Brown, the nation's No. 1 prospect.

The edge

This week, it's California vs. Clemson.

Each week, we'll match two teams to determine which has the edge in various categories. Got a matchup you want to see? Send it to olin@rivals.com and we'll work on it.

1. Head to head
California prevailed 37-13 in the 1992 Citrus Bowl, the only meeting between the teams.
EDGE: California.
2. First-round draft choices
California: 23 (most recently C Alex Mack by Cleveland in 2009).
Clemson: 22 (most recently DE Gaines Adams by Tampa Bay in 2007).
EDGE: California.
3. Famous hills
Clemson: In what has been described as the most exciting 25 seconds in college football, Clemson players take the field by running down "The Hill" on the east side of Memorial Stadium.
California: Fans too frugal to buy a ticket can watch the game from "Tightwad Hill," which overlooks Memorial Stadium from the east.
EDGE: Clemson.
4. Infamous returns in bowl games
California: In the 1929 Rose Bowl, Roy Riegels scooped up a Georgia Tech fumble and ran 69 yards the wrong way and was tackled on Cal's 1-yard line. The gaffe led to a safety, an 8-7 Georgia Tech victory and the dubious nickname "Wrong-Way" Riegels.
Clemson: Nose tackle Charlie Bauman's interception of an Art Schlichter pass clinched a 17-15 win for Clemson in the 1978 Gator Bowl, and it also resulted in the end of Ohio State coach Woody Hayes' career. Hayes punched Bauman on the sideline after the play. The next day, Hayes was fired.
Edge: Clemson. Bauman's play sealed a victory. Riegels' led to a loss.
5. Pre-game hangout
California: The Bear's Lair, an on-campus brew pub with 40 beers on tap, nine big-screen TVs, good food and an outdoor patio. Get there early.
Clemson: The Esso Club, a 1920s gas station-turned-bar, is located just across campus on the Old Greenville Highway. The bar is topped with cedar from the original football stadium. Cold beer. Good burgers. Get there early.
Edge: Clemson. Drinking beer at the Esso Club is almost as much a Clemson tradition as Howard's Rock.
6. Iconic former coach
Clemson: Frank Howard. The Tigers were 165-118-12 in 30 seasons under Howard from 1940-69.
California: Andy Smith. The Bears were 74-16-7 in 10 seasons under Smith from 1916-25.
Edge: Clemson. Nobody ever has heard of Smith's Rock.
7. Businessmen alums
Clemson: Robert H. Brooks. President of Hooters of America, Inc.
California: Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computers.
Edge: California. As much as I enjoy Hooters, Apple prevails. Besides, Brooks never has been on "Dancing with the Stars."
8. Sitcom actors
Clemson: James Michael Taylor, who played Gunther, a coffee-shop worker with a crush on Jennifer Anniston in "Friends."
California: Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver Cleaver in "Leave it to Beaver."
Edge: California. Mathers played the title role. Taylor was a glorified extra.
9. Famous Olympians
California: Natalie Coughlin won five swimming medals, including two golds, at the 2004 Athens Games. In the 2008 Games in Beijing, she became the first American female athlete in modern Olympic history to win six medals in one Olympics.
Clemson: Shawn Crawford won gold in the 200-meter dash in the '04 games and won silver medals in the '04 4x100-meter relay and the '08 200-meter dash.
Edge: California. That's 11 medals to three.
10. Football national championships
California: The NCAA recognizes Cal national championships in 1920, '21 and '22.
Clemson: The NCAA recognizes Clemson's 1981 national championship.
Edge: Clemson. The Tigers were consensus national champions in '81, while Cal's were "retro" championships. The edge goes to championships that were recognized the year in which they were won.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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