As the ACC turns – Louisville and Charlie Strong, the key to BCS football relevance #accrealignment

Although the ACC’s relevance in football continues to decline the addition of Louisville may make the conference’s football pallbearers Florida State and Clemson reconsider packing their bags and delay their dreams of greener pastures in the Big XII or Pac XII.

The addition of Louisville means that another talented coach with a proven record of success joins the fold improving the level of coaching in the ACC significantly. The momentum of the Louisville football program continues to head in a positive direction and the dismal performances of past all but seem like distant memories.

A consequence of Charlie Strong’s success in Louisville has made him a candidate for a number of prominent SEC head coaching vacancies (Auburn, Arkansas, and Tennessee). The athletic director has publicly stated his desire to retain Strong and make Strong the highest paid coach in college football. Efforts to fulfill such a promise made by Louisville will not only impact their program but also ultimately determine the fate of the ACC conference.

If the Cardinals fail to retain Charlie Strong it will be a forgone conclusion that Florida State and Clemson will jump ship and head to the Big XII.  The frustration of coaches in the conference has already reached its boiling point and the addition of Louisville is a last-ditch effort to prevent current ACC coaches from taking other jobs and deter other teams exploring alternative conference options.

The head coaching vacancies in the SEC will ultimately determine the fate of the ACC conference. Rumors are rampant that three current ACC head coaches may be roaming the sidelines in greener pastures next year – Miami Head Coach Al Golden (BC, UT);FSU Head Coach Jimbo Fisher (Auburn, UT, and Arkansas); and Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong (Arkansas, Auburn, and UT).

While awaiting its dismal football fate the ACC will attempt to excite their fan bases with their elite basketball programs.The quality of head coaching that will roam hardwood in 2014 will be unrivaled by any conference in the nation. Just for a moment imagine the new rivalries that will form with the addition of Syracuse and Louisville to the ACC. Basketball fans will be treated to match ups between hall of fame coaches like Jim Boeheim of Syracuse, Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Roy Williams of UNC, and Rick Pitino of Louisville.

The excitement of these potential match-ups on the hoops hardwood promises to be ‘awesome with a capital A’ Although the conference may fail to produce a BCS National Championship in football the banners and nets the conference may collect by reaching the Final Four and winning National Championships in basketball may be a consolation prize fans may have to live with. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

As the ACC Turns: The Plight of the ACC – A sinking ship and its declining relevance

News of Maryland moving to the Big Ten has set off a ripple effect that will impact every college program in Division I sports. Although its been nearly a decade since the Maryland Terrapins have been relevant in basketball and football their exit to greener pastures may have been the first of many changes that are likely to occur this winter.

When the ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College many presumed the conference that was known mostly for its basketball would become gain relevance and field national championship contenders other than just the Florida State Seminoles who had dominated the conference. Despite their efforts to field a more competitive conference and attract a significant tv deal the ACC remains stagnant, irrelevant, and unappealing when compared to other conference around the nation. The mega conference that the ACC aspired never bore fruit.

The fact that Maryland was not deterred by the ACC’s $50 million dollar exit fee reveals how desperate schools are willing to pay anything to break from the bondage of mediocrity and irrelevance and strive for a slice of prosperity available in other BCS conferences. It appears that demise of this conference will be slow and painful as coaches decline vacancies in the ACC and potential recruits are now choosing to go elsewhere in pursuit of National Championships.and a opportunity to shine in the limelight for NFL scouts.

Recruits crave the spotlight, coaches crave the opportunity of winning national championships, the longer that neither of the goals appear attainable in the ACC the less likely that its perception will never change. At this pace the conference’s best coach Jimbo Fisher of Florida State is certain to leave the ACC in his quest to win a National Championship (Jimbo Fisher is rumored to be a favorite for the Auburn vacancy)

This pass Saturday the ACC had an opportunity to justify being relevant on the national stage when its two best teams Clemson and Florida State faced their instate rivals from the SEC. Despite their offensive firepower and fair share of 5-star recruits on the defensive sides of the ball both Florida State and Clemson demonstrated the ever-increasing gap that exists between the ACC and the other conferences who regularly contend for National Titles.

Although the ACC has yet to reach the status of complete irrelevance it appears that its days as a BCS Conference may be numbered. There was a time when winning cured all evil, but if an 10-1 record can not even garner National Championship possibilities like the other one loss teams, in the end whats the point?

The fate of the ACC now rests with Florida State and Clemson. As the ACC continues to unravel high school recruits, fan bases, and head coaches will find new homes and new destinations if things in the ACC remains unchanged. ‘As the ACC turns’. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

New York Knicks: Empire State of Mind – Fast start but how will they finish? #knicks

Despite the New York Knicks being in the largest media market in the world they began the season completely under the radar. Many assumed that all was lost when the Knicks parted ways with Jeremy Lin and signed 37-year-old  point guard Jason Kidd who made headlines this summer for his drunken rendition of dance fever in the Hamptons.

After an early exit in the playoffs at the hand of the eventual NBA champions the Knicks entered the off-season with a lot of questions. Carmelo’s return to his hometown had yet to meet the expectations of Madison Garden’s faithful who presumed that his paring with Amare Stoudemire and defensive stalwart Tyson Chandler would yield more than just a first round exit.

Several of the Knicks battled nagging injuries last season but they wisely used the off-season to rest and get stronger. The same Knicks front office that is known more for its blunders than its successes struck gold yet again in signing point guard Raymond Felton whose on his second tour with the Knicks and adding power forwards Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace who will add much-needed veteran leadership to the franchise. The Knicks also were fortunate enough to resign three-point shooting ace Steve ‘discount-double check’ Novak who had the best season of his career leading the entire in NBA in 3-point percentage.

Regretfully the same injury bug that has nagged the New York Knicks struck quickly when starting power forward Amare Stoudemire went down with another knee injury. Since signing with Knicks this talented young man has been a shadow of himself whose fashion cents have garnered more attention that his play on the court. Although his return to the court has yet to be determined The team adjusted almost seamlessly by moving Carmelo to power forward which has been a match-up nightmare for opposing teams.

At 7-1 it finally seems that the entire team has bought into the concept of playing defense led by former Defensive Player of the Year, Tyson Chandler. Although the season is still young the Knicks have already collected impressive wins over the NBA’s elite – the Heat and Spurs.

However, only 8 games into an 82-game season the NBA landscape can change quickly. The chemistry on the team appears to be solid but how will things change once Amare Stoudemire returns from injury?  It may be in the teams best interest to bring him off the bench but will the perennial All-Star accept a diminished role. Due to his 5-year $100 million dollar contract and his well documented injury history Amare has zero trade value so if he fails to accept his new role he may be asked to stay home ‘a la Marbury’s $22 million dollar bench role in 2008.

Another development to keep a close eye on throughout the season is the health of the veterans on the Knicks roster, currently they have four of oldest players in the league (Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Jason Kidd). However, the Knicks will add much-needed depth when guard Iman Shumpert returns after the All-Star break from a torn ACL that he suffered in last year’s playoffs.

Many questions remain for this talented squad but the success of their season will ultimately be determined not by Carmelo’s scoring but by his ability to contribute on both ends of the floor. Although Melo may be the face of the franchise the Knicks will go as far as their leader defensive minded Tyson Chandler takes them. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

 

 

Road2BCS Title: Let the Chaos Begin – 3 unbeatens remain who’ ll be the last team standing #bcstitle

So here we are…week 11 is in the books, week 12 is coming up and we now have it…total chaos. While many believe a 4-team playoff would answer the questions we all have, the real question is, would it? The USA Today Coaches Poll (the one that matters of the two “big ones”) currently has three unbeaten teams, and 8 1-loss teams. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument that the only teams who have a chance to make it to the BCS Title game are the three unbeatens and any of the 1-loss teams currently ranked within the Top 10 of the coaches’ poll. We’re not using the BCS rankings because there’s three 2-loss teams in there that really have zero chance of making the title game when it is all said and done. So here we go:

Oregon: Oregon definitely controls its own destiny. Win the rest of their games and they will be headed to Miami for the BCS National Championship Game. While they’re currently below K-State in the BCS rankings, they will reach #1 if they win out. They still have ranked Stanford and ranked Oregon State on their schedule, plus the PAC-12 Championship Game where they’ll face the winner of this week’s USC/UCLA game. If Oregon does stumble, they’d need quite a bit of help to get to the title game because of the late nature of their loss…and the fact that they’re not in the SEC.
Kansas State: Like Oregon, win out and they’re in. K-State has two more games, at Baylor and home against Texas. Win those and Kansas State will likely be packing their bags for sunny Miami. There’s no Big 12 Championship Game, so the risk of a post-Thanksgiving loss isn’t there for them like it is Oregon. Kansas State has done enough to deserve its ranking and winning out should send them to the to the big game.
Notre Dame: It’s hard to imagine a scenario where an undefeated Notre Dame team doesn’t play for the National Title, however, that’s exactly what we’re faced with. If all three teams above go unbeaten, Notre Dame is odd man out. However, if one of the two above stumbles and ND is undefeated, they will be playing for all the marbles. Notre Dame has two games left, Wake Forest and at USC. Lose one of those two and ND is done. While they have a lofty ranking now, they would fall behind several of the 1-loss teams, especially the winner of the SEC Championship Game.
Now the fun begins. There are 5 1-loss teams still in the top 10 of the USA Today Coaches Poll. They are 4. Georgia, 5. Alabama, 6. Florida State, 7. Florida and 9. Clemson. The ridiculous BCS Rankings have LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M, all with 2-losses, ahead of 1-loss FSU and Clemson. Let’s, again, assume that the 2-loss SEC teams are out of it (as they should be). What happens next?
4. Georgia and 5. Alabama: One of these two teams will lose, there’s no question about that. Either Alabama will lose to Auburn (NOT likely) or Alabama will lose to Georgia, or Georgia will lose to Alabama. Like I said, one of these two teams is out of it by virtue of beating the other. Should a combination of two unbeatens falter, the winner of the SEC Championship Game is next in line to make it to the big game. I’m going to go against conventional wisdom and pick UGA to upset Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. I like more of what I’ve seen out of Georgia since their loss than I have from Alabama in the past two weeks. Alabama’s biggest weakness seems to be their secondary and Aaron Murray, despite what you saw against South Carolina, can flat-out sling the pigskin.
6. Florida State and 7. Florida: Like Georgia and Alabama, one of these two teams will lose. Florida travels to Doak Campbell Stadium to face the Seminoles on November 24th. This is a classic return for one of College Football’s most storied rivalries. I was in Doak Campbell when Peter Boulware and Reinard Wilson made Danny Weurffel their own personal tackling dummy. I was at the Swamp when Samari Rolle fell down allowing Jacquez Greene to break free setting up a game winning touchdown, dashing the Seminoles 1997 National Title hopes. College football is better when these two teams are battling it out for the state title, and this year we will likely have two 10-1 teams fighting for bragging rights…but little else. It’s highly unlikely that all three unbeatens lose, which is exactly what would need to happen to vault the winner of this game to #2 in the polls. That said…I also remember 1998 and 2000 when the Seminoles needed a lot to happen to make it to the big game…and it all happened. I won’t make a pick in this game because I am too emotionally attached, but I will say, it’s going to be LOUD in Doak Campbell and a bad offense against a good defense could be trouble.
9. Clemson: And that leaves the Tigers. Many people don’t believe the Clemson Tigers are a legitimate Top 10 team. I disagree. This offense is one of the best in college football and while the defense leaves some to be desired, they can outscore anyone, any time. The Tigers however would need way too much to happen in order to make it to the National Title game, and the biggest thing they need is to beat South Carolina. Beating Spurrier’s team would not only give Dabo bragging rights, it likely brings them a chance to shine on one of the biggest stages, the Sugar Bowl, against the winner of the SEC Championship Game.
Well there you have it. While I don’t foresee all three unbeatens losing, there’s certainly a chance for college football, and even better, BCS chaos. One thing is for sure, these next few weeks of college football will be entertaining and give us a lot to talk about. I, for one, am looking forward to everything that’s to come! – Jared Ross (@fsunole21)

Lakernation – Banner or Bust: After the fire and hire coaching debacle in the end no one wins

Unable to stomach the putrid performance of a $100 million dollar roster led by Coach Mike Brown any longer the Laker front office finally decided to cut the cord. Despite his tireless efforts it took the Laker front office last season and five games to acknowledge the widely held truth that Coach Mike Brown just was not a good fit for the Laker franchise.

Once news broke of the imminent firing rumors were rampant that the head coaching vacancy was gift wrapped on a silver platter with a red bow for 10-time championship winning Coach Phil Jackson to take. Despite the overtures from both Phil Jackson and the Laker front office the expected match made in heaven failed to come to fruition, the third time was not a charm. Rumors allege that Phil Jackson wanted more say in basketball operations and wished to negotiate the number of road games he would have to travel too.  According to a statement released by Jackson these demands were not accurate and he was told that he had until Monday per a gentlemen’s agreement to make his decision.

Despite this alleged agreement to the surprise of Jackson, Lakernation, and many others the front office officially announced that Mike Dantoni was going to be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. After this announcement speculation was rampant that the demands of Phil were unreasonable and that the Lakers current roster was not a good fit for his famed triangle offense.

Regardless of which side one may sit on this issue the bottom line is that everyone loses. Jerry Buss, the Lakers general manager and president of operations has ruined a once pristine reputation after his poor handling of the coaching debacle. His initial hiring of Mike Brown initially raised eye brows but many gave him the benefit of the doubt but his failure to seal the deal with Phil Jackson revealed the division that in not on the Laker front office but also within the Buss family.

The new head man in Laker-ville has walked into a no win situation that many pundits and fans have yet to realize. Although Dantoni’s break neck offense led to three Western Conference Finals appearances and two MVPs for Steve Nash the thoroughbreds he had on that Suns roster are not present on the Laker bench.

In an effort to refresh the memories of many let me remind everyone that those Sun teams ran a pick and roll offense where Nash dominated the ball and dished the ball to his three-point shooters when the defense collapsed on him when he attacked the paint. However, Nash is now only shades of his former self after suffering several injuries to his back, ankle, and now his shin which have robbed him of both his explosiveness and speed needed to attack the basket.

Too make matters worst, the age of the Lakers makes the prospects of them running Dantoni’s break neck speed offense appear far from a desirable alternative for an entire 82-game season. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant are already dealing with injuries and Dantoni’s has yet to install his offense which will certainly test the will and frail bodies of these two often injured superstars.

Although Kobe appears to be on board cameras will certainly be on alert trying to capture any moment of discontent once Dantoni’s offense reduces him to a spot up shooter and a secondary option forced to watch the pick and roll offense run through Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Lastly, do not think that Dwight Howard has not already began to plan his exit strategy in case his stay in Staple Center is only temporary. The wear and tear of running Dantoni’s offense tears your body to shreds, don’t believe me ask Amare Stoudamire of the New York Knicks who has never been the same after playing for the Suns for four years.

Dantoni has said that if the Lakers are not in the finals then he has failed ‘banner or bust’. This promises to continue to be a compelling story all season long. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark

 

Colorado and Washington legalize marijuana – How will the NCAA, NFL, NBA, and MLB respond? #election2012

On Tuesday approximately 114 million Americans exercised their fundamental right to vote but in addition to selecting our next Commander-in-Chief in several states Americans were left to decide on an issue that may be of great interest to the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB and other professional sports franchises played in the United States. The issue that I am speaking of is the use of marijuana which was legalized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington. Both of these states are home to the BIG 3 in pro sports as well as college programs with ties to the BCS.

Each of the three major sports industries have stiff penalties for their players if they test positive for using banned and or illegal substances.The NCAA also has issued stiff penalties to its players for testing positive and being found with a banned substance in their possession. A number of players with promising professional careers have found themselves dismissed from their schools and out of the league due to their addiction to marijuana. However the legalization of marijuana poses an interesting dilemma for the universities and sports franchises in these two states.

In light of this new law will these billion dollar sports franchises make the necessary changes and align with these new laws? Although it is unlikely that these professional sports leagues would ever make a state by state exception the thought of a player being suspended or dismissed from a college for smoking marijuana in a state where its legal would open a petrie dish of problems that no commissioner would want to deal with. I can already envision the NFL or MLB players associations challenging such suspensions causing a media frenzy of momentous proportion.

The struggles of students with promising professional futures has been well documented and frequently made headline news: Tyrann Mathieu of LSU, Da’Rick Rogers of UT, Greg Reid of Florida State, Michael Dyer of Auburn, Isiah Crowell of UGA. These talented players seemed destined to shake the hand of the commissioner after being drafted in the NFL but due to their addiction to marijuana a pro career for some of them already appears highly unlikely.

In the world of recruiting where coaches are always trying to get an edge I wonder in the states where the use of marijuana is legal will recruiters use this to their advantage to get 5 star players to sign with their schools? Although many would consider such a ploy to be unethical some may consider it no worst than giving the prospect money or buying their family a house. The world of recruiting is a ruthless business where nice guys always finish last so any advantage is always maximized. However, such a recruiting ploy would require these institutions of higher learning and the NCAA to revise drug testing policies.

At the moment the legalization of marijuana for recreational use is a problem that the sports industries and the NCAA can ignore but if more states begin to change their policies the time may come where the world of sports would be forced to follow suit. Two dominoes fell on election night and I am sure that the NCAA, NFL, NBA, and MLB took notice. Will the other 48 eventually follow suit? In the realm of sports there will never be a boring moment. Stay tuned… I know I will – A. Denmark (like my fan page on facebook @Eat Drink Sleep Sportz)

Dallas Cowboys: 4-5 Falling Star – Many have questions. But who has answers? #dallascowboys

As the Dallas Cowboys continue to disappoint for yet another season news of suspended Coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints contract being voids has many in Dallas lost in the world of what-ifs. Although Dallas Cowboy owner and general manager Jerry Jones pledged his allegiance to Coach Garrett everyone knows he did not earn his billions by showing his hand. 

There was a time when the Cowboys were regulars in the Super Bowl however it seems that the consistency of winning has been replaced with unforgettable fourth quarter blunders that have left the Cowboy faithful lost and weary. It has been nearly fifteen years since the Cowboys have made it past the second round. During that time the Dallas Cowboys have mastered the fourth quarter collapse with flawless precision, Romo’s fumbled field goal snap in the 2009 playoffs still hurts many of my friends to this very day.

Currently sitting at 4-5 how the team performs the remainder of the season will make for an entertaining off-season that will not be short of drama and suspense. Although quarterback Tony Romo has taken a lot of heat while at the helm talks regarding a contract extension still remain unresolved. No one will contest the inconsistency of his play but signing him to an extension almost seems like a foregone conclusion due to the lack of studs available via the draft or free agency.

Head Coach Jason Garrett despite his high football acumen his Cowboys continues to fail to meet expectations despite the potential and talent available to produce an explosive offense. Cowboy owner Jerry Jones made his billions by knowing when to drill for oil and when the time has come to drill elsewhere. At the two-year mark many believe that the time has come to move on.

On last Sunday it was reported that Coach Sean Payton’s contract with the New Orleans Saints was voided making him available as a free agent to the highest bidder. Due to Sean Payton’s history with the Cowboys and his family living in Dallas many have made the Cowboys a prohibitive favorite to win the bidding war for his services.

If Sean Payton returns to run the show in the Big Easy do not be surprised to hear Oregon Coach Chip Kelly become an attractive commodity that’s offensive track record would certainly tickle the fancy of the billionaire oil man. Chip Kelly said no to the Buccaneers last year will he able to do the same to the Dallas Cowgirls Dallas Stadium and a impressive array of pieces on offense?

Despite their slow start, unlike Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins who has already conceded the season all is not lost in Dallas. The pieces to make a long playoff run are certainly there but how the season ends will make the Dallas Cowboys my top pick for Hard Knocks for the next off-season due to all of the drama that would certainly ensue. It is very possible that boisterous defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his defense will be the key that ultimately determines the future of the franchise, and the fate of their head coach. What will be the first domino to fall? Will Romo get an extension. Stay tuned to America’s team I know I will – A. Denmark