Colorado Daily

Stuart WhitehairAnalyst IJune 2, 2011


June 1st

Game times set for CSU and Utah games

The game times have been set Colorado two “rivals” – one old; one new.

The Colorado athletic department has announced that the Colorado/Colorado State game on September 17th will kickoff at 11:30 a.m., while the regular season finale against Utah in Salt Lake City will kickoff at 1:30 the day after Thanksgiving. Both games will be shown nationally by FSN.

The Colorado/Colorado State game, known the last six years as the Cinch Jeans Rocky Mountain Showdown, will be played before a national or regional television audience for the 17th consecutive year. Despite the insistence by Ram fans that they have drawn closer to the Buffs in terms of quality of play in the last decade or so, the fact remains that Colorado owns an 11-5 (68.5%) edge since the television streak began, a 17-6 (73.9%) advantage since the series was resumed in 1983, and a 60-20-2 (74.3%) lead overall.

The downside of having a nationally televised game? Once again being forced to a morning kickoff …. Yuck.

The Colorado/Utah game will be played in the afternoon, at 1:30, also shown nationally on FSN. The “new” rival is actually one of Colorado’s oldest and most bitter. The Buffs own a 30-24-3 all-time edge, with the last game being played in Salt Lake City in 1962. In games played at Utah, the Utes hold a 15-14-2 advantage.

The addition of the CSU and Utah games to the television schedule, Colorado now has four games which Buff fans will be know will be on television: September 3rd @Hawai’i, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN2); September 10th v. Colorado State (Denver), 11:30 a.m. (FSN); November 4th (Friday) v. USC, 7:00 p.m. (ESPN2); and November 25th (Friday) @ Utah, 1:30 p.m. (FSN).

Any number of other games, particularly the California home game and the Ohio State road game, should be chosen for television (NCAA willing, with regard to the Ohio State game). Other Pac-12 games will also likely be televised, but Buff fans may not know until 12 days before the game, as networks chose the games they wish to televise.

Other Pac-12 televised games of note …

September 3rd – Minnesota @ USC – ABC

                               – UCLA @ Houston – FSN

                               – Oregon v. LSU (@ Arlington, Texas) – ABC

September 8th (Thurs.) – Arizona @ Oklahoma State – ESPN

September 9th (Friday) – Missouri @ Arizona State – ESPN

September 10th – Nevada @ Oregon – FX

                                  – Utah @ USC – Versus

September 17th – Texas @ UCLA – ABC/ESPN

                                  – Stanford @ Arizona – ESPN

                                  – Utah @ BYU – ESPN2

September 24th – Oregon @ Arizona – ESPN or ESPN2

                                  – USC @ Arizona State – ESPN or ESPN2

October 6th (Thurs.) – California @ Oregon – ESPN

October 13th (Thurs.) – USC @ California – ESPN

October 20th (Thurs.) – UCLA @ Arizona – ESPN

October 29th – Stanford @ USC – ABC

November 19th – USC @ Oregon – ABC

November 25th (Friday) – California @ Arizona State – ESPN

November 26th – Notre Dame @ Stanford – ABC or ESPN

                                 UCLA @ USC – FSN

December 2nd (Friday) – Pac-12 Championship – Fox


May 30th

Sports Illustrated investigation digs deeper into Ohio State’s transgressions

Perhaps now we can understand the timing of Tressel’s resignation.

Sports Illustrated is coming out with an article in this week’s edition, outlining an eight-year pattern of NCAA violations under head coach Jim Tressel.

In the article, the authors report that at least 28 players have been alleged to have traded or sold memorabilia, “at least 20″ players swapped memorabilia for tattoos, and at least four players traded memorabilia for marijuana.

The history of Tressel’s “ignorance is bliss” started at Youngstown State, where he claimed not to know that his star quarterback had received a car and more than $10,000 from a school trustee – even though it was later revealed that it was Tressel who told the player to go and see the trustee.

In 2003, Buckeyes’  running back Maurice Clarett became a pariah after he was found to have received money and other benefits, but Tressel, who had said that he spent more time with Clarett than any other player, claimed he had no knowledge of Clarett’s violations.

In 2004, an investigation uncovered a $500 payment to quarterback Troy Smith. Again, Tressel said he had no knowledge of the payment.

Beginning to detect a pattern?

The most recent troubles – which had led to Tressel agreeing to a five-game suspension to start the 2011 season – began in December, when the Department of Justice informed the University that six players had received tattoos or cash in exchange for Ohio State memorabilia. Tressel had said that he wasn’t aware of the problem - consistent with the “I didn’t know” defense he had raised over the years. The problem this time was that it was later disclosed that Tressel did in fact know about the problem all the way back in March.

Now, Tressel was not only complicit in the NCAA violations – he was caught lying to the NCAA about his knowledge. Rather than alert his superiors about the violations, as he was required to do, Tressel said he “couldn’t think” whom to tell (but he did tell Terrelle Pryor’s hometown advisor). Tressel managed to protect key players for the 2010 season, but in the end his actions cost five players (so far) five games of the 2011 season.

Sports Illustrated’s investigation reveals that the five players suspended may be just the tip of the iceberg.

According to SI, since 2002 a total of 28 players – 22 more than Ohio State has acknowledged – have been involved in memorabilia-for-tattoos. That total includes – and this is what is important to Buff fans – an additional nine current players whose alleged wrongdoing may fall within the NCAA’s four-year statute of limitations on violations.

On the list of nine players: Both the first and second string middle linebackers, Etienne Sabino and Storm Klein; the starting left defensive end, Nathan Williams; the starting right defensive end, John Simon; as well as backup running back Jaamal Berry. If these players were to be suspended, to go with the losses of quarterback Terrell Pryor, running back Dan Herron (Jamaal Berry was expected to carry the load during the first five games), starting offensive tackle Mike Adams, starting wide receiver DeVier Posey, and backup defensive tackle Solomon Thomas (who was the backup to the newly implicated Nathan Williams), there would be real problems in Columbus.

For those keeping score – that would be seven starters and three backups for those starters – who might not suit up September 24th, including both running backs, both left defensive ends, and both middle linebackers.

One former Buckeye, defensive end Robert Rose (whose career ended in 2009), told SI that he had swapped memorabilia for tattoos, and that “at least 20 others” on the team had done so as well (but some of those allegations are more than four years old now, and are not punishable by the NCAA). The magazine’s investigation also uncovered allegations that Ohio State players had traded memorabilia for marijuana, and that Tressel’s violations of NCAA rules may go back as far as his days as an assistant coach at Ohio State in the mid-1980’s (the story here: Tressel was in charge of the summer camps. Participants were allowed to buy raffle tickets for Ohio State gear. Tressel allegedly fixed the raffles so that elite prospects won the OSU gear).

It may not be a coincidence, then, that Tressel resigned two days after Ohio State was infomed of Sports Illustrated’s findings.

Tressel resigns as head coach at Ohio State

“After meeting with university officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel said in a statement Monday morning. “The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable.”

Assistant coach Luke Fickell, who had been named to fill in for Tressel during the first five games of the 2011 season in which he was to be suspended, will take over as the interim head coach, Ohio State said in the news release.

The news comes two weeks after Buckeyes athletic director Gene Smith affirmed his support for the coach amid an ongoing NCAA investigation for rules violations.

“We look forward to refocusing the football program on doing what we do best — representing this extraordinary university and its values on the field, in the classroom, and in life,” Smith said in the statement. “We look forward to supporting Luke Fickell in his role as our football coach. We have full confidence in his ability to lead our football program.”

Then there is this … I have it on good authority that former Utah and Florida head coach Urban Meyer, native of Ohio, purchased a home in Ohio this spring. Whether that means that Meyer, who is employed as an analyst for ESPN, has plans to return to coaching anytime soon, or that Ohio State would be interested in Meyer, is open to speculation.

But it is an interesting coincidence …

More on the new head coach … Luke Fickell, 37, graduated from Ohio State in 1997 and was a four-year starter at nose guard from 1992-96. He started a school-record 50 consecutive games for the Buckeyes. Fickell began his coaching career in 1999 as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. He spent two seasons at the University of Akron as defensive line coach.

He was brought onto the OSU staff full time in 2002 as special teams coordinator before becoming linebackers coach in 2004. Since 2005, Fickell has been co-defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.

May 29th

Even worse than I thought …

In “Predicting the Predictions” (scroll down to the May 14th story, below), I painted a fairly bleak picture of how the University of Colorado would be portrayed in the college football preseason magazines.

As it turned out, I was being optimistic …

Athlon Sports

Athlon pegs Colorado as its 76th-best team in the nation, falling between Virginia and Duke of the ACC, and behind such powers as Navy, UCLA, Tulsa, Iowa State, Hawai’i, Toledo, and Kansas State. Colorado is predicted to finish sixth in the Pac-12 South (it’s worthy of note that Colorado, in its time in the Big Seven, Big Eight, and the Big 12 never finished last alone in its conference – or, in the case of the Big 12, in its division).

Athlon points out as its ”Number of note” for Colorado is “18″, as in the 18 straight losses away from home suffered by the Buffs.

Some of the other low-lights:

On offense … “No one is going to confuse the Buffs with some of the more explosive offenses in the Pac-12″.

On defense … “If the Buffs can get competent play at cornerback, they could be competitive against the explosive offenses around the Pac-12. If not, coaches will have to get creative.”

Specialists … “Colorado needs consistency here after the roller-coaster ride of the past three seasons in the kicking game.”

Final analysis … “There’s excitement around the program with the arrival of a new coach, CU alum Jon Embree. But this is largely the same team which went 5-7 last year … Anything but a last place finish in the Pac-12 South would be a surprise.”

Prediction: 3-10 overall; 1-8 in the Pac-12

The most scathing report about the 2011 Buffs came in the “Coaching Carousel” report about the 21 new head coaches in Division 1-A. Of the 21 new coaches, Athlon rated Jon Embree the 20th-best hire, above only Bill Blankenship of Tulsa. Of Embree, Athlon reporter Mitch Light wrote: “Colorado reportedly made overtures toward Les Miles from LSU and Troy Calhoun from Air Force before hiring one of its own. Embree comes without a high salary – which is good for the cash-strapped CU athletic department – but he also comes without a proven track record. This is far from the most exciting hire of the off-season.”

The Sporting News

The Sporting News was a little friendlier to the Buffs, picking Colorado to finish fifth in the Pac-12 South (ahead of UCLA), and did rate senior offensive guard Ryan Miller as one of its All-American candidates.

On offense … “If (Tyler Hansen is) effective, the Buffs may fare better in their new home (in the Pac-12) than last year’s 52-7 loss to California would suggest … Rodney Stewart is a quality running back (1,318 yards) but there isn’t much in the way of proven depth … The same goes at wide receiver. (Other than Paul Richardson), there are no apparent playmakers at the position.”

On defense … “The Pac-12 South is no place for a fragile defense. And yet the Buffs, who yielded 40 points or more four times in 2010, have issues at every defensive position.

In “Ranking the Conferences”, The Sporting News rated the new Pac-12 third, behind the SEC and the Big Ten, giving props to Utah – “The addition of Utah makes the league stronger in the middle”, while concluding, “The league desperately needs UCLA to return to the elite” … No mention of Colorado at all, either as a positive addition to the league, or as a team which the Pac-12 needs to “return to the elite”.

Okay, Buffs. Colorado has been down for so long that a losing record is a given by the preseason magazines, and a last place finish is all but guaranteed.

Yes, we all know the schedule is tough, with 13 straight games without a bye, and only five home games.

Yes, we know that few outside of the Denver metro area have ever heard of Jon Embree, and that the coaching staff lacks a head coach and two coordinators with one season as a coordinator between the three of them (Greg Brown at Arizona last year).

Any yes, we know that there is inadequate depth and speed at many of the positions.

But it won’t get better until it gets better. One of the Buff teams – in the very near future – is going to have to over-achieve and break the cycle.

The first brick can be earned on September 3rd …


May 27th

Fun with numbers

In case you’ve just joined us … I like stats.

So checking out the “Cumulative Overrated/Underrated Teams” compilation was a natural for me. went back to 1989, comparing preseason and postseason polls, checking out which teams over-achieved in a given year, and which teams under-achieived. For example, this past season, Oregon started the 2010 season as the No. 10 team in the nation. After falling to Auburn in the BCS national championship game, the Ducks were ranked third, or a net “plus-7″ on cumulative list. Conversely, Nebraska began 2010 as the No. 9 team in the nation, but finished No. 20, or a “minus-11″ on the cumulative list. (Teams which dropped out of the poll by season’s end were considered to have finished 26th for counting purposes).

Taking only those teams which were ranked at least seven times in the pre-season or post-season over the course of the 21-year survey, the researchers found that the most underrated team in the nation since 1989 has been Oregon. The Ducks racked up a total of 78 1/2 total points, finishing higher in the final polls than the pre-season polls ten times in the past 21 years (including five of the past six). Conversely, the most overrated team in the nation over the past two decades has been USC. The Trojans have had a higher pre-season ranking than post-season ranking twelve times in the past 21 years. Since 2004, USC has only finished higher at the end of the season than in the beginning of the season once, and that was in 2006, when the Trojans finished exactly one spot higher in the final poll than they were in the preseason poll. Overall, USC was a whopping 89 spots worse in the final polls than in the preseason polls.

What about Colorado? The Buffs finished in the middle of the pack, with a minus-7 overall score. In the past 21 seasons, Colorado has improved its preseason ranking six times, while falling below preseason expectations six times. The best years for Colorado came in 1995 and 2001, when the Buffs bested the experts’ opinions by nine spots and 13 spots, respectively. The worst seasons, conversely, came in 1997, 1999, and 2002, when Colorado failed to live up to expectations to the tune of 18, 12, and 13 positions in the poll.

Other observations from the Overrated/Underrated list:

- The Big 12, counting Colorado, had seven teams qualify for consideration, with three teams finishing in the most Overrated Top Ten. Texas came in right behind USC at the bottom of the list, with a cumulative score of minus-85. Oklahoma followed Michigan and Notre Dame to finish sixth, while Nebraska trailed Florida, Florida State, and Clemson to finish tenth, with a final cumulative score of minus-61 1/2. Texas A&M also finished below Colorado, with a score of minus-34, while Texas Tech (plus-23) and Kansas State (plus-31) overachieved over the past 21 seasons;

- The Pac-10 had nine schools qualify for consideration (only Washington State failed to be ranked at least seven times over the past 21 years). As noted, USC was the nation’s most overrated school (minus-89), and Oregon was the most underrated (plus-78 1/2). In between, four schools were overrated overall: UCLA (minus-43 1/2); Washington (minus 28); Arizona (minus-11) and Cal (minus-10); while three schools were underrated overall – Arizona State (plus-eight); Stanford (plus-21); and Oregon State (plus-24 1/2). It is worthy of note that Stanford had a negative score over the first 20 seasons of the survey (minus-one), but went into the underrated category due to a huge leap this past season, going from unranked to a final poll position at No. 4 in the nation;

- The team which was best at over-achieving over the past 21 seasons was Boise State. Six times over the course of the survey (all in the last ten years), the Broncos finished at least ten places better in the final poll than where they started the season (more fodder for those who believe that non-BCS teams have too high a hill to climb to be considered in the national championship race).

- The team which consistently received too much love from the preseason polls was USC. Not only did the Trojans have the worst overall score, but, remarkably, USC fell at least ten spots from preseason to postseason seven times. Translation: in one out of every three seasons over the past two decades, USC has been so overrated as to fall at least ten places in the polls over the course of the year (including both 2009 and 2010).

- The most Schizophrenic teams in the nation are Alabama and Wisconsisn. Nine times over the past 21 seasons Alabama has been off by double digits in the polls. Five times, the Crimson Tide has been underrated; but four times the Tide has been overrated by at least ten spots. The same numbers apply to Wisconsin (five times underrated; four times overrated), but the Badgers managed to pull off the feat in only 14 seasons of rankings. Translation: out of the 21 seasons considered, Wisconsin was not ranked in either the preseason nor postseason, meaning that in the 14 seasons in which the Badgers earned a ranking, pollsters were off by double digits nine times – or 64% of the time!

- Other than USC, with seven seasons of double digit overratings, there have been four teams which have been overrated by double digits five times - Texas; Notre Dame; Miami; and UCLA. Eleven teams, meanwhile, which have been overrated by double digits four times: Oklahoma; Nebraska; Tennessee; LSU; Texas A&M; Washington; Georgia; Auburn; Iowa; Wisconsin; and Alabama. For those keeping score at home, that would be five teams from the SEC; four teams from the Big 12; three from the Pac-10; two from the Big Ten; one from the ACC; and one indepedent.

I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions …

May 25th

USC loses NCAA appeal

USC has lost in its appeal to have its NCAA-imposed sanctions reduced.

The Trojans appealed the sanctions imposed last year, and were allowed to recruit a full class this February while their appeal was pending.

USC will now lose 30 scholarships (10 per season) over the next three seasons, and will have to play with 75 scholarship players instead of 85. The Trojans will also be barred from playing in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game, and will not be allowed to participate in a bowl game.

The sanctions were imposed in June, 2010, after ruling that Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush and basketball player O.J. Mayo received improper benefits. The school was also cited for the all-important “lack of institutional control”. In addition to the above penalties, USC will be on probation for another three years, and will have 14 victories from the Reggie Bush era vacated (not that anyone pays any attention to vacated victories).

There is also the chance now that some of the USC seniors will transfer. As was the case last year, seniors with one year of eligibility remaining will be allowed to transfer to another FBS school without penalty. This is not likely for the 13 seniors on the USC roster this year, as these same players had the opportunity to transfer last summer, and chose not to do so.

Scholarship math … USC, at least in theory, was prepared to lose its appeal. “I’m not terribly optimistic,” athletic director Pat Haden said back in January, when the USC appeal was heard. “Statisically, you only win ten percent of appeals. The burden of proof is high.”

Despite the odds, USC did not prepare its roster for future sanctions. The Trojans signed a full class in February, and has 82 players on scholarship for 2011. With 13 seniors on the roster, that leaves USC with 69 players on scholarship for 2012 – and a scholarship limit of 75 players.

Will that mean that USC will only sign six players in 2012? Not likely. With attrition, there is a chance that USC will be able to sign a full class – with a “full class” for USC in 2012 (and 2013 and 2014) being 15 players.

Which presents another problem for Lane Kiffin and the USC coaching staff. With the commitment of offensive lineman Max Turek this week, USC has eight players who have given their verbal commitments, leaving a maximum of seven scholarships slots for USC to fill.

What it means to the Buffs … The impact on recruiting for Colorado and the rest of the Pac-12 over the next three years cannot be understated. With USC losing ten scholarships per season for the next three years, there will be thirty quality recruits which will be playing elsewhere in the nation. While some prospects will opt to play for other national powers, it’s a safe bet that the majority of those 30 players will suit up for other Pac-12 teams.

Will any of those players wind up wearing the black-and-gold? Perhaps. One example might be Colorado recruit Shane Dillon. The El Cajon, California, quarterback gave his verbal commitment to Colorado on May 12th, but since then, Dillon’s high school coach has been quoted as saying that other programs have been sniffing around, including USC.

With only seven scholarships left to offer – assuming the Trojans can keep the eight they have lined up already – will Shane Dillon still fit into the Trojans’ plans? USC currently has eight quarterbacks on their roster (not all are on scholarship), with only one of those eight a senior. Two of those quarterbacks are freshmen – Cody Kessler and Max Wittek - who are four-star members of the Class of 2011 who enrolled this spring.

Safe to say that quarterback is not a high priority for USC this recruiting cycle, so can the Trojans take a flyer on Shane Dillon? Probably not.

Does that guarantee that Dillon will sign with Colorado? No (Miami is also reportedly very interested in stealing Dillon away).

But with USC down to 15 scholarships this year – and for the next two years after that – the field has opened up for the Trojans’ rivals.

May 24th

CU passes APR test

It wasn’t exactly an “A”, but the CU football program will take it.

The Colorado football and basketball programs are back in good standing after making significant improvements in this year’s Academic Progress Rate (APR) report.

In the 2009-10 report, football achieved an annual APR of 958, improving the four-year average (2006-07 to 2009-10) from 920 to 929. The improvement was enough to avoid any penalties, which occur when a team’s four-year rolling average falls below 925.

According to the CU press release:  “School officials designed an academic improvement plan for football that was implemented last fall, and predictors are that an upward trajectory in APR scores will continue when the current year’s scores are gathered this fall for next year’s report. CU’s Faculty Athletics Representative, Dr. David Clough, noted that new coach ‘Jon Embree and his staff are attunde to the  team’s APR situation, crediting the transition under the new staff, as well former head coach Dan Hawkins and his staff, the team, and to the great academic support provided in Athletics and by te faculty and staff on the Boulder Campus.’ This improvement came after the football program was issued a contemporaneous penalty in last year’s report, which amounted to a one-year reduction of five scholarships (absorbed in the 2008-09 academic year).”

The Colorado men’s basketball team posted a perfect 1,000 annual score for 2009-10. The four-year score, after three years below 900, jumped to 926. the basketall team also absorbed the loss of a scholarship in 2008-09 (from 13 to 12).

All of the 14 remaining Colorado programs – for the seventh consecutive year – are in good standing, with 12 of the 14 programs showing improvement in the past year (the two which went down – women’s basketball and women’s golf – had perfect 1,000 four-year rolling averages, were reduced to still more-than-acceptable scores of 965 and 964, respectively).

Other than football and men’s basketball, every other program at the University of Colorado scored over 950, and are in no danger of falling below the required cumulative average score of 925.