Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Syracuse Beats EMU While Jim Boeheim and Media Fight to a Draw

More people showed for Boeheim's press conference than the game

Syracuse beat a non-disgraced former assistant coach taking down Rob Murphy's Eastern Michigan team 84-48. The game served as a long prelude to Jim Boeheim's first press conference since Bernie Fine was dismissed. The game lasted about an hour and 50 minutes, the press availability went 20 and had infinitely more drama.

Here are some thoughts on the presser first, since that was the main event, and then the game.

The Press Conference

Boeheim started out with a prepared statement, but that's not what the throngs of media from all over the country came to hear. They wanted red meat and Jim Boeheim's ability to NOT speak his mind made the event riveting.  The Hall of Fame coach got through the statement and then said he wouldn't discuss the case...and then of course proceeded to discuss the case.

Clearly Boeheim was a little more nervous than I've ever seen him. He's a man who honestly doesn't care much about his image. Based on body language, press conferences are boring - a necessary evil and just part of the gig. He usually spends them leaning on a hand while working through a few questions about the 2-3 zone before calling it a wrap. So to watch him address the media hoard in an almost nervous fashion was a little surreal.

He then sparred with the national media who wanted to talk about the case, generally making the points that:

- He's a basketball coach and he's never been concerned about losing his job
- He is responsible for controlling what he can control
- We don't yet know what happened
- He respects those that are in charge and those that make decisions, such as the Chancellor of the University
- Ball boys have never traveled with the team
- He still doesn't regret defending a friend
- He's responsible for what happens under his watch
- He's never listened to the Laurie Fine tape

Overall I would have much rather preferred that he stick to the statement and then express concern for any potential victims and ask that we wait until the results of the investigation before jumping to conclusions. Then walk off. The statement was comprehensive. However, that's not Boeheim and that's not what he did.

Throughout the 20 minute press conference he did a reasonably good job of bringing the conversation back to the statement. However, he did it while smirking (most likely a nervous smile), while making jokes to try and lighten the mood, while discussing some details such as the traveling policies of ball boys and in what some may pounce on -- he didn't give any big acts of contrition. Not that he needed to, but it was clear no one would fall on a sword tonight.

To expand on that, those that may take a critical view -- and we will assuredly get national columnists that will - may try to pounce on his perceived attitude.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see a "King Boeheim thinks he's bigger than this" column from some one. It's an easy point to make. This is a national news story, not a basketball story. People who are watching don't know Jim Boeheim. They don't understand his personality. They expect someone in his position to show more empathy than he's ever going to show. Its most likely going to be an on-going issue.

Here's what I took from it. Jim Boeheim knows he didn't do anything wrong. Jim Boeheim has confidence that when the truth comes out, it will show that if there was abuse there's no way he could have known about it. That there was no cover up. He's confident in the way he acted and the way the University has acted since new information came to light. Frankly I believe him. There is no doubt in my mind Jim Boeheim had any idea what might have happened in Bernie Fine's basement late at night. That defiance - that belief in himself and that  belief in the fact that things were done the right way endear him to some Syracuse fans. Of course, that same attitude can come off as arrogance depending on your perspective. And that gives fodder to others.

Game Observations

The Orange started slow before kicking it into gear with a 50 point second half.  Here are a few quick observations:

- Rob Murphy still has the shiniest head in basketball. It was great to see him and the head glow back in the Dome.

- Speaking of which, Coach Murph must have a rule against assistants unbuttoning their coats during games, because I didn't see one open sport coat. They also might be the best dressed staff in the nation. You have to look good to coach good -- just don't don't tell that to Bob Huggins.

- After 80 minutes of zone in NYC, we saw about 37 minutes of man to man tonight. In the first half, that man to man wasn't very good. In the second half, it was.

- Early on Scoop wasn't looking for his jumper and overall the team was over-dribbling in an effort to beat EMU's 2-3 zone. They struggled to get the ball in the paint and kept getting beat off the dribble on defense.

- Every one of those issues was corrected in the second half. That's good coaching.

- James "Colt 43" Southerland was on fiyah tonight and playing extended minutes. It's pretty clear that against zone teams James will see a lot of minutes and against man to man teams, CJ Fair will play much more. It is great to have that kind of depth.

- The second half started with a Rakeem Christmas offensive rebound that really got him going. He played his best half of basketball to date. SU will need to have that third big body ready to play by the time the Big East rolls around.

- I'm not 100 percent sure but I think SU had more more missed dunks (three) than EMU had dunks (zero).

- Dion Waiters didn't score much, but he's playing excellent defense and playing it all the time. It's night and day from last year.

- JB at the podium - with his statement that didn't stand a chance:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Back to Basketball: Syracuse NIT Observations

The Bernie Fine scandal isn't going away anytime soon and while it casts a huge, bleak pall over everything else, the Syracuse basketball season isn't getting cancelled either, so let's talk about hoops for a while. Here are some long overdue thoughts on the Preseason NIT. These will be brief since it feels like the games were played a million years ago already.

Syracuse v. Virginia Tech

Obviously the offensive execution was off for Syracuse in both games and it was pronounced against Va. Tech.  However, the real issue for SU was the Hokies style of play. Give Seth Greenberg credit, he knew his team couldn't run with SU so he made a deliberate effort to slow the game down and take the air out of the ball. This is much easier to do against a zone than it is against aggressive man to man. It allowed Tech to play a slow, boring game.

Now we know Syracuse is going to be a zone team, that's just what Jim Boeheim does at this point. That's fine. However, for the first four games of season, he showed a willingness to play some long stretches of man, so it was disappointing to see him revert to 40 minutes of straight 2-3 zone, especially when a couple of different defenses could have changed the tempo of the game.  However, the truth of the matter is the zone was very good. Tech made some tough shots in the first half, otherwise they wouldn't have been  in the game as long as they were.

Offensively, Kris Joseph and Dion Waiters came up huge in the second half, which very well could be a theme all season long. Joseph looks much more comfortable in his role as SU's go-to guy and Waiters has the most pure talent and athleticism on the team.

We also had Brandon Triche come up with 18 huge points and CJ Fair contribute off the bench. The beauty of the current backcourt situation is that Scoop Jardine, Waiters and Triche are all interchangeable. Each can play either guard spot which will let Boeheim mix and match based on whose hot and whose not. Fair will play starter minutes all season long.

Syracuse v. Stanford

While the offense was sloppy against VT, the entire team was downright flat v. Stanford. It's impossible to attribute how much the current scandal is affecting the team, but you'd have to be crazy to think it isn't playing a factor.

Against the Cardinal we again saw 40 minutes of zone -- but it was buttressed by an extremely effective full-court press that turned the game around. I actually really like the press-zone combo, as it's much easier to find your spot on the floor if your opponent successfully breaks the press than it is to track down your man.  Hopefully the successful deployment  of the press/zone combo against both Colgate and now Stanford will  be enough to convince JB to go it much earlier in the game.  The team has enough depth to pull it off.

Fab Melo was real presence on both ends of the floor and tournament  MVP Kris Joseph again carried the offense. I killed Joseph on this blog a lot last year for a lack of defensive effort. He'll never be a stopper, but he's working much harder at that end of the floor this year.

This was a game that I don't think SU wins last year - so while it was an ugly win, it was also a good one -- and a good omen for the future. God knows we could all use more of those.

Tournament Quick Hit Observations

- Two tough games and Boeheim plays 80 minutes of zone. It worked, so that's fine, but it's telling.

- Two tough games and the bench got very short. Rakeem Christmas, James Southerland and Michael-Carter Williams are numbers 8, 9, and 10 respectively in the rotation. When the going gets tough JB plays 7 guys and plays zone. It is what it is.

- Dion Waiters play making ability is something he didn't show much of last year. He's been extremely impressive at beating guys off the dribble, getting into the paint and finding teammates.

- Dion and Brandon Triche closed both games.

- There's no player Boeheim trusts more than Brandon Triche. He has a really long leash and if he plays well -- and he's certainly capable of it -- this team will go far. He's certainly one guy that doesn't have to look over his shoulder after an errant pass.

- C.J. Fair doesn't start, but he'll play a ton of minutes and he'll be productive almost all of the time.  He's got the consistency of a senior already.

- Would have liked to have seen some more of James "Colt 43" Southerland - but he'll get more minutes over the rest of the pre-conference season.

- I'd much rather worry about defensive rotations, playing time and opponents three point shooting percentages than sexual molestation charges. We all want justice - and we all just want sports to be  fun again.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Darker Days Are Ahead as Syracuse Fires Bernie Fine

These are dark days for the Syracuse basketball program -- and things won't be getting any better immediately. Sunday morning the investigation into sexual abuse allegations against former Syracuse Associate Head Basketball coach took a stunning turn. A taped telephone conversation between Fine's wife Laurie and the man who has accused Bernie of sexually molesting him was played on ESPN's Outside the Lines.

The contents of the tape were so disturbing that the University fired Fine Sunday night. Jim Boeheim released a statement on Facebook of all places supporting the move and expressing contrition for his earlier statements that attacked the alleged victims.  As I write this, the media maelstrom is kicking into high gear. The rush to judgement is on. People like Darren Rovell are asking if Jim Boeheim should be fired. It is going to get worse before it gets better, because the only thing that will resolve this matter is the truth. Unfortunately it could take a while to find it.

The ugly, ugly audiotape raises more questions than it answers and in the process throws a 55 gallon drum of gas onto an already burning fire.  A week ago the allegations against Fine were serious, but there seemed to be at least a plausible chance they were false.  After all, the matter had been investigated by ESPN, the Syracuse Post Standard, Syracuse University and at the very least the Syracuse PD had heard about them.

We had Jim Boeheim screaming from the rafters that Fine was innocent and openly accusing the alleged victims of being motivated by money. Former players were coming out to support Fine from all parts of the globe. Even with the wild histrionics going on between District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick and the Syracuse Police Department, it seemed reasonable to think that the authorities would investigate, a report would be issued, and we'd all know one way or the other what happened.

But of course nothing about this case is reasonable. The tape is the height of insanity and now it appears Fine is not the person he claims to be.  The case is so bizarre that were it fiction, it would be laughably bad.  So far we've got:

  • Allegations of sexual abuse that go back nearly 30 years and were first alleged 9 years ago.
  • Three accusers, two of whom are stepbrothers, and a third whose own father says he's a liar -- and has been charged with sexual abuse himself.
  • The District Attorney launching a full scale attack on the mayor and a police department that refuses to turn over evidence to him.
  • Jim Boeheim calling the  first two accuser liars who are out for money -- and then recanting.
  • The wife of the alleged abuser admitting on tape that she had sex with the victim.
  • The victim telling Fine he had sex with his wife and Fine not really giving a crap.
  • The firing of a guy who has been a Hall of Fame coach's assistant his entire tenure.

Make no mistake about it - the loudmouth, flame throwing columnists and sports talk radio personalities will start calling for Boeheims' head because that's what we do in this day and age - take a nugget of information, form and opinion and see who will be the most outrageous and scream the loudest. They will "debate" the issue and jump to conclusions and rant and rave. It's what attracts the most pageviews, ratings numbers and attention.

Gregg Doyel has already started. Gregg wants Boeheim fired because that's the opinion that will get the most people talking about him. He needs to be heard. And if you disagree with him, then you aren't smart enough to understand his point  which is that because Boeheim went to far in attacking the victims (which he absolutely did do) then he needs to be fired. Zero tolerance Gregg Doyel. If he lived by the words he preached, he'd have been fired 10 times by now.

So Fine has been fired and that begs the question - where does this go from here? The firing tells us the University thinks he's guilty. Given the contents of that tape -- and the fact that Laurie Fine has told the Post Standard that it is indeed her, there's no plausible scenario that would totally absolve Fine of at least some of the allegations.  While you could correctly argue that he got fired for embarrassing his employer and that's enough, we are all smart enough to know that even though he hasn't had his day in court, Bernie Fine looks a lot more guilty than innocent.

There are so many more questions need to be answered - in no particular order, they are:

  • Who knew what and when did everyone know it?
  • Was there any cover up on any level?
  • Are there other victims? If so, why haven't more stepped up? Will they?
  • If ESPN and/or the Syracuse Post Standard had this tape in 2003, why didn't they take it to the police?
  • What did the Syracuse Police Department do in 2002/03? Why did they not find more information?
  • Is the police department not cooperating with the DA because they are trying to cover their tracks from mistakes in the past? Is the DA overreacting?
  • If these allegations are true, what exactly did Syracuse University "investigate" in 2005 and why did it not find more information?
  • If Bernie Fine is a child molester, how did he make it to 65 years of age before being caught?
And obviously the biggest question - what will become of James Arthur Boeheim? He made a terrible error in attacking the two alleged victims and accusing them of being motivated by money. He could have defended his long-time assistant and friend and not taken that extra step.

How he responds in the days ahead, and what new information surfaces will determine his fate. The statement tonight was a necessary first stop. If there's no evidence he ever knew about Fine, there's no way he should lose his job. Based on his reaction to the initial charges, I don't think there's any way in a million years he thought Fine could be guilty. To date there is no evidence suggesting that he knew anything. If there is evidence, you can bet we will find out. And opinions will once again shift.

Another thing to watch for as this develops is how Boeheim handles the emotional toll this places on him. He's known Fine for 50 years. He's worked with him for almost as long. To find out something this hideous about a friend, after a long lifetime of friendship has to be crushing. He's not a young guy, although at 67 he looks great. He's still feisty and combative, however dealing with this is going to be draining. Explaining to his kids has to be agony. Living with the fact that he may have unwittingly enabled a child molester would weigh heavily on anyone. It's not going to be easy.

There is so much more to come out on this story it's going to be a rough ride getting there. Lives have been altered. Young boys may have had horrible, horrible things done to them. Legacies have been tarnished and a proud program has been stained.....and  oh, and by the way -- the basketball season is 6 games old and the team has a chance of being pretty good.

Today was a dark day for Syracuse basketball, and tomorrow and the next day aren't going to be any better. Nothing will get better until the truth is brought to light. It could be dark for awhile.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

While its hard to tell sometimes, we truly appreciate the readers of this site. After more than four years of constant stupidity, we still enjoy doing this silly little blog and we are very thankful for our small, but loyal audience.

Like many Americans, Thanksgiving is our favorite time of year. Overeating, football, more overeating, naps on the couch and more eating -- its the perfect Holiday. In between all of those things it's also a time to reflect on what you are truly thankful for - and while we are thankful for our respective families and friends, we are also thankful to have you, the reader, to interact with and join us in making fun of the world of sports. So thanks for reading and don't be strangers, we love any and all comments and yes, that includes you anonymous "hire Mike Leach" guy.

Have a safe, happy, tryptophan filled Turkey Day. And with that, we bring you the Three Idiots on Sports Thanksgiving tradition - the WKRP in Cincinnati Turkey Drop, featuring the great Les Nessman -- who should never be confused with Munchie Legaux.

And of course, not to be left out, the Cheers food fight.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Syracuse's Little Play Offense

Syracuse needs to find a way to make more big plays

It's no secret that one of the issues plaguing the Syracuse football team is the inability to generate big plays on offense. That forces the team to string together long drives in order to score points. This inevitably leads to dropped passes, penalties and negative plays that derail drives.

This has been especially true throughout the current three game losing streak as the defense and special teams haven't exactly been giving the ball to the offense in the best of spots.

Whether its the players, the scheme, the execution, or most likely a combination of all those factors, Syracuse simply has not generated big plays that can change the course of the game. While there are more advanced statistical analyses out there, at it's basic and most simple form, the stats are clear -- every team in the Big East has had a longer run from scrimmage than the Orange. Seven of the eight teams have had longer pass plays from scrimmage, with SU edging out Rutgers by two yards. The stats, from ESPN:

Pitt Panthers

Long Pass - 75
Longest Rush - 66

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Longest Pass Play - 60
Longest Rush - 56

West Virginia

Longest Pass Play - 84
Longest Rush - 80

Louisville Cardinals

Longest Pass - 58
Longest Rush - 61

Connecticut Huskies

Longest Pass -64
Longest Rush - 65

South Florida Bulls

Longest Pass - 84
Longest Rush - 71

Cincinnati Bearcats

Longest Pass - 72
Longest Rush - 65

Syracuse Orange

Longest Pass - 62
Longest Rush - 53

Marrone has hinted that in the off-season he'll take a look at the overall picture but if he's going to take this program back to the top, he's either going to have to bring in some game breakers or figure out how to get the guys he's got now further down the field. You can't win exclusively with big plays, but you can't win at all without them.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This Week In College Football

Much like the BCS, the Big East standings are really starting to take shape.

So the good guys had a bye this week, but what a weekend in college football it turned out to be.   Here's what we picked up on:

* I'm not sure which was funnier, Lee Corso's f-bomb, or his Sal Governale-like apology

*  Speaking of Gameday, you know it's a perceived slow weekend when they set up shop at the University of Houston

*  Great ending to OU-Baylor, Coach Stoops, why did you call timeout again?

* The SEC West has turned into the AL East. The Iron Bowl and battle for the Golden Boot carry a ton of weight this weekend.

*  Who else is secretly rooting for Georgia to win the SEC title game and really screw up the BCS?

* Finally!  That's the Clemson I know.

* Least surprising news ever, but a really bad Big East team is going to be playing in a BCS bowl.

This is a great week ahead: Cuse hoops at MSG, some big time football rivalry games and time to put on the stretchy pants and eat some bird with the family.  Enjoy !

Dear ESPN,

Image courtesy of Meriam-Webster:

Syracuse Beats Colgate As We Get Back to Basketball....Sort of

There was an empty seat on the Syracuse bench for its game against Colgate
(Photo by Nate Shron/Getty Images)

The Syracuse Orange once again crushed it's local "rival" the Colgate Red Raiders, winning 92-47 in the first game since the allegations against Bernie Fine became public. The game went  as expected, with a deep talented  team crushing another inferior opponent. The post-game press conference was 10 times more interesting than the actual game.

As for the game itself, it wrapped up a four game stretch that basically served as an extended exhibition season for the 5th ranked team in the country.  The good news for SU is that the team breezed through this part of the schedule with no hiccups and got extended playing time for a very deep bench. The good news for the fans is that the Orange will face some stiffer competition, and some more interesting games, starting this week in Madison Square Garden.

The highlight of the game for SU was James Southerland scoring 7 points in 17 seconds during one stretch in the first half. It wasn't Reggie Miller scoring 8 points in 9 seconds, but it wasn't too shabby either:

A few quick observations on the game:

- Right now the team's two best offensive players are James Southerland and Dion Waiters. Interestingly, the reason for each is confidence.

- For Southerland, he's been playing with supreme confidence that he's found this year. Last year he didn't have it. The difference has been remarkable.

- For Waiters, in addition to being in better shape, he's reigned in his confidence. He's playing under control, sharing the ball more and as a result he's a much more efficient offensive player. Plus he's a freak athletically.

- I love watching this team press and Southerland is ideal for guarding the baseline. Long and athletic, he showed how he can create nightmares for smaller teams trying to inbound the ball. I'm curious how much Boeheim will press as the season goes on.

- Champ and I have decided - James Southerland's nickname needs to be Colt 43. Much like Billy Dee Williams, he's SMOOTH and he works every time.

- Hopefully Kris Joseph's knee isn't a season-long problem. It was a no-brainer to rest him in the second half.

- One concern I have with this team is that they aren't actively trying to feed the post. While Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas aren't polished offensive players, they still need to send the ball down low, which will allow them the play inside out and get better looks on reversals and kick outs. You can't survive all year on dribble-drives and jumpers.

- Having three legitimate shot blockers makes this team dangerous.

- Fab Melo was a little off today, but you can tell how much Bernie Fine means to him from this AP story.

In terms of the press conference/Bernie Fine situation itself:

- It was fascinating watching Jim Boeheim handle the media after the game. While the Hall of Famer can be cantankerous and combative with the media, no one knew exactly what to expect. SU asked the media to only address the game, but everyone knew that wouldn't happen. Boeheim did his best to talk about basketball and stick to the script, but that's just not him. He believes Bernie is innocent and he's fighting for his friend. He couldn't hold it in and frankly that's OK. I don't believe you should attack an alleged victim, but you should also be able to defend someone you feel has been wrongfully accused. JB  did that after the game.

- Boeheim is not alone in defending Fine - as players, coaches, and former ball boys from across the country have spoken out loudly and clearly in defense of the assistant coach. It's a vivid contrast from what is going on at Penn State.

- We can only hope the investigation is done in the most thorough and expiditious manner possible -- because if Bernie Fine is innocent, he will have been egregiously wronged -- and if he's guilty, then he needs to be held accountable. The worst outcome would be ambiguity.

- The Post Standard coverage of this issue has been detailed and fair. The ESPN coverage of the incident has been embarrassingly one-sided. I for one, agree with Jason Whitlock's take on how Mark Schwartz and his colleagues are "covering" the incident.

- I've never been a big fan of Bud Poliquin, but I think he hit a home run with his column today.

Hopefully justice can be served in this case and we can get back to basketball - because much like the current players at Penn State - the members of this Syracuse basketball team had nothing to do with this incident.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Allegations of Sexual Abuse Shock Syracuse

Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine has been accused of sexually abusing young boys. The allegations are shocking.We know the regular readers of this site don't come here for "hard news." That's not what we do. However, the issue is too big to ignore.

Sexual abuse is a vile, despicable, repugnant act. For far too long monsters have preyed on young victims who are too scared and ashamed to speak out. People in a position of power abuse those below them and that, combined with the shame associated with being abused, makes speaking out that much harder. Everyone in our society has a responsibility to do whatever is possible to help those who have been hurt and work to stop future crimes. So, to belittle the claims of the accuser in this case is akin to to belittling victims of sexual abuse everywhere.  We will not do that.

However, the accusations are just that -- accusations. Right now three people know what happened in this case - Bernie Fine and his two accusers. A mere four hours after the story broke we know Syracuse has taken decisive action to address the matter. The statement from the University is thorough and lays out the facts clearly. The statement from Kevin Quinn (who I can tell you from personal experience is as fair and honorable a person as you'll ever meet) reads:

“In 2005, Syracuse University was contacted by an adult male who told us that he had reported to the Syracuse City Police that he had been subjected to inappropriate contact by an associate men’s basketball coach. The alleged activity took place in the 1980’s and 1990’s. We were informed by the complainant that the Syracuse City Police had declined to pursue the matter because the statute of limitations had expired.

“On hearing of the allegations in 2005, the University immediately launched its own comprehensive investigation through its legal counsel. That nearly four-month long investigation included a number of interviews with people the complainant said would support his claims. All of those identified by the complainant denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach. The associate coach also vehemently denied the allegations.

“Syracuse University takes any allegation of this sort extremely seriously and has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind. If any evidence or corroboration of the allegations had surfaced, we would have terminated the associate coach and reported it to the police immediately. We understand that the Syracuse City Police has now reopened the case, and Syracuse University will cooperate fully. We are steadfastly committed ensuring that SU remains a safe place for every member of our campus community.”

So we don't know what went on - but we do know that the University has been proactive in its response. Bernie Fine has been placed on administrative leave. While you are innocent until proven guilty in this country, it was the right move to make. As fans of the University, the program, Jim Boeheim and all he stands for, we can only hope there is no cover-up and the University has done the right thing throughout. So far it appears that this is the case, but it's too soon to know for sure. We do know Jim Boeheim is standing 100 percent behind Fine and we also know a former ballboy calls these claims absolutely false.

Another investigation is underway and the truth will come out. All claims of sexual abuse deserve a thorough examination and it appears that this case will get one. That's the right thing to do. When we know what happened there will only be two outcomes -- we will find out that the lives of young boys have been severely and irrevocably harmed - or we will find out that Bernie Fine's reputation has been savagely destroyed.

Either way there will be no winners. It is a sad day for everyone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Andy Reid Throws Challenge Flag on the Fourth Quarter

Image: Tauntr

NEW YORK, NY (Idiot News Service) - Corpulent Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid today walked into NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's office in Manhattan and threw a challenge flag on his desk. A source that witnessed the incident said Reid then proceeded to lobby Goodell to shorten the league's games to three quarters. The source claims Reid was in Goodell's office for about 20 minutes before rushing out to come to the aid of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo who had accidentally swallowed a game piece from Candyland.

Reid's team has blown an astounding 5 fourth quarter leads on the way to a disappointing 3-6 season and in order to reverse the slide, Reid has embarked on an effort to change NFL games to three quarters. While Goodell wasn't immediately available for comment, Reid was reached by phone after today's meeting.

While he wouldn't confirm or deny the fact that he'd like to only play three quarters every game, Reid did say, "The NFL has to do a better job of putting the first, second and third quarters in a position to make plays. That's on them. I think we all realize the fourth quarter hurts that. The NHL only has three periods and that's working out just fine for them. I loved the hockey SuperBowl last year. That thing was good."

Reid continued, "I'll have to look at the film before I can give you an answer on whether we should play four quarters, however, I can tell you this -- the fourth quarter is not fun. If you've got a lead people expect you do crazy things like give LeSean McCoy the ball. That's something we're just not prepared to do. Also, by the fourth quarter Juan is really hungry and he can't think straight. He usually has a snack pack and some string cheese at halftime but that never holds him over."

Reid is believed to be the lone voice in the movement to get rid of a full 15 minutes of game play and other coachesrefused to comment, thinking it was too absurd to address. However, sources in the Colts organization said if enacted, Jim Caldwell would support the move since it would give him more time in the trainer's room to treat his chronic mental constipation which has been exacerbated by prolonged exposure to Curtis Painter.

Reid concluded, "Look the fourth quarter makes less sense than people who order meals at McDonald's and get them with a Diet Coke. I don't believe in that. In fact, when I hit the drive thru I don't mess around. I pour out the soda and then refill the cup with pure Karo Syrup. Nothing goes better with a quadruple quarter-pounder and a vat of fries than 32 ounces of sweet Karo Syrup over a little ice."

More on this story as it develops........

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Syracuse Occupies Albany

I always enjoy checking out how the opposing team characterizes a loss, via UAlbany Web Site

Much like the state police arresting occupiers in the State Capitol, the Syracuse Orange overpowered the Albany Great Danes Tuesday night in the Dome.  Syracuse's 98-74 win moves them to 3-0 on the young season. While Syracuse fans were happy, people who bet the Cuse -24.5 were most likely really pissed - but that's what Vegas makes money.

For me personally the game was little different than your average run of the mill early season blow out. You see I've been a Syracuse fan since I was a little kid. Having grown up in CNY, it's all I've ever really known. However, I'm a graduate of the University at Albany, so while I was happy the 'Cuse won I was also pleased that my alma mater showed they can score some points this year. Offense has been a problem for Will Brown's teams the last few years, but this season the Danes should be able to fill it up when playing against America East competition.

It's late, so let's get to a few quick observations:

- In game one I was surprised that James Southerland got in the first half of the game. I'm surprised no more. It's clear he's taken his game to a whole new level. Expect Big Game James to play a ton of minutes this year, because he's damn good.

- SU was fantastic on the offensive boards tonight. That was partly a product of effort, partly a product of an inferior opponent, and partly a by-product of Albany thinking boxing out is now illegal.

- I love the fact that this team can play multiple defenses and multiple styles. I'm not sure what Dickie Vitale is going to do when the Orange play man and pressure full court for long stretches of a time, but it should be fun.

- I was very happy to see Baye Moussa Keita do so well tonight. Now that his wrist is better he's catching the ball so much better and he moves so effortlessly on the court. He even had a block and Mutombo finger wag tonight.  That was fantastic.

- SU had some defenses lapses and let Gerardo Suero go nuts for 31 points while Logan Aronhalt hit for 20. It was the team's third mae in four days and the fact that SU was comfortably ahead for most of the game contributed  to those lapses.

- I know you guys don't care about this, but it's my blog so screw it.  I'm excited to watch this Albany team play this year. Suero gives them a scorer they haven't had since Jamar Wilson graduated and Aronhalt is a very good shooter. With Suero taking the pressure off him he can get more open looks. Point guard Mike  Black is also a very solid contributor. If the big guys can be functional, this team can win the America East. The first time they won the America East in 2006, they almost bounced UConn from the NCAA Tourney.

- I agree with Times Union columnist Mark McGuire, this Albany team could be dangerous and are potentially a 20 win team. OK, I'll stop now, I know you don't care.

- One thing to watch once Syracuse begins playing tougher competition is how much floor time Scoop and Brandon play. Right now we are getting a lot of Dion and Michael Carter-Williams, while the starting backcourt spends long stretches on the bench. Right now Dion is the best guard on the team - he'll be playing, but I'm curious to see how the minutes get divided and who plays in crunch time.

- I know it's only been threes game but I am ready to see what this team can do against a real opponent. You can only drive the Ferrari around the neighborhood so long before its time to take it out on the track and see what it can do.

Colgate is next up. The walk-ons didn't get into this one, but they better stay loose.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Syracuse Slaps Manhattan

Syracuse and Officer Lou Fab Melo locked up Manhattan tonight
The Syracuse Orange men's basketball team improved to 2-0 tonight with a 92-56 beat down of the Manhattan Jaspers in the Carrier Dome. In a flashback to the 80s, the Orange came out playing man to man defense. They then proceeded to press and physically overwhelmed a rebuilding Manhattan team. All that was missing was some inappropriately short shorts and a bad sport coat from Jim Boeheim.

Syracuse has dominated its first two opponents of the year and even though those two teams lost a combined 46 games last year it's not about Syracuse's opponents at this point - it's about the Orange. For the second game in a row Syracuse ran waves of tall, talented players at an opponent that had no chance. They didn't play down to their level of competition and while I don't want to make too much of the wins given the level of competition, there is no doubt that this team passes the "look test."

This is the tallest, deepest, most athletic Syracuse team I can ever remember -- and I've been watching Syracuse longer than a lot of our readers have been alive. SU has three legitimate big men in Fab Melo, Baye Keita and Rakeem Christmas. Unlike years past, all three of these guys can physically compete with anyone in the country right now. Supporting them are a cast of athletic guards and wings that will cause match up nightmares for opponents all season long.

With that said, here are a few quick takes on the game.

- Jameson Fleming said it best during the game when he stated "Dion Waiters is Syracuse's best player through two games and its not even close." Waiters has off-the-charts athletic ability and a new-found commitment to defense has only improved his offense.  Waiters is getting steals and when that happens and he's in the open floor he's devastating. The weight loss and increased conditioning makes him a threat to score 20 or dunk on people every night.

- What is most impressive is that Waiters came off the bench and scored 17 points, while at the same time Brandon Triche came out firing, hitting a bunch of threes in the first half to get the Orange going. The team got great production from the guard spot tonight.

- Syracuse has a four guard rotation and all for can play either the one or the two. That sort of flexibility is such a luxury that Trevor Cooney will redshirt. This might be the only team in the country where he would be sitting for a year because there's not enough playing time.

- Last year Kris Joseph seemed to loaf on defense and fall asleep in the zone. I haven't seen that this year and I think  the increase in man to man has helped his effort there. On the offensive end he was decisive and confident.

- A second big game in a row for James Southerland. He's been a bright spot so far.

- My wife thought Manhattan Coach Steve Masiello looks like a taller version of Peter Dinklage from Game of Thrones. You be the judge.

Is this man related to Steve Masiello?
 - Scoop makes a dumb pass in the first minute and ends up on the pine for an extended period. Every guy on the floor is certainly aware someone  is waiting to take his PT - or they will be. That's not a bad thing.

- What a difference a year makes for Fab Melo. You can see he actually understands defensive positioning this year. It will keep him out of foul trouble and on the floor a lot more. He does need to watch the wildly swinging elbows though. In this day and age refs are looking for reasons to T people up and toss them from games.

- As much as I hate to make this comparison, the size and athletic ability this team has amassed reminds me the UConn teams from a few years ago when it seemed like they had 10 big guys and every shot in the paint was rejected.

Two games down and two games where all the walk-ons have seen the floor. That's about as good a start as you can hope for. Bring on the Great Danes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Syracuse - Fordham Observations

A lot of guys got into the Syracuse - Fordham game

The Syracuse Orange opened the 2011-12 basketball season by crushing the Fordham Rams Saturday in the Dome.  The game went actually went down to the wire as the Orange were 26 point favorites and won by 25. The lesson - gambling makes everything better. SU was expected to win easily and did, so that's a good sign.  Here are a few quick observations:

- We know the team is deep, but I was pleasantly surprised to see James Southerland play so many minutes. They weren't garbage minutes either as he played extensively in the first half, and he played well. I expect ebbs and flows over the course of the year in terms of who plays, but it looks like right now Boeheim is committed to using 10 guys.

- No Trevor Cooney however, which means he may redshirt. It's crazy to think a player as good as Cooney might wait a year, but that's just how deep this team is. In the long run, I'm fine with this move.

- Michael Carter-Williams probably had the roughest game of any SU player, but JB played him extensively anyway.  He'll have the first half of the season to work out the kinks and come Big East play he'll either be  ready or he will be sitting. Boeheim won't have a lot of tolerance for throwing balls into the stands against Georgetown.

- Speaking of which, you have to love Shaq for his Georgetown sucks line. I can't remember a player in my lifetime I came around on more than Shaq. When he was a young player and just running over everyone on the paint, I had no use for him. As he got older and started showing his personality more you can't help but enjoy the big fella's antics.

- Fab Melo didn't do too much, but he didn't really have to. From the two exhibition games its clear he's a much better player than last year.  There was an important development with Fab this game -- I finally figured out who he looks  like - Lou the Cop from the Simpsons.

Lou the cop from the Simpsons and Fab Melo, separated at birth

- Dion Waiters had an excellent  game and I can't decide what's better -- watching Dion Waiters have a great game or watching Dion Waiters re-tweet every single person on Twitter who tells him he's great. Both are pretty spectacular.

It was a nice start for the Orange -- it is going to be a really fun year on the hardwood.

This Week in College Football

37-17 bad guys.  On the positive side to Friday night's debacle, I got to make my first appearance at the Dome this fall and beforehand enjoyed an awesome tailgate with my fellow Idiots.  Fun times fellas, fun times.

Anyways, let's take a look at what else caught our eye this weekend from the world of college pigskin:

* TCU-Boise was a really fun game to watch, I kept flipping over during the Cuse hoops game, tremendous ending.  Rumor has it Boise's loss may lessen their Mountain West exit fee.  This explains why John Marinatto was wearing a Horned Frog Snuggie this weekend.

* Mike Gundy, you are a man.  Your team is made up of them also, 49 first half points, wow.

*  Clemson, this tease continues.

*  Who's the best one-loss team out there?  Oregon is making a case to get back into the mix.

* Houston continues it's Playstation-like offensive numbers.  However, what really caught my eye from that game are the rumors that RichRod may be headed back to Tulane.

* Arkansas is really starting to peak.

* Cincy loses at home; the Big East really stinks.

* Why do I always get 50 cent pieces in change at the Dome?  Always.

* Congrats to the Red Dragons on keeping the Jug

And for your listening pleasure, some  guy doing an acoustic version of the 90s rap hit "I Wish" by Skee-Lo:

An Inconvenient Truth

On Friday night the Syracuse football team lost badly to South Florida 37-17. In doing so the team secured last place in the Big East and confirmed what we've been ignoring all season long -- this is not a good football team.

The signs have been there since the start, and they have been plentiful, but because we are fans we've chosen to ignore them. Instead we kept hoping against hope that this team is better than we've seen with our own eyes.  It's what fans do. It's what fans are supposed to do. Sadly, with the loss on Friday we can't ignore this inconvenient truth any more. This is a bad football team and the evidence has been overwhelming. Consider:

- SU played three brutal quarters of football against Wake Forest.

- They barely squeaked past terrible Rhode Island team that is 3-7 this year....in the FCS.

- The Orange only scored 33 (really 32) points against Toledo. Consider the fact that the Rockets have given up 60 and 63 points in the last two weeks and 32 isn't that impressive.

- They produced a 5 turnover slop fest loss to Rutgers that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

- They squeaked by a truly terrible, embarrassing Tulane team that is 2-9 and just gave up 73 points to Houston.

- They were utterly dominated by Louisville.

- They lost to a UConn team that cannot throw the ball and will not have a winning record this  year.

- And then turned in a penalty-filled dropped pass-a-palooza that we witnessed Friday night.

I'm not trying to be 100 percent negative. To quote Greg Robinson, there were "flashes" this team could get it done. The flashes include:

- A brilliant 4th quarter comeback against a Wake Forest program that has had a decent year.

- The throttling of West Virginia. A magnificent performance that gave everyone hope that the corner had been turned.

- Ryan Nassib, Antwon Bailey, Alec Lemon, and Chandler Jones have all had some good moments.

- Saw what you will about the Toledo win, but the Rockets are going to a bowl game this year, so that's a decent win.

Sadly, as much as we didn't want to admit it, the negatives far outweigh the positives. With two games remaining in the season the Orange are guaranteed a losing record in the Big East and will need to upset either Cincinnati or Pitt to become bowl eligible.

This is an Orange team with an offensive line that returned four starters and was supposed to anchor a much improved offense. It turns out the group is a year older, but not really any better. Ryan Nassib, while improved, hasn't made "the leap" to being a top flight quarterback. Antwon Bailey looks slower than he has the past. The last two weeks have been strong for Alec Lemon but he still lacks consistency. While Nick Provo has been strong all year, a couple of guys have "nice" years or flashes of decency don't win you conference championships.

The defense is young and small but supposedly they were supposed to be fast and would get better as the season wore on. That hasn't happened. Blown coverages and missed tackles have plagued a unit makes enough mistakes to give up almost 28 points per game.

Coming into the season the hope was that while this team was young, they'd get coached up and win 8 games against weak competition. That didn't happen. The team is a 5-6 win unit and the verdict is still very much out as to whether this staff is the one that can make this program a contender.

In nearly three years as the head coach Doug Marrone is 6-13 in Big East play and 8-17 against schools that play in BCS conferences. For three years his offense has been limited and predictable. Last year was a leap forward, and this year it's been a step back. Next year will be the most important season of his coaching life, as a bunch of fans who have spent a decade waiting for next year are pretty worn out. At least this fan is.

As to the game itself, I don't have much to offer. Chances are you watched it and saw the same things I did. Here are a few quick observations anyway:

- Marrone said he wanted to play power football and wear down South Florida. Obviously that didn't work. Of course when you're trying to play power football with a 200 pound center and 5 foot nothing tailback, and running up the middle hasn't worked all year, I'm not sure how you think it's going to magically be the answer this time.

- Give Marrone credit for putting the loss on himself.  However, as an Eagles fan that has been listening to Andy Reid do this forever, I can assure you it only goes so far.

- Once SU went to the air I didn't have a lot of quibbles with the play calling. If guys hadn't dropped about 257 passes, it would have been productive.

- Nassib faced a ton of pressure and the line doesn't handle things well when the defense attacks the A gaps. It's been an issue all year. It never seems to get corrected.

- In the first half South Florida didn't do anything real exotic on defense. They mostly sat in a 4-3 with two safeties over the top and dared SU to beat its base packages. SU couldn't.

- Jeremiah Kobena had another dumb personal foul. Whether its Kobena or Michael Hay there doesn't seem to be any consequences for acting stupid on the field. Call me crazy but that might be part of the reason why Marrone can't correct the rash of dumb penalties the team has taken lately.

- For the life of me I can't figure out why this team can't implement an effect screen game. Teams pressure the hell out of them. In theory the lineman are supposed to be light and quick and Antwon Bailey is at his best in space. It seems to be the perfect recipe for a good screen team. SU is not a good screen team.

- I have never, ever, in all my years on this planet seen a team kick as many footballs out of bounds on the kickoff as the 2011 Syracuse Orange. It's aburdly ridiculously absurd. And dumb. And ridiculous. And absurd.

- The defense made B.J. Daniels look like John Elway. That's not easy to do.

- In his coaching tenure Marrone's teams have gotten worse as the season goes along. He's 2-8 in November. That tells me the more film teams get on SU, the easier they are to beat. That doesn't speak well for the coaching staff.

There's no game this upcoming weekend and that's probably a good thing for everyone involved.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Syracuse v. South Florida Prediction

With the whole week taken up by the horrific Penn State scandal and only a smattering of NBA labor talks mixed in to break up the wall to wall coverage, it hasn't been a fun time in the world of sports. On top of that, our guest "predictor" Andy Rooney passed away. Our back up guest predictor, the ghost of Harry Caray, was too busy cleaning out a spare room in his house in the afterlife to make room for Andy, so this week's SU prediction has been left to me.

Syracuse and South Florida battle for to for the basement in the Big East.  A month ago this could have been a huge game - now, not so much. South Florida has repeatedly shot itself in the foot this year with turnovers and mistakes, while Syracuse periodically forgets to take its prozac and as a result we never know what team will show up.  It makes the game hard to predict, so I'm going to stick to the facts - and the facts are these.

1. Doug Marrone has never lost to Skip Holtz.

2. Skip Holtz has never beaten Doug Marrone

3. A grown man should never go by the name "Skip."

4. If the name of your school is a geographic descriptor of its location in a state, that descriptor should be accurate.

5. You can never lose to a team that has fans that dress up like this:

Photo via People of Florida


Syracuse - 3
South Florida - 2

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ebay Item of the Week: The Real Carrier Classic

Photo: Mark Terrill, AP

Years before someone decided to throw a basketball court on an aircraft carrier and call it the "Carrier Classic," the Orangemen used to host a tournament dubbed "Carrier Classic."  Besides a loss to Magic Johnson's Michigan State squad, and a random loss to Eastern Michigan that I attended with the Russianator back in '96, the Orange annually cleaned up in claiming the Carrier Classic title.

And here's proof:  the 1989 Carrier Classic program featuring our beloved DC.

The Sherm to DC alley-ooop, it never gets old:

Neither does a DC to Owens to Dave Johnson alley oop against Duke in the now defunct Big East-ACC Challenge:

Handicapping the Big East Conference Race

The Big East football season is essentially at its halfway point. I don't have to tell you that it hasn't been a stellar year for the league on or off the field.

However, some team has to win the thing and as I began to break down who has the best shot to go to a BCS game and get destroyed, I couldn't help but notice something.  Something big. The fact of the matter is that there are a ton of similarities between the race for the Big East title and the race for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination.

Since Tuesday was Election Day and on Wednesday we had another debate, it is clear that the the race for the Big East crown is clearly linked to the current field of candidates trying to unseat President Obama. Let's break it down.

Front Runners

Cincinnati Bearcats - Mitt Romney: Like Romney the Bearcats were contenders a few years ago who came up short on the biggest stage, hit a lull and now find themselves back in the drivers seat. While it is generally accepted that they are the front runner, no one is all that excited about it.

The Road to Victory: Romney has to continue to raise money, keep Herman Cain at bay (and/or fan the flames of sexual harassment claims against him), not make any missteps and win New Hampshire. Cincy can still drop a conference game and win the thing outright.

Prediction: Cincinnati wins the BE, Romney the nomination

West Virginia Mountaineers - Rick Perry: Both were feared coming into the season, but some wild, unpredictable swings have hurt their chances. Perry has made a series of unexpected debate missteps (like tonight) new coach Dana Holgorsen has unexpectedly lost to Syracuse and Louisville. Its unclear if either can recover and there questions about whether they can lead on the national stage -- although its clear Holgorsen would kill a drifter to have Rick's hair.

Road to Victory: Perry has to take his foot out his mouth, rally his conservative base and hope those above him in the polls stumble. West Virginia needs to win out, including beating Cincy this weekend and hope the Bearcats stumble again.

Prediction: WVU finishes second, Perry a distant third.

The Louisville Cardinals - Herman Cain: Both have surged to the top of their respective races. Both are doing this despite the fact that few people predicted it. Cain and the Cardinals both lack experience  and both are deeply associated with crappy chain pizza. Questions remain for both Herman and the Cardinals about whether they will hold up over the long haul.

Road to Victory: Herman needs to ride the 9-9-9 to victory town and tamp down the allegations against him, whereas Louisville needs to ride a good defense to the top and hope their offense can do enough.

Prediction: Cain eventually falls to Romney, Louisville drops one of the next three and ties WVU for second.

The Pretenders

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights - Michelle Bachmann:  Rutgers and Bachmann each have small, loyal, almost cult-like followings. Both are adept at periodically grabbing the national spotlight. Both can win contests that have little overall significance - in Bachmann's case the Iowa straw poll, in Rutgers case, every non-conference game they've ever played. Both come up with crazy ideas - for Bachmann its adding people to Mount Rushmore, for Greg Schiano it's getting rid of kickoffs. Neither has ever won anything of national importance. Both are talked about, but not given any serious thought as true contenders.

Road to Victory: Bachmann needs aliens to invade the planet, Rutgers needs to win out and hope for help.

Prediction: Rutgers loses to Cincy but beats UConn and goes to the Pinstripe Bowl.  Bachmann keep up her quest and when she does finally quit, declares she likes cheese.

The Pitt Panthers – John Huntsman: Todd Graham is new to the Big East, Huntsman is new to the national scene. Both have glorious salt and pepper hair. Both are more liberal than their contemporaries - Huntsman in his view that science exists and Graham in his view Tino Sunseri is a good quarterback.  On paper both look good, but the results for each are lacking.

Road to Victory: Huntsman has to hope America suddenly trusts Mormons and Pitt has to win out, which means beating WVU, Louisville and SU.

Prediction: Gordon Ramsey will stop randomly yelling at people before either of these things happen.

The Connecticut Huskies - Ron Paul: Ron Paul and Paul Pasqualoni share the name Paul. They share the fact that they are older than the people they compete against. They share the fact that they only appeal to very specific portions of the population. Ron Paul wants to abolish the Fed. Paul Pasqualoni wants to abolish the forward pass. The only thing that will truly be abolished is their chance at victory.

Road to Victory: Each have the same road to victory - a flu pandemic that wipes out their competitors.

Prediction: As long as Contagion was fiction, don't bet on it.

The Syracuse Orange – Rick Santorum: Both look the part. Santorum looks presidential, Doug Marrone looks like a football coach. Both Santorum and Syracuse had success years earlier. Both preach and cherish family values. Marrone's offense and Santorum's social views are too conservative to translate into true success. Both are at the bottom of the standings.

Road to Victory: Syracuse needs to win out and hope the rest of the conference leaves in the middle of the season. For Santorum, it would take a zombie apocalypse.

Prediction: SU's road is more plausible.

The South Florida Bulls - Newt Gingrich: Skip Holtz has a big fat head. Newt Gingrich has a big fat head. Earlier in their careers both had success. Presently they are both in last place.

Road to Victory: The Yellow brick one - for each.

Prediction: Newt tries to recruit USF students for his campaign, since he can't seem to keep staff.

So, if you break it down scientifically, Cincinnati is headed to BCS Bowl and Romney is going to take on Obama.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How Penn State Made an Awful Situation Worse

Penn State's lack of response to Jerry Sandusky's crimes made things worse
Image via Deadspin
Brent Axe was kind enough to have me on his show on the Score 1260 today discussing the horrific situation going on at Penn State. When I'm not writing bad jokes on the Internet, my day job is in public relations and crisis communications, so was able to apply a little real world knowledge to the biggest sports topic of the moment.

I wasn't going to write about the situation because like you, the whole thing make me sick. However, since I spent some time pulling my thoughts together on the topic for the radio show, I thought I'd provide a brief outline of how Penn State has made one of the worst possible situations an institution can face even worse.

First let me say while Penn State has failed miserably at handling the public relations aspect of this situation, this isn't something public relations can fix. The lives of an untold number of innocent children have been destroyed and no public response is going to fix that. The fact that it seems pretty damn clear that a number of adults at Penn State could have stood up and prevented some of this abuse is appalling. Again, no PR spin is going to help that.

However a firestorm rages and it burns hotter and hotter every hour that the Penn State administration fails to respond. Here is how Penn State threw a tanker truck of gas on an inferno.

1. They wildly underestimated the size and scope of the story.

This story broke Saturday afternoon. It was met with a couple of weak written statements from athletic director Tim Curley and V.P. Gary Shultz. Incredibly, school President Graham Spanier initially issued a written response saying he stood firmly behind these two men.  I'm not sure how grown, educated men can think a perjury case that involves the rape of children will only be a perjury case. If this was merely a perjury case, a written statement might of sufficed.  This  is so much more than that.

As you can see from three days of inaction, Penn State had no plan to deal with this going forward.  If they did, they would have implemented it by now.  They didn't think it would get this big and they thought they could hide behind "letting the legal process run its course." They couldn't have been  more wrong.

2. They have met a public outcry with silence. 

In a crisis situation, time is of the essence. The longer a person or group hides from the media and the public, the more guilty they look. Combine that with a case that alleges grown men acted in collusion to protect a child rapist, and Penn State looks even more culpable. This isn't a case of who told who what. This isn't a case about how an institution's chain of command should function  This is a case of Penn State not protecting children from a sexual predator. It is on every network. It is in every newspaper. It is on every web site. It demands an on-camera response.

Regardless of how an institution or organization works - a response needs to be issued as quickly as can be credibly formulated. Even if there are multiple factions, committees and interests at play, the organization must cut through those, select a spokesperson, and start providing information from its perspective as soon as possible.  The story is moving with or without them and the silence coming from the "guilty" side is a void that's readily filled by outraged voices.

The spokesperson that is selected needs to be someone who can speak credibly and with authority and deliver an honest message to the public.

Penn State has holed up and went into a shell. They have tried to tell reporters what kind of questions they could ask, cancelled press conferences and muzzled Joe Paterno. Although to be fair, Paterno can speak any time he wants since he's larger than life in that state. He's just being a coward too.

As a result of this silence people are wondering what else Penn State is covering up, why they are hiding and how deep does this scandal really go. Silence makes everyone in the administration look guilty. Penn State already looks guilty and the longer they are quiet, the guiltier they look.

3. They have not taken responsibility, showed empathy, or proven they are going to fix this.

Boys have been hurt in the most heinous fashion possible. We have not heard a meaningful word from Penn State about how sorry they are for these victims. We have not heard from them that they are going to work with the authorities, launch a full investigation, and hold people accountable. We have not heard how they will do everything in their power to immediately start fixing the problems that got them to this place.

By Sunday, or Monday morning at the very latest, they needed to have a public message that echoed those sentiments. They needed a message that took responsibility and set a course of correction.  If he's guilty - and it sure looks like he is - Jerry Sandusky is a monster who lied and deceived people for years. Many of those people worked at, or went to, Penn State. Instead of outrage being focused at him - and the presumably small number of people who helped cover up his evil - a whole institution has been tarnished - because Penn State didn't communicate.

Frankly at this point it's too late for Penn State to deliver these messages. Rest assured, they will come, but they'll need to be delivered by a new administration and a new football staff looking to establish credibility as honest communicators.Graham Spanier, Joe Paterno and the administration had a brief window to try and tell their side of the story. They missed it, and missed it badly. They'll pay with their jobs -- and frankly I'm fine with that.

RIP Smokin' Joe

Godspeed Champ.

The Syracuse Post Standard Prediction Thunderdome

The Syracuse Post Standard has their 2011-12 Syracuse basketball preview up -- and as usual they did another fine job.  I've always enjoyed the work Mike Waters has done and Donna Ditota been a solid as well. In a day and age where papers are making drastic cutbacks we are lucky to have a couple of really good professionals covering the team. So check out the preview in its entirety.

However, we are here with a SPOILER ALERT - the prediction section isn't exactly "out of the box" thinking, unless you count wily old Bud Poliquin's brief bout dyslexia as an attempt to be different.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Losing Games and Social Media are not a Winning Combination

The Syracuse Orange football team has lost two games in row. The losses have come to teams many feel the Orange should have beat. Naturally the fans aren't pleased, so when the University posts an invite to the weekly luncheon with the coach on Facebook (something that's done every week) the feedback hasn't exactly been stellar.  Frankly I expected a lot worse. It's probably a good thing Alabama hasn't bothered to update their page in over a year a half.  That would be pandemonium today. Crying pandemonium.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Curse of Coach P Strikes, Syracuse Loses to UConn

Paul Pasqualoni got the last laugh on Saturday as Doug Marrone goes to 0-3 v UConn

I waited a full day to write about the horrible 28-21 loss Syracuse had to Connecticut yesterday. I waited specifically so I could clear my head and rationally discuss what may have been the most disappointing loss of the Doug Marrone era. I'm not sure I'm there but I also don't think I ever will be, so it's time to get out a few thoughts that have been marinating in my brain. This may take a while, so settle in.

Two weeks after a big win against West Virginia (a win that already looks less impressive) the program has slid to the bottom of a bad Big East conference. After taking some really nice steps forward last year, and then showing signs of breaking out this year, Syracuse laid a second consecutive huge egg and is now 1-3 in conference play. The team sits at 5-4 overall and bowl eligibility, something that was a mere formality two weeks ago is very much in doubt.

With a loss this week to the least talented team in the league, coming on the heels of a rout at Louisville, it's certainly fair to question what direction the program is going in, and what exactly is the ceiling for Doug Marrone as a head coach.

That may seem harsh and reactionary, but let's consider the facts for a moment. Big East football is bad. It has been bad for a while, and that has been especially true for the three years Marrone has been on the job. Right now CBS Sports has the Big East rated as the eighth toughest conference in the country. If you're keeping track at home - that's not good.

Since taking over the Orange, Marrone's record in this bad conference is 6-12. Batting .333 will get you into an All-Star game, but this isn't baseball. A .333 winning percentage gets football coaches fired. To be fair, he did inherit a mess and no one expected SU to start running the table as soon as he got the gig, but after going 1-6 in his first year, he's gone 5-6 since.  He has never beaten Louisville. He has never beaten Connecticut. He is 0-2 against Pitt and this year's upcoming game doesn't look promising.  SU needs to run the table in conference play to have a winning record in the league. That's highly unlikely.

These numbers are most certainly a small sample size, but the fact of the matter is, for a guy who promised SU was going to win and win now, when Syracuse lines up against Big East foes, they lose twice as much as they win. This is happening when other coaches are succeeding. Charlie Strong is winning games with true freshman. Greg Schiano of all people is winning by playing two quarterbacks (who frankly aren't very good) and making it work. This isn't the SEC, every Big East game is winnable, yet Syracuse sits at 1-3. Seventh in the conference.  You are what your record says you are and this year, right now, Syracuse isn't very good.

Now let's be clear here, I'm not saying Marrone should be fired. He's done too much good and its far too soon to even entertain that notion.  However, for the first time since he's taken over I'm wondering if he's capable of putting together a team and a staff that will get Syracuse into contention for conference championships or whether he'll just be another Greg Schiano. Schiano is a guy who turned around a mess of a program and now schedules his team to decent records and crappy bowls, but never won a conference  title and has one meaningful win in 11 years. Obviously this is crucial, since the move to the ACC means stiffer competition is just around the corner.

We know this team will never be a true contender until Marrone and his staff can figure out how to implement a successful offensive system, because the one that's in place now isn't working. Frankly he hasn't gotten it done on that side of the ball since he's been here.  Whether it was Rob Spence and the bubble screen to nowhere offense, or the multiple formation, pro-set, power running/play action dud we've seen for the last two seasons, the Orange rarely strike fear into opposing defenses (unless that defense is West Virginia).

And that is what is most frustrating to many Orange fans. It's frustrating because we've been waiting for 13 years to watch a decent offensive football team. Last year's success was wonderful, but it came about largely because a stifling defense carried the team. This year, the defense isn't as good and wasn't able to shut the door against Connecticut and when SU needed the offense to carry they day, they simply weren't good enough.

Marrone has said the team will keep working to make plays.  I certainly believe that.  But I also believe that after two years of watching this offense sputter and fail, either what he's asking his players to do is too difficult for them to properly execute, or the scheme doesn't work. Either way, there needs to be some changes this off-season, because stubbornly repeating the same thing and getting poor results is insane. Things that worked in the Super Dome don't always work in the Carrier Dome.

Look, we want Doug Marrone to succeed and to a degree, he already has. He's restored pride in the program and went to a bowl game. No one wants another coach. No one questions his work ethic or that of the team. I believe everyone in the program is working their ass off.  I really do. No one wants to go through another rebuilding process, especially given the fact that there's a 50/50 chance who ever replaces him won't be any better.

We know it takes time to turn around a program and Syracuse doesn't have $5 million a year to spend on a new guy.  Doug Marrone wants to be here and he will be the coach for as long as he can get the job done.  We love his passion for the area and the University.

However, you can't help be but disheartened after watching this team the last two weeks. You can't keep losing to bad teams and think things will turn around.  This off-season Doug Marrone the head coach might need to fire Doug Marrone the offensive coordinator (while Hackett has the title, this is Doug's offense) if he wants Doug Marrone to bring this program back to BCS Bowl games.

As to the game itself, here are a new quick thoughts:

- When you have a "slow strike" offense that that generates no big plays like SU, field position is critical. SU was in a hole all day thanks to some horrific special teams play. When we do an autopsy on this season, the main cause of death for both the Rutgers loss and this loss one could be pinned special teams.  It's been a recurring problem throughout Marrone's tenure and this team isn't good enough to survive mistakes in this area.

- Obviously if you create five turnovers on defense and turn them into zero points you don't deserve to win.

- UConn has two quarterbacks that can't pass the ball and still scored 28 points. For whatever reason the defense just decided to stop wrapping up in the second half. It was inexplicable.

- I'd like to see SU use Dorian Graham as the primary kick returner instead of Jeremiah Kobena. Graham takes one to the house against WVU and then doesn't get another chance. He's more experienced than Kobena and I think he'd do a better job of finding the holes out there.

- Ross Krautman has a slight groin pull. With the way he kicked off, I hope it was more than just a slight pull, because he was awful. I think he has set a record for kicking the ball out of bounds on kick offs. It's a mistake you can't make.

- I miss Rob Long.

- I have never, in more than 30 years of watching football, seen an offense that cannot operate outside of the hash marks quite like this one. If the play isn't a slant or a TE drag, it's not working. Nassib struggles on those throws and either doesn't trust his receivers to make plays, or they are always blanketed.

- It was a great game for Alec Lemon.

- We've always loved Van Chew, but in the last 5 games he has 11 catches for 100 yards. Syracuse absolutely has to get more production than that out of that slot. Even if he's open and Nassib isn't giving him a chance, it might be time to get someone else out there to see what happens.

- The missed tackles were Greg Robinson-esque. That hasn't been a big problem all year but it is what makes this team so crazily-infuriating to watch. One week they are making a terrible Tulane QB look like Tom Brady and a few weeks later they pick the ball off bunch of times but look like Rocky chasing a chicken when it comes to tackling.

- I don't think Connecticut wins another game this year.

- Syracuse and South Florida play Friday night - the loser is officially the worst team in the Big East. Yikes.