A statement of academic purpose

We cannot allow our curriculum to be set by Wall Street.


 

I am increasingly viewing my own work as an educator from two different sets of eyes. One pair of eyes is my own, with all of my experience and all my frustration at what is available to students, and with all the motivation to provide better options for my students.

The second pair belongs to my eldest child, now well into their 20’s, as they navigate through the extractive pits and snares that so many publishers have left in the traditional regional university.

We shared a moment of frustration one Friday afternoon wrestling with the homework solution associated with the campus’ recently-adopted inclusive access option. The problem was straightforward enough, but the software wouldn’t accept the obvious answer. There was even a fit of the frustration every physics student knows well – let’s just toss ANY possible answer around that possibility into the software, because I know the calculation is right. Nothing was accepted.

I suggested “try 0.674 instead of 0.67.”

“No, Dad, that’s too many significant figures.”

“Try anyway.”

“DGAKDGAKGEKAGDKS THAT IS TOO MANY SIGNIFICANT FIGURES BUT IT TOOK IT”

I know exactly why that worked, of course, because I used that exact software over a decade ago, before it became a pawn of the academic publishing monolith who is pushing that inclusive access option on a whole campus of unsuspecting students. Despite the code existing within their software to check for significant figures, that particular question predates the code – and never has been revised. It checks within percentage tolerances – in this case, plus or minus 0.5%. It would accept 0.671 meters to 0.677 meters, in this case – but the answer was based on multiplying a sine of 22 degrees by a measurement of 1.8 meters. The correct answer, by significant figure rules, must be 0.67 meters.

That same dumb issue has existed for over a decade. And, at least in one class of problems in the software, it’s never been fixed. And the price of the software keeps climbing – the two-semester access to that software, which is required, is now $127.50. Of course, buying the access in a bundle with new textbook – or even with other coursework, under our fancy inclusive-access scheme – will lower your costs.

Because of course you don’t want to pay too much for software we haven’t overhauled in a decade.

I have been quietly working in my corner over a decade of my own, from Shorter University to Virginia Intermont College to Tennessee Technological University and now to Tusculum University. I’ve been learning the ins and outs of a different piece of software, called Moodle, which is open-source learning management software. And the way I’ve been learning it is finding better ways to deliver homework to my own students, in a fashion that lines up with what the software from the for-profits can provide, but is more immediately customizable to what I’m trying to accomplish and that I can be more accountable for.

I don’t need to work in the corner anymore. As the costs that are placed on our students become more and more oppressive, the work I do increasingly needs to be in the open. And other people like me who are working in their own corners need to be called into the open as well.


 

One of the most vividly informative experiences I’ve been able to have in my career was the chance to work in the Innovation Lab at the Online Learning Consortium’s Innovation conference in Nashville in April 2018, and through the connection with Keegan Long-Wheeler of the University of Oklahoma, to help moderate a conversation on “Online Lab Science” (the website for that conversation may be found at onlinelabsci.keeganslw.com). It became clear from listening to faculty, program coordinators and instructional designers in that conversation that the reason for many to be interested in how laboratory science coursework could work online was rising pressure from their own campuses to have science curriculum online, to complete a fully online program. Many science faculty had reservations; many online program coordinators and instructional designers reported back that their own faculty were resistant or simply rejected the idea out of hand.

My own interest in how laboratory science education could be brought online was a product of Tusculum’s need, for the repurposing and development of a physical science course that would allow students to complete general education requirements exclusively online. I was qualified for this work because of my previous experience; I had previously brought two courses online at Shorter University in Rome, Georgia – astronomy, based on Seeds’ Astronomy: The Solar System and Beyond, and a “survey of natural science” course based Trefil and Hazen’s The Sciences. I have found both books to be tremendous resources, and so my own curriculum development for those courses was relatively minimal. Labs were not terribly sophisticated, either; the astronomy course “lab” was star observations and a video presentation that only two students (in a class of four) completed successfully, while the survey course had no lab at all and only a few hands-on activities. I implemented publishers’ online materials for the purposes of assessment (MasteringAstronomy for Seeds, WileyPlus for Trefil and Hazen), and the course was very ordinary, both in terms of material covered and bimodal student outcomes. The only grades I gave in these classes were A, B, and F, and the students who “earned” the grade of F did so by failing to complete a large fraction of the course requirements, stopping out before the course was done. And the work that the students did in those courses were the very definition of “disposable assignments” – locked in an learning management system, to which access to the course was closed off at the end of the term.

My last online course before this year was in 2011. In the intervening years, it is increasingly apparent that major publishers and other vendors have seen the desire of instructors and institutions to outsource the development of curriculum to save time, and have provided the resources to match that desire – with all the trappings that come with purchasing designed equipment and proprietary software. Publishers in particular have made their course materials increasingly extractive, designed to maximize their profits at the expense of taking permanent course supplies away from students. The “inclusive access” plans that Pearson PLC or Cengage Learning are marketing with increased intensity to professors involve providing access to online textbooks and proprietary software for the period of time the student is enrolled in the course, at prices that are well reduced from the list price of the textbook. The catch, of course, is that the online access is cut off at the end of the term, so that the publisher doesn’t lose any of the value to the cynical student who will sell the text at term’s end. In a subtler way, laboratory kits that suppliers provide for purchase, by their very nature, provide enough unique equipment for a single semester’s study, and are designed to only allow the student to do work in the context of a class. When the kit is out of material, replenishing that material can be prohibitive to the student whose curiosity is heightened.

All of this reinforces the concept that the knowledge the student is obtaining through their coursework is disposable and only exists to allow them to complete course requirements – not something that is permanent and can be carried with them in relevant ways throughout life.

This flies in the face of my hope for education, as something that is genuinely empowering and that can be carried with the student not merely for the duration of the course, but beyond.

One of the least realized promises of the world we have created with the Internet is the capacity for students in different places to communicate knowledge with one another as part of their process of learning – peer teaching over distances and in different geographic contexts. In parts of the world such as central Appalachia, exposure to authentic diversity has to be an intentional effort, and it is not done easily through student recruitment. Connection to students at other institutions from cultures that are apart from central Appalachia – even outside of the microculture of the rural online learner – can help the student go beyond the textbook towards authentic learning. After all, we are preparing our students not for a world of knowledge scarcity, but knowledge abundance (Weller, 2011; Stewart, 2015) – the literacy of the student is not going to be determined by their recall of a wealth of facts that they could look up elsewhere, but for the capacity to use that information in creative ways and communicate the applications of their understanding, both to their neighbors and the wider world, not merely by traditional communication and presentation but by networked means.

I work at Tusculum University intentionally, because of the place of the institution within the central Appalachians, because of the freedom provided by the institution’s independence from the state, and because of the civic arts tradition of the institution that obligates me to be the best possible citizen of the region, state, country and world. If my belief is that education is empowering, and I am an experienced practitioner of education in ideas that are freely available, it follows for me personally that I have a moral obligation to share my expertise and resources as freely as I am able to do so in faithful service to the institution that employs me.

I am incredibly fortunate to be able to participate in meetings like OLC Innovate, and I don’t want to minimize that gratitude. But a majority of the publishers and vendors who support such meetings and who engages in sales at those meetings are working to extract the last possible dollar from the students who use their services, not to provide the first available dollar to support the learning of the student (language borrowed from Shirky, as reported by Young, 2013). It is critical to me to be able to work out means to support student learning separate from publisher resources, using as many resources that the student can keep for themselves permanently.

The open education movement fits alongside these goals (as introduced by Biswas-Diener and Jhangiani, 2017). Open education is best known in the substance of Open Educational Resources (OER), freely accessible textbooks and similar resources that can take the place of the textbooks and proprietary software that students are sold. The free availability of these resources is the most frequently reported appeal of OER, and in an environment where textbook prices are spiraling out of control, that appeal is obvious.

But again, publishers can cynically use the pursuit of “low cost” to sell more extractive resources, resources that limit access and communicate the wrong lessons about the applicability of coursework beyond the classroom. So it is important to take the practice of education beyond simply the communication of free resources and the implementation of OER in coursework, to philosophies of open pedagogy (DeRosa and Robison, 2017). We seek not merely to have students use freely accessible resources, but actually develop their own educational creativity to provide their own material to add to those resources, and in the long term, for infrastructure to exist that’s sufficient for students to produce their own resources that will meet them at their point of need. In this we approach the full realization of education as empowerment; we do not merely teach students facts or ask students to complete cookbook laboratories, we provide students the structure necessary to use the resources available to them to make knowledge most relevant to them, and even to extend that knowledge as scholars in their own right and communicate that knowledge to peers as widely as possible.

We don’t merely want our students to be the best possible scholars we can be; we want them to set their own direction through that scholarship. In an environment that seeks to eliminate our students’ agency, we want to provide our students with a climate that allows them to take the most complete control of the resources at their disposal, and use those resources for their best benefit.


 

The results of a rather remarkable study were released on July 26, 2018.

The study addressed student attitudes towards the increase of textbook costs. The headline data from the study were the kind made for newspaper headlines – 43% of students surveyed reporting that they’d skipped meals to afford textbooks and class materials; 85% reporting that class materials were a source of financial stress, in line with tuition and a greater source of stress than highlighted items such as room, board, and health care; just shy of 70% of students who worked while in college saying books were a major reason they needed a job; disproportionate minority impact.

That’s not the remarkable bit.

The remarkable bit is that the survey was a product of Morning Consult, who was contracted to complete the survey by Cengage Learning.

Cengage dunked on a problem they helped to create, in order for them to promote…their own solution (emphasis my own):

“The survey’s results should be a wake-up call for everybody involved in higher education. This is especially true for the publishing industry, including our own company, as we historically contributed to the problem of college affordability,” said Michael Hansen, CEO, Cengage. “The data is clear: high textbook costs pose barriers to students’ ability to succeed in college.  Too many learners today are making painful tradeoffs between course materials and bare necessities like housing and meals. Our industry must embrace what students are telling us. That’s why our company has developed a new subscription model that lowers costs.

It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so cynical.

I will always be grateful to Nicole Allen of SPARC for putting this cynicism into stark relief:

I will freely own forceful distrust of Wall Street solutions to a problem that Wall Street created, and I will own that distrust even more forcefully given the doctoral degree I hold, and the advanced degrees we’re required to hold as faculty of the institutions where students deal with these problems most. The theory is that we earned those degrees because we’re capable of coming up with explanations for difficult circumstances, and solutions to difficult problems. We should not protest our own helplessness when it comes to the costs our students bear.

And frankly, when it comes to solving those problems, I’m far less likely to trust Wall Street than I am to trust the people of the land around me. The places where I live and work weren’t so much planned as they were carved out. The terrain is some of the most difficult in the country, even the world. The blood and sweat and ingenuity of generations past allow me to make my life here doing the comparatively comfortable work of making scientific knowledge understandable and accessible. If they feel like somebody’s getting rich for no good reason, somebody’s probably getting rich for no good reason.

We cannot allow our curriculum to be set by Wall Street. We cannot allow what is presented to our students in classrooms and in study to serve corporate aims. We must clear space for what our students study to be subservient to our students’ needs, first and foremost – in cost, in accessibility, in permanence, in creativity, in empowerment.


 

I’m publishing this today in parallel with a third and final presentation in a cycle of talks I’m giving surrounding my work in non-majors physical science teaching online, at the Open Education Southern Symposium at the University of Arkansas. Similar material was presented at Transformative Teaching and Technology conference at St. Norbert College in De Pere, WI (where slides have been uploaded) and at Appalachian College Association Summit XXI in Kingsport, TN

The past two years have completely redefined who I am as a scholar. I have been on this path for a very long time but the past two years have provided multiple opportunities for me to actually put what I’ve been doing into a meaningful context, and to realize that I have something very important to add to this conversation.

The people cited below – and in particular, Rajiv Jhangiani, Robin DeRosa, Keegan Long-Wheeler, Bonnie Stewart, Bonnie Stewart, and by the way did I mention Bonnie Stewart – have been incredibly generous with their time to make sure I had points in this document right and to lead me to this point. I cannot possibly thank them enough.

My “second postdoc” as instructional staff at Tennessee Tech laid much of the groundwork for this direction; thanks to Steve Robinson for the offer of the job and for being a spectacular (accidental?) mentor in STEM education research, to Paula Engelhardt for also modeling spectacular work, and to Mary Kidd, Mustafa Rajabali, and Adam Holley for being wonderful colleagues and collaborators. 

Laura Gogia has collaborated with me on a publication that indirectly fed into this work, and I’m completely in her debt for her work and her support. Rissa Sorensen-Unruh did spectacular work editing that volume, and has also fed into spectacular conversations going forward.

I also owe a mammoth debt to Karen Cangialosi, Maha Bali, Ken Bauer, and so many others in the open education community (and I’m certain I’m not remembering names of key folks!) for important conversations at points in this process.

Lastly, to Autumm Caines, Jim Luke, and Lee Skallerup Bessette, who in so many ways are People Without Whom.

 

Biswas-Diener, R. and R. Jhangiani. 2017. Introduction to open. In Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science. London: Ubiquity Press.

DeRosa, R. and S. Robison. 2017. From OER to open pedagogy: harnessing the power of open. In Open: The Philosophy and Practices that are Revolutionizing Education and Science. London: Ubiquity Press.

Stewart, B. 2015. In abundance: networked participatory practices as scholarship. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 16:318-340.

Weller, M. 2011. A pedagogy of abundance. Spanish Journal of Pedagogy 69:223-236.

Long-Wheeler, K, and Pearson, D.C. Online Lab Science. Website archive produced for OLC Innovate 2018; onlinelabsci.keeganslw.com.

Young, J.P. 2013. Clay Shirky says MOOCs will matter, but worries about corporate players. Wired Campus blog in The Chronicle of Higher Education online (audio of quote lost).

2018. New survey: college students consider buying course materials a top source of financial stress. Press release from Cengage Learning with associated infographic.

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USA, Panama, Richmond, and New York Red Bull II – the Tale of the Tape

All across the fruited plain, American soccer fans made a decision about entertainment today. Some of them beat themselves upside the head with an orange training cone. In a slightly less justifiable move, some of them watched the Gold Cup 3rd Place Game between the United States and Panama. But a few hardy souls fired up the YouTube and, despite zero emotional investment, watched a poorly attended USL match between New York Red Bulls II and the Richmond Kickers. Who made the best decision?

Obviously, the guys knocking themselves upside the head with the orange training cones. But among those of us who watched soccer, we can evaluate outcomes at the Tale of the Tape.

NYRB II v Richmond v USA v Panama

Category: GOALS SCORED
NYRB II v Richmond: Seven
USA v Panama: Two
ADVANTAGE: NYRB II v Richmond

Category: MINUTES PLAYED
NYRB II v Richmond: 90
USA v Panama: 120
ADVANTAGE: NYRB II v Richmond again, if only for the agony of being an American supporter having to watch this USA defense. Speaking of which:

Category: TOTAL SHOTS ATTEMPTED and TOTAL SHOTS ON GOAL
NYRB II v Richmond: 32 shots, 23 shots on goal
USA v Panama: 26 shots, 12 shots on goal
ADVANTAGE: NYRB II v Richmond, on both offense and offensive efficiency

Category: SHOT DIFFERENTIAL
NYRB II v Richmond: Even (NYRB II 16, Richmond 16)
USA v Panama: Panama +20 (Panama 25, USA 5)
ADVANTAGE: …honestly, how did Panama not destroy us? Seriously?

Category: GOALKEEPER QUALITY
NYRB II v Richmond: 16 saves between the two keepers.
USA v Panama: 11 saves for Brad Guzan by himself…and then penalties.
ADVANTAGE: USA v Panama. Yeah, Guzan had a dang good game. But it’s not like Mejia had anything to do for Panama…until Michael Bradley and DaMarcus Beasley took their penalties.

Category: BEST GOAL
NYRB II v Richmond: A gorgeous looping header by forward Jason Yeisley of Richmond, off a equally beautiful lofted cross over everybody by Owusu Sekyere
USA v Panama: Clint Dempsey’s decisive shot to equalize, set up by his Seattle teammate DeAndre Yedlin.
ADVANTAGE: Push. I honestly like Yeisley’s goal better, but Dempsey’s appreciation for Yedlin’s service afterwards gave me more hope…for about 30 seconds.

Category: STAKES
NYRB II v Richmond: late-season league match in the American 3rd division between teams fighting for a playoff spot.
USA v Panama: 3rd place game in the Gold Cup, the CONCACAF championship tournament.
ADVANTAGE: NYRB II v Richmond. And not even close.

Category: ATTENDANCE
NYRB II v Richmond: no report at press time but likely mid-hundreds based on recent performance. Absolutely uninspiring.
USA v Panama: 12,598
ADVANTAGE: NYRB II v Richmond. See “STAKES”, especially that “3rd division” bit.

Category: BROADCAST AVAILABILITY (English-language)
NYRB II v Richmond: YouTube, live HD streaming, totally free of charge, viewable on computer or mobile device
USA v Panama: Fox Sports 2. Fox Sports TWO? You mean Rupert’s got ANOTHER sports network that’s a bull competitor to ESPN? Who carries that, anyway?
ADVANTAGE: NYRB II v Richmond. And all this while the main FOX network showed a glorified friendly between Barcelona and Manchester United, adding insult to injury. USA fans, hope you enjoyed your Univision.

Category: ARCHIVED REPLAY
NYRB II v Richmond: You can watch this replay RIGHT NOW – and it’s still free.
USA v Panama: Available through FOX Sports GO with an authentication through your cable or satellite service provider, or through Fox Soccer 2Go subscription ($19.99/month, $99.99/year).
Advantage: NYRB II v Richmond, because no way I’m paying to watch that garbage. Or much of any of FOX’s garbage, for that matter. (Sorry, Rob Stone. I miss you.)

Category: EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT
NYRB II v Richmond: absolutely, positively none. I save all my USL love for the Austin Aztex (Columbus’ USL affiliate) and the Pittsburgh Riverhouds (who should be Columbus’ USL affiliate). I kind of was rooting for
USA v Panama: #yaaaaaaaaaanks? *sob*
ADVANTAGE: NYRB II v Richmond. Like you really have to ask.

So there you have it. It’s all so simple when you break things down scientifically. In regulation time, while people were charging after referees in Chester, PA, NYRB II and Richmond won this matchup going away.

Seriously, catch a USL match on YouTube when you have a chance. No, the teeming millions aren’t there all the time, but the soccer is 1996- or 1997-era MLS quality, and it reflects the growth of the American game all over. Fun sports entertainment, and you don’t have to pay for that super-expensive sports tier on your cable or satellite to see it.

Until next time, and with deepest apologies to Nick Bakay, this has been Dr. Chuck Pearson, the Stereotypical Dumb Yank(tm), reminding you that the numbers never lie.

Before USA-Belgium

So you are aware, universe: despite the fact that I will be progressively engaged in figuring out what our lives as a family will look like in the fall and will almost certainly not be in front of a television set at 4:00 PM tomorrow after noon due to such things [1], I cannot make any claim to living in the real world right now, because I believe this Round of 16 match between the United States and Belgium is the most important in the modern history of this program.

If the form table holds, Belgium will win. Period. The image in Brian Cook’s match preview – all the Belgian players with all the price tags that all those European clubs have slapped on them – tells it all. This is a classy, classy team, and coming in was UEFA’s dark horse to win the whole thing.

At least as regards the group standings, through six knockout matches, the form table has continually held. All six group winners who have played are quarterfinalists. I think the idea that Switzerland might defeat Argentina – in a South American World Cup – would have been abject comedy BEFORE France drew up the blueprint on how to poke holes into the Swiss defense like so much cheese. I’m sorry. The United States should not win this match.

I’m taking one step further. Going forward from Portugal in 2002, the United States has never won a match that they weren’t favored in. USA-Mexico in 2002 was the classic grudge match and didn’t have a favorite. Germany knocked us out in 2002. The Czechs torched us in 2006, and even as wild as that Italy match was we couldn’t beat them. For all the legend of 2010, the only match we won – the Algeria match – was against a team we were comprehensively better than, and it took THAT Landon Donovan goal to win it.

Our shock wins in modern World Cups were in 1994 and 2002. Ancient. History. Sure, the football we’ve played in Brazil has been as elegant and robust as ever, but it’s resulted in a last-gasp 2-1 win over Ghana – the team we were supposed to beat, a disappointing 2-2 draw against Portugal – the team that was there for the taking, and a 0-1 loss to Germany – the game we were supposed to lose.

Have we actually improved, or not?

This is the cruel thing about being a national team from North America. Nobody will ever rate CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying as highly as they should. The Gold Cup has improved from the days that we would invite a South American “guest team” to compete for our own continental championship, but it still rates behind the African Cup of Nations as a relevant continental trophy, to say nothing of the Copa America and the Euro. Everything else is friendlies, friendlies, friendlies. The rare invite to a Confederations Cup is everything to us and a glorified friendly tournament to a South American or European nation. We think a lot more about those 2008 matches against Spain and Brazil than anyone else in the world, I guarantee.

This is the cruel thing about being a national team from the United States or from Mexico. You are supposed to play in this tournament, every time. The national mania surrounding Mexico’s elimination at the hands of those [2] Dutch was nothing compared to the national depression that would have emerged if Panama had held on to defeat the United States in October and eliminated Mexico without hope of even the playoff for half a spot. Mexico has been eliminated in six straight World Cups at the round-of-16 stage. I guarantee you the Mexicans prefer that to the alternative that was staring them in the face in October. Failure to participate in this tournament is not an option. Even Costa Rica has reached a point where they feel pressure to qualify every time out.

This is the cruel thing about being a national team outside a power confederation. There is only one truly competitive tournament you compete in, where every nation sends their best players and clubs understand and appreciate the value of that tournament.

This is the cruel thing about the United States’ position. The quality of their national team is defined by their performance in the World Cup. Period.

The United States is consistently one of the top 32 national teams in the world. Potentially, the United States can be consistently considered one of the top 16 national teams in the world now. There is a success in a second successive knockout stage to this competition.

But we have been qualifying for World Cups consistently for 24 years now. We hosted this very tournament 20 years ago. Major League Soccer is old enough for college. There is a whole generation of players who has not known the United States without a proper first-division professional league to aspire to. At a certain point, the team has to prove its worth.

The United States has impressed with the quality of their play. Jürgen Klinsmann is the hand this team needed, the man who understands European professionalism and American professionalism and where the two meet. I believed that before he was hired, and I still believe that. His selections have been very solid. Even the selections we all questioned have demonstrated worth on the field.

And, for all that, so far, we’re 1-1-1. No better than .500 ball. A few people who don’t understand World Cups have grumbled that, in some endeavors, .500 ball will get you fired. They’re not wrong.

The United States needs a singular, dominant win. Against a quality European nation. At the highest level. In the one tournament that genuinely matters.

Fail tomorrow, and it’s four years before they get another shot. If they get another shot like this.


Knockout stages of the World Cup are so tantalizing. It’s four games to a title – and not just any title, but one of THE titles in world sport, a trophy that changes lives forever. I will never forget Ian Grant writing about Watford’s chase for promotion to the English Premiership – about finishing third in a national second-division club football league! – and how he used a Harry Grant quote to set the stakes, a quote I’ll revisit here fifteen years on:

The chance of ultimate possibility kept repeating itself in his head, a mad little chant that would not stop, nor did he want it to. Too Much had explained it to him…. Everything is chance, and chance is everything, she had told him. Most people refused to believe that, because chance frightened them. But that was only ignorance. Chance contained every possibility. Of course, some of it might be bad…but a heartbeat away from what might be bad, unthinkably bad, was what might be unthinkably great, a bliss that even the gods would envy.

Ultimate possibility. Is there any greater example of this than a nation that had only ancient history at the sport of soccer not even three decades ago chasing after the greatest prize in the sport? [3]

It’s nearly impossible to conceive. Argentina, and Lionel Messi with them, would be the all-but-certain quarterfinal opponent. Dare Costa Rica dream of an all-CONCACAF semifinal, or would the opponent be the [2] Dutch and all their ruthlessness? And what kind of footballing royalty would await in a final? The Germans or the French, wanting to add to their trophy case? The absolutely irresistible Colombians, wanting revenge for 1994 – and with the player in James Rodríguez who could deliver that revenge with a spectacular volley? Or – of course, of course – the hosts, who haven’t lost at home in a tournament for longer than we’ve thought to even matter?

And yet.

And yet it would only take four games.

Four games to find a form unlike any we’ve ever seen. Four games for Jozy Altidore to fulfill his potential. Four games for Michael Bradley to rediscover his first touch. Four games for DaMarcus Beasley to become what we dreamed him to be long ago. Four games for Tim Howard to make us forget Brad Friedel or Kasey Keller. Four games for Clint Dempsey to truly become Captain America, the greatest we have ever known, maybe the greatest we ever will see wear the shirt.

It’s impossible. It’s just not time yet. Surely there are better players in the pipeline to come, for 2018 or for 2022.

And yet, what if…?

Four games. Four wins. The chance of ultimate possibility.

It starts now.

YAAAAAAAAAANKS


[1] Dear loved ones: if you see me tomorrow afternoon between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM – and possibly after – it will almost certainly be with an earbud in my ear and with all kinds of nerves going on. Please forgive me.
[2] cheating, filthy, horrible, you-could-confuse-them-for-being-Mexican-if-they-weren’t-wearing-those-stupid-orange-jerseys, Arjan-Robben-is-the-lousiest-excuse-for-a-footballer-this-side-of-Luis-Hernandez, oh-I-hate-them-so-much
[3] You can read all the reports of that Watford season, which together I believe constitute the greatest story of a season of English football ever, and which I don’t ever tire of reading – and I don’t even support Watford! If nothing else, make sure you read how Watford’s chase of ultimate possibility ended.

Facebook status rant, September 2, 2013

This. Hurts.

We didn’t have enough history to be upset when Timo Liekoski got sacked. Sacking Tom Fitzgerald and Greg Andrulis was worse, but it’s hard to argue it wasn’t necessary either time. In a perfect world, Sigi would have found everything he ever wanted in Columbus and stayed for the long haul, with a certain free-kick specialist as his loyal lieutenant, but that wasn’t to be either.

But I never stood ten feet away from Timo Liekoski, Tom Fitzgerald, Greg Andrulis OR Sigi Schmid as they delivered inch-perfect corner kicks on a postage stamp of a pitch in Ohio Stadium.

And I don’t know if it’s better or worse that Brian Bliss is taking over to finish the season. There’s this little fantasy I kept in my head, real or not, about Columbus being the family club to MLS’ big boys, in an Altogether Less Fashionable Part Of The United States, and Robert Warzycha being Columbus Till He Dies just like the rest of us.

Whatever might have been real about that fantasy, it is over, just like the Polish Rifle’s career with the Crew.

Professional sports are ruthless. They have to be. If this is about winning a second title, this move is probably as necessary as sacking Fitz and Greg was at the time.

It doesn’t make this any easier to swallow.

Thanks for all the years, Robert Warzycha. In so many ways, you ARE the Columbus Crew, forever Massive.

Bowl Mania (of the crystal football variety)

Text from my friend, Model High School soccer coach/history teacher and Rome, Georgia trivia king James Schroeder, midday yesterday:

so what happens when power is lost in alabama on monday, or even across the south. what would people do about the game? all hell would break loose

My reply:

Prepare yourself for a picture of a bunch of sad Auburn fans in a sports bar, crowded around an iPhone, praying the battery holds out.

It doesn’t look like that’s played out. Everybody has gotten their day off, and all the TV’s are on and getting hyped for a BCS title game.

(Hey, how about a shout-out to the power and telephone utilities? Snow and ice all around the region, and the number of news stories about lost power have been all but nil. 6500 customers in Georgia without power at some point over the course of the day. That’s it. There are a lot more than 6500 houses in Georgia. I’ve been doing advising of students from home while my driveway has been iced in, and relying on my fat DSL pipe and household power that hasn’t even wavered. This has been an unimaginably good day.)

Yes, Mamoo, this is THE game. I love TCU, but these have been the best teams all year; a deserving title tilt.

So how will it play out? Here are some tips, and I feel pretty good about this one, clip and save:

  • The game will be characterized by – get this – DEFENSES early. I mean, Thomas will throw two picks, and Newton will throw one, and there will be a clear shout for a second. You might even see a safety in the first half.
  • The offenses will get going by the second quarter, though, and as has been true all season, when the offenses get going downhill it will be difficult for these defenses to answer.
  • Watch for Chip Kelly to try the early two-point conversion once Oregon gets on the board. I’m trying to figure out how he might do it, though, it’s like Kelly empties his play-book on two-point tries…the only thing I don’t think he’s done is fake a point-after kick and option to the kicker. Maybe he’ll do something like that.
  • Safety, two-point conversion…yeah, I think there will be a weird halftime score. 16-11, say?
  • Nick Fairley will be a jerk. This isn’t much of a prediction, honestly.
  • The game will be uneven. There will even be a somewhat controversial replay towards the end where the Oregon players think the play is done and stop playing – they’ll even fool Auburn into stopping as well, and that’s the point where TCU will start trending on Twitter because the TCU defense would have tackled that son of a gun.
  • Brent Musberger will trend higher, primarily complaining about his overexcited announcing. He will make at least one spectacular gaffe that sends the Twittersphere through the roof. Again, not much of a prediction.
  • I have said all season that Cam Newton has been more Terrelle Pryor than Terrelle Pryor. It will be true again tonight. Key throws AND key runs for first downs, and Auburn will be in command late.
  • Terrelle Pryor doesn’t always win games for Ohio State.
  • Nor will Cam Newton win this one. The player of the game, for Auburn, will be Michael Dyer…and, when Oregon pulls even late, it will be a Dyer run that sets up the gamewinner. Yes, I’m flip-flopping my pick again; hopefully the third time will be the charm. AUBURN 22, OREGON 19.

Enjoy the title game!

I had this written early this afternoon, but between the advising that I was doing and the snow-shoveling I did late, I completely forgot to send this around. Holy cow, that was incredible, wasn’t it? All the way down to the LAST-SECOND game-winning field goal.

And I finally hit a score exactly right, and I finally hit a second-guess!

Now, nobody’s going to believe me, because I didn’t get the pick out in time. But I swear to you, I had a feeling about this one. I mean, I’m in the midst of ESS EEE SEE country, I finally had to come to the conclusion that I was picking with my heart and I needed to get with my head.

Congratulations to Auburn on their title…

…and congratulations to Uncle Dave and Aunt Alice on their thrilling comeback! Uncle Dave hit SIX straight to finish the competition, Aunt Alice five of six and the three she needed…Matt, sympathies on the run-in but well done early to get your share.

(And only those three finished with a winning record on the pick-em on 19-16…I was next in the table on 17-18!)

Happy New Year to all!

Bowl Mania (of the OMG WHEN DOES THIS SEASON END variety)

The complaint that the bowl season is too long is well-established.

And, to be perfectly honest, when I decided that I was going to blog my bowl pick-’em this season, this is the one element of the system that I didn’t think to take into account.

Why didn’t I have a post in time for the GoDaddy.com Bowl? I could crack the funny that it was because there was a Sun Belt team playing, and to draw any attention to that game would be to draw attention to the fact that I made a big deal about the Sun Belt Conference being the worst Football Bowl Subdivision conference in the history of the Football Bowl Subdivision, and here they’ve gone 2-0 thus far. (And yet MTSU still lost last night – once again demonstrating that downplaying my picks is contributing to my stellar pick-’em record in the closedown.)

Why didn’t I have a post in time for the GoDaddy.com Bowl? Because I’m at work, and when I’m done with work, I’m tired. (And, last night, literally, I watched the GoDaddy.com Bowl from work.)

This is not what I signed on for in bowl season. It’s a holiday diversion, not a diversion that carries past when I’m back doing school work.

As if I need to complain about one more thing that’s totally broken about college football in the new decade, your must-read for the day is Stewart Mandel’s SI.com article about Oregon’s mandatory study halls in the midst of practice for the BCS Championship Game. This is necessary because Oregon has been in school for most of this work. Oregon got their full Christmas break, and then they’re in Glendale practicing while the rest of their mates are in class.

I don’t think this is how the system is supposed to work. Corresponding politicizing will not be done this post, but it is absolutely implied.

But since burying the lede on my picks has worked so well this week, I’m going to continue to practice doing so and see if I can continue to finish strong.

NCAA DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP
DELAWARE (12-2) v EASTERN WASHINGTON (12-2)
Yeah, those words are a little unsettling, aren’t they? Get your TV on ESPN2 now if you forgot they were playing this thing; the I-AA title games are always good, clean fun. Eastern Washington had more than a little bit of home-field advantage in their bracket and dealt with more than their share of snow; Delaware had a slightly softer half of the bracket. This game is being played in Frisco, Texas (at FC Dallas’ Pizza Hut Park, may God bless corporate sponsorship), so weather shouldn’t be much of an issue here. Both teams are quality but I’m thinking Eastern Washington is a little more battle-tested.

(That’s as definitive a pick as I get.)

Bowl advocates who moan about the extra games in a playoff system, please note: Both these teams to date have only played 14 games. Make it work, dang it.

 

COTTON BOWL CLASSIC
LSU (10-2) v TEXAS A&M (9-3)
Yeah, yeah, it’s the Cotton Bowl but it’s not being played in the Cotton Bowl, yadda yadda. We’ve already dealt with this. What I want to know is: who ordered the I-AA title game to be competing with the bowl game at JerryWorld at the same time IN THE SAME DANG TV MARKET? The casual fan of course will be watching LSU run riot over an improved but still inferior Texas A&M, but us geeks are not going to be paying a LICK of attention to this game.

 

BBVA COMPASS BOWL
PITTSBURGH (7-5) v KENTUCKY (6-6)
I had a thought of trying to get a ticket to this game, honestly. I don’t care if it’s falling down, I love Legion Field; some of my favorite experiences watching soccer have come there. It would be neat to watch a football game there. (Think about that statement for a moment. I’m not kidding, either. I drove to Birmingham to watch the United States punk Guatemala 2-0 in their hardest home match in second-round qualifying for the 2006 World Cup. It was a blast.)

And it wouldn’t be watching Alabama, but watching an ascendant Kentucky team with far and away the best player on the field in Randall Cobb against a reeling and demoralized Pitt program would be classic SEC-denfreude.

 

KRAFT FIGHT HUNGER BOWL
NEVADA (12-1) v BOSTON COLLEGE (7-5)
I really, REALLY want to know what marketing genius came up with this name. Or this matchup. You know what? I don’t think even I can mess up this pick; Nevada’s comeback against Boise State demonstrated they are legitimate Top-10 fodder, and I honestly don’t know what Boston College has been doing since Matt Ryan went to the National Football League. NEVADA 45, BOSTON COLLEGE 6.

 

BCS CHAMPIONSHIP
…will wait for the weekend.

Even if the season has gone on too long, it’s the last weekend of college football. We’ve got to enjoy it.

Bowl Mania (of the conflicted Ohio State alum variety)

A note from Saturday’s massacre: I can’t even second-guess my picks right. And I know the Big Ten isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but I can’t imagine anybody (not even Paul Finebaum and the ESS EEE SEE-flunky southern media) seriously contemplated the Big Ten going 0-5 on the day.

I at least had a clue of what I was talking about during the Orange Bowl, except I said that minimally. I suppose my secret should be to undersell my picks.


This comes from the Ohio State fan in me.

The closer we’ve gotten to the Sugar Bowl, the sicker I’ve felt about it. The scandal that will take Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, Devier Posey, and Mike Adams and sideline them for the first five games of next season – but WON’T sideline them for the Sugar Bowl, in large part because the Sugar Bowl wanted them to play – is one of those situations where everybody looks absolutely awful, and I feel like a sucker for having put all this effort into talking about bowl games.

This is how conflicted my feelings are:

  • This should be the ultimate nail in the coffin for the bowl system. How can you POSSIBLY argue that these money-grubbing bowl chairmen aren’t playing havoc with the discipline of being a student-athlete when you hear Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan say something like this?


    I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would greatly appreciate it…That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I’m extremely excited about it, that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength and with no dilution.

    The integrity of the GAME, not the integrity of the INDIVIDUALS. And the game must keep its integrity to keep the business of the Sugar Bowl afloat, the rules that the student-athletes must follow be damned.

  • Terrelle Pryor sold his Gold Pants. I can’t say this with enough emphasis. I can’t count how many times in the 90’s I heard an Ohio State player talk through passion and pain over how badly they wanted to beat Michigan so they could get a pair of those Gold Pants, and how much they’d cherish it if they got a pair. Three times Ohio State in the 90’s Ohio State went into Michigan Week unbeaten; three times they lost the game. I was in Ohio Stadium with Grandpa in 1994 when John Cooper’s team got their first win over Michigan, and I’ve never seen a celebration like it.Terrelle Pryor has three victories over Michigan, and has been as effective against the (admittedly weakened) Wolverines as any Ohio State quarterback since Art Schlichter (as we talk about disgraced Ohio State quarterbacks). By selling one of those charms, he revealed himself to be a mercenary, plain and simple.I won’t talk about Grandpa in this context; I don’t want to be that presumptuous. But I can tell you that move alone has crushed a ton of alumni, and I’m in that group.
  • (And we won’t even talk about the allegations that Pryor has been improperly driving around certain loaner vehicles from certain automobile dealerships a la Maurice Clarett, and at the very least has been stupid about getting traffic tickets while driving other people’s cars around. It’s almost like the guy is TRYING to make himself the most hated athlete in Ohio State history.)
  • And yet.

    When Devier Posey took news of his suspension, this is what his mother said in response:


    The NCAA is amazing…What they give them for rent and stuff is not enough. It’s just not enough. It’s already a financial strain on a family. The whole thing requires money, but they – the NCAA – don’t want to give it to them. The NCAA is saying, ‘Well, if they gave them money, they no longer have amateur status.’ Well, guess what? College football and basketball players are the only amateurs not receiving any money that I see plastered all over the TV and on magazines. They’re not amateurs. Who do they think they’re kidding? The NCAA certainly doesn’t look at them as amateurs. If they did, they wouldn’t be making money off them.

    This is what you’d expect the parent of an aggrieved player who has lost the ability to play half of his senior season to say, and this is the type of venting that those of us alumni tend to take to talk radio and dismiss out of hand. Obviously, the players are being ungrateful. They’re receiving a college education for their trouble. They need to be grateful for the full ride they are receiving.

  • The only problem is: Julie Posey is right. These players aren’t exactly receiving a full ride.

    Posey is, fortunately for him, an Ohio resident, so he doesn’t have out-of-state tuition contributing to the shortfall in his scholarship. The shortfall between Ohio State’s athletic scholarship and the actual cost of attending Ohio State computed by the Department of Education for financial aid purposes is only $3,575 per year. Pryor is still a Pennsylvania resident, and his shortfall is actually greater – $4,802 per year.And the NCAA puts all kinds of limitations on how a student-athlete can earn money to make up for that shortfall. Essentially, the vast majority of that burden goes on the parents. For the student to attend school, that shortfall has to be made up one way or another.At that point in an athlete’s career, how many trophies and championship rings of one sort or another have they collected? How much meaning do they really have? Why wouldn’t a family try to collect some money from those items on the sly?And why won’t the NCAA allow its schools to let their grants-in-aid actually meet the real costs of attending college for students who otherwise would never get the chance, or allow the funds that are supposed to exist to allow students with real financial need to get help to actually be used so players can be honest about their financial needs? This isn’t even a question of “paying players” – it’s about keeping them from having to pay to play at the collegiate level and creating the kind of inequities that lead players to the conclusion that they’re owed more than they’re getting.

I taught several junior-college football players when I worked at Middle Georgia College, before Middle Georgia decided that the character and the finances of the campus was being slowly decimated by football and killed the program. Those are students who have visions of getting their game right, or getting their academics right, or both, before they take a shot at a Division I football program. Even at that level, in a south Georgia town that was close to nothing but ground, the sacrifices the students had to make to pursue the game were ridiculous, and they felt pulled in a million directions. What little I saw of the athletes at Ohio State was so much more stressful.

I get what Terrelle Pryor, Boom Herron, Devier Posey and Mike Adams were thinking. It’s not right. They should not be playing in this football game. But I get it. And it boils down to: If I’m putting in all this work, why is everybody getting rich but me?

The system is desperately, desperately broken. It’s only becoming more obvious the further it goes on. I know what kind of can of worms you open when you say “treat the players like professionals”, and I don’t think you can go there. But I know we can’t stay here either.

And meanwhile, in the real world, the article that I read this morning about trying to save young black men in college convinced me that all of this is a very, very small subset of the real story, and the real fight. If you have a few extra minutes, please read this essay by an English teacher at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston about testifying in a trial about the senseless murder of one of his students, gunned down as he was desperately trying to find a way to make his life better.

Ohio State should win this game (for the record: OHIO STATE 31, ARKANSAS 24). The storyline will be Ohio State’s record against the SEC, whether it goes to 1-9 or to 0-10 in their last 10 attempts. On one level, that matters, and God knows I’m going to be talking about that around the Georgia and Alabama and Auburn and Kentucky and Ole Miss and Mississippi State faithful around my campus. That’s what’s good about college football; that’s why it won’t go away no matter how broken the system gets. How much has this game given us, as a family, a language to communicate in when times have been hard and when other words have been difficult to say? The game is, in the Deep South and in the Midwest and in the Southwest, a fundamental part of our culture. It’s an important culture. We shouldn’t belittle it.

And that’s why, if we find ourselves with a way to work to make this game better – and the educational system this game is within better – we should.

When I think about it, I honestly think I wrote this to motivate myself more as any of you.


Congrats to Matt on his share of the title; best of luck to Uncle Dave and Aunt Alice on the gauntlet of picks that have to fall right for them to claim a share.

Bowl Mania (of the Pretend New Year’s Day variety)

New Year’s Day doesn’t matter this year. It’s just another bowl day.

How little does New Year’s Day matter?

At noon you can watch the TicketCity Bowl on ESPNU. Let’s not even start in on the fact that my satellite package doesn’t carry ESPNU. Let’s simply reflect on the fact that the TicketCity Bowl is played in the Cotton Bowl, in Fair Park, Texas. But the TicketCity Bowl is not a rebranded Cotton Bowl game. The Cotton Bowl Classic still exists. But it’s not played in the Cotton Bowl; it’s played in Cowboys Stadium (referred to in other quarters as JerryWorld). And the Cotton Bowl Classic is not played on New Year’s Day. It’s played on January 7th.

So the bowl game played in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day is not the Cotton Bowl.

That’s how broken New Year’s Day has become.

There are five bowl games of irrelevance, and we shall go through them in order:

TICKETCITY BOWL: NORTHWESTERN 31, TEXAS TECH 6. Pat Fitzgerald wishes his defense played with the intensity he did. Fortunately, Texas Tech is in the process of being thoroughly defanged by Tommy Tuberville.

OUTBACK BOWL: FLORIDA 9, PENN STATE 0. I refuse to make another Urban-Meyer-is-retiring-while-Joe-Paterno-is-staying joke. We’ll simply remember this game as the moment when Florida ceased to be known for offensive schemes and a team full of defensive players told Will Muschamp “We’re ready for you, coach.”

CAPITAL ONE BOWL – ALABAMA 31, MICHIGAN STATE 17. Yes, Michigan State did beat Wisconsin and would like for you to know that they have a legitimate claim to a BCS berth, but Alabama would like for you to know that they exploded for twenty-one points in the first quarter against Auburn, they fully intend to do so again, and you don’t have Cam Newton.

GATOR BOWL – MISSISSIPPI STATE 63, MICHIGAN 55. In Ann Arbor, the departure of the entire defensive coaching staff (and perhaps the head man who hired them, although that’s not the immediate crisis) and the arrival of actual cornerbacks and safeties cannot come soon enough.

FIESTA BOWL – OKLAHOMA 23, UCONN 22. Bully to my cousin Dan and his son for actually being brave enough to pick what will surely be one of the more motivated teams to play this bowl cycle; at a certain point, you hear enough about what you can’t do that you have to go out and do it. Unfortunately, the Huskies have every bit of a track record of fighting valiantly and just falling short as they do of actually finishing the job, and Oklahoma is so overdue for a BCS win that Bob Stoops still has nightmares of Boise State running the statue of liberty.

 

So, now, the one game that actually feels like New Year’s Day:

ROSE BOWL
WISCONSIN (11-1) v TCU (12-0)
(By the way:  dig the irony that the game that most feels like New Year’s Day is the game that could not have existed in the traditionalist’s era, when this game was stuck in a Big 10-Pac 10 rut.  Not that Wisconsin-Oregon or Wisconsin-Stanford wouldn’t have been an epic encounter, but TCU landing the berth in The Granddaddy Of Them All just feels right, for all that this program has accomplished, and the result is an incredible matchup of Big Ten power against nouveaux-rich moxie.)

I’m feeling eliminated from the competition (my formula for figuring out my chances for winning the game: (1) look at my picks; (2) look at Matt’s remaining picks; (3) see how many games we differ in; (4) see how many games I am behind; (5) tear spreadsheet to a billion tiny pieces).

And the closer I get to this matchup the more I don’t trust my original pick of TCU.

TCU is an outstanding defensive football team – again: going undefeated in Division One Football ($1 to Dan Hawkins) is an incredibly difficult task – but they are NOT the kind of machine that, say, Boise State has shown to be in the past. They CAN be caught out by a good football team, and put under significant pressure. (Corollary: Utah, TCU’s closest Mountain West competition, was not a good football team.)

Wisconsin is an outstanding offensive football team, with something that TCU frankly does not see against Western competition: a physical, punishing rushing game that has depth only rivaled by Nevada’s, and size that puts Nevada to shame. When Wisconsin got their game going, they were not only the class of the Big Ten, they DESTROYED Big Ten defenses.

TCU’s defense is very good, and I don’t see Wisconsin hanging 70 on TCU the way they way they did against Northwestern (and let’s not even mention Indiana). But Wisconsin closed the season strong, and I don’t see TCU being able to generate points at the rate to hang with them as the game pressure becomes real.

So I abdicate my pick for the competition and back the Big Ten, by the score of WISCONSIN 38, TCU 20.

Happy New Year. And, in the words of Pete Abrams, “That’s it; I’m going back to bed.”

Bowl Mania (of the…yeah, you know the drill) – part 6

Please note: At one point late in the game, the Pinstripe Bowl score was actually Kansas State 28, Syracuse 27. I should have got credit for 35 wins by matching a score exactly; those would have been real bragging rights to have. But I also knew the moment K-State went ahead by 1 that the score wouldn’t stand; the defenses were just playing too pourous.

Speaking of yesterday’s misadventures, this from the normal bowl game banter from my Uncle Dave:

Big 10 officials need to go back to elementary officiating school – two HORRIBLE games tonight.  Tenn game was a disaster – as was the K State thing.   How dare they call a bowl game at the close w/ such a goofy call as to change the outcome.

In all honesty, I think both officiating crews NEARLY handled what they were faced with as well as they could have.  And in both cases, the head referee let their crews down.

I will never forget randomly talking to a soccer referee while committing one of my random acts of geeky tourism in grad school (watching a minor-league soccer game in Hershey, Pennsylvania…yes, such things as minor-league soccer exist, although not in Hershey anymore). He was preparing to call a major youth tournament the following day, and (like any good referee) he had his whistle with him. At some point I asked him what he considered a foul or something, at which point he gave me a look as if to say kid, you don’t understand a thing and then he said “look, when you call a tournament game, this is the first thing you do.” He then showed me his whistle, and then he put the whistle in his pocket.

“The KIDS play. The KIDS decide the game. I don’t.”

The Kansas State salute:  yes, I can see why that flag is thrown in the heat of the moment (in the very same way that I can’t blame a kid for a quick moment of exultation in the heat of the moment).  By the letter of the rule, what you saw at the end of that game WAS excessive celebration (and next year, that move DOES take the touchdown off the board – we can talk about how wrong-headed that rule is, but it WILL be the rule).  It is down to the head referee to know the implications, and that the penalty for excessive celebration would almost CERTAINLY cost Kansas State a chance at the game; that’s down to him to make the fair decision as emotions die down, wave the flag over his head, and say “there is no foul on the play.”  The referee doesn’t even have to say what his crewman saw.  Think about it for a moment, and tell your crewman “I’m not letting a ticky-tack infraction have that kind of an impact. The KIDS play. The KIDS decide the game. I don’t.”

That does technically ignore the rule, but it’s not like television sets across America were tuned in to a game immediately following where salutes were going off right and left, with little extra bits of hip-hop flair, and people across the fruited plain were muttering under their breath “excessive celebration, 15 yards…excessive celebration, 15 yards…”

And yes, as for the chaos at the end of North Carolina – Tennessee:  for the love of all that is holy, man, once you say “the game is over,” then the dad-gum game is over, and it’s ESPECIALLY over when you’re in Nashville and Tennessee is getting declared the winner in front of a partisan crowd!  Either you mean those words to be final or YOU DON’T SAY THEM!  You say, I suppose, “The play is under review; the ruling on the field is that time has expired” or something equally convoluted – yes, you obscure what you mean, because saying what you mean is the equivalent of shouting “FIRE” in the crowded theater!

Again:  every ruling that was made was correct, if NCAA-stupid.  Why you don’t expire the clock after an offensive foul as the clock was running with 0:01 remaining is beyond me, but that’s not in the NCAA rulebook.  You can snap the ball with that one second remaining with your ENTIRE HUNDRED-MAN SQUAD ON THE FIELD and that’s a five-yard penalty but you get the one second.  So again, the guys knew the rulebook and handled the rulings correctly.

But they handled the rulings correctly AFTER their boss said “the game is over.”  And then, it doesn’t matter quite so much, does it?

“Here is a trustworthy saying”, said the Apostle Paul:  “If anyone sets his heart on being a head referee, he desires a noble task.”  (At least, I think that’s what he wrote to Timothy.)

 

This day is for the Florida schools – all of them but UF itself. And I honestly don’t see why the Outback Bowl has to be played on New Year’s Day; five Florida schools playing bowl games in one day? Tasty.

 

MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL
SOUTH FLORIDA (7-5) v CLEMSON (6-6)

My pick in this game is nothing more and nothing less than lack of faith in South Florida. They had their big win towards the end of the regular season against Miami (the result that eventually cost Randy Shannon his job) but couldn’t keep UConn out of the BCS, and generally, South Florida finds ways to disappoint on the back of what should be program-building wins. The deep suspicion is that South Florida will disappoint again.

Of course, I’m picking them to disappoint against a Clemson program that has consistently disappointed since 1981. I don’t claim any fashion of consistency in my takes. CLEMSON 19, SOUTH FLORIDA 13.

 

SUN BOWL
NOTRE DAME (7-5) v MIAMI (YES, THAT MIAMI) (7-5)

Burning questions: (1) Did Notre Dame really figure it out when they throttled Utah, Army and USC in succession to close the season, or was it flattery-to-decieve and will they come crashing to earth here? (2) Will Miami rally under Jeff Stoutland, or collapse without their moral compass after Randy Shannon’s sacking?

My suspicion: there’s a lot more evidence to go on with Notre Dame’s late-season prospects than there is with anything in the Miami program ahead of Al Golden’s arrival. Again, in times of trouble, go with what you know. NOTRE DAME 28, MIAMI 14.

 

LIBERTY BOWL
UCF (10-3) v GEORGIA (6-6)

Central Florida had a delightful season, and (with the possible exception of the Southern Miss home loss) consistently won every game they were supposed to win. Georgia had a horrific start to the season in the midst of A.J. Green’s suspension, and was very fortunate to finish 6-6 after collapsing against Colorado at the season’s nadir.

And Georgia is point-blank the best 6-6 team in the country, and the whole reason that six wins is deserving of bowl eligibility. I think Aaron Murray is the best quarterback UCF has played all year, and UCF had to face down North Carolina State and Russell Wilson. A.J. Green is certainly the best receiver UCF will have to play. I hate picking 6-6 teams over 10-3 teams – winning ten games in The Division Formerly Known As I-A is HARD, and Central Florida is a very good team – but this is the type of team that makes the populace quake when they hear the letters ESS EEE SEE. GEORGIA 41, UCF 31.

 

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL
SOUTH CAROLINA (9-4) v FLORIDA STATE (9-4)

With all credit to Jimbo Fisher for getting Florida State back within a shout of the ACC title, this game should be a South Carolina runaway, and it’s easily explained:
(1) With two losses to Auburn – one in the regular season, one in the SEC Champsionship – South Carolina’s four losses are much more legitimate than Florida State’s;
(2) Steve Spurrier can unleash his inner Gator in a bowl game against Florida State, even if he doesn’t quite recognize the guy on the other sideline;
(3) Most importantly, Spurrier has finally found the three plays he needs to turn South Carolina into an SEC powerhouse: Marcus Lattimore left, Marcus Lattimore right, Marcus Lattimore up the middle. MARCUS LATTIMORE 35, FLORIDA STATE 15.

 

Wait – did I just pick the state of Florida to go 0-4 on New Year’s Eve? I think I did! Maybe UF should stay on New Year’s Day after all.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind…