Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-14
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 14 — Kicker Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 14 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 David Akers SF at ARI
2 Dan Bailey DAL vs. NYG
3 John Kasay NO at TEN
4 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at GB
5 Billy Cundiff BAL vs. IND
6 Stephen Gostkowski NE at WAS
7 Mason Crosby GB vs. OAK
8 Robbie Gould CHI at DEN
9 Jason Hanson DET vs. MIN
10 Nick Novak SD vs. BUF
11 Neil Rackers HOU at CIN
12 Matt Bryant ATL at CAR
13 Rob Bironas TEN vs. NO
14 Connor Barth TB at JAC
15 Mike Nugent CIN vs. HOU
16 Matt Prater DEN vs. CHI

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 16:25
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-14
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 14 — Tight End Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 14 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Rob Gronkowski NE at WAS
2 Jimmy Graham NO at TEN
3 Antonio Gates SD vs. BUF
4 Jason Witten DAL vs. NYG
5 Jermichael Finley GB vs. OAK
6 Tony Gonzalez ATL at CAR
7 Aaron Hernandez NE at WAS
8 Brent Celek PHI at MIA
9 Vernon Davis SF at ARI
10 Kellen Winslow TB at JAC
11 Brandon Pettigrew DET vs. MIN
12 Jermaine Gresham CIN vs. HOU
13 Dustin Keller NYJ vs. KC
14 Jake Ballard NYG at DAL
15 Greg Olsen CAR vs. ATL
16 Owen Daniels HOU at CIN
17 Ed Dickson BAL vs. IND
18 Heath Miller PIT vs. CLE (Thursday)
19 Scott Chandler BUF at SD
20 Anthony Fasano MIA vs. PHI
21 Jared Cook TEN vs. NO
22 Jacob Tamme IND at BAL
23 Benjamin Watson CLE at PIT (Thursday)
24 Visanthe Shiancoe MIN at DET
25 Marcedes Lewis JAC vs. TB
26 Daniel Fells DEN vs. CHI

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 16:19
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-14
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 14 — Running Back Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 14 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Ray Rice BAL vs. IND
2 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC vs. TB
3 Arian Foster HOU at CIN
4 LeSean McCoy PHI at MIA
5 Marshawn Lynch SEA vs. STL
6 Chris Johnson TEN vs. NO
7 Michael Turner ATL at CAR
8 Ryan Mathews SD vs. BUF
9 Frank Gore SF at ARI
10 Rashard Mendenhall PIT vs. CLE (Thursday)
11 Michael Bush OAK at GB
12 DeMarco Murray DAL vs. NYG
13 Willis McGahee DEN vs. CHI
14 Reggie Bush MIA vs. PHI
15 Steven Jackson STL at SEA
16 Roy Helu WAS vs. NE
17 Darren Sproles NO at TEN
18 Shonn Greene NYJ vs. KC
19 C.J. Spiller BUF at SD
20 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG at DAL
21 LeGarrette Blount TB at JAC
22 BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE at WAS
23 Beanie Wells ARI vs. SF
24 Jonathan Stewart CAR vs. ATL
25 Cedric Benson CIN vs. HOU
26 Marion Barber CHI at DEN
27 Maurice Morris DET vs. MIN
28 Toby Gerhart MIN at DET
29 Mark Ingram NO at TEN
30 Donald Brown IND at BAL
31 Mike Tolbert SD vs. BUF
32 Ryan Grant GB vs. OAK
33 Peyton Hillis CLE at PIT (Thursday)
34 Ben Tate HOU at CIN
35 Brandon Jacobs NYG at DAL
36 Pierre Thomas NO at TEN
37 DeAngelo Williams CAR vs. ATL
38 Daniel Thomas MIA vs. PHI
39 Ricky Williams BAL vs. IND
40 Dexter McCluster KC at NYJ
41 Felix Jones DAL vs. NYG
42 Danny Woodhead NE at WAS
43 Montario Hardesty CLE at PIT (Thursday)
44 Joseph Addai IND at BAL
45 Thomas Jones KC at NYJ
46 Kendall Hunter SF at ARI
47 D.J. Ware NYG at DAL
48 Delone Carter IND at BAL

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 16:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-14
Body:

We rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Website can give you. Click here for all of our fantasy football rankings each week.

These rankings are our suggestions, but of course as always: You are responsible for setting your own lineup.

2011 NFL Week 14 — Quarterback Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Kickers
Defense/Special Teams

Athlon Sports Week 14 Waiver Wire

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Aaron Rodgers GB vs. OAK
2 Drew Brees NO at TEN
3 Cam Newton CAR vs. ATL
4 Tom Brady NE at WAS
5 Matthew Stafford DET vs. MIN
6 Eli Manning NYG at DAL
7 Tony Romo DAL vs. NYG
8 Matt Ryan ATL at CAR
9 Michael Vick PHI at MIA
10 Ben Roethlisberger PIT vs. CLE (Thursday)
11 Tim Tebow DEN vs. CHI
12 Philip Rivers SD vs. BUF
13 Carson Palmer OAK at GB
14 Joe Flacco BAL vs. IND
15 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at SD
16 Rex Grossman WAS vs. NE
17 Mark Sanchez NYJ vs. KC
18 Alex Smith SF at ARI
19 Matt Moore MIA vs. PHI
20 Matt Hasselbeck TEN vs. NO
21 Josh Freeman TB at JAC
22 Andy Dalton CIN vs. HOU
23 Tarvaris Jackson SEA vs. STL
24 Christian Ponder MIN at DET
25 T.J. Yates HOU at CIN
26 Kevin Kolb ARI vs. SF

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 16:12
All taxonomy terms: cheerleading mom, Overtime
Path: /overtime/winner-insane-cheerleading-mother-year-video
Body:

I used to think that insane cheerleading moms were a mostly an urban legend. But I think I'm wrong after seeing this classic example of a mom who is trying to live out her cheerleading fantasies by being overly critical of her daughter's attempt to get through a rah-rah routine.

Without trying to look at this video too logically, does the mom think that unleashing primal screams at her daughter's (I hope she at least has a little offspring stake in this) cheer team is helping? My guess is no, and my other guess is that her daughter is going to grow up to marry a guy who has a tear drop tattoo on his face and wears wifebeater's to Thanksgiving dinner.

Just a guess, though.

Teaser:
<p> Screaming at your daughter's cheer team is really helping</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 15:15
Path: /news/jerry-sandusky-arrested-new-sex-abuse-charges
Body:

Jerry Sandusky has been taken from his home in handcuffs again. The former Penn State Nittany Lions assistant coach was arrested today after new allegations of sexual abuse surfaced.

A grand just questioned two new accusers (victims 9 and 10) who claimed that they were molested by Sandusky in 1997 and 2004. The following information is not for the light of heart.

According to Victim 9 in the grand jury report:

"I took it at first that he was just a nice guy, like he went to church every weekend, his kids would come over every once in a while and stuff. And after a while, like, he got used to me and stuff and started getting further and further, wanting -- to touchy feely." He further stated that, in the beginning, Sandusky started out with hugging, rubbing and cuddling and tickling. These contacts, initially viewed by the victim as simple acts of affection, escalated to sexual assaults. Victim 9 was 11 or 12 years old when the sexual assaults took place.

Victim 9 testified that Sandusky's wife never came into the basement when he visited and often slept over. Sandusky had "barely any" contact with her.

The victim also testified that Sandusky forced him to perform oral sex on numerous occasions. Sandusky also attempted to engage in anal penetration of Victim 9 on at least 16 occasions and at times did penetrate him. Victim 9 testified that he screamed for help on one occasion, knowing that Sandusky's wife was upstairs, but no one ever came to help him.

According to Victim 10:

Victim 10 has testified that at one point during a wrestling session with Sandusky, Jerry pulled down his gym shorts and performed oral sex on the boy.

According to the report, Sandusky told both boys that he loved them and bought gifts for both and asked each of them to keep everything a secret.

Sandusky's lawyer could not be reached for comment, but it appears that this will be the way things go for Sandusky until he is taken to trial.

An the question that no one is asking is where is Joe Paterno in all of this? Sandusky has spoken twice (and looked the worse for it), but Joe Paterno's silence is deafening. I understand it's tricky to talk about an ongoing investigation, but shouldn't Joe Pa at least give some sort of statement insinuating what he knew. Otherwise, everyone will think the worst.

Read the full second grand jury report here.

Teaser:
<p> The former Penn State assistant coach has been arrested again.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 14:11
All taxonomy terms: Andrew Luck, Golden Arm, Golden Arm award, News
Path: /news/andrew-luck-takes-phone-call-accepting-johnny-unitas-golden-arm-award
Body:

Andrew Luck, winner of the 2011 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, took the phone call directly from Johnny Unitas' son, John Unitas Jr., when he was told of his honor.

And luckily for us, the Golden Arm Foundation recorded the phone call between John Jr and Andrew Luck, when Luck is informed that he has won the prestigious honor. It's interesting because you can hear how humbled the Stanford quarterback is to hear he won the award, which is given to the nation's top quarterback who exemplifies character as well as scholastic and athletic achievement.

To see video of Andrew taking the call from Johnny Unitas' son, John Jr., click here.

Teaser:
<p> This is a phone call very few football players receive</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 12:49
Path: /college-football/keith-marshall-commits-georgia-pros-and-cons
Body:

-by Braden Gall (follow him at @AthlonBraden)

The nation's No. 1 running back in the Athlon Consensus 100 has committed to the Georgia Bulldogs.

Raleigh (N.C.) Millbrook tailback Keith Marshall has decided to take his talents to Athens over finalists Florida, South Carolina, Clemson and Notre Dame. Mark Richt has landed the 5-foot-11, 180 pounder one year after landing the nation's No. 2 running back Isaiah Crowell — who had an excellent season as a freshman this year.

Marshall is the nation's No. 6 overall player regardless of position and recently jumped Aledo (Texas) running back Jonathan Gray as America's top ball carrier. Three of the six major recruiting services have Marshall ranked in the top ten nationally while Scout.com thinks the most of Marshall as it ranked him as the fifth best prospect in the nation.

How the experts rank him nationally:

Rivals: No. 31 (No. 1 All-Purpose RB)
Scout: No. 5 (No. 1 RB)
ESPN: No. 6, (No. 2 RB)
24/7 Sports: No. 12 (No. 1 RB)
Offense-Defense: No. 8 (No. 2 RB)
NCSA: No. 12 (No. 1 RB)

He has excellent bloodlines and an NFL pedigree as his father, Warren Marshall, was drafted and had a cup of coffee with the Denver Broncos. His father played at James Madison.

As a sophomore, Marshall rushed for 1,166 yards and 12 touchdowns to go with 238 yards receiving and two more scores in 10 games. As a junior, he rushed for 1,550 yards and 17 touchdowns. Marshall is expected to enroll early with the Bulldogs and should compliment Crowell nicely with his big play ability. Aaron Murray has to be pleased with the young talent growing around him.

Marshall is the third AC100, and second top ten prospect in the nation, for the Bulldogs. Georgia also has committed AC100 No. 8 Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles offensive lineman John Theus and AC100 No. 38 Millen (Ga.) Jenkins County defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor.

Here is Athlon's scouting report on Keith Marshall, the nation's No. 1 running back prospect:

PROS: Marshall is a slightly bigger version of former Ole Miss athlete and current Kansas City Cheif Dexter McCluster. He has exceptional burst, acceleration, top end speed and cutting ability. His ability to stop and start is among the best in the nation as he loses very little speed when changing direction. He has great vision and if he finds a crease, he will take it to the house. He can score from anywhere on the field. He uses an unbelievable jump-cut to make defenders look foolish in the open field and rarely takes the big hit squarely. He has quality receiving skills and will be an asset in the passing game.

CONS: Like McCluster, his size and power are questionable. He has a low center of gravity and isn’t afraid to run between the tackles, but he looks smaller than he is listed and questions remain if he can handle the workload of a three-down back. This may only affect him on the NFL level, however, as his speed will be game-changing on the college level.

Teaser:
<p> Keith Marshall Commits to Georgia: Pros and Cons</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 12:17
All taxonomy terms: Harry Morgan, MASH, News
Path: /news/harry-morgan-actor-who-played-col-sherman-potter-mash-dies-96
Body:

Harry Morgan, the actor who played Col. Sherman T. Potter on the long-running hit TV series M*A*S*H has died at the age of 96. Morgan had played his famous Potter character from 1975 to 1983.

Morgan, who had won an Emmy for his role on M*A*S*H in 1980 for best supporting actor in a comedy series, had played many roles in TV and film, and was an avid football player in high school in Muskegon, Michigan.

But beyond acting, horses were his primary love. His horse, Sophia, even had a role in the final episode of M*A*S*H and Morgan tended to quarter horses on his ranch in Santa Rosa, California.

He achieved some notoriety for his role in Dragnet, but nothing came close to the popularity of his character on M*A*S*H.

He is survived by his second wife, four sons and eight grandchildren. Cause of death at this time is unknown.

Here are a few of Morgan's most famous quotes as Col. Potter:

Just remember, there's a right way and a wrong way to do everything and the wrong way is to keep trying to make everybody else do it the right way. ~Colonel Potter

It's too big a world to be in competition with everyone. The only person who I have to be better than is myself. ~Colonel Potter

Sometimes I think it should be a rule of war that you have to see somebody up close and get to know him before you can shoot him. ~Colonel Potter

Frank Burns: I'm as good a doctor as the next man.
Col. Potter: Provided the next man is Lou Costello.

"This is happy hour. Angry hour starts at ten."
--Harry Morgan as Sherman T. Potter

You have to give Winchester a credit. He is bright, educated, and an A-1 surgeon, and with all that he still found a room to be a total jerk. -- Potter

It's 3 'blessed' a.m.! Even roosters are comatose! -- Potter

It always amazes me how a baby can take a normal adult and turn him into a babbling idiot. -- Potter

You'll have to excuse these two, they are themselves today. -- Potter

You blow another kiss, Pierce, and those lips will never walk again. -- Potter

Pierce, are you deaf? I'm giving your hijinks the heave-ho, post-haste! I'm the boss here! I can do that! -- Potter

You know sometimes I think there should be a rule of war saying you have to see someone up close and get to know 'em before it's ok to shoot 'em. -- Potter

Listen, it's too big a world to be in competition with everyone. The only person who I have to be better than is myself. And in your case, that's tough enough. -- Potter to Hawkeye

Teaser:
<p> The popular M*A*S*H and Dragnet actor has died at 96</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 12:10
Path: /news/jet-powered-rocket-boots-are-reality-video
Body:

I don't know how to explain this new piece of equipment from Sea-Doo called the Flyboard Zapata. On the surface, it looks like jet propelled boots that use water to let you fly through the air like the Green Goblin from the Spider Man movies.

I'm not sure how much these cost, but I'm pretty sure they're more money than what most bank accounts can afford, but holy crap these things look awesome.

I'm guess it would take a while to figure out how these to use these things like the inventor. My main concern is that I would just start to get the hang of them, and as I started to fly out of the water, I would lose control and send myself headlong into a pile of rocks. Which would turn this awesome Christmas gift into a sad, bloody funeral gift.

If anyone wants to buy us these water powered jet rocket boots, please feel free. We'll pay for our own funeral costs.

Teaser:
<p> The jet powered boots are the coolest gift this millenia</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/larry-fedora-grading-north-carolina-hire
Body:

-by CoachesByTheNumbers.com

North Carolina has named Larry Fedora its next head football coach. In July of this year, we laid out our thoughts on the situation at UNC and named a few names for who we thought might be solid replacements for Butch Davis

Larry Fedora was not on our list.

Fedora will take over a UNC program that we believe is a sleeping giant of a program. Since 2002, the Tar Heels have had an average recruiting ranking of 22.20 (only Miami and Florida State have had better talent since 2002 in the ACC) and certainly have the name recognition, local talent base, and resources to compete for ACC Championships.

However, when we refer to UNC being a sleeping giant, it's important to remember that someone has to wake them up from their sleeping state. Over the last eleven seasons, the Tar Heels have had five losing seasons, lost at least five games in each and every year, never won their side of the ACC or competed for a conference championship, and have not finished a single season ranked in the AP Top 25. Don't forget that UNC was doing (or not doing) all of this with top 25 talent. So, is Larry Fedora the right man to wake UNC from its slumber? Below is our analysis of the hire:

#d8ceb6; padding: 4px; border-collapse: separate; border-radius: 10px; border: 1px solid white;" valign="top">

Larry Fedora - Hiring Summary


#6b5e50; background-color: #6b5e50; height: 2px; width: 99%; border: 0; margin: 3px;" />
Positives
  • Fedora is no stranger to putting up impressive offensive numbers. From 2001-Present as both an offensive coordinator and head coach, Larry Fedora's teams have finished the season in the top 25 in scoring offense in seven of his eleven years on the sidline. In his four years at the helm of Southern Miss, Fedora's teams have scored 30 or more points 63.46% of the time. Among active head coaches with three years minimum experience, only eight head coaches have scored 30 or more points a higher percentage of the time.
     
  • As a head coach or coordinator since 2001, Fedora has only been involved in one losing season. Over the last two years, Fedora has won 73.08% of his overall games, 70.59% of his conference games, and a Conference USA Championship.
     
  • Fedora has coached at major programs such as Florida and Oklahoma State and is certainly familiar with what it takes to coach at the highest levels of college football.
     
  • He wears a visor with more style than Chip Kelly.
     
Negatives
  • Although Fedora has only been involved with one losing season since 2001, he has also only been involved with two teams that didn't lose at least five games.
     
  • In the five years prior to taking over the Southern Miss program, the Golden Eagles won nine games twice and 60.94% of their overall games. Even including Fedora's 11-2 2011 season, he has only won 63.46% of his games at Southern Miss. Prior to the 2011 season, most folks would have been closer to putting Larry Fedora on a hot seat than on a pedestal.
     
  • As a head coach, Larry Fedora has been involved in 23 games decided by seven points or less. Coach Fedora has won 39.13% (9) of these games.
     
  • At Southern Miss, Fedora has played 30 of his 49 games with superior talent. Of these 30 games played with superior talent, Fedora has a winning percentage of just 63.33% (19-11). For comparison, from 2004-2007, former Golden Eagles head coach Jeff Bower won 78.57% (11-3) of the games he coached with superior talent. One of the biggest issues UNC has had over the years is not winning enough of the games that they should have won. It appears they may have hired someone with this same problem.
     
  • Coach Fedora has a losing record (6-8) against teams finishing the season over .500.
     
  • Larry Fedoora lost three straight years to a UAB program that has won just 30% of its games over the last five years. In fact, 25% of UAB's win over the last three years have come against Larry Fedora.
     
  • The last time we checked, the Ron Zook coaching tree was shaking off many fruitful branches as far as head coaches go.
     
Unknowns
  • What will Larry Fedora's staff look like at UNC. In Fedora's first two years at Southern Miss, the Golden Eagles went 14-12 and averaged 31.77 points per game. In the last two years with Blake Anderson taking over as the offensive coordinator and assuming a lot of the play calling duties, the Golden Eagles went 19-7 and averaged 37.35 points per game. If we were UNC fans, we would be hoping Coach Anderson is also looking for a house in Chapel Hill.
     
CBTN Conclusion

WYSIATI is an acronym used sometimes by psychologist to refer to an error the human brain makes when making certain decisions. The acronym stands for What You See Is All There Is. The idea behind WYSIATI is simple and is very much in line with what radio host Colin Cowherd refers to as the "Prisoners of the Moment."

Far too often, we simply see what is in front of our face and conclude "that is all there is." For example, Larry Fedora's team went 11-2 this year and won their conference championship. WYSIATI and Larry Fedora should be a candidate for every major head coaching job in college football, right?

Wrong. At least for now.

As we have pointed out in this analysis, sometimes you have to look beyond what is in front of your face to see the bigger picture. Was Larry Fedora's name being thrown around last year for major (or even minor) coaching vacancies? If not, you may want to ask why? We like Larry Fedora and applaud his 2011 season. He might be the next great head coach in college football. However, it is our belief that we should let him have back-to-back good seasons before offering him jobs like North Carolina.

If you are going to talk about Fedora's great 2011 season, you also have to talk about the three years prior to 2011 when Fedora underachieved as a head coach or his losing record against over .500 teams or his 1-3 record against UAB or his underwhelming winning percentage with superior talent.

Some folks may be asking how we could not think Larry Fedora should get the head coaching at a school like UNC but that an unproven offensive coordinator like Gus Malzahn should? Our answer is simple: we like the unproven head coaching upside of Gus Malzahn better than the proven reality of Larry Fedora's head coaching career.

From our standpoint, Larry Fedora has shown that he can score points. However, he has also shown an ability to underachieve as both a coordinator and head coach and lose far too many games he has no business losing. New UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cummingham is taking the risk that what he saw in Fedora in 2011 is all there is. In the end, he may be rewarded for taking this risk. For us, the numbers simply weren't there when we looked at the bigger picture to warrant Larry Fedora landing one of the better jobs in the ACC.


#6b5e50; background-color: #6b5e50; height: 2px; width: 99%; border: 0; margin: 3px;" />

Hire Grade

#444444;">C+

Teaser:
<p> Larry Fedora: Grading the North Carolina Hire</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 11:33
Path: /overtime/what-albert-pujols-would-look-cubs-or-marlins-jersey
Body:

Albert Pujols is dominating the MLB hot stove headlines right now. One of the greatest players in baseball history (who has never tested positive for steroids) is now a free agent and is testing the waters to haul in a giant payday. Reports have surfaced that the Miami Marlins, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs have offered Pujols a 10-year deal.

While pundits discuss whether it's prudent to give a 31-year-old baseball player a $200 million, 10-year contract, we'd rather just see what he'd look like in one of his new jerseys.

But while we're on the subject, do we think it makes sense? From a financial perspective, no. Pujols does bring much greater value than what his stats are worth. What he brings to his new (or old) team in terms of marketing buzz, promotion and overall interest can't be quantified. But if you look at A-Rod's numbers since he signed his contract extension in 2008, his AVG has gone from .303 to .284, and he's gone from averaging 43 homers a year to 28. Father time will catch up on Pujols and one big thing about marketing buzz is that it's quick to go away.

If the Marlins sign Pujols today they will get a huge boost in interest in the team. They'll sell a ton of tickets and luxury boxes. But what happens in five years, when wear and tear hits Pujols and he goes from his big numbers to something more pedestrian and similar to A-Rod's. 

Pujols in Miami will be old hat by then, and people will care as much for that team as they did when they were the Florida Marlins. And let's face it, Pujols is one nagging injury away from making this a terrible financial investment.

But having said that, let's see what he'd look like in his new jerseys anyway:

Albert Pujols as a Miami Marlin:

Albert Pujols as a Chicago Cub:

Since you probably already know what he looks like in a Cardinals jersey, we'll refrain from posting that photo.

Teaser:
<p> The Cardinals slugger is going to land somewhere soon, here's a few different possibilities</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 10:43
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, Florida Gators, Tim Tebow, NFL
Path: /nfl/tim-tebow-talks-about-his-nfl-hopes-and-dreams-and-winning-heisman
Body:

This interview with Tim Tebow appeared in Athlon's 2009 college football annual.

Some players live up to the recruiting hype. Others don’t. Then there is Tim Tebow, who has exceeded even the loftiest dreams of the Gator Nation. It was a big deal when he committed to Florida in 2006. How has it worked out? One Heisman, two national championships, two SEC titles. The face of college football gave Athlon Sports some time to discuss his Ole Miss speech, losing Dan Mullen and the chances Florida has to repeat.

How different were your emotions after winning a Heisman Trophy in 2007 compared to winning a national championship last season?
Tim Tebow: The Heisman was unbelievable and very exciting. The emotions of winning that award — it was a great honor. But winning the national championship was totally different. For me, it was much more special. The Heisman is a team award and everything, but you win the national championship with the guys you work with every day all year and the coaches you care about. The Heisman doesn’t compare.

How about the difference between winning the national title as a backup — and you were a very important backup to Chris Leak in 2006 — and as a starter?
Tim Tebow: It was definitely more special last year than it was in 2006. With everything we went through and the loss to Ole Miss, to come back and win it was something. And it was my junior year and it was more my team.

Who is the best player in the SEC not playing for Florida?
Tim Tebow: That’s a good one. I’d probably say Eric Berry of Tennessee. He’s a really good player, very instinctive. He’s very physical and he’s just a playmaker. He does things that you can’t teach.

How many times have you seen the video of the famous speech you gave after the loss to Ole Miss?
Tim Tebow: Quite a few. When I go to these places where I speak, they like to show an introduction and they always have that speech as part of it. That, and me yelling. I look at those videos of me yelling during a game and I look kind of mean.

What’s the biggest misconception about Tim Tebow?
Tim Tebow: Wow. That’s an interesting question. Maybe it’s that, when people meet me in person, they are surprised that I’m not more intense. They see me on the field and they think I’m going to be the same intense guy I am on the field. They think I’m going to be screaming or something and not be friendly. I’ve had people say to me, “I thought you’d be a lot more intense.” So that’s probably it, that some people are expecting something else.

Are you aware of what some writers and broadcasters have referred to as the “Tebow backlash” — that your popularity has grown so large it may cause some people to resent you? Some people believe that’s why you didn’t win a second Heisman last year despite getting the most first-place votes.
Tim Tebow: I’ve heard about that, heard some analysts talking about it. I’m not going to worry about that. I’m going to be who I am. I’m going to be the best person I can be, the best leader I can be and the best player I can be. I’m not going to worry about what I can’t control. People can say what they want and I don’t like it if they do. I’d rather they get to know me as a person.

What’s your favorite college stadium to play in besides The Swamp?
Tim Tebow: LSU. Baton Rouge. That’s a very exciting place for me to play. I’m looking forward to playing there this year.

Which team is Florida’s biggest rival?
Tim Tebow: You can’t ask me that (laughing). I think it’s different depending on who you are, when you grew up following the Gators. If you are like my dad, old-time Gator, it’s Georgia. No question. If you are younger, a mid-’90s kind of person, it’s probably Florida State. And Tennessee is definitely up there. They’re all big games. That’s one thing that’s special about Florida, all the rivalries we have.

Speaking of Tennessee, what was your reaction to some of the things said by their new coach Lane Kiffin during the offseason? He went after your coach and some other coaches in the SEC.
Tim Tebow: He did a good job at Southern Cal. He’ll work hard to do the best he can at Tennessee. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to play against him.

That’s very politically correct.
Thank you.

What was your reaction to wide receiver Percy Harvin leaving a year early for the NFL and linebacker Brandon Spikes deciding to join you to return for another year?
Tim Tebow: I think it was the right decision for both of them. They both thought long and hard about it. They were in different situations. It was really two different scenarios. They were both looking for different things. I think Percy made the right decision for him and Brandon made the right decision for him.

What do you think when you see and hear so many people — whether it be on TV, talk radio or on the web — talk about your NFL future and whether or not your skills will translate to the next level?
Tim Tebow: Some are nice, some are not nice. I’m going to work very hard to succeed at the next level. It has been my goal since I was six years old, to play quarterback in the NFL. I’m going to work very hard at it, but right now my goal is to be the best leader I can be for the University of Florida.

So it hasn’t been your goal since you were six to play fullback in the NFL?
Tim Tebow: It hasn’t.

How did losing offensive coordinator Dan Mullen, who worked so closely with you the last three seasons, affect you personally?
Tim Tebow: We’re going to miss him but we still stay in touch. We talked just the other day. He had a baby. Well, he didn’t have it. But they were excited about that. I’m very excited for him. I’ll keep in touch with him. But I’m also excited about our new quarterbacks coach, Scot Loeffler.

The 2007 Florida team struggled a year after winning a national title, going 9–4 and losing to Georgia. What’s different about this team that now has to defend a national title?
Tim Tebow: This year’s team is so much more mature than that team in 2007. That team lost a lot of the leaders and the players and the charisma from the national championship team. That team lost so much. We’ve got a lot of those guys back this time around. The leaders, the charismatic guys who were the glue a year ago, almost all of them are back. And this team is not satisfied just winning a national title. We want to be a dynasty, create a special legacy and make a real impact on college football.

If you weren’t playing football at Florida, what would you be playing?
Tim Tebow: Baseball. I would pitch and maybe play first base and the outfield. I like hitting.
 

Teaser:
<p> It was Tim Tebow's dream to play quarterback in the NFL before he became a Bronco</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 10:25
Path: /columns/heisman-watch/robert-griffin-iii-win-heisman-over-andrew-luck
Body:

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)

Each week, the Athlon editors vote on the most prestigious award in all of college football. In Athlon Sports' final Heisman ballot of 2011, the nine-man conglomerate of college football gurus will vote for the five finalists — even if we do disagree with some of the names headed to New York.

Note: A first place vote earns a player five points. A second place votes earns four points - so on and so forth until the fifth place vote receives one point.

Three of the five finalists received at least two first-place votes, futher illustrating just how close this year's balloting could turn out. Stanford's Andrew Luck is college football's most talented player and will be selected No. 1 overall by any NFL front office lucky enough to pick first. Alabama's Trent Richardson is the nation's most talented running back for what could be considered the nation's best team. Baylor's Robert Griffin III is the nation's most valuable player and has taken the Bears to levels they have not reached in three decades. Wisconsin's Montee Ball is producing at an unprecedented level on the Big Ten championship squad. And LSU's Tyrann Mathieu made flashy plays all season long for the BCS' No. 1 team.

So without further ado, Athlon Sports' 2011 Heisman Trophy winner is...

1. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor (39/45, 5 first place)
Stats: 267/369, 3,998 yards, 36 TD, 6 INT, 161 att., 644 yards, 9 TD

The Case: Griffin III is the most important, most indispensible player in all of college football. Baylor will play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1991-1992 and has won nine games for the first time since 1986 . Griffin's 16 combined wins are the most in a two-year span for Baylor since '85-86. RG3 finished the regular season as the nation's most efficient passer at 192.31 with a chance to set the single-season NCAA efficiency mark (186.00). He was No. 2 in total offense (386.8 ypg) behind only Case Keenum. Baylor has beaten Texas twice since 1998 — both times under the leadership of Griffin III. The school's first-ever win over Oklahoma took place three weeks ago. Additionally, the first wins over TCU and Texas Tech since 1995 took place this season, and two of the program's four wins over Missouri have come under RG3 the last two years. Griffin III posted nine 300-yard passing games and threw an interception only once every 62 pass attempts. At 22.7 points per game, Griffin III led the nation in points responsible for in 2011. The Baylor quarterback landed five of the possible nine first place votes from Athlon.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (36/45, 2 first place)
Stats: 261/373, 3,170 yards, 35 TD, 9 INT, 43 att., 153 yards, 2 TD

The Case: Luck is best amateur football player on the planet. The NFL scouts will be sure to confirm that when he is selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. His overall blend of size, athleticism, accuracy, football IQ and work ethic makes him the most gifted athlete in the college game today. He has won 23 of his last 25 games and finished 2011 as the nation's No. 5-rated passer (167.5). Luck's 35 touchdown passes were fourth nationally, and his 18.8 points responsible for were sixth-best nationally. And he did it with very little talent on the outside of the offense — no Stanford Cardinal ranked in the top-15 in the Pac-12 in receptions per game, and only Griff Whalen (55.3 ypg) ranked in the top 15 in receiving yards in the league.

3. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (28/45, 2 first place)
Stats: 263 att., 1,583 yards, 20 TD, 27 rec., 327 yards, 3 TD

The Case: Richardson was the offensive catalyst for what many believe could be the best team in the nation. He led the SEC in rushing yards and yards per game (131.9) — which was good for fifth nationally. His 20 rushing touchdowns mark the first time an SEC running back has ever reached 20 in a single season, and he appeared to be the best player on the field in the 9-6 overtime loss to LSU (28 touches, 169 yards from scrimmage). T-Rich had nine 100-yard games and likely would have won this award had his team beaten the Tigers on November 5 — and had the extra game to play on the final weekend.

4. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (22/45, 0 first place)
Stats: 275 att., 1,759 yards, 32 TD, 20 rec., 255 yards, 6 TD, 2/2, 57 yards, TD

The Case: The argument for Ball is very simple: He was statistically the nation's best player on the Big Ten championship team. He led the nation in scoring with 38 touchdowns (and one TD pass) and led the nation in rushing. He posted nine 100-yard games, and his 38 trips to paydirt rank No. 2 all-time for a single season behind only Barry Sanders' 39 (which is really 44, counting the bowl game). He even completed both of his pass attempts. The Badgers ball carrier scored at least three touchdowns in eight games this season and was the only running back (No. 7) ranked in the top 30 nationally in points responsible for — the other 29 were quarterbacks. In 297 touches, Ball fumbled only once — which was recovered by Wisconsin.

5. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, LSU (10/45, 0 first place)
Stats: 70 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1.5 sacks, 6 FF, 4 FR, 2 DEF TD, 26 PR, 420 yards, 2 TD

The Case: By far the biggest reach on this list, the Honey Badger's trip to New York is more a function of his high-profile position as a return man (and nickname), plus the fact that he plays for the nation's top-rated team. He scored four touchdowns without touching the ball on offense and was involved in 10 different fumbles. As a return man, he finished No. 2 in the nation in punt returns at 16.2 yards per return. He was not nearly the game-changer people believe, however, as his two punt return touchdowns came in 24- and 32-point victories while his touchdown against Kentucky was a small part of the 28-point win. He was suspended for the Auburn game (a 45-10 win) and might not be the best cornerback on his own team — which is why he was picked last of the five finalists by eight of our nine voters. He is an electric athlete who makes big plays, but it would shock the nation if he won this award.

How the voting turned out:

  Name Pos. Team Pts (of 45) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1. Robert Griffin III QB Baylor 39 5 2 2 - -
2. Andrew Luck QB Stanford 36 2 5 2 - -
3. Trent Richardson RB Alabama 28 2 1 2 4 -
4. Montee Ball RB Wisconsin 22 - 1 3 4 1
5. Tyrann Mathieu DB LSU 10 - - - 1 8

Names who got left out:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (10-2)
Stats: 308/446, 3,528 yards, 39 TD, 7 INT, 28 att., 14 yards, 2 TD

Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (11-2)
Stats: 206/284, 2,879 yards, 31 TD, 3 INT, 73 att., 320 yards, 5 TD, 3 rec., 56 yards, TD

Brandon Weeden, QB, Oklahoma State (11-1)
Stats: 379/522, 4,328 yards, 34 TD, 12 INT, 15 att., minus-95 yards

Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State (11-1)
Stats: 300/405, 3,507 yards, 41 TD, 7 INT, 19 att., minus-65 yards

LaMichael James, RB, Oregon (11-2)
Stats: 222 car., 1,646 yards, 17 TD, 17 rec., 210 yards, 1 TD, 12 PR, 135 yards, TD

Case Keenum, QB, Houston (12-1)
Stats: 383/534, 5,099 yards, 45 TD, 5 INT, 50 att., 25 yards, 3 TD

Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (10-2)
Stats: 145/251, 1,745 yards, 12 TD, 5 INT, 293 att., 1,099 yards, 26 TD

Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (10-2)
Stats: 133/237, 2,056 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 208 att., 1,163 yards, 16 TD

Bobby Rainey, RB,  Western Kentucky (7-5)
Stats: 369 car., 1,695 yards, 13 TD, 36 rec., 361 yards, 4 TD

Previous Voting:

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Championship Saturday

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 13

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 12

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 11

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 10

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 9
Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 8

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 7

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 6

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 5

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 4

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 3

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 2

Athlon Sports Heisman Ballot: Week 1

Teaser:
<p> The Athlon editors cast their final ballots for the 2011 Heisman Trophy.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/greatest-sugar-bowl-performances-bcs-era
Body:

-by Mitch Light (follow at @AthlonMitch)

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Sugar Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Brian Johnson, QB, Utah, 2009
In one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Sugar Bowl, Utah rolled past Alabama, 31–17, with surprising ease. Johnson, a senior quarterback, completed 27-of-41 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns as the Utes completed a season with a perfect record for the second time in five years. Utah finished 2008 with an undefeated 13-0 record.



4. Steve Slaton, RB, West Virginia, 2006
West Virginia, from the lightly regarded Big East, surprised favored Georgia with its speed as the Mountaineers outlasted the Bulldogs, 38–35, in Sugar Bowl that was moved to Atlanta in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Slaton, WVU’s diminutive tailback, led the way with 201 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 26 carries. The Mountaineers finished 11-1 after the win.



Or his second touchdown run...

3. Josh Reed, WR, LSU, 2002
Reed set Sugar Bowl records with 14 receptions and 239 yards receiving to lead LSU past Illinois, 47–34, in the highest-scoring Sugar Bowl in history. Reed also added two touchdown catches from quarterback Rohan Davey, who set a Sugar Bowl record with 444 passing yards. LSU, the SEC Champions, finished the season 10-3.

2. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida, 2010
Tebow was nearly flawless in his final game in a Florida uniform. The dual-threat quarterback completed 31-of-35 passes for 482 yards and added 51 yards rushing and another score in the Gators’ 51–24 victory over Big East champ Cincinnati. “They couldn't stop Superman,” Gators guard Carl Johnson said. “They needed some kryptonite.” After losing the SEC title game to Alabama, Florida uncorked its venegnce upon the poor Bearcats to finish the season 13-1.


1. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State, 2000
Weinke outdueled Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Michael Vick by passing for 329 yards and four touchdowns as the Seminoles topped the Hokies, 46–29, in the first Sugar Bowl of the new millennium. With the win, Florida State completed the first perfect season of Bobby Bowden’s career as a head coach and secured the Noles’ second national championship.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Sugar Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-east-gets-bigger-adds-boise-state-and-four-others
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Finally. After losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC in September and West Virginia to the Big 12 in late October, the Big East is ready to expand. According to CBSSports.com, the conference will formally add Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, SMU and UCF. The Big East is expected to announce the additions on Wednesday.

Houston, SMU and UCF will join for all spots, while Boise State and San Diego State may send its other sports to the WAC.

All five teams are expected to join in time for the 2013 season. However, there could be some leeway with that date. The Big East plans to hold Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to its exit agreement (27 months). However, the Mountaineers are suing to leave the Big East in time for the 2012 season.

If West Virginia does leave the conference next season, could Boise State join in time for 2012? The Broncos would have to pay a large exit fee, but it would be worth it for the automatic bid into the BCS. Boise State is rebuilding next season, but assuming West Virginia leaves, the conference race is wide open.

With the defections of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, the future of the Big East was uncertain. However, the conference has stabilized – at least for now – with the addition of five teams.

Despite the expansion, the Big East can’t let its guard down. Rutgers and Connecticut have been rumored as possible targets for future ACC expansion, while Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati are believed to be on the radar for the Big 12.

Although the Big East could lose teams in the future, getting the conference to 12 members by 2013 or 2014 will at least help to build a solid foundation.

The Big East is expected to add two more teams – likely Air Force and Navy – in the near future. However, Air Force is still trying to decide if it wants to make the move or not. If the Falcons do not join the Big East, Temple or East Carolina would figure to be the next team to get an invitation. BYU was believed to have some interest in joining the Big East, but the two sides were unable to come to an agreement.

Although the geography and the name of the conference make this an odd fit, it makes sense for both parties. The Big East needed to do something to assure its survival. Without any expansion, the conference was looking at having just five football teams in place for 2014.

For the teams joining the conference, this allows Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, UCF, SMU, Navy and Air Force a chance to have an automatic bid into the BCS for at least one season. There may be changes to the BCS bowls starting in 2014, but it seems unlikely automatic qualification will be completely removed from the equation. Also, this move should benefit the revenue stream for the incoming schools. The Big East is expected to sign a new television deal, which will help with exposure and money.

A history of the five new Big East teams and their previous conferences (Since 1970)

Boise State: Big Sky (1970-95), Big East (1996-00), WAC (2001-2010), Mountain West (2011)

Houston: Independent (1970-75), Southwest (1976-95), Conference USA (1996-current)

San Diego State: Pacific Coast (1970-77), WAC (1978-98), Mountain West (1999-curent)

SMU: 1970-95 (Southwest), 1996-2004 (WAC), Conference USA (2005-current)

UCF: Independent (1996-01), MAC (2002-04), Conference USA (2005-current)

Here’s what the Big East could look like in 2014 – assuming Air Force and Navy join.

Eastern Division

Cincinnati
Connecticut
Louisville
Navy – Expected to join
Rutgers
South Florida

Western Division

Air Force 
Boise State
Houston
SMU
San Diego State
UCF

Quick thoughts on the five new Big East members

Boise State – There’s no question Boise State is the crown jewel of Big East expansion. The Broncos have been one of the most successful teams in college football over the last 10 years and have played in two BCS bowls. Boise State is making facility and stadium improvements, as well as finding ways to keep coach Chris Petersen happy. The Broncos heavily recruit Texas and California, so playing in a division with San Diego State, Houston and SMU makes a lot of sense.

Houston – Although a loss to Southern Miss ended the Cougars’ chances of getting to a BCS bowl, this has emerged as a consistent winner in Conference USA. Also, Houston is making a commitment to upgrading the facilities, which are needed to continue moving up the ladder in program/conference rankings. Another solid recruiting area and television market for the Big East.

San Diego State – The Aztecs have had only two winning seasons since 2000, but has made back-to-back bowls. In order for Boise State to join the Big East, it wanted to have a Western partner, and San Diego State is a good fit. The Aztecs are taking a step down in basketball, but this should help with exposure for their football program.

SMU – The Mustangs are a team on the rise in Conference USA, making three consecutive bowl games under coach June Jones. SMU is also located in Dallas, a good television and recruiting market for the Big East.

UCF – The Knights are finally in the Big East. After years of wanting to get into the conference, UCF is ready for its debut in a BCS conference. The Knights are located in a terrific state for recruiting and opened a new stadium in 2007. Everything seems to be in place for UCF to be a consistent winner in the Big East. 

Teaser:
<p> After losing West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh to other conferences, the Big East is ready to expand. Boise State, Houston, SMU, UCF and San Diego State are expected to join the Big East in time for the 2013 season.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 16:03
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, eyeblack, Funny, Tim Tebow, Overtime
Path: /overtime/tim-tebows-new-gloating-eye-black
Body:

Tim Tebow's eyeblack has been one of his trademarks since his days at the University of Florida. Usually reserved for a Bible verse he wanted to get out to the masses, his eyeblack became a billboard that hearkened back to the days of Jim McMahon's headbands.

Now that Tim's gone through a heavy dose of hatred from the media over his time under center with the Broncos--and come out of it with a 6-1 record--it's time Tim was able to enjoy his success and talk a little smack with his eyeblack. 

After pulling out 4th quarter wins each and every week, we think Tim has earned a little right to gloat over everyone who doubted him. Sure, he's unconventional, but his win over the Vikings proved that he can win a game with his arm (OK, Minnesota's secondary was not that great) instead of his legs. So here's a few ideas for Tim's new eyeblack.


1. Circumcising Defenses


2. One Interception, No Contraceptions


3. Virgin (Playoff) Birth


4. F U Elway

5. Completions R 4 Mormons



6. 6-1 Bitch

7. John Fox is a Big Cox

We'll see if Tim takes any of our advice when the Broncos take the field against the Bears this Sunday. C'mon Tim, you've earned it. Live a little.

Teaser:
<p> Tim Tebow has a right to gloat over his success. And what better place to do it than on his eyeblack</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 13:20
All taxonomy terms: Chip Kelly, Dr. Pepper, Oregon Ducks, News
Path: /news/oregons-chip-kelly-real-good-time-parody-video
Body:

Oregon's Chip Kelly is apparently a really big Dr. Pepper and UPS fan. Or at least he's a fan of whoever will be paying him as is clear from this big plug he gave to Dr. Pepper and UPS during his impromptu press conference after the PAC-12 title game.

And of course leave it up to the Internet to make this awesome video combining Chip Kelly, Dr. Pepper and Pitbull's "Let's Have A Real Good Time" commercial.

Oh, Internet, is there anything you can't do? 

But seriously, Dr. Pepper is pretty good. And UPS DOES get all of our Christmas presents to their destinations on time. So is it really that bad that he gave those two sponsors shout-outs?

via kegsneggsblog

Teaser:
<p> Chip Kelly is having a real good time with Dr. Pepper and UPS</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 08:21
Path: /college-football/greatest-orange-bowl-performances-bcs-era
Body:

-by Mitch Light (follow at @AthlonMitch)

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Orange Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Coby Fleener, TE, Stanford, 2011
Quarterback Andrew Luck earned game MVP honors, but Fleener was unstoppable from his tight end position, catching six passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns as the Cardinal steamrolled Virginia Tech, 40–12. Fleener scored on plays of 41 yards, 58 yards and 38 yards as Stanford imposed its will on the Hokies in the final 20 minutes of the game.

4. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa, 2009
Clayborn was sensational for an Iowa defense that shut down Georgia Tech’s feared option attack in the Hawkeyes’ 24–14 win. Clayborn recorded 11 tackles, including two sacks, as Iowa held the Yellow Jackets to a season-low 175 yards, almost 270 below their season average.

3. Tom Brady, QB, Michigan, 2000
Michigan outdueled Alabama, 35–34 in overtime, in a matchup between two of the most storied programs in college football. Tom Brady led the Michigan attack with an Orange Bowl record 369 yards passing and added a career-best four touchdowns in his final game in Maize & Blue. The Wolverines overcame two 14-point deficits on their way to the first overtime win in school history.

2. Torrance Marshall, LB, Oklahoma, 2001
It was only fitting that a defensive player was named the MVP of the lowest-scoring Orange Bowl in 30 years. Marshall, a senior linebacker, recorded six tackles and intercepted a pass to lead Oklahoma to a 13–2 win over Florida State to secure the first national title for the Sooners since 1985.

1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC, 2005
The Trojans staked a claim to their second straight national title with a surprisingly easy 55–19 win over No. 2 Oklahoma. Leinart completed 18-of-35 passes for 332 yards and tossed an Orange Bowl record five touchdowns without throwing an interception. Steve Smith was on the receiving end of three of Leinart’s TDs.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Orange Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 07:02
Path: /college-football/greatest-rose-bowl-performances-bcs-era
Body:

-by Mitch Light (follow at @AthlonMitch)

With the 14th season of BCS bowl action about to take place, Athlon reviewed the tapes of the four (now five) biggest bowl games in college football. Since 1998, teams have been fighting to land a spot in the BCS and here are the players who made the most of their opportunities.

Here are the Top Rose Bowl Performances of the BCS Era:

5. Mark Sanchez, USC, 2009
Sanchez and the USC offense dominated Penn State, jumping out to an insurmountable 31–7 lead at the half en route to a 38–24 victory. Sanchez, in his final game with the Trojans, completed 28-of-35 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He also added a six-yard touchdown run in USC’s 24-point second quarter.

4. Andre Johnson, Miami (Fla.), 2002
Johnson hooked up with quarterback Ken Dorsey seven times for 199 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hurricanes past overmatched Nebraska, 37–14, in the first Rose Bowl that served as the BCS National Championship game.

3. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, 1999/2000
Dayne and the Badgers played in back-to-back Rose Bowls to start the BCS and won both because of the former Heisman Trophy winner. Dayne rushed for a BCS bowl record 246 yards and four touchdowns in the 38-31 win over UCLA. Both records still stand today. A year later, Dayne rushed for 200 yards on a BCS bowl record 34 carries in the 17-9 win over Stanford. Dayne owns two of the four 200-yard BCS bowl rushing efforts in the 14-year history of the series (Steve Slaton, 204 yards, 2006 Sugar/Vince Young, 200 yards, 2006 Rose).

Here is another one from the Dayne Train:

2. Vince Young, Texas, 2005
Young burst onto the national scene with a breathtaking performance in Texas’ thrilling 38–37 win over Michigan on a perfect day at the Rose Bowl. A sophomore at the time, Young threw for 180 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 192 yards and four scores, including two in the fourth quarter as the Longhorns battled back from a 10-point deficit.

1. Vince Young, Texas, 2006
Young was brilliant in the final game of his career, setting a Rose Bowl record with 467 yards of total offense to lead Texas to a 41–38 victory over favored USC to claim the school’s first national title since 1970. Young completed 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards but is remembered more for his work on the ground. He carried the ball 19 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by a nine-yard run on 4th down to give Texas the lead with 19 seconds remaining.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports ranks the best Rose Bowl performances of the BCS Era.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 07:00
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-waiver-wire-playoffs
Body:

It’s playoff time — for most of you at least. Now is the time of year where every move has to be the right one or your fantasy football season is over. Of course this late in the 2011 season, pickings are slim on the waiver wire. But there are a few names out there that could be beneficial as you make your way through the playoffs.

The top waiver wire of the week, as it was last week, is another running back. Washington RB Roy Helu was the top free agent pickup last week and came through with 21.2 fantasy points against the Jets. This week, it will be Chicago RB Marion Barber, who will replace the injured Matt Forte (knee) perhaps for the entire fantasy playoffs.

QUARTERBACKS
Matt Moore, Miami
This is all you need to know about fringe QBs and what they can do for you in a 12-team league. Moore was a top-10 producer despite throwing for just 162 yards. He also tossed a touchdown and ran for another for 20.68 fantasy points against the Raiders. It was his third 18-plus point day in the last five weeks. Now the Dolphins play host to an Eagles team that has allowed at least one touchdown pass in every game (11 total) and an average of 256.8 yards per game since Week 8.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota
Thanks to Denver, Ponder was a top-four fantasy QB in Week 13. The rookie threw for 381 yards, three scores and two picks and wound up with a 29.44-point fantasy day. It was Ponder’s third straight week over 14 fantasy points and second in three weeks over 22.5 points. Now he travels to play a Detroit defense coming off back-to-back 300-yard thrashings from Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Since we can’t compare Ponder to the two aforementioned studs, we can take their games out and the Lions are averaging 191.5 yards per game and .9 TDs per game allowed with 15 total interceptions. The Lions offense should have success against the Vikings defense, giving Ponder more chances to play catch up with Percy Harvin and Co.

Dan Orlovsky, Indianapolis
You’re reaching here, but he does have Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Jacob Tamme to get the ball to. Orlovsky is coming off a 353-yard game against the Patriots — New England’s ninth game of 300-plus yards allowed — so don’t base a lot of your hopes on last week.

Caleb Hanie, Chicago
A week after limiting Philip Rivers to 188 yards and a score, the Broncos allowed rookie Christian Ponder on an Adrian Peterson-less team to throw for 381 yards, three scores and two INTs. Hanie will be without his stud RB Matt Forte (knee) this week and still has a capable stable of receivers. You’d have to be beyond desperate here to start Hanie, but the Broncos have surrendered five 250-yard plus passers in the last nine games with 13 TDs and seven picks in that time.

Alex Smith, San Francisco
Sure the 49ers have clinched the NFC West title and they could just send Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter out there to try and get this game done in record time. But the matchup is decent for Smith if you needed him. He threw for 267 yards, two scores and one INT in Week 11 and the Cardinals have held just two passers under 200 yards this season (Tarvaris Jackson and Michael Vick).

Kyle Orton, Kansas City
He was looked to early against Chicago in favor of Tyler Palko, but Orton injured his finger and did not return after just one play. So he still has not seen significant game time with his new team and now he travels to play the Jets. It’d be a pretty risky pickup and start.

Rex Grossman, Washington
He threw for 221 yards and one pick in a terrible 5.84-point fantasy effort against the Jets in Week 13. Now he looks to be losing TE Fred Davis and LT Trent Williams to suspension. But Grossman has shown flashes this season — three 20-plus point days — and now he gets a Patriots pass defense that has been friendly to nearly every team they have played.

Josh Johnson, Tampa Bay
If Josh Freeman is out, then Johnson gets the start against cross-state rival Jacksonville. Johnson threw for 229 yards, one score, one pick and 45 yards rushing against a weak Carolina defense. We certainly found out we can’t rely on LeGarrette Blount (11-for-19) last week, and the Jaguars have a solid run defense. Philip Rivers, whose had his struggles, just carved up the beat up Jacksonville pass defense to the tune of 294 yards and three scores.

RUNNING BACKS
Marion Barber, Chicago
Boy this is one that hurts to put on the waiver wire list. The No. 1 reason this stings is I have Matt Forte in two leagues that I was the No. 1 seed in heading into Week 13. Now I’m the No. 1 seed in just one of the leagues and not nearly as confident going into the postseason. But back to what Barber can do for us.

Maurice Morris, Detroit
Kevin Smith injured his ankle again and it opened the door for Morris against the Saints. Now the Lions play host to a Vikings team that allows 4.2 yards per carry and 126.6 rushing yards per game over the last three weeks to running backs. If Smith is back, then the backfield is too diluted to depend on Morris. However, if the ankle continues to be a bother, then Morris is an OK flex.

Ricky Williams, Baltimore
Joe Flacco is struggling and the Ravens are going to run the ball. The Colts come to town with the third-worst defense against fantasy running backs. If you’re looking for the TD vulture that has a chance to be more than just that — like he was for 76 yards and a score against Cleveland — then a start against the Colts might not be a bad play.

Donald Brown, Indianapolis
The 12.8 fantasy points he got against the Patriots was more than I would have expected. Those are 12.8 points I would certainly be happy with from a flex position in this crazy NFL season. But now the Colts travel to play a Baltimore team that is a much, much stiffer defense. This could be a future pickup for Week 15. The Titans looked terrible against the quickness of C.J. Spiller in Week 13 and will now face the multiple backs that the Saints send out in Week 14. If Brown comes out of Baltimore healthy, he MIGHT be a decent flex play against the Titans in two weeks.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo
He looked good against a Titans defense that allowed gaping holes and were poor tacklers at the second level. Now he gets a Chargers defense that allowed 188 total yards to Maurice Jones-Drew in Week 13, 117 rushing yards to Willis McGahee in Week 12, 85 total yards to Matt Forte in Week 11 and 242 total yards to Michael Bush in Week 10. Spiller had 17 touches in Week 13 against Tennessee (102 total yards) and 22 (70 yards) in Week 12 against the Jets. He’s a decent enough flex in a game that could see a moderate amount of points.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
This offense is not consistent enough to make any of their players worthy fantasy plays, save for WR Dwayne Bowe. Maybe. And that is a big maybe. McCluster had 13 total offensive touches in Week 13 against Chicago and got a bulk of his 19.28 fantasy points on a 38-yard Hail Mary at halftime. But if he’s getting the 12 touches per game like he has averaged the last four weeks, he could be a deep flex against a Jets defense that allowed Roy Helu 142 total yards on 27 touches last week and 70 total yards to C.J. Spiller on 22 touches in Week 12.

Toby Gerhart, Minnesota
If Adrian Peterson (ankle) is back from his injury then Gerhart is useless in Week 14 at Detroit. If not, then Gerhart gets a run defense that hasn’t really seen a true run-based offense in quite a while. And if Gerhart is going to catch eight balls for 42 yards like he did against Denver in Week 13, then he would be an OK flex play in PPR leagues. The Lions have allowed 66 catches for 455 yards this season, including 20 for 220 and a score the last three weeks. Gerhart also had his best rushing performance of his career, carrying 21 times for 91 yards against Denver.

Ryan Grant, Green Bay
If James Starks (ankle) continues to be sidelined then Grant is the lead back. But he has rookie Brandon Saine to deal with and the Packers just do not run enough to make one of their backs a safe fantasy start. The one reason he could be safe this week is because the Raiders are very friendly against the pass and the Packers could get up very, very quickly. Your question would then be: is Grant going to help close it out or will Saine get the looks?

WIDE RECEIVERS
Johnny Knox, Chicago
The Bears head to Denver to play a Broncos team that has given up some big days in the back half of the 2011 season. Calvin Johnson went for 125 yards and a score, Jacoby Ford had 105 and a score and Percy Harvin had 156 yards had two scores and the Vikings’ duo of Devin Aromashodu had 90 yards just last week. Knox has been Caleb Hanie’s favorite target in their two weeks together — seeing 18 looks for nine catches, 198 yards and a score.

Nate Burleson, Detroit
He continues to get at least seven targets over the last five weeks; it’s just a matter of what he does with them. He tied his best game of the season with 93 yards in Week 13 after games of 39, 63, 83 and 23 over the previous four weeks. Minnesota’s defensive backfield is beat up, and Burleson is at least targeted. If you are struggling at WR and need a guy you know will be on a team that scores points, will score points this week and has issues at running back, then Burleson is worth a look.

Damian Williams, Tennessee
He was the top target for QB Matt Hasselbeck for the fourth time in five weeks when he had seven targets for four catches and 62 yards against the Bills. Now the Titans and their average defense play host to the high-powered offense of the Saints. Think Williams will have plenty of opportunities this week? I do too.

Brad Smith, Buffalo
He saw a team-high 10 targets against Tennessee in Week 13 and now has 17 in the last two weeks for 11 catches, 149 yards and a score. David Nelson and Scott Chandler are the red zone targets, while Smith and Steve Johnson (21 targets the last two weeks for 13 catches, 127 yards and two scores) are the ones to move the chains. The Bills play the Chargers and their bad run defense this week, but with C.J. Spiller as the lead back the passing options will still be there.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver
Seven targets turned into four catches for 144 yards and two scores. But if you couldn’t start Eric Decker with confidence, how do you start Thomas with any? He is a big target, but as far as his targets they are too inconsistent. His seven is a season high after games of 1, 6, 0, 2 and 3 since his return from a preseason injury.

Golden Tate & Doug Baldwin, Seattle
Both are talented young players for an inconsistent QB. With Sidney Rice on IR, the Seahawks will look to Tate, Baldwin and Ben Obomanu to move the ball through the air. Problem is: You never know which one it is going to be. Second problem, for this week at least: They get a juicy matchup against the Rams at home on Monday night.

Devin Aromashodu, Minnesota
It took 15 targets and just six catches for 90 yards for Aromashodu to get 12 fantasy points against the Broncos. Take what you would like from that. It’s just the second time this season, and the first for QB Christian Ponder, that a receiver has seen double digits in targets. Now the Vikings travel to play the Lions, who have faced the Saints and Packers the last two weeks. Against less powerful teams, the Lions have surrendered 122.5 yards per game to receivers and just six TDs.

TIGHT ENDS
Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati
Houston is a top three defense against fantasy tight ends and running backs. Cincinnati needs to move the ball somehow, and a TE that has been targeted 22 times over the last three weeks could be that somehow — along with A.J. Green of course. Grehsam has turned those 22 targets into 11 catches for 153 yards and one score.

Ed Dickson, Baltimore
It’s a reach, but if the Ravens want to get Joe Flacco back on track why not give him an easy target to aim for? Dickson had four targets in Week 13, catching three for 47 yards. That comes on the heels of 1-for-15 and 2-for-21 days that followed his 10-for-79 and two-TD game. The Colts have been the sixth-worst team against fantasy TEs over the last five weeks.

Heath Miller, Pittsburgh
Cleveland has Joe Haden on the corner to help shutdown the deep and outside passing game, so Miller could slide in and pickup a few catches to move the chains and a TD for a team that loves throwing in the red zone.

By Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
 

Teaser:
<p> Christian Ponder, Marion Barber and Ricky Williams lead the way this week</p>
Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 06:51
Path: /college-football/bcs-got-it-right-alabama-over-oklahoma-state
Body:

The BCS Championship Game always brings much debate and consternation when its two participants are selected. Even though the BCS has allowed the college football world to see title games that were not contractually possible before 1998, fans and media seem to feel a need to scream and protest throughout the process. This season is no different, with LSU finishing as the only team in the country with a perfect record. The Tigers’ opponent in the title game will be Alabama, who narrowly beat out Oklahoma State. The Tide lost to LSU in overtime earlier this season, while the Cowboys lost in double-overtime a few weeks ago to Iowa State. Most around college football consider Alabama a better team than Oklahoma State, but many of those people did not want to see the Tide get a rematch with LSU.

Did the BCS Championship Game get the right matchup?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman
The BCS absolutely got it right. It accomplished its one goal — match up the two best teams in the nation. Though many fans and media do not want to admit it, LSU and Alabama stand above the rest of college football this season. You won’t find many football people — outside of Oklahoma, or those fueled by anti-SEC sentiment — that think Oklahoma State is a better team than Alabama. The Tide defense is the best in the nation, while OSU’s unit ranks 107th in total defense. For critics of the Tide offense, it ranked 16th in the nation in scoring and was only held down by LSU’s top defense. Other than that game, Bama scored 31 points or less twice — against top-20 defenses in Penn State (27 pts) and Mississippi State (24). Oky State was held to 31 or less twice — to bad defenses in Texas A&M and Iowa State. The reality is that the Cowboys had their shot and choked against unranked Iowa State in a game that OSU led by 17 points in the second half. The BCS Championship Game is simply a matchup of the country’s two best teams and if they happen to be from the same league, so be it.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch
I do think the BCS got it right. I am not a huge proponent of the system, but I believe LSU and Alabama are the two best teams in the nation. Oklahoma State, obviously, has a very good team and has a solid argument that it, not Alabama, should be playing LSU in the Louisiana Superdome. But after watching both teams throughout the season, I simply believe Alabama is better. The Tide's defense is the best in the nation — by far, at least statistically — and the running game, led by Trent Richardson, is devastating. I do realize that Oklahoma State does have more quality wins, but Alabama also beat some very good teams and did not lose to a mediocre one like O-State did. As a fan of the sport, I would love to see what the Cowboys could do against LSU, but the system isn't set up to give us the matchup we want to see — it's set up to pit the two best teams in the nation.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven
Yes it did. I understand the argument for Oklahoma State in the BCS title game, but I have to disagree and have no disagreement about having a rematch. If LSU is clearly the No. 1 team in the nation, an Alabama team that lost by a field goal in overtime can’t be far behind. As I’ve been saying for most of the year, if the Tigers are No. 1, then the Crimson Tide has to be 1b. Top-to-bottom, the SEC isn’t as strong as it has been in some years. However, Texas and Texas Tech were also down in the Big 12 this year, so the conference strength wasn’t one-sided either way. For anyone that wants to complain about the BCS, this is not where the anger should be directed. The biggest complaint should be about Virginia Tech landing in the Sugar Bowl over Kansas State and Boise State.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden
In a totally subjective situation, it is hard not to view Alabama and LSU as the best two teams in the nation. So in that sense, the BCS standings got it right — which is just as much a function of everyone else in the nation as it is the Crimson Tide. The door was open for an undefeated Oklahoma State, Boise State or Stanford to play for the national title and they all lost. Now, I personally do not think you should be allowed to play for the national title if you can't even win your own division, so I would have rather seen another team get a shot at LSU — considering Alabama already got its opportunity and failed. I believe Oklahoma State's resume is significantly better than Alabama's. The Pokes beat eight bowl teams and four BCS top 25 teams (including three of the top 14) while Alabama beat five bowl teams and only three with winning records, including only one top-20 BCS win. I will pick Alabama to win and if they top LSU in the rematch, I would vote for a split national title (unless, of course, they somehow miraculously got to play the rubber match on a neutral site in some cornfield in middle America). It is unfortunate that teams like USC, Stanford, Oklahoma State, Wisconsin and others don't get a chance to face what we think are the best two teams in the nation.
 

Teaser:
<p> BCS Got It Right with Alabama over Oklahoma State</p>
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 16:26
Path: /college-football/stanfords-andrew-luck-wins-golden-arm-award
Body:

Andrew Luck can add another achievement to his already stellar resume as Stanford's star quarterback won the 2011 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, which is given to the nation's top quarterback who exemplifies character as well as scholastic and athletic achievement.

“Andrew personifies everything that my father stood for. He is not simply an outstanding quarterback, but an outstanding individual, a leader both on and off the field,” says John C. Unitas, Jr. President of The Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation.

Luck passed for 3,170 yards and 35 touchdowns for a 167.5 passer rating in leading fourth ranked Stanford to an 11-1 record.

In addition to his on-field achievements, Luck also posted a 3.48 grade point average and was also named to the PAC-12's All-Academic team.

Other finalists for the 2011 Golden Arm Award were: Robert Griffin, III, Baylor; Landry Jones, Oklahoma; Kellen Moore, Boise State; and Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma State.

Unitas notes, “Andrew joins a long line of quarterbacks who embody the characteristics that made Johnny Unitas an enduring legend, including many who have gone on to illustrious careers in the NFL.” Former winners include Colt McCoy (Texas, 2009), Matt Ryan (Boston College, 2007), Brady Quinn (Notre Dame, 2006), Matt Leinart (USC, 2005), Eli Manning (Ole Miss, 2003), Carson Palmer (USC, 2002), Peyton Manning (Tennessee, 1997), and Rodney Peete (USC, 1988).

Candidates for the Golden Arm Award must be completing their college eligibility or be a fourth-year junior, on schedule to graduate with his class. Candidates are judged upon character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, leadership qualities, and athletic accomplishments.

Proceeds from the Golden Arm Award help to support the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation. The Foundation provides financial assistance to underprivileged and deserving young scholar-athletes throughout Maryland and Kentucky.

The namesake of the Golden Arm Award has a storied history. Johnny Unitas was an 18-year veteran of the NFL, who played his collegiate career at the University of Louisville before joining the Baltimore Colts in 1958. His career passing figures include 2,830 pass completions for 40,239 yards, 290 touchdowns and one that may stand forever – throwing a touchdown pass in 47 consecutive games.


 

Teaser:
<p> Andrew Luck can add another achievement to his already stellar resume as Stanford's star quarterback&nbsp;won the 2011 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm award, which is given to the nation's top quarterback who exemplifies character as well as scholastic and athletic achievement.</p>
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 16:22
All taxonomy terms: 2011, Danica Patrick, nascar archive, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/danica-year-2-learning-curve
Body:

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

Article originally published in 2011 Athlon Sports Racing annual

— by Bryan Davis Keith

Moments after taking his record sixth ARCA Series victory at Daytona International Speedway, race winner Bobby Gerhart walked all but unmolested from Victory Lane while a throng of reporters — the likes of which even Dale Earnhardt Jr. seldom sees — swarmed around the evening’s sixth-place finisher.

After all, Danica Patrick had just made her stock car racing debut.

The following week, IndyCar’s hottest driver stepped up to the NASCAR level at Daytona, a week ahead of schedule. Prior to the green flag dropping, ESPN’s pre-race coverage was dripping with images of fans buying No. 7 merchandise from a bright green GoDaddy.com hauler. On pit road, there wasn’t even room to walk. The crowd was so thick that Mike Boeschinger, crew chief for Joe Nemechek’s No. 87 team, reminded his crew during the pace laps to “realize we’re going to have the Danica masses (on pit road), so remember to be professional dealing with them as we work.”

Danica-mania had come to stock car racing.

Danica-mania had come to NASCAR.

Following the conclusion of the 2010 season, there is little question that Patrick’s first foray into NASCAR had every bit as big of an impact off the track as anyone expected. Souvenir sales were sky high; she outsold both champion Jimmie Johnson and bad boy Kyle Busch in her first NASCAR month. Her debut in ARCA competition at Daytona resulted in the single highest-rated series event SPEED Channel had ever broadcast, even exceeding the numbers surrounding Juan Pablo Montoya’s 2006 stock car debut. NASCAR’s Nationwide Series opener followed suit with final numbers so powerful they set an all-time series record, beating roughly half of this year’s Sprint Cup Chase events in the Nielsen Ratings. And GoDaddy.com’s exposure during Nationwide Series telecasts throughout the season rivaled even that generated by Mark Martin’s GoDaddy.com entry at the Sprint Cup level.

From a marketing and branding standpoint, 2010 was a certain success. But as for on-track performance, for Patrick’s development and ability to transition from open-wheel to stock cars, both fans and critics alike were left with as many questions as answers in what could easily be described as a roller coaster of a rookie season.

There were some definite high points. Patrick was running solidly in the top 15 with less than 10 laps to go in Fontana’s fall race before late-race contact with James Buescher sent her machine hard into the backstretch wall, relegating what would have been at worst a career-first lead lap result to a 30th-place finish. And there was a season-finale performance at Homestead that was by far Patrick’s best showing in NASCAR, a top-5 qualifying effort parlayed into a 19th-place result, on the lead lap with a car that improved throughout the day.

But the low points seemed to dominate a year in which speed proved elusive. For all the hype and TV coverage that Patrick’s Daytona debut in a Nationwide car produced, the No. 7 was about as uncompetitive as a JR Motorsports entry had ever been in a restrictor plate race, with Danica nearly losing the draft, battling the underfunded rides of Danny Efland and Josh Wise before falling victim to the “big one” scarcely halfway through the event. Then, there was a nasty wreck at Las Vegas between Patrick and Michael McDowell’s already damaged racecar. McDowell took responsibility for the incident, though it’s also worth noting that he had committed to running the bottom line, protocol for damaged cars making laps off the pace, while Danica jammed him down from the top. Regardless of fault, the incident was avoidable, and the resulting crash cost her over 100 laps of valuable seat time.

And then, there was Dover in September. Despite turning over 100 laps and scoring a top-10 finish in the K&N Pro Series East race at the same track the day prior, Patrick’s inexperience as a stock car driver was never more evident than on the banks of the Monster Mile. The Saturday morning during qualifying, Patrick timed in 42nd of the 48 cars that showed up, proceeding after her slow lap to throw a tantrum over the radio ... because she couldn’t find her way to the garage entrance. Despite numerous instructions from crew chief Tony Eury Jr., Patrick eventually parked her car on pit road, where it sat until the JR Motorsports crew came to direct her.

The race itself didn’t go any better. Already three laps down by lap 71, Patrick cut a right front tire and pounded the Turn 4 wall, limping to a 35th-place finish in perhaps her worst performance of a 2010 season that included three DNFs in 13 starts.

Speaking before the media at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Patrick noted: “It’s been an up and down year. It’s been a character-building year, a humbling year. I did know coming into this season that it was going to be the hardest year I have ever had.

“Still, nothing can really prepare you for the hardest year you have ever had. It sucks at times. It’s still challenging. But I’ve learned a lot.”

Patrick’s “educational” analysis is not without merit. It took her five races to finally crack the top 25 in a NASCAR event, a feat she accomplished in four of her last five starts. Comparing her first five starts to her last five, Patrick’s average finishing position improved by eight spots, from 31.2 to 23.2. Even more important, Patrick made dramatic progress at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana upon her return visit in the fall (ACS was the one track that Patrick made two Nationwide Series starts on). Whereas in February, she finished three laps down while at times running laps 10 miles an hour off the leader’s pace, September’s event saw the No. 7 car a fixture on the lead lap and a top-15 car for most of the day.

Patrick’s performance that fall Saturday also caught a big-time eye, that of Mark Martin. A Cup veteran with ties to JR Motorsports through the Hendrick Motorsports camp, Martin went a long way to further Patrick’s education throughout the back half of 2010. After she wrecked out of the Dover race, Martin visited Patrick in her hauler while the No. 7 team worked on the damaged car, chatting for nearly an hour about setups, use of practice time and other elements of stock car racing that Patrick is still trying to familiarize herself with.

A few weeks later, following Patrick’s performance at Fontana, Martin spent two hours shaking down her Nationwide CoT machine in a test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.

“Something that has stuck with me since he said it to me was that the front end of the car should do what you ask it to do,” said Patrick. “I thought it was a fantasy in my mind, that it would do what I wanted it to do. He said that that should be the point it gets to.”

The time Martin spent aiding Patrick was invaluable; her four best finishes in 2010 all came after Martin assisted her with the Charlotte test.

With the continuing support of JR Motorsports, Eury Jr., and drivers the caliber of Martin, Patrick is in a situation in terms of equipment and surroundings that tops even those of big-name, open-wheel converts Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr. during their transitions. In terms of equipment and personnel, all the pieces are in place for driver No. 7 to handle one of the most difficult learning curves in all of motorsports.

There’s no overstating how tough the jump from open wheel to stock cars really is. It’s a challenge that has chewed up and spit out drivers far more accomplished than Patrick, be they three-time Indy Racing League champion Dario Franchitti or 1997 Formula 1 world champion Jacques Villeneueve. The two most notable open-wheel converts in recent memory would be Montoya and Hornish, who have found homes in the Sprint Cup ranks the last few seasons but enjoyed limited success. The Colombian has just two victories, while Hornish couldn’t even score two top 10s last season and is likely on the outside looking in for 2011.

How do Patrick’s first race starts compare? The evidence is inconclusive. Her results, as unspectacular as they may have been on paper, were in fact better than those of Hornish. Her average finish was stronger, a 28.0 compared to Hornish’s 32.8 in his first 11 Nationwide starts. She had just as many lead lap finishes, and just as many top 20s in that span. And for as often as she found trouble on the track in 2010, Patrick had half the DNFs of Hornish.

Based on the duo’s respective IndyCar résumés, those results should never have been that close. Patrick has only won once in IRL competition, while Hornish is both an Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time IRL champion. And yet, when it comes to stock cars, after one year Patrick is, statistically at least, further along than Hornish was at that point in his career.

On the other hand, Patrick’s results don’t come close to stacking up to those of Montoya, also an Indianapolis 500 winner and perhaps the most successful open-wheel convert to stock cars since Tony Stewart. Montoya, who made only four Nationwide starts in his debut stock car season before jumping to Cup full-time in 2007, remains the model that the next wave of open-wheel converts, including Patrick, will need to follow.

In speaking to the driver herself, there’s no shortage of confidence that results will come. Addressing home state media at Gateway International Raceway in October, Patrick said of her progression: “I know that I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. That’s important, and I feel more comfortable in my car for sure. I feel a little more under control. I feel like it’s coming slower at me than it did in the very beginning.”

With Patrick committed only to the first four races of the 2011 Nationwide Series, and planning to run a maximum total of 14, the jury remains out on whether Danica the driver will be able to make the jump from a back marker to a top-15 fixture next year. What also remains to be seen is whether the impact that GoDaddy’s fastest girl had on the Nationwide Series in 2010 is in fact the “good thing” for NASCAR that sanctioning body CEO Brian France proclaimed in November 2009, well before Patrick ever took the green flag for a stock car race.

There’s no doubt in terms of TV viewership that Patrick helped NASCAR’s second-tier series. The large ratings boost ESPN received televising her debut at Daytona was instrumental in the networks’ Nationwide Series ratings ending 2010 with an increase over the season prior, even as the Sprint Cup Series saw its ratings continue to flounder despite the drama of a three-way battle for the title heading into the season’s final race. Ticket sales also saw an uptick. New Hampshire Motor Speedway reported its Nationwide Series demand went up 30 percent after confirming that Patrick would be competing at the racetrack.

Her part-time campaign led to a full-time entry that the Nationwide Series field desperately needed as well. To ensure that her No. 7 car would remain in the top 30 in owner points — and locked into the field as a result — JR Motorsports decided at Bristol in March to run the car full-time, sponsored or not. And if Travis Pastrana and Brian Deegan are any indication, NASCAR, for all its current attendance and ratings trouble, is still proving an attractive market for motorsports’ biggest names.

The other side of the coin, though, surfaced even before the 2010 Nationwide Series took its first green flag. Addressing the media at Daytona, ESPN’s Vice President of Motorsports Rich Feinberg was questioned as to how his network planned to balance coverage of Danica’s debut with that of the 42 other story lines that would take to the racetrack. His response: “It’s our strong belief there will be people that turn on Saturday’s Nationwide telecast that perhaps don’t watch a lot of Nationwide races or NASCAR at all, because of the interest in her. We want to serve that curiosity.”

If the ratings were any indication, it was mission accomplished for ESPN, and for Patrick as well. But as for the other competitors, it was harder to find a positive to the massive influx of Danica-maniacs who tuned in. Because, frankly, the exposure wasn’t necessarily there, regardless of what the ratings said.

“The only thing I will say is that TV has been doing a horrible job,” said Kyle Busch of the media frenzy that saw Patrick dominate airtime throughout Speedweeks. “They’ve been covering her way too much.

“If you’re going to have all this attention drawn on the series, let’s put it towards all the people. If you’ve got all these people watching TV that want to hear about Danica, well, take advantage of that and show the less-funded teams, the underprivileged that want to have funding so they can race the rest of the year.”

Robert Richardson Jr. echoed those sentiments when questioned that weekend about his family-owned team’s experience regarding TV coverage, noting that the narrow window the networks offered is “why half of us don’t have sponsorship.”

To be fair to ESPN, the overwhelming focus on Patrick’s first few races subsided as the season progressed. But the question as to whether the decision to promote nothing but Danica-mania will actually have a lasting impact on the Nationwide Series remains to be seen. After all, just as 13 races provided an incomplete grade for Patrick’s NASCAR experiment, 13 telecasts may well be too small a sample size to determine just what kind of impact her rookie year actually had on NASCAR’s minor leagues.
No matter how many questions surround Patrick as she prepares for her second year as a stock car driver, one thing is for certain: Every high and low will be painstakingly broadcast in front of millions.

“Everybody has to face a learning curve,” summarized fellow NASCAR female racer Jennifer Jo Cobb. “Danica has to face hers, unfortunately, in front of the world with a big spotlight on her.”

That spotlight is not going anywhere for 2011.

Teaser:
<p> In her second season in NASCAR, Danica Patrick looks to apply lessons learned to prove she has what it takes to make a career in stock cars</p>
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: 2011, nascar archive, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/cashed-out
Body:

In celebration of Athlon Sports' upcoming 10th annual Racing magazine, we've dug into the archives to uncover some of the most memorable features, profiles and Q&As that have graced our pages. Visit the site daily for more retrospective looks at NASCAR throughout the decade.

Article originally published in 2011 Athlon Sports Racing annual

— by Tom Bowles

For the better part of half a decade, critics have beaten up NASCAR like prizefighters boxing for the heavyweight belt of Who Killed The Fastest Growing Sport In America. The stories of sorrow may change, but the punch-throwing theme remains the same: An uppercut of negativity surrounding declining attendance and decreasing revenue, the sanctioning body going from unparalleled growth to an open-heart wound for seemingly everyone but itself to see.

Now, after a tumultuous 2010, even the sport’s top officials can’t hide behind a torrent of ugly statistics. Television ratings, trailing off since the last contract began in 2007, entered a freefall that peaked during the playoffs when five of the 10 Chase races had fewer viewers than Danica Patrick’s debut in the Nationwide Series last February. Even the Homestead finale, in which three men entered neck-and-neck for the championship, was down eight percent from the 2009 numbers, the capper to a year that began with the lowest Daytona 500 rating since 1991. Apathy wasn’t just limited to couch potatoes; the France-controlled International Speedway Corporation, owning over half the Cup schedule and tracks, saw an 18.7 percent drop in ticket revenue in the third quarter of last season alone.

You hear the stats, look at a list of teams laying people off and you’d think NASCAR was on its deathbed. That’s somewhat deceiving. Like with any business, there are peaks and valleys, but keep in mind that there are still some very good things happening in the sport. Sponsorship deals remain in the $20-$30 million range for top teams, and a national television contract for all 36 races is in place through the end of 2014.

Clearly, though, valleys can only last for so long before panic sets in. A reversal of fortune is needed in 2011 more than ever, with anxious executives from sponsors to manufacturers looking for positive signs upon which to build. But can it be fixed? How much do they need to? And why did it get to this point, just five years after a ratings peak had the NFL looking over its shoulder for the first time in a generation?

Finding that answer means going beyond the political correctness of Daytona Beach, peeking outside the box at the sport’s once-boisterous middle class. After all, those in the best position to advocate for change are the ones whose blood, sweat and tears of the past have been most directly affected by failure in the present.

Four stories. Four chapters that weave together to identify clues on problems, solutions, and whether successes will strike NASCAR once again.

From single-car powerhouse to praying for sponsorship
Twenty-seven years ago, good friends Tim Morgan and Larry McClure came to the Cup Series for what would be an unthinkable purpose today: They needed a hobby.

“When Morgan-McClure began, Tim and I just did it just to have fun,” says McClure, whose No. 4 car started off slowly, not running full-time until 1988. “We were doing it small-scale, weren’t even looking at (the sport) nationally and what it was doing.”

The 1990s changed all that. An upset winner in the 1991 Daytona 500 with Ernie Irvan, the duo won the Great American Race twice more, in ’94 and ’95 with Sterling Marlin. Marlin peaked at third in the standings in ’95, and suddenly, this “fun” outfit had become a force in NASCAR.

“It took our hats off,” says McClure. “We thought, man, we had arrived in the biggest sport, and we don’t see an end to it. We just thought it was going to continue to grow.”

It did. Just not for them. Beginning in the late 1990s, multi-car teams, which had always been around to challenge Morgan-McClure Motorsports, suddenly began to emerge as powerhouses.

“When there were two-car teams like Junior Johnson did (in the 1980s), there was tremendous competition within them,” explains McClure. “There were these big egos. They didn’t want to share information.

“So the foot came down, and the manufacturers got more involved. All of a sudden, (multi-car teams shared) a lot of information. They started trying to make the cars exactly equal, the engines exactly equal.”

That philosophy shift took its toll. By 1998, Roush Racing had five cars, while three-car Hendrick Motorsports captured four straight championships with Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte. That was also the last year Morgan-McClure finished in the top 10 in points, with expansion plans falling short as a hardworking single-car shoestring gradually saw economic disadvantages and manufacturer preferences outweigh its effort.

“Around 2001, 2002 the money was killing us,” adds McClure. “It all was about money. Then, they let Toyota in, and their money separated the teams even further, made it even more of a corporate, three-team, four-team entourage.”

“What you have now is you’ve got two or three teams and, maybe, you have a two-car team that’s really just an extension of somebody’s four-car team,” Morgan says. “So if you have 10 cars out there that are affiliated, do you think as a fan it’s reasonable to assume that those cars are going to compete with each other as aggressively?”

Still, despite a lack of regulation — NASCAR didn’t step in with a four-car limit per owner until 2009 — both men refuse to place blame.

“They played the game by the rules that were there,” says Morgan. “And we played the game by the old rules. We don’t feel like, even today, they did a better job racing than we did. We feel like they did a better job marketing than we did. And we should have woken up to that earlier.”

Oversleeping proved costly. Losing Kodak to one of the multi-car giants (Penske Racing) in 2004, the advent of the Chase, and some new qualifying rules created an environment that crippled a team that never found replacement funding.

“During that Chase period, if you’re working hard to get a sponsor and you’re a team that shouldn’t finish 15th and you finish 15th, you’re not even mentioned (in the press),” Morgan explains. “(The Chase) takes away from the overall effectiveness of the sponsorship of anybody outside that group. They’ve basically just become ghosts during that period. They’re not even noticed. That’s a bigger issue than (officials) realize.”

“We’ve got to have the last-place car just like we have the first-place car,” adds ­McClure. “I think that’s the thing we’ve forgotten about — the whole field is important in NASCAR.”

That’s where even the top 35 “locked in” rule can be crippling, creating inequality within a 43-car field composed of those coming to race and others simply trying to make the field.

“You don’t have the fastest cars necessarily racing,” adds Morgan. “That encourages mediocrity. Once you get in the points, you’re paid mostly just to sit there and coast since you don’t take chances to get out.

“The old system, if teams did so poorly they couldn’t qualify week after week, then they got in trouble with their sponsor. But it should be that way. I think the way the system was set up was very fair.”

Instead, a tornado was unleashed, the perfect storm that left MMM damaged in its wake. Once a wonderful story, Morgan and McClure now sit and wonder how they wound up on the outside looking in.

“It’s hard to (place) blame,” says Morgan. “This thing moved so fast, the corporate money came in there and NASCAR was growing at the same time. It was hard for them to control their growth and keep perspective. They worked hard, made some good decisions. But I guess maybe sometimes you gotta revamp.”

The owner pauses. He knows revamping is the only way to get the No. 4 back on track, change needed to bring a car that’s been dormant from full-time competition since the end of 2007 — even with $37 million in career prize money to his name.

Development in the unemployment line ... not on the track
J.J. Yeley’s been on both sides of the seesaw. Brought up as a Joe Gibbs Racing prospect, he made his name by taking the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevy from Bobby Labonte’s hands in 2006. It was the break of a lifetime, one the USAC Silver Crown Champion never fully realized until stepping foot on the sport’s hallowed grounds of Daytona.

“Seeing so many fans, that’s the biggest thing,” he remembers of the 150,000 in the stands. “My wife and I were completely wowed at just how friendly NASCAR was.”

That era of good feelings extended inside the garage. Overshadowed by fellow youngster Denny Hamlin, Yeley got released after just two seasons at JGR. But back then, it was a driver’s market, owners banging down doors and throwing money at any type of experience. Six career top-10 finishes? That’s six more than Yeley needed to continue full-time.

“It made me feel good there were a lot of opportunities,” he says. “I went with what I thought was going to be the best position.”

It wasn’t. Hall of Fame Racing was a struggling single-car effort, without the resources or funding to be successful. In only nine months, Yeley got booted into a shockingly different world.

“In 2008 and 2009, it really surprised everyone that money all of a sudden got really tight,” says Yeley, now 34 and backed into a corner for two-plus seasons to start-and-park or retire from stock car racing in his prime. “There was nothing available. And there really hasn’t been a whole lot available since.”

So Yeley sits on the other side of the garage, racing mostly with teams that typically run 30th or 35th on a day when they run the distance at all.

“From a sponsor that understands the sport, they know there’s a chance they may not ever get seen,” he says. “To me, TV has been the downturn because if you’re at a racetrack, there’s racing going on all over the place. It may not be for the lead, but it’s usually 10th-15th, 15th-20th, there’s five to six cars throughout just racing their tails off. But on TV, you don’t always see that.”

The timing of Yeley’s career unraveling also coincided with the economic crash. The nation’s worst recession in 70 years caused the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler, unemployment rates of over 20 percent in regions close to several racetracks (Michigan, Martinsville for starters) and forced companies to roll back their advertising. For Yeley, it’s a factor that can’t be understated — fans and sponsors staying home simply because they don’t have any cash.

“You don’t have families that can afford it,” he claims. “It’s going to take awhile for those fans to afford to come back. NASCAR just has to get a little more creative with what they’re doing at the tracks because there’s not as many dollars out there being spent.”

From sold-out crowds to empty seats. What gives?
That’s where Pocono track President Brandon Igdalsky comes in. The grandson of founder Joe Mattioli, he started out collecting trash as a teen during the sport’s early growth spurt in the 1980s. Managing the track’s concession stands a decade later, one of the sport’s most powerful young business executives saw firsthand just how much the fans were overwhelming a 2.5-mile, triangular-shaped facility that’s held two spots on the Cup Series schedule since 1982.

“It was a crazy time,” he says. “When we put the new backhouses for concessions in behind the grandstands (during the late 1990s), we had to call in more beer that first year. Our beer sales almost tripled.

“For awhile there, it was almost like Field of Dreams. If you built it, they would come. Tracks didn’t have to sell tickets. They just took orders.”

The peak for the Northeast Pennsylvania facility occurred at the close of the 20th Century. A flurry of great races, punctuated by Jeremy Mayfield bumping Dale Earnhardt on the last lap to win the June 2000 event, left the facility forced to do the unthinkable — actively advertise for fans to stay away.

“In ’99, I remember my grandfather put an article in the paper telling people if you don’t have a ticket, don’t come,” he says. The fans who came empty-handed would have to wait eight hours in misery outside, as the rural area was one-way in, one-way out on race day. “We had no room.”

Ten years later, the track can only wish for the glory days. Igdalsky admits that they “came close to selling out” last in 2002-03 before the numbers began a slow but steady slide downhill. Specific figures are hard to come by — official attendance stats through NASCAR have listed 105,000 for four years, but a local paper, the Pocono Record, did an estimate based on aerial photographs and crowd-counting techniques that put that number at 48,000 last August. How do they move forward?

“None of our fans are saying ticket prices are an issue (for 2011), so we’re happy about that,” he explains, somewhat contradicting Yeley. “It’s not just a matter of putting on a race anymore. They want more bang for their buck. And rightly so. It’s a different world, a different time right now. People want the most quality for each dollar they’re spending.”

So Pocono has focused its promotional efforts on other parts of the experience — beautiful, year-round lodging facilities adjacent to the track and a 25-acre solar farm. Also, track ownership is reviewing plans to build additional entertainment nearby.

“The product at the track this year was unbelievable. It was one of the best years I remember in a long time in terms of the on-track races, the experience,” he says. “I think like in any business, there’s dips and valleys. Right now, we’re on the way back up from the dip. I definitely see things turning around.”

The sponsorship struggle
In a sport held together by Fortune 500 support, the key to sustaining any upward trend is convincing companies to keep spending money. That’s where Bob Jackson comes in. Jackson is a marketing exec whose client list has included Joe Gibbs, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Boris Said, but whose 27-year background mostly involves that elephant NASCAR wishes would go back to the zoo — the NFL. What’s the difference between the two?

“Parity,” says Jackson. “So many times, you see a team that is 4–12 in one year, then making the playoffs the next. That happens a lot.

“In NASCAR, to me, it seems like you know who’s going to be the top 10 or 12. There’s going to be cars who come in and get a top 10 every now and then, but I feel like it’s the haves and the have nots. It’s just hard to compete with the big boys if you’re an independent.”

The stats bear that out, as just 35 drivers with only 10 different chassis/engine combinations cracked the top 10 last season in Cup. Compare that to 45 drivers and around two dozen combinations from 2001, and an ugly trend leaves sponsors unwilling to take a chance at new opportunities.

“I’d like to see everybody be competitive out there. But there’s four or so big players in the NASCAR game, then everybody else,” he says. “I have to look out for what’s best for the sponsor, because they are too hard to find to put them into something that’s not going to work. Every one of them wants something that can be measured. Every one of them wants to see what their return on their investment is.

“Win on Sunday. Sell sponsors on Monday. That’s the way to do it.”

Those problems create a trickle-down effect, as young Nationwide Series drivers have struggled to stay in seats, while Cup driver infiltration takes its toll. Jackson is working hard for a number of teenage phenoms to acquire the opportunities they need. The problem is, with no owners and sponsors taking risks, there’s no money to give them the long-term chance needed for success.

“Unless you’re one of the lucky ones,” he says, “like a Joey Logano that gets handpicked by one of the top teams, how are you going to break in and really show how well you can do if your only choice is to go with an underfunded independent? It’s tough. It’s really tough.”

Jackson sighs. He can’t make a convincing argument alone.

Solutions and conclusions
Four stories, four differing perspectives. Yet these men stand together in identifying common concerns more than they would have guessed.

“Back in the day, we had personalities,” McClure says. “Everybody sounded different and talked different, acted different, came from small towns. Then, it changed to the corporate world, and it appeared to be all about money and not so much the competition.”

“‘Boys, have at it to a different level’ is what I’d push,” says Igdalsky, referring to NASCAR’s 2010 “edict” of laying off punishments for on- and off-track conduct. “Give the guys a little more freedom, and let ’em have a little bit more fun out there.”

But even the best-laid plans nowadays seemingly come down to money. The smartest, most flamboyant driver is handicapped if his car doesn’t have the parts and pieces to compete.

“Sometimes, NASCAR these days reminds me of Major League Baseball that doesn’t have a salary cap,” adds Jackson, whose answers lie in marketing parity. “It’s like the Yankees and Red Sox against the Kansas City Royals. But how do you tell a Rick Hendrick or a Jack Roush, that’s built their team up so beautifully, ‘OK, you have to cut it in half now’? You just can’t do that, can you?”

Sounds like a job for a young, up-and-coming leader, a behind-the-scenes stalwart capable of being Brian France’s right-hand man. In other sports, now’s the time when the charismatic leader emerges, saving everyone from their own excess in reestablishing structure and success before it’s too late. Yet not one of these men has a young star who comes to mind.

“I don’t know who’s going to take it to that next level,” says McClure. “But we’re going to go through a lot of changes. Bill’s (France’s) children are, certainly, super intelligent. And hopefully capable.”

Looks like they’ll need to be. There’s nowhere else to turn — more than ever France’s leadership stands out as the key to keeping all of these different problems from sinking the sport.

Otherwise, each one of these stories is destined for an unhappy ending, a parking lot of faltering dreams in a sport that once thrived on making dreams come true.

Teaser:
<p> Four stories, four differing perspectives of how the economic environment has changed NASCAR</p>
Post date: Monday, December 5, 2011 - 14:22

Pages