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All taxonomy terms: Hope Solo, soccer, Women's World Cup, News
Path: /news/japan-wins-womens-world-cup-championship

Update: A replay of the Women's World Cup Final between the US and Japan is currently being shown on ESPN2.

Japan has won the 2011 Women’s World Cup final. And while all the credit goes to Japan, it’s clear that missed opportunities cost the US team the soccer championship. The USA had numerous first half chances and held a one-goal lead twice, but Japan showed resilience, kept fighting and finally pulled out the 2011 World Cup championship in penalty kicks.

Japan’s win arguably means more to any nation, after the tsunami and nuclear disaster they suffered earlier this year. Ironically, Japan was celebrating Uminohi (Marine Day), a national holiday that honors the blessings of the sea.

Much like the US’s Brazil match, 120 minutes of soccer wasn’t enough. It came down to penalty kicks again.

Shannon Boxx set the tone early by missing the US’s first attempted penalty kick.  It would mostly go downhill from there.

Japan scored on their first attempt. And then Carly Lloyd missed the US’s second attempt by hitting it over the crossbar. It all looked over, but Hope Solo came up with a huge save and stopped Japan’s second attempt. But Japan’s goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori answered and made the US 0-3 in their first three attempt. Hope Solo came close to stopping Japan’s third attempt, but came up short. Abby Wambach kept the US alive by scoring her penalty kick, but Japan scored on their fourth attempt and taking their first World Cup ever.

After the match, star goalkeeper Hope Solo gave a tearful interview where she said, "As difficult as this is, if there was any team I would give it to, it would be Japan."

Head coach Pia Sundhage, said “It came down to a couple of mistakes. It’s hard to lose. You can’t explain [missing their first three penalty kicks.] We couldn’t put away our chances.”

Abby Wambach said it all, “It’s heartbreaking. We had our chances. Evidently it wasn’t meant to be.”

The US dominated play for the first twenty minutes, putting seven shots on goals, but unable to capitalize on any of them. The majority of of play was in Japan’s end with Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach getting close calls. The next eight minutes were played with end-to-end action that offered up solid scoring chances for both sides.

Japan took some momentum back from the 20-25 minute mark, but they were also unable to put the ball in the back of the net.

The momentum shifted back in the US’s favor at the 28 minute mark when Abby Wambach took a great left-footed shot from 30 feet out that went off the cross-bar.

Japan’s Kozue Ando gave Japan their best chance up to that point with a mini breakaway on the left side at the 30 minute mark, but was only able to get a feeble shot which Hope Solo scooped up with ease.

While the US couldn’t capitalize on their numerous chances, their defensive pressure kept Japan off their rhythm. Whenever Japan tried to get something going, the US would swarm the ball.

Both sides calmed down from that point on until half time, with a nil-nil score after 45 minutes.

Three minutes into the second half the US hit another post, when an Alex Morgan redirect went off the goal post, then off the keeper and was cleared. At this point it almost seemed like it wasn’t going to happen for the US today. Despite all their pressure, they just couldn’t finish.

In the 63rd minute the Japanese had a seemingly free breakaway, but were called for an offside. The replay showed that it was the wrong call.

In the 68th minute the 22-year-old Alex Morgan took a perfect drive from Megan Rapinoe and put the ball in the back of the net. Morgan fought off a Japanese defender and drove the ball hard and true across past Japanese keeper Kaihori to put the USA on the board and take a 1-0 lead.

It seemed that the US was cruising to the win at that point. Celebrated goalkeeper Hope Solo had not been truly tested all game. But a disorganized clearing attempt by Rachel Buehler in their own end ended poorly when the ball went straight to Japan’s Aya Miyama right in front of the goal and got an easy chip in to tie it at 1-1 with ten minutes of regulation left.

That score held as they went into extra time.

Overtime had gone back and forth, Abby Wambach, who had been surprisingly held in check all game by one of the shortest team’s in the tournament pulled through at the most important moment of her career. 15 minutes into extra time, Abby took a perfect cross from Alex Morgan and put one of her patented headers past the keeper to give the US a 2-1 lead. It was her fourth goal with her head, and she is now the third leading goal scorer in Women’s World Cup history.

But Japan would not give up. Most smaller teams would not have much success on corner kicks, but Japan pulled through yet one more time when Homare Sawa chipped a corner kick off a US defender and into the goal. Moments earlier Hope Solo needed medical attention to her knee, but that did not seem to play a part in the goal. It was just poor defense on the United States part.

Trivia: Azusa Iwashimizu was awarded the first red card in Women’s World Cup finals history with two minutes remaining in extra time. 

Japan's Homare Sawa won the golden boot award.

<p> Missed opportunities cost the US team their first win in 12 years.</p>
Post date: Sunday, July 17, 2011 - 17:34
All taxonomy terms: Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson, News
Path: /news/casey-anthony-verdict-its-oj-simpson-all-over-again

UPDATE: Casey Anthony was released from prison on June 17, 2011, exactly 366 days (three years plus one day) she was arrested for the murder of her daughter Caylee Anthony. Her controversial acquittal has spawned protests outside the Orange County Jail. People with signs, protestors and just plain gawkers were there to witness her release and yell obscenities. 

She wore a pink shirt and a pair of sweatpants as she walked out of the jailhouse at 12:08 am.

Some of the protestors held signs that ranged from "Casey Will You Marry Me?" to "She Killed Her. Get Over It."

Police on horseback as well as on foot held the crowd back and kept them in check. Casey was not injured or attacked by anyone in the crowd.

Will Casey Anthony need Federal protection? She has received numerous death threats and her fame and notoriety has made her one of the most famous people in America. She can't go anywhere without sticking out like a sore thumb. Will an angry mother or father attempt to bring their own vigilante justice for Caylee by harming Casey? Time will tell. Until then, Casey Anthony is now free to roam the streets, much like OJ Simpson was 16 years ago. And we see where that got him...

How The Casey Anthony Trial is Just Like the OJ Trial...But Worse:

With the news today that Casey Anthony was found not guilty on all major charges of first-degree murder and manslaughter, (she was found guilty of four misdemeanors of lying to police officers) it reminds us of another major criminal trial from the early 90s: The OJ Simpson trial.

In both trials the evidence seemed overwhelming to everyone who wasn't on the jury. OJ had blood and DNA of the victims in his truck, Casey had duct tape, photos of her partying and getting a tattoo of "La Bella Vita" or, "The Good Life" while her daughter was missing.

And in both trials the question still remains unanswered: Who killed the victims?

The Casey Anthony jury deliberated for 11 hours, while the OJ Simpson jury deliberated for only four hours.

And now high-paid attorneys and legal technicalities have won out over common sense.

The main difference between these two trials was that OJ "The Juice" Simpson was one of the greatest college football and pro athletes of all time. He was a hero, which made his fall that much more intriguing to everyone who watched. Now, 16 years later, we are even more enthralled by a woman no one had ever heard of before this trial started. And yet, she seems to have garnered at least as much attention (if not more) as OJ did those many years ago.  

But the fascination with OJ made sense. He was a wealthy star athlete and a movie star. People who didn't know him from sports or movies probably knew him from commercials. And the fact that it was so obvious that he was guilty made his trial a statement on the state of race relations in America, as well as class warfare of the rich vs poor (rich people can get off because they can hire the right attorney. Poor people cannot, so they go to jail.) The social complexities of his trial were hard to untangle.

There was a political and social undercurrent to the OJ trial. Not so with Casey.

But now we've elevated Casey Anthony to superstardom. Partly because we can't believe how someone could go out and party while their child is missing. But we are elevating her more out of horrific fascination. The OJ trial stirred debate amongst strangers. What role does race play in our legal system. What role does money play? There is no discourse on Casey Anthony. The only things people say to each other are "How could she do that?"

The Casey Anthony verdict isn't an indictment on some of the larger issues in our society. Our interest in it is an indictment of ourselves and what we choose to deem important. We aren't learning about the flaws and weaknesses of our legal system, or of the long way we have to come to get equality. We're just watching out of the sheer grotesqueness of the situation. Like rubbernecking at a car accident. Does she deserve the countless hours of TV coverage? No.

But we have more important issues to deal with. Instead of spending so much energy dissecting this trial, the 24-hour news networks would make the world a much better place if they put their resources towards investigative reports on political corruption, global warming and fixing our economy.

As a side note, OJ later wrote a book called "If I Did It" where he wrote how exactly the murder went down...if he did it. Which, apparently he did because there's no other reason for him to write that book. Should we expect a similar book from Casey next year?

For more on the Casey Anthony trial, click here.

And for a look back at the OJ Simpson trial, click here.

<p> The evidence was overwhelming, but both are walking away.</p>
Post date: Sunday, July 17, 2011 - 00:09
All taxonomy terms: J Lo, Marc Anthony, Miami Dolphins, News
Path: /news/marc-anthony-and-j-lo-have-split-are-dolphins-new-dodgers

After seven years of marriage Marc Anthony and J Lo have separated, according to reports.

"We have decided to end our marriage. This was a very difficult decision. We have come to amicable conclusion on all matters," in a released statement. "It is a painful time for all involved, and we appreciate the respect of our privacy at this time."

Why would this matter to a sports site? Have you heard of the Los Angeles Dodgers? With the McCourt divorce almost destroying one of the great franchises in all of sports, there is a little known fact about Marc Anthony: He's a minority owner of the Miami Dolphins. Sure, that's not the same as the Frank and Jamie McCourt situation, because the McCourts were majority owners, but who knows.

Will J Lo come after the Dolphins? If she watched any of their games from the last two years, she's probably be better off taking a house and an extra car or two and leave the languishing Dolphins to Marc.

But what would a J-Lo run Dolphins team look like? Much better sideline dancers, probably. More stylish uniforms would also be in the works. Cristal would be served in all huddles and Brandon Marshall would have to play shirtless (while performing a choreographed dance on poles installed on the 50 yard line.) I also assume coach Tony Sparano would continue to wear his sunglasses indoors (but his mustache would have to go.)

The couple are the parents of three-year-old twins Max and Emme. And are technically the minority owners of Chad Henne.

Dolphins fans pray that your team doesn't get dragged through court and have to go through a check-bouncing ordeal like the LA Dodgers are going through.

<p> The minority owner of the Miami Dolphins separates from his wife.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 17:50
Path: /news/nfl-nflpa-finally-agree-rookie-salary-system

The final hurdle to NFL labor piece may have been cleared Thursday night.

ESPN reported that the league's owners and the NFL Players Association have reached a tentative agreement on a new rookie wage system, which has been said to be the final stumbling block toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

Contracts for first-round picks would be a fixed four years in length, with teams holding options for the fifth year. If the team chooses to exercise that option a year early, after the contract's third year, the fifth-year option salary is guaranteed to the player.

Each rookie would likely receive a standard slotted salary in the first four seasons, and then the option year's wage would depend on the player's draft slot.

The top 10 picks would receive a salary equal to the average of the top 10 salaries at their respective positions. Picks No. 11 through No. 32 would get the average of the Nos. 3 through 25 salaries at their positions.

As an example, let's use the NFL's current poster boy for outperforming the rookie contract, Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson.

Drafted No. 24 in 2008, Johnson would fall into that latter group. The average of running back base salaries No. 3 through 25 in 2009, according to the USA Today Salary Database, was $2,679,833, which would be a marked improvement from the near-league-minimum $385,000 Johnson pulled down that season. Undoubtedly, the Titans would have already exercised Johnson's option, guaranteeing him that money.

For point of comparison, the average of the top 10 running back salaries from that year would be $4,092,940.

Still unknown is the fate of cap maneuvers like option bonuses, which helped Rams QB Sam Bradford, last year's No. 1 draft pick, make an extra $18 million on his rookie contract, or whether first-round picks' contracts will be able to contain roster bonuses.

Signing bonuses aren't likely to go anywhere, and may still be allowed to be quite substantial. NFL rookies will not be able to cry poverty, but they won't be guaranteed $50 million the moment they first set foot in the team complex, either.

--Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 12:07
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/field-dreams-2-nfl-lockout

If you build it, they will come. With no football in sight, Taylor Lautner builds his own field, and Ray Lewis, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Cromartie and many other locked-out NFL stars and actors do indeed come.
<p> Ray Lewis and Tony Gonzalez star in an instant classic from Funny or Die.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 11:32
All taxonomy terms: Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, News
Path: /news/shaq-joins-turner-sports-call-him-big-analytical

Anyone who has been clamoring to hear Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal trade jabs and comments about the NBA will soon have their wildest dreams granted.

Fresh off a retirement that concluded an unquestioned Hall of Fame career, Shaq has signed an agreement to join the Turner Sports team, including the studio show Inside the NBA. Shaq will fill the fourth chair alongside Barkley, Kenny Smith, and host Ernie Johnson, as well as provide content for and occasionally show up on NBA TV.

Placing O'Neal, who's known for occasional verbal outbursts as an interview subject, alongside Barkley, who's never stopped his outbursts as an analyst, could lead to fantastic TV, some of the most entertaining sports coverage ever taped. It could also lead to a flaming trainwreck playing out in the nation's living rooms.

First off, let's remember that Chuck and Shaq once faced off in a memorable fight. All is forgiven now, but wait until someone gets the bright idea to have a re-enactment. A ball comes flying in from offcamera, clocks Shaq in the head, and it's on.

Eh, for that matter, that might be pretty entertaining, and the two of them would almost certainly play it for laughs now.

Okay, what about criticizing former colleagues? Well, Shaq has had his fun with comments about the likes of Greg Ostertag, or at least a Karl Malone dummy in Shaq's hands did ("Glad I'm playin' with a center, that Greg Ostertag was a bum."). And there was also his contentious relationship with the Sacramento "Queens."

So many rookie analysts, however, have difficulties criticizing former teammates. Well, maybe Shaq's already got that problem licked. (Okay, unfortunate choice of words. Right, Kobe?)

You know what? Never mind. It's time to get that new NBA labor deal done, so we can be assured of seeing Shaq and Chuck suited up for Opening Night as soon as possible.

David Stern, free The Big Analytical now.

--Scott Henry (Twitter: @4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 10:04
Path: /columns/5-burning-questions/who-best-quarterback-big-12

Debate: Who is the best quarterback in the Big 12?

Athlon editors Braden Gall and Patrick Snow debate who is the best signal-caller in the Big 12. The three candidates:

Landry Jones, Oklahoma: 4,718 yards, 38 TDs, 12 INTs, 65.6%, minus-128 rush yards, 1 TD
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma St: 4,277 yards, 34 TDs, 13 INTs, 66.9%, minus-68 rush yds
Robert Griffin, Baylor: 3,501 yards, 22 TDs, 8 INT, 66.9%, 635 rush yards, 8 TDs

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): This is a difficult choice in such a quarterback-strong league, but I have to go with Oklahoma’s Landry Jones. Obviously his numbers – 4,718 yards and 38 touchdown passes – were impressive last season, but he also showed much improvement in his poise and confidence as a leader. I think he is ready for a 2008-Sam Bradford-like season where he and his talented teammates make it look easy to light up scoreboards at times.

Jones struggled a little during his 2009 freshman year when he was thrown into the Big 12 fire, but he had a great leap in production as a sophomore. His touchdown passes rose from 26 to 38, and his interceptions decreased (14 to 12) despite throwing 168 more passes. Jones still has his favorite target in All-America receiver Ryan Broyles, and sophomore Kenny Stills looks ready for a breakout season on the other side. Add in tight end James Hanna (seven touchdowns a year ago) and a stable of talented runners, and you see how dangerous Jones and the Oklahoma offense can be in 2011.

Even though they lost DeMarco Murray to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, I believe the Sooners can run the ball better overall as a team this season. Bob Stoops’ bunch only had nine rushes of 20+ yards last season, which tied for 103rd in the country. With four offensive line starters returning and a little more balance on offense, Jones could put up even bigger numbers this season. 

Both Robert Griffin of Baylor and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State are great candidates as well. Griffin is a ton of fun to watch on every play, but the Bears faded down the stretch last year. The Bears’ receiver corps is excellent, but I’m not sure how well they’ll run the ball this season. Weeden still has the uber-athletic Justin Blackmon and a solid offensive line, but I see Oklahoma State having a tough adjustment without Dana Holgorsen coordinating the offense.

In the end, I’ll take Landry Jones of Oklahoma to be the best signal-caller in the Big 12 and lead his team to a league title, top-five ranking and a possible national title.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden): First off, all three of these players — Brandon Weeden, Landry Jones and Robert Griffin — are amazing talents who would start at nearly every other program in the nation. There was a knock-down, drag-out fight in the Athlon Sports office as to who should be the preseason first-team All-Big-12 quarterback. And we likely won't know the answer until mid-December.

That said, how I define the term "best" matters in this case. Jones will likely post the best passing statistics and has the best chance at playing for not only a Big 12 title but also a National Championship. Weeden might be the best passer of the football and, in my opinion, might be the best NFL prospect of the group. He is certainly the most stable of the group as he is turning 28 in October and is married. The scratch golfer who was also a former high draft pick in the MLB draft led the conference in QB efficiency (154.1) a year ago as well. He also has the best wideout in the nation at his disposal in Justin Blackmon.

But there may not be a more valuable player in America than Baylor's Robert Griffin III. He also might be the best pure athlete playing quarterback in the nation as well. Baylor had not been to a bowl game since 1994 until Griffin showed up and led Baylor to its first .500 conference record since 1995. He also helped Baylor beat Texas — albeit a down Longhorns team — for the first time since 1997. There is no doubting his importance to his team. Over the last two seasons, the Bears are 9-7 with Griffin as the starter and 2-7 without him.

Additionally, Griffin is not surrounded by elite athletes like the two Oklahoma schools provide — especially on defense. There are no Travis Lewises or Markelle Martins running around in Waco. There is no question he has dramatically less to work with at Baylor, regardless of the great job Art Briles has done on the recruiting trail. All three of these quarterbacks finished in the top six nationally in total offense, so each produced roughly equal yardage totals a year ago. Imagine what "Bob's" numbers would be if he played behind the Pokes offensive line or with the unbelievable skill talent in Norman.

Jones has thrown 26 interceptions in two years as the starter and has argubaly the best roster in America surrounding him. And Weeden has lost offensive genius play-caller Dana Holgorsen. So my vote goes to the fourth-year dynamo running wild in Waco, Robert Griffin III.

Other Debates:

Will the SEC win its sixth straight BCS National Championship?

Would you rather go to the Red River Shootout or the World's Greatest Outdoor Cocktail Party?

Does an unbeaten Mid-Major program deserve to play for the National Championship?

<p> Who is the best quarterback in the Big 12 this season?</p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 09:53
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/jobs

We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach?

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

1. Texas
Pros: Texas offers the complete package: Great school in a great town with great tradition. Also, it’s located in a state that treats high school football like a religion. One more thing: Texas has its own television network.

Cons: Texas has a ton going for it (see above), but last season’s 5–7 record proved that the program is not immune to losing. And while Texas is a recruiting power, there are three other BCS conference schools in the state, and virtually every other national power dips into Texas to recruit as well.

Final Verdict: It’s easier said than done — just ask David McWilliams and John Mackovic — but everything is in place to win big on a consistent basis at Texas.

2. Florida
Pros: Location. Location. Location. Florida is a public university in a state that produces a tremendous amount of top-flight talent. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium offers one of the best atmospheres in college football, and the fan base is as rabid as there is in the nation.

Cons: Expectations are sky-high at a school that has won two national championships in the past four seasons. If you don’t win — and win big — things can turn ugly very quickly. Just ask Ron Zook.

Final Verdict: Florida presents one of the elite coaching opportunities in college football. You have everything at your disposal to compete for national championships on an annual basis. There is no excuse not to be good at Florida.

3. USC
Pros: The USC coaching staff has the ability to stock its roster with elite talent without ever having to jump on a plane. The program has a rich tradition, but it doesn’t live in the past; the Trojans were dominant in the 2000s, winning seven straight Pac-10 titles (2002-08) and two national championships.

Cons: The Trojans have a great following, but the fan base doesn’t have the same degree of passion that you will find at a top-tier SEC school. Of the top 25 schools in average attendance last season, USC ranked last in percent filled to capacity (85.36).

Final Verdict: USC could very easily be No. 1 on this list. If you’re a West Coast guy, coaching the Trojans is as good as it gets. It’s the best job in the Pac-12 and you are in the most fertile recruiting area in the country.

4. Alabama
Pros: Tradition. With the possible exception of Notre Dame, no school in the country has more tradition than Alabama. The Tide have won 22 SEC championships and (depending on who you ask) 12 national titles. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate and the recruiting base is strong.

Cons: Coaching football at Alabama is arguably the most stressful job in collegiate athletics. It’s takes a certain kind of coach to deal with that type of scrutiny.

Final Verdict: Alabama is unquestionably one of the premier jobs in the nation. The coach who can deal with the demands of the job — like Nick Saban — will win at a very high level in Tuscaloosa.

5. Ohio State
Pros: There are eight FBS schools in Ohio, but there is only one school named The Ohio State University. The Buckeyes have been a consistent force on the field and in recruiting since Woody Hayes took over in the early 1950s.

Cons: Expectations are extremely high in Columbus. Consider the case of John Cooper: In 13 seasons, Cooper went 111–43–4, winning 10 games or more five times. But he went 2–10–1 against Michigan and lost his job after the 2000 season.

Final Verdict: Everything is in place to win a national championship at Ohio State. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate, and the recruiting base is outstanding. Just don’t lose to Michigan.

6. Oklahoma
Pros: Oklahoma has been a dominant force in college football dating back to the late 1930s. The program has consistently been able to dip into Texas and steal more than its share of elite players on an annual basis. The new-look Big 12, with no Nebraska and no conference title game, offers an easier path to a national championship for OU.

Cons: The state does not produce enough talent to stock the Sooners’ roster with the type of players needed to compete for championship. Recruiting at a high level out of state is a must.

Final Verdict: Not every coach has won big at Oklahoma — John Blake went 8–16 in three seasons (1996-98) — but it is clearly one of the marquee jobs in the nation. Winning a national championship is well within your reach.

7. Florida State
Pros: You can make the argument that Florida State offers all of the positives of Florida without the brutal competition of the SEC East. Would you rather battle Clemson, NC State and Boston College or Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina every year? 

Cons: Florida State has a nice following, but its fans can be on the fickle side. Two years ago, with the Seminoles’ mired in another un-FSU-like season, there were between 10,000 and 20,000 empty seats at Doak Campbell Stadium on more than one occasion.Also, the ACC has been relatively weak in recent seasons; an undefeated ACC champ might not automatically play for a national title.

Final Verdict: Florida State enjoyed an unbelievable run of success from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. But the Noles lost five games or more four times from 2006-10. Winning is no longer automatic.

8. Georgia
Pros: Georgia has tremendous tradition and is located in arguably the finest college town in America — Athens. The Peach State might not produce talent at the same rate as Florida, Texas or California, but metro Atlanta is always strong, and small towns such as Columbus, Valdosta and Warner Robins consistently produce elite talent.

Cons: There are really no negatives to be found at Georgia, other than the fact that you are competing in the very difficult SEC East and you have a fan base that demands you win at a high level.

Final Verdict: Georgia is a great situation, but you clearly have to have the right guy in place to win big. After Vince Dooley won the third of three straight SEC crowns in 1982, the Bulldogs went nearly two decades — and went through two more coaches — before their next league title, won by Mark Richt in 2002.

9. LSU
Pros: It’s become a bit of a cliché, but there really is nothing like being in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night in the fall. That environment is one reason the Tigers are able to recruit so well. The other? The state of Louisiana is arguably the most underrated talent producer in the nation.

Cons: LSU has so much going for it, but why have so many coaches failed to win at a high level in Baton Rouge? From 1971 though 2000, the Tigers only won one outright SEC championship, in 1986 under Bill Arnsparger.

Final Verdict: It’s hard to find a reason why LSU would not be a desirable coaching position. Sure the competition is tough and the fans are demanding, but that comes with the territory. The school has won two national titles in the past eight seasons.

10. Penn State
Pros: Penn State is an enormous state university in an extremely fertile recruiting area. The Nittany Lions play in the second-largest facility in the country (Beaver Stadium, capacity 107,282), and they have won two national championships in the past 30 years.

Cons: Only one man has served as the head coach at Penn State since 1966. Every coach that follows will have to deal with Joe Paterno’s legacy.

Final Verdict: Coaching Penn State is a tremendous opportunity for any coach, but don’t dismiss the Paterno factor. Alabama is on its seventh coach since Bear Bryant retired in 1982.

11. Michigan
Pros: Michigan has as much tradition as any school in the country. The Wolverines have been a national power since the 1890s and they play in one of the largest venues in the country, 109,901-seat, newly renovated Michigan Stadium. The program’s success and the school’s academic reputation have allowed Michigan to be a major player in recruiting both in the Midwest and nationally.

Cons: Michigan is an old-school program that is very set in its ways. A coach who comes in with a new philosophy — for example, Rich Rodriguez — will have a tough time being accepted.

Final Verdict: Michigan is no doubt an elite job, but as we have seen in the past few seasons — Rodriguez won a total of 15 games in three years — you have to be the right fit to win big in Ann Arbor.

12. Notre Dame
Pros: Notre Dame has three unique advantages compared to almost every school in the country — a national following, its own television contract and an unparalleled history that includes 11 consensus national titles.

Cons: Notre Dame has struggled to compete at an elite level in the BCS era. The Irish are 91–67 dating back to 1998 with an unthinkable six non-winning seasons. The school’s relatively high academic standards can make recruiting more challenging. Also, Notre Dame lacks the home-state recruiting territory of other national powers. Indiana is not great state for high school football.

Final Verdict: Notre Dame might not be the same job it was 20 years ago, but this is still a great situation for the right coach. You can win a national title with the Fighting Irish.

13. Oregon
Pros: As long as Phil Knight and the University of Oregon remain in good graces, this program will be blessed with tremendous financial resources. The Nike founder and former Oregon track athlete has donated over $100 million to the school’s athletic department. In addition, the Ducks have a tremendous home field advantage at 54,00-seat Autzen Stadium, regarded as the most raucous atmosphere in the Pac-12.

Cons: Right now, it’s difficult to find many good reasons why the head coaching position at Oregon would not be attractive. The school does lack tradition, but the Ducks have averaged 8.7 wins per season since 1994.

Final Verdict: Ten or 15 years ago, Oregon wouldn’t be nearly as high on this list, but Knight’s money and Mike Bellotti’s recruiting transformed this program in the 2000s. It is now clearly one of the top 20 most-desirable positions in the country.

14. Miami
Pros: With the possible exception of USC and UCLA, no school in the country has a better local recruiting base. And while the Canes have struggled in recent years, the program won a national championship as recently as 2001 and played for a title in ’02.

Cons: Miami has the smallest fan base of the top 25 teams on this list. Last season, the Canes ranked 39th in the nation in attendance, averaging 52,575 per game at 75,540-seat Sun Life Stadium. The facility is 20 miles from campus and lacks the big-time college football atmosphere.

Final Verdict: Miami is an intriguing job. The recruiting base is outstanding — which gives you a great opportunity to win — but the position lacks many of the other qualities that make coaching at a big-time school so attractive.

15. UCLA
Pros: UCLA shares the same built-in recruiting advantages as its cross-town rival USC, and the Bruins have the upper hand as far as on-campus facilities (newer, bigger weight room). The 2000s were relatively lean, but UCLA won or shared three Pac-10 titles in the 1990s and four in the ‘80s.

Cons: Life can be tough when you are forced to share a city with one of the elite programs in the nation. And while the Rose Bowl is a beautiful place to play, the facility is 30 miles from campus.

Final Verdict: The Pac-12 is a very good league, but USC is the only program that has proven it can sustain success (though Oregon is getting close). The right coach can have this program in contention for conference titles on a consistent basis.

16. Tennessee
Pros: Who wouldn’t want to recruit to picturesque Neyland Stadium, with its 100,000-plus orange-clad zealots cheering on the Vols each week? And while Tennessee has struggled a bit in recent years, the program enjoyed tremendous success in the not-too-distant past. From 1989-2001, the Vols went 80–20–1 in the SEC and claimed four league titles. During that span, they were ranked in the final top 10 of the AP poll seven times.

Cons: The Vols must recruit nationally because the state of Tennessee does not produce enough BCS conference players to stock the school’s roster. This is not a concern for UT’s chief SEC rivals Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and Alabama.

Final Verdict: Tennessee is a great place to coach, but the Vols have slipped down the SEC food chain over the past decade. Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and Alabama are clearly better jobs right now.

17. Nebraska
Pros: Strong tradition. Amazing facilities. Passionate fans. Those three things don’t guarantee success, but they are a nice place to start. The Big Ten Legends Division has some good programs — Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State — but Nebraska should be in position to compete for a division title on an annual basis.

Cons: The Huskers won three national titles in the 1990s, but the program slipped a bit over the past decade. The state of Nebraska does not produce many high-end BCS conference players each year, and the program no longer has the sex-appeal to steal elite players from the East Coast like it did in the 1970s and 80s.

Final Verdict: Nebraska is a unique coaching position. You have everything in place to win big — except a local recruiting base. How big is that hurdle? Significant but not insurmountable. The Huskers are no longer a top 10 job but still very desirable.

18. Auburn
Pros: Auburn and Georgia are the only two schools in the SEC with at least five winning conference seasons in each of the past four decades. Clearly, this program can be a consistent winner in the nation’s most difficult conference.

Cons: Auburn is a state school with a great following, but it will always be No. 2 in Alabama behind the Crimson Tide from Tuscaloosa.

Final Verdict: If your ego can handle being the second most important coach in the state, then Auburn can be a destination job. The school — with its fine tradition, strong facilities and outstanding recruiting base — has proven over time that it can compete on a national level. The Tigers, after all, are the defending national champs.

19. Texas A&M
Pros: Texas A&M’s facilities are among the very best in the nation. Kyle Field is a bit on the old side and it could use some renovations for fan amenities, but as far as the facilities for recruiting — football complex in the south end zone, the indoor practice facility — A&M has very few rivals. The Aggies also have one of the most spirited student sections in college football.

Cons: Despite Texas’ surprising setback last season (5–7 record), Texas A&M will have a difficult time being anything but the third best program in the Big 12.

Final Verdict: Texas A&M is a very intriguing position. It has everything you would want in a job — great facilities, strong following, tremendous recruiting base — but the competition in the Big 12 is fierce. If you win at A&M, you will have earned it.

20. Virginia Tech
Pros: Virginia Tech has a very strong (and underrated) recruiting base, most notably the Hampton Roads-Tidewater area — better known as the ‘757’ by recruiting gurus. The Hokies also have a passionate fan base that creates a tremendous environment at Lane Stadium.

Cons: The school has only been relevant on the national scene under Frank Beamer’s watch. Can another coach recreate the magic?

Final Verdict: Virginia Tech isn’t quite college football royalty, but it’s not far off. The Hokies have won 10 games in seven straight seasons and in 10 of the past 12. You can win a national title in Blacksburg.

21. Washington
Pros: This is a proud program with great tradition. The Huskies won a national title in 1991 and claimed at least a share of five Pac-10 titles from 1990-2000. UW is in a great city (Seattle) and has an SEC-like following when things are going well.

Cons: The school has addressed the program’s only significant weakness — facilities — with the impending $250 renovation to Husky Stadium. Washington’s in-state recruiting base is solid but lags significantly behind the four California teams in the Pac-12.

Final Verdict: The past decade has proven that it can be difficult to win at Washington. But this is still a very good job. Is it a great job? Not anymore. But it is still a prestigious program that can attract elite talent. You can win at UW.

22. Clemson
Pros: Clemson is an SEC-like school that has the luxury of playing an ACC schedule. The fans are rabid, the stadium is huge (capacity 80,301), and unlike many its ACC brethren, Clemson is a football school.

Cons: Clemson seemingly has so much going for it, yet the program hasn’t won a league title since 1991. If you are a coach interested in the job, you’d have ask yourself the following question: Why is this program a chronic underachiever?

Final Analysis: Clemson presents a great opportunity. The program is a major player in the recruiting game, and it has so many built-in advantages compared to almost every school in the league. The Tigers are a snoozing giant in the ACC.

23. West Virginia
Pros: West Virginia is the most SEC-like of the Big East schools. There are no pro sports to share the spotlight with in the Mountain State; the Mountaineers are the game in town. And while the Big East takes its share of abuse, the league offers the easiest path to a BCS game — and BCS money — on an annual basis.

Cons: Under the current landscape, it is going to be difficult for a Big East team to play for a national title. A team like West Virginia would have to go undefeated and even then, the Mountaineers would have a tough time beating out a one-loss SEC or Big 12 team in the BCS standings.

Final Verdict: West Virginia is the best job in a BCS league, which makes it attractive. But the relatively low national profile of the Big East prevents it from being an elite job.

24. Oklahoma State
Pros: T. Boone Pickens is a very wealthy man, and he’s a big fan of Oklahoma State football. As a result, the Cowboys boast some of the best facilities in the nation. And these facilities help the O-State coaches tap into a fertile recruiting ground in nearby Texas.

Cons: Since Oklahoma State joined the Big Eight in 1960, the Cowboys have finished ahead of Oklahoma four times. And in those rare cases when Oklahoma State is having the better season — like 2009 — the Pokes still have to deal with the mighty Texas Longhorns. The moral of the story? The competition in the Big 12 is almost insurmountable.

Final Verdict: In a vacuum, Oklahoma State would be a wonderful place to coach, but if you have your sights set on competing for a national title, Stillwater might not be the place for you. There’s a reason the school has only won one conference title since the mid-1950s.

25. Wisconsin
Pros: Wisconsin has been transformed into a football school over the past two decades. Badger faithful pack 80,321-seat Camp Randall Stadium each week and create one the best environments in the nation. Madison also is a great place to live.

Cons: The school’s local recruiting base isn’t strong; the state has not produced a national top-100 player in the past four seasons. Also, the Badgers have only been relevant on the national scene since the early 1990s. Wisconsin lacks the tradition of many of its Big Ten rivals.

Final Verdict: Barry Alvarez turned Wisconsin from a Big Ten afterthought to a significant player in college football. But the Badgers’ place as a top program is far from secure. Wisconsin, more than most of the other schools ranked in the top 25 on this list, needs the right coach in place to remain successful.

26. South Carolina
Pros: South Carolina is home to arguably the most loyal fans in the nation. What other program has routinely filled an 80,000-seat stadium while averaging only six wins per season over the last two decades? In addition, the facilities are great, and the recruiting base is strong.

Cons: It’s one of the big mysteries in college football: Why can’t South Carolina win more consistently in the SEC? Since joining the league in 1992, the Gamecocks are 59–92–1 in conference games, with a high water mark of 5–3 on four separate occasions.

Final Verdict: South Carolina broke through with its first SEC East title in 2010, but the Gamecocks only went 5–3 in a down year in the division. The program still needs to prove it has staying power.

27. Michigan State
Pros: Michigan State seemingly has everything in place to be a major player in the Big Ten — great fan support (averaged 73,556 per game in ’10), good facilities, strong recruiting base and decent tradition.

Cons: Despite all of the positives listed above, Michigan State has only won one Big Ten title — last season — in two decades and has only averaged 5.7 wins in the 44 seasons since claiming a share of the 1966 national championship. Also, there’s the Michigan thing: No matter how much success the Spartans enjoy, they will always be the second school in the state behind Michigan.

Final Verdict: Michigan State is a chronic underachiever and will never be the No. 1 program in its own state. Still, it’s a good job. If you can change the culture in East Lansing — which every coach believes he can do — there is no reason Michigan State can’t contend for Big Ten titles on a semi-regular basis.

28. North Carolina
Pros: The school is an easy sell for a recruiter: It’s is one of the premier public institutions in the nation, and its location, in picturesque Chapel Hill, is ideal. UNC has also made a huge financial commitment to football in the past decade.

Cons: North Carolina is — and always will be — a basketball school. That is something that every football coach must accept. And while the school has enjoyed pockets of success, it’s been difficult to win consistently at UNC. Since Mack Brown bolted for Texas after the 1997 season, the Tar Heels have averaged 3.3 ACC wins.

Final Verdict: North Carolina’s lack of success over the years might surprise even a knowledgeable college football fan. The Tar Heels have not won an ACC Championship since 1980 and have not strung together back-to-back winning ACC seasons since the mid-1990s. Still, this is a desirable position for a coach. It’s a great school that has made a strong commitment to the football program.

29. Iowa
Pros: Three key elements make Iowa an attractive job — it’s the top school in the state (sorry, Iowa State), it has a strong tradition of excellence (five Big Ten titles since 1981, two BCS bowls since ‘03) and it has great fan support (70,585 per game in ’10).

Cons: Iowa might be the top dog in the state, but the hunting grounds aren’t very fertile. To remain competitive, the Hawkeyes’ staff will always have to go into other teams’ home states to recruit.

Final Verdict: It’s difficult for a school that doesn’t have a strong local recruiting base to compete for national title. It can be done — Nebraska won three titles in the 1990s — but that is a very big hurdle to climb.

30. Arkansas
Pros: Newly renovated Reynolds Razorback Stadium — with its 76,000 seats and 30x107-foot LED video screen — is one of the most underrated venues in the nation. Arkansas is the only BCS program in the state, giving the school an advantage in recruiting homegrown talent.

Cons: The Hogs have found it tough to win consistently since bolting the Southwest Conference for the SEC in the early 1990s. Arkansas is 72–78–2 in the SEC and has failed to have a winning league record in back-to-back seasons

Final Analysis: Arkansas is quite similar to South Carolina and Ole Miss — solid programs that can’t seem to get over the hump in a great league. It’s a good job, but it’s not a destination job for a coach with national title aspirations.

31. Ole Miss
Pros: Historically, Mississippi produces as many Division I prospects per capita as any state in the nation. There is plenty of competition for these recruits (Mississippi State, Alabama, LSU, etc.), but a good coach will be able to keep the Rebels stocked with solid talent. Support for Rebel football is also very strong; the Rebs averaged 55,898 per game in 2010. Also, Ole Miss’ facilities have improved tremendously in the past five years.

Cons: You have to go back to the early 1960s to find a time in which Ole Miss was a major player in the SEC. The Rebels haven’t won a league title since 1963, and they are only team in the West that has not played in an SEC Championship Game. Also, Mississippi State’s recent uptick under Dan Mullen has made life a bit more difficult for Ole Miss.

Final Analysis: Ole Miss has made the commitment to its football program, but it takes more than a commitment to beat out Alabama, Auburn and LSU on a consistent basis. The Rebels had arguably their most talented team in several decades in 2009 yet still failed to finish with a winning record in the SEC.

32. TCU
Pros: TCU is located in the heart of the most fertile recruiting area in the country. The Horned Frogs should bring in one of the top two classes in the Big East on an annual basis. Speaking of the Big East: TCU’s access to a BCS bowl will become much easier after it moves to its new league in 2012. 

Cons: Despite fielding one of the top teams in college football the past two seasons, TCU has not been an overwhelming hit at the box office. Attendance is up, but last year, the Frogs still only ranked 56th in the nation in average attendance (42,466). What will happen to the program’s support if it slips out of the top 25?

Final Verdict: Perhaps no school other than Boise State has improved its national profile in the past 5-10 years as much as TCU. The school is heading back to a Big Six power conference after spending the past 16 years bouncing around the mid-major ranks (WAC to C-USA to MWC). This is not an elite job — TCU will always take a back seat to Texas, Texas A&M and even Texas Tech in its own state — but it’s a much better opportunity for a coach than it was 10 years ago.

33. Pittsburgh
Pros: Pittsburgh is located in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, which gives the Panthers the best recruiting base of any Big East program other than South Florida. The school also shares its football facility with the Pittsburgh Steelers — which can be a positive (NFL influence) or negative (no on-campus stadium).

Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Pitt over the past three decades. The Panthers have only had a winning record in 14 of the 29 seasons since Jackie Sherrill bolted.

Final Verdict: Former coach Dave Wannstedt proved that you can attract talent to play at Pittsburgh. But it’s a school with a ceiling. The Panthers should be a consistent winner in the Big East, but can you win a national title? Not likely.

34. California
Pros: Cal is one of the premier public institutions in the nation located in a great area, giving the Bears a recruiting edge against most of the other schools in the Pac-12. The school is also located in the fertile recruiting area of Northern California. And the facilities, long time an issue at the school, are about to receive a major upgrade.

Cons: The school is following through on the new facilities — it has already broken ground on a new athletic center — and Memorial Stadium is being upgraded, which has turned a negative into a positive. One word of caution, however: The Bears have had trouble winning consistently; they have two Pac-12 titles (none outright) since 1958.

Final Verdict: Cal is an intriguing job. There is a lot to like, but there are certain drawbacks. You can win in Berkeley, but the culture of the university will likely prevent the football program from ever reaching elite status.

35. Colorado
Pros: Colorado lacks the tradition of some of the Pac-12 powers, but this program has enjoyed strong pockets of success over the past 25 years. The Buffs won three Big Eight championships in a row from 1989-91 (along with a national title in ’90), and they won four Big 12 North titles in the 2000s. With the right coach in place, this is a school that will attract quality players.

Cons: The facilities at Colorado lag behind most BCS conference schools, and the school’s commitment to athletics has been questioned in recent years. Also, the CU fans can be fickle; Folsom Field (53,750) has rarely been filled to capacity over the past few seasons.

Final Analysis: Three different coaches have won 10 games in a season since 1990, so it’s possible to win big at Colorado. But until the school makes a significant commitment to the program, CU cannot be considered an elite job.

36. South Florida
Pros: South Florida has a tremendous local recruiting base and is a member of the conference with the least resistance to a BCS bowl. The Bulls have an outstanding track record in their brief history; they only have one losing season in 10 years as a member of the FBS, and they have averaged 8.4 wins over the past five seasons.

Cons: South Florida lacks tradition and does not have an on-campus stadium. The Bulls play their home games 15 miles from campus. And while the recruiting base is strong, South Florida will always have a tough time beating out the Big Three — Florida, Florida State and Miami — for top prospects.

Final Verdict: Many view South Florida as an emerging national power. The school does have a ton of potential, but it is difficult to get overly excited about a program that is the fourth-most relevant program in its own state ­— even if that state is Florida.

37. Utah
Pros: Prior to its move to the Pac-12, Utah had emerged as one of the few non-BCS conference teams that was able to compete on the national scene. The Utes have averaged 9.9 wins over the past eight years, highlighted by two perfect seasons punctuated by BCS bowl wins. Utah should get a big boost in recruiting now that it’s a member of the Pac-12, and the fact that the Utes are in the same division as USC and UCLA should help attract players from Southern California.

Cons: The move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 — and inclusion into the BCS — eliminated the No. 1 negative for this program. But while the access to a BCS bowl is now easier (through conference affiliation), the path is more difficult because of the strength of the Pac-12.

Final Verdict: You can make a strong argument that no school benefitted more from the recent conference realignment. The Utes have elevated the profile of their program and have put themselves in position to be a significant factor on the national scene in the next decade.

38. BYU
Pros: BYU has been one of the most consistent winners in college football over the past four decades. Since 1973, the Cougars have only had three losing seasons — all in the 2000s under Gary Crowton — and they have a national title (1984) on their resume. The school’s LDS Church affiliation gives it an inside track to land the elite Mormon recruits from all over the country.

Cons: The recruiting pool, while national to some degree, is somewhat limited at BYU; the school has trouble attracting black players. BYU’s decision to bolt the Mountain West and become an Independent is a bit risky.

Final Verdict: BYU is a unique position. For the right coach, it’s a great job. You can win a bunch of games in Provo, but it remains to be seen if the Cougars can become a national player as one of only four FBS independent schools.

39. Missouri
Pros: Missouri has an underrated recruiting base. There is a solid crop of instate talent every year, and Mizzou does a decent job landing players from Texas and Illinois.

Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Missouri. Dating back to the days of the Big Eight, the Tigers have only had five winning seasons in league play since 1983. Also, the new-look Big 12 will make Missouri’s schedule more challenging; the Tigers will now have to face Oklahoma and Texas every season.

Final Verdict: Missouri is a good job — but not a great job. You can average eight wins per season and go to decent bowl games, but the Tigers aren’t much of a threat to contend for Big 12 titles more than once every five or six years.

40. Arizona State
Pros: The Sun Devils have made a significant investment in their facilities in recent years, with an indoor practice bubble and new weight and locker rooms. Arizona State has won three Pac-12 titles in its 30-plus years in the league (1986, ’96 and ’07). Oh, we can’t forget about the weather.

Cons: The facilities are outstanding, but Sun Devil Stadium needs an upgrade. And while the school has experienced pockets of success (three league titles), the Devils have strung together back-to-back winning Pac-10 seasons only once since John Cooper bolted in 1987.

Final Verdict: Arizona State offers a pretty good situation for a school without a strong local recruiting base. The weather is great and the tradition is good enough. USC will always be the No. 1 job in the league, but with the right coach in place, ASU can be a consistent force in the Pac-12.

41. Arizona
Pros: Arizona has never been a Pac-10 power, but the school has more than held its own for much of its 32 years in the league. The Wildcats had 11 winning Pac-10 seasons in a 13-year stretch from 1982-94. Good coaches have shown the ability to attract talent to Tucson.

Cons: The facilities at Arizona lag behind most of the other schools in the league. There are plans to upgrade, but until those plans become a reality, this will be an issue in recruiting.

Final Verdict: Being a good recruiter is obviously important at every school, but it is of paramount importance at Arizona. The school is without many of the built-in advantages (tradition, top facilities, etc.) that exist at some of the Pac-12 programs, so you have to convince players to come to Arizona for reasons other than the weather.

42. Boise State
Pros: Boise State has dominated its league like no other school in the nation over the past decade. The Broncos won at least a share of the WAC eight times in the last 10 years and have averaged over 10 wins per season since 1999. The school has also been able to crash the BCS party two times in the past five seasons.

Cons: The move from the WAC to the Mountain West is a plus, but the Broncos are still not in a BCS conference. Winning a national title is possible, but not likely, at Boise State.

Final Verdict: With its blue turf and its deep bag of trick plays, Boise State has created a brand for itself on the college football landscape. This is a cozy job for someone not interested in all of the perks that come with coaching in a BCS conference.

43. Georgia Tech
Pros: Georgia is annually one of the top talent-producing states in the nation, giving the Yellow Jackets’ staff an opportunity to land quality recruiting classes despite the fact that the University of Georgia is the top Dawg in the state. Tech has also proven over time that it can win consistently in the ACC; the Jackets have been .500 or better in league play in 16 straight seasons.

Cons: Georgia Tech will always be the second most popular program in its own city, which is probably more of a problem for the school’s fans than its players and coaches. The male-to-female ratio (about 2-to-1) at the school can’t help recruiting, either.

Final Verdict: Georgia Tech might not come to mind when you think about some of the top programs in the nation, but this is a solid football school with underrated tradition. It’s been proven that you can win titles — both ACC (2009, 1998, 1990) and national (1990).

44. Louisville
Pros: Louisville has solid facilities and is in a good spot geographically to consistently attract top recruits. Kentucky is not a great talent producer, but Louisville can recruit Ohio and Illinois due to its proximity to those states and has always done a good job recruiting Florida.

Cons: The school lacks football tradition and doesn’t have the fan base that most of the other schools have ranked in the top 50 of this list. When the Cards are good, they draw well. But two years ago, in the final season of the Steve Kragthrope era, they ranked 71st in the nation in attendance, averaging 32,540 per game.

Final Verdict: Like many of the schools in the Big East, Louisville is only as good as its coach. Bobby Petrino won big in his four years. Kragthorpe flopped in his three seasons. With the right fit, Louisville competes for league titles.

45. Texas Tech
Pros: Texas Tech has been one of the most consistent programs in college football over the past 20 years. The Red Raiders have been .500 or better in league play — SWC and Big 12 — 22 times in the past 25 seasons. The school has recently invested in the program with an $84 million renovation to Jones AT&T Stadium.

Cons: While the program has managed to remain competitive, winning titles has been very difficult in Lubbock. The school has not won an outright conference title since 1955, when it claimed its third straight Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. Also, recruiting to Lubbock — the outpost of the Big 12 South — can be a bit difficult.

Final Verdict: Texas Tech might be the fourth most attractive job in its own state, but it’s still a very good program that has proven it can’t remain relevant in the Big 12.

46. Virginia
Pros: Virginia is great school in a great college town, and the state consistently produces a high number of BCS level recruits.

Cons: The school has a surprisingly bad track record in football. George Welsh had a nice run in the 1980s and 90s, but other than that, the Cavaliers have had a tough time fielding a consistently competitive program. UVa has won a total of two championships (both shared) in its 56 years in the ACC. Recruiting can also be tough at Virginia, based on the school’s relatively tough academic standards.

Final Verdict: This school should be able to be consistently competitive in the ACC. Other than its lack of tradition, everything is seemingly in place to elevate the profile of this program.

47. Illinois
Pros: Illinois’ local recruiting base — from Chicago down into St. Louis — is among the best in the Big Ten. The facilities (weight room, practice facility, locker rooms, etc.) are strong, and the stadium recently received a $200 million upgrade.

Cons: Basketball is — and will always be — the top sport at Illinois. Football, for whatever reason, has never been much of a threat to break into the upper echelon of the league. Also, the fan support at Illinois isn’t as strong as the top programs in the Big Ten.

Final Verdict: Despite being the fifth most populous state, Illinois checks in No. 8 in our list of the Big Ten’s most attractive coaching positions. There is a lot to like about the job, but there are also reasons why the school has only won three Big Ten titles (two outright) since the early 1960s.

48. Rutgers
Pros: Rutgers’ location affords the coaching staff the opportunity to stock its entire roster with local talent. The facilities have been upgraded in recent years, most notably the $102 million expansion to Rutgers Stadium. Also, being just over 30 miles from New York City — the media capital of the world — can’t hurt.

Cons: The school has almost no tradition; prior to the mid-2000s, the program was irrelevant. And while support for Rutgers football has grown in recent years, pro sports will always be No. 1 in the metropolitan area.

Final Verdict: Long considered the sleeping giant on the East Coast, Rutgers has emerged as a consistent winner in the Big East. Whether or not this is a true destination job is up for debate, but it’s clear that you can win a bunch of games and go to bowl games at Rutgers.

49. Stanford
Pros: Stanford offers the best combination of elite academics (top 5 in U.S. News & World Report) and big-time college football. The school’s outstanding reputation allows the staff to recruit nationally.

Cons: Sustained success has been tough to achieve on The Farm; Stanford hasn’t had three straight winning seasons since the late-1970s. The school’s strict academic standards — even for athletes — shrinks the recruiting pool considerably.

Final Verdict: Stanford is not for everybody, but it is a great job for a coach who embraces the school’s mission. The Cardinal struggled for much of the 2000s, but this is a program that can be a factor in the Pac-12 on a regular basis.

50. North Carolina State
Pros: The facilities at NC State are arguably the finest in the ACC. The spectacular Murphy Center, a football-only building, houses coaches’ offices, the weight room and dining area for the players, among other things. The school’s recruiting base, the Carolinas and Virginia, is strong.

Cons: The school doesn’t have a strong record of success. NC State hasn’t won an ACC title since 1979 and has had only six winning league seasons since 1990.

Final Verdict: This program has underachieved over the past decade. Everything is in place — facilities, fan support, recruiting base — to be a consistent winner in the ACC.

Other Program Ranking Content:
Ranking the College Football Jobs 120-51

Ranking the Jobs in the ACC
Ranking the Jobs in the Big East

Ranking the Jobs in the Big Ten

Ranking the Jobs in the Big 12

Ranking the Jobs in the Pac-12

Ranking the Jobs in the SEC

<p> Which jobs in college football are the most attractive for a free agent coach? Athlon ranks the jobs, considering traditions, facilities, location and money.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/pressure-mark-richt

by Gentry Estes

Mark Richt has averaged 9.6 wins in his 10 years at Georgia. His SEC record is a sparkling 53-27. He's won or shared four SEC East titles. And he's squarely on the hot seat. 
Moments after an ugly season ended with an uglier performance, the weather caught up. Rain poured, bringing thunder, lightning and flash floods on an unseasonably warm New Year’s Eve in downtown Memphis.
It seemed fitting, given Georgia’s mood as the loser of the 2010 Liberty Bowl.
“2010 is over. 2011 is upon us,” coach Mark Richt said in the soggy aftermath. “I think everybody’s looking forward to that.”
That new year has arrived, bringing opportunity for Georgia either to redeem its reputation or replace its coach. While the gloom of 2010 was temporarily shielded by an impressive recruiting class and facility upgrades, the importance of the 2011 season isn’t lost on anyone associated with Georgia’s football program. Richt’s shaky footing has gradually become the elephant in the room around a program he elevated in the past decade. 
The Bulldogs had gone nearly two decades without a conference title and had reached 10 wins only 12 times in their 108-year history when Richt arrived from Florida State’s staff after the 2000 season. Less than six years ago, Richt celebrated a second Southeastern Conference championship in a four-season span. Less than four years ago, Richt won the Sugar Bowl with a 41–10 rout of Hawaii and followed it up with a 10-win season, his sixth at UGA.
Richt has served for 10 largely successful seasons and been loyal to the Bulldogs, always waving away speculation and reports of other schools’ interest by saying “Georgia is my home.” On the strength of his body of work, his 14–12 record the past two years ­wasn’t enough to sink the dean of SEC coaches. Neither was an embarrassing rash of off-the-field issues that featured 11 total player arrests in 2010, although such trouble may be as damaging for Richt as the losses. UGA president Michael Adams called for change in September, saying of the problems: “We’ve had too much in the football team.”
From start to finish, the 2010 season wasn’t kind to Georgia. The NCAA’s four-game suspension of star receiver A.J. Green for selling a game jersey helped trigger a 1–4 start. Though the Bulldogs did squeak into a bowl game by beating rival Georgia Tech, they didn’t reach the end zone in a 10–6 defeat against UCF in Memphis that featured a lack of energy and enthusiasm on Georgia’s sideline. The defeat also meant a 6–7 record and the program’s first losing season since 1996.
“We feel as a team that we have a lot to prove this year,” senior receiver Israel Troupe says. “Having a losing season last year was not acceptable to us as a team and to the Bulldog Nation, and we’re trying to correct that this year.”
“Last season certainly was not anywhere close to what we expected or what we expect here,” Richt says. “It was certainly well below the standard of what Georgia football is all about. I understand that as much as anybody. I’m not happy with the way things went, but I do think in the process of going through what we went through, we’ll be better for it in 2011. … We’re not very far away from having the type of success that we want. But we’ve got to get it done. That’s what this offseason is going to be about. You want to review the past so you don’t repeat anything that might bite you later on in the future, but you can’t sit there and wallow in it.”
A new year is carrying a new sense of urgency, reflecting both the season’s make-or-break nature and the schedule’s opening opponents. This year’s Sept. 3 opening-weekend game in the Georgia Dome brings Boise State to face Georgia. The following weekend, the Bulldogs host defending SEC East champ South Carolina. 
“I think everybody knows that we cannot be a team that’s just kind of getting their act together Game 1,” Richt says. “We have to be in midseason form.”
There isn’t a demand for a firm number of wins being issued by first-year athletics director Greg McGarity, but it’s clear that Richt must reverse the recent trend and get Georgia back into the championship hunt.
“Improvement in all areas,” McGarity says. “We want to see improvement in discipline. We want to see improvement in leadership. We want a passionate team. We want every member of our staff — regardless of what sport it is — to be passionate about being here. We want individuals that are invested in our program, that want to do everything it takes to get to the next level.”
In the months since the Liberty Bowl, Richt has tried to scratch where it itches, and he has gotten some assistance from the university. McGarity took over some of Richt’s administrative duties with the program, saying that, “Mark had his hands in so many things that it was almost impossible to focus really on the Xs and Os of the game.”
Conditions were less than ideal for Georgia in 2010, because many of the team’s daily activities — like position meetings and treatment for injuries — were done in temporary trailers. The football program, in general, was in transition because of an ongoing $39.5 million expansion to its headquarters, the Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.
“A lot of stuff you couldn’t do in the trailers, of course,” senior cornerback Brandon Boykin says. “It’s tough not having a facility you can go to whenever you want to. After a game, you might be sore and you can’t really get to the cold tub like you want to. You’ve got to wait. All those little things really do add up.”
Most expansion work is now completed, and Georgia’s 2011 team will have the advantages of being housed in a state-of-the-art facility where basically everything off the field is brand new.
On the field, Richt’s belief is that Georgia’s football team generally hasn’t been physical enough. So the lone staff change initiated by Richt was to promote assistant strength coach and video coordinator Joe Tereshinski to head strength coach, bumping aside veteran Dave Van Halanger, the Dawgs’ strength coach during Richt’s entire tenure.
Richt sought an approach he deemed to be “old-school,” which meant that Tereshinski would employ a more stringent workout and nutrition regimen in addition to a change in practice routine. Judging by weights issued by Georgia’s team, the result has generally been a gain in weight for playing during the offseason months.
Richt blamed himself for practices not being tough enough in the recent past, basically because of his own reluctance to tempt injury. This past spring, Richt orchestrated full-scale 11-on-11 practices with lots of hitting, enough to cause multiple concussions and leave nearly two-dozen players out at one time or another with injury. 
“My goal this spring was to make sure that we’re a physical football team,” Richt says, “and we are a team that’s going to get after it every time we put the pads on and snap up our chinstrap. And I’ve seen that. They have really competed well.”
Other SEC Content:
<p> After finishing with a disappointing 6-7 record last year, Mark Richt enters 2011 on the hot seat.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 07:18
All taxonomy terms: Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods, News
Path: /news/elin-nordegren-over-tiger-dating-billionaire

Elin Nordegren, Tiger Woods' ex-wife has apparently gotten over her ordeal with her cheating husband. Well, at least she's dating again. And if poetic justice is worth anything, it looks like she's emerged from the scandal of his infidelities much better than Tiger has.

Elin was seen canoodling and making out with a Jamie Dingman, a 35-year-old Swedish financier with a billionaire dad earlier this week. How serious they are, no one knows. But she "has never been so happy" according to a friend. According to reports, they met in January while attending a charity ball in Florida. Also according to reports, he's "a low-key, All-American guy" whose "never been in the press." 

Sounds like she's going for the anti-Tiger. Maybe she learned her lesson the first time around.

And to be honest, Dingman is probably in a pretty good spot. Tiger set the bar pretty low, as far as husbands go. The only thing Jamie has to do is woo her with his luxurious lifestyle, treat her well, not have illicit sex with hundreds of strangers, and he will win the boyfriend of the year award from Elin. Is it really that hard? I don't think so. Tiger completely screwed up a good thing with his actions, and now he has to deal with his ex being seen with another billionaire in public. Does it sting that her new beau is one of the few people in the world who has more money than him while he's not even golfing right now (Tiger is currently taking a break from the PGA tour until his injuries are completely healed.) There are also reports (that have to be false) that Tiger is struggling financially. Wasn't he on his way to becoming a billionaire just a few years ago? Struggling might be a relative term here.

It seems that this is payback for Tiger. Since his infidelities have come to light, his career has gone in the tank (he's out of the top 10 for the first time in ten years, he hasn't won a tournament since the scandal broke, and now he's not even playing golf.) While his ex has gotten over the lies and other women and is now happy and dating one of the richest men in the world. Who's handled this whole ordeal the best? My vote goes to Elin. She's not only handled the whole ordeal with grace and class (which is the only way to handle something like this if you care what your children think about their father), she's not gone after the spotlight which would have come across tot he public as a cheap way to capitalize on the scandal.

It seems clear that this scandal has had a serious affect on Tiger being Tiger. He doesn't have the same killer instinct he did before it broke. And it will be interesting to see how this affects the rest of his game. Can he focus on getting healthy and getting his game back while Elin appears to be over him in the public eye? Time will tell.

On a side note: It seems that Dingman has a thing for athlete's exes. He was rumored to have dated Bridget Moynihan last year, who is the ex and mother of Tom Brady's son.  

<p> Tiger Woods' ex wife has landed on her feet, and into another pile of money.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: LeBron James, Miami Dolphins, Vince Young, NFL
Path: /nfl/vince-young-lebron-james-and-south-beach

A few years ago, Vince Young was at a nightclub hitting on the younger sister of a friend of mine — no surprise there, since this girl is some sort of heavenly combination of Beyonce and Stacey Dash.

After a few minutes, VY laughs and says, “You don’t know who I am, do you?”

“Sure I do. You’re LeBron James’ friend,” she says bubbly.

In a way, she was right; VY is indeed LBJ’s friend. But that definitely is not how Young defines himself. For better or worse, Vince thinks he is a peer of LeBron, that the two are one-name icons with the potential to revolutionize their respective sports.

And on that night, VY was still on top of the world — with a Reebok endorsement deal and the starting quarterback job for the Tennessee Titans, not to mention a Rookie of the Year trophy and game-worn Pro Bowl jersey hanging on the wall. Oh, and he was more popular than BBQ sauce in Texas after carrying the Longhorns to the national championship.

Much like LeBron, however, Vince has taken a hard fall in recent months due primarily to a lack of self-awareness and media savvy.

Unlike James — who was wined and dined by the entire NBA when he was a free agent last summer — Young will likely have to lobby for a job in the NFL once the lockout is finally over. The 26-year-old James and recently turned 28-year-old Young were once universally beloved — LBJ was the “King” and VY was “In-Vince-ible” — but both are now seen as spoiled prima donnas, a fact neither seems able to come to grips with.

Once the inevitable happens and the Titans cut ties with Young, he has made it clear that he would like to follow James and “take his talents to South Beach.” Young has been hanging around Miami this summer in hopes of getting some “face time” with the Dolphins’ decision-makers.

And upon further review, Young’s dream scheme scenario may make more sense than the “Heatles” supergroup produced by Pat Riley.

Lame Duck Coach, One-Year Rental QB

The marine mammals coach, Tony Sparano, is entering a season that at-best is make-or-break and at-worst a lame duck campaign. Inking VY to what would be essentially a one-year rental contract is perfect. The coach-QB tandem can fight for their lives and if it doesn’t work out, Miami can cut bait at the end of the season with a fresh start at coach and quarterback in 2012.

Young will certainly accept a low-ball, incentive-laden deal with team-friendly options. Taking VY for a test drive seems to have relatively little risk but tremendous reward if he has any gas left in the tank as a winning quarterback. And the move could save Sparano's job — or at least give him a good excuse if he gets canned.

More Star Power, Upside Than Chad Henne

Young has shown flashes of greatness since being drafted No. 3 overall in 2006. His results infamously outweighed his statistics in Tennessee; VY had a 30–17 record as a starter, while the Titans went 15–18 without him under center during that same time.

But recently Young’s stats have been catching up with his win total. Over his past 16 starts, VY has a 10–6 record, completing 209-of-355 passes (58.9 percent) for 2,745 yards, 18 TDs and eight INTs, along with 58 rushes for 343 yards (5.9 ypc) and one trip to the end zone.

He does, however, also have six lost fumbles and three DNFs — one coach’s decision against the Steelers, one sprained knee against the Jaguars and one season-ending thumb injury against the Redskins, which was followed by the meltdown with then-coach Jeff Fisher that sealed his fate in the Music City.

Current Phins starter Chad Henne is a solid professional, but no one seems convinced that he’s a franchise quarterback — let alone the heir to Dan Marino, which Miami has been starved for since Ace Ventura’s detective buddy retired in 1999.

Henne’s been the definition of mediocrity, going 13–14 as a starter, with 27 TDs and 33 INTs — recording six multi-TD games and eight multi-turnover games — during that stretch.

Direct Snaps From Wildcat

Imagine the 6’5”, 232-pound VY taking direct snaps from the shotgun in the Wildcat formation? In all seriousness, Young is a dual-threat playmaker at quarterback — with 264 carries for 1,380 yards (5.2 ypc) and 12 TDs (including a 39-yard overtime “walk off” in his Houston homecoming) over 54 career games.

Although he’s no Mike Vick, VY has an exciting edge to his game that fits the city of Miami’s style more than Henne’s.

LeBron James’ Friend

The hottest girl in the room is rarely wrong. Vince is LeBron’s friend — and peer, in a warped way. The Dolphins will be doing the Heat a favor by signing Young. After having their likenesses torn down in Nashville and Cleveland, VY and LBJ could become twin towers on the sports scene in Miami — a.k.a. Dwyane Wade’s town.

<p> <span><span>Why the Miami Dolphins are the perfect team for Vince Young.</span></span></p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 06:15
Path: /columns/track-tap/new-hampshire-motor-speedway

by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush

Race: Lenox Industrial Tools 301
Location: Loudon, N.H.
Specs: 1.058-mile oval; Banking/Turns: 12°; Banking/Straightaways: 2°
Race Length: 317.4 miles/300 laps
TV: TNT (1:00 p.m. EST)
2010 Winners: Jimmie Johnson (June); Clint Bowyer (Sept.)

From the Spotter’s Stand
The first race of the Chase set the tone for what would be the most exciting championship shootout in the format’s seven-year history.

Clint Bowyer made the most of his opportunity as the last man in the Chase, leading 177 laps on his way to ending an 88-race winless drought by conserving fuel and holding off a charging Denny Hamlin. On the other side of the fuel gauge gamble, Smoke turned to fumes when Tony Stewart (100 laps led) ran out of gas and sputtered to a disappointing 24th-place finish.

Bowyer’s car was later found to be out of tolerance when NASCAR took his Chevy to its R&D Center. His RCR team claimed the car was damaged when it was pushed by a wrecker when the fuel cell ran dry while doing victory burnouts. NASCAR didn’t buy it and, while the win was allowed to stand, docked his team a title-crippling 150 points.

Earlier in the year, Kasey Kahne’s Richard Petty Motorsports Ford was the car to beat until the engine grenaded after leading 110 laps. Jeff Burton and Kyle Busch took control from there, leading a combined 135 laps. However, in the end Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch played bumper cars in a shootout that got physical. The 48 got the last bump ’n’ run in, and won for the second straight week with its third checkers at Loudon.

Crew Chief’s Take
“Track position is the order of the day at New Hampshire. Cars generally have one to one-and-a-half lanes to play with, making passing — especially lap-down machines — difficult at best. Rubber buildup is widespread in the turns, and that determines where the driver can and can't run. If he can't run the line he wants because of the rubber buildup on the track, it makes it frustrating. Usually two or three teams hit it right, and if it doesn’t rain and it doesn’t come down to fuel, one of them is going to win it.”

Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers: A beefed up Martinsville, NHMS favors Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson.
Pretty Solid Pick: When Kurt Busch isn’t highly irritated with his crew chief, spotter, over-the-wall gang, owner or another driver, he’s good here.
Good Sleeper Pick: David Reutimann will roll the dice when the weather turns wet.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: The RCR duds may change things, but Paul Menard has been really bad in Loudon.
Insider Tip: Don’t put any stock in Jeff Burton’s four wins here.

Classic Moments at New Hampshire
It looks as if two of NASCAR’s bright young talents are going to decide the 2002 New England 300. However, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is dumped by Todd Bodine with 12 laps to go, and Matt Kenseth suffers a flat right rear tire with 10 laps remaining, clearing the way for the old guard.

Ward Burton, who won the Daytona 500 five months prior, records his final Cup victory in a race plagued by tire issues and spins in Turns 3 and 4 on the newly redone racing surface.

“There’s just something about the actual racing surface that needs some help,” Burton says. His brother, Jeff, agrees, saying, “I hate it to say it, but the racetrack was better the way it was before.”

Second-place finisher Jeff Green, driving Richard Childress’ No. 30 AOL Chevy, records his best career Cup finish.

You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattTaliaferro

<p> Athlon Sports previews Sunday's Lenox Industrial Tools 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 05:38
Path: /mlb/who-should-be-orioles-mt-rushmore

MLB Mt. Rushmores

by Charlie Miller

We believe that all MLB teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four baseball players that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.

Baltimore Orioles Mt. Rushmore

Born as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901, the franchise moved to St. Louis as the Browns in 1902 and has been in Baltimore since 1954. The successful portion has been in Baltimore. Over 52 seasons in St. Louis, there were only 12 winning seasons and eight painful 100-loss years.

I suspect there may be as little debate over these selections as with any team.

Cal Ripken
It could be argued that Ripken may even be on the MLB Mt. Rushmore. Not so much for his performance — although his numbers are Hall of Fame worthy — but for what he meant to the game at a time baseball needed something spectacular. After the debacle of wiping out the 1994 postseason, Ripken captivated fans all over with his tendency to show up and play every day.

Brooks Robinson
I can’t imagine a third baseman winning 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards. While that may not be an acceptable way to measure defensive greatness, it does mean some measure of respect among peers. He could also hit. Brooks finished in the top 3 in MVP voting four times, winning the award in 1964.

Jim Palmer
Many women may remember Palmer for his famous Jockey underwear ads, but he was the definition of ace. He won 20 games for the Orioles in eight of nine seasons, missing only an injury-marred 1974 season. He tossed a shutout in the World Series as a 20-year-old facing Sandy Koufax in 1966, and went on to win World Series games in the next two decades.

Eddie Murray
He was quiet and steady. For five consecutive seasons from 1981-85, Murray finished in the top 5 for the MVP award, but never winning it. Only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Murray can claim 3,000 hits, 500 home runs and 1,900 RBIs.

Close Calls
There really is little argument here. Frank Robinson is a name that will come up immediately. He won an MVP, triple crown and was part of four pennants and two World Series champions. But his time and production in Baltimore just don’t measure up to the others.

Earl Weaver deserves mention, for sure. He led the O’s to six division titles, four pennants, two World Series championships and won 100 games on five occasions.

The best the St. Louis era can offer is George Sisler. Gorgeous George hit .344 and racked up 2,295 hits in 1,647 games that spanned 12 seasons with the Browns.

Best Current Player
In order for another player to earn his way onto this quartet, he would have to be a Hall of Famer and lifer in Baltimore. Manny Machado is really the only current Oriole with any chance.

Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him


Other teams' Mt. Rushmores:

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants

<p> The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/dean-martins-burger-recipe

Dean Martin's burger recipe is perfect for any sports fan. There's no need to fool with fancy macerations or sautees. Just cook some meat, pour some shots, turn on the TV and dinner is ready.

It's clear Dino knew his way around the kitchen. It's almost as if he's the male version of Julia Childs with this recipe for his "Martin Burgers".

Post date: Friday, July 15, 2011 - 04:37
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, Cam Newton, Gene Chizik, News
Path: /news/auburn-tigers-under-investigation-ncaa

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)

The NCAA has inadvertently announced that it is still very much investigating the Auburn Tigers concerning the Cam Newton pay-for-play saga.

In an AP story late Wednesday, it was reported that NCAA vice president for enforcement Julie Roe Lach was asked several questions by Auburn head coach Gene Chizik at the SEC meetings in Destin last month, one of which was why had the NCAA not announced that the Newton investigation was put to bed.

And Roe Lach’s response was “You’ll know when we’re finished. And we’re not finished.”

Definitive, authoritative and especially bone-chilling words if you are an Auburn Tigers fan.

The giant pillar of smoke billowing above Auburn University began late in 2010 when a report surfaced that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton had been “shopped” by his father, Cecil, to a variety of universities. The $180,000 pay-for-play report (to Mississippi State) made it very difficult to believe that Auburn was not involved in some sort of infraction.

First of all, let’s be clear. No matter what happens, the 2010 college football National Champion was the Auburn Tigers. The 2010 Heisman Trophy winner was Cam Newton. Just like the 2004 National Champion is still USC and the 2005 Heisman winner is still Reggie Bush. We all saw what happened on the field, and no one, not even the NCAA, can go back and change history.

That said, I would be very nervous if I was an Auburn Tigers fan. The NCAA is terrible at many things – transparency, expediting processes, clearing student-athletes academically, monitoring its programs effectively – but what it has done with ruthless authority over the last 18-24 months is hammer those who have violated the rules.

Just ask Tennessee, Ohio State, USC, Oklahoma State, North Carolina, Georgia, most recently Georgia Tech and soon enough the Oregon Ducks. And what Auburn allegedly did to “acquire” Cam Newton is, if true, a dramatically more offensive violation than agent wannabes paying parents, selling memorabilia, using street agents to influence recruiting or lying about dinner, emails or barbeques.

It appears Auburn and Chizik went “All In” to win a title – and it might cost them dearly.

-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)

<p> The NCAA has announced that it is still investigating the Auburn Tigers and Cam Newton.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 16:33
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/georgia-tech-vacates-2009-acc-title

NCAA violations and investigations have been a hot topic in college football over the last year and Georgia Tech is the next team in the crosshairs. Georgia Tech announced today the NCAA has hit the school with four years of probation, a $100,000 fine and forced it to vacate the 2009 ACC title as a result of a failure to cooperate in regards to the investigation. Although allowing a player with questionable eligibility to continue to play is not a good idea for any school, the lack of cooperation on Georgia Tech's part was a main force behind the penalties. 

Georgia Tech’s 2009 ACC title was the Yellow Jackets’ first share of the conference crown since 1998. The Yellow Jackets went 11-3 overall that year, but will be forced to vacate the Dec. 5 victory over Clemson for the ACC Championship. Former receiver Demaryius Thomas and safety Morgan Burnett were reported by to be at the center of the infractions.

This is the second time the Yellow Jackets have been hit with NCAA sanctions in the last 10 years. The program was forced to reduce scholarships from 2005 and 2007 due to 17 ineligible athletes competing in 1998 and 1999. Although having to vacate the 2009 ACC title is a big blow, Georgia Tech was spared a scholarship reduction or a ban from bowl games.

Georgia Tech’s probation will last from July 14, 2011 to July 13, 2015. Although that may seem like a minor deal, the athletic department will have to be cautious during that period. Another NCAA violation and significant penalties could result.

After a disappointing 6-7 season last year, coach Paul Johnson will have his work cut out for him once again in 2011. Georgia Tech is expected to be picked by most to finish fourth in the ACC Coastal. With no scholarship losses or bowl ban, the Yellow Jackets should be fine on the recruiting trail. However, this is still bad publicity for any team.

Although this investigation wasn’t publicized like Oregon, North Carolina, Ohio State or Auburn, it’s another black eye for college football. Considering the investigations and announced sanctions are yet to come for those four schools, it’s going to be a busy season for the NCAA in terms of enforcement.

Click here to read more on this story

<p> Georgia Tech has been forced to vacate its 2009 ACC title, as a result of NCAA penalties.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 15:36
Path: /columns/garage-talk/nascar-wrong-tracks

by Vito Pugliese

NASCAR’s running of the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway last weekend should have been the culmination of all things grand — one that left an indelible image on the core of race fans everywhere. Suffice to say, the result was not exactly a 2001 event at Talladega or the 1994 Brickyard 400. Instead, it was what one could have reliably expected: just another 1.5-mile race along the lines of Las Vegas, Kansas and —excuse me while I cough a little bit — Chicagoland.

While it was certainly refreshing to see the grandstands full (once people actually got in) at the Kentucky race, coupled with the announcement that the Nationwide Race at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly O’Reilly Raceway Park, which begat Indianapolis Raceway Park) is being moved to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, part of NASCAR’s popularity problems are becoming readily apparent:

The tracks hosting NASCAR races are terrible.

You’d be hard pressed to find a track built in the last 15 years that comes remotely close to fostering racing the likes of which was commonplace at some of the more storied NASCAR locales — particularly ones that have lost a date or are little more than termite estates now. It took Auto Club Speedway (i.e., California) 14 seasons of competition before it hosted a race worth finishing, which has been reinforced by the dwindling attendance and its loss of a race date. Kentucky was little more than another race at Chicago, albeit with twice as many gracious and geared-up fans, some of whom waited over five hours to get in, while many others — estimated to be as many as 20,000, but more likely around 5,000 — gave up and went home. Inexcusable on the track’s part, by the way.

The decision to move the Nationwide Race form LOR/ORP/IRP to the Brickyard is even more befuddling. Part of the motivation is to help sell packaged ticket bundles that include the Nationwide and Rolex Grand Am Series (the latter on the former Formula One road course) to fill the stands at the speedway, which have become glaringly empty in the last few years. Credit the tire fiasco of 2008, the economic impact on the Midwest, the general malaise that has overcome NASCAR as a whole since 2007 and the sport’s message becoming more mixed.

For a circuit like the Nationwide Series that barely fills up the frontstretch at any one track, how is it going to look on TV when just a smattering of people are occupying seats by the flag stand at the big track? That said, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone within the sport who is not toeing the company line about the Nationwide Series at Indianapolis as a “great opportunity.”

It is great for those competitors who have never raced there, and may spur some sponsorship interest. However, for the fans and those Nationwide teams that compete and struggle to show up on a regular basis, it simply compounds an already growing problem. How are Nationwide teams to compete with their Cup counterparts at a track as one-dimensional as Indy, while a short track like the one down the road puts them on an even keel for a change?

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese notes that, while expansion for NASCAR is good, it can come at a cost if its new racetracks don't deliver.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 14:36
All taxonomy terms: Han Solo, Hope Solo, Overtime
Path: /overtime/best-hope-solo-google-search-ever

According to one of our analytics trackers, someone actually came to our site by typing "Is hope solo related to han solo." I know the women's World Cup is over, but it's good to see that people are still interested in the team. I also really hope that person found the answer to this very important question.

<p> The Internet has all the answers.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 14:32
Path: /mlb/mlb-second-half-predictions

We look back on our preseason MLB predictions, and adjust them at the midseason point. While we're staying true to most of our AL predictions, we've made some changes to our NL wild card and divisional predictions.

American League

Preseason Predictions   Midseason Predictions
1. Boston   1. Boston
2. New York*   2. New York*
3. Tampa Bay   3. Tampa Bay
4. Baltimore   4. Toronto
5. Toronto   5. Baltimore

Boston got off to a rough start with a losing April, But Adrian Gonzalez and company have looked like we expected since May. The Yankees will battle the Red Sox to the end, and Joe Girardi’s bunch should be the Wild Card team, although mounting injuries are a bit of a concern. The Yankees aren’t as young and supple as the Rays. You have to admire the job Joe Maddon is doing at Tampa Bay, but it’s hard to see them keeping pace with the Big Two unless the Rays’ offense picks up. Toronto’s Jose Bautista bears watching all season as he chases another home run crown, and Baltimore is still searching for the same boost they found in the second half last year.

Preseason Predictions   Midseason Predictions
1. Minnesota   1. Minnesota
2. Chicago   2. Chicago
3. Detroit   3. Detroit
4. Kansas City   4. Cleveland
5. Cleveland   5. Kansas City

The Twins are 24-12 since June 1 and seemed to have figured out their horrible play from April and May. Detroit does not seem to do much when Justin Verlander is not on the mound, and Cleveland has found its way back to the pack. The White Sox could rally in this wide-open division, but they must get production in the lineup from someone besides Paul Konerko.


Preseason Predictions   Midseason Predictions
1. Texas   1. Texas
2. Los Angeles   2. Los Angeles
3. Oakland   3. Seattle
4. Seattle   4. Oakland

Texas struggled some in the first half, even having their starting outfield of Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Julio Borbon on the disabled list simultaneously at one point. Their lineup scored 77 runs in 10 July games leading into the All-Star Break, and we think the Rangers can outmuscle the pitching-strong Angels down the stretch. The Mariners and A’s will continue to look for offense as they play for the future.

*wild card

Adrian Gonzalez, Boston
The Red Sox first baseman leads the A.L. in average and RBIs. A-Gon is a perfect fit for Fenway, and he should continue to rake in the middle of a loaded lineup.

Cy Young
CC Sabathia, New York
The Yankees’ ace is the definition of a workhorse. Already with 13 wins, Sabathia could challenge the 23-win mark – a total that has not been reached in MLB since 2002.

Rookie of the Year
Michael Pineda, Seattle
The young righthander has the composure of a veteran this season, with an impressive 3.03 ERA in 18 starts. Pineda has struck out 113 batters in his 113.0 innings.

National League

Preseason Predictions   Midseason Predictions
1. Philadelphia   1. Philadelphia
2. Atlanta   2. Atlanta*
3. Florida   3. Washington
4. New York   4. Florida
5. Washington   5. New York

Paraphrasing Dennis Green, the Phillies are who we thought they were. The rotation has been stellar as expected, and they have the best record in baseball despite a fairly pedestrian first half at the plate. The Braves’ pitching has been excellent as well, and Atlanta has to be the heavy favorite for the N.L. Wild Card. The Nationals have shown solid promise for the future, even with a managerial change. Florida seems to be buying time until they move into a new park, and the Mets have already started dumping salary with the trade of closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers.

Preseason Predictions   Midseason Predictions
1. St. Louis   1. Milwaukee
2. Milwaukee   2. St. Louis
3. Cincinnati   3. Cincinnati
4. Chicago   4. Pittsburgh
5. Houston   5. Chicago
6. Pittsburgh   6. Houston

Milwaukee and St. Louis look like they will battle for the division crown down to the wire. They face each other nine times after the break, but none later than Sept. 7. The Brew Crew grabbed some momentum going into the second half with their acquisition of Rodriguez. The Cardinals will need to supplement their pitching staff as well. The Pirates have been this season’s best story, as Clint Hurdle led the Bucs to a winning record in the first half for the first time since 1992. The Reds are still dangerous with hitters like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, but Dusty Baker’s team can’t seem to find the same winning magic from a year ago. Meanwhile, the Cubs and Astros have shown no signs that they will do anything but languish at the bottom on the league.

Preseason Predictions   Midseason Predictions
1. San Francisco   1. San Francisco
2. Colorado*   2. Arizona
3. Los Angeles   3. Colorado
4. San Diego   4. Los Angeles
5. Arizona   5. San Diego

Arizona has been a great story with their talent on offense and improved bullpen, but the champion Giants still have to be the favorite with their top pitching and Bruce Bochy’s mastery of one-run games. Colorado has the talent for a rally, but it’s doubtful their inconsistent pitching will push them up the standings this year. The Dodgers will continue to suffer through ownership issues and a lack of power, while San Diego will make news when they trade closer Heath Bell.

* wild card

Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
The Brewers’ slugger is tearing it up in a contract year, as he is tied for first in RBIs and second in home runs in the N.L.

Cy Young
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
While the Braves’ Jair Jurrjens has been excellent, we see the 11-3 Halladay keeping it up all season. He has 15 complete games in his 52 starts with the Phillies.

Rookie of the Year
Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
His 28 saves not only lead the majors, but that total is the highest-ever for a rookie before the All-Star Break.

<p> Athlon projects baseball's division winners and superlatives.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 13:16
All taxonomy terms: NBA lockout, News
Path: /news/nba-players-association-supports-taking-talents-europe

According to the New York Times, NBA Players Association executive director Billy Hunter has sent a letter to 450 players, fully blessing any athlete who explores the option of playing abroad during the league's lockout.

In the letter, Hunter said that the lockout's purpose was to "economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable collective bargaining agreement." He also added, "If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them."

In the wake of New Jersey Nets point guard Deron Williams' agreement to play for the Turkish club Besiktas this fall, nearly every other star player in the league has had to face questions about his own plans for a protracted lockout. Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire tweeted that he had decided against Europe as a viable option, but backpedaled from that stance on ESPN Radio this week.

Stoudemire's reversal seems telling, especially in the wake of Hunter's letter, the published excerpts of which read like labor-leader posturing from word one. The letter's stance seems likely to inform responses from every player who gets lockout questions from now until Dealday.

Williams claims to have talked to many players highly interested in playing for European clubs. Stars like Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, and Kevin Durant aren't ruling anything out. Their waffling rings hollow, though.

According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Williams' Besiktas contract will pay him $200,000 per month. His Nets contract is set to pay him $199,509 per game for the 2011-12 season. Players like Williams and the others mentioned above don't need the money one bit. At least they shouldn't, but you never know. Antoine Walker never seemed to need the extra cash, either.

Players like Sonny Weems are a different story. The Toronto Raptors' forward, slated to make $850,000 this year, signed with a club in Lithuania. Philadelphia forward Darius Songaila is headed to Turkey for $1.5 million, not much less than Williams.

The risk of contract-voiding injury is likely too great for guys like Wade or Durant to entertain traveling to a different country to play for what amounts to pocket change. Especially when there's a likelihood that they may not even see said pocket change.

Phoenix Suns swingman Josh Childress told ESPN's Ric Bucher that "If a guy isn't playing well or a team is out of the playoffs, they'll just stop paying you. I know tons and tons of players who just walked away because they didn't want to go through the hassle of going to court to get their money."

Childress, who spent two years playing for the Greek club Olympiacos, doesn't understand why any player with a large guaranteed contract would go to Europe and put it all in jeopardy. Players like Weems, Songaila, and Thunder center Nenad Krstic, who's bound for Russia, don't fall into that category. They're also not the kinds of names that will move the needle stateside, for fans or the league.

Kobe and Wade understand the politics of the labor negotiations well enough to know that ruling out options takes pressure off the owners to move on their proposals. Amar'e needed a little reminder after getting carried away on Twitter.

If David Stern thought for a moment that all of his owners' high-priced superstars were ready to throw it all away to play for clubs whose names are only familiar to dedicated soccer fans, there might be a bit more urgency in negotiations. Guys like Sonny Weems and Darius Songaila, however, may just be written off as collateral damage.

Unfortunately for Billy Hunter, it's guys like Weems and Songaila who are the only ones who really have any motivation to make this move.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 13:03
All taxonomy terms: mistrial, Perjury case, Roger Clemens, News
Path: /news/judge-declares-mistrial-roger-clemens-perjury-case

The federal judge presiding over the Roger Clemens perjury case has declared a mistrial. The trial, which has had problems from the beginning with the jury, will now get a new jury.

The defense objected to the prosecutions use of information that had been declared un-usable by the judge. The content in question was Clemens' testimony from February 8, 2008 where he made numerous mentions of conversations between Andy Pettitte and his wife about the use of PEDs, specifically HGH.

And it seems as though the judge agreed with their objection.

The US District judge, Reggie Walton, was furious that a TV screen was left playing videotape of Roger speaking about HGH while the lawyers from both teams had approached the bench to discuss privately. That was when the video in question was showed to jurors.

It was the prosecutions job to edit those comments out, but they failed to do so. And it cost them.

This ruling should be seen as a big win for Roger Clemens and his defense team. There had been numerous reports stating that the Rocket was getting no love from the selected jury pool. A new jury could give him a much better chance of winning his perjury case against federal prosecutors. 

<p> The Rocket will get a new jury now that his case has been declared a mistrial.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 12:20
Path: /news/k-rod-trade-brewers-ticket-glory-or-misery

In Major League Baseball's post-All-Star-break horse race toward the playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers became the first to make a big move on the outside, acquiring veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez from the New York Mets for a pair of players to be named later.

In a move that would seem excessive for a team that already has an established closer, the Brewers bring in "K-Rod"'s 291 career saves and tout him as a backup plan for John Axford. Brewers GM Doug Melvin said, "In a pennant race, there's a chance you could go out and have six straight one-run ballgames. There's no way that any one guy can close six games in a row."

As a factor in the deal, Rodriguez's contract has been downplayed by his former employers in New York. K-Rod would receive a vesting option paying him $17.5 million next season by finishing 55 games over the course of the season. To this point in the season, he has finished 34.

Escaping that option is undoubtedly a benefit for the Mets as they face uncertain decisions over the futures of the rest of their nucleus. David Wright, Jose Reyes, and K-Rod faced rumors from the start of the season. Now, the Brewers have the clock running to influence their usage of Rodriguez.

That usage may turn out to be the most difficult juggling act not involving chainsaws or torches. K-Rod's new agent, Scott Boras, told New York's Newsday earlier this week, "Francisco Rodriguez is a historic closer. He’s not going anywhere to be a setup man.” Boras added, “Closers don’t make good setup men. Does anyone want an unhappy setup man in their clubhouse?"

Rodriguez has shown in the past that he can quickly make a situation ugly when he's unhappy. Last August, the Mets were pondering proceedings to void his contract when he assaulted his girlfriend's father in a Citi Field lounge.

The Brewers have to gauge their use of Rodriguez carefully, as his potentially historic 2012 salary would be an enormous drag on any attempt to keep Prince Fielder in next season's lineup.

No matter how the Brewers use him, K-Rod will need to weigh his words and actions just as carefully, especially if he runs out of games to close and faces the free agent market. The rehabilitation of his image would be aided immensely if he helps Milwaukee to the playoffs with only a handful of saves, being a good company man all the way.

Axford is 23-of-24 in save opportunities with a 1.99 ERA since blowing one on Opening Day, so anything that would upset his rhythm could easily backfire, even if the motive is based around getting him some extra rest.

The addition of K-Rod is certain to increase everyone's stress level, from Melvin to manager Ron Roenicke to all the players to the fan base. The one certain benefit is that the fans may have to make several more runs to the beer stands to take the edge off.

--Scott Henry (@4QuartersRadio)

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Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 09:50
Path: /college-football/golden-era-u

by Jorge Milian

Fans of the Miami Hurricanes are a notoriously difficult bunch to please. But they’re pushovers compared to Toni Golden, the mother of new Canes coach Al Golden.

After working one of his first games as Temple’s coach in 2006, Golden called his parents to get their opinion. Toni, who watched the game on television at home in Colt’s Neck, N.J., didn’t criticize Al’s play-calling or decisions.

It was Al’s fashion-challenged sideline attire  — a baggy sweatshirt matched with drab Dockers pants — that caught her attention.

“Al, don’t wear a sweatshirt,” she casually mentioned to her son. “Wear some nice pants and shirt.”

Next game, Golden was decked out in gabardine pants and a tie.

“He surprised me with the tie,” Toni says. “I loved it.”

That attention to detail is typical of Golden, who turned out be far more than just a sharp-dressed man in five seasons at Temple, a program with one of the sorriest histories in all of college football. When Golden arrived at the Philadelphia school, the Owls had enjoyed three winning seasons in 30 years. By 2009, Temple was 9–4 and had played in its first bowl game since 1979.

The 41-year-old Golden now faces a rebuilding job nearly as monumental as the one he undertook at Temple.

While the Hurricanes ruled college football just a decade ago, the heavyweights have turned into palookas. Miami hasn’t won more than nine games since 2003, which also marks the last time it appeared in a BCS game. It’s finished in the top 25 only once in the past five seasons.

In many respects, Miami reached bottom in 2010 when it stumbled and bumbled — 119th nationally in turnovers lost and 117th in penalties — to a 7–6 record that cost Randy Shannon his job as coach hours after a home loss to USF in the regular-season finale.

Golden was hired in mid-December and was watching from the press box in El Paso, Texas, as the Hurricanes completed a forgettable season with a lopsided 33–17 loss to Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl.

Meeting with reporters a few days after the Sun Bowl, Golden wasn’t guarded in his critique. He questioned everything, from the team’s “football IQ” to its conditioning.

“We’re not very good in any of those areas,” Golden says.

Golden arrived at Miami with the same intensity and commitment that he’s always devoted to football.

At Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic High School, young Golden used to get so wound up before games that coaches walked around with paper bags in anticipation of their star player hyperventilating.

Earlier as a 12-year-old playing Pop Warner football, Golden knocked out an opponent during a game dubbed the Friendship Bowl. Before the game, Golden’s father had pleaded with his son to “take it easy.”

“He stands over this poor kid and says, ‘Get up, get up. My father’s going to kill me,’” Al Sr. says. “That’s Al.”

Golden was no different at Penn State, where he played tight end and captained the Nittany Lions to a Fiesta Bowl victory and No. 3 ranking as a senior in 1991.

“A ball of energy,” says Troy Drayton, Golden’s college teammate and a former NFL player. “He wasn’t one of those guys that would catch the ball and go down.”

Golden played one season with the New England Patriots in 1992 before turning to coaching. He quickly moved up the ranks. At age 27, Golden was named linebackers coach at Boston College by Tom Coughlin. Four years later, Al Groh hired him as defensive coordinator at Virginia.

“To some degree, hiring coaches is like recruiting in that you have a vision to see into the future as far as what the person might become,” says Groh, now the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech. “Al had all the qualities.”

Kirby Hocutt, then Miami’s athletic director, noticed that immediately after meeting Golden for an interview at New York’s Astoria Hotel in early December. Golden walked into the meeting with a 300-page, four-pound tome titled “Deserve Victory,” detailing his plan to turn the Hurricanes back into national championship contenders.

“I walked out of there thinking, ‘This is the guy. He’s got it,’” says Hocutt, who left Miami to become Texas Tech’s athletic director in February.

Golden beat out a list of finalists that also included former Connecticut coach Randy Edsall and Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, a former Hurricanes assistant.

To many UM fans, Golden’s hiring lacked buzz. Some former players were also less than thrilled.

On the day Golden accepted the job, ex-Miami and NFL great Warren Sapp wrote on his Twitter account: “Who The Hell is Al Golden. And How U Fix The Greatest Program in America Coming from 1 of the Worst Program ever. Somebody Help Me. I’m On a Bridge. Talk Me Down Please!”

But Golden soon pulled a series of deft public relations moves. At his introductory press conference, he emphasized the program’s history and his desire that Miami’s former players feel a part of it. Golden also scored points by bringing back popular offensive line coach Art Kehoe, the only person to have earned each of Miami’s five national championship rings. Kehoe was unceremoniously fired following the 2005 season by Larry Coker after serving 27 consecutive seasons as a player and coach.

“Hiring Kehoe, that’s like putting a firecracker back into the Canes,” says Joaquin Gonzalez, a starting offensive tackle on Miami’s 2001 national championship team.

To reach a fickle fan base, Golden took the team on the road during spring practice. Miami split up its three spring scrimmages between Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The spring game in Fort Lauderdale attracted nearly 300 alums, including Michael Irvin, who delivered a pregame speech.

Most important, Golden reached out to South Florida’s high school coaches, several of whom said after Shannon’s firing that their schools had been ignored by Miami’s recruiters. Miami Central High produced 17 FBS prospects after winning Florida’s state 6A championship, but none were headed to the Hurricanes until Golden came on board.

“Next year will be a great indication of how good a recruiter he is,” says longtime recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who picked Golden as his recruiter of the year in 2009. “I guarantee you he’ll have a top-10 class.”

How long it will take Golden to get the Hurricanes back into the national championship picture is a more difficult question to answer.

Al Golden Sr. says it will happen sooner rather than later. “I can tell you right now, he’s going to bring that Miami program back,” says Golden Sr., who was the national operations director for the investment firm Dean Witter, before retiring. “If anybody can do it, he can.”

Other ACC Content:

2011 ACC Predictions
Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the ACC

Athlon's 2011 All-ACC Team
Why Does Clemson Continue to Struggle?

he Carolina Way

<p> It's been a surprise Miami has yet to win an ACC Coastal title.&nbsp;Al Golden hopes to change that with a new culture and a new energy to Miami.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 07:09
All taxonomy terms: Missouri Tigers, College Football, Big 12
Path: /columns/saturday-takeaway/missouri-surprise-team-big-12

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Defining what is a surprise team is no easy task. Over the next couple of weeks, Athlon will take a look at a team from each of the BCS leagues that could be a surprise contender in their conference. Each of the candidates to surprise will be ranked fifth or worse in Athlon’s 2011 predictions.

The new-look Big 12 is expected to be a battle between Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M for the conference title. Although those three teams appear to be by far the class of the Big 12, don’t count out Missouri. The Tigers return 16 starters, just behind Texas A&M for the conference lead.

Is Missouri the surprise team in the Big 12? Here are four reasons to like and four to doubt the Tigers in 2011.

Reasons to like the Tigers to surprise:

1. A look at last year’s stats can be deceiving regarding the defensive line. The Tigers ranked No. 62 nationally against the run, but that number increased due to the injury to tackle Dominique Hamilton against Oklahoma. After Hamilton’s injury, the Tigers allowed 197 rushing yards a game, compared to 114 when he was in the lineup. With Hamilton back and the emergence of junior end Brad Madison and Kony Ealy, the line shouldn’t miss first-round pick Aldon Smith. The Tigers could get another valuable addition to the line if highly-touted tackle Sheldon Richardson qualifies this year. It’s no secret games are won and lost in the trenches, and Missouri boasts one of college football’s top defensive lines.

2. Even though Missouri is breaking in a new quarterback, recent history suggests it won’t be a big deal. The Tigers have had an impressive run of quarterbacks – Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert – and James Franklin could be the next star to emerge. Franklin played sparingly last year, completing 11 of 14 throws for 106 yards and one score, while adding 116 yards on the ground. The key to Missouri’s season could rest with Franklin’s development.

3. With Franklin making his first start this year, it certainly helps to have one of the Big 12’s best offensive supporting casts surrounding him. The Tigers return two likely All-Big 12 performers in the receiving corps – receiver T.J. Moe and tight end Michael Egnew – and four starters on the offensive line. Center Tim Barnes finished his eligibility last year and will be difficult to replace. However, with four seniors likely to start, there’s plenty of experience. Considering the returning pieces around him, Franklin is arguably stepping into one of the nation’s best situations for a first-year quarterback.

4. It may have taken a few years for Gary Pinkel to get Missouri in contention for a Big 12 North title, but it looks like the Tigers are well-positioned in the remodeled conference. The Tigers have won at least 10 games in three out of the last four seasons and earned a bowl appearance in six straight years. The bowl streak is the best in school history. Pinkel’s 77 wins in 10 years ranks as the third-most victories in Missouri history, trailing only Don Faurot (101) and Dan Devine (93). Considering the steady improvement made by Pinkel, the Tigers aren’t a flash in the pan and will remain a yearly contender.

Reasons to doubt the Tigers will surprise:

1. Even though there’s a lot of positive buzz about Franklin, he’s never started a game. First-year quarterbacks have had plenty of recent success, but you just never know until they step onto the field. Missouri needs to get Franklin comfortable, especially with two difficult road dates in the first month of the season – Arizona State and Oklahoma.

2. The road dates in September are tough, but things won’t get any easier in mid-October. The Tigers host Oklahoma State, before hitting the road for back-to-back games against Texas A&M and Baylor, followed by home dates against Texas and Texas Tech. Missouri won at Texas A&M last year, but this is a much different team than the one that lost 30-9. If the Tigers are going to surprise in the Big 12, it’s not going to be an easy road – especially with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M on the schedule every year now thanks to the round-robin format.

3. It’s a good thing Missouri has one of the top defensive lines in the nation. With three new starters in the secondary, there’s a lot of pressure on the line to get to the quarterback and help prevent big plays in pass defense. Safety Kenji Jackson is back after collecting 66 tackles last season and should be the leader for this revamped unit. This is one area the Tigers showed big improvement last year, going from 104th to ranked 37th nationally against the pass. Even though the coaches are optimistic about the replacements, it will be difficult to repeat last year’s play. If the Tigers continue to rank near the top of the nation in sacks, the new starters will have some time to settle into starting lineup. However, with a talented group of passers back in the Big 12, this unit should expect to be under fire all year.

4. Although Gary Pinkel seems to have elevated Missouri football in recent years, it’s time to start delivering more victories against the top teams in the conference. The Tigers have lost six in a row to Texas, with the last victory coming in 1997. Missouri has lost three out of the last four to Oklahoma State and are 1-7 in its last eight games against Oklahoma. If Missouri wants to become a yearly contender in the Big 12, winning against those three teams and Texas A&M will be critical. 

Other Big 12 Content:

Ranking College Football's Coaching Jobs: Big 12
2011 Big 12 Predictions
2011 All-Big 12 Team
he Texas Longhorns Network is a Game Changer
here are Big Expectations at Texas A&M
onference Realignment Winners and Losers
011 All-America Team

<p> Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&amp;M appear to be the class of the Big 12. Could Missouri challenge one of those three teams this year?</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 07:08
Path: /college-football/ranking-coaching-jobs-51-120

We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? Check back tomorrow for rankings 50-1.

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

51. Kentucky
The Cats have outstanding facilities and a solid fanbase, but basketball is king.

52. Maryland
Good coaches have been able to win here. 

53. Mississippi State
Facilities are good, but competition is brutal.

54. Purdue
Joe Tiller had the Boilers rolling for a while.

55. Minnesota
New stadium makes this job more attractive, but the Gophers will always struggle against Big Ten’s elite.

56. Kansas
Solid athletic department but no tradition.

57. UCF
Prime location makes it No. 1 in C-USA.

58. Houston
A good coach won’t have problem getting players at UH.

59. Oregon State
More desirable now than at any other time.

60. Syracuse
Tradition can only take you so far.

61. Boston College
Location hurts, but BC finds a way to win.

62. Connecticut
Top-notch facilities; weak recruiting base.

63. Kansas State
Bill Snyder is the only coach who has figured it out at K-State.

64. Fresno State
Prime location makes it No. 1 in the WAC.

65. Northwestern
Cats have found their niche in the Big Ten.

66. Baylor
Struggled to be a factor since the SWC broke up.

67. Cincinnati
Not every coach is as good as Brian Kelly.

68. Washington State
It’s an uphill battle, but far from impossible.

69. Iowa State
Tough job but school has good fan support.

70. Wake Forest
Duke is the only tougher job in the ACC.

71. Vanderbilt
Glamour of the SEC, but so many hurdles.

72. Duke
Basketball is king; program is No. 4 in the state.

73. Indiana
Support is weak; recruiting base is poor.

74. Southern Miss
You can always get talent at USM.

75. San Diego State
Sleeping giant is showing signs of life.

76. SMU
Solid tradition (yes, we know about the cheating) and a great recruiting base.

77. East Carolina
Solid program: support, recruiting, tradition.

78. Colorado State
Job has potential to be among MWC’s best.

79. Air Force
It’s the best job of the military schools.

80. UNLV
Getting players isn’t the issue. Winning is.

81. Hawaii
Tougher to recruit to UH than most think.

82. Marshall
It’s only the fourth best job in C-USA East.

83. Navy
Middies have found their best option.

84. Northern Illinois
Recruiting base makes it top job in the MAC.

85. New Mexico
Great location — unless you have to recruit.

86. Wyoming
Pokes have few built-in advantages.

87. Memphis
SEC recruiting base with C-USA support.

88. UTEP
Still in Texas, but it’s not close to anything.

89. Nevada
A solid opportunity in a weak conference.

90. Tulsa
Third best job in a decent state for talent.

91. Louisiana Tech
Great talent base, but miscast in the WAC.

92. Troy
Easily the top gig in the Sun Belt.

93. Army
Kids would rather play for Air Force, Navy.

94. Central Michigan
Good coaches can win big at CMU.

95. Miami (Ohio)
The cradle of coaches is never down for long.

96. Toledo
Nice tradition and a very strong recruiting base.

97. North Texas
Good for its league, but No. 9 in the state.

98. FAU
Great location. No tradition.

99. FIU
Great location. No tradition.

100. Middle Tennessee
Decent locale, but fan support is low.

101. San Jose State
Great location — if you are a realtor.

102. UAB
No tradition. No support.

103. Bowling Green
Urban Meyer isn’t walking through the door.

104. Western Michigan
It’s No. 4 in the state and No. 4 in MAC West.

105. Rice
It’s the toughest job in the best state for talent.

106. Tulane
Tommy Bowden proved you could win at Tulane, but support for the program continues to shrink.

107. Ohio
OU hasn’t won consistently since the ‘30s.

108. Temple
Big-city location gives it some appeal.

109. Akron
Zips have one league title in school history.

110. Kent State
Only one winning season since ’87.

111. Buffalo
Turner Gill proved there is a pulse at UB.

112. Utah State
Aggies are a distant third in their own state.

113. Idaho
Boise’s emergence has to irk Vandal fans.

114. Ball State
Cardinals are 53–88 over the last 12 years.

115. Arkansas State
Hasn’t had a winning season in FBS ranks.

116. Western Kentucky
This fledgling FBS program has potential, but right now it’s tough to rank the Toppers much higher.

117. Louisiana-Lafayette
It’s a better job than Louisiana-Monroe.

118. Louisiana-Monroe
Warhawks can’t break through in the Belt.

119. New Mexico State
Hasn’t won a bowl game since 1960.

120. Eastern Michigan
Support is bad and tradition is non-existent. 

Other Program Ranking Content:

Ranking the Jobs in the ACC

Ranking the Jobs in the Big East

Ranking the Jobs in the Big Ten

Ranking the Jobs in the Big 12

Ranking the Jobs in the Pac-12

Ranking the Jobs in the SEC

<p> Which jobs in college football are the most attractive for a free agent coach? Athlon ranks the jobs, considering traditions, facilities, location and money.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 06:56