Locker Room: ‘This play is under further review’

Alabama and Clemson will play for the national championship Monday. That’s just what almost everybody with good sense said five months ago. For the fourth straight year these two teams will meet in the playoffs, and it’s the third time for the title. Bored yet? I understand if you are an Alabama or Clemson fan you are as happy as a tick on a dog. The rest of the nation? Probably not. Ratings haven’t been good. ESPN is losing money. When the idea of the playoff was created, this was not what was supposed to happen.

So why is it happening? Why are two teams dominating for the past four consecutive years? You can listen all week to “experts” tell you why, and make all sorts of predictions, and go on and on about every little aspect of both teams. Now, let’s cut to the chase. Both teams are well coached. Both schools spend millions and millions of dollars because they want to win a football game. These two schools do not have the most money, certainly are not academically prestigious, but they spend the most on football. I suppose there are other things that happen on the campuses at Alabama and Clemson, but you never hear what they are.

And that brings us to the most obvious. Alabama and Clemson have the best talent, and more of it. These two teams have second units that could basically wipe the field clean of some ACC starting lineups, and that’s not an exaggeration. Are you a Virginia Tech fan? How about UVa? Maybe West Virginia, or some other school in the region. Just how many players on your team do you think were recruited by Alabama or Clemson? Not very many, maybe nobody. How do you overcome such an advantage? How do you beat somebody when you are playing the game with players they didn’t even want? Get out your wallet. If I was a UVa fan would I want that? Probably not. So it means much to some, but not as much to everybody.

But why didn’t we just play this game in the beginning and get it over with? We could have spent the fall playing more tennis, soccer, volleyball, running cross country and such. Doing other things. But it’s the money. Nike and Adidas need the exposure. Billions of dollars are made during a college football season, some even pay extra to get a bowl bid. How good are the bowls? Honestly, most of them aren’t very good at all anymore. Some of the teams obviously aren’t into it, many of the best players who are thinking of getting drafted do not even play, and 75% of the bowl stadiums are somewhere between half and 75% empty. The playoff system, which hasn’t been that exciting, has had even more negative impact on the bowl system. It’s just not what it used to be.

Fans expect loyalty out of the players. You would want it to be that way, but this is a “me” thing now more than the other. I don’t care about the rhetoric, just assess the final result. The result is that even though players say they love their school, fans, and coaches they won’t play for fear of injury that could hurt their draft status. Then you hear coaches say they support those decisions 100 percent. That’s a lie. Coaches get fired for not winning, and bowl games count too. But then how many times have you read or listened to some member of the media tell you the bowls don’t matter anymore, the games are not important. Well, if they don’t matter and have no importance, then why should a player play?

But just think. If we had just played the one game and gotten it over with, we would not have had to endure 4,457,000 “This Play is Under Further Reviews.” We would not have had to endure 9,212,000 forward passes. The game resembles flag football more each season as the powder puff rules mount. You have the dig pass, the post pass, the corner route, the hitch, the wheel, the curl (starting to sound like a trip to the beauty parlor doesn’t it), the go route, the pass-run-option, the bubble screen, the slip screen, the slant, the post, and the one I absolutely hate the most, the dreaded end zone fade pass. Some games I would have paid a buck if somebody had just run “52 smash.”

I think the passing has picked up even more because of all the rules and regulations that seem to plague the game more each season. It’s supposedly all about safety. Now if you tackle the quarterback high it’s a 15-yard penalty. If you tackle him low, it’s a 15-yard penalty. If you make a perfect form tackle, but happen to fall on him on the way to the ground, that’s a 15-yard penalty too. Why don’t we just put a pink jersey on the quarterback and get it over with. Frankly, I do not understand all the concerns about safety. Do I want players to get hurt? Of course not. But it is football. It seems to me with all the new rules, even more players are getting hurt. It’s football! Do you want to play the game, or not? If you are concerned about injury, don’t play. Or is this another of those issues where us normal folks are not smart enough to make a decision. So some academic geniuses who know what’s best for us more than we do, need to make decisions for everybody because they are simply superior and know better. Hog wash!

How about common sense? What are officials for? They know what an unnecessary hit looks like. They know what spearing is. They know what unsportsmanlike conduct looks like. They should penalize that last one about five times more than they do. But you get don’t take the fun out of the game stuff. Make a play, score a touchdown, get to your sideline and celebrate with your teammates. Act like you’ve been there before. Show a little bit of class! If a flag needs to be thrown, throw it. If somebody needs to be removed from the game for whatever reason, throw him out. If you do not trust the officials to do the right thing, why are they there? Because nobody trusts common sense anymore. There has to be a higher authority.

The officials appear intimidated. They are so concerned about penalties they appear afraid not to throw a flag. The worst job in football is the defensive coordinator. Playing defense these days is almost impossible. How many times have you seen a defensive back hardly touch a receiver and get penalized 15 yards? How many times have you sit through replays and wondered why in the world is that a penalty? How many times have you seen play stopped for 10 minutes while a play totally obvious to you from a simple TV replay, seems to mystify the stripes. I watched a bowl game last week, four officials hurdled for almost five minutes. The head ref finally turned, signaled illegal procedure and walked off five yards. It took a summit conference and a stoppage of play for a procedure penalty!

Some complain the games are too long. Baloney! The games are not too long. The games are no longer than they’ve ever been. All the passing does hurt the flow for sure, but it’s the other stuff that is making the games long. The officials’ conferences, “This Previous Play is Under Further Review” stuff, and all the flags. The games aren’t that long, the other stuff is horribly cumbersome. All my life I’ve heard officials say they do not want to be a part of the game, they want to be totally unnoticed. Sorry fellows, you are now a major part of the game.

Officials and flags have become so huge a part of the game, it has negatively affected the attitude of the game. When there is a play without a flag, the coaches and players beg for one.
It has spread like a flu epidemic. Would you really be surprised if an officiating decision decided the national championship? Did his elbow touch the ground? How about his right knee? Heck, did anybody check to see if his pinky finger touched the turf? Did that defender have garlic on his breath?

Have you ever thought about the rule that says the field cannot cause a fumble? If that is the case, then why can a receiver make an obvious catch of the football, but bobble it when it hits the ground and it’s not ruled a catch? He caught it. He had it clutched in his hands. It moved maybe two inches when he landed on the ground. But they say he didn’t have total control when he hit the ground. But wait. What about the ground cannot cause a fumble?

It’s a soap opera and two much time is being spent during football games dealing with things that shouldn’t have a lot to do with the game of football. It’s like a congressional hearing. It’s a waste of time. All this is hurting the game of football, and if those that really care don’t take a hold pretty soon, football will no longer be football. When it gets to that people like me will no longer care.

Coaching Merry-Go-Round:

There have been 20 head coaching changes already in college football. It happens every year and most of the time you see the same names recycled. Mack Brown is back at Carolina. He could draw social security. Coaches get fired, fired coaches get hired. It goes round and round. Sometimes it ends up mattering to some degree, often it does not. There are plenty of capable coaches, but how much money does he have to work with, how good are his facilities, can he recruit top talent, and just how much does his school really want to win? Those are even more important factors. If your goal is to win the national title that’s fine, but is it realistic and always remember, everybody but one team is going to be disappointed at the end if that’s your goal.

Mark Richt did retire at Miami. It’s time to state the obvious. Miami is not Miami of 25 years ago, and it might never be. Kids from Florida and that region of the state do not automatically stay home anymore. Many of them want to get out. They don’t want to stay home. Home is not the same for everybody. But Miami’s facilities are not up to snuff, and the money invested is not as much as some others. Could the Hurricanes ever be that good again? Maybe. We’ll see, but don’t hold your breath. If Alabama wants to best player from that area of Florida, it is likely to get him.

Dana Holgerson is gone from West Virginia. It was not a sweet parting. He wanted a contract extension. WVU wouldn’t give it to him. Then Houston gave up 70 points to Army, a very fine football team by the way, and fired Major Applewhite. They wanted Holgerson, but waited until January 1 so that his buyout dropped from 2.5 million down to one. Then Houston says it wants to interview Holgerson. WVU said fine, interview him, but the process had to rankle a bit.

Finally the morning of January 2 Holgerson makes his first contact with WVU. He says he’s going to be the new coach at Houston and he’s leaving. He did it with a phone call. Did not meet with his superiors, talk or say goodbye to his team, just made a phone call. But Holgerson was probably upset because after the first contact was made concerning Houston, his legal rep was wondering if WVU wanted to make a counter offer. West Virginia did not. If he wants to go, that was fine. Sometimes things end badly, and this didn’t come down very professionally it seems, however, maybe Holgerson wanted to go, and it appears WVU didn’t mind him leaving.

After a Military Bowl defeat to Cincinnati, Virginia Tech is on unfamiliar ground. After needing to schedule a makeup 12th game with Marshall just to get to 6-6 and be eligible for a bowl game it ended the season 6-7, the first time the Hokie football program has finished with a losing record since 1992. Head coach Justin Fuente is coming under fire. I don’t know if that’s justified or not. But Virginia Tech has gone from 10 wins, to nine, and now down to six during his tenure. The once highly acclaimed Hokie defense is having trouble stopping people. The offense is average. I think it would be fair to say there will be pressure next season, however, the schedule looks very promising, and I predict Fuente will not be in danger of losing his job.

By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot