Shooting from the Lip/Monday edition
Looking back at a weekend of televised sports ...
Most chilling report
ESPN's Outside the Lines turned its bright lights on the academic scandal at Florida State and made some serious and sobering charges, including that the university recruited student-athletes who had little chance of succeeding in the classroom, then got them extra help because so many were classified as "learning disabled.'' The athletes were given that tag by a Tallahassee licensed psychologist who is paid by the athletic department for each athlete he examines. In one case, OTL reported, a football player with an IQ of 60 was admitted to the university. To check out the OTL story and video, click here.
The key source in the story was former FSU learning specialist Brenda Monk, who resigned in 2007 after being charged with academic fraud by the school and the NCAA for, among other things, typing and editing term papers for athletes. Also, Monk has sued the university for defamation of character. But, quite frankly, Monk came off as extremely credible in the piece. Less credible was former wide receiver Fred Rouse, who said he left the team after failing a drug test. Rouse said former teammate Antonio Cromartie could barely read, told how tutors wrote terms papers for football players and how advisers encouraged athletes to major in "social sciences'' because the workload was so easy. Monk, who estimated she worked with 65 "learning disabled'' athletes at FSU, as well as another FSU professor said many of the athletes they dealt with had reading levels of fourth grade or below.
(As an aside, Cromartie's agent pointed out to the Web site ProFootballTalk.com that Cromartie is known as one of the NFL's most prolific users of Twitter, something that certainly requires reading and writing.)
According to an e-mail obtained by the St. Petersburg Times sent by Franklin Murphy, FSU's director of communications, to Vince Doria, vice president of news for ESPN, the school asked ESPN not to air the piece. Murphy reminded Doria that Monk was suing the university, that the admission of a student with a 60 IQ was "absolutely false,''’ that Bowden has nothing to do with the admission of students, that the measures to keep some students eligible was "way off base,'' and that the school could not provide ESPN with specific information regarding individual students because of federal privacy laws. Bowden and FSU president T.K. Wetherell turned down interview requests by Outside the Lines. In his e-mail to Doria, Murphy wrote, "neither Coach Bowden nor President Wetherell is an expert in admissions policies and procedures.''
Meantime, FSU athletic director Randy Spetman sent an e-mail to "Florida State Alumni, Friends and Supporters'' refuting the ESPN piece nearly 24 hours before it aired Sunday morning, as well as pointing out all the excellent student-athletes FSU has produced over the years. Spetman also shared the e-mail Murphy sent to ESPN.
Perhaps what has happened at Florida State happens in programs all over the country, but that doesn't make it okay. Whether OTL's report is completely or even partially accurate, new football coach Jimbo Fisher needs to address his program's academic situation before he worries about fixing his defense.
It's only December, but Seth Davis, a college basketball analyst for CBS, has his first Final Four list of the year: Kansas, Kentucky, Syracuse and West Virginia, with Kansas as his national champ.
During the Army-Navy game, CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson, who has called many Gators games over the years, showed some self-deprecating humor and took a playful jab at his critics by saying, "And I know people who follow us are surprised we can do a game without mentioning Tim Tebow.''
The filmed opening of the Army-Navy game, featuring parents of the players and narration by actor Harrison Ford, raised goose bumps and produced a few tears to set the perfect tone for a classic rivalry game. As one parent said, "It's the good guys vs. … the good guys.''
Finally, NBC's golf coverage addressed the Tiger Woods soap opera because, well, it couldn't avoid it any longer. The best player in the game announced he is taking an "indefinite'' leave -- news that NBC's golf team couldn't ignore. Roger Maltbie and Gary Koch both spoke of it and, to the shock of no one, seemed to show support for Woods. Koch said everyone he talks to is tired of the story, and Maltbie talked about wanting Woods to get back on the course. But, hey, at least they mentioned it.
Good, not great
ESPN's The U, a two-hour documentary about the University of Miami football program in the 1980s, made its debut Saturday. It was somewhat entertaining, but little more than a walk down memory lane. The film deserves credit for telling the entire story of the Hurricanes -- the good, bad and ugly. But there wasn't anything new in it; it simply retold the story. It's worth the two hours, but it's not the best of ESPN’s "30 for 30'' documentary series and not as informative or entertaining as the ones about the USFL, the death of Len Bias, the move of the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis, or the fight between Larry Holmes and Muhammad Ali.
Most interesting quote
Not sure I believe this, but NFL Network analyst Michael Irvin had an interesting take on the Saints and Colts going for a perfect season: "I would turn in all three Super Bowl rings and my Hall of Fame bust for one undefeated season.''
Alabama's Mark Ingram saved the Heisman Trophy presentation show on ESPN with his tearful speech that showed just how much the award meant to him. Overall, the show was solid, which you would expect with the College GameDay crew of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard handling the hosting duties. But you couldn't help but get the feeling that it was dragging on when 50 minutes of an hourlong show is spent talking about the finalists that everyone has spent the past week talking about.
Three things that popped into my head
1. I still think Stanford's Toby Gerhart should’ve won the Heisman, but it's hard to argue against the winner -- Alabama's Mark Ingram. Here's what you can argue about: Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate received two first-place votes.
2. Six weeks ago, which team did you think had a better shot of getting back to the Super Bowl, the Steelers or the Cardinals?
3. Fearless prediction: The Colts and Saints will both finish the regular season undefeated, and neither will get to the Super Bowl.