Tuesday, May 8, 2012

FFHL NFL DRAFT RECAP – ROUND #1 AND SOME OTHER STUFF



FROM THE DESK OF THE “FUGITIVE” COMMISSIONER

Hello Football Fans,
I tried to summarize each team's draft briefly, and it's mixed in with the first round draft selections.
After the draft stuff, I've got some other NFL and college football updates that may interest you.  Check out the end of the letter.
Enjoy,
The Fugitive Commissioner of the FFHL, on the lam from the gambling police

Before we get to the draft, I just want to say that even as a Vikings’ fan, I feel so sorry for our rival in the NFC North, the Detroit Lions.  The 50-year Bobby Layne Curse had just “expired”.  With the help of QB Matthew Stafford, who went to the same high school as Layne, the Lions have started to turn things around.  Now, the Lions’ mega-star WR Calvin “Megatron” Johnson has just been awarded the cover for the Madden NFL ’13 video game, which has a history of cursing the “cover” player.  Last year the cover was Peyton Hillis, and just check out how bad his 2011 season turned out.  He missed six games during the season with the Browns (5 with injury, one with strep throat), and was traded to KC in the offseason.
Prior to 1999, Madden himself graced the cover.   

Starting in 1999, a star player was featured on the cover, beginning with Garrison Hearst who broke his ankle that season and was out for two years, never to be the same great player again.  Another anxiety for the Lions happened the next year, 2000, when Barry Sanders graced the Madden cover and then abruptly retired before the start of that next season.  He had been the lone bright spot for the Lions during the Bobby Layne Curse Era.  The Madden Curse carried on almost every year after that, with the cover player having a bad year.  Another example was Vince Young, who felt good about avoiding the curse as his picture was printed on the cover of the Madden NFL 2008.  And most of us know his disastrous story (most recently, as the backup QB for the PHI Eagles, he labeled his new team the “Dream Team” that ended up 8-8 last year and out of the playoffs; he’s now in Buffalo).
Good luck in 2012, Megatron!

OK, enough frivolity, let’s get to the draft.
The TV coverage was so much more enjoyable this year.  In prior years, the networks had gotten advanced notice of the picks and gave away each pick before it was announced at the podium.  Anti-climax.  That practice was discontinued this year, and it made for a more pleasant draft experience.

NFL DRAFT – FIRST ROUND (Thursday night; a quick 3 hours)

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell strolled to the podium at the Radio City Music Hall in NYC to announce the first pick, he was met with a mixed reaction from the crowd.  It was probably a welcome relief for him after last year’s boisterous jeering during the lockout. This year, I think it was just Jets and Giants fans wanting to boo, regardless of the reason (or lack thereof).

This is a summary of the first round of the draft, followed by comments about the team and the overall draft, including a draft “grade” given to each team by Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports on 4/30/12 (one man’s opinion).

THE PICKS

#1 INDIANAPOLIS – QB Andrew LUCK (Stanford), two-time Heisman runner-up
The Colts finally announced that Luck was the pick two days before the draft.
Indy’s only other QBs currently on the roster are Drew Stanton and Trevor Vittatoe, so Andrew will no doubt be starting from Day 1.
Luck’s father was drafted as a QB also, in 1982 by the Houston Oilers at #44 overall.
         
OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B
Hello, McFly!?!  Peyton Manning is in Denver.
The Colts next three picks after Luck were two TE’s (arguably the best two in this draft class) and a WR.
Indy had the last pick in the draft – Mr. Irrelevant, pick #253 – QB Chandler Harnish from Northern Illinois, who had already been offered a free-agent signing bonus and contract from the SD Chargers during the 7th round of the draft (technically against the rules).

**HUGE -- FIRST (and by far the biggest) TRADE**
This was technically the first trade of the draft, made over a month before the draft (3/9/12); it was to be the first of an astounding NINE trades in the first round.
         
          #2 WASHINGTON – QB Robert GRIFFIN III (Baylor)
As with the #1 selection, this pick was no surprise either.  The ‘Skins mortgaged their draft future to move up from #6 overall to this spot, giving up 1st round picks in 2013 & 2014 plus a 2nd rounder this year.
Griffin was the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B-
The Redskins get credit for the big trade, but during the draft made the curious pick of another QB in the 4th round – Kirk Cousins (Mich.St.).  They have too many holes in their depth chart to have the luxury of making a pick like that.


*Another TRADE*
#3 CLEVELAND switched places with the Vikings to be certain to get RB Trent RICHARDSON (ALA).  The Browns were worried that Tampa Bay may trade into this spot to get him, so they gave up 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks to Minnesota to move up from the #4 spot.  Vikes’ GM Rick Spielman snaked those picks nicely.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C+
Cleveland picked up QB Brandon Weeden (age 28, OK.St) with their 2nd pick in the first round (#22), and young incumbent starter Colt McCoy will likely be traded.

#4 MINNESOTA – OT Matt Kalil (USC)

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B+
The Vikings selected three sets of teammates in the draft – two offensive linemen from USC (OT, TE), two secondary defenders from Notre Dame (SS, CB), and two WR’s from Arkansas.  Minnesota traded up into the first round to get the second-best safety in the draft, ND’s Harrison Smith.

*TRADE Number Three of Nine* 
#5 JACKSONVILLE moved up two spots, leapfrogging St. Louis at #6 to make sure they got WR Justin BLACKMON (Okla.St).  The Jags need help for their fledgling young QB Blaine Gabbert.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C-
JAX has plenty of glaring needs throughout their roster, and didn’t have the luxury of taking a punter in the 3rd round.  But that’s what happened.

**TRADE Number Four of Nine**
          #6 DALLAS jumped up eight spots, giving up its 1st and 2nd round picks (#14 and #45 overall) to St. Louis, to select highly touted CB Morris CLAIBORNE (LSU).  The Lambs have now already traded down twice.  This was a cheap price for the Cowboys to pay to move up to get one of the “elite” players in this year’s class (total of six, maybe 7, elite players in this year’s draft).

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B
The Cowboys had already signed CB Brandon Carr in free agency (5 years, $50MM).  They should be fine at cornerback in 2012.  Their next three picks in the draft were also on defense – DE/OLB/DB.

#7 TAMPA BAY – Having traded down two spots to get an extra 4th round pick (#101 overall), the Bucs picked up the best safety in the draft, Mark BARRON (ALA), and maybe the seventh “elite” player in this draft.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C
The Bucs picked up three more defensive players in the draft, and also got two RB’s (a position of need, not filled by Alabama’s Trent Richardson).  Tampa traded into the first round at #31 to get Boise’s RB Doug Martin, a three-down back who could overtake mentally challenged (in football terms) and fumble-prone LeGarrette Blount.

#8 MIAMI – QB Ryan TANNEHILL (Texas A&M).  The Dolphins’ new offensive coordinator Mike Sherman coached Tannehill for four years as head coach of the Aggies.  Tannehill was converted from WR in mid-2010, so he started at QB for only 1½ seasons.  He is still a work in progress and needs development as an NFL QB, but he has all of the tools and should get the proper guidance from Sherman.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B+
The ‘Fins may finally have their “QB of the future”, and drafted mostly offensive players to support him, getting OT (Jonathan Martin, STAN, 2nd RD)/TE/RB (Lamar Miller, Miami.FL, 4th RD)/2 WR.

The run on defensive “front seven” players has officially started.
#9 CAROLINA – ILB Luke Kuechly (BC) (pronounced keek’-lee).

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B+
Nothing stands out to me; Panthers filling needs.

#10 BUFFALO – CB Stephon GILMORE (S.CAR)
         
OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B
Bills look to be sticking with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick; they brought in Vince Young after the draft, but that’s no big deal at this point.  In the draft, BUF picked up 2 DB’s, 2 ILB, 2 OG and an OT and WR and kicker.

#11 KANSAS CITY – NT Dontari POE (Memphis), a wide-bodied 346-pound workout warrior whose physical skills haven’t yet fully translated to the field.  He has huge upside potential, or “bust” potential.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C-
Crap shoot on first round pick – is Poe motivated to play NFL-type football?
The Chiefs followed up that pick with two offensive guards.

*TRADE Number Five of Nine*
#12 PHILADELPHIA – the Eagles moved up 3 spots to get DT Fletcher Cox (Miss.St)

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: A-
The Eagles bolstered their defense with first three picks – DE/ILB/DE, and then grabbed QB Nick Foles (Arizona) in the late 3rd round.  Their left tackle is injured and out for 2012, so let’s see what happens there.

#13 ARIZONA – WR Michael FLOYD (ND), who had worked out with Cardinals’ WR Larry Fitzgerald during the offseason.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B+
The Cards were filling needs, picking up three offensive linemen and two cornerbacks.

#14 ST. LOUIS – After starting with the #2 pick in the draft, the Rams finally made a selection with DT Michael BROCKERS (LSU), after trading down twice.  The STL Rams gathered up three 2nd-round picks.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: A-
St. Louis decided early on that QB Sam Bradford was their signal caller.
With many holes, the Rams selected two WR’s, two good CB’s, and two RB’s.
In the 2nd round, they selected WR/CB/RB.

*** SHOCKER – FIRST “REACH” OF THE DRAFT***
#15 SEATTLE – After trading down with Philly and getting extra 4th and 6th round picks, the Seahawks grabbed talented but troubled OLB Bruce IRVIN (West VA), whose various off-field problems (high school dropout, GED, JC, several arrests) had lowered his draft expectations.
This “reach” pick started a run of three “troubled” players being selected consecutively.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: D-
The Seahawks have a bit of a quarterback problem, and selecting QB Russell Wilson (WISC) in the 3rd round doesn’t help much, in most people’s view.  He’s less than six feet tall, and that historically has not translated well to the NFL.  Free agent signee from Green Bay, Matt Flynn, will compete with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting spot.

#16 NY JETS – DE Quinton COPLES (UNC).  Very athletically gifted, but he showed a lack of effort last year at North Carolina.  He could be another “bust”, similar to the lame pick by the Jets in 2008 with the #6 overall pick – Vernon Gholston.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C-
Let the Tebowmania circus begin.

#17 CINCINNATI – CB Dre KIRKPATRICK (ALA).  It just figures that the Bengals would take a player with character concerns (arrested in January for marijuana possession).  The pundits say he shouldn’t be a problem.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: A
Some pundits believe the Bengals’ first four picks are solid “character” guys.  Cincy drafted on both sides of the ball.  Grade of “A” seems generous, but we’ll see when the season starts how last year’s playoff team has been improved.  They need third round draft pick WR Mohamed Sanu (Rutgers) to help take the pressure off of now sophomores WR A.J. Green and QB Andy Dalton.

Did the Chargers actually make a great pick?  We’ll see, but it looks good on paper.
#18 SAN DIEGO – DE Melvin INGRAM (S.CAR)

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C
The Chargers selected defense with their first three picks, basically trying to replace players in positions drafted in prior years that didn’t pan out.  They then selected four offensive players – TE/OG/OC/RB.  After losing WR Vincent Jackson in free agency (TB Bucs), they did not pick up a wideout in the draft.

#19 CHICAGO – OLB Shea McCLELLAN (Boise)
This guy may be a bit of a “tweener”, and may be a reach at #19. 

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C
The Bears picked up three secondary players in the draft.

#20 TENNESSEE – WR Kendall WRIGHT (Baylor)
This gives a scat-back option and one more weapon for young sophomore QB Jake Locker. 

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B-
After the #1 pick, the rest of the Titans’ draft was focused on defense – OLB/DT/CB/DE/FS/DE.

** TRADE Number Six of Nine**
#21 NEW ENGLAND – DE Chandler JONES (SYR).  The Patriots moved up six spots from #27 in a trade with Cincinnati.  Speculation was that the Jets should have made this pick, instead of gambling with a potential “bust”.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: A
The Patriots loaded up on defense – DE/ILB/SS (reach)/DE/DB/CB, and then a WR.

#22 CLEVELAND – QB Brandon Weeden (OK.St).  He’ll turn 29 in October, and will compete immediately for the starting job with incumbent Colt McCoy (or maybe not have to compete, if McCoy is traded).  Weeden spent five years as a minor league pitcher with the Yankees before deciding to pursue football.

#23 DETROIT – OT Riley REIFF (Iowa)
The Lions are going to try him at left OT (because they need one), but he may not be up to that task and may end up at left guard or right tackle.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C
The Lions got a WR in the 2nd round, and then switched over exclusively to the defensive side of the ball – 3 DB’s and 3 OLB’s.

#24 PITTSBURGH – OG David DeCASTRO (Stanford)

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B+
The Steelers bolstered their offensive line, also adding OT Mike Adams (OH.St) in the 2nd round.

**TRADE Number Seven of Nine**
#25 NEW ENGLAND – LB Dont’a HIGHTOWER (ALA).  With their second pick of the first round, the Pats again moved up six spots (from #31 this time) and gave up a 4th rounder to Denver.

#26 HOUSTON – DE Whitney MERCILUS (ILL)

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C
The Texans lost former #1 overall pick DE Mario Williams in free agency to Buffalo, and then tried to replace him in the draft.  This is the cheap route, but not necessarily the best way to stay on a playoff run.
MLB DeMeco Ryans, 2006 Defensive Rookie of the Year, was also lost in free agency, as he was “neutered” when HOU switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.

#27 CINCINNATI – OG Kevin ZEITLER (WISC).  I had to double-check to make sure this guy didn’t have “character concerns”, since it was a Bengals’ pick.  He does have a history of ankle injuries.

#28 GREEN BAY – OLB Nick PERRY (USC), and the Pack is hoping he will complement Clay Matthews in their 3-4 defense.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B
The Pack selected defensive players with their first six picks.

**TRADE Number Eight of Nine**
#29 MINNESOTA – Safety Harrison SMITH (ND).  Please help our secondary, Harrison.
The Vikings moved up six spots from #35 and gave Baltimore an extra 4th rounder (#98 overall).

** ANOTHER “REACH”? **
#30 SAN FRANCISCO – WR A.J. JENKINS (ILL)
A talented wideout, but Pro Football Weekly says, “… inconsistent worker… has an overinflated opinion of himself”.  Sounds like a typical wide receiver to me.
“Not so fast, my friend” – last year the Niners were accused of reaching with both their 1st (DE Aldon Smith) and 3rd round picks, and both worked out well.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B
The 49’ers picked up Oregon RB LaMichael James in the 2nd round, while already having young RB Kendall Hunter presumably performing the same role.  Coach Harbaugh certainly didn’t want to have to game-plan against him, as he did as the coach at Stanford.

** Last of NINE trades in the first round **
#31 TAMPA BAY – RB Doug MARTIN (Boise)

#32 NY GIANTS– RB David WILSON (VA.Tk)

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C+
The Super Bowl Champions used the draft mainly to upgrade their offense – RB/WR/TE/OT/OT.

TEAMS WITH NO PICKS IN FIRST ROUND

OAKLAND RAIDERS
The Raiders wouldn’t have had a pick until the 5th round, had it not been for two compensatory picks assigned to them, one each at the end of the 3rd and 4th rounds.  This mess was created before new GM Reggie McKenzie took over.
1st rounder was lost in trade for QB Carson Palmer.
2nd rounder was lost in trade with NE last year to get 3rd and 4th rounders.
3rd rounder was used to pick up QB Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft last year.
4th rounder was used to pick up QB Jason Campbell from the Redskins.
7th rounder was used to pick up LB Aaron Curry from Seattle.
Ugly!
One off-season trade that is rather interesting:  The Raiders picked up QB Matt Leinart to back up Carson Palmer this year.  Leinart was Palmer’s backup at USC.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: D
There first pick of the 2012 draft (#95) was an offensive tackle that may be moved inside to guard.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
The Saints traded their 1st round pick last year to move up and get Alabama RB Mark Ingram.
Their 2nd round pick was lost due to the “bounty” scandal (more later; see below).

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: F
NOR first pick was in the 3rd round, and they selected a defensive end from the University of Regina (where?).
The Saints’ 4th round pick was “overrated” WR Nick Toon out of Wisconsin.
Still, it is brutal to flunk the Saints.

ATLANTA FALCONS
The Falcons traded their 1st round pick last year to move up and select WR Julio Jones.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: B-
Atlanta’s first three picks in the 2012 draft were blockers – OC/OT/FB.

BALTIMORE RAVENS
The Ravens traded out of the first round.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C+
The Ravens selected OLB Courtney Upshaw from Alabama with their first pick early in the 2nd round
BAL then picked up two “road-grader” offensive guards in the 2nd and 4th rounds, and got RB Bernard Pierce (Temple) in the 3rd round.

DENVER BRONCOS
The Broncos traded down twice, out of the first round.

OVERALL DRAFT GRADE: C
With their first pick early in the 2nd round, the Broncos selected DT Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati), and then picked up “QB to learn from Peyton” Brock Osweiler (AZ.St), a 6’7” project.

MINUTIA FROM THE FIRST ROUND, and beyond

At the end of the first round on Thursday night, 6 of the 26 players personally invited and attending the draft in New York City were still sitting in the “Green Room”, undrafted.  All six players were drafted on Friday night in Round 2; LSU WR Rueben Randle was drafted by the NY Giants with the last pick of the 2nd round (#63).

Alabama had 4 players selected in first round, and nine other schools had two players selected as first-rounders.  Translated, that means 22 of the first 32 players drafted came from only 10 schools (with 120 FBS/Division 1-A teams total).  The nine schools: LSU, South Carolina, Baylor, Boise State, Illinois, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Stanford, and USC.

In last year’s draft, only one running back was selected in the first round; 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (Alabama) was selected at #28 overall.  That was an NFL draft record -- the latest ever to select the first RB of the draft.
This year, it looked as if a similar event would occur – Alabama RB Trent Richardson was selected at #3 overall, but there were no other running backs identified as “sure” first round picks.  But Tampa Bay at #31 and NY Giants at #32 both selected a RB, and the first round ended with three RB’s picked.
Did you know, Richardson attended the same high school as Emmitt Smith – Escambia (Florida) H.S.

CB Morris Claiborne (LSU) went #6 in the draft.
There has still never been a cornerback drafted higher than #3 in the history of the NFL Draft (1997-Seattle, Shawn Springs, Ohio State).  The only defensive back to ever be drafted #1 was Gary Glick in the 1956 Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who converted him from QB to safety.  He was a star quarterback for Colorado State University.
Last year, CB Patrick Peterson was drafted #4 overall by Arizona.

There were zero TE’s selected in the 1st round.

Did you know?  Prior to this year, in the 45 years of the “common draft” that started in 1967, the WSH Redskins had only selected players in the 1st round in 22 of those years.  After this year’s 1st round selection, they have now made a 1st round pick exactly 50% of the time (23 of 46 years).
In 1937, the ‘Skins selected Slingin’ Sammy Baugh in the 1st round; he still holds the Redskins’ record for most TD passes (187).

DRAFT PICKS BY CONFERENCE:
SEC             42      including Alabama 8, Georgia 7, S. Carolina 6, LSU 5
Big Ten         41      including Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State with 6 each
ACC            31      including Miami.FL 6, NC State 5
12-PAK       28      including CAL with 6
Big XII         25      including Oklahoma 7 and Baylor 5
Non-FBS     24      only U. of Montana (2) had more than 1 player selected
MWC          12      Boise State had 6 players selected
Big East        12     
WAC            11
C-USA          8
Sun Belt         6
Independent   4        all Notre Dame

40 of the 120 FBS schools had ZERO players selected, including 10 schools from BCS conferences:
                    ACC             Duke, Maryland
                    Big East        Pittsburgh, USF
                    Big 10           Indiana, Minnesota
                    Big XII          Kansas, Texas Tech
                    PAC-12         UCLA, Washington State
                    SEC             none

SEVERAL “WELL-KNOWN” PLAYERS NOT DRAFTED
QB Kellen Moore     Boise St        Too short, weak arm?? He signed free agent contract with
                                                            the DET Lions
QB Case Keenum   TX Tech        Too short?? He signed free agent contract with HOU Texans
RB Bobby Rainey    W. Kentucky Little guy (5’7”) and not a blazer; not every-down back
RB Rodney Stewart Colorado       Little guy (5’6”, 175) and has battled injuries
WR Dwight Jones    UNC             Big guy (6’3”, 230) but lacks top-end speed, and bothered by
                                                            press coverage
WR Patrick Edwards          Houston        Little guy (5’9”, 172) and not a blazer and slot receiver only
WR Eric Page                   Toledo                    Little guy (5’9”) and not a blazer (came out early, after junior
                                                            year, and would have broken all-time NCAA receptions record
                                                            had he stayed in school-ouch!)
OT Levy Adcock      OK State      Had knee issues, lacks athleticism
OT Matt Reynolds   BYU             Has had trouble with speed rushers
OG Will Blackwell    LSU              “Lack of athleticism”; he was All-SEC last year
OC Michael Brewster         OH St           Lacks quickness of elite centers; was All-Big 10 in 2010 & 2011
Here are just a few of the defensive players not selected:
LB Vontaze Burfict  AZ St            1st round talent, but a major head case and did not perform
                                                            consistently on the field last year, and struggled at the NFL
                                                            Combine and at ASU’s Pro Day
CB Chase Minnifield          Virginia         Two-time All-ACC, but had knee surgery in January
FS Aaron Henry      Wisconsin     Two-time All-Big 10; his vertical leap was “only” 39.5
                                                            and his 40 time was “only” 4.53.  Wow! Tough to get drafted in
                                                            the NFL.

OTHER FOOTBALL NEWS – RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

NFL

PRO BOWL
The Pro Bowl may be cancelled this year.  It is tentatively scheduled to be played the week before the Super Bowl, the same as last year, but no site for the game has been listed to date.
After last year’s ugly game in which the players didn’t really play football, the Commissioner’s office will seriously consider calling it off this year.  The 2012 Pro Bowl (after the 2011 season) was so bad that the crowd was booing after the first couple of series.  It appeared that the opposing teams conspired to avoid injuries at all costs, including their short-term credibility and potentially the future of the Pro Bowl itself.

BOUNTY-GATE
In case you haven’t heard, the New Orleans Saints got busted for having a bounty system from 2009 through 2011, whereby players got paid to knock opposing players out of the game.  The accused ringleader was former NOR Saints’ defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was hired for the same position with the St. Louis Rams for 2012.  But he has now been suspended indefinitely by the NFL (at least one year, maybe lifetime).  The team had earlier been told to shut down the bounty system, but did not, and then presumably lied to Commissioner Goodell about what was going on.

Saints’ head coach Sean Payton was suspended for one year, so New Orleans promoted one of their assistant coaches, Joe Vitt, as interim head coach, even though he has also been suspended for the first six games of the season.

Four players have now been suspended for their involvement in the bounty scandal.
New Orleans’ LB Jonathan Vilma is suspended for a full year; he was accused of establishing and funding the program along with Coach Williams.
Green Bay’s DE Anthony Hargrove is suspended for eight games, finally admitting his role in the bounty program after he “actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators.”
New Orleans’ DE Will Smith is suspended for four games, accused of helping establish and fund the bounty program.
CLE Browns LB Scott Fujita was given a three-game suspension for his involvement while a member of the Saints.

We’ll see what shakes out in the appeal process, as grievances were filed Thursday by the NFL Players Association.  I’ll be shocked if any of these players get reduced suspensions.  The players’ stories are convoluted and are contradicted by evidence the Commissioner’s Office has gathered, the way I see it now.

UNITED FOOTBALL LEAGUE (UFL) and OTHER LEAGUES

It sounds as if the UFL is dead.  Earlier this year, the Commissioner quit and the league pulled the plug on its website.  The only way to keep it going would be with the influx of cash, presumably from the NFL who could make the league into an in-season minor league.

Now someone wants to revive the defunct USFL from the 1980’s, and make it a true NFL minor league.  Jamie Cuadra has acquired the brand, and he plans to launch a cost-conscious league with teams in cities that have neither pro football nor major league baseball.

Stay tuned.

And just in case you missed it, the Lingerie Football League (LFL) has decided to start its next season in April of 2013 (no USA games in 2012, but there will be a world tour).  The reasoning was to switch to a spring/summer schedule, a better chance at financial success and so that the league can focus on LFL world tours that will take place in late 2012.  LFL Canada is not affected by the change.


WARM AND FUZZY
Undrafted free agent Eric LeGrand was signed by Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whose head coach is Greg Schiano, the former head coach of Rutgers.
Defensive tackle LeGrand would have been eligible for the recently-completed NFL draft this year, but a spinal injury left the Rutgers DT paralyzed from the neck down.  The injury ended any dream the player may have had of playing in the NFL.
But his former head coach allowed him to symbolically live out that dream by signing him.  LeGrand will graduate next fall, and has embarked on what’s turning into a very successful broadcasting career.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

“PLAYOFFS!  PLAYOFFS??!!” (quote by Jim Mora, Sr.   )

Yes, college football is finally embracing the idea of a playoff system starting in 2014.  There are several key items still to be determined, but a 4-team playoff is the starting point.  And, speculation is that once the playoff system is in place, expansion to 8 teams would be inevitable.
The BCS system will probably be scrapped after the 2013 season.

Here are some of the logistics to work out:

Q:      Where will the semifinal playoff games and the championship game be played?
A:       One idea would be to have the semifinal games at the home field of the “higher ranked” team,
                    and then have the final at a neutral site to be determined.  This would mirror the NFL setup.
                    Of course, this is not set in stone; prior year bowl sites may be an alternative.
                    Weather and capacity of the stadiums could also be issues to resolve.

Q:      Which teams get into the 4-team playoff?
A:       One possibility would be to have the highest-ranked conference champions get into the playoff,    
                    with a stipulation that those teams are ranked in the Top 6 (just a suggestion being thrown
around).  Another idea is to have the Top 4 ranked teams make the playoffs, regardless of whether a team is a conference champion.

Q:      How will the “rankings” be determined?
A:       The rankings may consist of human polls only, or a BCS-type formula, or a single computer
program (pre-programmed with criteria known ahead of time), or as in college basketball, a selection committee.

At least progress is being made.  Stay tuned.

CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT UPDATES

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (WAC) is crumbling
The WAC had already lost Hawaii, Fresno State, and Nevada to the Mountain West Conference (MWC).
San Jose State and Utah State are officially moving from the WAC to the MWC effective July 1, 2013.
The MWC is supposed to lose Boise State to the Big East in 2013, but that’s another story.
Texas State is moving into the FBS and was slated to become a WAC member, but is now officially bailing out of the sinking ship and joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2013.
UT-San Antonio was also supposed to be a WAC member, but will instead officially be joining Conference USA in 2013.
Also moving to C-USA in 2013 are Florida International (Sun Belt), Louisiana Tech (WAC), North Texas (Sun Belt), and UNC-Charlotte (no football program yet, but redshirt freshman will enroll in 2012; last team there was 50 years ago).

The only remaining schools in the WAC are currently Idaho and New Mexico State.  Obviously, there will be an update on this situation in the near future.  NM State may go to the Sun Belt, and Idaho may move back to FCS (Division 1-AA).



OTHER CONFERENCES

Memphis (C-USA) will be an all-sports participant in the Big East Conference starting in 2013.  Memphis is definitely “East” (east of the Mississippi River).  Temple thought it would be considered by the Big East, but it didn’t happen and the Owls may be looking to join the C-USA.
The Big East is becoming the old C-USA with sprinkled-in parts.

New SEC members Texas A&M and Missouri have reached an exit settlement with the Big XII.  They will be paying exit fees in the form of forfeiting a large percentage of their TV revenue because they gave less than one year’s notice for departure.  I’m guessing they could be paying $10MM each to their old conference.

SANCTIONS SLAPPED ON NAUGHTY TEAMS

North Carolina was busted for “failure to monitor” its football program and will not be bowl-eligible for the 2012 season.  The Tar Heels will also forfeit 15 scholarships over the next three seasons, and they are on three-year probation.

South Carolina self-imposed penalties on itself based on providing impermissible benefits to student-athletes.  This consisted mainly of football players, and mainly 12 athletes living at a hotel with below-market rates (less than $15 per night), plus a booster organization providing about $8,000 for recruiting inducements.  The NCAA found that SC “failed to monitor”, and pretty much agreed with the school’s self-imposed penalties, including the loss of 12 scholarships and limited official visits by recruits and three years probation.  The NCAA “leniency” was as least partially due to the extraordinary cooperation of the school in the investigation.

Georgia Tech’s appeal was denied, so the Yellowjackets forfeit their 2009 ACC title, and no other team gets it.  GA Tech had a former player become an employee of a sports agency, and then gave impermissible benefits to a then-current player, and a few other sneaky, underhanded things.  The school is on a four-year probation.


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