In the last seven years, the University of Arkansas has had arguably the most turbulent stretch of head coaching changes in all pro or college football. Razorback fans will certainly accede to this. The following word associations shall forevermore rub salt into their psychic wounds: Nutt, text gate, Malzahn, Mustain; Petrino, Dorrell, motorcycle, neck brace, red face (not from shame); John L. Smith, awkward, national, laughing, stock.
From a public outrage standpoint, though, none of the above fallouts would match what would happen if Bret Bielema left Fayetteville after this season. The idea that Arkansas’ most recent coach would pursue greener pastures after only two years seems far-fetched. But not far-fetched enough for one long-time Ohio State football writer to spend a full column on.
TheOzone.net’s Tony Gerdeman recently laid out a case for why Michigan should hire Bret Bielema to replace its current embattled coach Brady Hoke. Hoke, in case you haven’t heard, makes Will Muschamp’s tenure at Florida look more secure than a Chuck Norris handshake. This year (Hoke’s fourth) Michigan has lost four of six games including a 31-0 drubbing to Notre Dame – the first time the program’s been shut in 30 years.
Gerdeman argues since Bielema has already found success in the Big Ten (he had a 39-19 conference record as Wisconsin’s coach), he could do even better with a far richer program like Michigan. Other potential candidates have also been successful, but they don’t represent a return to the glory days of the Wolverines patriarch Bo Schembechler like Bielema could.
“He is the perfect fit for a program that wants to play football the way their ancestors played — between the tackles and on the ground. Few coaches have the track record that Bielema has when it comes to playing the type of football that Michigan thought they were getting with Brady Hoke. If they were to land Bielema, then they would finally be on the right track toward establishing the identity that they so badly want to portray.”
Finally, and most importantly, Bielema “is smug, arrogant and he hates Ohio State. If that’s not a Michigan Man, then I don’t know what is,” Gerdeman writes.
No doubt, Bielema hates himself some Buckeye. Any time, any place:
It’s a Sunday night and excited about the week ahead. Was good week of recruiting especially against “THE” University’s of the world. #WPS
— Bret Bielema (@BretBielema) July 29, 2013
At Wisconsin, he beat Ohio State only once in six tries but Hayes Almighty what a loss! The Badgers’ 2010 win ruined Ohio State’s national title shot. Fourth-quarter issues plagued Wisconsin in many of those losses, as they have so far in the Hogs’ two SEC losses against Auburn and Texas A&M. If a fourth quarter meltdown proves the difference in Arkansas’ Saturday showdown against No. 7 Alabama, Bielema will start facing the same kind of local scrutiny he felt from Wisconsin fans and media during his last months in Madison.
Gerdeman then considers whether Bielema would actually want to leave Arkansas even if Michigan showed interest. He starts talking money, and this is where his argument breaks down.
He points out the Wolverines’ assistant Doug Nussmeier makes $200,000 more at Michigan than he did at Alabama, and insinuates the Wolverines have deep enough pockets to lure practically anybody they want to Ann Arbor.
This is Big Ten-centric thinking. Yes, Ohio State and Michigan make much more money off football than most SEC schools, but that doesn’t mean they are investing the same percentage of their “profit” (revenue-expenditures) into football as schools in the middle of the SEC pack like Arkansas. Additionally, the numbers below show that Arkansas is on par – and in some cases superior to – Michigan when it comes to investing in its football program:
|$99,770,840||Athletic Dept Total Revenue*||$143,514,125|
|$92,131,933||Athletic Dept Total Expenditures||$131,018,311|
|$3.2 million avg. per yr / 6 yrs**||Head FB coach contract||$3.25 million avg. per yr / 6 yrs|
|$3.2 million||Head FB coach salary 2014||$2.3 million***|
|$3,205,000 circa Feb. 2014||FB Staff Salary 2014||$3,072,000 circa Dec. 2013|
|Jim Cheney, OC, $550,000Robb Smith, DC, $500,000
Sam Pittman, OC, $500,000
|Highest Paid FB Assistants||Greg Mattison, DC, $835,000Doug Nussmeier, OC, $830,000|
Yes, Michigan has shown it’s willing to pay its very top assistants more money than most other schools. And yes, with $25.3 million coming into its football program as donations from an enormous alumni base, it would be willing to pay off any buyout clause necessary to get the coach it wants – including Bielema’s $2.5 million price tag.
But those aren’t nearly strong enough reasons for Bielema to uproot after a mere two years getting acclimated to the SEC. His primary reason for coming to Arkansas was to get a shot at the big boys. The burning competitor in Bielema wants to know how he measures up as a head coach against the very best.
If he, his staff and his recruits try their best, and after five or six years they don’t measure up, then he can one day retire knowing he at least didn’t shy away from his sport’s greatest challenge. Gerdeman wrote Michigan’s imminent opening would give Bielema “an opportunity to get the hell out of the SEC, specifically the SEC West. Coaching in the SEC is too hard because every school is always trying to win.”
Sorry, but no.
The fact every SEC school is “always trying to win” is the main draw to coaching there in the first place.
*The most recent data reported as of summer 2014.
** Both coaches’ contracts are loaded with a mind-numbing array of opportunities to earn more.
*** Last year, Hoke banked well over $4 million dollars but that was because of a $1.5 million “stay bonus” paid following the season and a $1.05 million payout for “deferred compensation,” according to mlive.com.
Ok – I lied…
If only Arizonan Ryan Fitzpatrick hadn’t attended a Yankee school like Harvard, this concept would really fly.
“@ChrisMannixSI: Jermain Taylor should not be allowed within 100 miles of Golovkin. Nice win. don’t want to see GGG hurt him” >> 1,000 miles
— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) October 9, 2014
Tonight, Little Rock native Jermain Taylor took home the middleweight IBF title with a unanimous decision take-down of 40-year-old Sam Soliman. On the surface, that’s great news for one of Arkansas’ most beloved athletes. In reality, it could present an opportunity for the former Olympic gold medalist with tragic consequences.
Because this Soliman win returns some prestige to Taylor’s once-matinee brand, many boxing pundits believe it’s likely HBO will attempt to schedule a fight between the 37-year-old Taylor and undefeated Ganndady Golovkin, who at age 32 has the highest KO ratio (27 of 30 fights) in middleweight championship history. Golovkin, aka “GGG,” has never been knocked down or knocked out in over 375 fights. If the promise of large purse trump the publicly stated intentions of Taylor’s promoter Lou Dibella, it could pose serious health threats to Taylor, who was severely beaten the last time he fought boxers remotely near Golovkin’s caliber. As Jake Emen of ProBoxing-Fans.com writes:
Make no mistake about it, Golovkin vs. Taylor would be an absolute disaster. Jermain Taylor is a fighter who has suffered bleeding on the brain. Caleb Truax knocked him down. Kelly Pavlik, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham all brutally kayoed him. Prior to this fight, he didn’t sniff the top 10 of the Middleweight division. He has no business in the ring against somebody like Gennady Golovkin at this stage of his career, and more importantly, at this stage of his life. If anyone around him had any sense, they’d let this return to championship glory signal the end of Taylor’s career, a heroic curtain call enabling him to rest easy for the remainder of his years – not to mention allow him to sort out his pending legal issues. But no, that won’t happen, will it?
Before this match is actually scheduled, Golovkin must win his Oct. 18 match against Marco Rubio and it’s possible Taylor will fight once more too. Still, the stars seem to be aligning for what could be a catastrophe for Taylor – and the sport of boxing – given the brain damage Taylor suffered in 2009.
In 2011, the Nevada State Athletic Commission approved Taylor’s reapplication to fight after he’d gone through a battery of tests and received clearance from doctors.
Dr. Margaret Goodman, a long-time ringside physician for the NSAC, condemned the decision. “I think it is unconscionable that Jermain [Taylor] was relicensed,” she told Ring Magazine. “It is not about whether his brain has healed or how he looked in the gym. Jermain has shown a predisposition to cerebral hemorrhage, and irrespective of whether or not he bled, he has shown he cannot adequately handle a punch.”
Goodman ultimately said the commission was playing “Russian roulette” with Taylor’s life.
I love miracles and feel-good stories of redemption and all that, but not enough to see what could transpire if this fight happens. I hope Taylor still has enough of his wits about him to say “no” to HBO if and when the time comes.
A Gennady Golovkin vs. Jermain Taylor unification is a very scary thought
— Boxing News & Debate (@BoxingNaD) October 9, 2014
A Gennady Golovkin vs. Jermain Taylor unification is a very scary thought
Gennady Golovkin is going to build a missile crater where Jermain Taylor’s head used to be.
— Patrick Connor (@VoiceOfBeard) October 9, 2014
Originally posted on The Big Lead:
San Antonio residents have been receiving mailed surveys asking about their interest and support if the Raiders played in San Antonio, according to a report from News Radio 1200 WOAI.
In July, reports emerged that Raiders owner Mark Davis had flown to San Antonio and met with civic leaders. The Raiders lease in Oakland expires after this season, and Davis refused to be a co-tenant with the 49ers in the new Levi’s Stadium.
The questions include asking what other sports teams the survey respondents have supported, and whether they would be interested in season tickets at various price points, and also “would you support the Raiders were they to move to San Antonio?”
WOAI is also reporting that the cost of the survey ($50,000) is being paid equally by the city of San Antonio and the Raiders.
Is this posturing? It’s a little late in the game to…
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Few professional athletes have had as much success jumping from one franchise to the next as four-time Pro Bowler Lorenzo Neal. For 11 consecutive years, playing for the likes of Tennessee, San Diego, New York, Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, he blocked for a 1,000-yard running back. He might have been the greatest journeyman in NFL history.
While Neal’s career accomplishments put him in rarefied air, the diversity and number of his activities since retiring after the 2008 season place him in a class all his own. On Saturday night, thanks to the Clovis North High School Bronco Foundation’s fundraiser, he takes the next step in a five-year journey that grows more fantastic by the day.
Neal, as well as the San Diego Chargers [12-1 favorites to win the 2015 Super Bowl], are item No. 7 on a list of live auction items that have been lassoed up by the foundation and donors for Clovis North’s annual Stampede:
“7 Priceless Football Weekend for 4 with Lorenzo Neal and the San Diego Chargers: watch Saturday’s pre-game practice, tour the locker room. and take pictures with your favorite Chargers. Receive executive parking pass for Sunday, attend the Chargers’ executive tailgate with Lorenzo Neal, and then go into the game -November 23 vs. the Rams.”
The list of potential prizes for supporters of this central Californian school doesn’t end with the chance to chill with Neal, the opportunity the feel the fire of fantasy football stud and MVP candidate Phillip Rivers from but feet away, get half a side of Organic beef butchered to one’s specifications or a beer Kegerator. Thanks to generous sponsors such as California Industrial Rubber Company, Inc. and Fresno dermatologist Kathleen Behr, silent auction items like botox are on the table too. Dr. Behr has provided 50 units of the cosmetic toxin for the evening’s festivities.
So, how exactly did Neal find himself here? Was it divine providence, or mere caprice, that led him from paving paths for Adrian Murrell, Warrick Dunn, Eddie George and Corey Dillon to being sold at the Panoche Creek River Ranch off North Highway 41?
The power to unravel this koan is beyond me.
I do know this: “Low Daddy” has become an entrepreneurial Krakatoa whose powers may just be unfathomable. He has spewed more revenue-generating and philanthropic lava, in more directions, than most minds can grasp.
Poppycock, you say?
The 43-year-old’s unofficial c.v. since retiring says otherwise. In it, we get some standard retired-player coaches’ clinic type stuff here, and a lot of NFL broadcast and radio color commentary there, but it gets pretty non-predictable in a hurry.
In the last five years, Lorenzo has also been:
- Hanging with comedian Adam Corolla, talking door hinges, flipping properties and why serving time sometimes isn’t all that bad.
- Taking care of his 1971 and ’72 Cutlass Supremes
- Headlining an apparently short-lived reality TV show project called “2nd Shot at Glory,” packaged as “American Idol” meets “The Biggest Loser” meets America’s most beloved pastime… football.” The show was to involve Neal and at least three other former NFL players supervising the efforts of pro football prospects.
“Participants can be from every position in the NFL. Can you imagine a kicker winning? – the outrage, the pandemonium!,” we read on the show’s Web site. “Finally, you can have your 2nd Shot at Glory by competing against other men from all across America for money, glory and most importantly, the opportunity for a spot on an NFL roster.”
“The winner receives $500,000 cash prize and a guaranteed contract with a professional agent to negotiate their first contract.”
- Overseeing another apparently short-lived project called Fan Foods Inc., a grocery store with a not-sizzling Facebook presence.
- Getting the word out on breast cancer
- Providing for his children, including a daughter who has suffered seizures and speech delay
- Running a non-profit called Worldwide Athletes, LLC. Purpose = All about getting kids access to higher education.
- Helping students at Fresno High School set and achieve goals through his “Changing a Generation Foundation.”
- Charging up to $2,000 per hour – with occasional half-off discounts – to speak to kids in a motivational manner.
- Hawking a workout device called The Body Stretcher
- Wearing a CrossFit T-shirt at a CrossFit gym grand opening
- Endorsing the StreetStrider, said to be the world’s first indoor/outdoor elliptical cross trainer
- Being a professor at Football University
- Helping run an anti drunk-driving service called Safe Ride Solutions. “Basically, it’s like having a AAA card for partying,” Neal told Yahoo Sports. “You call an 800 number, and an off-duty police officer comes to you and drives you home in your own car, no questions asked. It’s totally confidential. When we pitched it to the NFL, they gave us their approval and told us it was OK to shop it to teams.”
- Crashing his truck into a pole after getting drunk on the Fourth of July. Nobody was hurt. “[He] just ran off the road, struck a pole,” officer Axel Reyes told KFSN-TV. “Nothing real major about it.”
It’s not any old NFL legend who has traveled to Japan and intentionally walked into the path of a human Mack truck, but Lorenzo Neal – in case you didn’t know – isn’t just any NFL legend.
During his career at Fresno State in the early 1990s, he was an All-Big West running back as well as an All-American wrestler. At one point he ranked No. 3 in the nation.
Naturally then, the sport of sumo wrestling intrigued Neal as collegian during a trip to Japan for a now-defunct football bowl. He wondered how his skills stacked up against those who outweighed him by 100-200 pounds. And then Neal went beyond wondering, as he recounted to Fox Sports journalist LaDainian Tomlinson:
I was wrapped in a fabric thong and spun around. (It was pretty interesting!) I was given a nice tug (on the loin cloth) before stepping into the ring and thought to myself, “OK, I don’t know if I want to be out here (for very) long.”
I went through three wrestlers and then faced the big boy, Akebono. (Akebono was the sumo champion at the time.) It wasn’t fun and it didn’t go well. Akebono hit me a couple of times in the throat, so I quickly jumped out of the ring and stated that I would stick to playing football.
Not a bad decision. After focusing on football and establishing himself as a premier fullback in his 17-year NFL career, Neal no longer competitively wrestles. But although he doesn’t hit the mat like he did back in the day, he still sometimes finds himself in unique positions.
To wit, the below email sent from California’s central valley, where so many Arkies and Okies migrated looking for a land of plenty amid the ravages of the Great Depression. Even today, parts of that land are still as fertile as any in the world. From it flows forth a cornucopia of fine foods, wines, services, cabo timeshares, Botox units and muscular former Chargers.
Item No. 7 below is proof:
It was in 1985 that Conway native Mike Dunaway announced himself to the world as not only one its most powerful drivers, but possibly golf’s savviest self promoter. On the cover of Golf, the former UCA linebacker stood atop a mound of money and boasted that he would pay anyone who could drive a golf ball farther than he could, that person could take the entire $10,000 beneath his feet.
“One soul stepped up to the tee, was thrashed, and the magazine bested its previous single-issue sales record,” the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Bobby Ampezzan wrote in 2009. That exposure and success propelled Dunaway, who died Monday at age 59 in Rogers, into becoming a one-man marketing hurricane in the niche sport of long driving, in which the act of hitting as much hell out of a ball as is physically possible with a piece of graphite becomes something like science.
“Long driving back then, you kind of got your name out there from folklore,” Dunaway told Ampezzan. “I mean, I’d do exhibitions, and I would hit the ball farther than anybody. But then if I came back in five or six years, to hear people talk about the distance, it would take two shots to match it — with an air cannon! Folklore and bar talk. But that’s all fishing was until they started those $1 million bass tournaments.”
Over the decades, Dunaway penned numerous instructional articles and appeared in videos touting his technique. In the 1990s, he hosted the TV show “Golfing Arkansas” and appeared at events with 1991 PGA champion and fellow Arkansan John Daly. PGA Tour great Greg Norman said of Dunaway: “This is the longest driver in the world,” according to a 1991 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article.
For Dunaway, the notion “Drive for show, putt for dough” did not apply. For years, he used a pure technique honed at the feet of the sport’s Yoda and a powerful 5-11, 245-pound frame to make a living from whacking living daylight out of pebbled sphere. In the early 1990s, he won a $25,000 distance shootout in Texas and $40,000 from the world’s richest long-drive contest in Japan. His longest drive in competition was a 389-yarder in Utah.