That’s what they’re calling the latest scandal in college football.
Wake Forest announced last week that former Wake player and coach Tommy Elrod, now a radio analyst for the school, had leaked game plans to opposing coaches. Elrod apparently gave the plans to former colleagues working for Wake Forest opponents. To date, Louisville, Army and Virginia Tech have admitted to receiving information from Elrod. The Atlantic Coast Conference subsequently fined members from Louisville and Va. Tech $25,000 each, the most permitted by conference bylaws. (Army is an independent).
This is a shocker on many levels. Coaches guard their game plans as tightly as Apple guards designs for the next iphone. They close practices. They search for spies videotaping from trees around practice fields. They refuse to disclose injuries. And they withhold information from broadcasters who might inadvertently spill the beans.
The broadcasters, meanwhile, are either hired or approved by the schools they cover. So it’s mind-boggling that an approved radio analyst, particularly one who played and coached for his school, would do something like this.
While the act itself was disheartening enough, the reaction from one of the schools involved was even worse. Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino initially denied receiving any information. Petrino was quickly contradicted by his Athletic Director, Tom Jurich, who admitted Louisville got “a few plays” from Wake Forest, but said the plays in question weren’t run during the game and that he was “disappointed this issue has brought undue attention to our football staff as we prepare for our upcoming bowl game.”
Whatever you say, Tom.
After being lambasted by the media, Jurich suspended offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway, the recipient of the Wake information, for the Cardinals’ upcoming bowl game. You may recall that Jurich hired Petrino after he was fired by Arkansas after lying about an infamous motorcycle accident. Petrino’s passenger on his chopper was a young former women’s volleyball player with whom he was having an affair. Louisville is also the place where the basketball coaches hired prostitutes and strippers to entertain recruits.
It seems winning is all that matters at Louisville.
Coaching Carousel: Here are the biggest moves to date: Charlie Strong fired at Texas and replaced by Houston coach Tom Herman; Houston offensive coordinator Major Appewhite promoted to succeed Herman. Mark Helfrich fired at Oregon and replaced by South Florida coach Willie Taggart; Strong named to succeed Taggart. Darrell Hazel fired (mid-season) at Purdue and replaced by Western Kentucky coach Jeff Broehm; Notre Dame assistant Mike Sanford Jr. hired to succeed Broehm. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin hired by Florida Atlantic. Ron Caragher fired at San Jose State and replaced by Oregon State assistant Brent Brennan. Tommy Tuberville resigned at Cincinnati and replaced by Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell. Fresno State fired Tim DeRuyter (mid-year) and replaced him after the season with former Cal coach Jeff Tedford. Les Miles fired at LSU (after four games) and replaced by assistant Ed Orgeron.
Kiffin was rumored to be in contention at LSU and Houston, but had to settle for a much lower profile gig at FAU. He’s been around the block a few times, one might say. Hired in 2007 as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders at the tender age of 31, Kiffin was fired by Al Davis early in his second season. Two months later, he became the head coach at Tennessee. He lasted one year at Tennessee, posting a 7-6 record, before being hired as head coach at USC (where he’d served as an assistant under Pete Carroll). He lasted three and a half years with the Trojans, before being fired by Athletic Director Pat Haden on the tarmac at LAX after an embarrassing loss to Arizona State. He’s spent the last three years as offensive coordinator under Nick Saban at Alabama.
Saban quickly named another ex-Trojan head coach, Steve Sarkisian, to replace Kiffin. Sarkisian had been working as an “analyst” for Saban after being dismissed at USC for showing up intoxicated at a booster meeting and a team practice. Fight on.
MacIntyre Honored: As expected, Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre was named AP Coach of the Year for his remarkable turnaround job in Boulder. However, Coach Mac didn’t have much time to enjoy this recognition. On the same day he was honored, MacIntyre learned that his outstanding defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt was leaving to take the same job at Oregon. Apparently, the University of Nike pays much better than Colorado. The big question is whether Leavitt, who typically wears a drab gray sweatshirt, will have to don Oregon’s garish Nike garb.
Kaufman out at Cal: There will also be a change in defensive coordinator at Cal, as head man Sonny Dykes fired Art Kaufman, who’d held the job for three years. Defense has been Dykes’ Achilles Heel in Berkeley (the Bears allowed 518 yards and 43 points per game this year), so finding the right replacement for Kaufman—and placing some emphasis on the defensive side of the ball—will be critical moving forward.
Heisman Snub: The East Coast bias was alive and well in this year’s Heisman Trophy balloting. The two best players on the West Coast—Washington quarterback Jake Browning and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey—didn’t even get invited to the awards ceremony in New York. Despite leading his team to the Pac-12 championship, a No. 4 national ranking and a spot in the College Football Playoff, Browning finished sixth. Winner Lamar Jackson was certainly deserving, with 30 touchdown passes, 21 rushing TDs, 3,390 passing yards and 1,538 rushing. But Browning’s numbers weren’t too shabby—42 TD passes, only seven interceptions, 3,280 passing yards and four rushing TDs. McCaffrey, meanwhile, led the nation in all-purpose yards and was fourth in rushing. That was only good enough for ninth place. Ridiculous. McCaffrey deserved to win last year and should’ve been in the top five this season, while Browning should’ve finished third behind Jackson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.
Maybe we need a separate award for players on the West Coast. Of course, more day games would help, so East Coast voters wouldn’t have to stay up til 2 a.m. to see Pac-12 candidates in action.
Pro priorities: Speaking of McCaffrey, he has decided to forego playing in the Sun Bowl with his Stanford teammates so he can “direct his focus and effort toward training for the 2017 NFL Draft.” I’m a huge McCaffrey fan, but this decision is extremely disappointing. The Sun Bowl is less than two weeks away (Dec. 30). The NFL Draft is in late April. In addition to letting down his teammates and coaches, he’s basically emasculated the Sun Bowl.
Unhappy Holiday: The University of Minnesota football threatened to boycott the Holiday Bowl over the suspension of 10 players accused of participating in a sexual assault incident. While prosecutors decided there wasn’t enough evidence to press charges, a University investigation found the players had violated school policies relative to sexual assault. So the players on the team, in a show of solidarity, decided they wouldn’t participate in any football activities unless the suspensions were revoked.
The school’s report was very graphic and very disturbing. Yet head coach, Tracy Claeys, tweeted “Have never been more proud of our kids. I respect their rights & support their effort to make a better world.” Sorry, coach, we’re a little unclear as to how supporting sexual assault suspects who lined up to have “consensual” sex with an intoxicated woman makes this a better world.
The University didn’t blink and, after two days, the players ended the boycott.