until Texas vs Kansas

Thursday, December 30


Brown gets extension, raise

Head football coach Mack Brown got what was an expected raise and contract extension in a package that will keep him at UT for another 10 years and keep his salary at the third highest in the nation (behind only Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville).

There are a number of ways to look at this. Viewed through one lens, this deal makes a lot of sense. The Horns are 69-19 in Brown's seven seasons at Texas and are consistently finishing in the top 10 nationally. This year's season ends with Texas in a BCS Bowl. Brown continues to rake in elite recruiting classes. Perhaps most importantly from the university's perspective, the football program is bringing a ton of money to the school. With expenditures of only $9 million this year, the football program has brought in $55 million in revenue. If we're evaluating Brown as the program's CEO, there's no reason not to keep him around.

However, this is not just a business (though the college sport seems to be increasingly more of one each year). Winning matters. Specifically, beating Oklahoma matters.
I've said before that I don't think it's particularly fair to only evaluate Brown's performance based on his (in)ability to beat OU. But I also believe that some serious questions should be raised when he seemingly has no ability to recognize that his offensive coordinator is not getting the job done. I understand Mack's loyalty to his staff, and there really is something to be said for that. Nevertheless, when you're being paid over $2 million dollars per year, you should expect a certain critical scrutiny.

And if we're going to keep Mack around because it's good for business, we shouldn't shy away fro evaluating some of his business decisions. Keeping Greg Davis around appears to be a decision based on loyalty, not business. The criticism is fair game and I hope that Davis either improves his performance or Mack turns elsewhere for an offensive coordinator.


UT Athletic Director Deloss Dodds announced that Mack Brown will receive anadditional $100k per year and a contract extension through 2014. Why? I know Bean questioned this when it was just a rumor. I am seriously questioning it now.

Yes, Brown has done a good job with consistent ten win seasons, solid recruiting, and a program with a foundation in integrity. Yes, Brown has taken UT to seven straight bowl games and broke through this year with a BCS berth. Yes, we have more season ticket holders than ever before, sell out every game, and have a large national following.

But where was he going? I don't think there is a job in college football that wouldbe more intriguing to him. If he were to coach a school in Florida and lose perennially to an arch rival, he would be fired. Texas is a top notch job, just like OU, Miami, FSU, Tennessee, Michigan, and USC. Outside of LSU, there is no way a top notch program would make an offer to Mack. And I have never heard him mention the NFL, not that there is much chance he would be considered at all. College coaches who win games but not championships do not get NFL offers. National championship winners--Saban, Butch Davis, Dennis Erickson, Steve Spurrier--do. I don't have that much of a problem with the 100k bump; that is really nothing considering his base is over $2 million.

But why extend the contract? He was already locked in until 2011. Mack is set to survive at least two presidential administrations. We've had a great year. 10-1 is a fantastic year. It has been asked before: how do we want to measure success? If wins and bowl trips is all we desire, then extend Mack a lifelong contract, a la Paterno or Krzyzewski (although they have a few titles, I seem to remember). But if we want conference and national championships or at least a divisional championship, then we probably shouldn't be mortgaging our future just yet. I love Texas football and I am still not satisfied.


Texas 100 UT-San Antonio 82

The Horns used a 25-5 second half surge to put down a determined UT-SA squad 100-82 in Austin on Wednesday night. P.J. Tucker scored 19 of his 21 points in the second half and the Horns turned on their defense to seal the victory.

The 100 point effort is impressive, even if against a lesser opponent. I'm a big fan and supporter of Rick Barnes and what he's done for this program, but if he has one weakness, it can be that the offense sometimes bogs down. This year's squad is scoring at an impressive rate, which is a great sign for a team that plays in a conference where points are at a premium and games are won 62-60.

I don't know if Barnes is improving as an offensive coach or if this year's players are just more offensively talented (I suspect it's more of the latter), but this team's ability to score is an encouraging sign. The defense isn't what it has been in years past, but I would bet by conference play it will be. The Horns may struggle to beat Kansas and Oklahoma State, but they look to me like the #3 team out of the Big 12.


Barnes cuts down rotation

Last year's Longhorn basketball team was an exercise in juggling. Klotz in. Buckman out. Harris in. Mouton out. The Horns went eleven deep last year as Barnes tried to get the most out of a very egalitarian group. If there was a star, it was Brandon Mouton, but that's a stretch. Last year's successes were built on wearing teams down and finding the hot hand in a given game. Texas had a good year, but one never got the impression that last year's group was talented enough to go to the Final Four.

This year, things are different. The rotation has been cut significantly, with eight players averaging between 20 and 28 minutes per game. Basketball is a game in which it helps to have some continuity to your rotation. It's hard to get in a rhythm when you're constantly going in and out of the game.

The results are obvious. Entering last night's game, the Horns had all five starters scoring in double figures per game: Tucker, Buckman, and Taylor at 12 points per game, Gibson at 11, and Aldridge at 10. This is significant for Texas and shows, in my mind, that this team is better than last year's. Barnes isn't giving eleven guys minutes each game because he doesn't have to. He's got eight guys that he can use to get the job done. The 2004 part of the Texas 2004-05 season has to be viewed as a success. And the 2005 part of the season promises to be even better. This team is still young and still improving rapidly. Happy New Year everyone...

Wednesday, December 29


Saban departure might help keep QB

Nick Saban's departure from LSU to coach the Miami Dolphins may help keep top quarterback recruit Ryan Perilloux committed to Texas.

I've not usually followed recruiting as closely as some, but after watching Adrian Peterson go to OU and seeing his impact on their team, I'm more inclined to pay closer attention.


Longhorn Lions talking trash

Standout Detroit Lions rookie wide receiver Roy Williams, who starred at Texas for four years, along with Shaun Rogers and Cory Redding, are betting on Texas to beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Enjoy this fun article...

Monday, December 27


Brown to get raise

University officials are negotiating a contract extension and raise for head coach Mack Brown. Brown is already among the highest paid coaches in college football, making about $2 million per year.

I'm not sure where this is coming from. I'd understand if Brown's salaray was lagging behind that of coaches at other elite programs, but it isn't. Is this a reward for making the BCS bowl? It's clearly not a reward for beating OU. Still working on that...

Thursday, December 23


Texas 97 Centenary 52

The Longhorns coasted to 97-52 win over Centenary on Wednesday night at home after an overwhelming first half effort. This game was a mismatch on paper and was never close. Texas dominated the first half more completely thanthey have all season. The Horns held the Gents, what a great nickname, to twelve total first half points. Centenary had only four players score points with their high man tickling the twine for four.

Texas dominated down low with Aldridge, Williams, and Tucker. Aldridge finished with a season, and obviously career, high of 19 points. I was a little down on Lamarcus after the first few games. I almost wanted to write him off as too passive and too light to really contribute this year. But he has really blossomed. He looks ready to catch the ball on the low block and routinely tries to make a move. On the defensive end, he is even more active consistently blocking or altering shots. He only finished with three total board tonight, but when his rebounding improves with added weight, he will be something to watch. Equally as impressive was Daniel Gibson. He runs the show like he has been playing with these guys for years. His game looked ready from day one. But he is also already a better player: controlling the flow of the game and making the correct passes at the correct times. Gibson still occasionally goes for the spectacular over the practical but with his skills the spectacular probably looks plausible.

Granted this wasn't stellar competition, but the development of both Gibson and Aldridge says tons about the coaching abilities of Rick Barnes and his staff. I might get some baseball fans to disagree with me, but I say Barnes is the best coach at UT. I am not comparing him to the diving coach or the softball coach, only to the head coaches in major sports. Brown may be the best recruiter. Barnes simply gets more out of his talent than anyone else. And to me, taking players to heights above their innate talent levels is what coaching is all about. Anyway, Kenny Taylor also contributed a career night from the outside going 10/13 for 23 points. Barnes must be pleased with the win. He apparently wasn't too happy with the defensive effort over the weekend at Wake Forest. Nothing could have been more pleasing than what he saw tonight, especially in the first half.

Aside, for those of you not living in Austin and only listening to the games on the radio, bless you. Craig Way is great. Eddie Oran is awful. There is no other way to say it. Complete thoughts are his kryptonite. He struggles more with the english language than President Bush does fielding reporters' questions. It is difficult to enjoy the game. And for those of you watching on Fox Sports SW, you don't have it much better. They basically employ high school sports fans to call the games. Bean has ranted about athletes being poor announcers. And I agree with him, but ex coaches and local announcers are not much better.

Looking ahead, UT gets four more games at home before their first road test in conference at College Station on Jan. 12th. Texas should easily handle UT San Antonio and UNLV before a decent test from a solid Memphis club and then another easy one against Baylor. If the defense plays anywhere near like it did tonight and the freshman continue to develop, including Williams, this team could be very, very good. I don't think we will be with Kansas and Ok St in conference, but we should not be too far behind come March.

Merry Christmas all.

Wednesday, December 22


Time for a playoff

Imagine, if you can, that college football had a playoff system. Let's pretend that it's an 8-team, single elimination tournament where the eight teams are selected using a BCS-like standings system. Here's what we'd have:

#1 USC vs #8 Virginia Tech
#2 Oklahoma vs #7 Georgia
#3 Auburn vs #6 Utah
#4 Texas vs #5 Cal

Does this make sense? Maybe. The champion will have to win three straight games, which is, admittedly, a lot of extra games at the end of the year. Furthermore, the only flaw in the current system is that you sometimes have three undefeated teams, as we do this year. So, let's make it a four team tourney:

#1 USC vs #4 Texas
#2 Oklahoma vs #3 Auburn

Now we're on to something. If it were this year, Cal fans would be understandably upset, but you can't complain too much when you've lost one game. If you want in, win all your games. This system would eliminate the possibility of an Auburn getting shut out and wouldn't place undue burden on a team to win the championship. Win two games and you're the champ. You could even keep the current bowl system alive and have USC-Texas at the Rose and Oklahoma-Auburn at the Fiesta. The winners play in a championship game a week later at a neutral site like the Super Bowl is each year. And believe me, everyone would make plenty of money.

Now that the Associated Press
has withdrawn its poll from the BCS formula, the BCS is on its deathbed. Here's to hoping that college football lets the best teams duke it out on the field. It's time.


Bowl Picks

What would the Holiday season be without bowl picks? I'm just going to copy and paste my picks from my pool with my friends:

GEORGIA TECH over Syracuse
MEMPHIS over Bowling Green
MARSHALL over Cincinnati
UCLA over Wyoming
VIRGINIA over Fresno State
MIAMI (OH) over Iowa State
NOTRE DAME over Oregon State
UTEP over Colorado
OHIO STATE over Oklahoma State
BOSTON COLLEGE over North Carolina
NAVY over New Mexico
CALIFORNIA over Texas Tech
ALABAMA over Minnesota
PURDUE over Arizona State
LOUISVILLE over Boise State (can't wait for this game)
MIAMI over Florida
GEORGIA over Wisconsin
TEXAS A&M over Tennessee
FLORIDA STATE over West Virginia
LSU over Iowa
TEXAS over Michigan
UTAH over Pitt
AUBURN over Va Tech
OU over USC

Tuesday, December 21


Ricky Williams on 60 Minutes

The enigmatic Ricky Williams is back in the news after his 15 minute interview that aired on Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes. As I've said before in this space, it just seems as though Ricky is shirking his responsibilities. More power to him if he really is fulfilled by a life of holistic medicine and dope smoking, but one can't help but wonder if he's just hiding from his problems. I'll still be pulling for him, though.


RPI Update

Texas is currently ranked 17th in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), while playing the nation's 19th toughest schedule to date. [The RPI is used by the Tournament Selection Committee when evaluating teams to invite and how to seed them] The Horns only losses are to Wake Forest (RPI #3) and Iowa (#15) and one could easily argue that Texas wins those games in March. All signs are pointing to a strong season for Texas, and as I've said before, this is a team that's only going to get better.

As usual, playing in the talented and brutal Big 12 will only help Texas (and the rest of the conference) come March, which is why we've seen so many Big 12 teams in the Final Four of late. It's not inconceivable that Kansas and Oklahoma State will be in the Final Four, giving the Big 12 two teams in the final group once again. The ACC is undeniably an excellent basketball conference and it rightly gets a lot of credit for being so deep and so talented. But make no mistake about it: the Big 12 is either its equal or not far behind.

Texas is probably a bit young to make a Final Four run, but there aren't many teams who are going to want to play us in March. With most of Texas key players set to return next year (and let's be honest, Aldridge would clearly benefit from two years at the college level), Texas should be in great shape to make a run for the Final Four next year. As exciting as next year's team may be, this year's team has a ton of potential. I can't wait to see things unfold.


Tucker Big 12's Best for the Week

P.J. Tucker was named the Big 12 player of the week on Monday after averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds in games against UT-Arlington and Wake Forest. Tucker's revival is good news for the Horns, as his slow start at his new position was cause for concern. Tucker has a nose for the ball like Larry Bird, and though far less skilled than the aforementioned legend, he has similarly uncanny touch around the basket. Without a highly productive Tucker, the Horns are an average team. With him, they become extremely dangerous because he's so difficult to contain. His ability to find the ball around the rim and get it through the hoops makes it very difficult for opposing coaches to defend.

Tucker doesn't have traditional skills. He's often out of control and he doesn't shoot from the outside particularly well. But there is nobody better around the basket. He reminds me of Chuck Hayes of Kentucky with his ability to be so versatile and effective around the basket, but Tucker is a better scorer than Hayes. I hope Rick continues to find creative ways to utilize Texas' oddest, yet best, player.


Lank Dank Daddy

Reader Peter Lambert made an interesting, and hilarious, observation about our new friend Lamarcus Aldridge. Watch the lanky guy run down the court: use a little bit of your imagination and he looks just like Scooby Doo. Does anybody else miss cartoons?

Sunday, December 19


Wake Forest 89 Texas 88

Texas put forth a valiant effort on the road against Wake Forest but ultimately fell short, 89-88. P.J. Tucker had a coming out party for the season, scoring 27 points to go along with 14 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to get what would have been a monumental road win against a great team.

Nevertheless, the Horns shouldn't leave Winston-Salem hanging their heads. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about this team. To begin with, this is still a young team learning to play without its senior leaders from a year ago (Mouton, Ivey, and Boddicker). Wake Forrest is a team that many believe can go to the Final Four, and to play them tight on the road is no small accomplishment.

Barnes clearly felt that the freshmen weren't quite ready for such a tough challenge on the road. He held Gibson and Aldridge to about 20 minutes each and gave significant playing time to Paulino at the point. That was a justified decision, though considering Texas lost the game, I wouldn't have minded seeing the freshmen in there more. I'm not at all opposed to trial by fire, especially early in the season.

In the end, this game confirmed what I've been feeling recently: Texas has the potential to be a very dangerous team in March. After we fight through the Big 12, it's reasonable to assume we'll be about a 5-6 seed for the tournament and playing our best basketball of the year. We'll be as deep as anyone in the country, tested by a very demanding, physical conference, and greatly assisted by a season of experience for our freshmen. Would you want to your team to play Texas early on?

Thursday, December 16


Hail to the fight songs

It just occurred to me that there will be an epic battle at the Rose Bowl. And I'm not referring to the football teams. I'm wondering, of course, who has the better fight song--Texas or Michigan? I'm obviously partial to Texas, but who doesn't love Hail to the Victors? When I watch Michigan play, even though I have no particular affinity for them, I have the urge to stand up and clap when they score and Hail to the Victors begins to sound. What a great fight song. I guess this time around I'll be hoping not to hear it played much.


Perriloux still set on Texas

Apparently, the rumors that prep QB stud Ryan Perriloux is not firmly committed to Texas are untrue. The junior QB from Louisiana, who scouting guru Tom Lemming says has "incredible speed and a cannon for an arm" attended the Longhorn football banquet and is set on Austin for his college career.


Ford's career over?

Reader Andrew Windler tells me that T.J. Ford's doctors won't release him to play and his career may be over. What a tragedy. Ford, easily UT's most exciting player ever, entered the NBA after his sophomore season with loads of promise at the point guard position. I can vividly recall quesitoning his decision to leave early for the NBA, but I also recall his scary injury the summer before the draft when he hurt his neck. Apparently, he knew that he was potentially one injury away from ending his career. The decision to go the NBA and get paid right away was apparently a good one. I still hold hope that Ford can get healthy and back on the court. Basketball will lose one of its most oustanding point guards, and finest men, if he doesn't.


Texas 85 UT-Arlington 70

Texas managed to hold off a feisty UT Arlington squad tonight at the Drum, 85-70. This was the Horns' last game before traveling to Winston-Salem on Saturday to take on Wake Forest on national television. Here's wishing we called the game at halftime and boarded the plane for North Carolina.

Texas looked excellent in the first half, playing solid half court and full court defense, hitting open threes, and dominating the lane. Aldridge and Klotz were easily tonight's stand out performers with Buckman not far behind. We will need the same inside dominance to compete with Wake. A casual observer might see PJ Tucker's line and assume that he finally broke out of his slump and became more comfortable in the small forward position. Even though PJ had a double-double, 17 and 10, he seemed to push the issue more than Colin Powell at the UN. He consistently led out numbered fast breaks with his head down and no real chance of finishing the play. We didn't move PJ to 3 so that he could dribble more. Barnes moved him to small forward so that he could stay on the floor more, provide leadership, rebound, play solid defense and occasionally score by taking the ball to the basket in the half court set. Routinely, PJ was trapped by inferior players in an uncomplicated full court defense. Please, get the ball to a guard and get down the court.

Aldridge's play was much more impressive. Tonight's game was surely his most complete. He seems to be a quick study and is already more aggressive both with and without the basketball. It will be intriguing to see how he responds on the road on Saturday.PJ might still be our most talented player and Aldridge might be the one with the most upside, but no one has been more consistent than Jason Klotz. He has now scored in double figures in every game this year. He plays solid fundamental basketball: taking one or two dribbles, keeping the ball above his head, and shooting his now deadly jump hook. He no longer plays masquerade defense and isn't afraid to use his body on either end of the floor. Texas long term success will rest with the development of Gibson out front and Aldridge in the post, but the foundation of this year's team rest solidly on the shoulders of Jason Klotz.

The second half was abysmal. Texas looked bored, out of sync, and were largely outplayed. The middle of the second half looked like a pickup game: consistently forced shots and more routine turnovers. UT Arlington finished with 21 turnover and Texas committed 13, but it seemed like more. Barnes is certainly not pleased with the second half performance. We now have two days of practice to recapture the rhythm and consistency of the first half that allowed us to put the game away early. Wake is the best team we will play out of conference and will be the best team we play until we see Oklahoma State and Kansas in mid and late January. Hawaii provided early tests on a neutral floor. Saturday will provide a much truer test of where we are as a team. I am not sure how much you can tell in games with Texas State, UT Arlington, Centenary, etc. Prediction: Wake 72, Texas 68.

Monday, December 13


Where is TJ Ford?

I can't find anything updating T. J. Ford's status. He had offseason arthroscopic back surgery to correct a nerve problem in his spine, and I recall hearing he would be back soon, but I've not seen anything confirming this. Has anyone heard anything?


A call for better game calling

You hear it day in, day out, no matter what sport you’re watching. For some inexplicable reason, one of the prerequisites for being a sportscaster is speaking like you barely got your college degree. Sometimes it’s more blatant than others, but it’s almost universal: today’s sportscasters broadcast their commentary at an astoundingly low level.

The football guys seem to be the worst. “That’s just a football player making a football play on the football field.” Huh? Forget the fact that there are more eloquent ways to make that point; is there anything substantive at all in there? Not that I can find.

It’s really not any better in the other sports. The analysis runs from the inane (“They won because they have great chemistry!”) to the just-plain-dull (“Shaquille O’Neal is just too big.”). Tell me something I don’t know. There are a few gems out there—Vin Scully comes to mind—but on the whole, it’s a sorry lot and I don’t understand why. Part of it is the fascination with hiring ex-athletes. The logic behind the decision is defensible: these guys used to play the sport in question, so they can offer insights that others cannot. But have you actually learned anything useful from Tony Saragusa? When was the last time Michael Irvin said something thoughtful? Has he ever said anything thoughtful?

I’m not asking for someone with a Ph.D. in football to call the game. But if they aren’t going to be particularly insightful, they should at least be entertaining. I must admit, perhaps because their colleagues are so uninteresting, I love the hyperbole you get from guys like Bill Walton and Dick Vitale. Walton once said, during a Utah Jazz game he was calling, “Greg Ostertag is the best center in the history of the NBA!” after Ostertag made three sensational plays in a row. Killer.

In short, give me some substance or give me some style. The current crop of broadcasters doesn’t offer much of either.


Johnson wins Butkus Award

Longhorns linebacker Derrick Johnson was honored as the nation’s top linebacker when he won the Butkus Award over the weekend. I’ve said enough about DJ in this space already. He’s going to be sorely missed at UT and some team will be very lucky to have him play on Sundays for years to come.


Kobe who?

I really hate Kobe Bryant. Sure, this is a forum for Longhorns sports, but from time to time other stories deserve note. Kobe’s in the news again, once more for off the court issues that involve his wife. After recently calling out teammate Karl Malone for not wanting to play for the Lakers, Kobe has now taken the discourse below the belt and accused Malone of making a pass at his wife.

One can only presume that Kobe was trying to make Malone look like the bad guy, but in bringing that issue into the public spotlight, Kobe comes out looking like the spoiled whining prima donna that he is. First of all, no one cares if Malone hit on Kobe’s wife. Second, why bring it up with the general public? There are some issues that you deal with privately, out of the public, man to man. Kobe’s decision to drag this through the mud in the public sphere just reflects his immaturity and egomania. There was a time not so long ago when you had to consider seriously whether this young man could equal or surpass Michael Jordan. Not any more. The more pertinent question these days might be: why does Kobe think we care?

Friday, December 10


I miss Austin

May I rant a little here? Thank you. As the college football season winds down, I feel the need to bitch about how awful the sports franchises are in the Washington, D.C. area, where I live. Saturday mornings are filled with games that feature Maryland, Virginia, and Virginia Tech. If radio is your thing, Navy is always on the air.

Pro hoops your bag? Hope you like the woeful Wizards.

The NFL graces the DC area with two teams that we’re contractually obligated to watch each week—the Ravens and the Redskins. As much as I enjoy watching that devastatingly effective Baltimore offense, it leaves me wanting. And the Redskins are the biggest disaster of a pro franchise in sports today.

I’m a baseball junkie, but I just can’t get into the Baltimore Orioles. Probably because they’re awful. We were lucky enough to land another team in Washington, but of course, it’s going to be the 100-loss Expos. Fun.

I’m not Canadian, so hockey isn’t something that I care about.

In the end, the only thing to do is find the sports bars that are carrying games worth watching. There are worse things, I suppose, but it’s terribly frustrating. Count your blessings, Austinites.


Barnes has Texas at the top

Mack Brown isn’t the only Longhorn coach signing nationally-ranked recruiting classes at Texas. Basketball coach Rick Barnes has done equally well, landing this year’s loaded class (Gibson, Aldridge, and Williams) which was ranked by many as tops in the country. Next year is looking great, too, as Barnes has already bagged two of the state’s top three recruits. The Horns have the money, the facilities, and now recently, the success, to establish themselves as an elite program. Does anyone miss Tom Penders?

Thursday, December 9


Benson wins Doak Walker Award

Apparently it's Cedric Benson day around here. Ced won the Doak Walker Award, given annually to the nation's top running back, on Thursday night. It strikes me as odd that Benson beat out Peterson for the award but isn't among the finalists for the Heisman, while Peterson is. Regardless, it's nice to see Benson get some much-deserved recognition. He finishes his career with the fifth most rushing yards in NCAA history. Happy trails, Cedric.


Benson named #1 NFL Prospect

Wow. Mel Kiper just released his list of Top 25 prospects for the NFL and guess who’s atop the list? None other than Cedric Benson. (I saw his article just minutes after my last post about Benson’s Heisman chances being dashed.) Kiper recently switched Benson to the top ranked running back of this year’s draft class, but this was his first release of his rankings of overall prospects and Benson is at the top. Not far behind is linebacker Derrick Johnson at #7. Another year, another pair of Longhorns taken in the top 10 of the draft. Mack Brown does an amazing job recruiting the top talent. Here’s hoping he learns how to use it to win a big game.


Benson not among Heisman finalists

Not that there was much doubt, but Texas running back Cedric Benson is officially out of the Heisman race after the list of five finalists announced on Wednesday did not include him. It’s unfortunate, too, because Cedric has had a remarkable year. While the five finalists are all amazing players, four of the five come from two teams, OU and USC, and compliment one another. Would OU’s Peterson be as effective without White? Would Leinert throw as many touchdowns without Bush? The fact is, those four players benefit tremendously as individuals from having a balanced attack. Poor Cedric had to overcome an impotent passing game to earn his yards. While Vince Young was busy not throwing long completions, defenses were sending eight and nine defenders into the box to stop Cedric. Benson still racked up amazing numbers and looked like a man among boys much of the time.

Benson was also the victim of yet another OU loss. Imagine, for a moment, that Texas beats OU (just go with it for argument’s sake, ok?). Suddenly Texas is an undefeated team playing in the Orange Bowl and getting all the media attention. And when you look closely at Texas, what do you see? That Cedric Benson is carrying this offense on his shoulders, earning tough yards in a system with no passing game. It’s impressive and Benson deserves to be among the five finalists, even if he doesn’t win. Don’t feel too sorry for Benson, though. He’ll be getting paid a lot of money to
play on Sunday very soon.

Wednesday, December 8



Fans of the Cal Bears have been complaining from the moment the BCS standings were reversed and they lost their spot in the Rose Bowl to Texas. The disappointment has peaked, prompting a group of Cal fans to start their own website, Rose Bowl Robbery, in which they whine about the BCS system and urge Cal fans to donate whatever money they would have spent on the Rose Bowl to the Cal football program.

I understand that they’re disappointed. We at Texas are especially sympathetic, as we lost our BCS berth last year when Kansas State upset OU in the Big 12 title game. And I even agree that Mack Brown’s lobbying for votes was a little obnoxious.

However, with all that said, Cal has only themselves to blame. The only reason they were ahead of Texas to begin with is because voters were holding Texas’
narrow win over Kansas against them. So, Mack Brown asked the voters to watch Cal closely last Saturday night, as many of us did. Cal did not inspire in any way and barely beat Southern Mississippi.

Voters understandably came to the conclusion that it was not fair to hold a narrow victory over Kansas against Texas while simultaneously looking past a close Cal win over Southern Miss. Cal controlled its own destiny and it came up short. End of story.

Let’s not ignore the fact that the Big 12 is twice as good as the Pac 10, even in a year when the North is down. The Big 12 still managed to land seven bowl invitations. In the end, voters decided they had to put Cal and Texas next to one another on their ballots. It didn’t change Texas and Cal’s position in either poll, but it was (finally) a fair assessment of both teams. The reason, ultimately, that Texas got the nod is because the computers ranked the Horns so much higher than Cal. And that, California, is not unfair. We’ll see you in the Sunshine State shortly…


Texas 86 UNT 57

Texas used a stifling defense and 18 points from Brad Buckman to rout the Mean Green from North Texas 86-57 on Tuesday night. Fellow big man Jason Klotz added 14 points on the inside while the Horns held UNT to a meager 31% shooting. Freshman Lamarcus Aldridge had his best game to date, scoring 12 points and snagging 7 boards. P.J. Tucker had a bad shooting night, but another solid all-around game, managing 8 points and 7 boards.

The big story here has to be the emergence of Buckman as a scorer on the inside. After showing a lot of promise as a freshman, Buckman never really developed into the kind of reliable inside scorer that Barnes hoped for when he first arrived. According to reports, Buckman has dropped 20 pounds this season, which he says makes him more energetic and athletic.

Daniel Gibson didn’t shoot well either, missing six of his eight shot attempts, but he played excellent defense, snagging five steals on the night. Once again, the Horns are a team that can beat you in a variety of ways. If the outside shooting isn’t there, they have the presence inside to bang. If teams pack it in to clog the lane, there are enough shooters to make them pay. And their defense is annually among the best in the country. Despite losing so many key starters from a year ago, this team already looks to me like it has more upside. I’m very interested to see everyone develop over the course of the season.

Tuesday, December 7


Clemens signs with Texas

Roger Clemens son, Koby, has signed a letter of intent to play baseball at UT, where his father led the Horns to a national title back in the early 1980s. The younger Clemens does not pitch, however; he's a third baseman who hit .413 with four home runs and 23 RBI for Houston Memorial last year. It's nice to have a Clemens back in the family again.

On a side note, I have to say I think it's positively stupid that Roger named all his kids names that start with 'K' (Koby, Kory, Kacy, and Kody). I mean, I get it and all, but really, it's just weird.


Stop the insanity

This article was just too good to not print in full. I can't say I disagree with Huckaby at all. This moralistic grandstanding about steroids makes me sick... As usual, brilliant work from Baseball Prospectus, this time author Gary Huckaby:

"Over the last few days, the shrapnel from the BALCO explosion has started to find some flesh. In a staggeringly stupid move, someone--I'm presuming from the federal government--leaked grand jury testimony about specific MLB players and the drugs they received from people like Greg Anderson, Victor Conte, Charlie Callas, or anyone else working out of a strip mall or light industrial office in Burlingame, Calif.

Anyone with access to a keyboard, microphone or telephone has weighed in on this. Local and national talk show hosts are more than happy to point out any number of things that may or may not be true, may or may not be relevant, but sure as hell serve to put the speaker in a position of perceived moral superiority, whether or not said position was earned.

There's enough decrepitude and childishness on this issue to go around, but let's start at the beginning, before the rules, before the ridiculous cries of "Who will save the children?"--a laughable cry from media outlets who sell half their ad inventory to beer companies looking to attract new, young customers under the age of majority. At the beginning is one simple question: Do steroids, human growth hormone and other "performance enhancing" drugs really enhance baseball performance? I assume that they do, but if asked for evidence, I couldn't supply any. There is significant evidence that anabolic steroids, used in a particular fashion, cause a number of deleterious physiological effects, but I've not seen any hard evidence that any of the drugs in question really do improve baseball performance. And if they do, do they help more than the amphetamines that ballplayers have been using for more than 30 years? I'm not a physiology guy, but I'm guessing a little meth would help a hitter more than the marginal muscle mass gain of say, Dianabol.

But let's assume there is a gain in performance due to "the cream," "the clear," HGH, THG, or other various and sundry chemicals. Do you really think this is something new, and falls disproportionately on the shoulders of Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds?

The idea that performance-enhancing drugs are something new in baseball is mammothly Pollyanna. Americans on the whole tend to mythologize the past. The '50s weren't like "Leave it to Beaver," as much as a sizable chunk of the citizenry would like to believe that they were. Similarly, baseball has had players looking for a chemical edge as long as there have been games to win or lose or, more to the point, money to be made. West Coast Turnarounds, greenies, and all sorts of other chemicals have been used by ballplayers since before I was born. This isn't anything particularly novel.

I'm not going to defend anyone who's chosen to take performance enhancing drugs to excel on the field. The drugs may or may not have specifically been against MLB's rules, but I don't think anyone can make a case based on ignorance; if you're trying to hide an activity, you've probably got a good idea that people wouldn't approve if they knew you were doing it. But I don't think this is a cut-and-dried issue of a few athletes using illicit substances. Instead, I believe the bigger concern here is one of hypocrisy, the symbolic trumping the substantive, and misplaced moralism.

The headlines are about Bonds and Giambi, but I'm struck by two other things that strike me as much more important and headline-worthy:

*A member of federal law enforcement appears to have broken federal law by leaking grand jury testimony. And to what end? To create a PR event, and magically summon athletes' attorneys to ESPNews? On the scale of despicable crimes, I find that considerably worse than an athlete taking drugs, and hence risking their own health, to perhaps hit a little better.

*We have federal agents hanging out in Burlingame trying to track down people like Bill Romanowski and other athletes for acquiring or using drugs that really only represent a threat to themselves? Are you f***ing kidding me? Did we catch Osama Bin Laden over the weekend? Have these agents already finished working with the chemical and energy industries to harden soft terrorist targets like refineries and chemical plants? My tax dollars are being spent to go after people like Victor Conte, rather than building new schools or paying down the debt? Again, I'm forced to ask, are you f%^&ing kidding me?

This whole phenomenon has become a Rorschach test for everyone concerned. If you didn't like someone before, you'll use this as further evidence to support your position as logical and righteous. If you're a selective enforcer of morals, like most of us, you can scream from the rooftops that athletes are setting a bad example for our kids by using these drugs, which of course have been available and prevalent in high school at least since I graduated back in '83, before the press covered anyone in MLB using them. If you're one of the sepia-toned fans, you can cling to your illusions that today's players aren't as talented/tough/dedicated as players were in the past.

There's a lot of ugliness in our collective hearts and minds that gets reinforced and hardened by this, and the boys at ESPN have continued to move away from actual sport and towards melodrama in their coverage of it. Reality check: This is a story about a few athletes who may or may not have used drugs to improve their performance, at the risk of their own health. The drugs may or may not have been effective, but what's certain is that your tax dollars have been chasing a guy who gave a ballplayer a cream that may have resulted in a few extra hits, instead of enforcing other federal laws that actually make a positive difference in our lives.

Maybe the agents on this case could have been taking courses in Arabic, or learning about forensic accounting and how to detect white-collar crime, or putting together a program to increase security at ports. Instead, they've given us an Ionesco-esque set of press conferences and news stories as the lead-in to "3," next weekend on ESPN."


Bama sports writer redeems himself

I was livid when Mobile (Ala.) sportswriter Neal McCready voted Texas ninth on his AP ballot, behind Louisville, Utah, Boise State and Iowa. Well, apparently I wasn’t the only one who was upset. McCready’s e-mail inbox was flooded with more than 1,100 e-mails from angry Longhorn fans. McCready decided he’d better pay close attention to the Cal game and, following their narrow victory, moved Texas up to fifth. I blasted him when he was wrong, so in fairness, let me praise him for taking a closer look and making an adjustment. Champagne and roses, Mr. McCready.


Mike Williams reinstated

Highly recruited freshman Mike Williams was reinstated on Saturday before the Seton Hall game. He scored 2 points and grabbed six rebounds in 13 minutes of action. His presence on the inside gives the Horns another big body under the basket and means P.J. Tucker will likely stay at the wing position, which as I’ve written before, may or may not be best for this team. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense, and Rick is probably making the right decision, but it’s going to take some hard work to get the most out of Tucker at his new position. I think Rick can do it.


DJ named best defensive player

Texas senior linebacker Derrick Johnson was named the winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to college football’s best defensive player. Frankly, I think he’s the best player in college football, period--far more dominant in his sphere than Leinert, White, Peterson, or Bush are in theirs. Give the man the Heisman…

Monday, December 6


Texas to Rose Bowl

Texas is smelling roses after enough voters changed their minds to move Texas ahead of Cal in the BCS standings. Cal is understandably upset, but the Horns have felt this pain before and this team deserves its moment in the sun. Whether or not its lobbyist/coach does is another question, but I’m happy for the team.

As for the game, it should be a good one against a solid, though unspectacular, Michigan team. (Note to reader EMB: you may own me in 1980s trivial pursuit, but my football team is going to trounce yours...)


Texas 70 Seton Hall 62

Texas came away with a gritty win over Seton Hall on Saturday afternoon, getting solid performances from freshman Daniel Gibson and big men Brad Buckman and Jason Klotz. It was a win that had to please Rick Barnes as the Horns used their size and strength to get the win.

Daniel Gibson’s learning curve is apparently pretty steep, as well. He’s making much better decisions and is quickly becoming a very solid game manager. The only downside to the Horns 5-1 run to begin the season has been P.J. Tucker’s sluggish start. Tucker fouled out on Saturday despite just 20 minutes of action, managing to only score 7 points. Tucker, who is still the best all-around player on the team, is getting himself into trouble with fouls and not finding a consistent rhythm on offense. I’m not yet convinced that moving Tucker to the outside is the best move for this team, but it’s still a work in progress and I’m willing to go with it for a while. Nonetheless, Tucker needs to channel his energy more productively and keep himself on the floor.

Freshman Lamarcus Aldridge was equally hack-tastic, fouling out in just 12 minutes of playing time. He is so incredibly raw right now, but he is showing flashes of future dominance. Horns fans will have to be patient, though.

Another solid win for Texas, and now they’ll have two opportunities to hone their game before traveling to Wake Forest for a showdown with one of the best teams in the country. Gibson’s development is promising and the inside game appears to be flowing again, but Texas has still got a ways to go if it plans to win at Wake.


Kiper impressed with Benson

Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. now has Cedric Benson listed as the #1 running back prospect for the pros, after having him ranked #3 for the entire season. What changed? Kiper watched Benson shred the Aggies and came away with the impression that Benson is a young Edgerrin James. He’s probably right.

Friday, December 3


Hole in his soul

Former Texas great Ricky Williams will not be returning to professional football this year. Refusing any kind of reinstatement deal, Williams has enrolled as a student studying the ancient Indian medical system known as Ayurveda.

I’m a little bit torn on how I feel about this. On the one hand, who am I to tell someone that they shouldn’t be pursuing whatever it is that makes them happy? If Ricky wants to smoke weed and find himself spiritually, he should be able to.

But I can’t help but feel like Williams is just shirking responsibility. Is Ricky really on a spiritual mission or was the pressure of his professional career just more than he could handle? Life as a professional athlete, though richly rewarding in many ways, is still a very demanding profession—physically and psychologically. But there are constructive ways to handle professional stress. Running away to the mountains and hiding behind drugs doesn’t strike me as a way to resolve your problems.

Maybe Ricky really did need this sabbatical and he’ll emerge a stronger and wiser man for it. But I think that until he realizes he’s not facing his problems, that’s not likely to happen soon.



Loyal reader Travis Richmond offers this insane scenario to contemplate:

Imagine this scenario:

USC loses to UCLA
Auburn loses to Tennessee
OU loses to Colorado
Cal beats Southern Mississippi.

The new AP poll would be:
1. Cal
2. Utah
3. Texas
4-6. OU/Auburn/USC (any order, depends on how bad eachteam's loss is)

However, the BCS would look like this:

1. OU (ranked as top 1-loss team b/c they beat BCS #2)
2. Texas (We're already #4 in most computers, and we pass Cal with only one upset, everyone already agrees, pass other 1-loss teams b/c of polls, and our only loss is to #1 OU)
3. Auburn (SEC is better than Pac10 in computers)
4. USC (#1 now because of polls, remains ahead of Cal b/c of head-to-head win)
5. Cal (drops as expected b/c one upset and they're doomed to #5 in BCS)
6. Utah (still #6)

And here's the fun part:
Orange Bowl (BCS title game): #1 OU vs. #2 Texas (both at-large)
Rose: USC (Pac10) vs Michigan (Big10)
Sugar Tennessee (SEC) vs. Miami/VT winner (ACC)
Fiesta: Pitt (Big East) vs. Utah (at-large automatic, non-BCS school in top 6)

That leaves out:
Colorado (Big 12 champ, but no more than 2 from one conference can go no matter what, and #1 vs. #2 for the title trumps EVERYTHING, sent to Cotton Bowl)
Cal (#1 team in the AP poll, sent to Holiday Bowl to play Texas A&M)
Auburn: (#3 team in BCS but can't get at-large BCS b/c of OU and Texas, sent to Cotton Bowl to play Colorado)

It could happen. It's unlikely all three unbeatens lose, but it happened in 1998. Should it happen again and two non-conference champions be in position toplay for the national title, there would be total chaos on Sunday.
----You can read other commentary from Travis Richmond on his blog at http://travisrichmond.blogspot.com----


All Big 12 Team Announced

Not surprisingly, linebacker Derrick Johnson and running back Cedric Benson were unanimous selections for the AP All Big 12 Team.

In this writer's opinion, Derrick Johnson is the best defensive player in the country and might just be the best pro prospect in this year's NFL draft.

Thursday, December 2


Giambi and Steroids

I've got some thoughts on this whole situation involving Giambi and steroids, but I'll defer to Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus:

"I woke up this morning to the news that Jason Giambi's grand jury testimony had been leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, and that in there, he'd admitted to taking steroids and human growth hormone.

I'm still fumbling a bit for a reaction. Mostly, what I feel is sad. Sad that one of the game's best players resorted to illegal and dangerous activities to enhance his career. Sad that Giambi's health problems in 2004 may be connected to that decision. Sad that Giambi lied repeatedly about it after providing his testimony. Sad that baseball is going to be dragged even deeper through this muck. Sad, actually, that we live in a world where grand jury testimony can end up on the front page.

Assuming for the moment that all of this is true, I would have to think that Giambi's experience would be a greater deterrent to steroid usage than any testing program ever could be. This is a player who was a tremendous offensive force for years, who won an MVP award without doing anything illegal. Once he dabbled in performance enhancers, not only did his performance erode, then collapse, but he suffered debilitating and potentially life-threatening illnesses that may well be connected to that usage. (Will Carroll has more on this.)

Fines, suspensions, embarrassment...all of those things pale in comparison to the image of a weakened Giambi flailing away in September, being left off the playoff roster, and nervously answering questions about his body's betrayal.

Lost in this is that Giambi's brother, Jeremy, also admitted to using steroids. For all the media's desperate desire to see Barry Bonds implicated, isn't the real story here that using steroids may be unrelated to top-tier performance on the baseball field? Or at least that the net effect of baseball players using steroids is unclear?

What this story does do is make clear that the BALCO case, while largely a witch hunt, has stumbled across some nasty baseball secrets. I admit that I'd stayed away from this issue in part because I was frustrated by the lack of hard evidence. Giambi's testimony, however ill-gotten its exposure, changes that equation. A great player has admitted guilt, and the question now turns to wondering who else will, and what that means for baseball.

I struggle with that last issue. Part of me believes that this whole thing is a simple matter of where we draw lines. Heaven knows that the laws governing which substances are legal and illegal in this country are rife with contradictions and even hypocrisy. It is possible that what we consider illegal or immoral today could, in time, be seen as a medical advance. I also believe that individuals are ultimately responsible for what they do to and with their bodies, and should be allowed to gauge risks and benefits themselves.

On the other hand, those lines do exist, and in place, they act as a deterrent to those who would prefer to remain on the right side of them. If steroids are illegal, then the illegality will cause many players to avoid them, health effects aside. A willingness to break the law shouldn't be a competitive advantage.

A willingness to risk health isn't as clear an issue; don't we praise players who run into walls, who play hurt, who undergo risky experimental surgeries to mask pain and add stability so that they can take the field in a big game? The differences between a football player downing painkillers to get through Sunday, a pitcher taking a cortisone shot to get through September, and a slugger using THG to be more productive, aren't nearly as clear as they might seem.

I come back to the relationship between steroids and performance, which in baseball appears to be unproven, and in fact, only seems weakened by Giambi's admission. I'm unwilling to allow speculation on the size of a player's head or the shape of his physique or the direction of his statistics to substitute for actual information. We don't have enough of that information to say that taking steroids makes you a better baseball player, and until we do, all conclusions are suspect.

For now, I hope for three things: that Jason Giambi finds his way back to health, regardless of whether he becomes a productive hitter again; that we move past rumors and innuendo and find out, in a manner that protects the rights of everyone involved, what the impact of steroids in baseball has been; and that the issue is treated with care by the media, rather than as a chance to embarrass and inflame.

I'd be shocked if I get two out of three."


Bittersweet Commitment

Well, a bit of bittersweet news for Horns fans. Ryan Perrilloux the nation’s top quarterback recruit, announced that he is going to go to play for UT. Unfortunately, his commitment comes with a caveat: he won’t come if there are any coaching changes on Mack Brown’s staff.

I take that to mean that he wants Greg Davis to be around.

Why he wants Davis around is beyond me. Is he watching the same offensive football team that the rest of us are? The Davis-led offense I see gets by on having a great running game. Has Greg Davis done anything to bolster Vince Young’s chances to be an NFL quarterback? At this point, Young is barely looking capable of remaining UT’s quarterback. Young is an amazing athlete, and he makes good throws from time to time, but he’s wildly inconsistent and he throws from an awkward side angle.

This is the same Greg Davis-led offense that consistently gets stymied by bright coaches with good defensive schemes. I have no problem with placing an emphasis on the run, but Texas has become one-dimensional, and in every single big game over the last five years, our offense has been overly conservative and largely impotent. College cornerbacks and safeties cannot consistently shut down a good passing game. Unless it's Greg Davis calling the plays.

I don’t doubt that this Perrilloux kid has tremendous talent, but it’s already time to start questioning his judgment…


This is too much...

I apologize for carping excessively about all this BCS stuff, but it’s just insane. This morning I was outraged to learn that an idiot named Neal McCready, who writes for the Mobile (Ala.) Register, ranked Texas NINTH, behind Utah, Louisville, Boise State, and, get this…

IOWA. Yep, you read that right. Iowa. Of the "Big" 10. Unfreakingbelievable.

Wednesday, December 1


Notre Dame Blows It

A tragedy occurred yesterday in South Bend. The firing of head football coach, Tyrone Willingham, was a mistake of monumental proportions. Let me begin by outlining my dislike for all things Notre Dame. I don't like the Play Like a Champion Sign. I don't believe Jesus cares if Notre Dame scores ten touchdowns or none. I hate that Notre Dame is on network television regardless of the opponent or the score. But all that being said, Notre Dame is still a fine academic institution with a history of football excellence. Yesterday, the athletic department and school administrators panicked and didn't realize what a good fit Willingham was.

Three years is not enough time to rebuild a storied football program. Three years is barely enough time to teach a new offense. Willingham, like Parcells this year with the Cowboys, is a victim of overachievement. Notre Dame didn't have the players to win ten games two years ago but somehow they did. The ND alumni grew excited and dreamed of national championships, Heisman trophy winners, and national prestige. But last year ND fell back, the victim of mediocre talent and an impossible schedule. Willingham wasn't even give the opportunity to recruit, coach, improve, and graduate his own players. The only players he personally recruited are only freshman and sophomores. Underclassmen dominate college basketball, but most are not
physically gifted enough or mentally tough enough to make immediate impacts in major college football.

All that being said Notre Dame is victimized every year by their independent status and their name. They don't get to play Mississippi or Baylor or Rutgers or Illinois in conference or get to schedule cupcakes like
Louisiana-Lafayette or North Texas. ND plays one of the most difficult schedules in the country year in and year out. They have perennial powerhouses Michigan and USC every year and up and coming teams like
Pittsburg, Boston College, and Purdue. This year they also played Tennessee in Knoxville. Of course they play Navy and Stanford every year as well, but those are not in the same category with the above mentioned teams.

If Mississippi wins an SEC game, that is considered an achievement. But if Navy or Air Force beats ND, that is historic. They might as well cancel the rest of their games because they will not have a bigger win the rest of the season and maybe not the rest of the decade. ND may very well attract the hottest coach in the country, Urban Meyer from Utah, but they will still have made a mistake. What top notch high school recruit will want to go to Notre Dame now? They gave up on their coach too soon and without much merit. Willingham accomplished all he could in three short years: two bowl berths, competitive games, and a step in the right direction. Until the administration decides to give up big time NBC money, join a conference, and play a weaker schedule, they will be searching for renewed hope at the end of each football season. My dislike for Notre Dame grew just a little more yesterday afternoon.


I absolutely agree with Andrew. Three years is a ridiculously short amount of time to try to rescue a program from Bob Davie. I have to believe there's something else at work here; most likely, as Andrew suggested, Urban Meyer Salivation Syndrome. While I think Meyer is a fine coach, I can't say that I think bagging Willingham was a good idea. As Andrew correctly noted, it isn't fair and it sends a horrible message to kids who might want to go there.

Notre Dame may have once stood atop the mountain, but from where I'm sitting, this is yet another step backwards...

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