Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Legend on the Plains

Pat Dye was a head coach for 19 years, compiling a 153-62-5 record that earned him a ticket to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Auburn fans will never forget his 12 years, which included four Southeastern Conference championships and three SEC coach of the year honors. Past classic coaches videos: Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Hayden Fry, Lou Holtz, Bobby Ross, Dan Devine and Gary Barnett.

How to Stick It to Your Rival

One of the more amusing pissing matches this offseason is taking place in the Heartland, where Iowa State and Iowa have been yellowing up the snow. It started with Iowa State officials jacking the ticket price for Iowa fans wishing to attend the Sept. 15 game in Ames between the rivals to $90. In addition, only 4,000 tickets are made available Iowa fans, many of whom can't fathom a Hawkeye game going on without their presence. So the only other way for Iowa fans to see the game is to — gasp! — purchase season tickets to Iowa State, which is trying to raise $135 million for a massive facilities renovation. Iowa officials are now considering opening the Hawkeyes' Kinnick Stadium on the day of the game for fans, charge a $5 or $10 fee that will go to charity and show the game on the scoreboard's video screen. Read the column by Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette in comments.

Middle Ground

Here is the second of three charts we are publishing reflecting how states ranked in producing Division I-A recruits in relation to their population. This information comes to us from Map Game Day, and you can view the complete list by clicking here. Our first chart, published Tuesday, showed the top 15 states, with Hawaii leading the nation by producing one Division I-A recruit for every 35,633 residents. This chart represents states in the middle of the pack, from 16 through 30. On Thursday, we will publish the final chart that shows states ranked from 31 to 46. Four states — North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island and Vermont — failed to produce a I-A recruit. You can click on the chart for a closer look.

Reporters' Notebooks

Chadd Cripe, Idaho Statesman: Boise State has finalized an agreement with three filmmakers to produce a documentary about the Broncos' 2006 season.

Scott Carter, Tampa Tribune: Florida State coach Bobby Bowden has denied a scholarship release for Brandon Warren, the team's fifth-leading receiver as a freshman who is reportedly set to enroll at Tennessee.

Randy Riggs, Austin American-Statesman: With the Cotton Bowl Classic moving to the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in 2010, what does it mean for the Red River Shootout between Oklahoma and Texas?

Bill Koch, Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati officials now say they were notified Feb. 8 — not Feb. 14 — of allegations that four football players and four recruits engaged in sex acts with a former women's soccer player during a recruiting visit. The sex acts were reportedly videotaped and distributed on campus. Thanks to Steroid Nation.

John Delong, Winston-Salem Journal: Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, 55, cashed in on his 11-3 season, signing a 10-year contract.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hawaii Makes Most of Its Resources

Our latest goodie from Map Game Day. The state most efficient in producing Division I-A recruits this year in relation to population is Hawaii. According to the 2000 census, Hawaii has a population of 1,211,537, and out of that came 34 players. That breaks down to one Division I-A player for every 35,633 residents. Other states, including heavyweights Texas (389 players), Florida (325) and California (320) produce more players, but they have a much greater population base. California didn't even make our chart of the top 15 states, finishing out of the money at 17th. According to Richard at Map Game Day, four states failed to produce a I-A recruit: North Dakota, South Dakota. Rhode Island and Vermont. The complete state-by-state list can be viewed by clicking here. And you can click on the chart for a closer look.

Tough Work If You Can Get It

Pardon us for going off topic for a post, but because we have a lot of friends in the print media, a jab at the Associated Press Sports Editors' annual winter meeting is in order. We've always been amused by these gatherings, or should we call them boondoggles. Now people will disagree with us. In fact, there is a lively discussion going on at Sports Journalists about APSE. But we're really not sure what purpose APSE serves besides giving the boss and possibly some of his/her lieutenants an excuse to go off to some warm locale for a week of merriment. When is the last time they held this February gathering in say, Buffalo?

This week, editors have gathered at the Coast Hotel in Long Beach, and as you can see from the above photo, the working conditions for judges on the various contests border on unbearable. It's doubly difficult with a hangover. ...

Now to justify this big smoozefest, APSE will announce later this week the top-10 daily and Sunday sports sections in four circulation categories. Here is where reality sinks in: Expect these circulation categories to be adjusted downward soon because circulation is falling at newspapers like rain falls in Seattle. In fact, the competition is already stacked against papers under 100,000 circulation because most of the newspapers already fall in those two judging categories.

But never fear, plans are already being made for the next APSE boondoggle, June 20-23 in St. Louis, with a poker night, awards banquet (pat each other on the back) and game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies (they serve beer at Busch Stadium!). Yes, with newspapers facing the loss of readers, cutbacks and layoffs commonplace throughout the industry and salaries generally hovering around the poverty level, you have to ask one question: Why?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Site Says Leak Scored 8 on Wonderlic

A site run by Mac Mirabile is reporting that quarterback Chris Leak, who guided Florida to the national championship, has scored an 8 on the Wonderlic test, which is given to NFL prospects. You might recall that Texas quarterback Vince Young reportedly scored a 6 last year, so if this information on Leak is accurate, it's the second year in a row that the quarterback from the national championship team has scored in single digits. A perfect score is 50, and only one out of 100,000 people ace it. The average score for a player at the combine is 19, and the average score for the man on the street is 21. A score under 10 is an indication of literacy problems. Former Iowa State running back Darren Davis reportedly has the lowest score for an NFL prospect, a 4. As for the accuracy of the information, it is debatable. Mirabile even notes on his site that his "results represent research and generally come from reliable sources, i.e., notes from NFL sources, newspaper articles. It is important to understand that scores cannot be 'verified' since they are not released by the NFL, but rather leaked by teams or scouts." After Young's reported score was leaked (later reports say he was given the test a second time and scored 16), the NFL made changes to prevent it from happening again. And does the Wonderlic even matter? Anybody who watched Young play last year for the Tennessee Titans would say no. Thanks to Loser With Socks.
Update: Leak's score is now blank on Mirabile's site. Thanks to reader Greg for pointing that out in the comments.

Reporters' Notebooks

Ryan Suchomel, Iowa City Press-Citizen: Iowa State is asking Iowa season ticket holders to pay $90 a ticket to see this fall's game between the rivals in Ames.

Marcus R. Fuller, Pioneer Press: Minnesota is close to completing an apparel deal with Nike that would possibly save the school $300,000 a year.

Dave Matter, Columbia Tribune: A preview of spring practices for Big 12 Conference teams.

Manhattan Mercury: Kansas State has finalized details for a Sept. 1 nationally televised game at Auburn.

Lawrence Journal-World: Kansas has released final renderings of the Anderson Family Football Complex, the latest step in the construction of the $31 million facility.

Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman: It has been 20 years since Southern Methodist was given the death penalty by the NCAA. The Mustangs have yet to recover.

Bill Koch, Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati officials say they are making progress in an investigation into charges that four players and four recruits had sex with a former soccer player during a recruiting visit.

Idaho Statesman: A Boise State assistant has banned players from wearing Fiesta Bowl gear during workouts.

Paul Strelow, Columbia State: Clemson president James Barker has appointed two committees to review the school's admissions process for recruits.

Athens Banner-Herald: A Georgia linebacker was arrested for underage possession of alcohol.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Zbikowski Will Have Home Ring Advantage

Notre Dame safety Tom Zbikowski is headed back to the ring. Zbikowski won his professional debut last June in Madison Square Garden, defeating something called Robert Bell in 49 seconds. Zbikowski will fight a March 6 heavyweight exhibition at the Century Center in downtown South Bend. Zbikowski's opponent — the bout is expected to be four rounds — is scheduled to be Chicago native Kevin Murphy. Promoters are anticipating a sellout of 3,000, with tickets ranging from $25 (standing room) to $100 (ringside). Zbikowski considered turning pro in football after last season before deciding to return for his final season of eligibility.

Spring Is in the Air

It might not look like spring for many of our readers currently layered under snow and ice, but trust us, better days are ahead because spring football is about to start. In fact, it already has at Texas and Tennessee. Rivals has posted a list of spring schedules and we found another from the Associated Press that we posted in comments below. Take into consideration that there are some differences in dates and neither list has all 119 Division I-A teams. If anybody knows of a more complete list, please let us know and we will post it.
Update: Thanks to an anonymous poster, we have a more complete list of spring schedules from College Football News.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Nebraska's Party Bus From Manhattan

A new book by former Nebraska offensive lineman David Kolowski paints a picture of a Cornhusker program under Frank Solich spinning out of control before Solich was fired. Kolowski, who walked on to the team in 1998 and eventually became the starting snapper for placekicks in 2002, kept a journal of his five seasons in Lincoln, chronicling his evolution from wide-eyed freshman to disgruntled upperclassman.

Although the 491-page "Diary of a Husker" alleges no NCAA violations, it details incidents surrounding the fall of the team from its berth in the 2002 BCS title game to next season's 7-7 finish that concluded with a loss to Mississippi in the Independence Bowl. A year later, after Kolowski had completed his eligibility, Solich was fired.

Arguably the most embarrassing incident Kolowski writes about came after the Cornhuskers lost, 49-13, to Kansas State in 2002. On the ride home from Manhattan, offensive linemen consumed pre-made Long Island Iced Teas and whiskey and cokes that players carried onto the team bus.

Kolowski also says that Jason Peter, a defensive captain from the 1997 team, spoke to the Cornhuskers before their 37-14 loss to Miami in the 2002 title game. Peter, according to Kolowski, offered a $1,000 reward to any defender who could knock Hurricane quarterback Ken Dorsey out of the game.

Predictably, the book is getting a lukewarm reception from Nebraska fans.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Solich's Problematic Student-Athletes

Frank Solich has turned around Ohio's football fortunes, but numerous off-the-field incidents involving Solich and his team are starting to wear thin in Athens. After word came down this week of the arrest of two more Ohio players — bringing the total number of Bobcat players arrested since January 2006 to at least 14 — the Athens News published a lengthy story examining Solich's problematic student-athletes dating to his days at Nebraska. Jonathan Hunt, in a nice piece of reporting, reviewed past Bobcat rosters and court records and found that the team's legal difficulties had been in decline for several years until increasing markedly under Solich. Then there was Solich's drunken-driving conviction in November 2005. The coach has steadfastly denied culpability in his case, saying he was drugged, but his attempt to withdraw his plea failed last August. The recent arrests of two players involved a violent incident at a restaurant, and the paper also found that another player had been cited in January for rear-ending a car, sending a man to the hospital and bringing the player his sixth traffic charge since October 2005. Thanks to Steroid Nation for bringing this to our attention.

Is Going Forward the Right Move for Weis?

The mistrial in the medical malpractice case involving Crewcut Charlie Weis leaves the Notre Dame coach with a difficult decision. Should he try the case again or should he punt? Would going back to court damage Weis' reputation, or has it already been soiled? One letter writer to the Boston Herald has made up their mind, saying Weis has demonstrated that he is no role model. "Exercise, diet and appropriately managed drug therapies do not fail people. People fail people. Weis, like millions of Americans, subscribed to a lifestyle of excess calories and inadequate physical activity, resulting in the predictable consequences of obesity, diminished self-esteem and declining health."

But each side has issues to consider. To get a picture of where the sides stand after the mistrial, we went back to attorney Tom Kirkendall, our legal expert in the case who also runs the site Houston's Clear Thinkers. Here is what he had to say:

"Regrettably, a mistrial was the correct decision.

"From reading your reports and press reports from the trial, I have reservations about the validity of Weis' case. Frankly, I'm not sure that the judge should ever allowed it to go to trial in the first place.

"However, the fact that the defendants are good doctors who came to the aid of a sick juror is simply not evidence that they properly treated Weis. Inasmuch as the remainder of the jurors understandably would be impressed with how the doctors handled the situation and could well be influenced by it, declaring a mistrial was the correct call.

"Settlement is a real 'who knows' proposition. Weis' attorneys are almost certainly working on a contingency fee, so Weis doesn't have much financial risk in teeing it up for another trial.

"From the defense perspective, the insurers for the doctors — who are probably the ones calling the shots in regard to settlement from the defense side — will be analyzing the probable spread between Weis' current settlement demand and the amount of damages that they think they can limit Weis to during a re-trial. If that spread gets too large, then the insurers have a financial incentive to give it another go."

Previous coverage:
Day 5: Mistrial of the Century
Day 4: Brady's Hail Mary
Day 3: Weis' hired hand
Day 2: Weis testifies
Day 1: Opening statements
Preview: A legal perspective
To bypass registration, go to Bug Me Not. Thanks to Hester Graphics for their help.

The Art and Craft of Sports Coverage

Because this site is favorite stop for members of the media, we like to keep everybody updated on interviews posted at Sports Media Guide. The site, which is affiliated with The Sports Institute at Boston University, gets the scoop from reporters who work at papers big and small. Many of the reporters we frequently link to on the Wiz have told their stories to SMG, including recent interviews of Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Geoff Calkins and Idaho Statesman columnist Brian Murphy, who told SMG that he is working on a book with beat writer Chadd Cripe chronicling Boise State's 2006 season.

Lampley Gets Probation

Jim Lampley, who started his broadcasting career in 1974 as a sideline reporter for ABC telecasts of college football games, has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge that he violated a restraining order to keep away from former girlfriend Candice Sanders, pictured below. In criminal court, a plea of no contest has the same effect as a guilty plea. Sanders, as we reported earlier, was Miss California 2003. Lampley, 57, was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to complete a 52-week domestic violence counseling program. He was also fined $674 and ordered to do 40 hours of volunteer work. The sentence is relatively standard for a first-time offender in a domestic violence case.

When We're Not Blogging, We're Talking

We do radio too. Every Friday night/Saturday morning you can hear us yapping on "Sports Overnight America" on the Sports Byline USA Radio Network. Fred Wallin and John Woolard get the show started Friday at 10 p.m. (Pacific), and the Wiz joins the festivities from 11:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. Out guest tonight is Michael Rothstein, Notre Dame beat writer for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. "Sports Overnight America" is available over the Internet at Sports Byline or through the American Forces Network, which can be heard in 177 countries and U.S. territories. Also check the list of Sports Byline affiliates. Sports Byline tells us that a planned update their podcast library should be completed in the next month, so stay tuned for that.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Replacing Barrow High's Frozen Tundra

You might recall the story from last summer of Barrow High, Alaska's northernmost high school, deciding to field a football team. Although the Whalers won only one of their six games, the establishment of the team has been credited with turning around a staggering dropout rate and boosting morale at the school, located 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

The Whalers' impact has gone far beyond Barrow, reaching all the way to Florida, where Jacksonville-area accountant Cathy Parker is spearheading a move to replace Barrow's gravelly field next to the Arctic Ocean with artificial turf.

Parker got her inspiration last fall after seeing a documentary about the team on ESPN (you can view the two-part series here and here). She created a fundraising nonprofit called Project Alaska, with the intent of raising $500,000 for the project, and a website where people can donate should be up by the end of the month.

Parker already has a promise of a $100,000 donation from a banker and has approached NFL officials about a grant. ProGrass, a Pennsylvania company selling artificial turf, will subtract at least $75,000 from the $400,000 cost of a field, and Navy and Air National Guard officials are looking into flying or barging the field to Barrow.

As for the Whalers, they are expected to be much improved. The team will play an eight-game schedule, including the first Pipeline Bowl with Valdez, honoring the 800-mile line that sends oil from the North Slope to Prince William Sound. Barrow players, including several kids who weigh 265 pounds, are set to begin off-season drills this week in the snow.

In addition, the team has been invited to Florida to train this summer with Bartram Trail High, where Parker's husband, Carl, is a coach. Thanks to reader John!

The Rise and Fall of the Big Ten

The Big Ten thought it had control of the college football world last fall. No. 2 Michigan had just lost to No. 1 Ohio State, 42-39, in Columbus, and a rematch appeared on tap in the BCS title game. It didn't happen, and the Wolverines and Buckeyes went their separate ways in the postseason, each getting humbled in bowl games.

What could have been an historic finish ended as an embarrassment, and the league is searching for answers. The popular theory is that the Big Ten, without a title game, concludes its regular season too early and that translates to sloppy play by its representatives in the postseason.

Commissioner Jim Delany, above, says a majority of conference athletic directors are interested in extending the regular-season schedule into December. The popular plan is for league teams to skip playing the week of Thanksgiving to extend the season. Also under discussion is increasing the number of league games from eight to nine or 10.

A decision could be made on changes by June, but implementing the moves could take two years because of scheduling conflicts. Also, an early look at how the 2007 Big Ten race shapes up and five redshirt freshman who could make an impact this fall. Thanks to Kevin of We Are Penn State.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Meet North Carolina's Athletic Director

You might not recognize this man, but it's North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour making the rounds at last week's Atlantic Coast Conference women's swimming and diving championships. Apparently, there was some money left over after the hire of Butch Davis as football coach. Does Baddour also wear such jewelry at league ethics meetings or before the NCAA infractions committee? The photo comes to us from the fine 850 The Buzz, which has a larger version, and they provide evidence that the image has not been altered.

Mistrial of the Century

It was a bizarre ending. Judge Charles Spurlock, above, declared a mistrial Tuesday in Charlie Weis' malpractice lawsuit against Massachusetts General doctors Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin after juror Anthony Perry collapsed while listening to testimony.

Perry, 64, began audibly gasping before he collapsed. Four doctors, including Ferguson and Hodin, rushed to his aid and people in the courtroom began to shout, "Call 911!" As doctors tended to Perry, Spurlock ordered the courtroom vacated.

"Luckily, there were medical professionals in the room," juror Leigh Garino told the Boston Herald.

Weis remained seated throughout the ordeal, staring at the jury box.

After Perry was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where he was in stable condition (it remains unclear what happened to him), Weis' attorney, Michael Mone, filed a motion for a mistrial. Mone argued that the jury could have been tainted by what happened to Perry and the treatment he received from Ferguson and Hodin.

"I talked to my client and told him he basically had no choice," Mone told the Boston Globe. "He was very reluctant to have a mistrial, but I told him there was no choice and we had to have a mistrial."

Spurlock then called the remaining jurors to the bench one-by-one and asked if they could remain impartial if the trial continued. Defense attorney William Dailey argued against a mistrial, saying that the case was near conclusion and should continue.

"We thought the case was going very well for the doctors and we were confident," Dailey said. "We thought that the jury was listening intently and we were very optimistic that there was going to be a good result and that there would be no negligence found."

Dailey clearly had reason to be confident. Juror Burnham Bowden was not impressed by Weis' star witness, New England quarterback Tom Brady, who was spared a public relations nightmare by testifying in the case two days before news broke that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant with his child.

"My opinion was Brady was not of any help. He did what a lot of us do, help people who are sick. He did that very nicely, but it had nothing to do with the case."

Juror Mark Pinardi also said he wasn't swayed by Brady's testimony. "Tom was good about expressing the human side of Charlie, and what his wife went through was obviously a trying time on her, not knowing if he was going to make it."

Pinardi also offered insight as to why Brady testified for only 24 minutes, saying that the defense team was fearful of "attacking a local hero" and wanted "to get him off the stand as quick as possible."

So where do we stand? Will the case be heard again, or will the sides do the smart thing and settle out of court? We turn to Gary Gaffney, M.D., University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and founder of the site Steroid Nation, who has been supplying us with analysis throughout the trial:

"Shocking as it was, my legal experts stated that the judge was correct in calling a mistrial after the collapse of the juror and ministrations of the defendant doctors.

"Medically speaking, readers who followed the case learned more about the procedure and the complications. We learned that the Weis team called in an expert witness — Alan Wittgrove — who testified that the Massachusetts General surgeons should have caught the stomach leakage and tissue bleeding earlier. He didn't say why the surgeons should have been more prompt in repairing the original surgery. His testimony that Weis' neuropathy was due to thiamine deficiency was rebutted rather easily by the Massachusetts General surgeon.

"Tom Brady testified that his former coach suffered from stupor and coma in the hospital, and from leg pain while on the practice field.

"We were looking for more information about the critical 30 hours from the end of the original surgery to the revision surgery. However, the mistrial aborted the elucidation of that data and the surgeons' explanations.

"Considering the costs to Weis, the court, the surgeons and the prospective costs and time to repeat the entire episode, I wonder if both parties would be extremely wise in settling this out of court. The Weis team's case was not medically strong. I cannot imagine any new argument or new data that would strengthen their case.

"A new trial will eat up more of Weis' coaching time, likely during the season. Perhaps it is time for Team Weis to move on with life."

Previous coverage:
Day 4: Brady's Hail Mary
Day 3: Weis' hired hand
Day 2: Weis testifies
Day 1: Opening statements
Preview: A legal perspective
To bypass registration, go to Bug Me Not. Thanks to Hester Graphics for their help.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Weis Trial Is Set to Resume

The Charlie Weis malpractice trial enters its second week Tuesday, with the jury expected to get the case by week's end. A Dorchester resident told the Boston Herald that he tried to contact Weis last year to get advice about gastric bypass surgery, but Weis never returned his call. Chris "Tiger" Stockbridge, 34, eventually decided against the procedure and started an exercise program that has resulted in a loss of nearly 80 pounds. "I knew he had an awful experience," Stockbridge said. "I wanted to know where his mindset was with everything." One other note: Weis' superstar witness, New England quarterback Tom Brady, is in a bit of a pickle. Former girlfriend Bridget Moyahan announced Monday that she is pregnant with Brady's child.
Update: It's now the Mistrial of the Century. In a bizarre turn, Judge Charles Spurlock has declared a mistrial. We will have full details on Wednesday.

'A Total Insult to Our Team'

We believe this is from the 2005 Nebraska-Colorado game in Boulder. In many ways, it was the beginning of the end for Gary Barnett at Colorado. His Buffaloes — 14-point favorites — trailed entering halftime, 20-3. As he left the field, Barnett mentioned the Cornhuskers' use of the no-huddle offense, "which was a total insult to our team." Colorado, with a trip to the Big 12 title game on the line, sleepwalked through the second half and lost, 30-3. Of note is that the game had to be stopped in the second half when officials ordered hundreds of debris-throwing fans to leave Folsom Field. The next day, a loss by Iowa State allowed the Buffaloes to back into the title game, where they were drilled by Texas, 70-3. Less than a week later, Barnett was fired, leaving behind a pool of red ink. Past classic coaches videos: Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Hayden Fry, Lou Holtz, Bobby Ross and Dan Devine.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Ratings Game

Bowl games are big business. Just take a look at the TV ratings for postseason games from Nielsen Media Research. At the top of the list, as one would expect, was the BCS title game between Ohio State and Florida with a 17.4 rating, which translates into an average audience of 28.8 million viewers. The Rose Bowl between USC and Michigan finished a strong second with a 13.9 rating. Surprisingly, the top non-BCS bowl was the Alamo between Texas and Iowa, which clocked 6.0 to become the most-watched bowl game ever on ESPN. Toward the bottom of the postseason ratings came the first-year Bowl, which finished 25th out of 32 games. The 1.7 rating for the matchup between East Carolina and South Florida translates into 2.1 million viewers. At the very bottom came the Insight between Texas Tech and Minnesota, which garnered a 0.9 rating. It's important to note that the Insight and the Texas Bowl, which finished 29th overall, were telecast by the NFL Network. That network has yet to be picked up by most cable companies, which no doubt impacted the ratings of those two games. You can click on the chart to take a closer look.

Boise State Is Going Hollywood

In this case, get ready to roll out the blue carpet. Boise State officials are expected to reach a deal to sell movie rights of the Broncos' 2006 season and dramatic Fiesta Bowl victory in the next few weeks. University officials have been told that the rights could be worth between $250,000 and $750,000. Under consideration are rights to a documentary and a movie, using the documentary as a springboard for the movie script. Five producers — from New York, Hollywood and Idaho — have contacted the university. "These producers have described it as a David and Goliath-like story," Boise State director of communications and marketing Frank Zang said. "They say it has the makings of a great feature film in the vein of classics like 'Hoosiers,' 'Rudy' or 'Miracle.' They have been inspired by a story that transcends football. It's about creativity, courage, risk-taking and even romance."

Nutt Airs It Out

Now that athletic director Frank Broyles is set to retire at the end of the year, the attention turns to the future of Houston Nutt. Yes, Arkansas officials have announced their plans to give Nutt a pay raise, but one has to think that the coach will be "available" at the end of the season. His supportive boss is leaving, the controversy surrounding the departure of assistant Gus Malzahn never seems to go away and Mitch Mustain, his hotshot quarterback recruit from a year ago who was 8-0 as a starter, is preparing to transfer. That said, Nutt let it all hang out in an extended interview with Alex Abrams and Harry King of the Morning News. The lengthy interview — all 72 minutes — has been transcribed into a pdf document. Not many coaches open up like this, and it's almost as if Nutt is extending an olive branch for one last time in an effort to heal the division in the Razorback Nation. Of particular interest are Nutt's comments on how his relationship with Mustain and his mother suddenly went sour, seemingly around the same time Malzahn left for Tulsa. Thanks to Pig Kahuna.

Every Man's Hero

Next time you pick up a remote control for your TV, remember Robert Adler. He was the co-inventor of the device that revolutionized TV viewing and made the couch potato possible. Adler, 93, died late last week of heart failure in Boise. Not everybody thinks being a couch potato is such a good thing. In fact, Adler was asked about this in a May 2004 interview. "People ask me all the time — 'Don't you feel guilty for it?' And I say that's ridiculous," he said. "It seems reasonable and rational to control the TV from where you normally sit and watch television." We couldn't agree more. Thanks to Kevin of We Are Penn State.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Brady Engineers Another Comeback

Charlie Weis' sometimes-clinical malpractice trial against Massachusetts General Hospital doctors Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin took on rockstar status Friday when New England quarterback Tom Brady took the witness stand.

Brady, who testified on behalf of his former quarterback coach, arrived first class, taking the prisoners' elevator to evade a media crush and entered the courtroom flanked by court officers. The Boston Herald described a "tanned and trim Brady" striding "gamely into Judge Charles Spurlock's courtroom as eyes swiveled."

An officer wagged a finger at onlookers and warned, "Don't anyone get cute with those picture phones."

Brady testified for only 24 minutes, but it was clear he owned the room and gave a boost to Weis' hopes of a favorable verdict. Brady, dressed in a dark pinstriped suit with a white pocket square, told the jury that Weis has never been the same after suffering complications from gastric-bypass surgery. "I just remember him expressing the pain he was in," Brady said, pausing to look at the jury. "Charlie was never one to complain. He toughs it out."

In true Brady fashion, he closed strong by joking that he always roots for Weis and his Notre Dame team except when they play Michigan, Brady's alma mater. The jurors all laughed.

After Brady's testimony, Weis' attorneys rested their case.

Earlier, Ferguson took the stand and said Weis showed no post-operative problems on Friday, the day of the surgery, and that he felt confident leaving Weis under the care of Hodin for the weekend. Ferguson said when he returned on Monday, Weis was "critically ill."

Ferguson, right, also countered claims made a day earlier by Alan Wittgrove, the surgeon who was brought in at a fee of $7,500 to testify on behalf of Team Weis. Wittgrove had criticized Ferguson and Hodin for continuing to administer the blood-thinning drug Heparin, with Ferguson saying the drug was used to prevent a pulmonary (lung) embolism (blood clot).

Ferguson also took a shot at Weis for accelerating the pre-operation program. "I was concerned he did not go through the normal six-week training session to teach you how to eat and what to eat after the operation. He told me he had done the research on this and he didn't have any questions."

Let's bring our expert, Gary Gaffney, M.D., University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the man behind Steroid Nation, for an opinion on Day 4 of the trial.

"Friday's court actions consisted of two parts: the event and the testimony.

"The event: Brady's appearance. Brady signed autographs, smiled for the cameras and gave solid testimony. He related how Weis' level of consciousness fluctuated after the second surgery to stop bleeding. And he said that Weis appeared to suffer greatly from leg pain.

"The testimony: It came from Ferguson, who performed the gastric bypass, only to return on Monday to learn that Weis had undergone a second operation to stop internal bleeding.

"Ferguson countered Wittgrove's criticism from a day earlier on the use of Heparin, saying this was standard procedure to prevent blood clots. Wittgrove had also been critical of Ferguson and Hodin for not monitoring thiamine levels. Ferguson said that thiamine had been added to Weis' IV infusion.

"Lastly, Ferguson reiterated how Weis rushed to surgery, non-compliant with the six-week pre-surgery training.

"By saying that under his care, Weis did well, it appears that Ferguson was trying to disassociate himself from Hodin, who was supervising Weis during the weekend. It may have cleared the air about some charges of negligence against him.

"Although Ferguson expressed concern that Weis was rushing into surgery, the doctor could have declined the operation and made Weis play by the usual rules.

"We still do not have a complete picture of the critical period from Saturday morning, when Weis started complaining of pain, until a barium swallow revealed internal bleeding Sunday that led to corrective surgery."

Previous coverage:
Day 3: Weis' hired hand
Day 2: Weis testifies
Day 1: Opening statements
Preview: A legal perspective
To bypass registration, go to Bug Me Not. Thanks to Hester Graphics for their help.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reports: Broyles Is Out; Nutt to Follow?

Frank Broyles, one of college football's most powerful figures, reportedly is set to step down as athletic director at Arkansas. And there are rumblings that coach Houston Nutt might not be far behind. (KARK video links here and here.) It's unclear if Broyles' departure is voluntary or forced, but last month he came under fire for comments he made at a Razorback alumni meeting in Dallas. Broyles, 82, has stood by Nutt during the ongoing controversy surrounding the departure of offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Tulsa and two of Malzahn's prized players from Springdale High — quarterback Mitch Mustain and receiver Damian Williams. Last week, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette column Wally Hall wrote a column critical of Nutt, who then called a local talk show where Hall was making an appearance. As for Mustain, it appears his visit to USC is going well — very well. Don't be surprised if he is reunited with Williams, who transferred to USC in January. Thanks to our man on the scene, Pig Kahuna.

Team Weis' Hired Hand Testifies

An expert witness was brought in Thursday to testify on behalf of Charlie Weis in the Notre Dame coach's malpractice trial against Massachusetts General Hospital doctors Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin.

San Diego surgeon Alan Wittgrove, right, who said he has performed 3,500 operations like the gastric bypass procedure that Weis underwent, testified for over three hours. Wittgrove criticized Ferguson, who performed the surgery, and Hodin, whom Ferguson entrusted with Weis' post-operative care, for continuing to administer the blood-thinning drug Heparin while Weis was hemorrhaging before a second surgery was performed to stop the bleeding.

Wittgrove didn't stop there, blaming the partial paralysis in Weis' feet on Massachusetts General's apparent failure to monitor his thiamine levels. "It's well-known that if you don't give adequate thiamine, [nerve damage] can ensue."

Defense attorney William Dailey then took his shots at Wittgrove, getting the surgeon to acknowledged that he charges $7,500 a day for testimony. Dailey's attack on Wittgrove's credibility continued, with Dailey getting the surgeon to acknowledge that in a previous case with similar circumstances — in that case, the patient died — Wittgrove testified the doctor gave appropriate care.

Judge Charles Spurlock called attorneys on both sides to the bench four times for conversations as the questioning became mildly contentious.

On Friday, New England quarterback Tom Brady will testify on Weis' behalf.

To help us put Day 3 in perspective, we bring in our expert for the trial, Gary Gaffney, M.D., University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and founder of the site Steroid Nation.

"Was it obvious Weis was suffering from internal bleeding during the immediate post-op period as Wittgrove seemed to indicate? Apparently not. Weis was comfortable at first, then became distressed. The Massachusetts General doctors ordered a CT scan, which did not reveal internal bleeding on Saturday, the day after the surgery. Further, the doctors were concerned about pulmonary (lung) embolism (blood clot), which is fatal.

"Heparin, which Wittgrove criticized, treats blood clots. Concern about pulmonary embolism is likely the reason that Massachusetts General doctors continued the blood-thinning medicine.

"Wittgrove's assertion that thiamine deficiency is 'well-known' to cause leg pain in bypass patients is interesting for two reasons:

"—It takes time for thiamine to become low (weeks to months) because the malabsorption caused by surgery depletes the body of thiamine;

"—If Weis had followed normal procedure — a long period of counseling before surgery — perhaps he could have increased his stores of thiamine before surgery.

"Weis' condition deteriorated into Saturday night. Something must have happened that night to exacerbate Weis' distress. We know Weis pulled his trachea breathing tube out. By Sunday, nurse Jennifer Wilson notified doctors of her suspicion of internal bleeding. After a barium swallow revealed the internal bleeding, Weis underwent emergency surgery that was followed by infection, shock and a two-week coma.

"It's clear that Weis' post-operative course produced a serious threat to his life. Did Massachusetts General physicians neglect their professional duty or provide substandard care?

"As for Wittgrove performing 3,500 of the same operation Weis underwent, that is up for debate. While it is true Wittgrove 'pioneered laproscopic gastric bypass', it appears Weis underwent Roux-en-Y bypass, which requires a large incision, different from the Wittgrove procedure."

Previous coverage:
Day 2: Weis testifies
Day 1: Opening statements
Preview: A legal perspective
To bypass registration, go to Bug Me Not. Thanks to Hester Graphics for their help.

The Spoken Word

If you like the website, give the radio show a listen. Every Friday night/Saturday morning you can catch us on "Sports Overnight America" on the Sports Byline USA network. The show starts at 10 p.m. Pacific, and the Wiz joins John Woolard and Fred Wallin at 11:30. With the NBA All-Star Game coming to our favorite city of Las Vegas this weekend, Jim Buzinski of will join us at 11:40 to talk about the reaction to John Amaechi's announcement that he is gay. After midnight, the phone lines are open (800-878-7529), and we will discuss the Charlie Weis trial and the delightful college football rule changes announced this week. You can catch the show over the Internet at Sports Byline, on the American Forces Network, which can be heard in 176 countries and U.S. territories, or on one of the Sports Byline affiliates.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Turn Back the Clock!

The recommendations put forth by Football Rules Committee to overturn the controversial clock rules are cause for celebration. And all that remains is rubber-stamp approval by the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel on March 12. So let's get right to it and highlight the changes:

—Rule 3-2-5-e is no more. This called for the play clock to start once the ball was spotted by officials after a change of possession. If you've been a regular visitor to the Wiz, you know of our strong opposition to this rule from Day 1.

—Rule 3-2-5 is no more. This called for the clock to start once the ball was free-kicked and it created a loophole that was exploited by Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema during the Badgers' game against Penn State.

Several rules have been added to speed the game:

—Charged team timeouts are reduced from 90 to 60 seconds. In addition, the play clock will be set to 15 seconds after a timeout instead of 25 seconds. Two good moves here. After a timeout, you should be ready to go, shouldn't you?

—Kickoffs are moved from the 35-yard line to the 30. For the past two seasons, the rate of kickoffs per game has been just under 11. Marty from sends along this data: In 2005, kickoffs from the 35 resulted in touchbacks 30.36% of the time. From the 30, this number dropped to 8.54%. In 2006, the numbers are 28.46% and 8.43%. With fewer touchbacks, the clock moves and the potential for big plays — something every fan cherishes — are increased. This is going to put a premium on special teams play. In addition, kicking-team fouls can be enforced at the end of the run, meaning kick units don't have to shuffle back on the field. Brilliant stuff here.

—The play clock will start when the ball is handed to the kicker. Chris Dufrense of the L.A. Times nailed this one: "The kicker has 25 seconds to put foot to ball instead of an unlimited span in which to spin the ball on his finger, check wind speed, or wave to friends in the stands."

—Instant replay reviews will be limited to two minutes. The average replay last season averaged 1:49, so this is unlikely to have much of an impact.

In 2008, the 40/25 rule will be adopted. This means that once a play is over, the next play has to be run within 40 seconds, and this includes the 25-second game clock. This will create a uniform rule across college football that makes officials spot the ball more quickly in order to get the next play off.

On a personal note, many of you know of our crusade to get the clock rules overturned. The rules clearly cut into the heart of the game by reducing the number of plays. But this crusade would have never left the tarmac without the help from Marty of, who has a database of every play run by a Division I-A team the past two years. More recently, Matt from College Sports Schedules and Gary from Steroid Nation helped with an enormous project that exposed an increase in commercialization and decline in the number of plays during telecasts. What gifted and talented people.

And to the Football Rules Committee, thanks for listening and doing the right thing.

Weis Questioned on Reason for Surgery

Day 2 of Crewcut Charlie Weis' trial saw the big guy take the witness stand. Weis testified that he elected to undergo gastric bypass surgery without discussing it with his wife, Maura, or his boss at the time, New England coach Bill Belichick. The only person who knew was Patriot quarterback Tom Brady.

Weis said he told Maura about the surgery two weeks beforehand. She begged him to back out, but Weis bullishly told her, "full speed ahead." The Boston Herald went as far to describe Weis as "unapologetic."

Weis also continued to claim that one of the reasons for deciding to undergo the surgery was his fear that he would be unable to reach his goal of becoming a head coach because of his obesity. More on this in a moment. ...

Defense attorney William Dailey suggested that the surgery was successful because it helped Weis lose weight and get his dream job at Notre Dame. Dailey asked Weis if he knew of potential complications from the surgery. "Yes sir, [Dr. Ferguson] definitely told me there were other risks," Weis said.

Dailey, who also touched on Weis' other medical conditions, including sleep apnea, then pointed out that doctors waived the normal counseling period before the operation — at Weis' request — so the coach could be healthy in time for the following season.

Maura Weis, right, also testified. She said of her husband: "He's not a complainer. I know there are times when he just toughens up and takes one for the team at home."

So how did the day go for Team Weis? Let's bring in Gary Gaffney, M.D., University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, and the man behind Steroid Nation, to give us a medical perspective.

"Weis answered important questions affirmatively about his understanding of the surgery, as well as a direct question that he understood the complications.

"More interesting details were revealed by the cross-examination. Weis apparently has pre-existing medical problems, including sleep apnea and hemochromatosis, which is called 'bronze diabetes' because patients suffer from iron overload, depositing iron in the pancreas, liver, heart and skin.

"The other interesting revelation was that Weis declined the usual pre-operative counseling in order to hurry the surgery along.

"I see the Massachusetts General defense team painting a picture of Weis as a stubborn and somewhat noncompliant patient. He did not attend pre-operative counseling. He pulled the trachea tube out himself, postoperatively. He did not listen to doctors advice after the surgery, returning to work astonishingly fast.

"The burden is on the plaintiff to document the elements of tort negligence. In this case, however, a picture is emerging of a patient who did not follow doctor's advice at times; thus if the outcome of the surgery is not optimal, the patient [Weis] may be in part culpable by virtues of his noncompliance.

"Weis also does not look like a patient who suffered a dire outcome. He claims to be 100 pounds lighter and he is well-dressed. Not a typical patient who suffered from serious medical malpractice.

"However, Weis' appearance and his noncompliance may not matter if his attorney can demonstrate that substandard care immediately postoperatively led to the internal hemorrhaging."

Thanks again to Gary. .... As for Weis' claim that he feared his obesity would prevent him from ever becoming a head coach, a reader who wishes to remain anonymous sent us this transcript from Weis' introductory press conference as Notre Dame coach. It's clear that on Dec. 13, 2004, Weis discounted having the surgery to enhance his chances of becoming a head coach:

Question: "The surgery that you went through, I read that you talked about becoming a head coach, it was important to lose weight and appearance -- "

Weis: "I never said that. The newspaper writer is sitting there saying that's the reason why you do that.

"You want to know why you do it? Because for 10 years you're over 300 pounds and your father died at 56 of a second heart attack. You're afraid if you stay at the same level, you're going to drop dead. That's why you do it. It has nothing to with getting jobs. That's what everyone else says because they want to put words in your mouth. The bottom line is when you're unhealthy, you're unhealthy, do you something about it. That's what it was."

Previous: Recap of Day 1 and a Legal Perspective on Weis Trial. Our thanks to Hester Graphics.

Dan Devine's Trojan Horse

It had been 14 years since Notre Dame last wore green jerseys, but on Oct. 22, 1977, coach Dan Devine decided to break them out for a game against USC. This has to be one of the most bizarre pregame scenes we can remember. As the team emerges from the tunnel for the start of the game, you'll see a Trojan horse, built by 20 Notre Dame students, roll onto the field. Students begin pouring out of the stands to greet the team. No, this wasn't USC's day. The Fighting Irish won, 49-19. Past classic coaches videos: Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Hayden Fry, Lou Holtz and Bobby Ross.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Strong Opening Drive for Team Weis

No shortage of drama at Day 1 of the Crewcut Charlie Weis trial. In his opening statement, attorney Michael Mone, pictured above, said that Weis decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery in part out of fear his morbid obesity could hurt his chances of becoming a head coach. Mone then asserted that two surgeons involved in Weis' gastric bypass surgery disregarded warning signs that Weis was bleeding internally after the June 14, 2002 operation.

William Dailey, attorney for doctors Charles Ferguson and Richard Hodin, countered that Weis' internal bleeding was not unusual for this type of surgery. Hodin said Weis was briefed about the dangers of the surgery, in which five to 10% of patients have serious complications and one out of 100 dies. Dailey said Weis was so desperate to lose weight that he once took the dangerous and now-banned diet drug Phen-fen.

Weis' surgery was on a Friday, and Jennifer Wilson, below, Weis' weekend nurse while he was in intensive care, was called to testify. Wilson said she suspected Weis was bleeding internally on Saturday morning, in part because of the amount of blood coming out of a tube that was draining his stomach. At Wilson's urging, doctors performed a barium swallow test on Sunday. Radiologists were able to detect from that test that the surgical staples were not tight enough to prevent leaks, and Hodin operated immediately to repair the leak on the already severely ill Weis. Weis was finally released from the hospital on July 5, 2002.

To break down the medical end of the Weis trial, we would like to bring in our expert, Gary Gaffney, M.D., University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He is currently Associate Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Iowa College of Medicine. He also operates Steroid Nation, a weblog that examines the use of anabolic steroids and performance enhancing drugs in sports, youth and society.

"One of the sutures leaked. As pointed out in the accounts, that's not good. Bleeding and infection resulted. Could the doctors have determined there was a leak? ... The medical records will be introduced as evidence. It would be interesting to see what Weis' parameters were during those days. ... A key here will be the interpretation of the medical records and the nurse's notes."

Gary has also provided a medical perspective on obesity:

"Although not a surgeon, I spent my medical school time, while on surgery, in the gastric surgery service of Dr. Ed Mason at the University of Iowa. Dr. Mason was a pioneer in surgical treatments of obesity. Our team spent a great deal of time in surgery performing these 'gastroplasty' procedures, as Dr. Mason referred to them, or taking care of post-operative patients, and patients with past surgical procedures who experienced complications.

"The surgical treatment of obesity was developed as physicians looked at the terrible consequences of obesity. Complications include conditions like diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and many others. Morbid obesity looms as a significant and costly source of morbidity and mortality today.

"Obesity was defined as weight for a particular height, however now is defined as a BMI (Body Mass Index) over 30. The BMI is person's body weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (i.e., wt/ht) The BMI is more highly correlated with body fat than any other indicator of height and weight.

"Generally to qualify for surgery, a patient's BMI is either:
1.) Above 40 (which is at least 100 pounds overweight) or
2.) 35 with serious complication of obesity. Such serious life-threatening complications include diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea.

"Coach Weis was at least 340 pounds at the time of his surgery. His father suffered two heart attacks, at 49 and 56, the second causing his death.

"Clearly, at age 50, over 340 pounds, with a highly significant family history of cardiac diseases, and cardiac death, Weis faced extremely serious medical consequences if he didn't take action. This statement can be made, even without knowledge of the coach's blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and other medical clues for potential disaster."

Our thanks to Gary and to Hester Graphics, who helped design our Weis trial logo.
Previous: Legal Perspective on Weis Trial.