November 06, 2009
• Black on the helmets, green on the minds. Joining Ohio State's throwback motif and possibly countless other Nike clients, Florida State will be unveiling a new uniform product for its Nov. 21 game against Maryland. The "Pro Combat" look -- designed neither for professionals nor combat -- will feature black helmets, intricately logo'd gloves, a four-way stretch twill that provides superior moisture wicking, strategically placed padding zones (i.e. thigh and hip pads), dual-density foam cells, high-tenacity yarn and, of course, that enduring symbol of the spirit of unconquered marketing, the Swoosh. Quarterback Christian Ponder seems to think they're schweet.
The Noles' makeover will come just one week after the Terps trot out their own special unis, a camouflage get-up by Under Armour to promote the Wounded Warrior Project for their game against Virginia Tech on Nov. 14. So much for the Great Recession, I guess.
• Cav crowds, it's time to Grow for Groh. It seems like Al Groh has been pulling himself out of the fire for years now at Virginia, and might have been on his way again after rebounding from another awful start with three straight wins over the first three weeks of October. Off two straight losses, though -- including the Cavs' second straight stumble against Duke -- athletic director Craig Littlepage was "cast[ing] an ominous cloud" Thursday in a conversation with the Associated Press, less about the Cavs' losing record than the fact so many fewer people have been on hand to see it:
"Our goal is to have our fans support the team realizing that the players continue to respond to their coaches," [Littlepage] wrote in an e-mail. "The players are working hard every day to represent the University of Virginia. Fans have various options for how they spend their Saturday afternoons; we’d like for our fans to be in the stadium supporting our program."
Since their opener, when 54,587 watched the Cavaliers lose 26-14 to William & Mary of the Football Championship Subdivision, crowds have dwindled at the 61,500-seat stadium. Last week, 41,713 saw Virginia lose 28-17 to Duke, its second consecutive loss in the series. It was the smallest crowd since the stadium was expanded for the 2001 season.
Through five home dates, the average crowd of 46,605 is almost 15,000 below capacity. More telling, perhaps, is that the average is down more than 7,200 from last year’s 5-7 team.
The NCAA sorts attendance by percentage of stadium of capacity, and Virginia ranks 72nd at about 75 percent per game, worst in the ACC outside of Miami. Scott Stadium was more than 87 percent full for a similarly foundering team in 2008, but such is fate when losing seasons begin to mount.
Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow wasn't exactly offering up votes of confidence in coach Ralph Friedgen during her appearance on D.C. radio, either.
• God is hoping for the top ten. After Dez Bryant's high school coach told local reporters Wednesday that the suspended All-American was already beginning preparation for the draft, ESPN's Joe Schad caught up with Bryant for confirmation that, yes, he's going pro: "It's what God wants me to do. I'm going to start my training Tuesday in Tampa."
Bryant's stock hasn't changed despite his suspension last month for lying to the NCAA about his (apparently appropriate) relationship with Deion Sanders: Dez is still considered a top-15 pick and far and away the best receiver on the board.
• More rumors of BCS demise. New Big East commissioner John Marinatto has quickly proven himself as an unusually outspoken oracle of the BCS' demise from the inside, reiterating in an interview with AOL FanHouse Thursday that the Series may not make it past the end of its current contract in 2013. But he has not been oracle of progress, i.e. a playoff:
"It [the BCS] is such an entity where there's so many diverse things that come together that make it work," Marinatto said. "I don't know if all that will continue to go on the way it is. If they're pressured to create a playoff, they would simply go back to what the system used to be like and have it as an at-large, free-for-all where people can go [to whichever bowl] they want.
"I don't think the pressure would cause people to create a playoff. I think it would cause them to go back to where we used to be [before the BCS]."
Marinatto is hardly the first insider to suggest a return to the bad old days of postseason free-for-all -- and it's a legitimate debate whether that would actually constitute a regression, given the annual controversies within the BCS -- but the BCS has driven profits up to the point that it's hard to believe TV would allow the death of such a cash cow.
Quickly ... Cal running back Jahvid Best expects to play despite missing time with a "mild" concussion. And Cal professors passed a resolution Wednesday asking the cash-strapped university to stop subsidizing the athletic department ASAP, which could mean some major athletic cuts in Berkeley, including entire teams. ... Banged-up Washington quarterback Jake Locker will start at UCLA after displaying his "trademark blazing speed and agility" in the Thursday's practice. ... Tennessee safety Janzen Jackson, "The Next Eric Berry," won't suit up against Memphis for unspecified reasons. ... Ole Miss offensive lineman Rishaw Johnson, a former starter, has been suspended for the season for unspecified reasons. ... Michigan receiver Martavious Odoms will miss the Wolverines' must-win game with Purdue with a sprained knee, his second straight week on ice. ... South Carolina defensive end Cliff Matthews is likely to miss two more games with a shoulder injury. ... Army and Rutgers will play the first major college game in the new Meadowlands stadium next October. ... Offensive tackle Cory Brandon, relegated to the bench as one of the goats of Oklahoma's season-opening loss to BYU, is set to make his third consecutive start. ... Jim Tressel had nothing to do with Ohio State's throwback motif against Michigan, which will feature "mostly white" helmets to honor the 1954 national champions. ... Urban Meyer hasn't heard from the SEC regarding his criticism of officials in the Georgia-Florida game. ... The L.A. Times looks at UCLA's social media problems. ... Oft-injured West Virginia linebacker Reed Williams has high hopes for the rest of his final season. ... And will Penn State lift the recall on those "Terrelle Cryer" t-shirts so Terrelle can get a few before the game?