The 72nd edition of the MEN’S (that’s the NCAA insisting the women be given equal footing) College World Series has been plagued by rain. Omaha isn’t New Orleans when it comes to precipitation, but it gets quite a bit more than some locales (Hays and Russell come to mind first for me), and there is a chance Mother Nature will intervene.
She did this week, forcing the winner’s bracket games of Monday (Mississippi State-North Carolina) and Tuesday (Arkansas-Texas Tech) to be pushed back a day. The CWS is back on track after Oregon State defeated the Tar Heels last night to send UNC back to Chapel Hill.
The Beavers now must defeat MIssissippi State twice to advance to the championship series. Last year, Oregon STate was in the driver’s seat in bracket one, only to lose twice to LSU, the team the Beavers beat in the second round.
Arkansas holds the upper hand in bracket two after defeating the Red Raiders. The Razorbacks are 2-0 in their Southwest Conference reunion tour, having defeated former archrival Texas Sunday. The Hogs await Florida or Texas Tech tomorrow.
If the Bulldogs and Razorbacks each advance, it will guarantee the SEC will crown its sixth national champion in baseball. The winner would join Georgia (1990), South Carolina (2010, ’11), Vanderbilt (2014), Florida (2017) and some other school which has won six. Of course, the Gators could also repeat and keep the crown in the SEC, but keep the number of schools to win it at five.
That school which has won six is, of course, my alma mater. The Bayou Bengals won it all in 1991, ’93, ’96, ’97 and 2000 under Skip Bertman, then added the sixth in 2009 under Paul Mainieri.
Arkansas and Mississippi State, like the other four schools in the SEC West NOT named LSU, have none. This is particularly galling for Texas A&M, whose two most bitter rivals, LSU and Texas, have six apiece.
The Bulldogs reached the championship series in 2013, only to be swept by UCLA. It is surprising to a lot of people State hasn’t won it all given the school’s rich baseball tradition. Baseball in Starkville was a huge deal long before the other nine schools got with the program. LSU got with it when Bertman arrived in 1984, and then the rest followed suit, although it took the likes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt into the new millennium to finally be up to full speed.
Mississippi State’s run this year has been nothing short of sensational. The Bulldogs suffered an embarrassing sweep by Southern Miss in Hattiesburg to open the season, and less than 48 hours later, coach Andy Cannizaro, a former LSU assistant who played in the CWS for Tulane in 2001, was forced to resign.
It was revealed Cannizaro carried on an affair with a female staffer in the Bulldogs’ football office. The woman apparently dropped the bombshell after she left Starkville to join her boss, Dan Mullen, at Florida.
It was bad enough Cannizaro cheated on his wife. It was much, much, much worse that he cheated on his wife while she was pregnant. Geez, keep it in your pants!
Gary Henderson, who once was in charge at Kentucky, was named interim coach by State athletic director John Cohen, himself a former Bulldog coach and standout player. The Bulldogs had a losing record through the first half of the season, but recovered well, ending the regular season by sweeping Florida in Starkville.
The Bulldogs were one-and-done in the SEC tournament courtesy of LSU, then lost 20-10 to Oklahoma in the first game of the regional at Tallahassee.
However, State came all the way back through the loser’s bracket, then won a scintillating three-game super regional at Vanderbilt, scoring four runs in the top of th 11th of the deciding game.
In Omaha, the Bulldogs won 1-0 vs. Washington, scoring the lone run in the bottom of the ninth, before pounding the Tar Heels 12-2.
The Razorbacks had a strong tradition in the Southwest Conference under Norm DeBriyn. For most of the late 1970s and 1980s, the Razorbacks, Longhorns and Aggies held the SWC lock, stock and barrel in baseball, with the others far, far behind. It became so hopeless SMU dropped the sport in the mid-1980s, not long before the NCAA handed the Mustang football program the death penalty.
Once Arkansas left for the SEC in 1992, the fortunes of the rest of the SWC, especially Rice, went up, while the Razorbacks struggled mightily against LSU and Mississippi State in the SEC, and were also well behind Auburn. Alabama soon caught and passed the Razorbacks when it hired Jim Wells in 1995, leaving Arkansas battling Ole Miss for the bottom of the West.
Dave Van Horn, who led Nebraska to the College World Series in 2001 and ’02, returned to Fayetteville, where he played for DeBriyn, and immediately returned Arkansas to national prominence. Arkansas has been a consistent presence in Omaha since 2004, but has yet to break through and reach the finals.
Arkansas is now one win away from its first championship series, and its first trip to the final since 1979, when DeBriyn’s Hogs lost 2-1 to Cal State Fullerton, which was coached by a young fellow named Augie Garrido.
The Razorbacks’ road to Omaha wasn’t as dramatic as that of the Bulldogs, although Arkansas had to win a third game in its super regional vs South Carolina.
I’ve postulated about whom LSU fans would root for in an All-SEC championship series. If it’s State vs. Florida, I’d say the Bulldogs, because (a) State is in the West and Florida the East and (b) the Gators beat the Bayou Bengals in last year’s final. If it’s the all-west final, I don’t know, but I’d lean to State. Some LSU fans still wish Arkansas would have gone to the Big 12 instead of the SEC. But that cat is out of the bag.
LSU fans should stand and cheer if either Arkansas or Mississippi State (or even Florida) wins it all. It would again reinforce the SEC as college baseball’s sine qua non. Then again, Oregon State did outscore LSU 26-1 in two regional games. Unless Texas Tech somehow pulls it off, the Bayou Bengals can take pride in knowing they’ve gone up against the best once again in 2018.
My God, I have gone way, way, WAY too long without posting. I am sorry. I am also very lazy.
There were some problems just before Thanksgiving, problems I do not wish to divulge, problems I do not wish to bore you, the good reader, with.
As for Thanksgiving itself, I didn’t eat upstairs with my parents, my paternal grandfather and his female companion. I did eat some turkey and fried cauliflower later, but no dressing, no mac and cheese, no sweet potatoes, and certainly no cranberry, which I have never eaten. Turkey sandwiches were just fine with me, thank you.
Kansas held its EIGHT high school football state championship games at SEVEN sites. Utterly ridiculous. I have ranted and raved about this for over a decade.
By comparison, Louisiana’s high school championships begin today. All nine games (too many) will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
I’ll talk about that in another post.
It’s very cold this morning in Kansas City. THANK GOD. Last weekend, it was close to 70 degrees. Unacceptable in this part of the country in December. I hated it when it was 70 degrees in Louisiana in winter. I REALLY hate it in Kansas and Missouri.
The Chiefs suspended cornerback Marcus Peters for this Sunday’s game with the Raiders at Arrowhead.
Last week, Peters threw a penalty flag into the stands at MetLife Stadium last Sunday during Kansas City’s loss to the Jets. Thinking he was ejected, he went back to the locker room, only to return without his socks.
Andy Reid, who would rather go through a root canal without anesthesia than punish a player, finally got tough with Peters, a known malcontent.
My question: what took until Wednesday, Andy? It should have been done before the Chiefs’ plane departed Newark Liberty International Airport after the game. Bill Belichick would not put up with this shit. After Rob Gronkowski speared Bills safety Tre’Davius White following an interception Sunday, Gronk was done for the day. The NFL suspended him for one game, and I’m certain had it not, Belichick would have punished Gronk in his own way.
The college coaching carousel is in full spin mode.
Arkansas, which waited eight seconds after losing its season finale to Missouri on Black Friday to fire Bret Bielema, hired SMU coach Chad Morris. Morris is 14-22 with the Mustangs, but let’s face it, SMU has been a wasteland since the NCAA gave the program the death penalty in 1987, shutting down the Mustang football team for the ’87 and ’88 seasons. SMU has done next to nothing since, and for Morris to win 14 games in three years has to be considered a success. The Razorbacks are definitely betting on the come, given Morris tutored DeShaun Watson at Clemson for two seasons before leaving for the richy-rich school in the University Park section of Dallas.
Jimbo Fisher traded Tallahassee for College Station. I don’t know of many coaches who would want to challenge Nick Saban every year, but Fisher has the ego. Texas A&M made it easy, giving Fisher a FULLY GUARANTEED 10-year, $75 million contract.
To replace Fisher, Florida State hired Willie Taggart, who went 7-5 in his first season at Oregon. Previously, Taggart coached at Western Kentucky and South Alabama. Florida State is in danger of becoming a distant third in its own state behind Miami and Florida, but the Seminoles also may become an afterthought in the ACC Atlantic, where Dabo Swinney has built a superpower at Clemson.
And it looks like Tennessee will have a coach today or tomorrow. It’s likely going to be Jeremy Pruitt, currently defensive coordinator at Alabama. Then again, being defensive coordinator at Alabama doesn’t carry much cachet, since everyone knows it’s Nick Saban’s defense.
The last time I posted, Butch Jones was still Tennessee’s football coach. He would not be three days later, fired after the Volunteers lost 50-17 at Missouri. It got no better for Tennessee under interim coach Brady Hoke, who lost to LSU and Vanderbilt, both in Knoxville.
The day after the loss to the Commodores, the Volunteers appeared to have found their man in former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano, now the defensive coordinator at Ohio State under Urban Meyer.
My first thought? BAD HIRE. Schiano is an uptight prick. He alienated people across the NFL in his second game with the Bucs when he ordered his defense to attack Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who was kneeling down to run out the clock, which is standard operating procedure in football since the Miracle of the Meadowlands, the 1978 play which saw the Giants’ Joe Pisarcik botch an attempted handoff to Larry Csonka and fumble. Philadelphia Eagles safety Herm Edwards scooped up the fumble and scored in the game’s dying seconds, lifting his team to a 19-17 victory, and eventually, the Eagles’ first playoff berth since winning the 1960 NFL championship.
Schiano was even worse in his second year with the Bucs, covering up several cases of MRSA, a deadly infection which is resistant to antibiotics. Thousands of people have died from the infection. Kicker Lawrence Tynes contracted the infection, but instead of placing him on injured reserve, the Bucs screwed him royally by placing him on the non-football injury list, which meant he would not be paid, he would not have access to the Bucs’ doctors, he would lose his health insurance, and lose a year of service time for pension benefits.
What a piece of crap. What did Tennessee see in this guy?
People who defended Schiano said he won at Rutgers, which is usually pitiful. But I say he was ONE GAME over .500 (68-67) with the Scarlet Knights, and Rutgers did not win consistently until Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech all left the Big East for the ACC.
Well, Volunteer fans let their displeasure know via social media. But it wasn’t over what happened with the Bucs, or his mediocre record at Rutgers. Rather, it was the fact he had allegedly covered up sexual abuse by Jerry Sandusky. Schiano had been an assistant at Penn State under Joe Paterno before leaving for Piscataway. I don’t know the full details, but the reaction in Knoxville was swift and overwhelmingly negative. Even state legislatures and U.S. Representatives took to Twitter to denounce Schiano.
Six hours after it first broke Schiano was heading to Knoxville, the offer was rescinded.
Athletic director John Currie went on the hunt for a new coach. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy? Nope. Duke’s David Cutcliffe, who was offensive coordinator at Tennessee when Peyton Manning played there? No thanks. North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren? Nope.
Currie thought he had his man on the last day of November, flying to Los Angeles to meet with Washington State coach Mike Leach. Leach, who previously coached at Texas Tech, is as goofy as they come. Would he have fit in the SEC, which is as buttoned up as it comes in college football: I don’t know.
However, the next day, Currie was asked to return to Knoxville by Tennessee chancellor Beverly Davenport. The reason: Currie was given his pink slip. Fired after less than nine months in charge.
Philip Fulmer, who coached Tennessee to the 1998 national championship, was named as Currie’s successor. After rumors first leaked that Fulmer reached out to former LSU and Oklahoma State coach Les Miles about the position, Pruitt emerged as the front-runner, ahead of fellow SEC defensive coordinators Kevin Steele (Auburn) and Mel Tucker (Georgia).
That seems to be the new trend in the SEC: hire somebody who coached under Saban. Pruitt will become the third coach in the SEC East who was once a Saban assistant, joining Kirby Smart at Georgia and Will Muschamp at South Carolina. Muschamp was a teammate of Smart’s at Georgia and also coached Florida for four seasons before ending up in Gainesville.
Of course, Saban assistants aren’t always successful. Jim McElwain, the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator on their national championship teams of 2009 and ’11, bombed in three seasons at Florida. He was replaced by Dan Mullen, the winningest football coach in Mississippi State history. The Bulldogs were ranked #1 for several weeks in 2014, thanks to the exploits of Dak Prescott, now the Dallas Cowboys’ starting QB.
I’ve got to do better at posting. Much better. I will reflect on this in the time between posts, which hopefully will be very short.