Firing upbeat Tommy Hutton is ultimate proof that Marlins just can’t let anybody be happy

Just a quick post on my day off to agree with all those who find the Miami Marlins’ decision to kick TV analyst Tommy Hutton to the curb altogether shocking and stupid and tone deaf at a level that exceeds the franchise’s long-established low standards.

Marlins TV announcer Tommy Hutton, who has spent 50 years in Baseball, sits in Roger Dean Stadium Friday, March 14, 2014. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)
Former Marlins TV announcer Tommy Hutton, who has spent 50 years in Baseball, sits in Roger Dean Stadium Friday, March 14, 2014. (Damon Higgins / The Palm Beach Post)

Tommy, a Palm Beach Gardens pal, was the  one consistently forever happy note ever to come out of this organization.

No need to list all the craters that Marlins management has dug during the 19 years that Hutton worked their games, but he climbed out of every one as quickly as possible and with as much optimism as imaginable. Tommy is a baseball lifer. Baseball is a slow game played  out over a long season. He gets that, he loves that, and always figures that something better is coming if you’ll only wait for it.

That attitude is what Jeffrey Loria wants fans to adopt, what he expects from you one clunky and confused season after another, and now he has shown what happens to a bright and talented Marlins ambassador who stays loyal to this vision. (Dan Jennings is another story, but not much different).

So I’m hoping Tommy gets another gig with a big-league club in 2016, though the timing here stinks.

His insight and humor and enthusiasm will be missed in South Florida, and maybe that’s part of what drives this decision. Can’t have fans enjoying Marlins games too much at home. Can’t have them hearing a little straight talk now and then. Better force them, against their preferences, to come out to the ballpark and fill all those empty seats and empty parking garage spaces.

If you want to learn more about Tommy, a member of the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame, here is a link to a long profile I wrote on him last spring training.

[After 50 years in baseball, Tommy Hutton knows what he is talking about]

If Jimbo wants it, this matchup with McElwain could be first of many great ones to come

Saturday night’s matchup at the Swamp between FSU mainstay Jimbo Fisher and Florida newcomer Jim McElwain should be the first of many years of great showdowns between the two.

We’re not asking for anything like the 12-year duel between Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier, but something close.

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 07:  Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles watches on during their game against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CLEMSON, SC – Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles watches on during their game against the Clemson Tigers at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The only way that wouldn’t happen is if one or the other decides there is a bigger, better job elsewhere. I don’t see that happening, and that opinion isn’t budged by reports that LSU seems ready to cut Les Miles loose and start throwing money at Jimbo.

What LSU wants is what the Seminoles will fight to keep. Not a hot young coach with a sporty record for a season or two but a high-energy champion who learned the business inside and out long before he became a head coach at FSU in 2010.

Fisher, 50, was a quarterbacks coach at one SEC school (Auburn) for six years and an offensive coordinator at another (LSU) for seven more. Next came six years calling plays for Bobby Bowden at FSU. That’s how you set yourself up for a string of major bowl appearances and top recruiting classes and national title shots.

That’s how you put yourself on the top of any coach search committee’s list, and I mean any school’s list.

What should keep Jimbo at FSU is the same thing that made Bobby stay rather than going to Alabama or somewhere else. The ACC is a sure path to national championship contention, year after year. The SEC, with its annual demolition derby of huge-budget teams, is not. Neither is any team in the Big 12, where the lack of a conference title game makes it possible to be passed over in the final College Football Playoff rush, or even  a plum destination like USC, where Oregon and Stanford and UCLA make a rough neighborhood.

Anything could change of course, but wouldn’t it be disappointing if we didn’t get Jimbo vs. McElwain for many Thanksgiving weekends to come?

McElwain, 53, has that long-term look in Gainesville. He’s just getting started as a head coach, having put in

GAINESVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 06:  Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain speaks during an introductory press conference on December 6, 2014 in Gainesville, Florida. McElwain has left Colorado State and replaces ex-Florida coach Will Muschamp who was fired earlier this season.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FL – Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain speaks during an introductory press conference on December 6, 2014. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

three previous seasons at Colorado State, and no coach could realistically hope to make a place like Florida only his second stop.

Even Urban Meyer, a real job-jumper, stayed at Florida for six seasons.

McElwain looks like the complete package, too, and why not? His long preparation for this job included one year in the NFL as a quarterbacks coach, one year as an offensive coordinator at innovative Fresno State and four more calling plays for perfectionist Nick Saban at Alabama.

Take at a look at their debut seasons at FSU and Florida and see if it’s not an authentic and fascinating match.

Jimbo started at Tallahassee in 2010 with a 10-4 record and a loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC title game.

McElwain, 10-1 so far, will either match that record in his first Florida season or do a little bit better. The Gators could lose to FSU, lose to Alabama in the SEC championship game and lose a bowl game and the worst it gets is 10-4, good buddy.

[What Schnellenberger dreamed for FAU in 1998 almost became fact at the Swamp]

[Better get a coach who majors in defense because that’s where UM’s title teams shined brightest]

[Learning from the Big Three’s ugly start and their 9-8 start with the Heat five years ago]

We’re not talking about Ron Zook or Will Muschamp, in other words.

There’s a chance now for a long run between two top coaches in the Florida-FSU series, and you can’t do much better than that in a rivalry.

As long as Jimbo wants it that way, of course, and I’m guessing he does. The man is 10-1 against Florida and Miami. He’s kind of got things the way he likes them in this state.

What Schnellenberger saw coming in 1998 almost happened for FAU at the Swamp

They probably don’t want to hear it right now but it needs to be said.

Congratulations to the Florida Atlantic Owls for pushing the No. 8 Florida Gators to the absolute limit Saturday.

 

GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 21: Head coaches Jim McElwain of the Florida Gators and Charlie Partridge of the Florida Atlantic Owls shake hands after the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
GAINESVILLE, FL – NOVEMBER 21: Head coaches Jim McElwain of the Florida Gators and Charlie Partridge of the Florida Atlantic Owls shake hands after the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

What could have been the greatest game in Owls history turned into just another close call, this time in overtime, but you know what? I’m calling it the greatest game anyway, or at least a close second to that landmark 2007 New Orleans Bowl victory over Memphis.

When Howard Schnellenberger birthed FAU football, it was with moments exactly like that thriller at the Swamp in mind.

It seemed silly when Howard popped up in Boca Raton in 1998 with talk of a team that didn’t yet exist competing one day on a straight-up basis with the Gators and FSU Seminoles and Miami Hurricanes for control of Sunshine State loyalties.

College football, however, is built for dreams and dreamers.

If you had just dropped in on the Swamp Saturday with no prior information on these teams, it would have seemed impossible that the Gators are playing for the SEC championship in a couple of weeks. They didn’t look up to winning the Conference USA title.

[Better find a coach who majors in defense because all of UM’s title teams sure did]

[FSU won’t play for the ACC title this year but do you realize just how rare that is?]

[Learning from the Big Three and the Heat’s ugly 9-8 start five years ago]

As for the Owls, 2-9 is the last record you would have guessed. Coach Charlie Partridge has done everything with this team but teach it how to win. It’s got to be coming soon, right?

This weeks Florida-FSU game may be an entirely different matter, with all the emotion that the Gators didn’t bring to their meeting with FAU. For now, though, it doesn’t make much sense worrying about where Florida winds up in Tuesday’s new College Football Playoff rankings.

Without a reliable quarterback and a serviceable kicker, there can be no national championship run. It’s a tribute to coach Jim McElwain that Florida has squeezed 10 wins out a team with such obvious flaws.

Now wait and see if the Owls don’t go out and lose their season finale at Old Dominion and have us all scratching our heads again.

I’m gearing up for some NASCAR talk, which for a novice always proves dangerous

Maybe what NASCAR needs is a playoff committee like the one that college football uses.

If a group of track executives and former stock car stars and a media member or two teamed up to select the four drivers who will compete for the Sprint Cup championship at Homestead on Sunday, I’m guessing they would have come up with something other than Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

Gordon is fine with me, of course. It’s the farewell lap of a great career. For him to have a shot at a fifth Sprint Cup title at the age of 44, well, that’s just great television.

AVONDALE, AZ - NOVEMBER 15: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet, greets the crowd during driver introductions for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
AVONDALE, AZ – Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Pepsi Chevrolet, greets the crowd during driver introductions for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on November 15, 2015. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Mark him down as Notre Dame in our college football comparison, loved by some, hated by others but always a threat to shake down the thunder.

Moving on to Truex, however, what kind of convoluted points system gives a championship shot to a driver who has won just one race all year and who cruised around soggy Phoenix for a 14th-place finish last week? Truex is Oklahoma State, a candidate who should have been eliminated by now and doesn’t really belong in the final four.

Busch is the hottest of the championship contenders. He broke a leg and a foot in a crash at Daytona in February, which cost him 11 starts. Even so, Busch won four times during the Sprint Cup season, which has him on the verge of a career breakthrough championship at Homestead. Let’s call him Clemson then, and prepare for the excruciating possibility of another Clemsoning.

Last there is Harvick, a top driver who nonetheless operates below the radar when it comes to being recognized and appreciated by sports fans who don’t follow NASCAR regularly. Call him Iowa, and don’t come hollering at me that Harvick is the defending Sprint Cup champion and I ought to know that. He’s Iowa.

So there’s your Final Four. Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Clemson and Iowa.

What about Alabama (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and Ohio State (Jimmie Johnson) and Oklahoma (Joey Logano) and bracket-busting Baylor (Matt Kenseth)? Is there no room for them when it comes to deciding who’s in?

[Learning from the Heat’s Big Three and their ugly 9-8 start five years ago]

[Dan Campbell has luxury that Todd Bowles didn’t have as Dolphins interim coach]

[All right, so FSU won’t win the ACC this year but do you realize how rare that is?]

The way this is going, it will rain all day Sunday at Homestead, making the whole championship finish an afterthought, and they’ll give the trophy to Gordon because all the network morning talk shows will be happy to have him.

I’d be more bothered by all this if NASCAR wasn’t likely to switch all the rules up again for next season, keeping everybody confused and nobody completely satisfied with the sport’s playoff product.

There’s no perfect way to sort out a season of chaos, but college football came closest last season by squeaking Ohio State into the final four at the last minute and being rewarded for it with a dominating championship performance by the Buckeyes.

Maybe NASCAR ought to just draft along behind whatever they’re doing. Might not be an entirely fair having a committee choose the Championship Four based on a season-long body of work, but it would be better than crunching numbers and living with whatever some computer spits out.

Better find a coach who majors in defense, because that’s where UM’s title teams shined brightest

Not sure what you want in the next University of Miami head football coach, well, other than national championships and stuff?

I’m pointing to a solid defensive mind, somebody like Greg Schiano (available) or Butch Davis (available) or Chuck Pagano (available if the Indianapolis Colts finally get fed up enough to fire him) and Charlie Strong (available only if oil is discovered on the UM campus as a significant new source of salary-boosting revenue).

082499  Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (center) with Mike Boireau(left) and Damione Lewis (right) after practice. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone
Former Miami Hurricanes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano (center) with Mike Boireau (left) and Damione Lewis (right) after a practice session in 1999. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone

The other guys on the Hurricanes’ supposed wish list might work out, too, if they’re hot recruiters and are able to land a top defensive coordinator on a tight budget, but flavor-of-the-month candidates like Tom Herman of Houston and Justin Fuente of Memphis are all about running up the score on offense.

That won’t cut it all by itself. The primary reason Miami isn’t Miami anymore is a total loss of that old rib-rocking identity on the defensive side of the ball.

The current Canes rank 89th in the nation in scoring defense with an average of 30.1 points allowed per game. It could be worse if Clemson’s Dabo Swinney hadn’t called off the dogs when he guys got to 58 at Sun Life Stadium last month.

This is pitiful, but it’s not new.

In Golden’s first four full seasons at Miami his teams averaged a No. 50 ranking in scoring defense. Now he’s gone but Golden’s defensive coordinator, Mark D’Onofrio, remains. Perhaps you noticed the other day while

101098 ORANGE BOWL FSU vs UM - University of Miami head coach Butch Davis makes a point to offensive tackle Char-ron Dorsey as he comes off the field during the second quarter against FSU in the Orange Bowl Saturday.  PHOTO BY:  RICHARD GRAULICH. 52p x 6.81i color 12c butch11 for dti
Former University of Miami head coach Butch Davis makes a point to offensive tackle Char-ron Dorsey as he comes off the field during the second quarter against FSU in 1998. (Photo by Richard Graulich/Palm Beach Post)

North Carolina was ringing up 59 points on the Canes.

We could look at other defensive statistical categories, like rush defense and pass defense and total defense, but really, what’s more important that keeping the other team off the scoreboard?

You know who used to do that? Miami’s five national championship teams.

Matter of fact, it’s what they did best.

Here’s a chart to show how each Miami title team ranked nationally in scoring defense.

 

Year                 Avg. Pts Allowed       Nat’l Rank

1983                       11.3                           No. 3

1987                       10.4                           No. 2

1989                          9.3                           No. 1

1991                         9.1                           No. 1

2001                         9.4                            No. 1

 

Oh, there’s a definite pattern all right, and we don’t need to run through the list of big-name, NFL-bound defenders who made it happen. Smothering defense was a Miami hallmark in the best of times.

You have to go back to Larry Coker’s teams to find a Miami bunch that ranked in the top five nationally in scoring defense. He had three of them in five years.

Of course, Randy Shannon was Coker’s defensive coordinator, and a darn good one. Some of you are probably shouting right now that my whole premise of looking for a defensive-minded coach in 2015 is flawed because of the way that Shannon failed to ignite the Canes when given the opportunity to run the whole show from 2007-10.

OK, but Shannon had never been a head coach, driving all the different agendas that make or break a program.

Butch has, in college and in the NFL. Same for Schiano. Strong got the Texas job, a monumental accomplishment, based on his success as a head coach at Louisville. Pagano, who recruited and coached four NFL first-rounders at Miami while running Butch’s secondary, has a .673 career winning percentage as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts.

[OK, so FSU didn’t win the ACC this year, but do you realize how rare that is?]

[Learning from the Heat’s Big Three and their ugly 9-8 start five years ago]

[Here’s a story about Yogi Berra and D-Day to mark Veterans Day]

Remember, I’m not saying that Miami’s next boss needs to limit opponents to 10 points per game. College football has changed too much for that with all the pinball offensive machines breaking scoreboards all over the country.

Just get back in there punching with the defensive leaders again, that’s all. Ohio State and Alabama are in the top 10 in scoring defense right now, and so is Florida.

Miami’s biggest downfall in recent years has been falling to the bottom of the barrel in that category. It’s what needs fixing first. It’s what no purely offensive-minded head coaching candidate can be trusted to do.

 

 

 

FSU won’t win ACC this year but do you realize how rare that is?

 

Florida State won’t be going to the ACC Championship game next month and that’s a real letdown for fans who have come to expect it. Take the long view on this thing, however, and recognize that nobody has dominated their conference in recent years like the Seminoles have.

Since joining the ACC in 1992, FSU has won or shared the league title 15 times. In the early years the Seminoles won or shared nine ACC titles in a row. Check out the following chart of the other Power Five conferences during the same time frame.

 

League       Most titles won since ‘92       Most consecutive since ‘92

SEC                           Florida (7)                                    Florida (4) 1993-96

Big Ten                    Ohio State (10)                            Ohio State (5) 2005-09

Pac 12                       USC, Oregon (9)                          USC (7) 2002-08

Big 12                       Oklahoma (7)                               Nebraska (4) 1992-95

(Note: Numbers reflect conference titles won or shared)

 

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 07: (L-R) Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles talks to head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers before their game at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CLEMSON, SC – NOVEMBER 07: (L-R) Head coach Jimbo Fisher of the Florida State Seminoles talks to head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers before their game at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Fifteen ACC titles for FSU in 22 years isn’t just a lot. It’s a ridiculous level of domination, the kind that wasn’t supposed to be possible after Miami and Virginia Tech joined the league in 2004.

If that doesn’t ease the pain for Seminole followers, maybe this will. Jimbo Fisher has used a ton of young players this year, tying for third nationally with 28 true freshmen or redshirt freshmen seeing game action. What’s more, he’ll be a recruiting monster for years to come. That means No. 1 Clemson won’t be getting a hammerlock on the ACC, and neither will anybody else when it comes to competing with FSU.

Hey, no winning streak lasts forever. Under Bobby Bowden and Jimbo, the Seminoles have always gotten all they’ve got coming to them and a whole bunch of what everybody else wishes they had.

Oh, by the way, FSU still has a chance to claim the unofficial state championship by beating Florida on Nov. 28. That’s never a bad thing, no matter how the rest of the season and the rest of the nation are going.

[Learning from the Heat’s Big Three and their ugly 9-8 start five years ago]

[Mike Leach interviewed for the UM job in 2006 and lobbied hard for it in 2010]

[Don’t sweat the small stuff with early College Football Playoff rankings, and it’s all small stuff]

 

Learning from the Heat’s Big Three and their ugly 9-8 start five years ago

The Miami Heat are 6-3 and had to scramble a bit to beat Utah 92-91 in their last game but this isn’t so bad. If fact, it’s simply life in the NBA, with players out for various reasons at various times and entire rosters struggling to find an early-season rhythm.

ORG XMIT: 103893624 CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 2:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat speaks to teammate LeBron James #6 while playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game on December 2, 2010 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2010 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH – Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat speaks to former teammate LeBron James while playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers on December 2, 2010 at Quicken Loans Arena. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

It happens to the best of them, and the proof is in knowing that it happened to Miami’s Big Three in 2010, with the whole world watching and a fair chunk of that audience snickering over the troubles that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were having in their newly-formed partnership.

I looked back five years to find a strikingly similar start for a more glamorous Miami team. The Heat were 5-4 out of the gate in November of 2010, with the only difference being an overtime loss to Utah rather than a close win on the order of Thursday night’s result.

The stars definitely were not aligned at that point, and Erik Spoelstra, not yet a championship coach, was being widely criticized for being in over his head.

Truth is, at that point Dwyane and LeBron had a lot to figure out about who should lead the team and how. In those first nine games, Wade led the Heat in scoring six times and LeBron did three times. Through it all, Bosh, a major scorer in his Toronto days, was in limbo concerning his role.

It was seven games before each member of the Big Three scored 20 points on the same night. If that was a breakthrough, Bosh wanted to make full use of it. He made a special point of sitting next to LeBron on a flight home from New Jersey, eager to push their relationship from teammates to friends.

“I wanted to talk to him, and really get to know each other really,” Bosh said in the Nov. 8, 2010 Palm Beach Post. “I think that’s an important part of team-building.

“The process hasn’t been easy. I was letting that show through my demeanor. Sometimes I get a little lost out there, because it’s different. We have a system, but at the same time, when the game is happening so fast, sometimes I just get lost. I don’t know whether to go, whether to cut, whether to get back.”

What does all this have to do with Wade and Bosh and Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic in 2015? Maybe not as much as it does with the rest of us and the the way we perceive this new Miami unit operating together for the first extended period.

[Don’t sweat the small stuff with early College Football Playoff rankings]

[Mike Leach interviewed for UM job in 2006 and lobbied hard for it in 2010]

[Dan Campbell has a luxury that Todd Bowles didn’t as Dolphins interim coach]

Bosh’s honesty about the Big Three’s beginnings is the clearest picture possible of team dynamics in motion, particularly when superstars are involved.

It got worse, too, remember? The Heat actually got to 9-8 that season, causing the New York Daily News and other national outlets to speculate about a “mutiny” being led by LeBron against Spoelstra. Included in that was a sideline bump between the two of them, with LeBron’s shoulder briefly jolting Spo as they crossed paths during a timeout. Accident?

Few were willing to give the benefit of a doubt on things like that. The Heat, a supposed team of destiny, was lukewarm at best. Wade, trying to make the best of it after a huge blown lead against the Jazz, said “This is good to have a game like this for our team. It will be a good thing. But not right now.”

He was talking about the playoffs. He was downplaying the obvious, like the fact that Miami lost twice to Boston in the season’s first nine games, and looking forward to the inevitable knitting of the various parts. That’s how it happened, too, with the Heat losing a total of just three games while blowing through Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago in the 2011 Eastern Conference playoffs.

Dallas got the best of Miami in the NBA Finals, but back-to-back Heat championships were just around the corner. In the end, that troubling 9-8 start to the Big Three’s first season was forgotten, and so was the 12-game winning streak that immediately followed it.

So what do we make of the fact that Bosh and Wade and Whiteside are averaging 51.6 points per game as a whole this season while waiting for Dragic to morph into the Dragon?

Well, for one thing, there’s the acknowledgement that this Miami team isn’t promising multiple NBA titles over the next few years and need not be measured in any significant way against the Big Three, who averaged 70.9 points in their first regular season together.

Even more, there’s the reminder that this is November. Teams are just warming up. Genuine trust is just a concept, as evidenced by the mysterious two-game suspension that Gerald Green is preparing to put behind him.

We won’t know this Heat team for some time now, because they don’t really know themselves. It’s a common problem, for uncommon partnerships like the Big Three and for all the rest.

Don’t sweat the small stuff with early CFP rankings, and it’s all small stuff

Don’t be shocked that half of the teams in the College Football Playoff’s top four already have a loss.

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 12: Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after defeating the Oregon Ducks 42 to 20 in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium on January 12, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX – Head Coach Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after defeating the Oregon Ducks 42 to 20 in the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Or that the Florida Gators and several other one-loss teams way out on the fringes of this discussion still think they have a shot.

Or that close calls against lame opponents don’t hurt a team in the rankings half as much as you would think.

[A Veterans Day story about Yogi Berra and D-Day]

[Mike Leach interviewed for UM job in 2006 and lobbied hard for it in 2010]

[Dan Campbell has luxury that Todd Bowles didn’t have as Dolphins’ interim coach]

Only four of the last 10 national champions finished unbeaten. It’s a fairly unrealistic expectation that any particular team would roll through a season without so much as a serious scare. That’s what makes this so fun, and why growing anxious over rankings with so many games to play is such a waste of energy.

Oh, by the way, eventual champion Ohio State was 7-1 and No. 14 in the CFP rankings at this same time last season.

The following chart shows the records and losses and significant close calls of recent champions. Bottom line, it ain’t over until it’s over.

 

Year   Champion          Record       Loss                       Close calls

2014   Ohio State         14-1           Va. Tech               2 OT’s at Penn State

2013   FSU                     14-0           None                     34-31 over Auburn

2012   Alabama             13-1           Texas A&M         By 4 over Tenn and Ga

2011   Alabama             12-1           LSU                       None

2010   Auburn               14-0           None                     28-27 over Bama

2009   Alabama             14-0           None                     12-10 over Tennessee

2008   Florida               13-1           Ole Miss                None

2007   LSU                     12-2           Ky, Ark                  28-24 over Florida

2006   Florida               13-1           Auburn                 By 1 over Tenn & SC

2005   Texas                 13-0           None                       25-22 over Ohio St.

To entertain and honor our Veterans, here’s a story about Yogi Berra and D-Day

Heard from a reader the other day who knew Yogi Berra, a D-Day veteran, during their days together in the U.S. Navy.

101803 -- YANKEE STADIUM, NY -- WORLD SERIES game 1 FLORIDA MARLINS VS NY YANKEES - New York greats Yogi Berra, left, and Whitey Ford walk off the field after throwing the ceremonial first pitch Saturday. Staff photo by Allen Eyestone ORG XMIT: ORG XMIT: MER0708021028161388
New York greats Yogi Berra, left, and Whitey Ford walk off the field after throwing the ceremonial first pitch at the 2003 World Series between the Yankees and Marlins. (Palm Beach Post staff photo by Allen Eyestone)

Sam Wasson, 90, of Atlantis took the time to write me a long letter about Yogi, who died Sept. 22. It seemed to me that there was enough inspirational and entertaining content in there to make an excerpt of Sam’s letter something of a Veterans Day tribute to all those who risked or lost their lives in defending America, and to all who worked every day to make the best of a horrible situation.

Take it away, Sam.

“I was stationed in New London, Ct., and got to know Yogi Berra well. I served 10 years on five submarines from 1943-53 as a cook. I had busted an eardrum and had other head injuries in a training accident and was placed on light duty until I healed.

“In the summer of 1944, Yogi arrived at the base on the Seagoing Tugboat 151. They were returning from the Normandy invasion. Yogi had been on an open-mount 50 caliber machine gun for the whole day, with German fighters strafing the operation.

“I remember he said it was just like the Fourth of July in St. Louis, his hometown.

“During the years of planning the invasion the Navy had ordered several of those tugs that could tow the landing craft off the beaches after the troops had gone ashore so another could get in.

“Yogi had played Class D ball the previous season on the Yankees’ farm team in Norfolk, Va. When he arrived at the sub base, there were several major league players on the base team there managed by Jimmy Gleeson, Cubs and Reds outfielder.

“Being on light duty with nothing else to do, I became a full-time baseball groupie. I traveled with the team and sat in the dugout. My duties were to collect $2 from each player and take it up in the stands and get it ‘covered.’ Yes, they did bet on themselves. Most of them were just like the rest of us. They were working for between $50 and $100 per month. I would take the winnings and buy three cases of cold beer and have it ready in the dressing room for after the game. Gleeson demanded that.

“Gleeson rode Yogi hard. I was very pleased when Yogi was made manager of the Yankees several years later, the first coach that he hired was Jimmy Gleeson. They were cut from the same cloth. Smart baseball men.

“There were about 15 million men and women in the service during WWII. I read recently that by Veterans Day 2015, which is the 70th anniversary of th end of WWII, there will only be about a half million left alive. I hope that every American will take a few minutes to remember the 14,500,000 that won’t be with us anymore, including my two brothers.

Sincerely,
Sam Wasson

 

There are so many of you out there with so many stories of courage and strength but most of them are never told. On this Veterans Day, please know that you are appreciated and that your sacrifice was priceless.

And now a final word from Sam, an Atlantis resident for 38 years, just to leave you laughing.

I asked him what it’s like to work and live on a submarine and he said “After all the physical training we did, you had to go before three psychiatrists to determine who was fit for 90 days of duty in a submarine. We used to say that if all three of them agreed that you were absolutely nuts, you passed.”

 

 

 

Mike Leach interviewed for UM job in 2006 and lobbied hard for it in 2010

Hey, as long as we’re throwing around names on who might coach the Miami Hurricanes in 2016, here’s a column I wrote five years ago. It was about Mike Leach lobbying for the job from his Key West home.


Washington State head coach Mike Leach speaks to his team during a timeout in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Washington State head coach Mike Leach speaks to his team during a timeout in the second half of an game against Arizona State Nov. 7, 2015, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

By Dave George, Palm Beach Post

Nov. 30, 2010

Mike Leach, the most unusual candidate the Miami Hurricanes will ever consider to run their football program, applied for the head coaching position at Key West High School in 1996.

Didn’t get it, but man alive, did he ever want it. Enough, at the time, to take a sizable pay cut from his assistant coaching position at Valdosta State and to risk stalling what turned out to be a highly successful and innovative major-college career.

“Key West is such a unique and exciting place,” said Leach, who lives there now and does a daily three-hour show on the Sirius satellite radio network from his island bungalow.

“Back then, I figured my kids could grow up here and go scuba diving and fishing and do things that other kids aren’t exposed to. Later they might move to the mountains or something and experience that. I thought it would be good diversification. Down here, it’s kind of us against the world.”

Clearly, this is no common coach. Leach, who has a law degree from Pepperdine University and an enduring love for pirate lore, is no common anything. He’s portrayed as some kind of outlaw, yet his Texas Tech football players graduated at a rate higher than at any other public university. He’s painted as being some kind of counter-culture kook, but how many people who meet that description would feel comfortable, or loved, in Lubbock, Texas?

Bottom line, the man is too bright and too valuable to be living at the tail end of an island chain in what amounts to exile from the coaching profession.

He’d take the Miami job in a second, installing the same crazy “Air Raid” offense that made him a spectacle in 10 seasons at Texas Tech until his ugly firing last December. So far, though, there’s been no contact with UM.

“It’s a great job and I think it would be a great fit,” Leach said. “We’d have an exciting brand of football. We’ll fill the seats and we’ll win games and we’ll win ACC championships.

“If you look at the guys on NFL rosters, in the Big 12 Texas has 32, Oklahoma has 29, Nebraska has 28 and Texas Tech has nine. Still, my record against Nebraska was something like 5-1 and we beat Oklahoma three out of the last five times.

“There are lots of Hurricanes on NFL rosters. That gives you an idea of what you can draw there. If you base it on resources and production, the chances of my success along with my staff are remarkably high.”

At the end of the 2006 season, when Miami was hunting a replacement for Larry Coker, Leach got an interview with the Hurricanes based on the nearly 450 yards in total offense he was averaging at Texas Tech and also on the Red Raiders’ string, at the time, of four bowl victories in five years.

Nothing came of the interview, which led to Miami hiring Randy Shannon instead, but you wouldn’t believe the tall tales that came out of that whole deal, like how Leach supposedly showed up for the interview in a Hawaiian shirt and a pair of flip-flops and how he spooked Hurricanes officials with some of his wild answers.

“No, no, nothing like that,” said Paul Dee, the former Miami AD who interviewed Leach, Shannon and Rutgers’ Greg Schiano at a New York City hotel. “Mike’s a fine guy, an interesting guy, but we just didn’t get the sense that he was as interested as we had been led to believe.

“We were serious about him, though. We wouldn’t have interviewed anybody we weren’t seriously thinking about.”

Leach’s recollection is that Miami didn’t think he would take a salary cut to come. He was willing to work that out, he said, but couldn’t agree to join the Hurricanes unless he could bring his own staff. Miami wanted several guys, Shannon included, to stay on with a new coach.

“My experience is that nobody believes you will work for less than what you’re getting,” said Leach, “but I will because it’s about quality of life and situations and challenges.”

Leach’s biggest problem, the one that’s keeping him on the sidelines, is the cloud that remains from his sudden parting witht Texas Tech.

Texas Tech reserve Adam James, the son of ESPN analyst Craig James, alleged that he was locked in a dark electrical closet as punishment because of a concussion that prevented him from practicing. Leach denies that, has a stack of depositions to back him up, and is going to court soon in Texas with a lawsuit against ESPN and the PR firm hired by the James family for broadcasting what he calls a false story.

“Now it’s like, well, it’s difficult to hire him because he’s in litigation,” Leach said of his year-long absence from coaching. “They accuse me of something I didn’t do, something that never happened because I never mistreated a student-athlete. If I ignore it and don’t clear my name, then they assume I’m guilty and I can’t get a job. If I take steps to clear my name, I can’t get a job because I’m in litigation.”

Of course, there will be openings next year and the year after that, should Leach decide simply to wait for the legal cloud to lift. He loves the idea of coaching Miami, however, especially after being encouraged to go for it by good buddy Barry Switzer. The pirate in Leach sees a treasure of an opportunity waiting just up U.S. 1.

“I haven’t heard anything from Miami,” Leach said. “Just little mutterings. Hopefully, there’s folks out there with a broad enough vision and understanding of things.”

Leach is a longshot, with fans buzzing about Jon Gruden and Miami AD Kirby Hocutt likely focusing on someone he knows better and trusts more. Maybe the Mad Scientist of West Texas simply bicycles around Key West a while longer, just another sunkissed dreamer in paradise. There are worse things.

But think, he says, of what Miami and any other reluctant suitor might be missing.

“They could hire me and we’d have one decade after another of success with students that graduate and don’t get into trouble,” said Leach, “or they can hire somebody else.”

Talk to the man, at least, Miami. You could get more than 27,000 people to Sun Life Stadium just to hear him talk.


(That’s how the column ended. Turns out Miami went with Al Golden and Leach hired on at Washington State, where he’s currently 6-3 behind a quarterback who has 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Took a little while for the Pirate to get it going out there, but he’s always interesting, and at least one of my readers wants him working at Miami.

Any other takers, following the natural assumption that Leach will become available again some day?)