Total Miami Hurricanes Sanctions

The University of Miami is finally ending its 3 year nightmare as the NCAA case against them is officially over. Besides a number of minor infractions dealing with phone calls and text messages, Miami is guilty of allowing a rogue booster too much access to students- 30, in fact, that he paid $170,000 in benefits to over 10 years. Nothing salacious like abortions or prostitutes were proven- we are talking about club VIP access, bar tabs, dinner, and boat and house parties. Generally, normal college stuff that happens behind the scenes at every single football program.

Lost in the news of the sanctions imposed by the NCAA are the ones self-imposed by Miami over the last few years. I have, surprisingly, yet to see a truly exhaustive list so I’ll do my best here.


1) 9 football scholarships lost over the next 3 years, deducted from the 85 total cap.

2) 3 basketball scholarships, 1 each year over the next 3, deducted from the class size.

3) 3 years probationary status for the entire athletic department.

4) 2 years of a single unofficial visit per prospect.

5) Frank Haith (Missouri) has a 5 game suspension.

6) 2 year Show Cause for Aubrey Hill (Carol City), Clint Hurtt (Louisville), and Jorge Fernandez.

7) 12 football players to repay $4,000 in restitution for illegal benefits. 5 suspended for 1 game, 2 suspended for 4 games, 1 suspended for 6 games.

8) DeQuan Jones suspended 10 games. Durand Scott and Reggie Johnson also served suspensions.


1) 2 year bowl ban, including skipping the ACC championship game.

2) 1 year of a 20% reduction of official visits.

3) 1 year of a 14% reduction of fall evaluations.

4) 1 year of a 20% reduction of available contact days.

5) Miami is only playing with a current roster of 74, as opposed to the cap of 85, and may try to get some leniency from the NCAA to account for that (suffice it to say that some scholarship reductions have already been self-imposed).

This is quite a hefty list of penalties that will still linger for a few years. Dealing with the football scholarships will be easy given the current roster size and the fact that the school can still pull in full classes. The unofficial visit penalty gives Miami a hit but the university is free to throttle up its official visits again after self-imposing recruiting restrictions, so that might be a wash.

Certainly the brunt of the sanctions are already behind the program and it is FINALLY time to look forward, but let it not be said that Miami got off light.

The Ultimate Fighter: Jones vs. Sonnen

The Ultimate Fighter was a great idea for a contest reality show and it really propelled the UFC into mass market success but I’d be lying if I didn’t say the last few seasons were degrading the brand. After trying to push hype for Kimbo Slice and seeing that repeatedly fall flat in their face, follow-up seasons have generally failed to impress.

There were interesting characters a couple years back (the Alaskan with the unorthodox guillotine choke comes to mind) but in general the show had fallen into a paint-by-numbers routine. Coach A hates Coach B and talks smack. Coach B overreacts. Team A plays practical joke on Team B. Team B overreacts. Rinse, repeat, another season in the books.

Rock bottom really hit when even the main billing of the two coaches fighting each other didn’t even happen for two seasons in a row. At that point it seemed like everyone was phoning it in. The coaches were just there to be on tv but didn’t want to put work in. The players just wanted to advance as safely as possible and got in overly boring drawn out fights, each one calling for a judges decision. No one won the best knockout award last season because there wasn’t a single knock out! On top of that, the judges have been blind for several seasons, causing me to yell out loud from my couch and even drawing complaints from the head of the UFC, Dana White.

Well, Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter fixes ALL of these problems. The premiere started differently by showing the families of the contestants as they fought to win their way onto the show. The direction and interviews felt like they were out of a Nike commercial and the opening credits removed the names of the fighters, choosing for a minimalist yet inspiring approach instead of the in-your-face rock attitude. The two coaches, Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen, amazingly, don’t waste my time insulting each other every episode, and by all accounts are surprised that they like each other. And the fighters… wow. Knock out after knock out this season. The fights are usually unpredictable- aside from a couple of favorites there have been surprises (case in point is the semi-finals consisting of the two top seeds and the two bottom seeds). But the fighters generally aren’t waiting to hear the judges scores and there are some exciting moments involving come-backs, quick rounds, and amazing forces of will.

This season is the penultimate fight show and the finale is yet to air, so take note.

The Draft

Dan Marino Wannabees
1) Damon Huard
2) Ray Lucas
3) Jay Fiedler
4) Brian Griese
5) A.J. Feeley
6) Sage Rosenfels
7) Gus Frerotte
8) Daunte Culpepper
9) Joey Harrington
10) Cleo Lemmon
11) Trent Green
12) John Beck
13) Josh McCown
14) Chad Pennington
15) Chad Henne
16) Pat White
17) Tyler Thigpen
18) Matt Moore
19) David Garrard
20) Ryan Tannehill

Well, let’s see how this one turns out….


Mixed Martial Arts has really been catching on over the last 5 years and I admit I’ve been enjoying the ride. It is fresher and more violent than boxing and its other brethren while still remaining very technical. The wider array of skills required of fighters provides comparatively vastly different fighting styles and ways for any given bout to turn out.

Unfortunately, MMA is in a very real danger of turning stale. It is ironic that a sport notorious for being brazen is comfortably settling into boring. While it is impossible to overcome the adage ‘what was once new is now old’, I am alarmed at how fast MMA fighting is losing its edge.

For the record, I am not going to start a diatribe about the good ol days of ultimate fighting where anything was allowed and sumo wrestlers fought ninjas. It was a great gimmick, and a bloody good time- literally- but it simply wasn’t sustainable. To garner real credibility and attract long term athletes many safety issues needed to be addressed. MMA had to go legit if it had any hope of surviving.

I’ve complained at length before about sports that involve judges handing down decisions. After 3 rounds of battle the last thing viewers want to be left with is a scorecard determining the better fighter. Split decisions are even more horrible because it means that two people whose job it is to grade the fight thought that different people won! But it is begrudgingly hard to not have some sort of tie breaker in a sport like this (though I’d be open to experimentation). And letting the fight go on forever isn’t a solution because nothing is worse than watching two gassed fighters hugging each other and gasping for air.

So why not look into solutions that avoid stalemates?


The takedown is arguably the biggest tactic that separates this sport from boxing and without a doubt injects a sense of excitement into an otherwise stand up affair. A large part of the ‘Mixed’ in Mixed Martial Arts is due to the fact that every fighter needs a ground style to complement his stand up style. Gone are the days when you can simply be a good puncher and get far- Kimbo Slice can attest to that. What this means is a well rounded fighter is a better fighter and there is bound to be good variety in the fight. Going to the ground is good for the game, no doubt, yet takedowns are still proving to be the weak link of Mixed Martial Arts.

Give the weapons back
There are a lot of illegal strikes in the UFC. Many of these are holdovers from when the sport was trying to claim its legitimacy. But now that MMA commands a lot of money and viewership its backers can flex their muscles and allow some of these strikes again. I don’t think anyone is asking to see more knees to the heads of downed opponents but if a fighter is on his back and being attacked from above, he shouldn’t have to worry about whether his attacker has a knee down on the mat or not. He should be allowed to strike away like crazy and open up the fight. Let’s make it potentially more painful to simply lean on top of a guy and kill clock.

Remove the defender’s edge
In the earlier days of MMA takedowns were more exciting mainly because dominant styles weren’t formed yet and it was harder to defend yourself on the ground. It was much more common to see arm bars and other submissions because the opponent often didn’t know what to expect. The classic ground and pound was easier to apply because an opponent didn’t properly counter a full guard position advance. These days everybody and their little brother attends MMA gyms and learns takedown defenses and the whole thing degenerates into two guys on the floor trying to control the others’ hands. It is common for neither fighter to get a strong edge for long periods of time because they are both trained to use the same tactics. Everybody knows that wrestling is gay and you wouldn’t ever find it being relevant except perhaps in an Olympics discussion, yet this is what we end up watching for large portions of UFC matches. The only other real ground style is jiu-jitsu, which sounds a lot cooler but actually turns out to be even more homosexual than wrestling.


So why is it that these strategies are still allowed? Fighters are ultimately just gaming the rules- give them new rules to make things more exciting. The forward pass did wonders for football, after all.

Is change easy? No. Are the solutions obvious? Of course not. But the problems *are* clear, and it only takes a bit of foresight to address them. Don’t reward lazy fighting. UFC is only 3 rounds because the action is supposed to be intense. Don’t allow fighters to sit in stalemate positions to catch their breath. If a fighter is not being dominated then he should have tools to fight back. Coaches often tell their fighters not to leave the outcome in the hands of the judges. The reality is, as long as the UFC ruleset doesn’t promote this mentality, you can’t expect the fighters to do anything different.

The Olympics

OlympicsI’m not going to pile on with another discussion on why the Winter Olympics is not as good as its summer counterpart. I also won’t get into the evils of short, unbalanced elimination brackets. (So the US and Canada both lose only 1 game, each to the other, but Canada gets the gold? Sounds like tie-breaker territory to me.) And I’m surprisingly not going to say the Olympics are lame because I hold a lot of respect for the athletes and national pride involved. But I would like to take a step back and talk about the problems with the games today.

The Olympics should not include team sports.

The Olympics are not as originally intended. This is partially a good thing since I am not clamoring for naked oiled men to compete in contact sports. But I believe the spirit of the events was to showcase feats of strength and skill and to show what humans were capable of. Small, short contests between individuals is what I want to see. Team sports in large scale playoffs that encompass the duration of the entire Olympic Games just to be rewarded with a single medal at the end are clearly not the intent. Not only do the large teams not train together for extended periods of time but having a hodge podge group of athletes takes away from the simplicity and gladiator-centric wonder of the original events.

The events should be streamlined.

On one hand you have baseball teams that play many games to get a single medal (or you don’t anymore since the sport is no longer included)- but the flipside to this problem is that a swimmer can pick up 20 medals in the same span of time. Sure, you need races of different lengths, but at some point you need to realize that nobody needs to see 50m, 100m, 200m, and 400m versions of the same thing.

Every contest should be simple.

Remember, the point is to see humans perform feats of strength. It is not inspiring to see a team of curlers defeat their opponents 6-3. The ‘sport’ is too specific- its ruleset is not immediately understood. Being a good sprinter or swimmer has broad applications and appeal but being an expert curler is pretty much useless. Once more than one person and one prop is involved, the event becomes a contest of arbitrary game mechanics.

Judged events have no place in the Olympics.

This is perhaps my biggest gripe of all. Contests only hold weight when there is a clear winner. Who is the fastest? Who is the strongest? Somebody jumping off a diving board and pulling a flip exactly how the judges desire does not belong here. Figure Skating Dancing is not an event that countries need to bother competing in. With so many athletes sacrificing a large portion of their young lives for competition, it doesn’t seem right to allow subjectivity to enter the equation.

Bowl Championship Series and Polls

BCSEverybody despises the BCS so it is not a shock if I pour on some extra hate as well. The problem is, besides almost universally wanting a playoff, critics of the current system identify a number of different failures in how we choose a college national champion. It is hard to argue that the BCS isn’t at least better than what we had before, where teams would just play in random bowl games and get ranked afterward, where #1 and #2 were not even guaranteed to play each other as they are now. So where can improvements be made? I want to specifically discuss the computers, polls, conference champions, bowl games, and of course, a playoff bracket.

College sports do something that their pro counterparts do not – they keep track of national rankings. The reason is fairly simple: 32 teams are much easier to manage than 120. BCS rankings have a computer component, of which fans criticize the algorithms, and the human poll component, which is often blamed for playing favorites.

The computers themselves aren’t so bad. Whether or not the statistical calculations need tweaking over time, we can all at least rest easy knowing that everybody is on the same level field. There will be optimal strategies for ‘gaming’ the system – scheduling strong or light, running up the score, favoring offense or defense. This is no different for any sport (or game really) where people are operating under a set of rules. This actually gives the NCAA power to guide the sport in new ways as well. If they feel like teams aren’t playing enough home games or are playing too many Division II opponents then the computer algorithms can reward or penalize teams across the board. This is no different from how the game evolves whenever penalties are added and removed from the game.

The other two-thirds of the rankings formula are much less objective and that’s why human polls are horseshit. Coaches and media members tend to vote favorably for old school powers and not give enough respect to up and comers. This immediately brings bias and unfairness into play. Compounding the problem are preseason rankings, which are official rankings based purely on speculation. It is media masturbation at best, but at worst it puts overhyped teams above legitimate contenders, making it hard for the lower ranked teams to pull ahead. Human voters will usually not let a team drop in ranking unless it loses, so if you climb to #2 by beating better opponents than #1, you will still be stuck below them. It is exactly why Alabama was a lot better than Florida but remained below them until they beat them.

As bad as preseason rankings are, with human polling abolished and computers recalculating every week, there is no bias against being ‘jumped’. We can let the media and coaches rate teams based on whatever they want but as soon as the season starts and the computers are turned on those ‘guesses’ are thrown in the garbage.

Even conferences and divisions are bad. Conference champions are not always the best representative for the conference. Two 11-1 teams in one division can only send one to try and win it. Meanwhile, the best team in the other division is 8-4. If that 8-4 team happens to upset the 11-1 team, how does the other 11-1 team feel not being able to have a shot at the conference title? Surely one of the two 11-1 teams should have gotten that title. The NFL isn’t a good analogy. Not only does it have the same problem but it is smaller with a more difficult barrier to entry for new teams. The NFL has a much more controlled climate and a balancing mechanic called *the draft*. Balancing NCAA Football teams and conferences aren’t feasible.

The idea of conferences and regional titles itself is outdated. It makes sense on a less national stage. In high school football you want to know who the best is in Florida. But college conferences span large areas of the US, college teams travel, and television creates a national stage. I say do away with conference championships completely. Why force #1 Florida and #2 Alabama to play before the postseason?

What can green do for you?

In college, of course, the post season is dominated by bowl games. And because of the money tie-ins to all the schools and investors that is not changing any time soon. Who gets bowl bids? Why guarantee a team from every conference is in a BCS bowl game? Why automatically give a champion of a weak conference a bid when other, more deserving teams are out there? We are starting to see the messes that this backroom dealing has created.

The ultimate and eventual cure is a playoff system. You can talk to 10 different people and they will have 11 different schemes for how the playoffs should work. It is not an easy task but it can be done. To get this out of the way right now, anyone countering that a playoff system would add too many games is using a weak argument because Division II does it. Here is a playoff scheme that would work: 8 teams, top ranked, only computer polled, strength of schedule taken into account but not the end all and be all.

What are we talking about here? If things were in place now we would take the top 8 teams based on the computer rankings only. None of them would have been in danger of a lower ranking because of conference championships because those games weren’t played. The top 8 teams would all be respectable- no one is undefeated or nearly so by padding their schedule with cupcakes because their rankings would reflect these shortcuts. Right now there is a lot of grumbling about whether a #3 team was screwed out of a championship game – wouldn’t the same thing happen with #9? Well, between 8 and 9, you lose your bitch card. There is a galactic difference between, a) possibly being the best in the country and not playing for the title and, b) having 2 losses while another 2 loss team is deemed more worthy to get beat down by the top rated seed. In other words, there will be no national sympathy for #9.


It is important to note that there will still be many bowl games outside of the playoffs. That is ok. If a team doesn’t make the playoffs but finishes with a winning record and gets invited to a random December bowl, I have no problem with that. In fact, the playoff games themselves would eat up a few of the most important bowl games now. A team making it to the national championship game would play in 3 playoff games – if you subtract the conference championship and the bowl game they were going to play anyway, you only added 1 extra game to the season – and this is only for the best two teams in the country.

It makes sense. Remove the human polls, remove the bowl bids, remove the impropriety. You think people love bowl season? You think people love March Madness? It is nothing next to the fanaticism that will emerge with a true college football playoff.

NFL TV Coverage

Ah, football – the greatest sport of all time. Americans love the violent collisions and acrobatic catches. And with HD, multiple camera angles, and replay, the game seems tailor-made for tv.

I can watch college football games multiple ways. Several major channels show games with some backing up others for local coverage. ESPN Gameplan can be gotten from several cable companies if you want to see a game that is not playing nationally. And streaming a game online with ESPN360- live or after the fact- is easy.

The NFL is a step up from the NCAA. It is la creme de la creme of talent and professionalism. The tv productions have had so many advances throughout the years. So why is it that I can’t watch the Miami Dolphins play whenever and where ever I want?

DirectTV monopolizes the NFL contract with the NFL Sunday Ticket and they charge exhorbitant prices because they show you ALL the NFL games. Guess what? I actually don’t want to watch ALL the games. I just want to see my team play even though I am not in the local market. How hard is that to do?

NFL is all about fantasy football. It has probably the largest fanbase of all online games if you consider it as such. And why is this so good for the League? Because fans have to care about every team, every player. Are you more likely to order the Sunday Ticket or call your cable company and demand they carry NFL Redzone now? Sure you are.

It’s not about making it more convenient for fans to watch the teams they like. It’s about making the NFL a complete culture, a complete Sunday commitment, and having you be happy you are making your wallet a lot lighter in the process.

Well, their strategy is having the opposite effect on me. I can’t watch my team play so I care less about the League. It starts with me not knowing who is playing, then not keeping up with who won the game, then not thinking about the team and not buying merchandise, until soon I don’t give a crap about the NFL. It’s really sad because I love the sport but they are screwing themselves out of fans like me. I wish more people felt the same way and would boycott the Sunday Ticket and stop paying a $350 premium to watch football.

Just let me watch my game online for 10 bucks. In this age of the internet it is amazing that I can’t do this. Until then, let me know if we make the playoffs.