Religious Interference

 

(Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has come under fire for having his team participate in religious activities. Photo by Post and Courier)

(Clemson coach Dabo Swinney has come under fire for having his team participate in religious activities. Photo by Post and Courier)

A few weeks ago Clemson coach Dabo Swinney came under fire from the Freedom From Religion Foundation for “unconstitutional behavior.” Essentially the group thought that he was forcing his religious beliefs on his players. According to the charges, Swinney had his players participate in Bible days, Fellowship of Christian Athletes breakfasts, team devotionals and the hiring of the team chaplain. However, none of the activities were mandatory and no player lost a scholarship because he failed to attend them. Furthermore, no player, coach, or staff member has filed a complaint against the head coach, and Swinney has said that all faiths are welcome on the team. So it really doesn’t make sense why a group from Wisconsin is complaining about this issue.

In defense of his coaching practices Swinney turned to the all-time ACC leader in receptions, Aaron Kelly. Kelly, as a Jehovah’s Witness, was the closest a player ever came to having a problem with his coach’s religious lifestyle. Swinney, however, says he never had a problem coaching Kelly, and Kelly reiterated those sentiments.

He was never a guy who went to church with us, he didn’t pray with the team if the team ever prayed together,” says Swinney.

While I can understand why the Freedom From Religion Foundation had reason to suspect that the FIrst Amendment wasn’t being protected, I don’t think it is their job to initiate a complaint. If a player has a problem with the way their coach is running the team, he should speak up. In my opinion this is a case of a group trying to be too politically correct and stirring up the pot. If something isn’t broken, do not fix it.

Ruined Opportunities

(Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was kicked off the football team Friday following his third arrest since starting the school. Photo by Missouri Net.)

(Missouri wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was kicked off the football team Friday following his third arrest since starting the school. Photo by Missouri Net.)

Last week Missouri announced that star wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham had been kicked off the team, a day after he was accused of breaking into a female student’s house and pushing her down four stairs. This is a very sad ending to what appeared to be a blossoming career. Green-Beckham was the #3 rated player out of high school, and after a slow freshman year, he had 59 receptions for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns, as the Tigers won the SEC East title in their second year in the conference.

Now Missouri is without their star player and Green-Beckham is without a school to get an education and a program to showcase his talents. Even more unfortunate is the fact that news like this is becoming more and more commonplace in college athletics. Already this offseason, a group of Georgia players were kicked off the team for repeated offenses. On top of that there is constantly a number of players who have to sit out season openers for something stupid they did after the season was over.

These athletes that get the chance to compete at the highest possible level are blessed, and should be taking advantage of their athletic gifts. Many are being paid to attend college, a luxury that many Americans don’t receive. Everyone deserves a second chance, so hopefully Green-Beckham, and those like him that have put their academic and athletic futures in jeopardy, will be smarter the second time around, and make the most out of their college experience.

Decisions

(The 2014 NFL Draft will take place in New York City from May 8-10. Photo by Turn on the Jets.)

(The 2014 NFL Draft will take place in New York City from May 8-10. Photo by Turn on the Jets.)

 

As the 2014 NFL Draft quickly approaches the Houston Texans are tasked with making two monumental decisions: Do they keep their #1 overall pick, and if so who do they draft. The Texans appear poised to keep their pick, yet this brings on the bigger questions. While in the past it may have seemed obvious who should be drafted first, it is not so clear this year. Houston has a big need at quarterback, yet no one quarterback really stands out and the highest ranked player is defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. It appears as though the team may be taking a risk on May 8th no matter who they choose.

 

Currently the top ranked signal callers are Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Teddy Bridgewater. Each is unique in their own way and has something to offer the Texans. Manziel was arguably the most dynamic player in college football over the pass two years, which allowed him to win the Heisman. Bortles really emerged last year as an elite quarterback, posting great numbers for Central Florida. Bridgewater didn’t quite have the Heisman season that many expected out of him in 2013, but he was one of the most accurate passers. Out of these players, I would have to take Bortles. He is the most physically gifted out of the three and is a proven leader. Manziel is super talented, and even though Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have proven that height isn’t a huge deal, I still question if his body can continually take the pounding of the NFL. The same goes for Bridgewater, who only weighs 196 pounds. I believe Bortles will be successful in the NFL and is deserving of the top pick.

 

I do believe however, that the Texans should taking Clowney. I am biased, but the man is a once-in-a-lifetime talent, a player that no team will want to pass on. He has the ability to continually be a pro-bowler and maybe even get a spot in the Hall of Fame one day. Plus a defensive line with him and JJ Watt would be so awesome to watch. I don’t think his work ethic will be an issue, as he has often stated that he wants to be the greatest player ever, and will do whatever it takes to gain that status.

 

This upcoming decision will be very tough on the Texans and could determine whether or not they are successful in the immediate future. I love Clowney, but I still think the right choice for Houston is Blake Bortles. We will soon see though which direction the franchise takes.

 

 

A Sad Ending to a Terrible Crime

(Jerry Sandusky, Gary Schultz, and Tim Curley are all facing criminal charges due to the Penn State abuse scandal. Photo by cbsphilly)

(Jerry Sandusky, Gary Schultz, and Tim Curley are all facing criminal charges due to the Penn State abuse scandal. Photo by cbsphilly)

Arguably the worst sports scandal ever was uncovered more than two years ago in State College, Pennsylvania, home to the Penn State Nittany Lions. In November 2011 news of children being sexually abused by former football assistant Jerry Sandusky surfaced, along with allegations that the administration at the university had done very little to prevent it. Now three men, Graham Spanier (former president), Tim Curley (former athletic director), and Gary Schultz (former vice-president), will stand trial on charges of conspiracy and failure to report suspected abuse. If convicted, the men could face up to 39 years in prison.

The star witness for the upcoming trial will be another former assistant coach and player at PSU, Mike McQuery. According to his testimony, 13 years before, on February 9, 2001, McQuery witnessed Sandusky engaging in sexual activities with a young boy he had met through his at-risk charity Second mIle. From there he says he reported the incident to the then-head coach of the football team, Joe Paterno. Paterno then reportedly relayed the news to members of the administration, who say he didn’t give them reason to believe that abuse had occurred. As a result of this lack of responsibility, three men are facing prison time, the legacy of one of the greatest coaches ever has been tarnished, and worst of all, Sandusky was able to continue his abuse for a decade.

After having read a few articles on this scandal, a couple things stick out to me. First, how did no one else discover this abuse, and/or do anything about this? Five men knew about this continued wrongdoing, yet they decided it was too much of a “grey area” to accuse Sandusky of any crime. This a ridiculously stupid notion; if someone is supposedly being abused, that allegation needs to checked out, no questions asked. Second, why is Mike McQuery being blamed for the problems that Penn State is facing? The man may have not done everything possible to prevent these crimes, but neither did any of the four older, supposedly more mature men above him in rank. He was merely a 25 year-old graduate assistant who did what he thought was right, something no one should be blamed for. But now he is without a job and broke, and is suing Penn State for discrimination. This is a truly sad ending to a scandal that was caused by a crime that was not responsibly handled.

Payment for College Athletes?

(Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter is the figurehead of the movement to pay student-athletes. Photo by chicagonow.)

(Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter is the figurehead of the movement to pay student-athletes. Photo by chicagonow.)

For the past few years a highly controversial topic has been whether or not college athletes should be paid. There are coaches such as South Carolina’s  Steve Spurrier, who believe that athletes should be paid a stipend of $300 per game to cover their food, clothing, and transportation costs. Spurrier believes that since the NCAA and colleges nationwide make money off of the competitions the athletes perform in and the merchandise they wear, they should be given a cut of the profit. On the other hand, Jim Boeheim, Syracuse’s basketball coach, believes the idea of student athletes being paid is “idiotic.” His reasoning, and a popular for those against the idea, is that these players are getting a very expensive education for free. On top of that they receive publicity and training that could land them in the professionals. The NCAA agrees with this belief, and for now it appears that no change is going to be made.

Those for players getting paid, have found a sort of loophole if the NCAA is not willing to change its view. This loophole consists of college athletes creating a union. Recently, the College Athletes Players Association has teamed up with the Northwestern University football team, specifically their ex-quarterback Kain Colter, and have started pushing for a union. The National Labors Relations Board is hearing the case to decide if the players can unionize. While the players’ case is not looking strong right now, it could easily pick up steam if other colleges and teams joined them. Colter did his part for the cause, as he testified Thursday and presented strong claims showing that playing collegiate football is a full-time job. It remains to be seen how successful this movement will be, and whether this case will sway the NCAA’s decision on the matter.

Having written a speech and paper on this topic, I am for the idea of student-athletes receiving a stipend. There is no reason they should not share in the profits that are made off their athletic efforts. I recently read that Colter’s knee surgery was only going to be half-covered by Northwestern. This seems completely unfair to me, and depending on who the player is, this person might not be able to cover the rest of the cost of the procedure, possibly leading to the end of their career. A change clearly needs to be made, and sooner rather than later.

The Recruiting Trail

(This past Wednesday is when the 2014 season unofficially begins, as seniors sign with their respective schools. Photo by Maxpreps.)

(This past Wednesday is when the 2014 season unofficially begins, as high school seniors sign with their respective schools. Photo by Maxpreps.)

Yesterday was National Signing Day for high school athletes of various sports. On this day students sign letters of intent to play for their respective future college. In the collegiate football world the conclusion of the day saw Alabama finish with the top rated class for the third straight year. The Crimson Tide has been the most successful program over the last five years so it is no surprise that they are bringing in the best athletes. Out of the top ten football players in the ESPN top 300, three are going to play for Alabama next year. This dominance in recruiting sets them up for success year after year and I expect this to be a common theme in Tuscaloosa as long as Nick Saban is coach.

Other strong classes were put together by LSU, FSU, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Florida, giving the Southeastern Conference 5 of the 6 best classes. LSU had an especially notable class reeling in the overall top prospect, Leonard Fournette, a running back from New Orleans, LA. The Tigers have been known for having a strong stable of backs for the past few years, so Fournette should fit right in. FSU, the defending national champions, bolstered both sides of the ball with there incoming class, leaving many analysts to believe that they will be in the hunt for another title in 2014.

As previously mentioned, the top incoming athlete is running back Leonard Fournette. It is unusual that the number one prospect is an offensive player, as that title is usually reserved for a defensive sided athlete, almost always a defensive linemen. The New Orleans native has a nice blend of speed and power however, and is deserving of the ranking. The number two prospect, Jabrill Peppers, is a Michigan recruit and cornerback who should strengthen the Wolverine defense immediately.

The class of 2014 is talent rich, and each of these athletes should have a quick impact on their teams. For many schools these incoming players are a sign of continued success, while for schools like Tennessee and Flordia, they are the hope that these storied programs can start winning again.

The End of an Era

(The Bowl Championship Series era will come to an end after 17 controversial seasons. Photo by aumnibus.)

(The Bowl Championship Series era will come to an end after 17 controversial seasons. Photo by aumnibus.)

With the official conclusion of the Bowl Championship Series following Florida State’s 34-31 win in the National Championship game against Auburn, I thought it was appropriate to take a look back at the controversial selection structure. The Series was highlighted by Southeastern Conference (SEC) domination, which won seven straight national championships, and a few games that no one will ever forget.

While some people will be sad to see the BCS go away, there will be many people who are more than happy to see the end of this era. Throughout its 17 years as the official selection system to decide the BCS bowls, including the national championship game, the BCS was marked by controversy. In 2003 the season ended with split champions, as the Associated Press chose the USC Trojans as their top team, while the Coaches Poll decided that the LSU Tigers deserved the title. Then in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, more than two teams finished the season undefeated, leaving programs with perfect records out of the final game. Finally, on a consistent basis, weak teams from some of the weaker conferences took spots away from better teams who played in stacked conferences, in the prestigious BCS bowl games. In the 2012-13 season, unranked Wisconsin got a chance to play in the Rose Bowl game, while #7 Georgia had to settle with playing in the Capital One Bowl. This whole dilemma was caused by the guarantee that each conference would send its champion to one of the best bowls, regardless of quality or ranking. This was just one of the many flaws within the BCS system, and a part of the game that will hopefully not be a problem in the future.

Though it is often given a bad rap, the BCS did provide its viewers with some of the best games ever seen. The 2003 Fiesta Bowl (National Championship game) had Ohio State beat defending national champion Miami in OT in a 31-24 thriller. Then in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, in what is considered one of the biggest upsets in sports history, Boise State defeated Oklahoma on the famed Statue of Liberty play in overtime, winning 43-42. The greatest game however, might have been the final one, the previously mentions 2014 BCS National Championship game. The Tigers and Seminoles went back and forth in the final few minutes of the game until Florida State took the lead for good with 16 seconds left on a touchdown pass from Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. This was a great finish to an exciting, yet disputed part of college football history.

The end of the BCS brings about the start of the college football playoff, a concept that excites many collegiate fans. The system includes the top four ranked teams receiving a #1-#4 seed, and playing their respective opponent in a semifinal game, before the winners play for the national championship. I am personally very excited for this next chapter in college football, and think it will have a positive impact on the sport.