There is an octet of sleaze in College Football...
And, like a zit upon a hairy-palmed fourteen year-old's face, it desperately needs to erupt and issue forth its vile fruits. The pain, embarrassment and stench will turn stomachs, to be sure, but 'tis better to air out the infection and let a lil' sunshine in. (fn1)
So, peel back the curtains and take a look at the headlines that dominated the past two years' of CFB, going so far as to threaten to consume the '10 football season.
Purchasing influence. Ohio State Buckeyes. Tattoos. Tennessee Volunteers. Federal drug interdiction. North Carolina Tarheels. Street Agents. University of Oregon. Seven-on-Seven camps. Auburn University. Bags of cash and willful blindness. (fn2)
What makes this scandal potentially apocalyptic is the sheer scope of what we're dealing with: the number of players, the diverse sheistiness, the relatively small sums of money, and not just one scummy layer, but eight tiers -- a full octet -- of eventually-interrelated corruption...
Not that octect of sleaziness, Japanese Tentacle Erotica
Bear with me, dear reader, as I explain why I sit in my spider's web and await the slow-rolling disaster of SMU-sized proportions about to descend upon the game.
I'm not a conspiratorial person by nature: experience has taught me that a successful conspiracy requires advanced planning, mutually agreed upon goals, an unwavering ability to keep silent, and the dedication to maintain a secret, second existence. And, let's be honest, most people are simpletons driven by greed, self-interest, and -- when the shit hits the fan -- self-preservation. We know how those tales end: A Mexican stand-off of finger-pointing and mutual recrimination.
In a world rife with derp, to expect competency is to invite disappointment (fn3)
Nevertheless, there are missing pieces to all (or certainly most) of that grotesqueries that will (and I think do) connect at some point. My position, given the Derpageddon presently unfolding, is that we are dealing with a conspiracy of sleaze; albeit, an inadvertent, bumbling one. However, to get to that point, to understand the various naughtiness at programs throughout the country, and how they are interrelated, we must first meet our rogue's gallery.
This first installment will begin with a description of the players that I believe are so interconnected that it would give a Federal Prosecutor a hard-on sketching out the conspiracy chart.
Grab the tinfoil kids, this is pro-level stuff that would make 5026 blush...
1-2-3. The Auburn Assistants: Curtis Luper/Trooper Taylor/Tracy Rocker-. It is not even a question that upon Chizik's hiring he actually did what Shula attempted to do: Being in over his head, he immediately hired those with competence, skill and/or experience. To wit:
Ted Roof, present head guy for the "defense" of the Boogs, had some success defensively during his stint at Duke. While the Devils sucked, it was largely not attributable to the mismanagement of Roof, who ran a clean and professional, if overwhelmed, program in Durham. But he at least knew how to run a program, something the Chiz has not demonstrated in Ames or Opelika.
Gus Malzhan, the true brains behind the outfit, brought something to the table the Chiz also has never demonstrated: Testicles, understanding of an offense, and -- despite ESPN's slurping of Boise and Oregon -- a truly innovative scheme. No one at this point questions Malzahn's ability to X and O, or his in-game adjustments either. He is worth the $3 mil paycheck.
And, let's face it, he's the only one on the Auburn staff that actually looks or acts like a professional.
That brings us to the Luper-Trooper combo (and, to a lesser extent, Rocker). This pair are marginally position coaches at the Ugliest Hellhole. But, in actuality, this duo are superb, but suspicious, recruiting personnel for
an overmatched nincompoopGene Chizik.
Since these rogues have been at Auburn University, they have brought in talent from places not normally recruited by the Boogs. Their names are usually, but not always, in tandem when examining top-tier prospects signed to the Boogs, of late. Just as curious as where these guys recruit (and who they land), is where these jokers hail from.
In the case of Luper (RBs/Asst HC/Recruiting Coordinator), he arrived at Auburn via his alma mater, Oklahoma State. At OKie State, he had modest success recruiting. But, once arriving at Auburn, he became an overnight sensation in the recruiting world...despite having not made a recruiting splash the previous decade plus at three other institutions. (it is likely, though, that Oklahoma State has two things in common with our present subject schools, Oregon and Auburn: namely, a weak/new/incompetent head coach, and a booster or major benefactor willing to make it rain).
"Jackie Newton, does that look like a camera to you?"
No introduction is needed for Trooper Taylor. His resume indicates that he is a "Wide Receiver Coach", and has served in this capacity as a journeyman at three schools, including Tennessee with the Fulmer regime, Baylor, and one lone season at Oklahoma State...where he coincidentally worked with Curtis Luper.
Add to this coincidence the very bizarre fact that for a Wide Receiver Coach, at four schools, for over a decade, the towel-waiving one has literally only signed six (6) wide receivers. And three of those have come the last three years. Interesting, no? Later, we will go into much greater depth regarding Mr. Taylor.
This brings us to the recruiting rookie, but longest tenured coach of the lot, Auburn alum Tracy Rocker. There is no doubt that as a player he wrought havoc. And, as a coach, his D-Lines were some of the most fundamentally sound, well-coached units wherever he coached. Speaking of where he's coached, let's take a look shall we, going from most recent to oldest?
Rocker has worked in the South his entire career (save one year). And, despite the success he had at Ole Miss/Arkansas under Nutt, he recruited a not a single player over 3 stars (and even then, only two were three stars). So, all of those active, disciplined, athletic lines for the Hogs and Rebels were someone else's recruits. In fact, he recruited and signed just 6 players total in six years with the Giggity. And none of them became stars or merited any significant attention.
But, it gets stranger: Every last guy Rocker recruited for those six years under Nutt came from Georgia. Every last one. And, some years, Rocker did not recruit or sign recruits at all. Both of these facts are important later.
Facts, Fracking, Fractals; Tracy taught me how to straight cut a rug, yo.
Prior to that gig, Rocker was at Cincinnati for a lone season, running the D-line for a certain Rick Minter...a proverbial Dead Man Walking before Dantonio came in and cleaned house. As with his his gigs at Arkansas/Ole Miss, Rocker did not recruit or sign a soul for the Bearcats.
And, this finally brings us to Rocker's first D-1 break, and his longest job to-date, serving as D-Line coach at Troy University.
While at Troy, which had some mentally challenged but fine d-line players, Rocker also did not recruit nor sign a single player. Not one. He did, however, work for over a decade under a coach from Auburn's Pat Dye era, one Larry Blakeney. No surprise there, as Rocker played under Blakeney at Auburn during the era of buying players, academic misconduct, and complete corruption.
We now have the preceding 18 years of Rocker's career mapped out: He is a talented coach, with little interest in recruiting, no demonstrable ability to recruit playmakers, a prior history of recruiting d linemen solely, and important recruiting connections to a grand total of one state: Georgia. Moreover, he cut his teeth playing under, then working for, two of the worst rogues in the state's athletic history: Pat Dye and Larry Blakeney.
But, what happens when Mr. Rocker arrived in Auburn in 2009 absolutely defies description. He begins to recruit (for the first time in 15 years), players other than defensive linemen, in states other than Georgia, including -- for the first time -- players from Alabama (and, remember, he coached in the state for 11 years). The other similarities to Luper really begin then. Just like Luper, Rocker has the first real recruiting success of his career when arriving on the plains. And, for a quiet guy, who sucked at recruiting, he takes off when he starts visiting & recruiting a place outside Miami...Hialeah. Enter Corey Lemonier, of whom we shall have more to say.
Man, Garry Hollingsworth is easier to tackle than an immediate, unexplained, career-altering pattern in my coaching and recruiting record.
4-5. University of Oregon/Chip Kelly - The latest festering boil on the asscrack of old-fashioned football (I kid, Ducks) are everything that traditional state school powers are not: Massively wealthy with an athletic program/testing ground fed by donations from a multinational, multibillion dollar, extraterritorial corporation. In this case, the provider of largesse is known as Uncle Phil (Knight), Nike CEO and Duck alumnus.
You know all of those jokes we make about the Florida Gators being the nouveau riche of football? Well those jabs are decidedly true for Oregon. Prior to hiring Rich Brooks, the Ducks had been to a total of four bowl games from 1920-1988. And, prior to the 1995 Rose Bowl, Oregon hadn't won the conference for 74 years.
Somewhere, Joe Paterno just yelled at little bastards to get off his lawn.
Mike Belotti succeeded Rich Brooks after the 1994 season, and brought the Ducks into instant contention in a watered down PAC 10: USC had yet to reemerge as national boogeyman. Washington was getting hammered by the NCAA. UCLA was inconsistent under Bob Toledo. Wash. State had yet to surge under Price. Stanford was still a weak program. Oregon State was a perennial joke. That left two other nice teams: The Desert Swarm of Tomey's Arizona teams and the Jake Plummer-led Sun Devils.
If you think we kicked Miami's ass in the Sugar Bowl, go watch the '94 Fiesta Bowl.
Integral to Belotti's teams that became an intermittent PAC 10 power in the Aughts was the perfection of a read-option spread. And a versatile offense it was, featuring either typical West Coast QBs with nuclear weapons for arms, or mobile Polynesian beasts capable of doling out punishment. Also integral to this offense was a series of troubled and ethically-challenged guys to tote the rock. The most recent guy, of course, and one that shall figure prominently later in our tale, is none other than Lache Seastrunk. (fn4).
Beginning in 2007, changes were on the horizon, but they were competitively for the better, as the Ducks and their new Offensive Coordinator, one Charles "Chip" Kelly, revolutionized West Coast football. Outside of Tim Tebow -- and Texas' Wonderlic Wunderkind -- no one in the country ran this offense better than the Ducks.
I will take any excuse I can get to post Vince Young's Wonderlic exam
We shall go into this a bit later, but in 2008 when Belotti resigned to take on full-time AD duties, someone had to take over the ship. Why not the guy who would make a habit out of kicking USC's ass? The guy who had proved his offensive worth at every stage of his career?
Thus, did Chip Kelly become the hand-picked successor to the original 'Stache, and instantly exceeded anything Belotti ever did. Chip Kelly: Alleged tactical genius, point a minute offense, and noted disciplinarian, would enter Oregon lore, and soon the Committee on Infractions' ledger book.
Tomorrow, when we discuss Willie Lyles, we have much more to say regarding Mr. Kelly and Mike Belotti.
You know who else uses this kind of pictorial genius? McDonald's cashiers.
Next Installment: We meet the rest of the cast, recap what is presently known, and start piecing together a whole lot of "coincidences". Until then, stay weird my friends.
FN1: This lurid lede brought to you by Lord Bulwer-Lytton. Incidentally, this is just the first of what will probably encompass 2-3 posts/articles, as we are embarking upon a shitshow unlike anything we've seen before.
FN2: Obviously, there were more...including "scandals" which invariably altered the season, costing schools bowl money and good will, such as the Carolina Convicts, and the suspensions of Marcel Dareus and A.J. Green. This lil' story, however, will focus on the 8 pieces of a larger puzzle falling largely outside of the agency flap of '10.
FN3: C'mon, everyone loves Boston Terriers.
FN4: I think you all know sort of where this is going.