The Alabama softball team dropped the opening game of its series against Florida, 4-1, Friday night in front of 3,240 fans at Rhoads Stadium. With the loss, Alabama falls to 45-6 overall and 21-5 in the Southeastern Conference, while Florida improves to 44-8 overall and 21-5 in the SEC. The loss deadlocks the two teams into a tie atop the SEC standings. Florida pitcher Hannah Rogers improved to 26-4 on the season after holding Alabama hitless until the sixth inning, when Jennifer Fenton hit a one-out single through the left side. Rogers allowed one run on three hits and struck out seven.
Florida caught Alabama flat-footed to take the early lead. Sami Fagan beat out an infield single to shortstop with one out, and Haeger reached on an error. Fagan stole third to give the Gators runners on the corners. Walton called for a two-out double-steal, and the Crimson Tide bit. Catcher Kendall Dawson threw to shortstop Kaila Hunt, who covered second to cut off Haeger's steal attempt. Fagan came home on Dawson's throw, and Hunt's errant throw home to try to catch Fagan allowed Haegar to turn around and get to second. Alabama had a chance to strike back in the bottom of the second, with Rogers walking three batters. She put two runners on base with no outs and loaded the bases with two outs, but Rogers got all three outs by strikeout to put out the fire. Florida (44-8, 21-5 SEC) can win the SEC regular-season title outright with a sweep, and will share the championship with Alabama (45-6, 21-5 SEC) and Tennessee with one more win this weekend.
There have been three NFL suicides in the last year-plus; there are 18 veteran suicide attempts every day. Just as the NFL is coming to grips with its concussion problem and the ensuing link to CTE and suicide, so too is the military struggling to overcome the tough-guy attitude that caused it to overlook concussions and TBIs following the detonation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a hallmark of service in Afghanistan and Iraq that is now inextricably linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and veteran suicide. The human brain, we're learning, is a delicate and complicated organ. It doesn't suffer well the abuse that we honor on holidays or cheer on Sundays, and those who endure it the longest enter a civilian world that feels simplistic, lacking the violence and drama and import that they've been trained to cherish. Just as bad, the newness of our awareness to these maladies creates a ripple effect: because there are so few studies about football's link to CTE and TBIs' link to PTSD, doctors can only play a guessing game with which pills to prescribe -- a dangerous gamble when your patient is leaving for a 180-day deployment with unlimited access to firearms. (The number of active-duty soldiers on sedatives and anti-depressants has increased eightfold since 2005.)
Who truly benefits from college football? Alumni who absurdly judge the quality of their alma mater based on the quality of the football team. Coaches such as Nick Saban of the University of Alabama and Bob Stoops of Oklahoma University who make obscene millions. The players themselves don't benefit, exploited by a system in which they don't receive a dime of compensation. The average student doesn't benefit, particularly when football programs remain sacrosanct while tuition costs show no signs of abating as many governors are slashing budgets to the bone. If the vast majority of major college football programs made money, the argument to ban football might be a more precarious one. But too many of them don't—to the detriment of academic budgets at all too many schools. According to the NCAA, 43% of the 120 schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision lost money on their programs. This is the tier of schools that includes such examples as that great titan of football excellence, the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers, who went 3-and-9 last season. The athletic department in 2008-2009 took in over $13 million in university funds and student fees, largely because the football program cost so much, The Wall Street Journal reported. New Mexico State University's athletic department needed a 70% subsidy in 2009-2010, largely because Aggie football hasn't gotten to a bowl game in 51 years. Outside of Las Cruces, where New Mexico State is located, how many people even know that the school has a football program? None, except maybe for some savvy contestants on "Jeopardy." What purpose does it serve on a university campus? None.
12. Jesse Williams, NG, Alabama: A physical specimen who’s moving from end to nosetackle. He’s only going to get better.
13. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: If Dre Kirkpatrick went as high as he did this year, Milliner won’t be too far behind.
14. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama: The most versatile offensive lineman in the country. He could easily move up this list.
Also of interest to Alabama fans is La Mirada, California tight end Tyler Luatua, the No. 18 prospect on 247Sports' list and the younger brother of current Crimson Tide player Isaac Luatua. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound star is expected to be the nation's top tight end in the Class of 2014. "Size plus athleticism plus versatility to me equals high value prospect and Luatua displays all of those qualities on film, where he is at times dominant on both sides of the ball," said Shurburtt.
"You don't want your son to go to a place where there's a potential issue (like this)," Sal Anzalone said. "You expect the (football) staff to have some sort of control on how things are handled with recruits when they visit. This is ridiculous. "I was concerned with what recruits do and with them being allowed to visit these kind of places where it puts kids at risk. That's the issue. You entrust people (at the school) to do the right thing." While he said he doesn't believe the Buckeyes coaching staff was aware that a sexual predator had access to its recruits and players, Sal Anzalone said he is upset at what transpired. "Of course," he said. "Who wouldn't be? I'm outraged."
This week, the wheels of realignment finally reached the lowest rungs of the FBS ladder. While the Big 12 may have lost four schools and the Big East and Mountain West have ceased to resemble their former selves, at least they're still standing. That's more than we can say for the WAC. Of its seven football schools, only two will remain after Friday. San Jose State and Utah State are expected to join the Mountain West; Louisiana Tech will bolt to Conference USA; Texas State is headed to the Sun Belt; and Texas-San Antonio, which played its first season of football in 2011, will do the same. And so, two-and-a-half years after the Big Ten first got the train rolling, the last schools left in the station appear to be Idaho and New Mexico State, the lone remaining WAC members. With their conference destroyed and no invitations pending from another league, the two may have no choice but to drop down to the FCS. This, less than three years after Idaho won a thrilling Humanitarian Bowl, 43-42, over Bowling Green.
You can't blame C-USA for thinking outside the box. The big boys, some of them also desperate, dictate the terms. The Big East reached way out of its footprint for Boise State and San Diego State while adding four from C-USA to shore up a BCS automatic-qualifying status that won't exist. The Big East could lose millions of dollars in new playoff revenue distribution. C-USA notes that the metro area population of the five new members is nearly 18 million. "The initial read was that television was receptive to a lot of these markets," Mackin said. Yet the heart of college sports, even as conferences grow larger while chasing TV dollars, remains regional. It's about rivalries and intriguing games, both of which require time to develop.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze knew things weren’t going to be easy in Oxford. He returned to the town and program he loved, but he did so knowing he’d be inheriting a slew of issues, both on and off the field. However, he didn’t know that the biggest would be in the academic world. With final exams only days away, Freeze is still concerned about the academic standing of a few players, including key starters Jeff Scott (running back) and Nickolas Brassell (cornerback/receiver). Hugh FreezeShelby Daniel/Icon SMICoach Hugh Freeze knew some players had academic issues but admitted they were "a little tougher than what I thought." "I knew that there were some issues, but probably found out it was a little tougher than what I thought it was when I got here," Freeze said about Ole Miss’ academic issues. "We’ve made some headway, but we inherited such a mountain to climb that I think it would be presumptuous for me to believe we’re going to climb every single mountain. I don’t think that’s going to be reality."