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Jumbo Package: Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Your daily dose of a whole lot of bad news and offseason shenanigans.

Nick Saban working the night shift...
Nick Saban working the night shift...
Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Your good news

Gamecocks Lose at Alabama, 59-51 University of South Carolina Official Athletic Site

While the offense was inconsistent for the Gamecocks, the hustle was not. Carolina owned a 17-6 advantage in offensive rebounds for the game and scored 22 second-chance points while allowing Alabama just eight. The 22 points are a season high, surpassing the previous best that also came against the Tide, back on Jan. 13.

That was as ugly a first half as you've seen (since Saturday, at least.) A strong second half was the difference: complete with hitting free throws, a strong team effort, Rodney Cooper waking up, and Levi Randolph playing lights-out ball on both ends of the court.

Alabama Fan Gets Wedding RSVP from Nick and Terry Saban

"When going over my list for the wedding, I daydreamed and got off topic by thinking about who I could invite that could be a part of my ‘A-list,’" Marriott told Yellowhammer News. "I mean, who wouldn’t want Nick Saban at their wedding?"

You'd think with a guy with $7 million burning a hole in his pocket could at least send a toaster.

SEC pre-spring position rankings: RB - ESPN

3. Alabama: Henry is a bull and homerun threat, but the return of veteran Kenyan Drake (leg) will provide Alabama with the perfect complement in the backfield with his tremendous speed and elusiveness.

Take Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Alabama; throw them in a hat; pick one at random; prosper. There is just not much appreciable difference in quality, and quality depth, even if running style varies.

Must Read: Shaka Smart Radio Show - Black Shoe Diaries

"We talk to our guys all the time about the difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in something, you do it when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you do it all the time, even when you lost that feeling that you originally had when you you made the original commitment.

The PSU site unearthed a really interesting transcript of Shaka Smart's radio show. Smart is true to his name, as this is an exceptionally thoughtful read on the process of buying in, and the culture in basketball of essentially committing only when the sky is blue. He also touches in he psyche of student-athletes (including where players read criticism and it affects their play.) If you needed another reason (besides not being a despicable person) to avoid default internet vitriol and personal attacks, then this is a must-read.

The Crimson White :: :: A tabby cat in the caddy shack: Jerry serves as unofficial mascot for UA golf teams

Weighing about eight pounds, the grey tabby cat with four white paws has stolen the hearts of most of the two teams. Men’s golf coach Jay Seawell said Jerry is much more than a cat to the two teams. "Oh, she’s a great cat," he said. "She’s not your stereotypical, standoffish cat. She likes to hang out with you. Her favorite thing is to go sit on the couch with you when you’re watching TV."

I stand firmly with #TeamDog, but there are some cats, for instance, that will hunker down beside you and wreck their own plate of buffalo chicken, just like your dog or shiftless roommate. Those cats are pretty chill, and Jerry seems to be the latter sort of critter.

Here's your bad news

Alabama softball drops one spot in USA Today poll | TuscaloosaNews.com

Alabama (13-3) dropped one spot from third to fourth in the USA Today/NFCA coaches poll and remained at No. 5 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 when both polls were released Tuesday. The Crimson Tide dropped two games to Michigan, which moved up to No. 3 in both polls.

Michigan paid the iron price, and by right of conquest claimed Alabama's No. 3 ranking (a convincing two-game sweep will do that.) Alabama meanwhile slides into the cozy No. 5 spot the Wolverines kept warm for them.

Auburn addresses allegations of harassment from Air Force veteran - CBSSports.com

Auburn has investigated the situation and included an apology from Williams in its official statement. The school determined that nothing was done with "disrespectful intent,"

I'm willing to take Auburn at their word: spouting profanity at, and giving the bird to, a combat vet and her service animal probably doesn't count as "disrespectful intent" in that program. The whole statement is a non-apology apology, and the EEOC office is still investigating the matter.

Auburn shows off their rich tradition with this recruiting video

In an effort to show off that rich tradition to recruits, the video guys put together this clip to remind recruits of the past that is associated with Auburn football, which includes various national award winners, nail-biting ends to rivalry games, and NFL Draft picks.

Speaking of Auburn, this video is pretty straight forward hype video fare. What particularly galls me, however, is that Auburn builds their recruiting pitches on the back of Alabama losses. For years, I have maintained that I would be happy to never play another Iron Bowl again. Alabama should not dignify Alabama Poly by selling out their season ticket packages, validating their program, putting butts in their stadium seats, giving them extra press, giving them recruiting fodder. Move Auburn to the East, where their natural and geographic rivalries lay, and put the Ag & Mechanical school on the rotational with teams like Georgia, Mizzou and other miscreants.

The "Year of Readiness" has been branded, and seemingly no one thinks it is a good idea.

Big Ten wants to discuss 'year of readiness' for freshmen - CBSSports.com

ACC commissioner John Swofford told Solomon. "We're in a period now where everybody is trying to get a hold of the student-athlete experience and a recommitment, if you will, to balance academics and athletics."

Coming from a commissioner that oversaw one of the nation's biggest academic fraud scandals at one of its benchmark institutions (UNC,) and has still failed to act, this is rich. Sadly, this idea is one that is not going away, it seems. The entire statement is available at that link and it is, as you'd guess, disingenuous as hell.

Don't expect freshman ineligibility discussion to amount to much - CBSSports.com

Any change would be in the form of formal legislation that would have to go through the newly configured NCAA Council. Seventy-five percent of the weighted vote in the 40-person Council is be controlled by the Power 5, FCS and the rest of Division I without football. One big question: Can an Eastern Washington, Monmouth or South Alabama afford those freshman scholarships with no return on the field? "I can't see [freshman ineligibility] ever getting legs," Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta said over the weekend.

As expected, hoops coaches are already pushing back. Dienhart isn't buying it either, even though the "YOR" may very well not go away soon or quietly. Per Roll 'Bama Roll decree, "YOR" shall be pronounced like a pirate henceforth.

Dear players: Want money? It's going to cost more than you think | NCAA Football | Sporting News

The argument no longer is about paying players; that’s happening no matter what fancy name you call it. It’s not about student athletes securing name and likeness marketability; that’s happening, too. By trying to recapture the stated higher education goal (you know, what college is really all about), universities are banking they can at least devalue the "minor leagues" narrative — and maybe reach a percentage of student athletes they couldn’t before.

And, the reason it won't go away soon is because, as Matt Hayes rightly notes, this initiative is at least partly a PR ploy.

That horrible idea to ban freshmen from playing? Big Ten calling it the 'year of readiness' - SBNation.com

"If the NCAA penalized freshmen football and men's basketball players for not performing in the classroom, some might see it as robbing athletes of a healthy outlet -- and as disproportionately targeting black players by zeroing in on two of the only black-majority sports. It would also lump all freshman players into the same academic group, whether they're ready for the educational rigors of higher education or not."

While the YOR is at least partially a PR ploy, as I stated on Monday the whole scheme to me smacks of implicit racism too. Testudo Times, the Maryland SBN site, at least has the gumption to call out their own conference commissioner on it.

Hot takes

This is your hubris of the year...already.

SEC roundtable: Which conference job has the most upside? - ESPN

I believe it is on its way to becoming one of the premier jobs in college football, a top-five caliber job. Texas A&M will always have Texas to compete with, but its move to the SEC went a long way in leveling the playing field. Some might even argue the Aggies now have a slight advantage.

This is an excellent point. That school has more money than god, proximity to amazing talent, and now it has access and exposure to the premier football conference in America (and the conference's own multi-channel networks.) Aggie scares me more as a long-term threat than anyone other team in the division.

Pro and Combine

Jarret Johnson announces retirement after 12 NFL seasons | AL.com

Johnson spent his first nine NFL seasons with the Ravens and the past three with the Chargers, serving as San Diego's defensive captain during the 2014 season.

A hearty "Roll Tide" to Jarrett Johnson for a fantastic career.

Growing fantasy legions pump up NFL combine appeal | College Football

Men in their mid-30s and early-40s with disposable income make up the core audience for both the combine and fantasy. That correlation is never clearer than when quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers — the key point-producers for fantasy teams — go through their paces at the combine.

Neeeeerrrrrrrrrddddddds

NFL Combine: How Miami wasted so much talent in 2014 & more | FOX Sports

It's commendable that all of the Canes we spoke to in Indy said it's more on them than it should be on Golden or the UM coaches, but there's also an old coaching axiom: You're either coaching it or allowing it to happen.

The flipside to Shaka Smart's position that players have to be mentally checked-in is the situation in Miami. Al Golden has been, and remains, nothing more than a placeholder coach; one meant to right the ship at least from an ethical position, even if not actually produce results on the field. As a coach, he's nothing special, and like Bruce Feldman says above, he's either coaching dumb play or persistently permitting it to occur. He'll be gone by Christmas, I'd wager. Lane Kiffin, Coral Gables on line one.

Finally

Watch: Tarantulas recovered after crawlspace theft - UPI.com

A Georgia man said someone stole five hibernating tarantulas from the crawlspace beneath his home and sold them at a local pet store.

Well, I'm glad that worked out for him.