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Thursday Hub Watches Them All

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Mangino: Ratings magnet. Who knew? (Get well soon, coach)
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Blown Championship Series. The ever vigilant Wiz has the very predictable scoop on the BCS' television performance, which is that ratings were way, way down, to their lowest numbers since the Series' popularity peaked a decade ago. The only BCS game that showed an increase from 2006 viewership (which was also down from 2005, though to a lesser extent than this year's drop) was the Orange, which also happened to be the only one of the five that was still in doubt in the fourth quarter. But even the Orange, along with the Sugar and Fiesta bowls, was beaten easily by the back-and-forth shootout between Florida and Michigan in the Citrus Capital One Bowl, which along with the mythical championship matchup proves Americans really want three things from their quasi-amateur football: a) Immediately recognizable, mega-school teams that are on TV almost every week, b) A chance to taunt Big Ten/SEC friends and coworkers with inviolable evidence of regional superiority, and c) A decent game. Well, four things, according to Jon Solomon's account of the numbers in the Birmingham News: 51 percent of viewers in a Nielsen poll favored a playoff.

Terrelle Pryor Is So 2007-08. Signing Day is a week away, but it's never too soon to start the heavy breathing over the Class of 2009, which has already begun committing. After publishing the "earliest non-alphabetical junior list" in its history in December, Rivals updated its 2009 Top 100 for the first time Tuesday, bumping up Michigan commit William Campbell of Detroit and Austin quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who has offers from Texas A&M, Nebraska and Texas Tech. What changed for these two fine future stars since December? I dunno - maybe their acne cleared, or the head cheerleader agreed to go to the prom with them? That's got to be worth a star, I would think.

On the Terrelle Pryor Watch, with the rest of the world waiting on the result of a neck-and-neck race between Ohio State and Michigan down the stretch, JoPa went for the old Paterno Charm in a face-to-face meeting with Pryor at Jeannette High Wednesday, where the coach no doubt showed off some of the "residual benefits" awaiting the nation's most exciting recruit in Happy Valley:

That skirt's pretty high up, don't you think, son? Eh? Eh?
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Pryor was reportedly speechless, which is not a "no." You can build on that.

An excellent analysis of the concept of "constraint offense" at the fascinating, too infrequent Smart Football, concerning those "keep 'em honest" plays fans sometimes complain about but which are essential to keeping the base offense – the "bread and butter" stuff at the heart of an offensive philosophy – viable in the face of over-aggressive defenses.

Now, in a given game your offense might look like it is all "constraint" plays: all gimmicks, screens, traps, draws, fakes and the like. Maybe so. If the defense plays too aggressively, so what. But a coach must not lose sight of how his offense is truly structured. A great offense is structured around a core idea or a few core ideas that puts the players in position to succeed every time. The triple option can be this for some teams, a well designed dropback pass game for another. The constraints are alternatively given too much and not enough weight. But they nevertheless are what make an offense go.
The upshot of all this is that when you are designing an offense you must (a) find those one or two things which you can hang your hat on and beat just about anything doing when the defense is playing honest, and (b) get good at all those little "constraint" plays which keep the defense playing honest. You won’t win championships simply throwing the bubble screen, but the bubble will help keep you from losing games when the defense wants to crash your run game. Same with draws and screens if you’re a passing team. You find ways to do what you want and put your players in position to win and score.

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Now: keep that fresh for the next seven months and be ready to search for patterns and adjustments in September. There will be a test.

Coming and Going.
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It's not exactly "pay for play," which is still verbotten for the forseeable future, but the NCAA did agree to allow year-round health insurance to all athletes, "find fewer restrictions" to reimbursing players for "educational expenses" (textbooks, etc.) and set aside $10 million for ex-athletes as part of a settlement with three former jocks. This seems like a victory for the NCAA, which gets to deny any wrongdoing, considering the suit alleged an unlawful restraint on trade on the Association's part that "den[ies] a legitimate share of the tremendous benefits of their enterprise to the student-athletes who make the big business of big-time college sports possible."

Pete Carroll met with the Washington Redskins. No biggie.

Notre Dame legend-by-proxy James Heathman, who as a teenager watched Knute Rockne's plane crash and came across the wreckage in his family's field in Kansas in 1931, died at age 90 Tuesday of pneumonia. Hethman was known for taking Irish pilgrims on free tours of the crash site for decades, the most boring football-related activity ever.

Just for the record, this is Alabama's newest hire, who becomes the SEC's first naked mole rat coordinator:

Boundaries are breaking.

The Rap Sheet
Crimes, misdemeanors and eligibility-crippling issues legal, academic, institutional and otherwise.
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Harassed, a former Miss Teen Pennsylvania working as female manager at Hofstra, who alleges she was "subjected to sexual harassment `during every bus trip that she made in the 2006 season,'" including one shocking display of testosterone-driven cheuvanism:

The most egregious episode came on a bus ride home from the team's final game against the University of Massachusetts following a 2-9 season. An assistant coach put a pornographic film on the bus's video player that at one point featured an interracial sex scene, [Lauren] Summa's lawsuit claims.

Players immediately began shouting and yelling obscenities, Summa said, including one who confronted her yelling, "This is what you white women want ..." Soon after complaining, she said the coach turned off the video.
She said the harassment began almost immediately after beginning work in August 2006, when players learned that she was dating one of their teammates. She said the harassment began with teammates joking about the player's "lack of suitability for Ms. Summa" and continued with some players making sexual propositions.

She also claimed that the following month, a player mocked her on Facebook, calling her "Miss Piggie" and depicting her in a phony "Wanted" poster.

She said she complained to head coach Dave Cohen, and said despite assurances he would take disciplinary action, nothing happened and the harassment continued.

During an October 2006 bus ride back from a game at the University of Delaware, players locked Summa in the bathroom, she claims. Her lawsuit says when she went to Cohen again, he told her it wasn't serious, and reporting it to campus authorities "would only draw unnecessary attention to the football program."
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My first instinct re: the porn tape - thinking of the old story about a babe reporter in a locker room, approached by a player who asked her, "What does this look like?," who responded, "It looks like a penis. Only smaller." - is to wonder why anyone who voluntarily boarded a bus full of college-age football players, especially a self-professed "avid and life-long football fan," would be even a little surprised or shaken by this behavior. But this is not only about the thickness of Summa's skin, which actually seems admirable in light of the timing: the suit only comes now, more than a year after the lewdness in question, because she was dropped from the athletic staff before the start of last season and an offer to work in the university's P.R. office was rescinded.

The natural assumption is that his diss was retribution for the complaints, which crosses a line mere vulgarity and tastelessness only toes. Offend a woman's sense of decency if you must, but don't touch her career.

Disciplined, Tennessee offensive lineman Anthony Parker, who despite being cleared for his mideameanor shoutin' and cussin' arrest from last weekend will be subjected by Phil Fulmer to indignities including, but not limited to, morning runs, curfew, community service and participation in police ride-alongs. The last one is most interesting because of the details of the account in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, which got a hold of and subsequently recounted in stunning detail a few police dashboard videos since 2006 that show Parker in a series of minor, turn-down-that-racket type confrontations with the same campus police officer, who also issued the latest citation last weekend. How gripping is that? One-hundred-nine comments on the News-Sentinel account as of 7:30 a.m. Central time says pretty interesting, at least to Vol partisans and "Phat Phil Phines his Phelons" haters. At last check, the paper's story on possible tuition increases has eight comments.

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