Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:40 am

Gene Smith sabotages Urban Meyer, keeps job

When Ohio State athletics director Gene Smith pulled Urban Meyer out of a hat, I thought he had saved his job. More to the point, I thought he should have saved his job. That was a huge hire, the perfect hire, and for being able to pull off that coup, Smith deserved to stay.

Until Tuesday.

And now I'm back to where I've been for the last year, wondering how the hell Gene Smith still has a job.

Other than the Meyer hire, Smith has shown the kind of incompetence that gets a guy fired in almost every other walk of life. If he was a football coach, he'd be Cam Cameron (NFL career record of 1-15, meaning he did win a game once). If he was a cook, he got the salad right but he burned the main course ... and the restaurant.

Never mind the incompetence, the inability to gauge a situation and respond correctly, after Smith learned Jim Tressel had lied to him and jeopardized the school's good name by playing Terrelle Pryor and others after those players had clearly broken NCAA rules. Smith's reaction was to stand by Tressel until someone else -- the NCAA, the school president, the board of trustees, someone -- made it clear to him that Tressel had to go.

That was so bad, I thought Smith should be fired. And I wrote as much.

Then he hired Meyer, a job-saving hire. As I wrote.

But now this. This miscalculation of NCAA penalties. This crazy, ridiculous, indefensible theory of his that the NCAA wouldn't give his football program a postseason ban for Tressel's enormous ethical lapse. That theory, which existed in Smith's mind and -- I assure you -- almost nowhere else, explains why the Buckeyes are playing in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2.

Because Gene Smith didn't think he should sacrifice the bowl game of this lost season to save a bowl game for next season. He didn't think he needed to. Gene, next time your phone rings, I can assure you this: It's not Mensa.

Smith was wrong about the severity of the NCAA violations, but it's more than being wrong: He was stupid. What Tressel allowed under his watch was worse, I'd argue, than the latest scandal at Southern California. Pete Carroll didn't catch a cheater, no, but Tressel caught one ... and let him play anyway.

And still, after the Trojans were hit with a postseason ban, Gene Smith thought the Buckeyes wouldn't be?

Thanks to his boss's misjudgment, Urban Meyer has to start his career with a postseason ban hanging over his first season, undercutting his first recruiting class.

If I'm running Ohio State, I'm firing Gene Smith today. But I'm not running Ohio State. E. Gordon Gee is, and that dude told the Columbus Dispatch on Tuesday, after the sanctions came down, "I have been a consistent supporter of Gene and remain so."

Then you should go too, E.

Posted on: December 17, 2011 1:56 pm

You can have Rudy; give me Tebow

I don't ask for much, but I'm asking for Tim Tebow to be left alone. By gold-digging groupies and drug-pushing lackeys. By friends with big mouths, and by strangers with cell-phone cameras. By TMZ.

Most of all, by TMZ.

We don't have many fairy tales in sports, feel-good stories like that movie about the 5-foot-6 walk-on at Notre Dame who spent four years getting his ass kicked in practice before finally being allowed to play in his final home game, against Georgia Tech. He recorded a sack on the last play and was carried off the field by teammates. That's how the movie Rudy ends.

The real story? Rudy Ruettiger was unmasked this week as a financial fraud, a liar and a swindler who used his fame -- and a series of lies -- to pump up the profile of his company to unwitting investors, then dump the stock at an enormous profit.

There are no fairy tales anymore, not in sports. Turns out, the biggest home-run hitter in baseball was just sentenced to house arrest and probation for lying about the steroids that made his power possible. Turns out, the cleanest big-time football coach in America was shielding a predator, allowing former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky to roam State College, Pa., for nearly a decade after being told by an eyewitness that Sandusky was a child molester.

Turns out, Rudy was a white-collar scumbag.

Where have you gone, Tim Tebow? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. So I'm asking everyone else to leave the man alone. Do not tempt him. Do not rat him out. Give us the myth of Tebow. He's the last one we've got.

And just so you know, at the moment I'm perfectly willing to believe the myth of Tebow is no myth at all. I believe he's actually what he seems to be, a clean-living, God-fearing, credit-deflecting, groupie-ignoring, baby-kissing Puritan.

Seriously. I believe all of that, and I'm as cynical as it gets. Show me a half-full glass, and I'll point out that it's really half-empty, and since I'm not sure where the glass came from in the first place, I'm going to assume the waiter spit in it. Drink it if you want, but not me. I have no idea where that glass has been.

But I know where Tebow has been. I've read his book, listened to his testimony, followed his career. I can hear his voice in my head, and it's an unusual voice for a superstar. He sounds like a little kid, earnest and excited and innocent. He has the voice of a Boy Scout, not an NFL quarterback. He's so square, I'm assuming his helmet was specially made with right angles.

That's who he is now. I'm sure of it. But will Tebow stay that way? Lord I hope so, so please don't get me wrong here: I'm not rooting for Tebow to fall, as everyone eventually falls. I'm not calling him perfect or anything ridiculous like that. But it's not a stretch to say he's as perfect, off the field, as any superstar today.

Please let him stay that way, but for that, he'll need some help from all of you. He'll need the groupies to leave him alone, to not bring him down as they brought down Tiger Woods. He has managed to avoid a sex scandal of any sort -- even the sort of stuff that, in some circles, has made living legends of Derek Jeter and Tom Brady -- but for how long? Don't ask. And if you find out, don't tell.

He'll need the pushers of PED's to skip his locker, to not whisper into his ear that everyone else is doing it, that if he wants to stay ahead of the monsters who are trying to hurt him on any given Sunday, that he'd better use the same supplements they're using. And they're using the finest HGH and steroids available -- primo stuff, man, and completely undetectable.

Most of all, he'll need us to stop searching for signs of fallibility. Because he is fallible. Let's not be ridiculous here. Tim Tebow is a man, and while he's about as noble a man as I've ever seen, he's still a man. He's human. And humans screw up. Assuming he hasn't already, Tebow will screw up someday, screw up to the point that his cover will be blown and his critics will rejoice.

See! Told you he was a fraud!

The search is ongoing. Deadspin suggested on Dec. 12 that Tebow had broken up U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn's marriage.

Vonn has denied it -- and as far as I can tell, nobody in Denver had the heart to even ask Tebow about it -- but the world wants to know. Do a Google search for "Tim Tebow" and "Lindsey Vonn," and limit it to Dec. 12 and beyond, and you'll find nearly 400,000 results. The rumor has been mentioned by the Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times and People magazine.

Because people are curious: Is Tebow mortal? Is he imperfect?

Of course he is. Most of us know he is.

But let us pretend a bit longer, huh? I don't think anyone's weeping for the downfall of Rudy. But we'd weep for Tebow. And I'd need some Kleenex myself.

Posted on: December 11, 2011 4:13 pm

Texans rally past Bengals, 20-19

CINCINNATI -- Maybe this is heresy. Maybe this will look stupid in a few years, or even a few weeks. But I'm not sure Andy Dalton was the best rookie quarterback in this game.

And the other rookie quarterback was a fifth-round pick most folks had never heard of before last week.

His name is T.J. Yates, and he's now 2-0 as a starter after driving the Texans 80 yards in the final 2:33 to rally the Texans past the Bengals, 20-19, and keep Houston in position for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs -- while all but knocking the Bengals out of the postseason picture.

Andy Dalton is a fine quarterback, don't get me wrong. But Yates is equally impressive, with much less pedigree and hype and draft status.

Sunday he threw for 300 yards, nearly twice Dalton's output, and he did it without the massive weapon Dalton has in A.J. Green, who goes and gets jump balls.

More coming ...

Posted on: December 11, 2011 2:29 pm

Cronin's press conference: must-see TV for all

What happened Saturday between Cincinnati and Xavier was disgusting, and it deserves words along those lines. Words of disgust and revulsion, heavy-handed words about the need for suspensions or expulsions after players from both teams brawled so badly that officials simply called off the game with time left on the clock. It was either that, or eject almost everybody and call it a forfeit on both sides. Which wouldn't have been a bad idea, come to think of it ...

But anyway, those are not the words I'm writing today. Other people have written those words, and they are fine words, but not me. Not here. Not today.

Because what happened Saturday after Cincinnati and Xavier brawled was beautiful, and it deserves words along those lines. Words of wonder and passion, high-minded words about the need for self-improvement and self-respect. In fact, it deserves words I'm not capable of writing, because nothing I write here -- with hours to think, edit, arrange -- can compare to the 12 minutes of words that flew out of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin in the aftermath of the ugliest afternoon of his coaching career.

From here on out, you're going to read more from Mick Cronin than you're going to read from me, because I can't top what he said after the game Saturday. Maybe I can add some context here and there, and I'll try, but starting now the floor goes to Cronin, who sat down behind the microphones on Saturday and volunteered the following about what he had just witnessed:

"There is no excuse for that in basketball," Cronin said. "You've got to learn how to win on one side, you've got to learn how to lose on the other side. All these kids all need to realize they are here to get an education ...

"These guys, very few of them are ever going to make a dollar playing basketball. They are here to get an education at two great universities and they need to appreciate that. The world doesn't revolve around them, around basketball. They need to learn how to act -- they need to have respect for the fact they are on a scholarship, that people come to see them play."

From here, let me say that these are not words I would have expected to hear from Cronin. The first time we "met," it was a phone call in 2005 from Cronin after I had written something about his team at Murray State. I believe the word I used that set Cronin off was "renegade," a reference to any program that would allow Keith Jenifer to dress out. Cronin objected to the word. Maybe I was wrong in 2005. Maybe I was right, and Cronin has changed since then. I don't know, and I don't care. Today I'm marveling at Mick Cronin's reaction to Saturday's fight. More from him:

"Too much glorification of all of sports in our society," Cronin said. "The fact is, guys are here to get an education. They represent institutions of higher learning. Xavier has been a great school for years. We are trying to cure cancer at Cincinnati. I go to school at a place where they discovered the vaccine for polio and created Benadryl. I think that's more important than who wins a basketball game."

Notice how Cronin mentions both teams, both schools, because he was speaking not just as a coach, but as a human being. The coach in him was horrified at what his own players had done, but the human being in him was distraught about the actions of both teams. He made it a point not to lay the blame on Xavier, noting that players on both teams had been talking all game. Who said what, and when? Why did it escalate? Cronin wasn't worried about that. More from him:

"If my players don't act the right way, they will never play another game at Cincinnati," Cronin said. "Right now, I just told my guys, 'I will meet with my AD and my president and I'm going to decide who is on the team going forward.' I've never been this embarrassed. I'm hoping [UC] President [Gregory] Williams doesn't ask me to resign after that.

"I made everybody take their jersey off -- and they will not put it on again until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the university stands for and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship, because there's a whole lot of kids that can't pay for college and don't get to go to school. My mom didn't get to go to UC. She grew up on campus, [but] they couldn't afford it."

At this point, a media member asked Cronin if he'd literally made his players take off their jerseys. More from him:

"Absolutely -- they are all sitting in there with no jersey on," Cronin said. "Some of them I physically took them off. That whole scene, it's embarrassing. To be a part of that? Are you kidding me? It's a complete embarrassment. No matter who started what. Just the whole thing, it's a complete embarrassment."

Cronin's team had just lost 76-53, which was the score when officials called off the game. More from him:

"We talk all the time: Toughness is doing the right thing in life. That is what we talk about. If that is the case, [if] you are being provoked, this or that -- true toughness, you walk away from it. You take your ass-whipping and you go home."

Cronin then brought up something he'd seen on television in recent weeks, a segment on 60 Minutes about the rising number of homeless in Central Florida.

"Guys, there's thousands of people in our country -- watch 60 Minutes -- that's homeless. You are not that important. None of us. Have some class. Represent your university, and I am talking about everybody involved. Let's be honest, guys, come on. It's a basketball game.

"Represent our university. That is what I was hired to do six years ago. That's what will happen as long as I'm the coach. Whether we have five guys on the team on Monday or 10 or 13. There is enough guys out there that would appreciate the scholarship. I don't care how good you are."

Some tougher follow-up from Cronin would have been nice. It's one thing to talk tough, and it's something else to be tough. Cronin suspended his best two big men, Yancy Gates and Cheikh Mbodj, for six games after Gates sucker-punched Xavier's Kenny Frease, and Mbodj appeared to stomp on him. Cronin also suspended Octavius Ellis for six games, and Ge'Lawn Guyn for one.

Tough enough? Matter of opinion. Gates and Mbodj could have been kicked off the team, but I'm in no mood to second-guess Cronin. Not after what he said Saturday. Some will say -- based on the relatively short suspensions for Gates and Mbodj -- that Cronin was speaking empty words on Saturday.

Me, I'd disagree. Empty words? Those words were chock-full of outrage and perspective. They were words every coach in the country should show his players this week. Lord knows most coaches would never say those words themselves. Since when has a Division I coach ever said, "The world doesn't revolve around basketball," or, "You [players] are not that important"?

Cronin finished Saturday's speech with a flourish.

"That whole scene is just an embarrassment," he said. "Guys think they are way too important in the scope of what is going on in the world. It's not professional sports. Thanks guys."

Cronin got up and left. The video of the press conference ends there, but not before you can hear the final sound: Applause from those in attendance.

Posted on: December 9, 2011 10:42 am
Edited on: December 9, 2011 2:21 pm

Heisman has to be RG3 -- but I'm skeptical

Right about now, I'm a lot like or Taboo or Fergie. OK, you're right. I'm nothing like any of them.

Because I got a feeling ...

... that Saturday night's not gonna be a good night.

This is about the Heisman ceremony on Saturday night, a trophy that Baylor's Robert Griffin III should win easily. And that's what some are projecting, including's Dennis Dodd, whose straw poll of 23 voters shows RG3 winning huge.

Still, I got a feeling ...

First, it's all those ESPN guys saying Griffin might not, or even won't, win the thing. A few days ago Craig James said this on national television: "I don't think [Griffin] has a chance of winning."

We all know Craig James is a clown of the highest order, but that's either the dumbest thing that has ever come out of his mouth (wow), or he's onto something scary. Kirk Herbstreit is no clown -- plus the man's damn good-looking -- but in the last few days he said something straight out of the Pony Playbook: "[Griffin] is from Baylor. He's not going to win the Heisman."

And then this morning, on the Mike and Mike show on ESPN Radio -- yeah, I listen to Mike and Mike -- Mel Kiper said he wasn't sure Griffin would win the Heisman.

That's three different prominent media guys -- and maybe even three Heisman voters -- who are rebutting what everyone else seems to be saying, that RG3 is going to win the Heisman in a runaway.

Which has me thinking.

What if all these voters being polled -- by sites like and -- have been lying to pollsters out of outright embarrassment? Because while it has become nationally accepted in recent days that RG3 should win the Heisman, it wasn't so obvious a week ago.

And lots of Heisman voters sent in their vote early.

So many  voted early that the Downtown Athletic Club sent out a mass "thank you" last week -- before the last major weekend of games -- to all those who did so. All those premature tabulations (shaddup) missed RG3's signature game, a demolition of Texas in which Griffin threw for 320 yards, ran for 32 yards, and compiled four touchdowns. After that game it was apparent to most reasonable college football fans that Griffin (3,998 yards passing, 644 rushing, 45 total touchdowns, six interceptions, the single-season NCAA record for pass efficiency) is the best player in the country.

But what about all those people who voted early?

And what about those lazy voters who decided months ago that the 2011 Heisman was 2010 runner-up Andrew Luck's to lose -- and seeing how he played well this season, he'd done nothing to lose it?

Just saying. Hope I'm wrong, but I got a feeling ...

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 4, 2011 3:53 pm

Steelers 35, Bengals 7

PITTSBURGH -- These aren't the same old Bengals.

I'm not saying that for your benefit, but mine. I'm sitting here, staring at my computer, telling myself not to go off on the Bengals. Telling myself to remember how improved the Bengals have been this season, how promising. Telling myself to fight the urge. Not so I can be nice here in a minute when I return from the locker rooms to write this game column -- but so I can at least avoid being cruel.

But cruel seems like a plausible option, given what just happened here.

The Steelers were good, yes, but the Bengals were horrible. They were so horrible, I wish Chad Ochocinco was back in uniform -- just so he could have experienced this defeat. That's how bad this 35-7 loss to the Steelers was for Cincinnati.

Ochocinco bad.

Quitting bad.

Pathetic bad.

Good thing I've decided not to be cruel, huh? Yeesh. Back soon.

Category: NFL
Posted on: November 28, 2011 8:27 am

Meyer to the Buckeyes

Urban Meyer has come out of retirement again to become the football coach at Ohio State, opening himself to mocking by most of the country -- but assuring that Ohio State will make a quick return to national power.

Meyer is that good.

And his story, of course, is that bizarre.

After retiring from Florida in 2009 for a whole day, then retiring again in 2010 for a whole year -- to be with family, he said -- Meyer is back on the sideline according to his most recent employer, ESPN, which reported the deal to be worth $40 million over seven years.

Seven years, $40 million ... sound familiar? It should. Those were the reported terms of this hire a week ago, when Meyer said he hadn't spoken to Ohio State and that no offer had been made. Of course he was using semantics, which will get him crushed today, just as his "retirement for family" will get him crushed today.

Those are valid points, but do not miss the bigger picture: Urban Meyer is a damn good football coach. Ohio State is a damn good football program. Together, they will do special things.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: November 16, 2011 11:25 am
Edited on: November 16, 2011 4:56 pm

There are survivors among you.

It has been my horror to write about the Jerry Sandusky allegations, and it will continue to be my horror. I don't like it. I'm not enjoying it. I wish this story never happened.

I also wish the following emails never happened. Well, to be more clear, I wish the events in the following emails never happened. But I applaud these three readers -- one I know from Twitter, two I don't -- for having the courage to share their stories with me.

The fact that they're strong enough, all these years later, to write what they wrote me? That gives me hope. So thank you, Ryan. And thank you, Patrick. And thank you, Wayne. You know who you are.

From: Ryan
Gregg, As a former victim of molestation while I was a child, I'd like to thank you for sticking up for the victims in this case. Paterno is not a hero, he's a coward that put his career and position above the safety of children. He needed to be fired and now hopefully sued by the victims for not doing more for those kids. Keep fighting and writing for these kids. Trust me, they need it.

Ryan, I like to think of myself as a tough guy, but that's a joke. You're the tough guy. Thanks for writing ... Gregg

From: Patrick
I'm from a small town with a terrible football team, so I've always kind of liked Penn State just because of Joe Pa and his values. He's someone that, through the media, I've learned to care about and admire. I was molested between the ages of 7 to 13 by a next-door neighbor. This scandal hurts so deep and brings so many terrible memories, so long suppressed, to the surface. One of my heroes allowed numerous young boys to be allegedly molested, just like me, and now they have to go through life feeling sexually removed, unloved, and afraid. One of my heroes morphed into everything I hate about my life.

I'm so sorry for what you've gone through -- and are still going through. You've probably heard this a million times, but hear it once more, Patrick: What happened to you was not your fault ... Gregg

From: Wayne
It was so cathartic to read your post from the gas station parking lot about putting the scandal in your rear view. When I was 8, an older boy took advantage of me and coerced me to try oral sex. It didn't feel right and I couldn't go all the way while he went further, but nevertheless, the damage was done. As they should be, the victims are the primary focus and will never be the same from that point forward, as I have not since either, but outsiders are impacted too; especially parents such as yourself. I appreciate your article in the authenticity of it and audacity to put it out there. Those who want to lambaste you for thinking of yourself haven't fully appreciated the impact of being in that cesspool of sh-t or knowing people who have gone through something like that. It wasn't until I found Jesus after high school that I could begin to heal, but still, the road is difficult. Thanks for covering the story in its entirety and with passion.

You stay on that road, Wayne. Thank you for sharing, and overcoming ... Gregg

Update, 5 p.m. Another note just came in from another reader. Heartbreaking, yet uplifting:

From: Kim
I just glanced at your blog and read about the survivors and I want to echo what they have said. Thank you for covering this story in the manner in which you have. You have given all survivors a voice in the media. Much like the 10 year old in shower, someone walked in while our next door neighbor was in the process of raping me, he also turned his back and walked out on me, leaving me there alone with that sick man. I was six. I lost my innocence twice that day. This whole scandal has brought back some many feelings and emotions for me and seeing those students rioting at Penn State over the firing of Paterno made me sick to my stomach. Thank you for being my voice.

Thank you for being so strong ... Gregg

Category: NCAAF
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or