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The Vent
Friday, December 10, 2005
By Ron Cherubini

Livid list: Things to be perturbed about


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Now that the season is over for the Pirates and is winding down for the rest of college football, I’d like to take the opportunity to let off some steam from this season in a new column I call The Vent.

The Vent is purely editorial.

If you have a vent you would like to get off your chest — positive or negative — feel free to send me an email and I might include it in the next installment.

All-conference slights

While I understand that a 5-6 team (4-4 in the league) may not have a bevy of all-conference players, I cannot help but feel like the team was a bit slighted when I read the Conference USA release announcing this year’s all-league selections.

Obviously, there was no denying Aundrae Allison’s selection and I sincerely feel that Chris Moore has become a sentimental favorite throughout the league, so his selection does not surprise me. What does surprise, however, is that quarterback James Pinkney and place kicker Robert Lee, as well as punter Ryan Dougherty, did not make even the backup lists.

The omission of Pinkney is the most baffling. He was good enough to be named Conference Offensive Player of the Week three times — most of any in the league — yet he was not good enough to merit even a third team selection? It can’t be the 4-4 record… or UAB's Darrell Hackney would not be the first-team selection. Looking at the statistics, it would seem that the selections came down to passing yardage only — hardly the measure of a quarterback.

Overlooking Lee is puzzling as well, though there are some very good kickers in the league. His accuracy was tops in the league… hmmmm. Hard to imagine a better measure for a kicker.

And though Dougherty may not have punted for the yardage he has in the past, it seems to me that his ability to pin teams inside the 20 should have been a factor along with his historic performance.

I have no issue with no East Carolina rookies being selected for the all-freshman team, because that indicates we are doing something right — redshirting those guys. Still, I would hope that Dominique Lindsay would have gotten some consideration.

This ECU team, though, seems to respond well to locker room material, so I hope Coach Holtz clips this and lets these kids stew on it for an off-season.

FSU under my skin

I know, I know… why pick on a program that is suffering like the Seminoles? Three losses and temporarily out of the top 25 for the first time in what seemed like forever... and yet they got the opportunity to redeem themselves in the ACC championship game. Go figure.

That program so irritates me I cannot resist using some of this space to vent a little about the "Criminoles."

At the beginning of the 2005 season, Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden was at it again. The coach who loves to bask in the spotlight and takes great pride in his reputation as the great coach who teaches boys to become men, showed once again that, in reality, one of the primary lessons he is teaching is that it doesn’t matter what you do off the field; as long as you are great on the field, you are going to suit up.

His latest actions, at the beginning of the 2005 season, may not reveal any NCAA compliance issues at FSU, but they certainly give insight into the way this man operates.

When it comes to star players, Bowden somehow finds justification to ensure that they are in the lineup come Saturdays. When linebacker Ernie Sims was arrested after beating his live-in girlfriend outside a university residence hall and when fellow linebacker A.J. Nicholson was busted for DUI following a couple of noted run-ins with local police, Bowden opted to do what he seems to do best: serve himself.

"There are more ways to discipline other than suspension," Bowden said at the Atlantic Coast Conference's football media kickoff prior to the season. "You've heard of pain, haven't you?”

Oh that was nice, make them run laps. Isn’t it wonderful how playing his top players despite whatever they have perpetrated off the field is only about them… he does it for them. The two were certainly in the lineup for FSU’s September 5 opener. And believe it… had they been players who weren’t going to factor into the season, they would have been suspended or outright booted to make an example.

But this pattern of behavior is not new… it is Bowden’s M.O.

Case in point:

Who can forget the now famous Free Shoes University [thanks Steve Spurrier] scandal of 1993. That year is hard to forget. While the national media from day one was touting it Bobby Bowden’s year to finally win the title (which he did, though you could argue whether FSU should have even been playing for the title instead of Notre Dame — but that is for another column), his players were out on a shopping spree at a local Foot Locker. Sports agents treated several players, including eventual NFL star linebacker Derrick Brooks, to $6,000 worth of sports gear — a major violation of NCAA rules. The players should have been deemed ineligible, the university put on probation and several people indicted.

Instead, the five players, Brooks along with tailback Tiger McMillan, and linemen Patrick McNeil, Marcus Long, and Forrest Connelly — all of whom knew what they were doing was ILLEGAL — were suspended for… now get this… one game. After the championship was in the bag… then Bowden suspended five players… in 1994.

On top of that, the old coach essentially cut the press off from access to the team in 1993 and personally vilified the writers who broke the story for inferring that he knew what was going on. Unfortunately for Bowden, he inferred it himself.

Before the news of the scandal broke, in hyping up his players, Bowden spoke of Brooks as being so close to him that the star player was like “another son.”

Of course Bowden didn’t know anything about it. But then you have to ask, why did FSU supposedly pay $400,000 to investigate the scandal and “prove” that Bowden was not culpable?

Funny thing, just a few years later, Bowden’s players were at it again… this time star receiver Peter Warrick and lesser known wideout Laverneous Coles went into a Dillard’s Department Store and knowingly “purchased” more than $400 worth of clothes for $21 from a clerk/friend at the store. Oddly, Warrick was slapped on the wrist (two-game suspension) and went on to star for FSU in the national title game. Coles, who at the time was already on court-ordered probation, was booted from the team.

And there are so many more examples — albeit most circumstantial — of the Bowden approach to "discipline." His mantra appears to be: If you can help me win, you can practically commit murder and I will play.

For example, and certainly less heinous, Sebastian Janikowski — the former big-legged kicker at FSU — also a member of the 1999 championship team, publicly violated team rules by drinking all night on Bourbon Street. The rule in Bowden’s law book called for him to be suspended for one game. That is, unless it is the championship game. Bowden started the junior kicker.

And who can forget how embarrassing it must have been that quarterback Chris Rix was forced to miss the Sugar Bowl that year because he failed to take a final exam? Embarrassing only because it a concrete rule required that Bowden actually suspend the student-athlete for failing to adhere to the student part of the equation. See, Bowden, faced with the exact same situation — but without the rule — started Deion Sanders in the 1989 Sugar Bowl despite knowing that his star DB didn’t take his final exams.

Again, a pattern of behavior.

Any wonder why Bowden’s protégé over in Raleigh is constantly getting accused of playing fast and loose? You know, the old “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” theory. Wolfpackers can thank good ol’ Saint Bobby for that.

Pretty obvious how I feel about Bowden and what I consider his rogue program down in Tallahassee. For fun, go to Google and perform some queries using phrases like "Florida State football rap sheet." You'll come up with some interesting finds.

N&O team runs misdirection play

Leave it to The News & Observer, notorious for burying ECU successes deep in the paper and prominently displaying news that could be deemed negative or disruptive to the program. I have struggled to figure out if the paper has an agenda to shed as much bad light on ECU as possible — or are they just so steeped in their biases toward the ACC schools that they can’t help themselves?

A couple cases in point.

The People’s Evidence A:

While Jaymes Powell Jr.’s November 26th story about Aundrae Allison’s thoughts on a potential early jump to the NFL was certainly fair game, it underscores the thought process that appears to be group think at the Raleigh newspaper.

I am not doubting that Allison not only is considering the NFL jump but also was open enough to talk about it. I am just disappointed that was chosen as the angle of the story at the time it was written. Seems to be more appropriate for an off-season story.

Instead, the story could easily have been focused on the possibilities that obviously exist for Allison next year as a Pirate. Maybe a story about his being a leading candidate for the Biletnekoff award in 2006 or how he might emerge as a darkhorse Heisman candidate or be the catalyst who started ECU’s climb back to prominence. Maybe how he has helped a group of marginal receivers become very good ones. Any of those angles would have been just as well read. Instead, he went for angle that would cause controversy… let’s ask the kid if he has considered his NFL prospects.

Not sure why I even browse that paper anymore… must be the journalist in me.

The People’s Evidence B:

In a December 2 story by J.P. Giglio, the case is made that Duke’s season-opening loss to East Carolina this season destroyed the season for the Blue Devils. The inference was that losing to a team that is as bad as ECU took all the hopes out of the Duke sails, somehow capsizing the team's season despite its talent and coaching prowess.

Interesting angle considering just how bad Duke was a year ago as well. Maybe Duke, like the rest of the North Carolina based ACC clubs, is simply in over its head in the ACC football league. Maybe the fact that it is a private school with extremely rigid academic requirements limits its ability to recruit players on par with Maimi, Virginia Tech, and FSU.

Or, maybe a 5-6 ECU club simply was better then the Blue Devils and and merely revealed that Duke was once again going to struggle against much of the ACC. Perhaps a more credible slant for The N&O would have been to write about how the Big Four ACC schools ought to focus their hopes on hoops, accept their secondary place in the football pecking order and let the rest of the ACC football powers have a real conference.

Lord knows, they have enough money pumping through the coffers to compete in football… one problem, they’re just not very good at it and Duke has made an art of being bad.

So many angles available for Giglio to write about Duke’s hapless football program… but the paper goes with the left-handed slap at ECU. Interesting for sure.

Giving the devil his due

I have never been a fan of Britton Banowsky, the C-USA Commissioner, mainly because I have always felt that he didn’t fight for the league when the Big East came looking to rape the conference. I felt that he was more concerned with relocating the conference to form a Texas league than he was in helping the league elevate its stature.

Still, I must give credit where warranted. When C-USA inked its deal with CSTV — I thought, here we go again — it was a risk to be sure, but when CBS bought the fledgling CSTV network earlier this month, the pact negotiated by Banowsky suddenly looked like a stroke of genius.

With CBS, the Pirates, along with the rest of C-USA, may eventually find themselves showcased over a national network. The increased exposure possibilities are mind-boggling.

For this one, I gotta give him his due.

Send an e-mail message to Ron Cherubini.

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02/23/2007 02:06:17 PM

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