Penn State, example or exception?

Penn State partisans have rarely been on the wrong side of the NCAA. So the notion that players and fans would be punished for a school’s actions comes as a shock to them.

They’re absorbing some of the most severe penalties ever, including a $60 million fine, a four-year bowl ban, scholarship reductions, and the revocation of wins dating back to 1998.  All because of the actions of a handful of individuals.

The NCAA had few options for dealing with those directly involved, the organization’s only recourse to punish supporters and individuals involved in a program with such misplaced priorities.

One is tempted to feel sorry for Penn State fans, except for the fact that many of them were making excuses for a coaching icon and the football program. We doubt University of Louisville fan have cause to be concerned but one doesn’t have to look very far to identify fan bases overlooking the excesses of those in charge.

The NCAA needed to send a message that it the new get tough policy is for real and will be consistently administered. If that doesn’t occur, the Penn State lesson will be shortlived.

Old guard taking notice of Charlie Strong at Louisville

Charlie Strong got a little emotional when was he was announced as head football coach at the University of Louisville in December 2009. (Card Game photo)

So how will Charlie Strong respond when offers start coming in from other college football programs?

His name has already been mentioned in connection with vacancies at Penn State, Texas A&M and Mississippi. Openings also exist at Illinois, Arizona State and UCLA. Charlie Strong will be getting some feelers, if he hasn’t already.

University of Louisville fans have been through this before, much too often, usually coming out on the losing end. Howard Schnellenberger, John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino, coaches who said they loved this community, a great place to raise a family, each of them quickly making decisions to leave when so-called opportunity knocked for them.

Greg Scruggs: "It's not like this is a stop-and-go for anything. Coach Strong wants to make this his empire. Coach Strong wants his mark to be on this university."

Football coaches, it seems pretty obvious, are driven by a powerful urge to be members of the old guard, to be included in college football’s inner circle, the predictable, the traditional powers, largely state schools. They relish the speculation, the attention, the recognition, and all the dollars that go with the adulation. While they may enjoy their current positions, they rarely are able to resist the appeal of schools with better established tradition.

They all want to be the next Knute Rockne, whether they’ve seen old movies or not, all except Schnelly, who is happy being Schnelly, having created his own legendery mystique.

The opportunity of taking a program they have nurtured and developed to another level, possibly creating another national power, proving themselves capable of competing and winning anywhere never seems to occur to them. The idea of remaining loyal to a non-traditional power that took a chance on them doesn’t hold any sway of the typical coach. They will swear their undying love to a school and a community until they sign the new contract that takes them elsewhere.

Is Charlie Strong any different? He’s obviously a good teacher and an exceptional individual, qualities that Tom Jurich recognized early on by renegotiating the terms of his contract, raising his annual base pay from $1.6 million to $2.3 million and extending his contract by seven years. We believe Jurich would be willing to go back to the well in an effort to hold on to Strong, if he is given the opportunity.

Some want to believe that Strong has a special bond with U of L, which gave him his first head coaching opportunity after many other schools has chosen to bypass him. He was, indeed, grateful. That was Charlie Strong choking up, shedding real tears when he was announced as the new UofL coach in December 9, 2009 at the Brown & Williamson Club.

Defensive end Greg Scruggs was there that day, celebrating the new coach, and he was there a month or so ago when Jurich announced the pay increase and the contract extension, telling ESPN:  “This is what Coach Strong wants to build up,” Scruggs said. “It’s not like this is a stop-and-go for anything. Coach Strong wants to make this his empire. Coach Strong wants his mark to be on this university.”

Charlie Strong, however,  hails from the old guard, having tasted success at the highest level of the college football world and, if he is like the average Joe in the coaching fraternity, he most likely will take advantage of the opportunity to prove that he belongs at a perceived higher echelon.

We would like to believe he is different, and will likely know for certain very soon.

One Football Czar’s Dream Conference

By Steve Springer

Summer is here, normally a dead period for the typical college sports fan.  A time to relax and refresh, quietly anticipate the coming football season.

Not this year, however. The next few days, heck, even the next few hours, could be some of the most  landscape-altering times in college sports history. Major changes could turn the college football world upside down.

What’s the Big Ten going to do? What does the PAC Ten have up its sleeve? Is Nebraska staying or going? What will happen to the Big East? Where will Louisville end up? Lots of questions. Few answers.

The average football fan feelx helpless, with no control over what happens. But not here at Card Game. There is hope. At least hypothetically, you are in charge of it all. You are in the driver’s seat. You get to design your ideal conference for the Cards. Charlie Strong’s future is in your hands. Tom Jurich is your play toy. You get to decide whose ankles Vic Anderson gets to break this season.

Your job is to pick and choose a conference that best suits U of L. There are a handful of rules, however:

  • No politics in your way.
  • Let’s keep it somewhat realistic, geographically speaking. No teams west of the Mississippi.
  • This conference is for hoops and pigskin for balanced scheduling.
  • As many teams as you like, from an eight-team league to a 16-team mega-conference.
  • No Wildcats allowed, not deserving of a spot at our table.

Here’s mine:

Big Dream Conference

North Division

  • Louisville
  • West Virginia (good rivalry brewing here)
  • Cincinnati (good rivalry, good hoops, growing football)
  • Ohio State (good hoops/football)
  • Pittsburgh (good hoops/football)
  • Penn State (good football, basketball cupcake)
  • Syracuse (good hoops/football might rise again)
  • Virginia Tech (good football/basketball gimme)

South Division

  • Florida (good hoops/football)
  • Florida State (decent hoops/good football)
  • Miami (good football/decent hoops)
  • Tennessee (good hoops/football)
  • North Carolina (good hoops/decent football)
  • Memphis (good rivalry, decent hoops/football)
  • Southern Miss (old rivalry, decent football/hoops gimme)

Just for fun, I would throw in Murray State, my alma mater, in the South Division. Decent hoops, patsy football. But best of all,  U of L, my favorite team, would be playing in my back yard.

Now it’s your turn!