DCTF's Jake Shaw on giving college players a second chance and TCU seeking revenge .
Art Briles should've spent the Big 12 Media Days answering the tired old question that's already been asked hundreds of times: How do you replace a legendary player, one who was named the best player in all of college football, who placed a forgotten program directly under the nation's spotlight?
Instead, Briles was asked about Darryl Stonum. And Shawn Oakman. And Mike Orakpo.
Those aren't household names, not even for Baylor fans. But they could be, if they get their acts together. Briles is giving them that chance, but he's taking some criticism for it.
Stonum, originally from Houston, transferred to Baylor last week. He had a couple of alcohol- and driving-related issues at Michigan that led to his dismissal. Since he already has graduated, he'll be immediately eligible for a final season this fall. Shawn Oakman's offense was relatively minor compared to Stonum's. Out of money and student-athlete food credits, he tried to steal a sub sandwich from Penn State's on-campus food court. He was caught and kicked off the team. He transferred to Baylor two weeks ago and could be eligible, depending on what the NCAA rules about Penn State transfers.
Then, in the last couple days, Briles acknowledged that the program would accept Mike Orakpo, the younger brother of the former UT lineman, as a transfer from Colorado State. His off-field issue, in my opinion, was far more serious. He was part of a fight that led to police discovering Orakpo was allegedly in possession of anabolic steroids.
If you take these all as individual cases, Briles could hardly be blamed for accepting each of these players. I'm a firm believer in second chances, especially for young men at this age. My wife often jokes that I'm lucky we didn't meet while we were in college —- she probably wouldn't have married me, let alone gone on a first date.
Stonum deserves another chance, as do Oakman and Orakpo -- just as Josh Gordon (Utah), Willie Jefferson (SFA) and Tevin Elliott (Central Arkansas) deserved another shot. Those latter three players were all standouts at Baylor who were eventually removed from the team for disciplinary reasons.
But Briles has probably earned the criticism, seeing that he has accepted all three of these reclamation projects in a span of a couple weeks. At that point, Briles has opened the program up for some disparagement. It's hard to operate as both a college football program and a halfway house.
Despite all this, in the sports world, a coach's job is to win. That's the main way coaches are graded, both by fans and their bosses. Sometimes a coach has to take risks to meet that end -- especially when his program doesn't have the benefit of a huge alumni base or the resources of its competitors. Briles has taken Baylor closer to the top than it has been in decades; he obviously wants to remain there.
This is a very risky move by Briles. The negativity from accepting three different transfers with off-field issues has justifiably attracted criticism. This could blow up in Baylor's face, truth be told. Any of these players could threaten the incredible team chemistry that Briles has established in less than a half-decade at Baylor.
But if all works out, the same critics who blasted Briles now will be the ones writing pieces about the "amazing turnarounds" of Stonum, Oakman and Orakpo. They'll praise Briles for helping steer these young kids onto the right path. So maybe Briles is smarter than we realize. Maybe he knows it's a waste of time worrying about what others think of you.
As we've learned with the Penn State scandal, the truth will eventually emerge.
ODDS AND ENDS
Channel-Surfing Football-Fix: "Whenever we roll back into Waco, whenever we play them, it will start to hit home with everybody that was on that bus last year. And knowing that whenever we leave Waco, we don't want to be feeling the same way."
That quote came from TCU QB Casey Pachall, who despite a valiant effort fell short against Baylor, 50-48, in the first game of the 2011 season. Since TCU essentially took over Texas A&M's 2012 Big 12 schedule, the Frogs must go back to Waco this year in a rematch of a renewing rivalry (some are calling it the "Revivalry").
Set your DVR to ESPNU at 6:30 a.m. this Monday to watch that 2011 TCU at Baylor game, voted the second best game of the past season by ESPN.
Since TCU fans likely will skip that, here's an alternative: Tune into Fox Sports Southwest at 10 p.m. that same day to watch "Under the Lights — the 2012 Texas Football cover story" for a behind-the-scenes look at the Gary Patterson covershoot.
Irrational Fan of the Week: This spot was reserved to highlight fans posting completely inane opinions. But for the second week in a row, I'm picking on a member of the media for failing to put their bias aside when discussing their alma mater.
And while this story doesn't come close to "inane," I think this Byran Curtis piece on the darker side of recruiting, while it did shed some light on a few issues, it sure made Mack Brown out to be a saint in a sea of pagans. Here's a couple excerpts:
"And as Brown himself tells us, his college-coaching brethren can’t necessarily be trusted." "Now, Brown is known as one of the most polite coaches in the business. So I’m startled when he reveals what some colleagues have told him.
“You can’t make it,” they tell Brown, “unless you deal with some of the third parties.” When Brown relates that, he looks terribly, terribly sad.
There is a lot more in that story, but I'll stop there. Brown is calling out his peers. Maybe not by name, but in denigrating his coaching brethren, he's also essentially saying he has stronger morals than they do.
Does Mack Brown cheat? My best guess is an emphatic no. But is Brown like most other coaches, who perhaps have to bend rules or make some borderline unethical decisions? I think yes.
Just look at the word "commitment." It has lost a lot of meaning in the college football world. Do you think Brown told G.J. Kinne, a recruit he stole from Baylor at the 11th hour a handful of years ago, "I want you to come to Austin to be our 3rd-string quarterback!" Not hardly. Brown clearly didn't honor Kinne's commitment to Baylor, and in doing so, Kinne never saw the field at UT and lost a couple years of his career before transferring to Tulsa.
That's no crime. That happens quite often. But it just shows that while Mack might keep his nose cleaner than others, he's in a profession that forces him to cross some ethical lines occasionally.
The problem with this story is that the writer chose to interview just one college coach: the one at his alma mater. There's a very great chance he would've gotten multiple perspectives -- and perhaps a different perspective of Brown -- had he chosen to talk to a few more subjects.
Buy/Sell: If this website's magazine were called DCOF or DCKF -- the "O" representing "Oklahoma"; the "K" for "Kansas" -- I wonder how different the predictions would look.
Turning to page 76, I see that TCU and Texas were picked ahead of both Oklahoma State and Kansas State in this year's Big 12 predictions. I'm Selling this prediction.
I like TCU's talent and UT's defense, but Texas lost to both those teams last year and could very well get swept again. TCU, meanwhile, has to travel to Oklahoma State (and then to West Virginia) before coming home to host Kansas State. Likewise, I could see TCU losing both.
I either think TCU or Texas could finish ahead of either KSU or OSU, but I don't see it playing out the same way my DCTF friends predicted.
Tweet of the Week
I always thought Tyler Arndt was a bonafide Division I (err … FBS) quarterback. So I was mildly surprised when he signed with Texas State over offers from programs like Purdue, TCU and Missouri.
Arndt knew what he is doing. Texas State will make its DI debut this fall, so he is in fact a DI quarterback, and Arndt looks like he'll take over the starting job despite considering leaving the program after last season. I expect Arndt to become a well-known name in Texas football, and perhaps the national landscape.
A bonus tweet of the week:
The tweet links to a funny piece by FSN's Emily Jones on pro players trying to pronounce Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege's last name. I remember when he was at Wolfforth Frenship, I thought his name was pronounced "Doge," but it turns out it's "Dagy." More than his name, the great story with Doege is his fight back from two consecutive ACL injuries in high school that nearly ended his career. It's easy to cheer for a kid who has fought through a lot of adversity to get where he is today.
A bonus-bonus tweet of the week:
Things in recent years that were supposed to put sports in perspective: 9/11, Katrina, various athlete deaths, Penn State. Maybe soon???— DJ Gallo (@DJGalloESPN) July 25, 2012
Call me cynical, but I've been thinking this same thing for a while. We've had numerous wake-up calls that should've forced us to put sports in perspective. But with so much money involved in athletics and so many fervent followers, I'm afraid to imagine an event that would finally force the public to step back and question its quasi-religious devotion to sports.
Read past installments from Jake Shaw's weekly summer column
> June 20: No summertime blues (on amending the NCAA's transfer rules)
> June 27: Feeling the heat (on Mack Brown's "approval" process)
> July 4: Let freedom ring (Why football is America's game)
> July 11: Future football (What changes could be in store)
> July 18: Paterno instinct (Penn State's failings and its impact on Texas)
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com