Sports Shorts

* It’s that time of year in college football: coaching changes and bowl bids.

As for the former, imagine–for now–Gainesville, Tallahassee and Orlando impacted in the same year. And what a contrast between FSU and UCF. Jimbo Fisher is going to Texas A&M for more money and less prestige. His grumpy exit, which did not include coaching FSU’s last regular season game, was less than classy.

Scott Frost leaving UCF for Nebraska is understandable. He grew up there, went to high school there and quarterbacked the Huskers to a national championship in 1997. Plus, he handled the awkward situation with his players, president and media with class while leading his team to an undefeated season and a major bowl bid. In two years, UCF went from 0-12 to 12-0. UCF is as grateful as it is disappointed.

* The final College Football Playoff rankings have UCF at 12. The 11 teams ranked higher include five two-loss teams and one (Auburn) three-loss team. The Knights deserve better.

* We’re reminded again that there are too many (38) bowls and, thus, too many (76) participants who shouldn’t be rewarded for lackluster seasons. FSU, for example. The 6-6 Seminoles have to beat Southern Mississippi in Shreveport, Louisiana’s Independence Bowl to avoid a losing season. Ridiculous.

* We know Oregon’s Willie Taggart, formerly of Western Kentucky and USF, is still a hot commodity. He has a track record of turning around programs. At USF, the Bulls went 8-5 and 10-2 in his last two seasons. Only one anomaly. Has there ever been a hot commodity coach with a losing record?  Overall, he’s 47-50, including 24-25 at USF.

* Whenever prominent college coaches get fired, there’s often an issue about a “buy out” clause  and whether somebody was fired for “cause.” Let’s get real, at the highest level, college coaching–reflected in often obscene salaries–is all about winning and its economic ripple effects. Coaches are bought to win. Shouldn’t not winning enough be sufficient “cause” for firing?

Sports Shorts

* Like a lot of USF fans, I was emotionally spent after that wild, last-minute 49-42 loss to UCF. But, as opposed to most observers, I still wouldn’t say this rivalry game has officially arrived. Hear me out.

This was a perfect grid-storm climax to the regular season with two nationally-ranked teams playing for the AAC division championship–and the opportunity to play on for national prominence. An opportunity to play on for the best season in either school’s history.

Actually, next year–at RayJay, where the turnstile count struggles to exceed 20,000 for most USF home games–will be the year to decree that the rivalry is for real. If the crowd is large and raucous, although much less is at stake because at least one of the teams (likely USF) is not as good, it’s I-4 rivalry on. I’m a believer.

When regional pride is viscerally at stake, and the utter chagrin of losing to your unneighborly rivals down the interstate is unthinkable, you have a real rivalry. If it’s merely an ultra-exciting game when both teams are uncommonly good, that’s a tease, however welcome and exciting.

* So UCF is now one of only two undefeated teams (Wisconsin is the other) in the country, yet it still isn’t ranked in the top 10. The AP has them at 12th–behind five 2-loss teams. Obvious conclusion: Still only begrudging national respect for teams in the American Athletic Conference.

* We went to a Lightning hockey game the other night and a Chicago love-in broke out. Seemed like a third of Amalie Arena was swathed in red–the color of Blackhawks’ jerseys. It still seems weird, but it is what it is in a hybrid market like this. I’ll leave it at that.

No, I won’t.

You just know most of these people are not visitors with a well-planned itinerary that happens to include ‘Hawks hockey. They are mostly locals still mired in their old allegiances. Get over it. This isn’t Chicago or Philly or New York or Boston. You have to be born somewhere. You choose to live here. Unless you arrived yesterday, this is your team. Act like it.

* Another point about that Tampa Bay-Chicago hockey game. Whatever happened to spectator-sport protocol? This isn’t a movie. You shouldn’t just pop up and head to the concession stand when a thirst needs quenching. All games come with built-in stoppages of play. Hockey is no different. Why not wait for a TV break or a penalty or an icing call or a fight or a puck flipped out of play to make that move–instead of a view-blocking, spectator-annoying trek?

* Bands playing at halftime is so old-school. It’s only for those in attendance, who may or may not be paying attention. They play on while TV viewers are seeing game highlights and a national scoreboard update.

But don’t tell the University of Louisville about band anachronisms. The band of its recent football opponent–the University of Kentucky–proved relevant, snarky and gotcha-funny last Saturday. At half time of the UL-UK game, Kentucky’s band formed a gigantic $. A less than subtle dig at Louisville’s reputation as a cheating, athletic outlaw. Advantage UK.

But next year could be payback. “One-and-done” UK basketball isn’t exactly immune from rival taunts.

* One way to get Roy Moore out of a certain news cycle: Have Alabama lose its undefeated, No. 1 ranking with a loss to Auburn.

Sports Shorts

* Whoever would have thought that the biggest intrastate college football game of the year would be matching schools from Tampa and Orlando–not Tallahassee, Gainesville or Miami. But Friday’s USF-UCF game is exactly that. For the (9-1) Bulls, it means a chance for a best-ever-in-its-history season can happen with a win against the undefeated, 13th-ranked Knights.

USF has had good teams and big wins over two decades, but by each season’s end there was an inevitable sense of disappointment and reflections on opportunities lost. USF has never played for a conference championship, let alone won one. The year (2007) the Bulls advanced to a No. 2 national ranking–and played before 67,000 fans at the RayJay in a win against West Virginia–ended with a downward spiral and a humiliating Sun Bowl loss to Oregon.

The Bulls have played better as underdogs. Big wins against Auburn, Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami and Clemson, for example, are part of their grid history. This Friday, as 11-point underdogs against UCF, the Bulls get a chance to do it again. A win puts them into the AAC championship game against Memphis. A win there puts them into a big-time bowl game. And a win there… . Well, that all rides on Friday’s outcome. A climactic win like this is overdue.

What’s truly ironic is that there was a time, during the Jim Leavitt era, when USF didn’t even want to schedule UCF, because it was a step down in stature. Now a win would elevate USF in prestige and the national rankings and position them for their best season ever. Ever.

Make history. Go, Bulls.

* Here’s the memo that those three UCLA basketball players arrested for shoplifting in China either didn’t get or didn’t heed. “When you go overseas, especially in an official capacity representing your university, you are also–de facto–representing your country. When your travel involves a country with high-profile, problematic geopolitics such as North Korea, Iran or, in this case, China, you also run the risk of an international incident if you break any laws. Especially the really obvious, universal ones. Be on your best behavior and don’t do anything DUMB that would reflect poorly on your country, your university or you–in that order.”

Sports Shorts

* $ign of the time$. USF has announced plans for 160,000-square-foot football-exclusive center. It’s been lauded as a possible Bulls’ game changer, because such facilities are no longer considered just amenities–more like necessities if you want big-time status. Recruits notice. Price tag: $40 million. Now about that on-campus stadium… .

* “I do think they’re the best team in the league.”–Appraisal of the Lightning by Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens. Speaking of the Bolts, Tampa Bay has the most points–30–after 18 games in its 25-year history. And that, of course, includes the Stanley Cup season of 2003-04.

* For once I would like to see a reference to a successful University of Miami football team without mentioning “swagger.” As if boorishness and arrogance were synonyms for self-confidence and personality.

Sports Shorts

* Stadium (or) deal: Any successful Rays stadium plan has to begin with the acknowledgement of variables that cannot be controlled. To wit: no meaningful mass transit, asymmetrical geography, few corporate headquarters, locals with other-market allegiances and life-style options better than summer baseball. As a result, other variables must be spot on; i.e., synergistic location in the Tampa Bay region’s hub city and financing details–from a serious, 9-figure Stu Sternberg contribution to local-hotelier money that Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s hypocritical meddling in local government can’t negate. Then you have to have all the key players reading from the same script.

It was unconscionably poor form that there were county commissioners and Mayor Bob Buckhorn not formally informed about the Channelside Drive and Fourth Avenue site selection when Commissioner Ken Hagan went public with his announcement.

* If 22nd-ranked USF beats 14th-ranked UCF this month, the Bulls will, almost assuredly, then play for the American Athletic Conference championship. It’s a big deal, and the Bulls-Knights game will be nationally televised from Orlando in front of a notably big crowd.

But let’s not overlook an AAC title already won by USF–over UCF. The USF women’s soccer team recently beat UCF to win the AAC tournament–and won an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Go, Bulls.

* Alex Ovechkin is the Russian mega-star of the NHL’s Washington Capitals. His “social movement” in high-profile support of Vladimir Putin has been getting a lot of press and is much appreciated by his home-country government. “We obviously welcome … (his) desire to express support for our president, especially from abroad,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. As in, especially from the U.S.

Next time the Lightning play the Caps, imagine what Ovechkin’s take might be as the national anthem is played. Arguably, nothing to do with police and minorities, if not collusion.

* The Bucs: Bad is bad. Embarrassing is worse.

Sports Shorts

* It doesn’t have that quote-for-the-ages sound, but the line that will forever be identified with Florida’s ousted football coach, Jim McElvain, will still speak volumes. “He offered no additional details.” That’s what the terse UF news release noted as the upshot of administrators confronting McElwain after the embattled head coach indicated that there had been death threats directed at his program.

That’s a lot more serious than 12 losses in two a half years and an ongoing anemic offense. And a lot more offensive if not true. Athletic Director Scott Stricklin underscored that scenario when he said, “This is more than just wins and losses.”

He also could have stated: “Sometimes you add by subtraction.”

* The times-we-live-in update: Bob McNair, owner of the NFL’s Houston Texans, is certainly entitled to speak out on the national anthem controversy. No less constitutionally entitled, to say the least, than his player-employees, most of whom are black. McNair’s a hardliner who wants the league to crack down on those sitting or kneeling during the “Star Spangled Banner.”

That said: How insensitively dumb was it to use the “inmates running the prison” analogy? An absolutely Trumpian remark.

* The aforementioned is starkly juxtaposed to comments by Gregg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA, no less a racially-skewed league than the NFL. “We still have no clue of what being born white means,” said Popovich.

* Last week I said: “Don’t know how much longer I can say this, but my two favorite alma maters, Penn State and USF, are undefeated in late October.” Well, I can no longer say that.

* On Sunday I was headed outside to do some pre-Halloween spruce-up when I decided to look in on the Bucs game. I don’t watch much NFL, but I do prefer that the Bucs win. I turned it on, it was 10-0 Carolina early in the third quarter and Jameis Winston just got sacked. The fat-ass Carolina sacker then did a requisite dance. Then the Fox network cameras requisitely re-ran it two more times. Then I turned it off. It reminded me of why I don’t watch much of it.

Sports Shorts

* Add “land swaps” to the short list of Hillsborough County/Tampa subplots, most notably financing, surrounding the search for a new Rays ballpark. While it plays out, it will be interesting to see whether Jeff Vinik remains noticeably low profile on something that has major implications for Water Street Tampa redevelopment. Is a baseball stadium more of a complication or a complement? How important would a transit stop be for Rays’ games?

* So undefeated, 16th-ranked USF stays undefeated–on the road–and drops one spot in the AP Poll. It’s the product of a weak schedule and inconsistent play. It also means skeptical pollsters are looking for any excuse to drop them altogether if the Bulls don’t run the table. That starts with Saturday’s home opponent, Houston, the best team they will have played so far, and continues through the regular-season finale with UCF, now ranked 18th–and also undefeated.

* It’s never a good sign when the media and alums are dumping on a head football coach, as is the case with the University of Florida’s Jim McElwain, now in his third season as a Gator coach not named Spurrier or Meyer. His record to date–with No. 3 Georgia awaiting in Jacksonville this week–is a pedestrian 22-11. Through 33 games, that was also the record of, uh, Will Muschamp. Sobering.

* Don’t know how much longer I can say this, but my two favorite alma maters, Penn State and USF, are both undefeated (7-0) in late October.

* Schools such as Ohio State and Michigan put stickers on players’ helmets indicating outstanding plays. But what happens when a player screws up? Do they subtract a sticker?

Sports Shorts

* If the Cubs don’t defend their World Series championship, there will be no dearth of second guessers. It comes with the territory. But the reality should be obvious: This team is just not as good as last year’s. Specifically, the pitching, especially relief pitchers not named Wade Davis.  If anything, the Cubs deserve extra credit for having advanced this far in the post season.

* OK, the USA didn’t qualify for the World Cup for the first time in a generation. Ouch, even if soccer isn’t America’s favorite sport–or even close. But look who did make it: Iceland. Population: 335,000, comparable to Tampa’s. Close enough. We have an adopted team to root for. Go, Cubes.

* The USF Bulls are undefeated, ascendant and now ranked 16th in the nation. USF has–at 11– the longest winning streak in the country, and the national media is well aware that it has scored at least 30 points in 23 straight games. That’s almost unheard of.

What the Bulls haven’t yet done, however, is look impressive for an entire game. The starts have been sputtering, key catalyst Quinton Flowers’ numbers are down and discipline–as manifested by penalties–has been a frustrating issue.

But imagine if they do clean up the sloppy starts, display an offense that looks more like last year’s and reduce dumb penalties. The Bulls could still be special by season’s end. Just don’t look past anybody, starting with Tulane on Saturday in New Orleans. Go, Bulls.

* That was another ugly loss for the University of Florida last week, but it wasn’t, by far, the ugliest part of the Texas A&M defeat. It was those faux-alligator-skin jerseys worn by the home team. Being the “Gators” isn’t reason enough. Not nearly.

UF is part of a pattern–perhaps it’s generational plus Nike marketing–but more and more teams are rolling out unis seemingly more appropriate for NASCAR, trapeze artists or Jackson Pollock fanatics. Mere Day-Glo never looked so tame.

Sports Shorts

* If you think the Washington Nationals’ scripted “W” looks a helluva lot like the “W” in Walgreens, you’re not alone. Walgreens thought so too. Yes, there is an agreement.

* The AP Top 25 now has three Florida teams listed. Not among them: FSU AND Florida. Among the three: USF (18) and UCF (22). Go, Bulls. Oh yeah, the other one is Miami.

Quoteworthy

* “This prize is really a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who have, ever since the dawn of the Atomic Age, loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they can serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our Earth.”–Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. ICAN recently won the Nobel Peace Prize.

* “Get your rosaries off my ovaries.”–Among the signs at the recent March for Choice protest against abortion bans in Ireland.

* “The Administration needs to ramp up the pressure on China to crack down on trade with North Korea across the board.”–Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

* “Puerto Ricans deserve consistency and compassion in both action and tone from the Trump Administration. It’s about them, not about @POTUS.”–Jeb Bush.

 

* “We wanted to have a woman president. But when we didn’t, then I couldn’t walk away and say, O.K., just let all the men have the seats at the table that are making decision for our country.”–U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

* “When people are angry and looking for someone to blame, they don’t want to hear your 10-point plan to create jobs and raise wages. They want you to be angry too.”–Hillary Clinton, in “What Happened.”

* “For of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.'”–John Greenleaf Whittier.

* “The Republican Party has long preyed on the shame of dispossessed white voters.”–Diane McWhorter, author of “Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.”

* “Attacks on the press by Donald Trump as enemies of the people (are) more treacherous than Nixon’s.”–Carl Bernstein.

* “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.”–Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker.

* “We wanted to play the tape on loop to remind the people who the president said he is–a proud sexual predator.”–Emma Boorboor, campaign director for UltraViolet, the women’s advocacy group that played the infamous and lewd “Access Hollywood” video on a large screen on the Washington Mall.

* “The president’s sabotage of affordable care for working Americans is cruel, misguided and costly.”–Florida Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

* “There is no other way to say this: the NRA funds domestic terrorism.”–Singer and songwriter Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash.

* “There are more gun clubs and gun shops in the United States than there are McDonalds.”–Hahrie  Han, professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

* “Facebook, Twitter and Google are some of the world’s richest and most ambitious companies, but they still have not shown that they’re willing to bear the costs–or the political risks–of fixing the way misinformation spreads on their platforms. … Facebook and Google have spent billions of dollars developing virtual reality systems. They can spare a billion or two to protect actual reality.”–Kevin Roose, New York Times.

* “My mission as State Attorney is to keep our community safe while promoting fairness and justice for everyone in Hillsborough. Given the lack of evidence that the death penalty deters crime and legitimate questions about its fair and just application, capital punishment does not help accomplish that mission.”–Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.

* “I have no  doubt whatsoever that I’m going to wake up into a better existence.”–Convicted Florida murderer Michael Lambrix before his execution.

* “We have seen ups and downs with our government’s relationship with Cuba. Eventually, I believe those doors will open permanently.”–Tampa City Council member Yoli Capin.

* “Post hurricane, abundant piles of debris from trees and plants becoming laden with mold and other environmental triggers will heighten allergic symptoms.”–Dr. Farzanna S. Haffizulla, assistant dean for community and global health at Nova Southeastern University.

* “What a wonderful government. So do as I say, not as I do. A refrigerator-sized (wireless facility) on a pole. I don’t understand what’s happening in this country.”–Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda, in complaining that the Legislature passed a law that pre-empts the city’s authority to regulate many aspects of where new 5G wireless antennas will go.

* “The money in politics is obscene. Our current mayor’s race–that’s all the proof you need that money has become a problem in local elections.”–St. Petersburg City Council member Charlie Gerdes, on the council’s (6-2) vote to limit contributions to political action committees. St. Petersburg became the first city in the country to do so.