Thursday, December 09, 2004
Perception worst part of UVa bowl developments
Gillen timeouts again an issue after first loss
Doug Doughty's UVa Insider is exclusive to roanoke.com and is posted by 5 p.m. Thursdays in season.
See Doug and Randy talk sports every week with the Sports edition of the TimesCast
Just for the sake of argument, let's say that school president John Casteen or athletic director Craig Littlepage had told the ACC in August that Virginia would be unable to play in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., because it conflicted with UVa's exam period Dec. 13-21.
If that were the case, where do you think the Cavaliers would be taking their football team this postseason?
To my way of thinking, they'd still be going to the MPC Computer Bowl on Dec. 27 in Boise, Idaho.
As one of three teams tied for third in the ACC, presumably the Cavaliers could have done better than the bowl with the sixth choice of ACC teams, or could they?
I suspect that Virginia would have taken more fans than Miami to the Peach Bowl, which had the third choice of ACC teams, but the Hurricanes are ranked higher than the Cavaliers and defeated Virginia 31-21 in Charlottesville in November.
North Carolina was part of the three-way tie for third with Miami and Virginia. Ideally, Miami would have gone to the Peach Bowl; Virginia would have gone to the Champs Sports Bowl, with its fourth choice of ACC teams; and North Carolina would have gone to the Continental Tire Bowl, which picked fifth.
In fact, Carolina agreed to take a Continental Tire Bowl bid before the Peach and Champs Sports Bowls filled their spots. When I spoke to Champs Sports Bowl executive Tom Mickle on Nov. 24, three days before the Virginia-Virginia Tech game, he gave every indication that he would take an 8-3 Virginia team.
It was later that day, apparently, that Virginia finally got around to telling Mickle for certain that it had a problem with exams.
So, what would have happened if Mickle had known earlier? Nothing, probably. Perhaps, the Champs Sports Bowl would have taken a streaking Carolina, but the Continental Tire Bowl wouldn't have wanted Virginia for a third year in a row. Besides, the Champs Sports Bowl might have had the same objection to Carolina that it has had to Georgia Tech -- at 6-5, both teams were two games worse than Virginia.
If not for a brawl at the end of its game with South Carolina, Clemson would have been 6-5, too, making the Tigers available for Boise, although Clemson has been there before. Even if the ACC had been able to persuade the MPC Computer Bowl to take Clemson, what was the Cavaliers' alternative? The Independence Bowl? What's so all-fired great about the Independence Bowl, except for an extra $500,000 that would get shared 11 ways?
So, no harm was done? Or was it? Mickle said last year that he had nothing against Virginia and this year he was set to prove it. Now what does he think? That Virginia doesn't have it act together. What's the ACC to think? That, 18 months after gumming up the ACC expansion process, Virginia is a big pain in the behind.
Commissioner John Swofford told reporters last week that the ACC would have made a mistake by not accepting newly crowned football champion Virginia Tech, so the expansion matter is forgotten. But given the ACC's perceived lack of support for Virginia's bowl interests in the past, what's going to happen in the future?
EX-ROANOKE TIMES sportswriter Ralph Berrier, who now has plenty of time on his hands as the newspaper's music reviewer, said he found it interesting that Virginia wouldn't let its football team play in a bowl during the exam period, Dec. 13-21, when its men's soccer team had its sights set on the NCAA title game slated for Sunday, Dec. 12.
If not for an embarrassing quarterfinal loss to Duke, a team they had beaten twice during the regular season, the Cavaliers would have been in California this weekend. If they had played Sunday, how many Monday exams would have been postponed? Not as many as would have been postponed for the approximately 350 students who are associated with the football team, band, etc., but nobody is talking about these other teams.
What of the accommodations that are made for spring sports teams competing in NCAA events during exams? I don't have a number for that, but every year, one of the lacrosse teams misses graduation or graduates after the fact or in some hotel. There are so many examples of academics taking a back seat; to make an issue at this time smacks of grandstanding.
LOST IN THE DISCUSSION of UVa's draft-eligible football players and their upcoming decisions is junior offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, one of five Cavaliers named first-team All-ACC.
Questions have surrounded tight end Heath Miller and linebackers Ahmad Brooks and Darryl Blackstock, but it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Ferguson will be back and that's a good thing for a UVa offensive line that will lose seniors Elton Brown and Zac Yarbrough.
Originally, I would have been inclined to say that fourth-year junior Miller would be least influenced by the bright lights and would be the most likely to return, but UVa insiders say they feel there could be more of a case for third-year junior Blackstock and second-year sophomore Brooks returning.
(Brooks is eligible for the NFL Draft by virtue of last year's Larry Fitzgerald ruling, which allowed a prep school year to count toward therequired three-year waiting period once a player leaves high school).
The major consideration for Brooks and Blackstock, I'm told, is academics. If they feel, after the first semester, that their 2005 eligibility is not in danger, then they will be back. If there is a possibility they will be academically ineligible, they will go. Or so I've been told.
I've always suspected that Miller could be lured back if coach Al Groh could make a convincing case, but Miller also has the vivid picture of defensive end and fifth-year senior Chris Canty blowing out his knee in the fourth game of the season -- a development not unlike the injury that may have cut short the career of All-America safety and current UVa aide Anthony Poindexter.
HATE TO SAY IT, but the reaction of UVa people who were not at the UVa-Iowa State men's basketball game was almost unanimous. After an 81-79 loss in Ames, Iowa, what everybody wanted to talk about was coach Pete Gillen's unconventional use of his timeouts.
I can't say that the Cavaliers needed a timeout to set up a shot with 9.1 seconds left. Freshman Sean Singletary got a good run at the basket. But, when Devin Smith was tied up with 2:36 left, he was unable to call a timeout and Iowa State had the possession arrow. Players frequently call timeouts in situations like that.
Gillen had used his last timeout with 8:10 left. Earlier, he had called a timeout with 16 minutes left, when he could have gotten a free one as quickly as one second later.
A Division I coach pointed out that it would have been nice to have a timeout following the Gary Forbes bucket that gave Virginia a 79-77 with 27.2 seconds left. Gillen could have set his defense and reminded his players not to allow a 3-pointer. As it was, J.R. Reynolds appeared to drop back into a zone -- did he even see Gillen's man-to-man call from the bench? -- and Iowa State's Curtis Stinson buried the go-ahead 3-pointer.