Tuesday, September 30, 2008

IU's response to failure to monitor charge.

IU now has responded to the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions concerning "allegation 6" against IU arising out of the Sampson debacle. You may recall that this charge was added by the committee after the June 2008 hearing and was not the work of the NCAA's enforcement staff. Unsurprisingly, IU hammered that issue hard. Here's a link to Inside the Hall, which compiled the documents (one main document, two sets of exhibits) in one post.
The essence of IU's position can be found in the executive summary on page 11 of the first pdf document. The highlights:
  • IU's "two-tiered, redundant" monitoring program actually discovered the violations;
  • False information provided by IU coaches prevented the university from discovering the vast majority of the improper calls;
  • IU performed a 100 percent audit of the coaches' identified phone records, as opposed to an average of 10 percent at other I-A schools, according to a survey;
  • Only four calls, of 70,000 monitored, could have been discovered;
  • IU did discover the calls in a timely manner and self-reported;
  • IU's self-imposed sanctions are sufficient.

Other notes:

  • At page 18, IU quibbles with the way the allegation is written, claiming the bylaw citation is incorrect and that the date range is overbroad.
  • Also on page 18, IU notes that it requested a postponement of the hearing because of McRobbie's prior commitments and because of the associate AD's (presumably Grace Calhoun, perhaps Jennifer Brinegar) maternity leave. IU was told that the agenda for the August meeting was full, but at the hearing, the committee members contradicted that, claiming that IU could have selected the August meeting, and the committee also considered hearing the failure to monitor charge at the "full" August meeting. Right hand, meet the left hand.
  • Continuing on to page 19, it appears that the Committee focused the initial hours of its inquiry on IU's monitoring systems, and issued the FTM charge just days after the hearing. While IU's response doesn't come right out and say it, the implication is, "hey, assholes, if you knew you were going to charge us with FTM, and you planned to grill us for hours about it, why didn't you amend before the hearing and resolve the whole thing in August?"
  • IU also noted the vagueness of the FTM charge, which lacked the factual detail of the other charges.
  • IU notes, and I think this is an important point, that the discovery of the violations was as a result of the second tier of monitoring. Unless any missed violation is a "failure to monitor," then isn't the fact that a double-check revealed the problem evidence of an effective, if imperfect, monitoring effort?
  • On page 36, IU implores the committee members to check with their own institutions to see how their monitoring programs stack up. It's a good line, but I'm not sure I would taunt a rabid animal like the NCAA.
  • At page 41 of the pdf, IU notes that the NCAA seems to be imposing a "strict liability" standard. Strict liability is a legal doctrine, most commonly applied against the manufacturers of defective products, that basically means that if a product causes harm, the manufacturer is liable even if the manufacturer acted reasonably. It's not quite as simple in application as "it happened, so you're on the hook," but that's the concept.
  • Amazingly, IU doesn't seem to have any better insight than the rest of us about what exactly the NCAA means by "atmosphere of non-compliance" and the like. I presumed that there must have been some smoking gun at the hearing that would make this more obvious, but it doesn't seem so.
  • Pages 54-55: "this is an unethical conduct case, not a failure to monitor case." IU notes the strong cases against Senderoff and Sampson.
  • At page 58, IU notes that the committee's approach amounts to a prohibition of hiring of any coach who has committed NCAA violations, or at least holding a school strictly liable for any similar violations that occur.
  • IU notes that asking coaches, as a matter of course, to turn over their home phone records has implications. Because IU is a public institution, the records then would become public records, discoverable upon a proper request by any citizen.
  • As to the idea that IU didn't properly respond to the secondary violations involving Derek Elston, IU details its investigation process.

In sum, IU seems to be saying, between the lines, that if the NCAA wants to impose draconian rules on institutions that hire coaches with NCAA records, it should impose such rules, but that existing rules and precedent don't justify a finding of failure to monitor.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Michigan State 42, Indiana 29.

I was out of town on Saturday and forgot to Tivo the game, so my comments will be fairly short. It's for the better, I suppose. Watching the 97-yard TD pass that turned into a safety for holding in the end zone probably would have taken years off my life. Here's the box score. Spartans Weblog is a must-read during basketball season, but I didn't realize that he had branched out into football so extensively. Read the whole thing, as they say, but here's his recap of the game. My thoughts, which, again, are entirely box score-based:
  • Surprisingly even offensive numbers. MSU modestly outgained IU, 497-473. IU had a slight edge in yards per play, 6.6 to 6.4. IU punted 7 times, MSU 6 times.
  • The difference, apparently, was turnovers. IU had 3, MSU 0.
  • Marcus Thigpen had another nice game, with 113 yards on 9 carries. As is often the case, Thigpen got the bulk of the yards on a big play, a 78 yard run. Still, even taking the big run out of the equation, he averaged 4.3 on the other carries. He was a beast catching the ball as well, with two catched for 94 yards, and adding a receiving TD to his two rushing TDs.
  • Shades of Cam Cameron: Lynch played Lewis and Chappell at the same time, lining up Lewis as a WR. Both had respectable performances passing (actually, Chappell was only 11-23), and it will be interesting to see how this develops.
  • Demarlo Belcher joined the attack, with 73 yards on four catches.
  • No sacks! The 2007 team is looking like a one year wonder.
  • Javon Ringer brutalized us, of course.

Overall, it sounds like it was a frustrating game to watch, but I can't be too discouraged considering MSU's strengths. Now, IU enters the most crucial stretch of its season. IU plays at Minnesota this week, then Iowa at home, then at Illinois, then at home against Northwestern. To make it to a bowl game (I'm assuming 7 wins will be required), IU almost certainly must go 3-1 in the next four weeks. And even going 3-1 would require IU to beat dangerous Central Michigan and either pull a major upset against PSU or Wisconsin or beat Purdue in Joe Tiller's last home game. The Ball State loss remains a killer, obviously. More on the apparently improved Gophers later.

Blogpoll draft ballot, week 5.


1Alabama 7
2Texas 3
3Oklahoma 3
4LSU 1
5Missouri 2
6Brigham Young 5
7Texas Tech 2
8Penn State 6
9South Florida 3
10Southern Cal 9
11Georgia 9
12Florida 8
13Oklahoma State--
14Kansas 3
15Utah 5
16Oregon 5
17Ohio State 5
18Auburn 2
19Vanderbilt 4
20Boise State 4
21Wisconsin 11
22Illinois 3
23Connecticut 3
24Ball State 2
25Kentucky 1

Dropped Out: Wake Forest (#15), Clemson (#18), East Carolina (#25).
Commentary later.

Friday, September 26, 2008

IU-MSU around the blogosphere.

Not surprisingly, opinion is running heavily in favor of MSU in this game. And what can I say? I would be surprised if IU wins this game. It's not that I expect MSU to win the Big Ten, but trying to stop a back like Javon Ringer just doesn't seem to be in the Hoosiers' immediate future, and if IU stacks the box, as it must, I have a feeling that Brian Hoyer is going to break out of his slump (as mentioned earlier, Hoyer is completing only 44 percent of his passes, well worse than his ~60 percent last year). MSU just strikes me as a particularly bad matchup for the Hoosiers, and I don't think I would feel much better about it even if IU had beat Ball State 42-20 instead of losing by that score. My only hope is not based on anything either team has done, but based on Sparty's perceived history of gacking on should-win games, particularly after big wins, if Notre Dame counts as that this year.
First, make sure that you check out the Enlightened Spartan's gameday preview. He predicts a 38-17 win, which sounds about right, unfortunately. More significantly, he has a nice table setting out IU and MSU statistically, side by side. You know, the sort of thing I should be bringing you but haven't this week. Ground Zero East Lansing is new to the sidebar, and doesn't have a preview up yet. SpartyMSU also has pretty charts, and predicts 38-12. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg sticks with Vegas, predicting a 9 point MSU win (30-21).
It is a pretty interesting slate of games for the Big Ten's opening weekend. MSU and Ohio State (against Minnesota) are heavy favorites, but Iowa-Northwestern, Penn State-Illinois, Michigan-Wisconsin, and Purdue-Notre Dame all are intriguing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Carnage in the secondary.

As I noted before the season, with the exception of MLB Adam McClurg, IU returned its front 7 intact, but would be putting a bunch of inexperienced players in the secondary, especially at the corners. So where has the injury bug struck? Naturally. Chris Phillips, the only cornerback in the preseason two-deep who had ever played a down, is out for the season with a torn ACL suffered on the drive immediately following the Dante Love injury. Phillips didn't hit anyone and didn't get hit, but landed awkwardly while trying to break up a Ball State TD pass. Chris Adkins is back, but will be be ready to play after landing the hit that caused Love's injury? Apparently Richard Council will start
As if that's not bad enough, IU's starting safeties, Nick Polk and Austin Thomas, the strength of the secondary, both will miss the MSU game. Although the Hoosier Scoop, in the post linked above, mentions that Joe Kleinsmith and Brandon Mosley are getting the most work at safety, I think it's time for Jerimy Finch to live up to his press clippings. If Brian Hoyer doesn't throw the ball well against IU, that's a major problem for MSU (of course, that assumes that they have to throw it at all).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Michigan State preview.

Michigan State Spartans
2008 record: 3-1
2008 Sagarin: 30 (IU is #82)
2007 record: 7-6 (3-5), lost to Boston College in Champs Sports Bowl
2007 Sagarin: 47
Series: Michigan State leads 39-15-2
Last IU win: 2006, 46-21 in Bloomington
Last MSU win: 2007, 52-27 in East Lansing
Last MSU win in Bloomington: 9/25/04 (30-20)
IU doesn't exactly have a get-well game on the horizon after a disappointing blowout loss to Ball State. Last year, Javon Ringer brutalized the Hoosiers, gaining 203 yards on 29 carries, and after a so-so debut against Cal, Ringer has been doing it again: 34-135 and 4 TDs against Eastern Michigan; 43-282 against Florida Atlantic; 39-201 against Notre Dame. The main difference between this year and last year is that Ringer is doing it by himself this year. In 2007, Ringer shared carries with Jehuu Caulcrick, which ran for 97 yards against IU in addition to Ringer's production.
It hasn't all been pretty for MSU's offense. QB Brian Hoyer has completed only 44 percent of his passes and has thrown only one touchdown and two interceptions. It's odd, because Hoyer had a respectable season last year, completing 60 percent of his passes and throwing 20 TDs to 10 interceptions. I fear that IU's secondary will be just what he needs.
MSU's defense is doing fine, ranked #50 in total defense and as with MSU's offense, better numbers against the rush than against the pass.
This series has fluctuated between blowouts over the last couple of years. IU won 46-21 in Bloomington in 2006, a game that IU led 46-7 and probably was IU's most thorough thrashing of a Big Ten opponent in the last 15 years. In 2007, MSU more than returned the favor, winning 52-27 and outgaining IU 558-193. The 2004 game in Bloomington counts as one of the bigger heartbreaks in recent memory, one of many should-haves from Gerry Dinardo's last season. IU led 20-7 at halftime but didn't score in the second half at lost 30-20. That was the second game after IU's upset win at Oregon. IU followed that win with an embarrassing game against Kentucky in which IU gave up 51 points to a team that scored only 173 all year, and then a huge choke job against MSU. But I digress.
I'll have more to say about this game over the next couple of days. The Hoosiers have done a decent job of rebounding from disappointment in the last couple of years. In 2006, after losing to SIU and Connecticut, IU won at Illinois for the first time since 1979 and then upset #13 Iowa. Last year, IU rebounded from what seemed like a disappointing loss to Illinois by winning at Iowa. Still, there's really nothing in the teams' performances that gives me much optimism for this matchup.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blogpoll draft ballot, week 4.

Here's the first draft of the ballot I will be submitting. Games watched: CMU-Purdue, ND-Michigan State, IU-Ball State.

1Southern Cal--
9Texas Tech--
11Brigham Young 3
12South Florida 1
13Oklahoma State 3
14Penn State 3
15Wake Forest 4
16Auburn 5
17Kansas 1
18Clemson 2
19Illinois 2
20Utah 2
21Oregon 6
22Ohio State 2
23Vanderbilt 2
24Boise State 2
25East Carolina 13

Dropped Out: Arizona State (#23).

I felt bad about dropping Auburn so far, but they did lose at home, and I could quite justify putting them ahead of the others there. Obviously, they will have the opportunity to move up. Oklahoma State may be overranked, but they play Texas, TT, Oklahoma, and Mizzou (not in a row). They will either earn it or they will drop. Boise is the only newcomer to the poll.
I thought about Ball State, and will keep an eye on the Cardinals. After playing tough non-conference schedules for so long, they picked the wrong year to dumb it down.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Suckfest 2008: Ball State 42, Indiana 20.

42-20, and it wasn't that close. That's what surprised me the most about yesterday's game. As I said earlier in the week, I knew that IU could lose. I knew that Ball State could score a lot of points. I knew that neither IU's offense nor defense had been tested against a quality opponent. As I also made clear, Ball State's long losing streak against the Big Ten and other BCS conferences seemed due to end, as did IU's long and anomalous winning streak against the MAC. I can live with the loss, but the manner of the loss is tough to swallow. Flukes happen, but this wasn't a fluke. Ball State is a significantly better team than IU. Significantly, and in every aspect of the game. They took whatever they wanted, and IU never dictated the game offensively or defensively, other than for one drive in the second half which ended with missed field goal. Is Greg Middleton still alive? Reminiscent of Antwaan Randle El against top tier Big Ten opponents, IU's offense was limited to scrambles, designed or improvised after a glance downfield, by Kellen Lewis.
Speaking of Lewis, his decision to throw into traffic late in the second half, giving Ball State a hand-delivered defensive touchdown, was inexcusable for a quarterback who has started around 25 games. Geno Johnson's ten-second-after-the-play-sissy-slap of a Ball State player probably saved a Cardinal drive that put early points on the board. On the other side of the field, one one play, Ball State lost its best player and surrendered a defensive touchdown, but after the long break BSU didn't blink. It's unbelievable that IU couldn't do any better than that after a bye week.
One one level, I and most IU fans knew that this Hoosier team was unproven, with James Hardy gone on the offensive side and without Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors on the defensive side (obviously those guys really were missed against Ball State). On the other hand, I think most suspected that IU would be about on par with last year's team, at least in terms of record. Now, we have to face the possibility that after the fun of last year and all the promise it presented, we could be taking a huge step back, or at least hitting a big pothole. We can't beat a single Big Ten opponent with an effort like the Hoosiers produced last night. Still, the coaches are professionals, they must have seen what we all see, and hopefully they can find a way to compete with a MSU team that made us look silly last year.
Rant over. Here's the box score. Highlights and lowlights:
  • Miquale Lewis was outstanding, particularly in the second half. IU had its moments against the rushing attack early, but BSU always responded with a long completion.
  • Nate Davis is going to be a starting QB in the NFL. While not mobile, his ability to evade the rush is impressive. His numbers (16-25, 239) weren't eye-popping, but they don't capture how well he played.
  • It was a damn shame that Dante Love suffered what appears to be a serious, career-threatening injury. I don't mean to make light of it when I say that if told before the game that such a thing would happen, I wouldn't have thought it possible that Ball State would win by 22.
  • Any Ball State fan who claims that Adkins's hit was dirty or intentional deserves every "teacher's college" barb that comes his way.
  • IU's three running backs all averaged between 4.2 and 4.7 yards per carry, but Kellen Lewis carried the ball more often (25 times) than the running backs combined (22).
  • Lewis's passing: 11-25, 159, 2 INT.
  • Greg Middleton: 2 tackles, no sacks; Jammie Kirlew: 4 tackles, no sacks.

There's no point in belaboring it. We got whipped by a program that had never beat us before. Nothing that can be done. Big Ten teams have overcome losses like this before, but again, this wasn't a game where everything went wrong and all the bounces went against us. This one could have been worse. Still, we're 0-0 in the conference and will have our opportunities to figure it out. Last season, after a disappointing loss to Illinois, we rebounded with a road upset of Iowa. Let's hope the coaches can find a way out.

First half thoughts.

No liveblog for me tonight, but here are some random halftime thoughts:
  • Man, I hope Dante Love is okay. When I saw the play in real time, I figured maybe he had the wind knocked out of him, but obviously it was worse. I hope to see him playing on Sundays next year, and hopefully on some more Saturdays this year.
  • Lots of Kellen Lewis. Obviously, we need to do what is necessary to win any given game, but this all-Kellen offense isn't a positive development and won't help us down the road.
  • It's amazing what Ball State has done offensively even without good field position. Starr has kicked it into the end zone for the most part.
  • Just to contradict myself a bit, the advantage of forcing BSU or any other defense to account for Lewis is that it opens things up for others, hence nice runs by Payton and McCray late in the second quarter.
  • Some really poor decisions by supposed team leaders. The personal foul by Geno Johnson in the first quarter was awful, as was Lewis's late interception. A guy with Kellen's experience has to realize that IU is getting the ball in the second half.
  • Ball State has dominated the game statistically, and has the lead in net offense 302-197. Ball State is average 7.8 yards per play from scrimmage to IU's 5.7.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Final thoughts.

As the game approaches, I'm not sure there is much else to say. The line has moved from IU -3.5 to IU -3, which suggests that the money is moving toward Ball State. ESPN's Adam Rittenberg picks Ball State to win 45-42. For the record, I was not one of the "furious Hoosiers fans" who complained about Rittenberg's pick, although I think that what he says about IU's fate resting with its defense is at least as true of Ball State's, which allowed over 10 yards per play to IU in the game last November. IU certainly has some question marks. Has the defense's apparent improvement been solely a function of the schedule? How will IU's offense perform withoout James Hardy against a quality opponent? But IU, against a weak schedule, is allowing 215 yards per game, near the top of Division I-A. Ball State is averaging 385 yards of offense allowed, against a better but not overwhelming schedule. This is a quite loseable game for IU, but I still am not sold on Ball State's defense. Other media picks:
  • Peter Schrager of Fox Sports takes the "Fighting Whitlocks."
  • Notre Dame blog Rakes of Mallow says that "it wouldn't be football season if Indiana was[n't] blowing an early game against a MAC team." Yeah, if every year were 1977. He promptly corrected, somewhat. "I probably should have said MAC struggles." No, probably not. Other than the 24-23 win at Ball State in 2006, none of the games have been nailbiters. IU has won all of the others by at least a touchdown.
  • ESPN's independent/others blogger, Graham Watson, picks Ball State 31-24.
  • Al Lesar of the South Bend Tribune picks IU 27-24.

The Ball State picks don't bother me. As I have mentioned many times, I think that the reflexive upset picks motivate IU in these games. Certainly, this 2008 Ball State team is one of the best MAC teams IU has played in the last 30 years

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Q&A with Ball State blog "Over the Pylon."

Earlier this week, I exchanged some questions about this week's game with Over the Pylon, a well-written blog that mostly covers Ball State but also Kentucky and college football at large. OTP's answers to my questions are below, and my answers to his questions are here. My questions are in crimson, OTP's answers are in red.
1. Since you asked me about Lynch, I'll ask you the same: why did he fail at Ball State? Was it merely his coaching ability, or did other issues such as facilities and recruiting restrictions play a role?
As a Kentucky fan, sorry to the IU faithful about that, I compare Lynch to Tubby Smith. Both fantastic men. Great advocates for the school. Great workers and stewards for the community and the school. But lousy coaches, and they both played their sons way more than they should have. I think some fans look at Lynch, compare him to Hoke, and walk away thinking he isn't a good coach. I don't think that's a fair comparison. Hoke and Lynch for all purposes coached at two very different schools, though both had the name "Ball State".It was Lynch's first stop as a head coach. He had no major experience, save for jobs at Butler as a head coach and assistant jobs at Ball State and Indiana. He took over for Paul Schudel, who guided BSU to its first ever 1A Bowl game and two MAC titles. Lynch's first two seasons there were his most successful (hello Tubby) and after a Las Vegas Bowl appearance in 1996, the bottom fell out as his recruits began to fill into the roster. Of course, that isn't entirely his fault, as at the time, there was no decent stadium, no decent football facilities, no MAC TV coverage, etc. So I'm sure it was tough. Hoke has all of that, and he is reaping the benefits with good recruiting classes and more talent, which results in more wins on the field.The bottom line is that each year in Muncie, Lynch and the team got a bit worse. When the firing appeared inevitable in 2002, Lynch rallied the troops behind emotion and his farewell tour and salvaged a 6-6 season. Lynch excels at rallying the troops around emotional causes and issues, which worked well for IU last year. Lynch will ultimately get a bit worse and worse. The talent level at IU may make that descent not as quick or as dramatic, but it will happen sooner rather than later.

2. Tell me about Sean Baker. He came out of nowhere to have one of the most dominant games in recent memory, with three interceptions and a fumble return for a TD. Did you expect great things out of this guy so soon?
Sean Baker is someone that most of us who follow the program thought Canfield had the potential to be a good athlete all over the field. He played both ways in high school, and comes from Canfield, OH. Hoke has shown tremendous recruiting prowess in the Buckeye State, but to say anyone saw Baker contributing this much this soon would be a stretch. Keep in mind, he doesn't even start.

3. No points for creativity. Nate Davis's strengths are well known. Does he have any weaknesses? What sort of teams have caused him the most trouble?
Nate is probably the best player to walk through Ball State's football program (apologies to Jason Whitlock). His strenghts are well known to people not close to the program, but to those of us who follow the Cards, his weaknesses are just as obvious. Nate, though exceptionally accurate, makes some questionable decisions at times. He's Farve-ian in his ability to believe that he can squeeze a pass into a one foot square within triple coverage. He's getting better, but there have been flashes this season, the Navy game for example, where Nate throws to a bracketed receiver and results in an INT. Against Navy and Northeastern... not so much of a big deal. Against Indiana... big deal.

4. I certainly don't mean to rub any salt in the wounds, but Ball State has had some close calls, particularly in recent years, against teams from BCS conferences. Which loss bothers you the most, and why?
Personally, I would say the Michigan game. Sure, they were down and not the Michigan team of year's past, but that one stung. More so by the fact that I have numerous friends who are Michigan fans, I grew up with Indiana fans who hated Michigan, etc. So that one left sort of a funky taste, more so because of who it was against. To be honest, the games in recent years like Michigan, Nebraska, Boston College, Illinois, Indiana in 06 all leave a bitter taste. Because the lion's share of close games we've lost against major teams are games where the win was there for the taking, and Ball State beat themselves. It's like watching a Bill Curry Kentucky team. Only with less talent. And that makes me a not so happy camper.

5. As you consider this matchup, which Hoosiers keep you awake at night?
Well, the easy answer is Kellen Lewis. But to be truthful, the offenses themselves are equally impressive and potent, but I do think the team with the more successful running back will ultimately win this game. As MiQuale Lewis or Marcus Thigpen go, so go their teams.Realistically though, this is a matchup that will come down to the play of the lines, and in a broader perspective, which defense steps up their play. Each team, I believe, has significant potential to be torched defensively, and both teams have an offense capable of doing the torching. So defensively, Nick Polk worries me. He's a safety with wide reciever speed, who should be able to keep up with Darius Hill and Dante Love.How we gameplan to attack Chris Adkins, a freshman at corner, will also be a heavy factor in winning this game. His height concerns me, but his lack of experience makes me salavate. Additionally, DEs Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton will mean the difference for BSU's offensive explosiveness. If they can get pressure on Davis, which no team has so far, it could be a long day for the Cardinals. If Davis has the time to sit back, set up, and pick his spots, then it's going to be a long day for the Hoosiers.
Thanks, Alan. Again, my answers can be found here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Blogpoll ballot, week 3.

1Southern Cal--
9Texas Tech 4
10Wisconsin 4
12East Carolina 3
13South Florida 4
14Brigham Young 2
15Oregon 3
16Oklahoma State 3
17Penn State 3
18Kansas 3
19Wake Forest 2
20Clemson 3
21Illinois 3
22Utah 4
23Arizona State 11
24Ohio State 14
25Vanderbilt 1

Dropped Out: California (#22), Kentucky (#25).
Little change at the top. It was pretty well in lockstep except for the drops. I made the Buckeyes pay a high price, and I'll happily move them back up, but at this point, they have whipped a I-AA team, were fortunate to defend their home field against Ohio U, and were embarrassed by USC. As for ASU, I had them ranked higher than most, and had to penalize them for the loss to UNLV.