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James Franklin vs Kevin Sumlin: A tale of two African-American coaches

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It’s long been established that it’s impossible to field a superior football program in college athletics without the use of African-American talent. Here we are again with more than half of the 2017 NCAA season behind us, and the majority of the Division 1 programs that exist don’t have an African-American coach.

We’ll just start with what most of us witnessed on November 4th. During the first weekend of the calendar’s eleventh month, three of the traditionally important programs in the college football landscape took the field. The Florida Gators, who decided to move on from Jim McElwain, were led out by interim head coach Randy Shannon, who failed in his first attempt at being a head coach during his brief tenure with the Miami Hurricanes. They were subsequently pimp-slapped by the Missouri Tigers.

What we’ve recently witnessed:

If we’re all being honest, we can all agree, without emotion, that Randy Shannon doesn’t discredit any negative thought that some still have about the ability of back coaches to lead football programs at major schools. He perpetuates the idea.

So what about guys like Derek Mason (who’s actually made us talk about Vanderbilt football), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) and James Franklin (Penn State). Have they done enough to, at least, prove that black coaches are capable and have a shot?

The debate:

Those of you who are hoping Sumlin’s ride in College Station continues are probably going to be disappointed. He’s been walking the plank for a while. The boosters don’t seem to want him. Neither does the alumni. We can’t seem to have a conversation about him without discussing how much longer he has. Still, at the time of this writing, he’s gone 84-40 and 4-3 in bowl games, and he’s won and built that resume in the mighty Southeastern Conference.

Even if he leaves Texas A&M, he’s better than the majority of the coaches in the NCAA, and he deserves to coach somewhere.

Then there’s James Franklin, the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions. Even if you’re not a football fan, you know who Penn State is. You may have never heard of Joe Paterno (as impossible as that sounds to football fans), but you’ve heard of Penn State. Unfortunately, you’ve done so for the wrong reasons.

Then James Franklin came along.

Franklin took a job that most didn’t want after originally leading, of all teams, Mason’s Vanderbilt Commodores. Since he made the decision, he’s gone 32-16 (at the time of this story’s publishing). That can be included in his overall lifetime record of 56-31. Add a 3-3 bowl record to that. Oh, by the way, he also won the Big Ten’s East Division in 2016 and followed that with a victory over the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2016 Big Ten Football Championship Game. Franklin, for his efforts, was named the Dave McClain Coach of the Year in the Big Ten.

He hasn’t just changed a football program’s win-loss total. He’s changing an image and a culture. Do you still want to argue that these guys can’t coach?

We haven’t even brought up Lovie Smith, who led the Chicago Bears to a second Super Bowl appearance. Sure, he’s at Illinois, but name anyone that you’d rather have at that position.

Enough said.

Geoffrey Knox

Exposure Magazine Sports Editor

Geoffrey Knox is the creator and the owner of The Thunderstorm Hip Hop Sports & Entertainment Network, co-editor for Inside The Iggles and a contributor for Saturday Blitz. Bookmark Thunderstorm Media on BlogtalkRadio.com, iTunes, TuneIn and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @GQ_4_Eva, @stormradio66 @stormsports66 & @insideiggles.

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Team LeBron Edges Team Stephen as First Sample of Revised Team Captain Format

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Closing out this year’s All-Star weekend festivities was the sight of Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James hoisting his third All-Star game mvp award as his team closed out a 148-145 win over Team Stephen. Unlike previous years, the two leaders in All-Star votes served as captains, completing their rosters in a street ball pickup selection style. With the game criticized in years past for the competitive atmosphere during the games, this year definitely had a more serious tone .

While the tone of the game was indeed different from last year’s game, the case can be made that is was more sloppy initially than competitive. The consistent line of turnovers early showed the forgivable lack of chemistry among the players, but also the players indecision to make the right basketball play, or the right All-Star play. The game as a whole from a basketball standpoint was pretty good, but the All-Star aspect to it seemed to be consumed by the urge to remain competitive, with a highlight slipping through the cracks ever so often.

One consistent highlight however was the play of James who finished the game with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. As the eldest player in the game, as well as the All-Star game’s all time leading scorer and longest tenured starter, James seemed to embody the proper balance between competitor and showman.

“I think myself and Stephen took it upon ourselves when we took on this format that we had to change the way this game was played,” said James.

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Team LeBron and Team Stephen captains meeting pre-game

 

 

Echoing James’ words, his fellow All-Stars unanimously agreed that this change was for the better.

“Obviously, with the new format, I think it just adds a little different vibe around the All-Star Game,” said Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry Saturday night. “Should be a little more competitive, a little more intense on the court tomorrow. And there is a lot at stake from a pride standpoint. It’s not just the Western Conference or Eastern Conference anymore. It’s Team Steph versus Team LeBron. So I obviously want to win.”

“We wanted to kind of change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” said the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

Regardless of how the game has been critiqued, the spectacle of it all is still the real highlight. From the Warriors being the first team with four all-stars in back to back seasons, to new All-Stars like Bradley Beal and Karl-Anthony Towns getting their feet wet, to the reunions of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, there were endless story lines to keep fans entertained this past weekend.

This year’s game definitely deserves a passing grade, but continuing to improve should be the goal, and fortunately it appears that fans have the NBA’s ear.

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Sports

Bull’s Interest in Budding College Star Limited by Flawed Draft Lottery System

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Being the first Oklahoma Sooner to score 20 or more points in 11 straight games since former Chicago Bull Stacey King, it was only natural to be spotting Bulls scouts at numerous Sooner basketball games this season to check out college basketball’s new sensation in point guard Trae Young.  Just standing at 6’2 allegedly, but averaging roughly 30 points and 11 assists for the season, Young has a certain wizardry and craft to his game that extends beyond his physical capabilities. After tying the division 1 record for assists a few short weeks ago, he likely has the eye of any NBA team in search of a point guard.

Starting their season out rough to say the least, the Chicago Bulls looked like a lock to get at least a top three pick in this upcoming draft. Then over the next couple of months the development of young players like guard Chris Dunn and forward Lauri Markkanen, the return of forward Nikola Mirotic from injury, and the improvement of overall team chemistry, the Bulls have created some distance between themselves and the bottom spot in the league. Now with guard/forward Zach Lavine making his long-awaited debut, it seems likely their will be even more separation created.

For every Bulls fan you see rejoicing in the team’s hottest stretch of the season so far, you’ll find two more questioning why more isn’t being done to lose games to increase the odds of landing a top draft pick. The answer to that question is progressive tanking.

While the NBA seems to reward the teams at the top and bottom, the closer teams inch towards to the middle of the pack, the less incentive there is to move forward unless a sure shot presents itself.

Progressive tanking in a nutshell is developing the young assets you do have while removing or limiting the short-term assets still present.

The Chicago Bulls version of progressive tanking comes in the form of Mirotic and Lavine.

With Mirotic’s representatives holding firm to his early season request to be traded, look for him to be moved by the upcoming trade deadline in spite of how well the team has been playing since his return. To the dismay of many Bull’s fans the likely return package will come in the form of draft picks preferably, but expiring contracts if necessary.

In the case of Lavine, while being the centerpiece of the receiving end of the trade for former Bulls all-star Jimmy Butler, look for him to be limited this season. Depending on how well he plays, you’ll be seeing him sit more games as the Bulls continue to win. At some point down the line, he likely will be ruled out for the rest of the season.

We’re not going to rush Zach back,” vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said to the Chicago Sun Times. “But we’re also going to listen. When they say he’s ready to play or to practice, we’re going to allow him to do that. The one thing I’ve always found — and it’s big — is guys come back from an extended time out, especially coming off surgery, and when they get the OK, they need to get in basketball condition. And that doesn’t happen overnight.”

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Chicago Bulls players during a mid-game huddle

How this all relates to Trae Young is a matter of the ebbs and flows of the season. Should the Bulls create the predicted distance from last place in the league, Young will become an afterthought. Should they struggle moving forward, look for the aforementioned moves to be taken.

 

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Lifestyle

Crimson Tide Roll to National Title Over Underdog Georgia

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Seeing the Alabama Crimson Tide hoist the national championship trophy at the conclusion of their match-up with the Georgia Bulldogs Monday night, the vibe in the air was of that of an expected surprise. The Tide were definitive favorites going into the game, yet for the bulk of it, Georgia had the “team of destiny” label in everyone’s minds as they rushed out to a 13-0 lead, but simply couldn’t create enough separation to halt the Tide’s will power to win this game. With the routine player turnover in college sports, the term dynasty isn’t quite a perfect fit for programs such as Alabama, but it still seems to be a look they’ve been pulling off for years.

“These kids really responded the right way. We said last year don’t waste a failing, they sure didn’t the way they played tonight.” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban post-game to ESPN.

Shortly after Saban’s comments, freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was named the offensive player of the game, highlighted by his 41 yard touchdown pass to win the game.

Having been the SEC Offensive Player of the year among many other accolades under his belt, Alabama starting quarterback Jalen Hurts was more likely the face being pictured as the hero of Monday’s game, but after severely struggling in the first half of Monday’s game, Saban took a gamble which paid off.

In another twist, standing opposite Tagovailoa for Georgia was another freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, being coached by former Saban assistant, Kirby Smart. While not playing a perfect game, Fromm like Tagovailoa displayed a great deal of poise given the circumstances.

The game as a whole was one of opportunities. Georgia is known for running, yet had more success throwing the ball. Alabama had several plays that should have been converted in the first half that resulted in field goals or punting. Then in the second half, Alabama’s defense began to put the clamps down on Georgia who still managed a few good plays, but ultimately couldn’t stop the balanced attack from the Tide. The game would’ve even been over in regulation had Alabama connected on a field goal attempt by kicker Andy Pappanastos which veered wide left, but in the end things worked out for Alabama.

Saban is now in possession of his 6th national title, and while this is the time for celebrating with his team, the elephant in the room still remains in the question of how much longer this streak will continue.

In my interview with SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears who played for Saban’s 2003 LSU championship team, we discuss among other topics the dilemma with parity in the SEC in our upcoming issue.

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2003 LSU Tigers national championship team

 

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