Sunday, December 27, 2009


If you never lived in Texas — or this region of the country — you may not know who Blackie Sherrod was.

He was a sportswriter, a sports columnist whose columns frequently were about many topics so, rather than give priority to any one subject, he would begin by writing "Scattershooting while wondering whatever became of [insert name of obscure or no longer prominent person]," and then he would launch into a stream of unrelated consciousness.

Perhaps Blackie should have patented that word. It seems almost blasphemous for anyone else to use it. At the very least, it seems it ought to be required that Blackie's name is mentioned whenever it is used.

Well, I have. And now I'm going to write about a few things that are on my mind today, starting with
  • Urban Meyer, the soon–to–be ex–coach of the Florida Gators.

    Is there anyone who can honestly say he/she was not surprised to hear that the 45–year–old Meyer is calling it quits after Friday's Sugar Bowl contest with Cincinnati? Or that the reason for his departure was health issues presumably brought on by the stress of coaching?

    In Gainesville, shocked fans tried to come to terms with the news yesterday and expressed their hope that he will regain his good health.

    But — and this is in no way intended as a slap at Meyer or his achievements — I think Dan Wetzel's assertion at Yahoo! Sports that Meyer "was the most influential coach in college football this decade" is a little over the top. Wetzel makes a good case, but I have to point out that there are other coaches — USC's Pete Carroll, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Texas' Mack Brown come immediately to mind — who have enjoyed enormous success and coached Heisman finalists (if not winners) in this decade. Meyer has been one of many.

    Again, I'm not running down what he's done at Florida. He will be hard to replace. But "most influential?"

  • Well, the process of replacing Meyer probably has begun at the University of Florida. I'm sure officials in the Athletic Department have been conferring informally since yesterday's announcement.

    And, whether justifiably or not, football fans in the SEC — and elsewhere across the nation — are wondering if their coach will be lured to Gainesville. Matt Hayes of The Sporting News says Florida may name Meyer's replacement within a week — in other words, before Alabama and Texas play for the national title.

    Hayes says five names are at the top of Florida's coaching wish list: Houston's Kevin Sumlin, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, Boise State's Chris Petersen, Arkansas' Bobby Petrino and Utah's Kyle Whittingham.

    At, Chris Low also mentions Petrino and Petersen as possibilities, but his list includes the likes of Stoops, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen and former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.

    Petrino and Mullen are the only SEC coaches whose names I have seen mentioned — so far. But SEC ties (or, for that matter, a background as a player or coach for Bear Bryant) do not mean what they once did. Meyer himself had neither on his resume when he was hired to replace Ron Zook five years ago.

    It's all a guessing game right now. I don't know if Florida will announce Meyer's successor within a week nor do I know who is really at the top of the Gators' list, but my prediction is that speculation will be widespread by the time Meyer's last game is under way Friday night.

  • Meanwhile, Meyer has been preparing for his Florida coaching finale. Only time will tell if he will ever return to the sidelines, but it can be said that, while he won't be competing for his third national title in five years at Florida, Meyer will be finishing his career as a Gator coach in the bowl game that once was synonymous with SEC excellence — the Sugar Bowl. The opponent may not be traditional, but the setting certainly is.

    It is interesting, though, that Rick Newman recently wrote, in U.S. News & World Report, about something that has bothered me over the years — the odd combinations of sponsors and bowl games.

    For example, Newman takes exception to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, which will be played in nearby Fort Worth on Thursday. "If you really want to honor the men and women in uniform," he writes, "just name the bowl after them, period. Don't stick you own name in there and ride on their coattails."

    Newman rants about the "absurdities that will be tripping across the TV screen" during the bowl season, but, in my opinion, his complaints are pretty tame. My complaint about bowl game names goes back 20 years, when Mobil Oil was the sponsor of the Cotton Bowl.

    When I was growing up, the Cotton Bowl was often the game that produced a national champion, although it wasn't always obvious. Sometimes you had to wait until the pollsters voted the next day before you knew who the national champion was.

    That was a simpler time, a time when bowl games didn't have to have a corporate sponsor in the bowl's name. That changed at some point, and, from 1989 to 1995, the Cotton Bowl (previously called the Cotton Bowl Classic) was sponsored by Mobil Oil. As a result, the game was called the "Mobil Oil Cotton Bowl Classic."

    It never seemed to me that oil and cotton made a very appealing combination.

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