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Matt's Monday morning Musings - Week Seven: Play Hardball with Harbaugh? Good Luck

Each week, our Executive Director, Matthew Redding (5’11, 185, 4.78 40-yard dash, $4.99 on Wish, 5.49 on TEMU) sits down with a cup of coffee and ponders life in the world of College Football and beyond. Ask him anything on Twitter (@TheBarningMan) and he may answer it next week over his breakfast. This week, he’s thinking about the next thing to die in college football... The NCAA?

Harbaugh lifting the B1G Championship trophy

Over the last few years, we've watched the college football landscape change in ways that our grandfathers would have never imagined. Ever since Texas A&M and Missouri joined the mighty SEC in 2012, everyone has held their collective breath over what would happen next, and just when we thought we had seen the last shift in re-alignment after those few years, Oklahoma and Texas decided to follow them and we're right back into the thick of it with even more big-time moves. Conference rivalries and schedules that used to, basically, be set in stone have now become as fluid as a tidal wave, crashing down on all the old sand castles and leaving us with a new landscape to start over on. From the first wave of realignment back in 2012, to the transfer portal, to NIL, and now the B1G and Big 12 combining to kill off the Pac-12, nothing seems to be certain anymore, leaving us with guessing games as to what will happen next. Heck, by the time you finish reading this, the ACC is probably merged with the MAC conference after Florida State leaves too.

One stubborn thing always seems to remain every cycle. The moaning, groaning NCAA. The mythical "powers that be" always assume they're still relevant in today's age of paying players for their services. When the storied Pac-12 was crumbling to pieces because of TV deals gone wrong, where was the organization for "players' rights" when players were going to have to travel to the other side of the country annually every season? Exactly.


Yet, the association that is about as useful as flip-flops on Mount Everest finds a way to hang around. Why colleges haven't figured out the NCAA can't stop them from simply disassociating themselves from the organization and starting anew with a more competent organization is beyond me. But then a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, thanks to one James Joseph Harbaugh.


In case you haven't heard, the 4-game suspension he was going to serve to start the season is now out of the picture because... Things just "broke down"? What exactly broke down, you have to wonder. The commissioner's car on the way to sign the papers? It sounds to me like Jim was going to be at those games regardless, eating cheeseburgers as his players blew East Carolina and Rutgers out of the water, and simply said "Either save your face and let me coach, or let me make this a bigger headache for you than it's worth," and somebody not wearing yellow and maize blinked.


If the NCAA has that much power, then where is the hammer? They can deny a kid's playing eligibility just because they don't like that he transferred again, and they shut down Bruce Pearl's coaching career at UT because he barbequed some food for a recruit, but suddenly they couldn't "finalize a suspension"? First, it was because of a cheeseburger Harbaugh bought a kid, but now it isn't and they're "still looking into it'?


Said Derrick Crawford, the NCAA vice president of hearing operations "The Michigan infractions case is related to impermissible on and off-campus recruiting during the COVID-19 dead period and impermissible coaching activities — not a cheeseburger,”


Translation: We know how stupid this looks and we're trying to come up with something better.


Speaking of eligibility, the one good thing social media has done for us is point out the heartlessness of the NCAA denying the eligibility waivers of WRs Devontez Walker (UNC) and Jake Smith (ASU). Both are trying to play closer to home, and Walker wants to play for his ailing mom this year, but because it's their second transfer (even though Tate Martell had maybe 37) they said "no". My question is what exactly the NCAA will do to stop these players from seeing the field if they just marched out there and balled out anyway? The backlash is overwhelming, and if they don't cave to the mob soon, they'll have a lot of people wondering if the right people are really in charge of all these players' lives.


Heck, Johnny Manziel gets to dust off his Heisman trophy this evening even after getting on Netflix and publicly admitting all the money he took while at Texas A&M. Yet, Reggie Bush still has to sit back and watch his records be Thanos-Snapped from the Heisman trust and wonder what he could have done better to keep his hard-earned hardware. Hypocritical, and you can read more on that here.


All of the math is here to make me wonder... Is the NCAA the next thing to go in the old world of college football and college athletics? Jim Harbaugh might have pulled the pin in the grenade that's been waiting to go off for a few years now, and soon we might not have to see players and schools put up with "consequences" that don't really change anything after all. Jim has been stubborn in the past, leaving high-profile jobs like San Francisco because he couldn't have it his way before. Perhaps he decided to get a new sheriff in town by simply ignoring the old one, and hopefully, more college coaches decide to follow suit. Clearly, Georgia isn't afraid of them. If you believe the reports of trouble out of Athens, you would also have to ask where the NCAA was when recruits and players were misbehaving the way they allegedly were.


More change is coming, folks. This time, it could be for the better.


The more the college level looks like the NFL, the more we'll need leadership who embraces the new ways of college football and the similarities that come with it, and from everything I've seen, the NCAA isn't it. They still want to invoke power for their own sake, and not for the betterment of athletes across the country.


They could still shape up and embrace everything like NIL and the transfer portal, but the clock is ticking. If they do eventually crumble, we won't have Nick Saban or Kirby Smart to thank for it.


That credit will belong to Jim Harbaugh.


Matt's Monday Morning Mailbag


"Nick Saban just bought his retirement home, right? Is the end of the Bama dynasty here?" - MB

Nick Saban lifting National Championship trophy

Every year Alabama doesn't make the Playoff, we ask the same thing- "Is this it for Alabama"?

Every year after, he responds to that question with another trophy and a resounding "No". As an Auburn fan, I've seen it too many times. They come up short against an Ohio State or a Clemson, then turn around and get a Jake Coker or Tua Tagovailoa and do it all over again.


That was a rebound against Ohio State and Clemson however. They've never had to rebound from an SEC school before.


Since 2009, Saban has won a bajillion titles at Alabama, and it's been a helluva run for the old man. He could retire tomorrow and his legacy would be more than secure. Every trophy would be named after him and there would be a statue of him on every corner of Tuscaloosa. However, as many times as we've asked that question of his retirement, we've never seen an Alabama offseason like this-


- His offensive coordinator was his 3rd choice (Grubbs, Washington's OC, was a top candidate before he chose to stay with the Huskies).

- His defensive coordinator was a guy who watched his unit get picked apart by MTSU at Miami.

- His big-name transfer starting QB was a Notre Dame backup who threw 4 interceptions against South Carolina (and lost to Marshall).

- The reports out of Alabama's fall camp have been... Atrocious. No quarterback has separated themselves from the others (though Bama journalists will simply say it's part of the "process" or whatever).

- He bought a $17 million home in... Jupiter Island, Florida. You know, the state retirees go?


The odds of Alabama making the playoff are 10-1, right behind Ohio State, Michigan, and his former protegee Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs. It's worth noting that he's lost some top recruits like Perry Thompson and KJ Bolden to Auburn and Florida State. Five years ago, they would be locks to play in crimson and white.


Every sports guru I talk to or read from who knows the situation in Tuscaloosa keeps saying the same thing. "He looks tired," they say, and maybe he is.


He isn't used to having to keep recruiting his guys to Alabama after they're already on campus. The game has evolved, and he's watched his former DC take everything to a new level in Athens he doesn't want to keep up with after already having to evolve once in 2014 when he brought Lane Kiffin in to revitalize the offense.


To put it in nerd terms, think of Star Wars, when Yoda looks over at Mace Windu after the Sith are revealed to have returned. "Always two, there are," he says "A Master, and an Apprentice!"

When the cycle of Sith Lords continues, the apprentice usually kills the master to take over as the new Lord of the Sith.


Has Kirby done something similar?


I know that most of the questions are coming from SEC fans who are tired of seeing Alabama win everything, but from a journalist's perspective, the question might have a little more validity this year. He'll retire someday, and I wouldn't be surprised if this was indeed his last year at the helm before he rides off into the sunset.


But I also think he wants to win one more before he does, ala Peyton Manning. And I think that it's possible he also does that this year.


After all, we've doubted him before, right? What happened that time?


- M




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