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No, Paul Finebaum isn’t going to the Big Ten Network

Florida Football Insiders



Brett Davis- USA Today Sports

We are still a couple of months away from the drama of SEC football. And, that would include whether the Gators under new boss, Dan Mullen, can get their act together in 2018.

But this week there is word that one of the premier “talking heads” of SEC Football, and there are many, is having trouble getting his deal renewed with ESPN/SEC Network. And, there is definitely some fascinating drama around Paul Finebaum’s status.

Some quick background, Finebaum is former long time newspaper writer and columnist covering Alabama, Auburn and the SEC in that state. He hosted a successful state wide afternoon radio show for years in Alabama. And, as the popularity of SEC Football rocketed with both Bama and Auburn enjoying fantastic success in the 2000’s, Finebaum made the evolving transition to television.

So, when the SEC Network debuted three years ago, Finebaum was a natural to anchor the weekday lineup of “TV talk” and his television/radio simulcast is tremendously popular.

And that brings us to the current negotiations between Finebaum, his agent and ESPN.

First, in about two weeks hundreds of SEC media will gather in the new home of SEC Media Days (four of them) in it’s new home, Atlanta.

Coaches, players, former players, and prominent media from all 14 schools are there revving up everyone for September and the SEC.

And for the SEC Network this is known as, “offseason gold.”

And, don’t think for a second that Paul Finebaum and his representation aren’t looking to capitalize on that deadline in his contract talks.

That’s when, the first “warning shot” from Finebaum’s camp was leaked to fellow SEC national radio host and “talking TV head,” Clay Travis and he wrote about it last week:

Now, there’s no doubt that Finebaum was/is exerting leverage on ESPN with that leaked threat.

Well, then things went five levels higher on the absurdity of the negotiations, when again, Finebaum and his agent, let it be known that he might be interested in ……. jumping to the Big Ten Network?!?

Yes, that’s the latest in the “rumor mill”from Sporting News earlier this week:

First, we at F.F.I. would love to know if Finebaum can name the 14 Big Ten Stadiums that the schools play in, much less, if he has even been in half of them to cover/watch a game.

And, we’d be further impressed, if without looking at anything, including Google on his phone, if Finebaum could name half of the Big Ten’s current football coaches, too.

So, the stratosphere level of silliness that he would seriously consider leaving the fan bases, teams, coaches, legacies, etc. of the SEC just doesn’t make any sense.

It again, wreaks of his trying to leverage ESPN anyway possible to get a better deal.

Now, for example, if Finebaum were to seriously talk to CBS and CBS Sports Network, which has been TV home to the SEC Game of the Week for over 20 years now, that would be logical and make some sense. Finebaum would bring serious credibility and audience to their cable channel, and more with his five day a week show.

And maybe, that is actually happening on a quieter level of discussion. We don’t know.

The best guess is that Finebaum re-ups with ESPN/SEC Network,

But if he doesn’t?

He’s not going to a conference/channel to broadcast, where he doesn’t know a Boilermaker from a salt shaker.

Big Ten Network.


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ESPN releases days-times for bowl games including College Football Playoff

Florida Football Insiders



Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never too soon to start thinking college football season, and specifically, the bowl games. Or at least, ESPN thinks that way. The cable television network that basically controls the televising of the sport’s game days and times throughout each season, has released the pertinent bowl info on Wednesday afternoon.

And there are some interesting aspects for the bowl games played in our state this December and January and of course, for the most important games, the College Football Playoff semi-finals and championship early next year.

First, on the bowl games in December:

ESPN will have a quadruple-header of games starting on Saturday December 15th, but none are in the state of Florida.

The first of those from the Sunshine State will be the Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl to be played on Tuesday night December 18th on FAU’s campus at 7 p.m. The Owls are the defending champs.

Next up is the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg to be played two nights later on Thursday December 20th at 8 p.m. Temple defeated FIU a year ago in the game.

Continuing, the Camping World Bowl will be played in Orlando on Friday afternoon December 28th at 5:15 p.m. Oklahoma State is the defending champion in that game.

And, then, because of the rotation of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games and where the days and NFL schedule falls, Saturday December 29th will be the day/night for the previously mentioned, College Football Playoff semi-final games.

The Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium and the Goodyear Cotton Bowl in Dallas will await the CFP and ESPN’s decision on which match-up will go into which slot.

The game times are set for 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on that Saturday with the winners advancing to play in the CFP Title Game the following Monday (9 days later) at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

Last year, Wisconsin defeated Miami in the Orange Bowl game.

On New Year’s Eve (Monday) the Taxslayer Gator Bowl will be played in prime time at TIAA Bank Stadium in Jacksonville. Mississippi State won last year’s game.

Then, on New Year’s Day, the Outback Bowl will kickoff as the first football game of the new year at noon at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. South Carolina is the defending champs.

And, the Citrus Bowl in Orlando will start an hour later at 1 p.m. with Notre Dame as last year’s winner.

The New Year’s Six bowls resume with the Fiesta Bowl at 1 p.m. in Glendale Arizona, the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA, in it’s traditional 5:30 p.m. slot, and then the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans in it’s traditional New Year’s night prime time slot of 8:45 p.m., round it out.

Again, the College Football Playoff will hold it’s championship game on Monday night January 7th at 8 p.m. Alabama beat Georgia in an overtime thriller for the championship in January.

All of those games will be televised on one or multiple of ESPN’s networks.

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Willie Taggart and Dan Mullen have revived Florida’s top two programs

Florida Football Insiders



Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Granted it was only a Spring Saturday in both Tallahassee and Gainesville, but for the Seminoles and the Gators fan bases, they needed it.

Willie Taggart came from his one season at Oregon (and previously USF) promising to put some “pep back in the step” of everything associated with FSU, particularly after 2017 petered out with a 7-6 year.

And so far, his biggest accomplishment over his first five months is that he has rallied everyone from alumni, to students, to a mass of former players to get back involved with the program.

Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium was proof.

First, in comparison to last April and around 10,000 Noles fans that came to Jimbo Fisher’s final Spring Game, FSU announced that they not only sold over 40,000 tickets, but with students (who were free) included, Saturday had over 53,000 in the house.

Take a look at what “revival” looks like:

Further, and this is equally impressive, Taggart lobbied and worked hard to get former players to embrace the Seminoles efforts, again. And that, too was a rousing success, as a turnout of over 300 strong of former Noles jammed the sidelines and the end zones to be close to it all Saturday.

Here’s an interesting perspective from FSU radio broadcaster Tom Block:


Meanwhile in Gainesville, Dan Mullen’s attempt to bring Gator fans back around the program was also successful on Saturday. Their “Pack the Swamp” movement has been ongoing for the last month, and as we wrote, Mullen even took two going personally to fraternities and sororities over the past couple of weeks recruiting students to come back to the games.

The first indication that his campaigning was having a positive effect came prior to the spring game from one of the Gators long time beat writers:

Then once the crowd began to pour into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium it was obvious that there was a spark back, even, again, in a Spring game situation.

The Gators also announced over 50,000 at their game Saturday and this look at the Swamp verifies that the Orange and Blue faithful are embracing what the former Mississippi State head coach (and Florida offensive coordinator) is trying to instill:

So while the results on the field Saturday aren’t significant themselves, no one can deny the two programs that have won a combined four national championships this century demonstrated that they have rejuvenated most of their fan bases.

And that’s good for the state and the sport of college football.

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National Recruiting Day major part of exploitive nature of college football

Ari Russell



(USA Today - Brett Davis)

I understand I’m a few days late driving a rant towards the impurity of major college athletics, but I needed a few days to gather my thoughts. Unless you have been living in some hidden anti-zombie bunker recently, you ought to know that Wednesday was National Signing Day for college football. Now this year it was a little different as they have opened up the recruiting process allowing for recruits to sign their national letters of intent starting in December. That said it didn’t stop the overtly egregious media coverage on Wednesday.

Perhaps the biggest drama occurred at WR Jacob Copeland’s announcement which was televised nationally, which I’ll get to in a second. But by now you are likely up to speed as to what happened.

Now the whole hat ordeal wasn’t anything new, it’s kind of a little game the recruits get to play with the different hats. It was Copeland’s mother’s reaction that was the story. I was joking that she was probably worried that she would have to return whatever gifts Nick Saban gave her to try to woo her son to Bama. Obviously I have zero evidence to make the charge or any inside information proving this assertion, but it isn’t too far fetched.

Recruiting has become a gigantic industry within the college football landscape. It’s the lifeblood of all programs and it’s the part of the sport that is 24/7/365. Taking a day off could mean missing out on a major prospect that could make a major difference on said program.

I don’t have to explain to entire process to the audience on this site. Everyone understands the importance of recruiting. It’s so important that was once obscurely covered where you would find out who went wear when a fax came through with a list of names, now has dozens of websites, radio shows, TV programs, podcasts, web series that covers recruiting every single day of the year. Look it’s popular we understand, but what it has become is yet another example of gross exploitation of young mostly African American males.

Hey Ari why do you have to make this about race?

Duh because the overwhelming majority of the nation’s top recruits are black¬† Be my guest and be cognitive dissonant, and also be complicit in the exploitation.

I’m not going to sit here however and wax with some righteous indignation. I have been covering college sports for a long time, for over two decades now. My hands are as bloody as anyone else in this game. However recruiting and it’s excessive coverage has always been something that has made me feel really dirty just talking about it.

The Copeland clip is just an example of how ridiculous this all is. There is no reason for these young men to receive all this attention and prestige. Not saying their skill and accomplishments aren’t deserving of praise, it’s just they are parading these young people out only to throw them into a system which isn’t giving them their fair share of the cut.

Coaches these days are making several million dollars a year. TV contracts are out of this world, however not a dime goes to the kids. That said, there is a lot of money that flies around during the recruiting process. If you think suitcases of money and other monetary transactions aren’t happening on a daily basis you’re living with your head in your rear end.

A lot of these young people have handlers these days for the various youth leagues and camps they attend. Those guys are going to need a cut. You have the apparel companies that are out here trying to get school contracts to outfit the kids, those guys are going to want a cut. Then you have the families, many come from working class or from abject poverty that of course are looking for their cut. Often the young people involved don’t end up with much. Maybe a car, which title will be transferred over with car note after said recruit has a tragic injury or just plain old repossessed.

Now I know those looking to maintain the status quo are going to be talking about how the scholarship is the worthy transaction and so valuable you can’t even quantify it. Indeed this may be the case. But these folks aren’t going to the school for that scholarship. It’s the money they generate for the University at large is what brings them to the school. The fact you can’t quantify the value of the college diploma is really part of the whole scam. I didn’t even get into the physical toll football plays on the body. These kids don’t even get medical coverage once they leave school despite sacrificing their body for the school. Again tell me what a college diploma does for managing chronic pain or worse CTE. This isn’t exactly proper treatment, but I digress.

It all begins with the recruiting process though. That’s were the seeds of exploitation are planted. I do not blame Jacob Copeland, or did I think his mother did anything wrong. I’m not out here blasting them. It’s just that TV moment really exposed the problem with the hypocrisy and ridiculous nature of recruiting. I wish nothing but the best for Copeland and his family, he seems like a nice young man. I’m just concerned whether he’s aware he’s about to be tossed into the machine and is a mere expendable pawn. I would be more than happy to blow up this exploitive system so Copeland and his family can directly benefit for his talents. Until then I’ll just use this platform when I can to fight for justice for these young people.

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