Five Step Drop: Joker's No Villain
1. Whether you think of the Jack Nicholson portrayal, the brilliant Heath Ledger version or some old school comic book, the first name of Kentucky's football coach definitely elicits a reaction -- how can you not connect him with one of the most famous villains in American pop culture history? I mean, who hasn't heard of The Joker?
But, unlike the others, Joker Phillips is a good guy.
Exhibit A: the current GPA of the football team (2.352, which essentially amounts to a C-plus average) is not cutting it. "We expect them to be in the classroom early and sitting up front," he recently told the Herald-Leader. "And when they do miss, believe me they do not want to see us."
Exhibit B: Joker has built a reputation in the state of Kentucky when it comes to attacking Louisville for recruits. As we all know, there's also a college football team in that city. Charlie Strong, Louisville's new coach, is now diving into his home base, and finding that he'll be butting heads for recruits with Phillips. Still, the two consider each other friends and refuse to do things in a deceitful or "backstabby" way.
"Both guys have been very respectful of each other," said Reggie Davis, father of UK recruit Jon Davis. "They haven't knocked or criticized the other. They have just presented Jon with data and explained why they want him to play for them and what role they envision him having. They've focused on what they have to offer without being negative toward the other program."
Gonna have to change that name, sir. Jokers are supposed to be bad.
2. You want to know why several teams will jump ship to join the Big Ten when given an offer? Check out this table of Illinois' revenue. Yes, that's more than $6 million per year from the Big Ten Network alone. You can talk about all the regional, educational, historical and whatever other aspects you want, but in the end, money talks. Just wait.
3. Speaking of which, Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports believes there's been a smoking gun on the Big Ten expansion front. You see, a Missouri newspaper filed a Freedom of Information request with the University of Missouri to see if it could find anything expansion-wise. The school denied the request on the grounds of being protected against releasing information that pertains to "sealed bids and related documents until the bids are opened," or "documents related to a negotiated contract." Interesting, that's for sure. I'm not near as sure as Dodd that this happenstance really means anything of substance, but I already thought it was a 100 percent certainty Missouri will be in the Big Ten by 2013 at the latest. Nothing but an outright refusal/public denial from Mizzou will change that (and, even then, I might need more convincing). It is as good as gone from the Big 12, in my view.
4. "Amateur" sports at their best: Alabama's lucrative deal with Nike will net the school upward of $30 million in cash and product over the next eight years. Of course, there are two schools with bigger per-year deals. Notre Dame's contract with Adidas is worth $60 million over the next 10 years while Michigan's got Adidas on the hook for $66.5 million over the next eight. Of course, should players ("student-athletes") receive a free meal from a booster, they'll be in deep trouble with the NCAA. The message? You're allowed to be money-grubbing in collegiate sports, so long as you aren't the one on the field.
5. Todd Reesing left quite the footprint at Kansas. The former KU quarterback racked up 11,194 passing yards and 90 touchdowns in three-plus years as a starter. He went 25-13 as a starter -- including a magical 12-1 season in 2007. Not only that, but former star wideouts Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe are gone as well, so the KU offense is virtually starting over under new coach Turner Gill. Unfortunately, they don't know who will be taking the snaps just yet, as Kale Pick and Jordan Webb are both listed at No. 1 on the depth chart. Fortunately, they'll have the entire summer to duke it out. It likely doesn't matter much in terms of how 2010 shakes out. The Jayhawks were 5-7 last season -- closing with seven straight losses -- and have lost key personnel. With the new head coach and what is essentially a new offense, this season will be more about building a new foundation than it will be about wins and losses.