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Berry Tramel

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Emails in on OU defense & coaches poll

by Berry Tramel Modified: March 27, 2013 at 2:42 pm •  Published: July 25, 2009

The new emails are in, and we’re talking about the coaches vote and OU’s defense.

James wrote about my column concerning the OU defense: “Sorry, Berry, but giving up 35 points to K-State, 31 to Kansas, 28 to Nebraska and A&M and 41 to OSU is not a great defense. Texas held OSU to 24 points, Kansas to seven and A&M to nine. Also, I agree that talent-wise we have an opportunity to be great on defense at all positions except for one: defensive coordinator.”

Kansas State had 17 offensive possessions against OU. OSU had eight offensive possessions against Texas. Do the math. Really, folks. Is it this hard to figure out? I’m not saying OU’s defense in 2008 was Selmon-level. I’m just saying you have to look past the raw scoreboard, or you’re branding yourself a football lightweight.

Jimmy: “The fact is that Venables should have been replaced years ago. We’re 0-5 in BCS bowl games under him. That’s unacceptable when you’re Oklahoma. Big-time programs fire assistants all the time. Mack Brown started winning when he hired great defensive coordinators like Chizik and Muschamp. We all want Mike Stoops back, but there’s a lot of great defensive coordinators out there we could go after. Bo Pelini would have been great, but Bob ran him off to LSU and he helped them win a championship. I guess Venables has been with Stoops so long that he’s like a son to him and he can’t fire him. I don’t know.”

You know, we talk all the time about how OU has returned to the penthouse under Stoops. But we don’t talk about WHY Stoops has been successful. If I ranked all the reasons why Stoops has been such a terrific success, I would put staff stability in the top three reasons. Maybe the top two. Stoops hires coaches he believes in, and they believe in him, and never once has that trust been compromised by the cowardly act of making a scapegoat of someone. Brent Venables’ defense has on occasion been lit up. His defense also shut out Vince Young in 2004. His defense also puts the lid virtually every year on Mike Leach. His defense gave OU a chance to beat Florida, but the offense failed. If you can’t stand losing, get out of the game, because it happens to the best of them. And by the way, Mack Brown didn’t fire anyone to make room for Gene Chizik. Greg Robinson left UT to take the Syracuse job.

Roland: “It seems that OU will be much better defensively. However, I have one remaining concern that will likely not be answered until the season starts: the OU kickoff team. Last year was one of the worst seasons I have experienced watching the ineptitude of the kickoff team. I never saw an OU team give up that many yards on kickoffs before in any season. In many cases, that is what lead to the defensive problems because of the amount of yards the kickoff team gave to opponents, placing the defense in a hole to begin with. I really hope Stoops and his staff come up with players that will limit the amount of yards the other teams get on kickoff returns. I think that would help the defense immensely.”

Excellent point. We all focused on all those touchdowns returned on kickoffs last year. But what about the times the Sooners finally dragged down the guy at midfield or past? OU’s kick coverage last season was a joke.

Jason: “I like your stats on defensive efficiency. It reminded me on a stat I wish they would change — red zone efficiency. The way they calculate it now is goofy; either you score or you don’t. Never mind that if you score a touchdown and kick the extra point you’ll have more points with 50 percent red zone efficiency than if you kick all field goals and have 100 percent efficiency. I think they should show an average points per red zone trip. For example: if you score two RZ touchdowns and make both extra points, a field goal and fail to score once, your number would be 4.25. If you get three field goals and one touchdown and an extra point your number would be 4.0. I still think it matters more how many times you get in the red zone, but I think this would be more useful than what they use now. ”

I agree. That’s why my defensive efficiency counts TDs as one and field goals as a half. Truth is, you don’t win in college football with field goals. This isn’t the NFL.

Isaiah: “As an OU fan, I’m curious if you think Bob Stoops will put more pressure on himself and his staff/team to try to win another Big 12 championship or national championship. This could possibly be the last year that he has both coordinators, Wilson and Venables, and a host of star players destined for the NFL. It looks like Bob could be facing a large rebuilding process if some or all leave after this coming season.”

Oh, the Sooners won’t be as good in 2010, no doubt about that. But there’s no possible way Stoops could put more pressure on himself and his staff and his team. I think all coaches at the elite levels of sport produce maximum pressure. But every game must have a winner and a loser.

 

Greg wrote about OU scheduling. “Add me to the list of enjoying you say, ‘play Army.’ I have a lot of USMA grads as friends, and they don’t understand the AD’s reluctance to play OU or go to Norman following. In fact, most would rather play us than Notre Dame because Stoops and our state have a lot better street cred than going to South Bend, who most believe has nothing in mind, but attempting to reconstruct their lost reputation on running up the score. They actually comment Stoops is like a general who only saves pastings for assholes and UT. Given the fact he cleaned the bench on both sides of the ball at Colorado Springs a few years back, I tend to agree. For that matter, I would like to play Navy at Annapolis. Trip to D.C. on Thursday, stay in Annapolis area, eat and drink around old harbor area, go to their museum. Real cool.”

Covering games at West Point and Annapolis are on my bucket list. Let me rephrase. Covering games at West Point and Annapolis are at the top of my bucket list.

Let’s move on to the coaches vote and the SEC flap concerning Steve Spurrier. Tom: “I agree with you that the coaches poll is a joke. Spurrier, in his defense, has come out saying the vote should be public. It was ironic that the media demanded to know who would possibly think Tebow was not all-SEC – to this I think Spurrier is innocent. Do you think the media will demand the coaches ballot for every coach at the end of the season to determine the BCS? Probably not. The Spurrier incident does illustrate the lack of credibility of the Coaches Poll; however, secret ballot takes it off the charts. I emailed Grant Teaff with no response weeks ago. The problem is that the AFCA went to Gallup for advice. Gallup runs a bunch of polls that are based on samples and in most cases, anonymity provides an open response. Problem is that the Coaches Poll is NOT a sample but rather a panel that Gallup does not have experience with. The same group of people vote over and over again, so it is certainly not a random sample. The panel has inherent bias because of how it is handled and the relationships among the panel members. For instance, the Stoops coaching tree would produce Leach, Mangino, Sumlin and Mike Stoops or the Bobby Bowden coaching tree would produce something similar. You have conference relationships and bias. Finally, you have the worst possible scenario, voting to improve the chances of your own team with regard to the BCS and the Big Money (Mack Brown last year had the opportunity). The only thing that keeps the coaches honest is public scrutiny. Anonymity does not solve this bias problem but rather enhances its effect because the coaches know that they have cover for their manipulations. Reality is the secret vote gives us what we really distain in the United States, the possibility of corruption. A second recommendation from the Gallup organization was to reduce the number of teams voted on to ten. This will create distance between teams with its impreciseness but it will also allow a coach to really punish another team by leaving them off of the ballot. You hit the nail on the head in your article. Can you imagine the public’s response to NOT KNOWING how their elected official voted at either the State or Federal level? Their public votes are at the heart of the American Democracy. Those bodies are panels just like the coaches voting in the coaches poll.”

Tom, you’re exactly right about Gallup. Frankly, I don’t see the coaches vote surviving much longer. I think we’re headed to committee. And by the way. If you just scan these emails and don’t read the long ones, go back and read Tom’s. It’s full of great insight.

Brian: “I don’t understand why the national media and SEC writers are mad and/or shocked that Tim Tebow isn’t a unanimous all-SEC preseason selection. Who cares? It’s a preseason list. Besides, where is it written that Tebow is supposed to be a unanimous pick? Most media want coaches to have opinions and then act shocked when they actually give that opinion via a poll or player ranking.”

Well said. It’s like what I wrote in my Saturday column. We have lost the ability to honor someone when we place values on to what extent they are honored. For instance, in some baseball Hall of Fame voting totals, the story is not that, for instance, Cal Ripken gets in, but the story becomes who didn’t vote for him? If Jevan Snead is voted onto the team ahead of Tebow, that’s a story. If Snead gets one vote, that’s not an outrage. It’s interesting, but it’s not an outrage.

Tracy wrote about the Ben Roethlisberger lawsuit: “Can you tell me the reason why ESPN has barely mentioned the Ben Roethlisberger case in Las Vegas? Given their enthusiasm for all things Michael Vick, PacMan Jones, T.O. or Kobe Bryant, does the lack of attention to the allegations against Roethlisberger smack of racial bias, or at the least, favoritism?”

I truthfully don’t spend a lot of time with ESPN television, so I can’t verify how much they’ve ignored Big Ben. And the Owens, Vick and PacMan cases aren’t similar. But Kobe and Big Ben allegations are very similar, and if ESPN has largely ignored one and not the other, it has, to quote Sen. Tom Coburn, “some ‘splainin’ to do.”

Evan wrote about Jamelle Holieway: “Good call on your thumbs down on Holieway. Let’s hope that some establishment on campus corner in Norman doesn’t put him on their roster for an autograph session on game day this fall. That’s happened in the past on several occasions after a couple of DUIs.”

Oh, Holieway always will be popular on the memorabilia circuit. He’s a legendary name, and he’s a charming guy to be around. Not arrogant. But he’s got some problems, obviously, and he’s squandering what was a wonderful setup for life.

Terry wrote about the eternal high school debate: “I graduated from Burns Flat in 1972. We were in class B 11-man football and you had to win your district in order to advance in the playoffs. We finished second, so by Thanksgiving we were playing basketball. Today, it seems that at least 50 percent of teams advance to the playoffs and there are way too many classes. There is no shame in doing your best but accepting the fact that only a select few advance and contend for championships.”

You’ve nailed it. The truth about the private school rise is that they started winning a lot more championships when the classes became bloated. Everyone thinks they have a divine right to a gold ball. Ridiculous.

Chad wrote about the British Open: “I was at work Sunday when Tom Watson’s approach shot skidded off the 18th green and settled into that horrible lie. After Tom putted out and with a playoff certain, I thought it best to drive home. On the car radio there was a debate raging on ESPN as to whether golf is a sport. The condemning argument held that if someone Tom Watson’s age could win a major, then it wasn’t sport at all. Not one of the people lined up on hold waiting to make a comment even thought to bring up Jack’s charge and victory at the 1986 Masters. Not one caller remembered Faldo’s apology to Greg Norman after Greg’s collapse in the final round at Augusta, or Payne Stewart clenching Phil’s face with the truth about “life” as Phil stood shocked by defeat at Pinehurst. Ultimately the callers didn’t know much about golf either. Had they, at least one caller might have commented on the pickle Tom Watson’s 8-iron approach shot to the 18th green put him in. They just wanted to weigh in on golf being a non-sport. Is the debate put to rest with the eventual winner? Well at least he’s younger, but you have to feel for Stewart Cink. There is always the challenge of sportsmanship within a non sport. He won an unsuspenseful playoff and the raising of his arms in victory seemed both unnecessary and required at the same time.”

I long ago grew tired of the is-golf-a-sport debate. Or is-NASCAR-a-sport. There are all kinds of sports. Some require great speed and strength. Some require great skill. Some require both. People who engage in such debates are of limited imagination. They can’t think of anything else to say.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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