PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Bob West

October 12, 2013

West column: UT's victory certain to complicate plans for Brown's ouster

PORT ARTHUR — Once the glow of finally beating Oklahoma again wears off, forward-looking Longhorn fans may conclude it was perhaps the school’s most costly victory over the Sooners. Why? Because shoving Mack Brown out the door just got a lot tougher. Despite embarrassing losses to BYU and Ole Miss, and three years of massive underachieving, Mack has remained downright defiant in the face of criticism. He’d made it clear he wasn’t going quietly into the night. Dominating what will likely prove to be a very pedestrian Oklahoma team can only reinforce his belief that he’s a helluva coach. The win is also certain to energize the few big cigar backers still in his corner. That’s going to make the political bickering over Brown’s future really fun to watch . . . Next best story line coming out of Texas’ victory will be how long it takes Sooner fans to turn on Bob Stoops. All that’s been keeping heat off Stoops in recent years is being able to embarrass Texas on an annual basis. Failure to beat good teams, meanwhile, has kept the Sooners from being relevant in the big picture since the 2008 season. Last year, what was thought to be a good OU team got overpowered at home by Notre Dame, thumped by Kansas State, then totally embarrassed in the Cotton Bowl by A&M. The year before the Sooners lost to Texas Tech, Baylor and  Oklahoma State. In 2010 there were Big 12 losses to Missouri and Texas A&M. The 2009 season saw losses to BYU, Miami, Texas and Texas Tech. The records have been decent but the bottom line is not what’s expected at Oklahoma. Stoops’ equity may be running out.

    Should Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak have stuck with interception-prone Matt Schaub as his starting QB for today’s game against the woeful St. Louis Rams? Absolutely. Could another flameout from Schaub eventually cost Kubiak his job? Possibly. A loss today means a changing of the guard to backup T.J. Yates and a season of high expectations plunging down the drain. With trips to Kansas City, Indianapolis and Tennessee, and home games against the Colts, New England and Denver looming, this could easily become a 6-10 team. Or worse. That would mean taking the salary cap hit to dump Schaub — $3.5 million in 2014, $7 million in 2015 —  selecting  a QB in the first round of the draft and being relegated to the third best team in the AFC South for a few years. Though owner Bob McNair likes Kubiak, he would have to seriously consider a change . . . Reckon Rob Ryan is having a good laugh over his changed fortunes? Fired by Jerry Jones as Dallas’ defensive coordinator, he landed on his feet in New Orleans and is being toasted as a savior of sorts. Ryan has taken a Saints’ defense that allowed an NFL record 7,042 yards last season and turned it into an aggressive unit that through five games ranks No. 11 in yards allowed and No. 4 in points given up. Meanwhile, the Cowboys under Jones’ latest brain-dead hire — 73-year-old defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin — have dropped from the 19th ranked defense under Ryan to No. 28. On their current pace they will easily shatter last season’s team record of 5,687 total yards given up and will also smash the franchise’s all-time mark of passing yards allowed in a season (3,928). At the current pace, the Cowboys are going to watch rival passers throw for 5,222 yards. Hiring Kiffin is just one more example of why Dallas can’t overcome Jethro’s decisions.

    No college basketball coach in America has move to prove this season than Lamar’s Pat Knight. After failing miserably at Texas Tech, Knight took a talented bunch of players he inherited from Steve Roccaforte and reached the NCAA tournament. Last year, with his own players, Knight was a program-worst 3-28 with a team that often wasn’t competitive. Count ESPN basketball writer Josh Reed as one who thinks Knight’s aversion to the three-point shot has the Cardinals doomed to another sub-par season. Reed is picking Lamar to finish 11th in the expanded Southland Conference . . . Another college basketball coach on the hot seat is UT’s Rick Barnes. Barnes, who is not held in much higher esteem than Mack Brown, will need a near miracle to survive. Texas insiders are already deep into speculation about who will be at the end of the Longhorns’ bench next season. Front-runner seems to be Shaka Smart, the highly-regarded young coach from Virginia Commonwealth. One of UT’s big cigars says the top three choices are Smart, Marquette’s Buzz Williams and Wichita State’s Greg Marshall, with Smart the clear No. 1 . . . How’s this for the height of NCAA rules absurdity? Central Arkansas linebacker Justin Heard, who has already graduated with a degree in sociology, was suspended three games for using some of his scholarship money to purchase textbooks for a teammate — his brother Josh. Central Arkansas self-reported the “violation.”  You read it right. Heard got suspended for using scholarship money to buy textbooks for his brother. Wow, what a horrible, low-life, threat to the purity of college sports. Heard’s first game back is Saturday against Lamar. Not exactly Manziel-type justice, is it?

    Those who watched Frontline’s two-hour documentary on the NFL and concussions — League of Denial — saw a troubling portrayal of arrogance, misdirection and whitewash. Evidence presented by ESPN reporters Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada suggested that for years the concussion game plan launched under previous commissioner Paul Tagliabue was to deny, discredit and detour around evidence. One forensic neuropathologist, who was the first to discover chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brain of former Steeler Mike Webster, was quoted as saying the NFL insinuated he was practicing voodoo. “You can’t go against the NFL. They’ll squash you,” he said. By the end of the documentary, it was obvious why the NFL gladly paid $765 million to settle a player lawsuit before it went to court . . . On the lighter side, strippers at Rick’s  Cabaret in New York City have succeeded in getting the woeful NY Giants games banished from television screens around the club. Seems like the Giants games put customers in a bad mood and cut down on tips. Said one stripper, “I’ve been showing off my new 34Ds, and getting compliments all the time. Except right after the Giants games, the guys are sort of deflated. They take that stuff too seriously.” . . . In case you didn’t see the bizarre finish to the Ohio State-Northwestern game last week, the last play cost Las Vegas bookmakers a reported $100 million. Ohio State, a 7-point favorite loaded up on by gamblers, was nursing a lead of only four points in the final seconds. On  Northwestern’s last play, which was a completed pass, the receiver attempted to lateral the ball. It bounced off a teammate and rolled backward into the end zone where Ohio State recovered for a touchdown. Instead of winning by four, the Buckeyes  finished on top by 10 and covered the point spread.

    For those who have been paying attention to Houston Astros owner Jim Crane’s legal battles  with ComcastSportsNet Houston, Lamar ex Giles Kibbe is one of the major players. Kibbe, a Kelly High School grad who played on Lamar’s golf team shortly before Chris Stroud arrived, is Crane’s lead counsel and most trusted employee. In addition to heading up Crane’s legal team, Kibbe is president of his posh golf club — The Floridian. He told me on the practice tee at The Floridian last spring that Crane felt it imperative to secure TV revenue in the ballpark with what the Texas Rangers receive. That he’s nowhere close is why the Comcast dispute drags on  . . . It’s a huge positive to see that Hakeem Olajuwon has been working with a handful of Houston Rockets players, primarily Dwight Howard. I’ll always wonder how much better Yao Ming would have been if he and Hakeem could have spent more time together. The fact they didn’t mostly had to do with travel, timing and Yao often dealing with injuries during the summer months when Hakeem was in America and available. If Howard will just listen and apply Olajuwon’s tutoring, he’ll  become a beast on both ends of the floor . . . Here’s how sensitive the modern athlete is. Atlanta Braves players were so upset when one of the franchise’s all-time greats, Chipper Jones,  picked the Dodgers to beat them in four games in the NLDS they boycotted when he threw out the first pitch in Game One of the series. Since none of the players would volunteer to catch, Jones’ pitch was made to the Braves mascot. It ticked him off, too, as a tweet makes clear. “Wanna thank the Braves organization for having me throw out the first pitch to the mascot. Quite sure that’s never been done before.” The Braves, as you probably know, lost to the Dodgers in four games.

    Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net

    

 

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