PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

February 8, 2014

West column: Lamar foolish if it lets Knight finish season

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Just a reminder to the powers that be at Lamar University that every day Pat Knight is allowed to remain on the job as basketball coach puts the school deeper in a hole dug by his lousy recruiting and a dubious approach. There’s a good coach already on the LU payroll named Tic Price who should replace Knight on an interim basis as soon as possible and be strongly considered for the job long term. Put Tic in charge now and give him a fighting chance to salvage a player or two in recruiting. From what I’ve been told, working out a deal on Knight’s contract that runs through April of 2016 is doable, so why waste any more time. After Saturday’s loss at Sam Houston, his record the past two seasons is 6-48 overall, 3-26 in the Southland Conference and 2-17 in the Montagne Center. He really needs to think hard about that stealing money quote that got him so much national attention two years ago . . .  One of Knight’s excuses for a second consecutive abysmal season, by the way, is that he played too tough a schedule with an inexperienced team. That may have been true last year, but it doesn’t hold water this season. ESPN, which has Lamar ranked No. 346 out of 351 Division 1 teams, also rates the strength of schedule for all schools. Lamar’s overall SOS is 336, which ranks above only Southeastern Louisiana (340) in the Southland Conference. It’s non-conference SOS is 310. Only Incarnate Word at 312 is worse. Bottom line, there is no masking the fact that Knight is in way over his head and will go down as the worst coach in the history of the program. By far. Going back to Jack Martin, I’ve covered all 10 Cardinal head coaches and have never seen anybody do such a poor overall job. Among the many negatives, Knight will leave owning the only two 20-loss seasons in program history.

Predictably, the issue over whether the Texans’ should take Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel with the No. 1 draft pick is heating up. Wade Phillips is the latest to add fuel to the fire, saying last week on a Houston sports talk show that Manziel should be the Texans’ pick. He cited Manziel’s abilities as a playmaker and star power that could electrify the city like Earl Campbell did in another era. A Houston Chronicle poll on whether the Texans’ should draft Manziel or South Carolina DE Jadevon Clowney has the 2012 Heisman winner far ahead at 61 percent . . . One person I couldn’t pin down on Manziel was two-time Super Bowl winner Jimmy Johnson. While JJ wouldn’t say whether he’d draft Manziel or go another route, he pointed out why Johnny Football likely won’t be wearing a Texans uniform. “Bill O’Brien is going to be the offensive coordinator. It’s who he feels best with. His quarterback at Penn State and Tom Brady at New England were not that style.” In other words, don’t expect O’Brien to adjust his quarterback thinking no matter how dynamic Manziel is . . . Jimmy, I’m sure would get a chuckle out of former Cowboy QB Roger Staubach’s diplomatic suggestion this past week. Staubach, even more than the average fan, understands how Jerry Jones’ personnel decisions are killing the Cowboys. In an interview with the Dallas Morning News, he suggested that Jethro hire Troy Aikman to work in the team’s front office. “He could be another John Elway as far as a general manger,” Staubach said. Maybe so, Roger, but we’re not about to find out. Jethro thinks he’s doing a great job, despite all those 8-8 seasons and one playoff win in 20 years.

The No. 1 lesson to take away from Seattle crushing Denver in the Super Bowl is that truly dominant defenses will almost always prevail against even the best offenses. Especially ones that can make a quarterback develop happy feet. But what the Seahawks did to Peyton Manning and the Broncos was still amazing because of how NFL rules changes in recent years have all been geared to help offenses. Because of how different the rules are, Seattle’s defense deserves to be compared to the game’s very best. And congratulations to West Orange-Stark’s Earl Thomas for being a key piece . . . Las Vegas oddsmakers, who cleaned up when 65 percent of the millions wagered was placed on the Broncos, quickly established Seattle as a favorite to repeat. The Seahawks are 7/1. Denver and San Francisco are next at 8/1, followed by New England at 12/1 and Green Bay and New Orleans at 20/1. Dallas is well  down the line at 40/1, the same odds put on a Texans’ team trying to rebound from 2-14. Even the bookies don’t respect the Cowboys . . . It didn’t take the NFL long to figure out a way to start covering its $760 million concussion lawsuit. By working out a $220 million, eight-game Thursday night TV package with CBS, Roger Goodell and the fat cat owners he represents have a running start on new revenue to offset the payout. Never mind that games played on Thursday night don’t give players time to recuperate from Sunday, and probably make them more susceptible to injury, it’s all about the money. CBS, which will have its No. 1 announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simmons in the booth, is totally on board because of the TV ratings the NFL generates.

Put Texas A&M’s top five recruiting class on the Johnny Manziel tab. Without the success and high profile Manziel generated the past two seasons, there’s no way the Aggies would be celebrating one of their best-ever recruiting classes. He might have been a huge pain in the butt for Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin at times, but Sumlin and the Aggies will forever be indebted for the competitive credibility Manziel gave them. You wonder if any school has ever reaped a bigger benefit from a single player. Robert Griffin and Baylor might be in the argument, but Manziel has the Aggies on a bigger stage . . . Speaking of Baylor, an interesting recruiting piece in the Dallas Morning News made a strong case for what an amazing job Art Briles has done. Over the past five recruiting classes, Baylor’s average yearly rank among schools in BCS conferences was only 43.2. It didn’t have a single Rivals five-star signee and only 14 who carried a four-star label. Texas, on the other hand, had an average class listed at 7.4, with eight five-stars and 69 four stars. Florida, meanwhile, ranked 3rd overall and had 12 five-stars and 63 four-stars. Yet in 2012, the Bears went 11-2 and played in a BCS bowl, while Texas was 8-5 and Florida went 4-8. Only Rose Bowl champion Michigan State — one five-star, 23 four-stars — came close to Baylor for overachieving . . . Belated congratulations to Nederland ex Stefan Huber. Huber, who wrapped up his Baylor career in the Fiesta Bowl, was one of the bowl’s post-game honorees by being voted winner of the Fiesta’s Sportsmanship Award. That followed Huber being named to the Big 12 All-Academic team and earning All Big 12 honorable mention for the job he did as the Bears’ center.

No way a Houston Astros fan can be optimistic about the team moving out of the American League West cellar in 2014, but Baseball America says the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer an onrushing train. “It looks like the worst is over in Houston, with a deep roster of prospects led by Carlos Correa, beginning to make contributions,” the magazine proclaims on the cover of its Jan 31-Feb. 14 issue. Inside, there’s a rating of the Astros’ top 10 prospects, starting with Correa, OF George Springer, pitcher Mark Appel, pitcher Mike Foltynewiz and pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. . . . Former Nederland and PN-G football players have been slow to respond to a group called Gridiron Alumni which is hoping to stage a football game between exes of the two Mid-County rivals. Thus far there have been six players from Nederland — Eric Holland (1993), Rodney Darbonne (1983), Michael Lester (1996), Justin Sanderson (1992),  Kevin Jackson (1993) and Manuel Rios (1996) — sign up, but none from PN-G. Anyone who is interested, or would like more details, can go to www.gridironalumni.com or call Chris at 530 410-5396 . . . Not only did the NFL dodge a bullet on Super Bowl weather, it set a record for revenue off price gouging of in-stadium customers. According to the Sports Business Journal, the NFL’s haul off concessions and merchandise was an all-time high $11.7 million. The dollars add up fast when you are charging $20 for a souvenir mug of soup, $13 for hot dogs, $12 for a beer and $11 for a cup of hot chocolate. SBJ’s figures show that the average per person spent $94.60 on concessions, with the expense jumping to $141.75 when merchandise purchases were factored in. Maybe that’s not a big deal when you fork between $1,000 and $3,000 for a ticket.

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