Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Keegan: C’mon, coach, let ‘em duel

April 4, 2007


The most compelling news story of this century, without question, was the lesson in forgiveness taught by the Amish in the wake of the shooting deaths of five girls in a one-room schoolhouse in Bart Township, Pa. Family members of the departed Amish girls offered condolences and prayers to the family of the killer. Unforgettable acts of kindness.

The sports world is located at the other end of the gravity meter. It's supposed to be about escapist entertainment. That's why the sportsman of the century so far, in my book, goes to Bruce Pearl, the shirtless University of Tennessee men's basketball coach who painted a silver V on his orange-painted chest and cheered courtside for the women's team.

It was a smart way to promote a basketball team that runs third at the school to football and women's basketball. The wild move drew tons of national attention to Pearl and his program. It was the marketing move of the century, one that could be topped by only one man in college sports, should he decide to adopt my suggestion.

The man is Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino, and the advice has nothing to do with either chest-painting or cheering for a women's team. It has everything to do with putting the Kansas football program in the national spotlight five months shy of the season-opener.

Hard-core football fans will abhor the scheme. No coach in America would dare try it. Too bad it won't ever happen because it's a brilliant idea.

Here goes: Mangino should grab the megaphone at today's on-campus practice, which is open to the public, and announce a wrinkle to the April 15 spring football game to be played in Memorial Stadium.

"Thanks for showing up and supporting us today," Mangino could start. "If you're interested enough in the program to show up on a cold day like today, you're certainly not going to want to miss the spring football game. We're going to do something a little different this time. We're going to put a little something on the line. Kerry Meier will be the quarterback for the white team, Todd Reesing for the blue team. The quarterback of the winning team wins the starting job. The quarterback of the losing team is the backup."

Bring the two quarterbacks into a room, hand them each a roster, and let them draft their teams. If you're going to let them compete for the job, let them really compete. Take the red shirts off for the spring game.

What possible harm could this novel plan do? Face it, it doesn't really matter which guy starts because the backup will play as soon as the starter either is injured or has such a shaky game he's replaced to spark the offense.

Imagine the play the announcement would get on ESPN. Instead of talking about Texas, Nebraska and Oklahoma every time the Big 12 is discussed, the college football analysts would dissect the motivation behind Mangino's mastermind of a move.

The spring game itself, played in front of a huge crowd for a change, would become a national story, with the winning quarterback becoming a household name.

If you're reacting violently to this idea, relax. This is sports we're talking. Have a little fun with it. In the process, find out which QB is the bigger winner.


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