Before we get to the 2008 football banquet Friday night, a few housekeeping notes from my trip to Orlando for the ESPNU College Football Awards brought to you by Home Depot.
COLT MCCOY'S INFLUENCE
Colt McCoy got some good face time during the two and a half hour show - but it felt a lot longer than that when Bobby Bowden's wife started stumbling through her notes. And believe it or not, McCoy, who will be on TV throughout the weekend thanks to Saturday night's Heisman Trophy ceremony is serving as the team's ambassador to a possible No. 1 vote from the AP if things play out right.
Before you say, "Oh Chip, give it up on the AP No. 1," you have to consider there are 50 first-place votes going to Florida right now in the AP poll. Nine are going to OU and six are going to Texas. If OU squeaks out a victory over Florida that leaves voters feeling unmoved, Florida's 50 first-place votes are back in play. Suddenly, voters would be faced with the decision to vote Texas No. 1 if the Longhorns take care of business against Ohio State.
So what more appropriate answer for Colt McCoy to give when Chris Fowler brought McCoy up on stage during the college football awards on Thursday and said, "If you had to play Oklahoma or Florida for the national title, who would you choose?" and McCoy said, "It would have to be Florida. We already played Oklahoma."
McCoy said it with such a harmless, Doogie Howser smile, that voters undoubtedly were charmed. McCoy will get even more of a chance to sway voters on Saturday night as all the Heisman profiles and interviews play out. McCoy has come a long way from the meak, mild, Malcolm in the Middle look-a-like who faced Ohio State in 2006. He's become comfortable in front of the cameras and has an underappreciated sense of humor.
Anyway, it's something to consider as you watch all the Heisman drama play out.
WILL HE STAY? YOU BET HE WILL
Let's also clear up some Will Muschamp myths about this Auburn situation before we get to the football banquet. I talked to several sources today who continue to find it comical that Muschamp's name keeps coming up for the Auburn job.
Apparently, there are a group of boosters at Auburn who want Muschamp as the coach. But sources told me tonight Muschamp has not been called and doesn't expect to be. When Muschamp finished up the 2006 season at Auburn, Muschamp's camp let it be known he'd love a guaranteed two-year deal while serving as defensive coordinator under Tommy Tuberville. Auburn returned with a one-year offer and basically insinuated he'd be getting a head-coaching job after that, so why bother with a guaranteed deal?
The business practices of the school left Muschamp totally bewildered. One source told me tonight Muschamp and Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs aren't exactly on Christmas card terms. As I've reported repeatedly over the past couple weeks, Muschamp has never been a candidate for the Auburn job. Not in the mind of the Auburn AD. Again, there may be boosters who wanted Muschamp, but that just shows how disjointed the Auburn program appears to be right now. Who is in charge? Booster Bobby Lowder? Or school officials?
Muschamp was irate with the Fox affiliate in Mobile, Alabama, that reported Thursday Muschamp would be named the new coach at Auburn. Muschamp has been out on the road recruiting with Mack Brown the last four days, including a trip to Alabama. Muschamp called the reporter Friday to say how irresponsible the story was and then spent all day on the phone reassuring recruits Muschamp wasn't going anywhere.
Suffice it to say, if you hear any more reports about Muschamp to Auburn, start a drinking game instead of worrying about it. It's not going to happen folks. But keep your eyes on these three candidates for Auburn: TCU coach Gary Patterson (Patterson's being advised by friends not to take it.), Buffalo coach Turner Gill and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. Heard from a couple sources that Auburn is now going all out to get Spurrier and will fall back to Patterson or Gill if Spurrier doesn't work out.
By the way, Muschamp's contract will not have a buyout in it. Jimbo Fisher's deal at Florida State has a $5 million buyout. If he leaves Florida State before 2011, he has to pay it. If Fisher isn't the head coach by 2011, he gets a $5 million payment. Muschamp's deal, according to a top source, will simply have escalated salaries depending on the year Muschamp takes over from Mack Brown. For instance (these are not real numbers), if Muschamp takes over in 2010, he'll get X amount. If he takes over in 2011, he'll get Y amount more. If it's 2012, he'll get Z amount more and so forth.
"We don't believe in those buyouts," the source said. "If a coach doesn't want to be here, we don't to hold him back. We want to reward the coaches who want to be here."
SERGIO IN LIMBO?
Nothing new on the Sergio Kindle front. He is the lone junior with a decision to make about the NFL now that Colt McCoy has vowed his return. Texas media relations officials asked Kindle if he wanted to field a few questions from reporters and he declined. That tells me he is still weighing his options about whether to return or jump to the NFL.
ON TO THE BANQUET
It was shorter than usual. Not every kid on the team got an award, and they were all voted on by the players.
Team MVP - Colt McCoy
Offensive MVP - McCoy
Defensive MVP - Brian Orakpo
Special teams MVP - Jordan Shipley
The banquet was full, but the crowd was flat. After the season highlights were shown on the big screen, three people stood up near the back and encouraged others to get up and applaud the team as well, but no one else got up, so the three people sat back down. Mack Brown got a standing ovation, however, and served up some good stuff to the crowd.
"That was a great highlight film," Brown said. "I had forgotten the OU game."
"When you look at leadership, this year's team has been the best," Brown said. "We started last year at the bowl game against a really good Arizona State team in the Holiday Bowl. The guys played their hearts out. Sally and I even had a family member step out and help."
"He's no longer with us, by the way," Brown said, drawing more laughs and referring to the fact Chris Jessee is no longer working with the Texas football team and is now living in Chapel Hill, N.C.
"But the guys fought and scraped and won the bowl game, and then those seniors left, and it was this group of seniors getting up at 6 in the morning and working every day. They worked really, really hard through the summer and listening to the all the doubters and proving them wrong - time after time after time each Saturday in the fall.
"And even if we weren't playing well, we were playing really, really hard. And then we set new goals. And then you want your dreams. This team can live a dream of still being what we feel like is the best team in the country. They can be No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 in the country when this thing is over.
"They can win another BCS bowl against a very, very proud program like ours in Ohio State University. It's one-and-one folks - one-and-one. We've got one more game to settle it since 2005. We won one in Columbus and they won in Austin. So we just called them and decided to settle it on a neutral field. So that's what's going to happen."
Interruption for applause.
"These seniors have one thing left to do and that's finish. They've got to finish with their finals and make sure they finish well against Ohio State because they'll be remembered for the finish.
"So the underclassmen have to help the seniors finish the way you will want to finish, and then you have to start over like we have to do every day. You have to start over in the weight room, start over in the classroom and try to make next year's team as special as this year's team because it's really hard to do.
"This year's team was known for chemistry. It's easy to say and hard to do. People will say next year's team will be better than this year's team. Not so fast. Lot of work to be done. And each person, each family, each member, each coach has to work harder as we reset our goals every day.
"As I was driving in with Sally a few minutes ago, I saw the Tower lit orange with the numbers '08. I thought how special it will be to go to the Fiesta Bowl - and you fans are wonderful. I called the ticket office because I always wonder how you fans are going to respond to a little adversity and things we don't like sometimes. They gave us 17,000 tickets to sell and as of yesterday morning, you all had already bought 16,000. So give yourself a hand.
"As I was thinking for these guys it is a special time in our lives and for our coaches because I'm not sure we've enjoyed coaching a team any more than this one. They are fun to watch. You see it in the emotional highlight film we had. Colt (McCoy) text messaged me on my over and said, 'Be sure to tell the guys I will be in New York trying to get the ultimate team award - the Heisman - because everybody's here with me.' And that's the way this team has been from start to finish. So this bunch will work really hard to make you proud in Phoenix, then they'll start over. And hopefully next year we can relight that Tower."
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
Quan Cosby had a telling point during his speech on behalf of the seniors at the football banquet Friday night. He said to the players returning next season, "Keep doing what you're doing. Last year at this time, I couldn't say that with confidence. But now I can."
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