Today in sports: A nightmarish scene repeats itself for Oklahoma State, some common ground on Tim Tebow, and a brief history of scramble bands.
- Oklahoma State women's basketball coach Kurt Sudke and assistant coach Miranda Serna were among the seven fatalities when the single engine airplane they were taking for a recruiting trip crashed into a forest 45 miles outside of Little Rock. In 2001, the school experienced a similar tragedy, when a plane carrying members of the men's basketball team went down over Colorado, killing two players and eight passengers with ties to the program. After the 2001 crash, the AP says Oklahoma State "required that planes used by the school's sports team undergo safety checks before travel," but those regulations didn't apply to the planes coaches take on individual recruiting trips. FAA records show that the plane that crashed today was built back in 1964. [AP]
- Syracuse University has placed men's assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine on administrative leave, following accusations from two former ball boys that he molested them during the 1980s. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim offered a rousing defense of his longtime lieutenant last night. "I know this kid," Boeheim told ESPN, 'but I never saw him in any rooms or anything. It is a bunch of a thousand lies that he has told." He went on to question the credibility of the accusers, who first made the claim in 2003 to the university, which launched a probe that failed to turn up any evidence. Said Boeheim: "You don't think it is a little funny that his cousin (relative) is coming forward? He supplied four names to the university that would corroborate his story. None of them did ... there is only one side to this story. He is lying." [ESPN]
- Tim Tebow, the fettucine-armed, politically polarizing second-year Denver Broncos quarterback, led the team to another improbable last-second victory Thursday night over the New York Jets. If cultural conservatives appreciate Tebow religious fervor and right-wing politics, football conservatives don't like his herky-jerky throwing motion and fondness for scrambling instead of waiting for his receivers to work their routes. So there isn't much common ground between his fans and detractors. But we think both sides would probably agree on three general points.
- Tebow's basic passing skill (footwork, arm strength, arm accuracy, and an efficient throwing motion) are way, way way below average for an NFL quarterback. (Some NFL scouts use the phrase 'non-functional' to describe such deficencies, but that carries a distinct hint of judgement.)
- He's a terrific runner. In addition to scrambling out of the pocket like a regular shifty quarterback, he's big enough to run behind his offensive line like a bruising short-yardage ballcarrier.
- He's won everywhere he's played. That track record, along with his enthusiasm, has a positive effect on his teammates. Call it "it," call it mystique, but he has a knack for winning football games.
That last point does not apply to New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, the traditional passer the Jets traded up to select with the fifth pick in the 2009 NFL draft. He has the skill set Tebow lacks, but he doesn't make anything of it. In fact, argues New York magazine's Will Leitch, he can look worse throwing the ball than Tebow, like when Broncos cornerback Andre Goodman intercepted one of his passes and returned it for a touchdown in the third quarter to tie the game at 10-10. "It was as bad a pass as you will see an NFL quarterback make...The Jets are a team that requires a quarterback who doesn't make the huge mistakes like that one. It is beginning to look more and more like Sanchez might not be that quarterback." In other words, nobody knows anything. [New York magazine]
- Driving drunk is a terrible decision for anyone, but it's especially dumb -- and costly -- if you're a big time college football coach. Witness the plight of Gary Pinkel, the head football coach at the University of Missouri. Pinkel was picked up and charged by police in Columbia Wednesday night on a misdemeanor charge of drunken driving and pleaded guilty today. The school responded by suspending him without pay (that's worth about $41,000, according to the AP), scrapping his automatic year-end pay raise ($50,000), and taking away $175,000 in other bonuses he was in line to get at the end of the year. All told, it's going to cost him $306,000. And he's going to have to do community service. [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
- Before you blame Columbia's band for changing the words to the school's fight song after Saturday's loss to Cornell, which got them banned from Saturday's season finale against Brown, consider this: they're a "scramble band" and can't be blamed when they act cheeky. The New York Times traces the history of the marching band's ragtag cousin, which became popular in the 1960s in the Ivy League and at Stanford. Scramble bands are "equal parts music, odd costumes and boundary-pushing humor," explains the Times. "Most come up with themes for the game, usually trying hard to offend the opponent and sometimes making political statements." It's a much cheaper form of school spirit, but some things just aren't for joking about. Like Columbia's football program. [The New York Times]