Alabama Crimson Tide's Richardson holds up the trophy with teammate Kirkpatrick after they defeated the LSU Tigers during the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans

‘Costas Tonight’ dives into the dysfunction of college athletics

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As we mentioned in a primer a couple of days ago, “Costas Tonight: Live from 30 Rock” held a town hall/round table style special on the pressing issues of college athletics.

To reiterate the words of Bob Costas, not every angle was covered and not every voice was heard, but a few issues were brought up. Here were the highlights:

Pay for play
By now, you probably know the story. The NCAA originally passed legislation last fall to allow schools and conferences to add up to an additional $2,000 to the value of an athletic scholarship to their athletes. That proposal was met with enough opposition by Division 1 members to suspend it until what is now being reported to be an August revisit.

The issue itself is worthy of an extended deadline. Do schools allow college athletes to be paid their free market value, as ex-agent Josh Luchs suggested in a Sports Illustrated column?* Should there be a compromise and recognition that participating in college athletics is a full-time job that has a zero dollar cap? Or, is the value of an education, books, food, housing, etc enough?

(*that’s never going to happen; I’m just laying out ideas)

Joe Nocera of the New York Times related college athletics to “unpaid labor” and outlined a plan to where programs allowed a multi-million salary cap for teams where a minimum salary of $25,000 was given and select players could get more.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus said “athletes deserve more than what they’re getting. What they get is not equal to what they’re giving up.”

CFT’s take: Let’s be honest about paying players. What does it mean and are we okay with the consequences? The truth of the matter is that universities provide ample resources for their athletes, from the educational, to the financial for, say, an emergency trip home. The life of a college athlete isn’t exactly that of the starving student it’s sometimes made out to be.

With that said, playing sports is a full-time job for these athletes. Not a part-time job, a full-time job. And it’s one that offers limited, although not nonexistent, opportunities for compensation elsewhere during the academic year. The question we need to ask is what’s the dollar amount associated with the time that is being put toward the sport vs. what the athletes need. Minimum wage? Skilled labor? That’s what athletes should be compensated.

It’s about finding a middle ground.

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The BCS vs. playoff debate
BCS executive director Bill Hancock said during tonight’s broadcast, as he has said time and time again, that major college football’s regular season is the playoff.

It isn’t, and Hancock knows it. Costas promptly called Hancock on his bogus spin, pointing to teams like Boise State and TCU, which had undefeated seasons in years past and yet no shot at a BCS title. Hancock was speechless. As in, he had no response.

How can I describe it? In the movie “The Royal Tenembaums”, Ben Stiller‘s character accused Gene Hackman of stealing savings bonds out of an account. All Hackman’s character could do was chuckle helplessly and awkwardly in response.

It was like that.

But BCS leaders, to their credit, have listened to enough backlash to understand something needed to be done. So they met. And met again. And will continue to meet until July. And today, we found out that postseason ideas have basically been grouped into four categories, one of which reeks so profoundly of BCS slime that I’m not convinced Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wasn’t just screwing with our heads out of boredom.

CFT’s take: There’s not much that hasn’t already been said. Anything — well, except for the now-infamous Rose Bowl idea — would be almost an immediate improvement over the current system, no matter how small or displaced. To me, there are four individuals who are running away with the oversight in college football. You can probably guess who they are, but just in case, here’s a hint: they run the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. If/when they decide outsourcing their postseason to third parties is tiring, they’ll adapt. And so will the rest of college football.

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Conference realignment
This has been downright frustrating. Driving the scenarios where San Diego State plays in the Big East, Missouri is in the same division as Florida and two conferences fold into one to form a 24-team hodgepodge has been the pursuit of the ever-lucrative TV dollar.

After two years of shifting, moving and near-superconferences, South Florida athletic director Doug Woolard was asked tonight if the realignment craze had gone too far.

The answer, of course, is an emphatic yes, but you can click the video below to see a longer answer. If nothing else, it’s interesting to get the perspective of an AD whose own conference was nearly annihilated by realignment… and then nearly annihilated another conference in the process.

CFT’s take: Realignment is a bittersweet game for us. On one hand, we’re never opposed to the benefit it brings our site, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t make the 2011 season a lot less enjoyable on the field. The worst part is the feeling of helplessness that comes with it. Tradition? Whatever, big deal. Contractual agreements? Nothing more than the paper used to light celebratory cigars following the addition of a new school to a new conference. How can you or I — the common folk — argue with the almighty dollar, no matter how weak it is compared to the Euro?

The short answer is we can’t.

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Other items from the docket tonight that didn’t necessarily involve football:

— ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, new South Carolina coach Frank Martin and former Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie shared their thoughts about the one-and-done rule in college basketball. Bilas, as you might imagine, had zero issue with it, Martin wanted it taken out entirely and Flutie did his best to support staying in school. Martin suggested going back to the rule where freshman must sit out a year before playing varsity sports.

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— Former Mizzou receiver Sean Coffey was part of a panel discussing academics. Coffey said he felt sports operate essentially as a full-time job for athletes, and agreed with Costas’ assertion that academic advisers work to help athletes stay eligible, not enhance the educational experience. I think it’s fair, though, to point out that college will always be what the athlete — or you, your son or daughter  — makes of it.

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— NCAA president Mark Emmert sat down with Costas for a one-on-one interview. In between a handful of “I agrees” and “you’re rights”, Emmert acknowledged it was time to cut down on “trivial” violations and increase severity of sanctions for major infractions. That’s been the goal for the past year, but nothing definitive has been done yet because, well, it’s not as simple as ripping out the pages of the NCAA’s rulebook.

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Local Auburn man arrested after setting Toomer’s Corner oak tree on fire

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Fans of the Auburn Tigers roll trees at Toomer's Corner after defeating the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. The Auburn Tigers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves 51-14.(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Police have identified and arrested a 29-year-old Auburn, Ala. man after he allegedly set fire to one of the oak trees at the famous Toomer’s Corner.

Fans traditionally celebrate a Tigers victory by “rolling” the trees with toilet paper and did so once again on Saturday night following an 18-13 victory over LSU. However, video surveillance showed a suspect lighting some of the paper on fire, setting the tree ablaze as he walked away.

The Auburn city police department, in a release obtained by USA Today, stated that “witnesses at Toomer’s Corner identified a suspect, who was immediately detained and taken into custody by police on an unrelated charge of public intoxication.” Several reports identified the suspect as Jochen Wiest.

Firefighters quickly responded to the fire and extinguished the burning tree but university officials are still evaluating the damage to the oaks.

“From the ground we can easily see damage to the leaves and base of the tree. It is significant,” Professor of Horticulture Gary Keever said in a statement released by the school. “I expect the foliage will continue to drop. The full extent of damage may not be known for several weeks. The best case scenario would be to see a flush of new growth next spring, but right now it’s too early to tell how the tree will respond.”

The incident is all the more emotional for Auburn fans given that the tradition had just been revived this season following a three-year absence as a result of an Alabama fan poisoning the oaks. Hopefully the area around Toomer’s Corner can recover in time for the Tigers’ next win, which might be as soon as Saturday when they host Louisiana-Monroe.

Notre Dame officially parts ways with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder

FILE - In an Aug. 29, 2014 file photo, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, right, talks with defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder during practice during media day for a NCAA football team in South Bend, Ind. It was announced Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has fired defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder following a 1-3 start. The school tweeted a new release saying VanGorder is being replaced by defensive analyst Greg Hudson.(AP Photo/Joe Raymond, File)
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Notre Dame has officially parted ways with embattled defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

“This is a difficult decision,” Irish head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for Brian as both a person and football coach, but our defense simply isn’t where it should be and I believe this change is necessary for the best interest of our program and our student-athletes.”

Notre Dame has allowed 134 points through their first four games and are just 1-3 after extremely high preseason expectations. This was VanGorder’s third season in South Bend but the Irish have regressed significantly and ranked 101st in FBS scoring defense after Saturday’s home loss to Duke.

Defensive analyst Greg Hudson, a former Notre Dame linebacker who has served as defensive coordinator at Purdue, East Carolina and Minnesota, was elevated to fill VanGorder’s role.

“It’s never easy to make a change on your staff, but I’m confident in Greg’s ability to lead our defense,” Kelly added. “As a former player at Notre Dame and an experienced defensive coordinator, he not only understands the expectations necessary to compete at the highest level, but he’ll bring a fresh perspective to our sideline, practice field and meeting rooms.”

The move to make staff changes on the defensive side of the ball isn’t exactly surprising to Irish fans who have seen the team play this year but the timing is notable. Kelly remarked that the coaching was not the problem on defense after the loss to the Blue Devils but still opted to make a change on Sunday. It will be interesting to see if a very young defense will respond, and perhaps even rally, now that a big message has been sent.

Notre Dame plays Syracuse on Saturday at noon ET.

Florida International fires head coach Ron Turner after 10-30 run

HADLEY, MA - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Ron Turner of the FIU Golden Panthers looks on during the game against the Massachusetts Minutemen at Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Hadley, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
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The firing season in college football is getting started earlier and earlier. Just ask Ron Turner.

The Florida International head coach was fired early Sunday in a move that was hardly surprising aside from its timing.

“I want to thank Coach Turner for his contributions to the FIU football program, most importantly his commitment to academics and community service,” athletic director Pete Garcia said in a short statement. “At this time Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Ron Cooper has been named interim head coach.”

Turner went 10-30 over four years at the school but was 0-4 to begin the season after a 53-14 loss to Central Florida last week. While he is far from the first coach fired in 2016, Turner did become the first head coach to be fired after the season got underway.

Cooper had a 45–55 record in nine seasons as a head coach at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M. He was elevated to FIU’s defensive coordinator prior to the season and notably served as LSU’s defensive backs coach when Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu starred in Baton Rouge.

The Panthers are set to play local rival Florida Atlantic on Saturday.

LSU head coach Les Miles, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron fired

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Head coach Les Miles of the LSU Tigers looks on during the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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The Mad Hatter is looking for a new gig.

LSU has fired head coach Les Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the school announced on Sunday. The news was first reported by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

“Decisions like this are never easy ones to make,” athletic director Joe Alleva said in a statement. “Coach Miles has done a tremendous job here and he’s been a great ambassador for our University, which makes this even more difficult.

“However, it’s apparent in evaluating the program through the first month of the season that a change has to be made. Our commitment to excellence and competing at the highest level is unwavering, and our goals for the remainder of this season haven’t changed. We have an obligation to our student-athletes to put them in the best position to have success on the football field each week and we have great confidence that coach Orgeron will do just that.”

The move comes just hours after the Tigers lost to Auburn in the final seconds to drop to 2-2 after beginning the year as a trendy national championship pick and top five team in the polls.

Miles has been in Baton Rouge since 2005 and posted a 114–34 record at the school, including a national title in 2007 and a pair of SEC championships. He was nearly let go after the 2015 season but was retained following a huge wave of public support and potential implications with a large buyout.

Defensive line coach Ed Orgeron was named the interim head coach for the rest of the season. Former LSU quarterback and current tight ends coach Steve Ensminger is slated to become the new offensive coordinator, according to Fox Sports.