Mailbag: Champions Bowl, Geno, UConn

Thanks for all your email this week. Here's where you can reach me if you want to make an appearance in next week's mailbag.

Dave in Baton Rouge, La., writes: David, I am normally a big fan, but I took issue with your "black tax" lunch link. The article says that it happened to RG3, but it didn't. A dumb pundit anonymously said something bad about Robert [Griffin III]. Within a day, tons of outlets with white and black hosts were saying how kind and gracious RG3 is/was to them. On the other hand, Geno [Smith] is getting some wayward looks, not because he is black, but because he lost six games in a row [actually five]. Blame the defense all you want, but losing is losing. And Geno, last year, was a loser. NFL teams can see that. Don't try to create a problem where there isn't one, man. It's not about race, it's about talent.

David Ubben: Totally disagree with you on this one, Dave. Fact is, there are still folks around and in scouting who are uncomfortable with black quarterbacks and grade them on a different scale than their white counterparts. It's a minority, but they're out there.

Last year, the book on RG III was that he was somehow a "me-first" kind of player because of his flamboyant, animated personality on the field and in front of the microphone. Any Baylor coach or teammate could have told you that perception could not be further from the truth. That kind of criticism definitely had a racial tinge to it.

This year, the scouting report that article referenced on Smith doesn't talk at all about the losing streak, which, by the way, only featured what I'd call one poor performance from the West Virginia quarterback. What it does talk about is his "marginal work ethic" and need to be coddled, with an inability to handle hard coaching.

You can choose not to see it if you'd like, but there are definitely some racial undertones in there, and you have to factor in the writer's history with Cam Newton, as well.

Anybody who has talked to West Virginia's coaching staff or Smith himself and heard about what he's like around the facilities would know Smith works as hard or harder than anybody on the team and his work ethic stacks up with any of the greats we've seen come through the Big 12. Dana Holgorsen even went on national radio Thursday to talk about that. You're welcome to say it's not a racial issue, but I would call that being ignorant.

I'm not saying he's racist, but I'm saying there are some lazy comparisons and some people operating with preconceived notions that are sometimes rooted in racial stereotypes in scouting, and those kinds of evaluations are too easily listened to and passed on without enough skepticism or double-checking some of those assertions.

Smith threw for 42 touchdowns and six interceptions and basically played one really poor game, then didn't handle a snowstorm well in the bowl game. And you want to blame him for going 7-6? That's silliness.

John in Olathe, Kan., writes: When the Sugar Bowl is the host of one of the national semifinal games, where will the new Big 12/SEC bowl game be played? Cotton?

DU: Really good question, John. I went ahead and consulted the Big 12 on this one, and you're mostly correct.

In the seasons that the Sugar Bowl is a semifinal game played around New Year's Eve, the Big 12 and SEC representatives for the Champions Bowl will simply move to one of the other six rotating access-bowl sites. The other five access bowls are:

  • Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (Atlanta)

  • Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, Ariz.)

  • Cotton Bowl (Arlington, Texas)

  • Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)

  • Orange Bowl (Miami)

Any of the games could host the Champions Bowl participants from the Big 12 and the SEC. So, crisis averted.

Josh Parker in Manhattan, Kan., writes: Ubbs, someone has to win the Big 12 this year right? Seems like everyone is down on every team. (Not that it matters, but same for basketball.) What gives? You know what kind of coaches we have in this confrence, will they not make these programs better throughout the summer?

DU: Well, they've given us reason to be down on them, really. Oklahoma was the preseason No. 1 in 2011 and Texas A&M and Oklahoma State gave the Big 12 three top-10 teams to begin the season. Those were some teams with elite talent on paper to begin the season. Justin Blackmon? Ryan Broyles? This year, the league is largely devoid of a true star, much less an elite team. Might someone surprise us and run the table? That's possible, but nobody looks capable of doing it right now. The Big 12 will likely open the season without a top-10 team for the first time in league history.

That's a pretty good reason to be down on the league, I'd say.

Michael in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., writes: Do you see any way that UConn gets an invite from the Big 12? Four of the major conferences signing the "media rights" deal to detour any conference jumps. The conference only has 10 teams and UConn gives the Big 12 a NY market. I'm just looking for the possibilities that the Huskies don't get left at the kiddie table.

DU: I really hate this idea. It'd be huge for Connecticut (which would have an even larger task in trying to compete in every way in terms of football), but it makes zero sense for the Big 12. Bringing in UConn would be a prime example of expansion for expansion's sake. There's no football history or respect of the kind that WVU and TCU brought into the league, and the idea of UConn delivering the New York media market is laughable. Basketball would obviously be a nice addition, but as we've seen over and over again, basketball's revenues make it an afterthought in matters of realignment.

The ACC's recent grant of rights took the most likely (which is to say, still very unlikely) Big 12 expansion targets basically off the board, and you can pretty much count out any chance of the league expanding in the current environment. There's just not a viable option to make it happen.