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July 2, 2012I'm supposed to be on vacation. Just know that before I go knee-deep (I'll admit that this isn't a head-first edition) into this weekend's thoughts, there wasn't originally going to be a 10TFTW today. I had previously told the OB staff that starting on Saturday, I was going to attempt an actual work-free vacation until this upcoming Sunday's mega-event the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge taking place in Dallas.
But, I just couldn't stay away. It won't happen today or at any time this week. I'm just too much of a junkie. After all, I am the guy that wrote articles for three straight days from the beaches in Jamaica on the NFL Draft two Aprils ago while on my honeymoon.
Therefore, here I am on what is supposed to be day-two of my rare vacation and I just felt like some of the stuff I wanted to discuss with you guys was just too important to hold back, and it's ultimately my fault that I didn't get this done last week at an earlier point.
So, what's so important that it couldn't wait another week? We'll call it my mini-State of the Union address on the heels of last week's Rivals.com Conference in Atlanta. As is always the case, there's a rush of adrenaline that comes out of these meetings because of the fresh ideas picked up from around the conference and the increased urgency we've seen with Yahoo since the arrival of Eric Winter last year as the new leader of the Rivals brand.
As many of you know, there have been questions in years prior to Winter's arrival about the direction of Rivals, especially with so many once-powerful voices within the network no longer working in a partnership capacity. When we arrived in Las Vegas last year, the mood was quite different than this year. There was some doubt, confusion and hurt feelings that needed mending. I'm of the opinion that the single biggest thing that Winter did for this company was simply reinvigorating the network and re-creating the brotherhood from within it that truly separates us from every other aspiring company that we compete against.
In putting Humpty Dumpty back together again last summer, Winter looked a little like Edwin Moses in his prime, but the troops were rallied and he accomplished two very important short-term tasks, while simultaneously turning his attention to long-tern tasks.
1. The mobile platform was improved soon after the conference ended.
2. Upgrades were made to the outdated technology platform that the company has leaned on for a decade.
While neither upgrade was a perfect one, they were much-needed short-term upgrades and with so many other balls (both short-and long-term) being juggled at the same time, they served as something more than just a symbolic act. It was action. It was a sign that we weren't just going to get back into the game, but own the game. No great odyssey begins without a small first single step and both of these moments served as exactly that, a first step.
One year later, and the emotions at the conference were decidedly different. Doubt was replaced with aspiration, confusion replaced a keen sense of direction and those hurt feelings had evolved into a renewed sense of commitment to the brotherhood. And in a week when the company put on the single greatest two-day recruiting event in the history of our industry, we received an updated roadmap for the future of the company.
The bottom line is this: the state of OB and Rivals is not only strong, but perhaps stronger than ever. Of course, talk is just talk and words are just words. You want the same type of action that we wanted a year ago as publishers. Understanding exactly that, here's a look at nine steps/updates you need to know about what will be happening at OB in the short- and long-term.
1. Technology updates
This is the place that I know everyone wants to hear about, so let's not bury the lede, right? I've got good news for everyone. We all know the issues and we're all on the same page with them. I'm talking from the message boards to the mobile platform to social networking integration to everything in-between. I can report with first-hand Intel that the single-biggest initiative for the company in the next calendar year is the complete upgrade to all aspects of the Rivals technology. Period. I'm not going to make an emphatic promise that the Death-Star of website technology will emerge. What I will report is that our current leadership has worked for the last year to prioritize strengthening the features that are most critical to the now and future of the company. The expectations that we all have moving forward is that within the next year the transformation will have taken place. Hamster project 2.0 it won't be.
2. Improved HD video
One of the areas that we've taken great steps to improve in the coming year is our video output, especially in terms of quality. With the help of Rivals, we're in the process of completely revamping everything in our video arsenal, and that includes a new and improved HD format. Starting with the features with the HD format from the Rivals Five-star challenge, along with head-cam and a number of other new ideas, you'll start experience a brand new OB.
3. More emphasis on contact with Rivals analysts
Moving forward, our goal is to start bringing the football/basketball analysts to your front door step. Whether it's Mike Farrell or Eric Bossi or Brian Perroni or anyone else from our network of leaders, we want to get them over here for chats and other interaction. My hope is that along the way we might be able to grab some of our YahooSports columnists like Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde or anyone else that we might have an appetite to communicate with.
4. Fine-tuning our recruiting coverage
This is a major point of emphasis with me and as we get ready to begin a new football season, our goal will be to transform the way we cover recruiting, as we aim to move some of the content away from a decade-old style into something a little cleaner, more interesting and specifically focused.
5. Pod-casting/live interactions
Yes, we've been more interactive in the last 12 months than we've probably ever been in the history of our site, but we want to continue to push the quest to new frontiers. Stay tuned to announcements as we get closer to the football season.
6. OB Merchandise
You know all the t-shirts and OB stuff you've requested all those years the stocker t-shirts, the "Pics or GTFO sweaters" and the Air Coryell ashtrays? We're going to be creating the OB store that will be the touch of your finger-tips, thanks to our special Yahoo partnerships. Anyone have a great t-shirt idea? You know we'll have contests.
7. Improved/Increased moderation
Believe me, in the last year I've really tried to listen to the conversation with true OB lifers about what improvements can be made within our infrastructure and I want you guys to know that you've been heard. In an effort to maintain the type of control you guys want on your favorite forum, we'll be making sure we take steps to increase the power of our moderation, so that problems can more quickly be addressed. I'm not talking about more strict moderation as much as I'm talking about a more streamlined, focused moderation. This will also include more moderation on the free board, which is sometimes one step behind the Corral in terms of Wild, Wild West stuff.
8. The details
This is an important one for me and one of the things I'm going to hold myself most accountable for. From the depth charts to the recruiting database to the release of recruiting rankings, we're going to stay on top of these features in a way that they can become much stronger resource points for you.
Simply put, I feel like I can be better in a lot of areas and I'm challenging myself to dig deep and find my best performance-level in the decade-plus I've been running the site. I owe it to you to keep raising the stakes.
No. 2 - Poll question of the day
It's hard not to think about the looming football season without going right back to the quarterback discussion. So, as I was considering the expectations for presumed starter David Ash, I considered what level of play he'd need to reach in order for this team to go 10-2 and land a spot in a BCS Bowl.
Consider the following 1-10 scale
1: The 2011 rotating door
2: Garrett Gilbert in 2010
3: Chris Simms in 2000
4: Chance Mock in 2003
5: Chris Simms in 2001/Colt McCoy in 2007
6: Colt McCoy in 2006
7: Major Applewhite in 1999/Chris Simms in 2002
8: Colt McCoy in 2009/Vince Young in 2004
9: Colt McCoy in 2008
10: VY in 2005
What are you expecting on the 1-10 scale? What do the Longhorns need to win 10? I'll say my expectations are a 4 with a ceiling of a 6. The Longhorns will need somewhere between a 5 or a 6 on this scale to win nine or 10 games.
No. 3 - A new Big 12 a new SEC football starts in a month
The Aggies are g-o-n-e, and boy are they an excited bunch. Off to the SEC they go, without a true inclination of the type of beat-downs that likely await them.
Of course, you can't tell an Aggie that, not with Warren Moon set to take over at quarterback and a Wrecking Crew defense that will surely sorry I couldn't finish that sentence without laughing uncontrollably.
The truth of the matter is that 2012 is a critical season for the Aggies. They do have some momentum in recruiting. They do have the attention of the entire state, whether Longhorn fans want to admit it or not. They do have some national eyes on them as well. In order for them to truly use this moment in their history as a launching pad in football, they simply cannot get tossed around this season like a rag-doll. A 5-7 or 6-6 season stalls everything they've worked to build in the last 12 months. Regular beat-downs from the SEC West will halt the "Sumlin for president" talk for a while.
Whether they know it or not, the Aggies have all of their chips on the table in the first 20 minutes of the first session of blinds in the World Series of Poker. They get one chance at this thing in my opinion.
The same stakes don't seem to exist for West Virginia and TCU, and for that I have to think A&M has only themselves to blame if this goes off the rails quickly. This is what they wanted.
No. 4 - Tommy Nicholson?
Everyone loves a home-town boy that does good, so there's definitely a level of excitement that everyone on the 40 Acres has to have had this weekend with the news that Tommy Nicholson has replaced Tommy Harmon as hitting, infield and recruiting coordinator.
After a relative season on the brink, Augie Garrido is looking to change the momentum in the program and his answer was to turn to a former pupil, one ascending from Sacramento State with serious connections to the Lone Star State. In a lot of ways, this feels just like the decision the women's athletic department just made with the search for a new coach.
It'll be fascinating to see whether this was just the right kind of move that the program needs to return to the level of performance that is often taken for granted around here.
No. 5 - I don't know much about soccer, but I do know greatness when I see it
It didn't take a soccer nerd to watch the conclusion of the Euro Cup on Sunday to come away with the understanding that Spain is some kind of soccer team.
Greatest of all-time? Man, I have no right to have an opinion on that kind of stuff, but even I could see just how different of a level they are right now from the rest of the world, and the undressing that they gave Italy in the final was nothing short of emphatic.
They made that look easy.
No. 6 - Guess who forced me to watch golf this weekend
Yup, the only thing standing in between me and a serious Sunday nap was the news upon returning from Houston that Tiger Woods was atop the leaderboard at Congressional.
The dude will never be the Tiger of old, but the Tiger of current sure is winning a lot of golf tournaments recently. That means I watch more golf. That's just how it works and I can't even tell you half the time if I'm rooting for him, against him or some weird mutation of the two.
Now if we could only get Phil's head out of his
No. 7 - The ugliest story of the weekend
This is the real Penn State .
It's disgusting. It's heart-breaking. It's criminal.
The actual amount of disgust in my heart for those involved overflows and as far as I'm concerned, if I never hear the name of Joe Paterno in any football context, it'll be too soon. In death, the only punishment that can be applied is to his legacy. It cannot be any clearer what collateral damage was allowed in the name of his program and his dogged pursuit of the all-time wins record.
Joe Paterno the football coach never happened as far as I'm concerned. The only Joe Paterno I know was a monster-enabler, who openly tolerated and endorsed the behavior of a child-destroyer with his silence and interference. Never forget that Sandusky was in the Penn State football facility with Joe Paterno's blessing just days before this story hit the fan.
Joe knew. You're damn right he knew. They all knew and there wasn't a single layer of innocence to this.
We can't allow these details to be forgotten. Too much is on the line.
No. 8 - A few random basketball thoughts
a. If I'm Orlando, I'm trading Dwight Howard to Siberia or whatever version of Siberia they believe to exist in his brain. It would be over the organization's dead body before I put him where he'd be happy after the childish behavior from this weekend.
b. If the Mavs don't get this Deron Williams deal done, what in the world is going to happen to that franchise? What exactly is the back-up plan?
c. The Sixers gave Lavoy Allen $6 million for two years on the same day that the Rockets have Omer Asik $25.1 million for three years. I think I should be happier than Rockets fans over this news.
d. Steve Nash sure seems to be holding a lot of cards for a guy that can't guard anyone. I can't decide if the Mavs need to be involved or not.
e. If Ray Allen passes on the Celtics for the Heat, despite twice the financial offering, I'm guessing that city will turn on him like the plague.
No. 9 - Anyone want Cole Hamels?
Me thinks that he's for sale. Make your best offers.
No. 10 - And finally
Is that vacation I smell