Recently in Wayne Box Miller Category

Feed Pead

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Isaiah Pead is the truth, the silent truth. While you don't hear many people on the national level raise the bar when his name and/or highlights are mentioned he is legit. His career numbers are impressive but in the what have you done for me lately category he's just as worthy. In four games this year Pead is averaging 7.9 yards a carry or 80% of first down yardage with one run. He is decisive, has great feet and like a porsche can shift on the fly. The benefits of a great running game include much better play action results, a rested defense and keeping the clock running to name a few. With Isaiah you get that and more.

One thing I know is the NFL scouts know who he is and, what he can do. With the success other running backs from the Big East like Ray Rice and LeSean McCoy, his numbers are worthy of Sundays. Pead is also averaging 106 yards a game with 5 touchdowns so his yards per carry stats are not based on 2 or 3 carries a game as some stats reflect for others. 

If you enjoy watching a pure running back go to a UC game and watch Isaiah Pead live and and up close. He won't disappoint you and if they keep feeding him the ball, he won't disappoint UC football either. Feed Pead; until he belches, burps or graduates. That last interruption will come soon enough. But until then I think Isaiah Pead is hungry....

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat

Conference CA$H

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I was prepared to let this conference prostitution ring run its course without commenting until I heard Syracuse, a charter member of the Big East, was jumping ship to the ACC. In the words of that great scholar Popeye (okay he was a cartoon character but so are some of the conference leaders) "That's all I can stands cause I can't stands no more!"

What's wrong with a conference that has the best basketball in the country, typically netting 8 or more teams in the NCAA March Madness party? A conference that has an automatic BCS bid for the winner in football, which means you could end up playing for a national championship? And a conference with plenty of media exposure which translates into healthy TV revenue deals? I must be missing something because the ACC is not head and shoulders above the Big East even with Duke and North Carolina basketball.

This conference merging, jumping and Baltimore Colt in the night defecting has got to stop! So here is my suggestion: let's have one big conference and call it what it is, the CA$H Conference because that's all that matters. To all of you I've debated with over the years about the athletes right to leave early and go pro do you now see why I side with the players? Where in all of this is the student athlete gaining a higher education or better support? Nowhere; but the presidents and conference talking heads are sure having one heck of a time. When isn't the Big 12 enough? The Big East not big or the Big Ten a nine? It's a joke to me to hear University presidents tout education for athletes and the need for them to stay in school when all the while the athletes are learning the most valuable lesson of all: money talks and the rest waits on the Mega Bus. What is evolving is a super power and everyone else good luck getting on TV.

So the next time a player leaves early I hope he references his university and says after watching the school reposition itself for more exposure and profit, I decided to follow suit and turn pro; I think it's in the best interest of everyone involved including my alma mater. 

One thing is clear a super conference is inevitable. The Big 12 thought they had one but they don't. The Big Ten, even adding Penn State, thought they had one but no way. The ACC and Pac 10 were satisfied with their piece of the pie but somewhere, someone decided big wasn't enough. As the new TV commercial touts in presenting their Bigger than most big screens TV, it's Magnormous! and that's what everyone is after. What they're not after is making sure kids graduate, get quality support after they play and rest on those laurels; because it's hard to negotiate TV deals with those poker chips.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat

A Tale Of Two Tens'

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OK we're all back to reality after dreams of an undefeated season right? With the drubbing of Austin Peay many probably thought we were going to shock the world in Knoxville. We probably did with some questionable decisions, according to us arm chair and recliner coaches. But I leave that to the film room, coaches and qualified pundits who played the game as to whether there was justification in the moment.

But what we now have in two games versus two teams from Tennessee is two teams; one who played up to their capabilities against Austin Peay and another one who played up to their potential long enough for us to know they are a serious contender if they can make plays for all four quarters and decrease giving up big plays. While the score would indicate blow out, it didn't start out that way because UC matched the Volunteers in all three phases of the game early on. And with Tennessee playing at home, despite having a young team, you saw the effects of speed and power in the SEC; and a little weather fatigue. 

UC is on the right track and Isaiah Pead showed he can run against any team in the country, again. Zach Colloras made throws that even the broadcast booth praised repeatedly and the defense woke Tennessee up, albeit, to its detriment. But the point was made in that UC can play big time football if they play for 60 minutes. They're not good enough yet that they can play SEC type schools for 37 or 43 minutes and win. I think the coaches and players will admit that. The reality is games like these show you what you have to do to play at a high level for 60 minutes and now the challenge is before them.

With Akron up next that should be their only focus; secondarily it should be to play hard, smart and turnover free for the whole game. That type of effort will get them ready for the Big East and any other team that has talent in abundance. The reality is you can only put 11 of those high end players on the field at one time and the Bearcats can too. UC just has to sustain their level of play for 60 minutes and the Big East team from Cincinnati will get some big wins and a big bowl bid.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat

Austin Peay To Tennessee

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The University of Cincinnati did exactly what they were supposed to do in beating Austin Peay 72-10. They unleashed their potent offensive weaponry and made a statement worthy of an opening game on their schedule. 

Now they head south on 75 to play in the reality of the SEC and Neyland Stadium, home of the Tennessee Volunteers and their 102,455 fans. To put that in perspective, you can literally put 3 NIppert Stadium crowds together in their stadium for one game. That means the noise level will be challenging for Zach Collaros and the offensive line this week; and I mean challenging. But isn't that why they come to a school like UC? Not only to play in a BCS conference but to play major competition. So we'll see who embraces the stage with the confidence and preparedness of a champion, and who becomes the deer in the headlights in part because they're not ready to play. 

One thing that always happens in road games of this magnitude are turnovers. They usually hurt the road team more than the home team. If the Bearcats can keep the turnovers to a minimum, or even better, not at all and the coaches put together a good game plan they most certainly can win. UC has plenty of experience on this team and Peyton Manning won't be suiting up for the Vols. 

The excitement will be evident; the media will be present; and the Volunteer football team will try to intimidate the Big East representative before the game begins. This weekend will be revealing for the UC coaching staff as they'll know when the clock runs out who is worthy of wearing the C-Paw and earning their confidence and trust for the remainder of the season.

I won't be surprised if UC wins, I think they have the capacity and talent to achieve. I am still waiting to get one key question answered and that's how they'll handle adversity compared to last year. Lets hope I don't get the answer this week because they will have put the game away down the stretch. But if I do get an answer I hope it's worthy of a champions response where everything is left on the field in battle. It's the only answer that will suffice; if every one can look each other in the eye and know they all gave the same effort in support of their teammates and UC. 

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat

IRU - Indisputable Role Understanding

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University of Cincinnati football coach Butch Jones held court at his press luncheon today and his IRU statement caught my eye obviously. The indisputable Role Understanding speaks to this philosophy as stated (in part) by Coach Jones: "...But it's really your role players that really determine whether you win or lose or play winning football at every position. It's our role players and it's the consistency that's needed each and every day."

He is right. Everyone knows what to expect from Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead and other front line players but it's the role players who will determine what happens in every game, especially the Big East. I offer up the Chicago Bulls who, without Dennis Rodman agitating Alonzo Mourning or Steve Kerr or John Paxson hitting late game shots; or Horace Grant grabbing rebounds and providing inside scoring, we may have talked about Michael Jordan being the greatest player not to win a title. Look at the New England Patriots. Everyone talks about Tom Brady but what about Kevin Faulk in the backfield? And a Ted Washington in the middle? With Kevin they were always converting a clutch third down and with Washington stuffing the middle, they made third down more difficult for their opponents because they were unsuccessful on first and second down runs.

The Bearcats also have to apply the IRU policy to the coaching staff; this is their second season here and like a late night hand of poker the stakes are higher. UC fans might get impatient with another non-bowl season and with talent returning we should expect more wins than last year. But it is incumbent upon the position coaches to get this team to not only play up to their potential, but to keep their heads in the game when adversity strikes. It appeared that when things didn't go their way last year, it was visible. In a major conference that spells disaster. I don't know if it's true that's why I said it appeared that way. But while Butch is the head coach and gets all the attention, the position coaches have to make a difference. They may not get the credit but when this team wins, they win; the opportunities to move into a bigger role or realizing their dream of becoming a head coach.

My gut feeling is this team is going to have a solid season, a bowl appearance, and some big wins if they believe in themselves all four quarters. They have the talent, more experience and another year together.

So starting this Saturday the answers start to reveal themselves as Austin Peay comes to town. I think the win is inevitable scoreboard wise, but I want to see a win of effort, execution and attitude. I think the coaches want to see the same thing.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

No Doubting Thomas

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I really don't think anyone was surprised at the departure of Mike Thomas with an opportunity to join the Big Ten and, according to him, be closer to family. I thought of it in the philosophy of one of my D1 college coaching friends: "Stay one step ahead of the posse."

Now I don't know if Mike Thomas was going to be on some kind of hot seat because whether you agree with him or not regarding Bob Huggins or Andy Kennedy, you can't deny his decisions to hire Brian Kelly and Mick Cronin as major contributions. I know some of you will argue the Mick decision but last I checked the program that was in the basement became an NCAA tournament team last year. He also increased football revenue and cut the operating budget. I know no one will ever be a perfect Athletic Director but I'll focus on the good.

So off the Illinois he goes hand in hand with a new chancellor who takes over in October. You can bet she will support her hire well into his tenure before giving up on him should something go awry. So that means Mike will have a nice honeymoon before being questioned in ernest, but he should do well. He has climbed the proverbial ladder to arrive at the mountain top, with a mountain size challenge. With Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State in football; plus the addition of Nebraska that is a tough ascension. In basketball the challenge is just as formidable. Recruiting and keeping Chicago area players will be key and if any of his coaches are relieved of their duties his success will rest heavily on tapping into the wealth of talent in his back yard.

On a personal note I had some positive experiences with Mike and his wife Jenny and wish them well. But now like most Bearcats, I am very interested in seeing who his permanent replacement will be and what their pedigree looks like. In my opinion, UC is not a second rate opportunity college wise. It's part of a BCS conference, a major market and is home to a solid sports legacy. Whoever inherits this position needs to win, raise money and graduate players on the surface; beneath it understand that Cincinnatians are a different breed. If you respect and understand that, you'll be fine.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat.

The Hall of Fame Awaits

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I had the distinct privilege of attending the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies this weekend in Canton, Ohio and what a class of inductees. Richard Dent, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Marshall Faulk are names you recognize but the others, Ed Sabol (NFL Films), Chris Hanburger (Washington Redskins) and Les Richter (Los Angeles Rams) deserve their admission as well.

But the irony as I sat there was that it dawned upon me that no University of Cincinnati player is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In basketball we have Oscar Robertson; baseball Sandy Koufax and in tennis Tony Trabert. But with all the players that have graced the Bearcat gridiron and gone on to play at the elite level, none are in the hall. 

As this program continues to gain traction and appeal nationwide the odds are increasing that it could happen in the next 15-20 years. That means someone from the most recent NFL pool starts to play lights out and positions themselves for consideration or the crop of players here now or, who are coming in the near future will be the first. What a unique and hallowed accomplishment to go into the Hall of Fame and be the first one from UC to do so. You will  (Insert NFL Film voice) live in immortality. An accomplishment of this nature is the result of a combination of factors including avoiding the serious injury bug (Gayle Sayers is the exception to the rule), playing on great teams, with great players and in big games. Winning a Super Bowl certainly doesn't hurt either.

As I listened to speech after speech I was reminded of how critical the role of family and mom and/or grandmother are. Teaching work ethic, not slacking; encouraging not demeaning and supporting not withdrawing are great tools in addition to demanding academic excellence. Add brothers and sisters holding down the home front while you hone your skills and having someone give you that one break that typically tips the scale. It was amazing to hear how one key incident made the difference between Shannon Sharpe not getting cut or Richard Dent getting into college. From there they say the rest is history; so their they are careers,

One of the best things about trying to predict who may be the first UC player to enter the hall is that you can't. Shannon Sharpe thought it would be his brother Sterling and many of us thought it would be Kenny Anderson or Ken Riley preceding Anthony Munoz. The fact is you just don't know. That is also the joy of watching the game and seeing the emergence of a 6th round pick like Terrell Davis of the Denver Broncos build on his legacy and culminate it with a Super Bowl win as a seal the deal moment. 

I look forward to going back to Canton one day to watch certain players step to the podium and delivering speeches like Shannon Sharpe, or Michael Irvin, or Floyd Little. Also to see their families beaming with pride at this pinnacle moment and to watch the eyes of youngsters dreaming that one day they'll be doing the same thing is a real treat. It is worth the price of admission and one of the best teaching tools a parent can share with a kid about commitment and sacrifice listening to the players chronicle their journey. The ride home gives you time to talk, share and reemphasize what it takes to succeed. 

So plan a trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame and who knows you could be there when UC's first player takes center stage and delivers a memorable speech during a memorable moment. The moment will mean even more if you share it with a youngster in your family.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat...

5 On The NFL Side

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With the end of the NFL lockout the ink pens in front offices are working harder than a walk-on the last day of open practice trying to make the team. The good news is four UC players have signed contracts joining sixth round pick Jason Kelce who signed a four year deal with the Eagles. Vidal Hazleton (San Diego), Armon Binns (Jacksonville), Ben Guidugli (St. Louis) and Jacob Rogers (New Orleans) are the latest UC Bearcats who have been given the opportunity to continue playing a kids game for a living. I wish them all the best as I'm sure all Bearcat fans do.

UC has clearly established itself as a school that produces pro prospect and recently, one of them, Brandon Underwood got a Super Bowl ring to boot. So as the posters and names of players who have gone to the next level adorn the football offices, the recruiting gets a big boost with the increased numbers of players in the league. Say what you want about student-athletes coming in as athlete-students but if that is their wish and they can maintain the grades, so be it. We all know education is important but in some cases getting money in the bank and food on the table is a priority in a way most of us can't even imagine. 

In coming to UC recruits surely know a couple of things; one, they'll play in a BCS conference meaning with a break here and there they could conceivably end up in a championship game or at least a major bowl with a ton of exposure. secondly, the NFL scouts will be at your game(s) and pay close attention to you. You can thank the players before you that performed admirably and have sustained themselves in the league; and finally you'll be on national TV repeatedly so your family, no matter how far away, can keep up with you and share in every moment. I won't dare mention the competition in practices, the fan adoration and the uniforms that some kids think are the "sweetest" in the country.

Yes there are lots of reason for a football player to consider continuing his career at UC and if you have a dream that includes 3 initials, N-F-L, you won't go wrong if you come here to stay on that course. As long as the other main course, academics is respected, you will be on the field pursuing your dream and most likely the dream of your family. You now have 5 more examples that playing at UC on Saturday can get you a job playing on Sunday.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat...

Plan (B)eware

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Well the debate has been around since professional athletes have been getting paid huge salaries as to whether getting a degree matters if you're a lock as a lottery pick or assured first round status. Barring an injury you will achieve the status on a small percentage of Americans will ever enjoy which entitles you to a life of riches beyond the norm.

But with the NFL lockout and now the NBA following suit, all the first round picks in this year's draft have the position of millionaires without the money. This will surely be a call to action by the NCAA, college coaches and academic tutors as to why you need your degree citing things like the aforementioned strikes. Now I have always said if you get a guaranteed contract that staying in school is unnecessary but I must now qualify that by saying make sure you're not in the cross-hairs of an apparent lockout by the league who will be your employer. This is a valuable lesson learned and that is have a plan B. If you're a top pick sign your shoe with Nike or your apparel deal with Adidas and start doing appearances to generate income in the interim. Learn how to be a public speaker and have topics at the ready and yes, yes, yes take business and marketing courses as they will serve you well.

So let the debate rage on about whether to stay in school. I still contend if you are assured first round or lottery status you have to leverage it; that is as long as it's not in the year of a strike or lockout. The only difference between you and a first round pick right now is eventually they will get paid millions of dollars. Whether they have a plan B or not is the same question you should be asking yourself.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat...

Buckeye Blackeye

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I wanted the dust to settle a little bit and wait to hear from the new coach before weighing in on the other football power in the state. Now that Jim "The Vest" Tressel is gone (what a great MMA name) and the new coach has been named could you start off his regime with anymore arrogance and stupidity. To claim you didn't know anything is confirming you don't need to be coaching or that Ohio State wants someone to keep the tradition of taking care of players going but just watch out for the banana peel. I have been around college and professional athletics enough to know it is highly and I mean highly unlikely the high ranking assistants don't know what's going on in their program.

Ok so he doesn't know. I don't know him so he gets the benefit of the doubt. What I do know is this is NOT a program in peril because of Terrelle Pryor. Jim Tressel was there and doing whatever before Pryor and the insane belief that he is the problem is comedy at its best. I wonder where Pryor learned to disregard rules? hmmmm his head coach did it. I wonder where Pryor learned to say one thing and do another? Again Coach Tressel lead the way. I could go on but you get the picture and I don't want to be like Alan on "Two and a Half Men" rambling on and on.

Ohio State had a coach who violated NCAA rules at Youngstown State allegedly and that is why Ohio State put a clause in his contract to notify them should something happen. Someone should have notified Ohio State that if you have to do that you should probably hire someone else. Maybe they thought he would notify them...yeah sure; 

Either way it goes it is sad for college athletics and really turns up the debate of athletes getting paid. I say they should for the money they generate the university and other programs. There are arguments for both sides of the coin but I think anyone that says they shouldn't be given something believes in exploitation.

Athletes by far, the more talented ones, come from backgrounds of hunger and void of opportunity. They are representing more than themselves when they come to college; they carry the hopes and dreams of family members relying on them for a better life. If that isn't pressure enough then they are expected to perform at a high level for the benefit of the university and college athletics watching their jerseys and likeness prostituted for profit while being told they can't accept $5 or a upscale meal.

Yeah sis boom bah for good old state U! Doesn't mean the same when you've been captured by the game.

That's the way I see it, sitting in The Box Seat