5-at-10: Has Belichick lost the locker room? Michigan lawyers up, college hoops and November brackets

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick faces reporters following the team's loss to the Washington Commanders in an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick faces reporters following the team's loss to the Washington Commanders in an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

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Say what

Some sports questions are predictable. Trust me.

Pete Rose in the Hall?

LeBron or MJ?

Best QB1 of all-time?

Automated strike zone in the big leagues, friend or foe?

In fact, we have heard these enough times, we probably have go-to responses for almost all of them.

All of that is to get to the question I saw Tuesday evening that I'm not sure I ever could have imagined:

The Athletic asked, "Has Bill Belichick lost the locker room?" and I spit tea on my computer screen.

That's akin to asking if Lord Saban's lost the locker room in T-Town right?

Is that even possible?

In Foxboro, it sure looks like it could be unraveling.

Look, coaching is, especially at the end, like the exchange between Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne when discussing Batman. "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."

Man, Belichick on the hot seat? If that's even a real thing, and if Coach Hoodie wants to keep coaching — and stick it in the Pats' earhole — then this could be the biggest purge of meddling NFL coaches of all time.

Think of the folks that would fire their current coach just to talk to Belichick.

Has Belichick lost the room? If he has, then no one can keep the room forever. No one.

Because there is no debate like the familiar sports topics above in terms of Belichick's legacy.

Dude's the GOAT, and there is no close second.

A day that ends in 'y'

Yep, that cliché — and maybe the sun rising in the East — are currently matched only by the day-in, day-out news trickle of the continuing to widen Michigan sign steal ordeal.

The latest line items include, but are not limited to, the following:

— Yahoo reported late last night the NCAA believes Harbaugh did not know. That's hard to fathom for a lot of reasons. Who signed off on all the expenses? Didn't anyone in a coaches meeting ask "Are we sure we got the right signs" Yep, we're sure. And the reverse has always been the case in the NCAA, because even if the head coach can convince the boys in Indy he or she has plausible deniability, the ol' lack of institutional control becomes a real issue.

— Michigan has been ordered by its university leadership to have no dealings with Conor Stallions, the assistant who is at the center of the scandal. Stallions — wonderful name, and you have to wonder if his parents wrestled with middle names like "Italian" or even "Black" — is the hat-wearing dude on the Central Michigan sideline and the guy who flew all over the country and sat on opposing sidelines in the stands and filmed opposing teams' signals.

— Michigan, as the Big Ten and the NCAA threatens punishments sooner rather than later, is now claiming they are far from the only team finding the gray areas of ethical sign stealing. (Side question: How great an oxymoron is "ethical sign stealing"? And you know the difference. Michigan apparently had the old famous Frank Layden basketball story when it comes to the ethics of sign stealing. Layden always said he interviewed a young player who was not the brightest bulb on the scoreboard and asked if the team's struggles were because of "ignorance or apathy?" The player — like Michigan apparently — said "Coach, I don't know and I don't care.") Michigan is claiming that several Big Ten teams shared their notes on signs with THE Ohio State before last year's showdown with the Wolverines. That, whether rightly or wrongly, is not against the rules. About everything we have heard that was in Conor "Italian" Stallions' playbook is.

— Michigan also is saying the school will sue either the Big Ten or the NCAA if the punishments are handed out without a full "investigation." OK, let's spend a moment here because this has a little substance for me.

The first ripple is the translation of this. This is Michigan lawyering up — wonder if they got Gary? — and firing the first threat. That has two underlying messages to me. The first is Michigan knows it's guilty as Richard Nixon. The second is Michigan saying, "Hey, let's get to the end of the season and see where our No. 3-ranked Wolverines get. After the year, we'll impose some restrictions. Coach Khaki likely could be headed to the NFL, and we'll make amends." But don't derail this or it will get nasty.

As for the nasty part, do you think it was any kind of accident that the "lawyer threats" and the "Hey, the rest of the league is colluding and stealing signs" and "Harbaugh didn't know" stories were leaked the same day?

No way, because that means Michigan wants the Big Ten and the NCAA to know that we have hired a big gun and he knows all we know. And there's no way a detailed-oriented micromanager like Jim Harbaugh did not know about Stallions' actions or have a dirt file on every other Big Ten program.

— The other thing I thought of after the Michigan lawyer salvo was could this mean Michigan — if things break bad in this — is in play to move conferences? Because Michigan moving would save the ACC, because it likely would mean Notre Dame could be coming too, and don't you know Greg Sankey's kicking the tires up and around Ann Arbor behind the scenes.

Of course, Michigan before all this would have been at or near the top of the list of programs that were forever married to their conference. Right there with a few SEC schools and a few others.

Is it likely? Of course not, but did we ever think we'd see a day when USC was not in the Pac-(integer) or Texas in the morphed version of the Southwest, Big 8, Big 12?

College hoops fast start

OK, a few thoughts two days into college hoops season.

Rule 1 of Fight Club still applies, and that is we don't don't talk about Fight Club. If you know you know.

Second, I saw a headline that said Michigan State is now off the 1 line. Wait, what?

It made my head spin a little, because if there's anything more worthless than November bracketology it could only be MLB regular-season stat projections from the first two split-squad spring training games.

In fact, as nice of a fellow Joey Brackets has always been, dude's calendar should be exactly like Punxsutawney Phil's and Lunardi should not be heard from or seen before Groundhog's Day.

But then, the reverse occurred to me. If this is strategery, it's really kind of smart.

ESPN is the no-question leading location to watch college hoops, so ESPN has an unequivocal investment in the public's interest — and potentially generating more interest — in the sport.

And most of you have heard me say a time or 3,000 that the college basketball regular season is a bunch of formal scrimmages with a couple of resume-building line item games mixed in. With a tournament — a grand and gloriously fun tournament that is a sports spectacle — that large (and almost assuredly at some point will grow again) just getting an invite to the dance is Goals No. 1 through 5 or 6.

So the regular season takes some hits in terms of meaning and interest.

But if you know the love for the tournament, and ESPN and others — CBS will start trotting Jerry Palm out there earlier and earlier too — can convince you that Michigan State's season-opening loss to James Madison will have meaningful tournament implications, then that's all the better for college basketball.

And it's broadcast partners.

This and that

— Speaking of college hoops, Auburn gave one away late to Baylor. It happens. Auburn will be scrappy. And the Tigers will be a frequent over play on my dance card. And with all the hesitation in the world, knowing that Doug is sitting there, fingers on keys waiting to tell us about every SEC hoops crew that stubs their toe against Power Five, Group of Five or the Jackson Five, I offer this: The SEC is going to be a flippin' dog fight this year. It may not always be pretty and there are some bona fide dogs (not in a good way) in the league too. This year more than any in recent memory, there is no clear heavyweight. UT was the preseason pick to win the league, and Auburn was sixth. Heck Florida — who will be better this year — was picked eight.

— And with that, I feel obligated to now mention that Vandy lost at home to Presbyterian (yes, they are the Blue Hose, which is a rather unfortunate name for the women's basketball team). Vandy was only favored by 17 and lost 68-62.

— You know the rules. Here's Paschall on the Vols getting ready for a dangerous trip to a Missouri team that was in it till the end in Athens. Is Eli Drinkwitz the most-underrated coach in the SEC? Discuss. Or cuss.

— The top four remained unchanged in the college football playoff rankings. The top five better hold serve — which is impossible since Michigan and THE Ohio State, which are ranked 3 and 1 respectively play later this month — if they want to sleep easy come announcement time.

— Will Levis was named QB1 for the Titans on Tuesday. Mike Vrabel, wise move. Unlike his former OC Arthur Smith, who waited until the last month of last season so the franchise had no idea the ceiling or the floor of second-year QB3 Desmond Ridder, Vrabel and the Titans will get half a season with Levis and can evaluate if he can be the dude or do they go get a QB in next year's rich QB draft class.

— Say what (again). Apparently amid all the budget cuts and park problems, Disney is now fighting a very real "Poop Hallway" issue where park visitors are deciding to No. 2 amid the long lines waiting to get on rides. Holy bleep.

Today's questions

Wow, we got a little wordy today.

Which is more likely, Will Levis secures the job in Nashville or the Titans draft a QB1 high next spring?

Which is more likely to happen first, Harbaugh leaves Michigan, Belichick leaves the Patriots?

Which would be your reaction if you saw someone slinging a deuce in the line of a Disney ride?

First away if you want, and remember the mailbag.

As for today, Nov. 8, let's review.

Doc Holliday died on this day in 1887.

Does Val Kilmer's turn as Doc in "Tombstone" make the Rushmore of movie cowboys — real or fictional — since 1990.

Go.

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