What a week

MLB sees the Mitchell Report, another coach bolts from the NFL and recruiting began big push prior to entering the dead period.

I really don’t want to even talk about the baseball mess. So, let’s focus on good news. Six Alabama players earned their degrees from the Capstone. According to UA:

(UA)TUSCALOOSA—The University of Alabama football team will be well represented at the Capstone’s graduation ceremonies on Saturday, Dec. 16, when six Tide players will be presented with diplomas in Coleman Coliseum. Wallace Gilberry, Eric Gray, Darren Mustin, Nikita Stover, Foress Rayford and Matt Collins have all completed their graduation requirements at Alabama.

“Earning your degree is really what being a student-athlete is all about,” said Gilberry. “A lot of hard work goes into being a student and an athlete here, as any student-athlete can tell you, and being able to say that you were able to get all of your work done and earn a degree from a prestigious school like Alabama means a lot to me. It will definitely be a proud moment.”

Gilberry, a senior defensive lineman from Bay Minette, Ala., has been a four-year starter for the Tide and is preparing to play his final game in an Alabama uniform in the 2007 PetroSun Independence Bowl game against Colorado. Gilberry leads the Southeastern Conference with 22 tackles for loss and is tied for second in the league in sacks with nine. He was named the team’s Outstanding Defensive Performer and co-Defensive Player of the Year and was a Coaches first team All-SEC selection in 2007. Gilberry will graduate with a degree in telecommunications and film.

A native of Trinity, Ala., Gray has been a member of the Tide secondary and played on special teams throughout his career. Gray has played in 10 games as a senior and has appeared in 40 games overall. He will earn his degree in interdisciplinary studies and was an Academic All-SEC selection in 2004.

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Mustin, a former transfer from Middle Tennesse who was a walk-on when he arrived at Alabama, has come on to become one of the Tide’s most valuable defensive performers. He is third on the team in tackles with 65 and earned the team’s Most Inspirational and Outstanding Defensive Performer Awards for his efforts in 2007. Mustin will graduate with a general studies degree.

 A former junior college transfer, Stover is scheduled to earn his degree in general studies. A member of the Tide receiving corps, Stover has eight catches for 96 yards and a touchdown this season. He has played in 20 games in his two-year Alabama career, with three touchdown catches to his credit.

Rayford has been one of the stalwarts on the Crimson Tide’s special teams units throughout his career. The native of Mobile earned the team’s Unsung Hero Award in 2007 and has played in 28 games in his career. Rayford earned UA’s Special Teams Co-Player of the Week for his efforts against No. 3 LSU earlier this season. He will earn his degree in finance.

A former starter at linebacker, Collins has been one of the best students on the team the past few seasons. He earned Alabama’s Outstanding Senior Scholar Award this fall and has appeared in 47 games on defense and special teams in his Tide career. Collins is a pre-med major, has a perfect 4.0 grade point average and was an Academic All-SEC honoree in 2006.

The six players graduating on Saturday join six other Tide players who have already graduated from the Capstone. Antoine Caldwell (Human Environmental Science), Chris Capps (Consumer Science), Matt Caddell (Consumer Science), Jamie Christensen (Management) and Joshua Curry (General Studies) were each awarded their degree in August of 2007. Senior linebacker Keith Saunders earned his degree last spring, giving the Tide 12 graduates overall.

Alabama finishes the 2007 season on Sunday, Dec. 30, when the Tide faces Big 12 opponent Colorado in the PetroSun Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (CST) and can be seen on ESPN.

Congrats to those players. Taking advantage of what the University offers is the true reward for any student—especially for those economically disadvantaged players who get the opportunity to attend college thanks to a scholarship.

What a difference a year makes! At this time last year, we were frantically glued to every news outlet around, and calling every person who might possibly serve as a source then trying to validate any little shred of information.

Back then, it seemed like the coaching search would never end.

I can empathize with teams going through difficult coaching searches. I’m glad the coaching searched ended well for Arkansas; however, I believe Petrino will find the job more difficult than he imagines.

I can empathize with Michigan’s travail. However, I trust they’ll win in the end.

Since I’ve been busy on several projects, I haven’t been providing links as I should. So here are a few links to excellent blog posts over the last few days:

Saban is cleaning house, according to Roll Bama Roll. That’s good news.

The Tide Druid gives a nice look at the musical chairs in the assistant coaching ranks.

Ian Rapoport of the Birmingham News breaks the story that Rico Pickett has a mohawk.

If you care about the Petrino situation, the best wrap-up is at Best of the SEC.

This week’s Shane Sez column calls on fans to demand higher moral standards from coaches. Why? Because it sets a bad example for the youth of this country. Fair enough. But maybe coaches acting like morons isn’t as big a deal as the rest of society acting like morons. I find it hard to be outraged by Bobby Petrino when the divorce rate is sky high, and the illegitimacy rate is soaring. I’ll save my outrage for where it belongs—the general public and fans.

Of course, Shane isn’t wrong to ask for better conduct. But I think it somewhat misses the point. Society doesn’t reflect the coach, the coach reflects society.

I hope everyone is having a great holiday season!