Sports Files with Greg Gaston - Jan. 11, 2013


Uploaded by WKNOPBS on 14.01.2013

Transcript:
>> female announcer: This is a
production of WKNO, Memphis.
Production funding for "Sports
Files" is made possible in part
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>> Gaston: My guest today on
Sports Files is one of the
nation's most decorated
Sportswriters, Ron Higgins from
the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
>> [instrumental music]
♪♪♪
>> Gaston: If there is a big
football game to cover, Ron
Higgins is there.
Especially when it comes to the
SEC.
For over 30 years Higgins has
been smack in the middle of it
all. Championship games to
coaching changes.
Player suspensions to the ever
changing world of conference
realignment.
To say Higgins work is
appreciated would be a huge
understatement.
He has captured more than 150
National, Regional and State
writing awards.
He is a 10 time Tennessee
Sportswriters Association writer
of the year, and just this past
July, was inducted into that
organization's Hall of Fame.
In addition to his popular work
for the Memphis Commercial
Appeal, Higgins has also
authored or co-authored three
books, and is a contributor to
SECSports-dot-com.
Ron Higgins joins me next to put
an exclamation on the College
Football Season, just days
removed from the BCS
Championship game.
And to do it in that witty, no
holds barred style, we've been
accustomed to reading and
hearing for all these years.
It's a look back at a wonderful
College Pigskin season, and a
peak into the future with Ron
Higgins next on "Sports Files."
>> [instrumental music]
♪♪♪
>> Gaston: Ron, thank you so
much for being with us.
We appreciate it.
>> Higgins: It's good to be
here.
I love the new set.
Love the jerseys.
Got the Gasol that hasn't been
traded so you're updated.
That's very good.
You're on to it.
>> Gaston: Great to have you
here.
I just built you up here with
this intro.
Every big game in the world of
football Ron Higgins is at.
And of course he covers a lot of
other sports, final fours.
But football is your forte.
And I fibbed because Monday you
were not in Miami.
What happened?
>> Higgins: Unlike Notre Dame,
we're kind of like there but
didn't show up.
Actually I got pneumonia
covering Ole Miss in the Compass
Bowl in Birmingham in beautiful,
rustic Legion Field-one of the
finer football venues of the
1940s.
And I was supposed to drive to
Atlanta and fly to Miami
Saturday night.
And I was about the sickest I've
ever been covering an event.
But at the end of the day, I
felt pretty good at the end of
the game because it was a good
story-a good ending to a season
for Ole Miss.
But as soon as I wrote the story
and typed that last word and
sent it, there was no way I
could make it to Miami.
And so I came home.
It was the right thing to do.
Went and saw a doctor.
And said-"Do you know you have
pneumonia?"
And I said-"Well, you're the
first person to tell me that.
"I really appreciate that."
So I think I'm going to be and
give me lots of drugs.
>> Gaston: Well glad it's worked
because you sound good and great
to have you here.
>> Higgins: Yeah, I've been
better.
>> Gaston: From a competitive
standpoint, you didn't miss much
because there was no game.
It was an absolute blowout.
I thought Alabama would cover.
A lot of people thought they
would.
Others thought Notre Dame would
give them a tussle but this game
was over early, Ron.
Did you expect the blowout?
>> Higgins: I didn't expect a
blowout.
I really didn't.
But I knew if Alabama's offense-
the key for Alabama always is
offensive execution and dominate
with their line.
If they can get that going
consistently, it really sends a
message to a team.
And it's kind of funny.
I've talked to Barrett Jones the
day after the game and for a
story for our paper.
And we talked about how it's
almost advantageous for him to
incorrectly call the coin toss.
He always calls tails.
He says he doesn't know why.
He just calls tails all the
time.
Barrett Jones, ECS-alum from
ECS.
Alabama's-probably their best
offensive linemen.
One of their greatest ever just
by this last game.
And if they would have won the
coin toss, they were going to
defer.
So they lose the coin toss and
the Notre Dame defers.
And Alabama gets the ball and
sticks it about 80 yards.
And Notre Dame is missing
tackles.
And they're getting pushed off
the line.
And then all of a sudden, that
sense of, you know,
invincibility that you have as a
defense.
I mean when you get it shoved
right down your throat in the
first drive, you kind of go-
whoa.
>> Gaston: The wind comes out of
the sails.
Did Kelly make a mistake?
Should they have taken the ball
first in your opinion?-although
I don't think it makes a heck of
a difference.
>> Higgins: You know last year's
Alabama-LSU game, Alabama had to
kick five field goals.
And the offensive execution was
good but they couldn't finish
anything.
I remember that's one of the
things that their players,
especially Barrett told me after
that game was that-"You know, we
just won the national
championship.
"We're all happy but we kept
thinking, we didn't get in the
end zone."
And this year, they scored all
five times they were in the red
zone.
I mean they shoved it in every
time.
And I think they came, you know.
They proved a point that, you
know-and when you're not
tricking anybody, when you're
going right at somebody and just
killin' 'em, that's the worst
thing ever for a defense because
you're like-"They're just
beating us physically.
"They're not tricking us."
And I think that by getting that
possession and doing the start,
it worked out for them.
>> Gaston: Ron, three out of
four years, Alabama's won a
championship.
Nick Saban, now a head coach for
three of those championships and
one in LSU.
He has four.
But getting back to the three
he's won at Alabama, is it okay
to talk about him with the bear
or is that sacred territory that
we don't go near yet?
>> Higgins: No, you could talk
about it.
He's on equal footing with Bear
Bryant now.
>> Gaston: Equal footing?
>> Higgins: Equal footing with
Bear Bryant.
And this is why.
No disrespect to Bear Bryant but
Bear Bryant didn't have to deal
with scholarship limitations.
Bear Bryant didn't have to deal
with academic requirements.
Bear Bryant didn't have to deal
with the constant scrutiny of
social media-of 24-7 Twitter,
Facebook, blogs, call-in shows.
Can you imagine if Bear Bryant
had a radio call-in show where
you have to answer fan
questions?
I can't even fathom that.
"Coach-hey, this is the Top Tide
Tommy in Talladega.
"I was kind of wondering, you
know, them Vols were playing
like a nine-man front.
"And you were still trying to
run the ball.
"Why didn't you have Joe Namath
throw that thing?"
"What?-You're fired!."
Coach, you can't fire that guy.
He's a fan.
"What am I doing talking to
fans?"
I mean, there's all this
pressure now that you have to
deal with.
And yeah, Saban gets paid a lot
of money.
>> Gaston: Plus, aren't there
more teams, Ron, that are
capable of making runs at tight
ends now?
>> Higgins: There's more teams
because of scholarship limits
eve things out.
And plus, you have this never-
ending pressure.
I mean, you lose, you know.
One reason Steve Spurrier left
Florida back when he did was
because Florida fans were upset
that he was, you know, he
actually was losing two or three
games a year.
And you create the monster.
You've got to know how to
control the monster.
And I think the best thing about
Nick is he knows how to control
the monster.
>> Gaston: Seven straight for
the SEC.
Who has a chance outside the SEC
to knock off Alabama or LSU or
Georgia?
I mean, it may be one or the
other that knocks off like last
year with LSU and Alabama going
at it and Alabama winning.
But outside of the SEC for next
year and for the foreseeable
future, who's out there that can
knock the SEC off the throne?
>> Higgins: Ohio State because-
>> Gaston: The Urban Meyer
influence?
>> Higgins: Because Urban Meyer
knows how to beat SEC teams.
He knows what you have to
recruit to beat SEC teams.
He knows the type of athletes
you need to beat SEC teams.
He gets it.
I mean, all these coaches whose,
you know.
So many BCS games I go to, you
talk to the teams before the
game.
You talk to the players of
whatever and they'll say-"You
know, well, we've got quick
guys, too.
" We know the SEC is quick."
And then after the game you talk
and they go-"Good God!
"They were quick at every
position.
"Even the defensive linemen were
like ballerinas."
And you know, Urban Meyer gets
that.
I think he'd be able to recruit
that.
He'll go find those guys and
that's, to me, the team you've
got to worry about.
Now Oregon's really good.
They're really quick.
>> Gaston: I would like to bring
them up.
>> Higgins: They're really
quick.
And maybe they're learning
something from a couple of years
ago when they played Auburn.
The only reason that game was
close because Cam Newton got
dinged up in the second quarter
and didn't know where he was
half the time.
They had to dial back their game
plan.
But Oregon could be that team,
too.
Those two teams right there to
me are the teams that the SEC is
going to see for the next
several years.
As long as Chip Kelly's at
Oregon, I mean, they're going to
see that.
And as long as Urban, you know,
is at Ohio State.
He knows how to recruit those
guys.
He knows the psychological
motivating part of it.
I'm going to say not as good as
Saban does but he knows it
pretty well.
>> Gaston: Alright, let's go
rapid fire on subjects that
involve the SEC for next season
and some that affected them this
year.
First of all, you covered, as
you mentioned, the BBVA or
whatever the heck it's called
Compass Bowl.
We'll call it the Compass Bowl.
And Ole Miss pummeled
Pittsburgh.
Hugh Freeze-seven wins first
season.
How impressive?
>> Higgins: Very impressive.
Now I was one of those stupid
people at the beginning of the
year who actually wrote he could
go six and six.
And people thought I was
thinking-you know, what kind of
Kool-Aid are you drinking?
But I thought three things.
If they stayed away from
injuries, if they're freshman
played really well, and if they
didn't get in the tank
psychologically after a major
loss that they could come
through and win.
And they did.
So I mean, but, they'll be even
better next year.
I mean, he's going to have a
really good recruit year.
He has like 21 starters back.
It's an incredible amount of
starters.
He's got 21 starters back next
year.
And he's adding in particular in
defense.
Defense and offensive line is
where they need depth.
And this year, he had to dial
back play calling in some games
that they lost because he didn't
want to go too fast and wear his
defense out.
He decided the last three games
of the year-LSU and state in the
Bowl game-that I'm just going to
crank it up, you know, as fast
as I can crank it up.
And if we wear out, we wear out.
But I'm going out finding the
bullets.
>> Gaston: Other than Alabama,
Notre Dame.
There were surges in Notre Dame-
the show down in the BCS
championship game.
Johnny Manziel had to be the
story in college football.
Who do you liken him to?
Is he Fran Tarkenton?
Who is he?
>> Higgins: Well besides the
fact that he looks like a bagger
at Kroger.
Honestly, this is who I liken
him to.
It's kind of a strange
reference.
I liken him to Steve Nash.
If you ever watch Steve Nash
play basketball, he never kills
his dribble.
He keeps going and keeps going
until he finds something.
Johnny Manziel is Steve Nash.
He keeps going and he keeps
going until he finds something.
Sometimes it isn't there and
sometimes it is.
And sometimes you'll watch him
on a run and like-"Okay, that's
the end of that.
"Well he's still going.
"He's still going.
"He's in the end zone!"
>> Gaston: Exactly.
He's fun to watch.
Quick thoughts on the-well,
there's four new coaches in the
SEC.
We'll skip Kentucky for the time
being but Bielema at Arkansas,
Butch Jones at Tennessee,
Malzhan at Auburn.
Quick thoughts on those hires.
>> Higgins: Okay, I mean, this
is like the 20th time in the
last 21 years they've had a new
coach in the SEC-at least one
new coach.
I love the Bielema hire at
Arkansas-totally off the wall.
You didn't have some kind of-you
spend like $50,000 to hire a
search committee.
You know you have the guys on
your list and you think outside
the box.
A power guy and I think was
needed I a league that's still
built on power, first of all-
power football.
And it thought it was a great
hire.
Gus was an obvious hire.
I mean they couldn't get maybe a
couple of guys they wanted and
you bring back a guy that fits
at offense because they try to
shovel offense this year down
the throats of players that
weren't recruited at that style
of offense.
And that got him fired.
Tennessee-Butch, a good solid
hire.
I mean not flashy but having
dealt with in Cincinnati and
Liberty Bowl a year ago, players
love him.
And I think Vols need to get
back to fundamental football
first before they do anything.
>> Gaston: Ron, what's the next
move on the conference
realignment landscape?
>> Higgins: Well you know I
don't know.
I don't know what's out there
for the SEC really at this
point.
They're still trying to figure
out their football schedules.
I think the SEC is going to sit
back and wait and see what
happens and see if there's
anybody left out there.
I mean the only options for them
is if they did go to the ACC and
miss, there's still somebody
else.
I mean like if Carolina or Duke
ever want to leave the SEC and I
don't know if they would-the
ACC.
I don't know if they would
because the money they make off
of basketball TV in that league
is incredible.
I don't know if they would do
that.
I don't know if they would, you
know, sacrifice that to jump, in
say, a football league.
>> Gaston: Give me 30 seconds on
Justin Fuente, the job he did in
his first year at Memphis.
>> Higgins: From the very first
time I talked to him, very
organized.
And I knew he would stay the
course.
I knew he wouldn't back off what
he was doing.
And once you get guys to believe
what you're doing and if you're
organized and you show the guys
you have a plan and they believe
in the plan, it will eventually
work.
And it at the end of the season.
>> Gaston: Does San Diego State
skip out and stay in the
Mountain West or do they go to
the Big East?
>> Higgins: I said they stay in
the Mountain West.
I don't know why they'd want to
go in the Big East.
That's terrible for your travel.
It kills your budget.
>> Gaston: Ron, you always bring
it.
We appreciate it.
But as we end each and every one
of our interviews, we have
something called five for the
road.
Five questions, quick answers,
first thing that comes to your
mind.
Favorite professional team?
You can't say the Grizzlies.
>> Higgins: Saints because I'm
from Louisiana.
>> Gaston: Right-favorite
athlete of all time?
>> Higgins: Pete Maravich.
>> Gaston: The Pistol.
>> Higgins: Easily best
basketball player I've ever
seen.
>> Gaston: Are you mad the Jazz
nickname went to Utah?
>> Higgins: Never could figure
that out.
(laughter)
>> Higgins: We'll just call it
the fightin' Mormons.
Can't figure that out.
>> Gaston: What's your favorite
music?-a musician.
Is there a singer you like?
What do you like to listen to?
>> Higgins: I listen to a little
but of everything.
I mean I have an 18-year-old son
that forces me to listen to
groups I have never heard of.
I'm still as much a '70s guy.
You know I like a lot of '70s
stuff.
You know a lot of '70s soul
stuff-Earth Wind and Fire.
But I like to listen to
anything.
I play the drums so I like
everything.
>> Gaston: Oh, you do play the
drums?
>> Higgins: Yeah.
>> Gaston: How does your son
force you to listen to music?
I want to know that.
>> Higgins: Because he produces
music.
He's in to production now and
he's really, really good.
He's really talented.
He's a senior at St. Benedict
and just won a national award
last year.
>> Gaston: So he tests it out on
you?
>> Higgins: Yeah and he's
recording some people and
they're very good.
>> Gaston: Two more questions.
Favorite TV show of all time?
>> Higgins: Of all time?
Boy, I go through different
phases.
The one I really like now is
"Homeland."
>> Gaston: Oh, it's fantastic.
>> Higgins: Love "Homeland."
I love any TV show that's
written well.
>> Gaston: And you have to think
about it a little bit.
>> Higgins: Yeah, I always loved
"Seinfeld" because it was always
written so well.
>> Gaston: 10 seconds-favorite
movie of all time?
>> Higgins: This shows you, you
know, my, you know-this tells a
lot about me.
Animal House.
>> Gaston: I'm with you, Ron.
My favorite of all-time.
Caddyshack-a close second.
>> Higgins: Oh, they're both
right in there.
I mean when you sit there and
you just walk through life.
When it really throws at my life
was the Orange Bowl a few years
ago and the BCS game.
Played the media tournament on
the Caddyshack course he filmed
it on.
>> Gaston: Gotta love it!
Ron, always a pleasure.
Thank you so much.
>> Higgins: Good being here!
>> Gaston: That's Ron Higgins!
We'll take a break.
Overtime is coming up next.
>> [instrumental music]
♪♪♪
>> Gaston: Before too long the
boys of summer will do their
best boys of winter
impersonation as major league
baseball spring training will
get underway in about a month or
so.
In addition, college baseball is
right around the corner.
Reggie Williams will be
returning to his work as
Baserunning and Outfielders
Coordinator for the Milwaukee
Brewers organization.
The former Major leaguer and
Memphian has put his stamp on
the bluff city and will continue
to do so with the creation of
the Memphis Sluggers, a non-
profit organization co-founded
by Reggie to help Memphis youth
excel in the classroom through
the game of baseball.
>> Gaston: Reggie, let's talk
about Memphis Sluggers, how you
got involved, a little bit about
this foundation.
>> Williams: Well first of all,
thank you, Greg.
It's great to talk to you.
It's great to be here.
This is an idea that, you know,
I had had for a while.
Just didn't have the will with
all to get it done-working and
being very busy.
But through some mutual
friendships, my cofounders-Mr.
Sean Burke, Mike Wardlow.
We met together and we talked
about the initiative in terms of
making a difference in the lives
of young children in the urban
areas of Memphis, trying to get
them involved and doing
something active.
And baseball naturally was the
carrot for me.
And after talking about it, we
decided that baseball would be
the avenue in which we would try
to get children exposed to
sports.
But not only that-We wanted to
also infuse education and a
healthy lifestyle because in our
community here in Memphis and in
the south, obesity, type two
diabetes is running rampant.
And so in order to put our
little two cent worth in, we
decided to work with children
using baseball as a carrot with
a background of education being
important to your life and
having a healthy lifestyle in
order to take advantage of the
education and the sports that
you may be a part of.
>> Gaston: Do you believe that
it's hard to just-let's say we
skipped baseball and we just
wanted to educate these young
men and women.
And we also wanted to talk to
them about obesity and things
like that which are very, very
important.
But if there wasn't the sports
avenue, it might be harder to
get them, especially in the
urban area.
With the sports, as you
mentioned, as a carrot it makes
things a lot easier.
>> Williams: I think it would
certainly be a challenge because
you know they live in a very
unique society right now where
you really have to entertain
children now
because you got 24-7 television.
You've got cable vision that has
over 700 channels.
You have MySpace.
You have Twitter.
You have the internet.
You have so many distractions
for children now so you've got
to bring something that's
exciting, something that's
engaging, and something that's
of interest to the children.
And so we want to make baseball
fun because in order to play the
game of baseball, you've got to
love it because it's in the sun,
it's in the dirt, and it's
outside in the summertime.
And here in Memphis you know the
weather can be very unfriendly
at times when it gets hot.
So we want to approach it from a
fun prospective but also, too,
use some other avenues like
education and a healthy
lifestyle to get a better child,
a better adult, and perhaps a
better citizen here in Memphis.
>> Gaston: It's obvious, Reggie,
with baseball, that's your
passion.
That's your game.
You played it.
You coach now with Milwaukee.
But you're also so passionate
about these young men and women
in this Memphis area.
It's your home in the off
season.
You come back to Memphis.
You work so diligently with the
Redbirds and their foundations
and helping inner-city youth.
So it seems like it's just
natural for you and I'm sure
everybody appreciates you coming
back here and wanting to be a
part of this now through Memphis
Sluggers.
>> Williams: Well you know God
has blessed me with various
talents and one of them has been
the game of baseball.
The other one has been
education.
Most people don't know that I've
been a teacher.
I've been a principal here in
the city school system.
I'm a product of the school
system.
I've been an employee of the
school system and I'm an
advocate of the school system.
So what better place to start
with than children here in the
local community, trying to make
a difference in a child's life.
So if you can do something to
give something back, then I
think your life will have been
worth living and you would have
done something worth while while
you were here on this earth.
>> Gaston: You better watch it.
They may want you to run for
school superintendant.
>> Williams: Don't count me out.
You know I feel like, you know,
why do we have to do a
nationwide search when we have
talented educators here in
Memphis who know our system, who
know our culture, who know our
children.
What better place to look for a
superintendant of education than
here in Memphis.
>> Gaston: So you're being
serious about this.
>> Williams: I'm being very
serious.
>> Gaston: Absolutely.
Well you're back with the
Brewers.
You're back in baseball.
So what's the long range goal
for Reggie Williams now?
I mean, do you want to do
baseball for a long time or
you're with this opportunity
would arise?
>> Williams: Well you know
that's a great question.
You know I try to leave all my
doors open.
You never want to pigeon hole
yourself in to one location to
say that this is exactly what I
want to do because something
else may open up and then you've
already committed.
And then you find yourself
stuck.
So baseball is going to be
baseball.
I'm going to continue to do
baseball because that's my
passion.
This foundation is something
that's certainly going to take
yeoman's part of my time because
it's something that I want to do
well.
I want to do something that's
going to make an impact.
And then also, too, as an
educator-should an education
opportunity come up here in
Memphis, I think what better way
to help your own city than to
educate the masses because as a
Memphian, I think Memphis is a
diamond in the rough.
However, we have unique
challenges here in our city and
education is one of those
challenges that we have to have
addressed in order to move our
city forward if we want to be
another Atlanta, if we want to
be a Chicago, if we want to be a
Charlotte, North Carolina.
We've got to do something about
educating our children and what
a better place to do it than at
home.
>> Gaston: I agree
wholeheartedly.
I don't know if you can't stump
it.
I would stump for you.
I would do whatever I could to
back that up.
Reggie, final second here.
The season for the Brewers this
year-I know in the end it got a
little crazy where teams all of
a sudden were backing the
wildcard race because of that
additional wildcard.
What was it like for you in
Milwaukee this year?
>> Williams: Well you know it
was exciting for us coming off
of last year Central Division
Championship.
We had a lot of high hopes.
But we had some key injuries
early that kind of changed our
team's dynamics if you might.
So we had to make some
adjustments.
And then our bull pen had some
challenges as well this year.
We lost Hoffman.
Turned it over to Axford.
This was his first year of being
the reliever and that's a little
pressure.
So we had some challenges team-
wise but, you know, thank
goodness for Ryan Braun, Corey
Hart, Jonathan Lucroy even
though he missed a little bit
part of the season.
Rickie Weeks had a tough start.
You know he came around at the
end.
That's what really turned our
team around with Weeks starting
to hit, Ron having an MVP-like
year because we lost Cessal.
I mean not Cessal but Prince
Fielder.
We lost him but the team came
together with some young kids.
Maldonado came through really
well for us.
Even the Aoki, the Japanese
player, really had a great
rookie season for us this year.
And even our centerfielder,
Gomez-He really started to come
out and really play according to
his potential.
So we had some good things to
happen in the end and Ron
Roenicke is now standing
manager.
He does a great job in managing
the clubhouse-in managing our
club.
And I look forward to Doug
Melvin, the general manager.
He's a great baseball person, a
great baseball mind.
And I'm very excited about our
future.
I think we have a really good
future ahead of us.
We've got a good minor league
system.
And we've won three
championships.
Won another one this year.
That always puts rings on my
fingers and I'm glad about it.
>> Gaston: Absolutely.
Reggie, always a pleasure.
Best of luck with the
foundation.
>> Williams: Greg, it's always
good to see you.
Always good to be back home here
in Memphis.
>> Gaston: Last Friday the
Memphis Tigers hoop squad went
into Knoxville and knocked off
the Tenneessee Volunteers 85-80.
It was the culmination of a
crazy 72 hour period which saw
Coach Josh Pastner proclaim any
future Tigers-Vols games under
his watch dead and buried.
Only to be contradicted the next
day by Memphis Athletics
Director Tom Bowen, who
confirmed ongoing talks were
taking place between the two
schools to continue the series.
Bowen would later take the blame
for the failure in
communication.
Okay, on the subject of
continuing the series?
Yes, yes, and yes!
Fans want it, players want it,
local businesses want it, and
the University of Memphis needs
the financial boost a renewal of
both the football and basketball
series would provide.
As for the lack of
communication?
It needs to be better.
The unfortunate part of the
whole deal was that a "he said-
he said" situation dwarfed what
occurred on the court.
And that should never happen.
And that will do it for this
week's show.
Remember to see any of our
previous shows head to our
website, WKNO-dot-org and click
on KNO Tonite.
And we'll see you next time.
>> [instrumental music]
♪♪♪