Mon Jan 18 08:02pm EST
The best (and worst) of the year.
5. Jahvid Best goes up high, comes down hard. Human beings aren't supposed to reach the altitude that Cal's star running back achieved against Oregon State on Nov. 7 without the aid of some sort of technology and safety precautions, and they're certainly not supposed to come down head-first. Thankfully, the damage wasn't quite as severe as it looked while Best lay motionless in the end zone, surrounded by a pack of trainers until he was immobilized and carted off after nearly a half-hour on the turf, but the resulting concussion and lingering back pain did effectively end his career: Best sat out the Bears' last four games and announced his early entry into the draft, making his brief visit to the troposphere his last act as a Bear.
4. The SEC fines Urban Meyer. The fog of boredom was so thick by October that SEC outlets were compelled to conjure up weekly storms over sketchy officiating just to keep things interesting. It began innocently enough, with complaints about a pair of personal foul calls at the Georgia-LSU game that forced the referee in that game to issue a formal apology, but quickly escalated into a Pandora's box of petty controversies that resulted in one-game suspensions for an entire officiating crew and one of the league's most visible players.
By the start of November, SEC coaches were racking up so many reprimands that commissioner Mike Slive was forced to lay down the law: Next coach who complains about the refs in public gets it, see? That coach happened to be Florida's Urban Meyer, and Slive duly followed through on his threat by slapping a $30,000 fine on one of the most successful, respected and powerful coaches in the nation. It worked: The complaints immediately dried up for the rest of the season.
3. Les Miles loses consciousness while instructing Jordan Jefferson to spike the ball at Ole Miss. The Tigers' epic clock mismanagement in the final seconds of a 25-23 loss in Oxford -- ultimately resulting in quarterback Jordan Jefferson frantically attempting to spike the ball with just one second on the clock after completing a fourth-and-long bomb inside the Ole Miss 10-yard line -- was a big enough fail to spark a brief round of "Fire Les" memes on LSU message boards. But when Miles went on camera after the game to blame his young quarterback for losing his head in the heat of the moment, it passed forever into the realm of the absurd:
Miles' failure to keep track of the clock and subsequent out-of-body experience was the Tigers' second straight SEC loss, and ultimately cost LSU a 10-win season -- the first time the Tigers have failed to reach 10 wins in consecutive years since 1999-2000.
2. LeGarrette Blount goes off. Oregon's season-opening, Thursday-night loss at Boise State was already a nightmare before running back LeGarrette Blount lost it after the final gun, infamously cold-cocking Boise's Byron Hout at midfield and then attempting to take the fight to a few hecklers in the stands as he was being escorted off the field. No single moment from the 2009 season will endure as long as Blount's right hook, the dismal coda to a dismal head-coaching debut for Chip Kelly, a night that went so embarrassingly wrong that Kelly was compelled to write a refund check to a disgusted fan.
It will be probably be less well-remembered that Blount was eventually allowed to return to the team, and wound up scoring a key touchdown in the Ducks' Rose Bowl-clinching win over Oregon State and adding another TD in the Rose Bowl itself to close out his career.
1. Mike Leach makes Craig James' concussed son stand in a shed. Leach represents the trio of coaches -- along with Mark Mangino and Jim Leavitt -- who were abruptly and unceremoniously fired for mistreating players in a variety of fashions at the end of the year: Mangino was done in at Kansas by a pattern of alleged verbal abuse over years; Leavitt's fateful moment at South Florida was a sudden outburst of anger that led him to allegedly slap a player in the heat of the moment.
Coaches have been yelling and occasionally even popping kids for ages, and it's not hard to imagine a pair of fiery types crossing the line in either case. But Leach's response to Adam James showing up to practice with a mild concussion during Texas Tech's Alamo Bowl prep last month -- when the coach admits to sending James away to be isolated in a shed next to the practice field, and later in a press room -- must rank as one of the most inscrutable moments in the history of the sport. As a medical response, team doctors confirmed it had no value whatsoever; as a punishment, its only consequence is boredom. There's a decent chance that no other coach, anywhere, has ever attempted quite the same tactic. (If you can call it that, since a tactic technically is intended to promote a desired end or result, and it's impossible to decipher what end Leach might have been going for in this case.)
The subsequent staring contest between Leach and Tech administration and the media and fan firestorms that followed weaved a tangled, fascinating narrative of competing accounts, agendas and values. But at the end of the string is a kid standing idly in the dark for no reason in particular, a deeply weird moment that will probably never make sense outside of Mike Leach's own head.