Category: Uncategorized

Rugby League vs. Rugby Union – a comparison and history

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Rugby is an exciting full-contact sport that was founded in England in 1823, when a schoolboy named William Webb-Ellis became bored with kicking a soccer ball and decided to pick up the ball and run with it. This event resulted in the formation of what was called rugby, because it was founded at Rugby School in Warwickshire. However, the sport was not formally organized in a national competition (the Rugby Football Union, or RFU) until 1871.

Rugby quickly took off in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and also developed a large following in the colonies of Australia and New Zealand. However, some important socioeconomic differences began to be revealed as the game spread.

Youngsters who played rugby in school were generally from upper-class families. They strictly played the game for fun, as players were not allowed to play professionally at the time.

However, rugby players in the northern parts of England – specifically Lancashire and Yorkshire – were the common people, mainly blue-collar workers. As such, they simply couldn’t afford to take significant time off work in order to play rugby, and their teams suffered because of it. Therefore, these northerners decided to devise a scheme to get paid professionally.

As rugby began to take off in northern England, the southern amateurs didn’t like that these would-be working-class professionals up north were trying to be compensated. In 1892, the RFU disciplined Bradford and Leeds – two northern rugby clubs – for paying players who had to miss work. However, the RFU was already paying southern players who had represented England abroad, such as the 1888 rugby team that toured Australia.

The furious northerners argued that the RFU had shown blatant favoritism towards the southern clubs, as well as stacking the deck against them in games and not giving them representation on any sport-related committees. In response, the RFU banned professional rugby teams nationwide.

However, all was not lost for the northerners, as they had created their own league in 1888, featuring a dozen teams. They called themselves the Northern Rugby Football Union (NRFU). The two sports officially separated in 1895, with the south becoming rugby union and the northerners sticking to what is now known as rugby league.

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SIMILARITIES BETWEEN LEAGUE AND UNION

The two codes of rugby have the same basic ideas:

  • Players can run forward with the ball or kick the ball forwards, as long as it touches the ground first (a drop-kick).
  • Players cannot throw or deflect the ball forwards (a knock-on) and must throw the ball backwards or sideways.
  • Players can score in different ways:
    • try is when a player who has possession of the ball touches it down on his opponent’s in-goal area.
    • A conversion kick occurs after a try and is very similar to an extra point attempt in American football.
    • Players can also score by kicking the ball through the uprights (a penalty goal) or during gameplay (a drop goal). Again, the ball must be drop-kicked on the ground.
  • Both rugby league and rugby union fields are 100 meters long.
  • Both codes have the same tackling rules (anywhere below the shoulders) and similar penalties.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LEAGUE AND UNION

  • Rugby league features 13 players a side, while rugby union is 15-on-15.
  • In rugby union, a try is five points, but it is four points in rugby league. Likewise, a drop goal is worth three points in union, but only one point in league. Conversion kicks and penalty kicks are worth two points in both codes.
  • Rugby union places a large emphasis on winning possessions via mauls and scrums, when both teams fight for the ball against each other while holding their teammates tight.
  • In rugby union, a ruck is what happens when a player is tackled by an opposing player. The player who got tackled must let go of the ball, while his teammates push the opposing players away. However, in rugby league, the tackle is uncontested, and the player(s) who made the tackle must retreat ten meters.
  • In rugby union, a team has unlimited possessions and can therefore control the clock. However, in rugby league, a team has only six chances to score a try. On the sixth attempt, a player will usually kick the ball long to the other team, just like an American football punter would. This was designed by the original NRFU players in order to keep the scores close and make sure both teams had even possessions.

These rules may seem like minor differences, but the modern versions of both league and union are very different in practice. Rugby union matches are both brutal and methodical, requiring precise kicks and ball disposals, as it’s all about strategy and knowing what to do to get your team in position to score. Rugby league is much more simple and straightforward, and many American football fans who watch league on TV will be able to follow it very quickly. In order to play league, you must be quick and agile. Union is generally more physical, but also isn’t as fast-paced as league.

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Rugby union is the de facto code played in most schools around the world, and when fans and players talk about “rugby,” they’re generally referring to union. The game is played widely around the world, as it remains a major sport in the UK, as well as in Pacific islands such as New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji. The US, South Africa, Japan, France, and Ireland are some other notable nations that compete on an international scale, either in rugby union or the abbreviated form known as rugby sevens (I played both union and sevens when I was an undergrad at New Mexico State University).

Rugby league is more of a localized niche sport, as only a handful of countries play it. The only country where league is more popular than union is Australia, and it has a particularly large following in the states of New South Wales and Queensland.

In addition, league is widely played in southern France, New Zealand, Wales, the Pacific islands, and the northern parts of England in which it originated. League is also the national sport of both Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands.

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MAJOR RUGBY LEAGUE COMPETITIONS

  • Super League (England/France)
    • Castleford Tigers
    • Catalans Dragons (France)
    • Huddersfield Giants
    • Hull F.C.
    • Leeds Rhinos
    • Leigh Centurions
    • Salford Red Devils
    • St Helens F.C.
    • Wakefield Trinity
    • Warrington Wolves
    • Widnes Vikings
    • Wigan Warriors
  • National Rugby League (Australia/New Zealand)
    • Brisbane Broncos
    • Canberra Raiders
    • Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
    • Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
    • Gold Coast Titans
    • Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
    • Melbourne Storm
    • Newcastle Knights
    • New Zealand Warriors
    • North Queensland Cowboys
    • Parramatta Eels
    • Penrith Panthers
    • St George-Illawarra Dragons
    • South Sydney Rabbitohs
    • Sydney Roosters
    • Wests Tigers
  • Tongan National Rugby League
    • Capital Warriors
    • Fuekafa Rabbitohs
    • Ha’akame Broncos
    • Ha’ateiho Spartans
    • Halaloto Green Barbarians
    • Havelu Bulldogs
    • Kolomotu’a Eagles
    • Lapaha Knights
    • Mu’a Saints
    • Nakolo Raiders
    • Silapeluua Crusaders
    • Vaini Doves
  • Digicel Cup (Papua New Guinea)
    • Agmark Gurias
    • Bintangor-Goroka Lahanis
    • Enga Mioks
    • Gulf Isapea
    • Hela Wigmen
    • Lae Snax Tigers
    • Mendi Muruks
    • Mount Hagen Eagles
    • Port Moresby Vipers
    • TNA Lions
    • Waghi Tumbe
  • Vodafone Cup (Fiji)
    • City Stormers
    • Davuilevu Knights
    • Dees Cees Nadera Panthers
    • Lautoka Crushers
    • Makoi Bulldogs
    • Malawai Sea Eagles
    • Nabua Broncos
    • Nadi Eels
    • Namatakula Saints
    • Namotomoto Raiders
    • Naviago Sharks
    • Police Sharks
    • Sabeto Roosters
    • Saru Dragons
  • National Competition (New Zealand)
    • Akarana Falcons
    • Canterbury Bulls
    • Canterbury Development Team
    • Counties Manukau Stingrays
    • Southland Rams
    • Taranaki Sharks
    • Waikato
    • Wellington Orcas

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MAJOR RUGBY UNION COMPETITIONS

  • Premiership Rugby (England)
    • Bath
    • Bristol
    • Exeter Chiefs
    • Gloucester
    • Harlequin
    • Leicester Tigers
    • Newcastle Falcons
    • Northampton Saints
    • Sale Sharks
    • Saracens
    • Wasps
    • Worcester Warriors
  • Super Rugby (Australia/New Zealand/South Africa/Argentina/Japan)
    • Blues (New Zealand)
    • Brumbies (Australia)
    • Bulls (South Africa)
    • Cheetahs (South Africa)
    • Chiefs (New Zealand)
    • Crusaders (New Zealand)
    • Force (Australia)
    • Highlanders (New Zealand)
    • Hurricanes (New Zealand)
    • Jaguares (Argentina)
    • Kings (South Africa)
    • Lions (South Africa)
    • Rebels (Australia)
    • Reds (Australia)
    • Stormers (South Africa)
    • Sunwolves (Japan)
    • Waratahs (Australia)
  • Top 14 (France)
    • Aviron Bayonnais
    • Union Bordeaux Bègles
    • CA Brive
    • Castres Olympique
    • ASM Clermont Auvergne
    • FC Grenoble
    • Lyon OU
    • Montpellier Hèrault
    • Section Paloise
    • Racing 92
    • Stade Rochelais
    • Stade Français Paris
    • RC Toulonnais
    • Stade Toulousain
  • Rugby Football Union (England)
    • Bedford Blues
    • Bristol
    • Cornish Pirates
    • Doncaster Knights
    • Ealing Trailfinders
    • Hartpury College
    • Jersey Reds
    • London Scottish
    • Nottingham
    • Richmond
    • Rotherham Titans
    • Yorkshire Carnegie
  • All-Ireland League
    • Ballynahinch
    • Ballymena
    • Banbridge
    • Buccaneers
    • Clontarf
    • Cork Constitution
    • Dolphin
    • Dublin University
    • Garryowen
    • Lansdowne
    • Naas
    • Old Belvedere
    • Old Wesley
    • Shannon
    • St Mary’s College
    • Terenure College
    • UCC
    • UCD
    • UL Bohemians
    • Young Munster
  • Currie Cup (South Africa)
    • Blue Bulls
    • Boland Cavaliers
    • Border Bulldogs
    • Eastern Province Kings
    • Falcons
    • Free State Cheetahs
    • Golden Lions
    • Griffons
    • Griquas
    • Leopards
    • Pumas
    • Sharks
    • SWD Eagles
    • Western Province
  • Pro12 (Italy/Scotland/Wales)
    • Aironi (Italy)
    • Border Reivers (Scotland)
    • Celtic Warriors (Wales)
    • Bridgend (Wales)
    • Caerphilly (Wales)
    • Cardiff (Wales)
    • Ebbw Vale (Wales)
    • Llanelli (Wales)
    • Neath (Wales)
    • Newport (Wales)
    • Pontypridd (Wales)
    • Swansea (Wales)
  • National Rugby Championship (Australia)
    • Brisbane City
    • Canberra Vikings
    • Country Eagles
    • Melbourne Rising
    • Perth Spirit
    • Queensland Country
    • Sydney Rays
    • Western Sydney Rams
  • Mitre 10 Cup (New Zealand)
    • Auckland
    • Bay of Plenty
    • Canterbury
    • Counties Manukau
    • Hawke’s Bay
    • Manawatu
    • North Harbour
    • Northland
    • Otago
    • Southland
    • Taranaki
    • Tasman
    • Waikato
    • Wellington
  • Digicel Cup (Fiji)
    • Lautoka
    • Macuata
    • Nadi
    • Nadroga
    • Naitasiri
    • Namosi
    • Navosa
    • Northland
    • Ovalau
    • Rewa
    • Suva
    • Tavua

Forgiving, but discerning

A new film is coming out called Hacksaw Ridge – a bloody WWII drama that premiered at the Venice Film Festival last month and drew a 10-minute standing ovation. The plot focuses on the remarkable true story of Desmond Doss, an Army medic at the Battle of Okinawa. Doss was a Seventh-Day Adventist who didn’t carry a weapon, but managed to save 70 men in his unit while under enemy fire. He ended up being the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor.

Hacksaw Ridge has been met with critical praise already, even though it doesn’t arrive in American cinemas until November 4. It currently holds a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is being talked about as a sleeper pick at this year’s Academy Awards.

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Why is this relevant? Well, Hacksaw Ridge was directed by Mel Gibson – the Oscar-winning superstar who’s spent the majority of the last decade in hiding. As most of us remember, Gibson’s public disgrace was a punchline for years, following his infamous 2006 DUI incident in which he used anti-Semitic slurs, as well as a divorce from his wife and other related issues. Since then, public opinion of Gibson has been less-than-stellar, to put it mildly.

Gibson, now age 60, has tried to bounce back, but he’s largely viewed as box office poison even long after his problems faded from memory of the tabloids. Several films he has starred in have flopped, and he’s tried to lie low for awhile. Until Hacksaw Ridge premiered, Gibson hadn’t been behind the director’s chair since 2006’s Apocalypto.

In his personal life, Gibson was also accused of beating his then-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, in 2010 and leaving obscene voicemails on her answering machine. Gibson pleaded no contest and the two settled out of court. It was eventually revealed that some of the tapes were deliberately edited and there was evidence of extortion on Grigorieva’s part. Gibson’s ex-wife, Robyn Moore, defended him, saying that she had never experienced any abuse from Gibson in their 30 years of marriage.

Gibson has had long struggles with alcohol and found out several years ago that he was manic-depressive. In the aftermath of his DUI arrest, he called his remarks “despicable” and that they were “blurted out in a moment of insanity.” In a follow-up hearing six months after the arrest, a Los Angeles judge praised Gibson for going above and beyond what was required, which included counseling and community service. Gibson also met one-on-one with Jewish leaders and attempted to reach a measure of public forgiveness.

The point I’m trying to make here is this: should we, as consumers of media, be willing to forgive people? On one level, the obvious answer is yes. In order to be a happy person in life, you need to forgive people who have wronged you. On the other hand, these people are celebrities and, as such, could care less what the guy on the street thinks of them. Still, people like Gibson should be given credit for trying to rebuild their reputations and being willing to meet people halfway.

But as movie-watchers, should we be able to watch Gibson’s films without guilt? That’s not an easy answer, and I don’t expect that everyone will be lining up to watch Hacksaw Ridge (or any of Gibson’s other previous films).

However, in hindsight, other people in the entertainment industry have done terrible things too. Sean Penn was a domestic abuser. Charlie Sheen trashed hotel rooms and nearly had prostitutes overdose on his dollar. Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl. Many of these people were pariahs at first, but were eventually accepted back into the Hollywood fold (and some never left to begin with).

Then why has Gibson, a full decade after his most notorious episode, not been given an olive branch? Some people would say that he’s not truly sorry, given his other problems since the DUI. Others would say he’s been unfairly treated because he’s an outspoken, conservative Catholic. Whatever the explanation is, I think it’s time for a guy like Gibson to make his comeback. Disregarding Gibson’s personal demons (which aren’t unique to him), film is a richer place with him around.

If you want to look at a guy outside of Hollywood with a situation comparable to Gibson’s, look no further than Michael Vick. He served time for several years following his involvement in an illegal dogfighting ring, and it looked like his NFL career was all but finished. However, upon his release, Vick did everything he could to make amends and show remorse. To this day, he is still protested when he makes appearances, but if you’re being objective, I can’t imagine how he could have handled himself any better upon his return to public life, or what else he could do to show repentance.

As a society, we tend to put people on a pedestal and want to think the best of humanity. That’s why we’re shocked when a cop kills someone in cold blood. That’s why we get pissed off when middle school teachers turn out to be pedophiles. It’s not something that’s unique to celebrities – then again, with public figures, people tend to have longer-than-usual memories.

I think it’s natural to want to admire people. I think it’s silly when people admire someone with no evident talent or anything useful to say (looking at you, Kardashian family), but I’m not going to fault people for having role models, whether they’re celebrities or not.

I’m also not going to fault anyone for not watching movies from certain people. That’s their right, and as consumers of entertainment, we’re obligated to be free in what we choose to watch. My dad consistently refuses to watch Woody Allen movies due to his own distaste for Allen’s personal life. My mom doesn’t like Jack Nicholson’s movies, based on his playboy lifestyle.

So at the end of the day, we should be willing to be forgiving, but also discerning. That’s our right and our duty, both as free people and as moviegoers.

2015-2016 coaching carousel (pt. 2)

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#15 – Mike Norvell, Memphis

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Arizona State

PROS: Norvell is an Arkansas native who has had serious success under Todd Graham at Arizona State as their offensive coordinator. He’s a solid recruiter and has mentored players such as all-Pac 12 quarterback Taylor Kelly and running back/slot receiver D.J. Foster. Prior to ASU, Norvell coached with Graham at Pitt and Tulsa.

CONS: The 34-year-old Norvell has never been a head coach before, and while he’s great in terms of football IQ and enthusiasm, the expectations at Memphis are certainly different than when Justin Fuente took over a dreadful program in 2012.

BOTTOM LINE: Memphis’s rise from cellar-dweller to contender under Fuente was nothing short of meteoric. Norvell will be hard-pressed to recapture that magic, but he’s got a group of talented, overachieving athletes that are hungry as ever to stay at the top.

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#16 – Tracy Claeys, Minnesota

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator, Minnesota

PROS: Claeys is a well-respected coach who has support from the university community. Like former coach Jerry Kill, he brings a disciplined, blue-collar approach that is popular with fans and players alike.

CONS: He has only coached with Jerry Kill in his career and been exposed to only one system.

BOTTOM LINE: Minnesota has the benefit of continuity with Claeys. To some extent (given Kill’s health issues), they had time and hindsight to make a good decision, too. There’s turmoil elsewhere in university administration, so the Gophers made a good choice.

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#17 – Barry Odom, Missouri

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach, Missouri

PROS: Odom is a familiar face who has built a reputation as a defensive mastermind, and he’s popular with fans and players, having been at Mizzou under former coach Gary Pinkel in two separate stints (2003-2011 and 2015-present).

CONS: While Odom is a natural fit, his defensive background might not be. The Tigers were solid defensively and atrocious offensively in 2015, compounding their issues on a team that was already lacking chemistry.

BOTTOM LINE: Odom has the resources and support, plus a team with a history of recent success. The Tigers have the talent to contend in a down SEC East, but they’ll need the offense to come around soon.

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#18 – Lovie Smith, Illinois

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

PROS: Smith has legit NFL coaching experience—both with the Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears—and he’s been an assistant at several Big Ten programs before, including Ohio State and Wisconsin. He also grabbed his old friend, Garrick McGee, to run the offense.

CONS: Despite his impressive resumé, Smith’s star seems to have fallen in recent years. At Illinois, he inherits a program with so-so facilities and a roster that has lacked toughness. Is the 57-year-old Smith up to the task?

BOTTOM LINE: He may seem like an odd fit at first, but Smith brings stability to a program that has been treading water lately. The real question is can he win immediately? Smith is undoubtedly a great coach, but he faces an uphill battle trying to make the Illini relevant in the Big Ten again.

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#19 – Will Muschamp, South Carolina

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator, Auburn

PROS: Muschamp is a proven coach with a proven track record, and he’s a familiar face that fans can buy into after Steve Spurrier’s retirement. The Gamecocks have fallen far and fast, but better days are ahead.

CONS: Muschamp’s tenure at Florida will continue to be an sore spot unless he proves otherwise. His work as Auburn’s defensive coordinator last season wasn’t exactly inspiring.

BOTTOM LINE: Questions abound, but Muschamp has familiarity with the SEC, recruiting prowess, and a big chip on his shoulder. He could rebuild the Gamecocks into a contender in time, especially in a weak SEC East.

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#20 – Frank Wilson, UTSA

PREVIOUS JOB: Running Backs Coach/Recruiting Coordinator, LSU

PROS: Wilson is considered to be one of the nation’s best recruiters. He dominated the talent-rich New Orleans area as a recruiter at LSU, while also playing a key role in the development of numerous NFL-bound running backs. He also has experience coaching at Ole Miss and Tennessee under big names like Ed Orgeron and Lane Kiffin.

CONS: Wilson lacks head-coaching experience and steps into a tough situation in terms of facilities and fan support. UTSA started off fast since becoming an FBS program in 2012, but they fell to 7-17 in the past two seasons in a mediocre Conference USA.

BOTTOM LINE: Wilson certainly has the enthusiasm for the job, and his recruiting prowess should serve him well in Texas, a state that certainly doesn’t lack for gridiron talent. The Roadrunners have taken a lot of recent lumps, but they should be much more competitive under Wilson.

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#21 – Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach, Colorado State

PROS: Summers is a Georgia native and an outstanding recruiter who developed future NFL players at mid-major schools likes UAB, UCF, and most recently, Colorado State. Former coach Willie Fritz electrified audiences with his pistol-option offense, but Summers brings a reputation as a defensive guru. Plus, he coached safeties at Georgia Southern in 2006.

CONS: Summers has only two seasons as a coordinator under his belt and is still very young (35). He inherits a program with sky-high expectations and a rich gridiron history. Can he put together the right pieces to be successful immediately?

BOTTOM LINE: In a conference full of parity, GSU must work hard to remain on the same level as their peers. Summers seems to have the moxie to pull it off, but any drop off will be felt acutely in the Sun Belt.

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#22 – Everett Withers, Texas State

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, James Madison

PROS: Withers has a proven track record as a defensive assistant, both at major colleges (North Carolina, Ohio State) and in the NFL. He also has a year of FBS coaching experience (as the interim coach at North Carolina in 2011), and his offenses at James Madison the past couple of years were explosive.

CONS: Withers hasn’t been a full-time coach before, and he doesn’t have much experience as a recruiter in Texas. It will be crucial for Texas State to be competitive in recruiting, not just against other in-state teams, but in the Sun Belt as well.

BOTTOM LINE: There’s plenty of reasons to believe in Withers; he has a solid track record of success, and he inherits a solid situation in terms of facilities and local talent. The Bobcats are still a young program, and they could get back to Sun Belt prominence soon if the ball bounces their way.

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#23 – Seth Littrell, North Texas

PREVIOUS JOB: Tight Ends Coach, North Carolina

PROS: Littrell has proven experience as a play-caller at several different Power Five programs, including Arizona, Indiana, and (most recently) North Carolina, where he also coached the tight ends. An Oklahoma native with great recruiting connections in the region, he could immediately boost the enthusiasm for Mean Green football.

CONS: He has never been a head coach.

BOTTOM LINE: Littrell has a lot of benefits at UNT, including a new stadium and a quality recruiting ground. The cupboard isn’t entirely bare, either—the Mean Green made a bowl game as recently as 2013. This is a good job for Littrell to take.

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#24 – Kalani Sitake, BYU

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator, Oregon State

PROS: The 40-year-old Sitake is an engaging personality, a noted recruiter, and an LDS church member—three immediate prerequisites for the BYU job. The Tonga native and BYU alum spent almost his entire career in the state of Utah before moving to Oregon State last year under coach Gary Andersen. He has worked wonders as an assistant coach, especially as a defensive coordinator.

CONS: He has never been a head coach at any level, and BYU is a tough job playing a tough independent schedule. Recruiting has always been a challenge in Provo. Sitake knows the program’s culture well, but can he translate that to immediate success?

BOTTOM LINE: Sitake is a rising star in the coaching business for a reason, but his lack of head coaching experience certainly works against him. Were it not for his LDS background, he probably wouldn’t be a serious contender for many other jobs—at least not yet.

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#25 – Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Nevada

PROS: Rolovich is a young assistant (36) with an excellent resumé. He coached at Hawaii from 2008-2011 and was offensive coordinator at Nevada for the past four seasons. A California native and a Hawaii alum, Rolovich takes over a stagnant Warrior program that has won only ten games in the past four seasons.

CONS: Rolovich has never been a head coach, and the UH athletic department has been under significant financial turmoil in recent years, so money for assistant coaches could be an ongoing issue. In addition, scholarship numbers are down, as former coach Norm Chow relied heavily on transfers, and Aloha Stadium needs to be renovated.

BOTTOM LINE: Rolovich is up against it in an ever-improving Mountain West, but as an alum and former assistant, he’s familiar with the program and its various challenges. Give him time and he’ll turn the Warriors around.

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#26 – Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

PREVIOUS JOB: Running Backs Coach, Texas Tech

PROS: Jinks has been an assistant coach for 20 years, including 16 years in the Texas high school ranks. He was part of Kliff Kingsbury’s original staff at Texas Tech in 2013, and did some great work as running backs coach at a school that isn’t traditionally known for its power running game.

CONS: While Jinks is a good recruiter and a nice face for Bowling Green’s program, he has never lived outside the state of Texas. In addition to his lack of head-coaching experience, Jinks only has six seasons of experience as a coordinator—and that was at the high school level.

BOTTOM LINE: Wait and see. Bowling Green had enjoyed euphoria under Dino Babers for two seasons, so the fans should be relatively satisfied during the upcoming transition. But Jinks still has much to prove as a first-time head coach.

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#27 – Matt Viator, Louisiana-Monroe

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, McNeese State

PROS: Before a decade-long tenure at McNeese State (his alma mater), Viator was a long-time high school coach. He has spent his entire 30-year coaching career in the state of Louisiana.

CONS: Viator has never even been an assistant at the FBS level, so he isn’t a proven commodity as a recruiter of top talent. ULM is a tough job, to be sure, and he’s bound to take a few lumps before getting his system and recruits in place.

BOTTOM LINE: Viator is a decent fit at the right time for a struggling program, but can he take ULM any further than Todd Berry did? The Warhawks are used to being underestimated, but Viator needs to prove early on that he’s not in over his head.

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#28 – Mike Neu, Ball State

PREVIOUS JOB: Quarterbacks Coach, New Orleans Saints

PROS: Neu is a Ball State alum with over a decade of professional coaching experience, mostly in the NFL and the Arena Football League.

CONS: His only job at the collegiate level was two years (2012-2013) as quarterbacks coach at Tulane.

BOTTOM LINE: This wasn’t a particularly inspiring hire. Despite his status as an alum and Indiana native, Neu doesn’t seem to possess the obvious chops as a play-caller or head coach.

2015-2016 coaching carousel (pt. 1)

It was a busy offseason for college football, with 28 head coaching vacancies being filled. Here is my ranking, from first to last:

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#1 – Mark Richt, Miami

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Georgia

PROS: Richt is one of the few proven commodities in the coaching circuit, and the Hurricanes are certainly lucky to have him. He won 145 games in 14 seasons at Georgia, and he brings a sterling reputation to his alma mater.

CONS: Miami will continue to wear the label of underachiever until Richt and his team prove otherwise.

BOTTOM LINE: The Canes are still dripping with talent, and Richt might be their best hire in years. If he can put all the pieces together, the U might finally get to that elusive ACC championship.

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#2 – Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, BYU

PROS: Mendenhall’s departure from BYU after 11 seasons was the shocker of the offseason, and it was even more shocking that he chose the vacant UVA job. Still, Mendenhall has never had a losing season as a head coach, taking the Cougars to 11 bowl games in 11 years.

CONS: BYU is a unique job with significant recruiting challenges, but Mendenhall has never proven himself as an elite recruiter—or at least in the traditional sense of the word. It’s a big move from going from Mormon homes across Utah to attempting to dominate the Tidewater region of Virginia (one of the biggest hotbeds of talent on the East Coast). Also, BYU teams were known for their penalties and disciplinary issues.

BOTTOM LINE: Mendenhall might be an out-of-left-field candidate, but there’s no questioning his coaching acumen, even with the odd geographical location. Can UVA stop being a perennial underachiever and take the next step to being an ACC contender?

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#3 – Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Memphis

PROS: Under Fuente’s leadership, the Memphis Tigers went from zeroes to heroes, becoming an elite program in the American Athletic Conference. He won only 26 games in four years, but keep in mind that the change from Year One to Year Two was dramatic—3-9 to 10-3—and Year Three was nearly as good. Fuente’s hiring has been well-received in Blacksburg, where they’re coming off 29 years of the legendary Frank Beamer.

CONS: Fuente hasn’t proven to be an elite recruiter, which is definitely needed, given the fact that VT’s traditional recruiting grounds have gotten bigger and hotter than ever.

BOTTOM LINE: Fuente has all the tools to succeed at Virginia Tech, a program that has enjoyed serious success in the ACC. The Hokies have an established recruiting footprint, excellent facilities, and a history of winning. Fuente could have gone to plenty of other programs, but he seems like an ideal candidate to replace Beamer.

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#4 – Kirby Smart, Georgia

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator, Alabama

PROS: Stingy, smash-mouth, hard-nosed—all of those are adjectives that describe Alabama’s defenses under Smart. Smart has been with Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa since day one, and developed a sterling reputation as a defensive mind. He is also a UGA alum who has one year of experience coaching at his alma mater; he was running backs coach at UGA in 2005.

CONS: Smart’s resumé borders on brilliant, and there’s plenty of reasons to believe in him, but Georgia fans aren’t exactly the patient type. Given the fact that Mark Richt was fired after winning 145 games in 14 seasons, it’s safe to say that expectations are through the roof.

BOTTOM LINE: A quality hire for Georgia. Smart had basically done all he could at Bama, and he’s happy to return to his alma mater, this time in the head coach’s chair. With their talent level, the Bulldogs should expect an SEC championship soon. How soon?

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#5 – Matt Campbell, Iowa State

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Toledo

PROS: Campbell provides the shot in the arm that the Cyclones need, and he has the enthusiasm required for what is one of the more difficult Big 12 jobs. Campbell is a coach’s son with an offensive background, and he won 35 games in four seasons at Toledo.

CONS: Iowa State hasn’t been able to enjoy consistent success in a long time, and it’s a challenge recruiting kids to come to Ames. Campbell’s biggest hurdle will be raising support on and off the field for a program that has been spinning its wheels in recent years.

BOTTOM LINE: Campbell is one of the bright young minds in college football, and he built quite the well-oiled machine at Toledo. Most of his assistants from Toledo are joining him, so it seems like a natural fit for all involved.

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#6 – Dino Babers, Syracuse

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Bowling Green

PROS: Babers is from the Art Briles coaching tree, so his offenses are bound to be exciting. After four mega successful years at Eastern Illinois (2012-2013) and Bowling Green (2014-2015), Babers was bound to move up in the world. He takes over a Syracuse program with a lot of challenges, but also some young talent.

CONS: Babers doesn’t have much experience working at a program with limited resources. While he played a big role in Baylor’s meteoric rise to the college football elite, both Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green were fixer-upper jobs. The point is that he hasn’t taken over a mediocre program and done a complete turnaround before.

BOTTOM LINE: Syracuse needed to make a splash, and they got it with the charismatic Babers, a great offensive mind who will begin turning the Orange into a dark-horse. They’ll spring a few upsets in 2016.

Arizona v USC

#7 – Clay Helton, USC

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, USC

PROS: Helton is extremely popular with players and has proven himself as a play-caller at USC previously. He’s also been a successful running backs and wide receivers coach. He understands the Trojans’ rich gridiron history and the frequent media access to the program.

CONS: Helton is perfectly qualified to be promoted, but Trojan fans and boosters were undoubtedly expecting a bigger name than him. The fans have been grumbling for several years now. Are there more glory days ahead for USC?

BOTTOM LINE: Well, the ending to the Steve Sarkisian era sure was…weird. While Helton’s not the big name that the fan base craved, he provides stability for a program that desperately needs it.

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#8 – D.J. Durkin, Maryland

PREVIOUS JOB: Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach, Michigan

PROS: Durkin is an Ohio native who has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most relentless recruiters. He has coordinated defenses at some of the nation’s elite programs, including Florida and Michigan. The Terrapins also have outstanding facilities and are surrounded by loads of high school talent.

CONS: Durkin will have a challenge trying to build the Terrapins into a hard-nosed, smash-mouth Big Ten team. The Terps have recruited well at the skill positions, but they need a lot more on both lines in order to succeed in the Big Ten.

BOTTOM LINE: Given his recruiting prowess and defensive acumen, Durkin seems to have what it takes to build the Terps into a Big Ten contender. The process may be slow, but to some extent, this isn’t a complete rebuilding project.

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#9 – Scott Frost, UCF

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Oregon

PROS: Frost brings his fast-tempo spread offense from the drizzly scenery of Eugene to the swamps of Orlando. In addition to his experience at one of the nation’s elite programs, Frost played in the NFL for six seasons and for the legendary Tom Osborne at Nebraska.

CONS: Frost has to reclaim a team that shot itself in the foot repeatedly with penalties and turnovers last season. You can’t turn that around overnight. Frost also doesn’t have any experience coaching in the South.

BOTTOM LINE: UCF was dreadful last season (0-12), but they’ve got plenty of high school talent surrounding them and some quality facilities. Frost won’t work miracles overnight, but he seemed to be ready to move on from Oregon and has most of the qualifications needed for the job.

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#10 – Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Duke

PROS: Montgomery is a North Carolina native who played wide receiver at Duke and in the NFL before embarking on a coaching career. Now, he gets his first head coaching gig at the age of 37. He has coached with the Pittsburgh Steelers and in two separate stints at Duke.

CONS: While Montgomery has proven himself as a recruiter and position coach, he has only two years of experience as a play-caller. Not that Duke was bad offensively—far from it—but Montgomery takes over a program that is known for spectacular offensive numbers. He’ll have to deliver quick results.

BOTTOM LINE: It was definitely a surprise when Ruffin McNeill got the axe after leading ECU to four bowl games in six years. Montgomery seems to be a good fit for a program that has lacked consistency since moving to the American in 2014. At the very least, the Pirates have been entertaining in recent years. But can Montgomery take that talent and do what McNeill couldn’t?

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#11 – Chris Ash, Rutgers

PREVIOUS JOB: Co-Defensive Coordinator/Safeties Coach, Ohio State

PROS: Ash built the Ohio State defense into a juggernaut, and before that, he worked under Bret Bielema at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. He is an Iowa native who has a great reputation as a recruiter and a fundamentals coach.

CONS: Ash doesn’t have much in the way of proven offensive playmakers at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights need a shot in the arm in a lot of areas, and they especially need to upgrade their facilities and in-state recruiting. As for Ash himself, he’s unproven as a head coach and it was a bit of a surprise when Rutgers hired him.

BOTTOM LINE: Ash inherits an underachieving Rutgers program that has really struggled against elite competition since joining the Big Ten. The Knights don’t have enough successful pieces in place to contend right away, but they should be more consistent than they were under Kyle Flood.

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#12 – Willie Fritz, Tulane

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Georgia Southern

PROS: Fritz became a hot name and a proven commodity after leading Georgia Southern to the FBS ranks (17 wins in two years). Fritz is an offensive coach who prefers an exciting pistol-option scheme. His past two recruiting classes at Georgia Southern were ranked the best in the Sun Belt.

CONS: Fritz has a tougher schedule ahead, and also a tougher recruiting ground to dominate. There’s plenty of talent in Louisiana, but the Green Wave have often gotten stuck with the leftovers.

BOTTOM LINE: This program needed excitement, and they got it with Fritz. He’ll definitely be able to put fans in the stands and attract some quality recruits, but can he win immediately in an improving American Athletic Conference?

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#13 – Jay Hopson, Southern Miss

PREVIOUS JOB: Head Coach, Alcorn State

PROS: Hopson has coaching roots in Mississippi, having been an assistant at two previous stops in Hattiesburg (2001-2003, 2005-2007). He also did a nice turnaround job at Alcorn State, where he went 32-17 from 2012-2015.

CONS: Hopson isn’t known as an elite recruiter, and expectations are high at Southern Miss following a nine-win season. Can he assemble the right pieces to keep the momentum going?

BOTTOM LINE: Southern Miss seemed to find an excellent replacement for NFL-bound Todd Monken. With little time before National Signing Day, athletic director Bill McGillis made a nice hire in Hopson, who has familiarity with the program and a proven track record of winning at lower levels of football. In a pinch, this seems like a very solid hire.

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#14 – Jason Candle, Toledo

PREVIOUS JOB: Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach, Toledo

PROS: Like Matt Campbell before him, Candle is a young offensive coordinator who is getting his first chance to run a successful mid-major program. He’s got great facilities and a history of recent success to sell to recruits, and has been an assistant with the program since 2009.

CONS: Candle is still young, and he didn’t inherit many assistants from the previous staff.

BOTTOM LINE: The Rockets have been on a roll lately, but Northern Illinois and Western Michigan are breathing down their necks in the MAC West Division. Candle was offered to follow Campbell to Iowa State, but turned it down in order to stay at Toledo and become a head coach for the first time. Will he keep the magic going?

****TO BE CONTINUED****

Who to fire: the way-too-early edition

We’re a little less than a month into the college football season, but the first firing has already been made in the form of Tim Beckman, head coach at Illinois. Beckman was ousted after three seasons of mostly mediocre results, but the real story came forward when current and former players accused him of verbal abuse and willfully ignoring injuries.

While this was a unique and unfortunate case, you can expect plenty more of firings from now until December. I present my case for all of the head coaches who I believe should be ousted:

Al Golden, Miami

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Golden, who enjoyed a successful run at Temple from 2007-2010, has been far from the savior of one of the nation’s most historic and respected programs. Even after an ongoing NCAA scandal was unofficially concluded a few years back, Golden’s teams have been some of the most underachieving in the FBS. He has probably recruited more NFL talent than the rest of the ACC coaches combined. But the Hurricanes’ disgruntled fanbase has still yet to see a conference title in the ACC era (2004-present), and Golden’s overall record (28-22 in four years) leaves much to be desired.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina

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Fedora’s hiring seemed to be great at the time, as he had enjoyed great success at Southern Miss (34-19 in four years) and brought a reputation to Chapel Hill as a spread offense guru. Like Golden at Miami, Fedora and his staff have recruited well through a prolonged NCAA investigation, but the Tar Heels just haven’t been good enough to contend in a mostly-average ACC Coastal Division. With controversy still surrounding the program, it’s best that UNC takes things in a different direction.

Kyle Flood, Rutgers

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Flood was the offensive line coach under previous head man Greg Schiano, who led the Scarlet Knights from being perennial cellar-dwellers to consistent competitors in the former Big East Conference. Since taking over in 2012, Flood has improved facilities and managed the transition into the Big Ten last season.

But nothing has gone right for Rutgers this year, in the form of ugly play on the field and suspensions of six players off of it due to various allegations of theft, aggravated assault, and domestic violence. While Flood’s record isn’t awful (23-16 in three years), his teams have not been stellar, either, and the move to the Big Ten in 2014 exposed some major weaknesses on the Scarlet Knights’ roster. With the NCAA swarming around the program, Flood needs to leave as gracefully as he can.

Mike London, Virginia

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London is a tough-as-nails, blue-collar guy, and that was sorely needed when he arrived in Charlottesville in 2010. While London is an outstanding recruiter and has drawn kudos for creating a culture of discipline and accountability, the on-field results have been mediocre (24-40 overall). Yes, the Cavs have certainly been up against it in the schedule department, but London has never found a consistent performer at quarterback or helped produce a decent rushing attack. The most glaring statistic, though, is London’s 0-5 record against the kids from Blacksburg.

Darrell Hazell, Purdue

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Like Tim Beckman at Illinois, Hazell was hired at Purdue due to his experience in the Midwest as a coach at Kent State, and also because he coached under the legendary Jim Tressel at Ohio State.

Hazell’s 11-win campaign at Kent State in 2012 was nothing short of amazing, and that was the springboard to his hiring at Purdue. But the honeymoon is long over for Hazell, who is 5-22 and counting, while staring up at an improving Big Ten. The Boilermakers’ sluggish offense has gone through five different starting QBs in two years, one of whom — former four-star recruit Danny Etling — is no longer with the program (transferred to LSU this summer).

Trent Miles, Georgia State

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When Miles was hired to replace the retiring Bill Curry in 2013, there was hope that he could transform the Panthers as they became full-fledge FBS members in the Sun Belt Conference. Miles had done an excellent job at the FCS level with Indiana State (his alma mater), so there was reason to believe that he could do the same in downtown Atlanta.

Two weeks ago, Miles registered his first FBS victory over an FBS team — a three-point road victory over Sun Belt opponent New Mexico State. The bad news is that it merely took Miles 20 tries to get such a win (overall record 2-25). Despite a quality staff of assistants and a fertile recruiting ground, the Panthers have been truly awful in the Miles era.

Norm Chow, Hawaii

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It’s a real shame to put him on this list. The 69-year-old Chow has been an assistant at BYU, Utah, USC, UCLA, and the NFL’s Tennessee Titans; he is arguably the most respected assistant coach in college football in the past couple decades. In 2012, he took his first head coaching job back in his home state.

Chow’s teams have proved to repeatedly choke in big games, losing nine games by one possession or less in the last two seasons. There’s also been very little continuity from year to year, as evidenced by the fact that only one assistant coach remains from Chow’s debut season. This year could be his last stand, facing a record of 10-30, dwindling attendance numbers, precious little depth, and a buyout north of $200,000.

Paul Petrino, Idaho

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The remote location, the lack of tradition, the less-than-adequate facilities, and the lack of any real recruiting footprint have long been obstacles to Idaho football. But contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to win in Moscow; the Vandals have been to a bowl game as recently as 2009.

In 2013, facing a daunting Independent schedule after the WAC got smothered in conference re-alignment, athletic director Rob Spear brought in Petrino, the younger brother of current Louisville head man Bobby Petrino. Paul Petrino brought an excellent reputation as a coach, plus familiarity with the program, as his first NCAA coaching gig was at Idaho from 1992-1994. Following a predictably poor showing as an Independent, Petrino led the Vandals to the Sun Belt in 2014.

Last season, the Vandals weren’t even eligible for a bowl game after posting below-average Academic Progress Report (APR) scores. This August, an ugly incident occurred when Petrino swore at and nearly punched a sideline reporter and had to be restrained by an assistant coach. And there was also an unsettling incident where three Vandal players were caught shoplifting from the campus bookstore and Petrino refused to suspend them, leading to whispers that he had made the charges go away.

As of last week, Petrino, in his first head coaching gig, has an ugly record of 3-23.

Should comedy be free?

This past summer, veteran comedian and TV personality Jerry Seinfeld spoke out about his annoyance with the prevailing attitudes of politically correct society — namely that society is becoming increasingly paranoid and far too easily offended. Seinfeld joined a growing list of celebrity comedians (including people as liberal as Chris Rock and as conservative as Larry the Cable Guy) who have declined appearances at college and university campuses. Seinfeld lamented that younger people, including the college-age crowd, can’t take a joke and instead resort to labeling everything as offensive.

In a summer that was one of the most controversial in recent memory, Seinfeld’s comments struck a chord with many. I include myself in that category; I’m sick and tired of people getting riled up over the tiniest little thing. A joke is a joke, people. Let’s lighten up.

YouTube personality and libertarian blogger Julie Borowski posted an excellent video on the subject, insisting that the PC culture is killing comedy. Here’s the link:

All this begs us to ask the question: should comedy be free?

Many comedians over the years have made us laugh and spoke to cultural issues with sharp, biting comedy. This is especially true in the world of standup comedy, where audiences are always in on the jokes and buoy the comedian’s individual performance. And while it’s true that many of these comedians are unfiltered in their opinions and frequently use explicit language, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily bad. In fact, most of these people have historically used their platforms as a way to expose real issues and real problems that society faces — racism, sexism, political corruption — the list goes on.

And while some have done it just to be deliberately provocative towards their audiences (Howard Stern, Joan Rivers) and not provide any real context for the shock-humor, many others actually have real opinions and don’t just do it for a paycheck. Despite controversy, these celebrities have found a place in a genre that was mostly kickstarted by opinionated people talking about real issues — such as George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and Robin Williams.

But still, controversy inevitably comes calling. Whether it’s Daniel Tosh being forced to apologize for an improvised joke about gang rape, or if it’s British funny-man Sacha Baron Cohen getting slapped with lawsuit after lawsuit, comedy will always have some aura of controversy and faux-outrage behind it.

Baron Cohen is a good example. The man behind oddball, over-the-top characters such as Ali G, Bruno, and Borat has not shied away from controversy during his career. He was repeatedly slapped with lawsuits due to his mockumentary style of filmmaking, in which he would interview unsuspecting people in character and duping them in believing everything he said. Not surprisingly, this backfired several times.

In a rare out-of-character interview on The Today Show, Baron Cohen talked about how the character of Borat has been misconstrued. Consider that Borat, who is a raving anti-Semite, is played by Baron Cohen (an Orthodox Jew and the grandson of a Holocaust survivor) was the focal point of ongoing uproar. Baron Cohen explained that he believes that comedy should be free, and to isolate a certain nationality or ethnicity as something that you “can’t make fun of” is — in and of itself — an act of reverse discrimination, and can even be seen as pandering or condescending.

Similarly, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, are no strangers to death threats, litigation, or controversy. Entering its 19th season this fall, South Park has consistently provided side-splitting humor and biting, unforgiving satire. You might try to make a list of topics that South Park HASN’T made fun of….good luck with that.

Parker and Stone, who very much believe in the First Amendment, are fervently anti-censorship. They explained it in the commentary of an episode that made fun of Islam: “either all of it’s ok (to mock), or none of it is.”

That makes sense. It all comes down to freedom of speech in the end. You have every right to be offended, but censoring something will not make it go away. Conversely, you have every right to say something shockingly outrageous. It’s a two-way street, and I’m afraid certain segments of our PC culture have clearly forgotten that. Punishing or suing someone for non-defamatory reasons is a very slippery slope, because we all have the right to voice our opinions. Some opinions are true, but controversial. Some are false, and controversial. And still others are blatantly ugly or downright bigoted.

We all have standards of morality and decency. That’s perfectly fine and good. It’s part of what makes us unique, helps shape our worldviews, and helps craft a sense of ethics inside of us. But merely getting upset and demanding that someone else be silent because you yourself don’t agree with what they’re saying? That would be equally wrong.

People have the right to state their opinions. To classify something as “hate speech” bridges the gap between individuals, ignites the ongoing culture wars, and does not allow for freedom of speech or of rational thought. We’re creating a culture of victims who feel the need to cry wolf every time they feel even remotely offended or disturbed.

That needs to change. We all need to be able to laugh, and perhaps most importantly, we need to respect the rights of others to have their own views.

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar is one of the hottest names in entertainment right now. There’s no doubt that he is leaving his mark on the rap/hip-hop genre — despite the fact that he’s only two albums into his mainstream career and isn’t even 30 yet. His innovation, energy and flow have helped change the tide away from the stale, boring, materialism that hip-hop has become in the past decade.

Rap and hip-hop has sort of branched out into several different sub-genres in recent years:

  • The swaggish, materialistic and often pointlessly provocative (i.e. Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, and Nicki Minaj)
  • The half-silly, half-serious side of hip-hop originally popularized by Sir Mix-a-Lot, Ludacris, and Nelly (among others)
  • Stoner hip-hop (Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, The Weeknd)
  • The darker, intense moodiness of Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., and (on his recent albums) Kanye West
  • The Glock-carrying, drug-dealing OGs (Dr. Dre, Eminem, Nate Dogg, and Ice Cube)
  • The reflective, philosophical rap often known as “conscious hip-hop” (as popularized by Tupac Shakur and, more recently, Macklemore)

Kendrick Lamar falls into the final category. The so-called “conscious hip-hop” label is often applied to rappers who eschew the fat stacks of money, drug-dealing lifestyle, and the strip club visits. Conscious hip-hop is to mainstream hip-hop as protest songs were to rock and pop music back in the 60s. Conscious hip-hop (often called political hip-hop) deliberately challenges the status quo and is designed to be thought-provoking.

Kendrick has been one of two main members of this resurgent genre in hip-hop — the other one being Seattle-based indie rapper Macklemore. But while Macklemore has little to no street-cred (I mean, come on, he’s a white kid from suburban Seattle) and raps about shopping at cheap thrift stores and supporting LGBT rights, Kendrick has been much more honest and contemplative about the real issues facing black communities in America and the problems of human nature in general.

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Kendrick Lamar Duckworth was born June 17, 1987, in Compton, California. Long considered one of the most dangerous cities in America, Compton was getting crazy around the time Kendrick was growing up. When he was five years old, he witnessed his first murder — right around the time of the infamous Rodney King incident and the related riots in 1992. Kendrick’s parents had originally moved in with relatives after moving from Chicago — with only $500 to their names combined.

Kendrick had to grow up fast living in such a violent, sketchy area. But the seeds had been sown for him, and we’re all familiar with the so-called “rap formula” — born in a ghetto, doing crazy things in order to survive the gang culture, having to support a young family. However, Kendrick wasn’t like that. He was a quiet, unassuming kid who ended up being a straight-A student at Centennial High School in Compton. But his family was also evicted from their home when Kendrick was eight, and they were forced to live in a hotel room for six months and live on EBT.

After starting his rap career under the moniker K-Dot, Kendrick began working with underground/indie producers, churning out two sample mixtapes before gaining attention from the mainstream rap industry. That’s where gangsta rap legend and Aftermath Entertainment founder Dr. Dre came in.

Dre loved Kendrick’s rapping and threw his considerable weight and money behind Kendrick’s debut album, released in October 2012 to widespread acclaim. Titled Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, the album is an intense, almost cinematic personal journey from struggles to fame — and critics ate it up.

To reduce good kid, m.A.A.d. city to a pop phenomenon is to, in part, ignore the thrust of its instant-classic status: Like some of the best records in the history of pop, it’s an album that not only tells a compelling story, but a near-definitive one of a specific time and place, offering a window on the varying complexities of turn-of-the-century Compton, where the gangs, drugs, and guns are all still plentiful, but the kids now also have a generation of grade-A hip-hop to fall back on in struggling to navigate it….songs like “The Art of Peer Pressure” deal directly with the glorification—and the growing urban mythology—of the rags-to-riches gangsta-rapper narrative that surrounded Lamar as a kid. ….an intensely personal album that draws its power from Lamar’s frequently ambivalent—and conflicted—relationship with the people and world that he is chronicling.

–Interview magazine

The CD went platinum and was nominated for Hip-Hop Album of the Year at the 2012 Grammys. Kendrick became an overnight sensation. Chris Rock called him one of his top five favorite rappers ever. Taylor Swift called Kendrick’s song “Backseat Freestyle” a personal favorite. And Dr. Dre’s endorsement continues to ring in the ears of doubters: when the Compton legend himself signs you to his label, that’s a big deal. Not since Eminem has there been such buzz over an up-and-coming rap star.

And there’s no slacking involved, either. Kendrick has developed an impressive work ethic since his rise to stardom, hitting the studio at 5 AM to write lyrics and work with his creative team. “I pride myself on writing now rather than rapping,” Kendrick says. “My passion is bringing storylines around and constructing a full body of work, rather than just a 16-bar verse.”

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“Kendrick pulls culture toward him. He doesn’t mirror it,” remarks John Janick, CEO of Interscope Records and an associate of Dr. Dre’s.

To that point, Kendrick is somewhat of an anomaly — a counter-cultural musician in a money-driven society and music industry. He still lives in Compton, only a few blocks from the apartment complex where he grew up. He still reconnects with old friends and helps out family members who need it. He remains humble and down to earth.

Perhaps most surprisingly, Kendrick doesn’t drink or smoke weed. He says he did in high school, but called it quits around age 17.

“Teenagers don’t get it — we selfish,” Kendrick observes. “Go drink, go smoke, go get f–ked up. Why did I do these things? I said, ‘I know what happens to my family and certain friends when they get drunk and they smoke. They get out of their minds, they get violent. And that’s in my blood.’ I have little sips on special occasions, but getting all the way out of my mind may not be a good idea.”

He didn’t want to make a living by rapping, either. It was just something fun that he wanted to do. “Before finding music, I didn’t have too many aspirations,” he says. “I wanted to hang out, make a little money from whatever I had to do. Because that’s all you see in the four-block radius.”

In 2012 at the Grammys, Kendrick was up for Hip-Hop Album of the Year (as mentioned previously). But he lost to Macklemore — again, who is a white kid from Seattle, grew up in middle-class neighborhoods, and was represented by an indie label.

Macklemore was embarrassed, going so far as to personally text Kendrick after the ceremony and apologize for winning. Kendrick shrugged it off: “(Macklemore) is a genuine dude,” he said at the time. “I wish him much success.”

But Kendrick, you were supposed to win! Don’t awards matter to you?

“That’s not my overall goal. I appreciate them recognizing me. It’s best to just go and enjoy the festivities.”

He continues:

“I always thought money was something just to make me happy. But I’ve learned that I feel better being able to help my folks, cause we never had nothing. So just to see them excited about my career is more of a blessing than me actually having it for myself.”

To that end, you rarely see Kendrick blowing his cash at a club or uncorking bottles of champagne in Vegas. He tends to keep to himself and has been with Whitney Alford, his high school sweetheart, for years. He is an intensely spiritual man. He spoke out about the recent riots in Ferguson, Missouri. And he wants to use his influence to change the status quo.

“We don’t have respect for ourselves,” Kendrick laments about the Ferguson riots, adding that he experienced police brutality plenty of times growing up in Compton. “How do we expect them to respect us? It starts from within. Don’t start with just a rally, don’t start from looting. It starts from within.”

“We’re in the last days, man — I truly in my heart believe that. It’s written. I could go on with Biblical situations and things my grandma told me. But it’s about being at peace with myself and making good with the people around me.”

While Kendrick drops the occasional profanity in his lyrics, his songs never glorify the street lifestyle. He focuses the lens of the camera on real issues. While many rappers before him talked about intense subject matter, very few had practical solutions. The game is messed up, they would say. We’re dragging ourselves down as a culture, they say. But Kendrick is unafraid — and he’s here to offer those practical solutions.

His second major album, To Pimp a Butterfly, had similar themes as Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and was also unanimously praised. But despite his massive success, Kendrick Lamar has drawn people in because of who he is in real life — away from the mic, away from the screaming fans.

“People have to go through trials and tribulations to get where they at. Do your thing, continue to rock it, because obviously God wants you here.”