Published Friday, April 27, 2012 AT 9:26 AM / Updated at 3:23 PM
Mad Chatter, April 27
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

It’s Friday! That means 10 big stories in 10 not-so-little bites. We are loaded with material. The BCS, the NBA, the NCAA and, of course, Ron Brown. But first, the NFL Draft…

It’s no coincidence the SEC has ruled college football the past six years. Look at the NFL Draft last night. Eight of the top 18 picks were SEC players. The first Big Ten player went 23rd.

So why can’t the Big Ten just recruit better? Well, look where these top-20 players grew up:

1. Andrew Luck, Houston, Texas
2. Robert Griffin, Copperas Cove, Texas
3. Trent Richardson, Pensacola, Fla.
6. Morris Claiborne, Shreveport, La.
7. Mark Barron, Mobile, Ala.
8. Ryan Tannehill, Big Spring, Texas
10. Stephon Gilmore, Rock Hill, S.C.
11. Dontari Poe, Memphis, Tenn.
12. Fletcher Cox, Yazoo City, Miss.
14. Michael Brockers, Houston, Texas
15. Bruce Irvin, Atlanta
16.  Quinton Coples, Kinston, N.C.
17. Dre Kirkpatrick, Gadsden, Ala.
18. Melvin Ingram, Hamlet, N.C.
20. Kendall Wright, Mt. Pleasant, Texas

Fifteen of the top 20 grew up in the Sun Belt — between Texas and North Carolina. 15! That’s the challenge facing Big Ten schools. To compete for national titles, they need to poach more top high school prospects from the South.

Now you see why a guy like Terry Joseph is such a critical hire for Nebraska.

>> By the way, the two highest draft picks from Big Ten country didn’t even attend a Big Ten school. Luke Kuechly, of Boston College, grew up in Cincinnati. Notre Dame wideout Michael Floyd is from the Twin Cities.

>> According to ESPN, three of the top 5 highest ratings for the NFL Draft came from Ohio: Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton. Birmingham and Buffalo were also top-five.

* * *

>> It doesn’t matter what address Ron Brown gives the city council during a public debate. He represents the Nebraska football program and the University of Nebraska. That’s reality.

As a free citizen, Brown has the right to say what he wants to say publicly. But that doesn’t mean his employer has to allow it.

You could argue all day about whether Brown is right or wrong in his Christianity — this isn’t the place for that discussion. The more practical issue is whether UNL should allow him to condemn homosexuality in the public square.

Brown appeared in headlines around the country the past few days after the Associated Press’ Eric Olson interviewed him. Yes, this is old news locally. Yes, Brown has been saying the same things for 15-20 years. But April is a slow month. Newspapers and web sites are looking for compelling content.

For thousands of people around the country, “Husker aide defends anti-gay stance” was their introduction to Ron Brown. I’m guessing that headline didn’t warm the hearts of Harvey Perlman and J.B. Milliken.

A university is a place for a free exchange of ideas. And professors all over campus say things every day just as explosive as Brown. But this is more complicated.

Husker football provides Brown a platform that a philosophy professor never dreams of. And Brown uses that platform to attract crowds and persuade the public (Brown acknowledges that he has a bigger audience as a football coach than as a pastor).

As a preacher, using his Big Red platform may or may not be OK (depending on your point of view). But as a high-profile employee at a public university, Brown has extraordinary responsibility.

I work for the Omaha World-Herald. I can speak publicly on a range of issues. It is my right. But if I say something in the public square that reflects poorly on my employer — even in my spare time — my boss has the right to fire me.

Like it or not, Brown represents the University of Nebraska, whether he’s wearing red or not. And thus, Nebraska can hold him accountable for his words, especially if those words are inflammatory. (Clarification: Two lawyers have contacted me saying that, because Brown works for a state university, he has first amendment rights that a private employee does not and, thus, it would be difficult to fire him for commenting on matters of public concern at an open public meeting. Which means if Nebraska wanted him out, it would likely have to wait until his contract expires.)

I don’t know where this story is going. I do know that if public debates about homosexuality continue, Brown and his bosses have very difficult decisions to make.

* * *

>> The Final(ly) Four of College Football is coming. Assuming both semifinals and the final will be played at neutral sites, the biggest questions now are: How teams will be chosen; and by whom?

I favor a model that prioritizes conference championships. So I like the idea of awarding three spots to the top-ranked conference champs, and the final spot to the next-highest ranked team available. Last year, LSU, Oklahoma State and Oregon were the top three conference champs, according to the BCS standings. Alabama was next in line. Stanford (which actually finished ahead of Oregon) would’ve been left out.

How will teams be selected? I’m very intrigued by the committee idea. I think college football would be wise to eliminate some of the computers and vote tallying. The problem is, putting this in the hands of a committee also eliminates transparency. Which committee members, for instance, voted Oregon over Stanford for the fourth spot? We would never know.

>> Can’t we all agree to start this playoff immediately? I feel like the presents are under the tree, but it’s only Dec. 11. I don’t want to wait two years. Knowing the BCS, it will save its worst controversies for last. I’m preparing mentally for a 10-3 SEC champion somehow getting a title shot.

>> The 5 most compelling first-round NBA playoff matchups. Most of the drama is in the West:

1. Thunder-Mavs
2. Heat-Knicks
3. Lakers-Nuggets
4. Grizzlies-Clippers
5. Hawks-Celtics

>> This LeBron James profile almost makes me root for him again. Not quite. Meanwhile, here’s the NBA scoring champion, Kevin Durant. I hope he’s celebrating a championship two months from now.

>> The Bobcats did it! Who could’ve envisioned a month ago, when Charlotte was chugging along at 7-36 that it had the potential to set an NBA record for losing percentage. Twenty-three straight losses later, they made history. Michael Jordan needs to go back to the golf course.

>> Great finish between New Jersey and Florida last night in the NHL. I’m not a hockey fan, but I’m tryin’.

>> The NCAA makes another terrible decision for a “student-athlete.” In this case, a Montana State basketball player loses his senior year of eligibility because he participated in two offseason scrimmages four years ago.

>> Selling replica jerseys in the campus bookstore is one thing. But selling game-worn gear for hundreds (sometimes thousands of dollars)? That’s stepping way over the line. Nebraska’s athletic department did it a few years ago with jerseys worn against Texas. Now Oregon is doing it, and former players don’t like it.

“We just don’t feel it’s right,” said one former quarterback. “You have to buy your own jersey and if you don’t, they’ll sell your own jersey to make a profit.”

>> Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend.

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com

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