Today’s “surely you jest” question comes from cocknfire at Team Speed Kills, who asks
What are Georgia football players — or any other self-respecting people — doing riding in a taxi-van?
Another working week in the books:
There is so much juicy goodness in John Feinstein’s latest whine about the coming expansion of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament that I hardly know where to start.
How about here?
… With 96 teams, the regular season is devalued because many mediocre teams will be rewarded with NCAA bids. If, as expected, regular season conference champions receive automatic berths, a lot of the magic of the conference tournaments in the so-called “one-bid” leagues will go away.
Nah, nah, nobody who’s in favor of a playoff thinks much of that devalue-the-regular-stuff thing anyway.
Well, then, what about this?
Look, this is about money and everyone knows it. Shaheen even made indirect reference to that when he talked about 88 other championships the NCAA conducts and the need to protect their financial futures. That protection comes from squeezing every possible dollar out of men’s basketball. It was almost comical when someone asked if expansion was being contemplated for the women’s tournament. The women’s tournament costs money, so it isn’t going to be expanded anytime soon.
We’re getting warmer now. This is, of course, the reason that any postseason format expands, as much as you “settle it on the field” folks would like to argue otherwise.
But any hope that Feinstein was going to remain intellectually consistent on this topic – a faint hope, to be sure – is dashed in his penultimate paragraph.
… The bottom line is, of course, the bottom line. The tournament is going to expand, “student-athletes” will miss more class time, there won’t be a football playoff, college basketball will still be a great game and the tournament itself will still be great fun, because it’s so good even the NCAA suits can’t destroy it.
Maybe he’ll sing a different tune when they expand to 128. Oh, and bonus points for the gratuitous college football reference, John. It’s hard to believe after reading the rest of your post that the BCS suits don’t jump up and institute a 16-school playoff tomorrow. Well played, sir.
UPDATE: Dan Shanoff is the anti-Feinstein (that’s a compliment, Dan). His reasons why the March Madness-expansion scare talk is overblown are coherent and sensible. Like this -
*”It devalues the regular season!” Actually, you’d have to say FURTHER devalues the regular season, because the ascension of the 64-team tournament devalued the regular season a long time ago.
The reality is that most fans don’t pay attention to college basketball until March anyway. And, aside from the die-hard fans who make up about 5 percent of the fans who follow March Madness, those that do tune in before March are watching marquee games between powerhouse teams whose inclusion in the NCAA Tournament field isn’t in doubt.
If anything, people watch before March to get a sneak peek of teams they should be betting on IN March. And with 32 more teams, that means that fans who want to know the field have to watch that much regular-season basketball. Meanwhile, the chance to earn a bye gets expanded beyond the four 1-seeds to the Top 32 teams in the country — something worth playing for in January and February.
(And, yes, there will still even be a “Bubble” — it just slides down the list. It is arguable whether the incessant Bubble talk is even good for the sport. And don’t argue about “quality”; the Bubble has never been about “good/bad” — just “in/out.”)
That’s not where I want college football going, though.
This is some quote from Blair Walsh.
“It’s not like it was here the past two years directional-wise,” Walsh said. “It’s a lot more use of my talent I would say. I was fine doing what they wanted me to do. I’m a team player, and I can go along with it. But it’s a lot more use of my talent, and I’m happy about it. I don’t feel like there’s a restraint on me anymore. Without giving too much away, it’s different.”
“It” being Coach Belin’s decision to drop the directional kicking strategy that was the hallmark of Jon Fabris’ tenure as kickoff coverage coach. I like to think I’m a rational human being, so of course I celebrate Belin’s common sense.
But you know what else? I think back to the wasteland that was the second half of Walsh’s 2008 season and I get pissed off. Big time. Walsh missed two field goals out of twelve attempts in the first five games that year. Over the last eight games, he missed six of eleven. Not so coincidently, in those first five games, he managed to kick more balls out-of-bounds than he did for touchbacks. That was an unfortunate trend that would actually accelerate over the remainder of 2008, as Walsh didn’t record a touchback over the last seven games of the season.
Looking back on that through the prism of Walsh’s stellar 2009 season, it’s obvious that Fabris’ insistence on directional kicking took its toll on Walsh’s confidence during his freshman year.
If you’re wondering what happened, former Georgia players A.J. Bryant and Kelin Johnson, now regulars on the “Fifth Quarter Show,” put it all into perspective. Both of them played on special teams for Fabris, and they said that it wouldn’t matter whether the Dogs had a kicker who could put it in the end zone or not; Fabris likes “the challenge” of directional kicks. That’s just Coach Fab, they said, get used to it.
That’s beyond dysfunctional. And it hurt the team. I think back to the first half of the ’08 Florida game and Walsh’s two brutal field goal misses. I’m not saying Georgia wins the game if he makes those, but you have to wonder if the team’s mental state at the half would have been so fragile if the score is 14-9.
Then, of course, there was the whole offseason saga with Brandon Bogotay. Read this post of mine from last August and tell me if Fabris makes a bit of sense with that “Do you change?” garbage.
And as that post indicates, the head guy is not without some of the blame here. He bought into Fabris’ approach wholeheartedly.
“They still have to kick it to a spot, whether they kick it in the end zone or not,” Richt said. “You can’t just spray the ball any old where. You can’t kick with reckless abandon and say, ‘I hope it’s going out of the end zone,’ because if it doesn’t, your cover team has no prayer.”
I wonder if he’s told Belin that.
If there’s anything good that’s come out of this, it’s that we don’t need to worry about Walsh’s mental toughness. He’s the embodiment of Nietzche’s famous quote.
UPDATE: David has more quotes from Walsh here.