Daily Archives: September 19, 2011

Eyeballs and expansion

This post from Nate Silver which explores the size of the fan bases for every D-1 college football program is fascinating.  For example, have a look at his list of the top ten television markets for the sport:

… New York, because of its very large population, is still the largest market in the country for college football. But only barely: Atlanta has nearly as many college football fans, for instance, based on an extrapolation from the Google data, while Dallas (and even Birmingham) aren’t far behind.

The Atlanta number is impressive, but the Birmingham number is insane.

Second list to note:

That’s right – upon admission to the SEC, Texas A&M will have the largest fan base of any school in the conference.

As you follow the conference realignment follies, keep this bit of wisdom in mind:

… The S.E.C.’s interest in Texas A&M becomes easier to understand once you recognize that the Aggies have among the largest fan bases in the country. The fact that Notre Dame’s fans are dispersed throughout the country explains why they’ve been loathe to join a conference. And that the West Coast is less enthusiastic about football than other parts of the country, making the Pacific-12 a harder sale to the television networks, explains why the conference is going to great lengths to expand into football-crazy states like Texas.

Silver’s last point is a good one.  If the Big Ten and SEC seem to be approaching expansion more conservatively than their peers are, it’s because they can afford to.

… Of course, the question that an analysis cannot address is whether through expansion a conference can become more than the sum of its parts — or if it instead risks becoming less.

The only two conferences that can feel completely secure right now are the Big Ten and the S.E.C..

They’re the two that have taken the most conservative attitude toward expansion over the past decade or two, waiting for programs of the caliber of Penn State, Nebraska and Texas A&M to become interested before increasing their ranks. They’ve been rewarded with extreme loyalty among their fan bases. In a sport where rooting interests are so highly localized, that goes a long way toward explaining their success.

It should go without saying, but you need to read the whole thing.

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Filed under College Football

Early to bed, early to rise.

The Mississippi State game is a nooner.

I’m reminded of the immortal line from Jim Pagliaroni in Ball Four.  When he was told he’d have to report to the ball park for an early game start, he responded by saying, “Ten-thirty? I’m not even done throwing-up at that hour.”

Over/under on when the students show up?

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Filed under Georgia Football

The price of power

There’s not much you can add to this but “wow”.

… At $4.69 per subscriber per month, ESPN already is the most expensive channel on cable systems. TNT is a distant second, at $1.16, according to SNL Financial. At that rate, even a small percentage increase would represent big bucks to distributors.

Also, Holy Mother of Crap.

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Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Trivia question of the day

Which SEC school is the only one to record a shutout in each of the last three seasons?

Georgia is the only SEC team to record a shutout each of the past three seasons — Tennessee Tech in 2009, Vanderbilt last year and Coastal Carolina on Saturday.

Go ahead.  Tell me you saw that one coming.

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Filed under Georgia Football

Conference realignment and socialism

With the announcement over the weekend about the ACC’s move to add Pittsburgh and Syracuse, it seems that the game of conference musical chairs is picking up tempo.  There are competing rumors about West Virginia and Missouri as the SEC’s fourteenth team and it looks like Texas may be swallowing a little Longhorn Network pride in submitting itself for admission to the Pac-12.

One thing’s for sure about all of this expansion talk.  It’s making Mark Emmert sound increasingly impotent.  Indeed, it’s becoming clear that his one major concern is protecting the NCAA’s cash cow.

… Emmert made the point about how important the NCAA’s $10.8 billion, 14-year deal for the men’s NCAA basketball tournament with CBS/Turner Sports is to the membership and yet another reason why there isn’t anxiety at headquarters over four super conferences leaving and forming their own version of the NCAA.

“(The contract) supports something in the order of 96 or 94 percent of the revenue that flows into the NCAA,” Emmert said. “It’s very important to the membership and a vast majority of the money indirectly or directly flows back to them and supports the various championships that we support. The only real question now is when this is all over whether or not the automatic qualifiers (to the NCAA tournament) have to change over time and the same thing with the BCS. We’ll see where this ends up when it’s all done.

“I’ve been talking pretty constantly to all the commissioners and presidents involved in these things since the beginning,” Emmert said. “My job is to shape the outcome and to make sure the decisions are made with good information. Just like last year, it looked like monstrous changes but only a few schools moved around. Let’s see what really happens this time.”

Well, maybe so.  But maybe not.  If these realignment moves are motivated by the chase for the almighty dollar (Who am I kidding here?  Of course they are.) how long will it take for the major players to move to grab the basketball postseason revenues once the dust settles?

And that highlights a conflict about conference consolidation I raised a long time ago.  As Ed Gunther puts it,

There’ll be more money for (almost) everyone

No, not everyone is going to make out like a bandit here. That’s not my point. My point, that I’ve made before and will continue to make, is that while college football rakes in billions of dollars, the schools and the NCAA are not demonic institutions or greedy businesses – at their core they’re institutions of higher learning who’s missions are to educate people. Their budgets are being slashed right and left, and the cost of providing quality educations is skyrocketing. If these colleges and universities can make some extra money by playing football, I’m all for it. They need the money, and whether you can admit it or not, the majority of the money eventually goes to education. As it should.

We’re that much closer to a playoff

This is the big one, and in some ways the most baffling. A lot of the people crying and moaning all these years about how it’s a travesty that college football doesn’t have a playoff are the same ones now complaining about conference realignment. A playoff is so much closer to happening with this setup, especially if things go down fast and new conferences start playing next season. That leaves plenty of time before the 2014 re-negotiations about the BCS bowls to get some sort of post-season playoff set up.

It’s gonna be real messy, but it’s happening. The reasons not to are crumbling, and soon will be overshadowed by the money, and at that point we’re going to see a whole new college football postseason. There’ll be spots for the champions of the superconferences as well as some at-larges, which will be monopolized by the big boys. All of the schools that get excluded (either officially or unofficially) are gonna be pissed, and there’ll be fallout, but it’ll happen.

Here comes the final conflict.  The overwhelming majority of fans want a playoff, but could care less about whether San Jose State gets a fair share of the pie.  That’s why Baylor is fighting tooth and nail to find a home in a BCS conference.

And that’s why there’s one loose end, one catch that might cause some of this to unravel.  It may be that Mr. Starr found some sympathetic listeners on his recent trip to Washington.

… In a telephone interview early Sunday morning, a congressman from a state with a university that could be harmed by realignment said that the issue raised concerns over taxes, antitrust law and, potentially, Title IX.

While no one has formally approached Congress yet, the congressman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the situation was “spinning out of control.”

“I think the situation is rising to a level where getting Congress engaged may be unavoidable,” he said. He added: “Congress has the nexus to engage. These are tax-exempt organizations now making billions off of unpaid athletes. When it’s a regional league, it seems to make sense. When you’re taking schools practically from coast to coast and putting them in big-profit revenue leagues, we may be at a point where the N.C.A.A. has lost its ability to create a fair system for all to play in.”

Logically speaking, that’s a lot of claptrap.  Why the geographic spread of a conference makes a difference in fairness makes little sense.  And as Mark Emmert would be the first to tell you, the NCAA never had the ability the anonymous congressman alludes to there.

But as a threat to make sure that the politically connected are taken care of when the realignment dust settles, it’s effective.  That “tax-exempt organizations” reference is particularly chilling if you’re a school president.

There’s no guarantee that Congress gets formally involved in the process, of course.   But if it does, you can count on two things:  the process will slow down dramatically and the spin from certain quarters about what’s going on will be hilarious.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, The NCAA

SEC Power Poll, Week 3

The wheat is starting to separate from the chaff.  There’s a clear-cut élite that’s emerged at the conference’s top; it’s also clear which teams are the SEC’s worst so far.

Speaking of élite, I suspect my power poll looks a little different from Steve Spurrier’s does right now.

“Florida certainly isn’t down,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. “Vandy’s not down. Kentucky, well, I’m not sure how they’re doing right now. Tennessee actually played pretty well most of the time in that game, and Georgia has got an excellent team.”

Everybody’s a winner in the East!  Meanwhile, in the real world…

  1. LSU (3-0, 1-0).  It’s the oldest formula for success in the books – run the ball on offense and stop the run on defense.  Throw in an above-average turnover margin and that’s how you rise to the top.
  2. Alabama (3-0, 0-0).  They’ve been as solid as we expected.  This week’s game against Arkansas should tell us more about how good the Tide’s defense is.
  3. Florida (3-0, 1-0).  The Gators really haven’t struggled yet.  That gets them the narrowest of nods at #3.  But you can see where the cracks are starting to develop in the foundation:  a shaky secondary, an offensive line that struggles with run blocking and few playmakers on offense.
  4. South Carolina (3-0, 1-0).  Yeah, they’ve struggled, but they’ve won against better competition than Arkansas has faced, so the ‘Cocks are fourth this week.  If Marcus Lattimore were a team, I’d rank him first.
  5. Arkansas (3-0, 1-0).  If you had doubts about Arkansas’ defense, Troy didn’t make you feel better.  The Hogs’ schedule definitely takes a step up in class the next two weeks with two top ten schools.
  6. Auburn (2-1, 1-0).  Huge, huge drop off from fifth to sixth this week.  It’s a shaky pick, based largely on the Tigers having a better offense than the rest of the teams below them.  But, man, that defense is bad.
  7. Mississippi State (1-2, 0-2).  They’d beat Vandy unless they lost the turnover battle, so that’s why they’re here.
  8. Vanderbilt (3-0, 1-0).  The Commodores aren’t very good on offense, so the record is a bit of a mirage.  But stout defense and stellar turnover margin is the same formula they followed the last time they made it to a bowl game.
  9. Georgia (1-2, 0-1).  I’ve got the motto for this year’s team:  “We’ll see.”  Get those t-shirts printed, boys!
  10. Tennessee (2-1, 0-1).  It only took one game for the pundits to go from the Vols being this year’s sleeper to really being at least a year away.  Justin Hunter going down for the season is a crushing blow.  This team is only a couple of injuries on defense away from rapidly heading south.
  11. Kentucky (2-1, 0-0).  A mess on offense and not much better on defense.
  12. Ole Miss (1-2, 0-1).  No matter how hard you try, there’s no way to spin a 23-point loss to Vanderbilt.

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