Daily Archives: December 13, 2011

Texas’ loss is our ears’ gain.

Craig James is about to embark on a journey that should thrill us all.  He’s actually managed to find the one profession which will allow him to be held in greater contempt than he’s in now.

I bet Jesse Palmer would make one helluva campaign manager.  Just sayin’.

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37 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Political Wankery

What the Hell has happened to Innovative Thinking?

Seriously, if this is the best The Chronicle of Higher Education can come up with on how to fix the problem of the ever-increasing commercialization of college sports, we are doomed, folks.

It’s a hodgepodge of touchy-feely nonsense divorced from reality (Nancy Hogshead-Makar“The NCAA and conferences should replace win-loss records as a determining factor in revenue distribution with demonstrated educational values.”), playoff lust (Richard H. Thaler’s “Kiss the BCS Goodbye”), antitrust exemption for the NCAA as a magic wand (Tom McMillen“It would allow the NCAA to again become a benevolent dictator, by giving it the power to approve all TV and radio contracts for basketball and football.”) and the NFL business model on steroids (Harry Edwards“Athletic departments must wean themselves from the pressures, constraints, and uncertainties of their colleges’ general-fund resources and gain increased support from outside corporate sponsors. In other words, we could well be watching the “X-Oil Corporation” California Bears playing the “Y-Sports Drink” Oregon Ducks.”).

Jesus, my head hurts.

Look, I get the inequity argument.  It’s not right that universities get to exploit the likenesses of student-athletes while piously denying those athletes the opportunity to do the same.  But to pivot from legitimate grievances like that to a “we have to burn the village to save it” approach is overkill to the nth degree.  And if you think I exaggerate, here’s what innovative thinker Frank Deford suggests as a solution:

… Colleges protest they can’t afford to pay the performers. If so, they should abandon the business of sports—or, anyway, downgrade to Division III or only finance intramurals. Certainly, athletics is a valuable discipline, and a sound mind in a sound body is devoutly to be wished for, but having traveling sports teams is not a requisite for higher education. Either make the economic model work fairly, or get out of the business. To claim that you make millions of dollars but can’t pay the performers is sophistry—no less than saying that you are operating a wonderful restaurant except for the incidental fact that you can’t pay the cooks and the waiters (although the entrée prices are sky-high and the maitre d’ is magnificently recompensed).

Likewise, there is no justification that football and basketball must pay the freight for other so-called “nonrevenue” sports. If football makes the money, the money should go to those who fill up the stadiums and attract the television bounty. In the current situation, a poor football player is not only working for free (and risking concussions and lifelong obesity), but he is, essentially, paying for a volleyball player’s scholarship and a swimming coach’s salary.

Athletic scholarships should be discontinued—except for the football and basketball players who desire them. The players in the two “revenue sports” would officially be school employees and only, at their option, students. They would have four years of athletic eligibility. Whether or not they wish to attend class and work toward a degree would be their choice. This would eliminate all the fraud attendant to “student” athletes getting into college and staying eligible.

In other words, just remake college football and basketball into professional leagues with voluntary educational opportunities on the side!  How is that any different from what the NBA and NFL offer to the lucky few, age restrictions excepted?  In essence, Deford argues that universities should fully capitulate by accepting the dirty work that the pros have assigned to them, which is to serve as developmental leagues at zero cost, and screw the rest.  (Question for Deford:  why limit eligibility to four years?  If there’s no tie to the school other than the name on the jersey and they’re just school employees, why shouldn’t they be able to stay on the job as long as they like, provided their employers want them?  Would that inconvenience the NFL and NBA too much?)

McMillen, by the way, is 180 degrees from Deford’s place.

… What has happened at my alma mater, the University of Maryland, points directly at the dead end where college sports is headed. Recently the university cut eight sports teams because the cash-devouring giants of basketball and football could not keep up with the escalating costs of intercollegiate athletics.

Choices like that signal that the true purpose of college sports is to make money; such decisions will eventually destroy the grass-roots sports infrastructure in this country, and only the major sports will survive at the college level. Eventually, the United States will be unable to field a strong Olympic team. Maybe when, in a future Olympics, America wins no gold medals, we will have our “sputnik moment” and realize that college sports should not produce highly paid coaches and administrators in just one or two sports, but should provide opportunities for many. Sports for all, not sports for money, should be our national mission.

Not that McMillen’s any more correct than Deford.  Maryland’s problem is as much about a series of moronic decisions by its athletic director as it is anything systemic.  And his fix is just as full of bullshit as Deford’s.  McMillen’s changes won’t signal that the true purpose of college athletics isn’t to make money.  They’ll signal that the true purpose of the NCAA is to make money.  It’s worth reminding both of them that a good deal of value in college athletics is generated by the individual institutions which sponsor the teams that allow the opportunities to student athletes.  That’s why nobody’s interested in starting a for-profit professional minor league for football.  And that’s why nobody wears NCAA jerseys.

These people are idiots.

33 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Georgia’s worst defensive coordinator in the last 15 years

… isn’t Willie Martinez.  Not even close.

I was looking over Georgia’s defense of 1999 and checkout these standouts:

Orantes Grant, Tyrone Robertson, Jamie Henderson, Kendrell Bell, Marcus Stroud, Demetric Evans, Richard Seymour, Tim Wansley, Terreal Bierria, Josh Mallard, Charles Grant, Will Witherspoon, and Boss Bailey – all major contributors that season and all would eventually play in the NFL.

Yet, this group of defenders, statistically, is one of the worst in Georgia football history.  In 1999, the Bulldogs ranked last in the SEC in total defense (382.6) and pass defense (278.1) and next-to-last in scoring defense (25.9).

Many blame the Bulldogs’ defensive woes of ’99 on Kevin Ramsey.  Remember him?  He was Tennessee’s much-acclaimed secondary coach, who left the Vols following their national championship season of 1998 to become Georgia’s defensive coordinator.  Ramsey’s hire by Coach Jim Donnan demoted former-DC Joe Kines (the best bowl coaching clip of all time) to “Assistant Head Coach.”

After the defense’s performance in 1999, it was Ramsey who Donnan tried to demote to secondary coach.  And as you’re likely aware, legend has it Donnan’s decision would eventually cost the head coach a punch in the face during a confrontation with Ramsey.  Needless to say, the 2000 Outback Bowl was Ramsey’s final game as a Bulldog, and as of this season, his last game as a defensive coordinator in college football.

37 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Blogger ping-pong, round two: if loving five-star players is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

Michael Elkon wants to know if he’s answered all the questions I posed in this post (which was a response to this post of hispock!).  The short answer is… I’m not sure.

I get his point that it’s not an ideal strategy for a program to try to slam the round plug of talent it has on campus into the square hole of the scheme it runs, I do.  And Florida in Corch’s last season is an excellent example of where that kind of decision making can get you – although in Meyer’s defense, Brantley wasn’t just a highly rated prospect, he was a legacy commitment which made it hard for the program to turn him away.

Buuuuut, going back to my questions,

  1. It seems to me that if you want to focus on what Florida did through the prism of John Brantley, then Will Muschamp’s decision to abandon the spread option for a pro-style scheme is defensible as a move to better use key talent.  Of course, the problem for Florida’s offense this season (aside from Brantley’s injury) is that the Gators didn’t have the right kind of talent to deploy around its quarterback in the new scheme.
  2. I think Texas is the better poster boy for Michael’s argument because there wasn’t a change at the head coaching position.  Mack Brown called the shots, from recruiting to talent deployment.  If you’re going to argue that a new head coach should be hired with the existing schemes in mind or run the risk of how what Michael calls “forced evolution” will affect the program, that’s either going to mean shrinking the available pool of coaching talent for hire or forcing the round peg into the square hole at the coaching level instead of the talent level.  (Besides, I doubt you’ll find many Gator fans complaining about the forced evolution from the Zooker to Corch.)
  3. I still think the contrarian argument holds some water, particularly with at the level Florida recruits.  You can compete for SEC and national titles playing pro-style offense, as LSU and ‘Bama have demonstrated.
  4. I’m not sure if this is exactly on-topic, but it’s worth considering that however much Texas’ offense has declined, that hasn’t been the case with its defense, at least since after the 2007 season, even though Brown has been willing to swap out defensive coordinators and schemes with as much frequency.
  5. I don’t want to put words in Michael’s mouth, but it sounds like he’s taking a wait and see assessment as to Michigan.  But it seems to me that some of the election results are in:  the Wolverines declined from 8th to 35th in total offense in Hoke’s first year.  (Granted, that’s not as significant as the fall at either Florida or Texas, but some of that is likely due to how good Denard Robinson is, regardless of scheme.)  That doesn’t mean the decision to replace Rodriguez with Hoke isn’t justified – the trip to a BCS game for the first time in several years suggests otherwise.  But it does indicate that there’s more to consider with a coaching change.

Not to contradict Michael’s overall premise, but I think there’s a bigger matter to watch with forced evolution.  It’s reasonable to expect a drop off with a dramatic adjustment of scheme, because of the likely bad fit with existing personnel.  The issue for an AD should be whether the new man has a clear plan to get the program to a better place, or in the cases of Meyer and Brown, has the old guy lost sight of where he’s trying to go in making the changes.  The answer at Michigan seems to be yes (with Michael’s perceptive point about the next quarterback in mind).  As for Texas and Ohio State… let’s just say they’re paying a lot of money at those two places to find out.

**********************************************************************************

UPDATE:  Chris Brown kibitzes, and, as usual, has much smarter things to say on the subject than I do.  Although I didn’t need to be reminded of this:

… The most “pro-style”-ist pro teams need great quarterbacking, but teams like LSU and Alabama do not. The reason: compared to their opponents, LSU and Alabama are simply much better teams, advantages that pro teams and very few, if any, other college teams have.

14 Comments

Filed under College Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Great moments in delusion

I’m tempted to create a new category to track blog posts that have little to no connection with the state of affairs we normal folks refer to as “reality”.

Like this one, ‘fer instance.  There’s so much WTF in those five points he sets forth there, it makes my jaw hurt.  And that he’s got a plurality of poll voters standing with him makes it even better.

Ah, what the hell… consider it done.

31 Comments

Filed under That's Crazy Talk

Blogger ping-pong, round one: the SEC’s conference schedule debate

Kyle King takes issue with my post from the other day expressing frustration with the SEC’s apparent reluctance to consider moving to a nine-game conference slate in the wake of its recent expansion to fourteen members.

Now Kyle has a serious jonesing for the Georgia-Clemson series, so there’s certainly a level on which I can appreciate his position.  (I wonder what Kyle would advocate if the conference played a cosmic joke on him and admitted Clemson to the SEC West.)  But I think the historical argument he makes falls flat.

… Besides, since when is “preserv[ing] a passing familiarity between schools in opposing divisions” the historical norm in the league? When the SEC last expanded in 1992, each team had only one game per autumn against a rotating opponent from the other division, though this was changed after a few years, much as the current arrangement is apt to be. The heritage of the conference, moreover, has been one that featured infrequent meetings between schools that were not natural rivals with one another. In the 59 seasons between 1933, the year the league was founded, and 1991, the final year prior to the advent of divisional play, Georgia met the LSU Tigers 19 times, the Mississippi St. Bulldogs 16 times, and the Tennessee Volunteers ten times. Frequent face-offs against unfamiliar teams simply are not among the SEC’s defining traditions.

The problem with this “historical norm” is that it’s based on a conference array that hasn’t existed for twenty years.  Prior to ’92, the SEC was a 10-team conference without divisions.  It’s a different looking beast now.  It’s also worth noting that the regular season has lengthened over the time he references.  For much of that, college teams only played a ten-game season.  The slate increased to eleven.  Starting next year, twelve teams will play twelve games and two will play thirteen.  A longer overall schedule would seem to argue for an increase in conference play simply to keep up.

Kyle lauds McGarity’s business prudence, but I find it short-sighted.  The SEC has a brand that’s incredibly strong.  That’s already being diluted with the admission of two new members (something that time should fix, of course).  It shouldn’t be put further at risk by limiting the conference match ups that most fans crave.  Kyle’s bug here – playing West foes like LSU and Alabama – is most certainly my feature.  And the concern about money that would have to be paid out to cancel contracts with West Cupcake A&M is overblown.  A ninth conference game is valuable product that the SEC could offer to its broadcast partners and the increase in broadcast revenue should offset the penalty clause payments McGarity is reluctant to tender.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years, particularly with regard as to whether conference schools continue to line up weak OOC games past the 2016 season that McGarity cites.  That’s going to be a reflection of who winds up winning the fight between keeping the number of likely wins constant (the coaches) and the people watching the money flows (ADs and presidents).  Um… what about the fans, you ask?  You’re such a kidder.

43 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

You can ask…

Apparently, in the context of the Mountain West applying for an exemption to be granted to allow it to become a BCS AQ conference for the next two seasons, this was written without any irony or sarcasm:

… Despite the teams defections of Utah, BYU, TCU, Boise State and San Diego State to other conferences by the start 2013-14 academic year, the Mountain West has a pretty compelling case it qualified for an automatic bid.

If by that you mean “compelling” in the sense of watching a four-car collision unfold on an icy road, well, yeah, maybe.

I can’t wait to hear Jim Delany’s reaction to the request.

11 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major