Monthly Archives: April 2012

Commissioners to bowls: help us help you.

Let me preface this by saying that any proposal which Stewart Mandel refers to in a self-congratulatory way as the “Mandel Plan” is inherently suspect, but I can’t help being impressed by the sheer cynicism of this:

… Multiple sources with direct knowledge of last week’s discussions in South Florida have confirmed to SI.com that the new favored proposal for a four-team playoff within the bowl system would place the two semifinal games at the traditional anchor bowls of the No. 1 and 2 teams’ conferences…

… Two new bowls (one of them presumably the revitalized Cotton Bowl) would join the four existing BCS bowls as part of a six-game television package, with a goal of playing all six on Dec. 31, Jan. 1 or Jan. 2. The commissioners have talked for some time about “reclaiming New Year’s Day” and eliminating mid-week games played as late as Jan. 5. Assuming the current bowls retain their present anchor conferences (Big Ten and Pac-12 in the Rose, SEC in the Sugar, Big 12 in the Fiesta, ACC in the Orange), the two new games could serve as semifinal sites should the No. 1 and 2 teams hail from, say, the Big East and Mountain West — or, like last season, from the same conference.

BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said definitively last week that automatic qualification status for conferences “will not continue,” but that doesn’t mean the bowls can’t individually continue their traditional relationships with certain conferences. However, in order to ensure all six games contain compelling matchups, teams would have to meet a minimum ranking (perhaps Top 15), and the teams-per-conference limit would be raised from two to three, said one source. While this stands to primarily benefit the major conferences, the limited pool would make it hard for one of the bowls to pass up, say, seventh-ranked Boise State.

Call it the “Revenge for Making Schools Buy All Those Seats” Plan.  Because if you think the SEC is going to maintain its long-standing relationship with the Sugar Bowl merely out of a sense of tradition, well, I’ve still got that beachfront property in Hahira for sale.  The bowls will have to pay to play – and they’ll have to do it with people like Jerry Jones in the mix.  That’s gonna cost.

You’ve got to love how this gets spun.  To the fans who want the convenience and the passion that would come with the top-seeded schools hosting the national semi-final games, the commissioners can solemnly explain how sacred the bowls are and how important it is to keep those alliances, without having to mention how much more profitable those games are likely to be than if they were on-campus – after all, you can’t really shake down the schools the way you can shake down the bowls.  And the bowls are being given the chance to stay relevant in the college football postseason, albeit at a price.  If they don’t choose to pay… er, play, well, that’s their choice.

That it’s also a nice bone to toss in Jim Delany’s direction, since it gives him the opportunity to save the special relationship his conference has with the Rose Bowl, should give you a rough idea who’s come up with it.  I don’t know if they’ll succeed, but it sure is a sharp idea.

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7 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness

Hines Ward is a true Georgia fan.

I mean, this sounds like it came straight out of a Dawg message board/blog comment thread:

“We have great talent here,” Ward said. “It irks me that our great talent goes to the University of  Florida and Alabama and stuff like that. We need to keep our top recruits here in the state of Georgia.Georgia’s always been close. We’re on the cusp of doing big things. It’s just one game or one play here and there. Who knows? The player that we lost out of the state of Georgia, that one player could probably make a difference and maybe we can win a national title.”

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Filed under Georgia Football

‘Why don’t coaches have to sit out a year?’

I think Coach Fox gets the better of Michael Carvell in this discussion about the restrictions college coaches put on players who want to transfer, except for this one teeny, tiny point:

What do you think about the public backlash to college coaches putting severe restrictions on transfer players? Some people feel like it’s unfair to put restrictions like that on a player who is already penalized by having to sit out one season … while a college coach can move freely at a moment’s notice to take another high-paying job and leave his players behind. “That’s not true. Coaches can’t move around freely. Coaches are bound by buyout agreements and everything else. That’s not accurate. If I wanted to leave Georgia, which I don’t and never want to … there’s a buyout in my contract that discourages that from occurring. For those who say coaches go wherever they want to go, that’s not true. I think in 90-percent of the contracts, there’s a buyout provision that if a coach would leave, there would be something given to the school that he’s leaving. I don’t think that has been portrayed accurately. I think the big issue was when there has been tampering that leads to a transfer, there ought to be, from athletic director to athletic director, some ability in place for them to restrict kids to go to schools that have tampered with the current situation.”

Coach, please.  Do I really need to take you on a trip down memory lane of SOD’s greatest hits to show how ludicrous that tampering explanation is?

More importantly, there are big differences between the player’s situation and the coach’s situation in that Q&A.  What differences?  Let me count three ways.

  1. A buyout provision in a coach’s contract is the result of a negotiation between the school and the coach, more accurately, between counsel for the two parties.  A coach’s refusal to allow a player to transfer is a unilateral decision, not arrived at by equal give and take.  Indeed, current rules prohibit a player from engaging legal representation to negotiate the terms of a NLI and/or scholarship.  The leverage in the two situations is entirely different.
  2. It almost sounds too simple to reiterate, but a buyout penalty isn’t the same thing as an outright prohibition on transfer.  If a coach comes up with the money to pay the buyout, that’s it – he’s gone.  There isn’t a similar offer a player can make to be freed from his contractual obligations to the school in a transfer setting.
  3. As Carvell points out to Fox, most buyouts are paid by the school to which the coach is going.  That’s the nature of leverage.  Top flight coaches are in demand because there are relatively few of them and those who put themselves in play tend to extract significant concessions.  (That’s why the cream of the crop, like Saban, often don’t even have buyouts.)  Players don’t command that sort of market power, but even if they did, again, see #2, above.

It’s a nice try, but let’s face it, some coaches behave like assholes when it comes to transfers because they can.  At that point, it becomes a matter of whether they can be shamed into behaving better.  But there’s nothing obligating them to do so and that’s where Fox’ comparison falls short.

4 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

I felt sorry for my team because it’s rebuilding special teams until I met a team which had no punter.

Are you a little concerned about handing over Drew Butler’s job to a true freshman?  Well, it could be worse.  Of all the sad sack stories of this SEC offseason, this may be the sad-sackiest of them all:

… Right now, Kentucky has no punter. The Wildcats’ punters were so subpar in spring ball that Phillips did not have the team punt in the spring game, and he has repeatedly said the team’s punter is likely not on the team yet.

Well, damn, Joker.  It’s not like you signed a punter in this year’s class.  Or that you won’t need one very often, given your team’s powerhouse offense.  I don’t think going for it more often on fourth down is going to be the answer, either.

11 Comments

Filed under SEC Football

Your optimism is misplaced… er, I mean, inspiring.

Okay, Jim Delany, Mike Slive and the rest of that bunch know they’ve screwed up and they’re really, really sorry about that.

… At the 2010 Outback Bowl, Auburn became the first team in 62 years to play on New Year’s Day with a losing conference record. Five more teams have done that since then: Northwestern, Texas Tech, Michigan, Florida and Ohio State.

In the past five years, 10 of the 27 New Year’s Day bowls featured a team without a winning conference record. That occurred in just six of the 221 New Year’s Day bowls from 1968 to 2007.

Fans have been treated like suckers. The powers-that-be figured by putting something on New Year’s Day — even if it was undeserving teams — you’d keep filling seats, watching on TV and building up ratings for BCS bowls in the coming days.

For a while it worked. Then enough of you started paying attention.

BCS bowl attendance last year was down 8 percent compared to 2005, the last season before the addition of a fifth BCS game, the BCS Championship Game. Television viewership for all 2011-12 bowl games dropped 15 percent last year from 2010-11.

The thing is, it’s not like that happened in a vacuum.  It wasn’t an accident.  It’s what TV wanted.  And the conference commissioners were more than happy to comply with the request, as long as the checks rolled in.  Now the panic has set in as the numbers decline.  But who’s to say that the guys who drove the bus into the ditch in the first place are qualified to pilot the tow truck to pull the bowl season out of the ditch?  Does anybody really believe they’d place the sanctity of New Year’s Day above a few more dollars?

I can see why sliding the bowl season past January 1st has had a negative impact on fan attendance.  It’s one thing to ask us to spend a long holiday weekend in New Orleans.  It’s another to schedule a bowl game on the third or fourth of the month and expect fans to spend that much time away from their jobs and lives.

But it’s hard to see what difference that makes with regard to TV viewership.

Here’s what I expect to see in the next postseason deal – the conferences take back the tradition of the first day of the year in one form or fashion.  Ratings improve, because of the novelty of whatever form the BCS replacement takes.  And over time, if the numbers hold up, the calendar starts sliding again, because product is more important than anything to a network and TV revenue is more important than anything to a conference commissioner.  In other words, lather, rinse, repeat.

16 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Kiffin watch: he’s still got it, baby.

It’s good to know that some things never change:  Junior is still an ass.

Tennessee fans, don’t fret.  SOD’s got a plan, too.  It’s just that nobody can figure out what it is.

12 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin

2011 SDPI doesn’t blame Bobo.

Matt Melton’s got his SDPI numbers up for last year’s SEC season.  [To refresh your memory, here’s a brief explanation behind the math:  “In the 2011 SEC regular season, conference play only, championship game excluded, the average SEC team gained and allowed 2612.33 yards. The standard deviation for yards gained (offense) was 511.33 yards. The standard deviation for yards allowed (defense) was 633.43 yards. Arkansas gained 3217 yards and allowed 2912 yards. Their offensive SDPI was 1.18 = [(3217-2612.33)/511.33]. Their defensive SDPI was -0.47 = [(2612.33-2912)/633.43]. Their total SDPI was 0.71. This number ranked 5th in the SEC.”]

Let’s cut to the chase and see his results.

Boy, there are a few things that jump out there.

  • Not having to play Alabama and LSU was good for your offensive health.  How else do you explain Georgia finishing ahead of Arkansas in offense?
  • That being said, the Hog defense wasn’t exactly championship caliber.
  • That being said, South Carolina didn’t play ‘Bama or LSU either and finished behind Georgia in offense, too.
  • That it was LSU in the SECCG instead of Alabama suggests how much special teams play mattered.
  • But in fairness, perhaps LSU was better on offense than we gave the Tigers credit for.
  • That Georgia’s season wasn’t more dominant than the SDPI numbers indicate suggests how much special teams play and turnover margin mattered.

There’s one thing that doesn’t jump out until you look at last year’s SDPI results.

I referred to Vanderbilt’s 2010 numbers as “epic suck”.  What Franklin did in one season in the toughest football conference in America is remarkable.  Especially when you consider that 2010 wasn’t a momentary aberration.  Here’s the SEC from 2009:

That’s an amazing reversal of fortunes.  If the guy can ever get past the point of his on-field demeanor being a distraction, he’s going to be recognized as one of the best coaches in the country.  Which begs the question of how long Vandy can hold on to him.

One other thing those seasonal numbers show is that Georgia’s been on a steady progression over that time period.  The defense took a significant jump from Martinez’ last year to Grantham’s first, but it’s the offense which took off last season.  The trend makes you wonder what might be in store if the Dawgs are able to get their act together with special teams play and offensive turnovers, like the elite teams in the West did.

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Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Stats Geek!

I have not come to bury the BCS, but to praise it.

While we’re all summoning up a few choice words to say as the last rites are being performed over the prostrate body of the BCS (death by greed), at the risk of sounding too much like Bill Hancock, I think it’s worth remembering that despite its flawed moments, of which it’s certainly had its share, the BCS did good in three significant ways.

  1. It got us a 1 vs. 2 matchup on a consistent basis.“… it accomplished its goal of pairing college football’s consensus No. 1 and No. 2 teams in a title game 11 times in 14 seasons. That kind of efficiency would have been a pipe dream in the old system of bowls and polls, wherein only nine times in 35 seasons between 1963 and 1997 did the Associated Press’ top two teams meet in a bowl game.”  That was its reason for coming into being and given the competing interests involved (as we’re seeing now), that was no small task.
  2. It added to college football’s success story over the past two decades.  Ratings are up.  Attendance is up.  TV contracts have grown immensely in value.  I think you’d have to say that the BCS was more than an innocent bystander as that occurred.
  3. It helped spread the wealth to the mid-majors.  Say what you will, but the money the mid-majors have gotten out of the BCS in the last decade, pittance though it may be in the eyes of many, is still a helluva lot more than they used to get.  (The irony that we may be watching the start of a process that may end in the separation of D-1’s have and have-nots such that many of the smaller schools would wind up back the same boat they used to float in pre-BCS should not be lost on anyone.)

For the moment, I still stand by my Churchillian pronouncement, even while I recognize it may be on its last legs.  What say you?

16 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Marvin Lewis digs Mark Richt.

You may have noticed a steady stream of players going from the University of Georgia to the Cincinnati Bengals.  Marvin Lewis explains why.

“We have a great relationship there with the coaching staff, obviously. I can call Coach Richt at any point,” Lewis said. “I think he’s very honest and frank with us about things. This is a guy (Charles) that wanted to know if he could come here today. He was ready to get on the plane and come (laughs). Those are the kinds of guys we have on our football team from there (Georgia) — very no-nonsense, all about football and winning. And they’re good people. They’re coached well, they’ve learned, they know how to prepare. It’s been a great place for us and a really comfortable place for our coaches and scouts to visit. We have a great relationship with them.”

That “I can call Coach Richt at any point” line ought to be pretty effective on the recruiting trail.  So should the fact that in this last NFL draft Georgia had as many players’ names called as just about any program in the country (seven overall, which was second to Alabama’s eight).

19 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

“I view these changes as more or less natural changes.”

If you’re looking for a metaphor to illustrate the fluid state of college football these days, how about this one:  Texas-San Antonio has played one season of D-1 football, as an independent.  A mere four months later, it’s about to join its second conference.

You really can’t tell the players without a score card anymore.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major