Daily Archives: June 13, 2012

Haves vs. have-nots: it’s not just about getting the money in

… it’s also about how you spend it after you get it.

When Doug Nussmeier arrived at the University of Alabama campus in January, he was struck by the machine-like efficiency of the athletic department. The swath of crimson-accented employees acts like a tiny colony of bees, buzzing in unison, working toward a singular purpose.

There are 146 non-coaches who work in the university’s athletic department. There are nine individuals who work under athletic director Mal Moore alone. There are positions that range from your run-of-the-mill secretary to titles such as assistant director of player personnel and recruiting operations coordinator.  [Emphasis added.]

Dear Lord.  Nick Saban is trying to solve Alabama’s unemployment problem all by his lonesome.

There is no freaking way the little guys can hope to keep up with that.  To put it in perspective, at North Texas, Dan McCarney’s budget ($3.5 million) for his support staff and administration is almost a million dollars less than what Alabama has shelled out just in increases to the salaries and benefits paid to support staff ($4,366,308) from 2009-11.

(By the way, with the hours he puts in, Todd Grantham’s pay works out to about $160 an hour.  That seems more than fair, considering the results.  But it wouldn’t be at North Texas, because there isn’t that kind of upside.)

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness, Nick Saban Rules

This may be the smartest thing Paul Johnson’s ever said.

Reality bites.

“I don’t really worry about what Georgia’s doing,” said Johnson, who beat Georgia 45-42 in 2008 before losing three straight in a series that the Bulldogs have won 10 of the last 11. “I try to worry about what Georgia Tech’s doing.”

No doubt Mark Bradley is aghast.  Can’t the genius multitask anymore?

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Filed under Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football

Why I think the plus-one has a pulse.

ESPN had its conference bloggers chime in with sort of a state of the playoff series of posts on where the respective conferences stand on the new format debate.  I found it surprisingly revealing.  What’s especially interesting is how specific the Big Ten and Pac-12 are on fine tuning selection standards – and how unspecific the SEC sounds about that.

Take this from Ted Miller, who covers the Pac-12:

There are other issues to consider, particularly from the Pac-12 end of things:

  • Schedules need to be standardized. One conference can’t play eight games and another nine. That’s a variable that must be eliminated, one way or another. Otherwise you’re comparing cupcakes and rib eyes.
  • There needs to be a serious consideration of scheduling in general. Penalties should be integrated into the system for weak nonconference scheduling.
  • If some sort of BCS-type formula is retained, it needs to reincorporate margin of victory. That was previously killed because administrators were worried about coaches running up the score. A simple solution to that is establishing a baseline figure of dominance, such as making a 21-point victory no different than a 50-point victory.

And here’s Adam Rittenberg’s take on what the Big Ten is looking for in part:

The Big Ten wants a committee to value conference championships. It wants a committee to value schedule strength, road wins and head-to-head victories. It wants a committee to take into account factors such as injuries. The Big Ten wants a committee to look at Oregon and Stanford from 2011 — Oregon won the Pac-12 championship and crushed Stanford in Stanford Stadium, yet finished one spot behind the Cardinal in the final BCS standings — and send Oregon to the playoff.

Now compare those fairly similar concerns with the breezier approach Chris Low describes.

The simplest way to explain where the SEC stands going into Wednesday’s BCS meetings is that the SEC doesn’t see its streak of six straight national championships ending any time soon.

In other words, the more, the better.

So in a four-team playoff to determine the national champion, the SEC’s preference is that it’s wide open.

No provisions about winning your conference or winning your division to qualify for the playoff.

Just the highest-ranked teams — period.

Ironically, the problem here is Les Miles’ and Steve Spurrier’s bugaboo, unbalanced scheduling.  SEC schools play less conference games than their counterparts in the Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 and the conference hasn’t formalized a ninth BCS-level game the way the Big Ten has with the Pac-12.  That doesn’t simply create a strength of schedule disparity based on the level of opponents schools face, it also leads to another disparity, which HP summarizes.

Now you can argue that SEC superiority renders all that meaningless.  (If you’re Mike Slive, you can even argue that with a straight face.  He’s good, folks.)  But every other conference is going to be pushing for an equalizer.  Either the SEC finds itself faced with adding another conference game, or it’s going to have to deal with heavy pressure to agree to a strength of schedule component in the postseason calculations.  That’s likely to be a contentious debate.

And speaking of contentious, make sure you read what Mark Schlabach has to say about the relationship between Jim Delany and Mike Slive.  While I think Schlabach slightly overstates the degree of power the two have over the situation (as he recognizes, if the two truly neutralize each other, they’ll both need allies to carry the day, so the other commissioners do have some say in where things go), it’s hard not to get past this:

“Jim Delany is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met,” says one industry insider familiar with the negotiations. “He sees the world in simple terms: You’re either helping the Big Ten or hurting it.”

The 64-year-old Delany has earned his reputation as an aggressive and abrasive commissioner in 23 years at the helm of the Big Ten. Slive, 71, has taken a more soft-spoken and diplomatic approach in his 10 years with the SEC. “Don’t be fooled by Slive’s grandfatherly demeanor,” says the source. “These guys have been at it for a while. They remind me of Bowden and Paterno. I don’t see one retiring until the other does.”

On some level, it’s not just professional.  It’s personal.  And that certainly doesn’t make it easier to reach an agreement, particularly when one of the driving forces behind this restructuring is a dislike of what SEC dominance culminated in with the last title game.  So when you see a summary like this,

These aligned interests have served only to consolidate Delany’s and Slive’s positions of power. “The quickest way to solve the debate would be to stick Jim and Mike in a room and tell them, ‘Let us know when you’ve got it figured out,’ ” says a source. “At this point, it’s about which one is willing to come to the middle.”

… ask yourself who is likely to make that move.  Barring some existential threat I’m unaware of, it sure beats me.

Which brings be back to my header.  The one thing I feel certain the commissioners are in agreement on today is that they want the extra revenue the new title game will bring in.  No matter what, that’s a-happening.  So they’re not sticking with the status quo.  If Slive and Delany can’t engineer a compromise on a four-team playoff, there isn’t anything left to sign onto except a plus-one.  I’m not guaranteeing the outcome, but there’s a logic to agreeing to that in the short run while pledging to continue to work towards a future playoff.  Mind you, I’m not saying it’s good strategy – in fact, I suspect it’s going to make things worse – but it’s convenient.  And convenient may be the best these guys can do this summer.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Andy Staples on Georgia’s drug policy

If you haven’t taken the time to read Andy Staples’ sympathetic take on how Georgia’s athletics department copes with the school’s current drug policy, by all means do so.  The article’s strong suits are two-fold.  First, Staples aptly summarizes how the policy adversely affects the athletics department:

By dinging players for one game on the first positive and four on the second, Georgia’s substance-abuse policy hurts the program in two ways:

1. It puts the program at a competitive disadvantage by forcing suspensions when rival programs offer mulligans.

2. It harms the reputation of the program by allowing media and fans to easily identify first-time offenders who would have remained anonymous at most schools.

Second, Staples does a very good job illustrating the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” box McGarity and Richt find themselves in.

McGarity’s is a noble stance, but it’s also a stance that seems at odds with the current culture in college sports. Coaches who don’t win get fired. Athletic directors whose football and men’s basketball coaches don’t win get fired. At some point, this policy could cost Richt and/or McGarity their jobs. Of course, if McGarity softened the policy, he would get ripped for compromising Georgia’s morals for victories. He truly cannot win in this case. Also, it’s highly unlikely the NCAA or any conference would issue a uniform drug policy because testing laws vary from state to state.

There are a few points I’d like to elaborate on in response.

  • If that last sentence in the above quote doesn’t disabuse you from the hope that the SEC will come to Butts-Mehre’s aid by adopting a uniform conference drug policy less rigid than Georgia’s, going back to read Groo’s post on the subject should.  Georgia’s current substance-abuse policy isn’t something the athletic department came up with; it’s the child of Michael Adams.  If there ever were a serious conference debate on the subject, I have no doubt that Adams would be in there lobbying his fellow presidents to follow Georgia’s lead.  I have equally no doubt that his sales pitch would be disregarded by his peers.  And in the end, if the SEC did in fact adopt a standard weaker than Georgia’s, I also have no doubt that Adams would see fit to maintain the standards he put in place at his school, because that’s how Michael Adams rolls.  In other words, if you’re McGarity and Richt, you might as well put on a brave face about your school’s policy, because you’re going to have to live with it for a long time.
  • Andy understandably has to pull his punches on one thing – “I realize there are quite a few of you reading this who feel recreational marijuana use should not be lumped in with the use of more hardcore drugs. That is a worthy debate for another day. At the moment, pot remains illegal, and almost every athletic department in the nation tests for it.” - but I don’t.  Even if you don’t share my attitude about how pointless and wasteful this country’s four decades long War on Drugs has been, you can’t help but note how much public opinion has shifted on marijuana usage in the last five to ten years.  The kids Georgia recruits certainly don’t share Michael Adams’ conviction about weed – and let’s face it, the majority of violations of Georgia’s drug policy involve marijuana – but it’s also likely that recruits’ parents don’t share his fervor either, at least to the extent that it results in more negative publicity and more down time than at other schools.  And if that’s not affecting Mark Richt on the recruiting trail, I’d be surprised.
  • If I can get on my soapbox for a second, this whole thing reminds me of what’s so stupid about “three strikes and you’re out” laws and mandatory sentencing laws:  the false wisdom of people further removed from the situation who decide that what’s best is to limit the discretion of those who are in direct contact with those who are affected.  There’s a big difference between what we learned happened at TCU and at Oregon this offseason.  I’d like a substance abuse policy that’s designed to prevent the former from happening while giving the coach and athletic director enough flexibility to handle situations like the latter humanely and intelligently.  Alas, nuance is something I’ll never associate with Georgia’s president.
  • That all being said, it wasn’t Michael Adams who decided it was a good idea to drug test football players coming back from spring break.  So my sympathy for McGarity’s and Richt’s dilemma only goes so far.

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Filed under Georgia Football