Daily Archives: July 2, 2012

In a shocking development, a Georgia Tech fan finds fault with the way Mark Richt runs his program.

This critique of Richt is so fact free it makes Mark Bradley look like the Encyclopedia Britannica.  Consider all of these assertions (from a relatively short piece), made without any supporting data:

  • “But Mark Richt has created an atmosphere in Athens to where there have been a number of players, past and present, that do not respect the discipline methods of their head coach.”
  • “In some of his player’s eyes, he is a pushover.”
  • “And since Richt has been in Athens, he has traditionally been known to be the most relaxed in the SEC on handling discipline to his players (Spurrier and Stephen Garcia aside).”
  • “Suspension of players for a quarter of one game, a half of another, or maybe a suspension during a non-conference opponent such as New Mexico, Georgia Southern, or Wyoming.”  (Yes, I know that’s not a complete sentence.)
  • “Then there are coaches like Gene Chizik, Nick Saban, and Les Miles that have mixed a tough discipline policy with newer ideals than those from a generation or two ago and have had national championship success.”

I could spend a lot of time picking this crap apart bit by bit – his suspension data is a total departure from reality, for example – but I think I’ll just settle for a quote from Janoris Jenkins about another coach well known for mixing discipline policy with newer ideals:

“No doubt, if Coach Meyer were still coaching, I’d still be playing for the Gators,” says Jenkins, a star cornerback and a potential first-round draft pick whom Muschamp booted from UF’s team after being arrested twice for possession of marijuana during the offseason. “Coach Meyer knows what it takes to win.”

Funny, those newer ideals sure sound a lot like the older ones.

Look, I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that Mark Richt does a perfect job with discipline.  No coach does.  Nor do I  have any particularly direct insight into how Georgia players feel about their head coach’s approach to handling behavior problems.  Neither does Taylor King, though.

But here’s what I do know:  Isaiah Crowell’s path to being the number one running back was cleared in part by one predecessor being dismissed from the team by Mark Richt and another being dismissed for academic problems.  Both strike me as sending pretty clear messages about accountability.  If those did not sink into Crowell’s conscious thinking, what exactly does Taylor King suggest would do the trick?  Public stoning?

(As a side note, if Richt’s “lack of discipline is the major reason that Mark Richt has failed to bring home a national championship to Bulldog nation”, how can one explain Richt winning ten out of the eleven games he’s coached in the Tech series?  Is Paul Johnson that bad a head coach?)

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Filed under Georgia Football, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant

Post-Crowell Stress Syndrome

Okay, if we’re past sorting out the legal issues which led to Isaiah Crowell’s dismissal last week, I thought it might be worth taking a look at what might be in store for the program he’s no longer a part of.

If there’s one thing I’m a little surprised about in the aftermath, it’s how blithe a lot of Georgia fans are about Georgia’s offense making up the loss of Crowell’s production.  The reality is that Mark Richt now turns to a group composed of one tailback who quit the team for a few days last year (you think Carlton Thomas wishes he could have a mulligan?), two true freshmen (only one of whom enrolled early) and this year’s early leader for the Kiante Tripp Award (not to mention that a good part of the fan base never wants to see him take another snap at tailback).

Put it another way, Dawg fans – your leading returning rusher now is Brandon Harton.  Combine that with an offensive line that’s not exactly expected to be a rock when things get underway and it should be hard to escape that nervous feeling.

Now that’s not to say all is lost.  After all, Georgia managed to win the SEC East last season with a decidedly mediocre running game.  But I think it’s reasonable to assume that Crowell’s departure is going to put more pressure on Aaron Murray and the defense to compensate until someone, or some two or three, steps up to take up the slack.

On field production is one of two things I worry about.  The other is team chemistry.  Those of you who scoff at that need to be reminded that what you think is reasonable and right about the situation is very likely not identically shared by Crowell’s teammates.  Although he may have been a source of frustration for them, Crowell wasn’t a pariah (indeed, don’t forget he had four of his teammates in the car with him at the time of his arrest).

I’m not saying that Richt made a mistake dismissing Crowell from the team.  Quite the contrary.  I don’t think he had a choice.  Letting him stay, even simply on the basis of being suspended while the justice system sorted things out, would have opened Richt and the program to an enormous amount of criticism and second-guessing (hi, Mark Bradley!) that would have posed a serious distraction.  To borrow a well-known phrase, Mark Richt doesn’t have time for that shit.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be other crosses for the head coach to bear, if Cornelius Washington’s angry Facebook outburst is any indication.  Maybe it’s something Richt can use to help pull everyone on the team together, but I can also see it working negatively, especially in the face of early season adversity.  Fairly or unfairly, that’ll be completely on Richt if it happens.

More and more, this season’s  first few games – despite the number of cupcakes among them – look like they’re going to be interesting.  In the Chinese sense.

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Filed under Georgia Football

They can always add another round of playoffs.

This is what happens when you make your sport a sellout for broadcast interests.

With declines in ticket sales each of the past five years, average game attendance is down 4.5% since 2007, while broadcast and online viewership is soaring. The NFL is worried that its couch-potato options—both on television and on mobile devices—have become good enough that many fans don’t see the point of attending an actual game.

“The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn’t,” said Eric Grubman, the NFL’s executive vice president of ventures and business operations. “That’s a trend that we’ve got to do something about.”

And how ironic is the proposed solution?  Pretty damned so.

In hopes that professional football can mimic the wild stadium atmosphere typical of college football games, the NFL says it has “liberalized” its restraints on crowd noise. Stadiums will now be free to rile up crowds with video displays, and public-address announcers will no longer be restrained from inciting racket when the opposing offense faces a crucial third down.  [Emphasis added.]

Because we all know that PA-generated hype is the soul of what makes the college football experience.

The NFL has spent years making its game less and less fan friendly, because as long as the TV money kept rolling in, it didn’t matter.  Life’s a bitch when the consequences start catching up with you.  And after years of ignoring their fans who are ticket holders, what makes NFL suits think they’re smart enough now to cater to them?  Judging from the above, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a successful answer to that question.

Keep this in mind the next time you hear geniuses like Larry Scott talk about how following the NFL model makes sense.  This is your future, college football fans.  Cherish the hell out of it.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

More money than sense

This Washington Post article tries to present the University of Maryland as some sort of poster child for what’s wrong with college athletics’ financial model, but what really jumps out at you is the epic level of dumbassery on display running the department – running it into the ground, as the school is in the midst of dropping eight programs to compensate for the deficit it’s running.

Convinced its football stadium was too small and its basketball arena too outmoded for its fan base, Maryland over the past decade expanded Byrd Stadium and added luxury suites, and built the Comcast Center. At the time of construction, officials said the upgrades would pay for themselves through a jump in ticket revenue. Instead, Maryland’s football and basketball teams have struggled, and attendance and revenue have dropped.

As a result, spending on buildings and grounds has soared nearly 78 percent over the past five years, from $4.6 million to $8.2 million, according to data supplied to the NCAA. Debt service on the construction projects alone totals $7.9 million this year — up from $6.9 million in 2010-11. That’s more than 11 percent of Maryland’s athletic department budget, and the figure escalates each year like bad credit-card debt.

That’s just one line-item in a Maryland athletics operating budget that increased 24 percent over the last five years, from $49.5 million in 2005-06 to $61.6 million in 2010-11. Spending on the Terrapins’ coaching staff climbed at an even higher rate, rising nearly 30 percent, from $18.7 million to $24.3 million.

Meanwhile, total revenue increased only 15 percent, from $53.6 million to $61.6 million in the same span.

Not exactly great bang for the buck there.  And here’s the punch line:  “And, for the first time since the NCAA financial reports have been required, Maryland football actually lost money in 2010-11…”  So this isn’t a situation where there’s some sort of structural flaw in place that’s doomed the athletic department from the beginning.  Instead, Maryland is now faced with paying the price for a series of bad decisions.  Decisions, by the way, that are still going on while the financial bleeding continues apace.

So, too, is the $500,000 in guaranteed annual compensation that Maryland is paying its new offensive coordinator, Mike Locksley, hired in January to help turn around a football team that finished 2-10 last season. And the $3 million cost of the new synthetic turf football field at Byrd Stadium could fund five varsity teams for a year. Maryland has declined to identify the private donor who footed the bill for the field.

You’ve got to be impressed with their consistency.

None of this is to say that there isn’t an overall issue with haves and have-nots in D-1 athletics.  Ask almost any school without a football program capable of generating significant revenue about that.  But that shouldn’t excuse Maryland from having to manage its athletic department sensibly.  And it definitely shouldn’t justify the inevitable pleas for outside help, like these:

So what’s the remedy for college sports’ spending compulsion?

The Knight Commission, a group of university presidents, trustees and former athletes who advocate for reform in college sports, offered a road map in a 2010 report, “Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values and the Future of College Sports.” In it, the panel recommended the NCAA require colleges to publish the true cost of their athletic programs in comparable, complete terms, reflecting not only revenue and expenses but also the often-hidden debt service on facilities and subsidies from their universities’ general funds.

It also proposed that the NCAA cap the number of “non-coaching” jobs on certain teams — an expense that has ballooned in football, for example, with the addition of directors of football recruiting, operations, player development and strength-and-conditioning coaches for every position. And it recommended the NCAA reduce the number of football scholarships allowed by at least 10 from the current 85.

To date, none of those recommendations has gained traction.

“The people who could and should be responsible for fixing what almost certainly is going to be a train wreck are either unwilling or unable to do it,” Nichols said. “Unless you assume that television money is a bottomless pit — and there are no limits to the amount of money that television networks will invest — there is going to be a day of reckoning.”

That leaves two options for substantive change — both of them political and neither particularly palatable.

One: Persuade Congress to grant an antitrust exemption that would permit the NCAA to cap spending — whether on coaches’ salaries, scholarship costs or recruiting.

Two: Wait until the headlong rush for more money becomes so nakedly transparent that the Internal Revenue Service declares college sports a for-profit enterprise and revokes its tax-exempt status.

While you’re at it, they’d like a pony, too.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness