Daily Archives: May 2, 2014

“I mean we got away with some things at times last year.”

Believe it or not, Auburn’s Rhett Lashlee is referring to the national title game there.

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands

This is bold.

Mark Richt, on Hutson Mason:  “There’s not a thing in our system that Aaron Murray did that he won’t be able to do.”

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Filed under Georgia Football

From Grantham to Pruitt: KISS.

When Mark Richt hired Todd Grantham, that NFL experience looked pretty good to him.

“I’m excited the search is over, we have our man, and look forward to what Todd will bring to our defense, our team, and our University,” said Richt. “I think it is particularly valuable that he has a wealth of experience on the defensive side of the ball at both the NFL and collegiate levels…”

But he’s singing a different tune these days.

“Coach Pruitt, Coach Rocker, Coach Ekeler and Coach Sherrer, they all coached high school ball and I think it’s good when you have that,” he said. “These guys are used to taking young guys, taking them from ground zero fundamentally and really showing them how to tackle, showing them how to defeat blocks and how to do things fundamentally sound. They’re really good teachers here and they were teachers as well at their earlier schools. And everyone of them was also on a national championship team in college so they all know what it takes to win and because of that I think they have developed a standard of how we’re to operate. This is what we consider maximum effort and we expect that every single play and if you don’t we’ll put somebody else in there…”

Now I don’t think that high school coaches are better as a class at teaching fundamentals than NFL coaches are.  But I do think they’re more familiar with teaching fundamentals in a time-constrained setting.  There’s less you can do coaching in college than in the pros and that’s a lesson I’m not sure Grantham fully accepted.  And that may be what gives me the most hope for an improvement on the defensive side of the ball this season.

“One thing Coach Pruitt said to me in the interview process… that I fell in love with was, ‘If we can’t execute it, I won’t call it in the game.’ So sometimes I think some coaches think the scheme is going to win the game. We’re going to out-scheme everybody. But it’s really the fundamentals that count. You may call the best defense for that situation but if your defense can’t execute it properly, we’ve got issues.

“And so Coach Pruitt is like, ‘Coach, I’m just telling you right now,  I’m a pretty simple ball coach and we can do as many things schematically as anybody else in the nation but as we’re installing things and getting the guys used to what we’re doing, if we go into game one and I think there’s something in the game plan that I don’t think we can execute, we just won’t call it. We’ll make sure they know what they’re doing when they’re out there.’ And that will be a big deal for us,” said Richt.

It’s going to be interesting comparing the progression of the Georgia and Louisville defenses this season.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Mark Richt can’t lose control of what he never had.

A calmly rational explanation of why Georgia doesn’t sign every eligible kid in the state:

“I want players that our coaches want, because that’s a relationship that’s very important,” said Richt, who said he typically sees more family loyalty to the university from rural areas in the state compared to the Atlanta area where players may have migrated from other parts of the country. “Most of the guys in Georgia (on other teams), we went after but just didn’t get them. We can only sign something like 20 (players) a year or something like that, and there are something like 150 players coming out of the state every year so we can’t get all of them.”

Not that it’s going to sway a single fan who gripes about every four-star Georgia recruit’s signing with another program as evidence of epic fail in Georgia recruiting.  Math is hard for some people.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

Workin’ the refs

Another reason to suspect the weekly reporting of selection committee rankings is likely to be an unnecessary distraction is because it invites this kind of lobbying:

The SEC announced on Sunday its decision to stick with an eight game conference schedule, turning down the option to join the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten with a nine-game conference schedule. After the Big Ten makes the jump in 2016 it will just be the SEC and ACC, who has Notre Dame as a partial member playing five ACC teams per year, left at eight.

“I’ve been saying this for three years now: I think if we’re going to go into a playoff and feed into one playoff system, we all need to play by the same rules,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “Play your conference. Don’t back down from playing your own conference. It’s one thing to back down from playing somebody else. But don’t back down from playing your own conference.”

The four-team playoff guarantees at least one of the five power conferences will be left out, so expect plenty of conference-against-conference comparisons in these first few years of the College Football Playoff era.

“There’s no taking away anything that LSU and Alabama and Auburn recently have accomplished,” Shaw said. “They’ve been phenomenal. My take is to say, ‘OK, the rest of us are playing our conference. We’re playing nine out of 12 teams in our conference. Why can’t you do the same thing?’

“You can’t color it. You can’t try to explain it away. You’re not doing what the rest of us are doing it. We’re doing it. The Big Ten is doing it. The Big 12 is doing it. Everybody is pushing toward a nine-game conference schedule.”

At least if you leave it at one vote at the end, it’s a fait accompli.  Instead, they’re going out of their way to invite second-guessing and whining about conference scheduling on a weekly basis, all in the hope of swaying the selection committee’s evaluation process.  And while that’s great for ESPN – the WWL could schedule a 30-minute bitchfest to run after The Jeff Long Show – I predict it’s going to be a turnoff for the rest of us who just want to see the selection committee cobble together a playoff group of the four best teams.

Gee, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think they were trying to encourage us to be dissatisfied with the new format.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Transparent failure

Jeff Long, you’re such a kidder.

Like the BCS rankings before them, the selection committee’s weekly rankings will be announced on an ESPN broadcast. Unlike the BCS, which presented its new standings each Sunday, the interim playoff rankings will be revealed on a half-hour show each Tuesday evening.

Long, who is expected to explain the committee’s reasoning each week on the same show, said TV was not a consideration in the decision to release weekly rankings.

They weren’t going to do it, really they weren’t.  But then transparency got in the way.

“I think that (debate) is part of what makes college football, and I think that debate that goes on among fan bases and groups is healthy for the game of football,” Long said. “Early on, there was some thought that we would go into a room at the end of the season and come out with the top four, but that didn’t last very long.”

What changed? The playoff people say the decision to issue weekly rankings was made in the interests of transparency, even if it also happens to align with the interests of ESPN.

What a coincidence.

By the way, about that whole transparency thingy

When the committee members were announced in October, Hancock called their task “one of the hardest jobs in sports.”

The committee members just made it a lot harder on themselves.

If they have one saving grace, however, it’s that we’ll never know their decisions because their ballots will be kept secret.

At least the coaches made their final regular season poll votes public.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Life with the haves

If you’re a top-tier football program, you’ve probably been doing alright lately.  Better than most of us, actually.

The economic downturn that started about six years ago flattened wages and crushed jobs. But sports programs at the nation’s top public colleges have thrived: Revenues continue to reach record levels while payrolls have risen on average about 40 percent.

Total revenue from the nation’s top-tier college sports programs — the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision — has increased by about a third, fueled by ticket sales, donations and lucrative television contracts that together resulted in about $8 billion.

You’ve also done a pretty good job massaging the numbers.

Operating revenue listed by athletic departments includes what’s often referred to as a subsidy — money the university (including student fees) or a state government provides to an athletic department to help it cover its expenses. But even if those dollars are removed, which is possible for public schools that disclose that information, the percentage increase in “earned revenue” is still about the same.

In 2012-13, 20 public schools showed a surplus of earned revenue, a number that hasn’t changed much over the past few years. The NCAA puts the figure at 23, which likely includes a few private schools whose data the NCAA has access to but doesn’t release publicly. For six schools — Ohio State, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Florida and Oregon — the surplus was in excess of $15 million.

Ohio State showed a surplus of almost $24 million, but that does not factor in $16.6 million in debt service that the department is paying on bonds issued to fund renovations at Ohio Stadium and to build a new aquatics center, along with some smaller building projects, said associate athletics director for finance Pete Hagan. Hagan said not including debt service was an oversight that should have been included in the expense figures submitted to the NCAA. He said that his department plans to address the oversight.

Hagan said the NCAA, U.S. Department of Education and university require unique financial reports, and the bottom lines are never the same, making it difficult to see how much money is really left over.

Sports economists say the actual number of schools with a surplus is probably far higher, as they point to several ways athletic departments can pad expenses to hide extra revenue.

Goff said schools have long been trying to keep their actual bottom line “under wraps.” “If there’s going to be a surplus, you find some expense to put that into often before the surplus even appears,” he said.

And that’s where it gets fun.  Really fun.

  • In 2012-13, Auburn spent $2.8 million on recruiting, more than any other school.
  • Tennessee spent the most on severance pay in 2012-13 at $8 million. In 2012, when the college fired football coach Derek Dooley, he was paid a severance of $5 million and his assistants up to $4 million overall. A payout of $1.3 million went to former athletic director Mike Hamilton, who resigned in 2011, adding to the department’s $19 million total over the past six years. (One that should ease up this year because those deals have all been accounted for, Stanton said.) Second to Tennessee over that time was Kansas, at $14.4 million, which agreed to a $3 million severance with former coach Mark Mangino in 2009.
  • At public FBS schools overall, spending on coaching salaries increased on average by 45 percent.
  • Travel costs increased about 8 percent from 2012 to 2013 for public schools.
  • For 2012-13, four public schools spent more than $1 million on their spirit squads — Georgia, Florida, Texas and Michigan.  (For perspective, note that Texas, at $1.9 million, spent the most money on medical care for student-athletes last year.)

Why do they do it?  Well, basically, because they can.

Goff and other economists say it’s not nefarious, but it’s a practice common to nonprofit organizations and government entities: Spend as close as you can to what you bring in every year, because there’s no incentive to show a profit.

Chad McEvoy, a professor and graduate program director with the Department of Sport Management at Syracuse University, said, “it’s definitely interesting accounting.”

“We’ve definitely seen growth in salaries and personnel, but I think a lot of that is by choice,” he said. “I think these athletic programs have added staff both on the sports side and the administrative side because they have the money to spend and needed to spend it on something.”

He points to a volleyball coach making $300,000 a year for a program that draws only a few hundred fans who pay $5 or $10 a ticket. “The market rate or the math doesn’t add up,” he said.

Even travel costs, which are legitimately going up due to rising fuel prices and the need to play schools farther away due to conference realignments, can be pushed up by traveling more luxuriously and staying in higher-end hotels, McEvoy said.

Ohio State’s Hagan, who has worked in athletic department finance since the early ’80s, said he doesn’t believe there’s a general incentive to spend more so as not to show a surplus — or too much of a surplus. But he said athletic departments are in a highly competitive environment, an “arms race” as he described it, in which they’re driven to be bigger and better to attract top recruits and faculty: “We could spend every cent that we make and then some trying to just keep up with renovating our stadiums and improving our facilities and practice fields.”

And this is why you have to laugh when you hear the Emmerts and Delanys cluck about student-athlete compensation and competitive fairness.  When Georgia spends as much on its spirit squads as Troy has for its entire travel budget, that ain’t no level playing field.  And the big boys aren’t interested in making it one.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

First sighting: SEC standings

Yeah, it’s the first week of May and it’s way too early to be doing a projection of the 2014 conference standings, but, what the hey, it’s not like you’ve got anything better to ponder right now, eh?  Here’s the first one of those I’ve come across post-spring practice; you can read the piece for the details, but here’s how the authors lay out the records (overall, conference):

SEC EAST

  • Missouri:  10-2; 7-1
  • South Carolina:  10-2; 7-1
  • Georgia:  9-3; 6-2
  • Florida:  8-4; 5-3
  • Tennessee:  4-8; 2-6
  • Vanderbilt:  3-9; 1-7
  • Kentucky:  3-9; 0-8

SEC WEST

  • Auburn:  11-1; 7-1
  • Alabama:  10-2; 6-2
  • LSU:  9-3; 6-2
  • Mississippi:  8-4; 4-4
  • Texas A&M:  7-5; 3-5
  • Mississippi State:  6-6; 2-6
  • Arkansas:  3-9; 0-8

On the surface, those are pretty conservative looking picks.  No great leaps outside of Florida (and even that’s pretty conservative) and the only big drop is Vanderbilt (again, not exactly a call that goes out on a limb).

But there are a few intriguing bits to it.  If Mizzou and the Gamecocks both take non-conference losses, it’s hard to see how the SEC gets more than one team in the playoff (not to mention that if Auburn were upset in the SECCG, you could be looking at a scenario where the conference would be shut out).  If Saban finishes second in the West again, you’d have to figure a few heads will explode in the Tide fan base (PAWWWLLL…).

Florida has to deal with recovering from injuries, remaking its offense for the third time under Boom, draws Alabama and LSU from the West and is expected to manage a +2 in its conference record and +4 overall.  Georgia has to deal with recovering from injuries, plays an easier schedule than it did in 2013 and looks at a two-game improvement in the SEC and +1 overall.  Yeah, I know there are plenty of question marks about the defense and special teams, but they were there last season, too.

And it’s funny how the conventional wisdom on Missouri and TAMU has completely flipped in two seasons.

What do you guys think?

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Filed under Georgia Football