Category Archives: College Football

Bob Bowlsby, champion of the little guy

The Big 12 Commissioner, we are told, “came to the defense of the collegiate model” at Big 12 media days Monday.  It was a touching performance.

… He argued against the unionization of college athletes, noting that in his opinion, “student-athletes are not employees.” He also said it wouldn’t be fair to pay football players but not female student-athletes and student-athletes in sports other than football and men’s basketball.

“It is hard to justify paying student-athletes in football and men’s basketball and not recognizing the significant effort that swimmers and wrestlers and lacrosse players and track athletes all put in,” he said. “Football and basketball players don’t work any harder than anybody else; they just happen to have the blessing of an adoring public who is willing to pay for the tickets and willing to buy the products on television that come with the high visibility.

“We have both a legal obligation and a moral obligation to do for female student-athletes and male Olympic sports athletes just exactly what we do for football and basketball student-athletes. I don’t think it’s even debatable.”

Touching, but totally divorced from economic reality. Those lucky duck football and basketball players simply fortunate enough to be blessed with the scarce skills that the market place demands, why should they be rewarded for that? If everyone in this world were paid according to effort, I doubt Bob himself would be pulling in the big bucks he’s getting paid right now… speaking of which, exactly how far do those legal and moral obligations stretch?

About as far as you’d think.

“In the end,” he said, “it’s a somewhat zero-sum game. There’s only so much money out there. I don’t think that coaches and athletic directors are likely going to take pay cuts.[Emphasis added.] I think that train’s left the station. … I think over a period of time what we’ll find is that instead of keeping a tennis program, they’re going to do the things that it takes to keep the football and men’s and women’s basketball programs strong.”

Obligations are for the little guy – straight out of the 21st-century captains of industry playbook.  There’s your collegiate model.  And remember, Bowlsby doesn’t think this is even debatable.  No wonder he expects to be in court the rest of his career.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

They work hard for the money.

Bill Hancock’s disingenuousness aside, we all know why we’re getting playoff expansion.  And I think most people expect we’ll see expansion of that expansion in the not too distant future.  What I’m curious about is whether we’re on the cusp of seeing another fault line exposed, over the matter of player safety.  I don’t mean that in the Bielema sense, either.  I’m talking about asking players to fight through fifteen, sixteen or seventeen games in a year to win a national title.

While head coaches strike me as control freaks (comes with the territory, to some extent), for the most part, none strike me as being willingly ignorant of the toll a college football season takes on a student-athlete physically.  That’s led me to wonder if any of them have thought about what happens when those two issues intersect.  I got some answers last week.

“I would hope that if it expands beyond this, we gotta look at the regular season,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said as SEC media days concluded Thursday. “I think you have to reduce the regular [season]. A lot of people may not agree with that.”

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze agreed with Richt, saying college football would have to cut into the regular season for the well-being of the student-athletes participating. Alabama’s Nick Saban didn’t exactly take a side on the matter, but he did say that if expansion comes, the sport should consider the toll more games would put on players.

“Not having thought much about it, I do think that for college players, with their age, with their responsibility to academics and the things they have to do that we’re pretty much closing in on the limit of how many games they should be playing and how we can still fit them in,” Saban said. “In our league, you’d have to win 15 games to win [the national championship in a playoff]. If you expand the playoff, you’d have to win more than that.”

Under the current format, four teams will compete in the College Football Playoff, meaning there will be two semifinal games before a national championship game. That’s after Power Five conferences like the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 have their conference championship games following the regular season. The Big 12 no longer has a conference championship game.

“I have always been concerned with the length of the season,” Freeze said. “But it’s so financially profitable that I’m not sure that there would be any interest [in shortening the regular season]. If you end up going to a longer playoff, there has to be talk of cutting the season back a game, at least.

“The workload that would be on these young men, I would think you’d have to look at shortening the season some if the playoff is expanding.”

Wow, I had no idea there was a college football topic Nick Saban hadn’t given much thought to, but there you go.

Seriously, the common theme there is awkward.  These coaches may have legitimate concerns about how their kids hold up as a season grows ever longer, but they all report to athletic directors who answer to school presidents who have other concerns they consider more legitimate.  You’ve seen enough goings on over the past ten years, so you tell me – whose concerns are likely to be given greater weight?

The other part of the equation to keep in mind here are that priorities can change over time, if the guys running the show lose track of their calibrations.

While Freeze suggested cutting the regular season by a game, Richt didn’t have a specific number for the regular season. Saban, however, threw out the idea of eliminating conference championship games in order to make room for an expanded playoff and cut down the burden of an extra game between the regular season and the playoffs.

It’s hard to see either of those options being attractive to Mike Slive, who’s trying to build a broadcast network asset while maintaining the value of a crown jewel conference championship game that’s been enormously successful for over two decades.  Also, judging by the current debate over the size of the conference schedule, lopping off a regular season game can’t be something any SEC athletic director wants to consider as an option.

But who’s to say how those things look to those folks a few years down the road?  Before you argue it wouldn’t matter, because no school or conference is voluntarily relinquishing any of that sweet money, don’t forget to factor what a future players union may have to say into the equation.  Life is full of tough choices; it’s just that guys like Slive have been able to dodge most of ‘em over the last decade.  We’ll see how long his luck (or that of his successor) holds up.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

That’s some lull we’re having.

USA Today notes this

Of the 128 schools to play at the FBS level this season, more than 40 percent have made at least one move over the past decade. That figure doesn’t even include the shake-ups of the mid-to-late 1990s that produced the Big 12, Conference USA and the Mountain West. Flip the calendar back 25 years and find only 48 teams that have stayed put. That means more than 62 percent of them switched during that span.

… and wonders if we’re gonna get a breather on the conference realignment front.  Surely you jest, fellas.  They’re just taking a time out until the next TV deal shows up.

“To strive and thrive, you’ve got to get bigger. Conference realignment is about exactly that: having more economic value when you get bigger,” said Chris Bevilacqua, a sports media consultant. “It’s not going to stop, because the market forces are going to continue to incentivize and reward size. It’s not just college. It’s everything in the ecosystem. So will it settle down and pause for a while? My guess is probably. Will there be further consolidation and realignment? I think most definitely. When will that happen? That’s hard to say.”

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Filed under College Football

Saturday morning buffet

Hey, you get hungry on the weekends, too.

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Filed under ACC Football, Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, College Football, Crime and Punishment, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label

Playing the long game

As yesterday’s statement from the Big Ten indicates, I think it’s slowly dawning on college presidents that O’Bannon is turning into a losing proposition for them.  Now even if they lose the trial, the walls don’t start falling down around their ears immediately.  There’s an appeal process that they’ll likely milk for all it’s worth if for no other reason than that every day the inevitable is postponed is another day they don’t have to share the loot with anyone else.  But that won’t last forever.  Plus, there’s the concerns raised by the unionization effort at Northwestern and other litigation threats.  All it takes is losing once.

At some point, then, it’ll be time to turn to the last refuge – politics.  And don’t think that’s not already on their minds.

Did the reform movement arrive too late? Delany doesn’t think so. “Are you kidding me? This will be with us for a decade,” he said. “Between the reform, the restructuring, the litigation, congressional activity. This is the beginning. Not the end.”

A sentiment echoed by one of his bosses:

“A lot of water has got to go under the bridge before we’d have serious conversations about doing that,” Kaler said. “There’s a whole long list of possibilities that are out there. … A lot of people think this will go to the Supreme Court and maybe even Congress. There’s a lot of water to move.”

These guys, as much as they may protest to the contrary, ain’t going the Division III route.  There’s simply too much money involved for them to walk away from it.  They will run to the feds instead, to try to hold on to what they’ve got.  And, yes, the irony of Jim Delany asking people like Joe Barton and Orrin Hatch for assistance isn’t lost on me.  (And probably won’t be lost on them, either.)

Here’s the thing, though – who’s to say they’re any good at lobbying?  Delany can be Delany when it comes to bullying mid-major conferences who want him to throw them a bone, but how does that work when he’s the one who comes asking for a favor?  Will the presidents he speaks for be willing to do any serious horse trading for an antitrust exemption, or will they continue to operate with the same combination of arrogance and myopia that’s gotten them into the mess they’re trying to extricate themselves from?

And, maybe more importantly, should they even assume Congress is of a mind to help?

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

Wednesday morning buffet

Because breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

  • Did you know that Clemson’s Frank Howard once threatened to sue over a piece Lewis Grizzard wrote about him?
  • I always love it when somebody else does the heavy lifting for me, so, thanks, Tyler, for counting the number of scholarship players currently on Georgia’s roster.
  • Barry Alvarez sez, “To keep fans in the stands, you have to keep up with the technology, so they can continue to use those things in the stadium.” You could always beef up the home schedule, Barry.
  • Hunter Atkinson’s high school coach says the kid’s family has endured a backlash from third parties as a result of his withdrawal from Georgia.  Stay classy, people.
  • Troy’s Larry Blakeney suggests an interesting proposal for paying players – a stipend based on academic performance, paid to student-athletes per hour passed with a C or above.
  • Marc Weiszer talks to Danny Ware about a Knowshon-Gurley comparison.
  • High school quarterback being recruited by Georgia has this to say about his first conversation with the head guy:  “… The SEC is the biggest in college football. I was super excited to talk to Coach Richt. I was a little nervous. I had never talked to a coach that big before. It was awesome.”
  • Amateurism, first half of the 20th century style.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, College Football, Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, Recruiting

Tuesday morning buffet

Have a bite or two…

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Filed under College Football, Crime and Punishment, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Recruiting, SEC Football, The NCAA

Competitive balance, my arse

If Emmert’s testimony yesterday about player compensation was little more than a combination of sanctimonious wishful thinking and denial, his defense of competitive balance in college football was downright dishonest.

Emmert said amateurism is essential to competitive balance in college sports. While he has supported reforms such as cost-of-attendance increases — though he wouldn’t call them stipends — he added that requiring further compensation to athletes would result in some schools having to drop other sports programs or drop out of Division I altogether, which require schools to offer 16 sports in order to qualify.

He even went to the extent of citing Alabama’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe and Michigan’s loss to Appalachian State in support of that.  (Nevermind that losses like those are so rare that it’s easy to remember them by name.)

But this is where my bullshit detector’s needle broke:

“To convert college sports into professional sports would be tantamount to converting it into minor league sports,” Emmert said. “And we know that in the U.S. minor league sports aren’t very successful either for fan support or for the fan experience.”

Professional minor leagues aren’t the minor leagues because their players are paid.  They’re minor leagues because their teams are under the control of parties who don’t have a stake in the outcome of their seasons.

Back in the 1930′s Branch Rickey came up with a revolutionary innovation, the baseball farm system.  Twice, Commissioner Landis freed a number of players in Rickey’s system from their contracts because he opposed turning the minor leagues into vassal states of major league teams.  Read this exchange between the two to understand what the real issue is with minor league play and fan interest.  Landis’ final observation - “I think it is as big as the universe.  This is just as important in the Three-I League as it would be in the National or American Leagues.” – is the crux of what defines being a minor league.

It’s not about pay.  It’s about independence.  Until the NFL can dictate to Mark Richt during the week before the Georgia Tech game that Todd Gurley is being brought up to play for one of its teams, Emmert is completely off base with his analogy.

But skip past that.  If you want something in the here and now that exposes the phoniness of Emmert’s concern about competitive balance, check out one of the impending fruits of the Big Five’s push for autonomy, a proposed change to the transfer rules.

The wealthiest college football conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, Atlantic Conference, Pac-12, Southeastern Conference) are willing to work with all of Division I to come up with a solution, but they also want the power to make their own transfer rules if need be as part of an autonomy structure the NCAA is moving toward.

If you think this is making mid-major schools nervous, give yourself a nickel.

That worries the schools outside those powerful leagues, concerned they’ll be in danger of losing their best players to the Big Five.

Most of the areas in which the Big Five conferences are seeking autonomy are related to how schools spend money on athletes. Transfer regulations are seen more as purely competitive-balance issues.

”I still haven’t gotten a good answer as to why transfer rules have been included in the autonomy bucket,” said SMU athletic director Rick Hart, whose school plays in the American Athletic Conference, one of the other five leagues in the top tier of college football knows as FBS.

I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one, Rick.  Besides, I think you already know the answer, even if it isn’t what you’d call a good one.  Or the one the Big Five commissioners – or Emmert, for that matter – will give when they enact their own version.

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

UPDATE:  More thoughts on competitive balance here.

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Filed under College Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, The NCAA

Friday morning buffet

Just because it’s June doesn’t mean I can’t fill a few chafing dishes for you.

  • I’ll go into detail later this summer about it, but perhaps this is the best thing Georgia’s secondary has going for it this season.
  • Bitcoin is going to sponsor a bowl game.  Will it hand out a virtual trophy?
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Aereo case may impact how we watch the NFL, but keep in mind what’s written in this piece could also apply to CBS and its contract with the SEC.
  • Here’s the Post and Courier’s preview of the Clemson-Georgia game.  And here’s the preview of the South Carolina-Georgia game.
  • One reason the schools fear Jeffrey Kessler’s lawsuit:  one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys used to be an associate director of enforcement for the NCAA.
  • Believe it or not, ESPN preseason rankings have Georgia’s secondary as seventh best in the conference.
  • Gene Chizik predicts a 10-2 season for Auburn, with losses to South Carolina and Alabama.
  • Vanderbilt checks in at #74 in Paul Myerberg’s preseason roundup.
  • College coaches try to figure out the best way to utilize the new rules on summer supervision.  (Brian Kelly knows what to do, but if he told you, then he’d have to kill you.)
  • We’re guessing that many people would agree that college president or medical school dean is slightly more beneficial to humanity than being a football coach.”  Depends whom you ask, I suspect.
  • Bill Connelly looks at this year’s Clemson Tigers team and comes away impressed, particularly with that defensive line.

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Filed under 'Cock Envy, Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, College Football, Gene Chizik Is The Chiznit, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Media Punditry/Foibles, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, The NCAA

Wednesday morning buffet

The buffet line never ends.

79 Comments

Filed under College Football, Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Media Punditry/Foibles, PAWWWLLL!!!, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water, SEC Football, The NCAA, Tommy Tuberville - Mythical National Champ, Whoa, oh, Alabama