Category Archives: College Football

Division IV and the next round of conference realignment

And while we’re on the subject of big conference autonomy, John Pennington asks an excellent question that I’ve pondered lately, namely, if the mid-majors call Mike Slive’s bet and the Power Five react by forming the Division IV Slive threatened to create if he didn’t get his way, will that lead to a new round of conference expansion/realignment?

Pennington’s in the “duh, of course it will” camp and cites a couple of reasons why.  First (and most obvious), there are going to be some programs left out initially that want to be brought into the tent.  Because, you know, money.  Second, a hyper division is going to lead to plenty of political jockeying among the power conferences and a bigger conference will be able to cast more votes on a contentious issue.

I tend to agree that a new division will set off another realignment whirlwind.  I’d like to think it would be for a positive purpose, as it would give the power conferences a chance to realign into something that could benefit the postseason in a way that would strengthen the regular season – the chance to organize four sixteen-team conferences, with the conference championship games serving as the first round of the playoffs for the national title.  But I’m kidding myself, of course.  For one thing, that would mean lopping off one school (current power conference members plus Notre Dame total sixty-five.)  Second, when’s the last time these people did the right thing?

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“What we really see are the ‘haves,’ the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘forget-about-its.’”

While we probably won’t hear from Brother Emmert until next week, yesterday had its moments in the O’Bannon courtroom.  I can’t say for certain which side will prevail, but it’s already clear that competitive balance is getting the crap beat out of it.

Coaches are getting money that otherwise would go to players.

He and Hausfeld emphasized that the compensation of football coaches has risen more than 500 percent since the 1980s, in part because of exploding revenues and NCAA rules controlling how much of that money can flow to players. Additionally, Noll said, schools are redirecting money to the building and gold-plating of athletic facilities — $5.1 billion in 104 stadiums, arenas and practice facilities since the late 1990s.

None of this has helped level the competitive playing field, either, he said. Hausfeld showed slides highlighting the dominance of about a dozen teams in football and basketball since 1993, in contrast to the bottom quarter of programs that struggled mightily.

How much would directing more money towards players change the status quo?  In the world of Mike Slive’s “so-called level playing field”, not nearly as much as the NCAA would have you believe.  Especially if them what’s got the gold get to make their own rules.

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UPDATE:  Exchange from today…

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, The NCAA

Wednesday morning buffet

Some things to take your mind off… well, you know what.

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Filed under Big Ten Football, College Football, Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, Political Wankery, Recruiting, Science Marches Onward, SEC Football, Texas Is Just Better Than You Are., The Blogosphere

I got your competitive balance right here.

I tweeted yesterday about what an excruciating experience it was to catch Andre Ware bloviating about college player compensation.  Ware’s basic position seems to be if he can’t figure out a way to make something work, he’s against it.  (He’d fit right in over at NCAA headquarters.)

One of the things he fretted about greatly was the idea that paying players would somehow rupture the delicate balance of competition that amateurism somehow magically sustains right now.  Andre, I’ve got some news for you – when four of the Big Five conferences are reporting annual revenues totaling more than a billion dollars, that balance train done left the station already.  So unless I missed you suggesting that the big boys share some of that loot with their less fortunate Division I brethren, I think I’d worry about something else.

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Tuesday morning buffet

Something for everybody.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, Georgia Football, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kustra, but Commissioner Slive can’t take your call right now.”

In response to Bob Kustra’s anger about what’s coming down the turnpike…

Boise State president Bob Kustra made noise last week with a scathing criticism of NCAA reforms. He said the NCAA has “ranged far afield” from the traditional amateur model because the five major conferences have hijacked the system to create “phony arguments about student welfare when the real goal of some of these so-called reformers is create a plutocracy that serves no useful purpose in American higher education.”

Mike Slive is dismissive.

“I consider this period of time one of the historic moments that all of us are witnesses to — an evolutionary change where we put the student-athletes first and we build our philosophies on the student-athlete rather than the so-called level playing field,” Slive said. “I don’t know how this comes out, but I’m optimistic the evolution will continue.”

The “so-called level playing field”?  I think that’s a polite way of saying “kiss my ass, Kustra”.

More significant is the acknowledgement that putting student-athletes first is a change of priorities.  Slive can try to make his motives sound as noble as he’d like, but it sounds hollow to insist that all the changes being advocated now aren’t in response to the outside threats that the lawsuits and the unionization effort represent.  Nevertheless, origins are increasingly less important going forward if the big conferences deliver on these promises.

The crucial matter is going to be accountability.  Mike Slive is writing an awfully big check with his mouth.  What’s being discussed now is just a start.  What happens when he’s asked to cash that check to buy some new things student-athletes want?

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The other side of autonomy

David Climer wrote something in yesterday’s USA Today

This week at its annual spring meeting, SEC higher-ups will discuss the evolving NCAA structure where a handful of conferences — the SEC prominent among them — will move to their own strata and establish a large degree of autonomy.

The SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 will continue to be members of the NCAA, but they’ll operate under a separate umbrella with their own set of rules and regulations. In short, they’ll develop their own way of doing sports business.

… that gave me some pause for thought:  namely, how far does this five amigos approach go?  We’re all assuming this is an attempt by the haves to free themselves from the overriding control of the have-nots, but why should we assume there’s a all-for-one, one-for-all spirit among the Big Five?  Certainly there are plenty of areas where mutual support and cooperation make sense – the antitrust lawsuits and the threat of unionization have made bedfellows out of them all – but there are plenty of areas where you’d think competition or regional preference would dictate otherwise.

And, yeah, some of those matters, like conference expansion, have been around for a while.  But not in an era of weakened central authority (and, yes, I also know that conference expansion isn’t under the NCAA’s jurisdiction, but bear with me here).  The last time the NCAA relinquished control over a major area was when it lost the antitrust case over broadcast rights.  I don’t think it’s an understatement to note that the consequences to that have been as significant as anything that’s ever occurred in college athletics.  Who’s to say how dramatic the consequences will be this time?  And who’s to say that if an issue’s important enough, that the template hasn’t been set for one conference to assert that autonomy isn’t just reserved for pushing back against mid-major conferences?  Or do you really think Slive and Delany will join hands and sing Kumbaya for the rest of their careers?

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Wednesday morning buffet

The chafing dishes are full, so knock yourselves out.

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Filed under Academics? Academics., College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, Media Punditry/Foibles, Pac-12 Football, Political Wankery, Strategery And Mechanics

The “useful myth” of competitive balance

Regardless of whether you think paying college athletes is a good idea or a bad one, the argument you need to dismiss in its entirety is that paying players would be bad for competitive balance.  ‘Cause there ain’t any now(h/t MGoBlog)

Yeah, there’s a lot of math in that piece, but just skip to the conclusion and think about it for a minute.

But how would things look under a pay-for-play model? Would the imbalance actually get worse?

Maybe not. If anything, the economics of price competition argue that as you let schools use money directly as a tool in attracting talent, you may empower mid-level schools to splurge on a would-be starter who might otherwise accept an offer at a top-tier school and end up riding the bench. When stars and benchwarmers all get the same compensation package, there’s no way for a smaller school to show they really want a player much more than the big school, which is free to stockpile talent. Both schools can claim they want the player, both can send 700 letters in one day, etc. The best way to show you mean business and that the other school is just engaging in what economists call “cheap talk” is price competition.

So when you buy into the myth that price-fixing helps balance college football, you’re actually helping prevent that balance from emerging. Stop defending price fixing and you’ll let Bowling Green show that four-star nose tackle how much more valuable he is to the Falcons than he is to Alabama’s bench.

I keep saying it – what the people in charge in the power conferences fear the most isn’t spending money.  They’re doing that now anyway.  It’s losing the level of control they have over student-athletes.

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“We’re still looking for our one percent finder’s fee.”

Andy Staples has a useful primer on the history of the conference championship game.  It serves to reinforce my question about why the NCAA has say so over how a conference crowns its football champion.

But more than that, it reinforces my respect for Roy Kramer’s particular genius in seeing what a championship game could do for the SEC.  I can’t say I’m seeing the same vision from his ACC and Big 12 counterparts today as they seek to change the twelve-team, two-division format, but that’s not to say they shouldn’t have the right to screw things up if they so choose.

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Filed under College Football, The NCAA