Category Archives: College Football

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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Filed under College Football

“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.

1 Comment

Filed under College Football, The NCAA

Eh, championship, shampionship…

So, having read this debate at ESPN about the ACC’s plans for its conference championship game (aka The World’s Smallest Outdoor Cocktail Party – h/t Jim Donnan) and keeping in mind Todd Graham’s whine about the fairness of the Pac-12 choosing to play a championship game while the 10-team Big 12 doesn’t, I’ve got a few questions.

  1. As Todd Fortuna asks, “…why does the NCAA even have authority to determine how leagues govern their title games, anyway? As we’ve seen recently, particularly with the SEC sticking with its eight-game league slate, conferences are free to determine their respective league schedules however they wish. It’s only right that they get to choose how to determine their league champion, too.”  I get that adding a game needs the NCAA’s approval, but as to the makeup of who plays, why is the NCAA involved?
  2. That being said, what is the point to maintaining divisions for the regular season if they’re going to be ignored come championship time?  I mean, aside from money.  As David Hale points out, in the ACC, all that’s going to do is make the Clemson-FSU regular season meeting less meaningful, if those two are your ACC front-runners.  And further, “… after FSU completely dominated Clemson this past season, was there really a need for those two to face off again? And if Clemson managed to sneak by the Seminoles in the title game by a point or two, would that have proven the Tigers deserved the league title instead of FSU? And would it have been worth costing the ACC its shot at a national title?”
  3. As silly as that seems, it’s not nearly as ridiculous as a conference with a round robin regular season schedule adding a championship game.  But if college football heads down that road to appease the Todd Grahams of the CFB world, why stop there?  Wouldn’t the truly fair thing be to mandate that only conferences with fourteen members and a championship game be eligible for the national title postseason?

Now I’m not suggesting that I’m on board for any of this.  It’s just surprising to me, at least a little, that we’re hearing talk, some of it serious, about tinkering with Roy Kramer’s invention, one that’s served the sport pretty damned well for more than a couple of decades.  The reason for that, of course, is the birth of the four-team national playoff and the power conferences gaming out the best scenario to maximize their prospects in that.  That most of the decision makers don’t have a clue what might work best doesn’t mean they won’t try.  You tell me how optimistic we should be about that working out well.

2 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

Friday morning buffet

You should eat.

26 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, College Football, Georgia Football, James Franklin Is Ready To Rumble, Science Marches Onward, SEC Football, The Blogosphere, The NCAA, What's Bet In Vegas Stays In Vegas

Food fight!

Honestly, I don’t know whether to be depressed or amused by this.

Three hours of the Big 12’s spring meetings in Phoenix this week were spent talking about food.

Yes, food.

Since everything else with the NCAA is cumbersome, you didn’t think the “unlimited” meals plan passed last month would be easy, right? Athletic directors are supportive of the reform, but some wonder if the plan needs guidance.

“If not better defined this is far bigger than bagels, nutrition bars or smoothies,” Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione said. “It leaves the interpretation open to all kinds of abuse.”

One thing I’m not is surprised. This is what you get when you have a perverted economy – you can’t compensate players directly, so the money flows to peripheral areas to attract talent.

Another safe bet: Costs will be significant, which means another inherent arms race could be on the way.

Kansas State’s John Currie outlined his enhanced meal plan that will likely cost between $600,000 and $1 million annually.

And it doesn’t even sound that extreme – snacks in the training room, post-workout shakes, 3-to-4-hour dining availability six days a week, access to food service after workouts, in addition to meal stipends or nightly dining hall already available.

There’s no fixed cost with this, so in theory Texas or Alabama or Oregon can spend $5 million if they choose.

If?  Okay, now I am amused.

They’re on the verge of bringing Willie Williams’ wet dream to reality.

9 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

What’s better than a Congressional hearing on college football players?

Why, two hearings, of course.

16 Comments

Filed under College Football, Political Wankery

Jim Delany’s Pandora’s Box

Now we’re getting to the real nitty-gritty.

… We understand there are a lot of schools that want to be Division I. Some of them are reliant on branding in Division I, revenues from the Division I tournament. That was never our objective. Our objective was to create a system of governance we could use to serve our athletes. In the 21st century, it’s painfully obvious we need to change. It’s painfully obvious it’s not all a level playing field, and that a lot of the level-playing field philosophy is under attack. I would rather have us change it than have it not change or change for us.  [Emphasis added.]

Yes, Delany quickly follows that up with “I understand some people think pay for play is right. I do not think pay for play is right. I do not think unions are the answer”, but, seriously, once you’re honest about the reality that the myth of competitive balance is just that and you announce you’re willing to abandon the pretense once and for all, what’s left to justify clinging to the myth of amateurism?

5 Comments

Filed under College Football, The NCAA

“The narrative will be set.”

This is the best thing you’ll read about every stupid “ridiculously early” list ever compiled.  The conclusion:

Because the answer never changes, and neither do the lists. Here’s Mark Schlabach’s Way-Too-Early list from February of 2013. 20 of the same 25 teams from 2013 are on it this time. Including Florida, ranked seventh. Florida went 4-8 last season. That alone is probably enough to exclude them from any current Top 25 list, but I’d allow it if the evidence was a little stronger than “they just can’t keep being that bad.”

But it isn’t.

Amen to that, brother.

13 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Media Punditry/Foibles

Making do with less

Something crossed my mind as I read this Jeremy Fowler piece on how the mid-majors will cope with the looming issue of more autonomy for the power conferences.  How much of a game changer could Jeffery Kessler’s antitrust suit be if he won, not for student-athletes, but for mid-major schools?

No, if the Wild West comes to college athletics, Boise State isn’t suddenly going to have as much money to spend as Ohio State.  But it doesn’t have the enormously expensive infrastructure Ohio State maintains, either.  So what if the more nimble Broncos did a little outside-the-box thinking and decided to put most of their resources into player payment?  Might that not serve to level the playing field somewhat?

I get that there are some places, like Alabama and Texas, that simply wouldn’t allow themselves to be outspent, and that there are schools at the other end of the spectrum that simply don’t have enough coming in to make a meaningful effort in that way.  But that still leaves a lot of programs in the middle.  You’d have to think there are enough talented kids out there who would prefer the cash being paid directly to them than being put into facilities or administrative salaries whom a smartly run program could sign in an open market that it could make some mid-major schools, or even bottom feeders in the bigger conferences, more competitive.  (Especially since you’d have to figure there would be a bunch of ADs out there ill-equipped to operate in such a world.)

Anybody think that might work?

5 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness

Reclaiming New Year’s Day

The only downside to the expansion of bowl games is schedule clutter.  I know it’s part of the branding, but I still welcome college football clearing out some of the underbrush on December 31st/January 1st.

In each of the past seven years, there have been 10 to 12 bowls played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. However, this season there will be only eight — with five of those games played in exclusive time slots.

The only bowls played on Dec. 31 will be part of the playoff’s six New Year’s-specific bowls. The Peach will have the early kickoff, followed by the Fiesta and then the Orange. Exact game times have not been determined.

On Jan. 1, the Outback and Capital One bowls are expected to start between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET, sources said. It’s expected the Outback will be on ESPN2 and Capital One on ABC. Both games will go head-to-head with the Cotton Bowl on ESPN.

The playoff semifinal bowls are the Rose and Sugar. The Rose will start about 5 p.m. ET, followed by the Sugar.

That suits me.  I like the big bowls having the stage to themselves on New Year’s… at least as long as there aren’t any five-touchdown blowouts.

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Filed under College Football