Category Archives: It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

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?

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

“There aren’t too many people crazy enough to do what I did.”

This may be the ultimate haves vs. have-nots story (for the moment, anyway) – Miami of Ohio’s new head coach took a $200,000 a year pay cut from his coordinator’s position when he accepted the job.

There’s no way the mid-majors can keep up with the Joneses.

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You couldn’t pay ‘em enough.

If this isn’t the most “it’s not easy being a mid-major” story of all, I don’t know what is.

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Saturday morning buffet

A few things to nosh on while you wait for today’s slate of games:

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Filed under Academics? Academics., ACC Football, Auburn's Cast of Thousands, BCS/Playoffs, Gators, Gators..., It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, SEC Football, The Blogosphere

Tuesday morning buffet

Plenty of nourishment this morning…

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Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, College Football, Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, Nick Saban Rules, Recruiting, The Body Is A Temple

“Yes, the money is important.”

Georgia Southern’s president wants us to believe that the cupcakes are in it for more than just the money.  It’s a special opportunity.

“But what is more important is the opportunity our students get to perform on a national stage. When we went to Alabama [in 2011], our football players played in that incredible setting. Our band had the opportunity to march on that field. Our fans got to tailgate on that campus. You can’t put a dollar figure on that kind of experience.”

Gee, that sounds so great, you wonder if Alabama might ask for a refund of half the $400,000 it paid to get GSU to visit in the first place.

In fairness, he actually comes off sounding pretty reasonable if you read the entirety of Barnhart’s piece.  GSU’s in a tough spot.  It’s spending a ton of money to upgrade as it moves to D-1 play, in hopes of bigger travel payouts.  But if the haves separate into a new super division that’s structured to play all its games within, that’s going to leave the Eagles holding a fairly costly bag.

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You want that cupcake on that line. You need that cupcake on that line.

Southern Miss’ Todd Monken thinks that if that new D-1 super bracket comes to fruition, mid-major schools like his ought to take their footballs and stay home, so to speak.

“Go ahead. See how you like that. See how you like the NFL rule and play each other every week. Coaches will be like ‘Whoa, hold on, wait a second now.'”

“Go ahead and do your deal — you guys split all the pie — but don’t go playing anyone else. You just play each other every week. Just have a nice NFL crossover where you play each other. Then when you fire up a nice 7-5, and you’re at a pretty good place and they fire you, they won’t be real excited about it, because you won’t have those games that they’ve been able to win. Plain and simple.”

“Some of those teams that get bowl eligible when they go 2-6 in their league and they go 6-6. Well, you’ll be 2-10, or 3-9, and it won’t feel so damn salty.”

Of course, he admits that comes with a price.

“Schools at our level, until we get done prostituting ourselves are never going to really see those teams to come play you [at their home field],” he said.

I’d love to play Auburn [at home] — they’re not coming. They pay you enough to where you won’t come. They’ll find enough people so that you’ll come.”
I bet you’ll find the records of schools in our league are pretty good when they get to play teams at home. They just don’t get to play them at home, but ’cause they need the money or someone else will do it. That’s the biggest thing — how do you get to where you give yourself a shot, and make them travel?”

Well, refusing to play them won’t help.  Does Monken have a solution?

“I don’t know that,” Monken said. “Obviously it’s very difficult, otherwise they’d be doing it. I understand the issues, when you need revenue streams that don’t exist — I get that. I do.”

“But if you’re asking in a perfect world, we want chances, games that we can win.”

And there’s your state of college football, circa 2013.  In the end, we know they’ll keep cashing those road game checks.

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The cost of being a big fish in a small pond

I don’t know if you remember the last line from a post I referenced last week“At this stage it doesn’t appear (with the possible exception of Boise State) that winning is viewed as anywhere near as important as money.” – but Brian Fremeau spells out what that means in the context of Boise State’s scheduling:

Schedule strength plays into the national championship conversation in several other ways beyond conference affiliation. On one end of the spectrum, there are teams that won’t play any top teams at all. According to our FEI projections, the Boise State Broncos will not face a top-40 opponent this fall and have an overall projected strength of schedule ranked No. 108. The Broncos are the third-most likely team to go undefeated this year according to the FEI projections, but their opportunity to be a BCS title contender is effectively nullified by the lack of a single strong opponent on the schedule.

Fremeau points out that there are other teams with high national profiles playing weak schedules, such as Louisville and Ohio State.  However, because those schools play in AQ conferences, there is a more likely possibility of them playing in the BCS title game, although their margin of error is slight.

BSU has left itself in something of a tight spot.  Granted, nobody’s expecting mid-major refugees like TCU and Utah to sport win totals approaching the Broncos’, but, then again, they’ll be cashing conference TV checks that BSU will envy.  And even a four-team playoff by itself won’t boost Boise State’s chances of playing for a national title.

That leaves BSU scrambling to add marquee games against those higher profile schools to boost its schedule strength, something which, to its credit, it’s trying to do.  The problem is that it’s got a lot of other seasons to fill up… or hope that one of its scheduled non-conference opponents gets better in a hurry.  And it’s made the job of scheduling for itself tougher by looking for home-and-home deals.  I suspect BSU is trying hard to keep itself on ESPN’s Rolodex for another neutral site season opener.  Unfortunately for the Broncos, so are many other schools.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

Big fish, small pond syndrome

You know who the BCS has been better for, relatively speaking?  Mid-major schools who spent lots of money.

The model reveals that selection to play in a “major bowl” is more likely for teams that spend more, have higher attendance and have participated in more bowls in past seasons.  The most dramatic finding from the analysis is the significance and direction of the AQ term.  We find that when we control for the other team characteristics, that AQ conference membership reduces teams’ post season opportunities. The model’s implications are best illustrated graphically.  The figure below shows the relationship between expenditures and major bowl participation for an artificial AQ and Non-AQ school.  The figures are for a school that has participated in 12 minor bowls, 4 major bowls, has won a single national championship and has average attendance of 60,000.  The vertical axis is the probability of a team being selected for a BCS bowl and the horizontal axis is the team’s football expenditures relative to the average expenditures of FBS teams.

For the Non-AQ school, the probability of achieving a major bowl is given for expenditure levels ranging from 50% to 150% of the overall FBS.  For the AQ schools, we plot the probabilities for expenditures ranging from 100% of the average to 250%. When expenditures are controlled for, the probability of playing in a major bowl is significantly greater for Non-AQ schools.  At a spending level equal to the overall FBS average, the model predicts the Non-AQ school has a 14.4% chance at a major bowl, versus just 5% for the AQ school. When a non-AQ spends 150% (think TCU) of the average the probability of a major bowl is about 27%.  For the AQ school this level of spending yields a probability of just 12%.

TCU and Utah have moved up in class, while Boise State has elected to stay in a mid-major conference.  As the author notes, that leads down two very different paths.

… The preceding analysis of the BCS system highlights another aspect of realignment: the consequences for fans versus the incentives of athletic programs.  The cases of TCU and Utah provide examples of non-AQ schools trading off wins for the financial rewards of joining an AQ conference.  The University of Missouri shows how finances can even work across the big 6 conferences.  Missouri football was a competitive Big Twelve program winning 10 or more games 3 times from 2007 to 2011 (and 8 wins the other two years).  In their first year in the SEC, the Tigers went 5-7 and ended their 7 year streak of playing in bowl games.  While the SEC does have a richer set of contracts in place, it also seems likely that Missouri will struggle to be competitive.  The question for fans and for athletic departments is the tradeoff between winning and revenue.  At this stage it doesn’t appear (with the possible exception of Boise State) that winning is viewed as anywhere near as important as money.

True ‘dat.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness

I guess it beats Shreveport.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought this came straight out of The Onion.

Because college football’s Power Five conferences prefer to play each other in bowl games, the smaller conferences are exploring opportunities to create additional bowl games next season, sources said.

As many as nine locations are under consideration to begin bowl games in 2014, according to sources: Miami, Orlando, Little Rock, Ark.; Boca Raton, Fla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Los Angeles; Ireland; Dubai and either Toronto or Nassau, the Bahamas.

How many folks in Dubai you figure would attend a MAC-Sun Belt matchup in mid-December?  Not that ESPN wouldn’t be happy to broadcast it…

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