Daily Archives: January 25, 2011

The Mountain West’s Pyrrhic victory

I’m sure on one level the MWC is getting a lot of pleasure out of gutting the WAC, but if the news about Utah State and San Jose State being expansion targets is true, isn’t that tantamount to a surrender on the AQ-slot in the BCS front?  Apologies to Boise State, but nobody is going to confuse the WAC replacements as a group with the MWC’s outgoing losses.

The one plus I can see is it looks like the MWC may be headed towards twelve members, which means it’ll be the next mid-major conference to generate revenues with its own championship game.  If nothing else, that’ll help pay Arent Fox’s lobbying bills.

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UPDATE: The Mountain West decides to play the cards it’s been dealt.  The BCS dream lives on, I suppose.

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

Hey, wasn’t David Pollack a three-star recruit?

As far as I’m concerned, Matt Hinton does the Lord’s work with his posts skewering what I refer to as the macro versus the micro approach to recruiting success.  What I mean by that are the people who conflate the individual success story of the plucky obscure signee who becomes an All-American into an overall approach to recruiting.  You know who I mean – the people who claim that they’d rather have a team made up of hard-working two and three-star recruits than see their school chase after the high-profile guys, because, after all, look at the all-stars who weren’t highly sought after coming out of high school, yada, yada, yada…

The next time somebody makes that argument within earshot, send him or her here.  In particular, this:

On the other hand, if you consider the initial grade as a kind of investment – a projection of the how likely a player is of becoming an elite contributor compared to rest of the field – well, you’d put your money with the “experts” over the chances of finding the proverbial diamond in the rough every time:

Of course, a large number of players in that sample size haven’t finished their careers, but you can divide up the numbers over any time period you’d like – one year, five years, 10 years: The ratio always looks identical on a per-capita basis, and it is not a crapshoot. Four and five-star players are roughly seven times as likely as two and three-star players to land on an All-America team, and the numbers in the NFL Draft tend to be even even more lopsided toward the hyped recruits. All the more reason to want as many of them as you can get your hands on.

Coaches chase the studs not because they’re a guarantee of success, but because the odds are better that they’ll succeed.  If you could sign an unlimited number of recruits and winnow the chaff, it wouldn’t matter.  But when you’ve only got 25/85 chances to get it right, logic suggests you’re going to gravitate towards the surer option every time you get the chance.  Or does anybody really think Nick Saban does what he does because he wants to finish first in Rivals’ recruiting rankings?

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“But hey, nobody told [the Big Ten] they had to do that.”

Andy Staples has a good piece up about oversigning (the header quote is from Tommy “You Can Take The Coach Out Of The SEC, But You Can’t Take The SEC Out Of The Coach” Tuberville) that neatly illustrates why I’m somewhat ambivalent about the practice.

Staples highlights two issues:

… The question of regulation is two-pronged. First, is oversigning harmful to the welfare of the student-athlete? When a player is told in July that the scholarship he was promised almost a year earlier has evaporated, it absolutely is harmful. It also harms the welfare of athletes who become victims of offseason purges to clear scholarship spots for new signees.

Second, does oversigning offer a competitive advantage by allowing coaches who oversign to make more recruiting mistakes than their colleagues who refuse to engage in the practice? Ohio State fan site the-ozone.net produced a fascinating post in December that examined the differences in players signed between Big Ten and SEC teams and their bowl opponents. In the Sugar Bowl, Ohio State faced an Arkansas team that had signed 30 more players than the Buckeyes in a four-year period. In the BCS title game, Oregon faced an Auburn team that had signed 19 more players than the Ducks over a four-year period.

The coaches who signed more players had a chance to erase their mistakes. The coaches who signed fewer had to live with their mistakes. That certainly seems like a competitive advantage…

The second of these doesn’t really bother me.  As Tuberville notes, that’s a choice conferences like the Big Ten have made.  As long as oversigning doesn’t violate any rules, it’s hard to see what they have to get worked up about.  (And it’s not as if the Big Ten doesn’t enjoy a few competitive advantages of its own.)

But the first… yeah, that can be problematic, although the real issue I have there is with coaches who are too stupid or careless to manage their numbers properly.  Which is why you have to admire – okay, maybe in a perverse way – Nick Saban’s brutal honesty.

Give Saban credit. At least he tells recruits they might get cut to clear space for newer signees. When the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun-News interviewed seven participants in the Offense-Defense Bowl about the topic of the one-year, renewable scholarship, only one, Alabama commitment Christion Jones, knew his scholarship had to be renewed annually. “Coach Saban told me it’s a one-year scholarship you have to work for,” Jones told the paper. “Some coaches don’t tell some kids. Some kids have to find out the hard way.”

Shoot me if you’d like, but I don’t have a problem with that approach.  It’s in line with the rules, albeit in a starkly Darwinian sort of way, and whatever else you might think of it, you have to at least admit that kids going into the Alabama program know the risks before they sign that NLI.  It sure beats what Les Miles pulled with Elliott Porter.  (Speaking of which, how weird has Porter’s story gotten?)

Staples ends the article with a few suggestions about how to curtail oversigning.  I wouldn’t mind seeing coaches get punished for their carelessness, but I suspect if anything happens on this front, it’ll be because some schools get fed up about the perceived competitive advantage.  If there’s one thing we know in this day and age about college athletics, it’s that after paying lip service to the concerns of the student-athlete, the schools will do what they believe is best for themselves.

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You’re killing me, Smalls.

Ray Drew, my hero.

Finally, a high school recruit who gets what January’s highest and best purpose is – to screw with every recruiting service out there (not to mention the people who spend ridiculous amounts of money to hang on the words of seventeen-year old strangers).

You’ve got a bright future ahead of you, son.

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