Monthly Archives: February 2012

They’ve got nobody to blame but themselves.

If you want to understand what’s really behind playoff angst, look no further than Brian Cook’s short and sweet explanation.  Money (see what I did there?) part:

The BCS moved off broadcast to cable. But when paired with declining interest, the cavern between postseason formats screams “grit your teeth and do something literally everyone else wants.”

Gee, who would have figured that a almost total sell out to ESPN of the postseason would have advertisers spending less money?  I mean, why would anybody expect that having fewer games as national broadcasts might impact viewership and advertising?

So now the same guys who drove the car into the ditch are going to be the ones to pull ‘er out and save the day.  Yeah, I feel better already.

This is why I find Stewart Mandel’s wide-eyed disillusion over Larry Scott’s plus-one proposal so amusing.

… No system will be without controversy. Had a four-team playoff with no restrictions been in place last season, one could have argued for as many as eight similarly bunched one- or two-loss teams for the fourth spot. Had there been a conference-champion requirement, there would only have been eight teams eligible for that final spot — and one would have been 8-4 Louisiana Tech.

That doesn’t make sense either.

It’s unknown at this point how many other key decision-makers share Scott’s opinion. (We know at least one who doesn’t: Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick, whose independent school holds a seat at the table alongside the 11 conferences.) But they’ll discuss this angle extensively, and it’s easy to see why they’d find it attractive. The commissioners represent their conferences first and foremost, and the more the bids are dispersed, the more their member schools stand to benefit.

But a conference champion restriction runs antithetical to two other key issues BCS leaders are currently addressing. For one, they’re already trying to disentangle themselves from the BCS’ longstanding AQ/non-AQ conference structure, primarily because it shoehorns undeserving teams into some of the most coveted bowl spots. This would possibly do the same thing, only with greater implications.

Meanwhile, Bill Hancock and Co. have repeatedly expressed concern about “bracket creep,” i.e., the inevitability that a four-team playoff will produce pressure to expand to eight, then 16.

Well, there’s one surefire way to make that happen: Stage a four-team playoff that includes the nation’s 10th-best team.

What Mandel fails to grasp is that any format these people pitch is going to fall apart in the same way, because they’ve adopted such an amorphous goal behind their designs.  Once you get past trying to redress the truly grievous shortcomings we’ve seen now and then in the BCS, like Auburn 2004, it’s all nothing more than a bunch of tradeoffs that are bound to leave plenty of folks dissatisfied.  And when you’re talking about the kind of money that’s involved here, that only means more tinkering.

Add in what appears to be another goal of Scott here – to make sure that the SEC doesn’t crowd out the other big conferences at the plus-one table – and you’ve got a recipe for bracket creep stew.  It’s weird that the Rematch may turn out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to the D-1 postseason, but more and more that’s what it looks like.

Of course, the irony is that if we get something like what Scott has in mind, the possibility of excluding an Alabama from a future semi-final game to include a clearly inferior conference champ will have these same people going back to the drawing board.

Don’t forget that Scott is considered to be one of the sharpest minds in college athletics.


UPDATE:  Hey!  Now there’s a kindler, gentler euphemism for “bracket creep”.

There will be 124 teams in the FCS this season. The Ivy League and Southwestern Athletic Conference don’t send their champions to the playoffs, but the Pioneer League desperately wants an automatic bid for its champion, and Emmert seems to realize the league has been getting the shaft while 10 other conferences claim one. Bracket expansion would send the PFL champ to the playoffs as well as increase the number of at-large bids from 10 to 13.

Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.  It’s still going to 24 in another year.



Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

More on this year’s Crime of the Century

I wouldn’t have arrested her for stealing the hash browns, but I might have done so for this:

… The police report also stated that Shultis removed the hashbrowns from her pants and tried to put them back on the food counter when she realized she’d been spotted.

Eww.  Bad form, girl.


Filed under Crime and Punishment

Manifest destiny: the SEC’s new TV deal

One thing to consider as you scratch your head, shake your fist, pound the table, shrug your shoulders or whatever else you might do in response to the SEC’s grand poobahs’ struggle with what to do about conference scheduling is that these guys genuinely believe themselves to be the cat’s meow as marketers.

That’s what the numbers tell them, anyway.

According to Nielsen, the SEC was far and away the most watched conference in college football last fall.

The league averaged a shade under 4.5 million viewers per telecast. That figure was about 1.2 million more than the next-highest conference, the Big Ten with almost 3.3 million per telecast. Believe it or not, the third-highest conference was the ACC with 2.65 million viewers per telecast. The Big 12 was fourth with 2.3 million per telecast, the Pac-12 was fifth with 2.1 million per telecast, and the Big East was sixth with 1.9 million per telecast.

You draw 50% more viewership than your closest competitor, that can give you the big head.  And there’s no question that SEC football has a special cachet that translates handsomely into the bottom line.  Just ask Texas A&M.

But there’s something else to keep in mind, too.  The conference which draws the most eyeballs by a wide margin has only the third best broadcast deal as compensation for that.  In other words, while these guys may see themselves as geniuses, reality suggests they’re far from infallible.

So when Seth Emerson writes,

The ACC and the Pac-12 went to nine games because in part there are more teams in those leagues that can give up a home guarantee game. The likes of Duke, Wake Forest, Maryland, Utah and Washington State aren’t selling out every home game. But SEC teams can schedule almost anybody and fill up their stadium…

I think that’s both accurate on his part and shortsighted on the part of those he’s writing about.  For one thing, there’s no way anybody knows today what the impact over the next few years will be on, say, the Georgia fan base, if the Auburn game is replaced with a home game against a steady stream of cupcake schools.  (Home schedules like this year’s aren’t exactly endearing Greg McGarity to the people making Hartman Fund contributions and buying season tickets.)

For another, besides the reason Emerson mentions, those other conferences adding a ninth game are doing so because it makes good business sense to enhance their broadcast product.  The SEC has already guessed wrong on TV, a mistake it’s trying to fix through conference expansion.  It could be wrong again.  Maybe we SEC folks are fanatical enough to watch Arkansas play a Sun Belt school instead of a good Pac-12 conference matchup, but is the typical college football fan?

I don’t know.  And it’s fair to say that once Slive gets the new TV deals in place, the conference won’t care for a while.  It’s natural to rest after a big kill.  But if there is attrition down the road, if the moves that are made this summer dim fan enthusiasm and impact revenues – which is what these guys ultimately care about – will they be able to get the genie back in the bottle by making corrections?

My heart says that may be difficult because they’re not as smart as they think they are.  But my head says we should never underestimate the American sports fan’s willingness to get dumped on by the people in charge and come back for more.  It’s how we’re wired.  They count on that.  So don’t get your hopes up with what they’re getting ready to do.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

The spread is what happens when spring practice isn’t man enough.

Chris Brown links to this fascinating history of spring football by Sports Illustrated.  There’s a quote from Bobby Bowden that caught my eye.  It’s about one major development which occurred in the wake of the practice restrictions the NCAA put in place in the late ’90s:

… The limit on the number of full-contact days unintentionally helped bring about an offensive revolution. With power-running programs unable to practice as they had before, coaches put players in pads and shorts and spread them across the field, working on one-on-one drills and operating in space. The result: a proliferation of the spread offense, run in some form by dozens of teams.

“You can coach the spread all year round,” says Bowden. “That rule of limiting contact in spring practice absolutely led to a shift in what offenses you see in college football today.”

Honestly, that never occurred to me before, but I can see a certain logic to it.  What do y’all think about that?

(By the way, the answer to Chris’ question in his header is “because we can”.  Just sayin’.)


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

Saban goes all in on multi-year scholarships.

And I mean all in.

“We’re going to offer four-year scholarships,” Saban said. “Our whole conference is going to do it, all the schools, I think.

“And we’re happy to do it.”

My first thought upon reading that was the marketplace has spoken.  Saban’s been getting negative feedback on the recruiting trail about his recruiting practices and that, combined with Auburn’s embrace of multi-year scholarships, left him little choice but to follow suit.

My second thought is that he’s already two steps ahead of everyone else in figuring out how to game the system.

… However, Saban said he has “no problem” with multiyear scholarships because “they aren’t that big of a change.”

“Most of the conditions are still the same,” he says. “The player will still have to be academically eligible. He will still have to obey team rules and regulations. And the player is still going to have the same rights and the same appeals process that he has now.”

Saban’s stand goes against speculation that Alabama — which has had high attrition rates in recent offseasons — would be a holdout in the move to multiyear scholarships because it would make it more difficult to “cut” players.

“We don’t cut players,” Saban said. “I don’t know anyone who does. So I don’t think that’s an issue.”

In his mind, it probably isn’t.

My third thought is that the first time he uses this to negatively recruit against SOD and Spurrier, it’s going to be priceless.


UPDATE:  Michael Felder mulls this over.


Filed under Nick Saban Rules, Recruiting

These are the times that try athletic directors’ souls.

Yesterday I mentioned that “… the question you need to be asking yourself is which [conference scheduling format] results in CBS and ESPN writing the biggest checks.  Because I guarantee you that’s the one the McGaritys and Stricklins will be asking”?

Greg McGarity goes there.  Exactly.

“Many SEC fans have a decision whether to come to our game, or sit at home in front of their 60-inch HDTV,” McGarity said. “Would they be more likely to come to a conference game as opposed to a guaranteed (nonconference) game? I’d probably say yes.”

By the way, could somebody please tell Scott Stricklin to STFU?

Stricklin opposes nine SEC games because it could leave Mississippi State ineligible for a bowl. So he wonders about trying to change the NCAA rule requiring round-robin divisional play to stage a conference championship game. That could produce schedules with five of six divisional opponents, one cross-division permanent partner and two rotating opponents from the opposite division. The drawback, Stricklin noted, occurs if the two best teams in a division don’t play each other.

“You have to figure out what’s more important: Do you just worry about playing everybody in your division, or play everybody as often as possible?” Stricklin said. “I don’t know the answer.”

Another idea Stricklin has for all sports with unbalanced schedules: Play some teams based on the previous year’s standings. For instance, football division champions would always play the next year, as would the second-place teams, and so on.

Read the rest of the article.  There’s almost no common ground between the ADs; they’ve all got their own agendas they’re pursuing.  And there are financial and practical considerations on the horizon that little thought has been given to, I suspect, like this:

Nonconference scheduling is an X factor. The SEC soon could have more trouble scheduling high-profile teams out of conference once the ACC switches to nine league games and an annual series between the Pac-12 and Big Ten starts in 2017.

Mike Slive has his work cut out for him.


Filed under SEC Football

When college football grows up, it wants to be just like the NFL.

Just shoot me.

As for the potential playoff format, Scott agreed with the position of the Big Ten, first reported by The Chicago Tribune, which favored home sites for the semifinal games and a neutral site for the championship game. After a number of discussions with the N.F.L., Scott said, following its model made sense.

“There’s a reason that in the N.F.L. they only play the Super Bowl as a neutral-site game,” he said. “There’s a reason they play playoffs and A.F.C. and N.F.C. championships with home hosting.”

Scott added that the Pac-12 chose a campus-hosting model for its title game because he felt it would create the best atmosphere. Fans, he said, would be unlikely to travel to two neutral sites in 10 days.

“If the N.F.L. thought that they could support that model, they would,” he said.

Since when did the NFL become the touchstone for what college football should aspire to?  (Don’t answer that.)

The thing is, I like playing the semi-final games on campus, for exactly the non-NFL reasons Scott cites.  It’s the idea that college football – which bases a good deal of its appeal on its uniqueness – needs to take the next step by modeling itself on the most bland and bloodlessly operated sport in the world that I find so depressing.

I know, I know – but the NFL makes so much money!

This is only going to get worse.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Some things are beyond changing.

In case you were wondering, the BCS negotiations aren’t inspiring the usual suspects to join hands and sing Kumbaya around the campfire.

It’s unusual for properties like the BCS to hire multiple consultants to handle media rights negotiations, although it’s not unprecedented. The NCAA used two consultants to negotiate its deal with Turner and CBS — Gerber and former Turner Sports executive Kevin O’Malley. IMG’s Barry Frank worked on the current BCS contract, while O’Malley has consulted with the BCS in the past.

But industry sources indicated that the BCS could not agree on Gerber or Jordan individually. Gerber is close to SEC Commissioner Mike Slive; Jordan has strong ties with Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany. Slive and Delany generally are considered the power brokers among major conference commissioners, and it’s not surprising that they each pressed for their own man to be involved, sources said.

No, it’s not surprising at all.

Slive and Delany.  They’ll always have each other.

Comments Off on Some things are beyond changing.

Filed under Big Ten Football, SEC Football

In for a penny, in for a pound.

North Carolina’s AD favors a 128-team basketball tournament.  It’s all about the math… and judiciously trimming the regular season.

… Until 1985, when the field was expanded from 48 to 64 teams, an NCAA bid was ridiculously difficult to land mathematically.

From 1953 through 1974, the field was limited to 22 qualifiers at a time when about 225 teams were eligible. That’s 9.7 percent.

During most of those years, MLB had 16 teams and only the National and American League champs played on after the final regular season games. That still comes out 12.5 percent.

The popular theory is that an expansion to 128 teams would wipe out postseason conference tournaments. Cunningham doesn’t entirely agree.

“There are lot of models that would have to be considered,” he said.

One possibility would be to eliminate one of two regular-season games from the early schedule, then start and conference regular-season schedules earlier.

Whichever makes the most money wins.  Same as it ever was.

Good thing the people making decisions about this aren’t the same people entrusted with college football’s postsea… uh, never mind.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

One difference between Spurrier and SOD

… is that the Evil Genius doesn’t try to blow smoke up anybody’s ass about oversigning being good for the kids:

What did you think about Alabama asking two longtime commitments to take grayshirts a few weeks before signing day? “That happened to us last year [in February 2011], and we caught a little grief for it. We had two players that had not qualified yet. We were waiting on Jadeveon Clowney [who announced more than a week after signing day]. Of course, we weren’t going to call Clowney and say ‘By the way, we’ve got a player down in central Florida. He hasn’t qualified yet and it doesn’t look like he’s going to but we have to save a spot for him. So we’re not going to recruit you anymore, Clowney.’ Now would that have made sense? Of course not. So we called the player down there who had not qualified and told him ‘We’re still going to take you. But if you qualify, you’re going to have to wait to come in January. So he didn’t qualify, as well as another player didn’t qualify. But we did have to tell them that. We picked actually two young men that were the furthest from qualifying – that’s how we handled it. Because of all of sudden, you get a top player like Jadeveon Clowney, and sometimes you have to take bad press on that. That’s what happened with Alabama. I read the story about the kid who had the knee operation or something. Alabama thought he wouldn’t be ready to play next year, so they asked him to come in January. But he didn’t want to do that, I guess. What would you do? You’ve got a great player coming, and then you’ve got a player injured or may not qualify. That’s a tough call right there.”

I also find it interesting that Spurrier isn’t having a cow over the new 25-player limit rule the conference imposed, unlike a certain urnge pants-wearing fellow I could mention.


Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Recruiting, The Evil Genius