Monthly Archives: June 2012

Watching the selectives

I mentioned that while the money fight from the new postseason would get most of the attention, the selection committee would be the place where the real action is.

It turns out that the two may be joined at the hip.  Per Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick,

The most notable revelations from Swarbrick on Wednesday were the criteria ND must meet to qualify for consideration for the top tier of bowls in years the Irish fall short of the Final Four, and that a selection committee will be charged with not only designating the four teams to play for the national title, but creating weekly standings of what it considers to be the top 20 teams from midseason on.

Twenty teams?  Why so, when only four qualify for the national playoff?  Well, because it’s the teams that show up in the next eight slots that will be eligible as at-large schools to play in the top bowls.  And that’s big.

But because there are six bowls that will rotate as hosts as the national semifinals and because of bowl tie-ins with the Rose, Champions and Orange bowls, there may be years with very limited at-large spots available.

“Because of the complexity of the Rose and Champions bowls and the Orange Bowl,” Swarbrick said, “it’s impossible in any year to say it’ll be ‘X’ spots available for teams 5-12.”

If you’re a school not in one of the big five conferences, your window of opportunity has just shrunk.  I’m amazed Swarbrick signed off on this.  If the day comes when Notre Dame has to join a conference, you’ll probably be able to point to this as why.

All this is all the more reason the selection process itself has to be transparent.  With this much at stake, financially speaking, being placed on it, there will be tremendous pressure to see certain schools’ appearance.

Publishing weekly results is nice, but if nobody knows how the results were tabulated and the committee isn’t required to explain them, it’s hardly going to matter.  The way the BCS results flipped in 2007 after West Virginia lost in the last game of its regular season left a bad taste in a lot of Georgia fans’ mouths.  That kind of unexplained reshuffling by a selection committee won’t sit any better – at least not with the public.

5 Comments

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

One track mind

There is an old joke about Jewish folks of a certain generation and their ability to see the world solely through the single lens of “yes, but is it good for the Jews?”.  No matter how insignificant or how secular any matter might be, its sole justification to exist for those folks was a positive response to that question.

I mention that only because I think I’ve discovered a similar mindset in the world of college football.

23 Comments

Filed under Whoa, oh, Alabama

The tao of college football

As I do with everything he writes, I read this Chris Brown post about the meaning of being crowned a champion and, more specifically, how a playoff contributes to that with interest.  And I agree with his main point.  A single elimination tourney isn’t about determining the best team.  It’s about producing some finality to a sports season.

But I don’t buy into his conclusion, at least not completely.

… Which is really the issue here. No one has any idea what being “National Champion” ought to mean — especially in college football where you have over a hundred D-1 programs and no team can come close to playing all the others. A playoff would simply lay some ground rules people could follow. As it stands, without a playoff, everyone may mount their high horse and argue past each other.

First of all, we’ve got a playoff, but I doubt there are a huge number of people who think the arguments are going to end.  Some are going to be dissatisfied with the structure itself (the eight or sixteen teams would be better crowd), some are going to be unhappy with the selection process itself (I suspect I’m going to wind up in this bunch, but I’m keeping an open mind for now) and some are going to be unhappy with the results of which schools qualify and which don’t at the third and fourth spots.

Second, the smaller you commit to keeping the postseason field, the more likely it is that you keep one of Chris’ shortcomings – “some clunker teams can be crowned, some historically great teams will get the relative shaft” – at bay.  Now we can argue about what the appropriate number is, but it’s hard to see how a four-team playoff is going to do a worse job of that than a sixteen-school field.  (Of course, if you like Cinderellas, then this is more a bug than a feature.)

But the third thing that bothers me isn’t about the method to a college football playoff.  It’s about the motivation behind it.  And history tells us that has nothing to do with finality or quality of the playoff field.  It’s just about the money.  Which leads me to my second quote:

But here’s the problem, and no, this is not a defense of the BCS, which history will find was merely a precursor to what comes next. The problem is that the power has now shifted to the big football schools, and when they find that four teams are not enough of a playoff structure, it will shift that way even more.

And the real argument will not be four teams, or eight teams, or 16 teams, or who picks them, anyway. It will be, as it has always been, how the money gets split, and the betting is as it has always been, that it will be split among the 64 or so members of the 2Big22SeCPac Conference, not among the more general populace, and not among the bowl committees.

We’re not getting a playoff because there’s been some miraculous consensus that we fans have been cheated out of quality national title games.  The BCS is far from perfect, but it was better than the process it replaced and judging from the sport’s increasing popularity during its existence, it did more good than harm.  Nah, we’re getting a playoff because several commissioners were dismayed at a national title game that excluded every conference in the country but one and because there was a down tick in the viewership and attendance numbers for the last postseason.  Now ask yourselves what difference a four-team playoff will make the next time those circumstances crop up.  Honesty should compel you to admit probably not a damned thing.

I also read a couple of posts from Spencer Hall and Luke Zimmerman yesterday that suggest my angst is misplaced.  As the latter succinctly put it, “Never forget: it’s not the football that makes college football great, it’s the rules and regulations that govern the football. Rest in peace, college football.”

And, in a way, I get where they’re coming from.  The sun came up this morning.  The football is still oblong-shaped.  The field is still 100 yards long.  A touchdown still counts for six points.  There are still eleven men to a side.  But you know what?  I can say the same things about the NFL.  None of that changes that pro football bores me to tears while college football matters enough to me to blog about it for five-plus years.

I know I’m treading dangerously into old fogeyism here, but what dismays me about the sport I love is the rapid pace its keepers are maintaining in the money race.  A year ago, Jim Delany was railing like an Old Testament prophet about the dangers of a four-team playoff.  Yesterday, he was a grinning fool about a four-team playoff.  The presidents made short shrift of a decision we’d been warned could take a much longer period of time.

And that’s just a part of the picture.  Conference realignment and expansion have proceeded at a dizzying pace, as well.  TCU jumped in and out and in two new conferences in a matter of weeks and nobody batted an eye (in fact, the Big East is being mocked for suing the school over its departure).  Patrick Vint and I snickered a little bit during last night’s podcast over Georgia’s SEC East opener in Columbia, Missouri because the geographics are somewhat ludicrous.  Except Mike Slive and the presidents don’t really care about that, because it was part of a necessary step to obtain more TV revenue.

I’ve tried to figure out a way to express where things are going for a while and I’m still struggling with it.  What I feel is that if you look at football’s appeal on an axis with the purely local pull of high school football at one end and the national appeal of the NFL on the other, college football, which once sat in the middle (call it regional appeal, for want of a better word), finds itself sliding towards the NFL end of the line.  The money is too attractive for them.  The results are not likely to be so much for us.

That’s why I find news like this,

Don’t look for news any time soon on Georgia’s future football scheduling – SEC and otherwise.

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said everything is essentially in a holding pattern, thanks in large part to Tuesday’s news that college football is going to a four-team playoff starting with the 2014 season.

The importance of strength of schedule in deciding those four teams is unknown, and McGarity said that will be key for SEC teams as they put together their non-conference schedules.

… both expected and depressing all at the same time.  The media pulls us that way, the money pushes the decision makers that way, the coaches accept the new conditions and seek to manipulate them to their advantage (see, for example, Les Miles and Steve Spurrier on conference scheduling) and the rest of us follow along as best we can.

I think what’s bothered me the most all along about the playoff debate isn’t the notion of a playoff itself.  It’s the “it’s so easy” mentality that so many bring to the debate, which in essence boils down to two things:  one, that the game is fairly indestructible, and two, that ultimately the people in charge are as rational as playoff supporters imagine themselves to be.  Sorry, but as much as people like Slive, Delany and Scott are lionized, they aren’t geniuses.  They’re powerful, they may or may not be shrewd, but what they really happen to be are people lucky enough to have been entrusted with the stewardship of something that matters very much to a large number of enthusiasts.  That’s no guarantee they won’t fuck things up.  And there’s very little in their bodies of work to suggest otherwise.

So, I look to hold on to what I love as long as I can.  I hope I’m wrong about my misgivings, but I fear I’m right.  Time will tell.

35 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

A GTP housekeeping reader poll

As much as I prefer the freewheeling nature of the comments section here at the blog, I have to admit that I’m getting tired of being GTP‘s cop on the beat.  I find that I spend way more time than I’d like going through comments to make sure I’m not being played by posters employing sockpuppets to reinforce their point of view.  (I’m also getting tired of a couple of very clever spammers who’ve figured out how to get around WP’s antispam stuff.)  Judging from the steady flow of e-mails I receive, there are quite a few of you who are also unhappy about the sockpuppetry.

A lot of you make very clever use of monikers and I’d hate to lose that, but I’m not sure I’m willing to pay the price for that any longer.  WordPress gives me some options:  I can require that commenters have to register first before they can comment and I can also set things up so that no comments can appear without either my prior approval of the poster or ongoing approval of each comment.  (The last seems like even more trouble than what I’m already doing, to be honest.)

Anyway, I haven’t decided what to do yet, and in any event, I wanted input from you guys before I did something.  So I’ve embedded a poll to get your opinion on my options.  Please give me as much feedback on it and in the comments as you can.

It’s worth saying at this point that I appreciate all my readers and commenters.  You make GTP what it is.  And thanks for your help with this.

98 Comments

Filed under GTP Stuff

In which I defend the honor of the chicken sandwich and other matters…

I had a blast doing this with Patrick:

I hope you’ll give a listen.

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UPDATE:  Patrick didn’t play the theme song before we spoke, so I didn’t hear it until today.  It’s awesome.

4 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Who leaves an extra $500 million on the table?

Back in April when Seth Emerson interviewed me about the postseason changes coming, he asked me a good question:  if the commissioners and presidents vote in a new deal which raises much more money that the BCS does, why would they wait until 2014 to start it?  Sure, there are some daunting logistics involved, but for that kind of money, I’d definitely roll up my sleeves and get cracking.

I guess what I’m saying is that I wouldn’t be surprised to hear an announcement in the next few months that the timetable for the four-team playoff was being moved forward.

13 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness

85-man rosters are so overrated.

If you haven’t heard, unfortunately John Atkins just missed on his ACT qualifying score and so won’t be in Athens this fall.  This leaves Mark Richt well under the maximum limit of players on scholarship for the 2012 season.  If you’re wondering where Georgia fares in comparison with its SEC peers, here’s your answer:

1. Alabama and Miss St (87) – must eliminate 2 players by August
3. LSU & South Carolina (85)
5. Kentucky & Missouri (81)
7. Arkansas (80)
8. Florida, Texas A&M, & Vanderbilt (79)
11. Ole Miss & Tennessee (78)
13. Auburn (75)
14. Georgia (73) – does not include 5 non-rated walk-ons currently on
scholarship (last season UGA had 11 walk-ons on scholarship)

Ouch.

Grantham, with his NFL background, probably thinks he’s still dealing with an abundance of resources, but between suspensions and potential injuries, count me in with the nervous.  Not much of a margin for error there.

Two things to take away from this:  first, for all the hand wringing we’ve done about special teams coaching, we ought to be a helluva lot more worried about what the implications of Richt’s “all hands on deck” requirement for special teams personnel are and second, Georgia’s 2013 recruiting class had better kick some righteous ass from a quantity and quality standpoint.

107 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

A four-team playoff, if you can keep it.

And so, the presidents and commissioners have replaced the BCS… with a bigger version of the BCS.  Mark Schlabach summarizes what that means.

Contrary to what many of you probably think, I’m okay with the move, provided it’s as far as they intend to go.  I will say, based on this quote from Harvey Perlman, that bracket creep is on their minds.

“I think it’s everyone’s concern,” Pearlman [sic] said. “There was a conversation about which one of these models — the plus-one or the four-team — would alleviate the pressure of broadening the playoffs as we moved forward. There are one of two things you can do — add games or take games away from the regular season, and neither one of them is good.”

Of course, keep in mind that Perlman favored a plus-one, the more unstable of the two expansion options, so perhaps his observations should be taken with a grain of salt.

The suits have made a twelve-year commitment to the new regime, trying to show they’re serious about bracket creep, but if there’s one thing we all know about college football these days it’s that if there’s enough money at stake, minds can be changed.  There’s also what we don’t know.  How do these geniuses react to the next crisis?  We know that’s going to come sooner or later.

Anyway, here are a few random questions and observations:

  • They’ve solved the Auburn 2004 debacle, but is that enough?  I think worrying about a season in which five major conference schools go undefeated is a bit of a stretch, but Jerry Palm lays out a number of situations which aren’t.  The fact is that when it comes to a freakish season like 2007, there’s no way to satisfy everyone without a much larger playoff than is needed in most other seasons.  On the other hand, I expect to hear complaining about this often and loudly:  “We go from leaving out the No. 3 team to leaving out the No. 5 team, but because of the arbitrary nature of rankings, most years, the fifth-ranked team is just as good, if not better, than the third-ranked team.”
  • Not so fast, my friend.  John Infante points out that a couple of housekeeping issues have to be run by the NCAA before an expanded playoff is greenlighted:  Two small rule changes need to be made. First, the playoff will need to be added to the list of games that teams can play past the end of the regular season. Second, the playoff will need to be added as an exemption to the maximum number of games a team can play in a season.”  In ordinary times, I’d expect that to be rubber stamped.  It probably will be, but would anyone be surprised if the NCAA tried to extract some quid for its pro quo?
  • Irony abounds.  As Jon Wilner points out, it took an all-SEC title game to propel the commissioners and presidents to give Mike Slive what he’s wanted all along, a four-team playoff with no conference championship requirement.  I can’t wait to hear the reaction when we get another SEC rematch in the new postseason.
  • If this is what Larry Scott means when he says it’s good for the Rose Bowl, I’d hate to see what’s bad.  Again, a good point from Wilner:  “Other than the National Championship Game, the Granddaddy was the top dog in the BCS system. Now, in the years it’s not hosting one of the semifinals, it’s on the third tier.”  To varying degrees, that’s true of all the BCS bowls.  All that’s been sacrificed so that the nouveau riche like Jerry Jones can shower money on the conferences.  For all the lip service otherwise, make no mistake about it – the bowls come out of this round as losers.  That’s a postseason trend definitely worth keeping an eye on.
  • College football got five billion dollars and all I got was this lousy discounted hotel room.  My first impulse was to give Gene Smith today’s Somebody Tell This Guy To Shut Up Award for this observation:  “You play New Year’s Eve, and the championship will be played on Monday the 8th, 9th or whatever it ends up being. That’s an expensive venture. What are we going to do for those families, let alone the fans?” Smith said.  “I worry about the parents of the athletes. They’re going to be in a box. I think we need to continue to talk and see if there’s a strategy we can put in place legislatively to do something for them. . . . I don’t know if it’s discounted hotel rooms or something of that nature. We’ve just got to figure something out.”  But face it, that’s probably the most generous thought anyone’s going to have about the fans, parents and student-athletes.  And a few years down the road, when this whole deal gets kicked up another notch, nobody’s going to give a rat’s ass about travel anyway.
  • I got ‘yer strength of schedule right here.  If the selection committee is going to consider strength of schedule as a component of playoff admission – and if Bill Hancock says it is, you can pretty much make bank on it – Marc Weiszer offers a subversive way to measure that.  After noting the Sagarin ratings for Georgia’s 2012 opponents, he concludes, “Georgia was still sending out emails on Monday with tickets available for the Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt games in September.”  Painful, but devious.  I love it.  Seriously, this is going to be a major battleground for the committee, perhaps the battleground.  If the SEC finds itself being punished for its eight-game conference schedule, how will it react?  (Assuming the networks haven’t gotten there first, of course.)  On the other hand, if they bail on including SOS in the selection committee deliberations, expect to see more news like this.  Settling it on the field only goes so far, you know.

I’m a skeptic, so you’ll have to pardon me if I have my doubts they can really hold the line.  As far as I can tell, the only thing keeping a four-game playoff in check is the threat to regular season broadcast revenues that an expanded playoff would pose.  If the commissioners ever get to a point where that’s no longer something they fear, it’ll be Katy bar the door.  Let’s see how long the brave talk keeps up.

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UPDATE:  Year2 is surprisingly breezy (“Now, tell me again why bracket creep is an issue?”) about the prospects for bracket creep.  As I mentioned above, I agree that regular season broadcast revenue is the current bar to postseason expansion, and it’s a strong one, but if I can be a party pooper for one moment, it’s worth noting that:

  1. A year ago, people like Jim Delany were warning us that a move to a four-team playoff would open Pandora’s Box with regard to expansion.  Yet here we are.
  2. The lesson the commissioners take from this round of change to the BCS is that they can increase postseason revenues significantly without killing the regular season golden goose.  What makes anyone think they won’t try again?  That means we’re counting on their ability to calibrate the impact of postseason expansion on what the networks are willing to pay to show their regular season product.  (Remember, these are the same people who tried to push March Madness to a field of 96 until they discovered nobody was willing to pay for the extra product.  Let’s just say I’m not impressed with their mad skillz in the calibration department.)  If they overshoot their mark, too bad,  that’ll be it.  They’ll spend their future chasing their tails on playoff expansion, because that where the new money will be.  And they’ll need it to make up for what they’d lose on regular season revenue.

Bottom line, I’d say he’s a lot more confident in Slive and Delany (and whoever follows them) being rational actors than I am.

30 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

“I always had these jobs where they were pretty desperate…”

I never know whether it’s worth the effort to link to something Spencer Hall posts, since I figure most of you are loyal EDSBS readers already.  (If not, you should be.)  But on the odd chance that some of you haven’t seen it, make sure you catch his interview with Hal Mumme.  It’s an entertaining read.

There’s only one topic Hall didn’t touch on that I wish he had.  For obvious reasons, I’d love to hear Mumme try to justify his now infamous vote for Hawaii at number one in the final regular season 2007 Coaches Poll.

6 Comments

Filed under College Football, Mumme Poll

Stanley Jackson’s “no education experience” – what’s good enough for Ohio State is good enough for Ohio.

Ohio Governor John Kasich is not exactly Mr. Popularity with his constituents these days.  So what better way to shore up support than calling in a former Buckeye quarterback to become a part of his administration?

Alas, as is often the case in such matters, the devil’s in the details.

53 Comments

Filed under Big Ten Football, Political Wankery