Daily Archives: February 16, 2018

The Auburn Way

Would it surprise you to learn this?

The new batch of data was unambiguous. Half of the students in one major were athletes. One in three black players on Auburn’s football team was enrolled in the program.

Rather than question how this might have happened, the university’s provost instead offered a plan: Create more programs like it.

“The following report points to the need for more majors that have enough elective courses etc.,” Timothy R. Boosinger, the provost at the time, wrote in the late winter of 2015 to G. Jay Gogue, who was then the president. So many athletes concentrated in one major — public administration — can attract controversy, and it did. Offering more programs with similarly flexible requirements would, Boosinger implied, solve the problem.

The provost assured the president that those other programs were in the works, and that he had met with Jay Jacobs, who was then the athletic director, “to discuss the new offerings that are in the pipeline.”

The email and other communications obtained by The Chronicle suggest an openness among Auburn’s academic leaders to tailor a curriculum for the specific benefit of athletes, privately discussing the creation of new majors that would best serve a small but high-profile segment of the student body. These discussions demonstrate the power of athletic interests at universities with big-time sports programs and the quiet ways in which they put pressure on the academic enterprise.

Nah, I didn’t think so.  Well, then, what about this?

The athletics department’s interest in public administration was first reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2015. Faculty committees had voted to discontinue the program after its centrality to the department’s educational mission was questioned. But Auburn kept the major after a lobbying effort from athletics officials, who at one point offered money to keep it afloat.

Okay, no surprise there.

Auburn officials say that no money came from athletics.


And the punchline…

In response to questions from The Chronicle, the university said that the athletics department does not unduly influence curricular decisions.

“The shared governance system at Auburn serves as a type of internal watchdog, guarding against the very type of situation at the center of your questioning,” C. Michael Clardy, a university spokesman, wrote in an email. “We as an institution are committed to the integrity and rigor of our academic programs.”

Well, that’s a relief.



Filed under Academics? Academics., Auburn's Cast of Thousands

Apocalypse now?

Those of you convinced that market-based player compensation will be the death of college athletics as we know it may be on to something.

Just not in the way you think.

If you take these articles in ESPN and Yahoo about the college basketball corruption criminal case at face value, the open market won’t be the cause of death.  It’ll be the black market.

“This goes a lot deeper in college basketball than four corrupt assistant coaches,” said a source who has been briefed on the details of the case. “When this all comes out, Hall of Fame coaches should be scared, lottery picks won’t be eligible to play and almost half of the 16 teams the NCAA showed on its initial NCAA tournament show this weekend should worry about their appearance being vacated.”

There’s a general expectation that this information will be released. It could come in trial, pre-trial motions or released by the government at some point. (No one is certain if they’ve agreed to eventually give it to the NCAA if it doesn’t go public.)

So how bad could be it? In terms of NCAA rules, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports that the material obtained threatens the fundamental structure and integrity of the sport, as there’s potentially as many 50 college basketball programs that could end up compromised in some way.

It’s not that anyone’s going to jail, son.  My gut feeling is that leaks like these are an indication of desperation on the government’s part that things are falling apart.  I mean, let’s not forget that “A Wall Street Journal report about an undercover FBI agent under investigation and a motion filed revealing a paperwork error appeared to poke some holes in the case.”  This is kind of amusing, too.

Sources close to the investigation told ESPN that Augustine’s charges were dismissed because evidence showed that he never gave the money he received from the defendants to a high school player they wanted to sign with Miami. Instead, Augustine kept the money for himself.

Even so, that hardly lets the NCAA off the hook.  As we well know, what isn’t criminal can still be a major NCAA violation.  And if things sweep as broadly as these reports hint they do, what’s going to happen when tourney fields get mowed down, particularly at the upper echelon?

The problem here is that the schools and the NCAA aren’t in control of the investigation.  So when the dirt comes out as we know it will, eventually, it won’t come out in a way that allows Mark Emmert and the conference commissioners to direct the narrative.  (On the plus side, maybe this is just the ticket that gets Mark Fox and Georgia in the tournament. I keed, I keed… I think.)

I don’t think you can lose eight of the top sixteen teams and pretend that business as usual remains in effect.  This may wind up being what forces the NCAA to confront the flaws in an amateurism protocol that’s increasing harder to defend.  Or worse, what forces others to force the NCAA to confront those flaws.


Filed under The NCAA

Gap yapping

The five-year average of the 247Sports Composite team rankings has Georgia sitting third nationally in terms of signing talent.  Now, as the article points out, that’s not the same metric as how much talent will be suiting up in the fall.  (“They don’t take player attrition, player development, transfers or other factors into consideration…”)

Aside from that, there’s another factor to consider — the number of kids from the 2014 classes who will be actual contributors in 2018, when they’re redshirt seniors.  Here’s Georgia’s 2014 list, for example.  By my count, there are two of the twenty signees, Gaillard and Baker, who are still around.  It’s a guess on my part, but I doubt that ratio is an outlier, particularly at major programs where there are various forms of regular attrition.

So, I wonder what those averages would look like for SEC schools if you lopped off their 2014 classes.  Math is hard, but here goes.  Teams are listed in their five-year averages order, with the five-year average in parenthesis.  (The chart only listed the top 25 schools.)

  • Alabama:  2.5 (2.2)
  • Georgia:  4.25 (5.0)
  • LSU:  7.5 (6.4)
  • Auburn:  9.75 (9.0)
  • Tennessee: 13.75 (12.4)
  • Texas A&M:  14.75 (12.8)
  • Florida:  14.50 (13.4)
  • Ole Miss:  21.0 (19.8)
  • South Carolina:  21.25 (20.2)
  • Mississippi State:  25.00 (27.0)

That’s ten out of fourteen conference schools listed in the top 25, which isn’t a bad batting average.

What’s really of interest, though, is that while there was little shifting of the overall order after lopping off 2014, every program but two —  Georgia and Mississippi State — saw its average decline.  Now I doubt anybody’s crying for Tuscaloosa, but some of those drops are pretty significant in a conference where almost every program recruits well.  It will be interesting to see which coaches can reverse those trends over the next couple of seasons, but, again, the signs are there for Georgia to have an edge in talent over everyone but you-know-who during that time period.


Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting, SEC Football

Reading the tea leaves on college football’s declining attendance numbers

One thing I found interesting about this CFN chart is that every SEC team that fired its head coach after the 2017 season saw a significant drop in year-over-year home attendance.

  • 80.  Florida: minus-1131
  • 99.  Texas A&M:  minus-3115
  • 114.  Tennessee:  minus-5189
  • 122.  Arkansas:  minus-6357

Given the surrounding circumstances, Matt Luke (minus-6279) is probably okay for a couple more years, but I’d say Ed Orgeron (minus-2725) better keep an eye on asses in the seats this year.

Now, if you’re an athletic director, it’s a safe assumption to make that an unattractive product on the field means less fans in the stands.  In the short run, a coaching change can’t hurt in that regard (other than the buyout you had to pay) and if you catch lightning in a bottle, so much the better.

It’s also a dodge at concerning yourself with the underlying factors that may also be contributing, though.  That’s an uncomfortable thing to consider, because it likely means looking at one key revenue source as causing a problem with another key revenue source.

But the overall drop that should concern everyone last year — and this one isn’t calculated in the NCAA figures — is the falling student attendance. It happened at Texas, and I assume that will change when Tom Herman’s team plays closer to its recruiting rank, but the Longhorns are not alone here. Stories about difficulty in getting students to attend games at previous levels can be found at many large schools, state and private, across the land.

And that’s the one that scares everyone because, frankly, millennials and their behavior scare the hell out of the rest of us. There are essentially four reasons for this, depending upon one’s viewpoint.

They don’t respect the things we honor. They want to change everything we view as traditional or necessary. They want to take our jobs. They’re cutting the darned cords on their cable.

It’s that fourth one that gets the most attention (especially if, full disclosure, one has a connection to ESPN), but I think this attendance discussion touches upon everything but the jobs component of the above.

How can it be hard to get college kids to go to college football games?

I understand some of the reasons that others have listed in the comments section of one of these NCAA attendance stories.

Tickets are too expensive.

The games take four hours and, given the burden of working one’s way into and out of parking lots, it’s an all-day commitment.

Since everything is done for TV, kickoff times aren’t even set two weeks before the game.

And then there’s the biggest which is the toughest to address.

It’s just easier to watch on your big screens at home.

We have seen a dramatic and important reversal on this front. A half-century ago television, a relative newcomer on the scene, did its best to recreate the game experience of actually being in the stadium. Today it’s incumbent upon teams in every sport to try to recreate the home viewing experience for those actually in the arena.

It’s remarkable how much effort (and how many millions of dollars) get spent in new buildings on things unrelated to actually seeing the game from your seat. It still stuns me to walk around, say, Globe Life Park and see the number of people busy doing something other than watching the game they have chosen to attend.

The college football experience as I mentioned can be a four-hour ordeal. Longer if Big 12 defenses are involved. The number of kids content to put their phones away, grab a seat and watch each team take 95 snaps from center is minuscule.

I don’t think college football is in danger of losing its entire audience in the near future, or even a sizable portion of it. But the battle to get people into a stadium at a lofty ticket price and keep them engaged is ongoing. TV money may drive all sports leagues and conferences, but no one wants to watch a studio sport. We want to feel like we’re part of that passionate stadium experience even when we don’t want to put up with all that comes with that experience.

I’m not sure I agree with everything there — there are plenty of people who will watch the early slate of bowls, which, from a live attendance standpoint, are essentially studio sports — but that last line is a perfect encapsulation of the dilemma athletic directors everywhere face in an era where broadcast partners call most of the shots.  Not only do I think none of them have a real clue about what to do, I don’t think most of them even want to consider the problem.  That’s troublesome, because for every program like Georgia that’s seen its fortunes suddenly explode, there are plenty of others that don’t have a reserve of fan enthusiasm like that to tap into.  If there’s a growing gap in that regard, only TV is equipped to step into the breach, which will only serve to exacerbate the problem.


Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil

This is not your father’s offensive line. (If Mark Richt were your father, that is.)

More than anything else that’s gone on with the program in a little over two years, I am absolutely stunned at how fast and how effective the remake of the offensive line has been.  Here’s Anthony Dasher’s take on 2018:

Obviously, nothing is set in stone, but Andrew Thomas at left tackle certainly appears to be about as close to a guarantee as you can get.

The former Pace standout was moved to the left side from right tackle immediately after the national championship, and barring something totally unforeseen, will be the man at the position for the season-opener against Austin Peay.

Gaillard will start for the second straight year at center, with Cleveland expected to hang onto his starting job at right guard.

Left guard will probably be the most interesting position to watch.

Baker did an excellent job last year in his first season as a starter, but if Salyer is as good as we think he is, he’ll be tough to keep off the field.

We’ve mentioned it appears either Wilson or Mays will be the new right tackle for 2018, all but assuring Georgia’s it’s most physically intimidating offensive line as the Bulldogs have had in recent memory.

These are fun times for Pittman.

No kidding.  It’s not just the starting five, it’s the incredible amount of depth Pittman has amassed with these last two classes.  For the first time in… well, what seems like forever, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the second-string o-line brings to the table on G-Day.


Filed under Georgia Football

Ole Miss strenuously objects.

Well, now, who doesn’t like to watch a school go to war against the NCAA?  I’m not talking about Notre Dame, which strikes me as having valid grounds to criticize the organization’s double standard regarding academic misconduct.

Nah, I’m talking about the SEC’s Rebels without a cause who think they have one.  And they’re pretty belligerent about it.

Ole Miss submitted its written appeal to the NCAA last Monday. The university published the document on Wednesday, and in doing so kept up with its recent aggressive tone toward the Committee on Infractions and its ruling.

“This Committee should vacate and reverse the penalties and factual findings,” the appeal stated, “because the COI abused its discretion, departed from precedent, committed procedural errors, and reached factual conclusions inconsistent with the evidence.”

I’m sure this makes for great posturing with the home folks, but does the school really think anyone at the NCAA is going to be impressed with heated oratory like this?

The Committee on Infractions handed down its ruling to Ole Miss on Dec. 1. In its ruling, the committee essentially determined Ole Miss had an out-of-control booster culture, which spanned decades and cited cases from 1986 and 1994.

The use of cases which were more than two decades old as an aggravating factor bothered Jeff Vitter, Ole Miss’ chancellor, and Ross Bjork, the Rebels’ athletic director, when they addressed the media that day.

The written appeal hit on that point again.

“At what point does an institution get a clean slate in the infractions process? For this COI panel,” the appeal stated, “the answer appears to be ‘never.'”

Um… that’s how patterns over time get established, fellas.

Ole Miss wants an in-person appeal with the Infractions Appeals Committee, presumably because the one thing more persuasive than heated writing is in-your-face arguing.  I’m guessing the NCAA won’t be receptive, but who knows?


Filed under Freeze!, The NCAA