On the clock again

Really, I’m surprised that members of the pundit class have begun beating the drums for shortening the length of college football games so quickly after we heard some initial grumblings from the grand poobahs running the sport.  You’d almost think it’s about making deadlines or something as banal as getting enough sleep.

Two plays before Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson rolled to his right, scanned the field long enough to notice outside receiver Artavis Scott run into Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, clearing the out route and his expertly thrown pass for slot man Hunter Renfrow and the game-winning touchdown, I did something I consider quite lucky.

I woke up. Just in time to see college football history live. Just in time to see mighty Alabama fall and the underdog Tigers finally reach the sport’s mountaintop. Just in time to say I saw the end of one of the best games in big-time college football this season, and maybe ever.

Good news for a guy like me. Bad news for college football, though.

If you’re making the argument that maybe college football shouldn’t be showcasing its premier event during prime time on a Monday night, you’ll get no argument from me.  But assholes wanna get paid, and ESPN knows where the money is.

So if you’ve got that late start and you want to tuck yourself in before midnight, what’s left?  Blame the clock, of course.

… When too many kids have no hope of staying up the entire game — my 10-year-old and 7-year-old lasted until halftime — college football has an issue to address.

The games are too long. They’re too long for the players, too long for the fans and too long for the long-term growth of the sport.

ESPN and the College Football Playoff want the championship game to reach the point where viewership isn’t impacted by yearly matchups. They want it to be a mini-Super Bowl where it’s appointment television no matter who plays. How can that possibly happen when the dramatic Clemson-Alabama finish occurs after midnight Eastern on a Tuesday morning?

Jesus, is there any CFB-related crisis that can’t be reduced to think of the children?

What’s particularly irritating here is the effort to dress the problem up in fan-concern clothing.  The problem is that it doesn’t really sell.

Now, it’s debatable who really finds this to be a problem. Commissioners clearly do. So do reporters, who are more and more often pushing increased work on deadline than they did in the past. So do many fans at home, who don’t particularly want to block out four hours every week to make sure they are seeing their favorite college football team play. But when we’re talking about the fans who are paying more exorbitant fees to attend games, there naturally seems to be less angst over game times.

It’s a catch-22 in a way for college football, which doesn’t want to fundamentally change the game for the paying customer, but knows it ultimately has to do so to placate the television networks.

This is supposed to be troubling for fans who show up hours before a game to tailgate?  The only problem we’re feeling is the incessant breaks for commercials during games. And I do mean incessant.

The networks could cut down on their 30-second commercials (average of 68 per game). Who hasn’t attended a game when the fans and players are anxiously waiting for the restart but television isn’t ready? It’s particularly troubling with so many night kickoffs because fans have to drive home very late. Now, whether TV wants to reduce the number of commercials while rights fees continue to increase is another question.  [Emphasis added.]

When you’ve got 34 minutes of commercial time interrupting a 60-minute game, you’ve got an issue.  Unfortunately for us paying suckers… er, fans, the people who have a problem with game times are those who have a stake in making sure that kickoffs fall neatly into broadcasting schedules.  They’re also the exact same folks who have zero interest in reducing the number of commercial breaks.  So there’s that.

Now if you read both linked pieces, you’ll see a lot of the same solutions to the problem being pushed — shorter halftimes, no clock stoppage after first downs until late in each half, reduce reviews, etc. — most of which come from that bastion of giving the networks what they want, the NFL.  The problem with most of that is again, it’s a strategy of lopping off things that make the college game different, like halftime shows from school bands.  It’s also shortsighted in that college football has parity issues that the NFL doesn’t have; an inferior opponent that is challenging for an upset win may need that extra time from the stopped clock after a first down to mount a comeback.

But my real cynicism about the benefits from moves to reduce the amount of time the game gets played is that it’ll be perceived as creating a vacuum that ESPN and its ilk will be more than happy to fill with more commercial time as the opportunity presents itself.  And why not?  If this is all about making the game more attractive to a certain audience…

The alternative is games continue to creep longer and longer. That could result in casual fans (but likely not the die-hards) losing some interest.

… that is happier with a shorter overall broadcast time frame, it’s likely those are the same folks who won’t care much if the networks can jam seven or eight more of those 30-second pitches into the three-and-a-half hours allotted.

As for the rest of us, we’ll have to be satisfied with being sold on the concept that games with less content represent an enhancement of the sport.  Not that you’ll get a discount for that…

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Filed under College Football

Kiss the ring.

Man, you know the toughest part of interviewing for the AD job at ‘Bama is that first meeting with Nick Saban.

(I’m pretty sure I keed, I keed there.  Pretty sure.)

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“Everyone’s fighting for the Snickers…”

Okay, red zone defense may have left something to be desired, but there were bright spots on that side of the ball for Georgia during the 2016 season.

One is turnovers.

Georgia ranked 10th in the nation in turnovers gained with 27, including 15 interceptions and 12 fumbles recovered. That was the Bulldogs best national ranking in that category since 2011 and up from 43rd in 2015.

“I think our guys understand that you have to take the ball away,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said before a Liberty Bowl win over TCU, “so attacking the football, forcing takeaways and working to win the turnover margin is very important.”

Georgia had a plus-7 turnover margin in its eight wins and plus-one in its five losses in the first year under coach Kirby Smart.

“If you practice high-pointing the ball and ripping at the ball Monday through Friday then on Saturday it comes easy,” outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said.

Statistically speaking, there is some luck involved (primarily tied to where the ball comes loose), so we’ll have to wait and see if this was simply a random showing, or if the coaches’ emphasis on forcing takeaways is in fact paying off.

While there may be a factor with turnovers that can’t be controlled, I don’t think you can say the same thing about this area of performance.

Look who stopped the run last season.  Looks like at least one lesson from Tuscaloosa took.  And with the development of the defensive line, I only expect that to get better.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Meanwhile, Knoxville waits.

Butch Jones is shopping for new staff while Tennessee is searching for a new boss for Booch… well, kinda, sorta searching.

Speaking of difficult situations, Tennessee has done Jones no favors by dragging out its search for a new athletic director to replace Dave Hart, whose retirement was announced last August.

There have been conflicting reports as to whether the university is hiring the same search firm it most recently used to land men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes or just using the one with which it has a long-term contract. Raja Jubran, vice chairman of Tennessee’s board of trustees, told Sports Radio WNML’s Jimmy Hyams it might be the spring before Hart’s replacement chosen.

“Hopefully we will get someone on board one or two months before Dave Hart retires (at the end of June),” Jubran told Hyams. “It could be April or May.”

New chancellor Beverly Davenport will assume her role officially on Feb. 15 and will have input on that hire.

UTC athletic director David Blackburn continues to receive much public support. The Knoxville-based Copper Cellar Family of Restaurants this week endorsed Blackburn to become the Vols’ new athletic director. One of the restaurants, Calhoun’s, is among the concessions available in Neyland Stadium.

The company’s social media post, which received more than 2,600 responses on Twitter, stated it was time to put the Vols “back in the hands of a Tennessean.”

Guys making pitches from the concessions stands?  Hell, why not?  By the way, if it’s a Tennessean you want, Phil Fulmer is tanned, rested and ready.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

Great moments in athletic department management

Check out one of the reasons cited (h/t) by the Minnesota athletic director for letting the head coach go:

Johnson said Coyle cited the program’s poor performance in recruiting rankings and a dwindling season-ticket base as two primary reasons to fire Claeys. However, the ticket issue was also due in part to former athletic director Norwood Teague’s decision to drastically increase ticket prices for the 2016 season.  [Emphasis added.]

Not recruiting, but recruiting rankings.  “Tracy, you’re currently 61st in Rivals… what are you doing about that?”

Maybe the AD should start tweeting eighteen-year olds who don’t have the Gophers on their visit lists.

 

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Updating the Urban Dictionary

Clemsoning is dead.

Long live Georgiaing?

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Filed under Georgia Football

Pay as you go.

For once, I welcome our new legislative overlords.

With the athletic departments of Washington’s two biggest public colleges reporting budget deficits two years in a row, state Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) is proposing a bill that will subject college athletics budgets to legislature approval if their athletic departments run deficits for three consecutive years.

Washington State’s athletics department has reported deficits of about $13 million in each of the last two fiscal years, while UW’s athletics department projected a deficit of about $15 million for the 2016 fiscal year, but that figure was later updated to about a $7 or $8 million deficit. Last year, new WSU President Kirk Schulz also proposed a plan that he believes will get WSU’s athletic department solvent by 2019.

Under the new bill Baumgartner is proposing, if a college athletic department cannot get back in the black after three consecutive years, its budget will have to be reviewed and approved by the Commerce, Labor and Sports committee before it can be adopted by the college.

‘Bout damned time.

“I’m a big fan of college athletics, but I have no doubt much of the public would appreciate a timeout on the arms race of college athletics spending,” Baumgartner said in the news release. “This is about ensuring the long-term viability of these programs that give our state’s students so many opportunities. This bill gives our state’s universities a three-year runway from today to get their budgets balanced, and if they can’t do it, my committee will help do it for them.”

Help us to help you!

Of course, the hard part comes in deciphering a college athletics department’s budget.

“The overriding goal is to bring transparency and public oversight to the use of public resources,” Baumgartner said in a phone interview with The Seattle Times. “I think sports is an important part of the university experience, but within balance and reason. More than determining the outcome, I want to make sure public dollars are protected.”

If this bill passes, what do you want to bet those deficits come down faster than planned?

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery