Keying on the keys

Jake Rowe’s got a list of five keys for Georgia to make the 2015 CFP.  It’s certainly a decent list – hell, we’ve probably discussed every item on it already – but what I’m curious about is how you would prioritize one as the single most important of those.

So let’s have a reader poll!

Feel free to elaborate on your choice in the comments.  Or, if you don’t like any of Rowe’s options, tell us about your own.

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Filed under Georgia Football

The Whiny Conference

I really enjoyed reading Dan Wolken’s take on all the bitching in Destin yesterday.

The $7 million coach with waterfalls in his locker room is worried. The league with a smashing success of a television network and the best brand name in college football is sounding the alarm. The big, bad Southeastern Conference — which used to flaunt its seven consecutive national titles and dare the rest of the country to catch up — is suddenly on the run.

Go ahead and change the SEC’s name to Conference LPF — as in Level Playing Field. Because after one day of the league’s annual spring meetings, that now appears to be the mantra of a group of football coaches who simply do not understand the new normal of college athletics.

He mocks Saban’s outrage perfectly with this:

“These things need to be global, otherwise we’re going to become a farm system for all the other leagues.”

If you need to read that last sentence again, go ahead because it is shocking in its disengagement from reality. And yet, it came directly out of the mouth of a coach who has won four national titles, reeled in five consecutive No. 1-ranked recruiting classes and works at a school that spends more on football than anyone in the country.

And this:

“This is an issue, to me, that is completely different than anything else we’ve had to deal with. I’m all for the players getting more. I always have been. I’ve always promoted it. I still think that is important that we improve the quality of life. There’s just some unforeseen consequences of this that may affect the competitive balance we’ve always tried to keep relative to college football.”

Saban, of course, failed to mention the unforeseen consequences of paying a coach $7 million or whether it would promote a level playing field to cap coaching salaries at $3 million so that Mississippi State doesn’t also become a “farm system” for schools like Alabama.

Well, some fields are meant to be more level than others.  And the truth is that Saban and the rest of his SEC brethren don’t really want things to be too level.

“Are we playing by a different set of rules than, say, the Pac-12 or the Big Ten?” Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “I think we need, as college football in general, to make sure we’re all on the same playing field.”

But why? And what does that really look like?

This is not the NFL, which shares revenue, negotiates a salary cap with a players union and hires a commissioner to make decisions. This is college football, which has 128 independent operators in the Football Bowl Subdivision governed by different academic standards, athletic missions and state laws.

If you want to let the players unionize and collectively bargain every rule, have at it. If you want to take the multi-million dollar windfall schools are about to get from the SEC Network and redistribute it to the rest of the FBS, great. Otherwise, there is no reason Iowa State should feel the need to operate its athletic department the same way as Vanderbilt, just as Alabama does not want to be stopped from doing things Southern Miss can’t afford.

You want parity?  You can’t handle parity!

When you get down to it, this is no different from something else that got Saban’s panties in a wad last year, the rise of HUNH offenses.  One of the glories of college football is its relative lack of uniformity.  There’s far less parity there than on the professional level, but there’s far more innovation because there’s no centralized framework.  So you have all these experiments conducted by those with fewer resources trying to find an edge against teams that have more.  Field leveling, in other words.  That’s something Saban can’t control.  And it really bothers him.

So I disagree with one aspect of Wolken’s piece, the part where he writes,

What Saban doesn’t understand — and he’s far from the only one in his profession, by the way — is that the days of pining for a level playing field are over. The moment the last round of television deals were signed, creating an entirely new financial ecosystem for schools in the five power conferences, there was no longer a way to contain the market forces we’re seeing play out now.

The problem isn’t that they don’t understand.  They understand just fine.  They just don’t like it.

Imagine how they’re gonna feel when the NCAA loses a couple more antitrust cases.

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Filed under SEC Football

Boys, y’all made the COA bed. Now you have to lie in it.

Man, the logic chopping on display in Destin yesterday over the emerging disparity in COA stipends is hilarious.  Start with the Sabanator:

“They have a salary cap in the NFL, probably one in every pro sport, to create parity and competitive balance,” Saban said. “There should be a cap on the cost of attendance. It’s important we all have the same criteria and we all have transparency in how it is calculated.

“Some people are promoting it (a school’s COA) in recruiting. We have not done that. It’s in the university’s interest to keep the cost of attendance low. That should be the first priority from an institutional standpoint, not really what’s better from an athletic standpoint.”

Skip past the nonsense of the head coach of Alabama being piously concerned about promoting parity in college athletics.  And even give Saban credit for noting what the priority ought to be for a school setting its COA figure.  He’s still saying that college football should emulate professional sports in determining how student-athletes are compensated for their services.  If I’m Jeffrey Kessler, his name’s going on my next witness list.

Ultimately, the problem here is that the schools have seized upon the COA stipend as a fig leaf to side step the NCAA’s amateurism rules.  The straightforward approach would simply have been to use autonomy as the lever to allow the P5 conferences to pay student-athletes, period. That would have allowed each conference to set a single number as a cap for its members. But, of course, that wasn’t thinkable; the schools and conferences simply aren’t ready to concede that.  So instead you’ve got Mike Slive giving mealy-mouthed explanations about what’s been shaped.

“For all these years, the NCAA passed legislation with the premise being a level playing field, which in effect means it’s for the institutions,” Slive said. “But when we put the vision together for the 21st century, we made student-athletes the primary focus.

“We moved from level playing field to student athletes. By definition when you do that, there are issues that aren’t as comfortable if you’re grounded into the level playing field.

“It does create recruiting issues if you have different levels of cost of attendance. It needs to be worked through. We’re going to end up with differentials we’re all going to have to live with.”

Hey, it’s the vision thing!  I’m inspired.

Here’s the point Slive is either missing, or glossing over.  True, accurately calculated COA is a playing field leveler.  Every school paying the correct amount means that a student-athlete’s finances from year-to-year will net the same in the end, regardless of where he/she chooses to attend.

What’s got everyone agitated isn’t that prospect.  It’s the suspicion that certain schools are bending the numbers to pay players enough to gain an advantage over schools that aren’t.  The irony of the free market at work in this environment shouldn’t escape anyone’s notice.

So Mark Richt’s got a point when he says,

“If everybody would disclose how they go about their business, I think it might be helpful to get things on a more equal playing field,” Richt said.

“There’s a lot of numbers out there that no one knows how they got to those numbers. It’d be nice to know how everybody gets to that number. If everybody’s using the same grid, then maybe it’d be a little bit closer.”

But as long as you’re using COA, as it’s currently defined, transparency is only going to get you so far – and that’s assuming you can even get everyone in the conference on the same page about disclosing their formulas.  The numbers are always going to be different because things don’t cost the same amount everywhere you go.  And somehow, I don’t think that will ever satisfy the Nick Sabans of the world.

In the end, it’s the OBC with the only sensible grasp of things as they stand.

Spurrier changed his tune with cost-of-attendance, saying that equality doesn’t happen in many aspects of recruiting, and it probably shouldn’t with finances.

“If one school can give $5,000 a year and another $4,000, hell, that’s just the way it is,” Spurrier said.

“Who knows the reason a young man picks a school, but we would hope four or five hundred dollars wouldn’t be a reason a kid picks a school.”

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, SEC Football

Today’s random burning question

Vasha Hunt/vhunt@al.com (VASHA HUNT)

How much do you think Coke pays the University of Alabama to get that bottle positioned just so for every Saban presser?

Just wonderin’.

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Filed under It's Just Bidness

Wednesday morning buffet

The SEC is in Destin.  The rest of the college football world isn’t.

  • Nick Saban thinks fondly of Jeremy Pruitt.
  • Here’s a nice smackdown of Bert’s “you play eight games in the SEC” comment.
  • Dennis Dodd gets all prissy about the SEC not already having a ban on its books for transfers of kids dismissed for domestic violence – something that no conference has at present.
  • We’re 100 days out from the start of the 2015 season, so it’s fashionable to do 100 things to look forward to pieces.  Here’s one.
  • David Wunderlich thinks the practice of ranking teams based on loss order is still a thing… and it is.  But I suspect as the CFP grows, loss-ranking will matter less.
  • There’s still a chance:  Chauncey Gardner is taking an unofficial visit to Athens.  Make a blogger happy, dude.  Be a Dawg, and let me have a few years with that name.
  • “It’s an attempt to change behavior”Mike Slive intends to come down hard on post-game celebrations.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Recruiting, SEC Football

“Even in the NFL, they have a salary cap.”

Nick Saban’s had enough of this COA bullshit.

“We need to have the same rules in the big five in all leagues,” Saban said. “If we’re going to compete for the championship, and everybody is going to play in the playoff system, then we need to get our rules in alignment so that we are all on a level playing field.

“These things need to be global, otherwise we are going to become a farm system for all of the other leagues.”

“Even in the NFL, they have a salary cap,” Saban said. “When we don’t have a cap that makes it equal for everybody, it really goes against everything we’ve tried to do in the NCAA that we’ve tried to do for parity.”

Oh, mah heaven, Miz Scarlett!  Ah do believe Ah’m feeling a bit lightheaded!

So what do you think Saban wants now – another antitrust lawsuit over price fixing, or a players’ union so college football can legally bargain for a salary cap?  ‘Cause it’s one or the other.

24 Comments

Filed under Look For The Union Label, Nick Saban Rules

Jinxed.

If you’ve hung around here for a while, you know I’ve been a big fan of Jerry Hinnen, going back to his days at the late, lamented Auburn-centric blog, The Joe Cribbs Car Wash.  Jerry’s since moved up to the CBS Sports beat and today he’s posted something that should make everyone here uncomfortable.

This isn’t the first time he’s pulled thatI know what he’s up to.  But if you want to take his piece at face value, there’s one particularly interesting set of facts he’s laid out I want to mention:

Three against-the-spread trends worth watching:

1. Since 2011, Georgia is 15-7-1 as a favorite of 10 points or less. If your sense of recent Bulldogs teams is that they show up when they expect to get a challenge and get sloppy when they expect to breeze, that’s not entirely wrong. (Also worth noting: five of those seven losses came in 2013, several after the Bulldogs’ roster had been wrecked by injuries.)

2. Since 2006, Georgia is 7-3 against Auburn. And one of those losses had been a surefire cover until a certain Tigers’ prayer was answered. Whether facing Tommy Tuberville, Gene Chizik or even Gus Malzahn, Mark Richt has mostly had the answers in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

3. Since 2011, Georgia is 7-3-2 off a straight-up loss. Richt has done particularly good work the past two seasons in this department, going 5-1-1.

We focus on the brain farts because they suck, because they’re infrequent enough to stand out and because they suck.  But the reality is over the past three seasons, this program has been pretty resilient.  As Jerry notes, play an injury-free 2013 season and Mark Richt looks a whole lot better today.

But the bigger point he makes that I want to emphasize is that Georgia has more than held its own against Auburn over the last decade, regardless of who’s coaching.  I’m not saying I predict the Dawgs will take Alabama, but I’m not quaking in my boots over the thought of facing the Tigers.  So a split against the West wouldn’t surprise me at all.  How many games that means Georgia can lose in its division and still make it to Atlanta is the real unanswered question right now.

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Filed under Georgia Football, What's Bet In Vegas Stays In Vegas