Category Archives: College Football

A cynic’s paradise

I’m having an email discussion with a reader about (what else?) where things go from here in the new super league version of college football we’re watching emerge.  He still thinks there’s a place for academic reputation in the realm of expansion, particularly in the case of the Big Ten.

I’m not seeing it, mainly because ESPN and Fox could give a rat’s ass about academics.  They’re steering the expansion train and the only thing that matters to them is attracting eyeballs.  As Jon Wilner puts it,

Geography no longer matters.

Academic reputation no longer matters.

Now, the main driver is brand value: Fox and ESPN will pay for the football programs that generate ratings and are most likely to land in prime TV windows.

That’s it.  That’s all there is now.

The math is simple.

Thompson said the Big Ten’s decision to add two Los Angeles-based universities was rooted in a simple math equation. The 14 existing conference members know they’ll receive approximately $71.4 million per university under the new Fox deal. Adding two more partners only made sense if they could generate a minimum of $143 million in additional distributable revenue.

“To get there you could assume that the bulk of the 5.2 million pay TV homes in LA, San Diego, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara become inner-market Big Ten Network subscribers,” he said. “That will add significant affiliate revenue for the network.”

Adding Southern California to the portfolio increases the Big Ten’s core TV households by 25 percent. The result is additional advertising revenue for the Big Ten Network, Fox Broadcast Network and FS1 as well.

Said Thompson: “That should all be enough to convince Fox that the additional rights fees are worthwhile.”

If you can make it worth the broadcasters’ while, you get a ticket to the big boys’ club.  And if you can’t…

… Oregon and Washington may be of interest to the Big Ten. However, Thompson estimated that those two Pac-12 universities, along with the Oregon and Washington television markets, would only generate an additional $60 million in combined additional revenues.

It’s good money, but well shy of the $143 million breakeven for the Big Ten.

It doesn’t kill the possibility of Oregon and Washington following USC and UCLA into the conference. It just means that the Big Ten members have two options if they’re going to do it: A) Be OK with about $6 million less annually to have UO and UW in the house; or B) Welcome Oregon and Washington, but inform the newcomers that they won’t get full distributions for a while.

Yeah, like Option A) is a real consideration.

Back to Wilner for the final word:

How much value do Arizona and Arizona State carry on the open market? Specifically, how attractive are they to the Big 12?

The schools certainly fit geographically, and Arizona’s basketball program would be ideal for the Big 12.

But valuation is based on the strength of your football brand, and the Wildcats are a tick above zero on that scale.

The Sun Devils would need to pack enough media value to account for Arizona, as well, if we presume they’re a package deal. (I’m not sure that’s the case, but it’s a subject for another column.)

ASU’s situation is comparable to the dilemma facing Cal and Stanford: The size of your media market matters far less than it did a decade ago.

Value is based on the ability of your football program to drive ratings and claim prime broadcast windows.

When they say it’s about the money, believe ’em.  Welcome to the new world, folks.

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, Fox Sports Numbs My Brain, It's Just Bidness

The death of regionalism

I know that some of you are firmly convinced that NIL compensation has brought about the end of college football as we know and more power to you for having that conviction.  Me, I see something else.

I see a straight line from NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma to this…

… and recognize it as the death knell to one of the pillars that’s made college football the unique and wonderful experience it’s been for many decades.

Here’s the new Big Ten map:

The Big Ten is now a bi-coastal college sports league.  I’d say that’s nuts, except it’s what the players — the ones who count, that is, meaning the conferences and their broadcast partners — want, damn the consequences.  And, yes, there are plenty of those.  Here’s some low hanging fruit in that regard.

They can’t, and they won’t really care.  (Although the standard playbook would suggest that they’ll make some mouth noises about their concern, come up with a half-assed solution and proclaim they’re doing it for the kids.)

But forget that for a moment.  Who’s really gonna get pumped up for a UCLA-Rutgers conference football game?  Not their respective fan bases, that’s for sure.  But it’s broadcast fodder, and, more importantly, helps to provide a framework for what’s coming out of this, namely a 20- or 24-team super league that will be set up to provide a feeder system for a new college football postseason.

I’m sure that will be entertaining for some.  It will certainly provide shiny new toys to distract the media for years.  But it’s not the college football I’ve grown up with and loved.  Not that those in charge will care, at least not as long as the checks keep cashing.

I’ll be shocked if I’m still passionate about this sport five years from now.  That’s a sad thing to realize.

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Old dogs and new tricks

Dave Aranda sounds like he’s getting out ahead of college football’s new reality.

… the Baylor coach said that he actually views the current landscape as a giant opportunity for growth for coaches.

“I think it’s good,” Aranda said. “It’s changing for sure. I think the coach that in the past that would take out his frustrations on players, that would take out his anxieties on other coaches, or take out his insecurities on players and then later call that coaching, I think that coach is probably struggling. We’ve all been around them and we’ve all probably been coached by them. I just think there’s an opportunity for that coach to grow and to really kind of transcend, man.”

I don’t know about transcending, but I do think we’ve entered an era when being a control freak isn’t what it once was.  For what that’s worth.

“There’s getting out of your comfort zone and what comes of it when you stay in your comfort zone. I think the ability for coaches to have an open mind and to not look at it and say, ‘I’ve got power over players,’ but ‘I’m working with my guys, I’m seeing them as people, I’m pouring into them as people.’ That better person is going to make a better player. I think that’s going to be a view.”

For some, sure.  But old habits die hard.

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Who’s a national power: Son of Montana Project final tally

Without any further ado

(The percentage is based on the total number of votes cast, 3849.)

Observations:

  • Honestly, overall this came out almost exactly where I thought it would for the top teams.  You can draw a line where you see fit separating the kings from the rest of Mandel’s feudal classes, but to me, it’s certainly fewer than the eleven he came up with.
  • So, having said that, where would you draw the line in defining a national power?  After the top three?  After the four with more than 10% of the votes cast?  After seven, which would include every team that got at least 100 votes?  I’m thinking six, max.
  • Are you surprised by any team’s finish?
  • I’m not sure which amuses me more, that Georgia received more votes than Alabama (you homers know who you are) or that Georgia Tech received any votes at all.  With regard to the latter, don’t assume those three votes were simply the result of mistaken votes for Georgia.  The first ballot I saw that had a GT vote also had a Georgia vote.
  • Looking at that list, which team would you be most strongly convinced will be in a much higher spot five years from now?  Which team would you expect to see drop in five years?  (And why is it USC and Oklahoma, respectively?)  Or do you think little will change over the next half decade?

Thanks to all of you who took the time to participate.  And, as always, thanks to my approval voting partner in crime, Peyton, without whom this never gets off the ground.

42 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, GTP Stuff

Last call for SOMP

We’re closing in on 700 ballots cast on which programs should be considered national powers, so there’s a pretty good picture already being painted, but there’s still one more day to vote and add your voice to the mix.  The link to the ballot is here.  You have until midnight tonight to make your picks.  Git ‘er done!

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, GTP Stuff

My SOMP ballot

It’s been interesting to read the rationales you guys have employed to come up with your choices for the teams you’d expect to populate the CFP semi-finals field.

Me, I’ve looked at this as having a friendly debate with some buddies at a sports bar over a few beers.  My first instinct was to limit my vote to three — Alabama, Georgia and Ohio State — but four teams make it and the usual suspects list in that context really isn’t that long.

  • Alabama
  • Clemson
  • Georgia
  • Notre Dame
  • Ohio State
  • Oklahoma

Will my list read differently five years from now?  Quite possibly, but at present, that’s where my head is at.

By the way, if you haven’t cast a ballot yet, there’s still time.  The link to the poll is here.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, GTP Stuff

Son of Montana Project

One last take from Stewart Mandel’s Kings/Barons Version 4.0 ($$):

One undeniable consequence of the now eight-year-old College Football Playoff is the consolidation of power among a small handful of programs. With only a few exceptions, a program’s national profile these days seems to go hand in hand with regular CFP contention.

Therefore, this year’s edition sees the Kings undergo their most significant contraction to date.

That echoes the third point I made in my email to him:

I really like the theme [i.e., exclusivity] for this edition of your list, but I don’t think your kings are exclusive enough. I’ve thought about this a little, and I think I’d propose a new version of your perception test: ask 100 college football fans to list the four teams most likely to make the CFP field in a generic season. I suspect after tallying the vote, your current list of 11 emperor/kings would shrink to about seven. In fact, after you post this year’s list, I think I’ll post an approval voting poll on the subject, just to see what turns up as a result.

(Before you ask, no, I hadn’t seen his column before I wrote that.)

Let’s skip helmets, coaches’ pictures and Song Girls, okay?  While we’re at it, let’s skip Mandel’s “only a few exceptions”, too.  If you’re a true national power, it’s ludicrous to suggest you’re not a program at least in the conversation for being a national playoff contender.

So, Peyton and I have devised another poll.  The link is here.  The topic is simple:  in a random, generic season, name the teams you would currently expect to make the CFP semi-finals.  The ballot contains the top fifty winning P5 teams this century, as Mandel doesn’t include G5 teams in his list and nobody’s casting a ballot for Vanderbilt.

It’s pure approval voting, so don’t feel that you’re obligated to pick four teams.  If you only feel confident with three choices, that’s fine.  If you’re feeling five, go for it.

We’re not under time constraints, so we’ll leave the voting open until midnight Thursday and post the results on Friday.  Have at it!

53 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, GTP Stuff

A handy fall primer

He ain’t wrong.

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Filed under College Football

TFW less is more

The horseshit, she is dripping here.

With postseason expansion on the horizon, college football’s broader focus on player health and safety has zeroed in on the number of plays teams face over the course of a season — also referred to as “exposures,” representing the number of times an individual player could be exposed to potential harm during the regular season and postseason.

Following the handful of safety-related changes to gameplay itself, such as recent modifications to kickoff rules, the FBS may in the very near future attack health and safety concerns at the source: by cutting down on the number of plays per individual game and across an entire season.

Run the clock after first downs.  Run the clock after incomplete passes.  Those will shorten the game.  They will also make comebacks more difficult.  But it’s for a good cause, amirite?

Well, when they tell you they’re doing it for the kids…

“The NFL does really well,” Sankey said. “They’re averaging about three hours per game. But that game is played in a different manner. You don’t see the type of creativity. I don’t mean that pejoratively. But in offenses, spread, hurry-ups, like you do in college.”

It’s college football’s Holy Grail:  how can they neatly tuck games inside that three-hour window without sacrificing commercial time?

And forget about unforeseen consequences.  They know what this would lead to.

“What we decide to do is never going to be 100% popular across the country,” said Stanford coach and rules committee chair David Shaw. “There is a push-pull, typically between offense and defense, between spread and non-spread, between up-tempo and those that are on the defense trying to defend up-tempo. I don’t think that’s going to change. It hasn’t changed for years.”

“What I would encourage is we respect the ability” for different offenses, said Sankey. “We want the creativity. I like the creativity between Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin and Josh Heupel, and the traditional approach that’s part of other offenses. Or the middle ground, the ability to do things differently.”

When it goes south on them, they’ll fall back on the doing it for the kids defense.  Never mind that by expanding the postseason, they’ll be sticking the same amount of plays on them (at least the ones in the preseason) again.  But at least they’ll get that fucking three-hour window out of it.  Mickey will be most pleased.

It’s gotten to the point where I’ve ceased to be amazed by their determination to suck everything unique about college football out of the game.

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Tiptoeing into the new year

With the NFL expansion of its regular season schedule, this is a problem that’s only going to get more awkward for college football.

The Sugar Bowl has been moved off its usual primetime spot to noon ET on Dec. 31 to avoid a conflict with a Monday night NFL game.

… With Jan. 1, 2023, falling on Sunday, the games usually played on New Year’s Day were moved to Jan. 2, when the national holiday is observed. The move to Monday is common in college football to avoid conflicting with the NFL.

But ESPN found itself with a conflict that day: The NFL has scheduled the final Monday regular-season game for that night, which forced a relocation by the New Orleans-based Sugar Bowl on the schedule.  [Emphasis added.]

By the way, the CFP semifinals will be played on December 31, which should guarantee the Sugar Bowl minuscule ratings, relatively speaking.  But Mickey will be appeased, by Gawd.

21 Comments

Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, The NFL Is Your Friend.