Category Archives: College Football

A cannon shot in the facility arms race

You know how screwy college athletics are now?  Student-athletes have access to school-provided perks the typical student never sees, but the typical student can receive third-party compensation for things a student-athlete can’t.

If there’s some logical explanation for that, I’m all ears.

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45 Comments

Filed under 'Cock Envy, College Football, The NCAA

Thursday morning buffet

The chafing dishes are set out and ready to go.

  • Here’s a lawsuit I’ve been waiting to see drop.  Adding the NCAA is a nice touch.
  • The AFCA wants the targeting rules changed to allow for two levels of penalties.  On its face, it sounds sensible, but you can just see that next can of worms waiting to be opened.
  • Malzahn’s “right hand man” jumps off the Gus Bus for… Georgia Tech.
  • Les Miles asks for a change to the recruiting rules after he sees the Kansas roster he inherited.
  • This really seems like the least they could do.
  • And this continues to be the name I hear most frequently as the candidate to be Mel Tucker’s successor, although it has to be said that Kirby seems to be in no hurry on that front.
  • Now they tell us.
  • “If a shoe company wanted to pay one of University of Washington’s running backs $50,000 to appear in a television commercial, House Bill 1084 would permit that.”

28 Comments

Filed under Academics? Academics., Alabama, Auburn's Cast of Thousands, College Football, Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, Recruiting, See You In Court, The Body Is A Temple, The NCAA, Wit And Wisdom From The Hat

What if you build it and they won’t come?

This (h/t) is a pretty sobering assessment of bond-financed stadium expansions.

Attendance is declining across the board (“Even the University of Alabama, a perennial powerhouse playing in Monday’s national championship game, is reducing capacity in 101,821-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, White said.”), but spending on facilities continues at almost the same rate as ever.

About $3 billion of bond-financed college football stadium projects are underway or completed over the past five years, according to a Bond Buyer review. That’s down about $300 million from the height of the “stadium arms race” in 2013.

A report from Moody’s Investors Service five years ago found that on average, the athletic operating expenses of Division I universities had nearly doubled since 2004 compared to growth of 58% for total expenses. In that report, Moody’s itemized risk factors for college football, including the threats of lawsuits over head injuries, rising coaching salaries, the threat of disciplinary measures over recruiting and demands for player pay, among others.

What’s an athletic department to do?  Why, that’s easy.  Go upscale with the fan base and whore yourself out to Mickey.

Five years later, report author Dennis Gephardt, a Moody’s analyst, says that major colleges and universities have managed to maintain athletic revenues through sales of luxury boxes and premium seating along with lucrative television contracts, factors that make empty student seats a less urgent concern. Even the so-called Power Five Conferences — the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and Southeastern Conference — have seen attendance fall in recent years.

How troubling are things getting?  Take “even Tennessee” as your canary in the coal mine.

The University of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees approved a two-phase, $340 million renovation in November 2017. The work was to be completed by the start of the 2021 season, when Neyland celebrates its 100th year.

The $180 million first phase of the project was to be funded with bonds, fundraising, athletic department revenues and partnerships. Construction was to start this year, but Tennessee’s new director of athletics hit pause on the project.

On Nov.1, Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer, who’s been on the job less than a year, announced that his department is continuing to review the Neyland Stadium Master Plan Renovations.

“To be very clear, I am super excited about the Neyland Stadium project going forward in the near future,” Fulmer said at the time.

Construction on the first phase of the renovation project has been delayed to provide more time for two classes meeting in the south stadium hall to move out, Fulmer said, adding that renovation plans were also under review.

“We simply need time to study all ideas of scope and design as we seek to maximize the fan experience and our return on investment for the next 100 years of Neyland Stadium,” he said.

Attendance at games wasn’t mentioned as a factor that caused the project to be delayed.

Of course not.

Anyway, just think about the likely ramifications of game attendance becoming less financially significant.  And despair.

27 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

Today, in life lessons

I don’t blame the coaches for leaving for greener pastures.   (To be honest, I’m surprised it took this long for somebody to grab Neal Brown.)

But I do blame the system for not giving those 77 kids the same opportunity under these circumstances.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

“What are we doing to the bowl system?”

Relax, everyone.

The 11-person CFP Management Committee (10 conference commissioners plus Notre Dame) and its board of managers (university presidents) will meet Monday in Santa Clara, California, in a regularly-scheduled meeting ahead of the CFP National Championship.

I mean, what could go wrong?

“Right now, it’s [just] talks,” said a source intimately involved in the process. “I don’t think anything is imminent, but I’m guessing we’re going to start digging into it a little bit. If people are expecting us to walking about the door saying, ‘Here we go,’ it’s not going to be that way.”

Several sources mentioned the word “logistics.”

Fuck.  We’re doomed.

These guys wouldn’t know from logistics if logistics walked up and bit ’em in the ass.  They’re fretting over what another round of playoff expansion might do to what’s left of the top tier bowls.  Never mind that this year’s Sugar Bowl prices fell off a cliff, check out what’s happened to CFP ticket prices.

Maybe sticking your premier event in a stadium just south of that rabid enclave of college football known as San Francisco wasn’t such a hot idea, hunh.  But I’m sure it’s paying them well.

I respect the opinions of those who think an eight-game playoff would be good for the sport, but, damn, if you’re paying attention to the idiots calling the shots and quite frankly not feeling a little nervous about that, I think you’re going to wind up being just as dismayed as I am, ultimately.

58 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

The CFP rent’s too damned high, ctd.

Okay, as a follow up to yesterday’s post about playoff expansion, I wanted to share a few semi-facetious thoughts about a better path.

I say semi-facetious because we all know what college football’s Jed Clampetts and Mickey are going to do, no matter what, and so any suggestions to the contrary are basically pissing in the wind.  That being said, there is a certain freedom in wind pissing that I appreciate.

So, let’s start with this basic premise:  as a general rule of thumb, there aren’t four teams worthy of national title consideration in a given season.

Or, to put it another way,

There just aren’t that many teams built to win national championships. Just because there’s a playoff with X number of teams doesn’t mean that they all are good enough to win it:

Over the past 25 seasons, every team that has won or shared a national title has had an S&P+ rating in the 95th percentile or better, with rounding. The worst was 2002 Ohio State at 94.8 percent. However, all but three teams (four, if you include UCF in 2017) were in the 98th percentile or higher. Usually the elitest of the elite earn the ring.

As I wrote yesterday, one of college football’s unique aspects is that it boasts less parity between D-1 teams than any other major competitive sport in this country.  There simply aren’t that many great teams in a given season.  Which is why I think this conclusion is a stretch:

The Playoff semifinals are weed-out classes. The best teams almost always get through, but they’re good for ensuring the best teams really are the best teams.

So far, it’s worked. The four national champs in the Playoff era have finished first, first, second, and second in S&P+. Bama and Clemson are in the top two spots heading into this season’s title game. It’s time for the final exam.

There really hasn’t been much weeding out.  As Matt Hinton pointed out, only two of the first ten semi-final games have finished with single-digit margins between the participants.

In other words, a four-team playoff hasn’t really been needed for the most part to separate the two best teams from the pack.

There is a but, though.  Here’s my second basic premise:  to the extent that there is any real tension behind the drive to expand the college football playoffs, it comes from years when there are three teams with legitimate claims to earning a national title.

Those sorts of season aren’t the standard, but they crop up often enough to be an issue.  The problem is that a mandated four-team (soon to be eight-team) format is a cure worse than the disease, if the goal is to reward the very best in college football, given the likelihood that teams unworthy of that final goal are being incorporated into the process in an attempt to make sure the worthy teams are given their place.

Let me extend that medical metaphor one step further.  The reason the cure is worse than the disease is that an expanded playoff creates a new symptom.  A watered down playoff field not only makes the playoff itself less entertaining, but it also makes the top tier bowl games less entertaining because those match ups are diminished by bracket creep.

As crazy as that seems, what’s even crazier is that the only solution the powers that be appear to have for the problem is to introduce a larger playoff field, something that will only exacerbate the exact problem they’re trying to fix, or, more accurately, the problem they claim they’re trying to fix.  The real problem for the suits is leaving money on the table for their product.

It’s a broken system.  How, then, could the patient be cured, or at least nursed back to health, so to speak?  Well, one way would be to level the playing field a good bit through re-engineering scheduling or roster size, but that’s an even bigger pipe dream than holding back the tide on playoff expansion.

If it were up to me, here’s where I would go.  First, outsource the selection process to the folks with no skin in the game, the bloodless types who run Vegas sports books.  They have no inherent bias or conflict, other than avoiding the loss of money.  In one fell swoop, you would eliminate a factor that was introduced with the shift from the BCS to the CFP, the consideration of spreading the wealth between the P5 conferences.  (That factor being, of course, the primary motivation behind expansion to a quarter-finals.)

Vegas power ranks programs.  Let Vegas come up with whatever games involving the top teams would result in setting lines of less than, say, eight points.  If there is only one game that meets that criteria, so be it.  If there are three teams that are on that level, then fashion a semi-finals that includes the three and winds up with the top team getting to face the fourth best.  Nobody deserving is left out in that situation, and we’ve still got a decent shot of having at least one competitive game worth watching.

Yes, I know it’s a proposal that’s DOA because there’s no way Disney would be happy booking that level of uncertainty.  (I said this was a semi-facetious post, remember?)  For what’s it’s worth, though, I think that’s actually a little overstated.  ESPN could still come up with a whale of a show setting up how the playoff would look every season and — here we get to the second part of my mad scheme — the remaining games would be more competitive, more entertaining and, hence, more valuable.

To enhance that possibility, I would let the bowls do the one thing they were good at in their heyday, which is to let them have free rein in assembling the participating schools.  End the mandatory conference tie-ins; hell, make things more Wild West by letting the bowls bid for teams.  (For schools that just whiff on making the playoff, that could make for a nice consolation prize.)  Top tier bowls selfishly want games that generate fan interest.  Let them have those again.

Okay, so that’s all I’ve got.  I know it’s a waste of bandwidth, but I feel better for typing that.  (It sure beats what’s coming.)  Now I’ll go back to my college football death watch.  Just give me those five good years, please…

80 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

Scenes from a commitment

Not unfair at all, according to Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, who had this advice for kids about to sign an NLI:  “Students need to go into this with their eyes open.”  That, of course, is an incredibly wise suggestion for those high schoolers being pressured to sign by a head coach who warns that a December slot may not be available come February.

Manny Diaz has come out alright.  Temple has banked six and a half million.  The kids have learned a life lesson, and how can you put a price tag on that?

And some of you pretend to wonder where this generation gets its lack of commitment from.

44 Comments

Filed under College Football, Recruiting