Category Archives: College Football

“This game starts with me,” he said. He added: “The head coach has the responsibility to own up to it.”

It’s about time, Richt… er, no.

Southern Cal, a program with a history and accomplishments at least as impressive as Georgia’s – I’m being generous with the phrasing there – has had these gentlemen as its last four head football coaches:  Paul Hackett, Pete Carroll, Junior and Steve Sarkisian.  Before you go running off proclaiming what a home run hire Carroll was, remember that his arrival was largely yawned over, coming in as a NFL coach with a mediocre record.  And then remember he’s largely the reason USC got stuck hiring the Laner as its seventh choice.

The point here isn’t that you can’t make a great coaching hire.  Of course you can; it happens now and then.  The point is it’s more of a crapshoot than some of you are willing to concede, and the odds get even longer when the folks doing the hiring don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground.  That, sadly, is reality.

Feel free to carry on with your axe grinding now.  I’m done.


Filed under College Football, Georgia Football

“People like to drink at football games.”

The math of selling beer at college football games is pretty simple.

In an era of seven-figure coaching salaries and demands for more resources for athletes, universities are always looking for ways to increase revenue. But college football is also eager to keep up attendance, which averaged 44,190 last season, the lowest figure since at least 2003, according to the N.C.A.A. In the era of high-definition home televisions, fan experience is the focus of many athletic directors’ offices.

In that environment, alcohol sales are a moneymaker. West Virginia’s athletic director, Shane Lyons, said last month that “approximately $500,000 a year just in beer comes back to us.”

Not only is that nothing to sneer at, it’s enough to overcome certain squeamish qualms.

“I feel like we’ve been a pilot program — people have seen it work,” West Virginia’s Lyons said, noting that Maryland and Texas had contacted West Virginia for advice before deciding to begin beer sales this fall.

Not everyone is comfortable. West Virginia’s president, E. Gordon Gee, who as a Mormon does not drink, said he was reluctant to maintain the policy when he returned to the university last year but was persuaded to do so by the Board of Governors.

“I’m sometimes conflicted about it,” he said, “because I do believe one of the main issues confronting universities is alcohol abuse — binge drinking.”

And the decision to sell beer in the stadium will have such an impact on that.  Like another policy in fact does.

At West Virginia, the introduction of general-admission alcohol sales was paired with the elimination of so-called passouts. Though the term is not a deliberate pun, passouts — which allowed fans to leave and re-enter the stadium during Mountaineers games — contributed to binge drinking in the parking lots at halftime.

“I used to park my motor home outside the stadium,” Jay Gerber, 65, said as he stood at his seat near the 50-yard line. “Was nice to come and go.”

His bathroom was probably easier to access, too.

There is a certain hypocrisy to allowing alcohol to be consumed in the well-heeled section of the stadium – one of the perks, ‘ya know – and denying it to the rest of the season ticket holders.  But buried in the article is the most hilarious defense of the practice you’ll ever see.

“Whether it’s alcohol or any other improvements,” she said, “it’s important to keep some of what people love about college and not make it a mini-N.F.L.”

Heavens to Betsy, not that!  Get thee away, demon alcohol!


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

Mission accomplished.

A funny thing happened on the way to jacked up prices, cupcake games, pace and stretched out game times:  attendance at college football games has stabilized.

Personally, I think it’s the improved WiFi experience.


Filed under College Football

When ESPN’s problem is our problem

This is what you call a negative feedback cycle.

Here’s the irony.

The faster college football has become, the slower it gets.

Offenses are increasingly trying to quicken the pace of play, rushing to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball before defenses can adjust. The tactic has resulted in longer games because the quicker drives equate to more possessions which equate to more TV breaks.

Got that?  Pace equals more TV breaks, which means longer games, which is a problem – not for fans, as the writer suggests, as much as it is for the very broadcasters scheduling those breaks.

Which suggests a solution that as obvious as it is likely to be ignored.  Instead, we’re likely to hear this kind of stupidity:

College football needs to follow the NFL model and not stop the clock for first downs, except in the final two minutes. A shorter halftime would work as well. If a 12-minute break is good enough for professional players, no reason why it needs to be 20 minutes at the college level.

There will be resistance because many college fans like the differences between the pros and the amateurs, but as long as teams continue to quicken the pace, changes need to be made for the good of the game.

Absolutely.  Because everyone knows that being more like the NFL is good for the college football game.


Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil

College football has the runs.

Good Jon Solomon piece on how college football is trending on offense so far this season here.  A few highlights:

  • FBS teams are averaging 186.6 rushing yards per game, up from 182.5 through four weeks in 2014. Yards per carry are at 4.67 in 2015, up from 4.59 last season at this time.

  • Passing yards per game have declined three straight years since a record 238.3 yards in 2012. FBS teams have thrown for 239.3 yards per game in the first month of 2015, down from 243.4 in the first four weeks of 2014. However, passing yards per attempt are up 2 percent this season to 7.51.

  • Yards per play — arguably the most pivotal offensive statistic — are up 2 percent to 5.93 compared to the opening month of 2014.

  • Scoring in FBS through the first month is up 1 percent to 31.8 points per game… The SEC was the highest-scoring conference in the opening month of 2014 (39.5 points). But perhaps due to so many teams starting new quarterbacks, the SEC ranks fourth through the first month of 2015 at 32.6 points.

On that last point, Georgia may be bucking a trend.  Through the first four games of 2014, the Dawgs averaged 45.25 ppg.  This year, there’s an ever so slight increase in that average to 45.5.

But the overall story there is one of more scoring, more offensive efficiency and less throwing to do so.  I wonder how much of that can be chalked up to personnel and how much to deliberate strategy.


Filed under College Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

Applying a business model to the gridiron

At some point, everyone is going to wake up to the reality that college sports is big business, which is starting to bring a whole new meaning to college prep.

IMG is at the forefront. It is trying to enhance its academy brand with football, perhaps the most visible sport. And it is applying a business model to the gridiron that has long been profitable for tennis and has expanded to golf, soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, and track and field. The academy has nearly 1,000 students from more than 80 countries enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th grade and postgraduation. About half the students are international.

The school, 45 miles south of Tampa, recruits football players from around the country, offering high-performance training, college preparatory courses, coaches with N.F.L. playing experience, facilities that resemble a small college more than a high school, and a chance to play a national schedule and on national television on ESPN against some of the country’s highest-rated teams.

Though IMG Academy has fielded a varsity football team for only three seasons and, as an independent school, is ineligible to play for a Florida state championship, it is stocked with six of the nation’s top 100 senior recruits. The roster has players from 21 states and six countries. This month, IMG flew to Texas for a game. On Saturday, it will travel to New Jersey to face another power, Bergen Catholic High School.

The full cost of tuition and boarding for a year of football at IMG Academy is $70,800, although need-based financial assistance is available. School officials would not provide specific figures, but they said that payments by families could range from tens of thousands of dollars to a competition fee (between $3,750 and $4,500) to nothing.

Team helmets are adorned not with a lion or a tiger but with IMG’s corporate logo.

Nice.  So is this.

IMG officials are upfront about their profit motive. And they have been backed financially by powerful state lawmakers who justify the assistance by citing the academy’s economic impact to the region in training more than 12,000 athletes yearly from the youth level to the pros and in hosting numerous amateur and professional sports competitions.

Although it is private, IMG Academy has received more than $7 million from the Florida state budget over the past two years, according to news accounts. An additional $2 million was pledged by lawmakers in June but was then vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Ain’t amateurism grand?


Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Over at Georgia Sports Blog, Tyler looks at the mess the NFL is grappling with over Deflategate and wonders if there’s a lesson to be learned by college football.

He starts by noting that there’s a structural difference between the two that benefits the people in charge of college football.

The biggest thing protecting college athletics, particularly the cash cow that is college football, is the autonomy of the conferences. Will that become the reason the NCAA, with their ongoing publicity and discipline investigation failures, ceases to exists?

If you don’t think it’ll happen because of the money involved, remember, the NFL is the most profitable sports league in the world.

Eh, maybe.  True, the colleges don’t speak with one voice on every issue, as does the NFL, but let’s not take that too far.  The NCAA is an organization made up of schools and, as we’ve seen over the past few years, it has become increasingly sensitive to the wishes of its P5 membership, wishes that are mainly driven by – you guessed it – the almighty dollar.

It’s also reasonable to expect that college football would speak more with one voice if it possessed a key attribute the NFL enjoys, an antitrust exemption.  But that’s a story for another day.

Where I do think Tyler’s on to something is with his second point.

As Will Leitch put it: “People love football. But they hate the NFL.” I don’t buy that all people hate the NFL, but there is a substantial minority of football fans that are starting to treat pro football they way they treated MLB after the strike in 1994. They just stop caring.

That’s me, brother.  I was a huge baseball fan back in the day – season tickets, annual trips to Spring Training, trips to games in other cities, Rotisserie Baseball play – but I flipped a switch the day the news came out that the World Series was cancelled.  (I’m probably the only person in Atlanta who didn’t watch the ’95 World Series.)  And I’ve never looked back since.

Shutting down your premier event over a money squabble is a dramatic and effective way of proving to your fans that you really don’t give a shit about them.  And from my selfish standpoint, it was a message that I could no longer trust the owners (and the players, honestly) with my passion as a fan.  Once you cross that barrier, it’s hard to care again.  And I never have, even though I still appreciate the game of baseball from a historical perspective.

All of which gets me around to pondering the subject of what college football’s existential crisis might look like.  I know some of you see full-blown player compensation as being the trigger for that event, but it’s a little more complicated than that for me.  And that’s mainly because college football has made incremental changes to its nature for years now.  I’ve watched the shameless race over conference expansion/realignment and the expansion of conferences into the broadcast business and the havoc that’s wrecked on scheduling and traditional rivalries.  I’ve seen the way the people running the conferences are fumbling the issue of trying to balance the need to attract television audiences while keeping asses in the seats.  None of that individually is as bad as cancelling a season, but absorbed as a whole, it’s certainly enough to take a toll on my support.

Add to that the combination of arrogance and stupidity that marks both the NCAA and its member schools in allowing certain issues to fester in the courts instead of dealing with them in a proactive manner and you’ve got the perfect storm.  All of which is my way of saying that while I don’t know exactly what will be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, I have no doubt that there’s one coming.  There’s simply too much derp, greed and money to expect otherwise.


Filed under College Football