Category Archives: College Football

Lack of institutional control

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m seeing a weird bit of symmetry framing what looks like the structural change that will permanently affect college football as we know it:  on one end, NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma; on the other, the departure of Oklahoma (and Texas) for the SEC.

It’s all about the money, of course.  The lawsuit ended the NCAA’s complete control over televised broadcast rights.  The conference realignment move is simply a culmination of where college athletics is at now as a result of the lawsuit.

As Jay Bilas ($$) put it,

… College sports are a multibillion-dollar entertainment industry. The most profitable conferences are media rights consortia that are each the equivalent of the NFL and NBA in revenue generation, profitability and in the way they are run. While the industry claims that college sports isn’t about money, it absolutely is about money. Going forward, conferences like the SEC and Big Ten will be the dominant forces, not the NCAA. And those conferences will do what is in their best interests to be dominant players in the marketplace in this cutthroat business. That is called competition.

College sports are not the minor leagues for the pros. Minor leagues do not have multibillion-dollar media rights deals and pay coaches and administrators millions. College sports are major league in every way.

The fan and fan interest is being catered to in college sports, and all decisions are made because of fan interest and behavior.  [Emphasis added.]

That last point is huge.  We’re in a new era now.  All that CFP debate over best versus deserving is irrelevant.  What matters now is how to structure things to attract the greatest viewership.  (And, yes, there is irony in how conferences have ditched the passion of traditional rivalries in the name of realignment.)

That’s why Texas and Oklahoma left.  That’s why Greg Sankey welcomed them with open arms.

If you want to be a college football have now, you’d better have a compelling product to serve.  The SEC and the Big Ten do presently.  The other P5 conferences, not so much.  And Sankey’s kneecapping pretty much insures they don’t have many attractive options available to change that.

Take, for example, this Twitter thread on why Pac-12 expansion by means of the tattered remains of the Big 12 is unattractive.  None of the orphaned programs have the football viewership or the revenues to make them a net plus in a conference switch.  (Why would you want to bring in a program that dilutes your members’ existing revenue streams?)  The only program left in the Big 12 that moves any needle is Kansas basketball, and here’s the problem with that:

There are many programs that would generate a happy outcome.  Notre Dame would be a winner, but the Irish are stubbornly clinging to their independence and, in any event, are tied to the ACC for a while if they want to join a conference.  Clemson and FSU?  Maybe yes to the former, but not so much the latter.  Really the best option a Pac-12 has in the immediate future is to make its existing set up a more attractive product for the market, something that Larry Scott was a complete flop in achieving.  Good luck with that, fellas.

This is the world that Oklahoma has fashioned.  As long as it’s about the money, which is what it’s been about for thirty years, basically, college football is never going back.  The administrators on the losing side aren’t happy about it, but that’s their reward for failing to take the steps necessary to keep their conferences financially relevant.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate

That is the question, and the general consensus appears to be forming that if you play college football and choose the latter, you’re going to have to pay for it.  Here are the new NCAA guidelines, for example.

Unvaccinated college athletes should be tested weekly for COVID-19, wear masks in most situations and be quarantined if exposed to the virus, while vaccinated individuals should not be tested routinely, according to the NCAA’s latest health and safety recommendations released Wednesday.

The updated guidance mostly follow CDC recommendations and come as football practice starts across the country. They also come at a time when the highly transmissible delta variant has led to some regional spikes in COVID infections.

The NCAA recommends fully vaccinated individuals not be subjected surveillance testing before or during the season unless they exhibit symptoms, or based on a risk assessment of a documented close contact with COVID-19.

While unvaccinated individuals would have to quarantine if they came in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, those who are vaccinated could remain with the team while masking in public indoor settings for up to 14 days. That period of time could be shortened by a negative test or if an assessment determines the contact was not high risk.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 would need to be in isolation for 10 days, and at least 24 hours after not needing medication to get past a fever.

For an individual player, that’s a pain in the ass.  For a team, it’s something that the conferences don’t sound like they’re willing to accommodate as they tried to in 2020 ($$).

“We have not built in time for rescheduling,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said at media days. “(Last year’s) roster minimums existed with the understanding that we would have the opportunity for rescheduling. If you don’t have places to put games, you need to be healthy and play games as scheduled. Period.

“My motivation is to maximize the health of our teams so we can be back to the normal experience.”

To put it more bluntly, Greg Sankey doesn’t have time for that shit anymore.  Speaking of which, take it from the master:

… as Alabama coach Nick Saban put it in reference to his own roster, which at last count was about 90 percent vaccinated, “(Players) have a competitive decision to make on how it impacts their ability to play in games, because with the vaccine you probably have a better chance.

“Without it, you have a bigger chance that something could happen that may keep you from being on the field, which doesn’t enhance your personal development. And: How does it affect the team if you bring it to the team?”

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Filed under College Football, The Body Is A Temple

“I’m here because you asked me to come in…”

Can’t say that I’m a huge Joey Galloway fan, but, damn, if he doesn’t nail the worthlessness of preseason rankings here:

A reminder why we don’t start the Mumme Poll until six weeks of football are in the books.

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A quiet despair

In the wake of being trolled in the comments yesterday (given that said commenter had the word “troll” in his handle, yes, I probably should have known better), maybe I need to make something clear.  Or clearer, anyway.

I don’t take any pleasure out of the newest round of SEC realignment/expansion.  Nor am I slitting my wrists over it.  For me, it just is.

What it represents to me is a culmination of events that have taken their steady course over more than a decade now:  conference realignment, broadcast “partnerships” (now, there’s a word) and playoff expansion.  The less than holy trinity that has slowly sucked the life out of my favorite sport.

Am I sad about that?  Of course.  But that’s nothing new.  I was sad when Mike Slive embarked on the conference’s last round of expansion, which was driven by greed and jealousy over what the Big Ten was raking in with their broadcast deal.  I’ve been even sadder watching ESPN pervert regionalism for a broader, but less passionate, national interest in the postseason, because it’s a more efficient way of monetizing the sport.  On a local level, I was sad watching Butts-Mehre use the Magill Society platform to screw with a loyal fan base that had put its money where its collective mouth was for decades, only to be pushed aside for nouveau contributors who have been allowed to jump to the front of the line.  Those are all part of the same story.

The horse, in other words, has already left the proverbial barn and is roaming freely somewhere in the next county.

So when I see sentiment expressed by Seth Emerson ($$) and others like this…

What makes college football great is the regionalism, the intimacy and differences of conferences, the arguments we have over which conference is better, people screaming “S-E-C”.

… all I can do is shrug.  Because the money trumps everything, and by the time the idiots who run the sport realize how they’ve managed to screw up an incredibly good thing, it’ll be way too late to do anything about it.

My mantra for the past few years has been “if only I can get another five good years out of college football, it’ll be alright”.  I think I’m running on borrowed time now.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

“… based on the whims of a pointy ball, eccentric boosters and a bunch of 18- to 22-year-old players.”

A post about college football stability, 2021 edition?  Now?  I have to give Bill Connelly credit for an impeccable sense of humor, if nothing else.  Here are the parameters of his piece:

  • Coaching stability (up to 20 points). Points will be awarded according to three factors: how long your current coach has been on the job, how many head coaches you’ve had over the past five years (so, 2017-21, not including late-year interims) and how many coordinators you’ve had to replace this offseason. Air Force, Clemson, Iowa, MTSU, Navy, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Utah get the full 20 points in this category.
  • Roster stability (up to 20 points). This will be based on two factors: your returning production averages (updated since February’s piece on the topic) and the number of players you’ve lost to the transfer portal since the start of last season*. The former points directly at the value of who you’ve got returning, while the latter hints at a program’s overall culture and stability. Teams like Wisconsin (19.2 points), Toledo (19.1) and Miami (18.1) lead the way in this category, while Tennessee (0.7), WKU (1.5) and Notre Dame (1.7) bring up the rear.
  • Performance stability (up to 10 points). This category is a bit blurrier. It asks three general questions:(1) How well have you done recently? We’ll derive this from your five-year average SP+ rating.(2) How consistent have you been? We’ll use the standard deviation of your last five years of SP+ for this.(3) How many games did you play last year? This one is 2021-specific, obviously.

    All three of these questions hint at how reliable your output is and how easy it might be to predict how you’re going to play this year.

Sure, it’s arbitrary (Bill is the first to admit it, too), but it’s kind of fun to see how that shapes up.  Your guess as to where Georgia ranks among the 130 D-1 schools?  (Hint:  not nearly as low as 127th Tennessee.)

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Filed under College Football

Today, in doing it for the kids

You, an amateurism romantic:  Scholarships are fair value for college athletes!  Besides, think of what compensation for football players will do to scholarship athletes in non-revenue sports!

They, every P5 athletic department:

One day, business schools across the country are going to use the NCAA and schools as the perfect model to teach class after class how not to promote successful business PR.

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Nice of you to show up

So, I had a few people tell me yesterday this Chris Vannini post ($$) was right up my alley.

With each move, each round of realignment, college sports loses what made it special. Maybe it’s too late. Maybe it was already gone. But it’s clear where this is really heading, and many of the decision-makers who feel comfortable about the short term need to realize there won’t be a chair for them at the end of this road. And many fans need to remember why they fell in love with the sport in the first place.

I dunno.  Yeah, that’s all true, but a column like this would have reverberated a lot more had it been posted eight or nine years ago.  Anybody with a brain knew then why the SEC embarked on a poorly thought out expansion plan:  Mike Slive had to do something to bail his conference out from a TV deal that was perceived as inadequate and damn the consequences.  (For some bizarre reason, yesterday Slive was being lauded on social media as some sort of heroic visionary, which is ludicrous.  But that’s probably a subject for a different post.)

Greed has been running the show in college football at least as long as this blog has been around.  Yet for some reason this particular round of SEC expansion is triggering angst like Vannini’s.  Eh, big deal.

And even with that, he still manages to pull a punch with this observation:

Less than two months after the Super League collapsed, college football put a hand out for the little guy, planning a 12-team playoff with at least one guaranteed bid for a Group of 5 program. The sport’s leaders sacrificed for the benefit of the game, to keep more fan bases engaged throughout the season. Notre Dame gave up the chance for a first-round bye. The SEC agreed to change a system that already benefits them. The Power 5 agreed to a system in which more than one G5 team could make it. It was a rare moment of unity to help everyone.

By “little guys”, he doesn’t mean us fans.  You know, the ones who will be asked to pay a small fortune to follow our schools around the country as they progress through more rounds of the postseason.  We should pay no attention to the massive payouts to the schools for their “generosity”.  Or the way playoff expansion is eroding the very “regional flair, the communities, the charm and the history” of college football he lauds (correctly) as being a large part of the sport’s unique character.  Because for one shining moment, we’re supposed to believe the conferences had some sort of kumbaya breakthrough.

Folks, there is no unity.  There is only a money grubbing chase on, with alliances made and broken for the temporary advantage of the powerful.  And that shows no sign of stopping any time soon.

At least one college sports figure with his ear to the ground believes that the departure date will seem immaterial in the fullness of time, as the proposed SEC jump will be only the first in a long line of alignment shake-ups. “This is just starting,” said an AD at a Power 5 school currently unaffected by the interconference turbulence. “As soon as [NCAA president Mark] Emmert threw up his hands and sort of said, ‘The hell with it—let the conferences sort it out,’ it was like someone rang a dinner bell at the pig pen.”

Now there’s a metaphor for our times.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

What a long, strange trip it’s been

Tate Martell keeps on truckin’.

The thing that amazes me the most is that he’s still got two more seasons of eligibility.  Which means he’s good for at least one more move.

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Filed under College Football

Greg Sankey’s Sweet Sixteen, the national effect

I have to admit that my first reaction to the conference realignment news was excitement about the possibility that college football might embrace my preferred playoff format:  four 16-team, two-division conferences, with the conference championships played as the CFP quarterfinals.

There is so much good that would flow from that.  No more selection committee (and no more stupid ESPN selection committee show).  No more arguing over which team got screwed the most by the selection committee.  No more Herbstreit Doctrine issues.  The importance of conference play would be cemented in place.  Best of all, from my selfish standpoint, it’s the format best suited to resist bracket creep.

I assume in all of this that the departures of Oklahoma and Texas would be the death knell for the Big 12.  Were that to be the case, the big winner out of this would be the Pac-12, which would be able to pick and choose from the rubble left in the collapse in order to expand with P5 programs, and, more importantly, would assure itself of permanent relevance in the CFP (and, even more significantly, CFP money).

If the new Pac-12 commissioner is smart, he’s trying to figure out any way he can help grease the skids, of course, but, beyond that, he should be thinking now to propose a permanent arrangement of the CFP semi-finals that would have his conference face off against the Big Ten winner in the Rose Bowl while the ACC-SEC champs play in the Peach Bowl.  Locking down the Rose Bowl’s future like that would bring some powerful support to a P4 structure, which again benefits the Pac-12 the most.

I’m down with all this.  But.

But.  There’s the money to consider.  And, if you’re not the Pac-12, that gets tricky.

To start with, you have to figure that the Big 12 makes an effort to survive.  I doubt it works, because there’s very little left in the wake of Oklahoma and Texas leaving that’s financially attractive on the football side to the networks.  But let’s say it does.  That blows up the above-mentioned P4 concept, for starters.

In my mind, though, that’s not the biggest obstacle to a 64-school college football power division.  That belongs to the 12-team CFP proposal that, among others, Sankey has been championing.  If the revenue from the postseason is distributed based on the number of schools a conference places in the tourney, adding Oklahoma and Texas to the mix increases the likelihood that the SEC will have more schools in the playoff mix every year.  At minimum, three seems like a lock, four a strong possibility and five even possible at times.

You do the math.  A P4, eight-team format guarantees a 25% share to the SEC.  A 12-team CFP distribution matches that in weaker years and betters it in many others.  And that could happen with or without four power conferences.

Additionally, a 12-team playoff format means Notre Dame doesn’t have to join a conference.  It also leaves the mid-majors with a playoff spot in the CFP.

Like I said, it gets tricky.  In the end, though, it’ll be about the money because it’s always about the money.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

The genius of “and… a pony”

Florida’s AD has a three-step plan for scheduling that Andy Staples pushes in this piece ($$) as a balm for fans.  I couldn’t stop myself from laughing out loud when I saw the third step:

All kickoff times should be announced in the spring prior to the season.

I mean, sure, that’s nice.  Except the P5 surrendered control of kickoff times when they took the gold and bent the knee to their broadcast partners, so it’s nothing but pure fantasy, because there’s no way Mickey’s going to lock himself into shitty prime time matchups that would inevitably occur after some teams do better and others do worse than expected in the preseason.

This is the kind of hypothetical, like “let’s imagine what the college football playoff would look like if it was like March Madness” or “it would be so cool if college football adopted Premier League relegation”, that induces eye rolling when I see it presented on Twitter.  That a guy whom Staples refers to as an “influential” AD (one certainly knows from personal experience where the whip hand lies) indulges in the same sort of make believe is kind of sad.

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Filed under College Football, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant