Category Archives: College Football

Kansas wants a mulligan.

Jeff Long, a titan of the profession, has a vision.  Well, more like a sincere beg of his peers:

Kansas athletic director Jeff Long, a relative newcomer to the Big 12, stood before his fellow athletic directors last week in Scottsdale, Ariz., and asked them to consider a proposal that would help Long’s football team and none of theirs. The question now is whether any of those other ADs will realize that one or several of their teams might need what Long suggests someday.

Long knew he’d get a chilly reception, but he made the ask anyway. His football program has been gutted. The first mistake was hiring Charlie Weis, who put Kansas in a deep scholarship hole by signing a bunch of junior college players who didn’t pan out. It was so bad that after the first spring practice under Weis’s successor David Beaty, the Jayhawks had only 28 scholarship players. Beaty initially tried to build the time-tested way—with high school recruits who would spend between three and five years in the program—but as the losses mounted, he felt the pressure to improve immediately and also began looking for quick fixes from the juco ranks. In Beaty’s final two recruiting classes, 24 of 46 signees came from junior colleges. Sheahon Zenger, the AD who hired Weis and Beaty, was fired last year. In came Long, who fired Beaty and hired Les Miles. The 67-year-old Miles seems excited about the job, but Long estimates it will be four years before the Jayhawks play with a roster anywhere the NCAA maximum of 85 scholarships.

So Long asked his fellow ADs to consider the idea of tweaking recruiting rules to allow a team in a scholarship hole to climb out and get competitive more quickly. How would this work?

… Long would like programs to have the ability to sign a rolling total of 50 initial counters over two years. He can live with a one-year cap of 35 or so, but he’d like the ability to replenish a roster that has been depleted not because of NCAA sanctions but because of mismanagement by people who don’t work at a place anymore.

… and a pony.

Really, this is too rich.  Zenger committed AD malpractice of his own free will.  Signing Charlie Weis was one of those monumental acts of stupidity that everyone outside of Kansas recognized would not end well.  And it didn’t, to say the least.

Jeff Long’s suggestion is, rather than make his school go through the usual rebuild under the current rules — admittedly, a daunting task for Les Miles — simply to rewrite those rules to the benefit of his program.  While it’s a suggestion that’s certainly in keeping with the man’s spectacularly overrated career, it’s also a good example of a short-term fix that’s bad policy.

First of all, by letting ADs off the hook for poor decision making (speaking of short-term fixes), a redo of the rules simply excuses and enables further bad decision making.

But that’s far from the worst of it.  Here are a couple of concerns voiced by Long’s peers, per Staples:

The best programs (at schools without super-strict admissions policies) would horde recruits and then “process” the players who aren’t good enough. This is why the SEC changed its rules a decade ago and the NCAA adopted those changes nationwide. Houston Nutt signed 38 players one year at Ole Miss and said he would have signed more. Nick Saban brought in 56 players in the recruiting classes of 2008 and 2009. Some of those players—the ones who didn’t get processed—took part in three national title runs.

Newly hired coaches who want to run off the existing players will have an easier time cleansing the roster. The deterrent of having no scholarships available to replace the players who were run off would be gone.

Can you imagine what Saban could do with such a rule?

Of course, this is college football, so Andy’s advice to Long is obvious.

Long’s best bet is to push this as a player safety issue. A team playing with 50 recruited scholarship players will have to play players more snaps in practices and games. Those players will get hurt, forcing the remaining players to carry even more of the load. Players who should get redshirted will be thrust into games when they aren’t ready. This creates a vicious cycle that will keep a team down for years.

You can never go wrong doing it for the kids.

Long’s actual pitch to his fellow ADs was pretty cringeworthy in and of itself.

Long also made a practical argument to his Big 12 brethren. If Kansas continues to be a laughingstock, it doesn’t help the Big 12’s best teams when they’re being considered by the College Football Playoff selection committee. Long, a former chair of the selection committee, knows how the committee considers a win against Kansas. It’s not that different from a win against a Conference USA or MAC school. That’s not ideal for anyone. Long knows that some relief isn’t going to turn Kansas into a juggernaut that beats Oklahoma every year. But he’d like to have a competitive team, and he believes a competitive Kansas would be good for the Big 12.

Sounds like Jerry McGuire’s “help me to help you” line.  By the way, it doesn’t seem like Kansas’ ineptitude has done much to hurt Oklahoma’s chances to reach the college football playoffs the past couple of seasons.  One handy thing about playing an in-conference cupcake every season is that it gives a school the freedom to schedule a more formidable non-conference opponent.

I hope they told Long to stuff it.

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Filed under College Football

It’s still May. You know what that means.

keep-calm-generator-poster-generate-lists

Yep.  Three more for you today.

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Filed under College Football

Come back, baby, come back.

After another NFL draft that saw plenty of kids who left school early go undrafted, there have been plenty of questions about why there isn’t a path for them to return to college.  I mean, no harm, no foul, right?  Plus, if you hammer constantly that you’re all about helping student-athletes succeed academically…

Okay, let’s not get carried away here.  And I digress.

Anyway, Andy Staples explains why that’s more difficult than it seems at first glance.

This year, 49 of 144 early entries to the NFL draft went unselected. I’d love to see a change that would allow those players to make more informed decisions and have an avenue to return to college. But it would require either a separate rule change independent of the draft rule and/or the willingness of college football coaches to manage their recruiting so that they leave roster spots open for players potentially returning to school.

On that last point,

For reasons both altruistic and selfish, college coaches don’t want their players to leave early and not get drafted. Most coaches want the best for their players, and most coaches would prefer to get a veteran starter back rather than break in a new player at that position.

But coaches also need to know what their scholarship count will be come August, and if they have players hanging out there in March—after both football signing days—unsure about whether they’ll return, then they could get caught in a crunch. The NCAA allows 85 scholarship players on an FBS team, and programs must be at or below the limit when practice begins. So a coach would have to leave scholarships open while signing his recruiting class with the idea that a spot or two could be filled by a player who removes his name from the draft.

I’m not unsympathetic to the numbers crunch there, although, as Staples notes, there are ways to minimize that risk by providing a brief period for kids to get better real-world feedback on their draft chances while not leaving coaches out on a limb for very long with potential roster management dilemmas.

Of course, if they really want to avoid the problem, there’s always coming up with more player compensation so that some of the kids don’t feel the need to leave early in the first place.  I know, I know…

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Filed under College Football, The NFL Is Your Friend.

Spring composite rankings

The rich stay richer.

Sporting News wanted to gauge how everybody else was ranked. We looked at CBS Sports, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and ESPN to see what a consensus top 25 would look like. We also included SN’s post-spring top 25, which was released Monday.

Screenshot_2019-05-03 College football rankings 2019 Clemson tops Alabama in composite preseason top 25 poll

Shocked, shocked, indeed, to find Clemson and ‘Bama on top.

By the way, Texas sure has milked that epic Sugar Bowl win into heightened expectations, hasn’t it…

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Filed under College Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

The high price of maintaining a cupcake diet

I’ve been wondering for a while how long the scheduling math holds up for certain athletic departments.  It sounds like we’re getting closer to a reckoning.

Purdue has seven home games in 2019. It played seven at home last year, too. But the days of consistently having seven games in Ross-Ade Stadium appear to be finished. None of Purdue’s future schedules through 2025 has seven home games.

“We would like seven games from a pure economics, pure playing-in-front-of-your-home-crowd standpoint … all of that would make great sense,” said Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski. “But so does everyone else. The math doesn’t work. At some point, there has to be some give and take certain years.”

Playing seven games in Ross-Ade Stadium has been the norm. Since 2006–when the NCAA began to allow schools to have 12 scheduled games–Purdue has played seven home games each season except for one: 2017, when it had only six games in Ross-Ade Stadium. That year, Purdue played a neutral site non-league game in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium vs. Louisville to open the Jeff Brohm era. Before that, the last time Purdue played just six home games was in 2005.

“The problem with getting a seventh game a lot of years, the market to buy an opponent has gotten prohibitive,” said Bobinski. “It has gotten to the point where in the current economic reality, we would be upside down. We would be paying more than we take in.”

The seasons that present the most issues for Bobinski are even-numbered years, when Purdue plays just four of nine Big Ten games at home. In those seasons, it would be ideal to have all three non-conference games played in Ross-Ade Stadium. But getting non-league foes–who don’t want a return visit from Purdue–to come to West Lafayette is a pricey proposition.

Supply and demand, baby.  The mids sound like they’ve figured that out.

Scheduling home games with MAC schools–in which Purdue wouldn’t have to make a return visit–has become very expensive. MAC schools sit in the heart of Big Ten country. And they are popular home fodder for Big Ten schools. That competition has driven up the price to lure visits from MAC opponents. Schools like Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State–which have massive stadiums and fat checkbooks–are paying almost $2 million to MAC foes to visit their venues and not require a return visit, according to Bobinski.

“That just becomes math that doesn’t work for us,” he said. “We have stretched it up to $1.2 (million) or somewhere, and that’s a hold-your-breath deal for me to sign those.”

That leaves two options, play more FCS teams, something that carries its own cost, or increase the size of the conference schedule.  At some point, the latter is going to become an attractive option from a cost-savings perspective — and with another round of playoff expansion coming sooner or later, arguably a less risky option, to boot.

Something’s gonna give.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

Coaches vs. gamblers

Ooh, I think we’re gonna need some popcorn for this one.

The NCAA Gambling Working Group will propose the first-ever standardized national player availability report for college sports, two sources told CBS Sports.

Later this month, the working group will propose a pilot program that would have coaches list players as “available,” “possible” or “unavailable” for that week’s game without mentioning a specific body part or injury.

That seems pretty anodyne and a safe workaround for privacy concerns related to disclosing personal information about students.  Well, at least if you’re not a coach.

College football coaches are often noted for their lack of transparency when it comes to releasing injury information.

“I think as coaches we’re probably always wired not to give away the game plan,” Baylor coach Matt Rhule said. “We try to do what’s best for our kids. I think it has to be a bigger conversation.”

Washington State’s Mike Leach, for example, has been strictly against releasing any injury information.

When informed of the proposal, Texas coach Tom Herman said, “If I said ‘unavailable,’ I still want the right to make that a game-time decision.”

Those sorts of details have yet to be worked out, according to a source.

Good luck with that, he said.  The problem is that coaches’ control is only half the concern here for the folks running the sport.  Here’s the other half.

However, professional leagues don’t have to deal with federal privacy laws in their injury reports. The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) keep an individual’s medical information private.

All of this is essentially intended to provide the most accurate information for bettors to keep the games from being corrupted. With the new gambling laws, college sources are already worried about injury information leaking out. That information could be used to get an unfair betting advantage and defraud the system.

“They’ve got to do something. They leave themselves open to corruption,” said Tom McMillen of college sports. McMillen is the president of Lead1 Association, which represents FBS athletic directors.

Every decade since the 1940s, college sports has endured at least one major point-shaving scandal.

Cue the “shocked, shocked” quote here.

The irony here is that coaches are going to lean on student privacy concerns as an excuse to defend their own turf.  And that may work!  When in doubt, doing it for the kids is always college sports’ go-to excuse.  So what if that allows for the occasional betting scandal?  If there’s one thing college athletic departments are good at — aside from doing it for the kids, of course — it’s sweeping pesky little problems that don’t affect the bottom line under the rug.

I mean, what’s a little corruption between good friends?  Just ask the NCAA as the shoe scandal prosecutions unfold.

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Filed under Bet On It, College Football

“We certainly are sensitive to church and other events that are held on Sunday.”

Only so far, though.

Oklahoma’s season opener against Houston has been moved to Sunday, Sept. 1. The game will be on ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET.

This will be the first Sunday game the Sooners have ever hosted.

You knew Mickey would be involved.

I wonder if beer will be sold.

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil