Category Archives: College Football

“Winter is coming.”

Jim Delany is a camel farmer who is sitting on a billion gallons of oil. He knows about camels.That is all.

Brian Cook, from a Q & A with Spencer Hall, November 19, 2012

If you clicked on one of the links in this morning’s buffet, it took you to a piece about the continuing decline in college football attendance.  In it, Greg Byrne, Arizona’s athletic director, utters the usual mouth noises we’re accustomed to hearing from the suits about how they’re on the mother (“We are definitely paying attention,” Byrne said. “It is critical that the game-day experience is better for our fans than the television presentation.”).

But here’s my question: what if, in the end, that attention is all there is?

I mean, we already know these guys aren’t nearly as smart as they believe themselves to be.  As I once wrote,

All these guys, the Delanys, the Slives – they’ve all been told for so many years that they’re marketing geniuses that they’ve swallowed the hype completely.  They’re not.  They’re simply people who’ve been sitting in the right place and have taken the obvious steps (so far, anyway) to monetize our passions.  Now we’re at a stage where the limits are being tested with unsettling notions like fourteen-school conference alignments, scheduling contortions and schools that seemingly change conference affiliations on a monthly basis (hey there, TCU!).  Even most conference names are a joke now.  If they’re not careful, at some point they risk their meal ticket saying the hell with it and walking away.

Smarter marketers than our current conference heads have made dumb moves.

If these guys can’t figure a way out of the box they’ve willingly placed themselves in, what’s left for the game of college football?

And we all know what the box looks like.

As they say in Westeros, “winter is coming.” And “winter,” in the case of the fannies-in-the-stadium-seats experience, most urgently amounts to (a) the continuing and spectacular advances in television, and (b) organized sports’ unwavering allegiance to the networks and to the massive windfall produced by that loyalty.

As TVs become even more overwhelming in quality and as those marvelous production values evolve — as HD becomes 3D becomes holograms, as overhead cameras become in-locker-room-at-halftime ones become in-helmet-during-huddles ones … and all cheaper and cheaper and cheaper — what will be the allure of schlepping to the actual site of the games?

Why will people in the next generation or two and beyond, certain to become virtual-reality participants as they lounge on their sofas, bother with the expense and the irritants and the time commitment of attending events in person?

Why will they continue to pay for the privilege of sitting in traffic jams and then in distant and cramped seats (and so often in the company of fools)?

Why will they keep digging so very deep for tickets, for parking spaces and for mediocre food (and in the matter of those spectacularly overpriced hot dogs, after waiting in line for them)?

And there is this, too: Folks will soon become even more painfully aware that those who run sports, collegiately and professionally, care more about the fans who didn’t come to the game and who didn’t fork over the dollars than the ones who did both.

Bingo.

The economics of college football don’t favor attendance anymore.  So what happens when the schools and conferences surrender to the consequences of the reality they’ve helped fashion?  Well, they’ll just keep doing what they’ve done for the past decade – conference realignment, tossing aside traditional rivalry games as quaint relics of another era, structuring conference championships with an eye towards placing schools in the college football playoffs, commissioners running conferences with an eye towards building broadcast networks… and, of course, postseason expansion – because for them, it’s all worked out in the short-term.  And the short-term is all their minds are capable of grasping.

At the moment, postseason expansion means bowl games, which, when you think about it, are the perfect example of this mindset.  New ones are popping up like desert flowers after a brief rainstorm not because fans want to go to some out-of-the-way place in mid-December, but because it gives ESPN the opportunity to fill another four hours in its broadcast schedule.

At some point, though, the camel herders will be told that slapping a playoff label on a postseason game will get them a bigger check.  And that will be that, because when it comes down to it, that’s the only way they know to run their business.  That’s sort of what Nick Saban was getting at with his comments from the other week, which Jeff Long amusingly dismissed.

But here’s the thing to ponder.  Once the Delanys and the Slives give in to the dark side, where do things go from there?  Sure, it’s easy to see a bunch of bowl games being wiped out, but, while they’re at it, what about conference championship games?  Once the field is large enough, they become useless (although it would have the unintended benefit of ending the embarrassing quivers we’ve been watching the conferences endure over how they want to pick their champs going forward).  Even better, ditch those games and you’ve opened up another week for the playoffs.

For that matter, why stop there?

The sport’s new end-of-the-year playoff format currently has a 12-year lifespan, but in the event that more teams are added and more games are played during the college football season, some SEC coaches think the regular-season structure should be looked at and even shortened.

“I would hope that if it expands beyond this, we gotta look at the regular season,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said as SEC media days concluded Thursday. “I think you have to reduce the regular [season]. A lot of people may not agree with that.”

Eh, Mark, they’ll get used to it while they’re filling out their brackets.

I’d like to think I’m hopelessly cynical and way off base with this.  But then I reflect on everything that’s happened in the name of college football over the past decade and wonder if I’m thinking too small.  Because people like Greg Byrne think they’ve got it all under control.

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Filed under College Football

Question of the day

Kevin Causey asked me to take part in another roundtable discussion.  This one has a single topic.  I’ve already submitted my response, but I thought it would be fun to see what you guys think.

So here goes:  What’s one college football rule you’d like to see changed (and how would you change it)?

Interpret “rule” as broadly as you like – I did – and share something in the comments.

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Filed under College Football

Monday morning buffet

Piping hot goodies to get your day started…

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Filed under College Football, Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label, Recruiting, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, The NCAA

Jeff Long explains how it is to Nick Saban.

I never thought it was possible to condescend to Alabama’s head coach, but Long pulls it off.

“Well, I think sometimes coaches, particularly those at the highest level, I’m not sure how aware they are of what’s really going on out there in the real world,” Long said. “You know, bowl games, they keep adding bowl games. And I think the television interest for the games is higher than ever before, so I think that’s not only the College Football Playoff, but as we’ve gone through some of those bowl games. So I’m not sure it’s having that effect.”  [Emphasis added.]

Nick, you chump.  Don’t you know it’s ESPN’s world and Jeff Long is just living in it?

21 Comments

Filed under College Football

Friday morning buffet

As always, come and get it.

28 Comments

Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, College Football, Georgia Football, Look For The Union Label, Recruiting, SEC Football

“I learned what I feared the most would happen.”

I keep saying it’s inevitable that a college football playoff will have an impact on how the college football season is perceived.  If you won’t take my word for it, take Nick Saban’s.

“All the attention, all the interest would be about the four teams in the playoffs, which is exactly what happened, which was great to be a part of.

“But what I was most fearful of is college football is unique. A lot of young men get a lot of positive self gratification from being able to go to a bowl game and that’s always been a special thing. That by having a playoff we would minimize the interest in other bowl games, which I think is sort of what happened and I hate to see that for college football.”

Or Jimbo Fisher’s.

“I’m worried winning the Orange Bowl doesn’t mean anything. When I was a kid … we still had a national champion but [the other bowls] still mattered. Now if you go 12-2 and win an Orange Bowl or Sugar Bowl or Cotton Bowl or Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and you say that’s not enough? There’s something wrong with that now,” Fisher said. “When you’re 12-2 there’s not much better you can do. You might get over the hump [to the playoffs] but how many times?”

And think about how this mindset is manifesting itself in ways like the Big 12’s agonized struggle to crown a conference champ.

Which is why this Saban observation should give you pause for thought.

“The issue for me in all of this stuff is the culture of college football is changed,” he said before the Regions Tradition pro-am at Shoal Creek. “It’s no longer just about the SEC getting in the BCS bowl game. This is about a playoff. This is about a final four.”

In that spirit, he said all the major conferences should play with the same rules.

“So I think we need to be a little more global in our thinking in terms of making the rules in the Big 5 conferences kind of congruent with each other,” Saban said. “So if one group is going to be able to do it, the other group needs to be able to do it.”

That, folks, is a sweeping comment.  And it’s the logical destination to the course that college football has set for itself in its chase for more money.  Look at the CFP as the Transportation Department, coming in to widen the road, so the schools can get where they’re headed more quickly.

It’s how you convert a sport based strongly on regional appeal – SEC!SEC!SEC! – to a national focus.  ESPN will love it.  Me?  Not so much.

But, again, don’t take my word for it.

75 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

Thursday morning buffet

Go on, have some.

  • Mark Schlabach asks the musical question, “Say what? A guy who actually graduated from Notre Dame can’t attend an SEC school, but guys who were accused of crimes such as theft and domestic violence can?”  That’s why we love you, SEC.
  • If you believe in the old adage, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”, it can’t be good that it’s getting increasingly smokier around Tim Beckman.
  • And you wouldn’t be the only one who feels that way, evidently, judging by this.
  • People who keep writing posts about declining bowl game attendance show their ignorance about bowl game economics.
  • Here’s a different SEC power rankings list for you.
  • Roll Bama Roll looks back at how the current SEC scheduling format came into being.
  • And UAB’s president expects to make a decision about whether to bring the football program out of the grave he sent it to by June 1.

22 Comments

Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness, Look For The Union Label, SEC Football, Whoa oh Alabama