Category Archives: College Football

Today, in money

There appears to be a growing revenue gap that threatens to widen the divide — not between the haves and have nots, but between the haves and haves.  Jon Wilner lays it out:

Fiscal year 2015 school distributions (all figures confirmed):

SEC: $32.7 million
Big Ten: $32.4 million
Pac-12: $25.1 million

Fiscal year 2016 school distributions

SEC: $40 million (confirmed)
Big Ten: $35 million (approximate)
Pac-12: $27 million (approximate)

That looks bad … that is bad … but it’s about to get much worse for the Pac-12.

Remember: The Big Ten’s new Tier 1 deal begins in 2017-18, and it’s also a whopper, averaging $440 million per year.

Which brings us to …

Fiscal year 2017-18 school distributions …

Big Ten: $45 million (estimate)
SEC: $43 million (estimate)
Pac-12: $31 million (estimate)

Yeah, I can see how that would be perceived as a problem.  And the problem isn’t exclusive to the Pac-12; it extends similarly to the ACC and Big 12.

All of which has led to some understandable back patting.

Props to Jim Delany for riding the television spending tidal wave like a Los Angeles weed dealer with a surfing hobby. The B1G is in prime position to loot the jewels from the Big 12’s vault whenever that ponzi scheme collapses.

However, it might be worth considering the possibility of more than one ponzi scheme out there.

Walt Disney Co.’s struggles with ESPN took center stage again Tuesday as the entertainment giant blamed falling viewership and advertising for lower sales and profit.

Revenue at the Burbank, California-based company shrank 3 percent to $14.8 billion in the first quarter ended Dec. 31, Disney said Tuesday in a statement. That missed the $15.3 billion average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

A decline in profit at ESPN, which had fewer college bowl games and lower viewership, dragged down results in cable TV — which is by far Disney’s largest business. With the highest subscriber rates in pay TV, Disney’s sports network is especially at risk of losing revenue as cable audiences cancel subscriptions for online services or sign up for so-called skinny bundles that don’t play up sports programming.

Disney also blamed higher programming costs at ESPN…

Oh, I’m sure it’ll work out.  Delany and Sankey aren’t considered geniuses for nothing, right?

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

The long, slow death of waiting his turn

Stewart Mandel has a good piece up on another trend making the rounds, blue chip quarterbacks jumping ship after a few years in the program they signed with.

If it seems like high-profile quarterback recruits transfer at an unusually high rate, well, it’s because they do. Using 247Sports’ composite rankings, FOX Sports researched the careers of every Top 50 quarterback recruit that signed from 2011-14.

Top 50 QB recruits, 2011-14
Stars Transferred Started early* Stayed anyway
4/5-star 46.9 % 33.3 % 28.1 %
3-star 52.9 % 12.5 % 33.7 %
TOTAL 50 % 22.5 % 31 %
Top 50 based on 247Sports Composite rankings
* — started early = first or second season of eligibility
Numbers don’t add up to 100 % because some early starters also transferred.

Exactly half — 100 of 200 — transferred from their original school.

He cites several reasons for it, some of which you may find more convincing than others, but there’s little question that whatever is driving them, a lot of quarterbacks aren’t hunkering down to wait for one shot at glory.

As such, nearly all of them expect to become starters by their first or second seasons. But of course there are only so many starting jobs to go around at the top programs, and the position there may only come open once every two or three years.

“That creates high expectations by not only the kids themselves but people around them,” said Stumpf. “Family, friends private coaches — there’s a lot of pressure on those kids to get on the field early.”

Unfortunately, just 22.5 percent of the Top 50 QBs start by their first or second seasons. Of the rest, only 40 percent stay for the remainder of their careers.

Ultimately, we live in a what have you done for me lately world.  It’s not rational to expect all kids and their coaches to be exempt from that kind of thinking.

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“We’re a failed business model by nature.”

Boy, you ain’t kidding about that, Mister anonymous prominent Power Five athletic director.

Thank Gawd they’ve got geniuses like Larry Scott and Bob Bowlsby to cover for them.

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Filed under College Football, It's Just Bidness

On the clock again

Really, I’m surprised that members of the pundit class have begun beating the drums for shortening the length of college football games so quickly after we heard some initial grumblings from the grand poobahs running the sport.  You’d almost think it’s about making deadlines or something as banal as getting enough sleep.

Two plays before Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson rolled to his right, scanned the field long enough to notice outside receiver Artavis Scott run into Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, clearing the out route and his expertly thrown pass for slot man Hunter Renfrow and the game-winning touchdown, I did something I consider quite lucky.

I woke up. Just in time to see college football history live. Just in time to see mighty Alabama fall and the underdog Tigers finally reach the sport’s mountaintop. Just in time to say I saw the end of one of the best games in big-time college football this season, and maybe ever.

Good news for a guy like me. Bad news for college football, though.

If you’re making the argument that maybe college football shouldn’t be showcasing its premier event during prime time on a Monday night, you’ll get no argument from me.  But assholes wanna get paid, and ESPN knows where the money is.

So if you’ve got that late start and you want to tuck yourself in before midnight, what’s left?  Blame the clock, of course.

… When too many kids have no hope of staying up the entire game — my 10-year-old and 7-year-old lasted until halftime — college football has an issue to address.

The games are too long. They’re too long for the players, too long for the fans and too long for the long-term growth of the sport.

ESPN and the College Football Playoff want the championship game to reach the point where viewership isn’t impacted by yearly matchups. They want it to be a mini-Super Bowl where it’s appointment television no matter who plays. How can that possibly happen when the dramatic Clemson-Alabama finish occurs after midnight Eastern on a Tuesday morning?

Jesus, is there any CFB-related crisis that can’t be reduced to think of the children?

What’s particularly irritating here is the effort to dress the problem up in fan-concern clothing.  The problem is that it doesn’t really sell.

Now, it’s debatable who really finds this to be a problem. Commissioners clearly do. So do reporters, who are more and more often pushing increased work on deadline than they did in the past. So do many fans at home, who don’t particularly want to block out four hours every week to make sure they are seeing their favorite college football team play. But when we’re talking about the fans who are paying more exorbitant fees to attend games, there naturally seems to be less angst over game times.

It’s a catch-22 in a way for college football, which doesn’t want to fundamentally change the game for the paying customer, but knows it ultimately has to do so to placate the television networks.

This is supposed to be troubling for fans who show up hours before a game to tailgate?  The only problem we’re feeling is the incessant breaks for commercials during games. And I do mean incessant.

The networks could cut down on their 30-second commercials (average of 68 per game). Who hasn’t attended a game when the fans and players are anxiously waiting for the restart but television isn’t ready? It’s particularly troubling with so many night kickoffs because fans have to drive home very late. Now, whether TV wants to reduce the number of commercials while rights fees continue to increase is another question.  [Emphasis added.]

When you’ve got 34 minutes of commercial time interrupting a 60-minute game, you’ve got an issue.  Unfortunately for us paying suckers… er, fans, the people who have a problem with game times are those who have a stake in making sure that kickoffs fall neatly into broadcasting schedules.  They’re also the exact same folks who have zero interest in reducing the number of commercial breaks.  So there’s that.

Now if you read both linked pieces, you’ll see a lot of the same solutions to the problem being pushed — shorter halftimes, no clock stoppage after first downs until late in each half, reduce reviews, etc. — most of which come from that bastion of giving the networks what they want, the NFL.  The problem with most of that is again, it’s a strategy of lopping off things that make the college game different, like halftime shows from school bands.  It’s also shortsighted in that college football has parity issues that the NFL doesn’t have; an inferior opponent that is challenging for an upset win may need that extra time from the stopped clock after a first down to mount a comeback.

But my real cynicism about the benefits from moves to reduce the amount of time the game gets played is that it’ll be perceived as creating a vacuum that ESPN and its ilk will be more than happy to fill with more commercial time as the opportunity presents itself.  And why not?  If this is all about making the game more attractive to a certain audience…

The alternative is games continue to creep longer and longer. That could result in casual fans (but likely not the die-hards) losing some interest.

… that is happier with a shorter overall broadcast time frame, it’s likely those are the same folks who won’t care much if the networks can jam seven or eight more of those 30-second pitches into the three-and-a-half hours allotted.

As for the rest of us, we’ll have to be satisfied with being sold on the concept that games with less content represent an enhancement of the sport.  Not that you’ll get a discount for that…

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Little Johnny Redshirt

Here’s an AFCA proposal that actually makes sense.

In an announcement Wednesday, AFCA executive director Todd Berry said a proposal has been developed that would allow a player to be given redshirt so long as he’s played in four games or less in a season. Those four games could come at anytime — beginning of the season, middle or end — so long as he “doesn’t play again for any reason that season.”

The proposal would eliminate medical redshirts and their subjective nature. Under the proposal, whether a student-athletes plays in four games or does not, the timetable of five years to play four seasons would remain intact.

Hard to argue with that, although Berry has to overplay his cards for some reason with this:

“Little Johnny, he’s not ready to play. But Little Johnny’s mom and dad are in the stands. Every data point says when a kid is engaged in football during his collegiate years, the better he does academically, the better he does socially,” Berry told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd.

“You got a chance to put Little Johnny out there at the close of a ballgame. So what? That shouldn’t burn his eligibility. If Little Johnny goes out and doesn’t play in the first five games because he wasn’t ready to play and then all the sudden you stick him out there in the sixth game of the season and he tears his knee up and is gone for the season, he’s burned his eligibility. That is not fair to Little Johnny.”

Sigh.  Are these guys so insecure that they have to pollute every proposal with a “do it for the kids”?

In any event, greater flexibility and less hypocrisy adds up to a win-win in my book.  Which means it’ll probably get chewed over by a couple of NCAA committees for the next two years and never come to fruition.  That’s a real shame for Little Johnny and his folks.

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They strenuously object.

No doubt ESPN will take this under advisement.

AFCA executive director Todd Berry said FBS coaches are in “complete condemnation of Friday night games” and they will “push the powers that be in college football to leave that night sacred for high school football.”

*************************************************************************

UPDATE:  And, today, in bullshit.

Student-athlete welfare?  Uh, riiiight.

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Filed under College Football, ESPN Is The Devil

A stats geek takes a hammer to conference championship games.

I’m not advocating here, but Nate Silver makes an interesting argument with this post.  If the lesson to be learned from this season is that the CFP selection committee isn’t swayed by conference championship game appearances, maybe we should blow those up and come up with another way to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

My point is simply this: Conference championships, as currently devised, don’t make much sense. Because of imbalanced divisions, championship games often don’t pit the two best teams in a conference against each other (Big Ten championship participant Wisconsin was probably the fourth-best team in its league, for instance). They’ll sometimes result in an awkward rematch of a game that was already played during the regular season. And conference championship games waste a weekend that could be better spent on something else, such as expanding the College Football Playoff to six or eight teams.

And now we have pretty good evidence that the playoff selection committee doesn’t really care one way or another. So let’s get rid of them! Imagine a world in which we’re spared the annual indignation of having to watch Florida lose to Alabama 59-2. Imagine a world in which historical rivals always play each other every year and yet, by almighty Rockne, the best teams in a conference always play one another, too. Imagine a world with no divisions. By which I mean: a world in which we eliminate divisions such as the ACC’s perplexingly named Atlantic and Coastal divisions, and all teams within the same college football conference compete as one.

His solution comes out of high school debatedom and a concept known as power pairing.  You can read about it all in depth in his piece.

Again, I’m not advocating here.  But I do recognize that college football is doing its damnedest these days to minimize the importance of conference play.  (That’s my second shout out to Bob Bowlsby’s conference in one morning.  Well played, sir.)  So maybe it’s time for a little out of the box thinking to see if things can be salvaged before it’s too late.

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