Category Archives: ESPN Is The Devil

In a shocking development, Jed Clampett discovers water is wet.

Jesus, these people

The chances of the College Football Playoff growing to 12 teams in 2023, the first year officials have stated it could expand, appear to be diminishing.

The combination of uncertainty in the environment and a building skepticism over the power being collected by ESPN and the SEC after recent realignment moves have prompted a more cautious approach to expansion. The exploration of growing from a four-team model to 12-team model was announced in early June and is being deliberated on, with a decision expected in the fall.

“I think the pause button should be hit,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told Yahoo Sports. “We need to evaluate the landscape and what it’s going to look like. We still need to evaluate the 12-team playoff. We don’t need to rush into that when there’s legitimate concerns that need to be addressed.”

… Other leaders around the country have expressed a skepticism toward the financial value of allowing ESPN to continue to be the sole owner of the most powerful rights in college football. The College Football Playoff is, essentially, a television contract with ESPN that runs through the 2025 season. ESPN owns all of it now, which includes three playoff games and other New Year’s six bowls.

After sucking at Disney’s teat all these years, that’s just now dawned on them, eh?

These people are so clueless they make ordinary clueless people look like geniuses.

31 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil

Herbstreit haz a sad.

Shot.

Chaser.

Does somebody want to remind Herbie of the outfit he works for?

68 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness

Dropping the big one

What cracks me up the most about what’s gone down since word came out about Oklahoma and Texas gutting the Big 12 is how people who know better are trying to present facts of the past week as somehow particularly revelatory about the way college football is run, when, in fact, they’re nothing more than the same old, same old.  I mean, gee, are we supposed to pretend that ESPN’s behind the scenes machinations are a new thing?

It’s not just pundits, either, who are guilty of wearing blinders.

And the messiness that came out of the Bowlsby Bomb neatly summed up the fraught landscape in college athletics. One athletic director summed it up this way Wednesday: “This has created a lot more mistrust, a lot more dissension and a lot more hard feelings. If anything, that to me is why [the expansion to a 12-team playoff] slows down.”

Added another: “Most everyone in college athletics outside the SEC is mad as hell. This is a black mark on the enterprise … federal intervention may be the last resort to save us from ourselves.”

Chimed in another longtime college official: “An industry destined to blow itself up.”

Oh, boo fucking hoo.  You know what the real issue is?  In an industry full of Jed Clampetts, Greg Sankey wound up exercising a little more foresight than his peers.  And they can’t handle the aftermath.

With the SEC preparing to add Texas and Oklahoma, attention shifts to the three options at hand for each of the remaining Power Five conferences:

  • Expand in an attempt to keep pace with the SEC from a competitive and financial perspective, with each move triggering a series of corresponding moves across the entire Football Bowl Subdivision;
  • Stand pat and batten down the hatches in an effort to prevent other conferences from raiding or poaching teams from its current lineup of members;
  • Or, in the case of one league in particular, decide whether to remain a conference altogether.

Myerberg puts his finger on the source of their dilemma, at least in the immediate term.

… the genuine lack of productive expansion targets outside of current members of Power Five conferences and a small handful of teams playing in the Group of Five. Even in that case, options left behind by the Big 12, for example, simply don’t move the needle for the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12.

Every other member of the P5 needs to expand, but where do they go for that?  No other football program out there brings the cachet of a Texas or Oklahoma, at least if no P5 actor wants to go on an outright raid of another conference’s schools.  Sankey, to his credit, shrewdly read the room, took full advantage of it to land his big fish and left everyone else scrambling to escape the wreckage.  (Yes, with a little help from Mickey.)

It’s not any better in the intermediate term, either.

Another is the possibility that the SEC isn’t done yet, and if so whether there is anything another conference can do to hold down the fort should one of its schools be extended an invitation — especially with the SEC on a path to rake in $1.3 billion in revenue during the 2024-25 fiscal year with the addition of the Longhorns and the Sooners.

The answer is no for the ACC and Pac-12 because the money isn’t there.  The Big Ten is probably in a better place in that regard.  There’s no reason to even bring up the Big 12 in the discussion.  That is what Sankey hath wrought.

I’m not saying he’s a genius, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king and Greg Sankey has that one eye.

25 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

“We’re just not going to sit still and let somebody… disrupt our business.”

Well now, this is something.

Adding insult to injury, the other conference supposedly is… the AAC.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby alleges conference media rights partner ESPN conspired to damage the league by luring Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC as detailed in a cease and desist letter sent to the network on Wednesday. Bowlsby also tells CBS Sports that ESPN has actively engaged the American Athletic Conference (AAC) to pursue “3-5” Big 12 members join the league, suggesting it would be rewarded with “future television proceeds”.

The letter alleges ESPN “has taken certain actions that are intended to not only harm the Big 12 Conference but to result in financial benefits for ESPN.” The network currently shares Big 12 rights with Fox.

Bowlsby told CBS Sports that ESPN’s actions are equal to “tortious interference”.

Ooh, check out the big brain on Bob!  He be mad, peeps.

In response, ESPN yawned.

While Bowlsby was on a roll, he cast a little shade in the direction of his departing members.

… He identified clear enemies in ESPN and the departing schools. Bowlsby only sent that letter with presidential support, which means this will end up bonding the eight schools remaining in the Big 12. And part of that is due to the distrust of Texas and Oklahoma.

“We still don’t have the information we need from them and they’re largely unresponsive,” Bowlsby told Yahoo Sports about OU and Texas. “How many years do they plan to play. When are they planning on transitioning? We can’t get any answers out of them.”

He knows damned well the conference, having already received notice from the two about their departure plans (properly within the bounds of Big 12 rules), isn’t entitled to those answers.  And there’s where we enter the realm of negotiating ploys.  As you might expect, there are wheels within wheels with this.

“I have every expectation that Oklahoma and Texas will do whatever they can to not meet their [contractual] obligations. That’s what they’ve done so far. … One of the ways the two schools and ESPN will seek to absolve themselves of the obligation is to destabilize the league and cause an implosion of the other eight members.

“I am absolutely certain ESPN employees have discussed and provided incentives for at least one conference to raid 3-5 members from the Big 12. In doing so, they are prepared to reward them with future television proceeds. If the conference goes away as an entity, Oklahoma and Texas could be relieved from their exit obligations. Those obligations at this time would include the payment of $70M to $80M — two years full revenue — per school and leaving their media rights with the Big 12.

Is ESPN operating behind the scenes to grease the skids for Oklahoma and Texas?  You’d have to be an idiot to expect otherwise.  Is Mickey doing so in a way to create legal liability for itself?  Well, I’d bet their lawyers are smarter than Bob’s, so whatever they’ve been doing, it’s been carefully crafted.

The money factor cuts both ways here.  Yes, if the conference dissolves, that ends the obligation to pay exit fees.  But Bob’s got a problem, too.

The difference between what the Big 12 is being paid now – more than $35 million in TV – and what it’ll be paid without OU and Texas is an estimated $20 million. Dropping a stinkbomb on the doorstep in Bristol, Connecticut, is a negotiation ploy to assure you will no longer be negotiating. But Bowlsby is too smart to have done this without some type of TV partner fallback.

That strikes me as wishful thinking.  If the broadcast rights drop in value significantly for ESPN, they’re not going to be more valuable for another TV partner.

What is more likely is that Bowlsby is trying to force ESPN to leave the existing contract structure in place after Oklahoma and Texas leave.  If you think about it, there’s probably an exit strategy that saves all sides a little — the schools are allowed a departure earlier than 2025 and ESPN doesn’t penalize the Big 12 when that happens.  It’s not a perfect solution for the conference, but their fate was sealed the moment the schools announced they were hitting the road.  At least it gives Bowlsby time to see what he can salvage before a mid-major conference picks over the bones.

Keep your friends close and your TV partners even closer, in other words.

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

UPDATE:  Drop dead, Bob.

14 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, ESPN Is The Devil

How bad do they want it?

If this report is accurate, pretty effing bad.

Using the Longhorn Network money to buy the two schools out of the Big 12 might be the most ironic act of the decade.  And it’s only 2021.

29 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, ESPN Is The Devil

The 800-pound gorilla is trying to put on weight.

Per Jon Wilner:

The strengthening of the SEC and kneecapping of the Big 12 is, in our view, entirely about ESPN.

Specifically, it’s about ESPN’s master plan, as directed by the Disney overlords, to reallocate resources within a changing media landscape.

As ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro told Variety before the Texas and Oklahoma news broke:

“We have a five-year plan and also, we have a ten-year plan, and we are actively looking at our rights and evaluating what’s coming up, and what we can go after.”

That plan obviously includes college football, but with a laser focus on total ownership of two immense properties: The SEC regular season and championship game; and the expanded College Football Playoff.

ESPN already controls the former, thanks to the recent acquisition of the SEC’s ‘Game of the Week’ package (formerly owned by CBS).

And ESPN is hoping to acquire the latter, if the CFP decides to renew its agreement instead of taking the expanded playoff package to the open market.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Greg Sankey isn’t the only player in this realignment blockbuster.  Nor does he wield the most power.

And Mickey is playing a longer game than is the SEC.

— All of which places immense importance, for the Pac-12 specifically and the sport generally, on the timing of playoff expansion.

The current contract with ESPN expires after the 2025 season.

Contractually, expanding prior to that point would force the playoff to renew its rights with ESPN.

Only by waiting for the current contract cycle to expire could the CFP take its rights to the open market and potentially lure multiple bidders to the table. But five years is a long time to wait for the 12-team event.

ESPN and, by extension, the SEC, undoubtedly want the CFP rights locked up as soon as possible. That would secure a monopoly on two of the sport’s three key media properties — the other being the Big Ten, of which ESPN currently owns a portion.

The long game is easy to spot: Disney would control the rights to the expanded CFP, the SEC, the ACC and part of the Big Ten.

I’m sensing some serious one hand washing the other vibes going on here — ESPN helps grease the skids for SEC expansion and Sankey does his damnedest not to put the CFP broadcast rights up for open bidding in a few years.  Nice win-win there, fellas.

8 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

Greg Sankey’s Sweet Sixteen, the local effect

Yesterday’s news about Oklahoma and Texas putting out feelers to the SEC about a conference switch from the Big 12 managed to be surprising and not surprising at the same time, especially when you reflect that the proposed move, like everything else driving college football these days, is about money.  The Big 12’s deal with Fox is pretty anemic, given the market.  A move to the SEC gives the two schools and their new conference tremendous clout with Mickey (and in turn lets ESPN deliver a nice kick in the balls to a competitor).

How lucrative would that move be?  Lucrative enough that Texas could ditch the Longhorn Network and come out ahead financially.  If you don’t think the parties have already begun feeling out Disney about the numbers, you’re kidding yourself.

My gut feeling on this is simple:  if the money is there, the deal will be done.  That’s all fine for the conference and the schools, but what’s in it for us fans?

What’s in it for us is that this gives Sankey a terrific opportunity to repair the damage done to SEC scheduling by Mike Slive’s move to expand to 14 schools so that the SEC could fix the shitty TV contract Slive had previously negotiated with ESPN.  Best of all, it doesn’t take any three-dimensional chess moves, like pods or other convoluted arrangements, to restore some normality.

It could be done in three steps.

  • Flip Missouri to the West and move Alabama and Auburn to the East.
  • Go to a nine-game (7-2) conference schedule.
  • Eliminate the permanent cross-division game.

Here’s what the conference would look like after step one.

The geography is sensible.  Even better, look at how many traditional rivalries are preserved/restarted:  Texas-TAMU, Oklahoma-Texas, Alabama-Auburn, Alabama-Tennessee, Auburn-Georgia and Florida-Georgia, for starters.  (As a bonus, we get back what used to be a very entertaining series in Auburn-Florida.)

A nine-game conference schedule for most schools means ditching a cupcake game.  Again, from a fan perspective, this is a desirable outcome.  It’s even more desirable from ESPN’s perspective, as it increases the number of conference games to broadcast.

As for part three, with the geographic realignment depicted above, there’s only one significant permanent cross-division game that’s affected, Florida-LSU, and, judging from Dan Mullen’s comment at SEC Media Days, nobody on Florida’s end will miss it if it’s gone.  The positive benefit from doing that is, even with going from 14 to 16 teams overall, the time frame for a team to cycle through the entirety of the cross-divisional schedule is reduced from six years to three-and-a-half.  Every SEC player will have the opportunity to play against every team in the conference during his college career.

I grant you if the money’s there, the rest of this is irrelevant in terms of decision making, but in terms of good will and fan interest, it’s huge.  Now, if only we could count on the suits not to screw it up…

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

UPDATE:

Hey, a blogger’s gotta do what a blogger’s gotta do.

88 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

The SEC and ESPN, together: you’re gonna love it

Actually, you probably won’t.

Those broadcast checks aren’t gonna grow themselves, peeps.

39 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

Thursday morning buffet

Sample the wares, peeps.

  • Graham is reporting that College Gameday will head to Charlotte for Georgia’s opener.  Really, it would have been a surprise had it been announced it was going elsewhere.
  • I’m old enough to remember when UCF said they’d play a 2-for-1 with Florida over their dead body.
  • The best play in football is(h/t Josh)
  • Brent Venables is making serious bank.
  • Georgia is sending two players to next week’s SEC Media Days, JT Daniels and Jordan Davis.  What’s the over/under on the number of times Daniels gets asked why he didn’t start sooner last season?
  • Is it now or never for Georgia?”  Narrative, if you’ve lost Mr. Conventional Wisdom…
  • Take this for what it’s worth, a post from someone attending a luncheon yesterday at which Coach Smart spoke about the team.
  • Geoff Collins, the college football director of player personnel pioneer.

30 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness, Mr. Conventional Wisdom, Strategery And Mechanics

The dog ate their computer’s homework. Or something.

How it started.

Georgia’s FPI has dropped significantly from the end of last season.  FPI also has Georgia playing 2021’s 22nd ranked strength of schedule, which, given the current state of the SEC East, seems a might bit ambitious.

I guess I could accept that, at least until I look at the two teams bracketing the Dawgs.  Texas A&M, a spot ahead of the Dawgs, has to break in a new quarterback and replace a fair amount of its offensive line.  Plus, the Aggies play in the tougher neighborhood.  And then, c’mon, Mississippi State eighth?  And closer to Georgia than Georgia is to TAMU?

Either I’m crazy, or this season is going to be.

How it’s going.

Editor’s Note: We recently discovered that our previous preseason release of the Football Power Index in April contained data and modeling errors. We have remedied the issues and are re-releasing FPI here ahead of the 2021 season. ESPN Analytics regrets the error.

Hunh.  Guess I wasn’t crazy.

Several teams were disproportionately affected by the aforementioned errors in FPI’s initial release, and we wanted to call those out. Perhaps no team generated more attention than Mississippi State from that initial release, when we (in error, we now know), ranked the Bulldogs in the top 10. The Bulldogs are No. 24 in our current release.

Again, this was the result of data and modeling errors, and the change is of no reflection on anything occurring in Starkville. Nonetheless, we feel it’s necessary to call it out given the attention the Bulldogs’ original rank received. Likewise, we’d like to note other notable teams that were also significantly affected by the errors and their resulting move since: Miami (moved up from No. 20 to No. 10), Oklahoma State (down from No. 9 to No. 19), Washington (up from No. 59 to No. 25), Utah (up from No. 57 to No. 30), UCF (up from No. 70 to No. 34), BYU (up from No. 63 to No. 38), Coastal Carolina (down from No. 35 to No. 60), Kansas State (down from No. 44 to No. 67).

Mickey’s stat department has a credibility problem, which is a strange thing to say given that Bill Connelly works there.  If ESPN has a shred of shame… eh, who am I kidding here?

11 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Stats Geek!