Category Archives: It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

We can work it out.

So, Boise State went and did it.

Boise State University has filed a legal complaint against the Mountain West Conference over the new TV contract announced earlier this month.

Boise State claims that the Mountain West breached its contract with the school and “violated, nullified and significantly impaired Boise’s State’s rights” by signing the deal without the Broncos’ approval. The complaint also says that the conference has decided to put an end to two benefits the school negotiated as part of its 2012 deal to stay in the Mountain West, including a $1.8 million annual bonus.

Dan Wolken speculates that the AAC, seeing an opportunity here, may be mulling over a decision to extend an invitation to the Broncos to join that mid-major conference, partly in hopes, I assume, of strengthening its own brand.  I have no idea whether he’s right or wrong about that, but I have to say it smacks of some of the same brilliant reasoning that brought geographic outliers like Missouri and Rutgers to their respective conferences.

Of course, this move, were it to become a reality, would dwarf those distances, as the AAC would stretch almost across the entire country.  And for what?  If these schools were the television draw they’d like to insist they are, they’d be pursued by bigger fish than another mid-major conference.

The other unanswered question is what’s in it for Boise State, other than the enjoyment of taking your ball and going home.  It’s unlikely the AAC would give the Broncos preferential treatment when it comes to sharing broadcast revenue.  There are also AAC programs which possess name recognition similar to BSU’s, so there goes the big fish in the small pond flavor Boise currently enjoys.

Most likely, this is little more than legal maneuvering over money, just like the big boys play it.  It’s only the size of the pot that’s different.  College football these days — what are you gonna do?

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's Just Bidness

Delusions of grandeur

Before there was UCF pretending it belonged with the big boys — as far as I’m concerned, Gus Malzahn should never be forgiven for empowering Danny White’s fantasy — there was Boise State.  (Although to be fair, Boise State has been far more willing to schedule above its pay grade than Central Florida has.)

Anyway, there sits Boise, out there in Idaho with its blue field, surrounded by potatoes and no P5 conference even remotely interested.  What’s a self-important school to do?  Why, browbeat its fellow members in the Mountain West over revenue sharing.

They’ve been receiving a bigger share of TV money than other schools in the conference and now the conference is prepared to turn that spigot off.  The fun part is figuring out what those mysterious options the school cites really are.

Leave the conference?  If there were a P5 group willing to take BSU, they’d have gone a long time ago.  Hell, I’m not sure there’s a Group of Five conference interested in stretching out that way.  A lawsuit would be about as much fun as a conference search.

It all goes to show that it ain’t easy maintaining a rep as king of the dipshits.

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One hand washes the other.

Urban Meyer recommends Steve Addazio to replace Mike Bobo at Colorado State.  CSU hires Addazio.  What happens next shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Colorado State: Sources tell FootballScoop that Steve Addazio is expected to bring Bowling Green tight ends coach (and his son) and former Ohio State graduate assistant Louie Addazio and Ohio State senior quality control analyst Corey Dennis (the son-in-law of Urban Meyer) to the staff. We understand Louie will likely coach the offensive line, and Dennis will likely work with the quarterbacks.

No word yet on if the new motto at CSU will be one happy family.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, Urban Meyer Points and Stares

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Once again, I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such blogging bounty…

Maybe the football gods believe I have a five-star heart.  In any event, thanks, gods!

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

Today, in death, taxes and mid-majors whining

Oh, look — another conference commissioner complaining about how unfair the system is.

American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco said the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee has ranked the teams in his conference using a “double standard,” not just when measured against the Power 5 conferences but also the other Group of 5 leagues.

“Each time I’ve watched the release of the rankings, I’ve seen an unfortunate predictability, and why wouldn’t I be upset?” Aresco said Wednesday. “I’m not criticizing the committee personally, I’ve never done that, but what I’m doing is I’m trying to take the committee to task on their methodology and their conclusions. I want to point out the facts. My feeling is this conference has been undervalued and disrespected since the CFP began.”

Though I have to admit bitching about other mid-major conferences is a nice touch.

Look for this kind of stuff to intensify, if that’s at all possible, when the CFP expands to an eight-team field with a slot for the top Group of 5 school.  As we all know, bigger financial stakes bring out the best in college football.

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Are people still taking Danny White’s phone calls?

Not a good look, UCF.

… the Knights head back to the Sunshine State with its third loss in seven games as the Golden Hurricane, who entered the game as 17-point underdogs, came away with a 34-31 upset win…

The loss not only drops UCF to 7-3 overall but to 4-2 in conference play, two games in the loss column behind a Cincinnati squad that has already knocked off the Knights.  UCF will need to win its last two games (at Tulane, USF) and hope Cincinnati loses three of its last four (UConn, at USF, Temple, at No. 21 Memphis) in order to have a shot at claiming the AAC East.

With the win, Tulsa improves to 3-7 on the season.

White’s still got a great sales pitch working for him.

That and five bucks should get you something to drink at the Starbucks around the corner, Danny.

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King makers

In his latest The Read Option email, Banner Society’s Steven Godfrey delves into the thought process that led to Houston’s D’Eriq King’s unusual (at least for now) decision to redshirt the remainder of this season and return for 2020.

Houston wants to win big, as often as possible, and not because the school and its fans and boosters covet American Athletic Conference titles. Houston has been engaged in a years-long effort to regain its Southwest Conference glory by joining a Power 5 conference. For a while it looked like it would be the Big 12. Now maybe it’s the Pac 12, if there’s ever another round of aggressive realignment. Honestly, they’d join any of them.

They already schedule like a P5 for maximum exposure (a Sunday night opener at Oklahoma, a Friday night game vs. Washington State in the local NFL stadium), they built a brand new football stadium specifically capable of adding additional seating to meet P5 standards, and they lured Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia with a $20 million contract.

Winning is the only currency that buys relevancy, and Houston is rightly convinced the price to become a Power 5 program is nothing less than being the most talked-about G5 team, year in and year out.

I assure you, Holgorsen took the job fully aware of these expectations. Back in the Spring, I visited him in Houston. During our conversation, he mentioned some anxiety about his new roster, specifically for the 2020 season and beyond. After Tom Herman parlayed a 12-1 Peach Bowl season into the AAC’s best recruiting class in 2016, Applewhite’s staff couldn’t keep pace. 2017 and ‘18 produced the #4 and #5 classes in the league and no top-line, Ed Oliver-type coups.

Houston has (had?) talent in quarterback D’Eriq King, who thrived in former OC Kendall Briles’ system last season (63 percent completion rate, a 36/6 TD/INT ratio, 14 rushing TDs). He is now out for the season, along with senior receiver Keith Corbin; both players announced they would redshirt after UH’s 1-3 start. In theory, the pair will return in 2020 to what Holgorsen plans on being a better, deeper roster (five Power 5 transfers are currently sitting out 2019 to become eligible at UH for the ‘20 season).

This move is a manipulation of the new NCAA redshirt rule, which was intended to give coaches more flexibility and let more incoming freshmen see playing time (in up to four games) and still redshirt. West Virginia AD Shane Lyons, Holgorsen’s old boss and the chair of the NCAA Oversight Committee, told CBS Houston’s move was “not how the rule was intended.”

In short, this isn’t about a player’s selfishness.  It’s about a program’s plan to return to relevancy and more as quickly as possible.  What’s even more interesting about this is that Godfrey is convinced tanking wasn’t part of the plan when the season started.

It’s worth mentioning that had Holgorsen intended to bomb the 2019 season from the get-go (I believe he did not) he wouldn’t have signed Murphy, a veteran lineman with a known injury history and only one year to play, at all.

Houston isn’t tanking in the traditional sense. While redshirting your best players is selling the present to pay for the future, trying to lose games offers no reward in a sport without a draft. If anything, Houston wants to win as much as they can with this thinner 2019 team to backstop their redshirts with as strong an incoming recruiting class (and transfer class) as possible.

How the Cougars got to this point is arguably more the program’s doing than the first-year coaching staff’s, plus a little bit of college football circumstance: Saturday’s 38-23 loss to Cincinnati was Houston’s fourth. The first two were to those two very good P5 opponents, Oklahoma and Washington State, scheduled years before as an attempt to keep the Cougars nationally relevant.

The third loss, the back-breaker that turned a manageable 2-2 into the alleged fire sale at 1-3, was thanks to a single trick play by division rival Tulane. It’s entirely possible we’re not talking about any of this if the Green Wave didn’t fake a kneel-down. That’s how thin the margins are in this sport, especially for any program with aspirations as outsized as Houston’s.

In terms of bigger picture consequences, though, that’s not particularly relevant.

But it doesn’t really matter if Holgorsen planned to tank and backfill his roster all along, or if a tough schedule just got away from a first-year staff. Because the second thing you have to know is that Khator and Fertita don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. They’re all in, and increasingly mindful of how fast the momentum they built with Herman in two seasons can disappear. When the next chance comes, they have to look as appealing as possible.

And that’s when you get into the troublesome aspects of college football’s latest roster management innovation.

That players like Murphy can sign away their remaining eligibility under false pretenses is yet another reason why NCAA athletes need more agency in this process. But what would that agency even be: if you can show proof that your coach is overly focused on roster-building, you receive a free year of eligibility?

Nothing in college football is proprietary. If Holgorsen’s gimmick works — keeping newly redshirted players around, keeping the rest of the 2019 roster engaged, and adding great recruiting and transfers to end up 11-1 — it will undoubtedly be copied by other programs. And especially with first-year head coaches, at least until the NCAA attempts to close the loophole with new language. There aren’t any potential NCAA violations here. Yet.

It’s hard to be surprised the Cougars have done this, either as a premeditated plan or a hasty reaction. This is Houston, a school that is determined to break back onto the biggest stage possible. What separates UH, Khator, Fertitta (and now Holgorsen) from the rest of college football is their transparency about that desire, and their transparency about what it takes to achieve it. The rest is not unique to Houston. The machine is ugly.

It’s a good thing college football hasn’t been professionalized, amirite?

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, The NCAA