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

There’s always gonna be somebody jonesing for Cinderella.

Sports Illustrated’s Joan Niesen laments the selection committee’s missed opportunity.

A precedent was set in college football on Sunday: More than half of FBS teams are ineligible for the playoff.

No one announced this, but the College Football Playoff committee might as well have when it ranked 12–0 UCF, the American Athletic Conference champion, No. 10. The only remaining undefeated team in the country, the Knights were coming off two straight wins over ranked teams, and as all of college football fervently debated which flawed traditional power—Ohio State or Alabama—might get in, the team wrapping a perfect season was all but ignored.

It’s not a good look for a sport that claimed its new playoff system, now in its fourth year, would be a progressive move.

This year marked what could have been a turning point for the playoff. After Saturday’s championship games, three spots were set in stone—Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia, all bona fide contenders. But after that consensus top three, things looked murky. Even two-loss USC, left for dead after getting blown out by Notre Dame in October, seemed to be in the conversation. For the first time in the playoff’s history, the bracket was unsettled not because there were too many qualified teams, but because there might just have been too few.

It was an opportunity for the playoff to do something different. Instead, it made the most predictable move possible: It picked Alabama.

UCF is certainly a nice story.  Scott Frost brought the program back from its absolute nadir under George O’Leary.  But notice that not even Niesen is arguing that the Black Knights are a better team than Alabama.  The problem is that there’s little context to evaluate how good a team that was 0-12 in 2015 is now:  the toughest opponent UCF faced this season, according to ESPN’s FPI, is #29 Memphis.  According to Sagarin, UCF has played the nation’s 83rd toughest schedule.  Bill Connelly, who’s been very positive about Central Florida’s season, has it facing two opponents all season in his top twenty in terms of S&P+ rankings — and five running between 103 and 123.

You can’t say a team is weak simply because it’s played a weak schedule, of course.  What you can say, though, is that playing a weaker schedule makes it harder to judge a team’s worth.  That’s something especially true for a team going through a meteoric rise as UCF has.

Is UCF Boise State versus Oklahoma good, or Hawaii versus Georgia overrated?  We don’t know.  Maybe we’ll get an indication when the Black Knights face off against Auburn, although I don’t see how they can stay in the ball park if the Tigers show up motivated.

It seems to me that when Niesen writes,

But I’m bored, and I’m tired of watching the teams that should be playing in January rather than a team that could be if only everyone broadened their horizons.

… she’s asking the committee to entertain her in the abstract rather than put the four best teams in position to win a national title.  A mid-major hoping to crash the CFP party is going to have to have more on its résumé than novelty.  As long as there’s a four-team playoff, anyway.



Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

No conference can serve two masters.

The Mountain West has to choose between that sweet, sweet television revenue and asses in the seats.

At the University of Wyoming, the trade-off the Mountain West is making for television is apparent.

The Cowboys drew more fans to Memorial Stadium for each afternoon game in September against nonconference foes Gardner-Webb and Texas State than they did for the conference opener against Hawaii, which kicked off at 8:15 p.m. Mountain time.

The Hawaii game was broadcast on ESPN2 as part of a deal that pays the Mountain West more than $100 million over seven years. The Texas State game was streamed exclusively on Facebook, which pays the conference nothing for the content.

The Mountain West has three years left on the TV contract that puts most of its members’ home football games on an ESPN channel or CBS Sports Network. As conference officials ponder their next move, the Mountain West is experimenting with alternatives to traditional broadcasting and weighing whether filling all those late TV windows is worth the money its members are making.

Actually, the TV money isn’t that sweet — about $1.1 million from their deals — which is what makes this a closer call than, say, the Pac-12’s, also home to the same dilemma. (HINT:  TV is winning.)

Ironically, their situation is more complicated because of Boise State.

Boise State’s membership agreement gives the school an additional $1.8 million, approximately, per year…

Then there is Boise State. Back in 2012, when the Broncos were still new to the Mountain West and not far removed from their BCS-busting days, they were wooed by the then-Big East during conference realignment. To keep Boise State, the Mountain West agreed to a deal that guaranteed the school more appearances on ESPN and more TV revenue than the other schools.

Going forward the agreement calls for the rights to Boise State’s home games to be negotiated separately from the rest of the conference.

Boise State is still a perennial contender in the Mountain West, leading the Mountain Division this season, but the Broncos have only won the division once in the last four seasons. Whether Boise State still deserves special treatment is something the rest of the conference wants to consider before another television deal is struck.

“I don’t want to say Boise’s brand is different, but when they came off Fiesta Bowl runs they were a national story. They’re not there today. They’re still excellent,” Burman said. “Boise still has a brand that’s different than the rest of us. But that discussion needs to happen between presidents and the commissioner about what does Boise merit three years from now and how does this get resolved.”

Boise State AD Curt Apsey said the school is open to having that discussion. He also added that while the Broncos and their fans would welcome more day games, they can’t come at the expense of TV revenue.

“It would be very difficult for us to give up the TV money and make it up in ticket sales,” he said.

Yep, the school that believed it should be treated like the big national kids cut itself a special deal that is no longer justified.

Maybe it’s a negotiating tactic.

Thompson is cautious about playing his negotiating hand with ESPN and CBS publicly, but the reality is this: If Mountain West teams want to play less night and weekday games it will drive down their value to traditional TV partners. But maybe it’s worth it.

“Yes, you’d hate to have to replace (the revenue). But does it put us out of business? No,” Thompson said. “However, I’m not an AD and they may say, ‘You’re an idiot for making that kind of statement.'”

Or maybe they’re just caught between a rock and a hard place.


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

Get me outta here, Percy.

Mike Bianchi does his perennial troll of the SEC’s Mississippi members — “If the major conferences were starting from scratch today and holding a draft; UCF and USF would be in and Ole Miss and Mississippi State would be out.” –and enlists USF’s Charlie Strong in support.

“Without a doubt,” Strong told me Wednesday on our “Open Mike” radio show. “With the job we’re doing here at USF and the job they’re doing at UCF, we can go beat those people [Power Five teams] right now. Just think if we had their resources. … The only thing they have that’s different from us is that they are Power Five. There’s nothing else. That’s it. We have as many good players [as some of these programs]. They just have Power Five status.”

Meanwhile, in private, Strong is supposedly singing a different tune.

Practically every week this season, South Florida coach Charlie Strong has pleaded with fans to fill Raymond James Stadium, even making some critical comments about attendance. And every week, USF fans have failed to respond.

Though South Florida is 5-0 and ranked 16th, just 24,325 people showed up (announced) for its last game against Temple and it’s doubtful things will be that much better on Oct. 14 for Cincinnati. That is just one of many frustrations Strong has voiced privately this season about coaching at the Group of Five level, according to a person familiar with Strong’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity. That person told USA TODAY Sports they would not be surprised if Strong got in the mix for Power Five openings, despite his affinity for the Tampa area.

Though Strong’s Texas experience was a disaster, he’s 58-37 as a college head coach and will likely win 10 or more games this season at USF. He’s still a marketable name in the business and has a good track record, a good recruiting reputation and a likable personality. It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him involved with Ole Miss…

LOL. Talk about if you can’t beat ’em…


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

Ah, Jesus.

C’mon, Jerry Falwell, Jr.  Can’t you keep politics out of college football?


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

The difference between a “mix” and a spot

We finally learn there’s a bridge too far even for Bill Hancock’s shilling.

The playoff director is at Mountain West media days and during his open media session he discussed the playoff, and that includes him saying that “absolutely” a team from the Group of Five has a chance to make the playoff.

Hancock also went on to say that an unbeaten Mountain West champion would be in the mix for a spot in playoff. The key word there is “mix,” because it will take a special season for any team from a non-power conference to have a chance to make the playoff, and that special season would have to be accompanied by a bit of chaos at the top.

Bless his heart.  I doubt even the Mountain West commissioner bought that.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant

The early bird catches the scheduling conflict.

The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga has struggled with attendance the past couple of seasons and is asking itself why.  One of the problem areas (and a potential solution) mentioned gave me a chuckle.

… Some fans complained about the start times — 11 of the 13 home games the past two seasons have started at 4 p.m. or earlier — but the thought is that later start times would yield similar attendance figures.

The administration has preferred earlier start times to try to maximize the number of people in the stands, with the thought that fans of SEC schools could go watch a UTC game, then get home in time to watch their favorite program play.

Evidently there must not be many Mocs fans who follow Georgia football.


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

Wishing won’t make it so.

The American Athletic Conference now refers to itself as a “Power Six” conference.

Good luck with that, fellas.


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