Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Catching up laughs at Craig James (as usual)

My impromptu road trip to Long Beach caused me to miss a variety of kinda-newsworthy things over the past several days. This is where I summarize all those things in one way-too-long post:

Miami is "committed" to the ACC: Yeah ...
Hurricanes athletic director Shawn Eichorst released a statement Friday saying, among other things, that Miami has "not engaged in any formal or informal discussions with any other conferences" and that the school continues to believe in the appeal and strength of the ACC.

The Hurricanes began play in the ACC in 2004.

"We could not be more proud than to call the ACC our home," Eichorst wrote in a statement. "We are confident in our progress and in our accomplishments, yet there is still much work to be done. We are committed to the ACC and to doing our part to continue the tradition of excellence across the board. In that regard, we have not engaged in any formal or informal discussions with any other conferences."
... until an opportunity for discussions actually presents itself or Florida State bails for the Big 12 or whatever. Present-tense phrases like "are committed" and "we have not engaged in any discussions" mean nothing about plans/intentions going forward and should be taken with a ginormous lick of salt.

Clemson isn't even pretending:
"We've not had any contact from any league," Clemson board chairman David Wilkins said Thursday. "If we receive a viable option, a viable proposal, that is presented to us by any league, we will consider it."
Translation: Looking for good home for Tiger-themed program with history of mediocrity but awesome pregame entrance. $20 million a year OBO.

To be honest, I have no idea what's gonna happen with the ACC but couldn't possibly be more skeptical of the things people say about commitment when money is involved. See: Coaches, all of them.

The Big West and the Big East all at once: Boise State is headed to the Big East. For real. Here's the update from the conference meetings:
Boise State, which has been in recent talks with the Mountain West Conference about staying in the league instead of leaving next year, has reaffirmed its commitment to join the Big East, a conference official told ESPN's Joe Schad on Friday.
This update has been brought to you by the Big West, which offered up a home for Boise State's non-revenue sports (they'll need one after the WAC is done falling apart), thus making Boise's decision a lot easier and making the Big East a much more viable conference than it would have been had Boise reneged and gone back to the Mountain West. In other words, everybody wins (except the Mountain West).

BTW, all the stuff I wrote a couple weeks ago about the cost-benefit analysis is much less relevant with the option to move only football to the Big East, which is minimally stronger than the Mountain West but will certainly bring in more money (probably about $5 million a year more) and might be able to retain its BCS autobid. I'll forgo the standard complaint about the absurdity of the Big East's geography and just try to ignore the even absurder absurdity of the Big East's best program being part of a school that's officially a member of the Big West.

Bill Stewart is gone: There's not much to say here. The guy was a well-liked but totally unqualified offensive line coach who had one memorable game as Rich Rodriguez's fill-in, a couple of predictably disappointing seasons and then one of the strangest, most awkward exit transitions in the history of ever. In other words, the meaningful portion of his career was short but eventful; he went 28-12 and died at the relatively young age of 59.

The good times:

It probably means something that the statements that came out in the days right after his death had nothing to do with that ridonkulous game and everything to do with the impact he made as a "person," a "friend," a "father" and an "inspiration."

Landry Jones needs a friend: This seems potentially problematic:
Oklahoma announced Tuesday that receivers Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson are suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.

It is unclear how long the suspensions may last. Jackson announced two days ago he was transferring, which seems to indicate he would not be back. Franks was already suspended last year for two games, and his return for the 2012 campaign seems on shaky ground. Reynolds was suspended one game last season.
The Jackson thing was obviously expected; the others not so much. Reynolds was third on the team last year with 41 catches for 715 yards and five touchdowns and would be a significant loss, especially with Ryan Broyles gone. Kenny Stills is pretty dang good and a legitimate No. 1 wideout, but depth might be an issue since Reynolds and Frank are the only other scholarship receivers on the roster who have ever caught a pass and might not even be on the roster by the time the season rolls around. This would be less of a concern if Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders were eligible to play this year; he's not.

FWIW, OUInsider reported on the day of the suspensions that Franks is done for the year and Reynolds is out for seven games. There's been no official confirmation of that despite its odd specificity (seven games?).

Keep in mind that Landry Jones was flat-out not good last year after Broyles got hurt. Whether that continues with even less experience at receiver (at least for the first half of the year) remains to be seen.

It's Mississippi: This is the Ole Miss-iest news of the offseason:
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) -- Mississippi sophomore Nickolas Brassell has decided to transfer after losing his academic eligibility.
Brassell was a two-way starter (!) at Ole Miss last year as a freshman (!!!) after being a borderline five-star recruit who, like every other recruit who has ever had the chance to escape Mississippi, decided not to escape Mississippi. He had 24 catches for 336 yards and two touchdowns on offense (as a receiver, obviously) to go along with 14 tackles and five passes defended on defense. That's doin' work.

He'd be getting legit All-America hype right now if he could keep his grades in order, which he apparently could not. No word yet on where he's headed, but it'll presumably be a juco since he's not NCAA-eligible (it wouldn't make any sense to leave Ole Miss just to sit out somewhere else). Raise your hand if this surprises you at a school that prefers its recruiting classes as ginormous as possible since half the guys in them will never make it to campus. No hands? OK then.

A timely addition for TCU: Aaron Green was a mega-recruit last year (No. 11 overall in the ESPNU 150) out of Texas who went to Nebraska and got a couple carries per game as a true freshman behind Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah. The couple-carries-per-game thing was apparently fine; what wasn't fine was when spring rolled around and Green realized he was still stuck behind the same guys, with one of them (Abdullah) also just a sophomore.

Nebraska sophomore Aaron Green has decided to transfer, his father told multiple media outlets Sunday night. Green, a San Antonio native, likely will move closer to home and select a Big 12 program.
That was almost a month ago but turned out to be pretty freakin' accurate:
Former Nebraska running back Aaron Green took to his Twitter account to announce his transfer decision.

“I will be finishing my Football career at Texas Christian University AKA TCU!! In Dallas/Ft. Worth Texas. Go TCU!! Go #Frogs.”
TCU has had a crapload of success over the last decade but hasn't (at least to my knowledge) gotten any recruit as highly touted as Green, probably because five-star dudes don't sign up to play in the Mountain West. I don't think the importance of the move to the Big 12 can possibly be overstated here, especially seeing as how Green's father specifically mentioned a plan to "select a Big 12 program." There are obviously major-conference benefits beyond the financial ones.

As for Green, he'll have to sit out this year as a redshirt but will have three years of eligibility left starting in 2013, at which point the only other experienced back on the roster will be current sophomore Waymon James (it's worth noting that Green could have been a comparable situation at Nebraska next year if he'd have stuck it out, but it's possible that there were issues other than playing time). TCU split carries three ways last year between James, Matthew Tucker and nominal starter Ed Wesley but will have to reconfigure things next year since Wesley just quit the team for "family reasons."

BTW, Wesley was a freshman All-American in '09 and a Doak Walker semifinals in 2010, so that loss isn't insignificant. At least there's depth and additional talent coming through the pipe.

R U SURE??? Rob Bolden is not transferring. Not today.
The rumor mill had been churning in high gear for the past several days that Penn State junior quarterback Rob Bolden would transfer.

But the Centre Daily Times reports that Bolden is staying with the Nittany Lions, quoting his high school position coach. Penn State officials also confirmed that Bolden was back on campus.
FYI, Bolden was as bad in the spring game (three picks?!?) as he was for most of last year (39.3 percent passing lol) and is probably gonna end up sitting behind Matt McGloin and/or Paul Jones if either one is capable of successfully completing a forward pass, which isn't a certainty but is more likely than Bolden suddenly becoming a competent quarterback. I have no idea why he's still at Penn State; he probably won't be by August ... or maybe tomorrow.

Settle down, USC: There will come a point -- probably in about 2015 -- when USC's depth will be craptacular because of the massive scholarship limitations. This is not debatable. Whether this craptacular depth will ever be relevant is another matter entirely since the chances of needing a third-stringer go down quite a bit when all the guys on the two-deep are eleventy-star high school All-Americans who had 43 billion offers.

Ty Isaac is one of those guys:
Ty Isaac, the nation's No. 1 running back, verbally committed to USC earlier today.

He made the announcement via Twitter.

"Committed to The University of Southern California," he tweeted shortly before 10 a.m. CDT this morning.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Isaac is the nation's No. 8 overall recruit.
Isaac's commitment in and of itself didn't mean a whole lot but was preceded by commitments from Justin Davis, another five-star running back who picked USC the day before Isaac did; Max Browne, the consensus top QB in the country; and overall-top-10 defensive end Kenny Bigelow.

USC has only seven 2013 commits yet has more Rivals 100 guys (six) than anybody other than Michigan and Texas, which is almost as laughable as the fact that USC had the highest average star ranking of any team in the country last year at 4.07 and has somehow gone up this year to an absurd 4.28. 4.28!!!

The NCAA wields a powerful hammer:


Asher Clark chose poorly: Asher Clark was kicked out of the Air Force Academy last week -- less than a week before graduation -- due to some drug-related shenanigans that are incomprehensible to me. Details:
Air Force tailback Asher Clark has been kicked out of school as a result of an investigation into illegal drug use, The Gazette of Colorado Springs has reported, citing unnamed sources. School spokesman David Cannon confirmed to the newspaper that Clark, a four-year starter for the Falcons, is no longer enrolled but would not comment further, referring to the Privacy Act.

According to The Gazette, the school said in January it had suspected at least 15 students were involved in illegal drug use, findings that stemmed from an academy investigation that eventually expanded to involve 31 cadets, some of whom were student-athletes.
This really has no bearing at all on Air Force football since he was a senior last year and would have been shuffling off the eligibility coil anyway; I'm just including it here because the story popped up on my headline feeds and I figured it was worth mentioning, even if just to point out the irrelevance in terms of football and the stupidity in terms of life.

Clark leaves school (involuntarily, of course) second on the school's all-time rushing list with 3,594 yards but with zero degrees. Ugh.

DeAnthony Arnett is good to go: The NCAA actually did something logical (!) last week, granting DeAnthony Arnett's request to play immediately at Michigan State.

A little background: Arnett was a relatively big-time recruit who went to Tennessee, caught 24 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns last year as a freshman and then decided he wanted out of that tire fire in order to be closer to his grandfather, who lives in Saginaw (Sparty country) and is on dialysis. He transferred a couple months ago and filed a hardship waiver with the NCAA; the decision was the correct one given the family situation.

A quick glance at Michigan State's depth chart from last year shows the following at wideout: B.J. Cunningham (graduated), Keshawn Martin (graduated), Keith Nichol (graduated). The leading returning receiver: Bennie Fowler, who had two catches for 20 yards. In other words, playing time will be readily available, especially for a guy like Arnett, who became the most talented receiver on the roster the moment he transferred and should be the No. 1 guy for the next three years (barring injury or typical Sparty malfeasance).

Art Briles is a crazy dude: According to Kendall Wright, Baylor did not use a playbook last year. Here's the exact quote:
“We didn't huddle at Baylor and we didn't have a playbook. If we had a new play or something, we'd just draw it and go out there and run it."
 I have no idea how to react to that. Amazement?

Just because: The results from the Texas Senate race are in:

Hilarious. Please note that, based on the margin of error, Craig James might actually have finished with negative votes, which isn't really possible but might be if the candidate in question is as universally reviled as Craig James.

I cede the floor to Mike Leach (this is from a random Q&A he did a couple weeks ago via Reddit):
How much do you hate Craig James, I mean seriously?

I think my opinion is consistent with most of the rest of America's.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Not this crap again

OH HAI REALIGNMENT I FORGOT HOW MUCH I HATED YOU. This is from some guy at College Football Today:
According to two people with the strongest ties possible to Florida State's Athletic Department, FSU fully plans on exiting the Atlantic Coast Conference. Florida State will begin its transition to the Big 12 Conference beginning this June. One source went as far as to say, "at this point the move is inevitable."
Ummm ... wow. That's a pretty big step considering that it was only eight days ago that school president Eric Barron was spelling out all the reasons not to leave the ACC, most notably the travel costs that would consume all (and more) of the $3 million gained via TV revenue.

The landscape obviously has shifted in the past eight days given the competitive/financial impact of the SEC-Big 12 bowl deal and, more specifically, who it leaves out of the games everybody's gonna care about. This is from my post the other day:
The ACC just got pwned. The issue isn't so much playoff access as it is general postseason interest and accompanying financial viability. Think about this: There hasn't been an ACC team in the season-ending top two in any season since Miami was The Best Team in the History of Ever back in 2002. In other words, in a George Lucas-directed scenario in which the bowls-as-host-sites plan were to be backdated to the beginning of the BCS era (or whenever), it'd have been a full decade since the ACC got to host a semifinal game and swim in a pool of corresponding TV revenue (I'm going on the assumption that the host sites and conferences will get a disproportionate amount of the annual distribution).

And the BCS consolation prizes won't be of much help since the two games most people will care about -- the Rose Bowl and the stupidly named Champions Bowl -- will have all their tie-ins locked up. All that's left for the ACC is a deal with the Big East (pfffft) in the Orange Bowl, which ... ummm ... gack.
If Florida State were still Florida State circa 1999 and destroying the ACC en route to a top-five finish every freakin' year, this would be less of an issue; the impending playoff will have to allow access to everybody at the risk of agreement-obliterating lawsuits. It's not 1999. Florida State is obviously still a very good and desirable program but can't just rely on its own on-field awesomeness to ensure financial viability and access to a postseason game anybody will be interested in watching or attending (not the Orange Bowl, to be more specific).

The loss of Florida State would not in and of itself be much more devastating to the ACC than what's already happened but would be compounded to the nth degree if DeLoss Dodds Orangebloods is right (unfortunately the link is paywalled) in its report that the Big 12 has also had preliminary discussions with Miami, Clemson and Virginia Tech.

All the stuff I wrote about the ACC getting pwned applies to those schools just as much as it applies to Florida State, and all have the competitive/regional attractiveness to make them relatively appealing to any conference wanting to expand. Insert complaint here about geographic awkwardness and my lack of interest in watching any of those schools play any of the schools that used to comprise the Big 12 North; geography obviously isn't much of a factor anymore (or at least is outweighed by all the other factors).

This is obviously very-early-stage stuff that might never happen despite the supposed "inevitability" of Florida State's move. I'm still pretty skeptical based on last year's ridiculousness. That said, in the hypothetical scenario in which the Orangeblood report actually becomes something more meaningful than "informal discussions," the ACC could not survive as anything other than a glorified mid-major; it'd be what the Big East was a couple years ago, essentially. The remaining schools in the ACC would be as follows: Boston College, Pitt, Syracuse, Maryland, NC State, Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia. That collection of football programs would not be of sufficient interest to retain the per-team payouts from its TV contract, which would just exacerbate the desire for any school with any appeal (the recent Big East defectors and Georgia Tech, mostly) to GTFO. It's not hard to envision the ACC either (a) completely falling apart, with its leftovers melding with the Big East somehow, or (b) being picked apart to the point that it's right about even with the Big East as a second-tier conference with an occasionally interesting team but little national relevance.

Exactly how much the Big 12 would end up benefiting is, IMO, a little less certain. Having 14 (mostly good) teams along with a pile-of-cash-generating conference championship game and probably an improved TV deal would be swell, obviously, but would also require actually getting the four teams listed above (or some similar combination). That's not a guarantee because of the SEC, which is sitting at 14 teams and allegedly has googly eyes for some of the ACC's Southern members. Long story short: If Clemson and Virginia Tech end up with offers from both the Big 12 and the SEC, the choice is easy for them and the situation becomes a little more ambiguous for Florida State and Miami, who presumably would be even more desperate to escape the imploding ACC but would be odd outliers in a conference centered entirely around Texas that might not see much of a TV revenue increase by adding two schools that don't have huge national followings. To be clear, I have no idea which schools (if any) the SEC would be most interested in adding and am just throwing out some cost/benefit scenarios that have been bouncing around in my big, useless head.

I'm not sure exactly what happens next and have little desire to mentally rearrange the various conferences based on nothing but my own speculation, but I will say this: The idea that there are gonna be four 16-team superconferences in the near future is faulty and probably wrong. I accepted it as a near-inevitability at one point but can't do so anymore. The reason: The quality teams simply don't exist to make it happen.

Tell me which school (other than Notre Dame, which lol no) the Big Ten could bring in that would (a) expand the footprint in a meaningful way and (b) add enough money to make it worth cutting one more slice out of its revenue pie. Syracuse? Rutgers? Virginia? Meh. I don't think there's any way any of those schools would get approved by the conference's current presidents, who'd basically be volunteering to give away a chunk of their own TV money (about $25 million this year) just to add a couple Northwestern-caliber football programs and let the conference change its slogan to "We have as many teams as the SEC!"

Same goes for the Pac-12. Find me a team west of the Mississippi that isn't part of the Big 12 or Big Ten and would generate anywhere near the necessary revenue for the conference to break even by expanding; I will laugh if your answer includes Fresno State and/or San Diego State. Boise and BYU might be plausible additions from a financial standpoint but would only be sufficient to create the Pac-14, and really, what's the point of going to 14? At least 12 has an obvious benefit (the conference title game) that directly produces more money for all 12 members; everything else just dilutes the money and the number of games between the best teams, which in turn dilutes national interest and network ratings and so on and so forth.

There's just no purpose in going to 16 unless it, like, betters the conference somehow, and the SEC is the only conference with the possibility of betterment because of the availability of the aforementioned ACC schools (which would presumably prefer the SEC for travel purposes and regional coherence). Everybody else is reaching peak financial value at either 12 or 14 teams and will have no real incentive to get larger unless, at some point in the relatively distant future, the playoff-type thing becomes a larger bracket that offers the potential for multiple guaranteed bids for each major conference; strength in numbers would at that point become a financial factor.

Anyway, I've kinda gone off on a tangent here and should circle back to the Florida State/ACC stuff before my train of thought has completely derailed. This could all be irrelevant if John Swofford has some secret stash of Cowgirl Jen-type females to sacrifice to the Florida State student body as an incentive to stick it out in the ACC. Losing two of the Virginia Tech/Miami/Clemson/Georgia Tech conglomerate wouldn't be devastating if the other "powers" (for lack of a better word) agreed to some sort of Big 12-type long-term commitment, especially since most of the ACC's current members have nowhere else to go anyway. That said, a commitment is pretty unlikely given the money that's (potentially) out there and the obvious desire to not be the one left out of whatever does end up happening.

The tl;dr version: Be prepared for the ACC to start bleeding out and thus become something far less relevant than the current ACC, be prepared for the Big 12 to get larger/better/more stable, and be prepared for pretty much all the nationally interesting/relevant teams to be consolidated into the four interesting/relevant conferences, almost none of which will have 16 teams (despite what everybody wants you to believe).

The only definitively good thing about all that: There will presumably be a point in the near future when something resembling stability will exist and I/we won't have to speculate about various head-shakingly nonsensical realignment-related rumors anymore. Yay in advance.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Let the celebration begin

The news of the day comes from Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch:
I can report ESPN has removed Pam Ward from its college football coverage.
There are no words; my reaction can be expressed solely through GIFs:

I would like to make it clear that my ongoing celebration has nothing to do with Pam Ward being a woman (I think Beth Mowins is a fine and acceptable announcer) and everything to do with her describing should-be-exciting things like awesome touchdowns the way she presumably describes her most recent visit to the gynecologist. She also calls Michigan "Mitch-igan" for some inexplicable reason and wants injured players to just die already so she can escape the evil clutches of the broadcast booth.

In summary, she's awful.

It's a glorious day. Let's buy suits.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Pete Fiutak hasn't been paying attention

College Football News seemed great when I was in college and it was just about the only comprehensive football source on the interwebs. This misconception was quickly cleared up when I discovered that there were, like, good writers who actually knew what they were talking about running various other sites (Sunday Morning Quarterback, MGoBlog, EDSBS, etc.).

Pete Fiutak is still running CFN a good 10 years later and, for whatever reason, has a much larger platform now since promotes CFN as its own. What follows is the text from what was the top story yesterday on the second-most-visited sports site on the internet written by a guy paid some substantial amount of money to do nothing but cover college football. This makes me angry; I'm providing the link but recommend that you not click it as to avoid any appearance that getting a bunch of hits makes it worthwhile (this is called The Bleacher Report Corollary).

Fisking time!
Look at the language in the press release issued by the Big 12 and see if you can find the hints for what could be coming.

The big story isn’t that the Big 12 and SEC are entering into an agreement to send their respective conference champions to a New Year’s Day or early January bowl that will rival the Rose Bowl for supremacy among the non-national championship bowl games — even if one or both leagues send their No. 1 teams to a title game. The SEC is partially doing this to create more bowl tie-ins for a 14-team league that will have a few eligible teams left out in the cold this year.

No, the big news is the statement from SEC commissioner Mike Slive.

"This new game will provide a great matchup between the two most successful conferences in the BCS era and will complement the exciting postseason atmosphere created by the new four-team model."

Who said the four-team model was a done deal?
Ummm ... everybody? Tom Osborne said the other day that "a four-team playoff is all but a done deal." Michigan State AD Mark Hollis said "I think the 'what' is kind of already there," referring specifically to a question about the four-team format. And ACC commissioner John Swofford said after the BCS meetings three weeks ago that "it's great to get to a point where there seems to be a general consensus that a four-team, three-game playoff is the best route to go."

I wrote this two weeks ago (foregoing blockquote formatting to maintain differentiation between my writing and Fiutak's): "There will be a four-team playoff. There is no other plausible option on the table at this point since Bill Hancock has actually said that 'the status quo is off the table' and there has been zero support for anything larger than a four-team bracket."

It's been a done deal for at least three weeks and probably four months.

The conference commissioners were supposedly still hemming and hawing over how a playoff system could work, and there was still discussion that it had yet to be given the official green light. It still has to pass through the proper channels and the powers-that-be still have to come up with a few small details — like where the games will be played, how much everyone would be paid, how the teams would be selected and who would get the invite to the dance. Meanwhile, there are still some who have no interest in a playoff model of any sort, while others are still pushing for a bigger model that would include more teams.

But Slive threw in the idea of the "new four-team model" as if it’s a given. Even if the new bowl game is nothing more than a prestigious fall-back in case the Big 12 and/or SEC champs aren’t in the playoffs, that it’s being acknowledged that there will be a four-team model as soon as 2014 means that change could be not only on the way sooner than originally thought, but that it’s all but done.
Yes. I think I made that pretty clear in the paragraphs above. This should not be a surprise nor a primary takeaway from a press release about a new bowl game arrangement.
Just like that the college football world could evolve from the bizarre BCS to a real, live playoff that could finally end all the whining and wondering that’s been such a big part of the sport since its inception.
No way! For serious?!?
So will this new bowl game be part of a playoff, or will it simply be another big bowl game while the playoffs and national championship go to the highest bidder?
Bowl games will not be a part of the playoff as anything other than host sites. I know this because even Jim Delany has given up on his nonsensical Rose Bowl inclusion plan, which led to this at the aforementioned BCS meetings: "Sources told that the commissioners are leaning toward incorporating the existing BCS bowls into a playoff. Instead of designating two BCS bowls as the host sites for two semifinal games before a particular season, the sites wouldn't be determined until the four participating teams were named. ... Under this proposed plan, if a Big Ten or Pac-12 team finished in the top two spots, it would automatically play in Pasadena. And if a Big Ten or Pac-12 team didn't finish in the top two, teams from those leagues might still play in the Rose Bowl, as long as they were among the teams included in the BCS pool."

This is apparently what's happening based on the recent statements out of the Big Ten meetings. Fiutak don't care.
Here’s what might be coming; if the top four teams, according to whatever selection format ends up passing, are the conference champions from the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, then the Rose Bowl between the Big Ten and Pac-12 is one playoff game, the new Big 12-SEC bowl would be the other, and the TV ratings, ad revenue and fan interest would be through the roof.

Of course, the ACC, Big East, Notre Dame and the new Mountain West-Conference USA alliance might have something to say about that ...
If the top four teams in the rankings are from those four conferences, then yes, of course that's what will happen. That's kinda the point of a four-team playoff. If those teams aren't in the top four (or at least the four highest-ranked conference champions, depending on the specifics of the selection procedure), the conference tie-ins will be irrelevant in regards to the playoff; the teams in the top four will play in the important games and the others will play in the Rose Bowl and/or the Whatever Bowl. It's not that complicated.

The Big Ten, Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC can't circumvent the rest of the conferences (and Notre Dame, which inexplicably has equal say) and arrange their own plus-one to the complete exclusion of everybody else. John Swofford and Kevin White and whoever's running the Big East and a bunch of other people would poop their collective pants, at which point lawsuits ahoy! Those threats were exactly why the BCS had to expand to 10 teams and guarantee the availability of at-large spots a few years ago; I find it unlikely that there'll be less fight over access to a playoff that'll produce bajillions of dollars a year and a no-longer-mythical national champion.
... but the harsh reality is that this move firmly establishes the Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC as the true big four BCS conferences.
It only took him 594 words (woo word count!) to get to what should have been the lede: The ACC just got pwned. The issue isn't so much playoff access as it is general postseason interest and accompanying financial viability. Think about this: There hasn't been an ACC team in the season-ending top two in any season since Miami was The Best Team in the History of Ever back in 2002. In other words, in a George Lucas-directed scenario in which the bowls-as-host-sites plan were to be backdated to the beginning of the BCS era (or whenever), it'd have been a full decade since the ACC got to host a semifinal game and swim in a pool of corresponding TV revenue (I'm going on the assumption that the host sites and conferences will get a disproportionate amount of the annual distribution).

And the BCS consolation prizes won't be of much help since the two games most people will care about will have all their tie-ins locked up. All that's left for the ACC is a deal with the Big East (pfffft) in the Orange Bowl, which ... ummm ... gack. Mark Schlabach has a quote from a "college football power broker" (whatever that is) saying that "this could be Day 1 of Armageddon in terms of four-conference conglomeration." I think that's a tad extreme since an open-access playoff provides little motivation for a school like Notre Dame to do anything and there are now massive buyout fees and TV-revenue guarantees in place after last year's realignment ridonkulousness, but there's gotta be some discomfort among the ACC presidents/athletic directors seeing as how the revenue discrepancy Andy Haggard was complaining about the other day probably just got a lot more significant. Speaking of which, I'm curious as to whether Haggard has spent the last 24 hours practicing his smug look or exploding in Brian Kelly-style OUTRAGE.

Anyway, back to Fiutak:
Does this move up the timetable for Big 12 expansion — hello, Louisville — to get up to 12 or 14 teams to reestablish a two-division league with a conference championship?
I don't see why anybody in the Big 12 would support expansion right now seeing as how it would cut into the playoff/Whatever Bowl payouts and probably add little to the TV deal (although Florida State would probably be pretty enticing and might have a little more support from the administration now given the ACC's status). What would Louisville add in terms of TV value and overall marketability?
Will this force the ACC to try to make a big move to find a higher profile bowl alliance to try to set up its own ready-made playoff game?
Lol yeah. I'm sure your suggestions would be welcome.
Will this make the Big Ten look further into expansion and finally tie the knot with Notre Dame, Maryland, Rutgers, or any of the other programs that have been in the discussion over the last few years?
Stop. Notre Dame (still) isn't interested in joining the Big Ten, which in turn has zero interest in Maryland or Rutgers or any other school that will diminish the current per-school payout while adding nothing of of financial or competitive value.
Whatever happens, consider this the day that college football has set the true foundation for a playoff.
Don't do that; consider the day the TV ratings for the BCS title game came out the day that set the true foundation for a playoff; that's actually almost exactly what I wrote at the time.
And if nothing else, college football got itself a whale of a new bowl game.
Finishing strong FTW. Can I have your job now? Also, please get your hair cut in a manner more befitting someone over the age of 12 plzkthx.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I will give up since the Big Ten apparently has

What came out of the Big Ten meetings yesterday was a depressing update on playoff negotiations from Michigan State AD Mark Hollis, who apparently is capable of using proper English when called upon:
"I think the 'what' is kind of already there," Hollis continued about the four-team (playoff) format. "It's now kind of 'who' and 'how.'"

The "how" won't include campus site semifinal BCS games, as the Big Ten had once hoped, allowing for the possibility of a cold-weather matchup with a SEC or Pac-12 foe.

"For me, it's critical to keep the Rose Bowl in the equation," Hollis said after acknowledging the league is conceding the idea of home playoff games is dead. "There's a lot of historical value and there's a lot of future value to having the Rose Bowl connected with Michigan State, with Michigan, with the Big Ten Conference, and the home (game idea) takes that out."
Sigh. I'd like it noted for the record that whatever "historical value" Michigan State has accumulated due to its connection with the Rose Bowl is pretty limited based on four appearances, none of which was in the last 25 years. But OK.

There are various other quotes from Hollis and Gene Smith that make it obvious that the Big Ten either (a) never really had any intention of pushing for home playoff games, which makes zero sense, or (b) realized it was fighting a losing battle against the bowls and is now selling said losing battle with a ridiculous public-relations stance. Example:
"Let’s say Ohio State is hosting, and it’s whatever the date may be  — January or December — let’s say it’s 5 degrees. Is that right for the game? We’re not pro," Smith said.

"I think we need to figure out what’s better for the game. I think a fast surface, good weather is important for the game. It’s important for the kids."
Of course it is. Also, the Michigan-Ohio State game will heretofore be played at Ford Field in order to ensure a fast surface and good weather since everything else is unimportant. Sanctity, fairness, etc.

This is aggravating for obvious reasons, most notably the Big Ten's willingness to give in on the best idea anybody had come up with yet for the soon-to-be-implemented playoff and instead focus on maintaining a relationship that nobody other than Jim Delany and a couple other old guys really care about. The only thing stopping me from driving to Chicago and punching Delany in the face is the aforementioned losing-battle aspect: I was pretty skeptical all along that the Big Ten had any chance of getting that approved considering that every other conference with a prominent voice had as much reason to support bowl sites as to support on-campus sites. A one-on-five fight isn't much of a fight, hence the "conceding" that's now taking place.

That said, if there was any chance of persuading a couple relevant people that on-campus playoff games would be the awesomest thing in the history of awesomeness and the Big Ten gave that up to continue pretending that it's 1948, Delany and the complicit athletic directors are all freakin' idiots.

This is from Dan Wetzel's Pretzels hilariously snarky piece today:
The Rose Bowl's power over the Big Ten is something to behold. It makes normally intelligent men say ridiculous things.

"It would be a competitive advantage to have semifinal games at home fields … but the bowls have been good to us," Nebraska AD Tom Osborne said.

If rampant profiteering, indictments charging corruption and millions in unnecessary expenses passed onto the schools counts as "been good to us," then the Big Ten may be the battered spouse here. Even so, exactly how good would a bowl have to have been to be better than a Nebraska playoff game in Memorial Stadium?

"If you took them out of the playoff, it would pretty much destroy the bowl system," Osborne said.

Ah, no, it wouldn't pretty much destroy the bowl system. In fact, it wouldn't destroy it at all.
The quotes: They make no sense. I honestly can't believe the things I'm reading ...
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon understands the advantage a Big Ten team would gain from a playoff game on its campus but also realizes it’s not fair for schools across the country to play in the cold weather.
AAAARRGHGH. To summarize, hosting a non-Midwest  team in cold weather is unfair but going to L.A. to play USC or New Orleans to play LSU is just fine and dandy. This (among other reasons, obviously) is why the Big Ten hasn't won a national title in a decade. Who needs national titles when there are trips to Disneyland to be had?

In the bigger picture, I have yet to see a logical reason to continue giving the bowls all the power and most of the money when a playoff could cut them out via semifinals on campus, which would be an improvement even if money were no issue at all (lol yeah). Tradition blah blah blah; the bowls would be more than welcome to exist in their current format and would see literally no change other than a slight drop in interest among casual fans, who would largely be focused on the playoff-type thing rather than the BCS bowls going on at about the same time. Tom Osborne's comment about the bowl system is either unbelievably stupid or a toeing-the-company-line lie; I'm not sure which is worse given that the company line requires a lobotomy and some Rose Bowl-sponsored lube to accept.

So the question is whether the athletic directors are stupid or if Jim Delany is this guy (except with a Trapper Keeper covered with hearts and Rose Bowl logos):

I do not know the answer to that question.

What I do know is that the Big Ten (or at least the most important person associated with it) is insistent on old-timey box socials in January to the point that it negatively affects the conference's teams both financially and competitively. So that's nice.

What I also know (or can assume based on the above comments) is that the "where" part of the playoff discussion has been more or less decided. It only makes sense to publicly sell the Rose Bowl as the most important thing EVER after a relationship with the Rose Bowl has been maintained, most likely via the sort of plan Stewart Mandel reported about a couple weeks ago:
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of last week's discussions in South Florida have confirmed to that the new favored proposal for a four-team playoff within the bowl system would place the two semifinal games at the traditional anchor bowls of the No. 1 and 2 teams' conferences. For example, No. 1 Alabama of the SEC would host the No. 4 team in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 USC of the Pac-12 would host the No. 3 team in the Rose Bowl.
There's no sense in bidding out three games (both semifinals and the title game) on an annual basis, so if on-campus sites are officially out (which they are), the above-referenced proposal is about all that's left. The only not-yet-totally-eliminated alternative would be rotating the semifinals among the current BCS sites on a predetermined basis, which would be closer to the current system but apparently doesn't have a lot of support (beware self-promoting blockquote):
Mandel's source says the rotation thing is "not as likely" to be implemented because of the less-than-ideal scenarios that feature USC playing LSU at a hypothetically neutral-site game in the Sugar Bowl while the Rose Bowl hosts a Virginia Tech-Oklahoma game nobody really wants to go to.
Insert witty remark here about the unfairness of USC playing LSU in the Sugar Bowl and what that says about the Big Ten desperately pleading for the chance to play USC in the Rose Bowl.

Anyway, the silver-lining aspect of the Big Ten's stupidity is an apparent consensus on the location issue. That wasn't expected to be one of the more problematic issues but is still basically done and out of the way, which is swell since there's now one fewer thing that could potentially blow up the plan for a June 20 recommendation. All that's left now is figuring out who goes (which should be simple but instead will be laughably complicated because of Jim Delany) and how the "who goes" part gets determined, most likely via a selection committee that will in turn require an unnecessarily complicated discussion about how said committee will be assembled.

The good news: The countdown I've been lapsing on is now at 35 days. BTW, this would be an ideal time for Jim Delany to win a 35-day vacation to some remote Pacific island with zero cell service if anybody has a hut available.

Everybody's on the same page at Florida State

So ... Florida State. I promised a post and will now write one since I'd really like to get all this realignment-related stuff out of my browser.

I'm gonna start from the beginning for purposes of chronological coherency: The ACC recently signed a new TV deal that nets everybody in the conference about $17 million bucks a year, an increase of about $4 million a year from the deal that was signed right before Pitt and Syracuse defected from the Big East. That's not bad but is still a little less than the $20 million a year the teams in the Big 12 will be getting and somewhat significantly less than the $25-ish million the teams in the Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will be pulling in; it also doesn't leave much room for future growth because of the nonsensical decision to give up third-tier rights -- the stuff that would typically be available to a conference-run network like the BTN -- for football but not basketball.

It's apparently that latter aspect that caused Bobby Lowder wannabe Andy Haggard to lose his crap the other day and start openly campaigning for the ACC to die a terrible death:
In an interview with, Florida State Board of Trustees Chairman Andy Haggard said the latest media deal with ESPN demonstrated the ACC's favoritism for its basketball powers in North Carolina.

If you've been scoffing at the idea that the 'Noles would ever move to the Big 12, allow Haggard to disabuse you of that notion: "On behalf of the Board of Trustees I can say that unanimously we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer. We have to do what is in Florida State's best interest."

To be clear, Andy Haggard may or may not actually speak on behalf of the Board of Trustees; he's definitely speaking on behalf of himself but hasn't gotten any public support or dissent from anybody else with a meaningful opinion other than school president Eric Barron, who basically said "lol no."

Here's some of Barron's statement from Monday that essentially explained to all the kindergartners why leaving the ACC would be stupid:
"I want to assure you that any decision made about FSU athletics will be reasoned and thoughtful and based on athletics, finances and academics. Allow me to provide you with some of the issues we are facing:
 1. The information presented about the ACC contract that initiated the blogosphere discussion was not correct. The ACC is an equal share conference and this applies to football and to basketball. (T)here is no preferential treatment of any university with the exception of 3rd tier rights for women's basketball and Olympic sports. FSU is advantaged by that aspect of the contract over the majority of other ACC schools.
2. Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas A&M left the Big 12, at least in part because the Big 12 is not an equal share conference. Texas has considerably more resource avenues and gains a larger share (and I say this as a former dean of the University of Texas at Austin - I watched the Big 12 disintegration with interest). So, when fans realize that Texas would get more dollars than FSU, always having a competitive advantage, it would be interesting to see the fan reaction.
I'm pretty sure this was directed at Haggard as much as it was directed at fans; regardless, it served its purpose by actually providing some useful contract/financial info that was not included in Haggard's bitchfest with Warchant.

Probably the most interesting aspect:
... (since) we realize that our sports teams can no longer travel by bus to most games, ­ the estimate is that the travel by plane required by FSU to be in the Big 12 appears to exceed the $2.9M difference in the contract, ­actually giving us fewer dollars than we have now to be competitive with the Big 12 teams, who obviously do not have to travel as far.
Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. My curiosity about exactly how much a school's expenses are affected by traveling a bajillion miles has now been piqued; it's apparently at least* $3 million.

Anyway, I don't understand the grass-is-greener fantasy of playing in the Big 12. Almost all the points I was gonna make here were basically made for me in that letter, specifically in regards to the travel costs and how those would make the relatively minor bump in TV revenue pretty pointless. There'd also be the matter of an ACC exit fee in the range of $25 million, which by itself would eat up almost a decade's worth of the alleged revenue differential, and the general discomfort of being an extreme geographic outlier in a conference orbiting around Texas (both the state and the university). No comprendo.

It should be noted that I chose the word "fantasy" for a reason:
Haggard confirmed that as far as he knows there has been no contact between FSU and the Big 12 regarding possible expansion. However, he makes it very clear that he and the Board of Trustees would be more than open to exploring the possibility.
 In picture form:


I don't doubt that the Big 12 would be interested in expanding for a Florida State-and-whoever package -- CBS Sports has a source saying "The Big 12 is literally on the fence as far as expansion," which sounds wildly uncomfortable -- but that seems like a discussion worth having (a) behind closed doors and (b) before publicly professing an undying love. There are better ways to explore options than yelling, "I'M SO MAD LET'S DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT ARGH!"

I'm not sure how the power structure works (other than "not very well") at Florida State but have a hard time believing Haggard's gonna generate any sort of consensus for an athletic-department-altering move that would probably represent a net financial loss over the next 10 years and would occur only because the ACC is allegedly sittin' in a tree with Duke basketball. And that hypothetical consensus would only matter if the Big 12 is legitimately interested, which it might not be, especially if it has to pick up some of that exit-fee tab. The issues: There are plenty.

I'm filing this under "pretty freakin' unlikely" seeing as how the president, the expenses, the academics, the regional connections and everything else line up on one side of the argument and Haggard apparently stands alone on the other with a pouty face that seems doubtful to be heavy enough to manipulate the scale (unless he has a lot more power than anybody realizes with the other old guys on that board). Sorry, dude.

*An estimated cost of over $3 million each year to send a bunch of teams from Tallahassee to Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas would have to put Boise State's hypothetical Big East travel costs somewhere closer to $5 million. That's basically the entire projected difference in TV revenue between the Mountain West's current deal (about $1.5 million per team) and the Big East's new one (expected to be about $6.5 million per team); take that for what it's worth.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Big East is lacking enticing qualities

This is not breaking news: The steaming pile of meh that used to be known as the Big East is a lot closer at this point (or at the point of realignment completion, anyway) to being Conference USA than it is to being the ACC. Here's the complete list of football-playing schools that'll supposedly be members as of 2014: Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida, Boise State, Navy, San Diego State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU, Tulsa.

Gack. Every single one of those schools -- every single one -- has moved up from I-AA or a mid-major-ish conference within the last 20 years, most of them within the last five and about half of them within the last 37 seconds. Zero of them has ever played for a national championship or been part of the national championship discussion in any way other than Boise's mandated inclusion in ragingly stupid internet debates.

Spectacular illustration goes here:

That is not a major conference. That is not anything resembling a major conference and should not be treated as such, which is why I made a comment several months back about how this conglomeration of mediocrity (plus Boise!) should no longer get AQ status from the BCS; little did I know that the BCS would be mostly irrelevant by the time the above teams are actually playing each other, which makes automatic qualification something probably not worth worrying about.

To clarify, I don't know whether or how the BCS will exist as any sort of bowl-organization system beyond 2013. What I do know is that it will be, at best, a secondary feature to the playoff-type thing that's gonna be implemented and draw 98.7 percent of the attention (woo made-up stats!) during the late-December-to-early-January drunken fiesta during which people actually kinda pay attention to bowl games.

With that in mind, this news-like information should probably not be a surprise:
Boise State is scheduled to join the Big East Conference on July 1, 2013, but there are indications the Broncos are considering remaining in the Mountain West.

An industry source told that Mountain West representatives met with Boise State officials earlier this week to persuade the Broncos to remain in the MWC. Adding to that possibility is that the Broncos still haven't formally notified the Mountain West they are withdrawing from the league. asked Boise State for a comment about the MWC meeting and why the school had not formally withdrawn from the Mountain West. "We are actively monitoring the changing landscape in college athletics and remain committed to making the best long-term decisions for Boise State," a spokesman said.
Joining the Big East never made any sense for Boise except in one admittedly important way: BCS autobids are delightful things to have access to and crappy things to not have access to. The difference between the MWC's uninspiring TV deal and the Big East's slightly-less-uninspiring TV deal (about $500K more per year as of right now) was also presumably a factor but would've been insignificant had autobids and their accompanying yearly cash buckets not been involved.

That's obviously much less of an issue given the inevitable implementation of a playoff. There are two possible scenarios for the BCS: (a) it goes away entirely and the bowls go back to arranging tie-ins or picking whoever the eff they want or (b) it stays in place in essentially the same format, which means anybody in the vicinity of the top 10 will be basically guaranteed a nominal BCS bid since there'll be 10 available spots for teams not picked for the playoff-type thing. And seeing as how the ultimate goal is to get in that playoff-type thing, Boise gains little (if anything other than a bump in TV money and a tiny share of the Big East's payout from a lesser BCS deal) from joining the Big East in either of those scenarios.

There's also the possibility of a not-insignificant drop in revenue if the Big East loses its autobid and accompanying BCS share, which is very possible and would make the move even more pointless from a competitive standpoint than it already appears (that's why there's a buyout clause in Boise's contract with the Big East specifically related to that possibility). Go back to that list of teams that are gonna be in the Big East as of 2014 and tell me there's a noticeable difference between that and the MWC if Boise flips; I don't think you can.

So ... the inevitability of the playoff by itself probably should've been sufficient to warrant a cost-benefit recalculation in the Boise athletic department. Maybe it was; it's hard to say for sure since there is now a second issue to be considered:
Boise State also could be reconsidering its move to the Big East because of the uncertain future of the WAC, where Boise State is scheduled to place its non-football sports. The WAC has lost several members and, down to a handful of non-football members, is fighting for survival.
Yeaaaahhhh ... the WAC's done. That's kind of an issue since sending the women's checkers team (and all the others) to Tampa and Orlando and Piscataway on a regular basis is something other than practical. The Mountain West would seem to be the logical alternative ...
MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said last Friday Boise State could not keep its non-football sports in the Mountain West and move its football program to the Big East but could remain in the MWC as a full member. 
.... if not for BOOM CRAIG THOMPSON HARDBALL'D. There's a conclusion to be drawn there about the Big East (which had zero negotiating power and thus let Boise do whatever it wanted with its hot body) and the appearance of desperation and all that. Translation: Craig Thompson > John Marinatto.

Anyway, Boise has a decision to make that basically boils down to the following: stick it out in the Mountain West or move everything to the Big East and negate just about every dollar of financial gain with travel costs while playing in the equivalent of Conference USA circa 2006. The former option probably seemed unacceptable a year ago but now seems ... I dunno ... acceptable? Given the aforementioned playoff-related stuff, it seems that the only real benefit is a financial one of an undetermined-but-probably-not-large amount.

It's worth noting that San Diego State is in basically the same boat but -- depending whom you believe -- is gonna go through with the Big East move purely for the (hypothetical) TV revenue:
SDSU expects to increase its TV revenue from about $1.5 million annually in the Mountain West to at least $6.4 million in the Big East. There is some risk involved because SDSU is basing that Big East TV revenue on an estimate. Big East will begin negotiating a new TV contract in September, and the exact figure won’t be known until a new agreement is reached. 
Bolded for emphasis. An extra $5 million a year is obviously not something that can be ignored if it's real; whether it'd be enough to offset the added travel costs and the risks of diving into a patched-together-with-tape conference is less obvious. I assume there's somebody getting paid a lot of money to plow through those numbers and come up with a legitimate recommendation since Boise has to officially withdraw from the Mountain West by June 30 in order to do anything other than stay in the Mountain West. I'd have to strongly consider letting that deadline pass given the aforementioned issues (the presumptive meaninglessness of conference autobids in a playoff-centric world, the possibility that the Big East won't even have an autobid, the unknowns in terms of TV revenue, the realignment costs incurred via non-revenue sports, etc.) but have no idea whether Boise will do the same.

Also with no idea whether Boise will do the same: Boise. I think there's some legitimate uncertainty among the administration there (hence the lack of an official withdrawal) and wouldn't be surprised if there are some backdoor discussions going on with San Diego State to add a little more data to the formula. There are a lot of hard-to-quantify variables right now.

The Big East will survive either way but is stuck in sort of a purgatory in between national respectability and the dregs I basically told to stop playing D-I football the other day. The TV contract will determine the financial success of the entity as a whole but won't be able to do much (at least not in the foreseeable future) about the complete lack of relevant teams. It's gonna take a lot more than an extra $5 million bucks a year to make USF/Cincinnati competitive in recruiting with Florida/Florida State/Ohio State. Again: This is Conference USA circa 2006. Expectations should be calibrated accordingly.

I was gonna expand a bit on the playoff/revenue/realignment thing in relation to whatever insanity is going on at Florida State but will save that for a separate post Tuesday; I'm rapidly losing my ability to form coherent thoughts and NO BEER AND NO TV MAKE HOMER SOMETHING SOMETHING.

That is all (for now).

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I'm not entirely sure why the Sun Belt exists

I made a passing comment last week regarding my lack of concern for the two meaningless teams that'll be left in the WAC once the football version of the conference finishes getting torn apart next year. What I didn't really consider: There is no future for the meaningless teams left in the WAC. Idaho and New Mexico State have literally zero appeal to anybody as an expansion target and will have no football teams left to play unless they go independent, which seems ... ummm ... doubtful. More on that later.

What they do next is still to be determined but will probably not be an entirely voluntary decision given the lack of viable options. This is from the Idaho Statesman:
The options for both schools are limited, but especially so for Idaho.

So Big Sky commissioner Doug Fullerton, who has been courting the Vandals for the past year, extended a lifeline to keep Idaho's athletic department afloat, albeit in the FCS.

"Playing at the top of the FCS is a better situation than playing at the bottom of the FBS," Fullerton told the Idaho Statesman on Monday. "The success and fan base and excitement you can do (by) staying regional is what college athletics are supposed to be about, unless you can play at the national level."
It's possible -- albeit pretty unlikely -- that Conference USA or the Mountain West will end up a team short of whatever number it wants to reach and extend a lifeline to either Idaho or New Mexico State (probably not both). Barring that, the only real option is ending the facade and getting out of the FBS.

I bolded the first part of the above quote for a reason: I've always wondered exactly what the appeal is of being an Eastern Michigan or a San Jose State and only surviving on paychecks real teams are willing to shell out for a sacrificial lamb. There's obviously a prestige thing that goes along with being D-I, but ... I mean ... does any prospective student/professor/administrator think, "Oh yeah, New Mexico State's a way better school than Northern Arizona cuz I remember that one time when I watched NMSU get murdered by USC." And would any enrollment drop even matter considering the massive savings enjoyed via the drop in expenses/scholarships/salaries?

There was a tangentially related article last week on Grantland about Terry Bowden (the one who ate the original Terry Bowden before taking the job at Akron) that posed the following question:
What is the purpose of "mid-major" football supposed to be? Is it enough to subsist in the gray area between small-time and big-time, or do these schools eventually have to choose a direction?
I thought about that for a while and couldn't really come up with a good answer other than this: Everybody wants to be Boise State. Win a lot, build a brand, market like a mofo, win some more, find a way to get some real TV revenue and hope to become not significantly distinguishable from the bourgeois. That's all I got. I should probably point out that hoping to be the one school that's gone from I-AA (before it was FCS) to borderline national power isn't much of a business model.

There was a really good post last year on MGoBlog that included a couple notable numbers about Eastern Michigan's finances in 2010. What's important is the difference between athletic department expenses ($24.4 million, of which about $5.5 million went directly to football) and external athletic department revenue ($1.7 million), which is the total amount brought in via ticket sales, the MAC's TV deal, sponsorships, etc. EMU would need to multiply its revenue by 15 in order to break even, and since that's not happening, the school is spending just under 10 percent of its general fund to support an athletic department that's getting an average of 5,016 fans (no joke) at its football games.

And please read this:
NCAA rules stipulate a school must average 15,000 fans per home football game to remain in Division I. Eastern Michigan, which averaged 6,401 fans per home game in 2010, uses $150,000 from a distribution contract with Pepsi to purchase tickets from itself at a rate of $3 apiece to remain NCAA compliant.
WHAAAAAAA??? EMU spends $150,000 of its own money -- that's about 8 percent of its total external revenue -- just to pretend to sell enough tickets to call itself an FBS program. I don't see how that can possibly be justified.

On a related note, New Mexico State was sending out pathetic-sounding press releases last year in a desperate attempt to try to get across the 15,000-fan-per-game line and maintain D-I eligibility. Observation: The inability to average 15,000 paying fans over the course of a football season should be reason enough to reconsider your cost-benefit analysis. Attendance isn't necessarily the deciding factor (Central Michigan averaged just over 20,000 fans in 2010 but brought in only about $700,000 more than Eastern Michigan, which is a meaningless amount toward a $25 million budget) but is at least a reasonable indicator of interest, which is largely what will determine the size of the overall revenue package.

BTW, all the public institutions have revenue/expense breakdowns available in the USA Today database. The numbers at the bottom are amazingly bad:
More than half of athletic departments at public schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision were subsidized by at least 26% last year ...

I am not a lawyer or economist and have no real brilliant insight into the value of athletics in academia and all that. My point is a much simpler and more straightforward one: There is no reason anybody in the Sun Belt or MAC or WAC (what's left of it) should be playing FBS football, which obviously requires a huge spending increase due to the extra 25 scholarships, the massively increased coaching salaries, the upgraded facilities, etc. I can't say exactly how much that number can be cut but can give you a recent number from Northern Arizona: Football expenses last year were $2,663,787. That's less than half of what Eastern Michigan is spending and has the added benefit of allowing NAU to offer 50 fewer scholarships (25 in football and 25 in women's sports due to Title IX) and save about another $600,000 in overall tuition expenses.

There's a very, very fat line between the haves and have-nots in the college football. It's tough for me to argue that they shouldn't have football at all given the circular benefit of increased spirit/pride/interest that leads to increased donations that leads to an increase in the overall quality of the school that leads to an increase in enrollment and so on and so forth; it's much easier for me to argue that they should drop down to a level that's more financially viable and ... I dunno ... appropriate? That seems like a good word choice.

Idaho has been a D-I team since 1997 and in that time has gone to two bowl games -- both in Idaho -- and has a record of 39-104. Again: What's the point?

At least the Big Sky is offering a cushy and logical landing spot (for Idaho, anyway) that would represent a negligible drop-off in quality for every sport other than football. The only alternative: Giving it a go as an independent, which means no TV revenue (not that the WAC is bringing in a whole lot right now), no bowl tie-ins (and zero chance of ever getting an at-large bid) and extreme post-September scheduling issues.

It'd probably be possible to fill about half of the schedule with paycheck games and set up a couple home-and-homes with each other as well as maybe BYU and one or both of the service academies, but it'd be (a) really difficult and (b) totally pointless since there'd be no conference title to play for and no shot at a bowl game. Existing as a supposedly-but-not-really-D-I program with nothing to play for is not a viable route to long-term survival; whether it'd be a viable short-term solution until Conference X gets raided and a spot opens up somewhere is a lot harder to say. It could probably be managed for a couple years, at which point maybe the best-case scenario comes to fruition and NMSU finds a home in the Sun Belt with the North Texases and Arkansas States of the world and the opportunity to continue losing $15 million a year on irrelevant football. Woo.

That last sentence is the entire situation in a nutshell: The downside is the continued loss of buttloads of money and the upside is ... ummm ... something something recognition something. Translation:

Yeah ... except Phase 3 for the aforementioned programs is known to be "continued loss of buttloads of money," which means the real question shouldn't be "What is Phase 2?" but "Why are we even trying to solve for Phase 2?"

I'm kinda curious to see if/when Idaho and New Mexico State figure that out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Catching up appreciates understated elegance

Those are ... umm ... different: Notre Dame apparently will be celebrating its season-opening trip to Dublin (not Ohio) by looking as much like the Irish national team and as little like Notre Dame as possible:

Ehhh ... I prefer the black ones (with the Tim-Brown style ankle tape, obviously). Those things in the picture are very spirit-y but are also a little soccer-y for my taste and almost definitely won't align with anything else ND is wearing. Maybe there'll be more to the Irish flag theme; I kinda hope not. The green jerseys would be fine (maybe preferable?) but are about the extent of the uniform liberties Notre Dame is allowed. 

Oklahoma has a new receiver: From the "must be nice" file:
Jalen Saunders had a first-team all-WAC season for Fresno State with more than 1,000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns in 2011. It's an output he will now strive to replicate in Norman.

The Bulldogs' big deep threat on the outside under recently fired Pat Hill's pro-style offense, Saunders has opted to transfer to Oklahoma.

The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Saunders took visits to Washington and Texas A&M before settling on the Sooners.
FYI, Saunders was a sophomore last year and will have to sit out this season as a redshirt; he'll have two years of eligibility left starting in 2013.

What's interesting is that he was apparently less than thrilled with moving to the slot in the now-generic spread Tim DeRuyter is installing but presumably will play there at Oklahoma (that's what 5-foot-9 guys do at Oklahoma). Then again, he'll probably get a few more balls thrown his way by whoever is the Oklahoma quarterback in 2013 than he would've at Fresno. Keep in mind that he was clearly Fresno's go-to guy on the outside last year and still had only 50 catches (at 21 yards a catch!), 33 fewer than Ryan Broyles had in the spot Saunders will probably be taking in 2013. Also nice: playing in meaningful games and going to bowls with more than 27,000 people in the crowd and so on and so forth.

From an Oklahoma standpoint, adding the equivalent of a juco transfer who's already had a 1,000-yard season in a spread-ish D-I offense and is just about perfectly suited to fill a gaping hole (albeit not immediately) is pretty awesome. In other words, everybody* wins!

*Everybody but Fresno. And Texas.

Purdue might have one fewer receiver: This is why:
Purdue receiver Antavian Edison was arrested early Sunday on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon, a felony, in his hometown of Fort Myers, Fla.

According to the Fort Meyers News-Press, Edison was arrested at 1:57 a.m. Sunday in Fort Myers and released later that morning on $1,500 bond.

The newspaper said cops found a loaded .38 caliber revolver lying between the driver and front passenger seats as well as 17 rounds of .38 special ammunition under the rear bench seat.
That's some Sammy Watkins-esque derpity derp. Yeesh.

Edison is about the closest thing Purdue has to a legit receiver; he had 44 catches for 584 yards and three touchdowns last year. Those numbers all sound pretty uninspiring but actually were second, first and first on the team, which is really sad if you remember when Purdue had real quarterbacks.

Anyway, neither Edison nor Purdue hasn't released any public statement yet other than Edison's odd Twitter rant about "slandering an innocent man's name." I have no idea what to make of that. It'd probably be helpful to Purdue if he turns out to be right and avoids any serious punishment, although O.J. Ross and Gary Bush are both reasonably talented and would probably be adequate replacements in an offense that's not really capable of completing a pass anyway.

Of course: Oregon's Rose Bowl rings are exactly as ridonkulous as you'd expect Oregon's Rose Bowl rings to be:

LOL WUT. Even better than the rings is the comment underneath the photo that says "understated elegance works every time."

BTW, Phil Knight's ginormous bucket of money must be getting low since those are (sadly) cubic zirconias and not actual diamonds mined from the finest diamond mine in Africa and flown in on a private jet while being polished with champagne.

Mike Leach FTW: I probably don't need to explain this acronym to you if you're reading this blog (which you are if you just read that sentence):

Yesssssssss. This should not be entirely surprising given Leach's hilarious response during a random Reddit Q&A on Monday:
How much do you hate Craig James, I mean seriously?

I think my opinion is consistent with most of the rest of America's. This is illustrated by a poll done in the Dallas Morning News where people were asked who they would vote for senator: Mike Leach or Craig James. I got 96.5 percent of the vote.
Well played. 

You know you want this: Bobby Petrino's motorcycle can now be yours if you really want a bike that probably was used for some ewww things and will cost almost $20,000 to repair:

I would add something witty here but have to cede defeat to the caption on this Yardbarker blog: "For sale for a mid-major coaching job OBO." Schwing.

I don't even know what to say: This is Terrelle Pryor explaining his willingness to accept gobs of improper benefits:
"The reason why I did it was to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent. She was four months behind in rent, and the (landlord) was so nice because he was an Ohio State fan. He gave her the benefit of the doubt and she said, 'My son will pay you back sometime if you just let me pay you back during my work sessions.' ...

"(The NCAA) didn't have any sympathy for me. It's not like I went there and bought new Jordans. It's documented. Whenever I write my book the proof will be in there, the receipt that the money I gave my mother was to pay the electric and heat bill. The truth is going to come out one day when the time is right. I don't think I deserved (being punished) in that way, because of the reason I was doing it. I felt like I was doing God's work in a way, and I was getting driven into the ground.
Amazing (amost as amazing as this).

First of all, this is the same mother who signed for three car purchases (!!!) in the three years Pryor spent at Ohio State; how she managed to do that but not pay her rent would be hard to figure out if this had happened anywhere other than Ohio State. Secondly, if Terrelle Pryor ever writes a book, I will buy it so, so hard, and it'll be worth every penny.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Because it's all about the playoff thing

Hokay, so ...

... zee playoff thing. The guys who would know have been saying stuff about it for most of the past week, a week that was largely spent bouncing ideas off each other and trying to figure out exactly how much Centrum Silver they'll be able to buy with the pile of cash they'll be swimming in starting in 2014. Most of that stuff was probably meaningless posturing; that won't stop me from reading too much into it here.

Let's start with this: There will be a four-team playoff. There is no other plausible option on the table at this point since Bill Hancock has actually said that "the status quo is off the table" and there has been zero support for anything larger than a four-team bracket. There will be four seeded teams in a bracket that features semifinals one week and a national championship game a week or two later.

There are two not-insignificant takeaways from the above paragraph. The first is that this playoff thing will not be a plus-one featuring a vote/selection after the bowl games but will actually be a playoff, which makes sense since trying to pick the two best teams after the bowl games often wouldn't be any easier than picking the two best teams after the regular season. The second is that Jim Delany's insistence that everybody get off the Rose Bowl's lawn has been thoroughly disregarded/discarded. I will now refer back to this quote from SEC commissioner Mike Slive:
A four-team playoff proposal that would ensure a Big Ten/Pac-12 Rose Bowl semifinal pairing ... prompted a smile from Slive.

"It's not one of my favorites," he said. "What we're trying to do is simplify in many ways. I don't think that adds to the simplification of the postseason." 
BOOM SLIVE'D. It's a four-team playoff, not a maybe-five-team-or-six-team-depending-on-the-conference-affiliation playoff.

Anyway, what's still a matter of debate is pretty much everything else. To be more specific: (a) the sites for the semifinal games, (b) the involvement of the bowls -- which is directly related to aforementioned site issue -- and (c) the manner of selecting the four participating teams.

This is where things stand, according to Stewart Mandel: 
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of last week's discussions in South Florida have confirmed to that the new favored proposal for a four-team playoff within the bowl system would place the two semifinal games at the traditional anchor bowls of the No. 1 and 2 teams' conferences. For example, No. 1 Alabama of the SEC would host the No. 4 team in the Sugar Bowl, while No. 2 USC of the Pac-12 would host the No. 3 team in the Rose Bowl.
Bolded for emphasis. It is probably not a coincidence that this became the "favored" proposal right after Jim Delany got done being laughed at since it allows a top-two Big Ten or Pac-12 team to host its semifinal at the Rose Bowl, which makes Delany happy and thus makes everyone else happy since his whining will be minimized. I'm not sure (and haven't seen any explanation of) what would happen if a Big Ten team and a Pac-12 team finished first and second; that's probably low on the risk of concerns but is worth thinking about.

There are apparently two potential alternatives: a predetermined rotation for the semifinals among the current BCS sites -- the way the championship site is rotated now -- and (gasp) using college football stadiums to host college football games!

Mandel's source says the rotation thing is "not as likely" to be implemented because of the less-than-ideal scenarios that feature USC playing LSU at a hypothetically neutral-site game in the Sugar Bowl while the Rose Bowl hosts a Virginia Tech-Oklahoma game nobody really wants to go to. I'm not even sure how to say this: That ... like ... actually makes sense (ducking lightning bolts).

As for the on-campus option that had supposedly been eliminated a couple weeks ago ...
Contrary to some reports, on-campus sites remain "very much alive," according to two sources. One said the commissioners left the meetings split about "60-40" in favor of using bowl sites.
... that's not exactly eliminated but doesn't sound super promising either. It's pretty easy to figure out the 60-40 split: Jim Delany and whoever is now representing the Big East are on one side and everybody else is on the other. There's little reason for anybody in the SEC/Pac-12/Big 12/ACC to give up what basically amounts to a home crowd at every prominent "neutral" site in exchange for the possibility of playing in Ann Arbor/Columbus/Madison/Lincoln/wherever in early January; unfortunately for people who want on-campus playoff games (me among them), that's a numerical advantage that probably isn't overcome-able. But I'll keep hoping.

Speaking of Delany, his new pet project is just as stupid as his last one. This is from CBS Sports' Brett McMurphy:
Delany, who met with and other reporters on Wednesday in Chicago, said one proposal being considered is the conference-champion-only model but that the conference champion would have to be ranked among the top six teams in the country to qualify.

If a conference champion was among the top six in the rankings, it would automatically qualify for the four-team playoff. The top four ranked conference champions among the top six would qualify, and if less than four conference champions were among the top six teams then the remaining spots would be filled by the highest-ranked non-conference champions or an independent (Notre Dame, BYU, Army or Navy).
Quick side note: I like how Army and Navy are included for journalistic fairness lol.

Anyway, the stupidity: There's a lot of it here. I understand maximizing the importance of the regular season and the conference championships and whatnot but don't understand the desire to create a four-team playoff and not just take the TOP FOUR TEAMS. Why does it need to be so complicated?

I can't find the story now but saw a breakdown showing that a top-four team would have been left out under this playoff scenario seven times in the BCS era. That's seven times in 15 years! It defeats the purpose of having a playoff if it includes a relatively arbitrary selection of participants and doesn't necessarily represent the teams deserving of being in said playoff.

Here's a great example (and not because of the team that would've gotten screwed) from Tony Barnhart:
... my personal favorite is 2006: No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 Florida, No. 5 USC, and No. 6 Louisville are in. No. 3 Michigan (11-1 with a 42-39 loss to Ohio State) and No. 4 LSU (losses to No. 3 Auburn and No. 2 Florida) are out. So Michigan, which was No. 2 but idle on Championship Saturday and got leapfrogged by Florida by .0101 in the final BCS Standings, doesn't get in. But Bobby Petrino's Big East champions, whose best non-conference win was over a 7-6 Miami team, gets to be in the Final Four? 
Yup. No further discussion needed, although it's also noted that a hypothetical conference-champions-only playoff last year would've been one fewer Wisconsin loss from featuring No. 1 LSU, No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 5 Oregon and No. 6 Wisconsin and leaving out No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Stanford, which ... ummm ... no. I like my four teams to be the best four teams plzkthx.

Fortunately for me and the glorious awesomeness of common sense, it appears that I'm not alone:
While there's been considerable public sentiment toward limiting the field to conference champions, one source said most commissioners are leaning toward an unrestricted top four, which figures to be more appealing to television partners. "One through four is more easily understandable," said ACC commissioner John Swofford.
Thank the Lord; for once, television contracts might actually produce something beneficial to the general viewership. BTW, I'm way beyond skeptical that there's "considerable public sentiment toward limiting the field to conference champions." I'd say it's the opposite based on the (coherent) things I've read and all the stuff I just wrote.

Swofford gets it:
"I'm a big believer in conference championships, and that resonates with me," said Swofford. "But if you're selling a four-team playoff, and it's not 1-2-3-4, then the credibility of the system is undermined."  
There it is. A four-team playoff that leaves out the team at No. 3 or (AAHHH) No. 2 will almost immediately cease to exist in whatever form it's in; might as well just cut the inevitable poopstorm out of the process and play it straight from the beginning. FWIW, I'm guessing that the threat of disaster will be a sufficient deterrent. I also have little confidence in the conference commissioners to do things that aren't necessarily in their best interests. We'll see.

As for the selection process -- which everyone will hate regardless of the details -- there's apparently been a lot less progress/agreement, although that'd seem to be a far less divisive issue than the sites/bowls/bids/revenue stuff and therefore shouldn't be all that difficult to get figured out. Relevant quote:
"The whole topic of selection and who would get in is something that we've really parked for now," said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott. "We realize that's going to require a whole lot more debate and study."
I'm not sure exactly what aspect requires much debate or study; the options are (a) a poll/formula and (b) a selection committee. Back to Mandel:
The commissioners are a ways aaway from deciding whether to use a revised BCS formula, a selection committee or some combination of both.
If they do employ a formula, sources said there's a near-universal desire to emphasize strength of schedule. One source said the commissioners also aren't keen on preseason polls, which could signal an end to using the USA Today Coaches' Poll.
The coaches poll should absolutely, positively, unequivocally play no part in the process. The biases are laughably obvious and should be removed from the equation before somebody gets totally hosed because Steve Spurrier still loves Duke. The Harris Poll is also stupid since it's a really odd collection of people loosely affiliated with college sports, and seeing as how removing both of those polls leaves computers and nothing else, I'm obviously on board with a selection committee made up of an assortment of people, all from different conferences. Biases will still exist (as they will in any scenario outside of straight math) but will be minimized by the existence of several other voices and therefore shouldn't really be a factor, or at least not enough of a factor to outweigh the benefit of having logic and expertise involved in the decision rather than just the skewed BCS numbers. To be clear, I'm a fan of numbers but don't particularly trust numbers that aren't drawn from a full set of data; in the case of the BCS, that means things like margin of victory and schedule-adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.

One other (potential) committee benefit I haven't seen mentioned anywhere: bracket flexibility. In a scenario in which No. 4 has already lost to No. 1 but appears to be of near-identical quality to No. 2 and No. 3, why not flip the third- and fourth-ranked teams to (a) avoid a rematch and (b) provide an extra data point?

Maybe an example would make more sense; I'll use last year for simplistic purposes. Let's say Alabama finishes No. 4 rather than No. 2 (don't worry about the how and why), which means Oklahoma State is No. 2 and Stanford is No. 3. If there's some uncertainty as to whether LSU and Alabama are the two best teams -- and there was -- what's the benefit of having them play each other in a semifinal game? What I want is a level of flexibility that would allow Alabama to move into the other bracket to play Oklahoma State (yay) and eliminate the possibility of a semifinal rematch that'd determine basically nothing in regards to the national title. Only a committee would provide that, obviously. Whether that's something being taken into consideration is totally unknown.

FYI, the commissioners' meetings ended last week (as did John Marinatto's paychecks), which means the stories for the next month or so will be limited to crap like this:
Speaking as a member of the BCS Presidential Oversight Committee, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman told Thursday that his committee is not on board with the BCS commissioners' recommendation to move forward with a four-team playoff -- and doesn't sound ready to be persuaded otherwise.

"I can't figure out a good reason to have a playoff to start with," he said.
Ugh. That dude is hilariously out of touch (and doesn't have nearly as much power as he thinks he does if he can't stop Jim Delany from negotiating something he apparently doesn't want while working on behalf of his own conference).

Anyway, I said "the next month or so" because there is (gasp) a target date:
Delany also said he's optimistic that when the commissioners meet June 20 in Chicago they will have the playoff model finalized to present to the Presidential Oversight Committee for approval.
Commence the countdown at 43 days.
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