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Submission Corner
« Kiss Him Goodbye | Main | Provincialism is King »

We've Got A Problem

I can't help but link to a fine entry from Joey at iBlog for Cookies (H/T: MGo) discussing the disgusting slate of  I-A vs. I-AA games this season.  There's 74 in all (by his count)... 74!

It doesn't take a genius 6 months to figure out that if Duke is playing Richmond the day Iowa is playing Montana, something could have been worked out for Duke to play Iowa and keep it in the 1-A family

Joey says the reason is money.  I say it's a bit of fear mixed in with some conferences realizing this scheduling gimmick works to their benefit in overall record and poll performance.  The answer, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle.

Tallying that up for the 5 major conferences, I believe that's 8 of the 12 SEC teams, 8 of the 11 Big 10 teams, 8 of the 12 Big XII teams, 11 of the 12 SEC teams (always leading the way!) and a stunningly low and almost bordering on respectable 5 of the 10 Pac 10 teams that have chosen to schedule non 1-A opponents this year. At least half of every major conference chickened out.

As always, the Pac-10 comes in most respectable (surprise!) among the power conferences.  They backed it up by going to a round-robin schedule in conference once the 12th game was codified.

Some SEC honks say this is just beating a dead horse.  Thing is, every year the same goofy schedules are made (I reckon that makes it a horsey resurrection), most heavily among a few conferences already enjoying the benefit of having more conferences foes than possible games.

The only way that will ever change is to make a big deal out of the issue---to get people upset and defensive on one side and angered and annoying on the other and let everyone suffer the agony of static and friction and shame to certain teams and conferences until a change is made.

This is the real cheating in NCAA football.  We get distracted by the mischief of various cavemen and bad characters every team has.  Instead of directing our energies to a greater good for the game, we get into our provincial/homer mindsets and let the real crimes to the game go ignored.

As an aside, whatever happened to the hat tip?  When someone else links/alerts to material you're going to use, give a nod.  Even if you enjoy frosty relations with the chap, they found it first---give a link.

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Reader Comments (27)

Joey messed up the tally (he admits). Here is the real tally (from his comments):

10 ACC teams
10 Big XII teams
8 Big 10 teams
7 SEC teams
5 Pac 10 teams

You can crap on the SEC for some things, but go bug the ACC and Big XII for this one.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarty
Crap on the SEC?

You mean the previous 20 seasons doing this excuses them?

You mean still having 7/12 teams doing this excuses them?

That's crapping on them?

Like I said, provincialism and "circle the wagons" fans get in the way.

The ACC, B12 and yes, even the Pac-10 are all guilty here. The SEC remains the most egregious troublemaker and has been the shining example to others in following this pattern.
June 9, 2006 | Registered CommenterCFR
What a perfect position you've taken! If the SEC schedules the most I-A teams, you can ding them. If they schedule the 2nd least, you can still ding them. Nice job!

And you have no provincialism yourself, of course.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarty
Here are last year's numbers:
7 Big XII teams (8 games)
7 SEC teams (7 games)
6 Pac 10 teams (6 games)
3 ACC teams (3 games)
2 Big 10 teams (2 games)

Here are the 2 year totals:
17 Big XII teams 17 of 24 - 70.8%
14 SEC teams 14 of 24 - 58.3%
13 ACC teams 13 of 24 - 54.2%
11 Pac 10 teams 11 of 22 - 50.0%
10 Big 10 teams 10 of 22 - 45.5%

Other than the Big XII which pretty far out front, the other conferences are pretty close.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarty
CFR, I can't be arsed to look it up, but I'm pretty sure that the Big 12 has, for the last several seasons, been the biggest transgressor with regard to 1-AA scheduling.

And, quite frankly, the Pac 10 almost never did it (in recent history) until last season. Not sure why they changed their policy (not that it's deliberate, it's just how it is playing out). Historically speaking--and I mean back in the 1920's--the Pac 10 were, by far, the biggest transgressors, probably for reasons of geography (i.e., the Western teams being isolated) more than anything else.

By the way, thanks for the tip WRT Phil Steele, I have my copy in hand right now. On the off chance that any of your readers live in Marin, the Waldenbooks at Northgate Mall in San Rafael has them stocked (the San Rafael Borders and the Corte Madera Barnes and Noble do not, for the record).
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSolon
Oops, not sure why I counted 11 teams in the Pac 10.

17 Big XII teams 17 of 24 - 70.8%
14 SEC teams 14 of 24 - 58.3%
11 Pac 10 teams 11 of 20 - 55.0%
13 ACC teams 13 of 24 - 54.2%
10 Big 10 teams 10 of 22 - 45.5%
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermarty

It's killing me.

I've made two stops a day for three days now at Barnes & Noble & Books A Million down here. No bones. I'm going crazy.

And you're right, the Pac-10 is getting more into it now. I think it was a reactive thing to watching the 12-team conferences do it on top of their regular schedule gimmick. SAD as hell.

I know schedules are made a bit in advance, but its annoying when better teams are doing it (Cal). Cal was terrible until three years ago so maybe that was made assuming they'd be bad and were following the K-State model to steal an extra win or two, but either way its ridiculous.

Now even you have to admit that a game like Tennessee/Cal was made far enough in advance to where Tennessee assumed they'd still be great and could just stomp Cal. That's another silent killer in the scheduling, picking off cream-puff D-I foes.

Notre Dame did that in the 90's and got dinged hard because teams like Northwestern and Purdue ended up being good, not just one-year wonders. ND's SOS went way up, but perception was they'd lost to losers and bottom line they lost games they assumed they'd win with ease.

Teams are finding ways to skate by and then their fans do their bidding for them saying "we've got 9 wins, 10 wins" etc. But not every 10 game winner is better than some 9 game winners or even some 8 game winners. That's the kink in the scheduling game.

That's the bigger picture I'm getting at on here (as always). Solon knows as much, just disagrees with the methods and rhetoric sometimes :o).

It's all about seeing teams in as many games as possible against a variety of styles and oppponent strength. Doing so cuts through the fog so to speak. Naturally some teams are going to lose but that's the point.

Whether or not USC defeats Arkansas, Nebraska and Notre Dame next year, we'll have a much better idea what they're made of than say, Auburn (Washington State, Buffalo, Tulane, Arkansas State). Win or lose solid OOC opponents make for great evaluation time for a pundit like myself.

It aides in making the tough judgment call like happened in 2004. I might've understod the Tigers' argument better if they'd faced someone at least decent OOS that wasn't just standard SEC fare, seeing their ability to match up with another style. But then, maybe Auburn would have flopped and not even been in a position to make the argument. Schedulemakers think about those things and unfortunately get real conservative sometimes.

Where it gets really crazy is ranking teams free of the record construct. I remember talking to HP a few months back and he was saying something along the lines of that he felt Ohio State was the best team in America at the end of last season. They had 2 losses, USC 1 and Texas 0, but if the Buckeyes were the best, we as fans and media clearly got too hung up on teams' records. It's kind of the argument I made about 2002 when I felt USC clearly had the best team out there and would have pummeled Ohio State and Miami.

It seems unfair to ignore record, but it's interesting to consider after the fact whether we've gotten these "champions" right of late.

Another way to look at it:

It's generally agreed-upon that Brazil has the best soccer (er futbol) team in the world. But what if they lose somewhere in this World Cup? Are they no longer the best, or have they merely suffered a defeat, as is bound to happen to every team at some point?

I think we can still crown a team the "2006 World Cup Champion" and not necessarily say they're the best team in the world. Same thing with the NCAA basketball tournament argument I made in March. The Gators were the tournament champs but I'd be greatly hesitant to call them the best team in college basketball.

Anyway, just pondering things.
June 9, 2006 | Registered CommenterCFR

Nice work.

It's still obvious the SEC's among the greatest offenders (and the only one that enjoys the national free pass when it comes to the rankings).

Maybe its time for some B12 slamming entries on here?
June 9, 2006 | Registered CommenterCFR

Yeah, it's weird, last year I walked all over SF on the day Steele was supposed to be released, and after going to a Barnes and Noble, 2 Borders, and a couple of independents, I was able to find it at the Waldenbooks in the Embarcadero. I don't know if they just get it early, or don't follow the rules about holding it until the release date, or what. But if you can find a Waldenbooks (they are in malls usually, I think), chances are that they've got it out.

FYI, there is a Waldenbooks at 5100 N Ninth Ave in your new hometown (if I'm remembering what it is). You helped me out, I should help you out.

I'm not sure I agree with you concerning the Tennessee/Cal thing. If I'm not mistaken, they signed the series last year (in July, I think)--so you'd have to assume that, if they thought about it, Cal would still be pretty good--and the games are scheduled for 2006 and 2007, so there isn't a lot of down time.

And, in any event, I think you are giving way too much credit to the ADs for their predictive abilities. My thinking is that just about all ADs understand that when you play a BCS conference team on the road, it's a possible loss. For the most part, I'd guess that games like that are almost all big-picture strategic (as opposed to little-picture strategic, i.e., W-L); in fact, the UT AD made comments about how a lot of their players are from CA when they signed the series.

For example, I'd guess that USC's attitude when they signed on to play FSU a while back (10 years ago?) was to make themselves more visible to HS athletes in the state of Florida. And, they've certainly gotten some good players from FL in the last several years (obviously, it's impossible to calculate what attracts players, but I'm sure that, for example, getting Williams was the sum of a million things, one of which was that USC had the balls to play in Tallahassee when FSU was kicking everyone's ass and USC was down. And USC gave a good account of themselves even though they were overmatched on the day.).

On a personal note, I can tell you that when I got to UGA, the majority opinion with regard to recruiting was that "We just need to close the borders, we'll be fine." As a CA kid, this was crazy to me, but this was how the football fans there felt. I think this attitude contributed to UGA's Southern-heavy scheduling over the past several years (decades).

Obviously, MR, as a Miami/Florida State guy, has a different attitude; those programs got big by going on the road and recruiting nationally, and UGA is now following that lead, scheduling games against Colorado and Arizona State (supposedly a home-and-home with Oregon is also being discussed, but who knows if it will come to pass). I don't think Georgia is trying to set up easy wins on the road, I think Georgia is trying to "get their brand out," for lack of a better term.

As far as the "Champions" of CFB goes, you're touching on one of the great things about the sport, really. CFB, having no playoff, doesn't really try to crown the best team at the end of the season, they crown the most deserving team over the course of the entire season. Oftentimes there's a team out there that is considered by many to be the 'best team' but who is out of the mix because of losses suffered during the season (I don't think OSU would have beaten either USC or Texas last season--partly because I wasn't overly impressed with their win over ND...because I wasn't particularly impressed with ND); in addition to USC 2002, I think some other examples of this phenomenon are Miami 1990 and Florida State 1989.

Personally, I prefer it the way it is (i.e., no playoff), although it clearly contributes to the slate of weak non-conference scheduling that we are seeing.

Actually, if you broke it down, the primary cause of the recent slate of poor non-conference scheduling was the formation of the BCS. This might sound strange to younger people, but I remember a time--not too long ago, really--where conference titles were more valued than national titles (not 'more valued,' per se, but conference titles were each team's goal, and a national title was viewed as a cherry on top of the sundae). The formation of the BCS elevated the national title above everything, and with the resultant loss of bowl tie-ins, conference titles were devalued--1 out of every 4 years, Pac 10 and Big 10 schools set their sights on a game other than the Rose Bowl, and SEC teams don't want to go to the Sugar Bowl--which sucks, in my opinion. But it's all a by-product of the elevation of the MNC by the BCS.
June 9, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSolon

I'm not here to defend the SEC with the usual things you hear, like "the SEC is so much tougher than the other conferences, it's okay to schedule patsies out of conference." I completely disagree with that and think that they should step up and schedule tougher OOC games.

However, I'm not convinced by your statement that the SEC is the worst offender. Until I see some numbers for the last 10 or 20 years, I think your statement is more anecdotal than factual. I could be wrong. I'll agree of course that the SEC is among the offenders, but the worst? I don't know. Who knew that the Big 12 was the worst over the past 2 years? I'm pretty sure you thought it was the SEC, which seems to be right in the middle of the pack with the Pac 10 and ACC.
June 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarty
For this year, and perhaps next, I can see some schools finding last-minute IAA patsies to play, because of the fairly sudden (in scheduling terms) introduction of a 12-game season. But in the long term, there's no reason for it.

As far as I know, Cal's third game up until the 12-game schedule was implemented was the first part of a home-and-home with Navy. When the 9th Pac-10 game was added, the original schedule was sunk, and a third game had to be scheduled post-haste. Cal-Navy has since been scuttled for the time being, which is a shame.

In fact, with the two exception of Oregon State (Eastern Washington and Idaho on the schedule but also playing at Boise St.) and Arizona St. (Northern Arizona and Nevada coming to Tempe but also playing at Colorado), all the Pac-10 teams who are playing a IAA opponent are also playing a pre-season top-25 opponent (not just a BCS foe), most of those in away games: Cal at Tennessee, Washington St. at Auburn, Arizona at LSU, Washington at Oklahoma; Oklahoma is also playing at Oregon. And three Pac-10 teams are playing Notre Dame.

Of course, this means that we can't actually fault Oklahoma for not keeping up its side of the bargain, nor can we really say anything bad about Auburn, LSU, or Tennessee, except that it will be intersting if any of these games actually involve a return trip. Kansas St., on the other hand -- 2 IAAs and a mid-major -- is another story.
June 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCMGayley
I really don't like the idea that playing multiple styles makes a team better, or more worthy of praise. I also think that you disregard a lot of different styles that are out there. You and HP have both dissed the SEC's lack of style differences, but that's just not true. Florida has the spread option, USC has Spurrier's wide open attack, Tennessee and Bama are both power running/play action teams, UGA tries to be a fast-break passing offense, LSU is a pro-style attack, and Auburn does something different every year. The others suck, so who cares what they are doing?

You also repeatedly bring up the issue that a 12-team conference allows teams to beat up on the patsies. I disagree here as well. In the Pac-10, every team gets to beat UW, Arizona, and Stanford. In a 12-team conference, 8 of the 11 get the privilege. Even accounting for the numbers difference, the Pac-10 creates 9 wins, the 12-teamers only create 8. Add in that a conference title ensures that a team can't dodge a great team from the other division (and sometimes gets them twice), and it is only logical that 12-team conferences are more competitive.
June 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCody
Marty was wondering if the SEC is really the biggest offender when it came to scheduling Div. 1-AA teams over time so I'd thought I'd do a little comparing between the SEC the Big Xll and the PAC. Seems Marty is on to something.

In the BCS era (1998-2005) the OOC scheduling looks like this:

Big Xll -- out of 324 OOC games played 47 were against 1-AA. 14.51%
SEC -- out of 313 games, 40 were against 1-AA. 12.78%
PAC-10 -- total of 266 OOC games, 19 versus 1-AA 7.14%

Here's what I find interesting. In the Big Xll, Colorado and Texas haven't scheduled Div.1-AA. Oklahoma has only one game vs. 1-AA in the BCS era.

In the SEC, Tennessee hasn't played Div.1-AA. Alabama has only one game.

In the PAC-10, USC, UCLA and Washington have refused to schedule Div. 1-AA. Stanford and CAL have only one game each vs. 1-AA in the BCS era.

So 10 of the 12 teams in the SEC have played multiple games against 1-AA opponents. In the Big Xll, 9 of 12 have scheduled multiple games. In the PAC-10, only half of the teams have scheduled multiple games against Div.1-AA opponents. Oregon State is the real transgressor -- OSU has nearly 1/3 of all PAC-10 games versus Div.1-AA in the last 8 years.

I didn't compare the ACC or Big 10. But the numbers show that it is a common practice of the vast majority of the Big Xll and SEC to schedule Div. 1-AA teams.
June 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLED
Well so what?Who cares who schedules who? I don't. I do know that in UGA's case they had some D1 teams back out (recent past) which left them scrambling to schedule someone to fill the empty spot. I also know that they have tried to schedule games with Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State to name a few. ALL those teams refused to do a home and home or play in the south in Sept. That is the truth. But back to my first statement.


If team "A" makes it to a Bowl and team "B" makes it to a bowl, and they play each other and team "B" wins, but played some D1AA teams, who cares? What does it mean...nothing.

Scheduling is about making money. Pure and simple.
June 10, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSEC fan
Well, if by virtue of a soft schedule team A arrived at its bowl game against team B who had a much tougher road and may in fact have been a better team than team A but was slotted lower in the polls because pollsters overwhelmingly slot teams not by relative strength but by wins and losses, there's a problem. Perhaps team B could have been in a better bowl and A in a lesser bowl, hmm?

The people who care about accurate rankings, about having a fair game and fair access to high rankings and good bowl games for everyone, they CARE.

The truth is also that until scheduling a trip to Colorado, UGA had yet to leave the historic South to play a road football game in over 40 years.

40 years!

Home field advantage matters a lot in college football, and when a team can go through 40 seasons without anywhere near the number of difficult and unusual road tests of other teams, they're bound to have far more wins, an inflated record and rankings, etc.

That isn't exactly fair and if they'd been scheduling the way of other similar powers around the country it's likely we'd have seen an SEC more challenged and less full of itself. Ultimately, despite a few more losses over time, the SEC would have also become a stronger conference for having played the game the way most everyone else has and silenced critics like myself.

Pretty simple.
June 11, 2006 | Registered CommenterCFR
LED's comment is kind of interesting.

Let me add one thing to it. Of the Pac-10's 30 OOC games this year (because of the longer in-conference schedule), 5 are against 1-AA opponents. That's 1 in every 6 games. The SEC plays 6 1-AA opponents out of 48 games (1 in 8).

And LED, let's be more precise about Stanford. They never scheduled a 1-AA team. They scheduled a Division II team (and lost). There is a bigger difference between D 1-AA and D-II (63 scholarships vs. 36 scholarships) than there is between D-1A and D-1AA (85-63).

One last point: Scheduling a D1-AA team alone only tells part of the story. You can schedule incredibly weakly while avoiding 1-AA opponents. Compare: Georgia plays a 1-AA opponent (Western Kentucky - and I'm not really happy about it), but also plays Georgia Tech and Colorado OOC (and UAB, who has been sneaky good in the past). Alabama doesn't play a 1-AA opponent, but plays Hawaii, Duke, Louisiana-Monroe and Florida International. That's 4 of the worst 20 teams in D-1A. As between the two, Georgia plays a much tougher OOC slate, but if you just focus on who plays against 1-AA opposition, it doesn't suggest that. Same thing with Florida - they play a 1-AA team (Western Carolina) but they also play at Florida State (and against bowl teams UCF and Southern Miss). Florida too plays a tougher OOC schedule than Alabama. So, as I'm prone to say in just about every thread like this, if you just categorize things and look at raw data, it doesn't always tell the full story, or at least the data might conceal deeper truths.
June 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLD
And the 40 year comment returns, CFR. You really ought to retire it.

Try to wrap this around your head: Georgia never traveled outside the South because it was playing regional OOC rivals Clemson and Georgia Tech home-home and playing other regional opponents home-home, like South Carolina before they joined the SEC. If you can explain to me how Georgia traveling outside the South to play someone wwould have been any tougher than playing at Clemson or Georgia Tech, you'll be the first to do so. And swing by CFB Database and look at the all time rankings for schedule. There's a little team in Athens that just so happens to be #2 all time in schedule strength (right behind Michigan). Again, an anecdote doesn't tell the full story.
June 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLD
That's a good point, LD, and something I've been looking at for some time.

Consider this--the four closest schools, in terms of those that play major football, to UGA, are GT (70 miles), Clemson (83 miles), Auburn (178 miles), and South Carolina (189 miles). No team faces a comparable situation (i.e., where your closest geographic opponents are not in your conference)--outside of the Florida schools (who played a round-robin against each other for several years, and, in any event, who only took up 2 spots on each other's schedule instead of 3).

As an accident of history, only one of those schools shared a conference with UGA between 1964 and 1991. UGA played GT every year, Clemson 24 times (out of 28 years), and South Carolina 23 times. No matter how you look at it, that's a tough non-conference slate.
June 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSolon
Solon, you're wrong. If you look at it like CFR and HP, then you end up with the conclusion that the SEC schedules so they always look like the best conference and, send 7-8 teams to bowl games simply because of the way they schedule.

I'm going to have to start ignoring this blog.
June 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDawgy1
Their talking up the Steele magazine over at EDSBS, including:

"–In his conference ratings, Phil rates the SEC tops, followed closely by the ACC and the Big 10. We’re sure this is just delusion on his part, and that future revisions will put the Pac-10 right up there where it belongs."

C'mon CFR, you gotta admit that's pretty funny.
June 12, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMarty

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