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Entries in Business/Economics (36)


BCS Quotable

Take it away, Senator Blutarsky (emphasis mine):

This is where I think playoff supporters are on thin ice in this debate. It’s very easy to focus on what I call the competition side of this – making sure that every deserving school has the chance to play for an MNC – and downplay the economic side, the side that pushes for a redistribution of the wealth that college football generates. You can satisfy the former with a small scale playoff; you can’t satisfy the latter without an extended playoff controlled by the NCAA or some similar entity making sure that the moneys are spread more broadly throughout D-1. And an extended playoff is death to pretty much everything that makes college football unique.

It’s shortsighted to brush off the financial considerations here. Next week’s hearings are being conducted by the Senate Antitrust Committee. Whether it matters to its members or not, antitrust law isn’t about whether Utah gets to play in a title game. It’s about business practices, monopolies and money.

Ultimately, guys like Jim Delany don’t care nearly as much about Utah playing in that title game – and don’t forget that there’s nothing in the current BCS formula that prevents that from happening – as they do about having their conferences’ revenue streams reduced. That’s what’s at stake with these antitrust threats and that’s why I don’t think the Harvey Perlmans of the college football world should be so easily dismissed when they promise to defend their turf.


BCS Quotable

AKA Senator Orrin Hatch is an idiot

From Get The Picture's latest reaction to the bumbling idiocy that is Senator Orrin Hatch's crusade against the BCS

No, the BCS doesn’t create the disadvantages; it merely amplifies them. The BCS isn’t the reason San Diego State can’t get a stadium lease signed and it isn’t the cause as to why the WAC doesn’t have the same TV contract the SEC does. In college football, the money flows where the attention goes.

If we want actual "fairness" in the upper division of college football, schedules need to be relatively even which means that the number of teams need to be reduced from the current 119 or 120 to something like 30-40 with everyone in equal-number divisions playing round-robin conference schedules.  Even then a playoff built around single-elimination games would still be a tragic mess (take a lesson from every other playoff that isn't the NFL's or lower-division football, go to at least double elimination, better yet best of three between teams).

Of course nobody actually wants that to happen because that'd be the end of the bulk of teams in first division football and would end college football as we know it, which by the way has never been more popular in spite of all this hand wringing about the BCS.

Come on people, think about the issues for once and just enjoy the show, college football is wildly unique and enjoyable.  In the end I think in most of our hearts we don't want true finality, as my friend Heisman Pundit's said many times the game is like a never-ending Constitutional Convention.  Its the back and forth and discussion that has such great appeal in addition to the product on the field.


Tom Hansen, BCS, Playoffs Quotable

Excerpts from a Los Angeles Times interview with outgoing Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen.

Q: How can you say the BCS has been good for the Pac-10? Oregon finished No. 2 in the polls in 2001 but didn't make the title game. USC was No. 1 in the coaches' poll in 2003 but finished No. 3 in the BCS.

A: Each conference has had some disappointments. . . . The BCS, through obvious great foresight of the commissioners who were involved, has been an extraordinary success in terms of the regular season being so strong. Television, attendance, everything about college football is much better than before the BCS started.

Q: Does it bother you that you are portrayed as an obstructionist by the pro-playoff crowd?

A: I primarily reflect the view of the conference. . . . If people disagree with that view, I don't take it personally.

I think many of the people who advocate a playoff have no real understanding in the difficulty of a playoff.

Q. Would that include the president of the United States?

A: Yes, and I don't think he begins to understand the difficulties of a playoff. I think he's probably very well-versed on North Korea and the Middle East but not particularly the college football playoff.

Q. Does it complicate the issue when someone so prominent goes public with his position?

A: I would be much more concerned if a president in our conference came out in favor of a playoff than I am of President Obama saying it.

It would be so negative for college football in my opinion that it just doesn't make good sense. Including the fact it would be 16 teams, not the four that many people advocate, because politically you couldn't stop at four, you couldn't stop at eight, you couldn't stop at 12. And even at 16 you'd have problems.

Q: Are you confident the BCS can withstand another legal challenge?

A: I am confident. We've had excellent legal counsel. And I trust lawyers from all over the country who comment that there's nothing illegal about it.

The only thing the federal government could do to force the issue, I think, would be to cut off funding for higher education. Well, that isn't going to happen.


BCS Defense

Just moments ago on College Football Live, ESPN's Joe Schad outlined the three-point defense by BCS officials as they head into a Congressional subcommittee hearing tomorrow.

1)The regular season must be preserved as the key entity of the game

2)Several bowls would fail if a playoff were enacted

3)The logistics to install a playoff aren't there

Not a bad start.

I'm definitely against a playoff although I have problems with the BCS, which I think I'll get to soon.  I think there's ways to remedy the BCS that keeps it in line with college football tradition and avoids a playoff.


Tony Barnhart: We've Already Got A Playoff


The fact that a game like USC-Oregon State game can impact so many other schools has pushed television ratings higher and is keeping stadiums full. And as long as the TV ratings are high and the stadiums are full, there is no motivation (other than fan unrest) to go to a playoff of any kind.


But if we had an eight-team playoff in place, that Oregon State victory would have barely created a ripple outside of the Pac-10.

Claiming a playoff won't dilute the regular season is an idiotic lie, and Barnhart accurately realizes it.


This And That

(--) Jerry Green at the Detroit News proposes an annual Pac-10/Big Ten football challenge.  I like it, although I'd do it on a much smaller scale, with at most 2-3 games between the conferences.  Additionally, I'd love a similar hyped "series" between all the other conferences as well.  A natural fit would be an SEC/ACC challenge, for example.

Those would be a smart fixed starting point, and then everything else could rotate, so we could see a Pac-10/Big 12 series one year, and then a Pac-10/SEC series the next.  This is dream world stuff, I know, but it's fun to think about.  Obviously teams independently schedule out-of-conference opponents to where organically you might see several SEC/ACC games early in the year, but it might be nice to have the schools, conferences and television networks get together and coordinate such games and make them more of an event.

Bringing back the "Kickoff Classic" type games would be tremendous as well.  There's still plenty of room for regular season growth in college football, and these types of ideas should be at the top of the list of those responsible for the stewardship of the sport.

(--) Lou Holtz has obviously learned the dangers of mixing sports and politics.  The South Bend Tribune links him to controversial and recently deceased North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms.

(--) More from the Deseret News about the always-interesting Pac-10 expansion talks.  Ain't happening, for philosophical as well as cash reasons as spelled out by Dick Harmon.

(--) USC continues to clean up in recruiting.  It's still unclear what the NCAA will do about the Reggie Bush situation, but if recruiting is a barometer for anything it appears USC isn't in much danger.

(--) This bums me out: Most college football coaches favor an early signing period.  For fairly obvious reasons, I think it's unwise to lock players into commitments before college football's hiring/firing season is over.  This works well for lazy coaches and extremely committed players, but I think the longer recruiting stretches out the more information all parties can gather which leads to better decisionmaking.

(--) Cool new SMU uniforms.  They're a throwback to the Pony Express days.  I like the look, but they're tempting fate in looking back to an era that ended up with the "Death Penalty".

(--) Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford is getting some love.  I hyped him as a recruit and he's turned into a solid player, but in that Georgia offense he may never quite become all that he can be as a passer.  Heisman talk seems outrageous unless Georgia greatly opens up their offense, which is debatable given just how good their running game will likely be this year.

(--) An Anaheim man will attempt to set a world record by sitting in every seat in the Rose Bowl.  A good chunk of the "seats" are actually barely-marked benches, so we doubt just how accurate that final seat count will be.  Whatever, good luck to him as it is for a good cause.


The Discussion Continues

I love it.  No other sport has this kind of dialogue and passion.

The great Wizard of Odds has published a study this morning analyzing average game length by the various broadcasters.  Memo to SEC fans unhappy about never-ending games: exclusive SEC broadcaster CBS is the runaway favorite when it comes to long games.  We all know the reason why: commercials.


I'm not here to complain about commercials - they pay the bills.  However, looking at Wiz's data its obvious that long games aren't universal.  Not every network carries a nearly four hour broadcast.  Game time continues to be a function of the run/pass nature of competing teams, the efficiency of the game officials, overtime, replay review and ... commercials!

It's a little unfair of the networks to demand changes in the game without determining new ways to reduce their own burden.  Maybe the solution is to encourage the game to be even longer and more compelling.  That creates even more opportunities to sell ads and commercials and pushes college broadcasts further into the day and night.

I don't know about you, but on some of the smaller networks when the game ends they go right into 90 minutes of infomercials or other dead weight Saturday programming.  If I'm a network, I'd be trying to figure out ways to prolong games and the more serious ad revenue they bring in rather than cut them short to rush into worthless programming.

Onward ...

Another towering giant of the college football blog community MGoBlog's Brian Cook says at FanHouse that maybe we need to hold our fire.

Here's the claim from the NCAA rules committee:

NFL studies showed that adding the 25-40 clock will actually add 4 to 5 plays per game based on consistent pace of play. BCS Football and officials themselves were for this change. With the ready for play, live ball out of bounds rules, (This happens about 12 times per game, with on average 3 of those in last 2 minutes) we should get the same amount of plays in a time span that is a few minutes shorter. For the record it is BCS football, TV, Conference Commissioners with lengthy seasons and television that leads the push for faster games. The Committee's stance is that the game has given about all it can give back without a negative influence on product. Next move will have to be from Administrators or Television themselves. It is still a great game. MC.

 Sunday Morning Quarterback then replied with: "again, I disagree"

Any guess that the 40/25 clock will somehow increase plays is based on teams moving to the line quickly - "on consistent pace of play," in the words of the NCAA rep who responded to Orson's readers - but there is no incentive for offenses to take any less time than the rules afford. There's no way to predict the future with certainty, but the data from our "control group" (the NFL) indicates the number of plays will go down.

And Cook continues to assert that this might all work out.  After some math, the following:

The main reason the NFL features far fewer plays than the college game is not the length of the playclock but the running clock after a first down. That difference is not up for review, and the assertions made by the rules committee are therefore well within the realm of the plausible. Any difference wrought by the 40-second playclock will be small.

Where do I stand on this?  Hell if I know, but someone backed up by serious math is wrong.  Regardless, scrutiny of this rule change *proposal* absolutely must be intense.  There's little folly in raising alarm.

The Rules Committee screwed up big time with 3-2-5-e, and the motives behind that change are still guiding the current proposal.  If not for intense public scrutiny, extensive documentation of 3-2-5-e's failures and massive carping from coaches, we'd still have that rule on the books.  The college football public must continue to have its guard up when potentially hazardous rules come up for review.

I will continue to stand against anything that reduces the actual number of plays and possessions in college football games.  For the sake of the Rules Committee they better be right about it. 


Update: The Rule Change Is Terrible

SMQB breaks down the depressing numbers.  Conservative estimates point towards a loss of three possessions per game.  Not good.

Here's my two efforts at FanHouse talking about the proposed rule changes, and the problem with one specific change.  It could be worse than 3-2-5-e.  If so, it would behoove the powers-that-be to summarily reject this measure.

Ever the watchdog, The Wizard of Odds is all over this thing.

Finally, for the engaged citizens among us:

Michael Clark is the committee head. Here’s his email address: mclark@bridgewater.edu. Oh, and here’s his office number: 540-828-5406. Give him a call, write him and email, and tell him how hard this rule sucks, and will suck until it fails and is revoked next year.


The New Rules

Here's my take at FanHouse

Background articles: Rivals.com and AP

The Wizard of Odds: "NCAA Tries to Again Shorten Games"

What say you?


Keith Jackson Quotable

The BCS goes back to the alliance days which was a power grab and a money grab by certain conferences and it hasn't changed in its intent," Jackson said. "To add another game, will it resolve controversy over who's who and what's what? I really truly doubt it."

The Pac-10 and the Big Ten didn't start the fire.

They were plenty happy before the Bowl Alliance (or whatever it was called back then) came along.  They were less happy after it.  And they're a little less happy now with the BCS.  Here's guessing they'd be content with things going back to the way they were before the other conferences changed the composition of the game.  It was a bad move then and heading towards a playoff is an even worse move now.

Does anyone really think 12-team conferences are good for college football?  How about conference title games?  Schedules are finite.  College football simply cannot play a 16-week season like the NFL.  Flying in the face of logic, most of the same conferences that pushed us into this Alliance/BCS reality are also the conferences carrying twelve members.

It's obvious that round-robin play (or something close to it) is superior to split divisions (see SEC, Big 12, ACC) and possible repeat matchups in conference title games.  Can a team truly be its league champion if it hasn't faced all its league opponents?  Do you follow?

The major conferences most associated with sensible conference play (Pac-10, Big Ten, Big East) are the same ones treated as the villains in all of this, Big East excluded.  Amazing.  We had it right, once ...


College Football on PBS

I just can't get into Charlie Rose, sorry.  Sesame Street's still cool, but it was better when I was in diapers.  And aside from my crush on The History Detectives' Elyse Luray, PBS doesn't really draw me in.

That said, it has come to my attention that PBS' Nightly Business Report will launch a four-part series on the business of college football starting today.  Scanning the programming guide on my TV, it doesn't appear that my local PBS affiliate carries this program.  However, if any of you are interested be sure to tune in and report back whatever is interesting and/or relevant if you so choose.


College football is not only exciting, it's also big business and it's getting even bigger.  A successful college football program can mean millions of dollars in enrollment, alumni contributions, merchandising and more (Ohio State University's football revenue last year was a jaw-dropping $105 million).  PBS' Nightly Business Report explores these issues and much more in a 4-part series, "The Business of College Football" scheduled to air November 12-15.

The series kicks off with a look at the football program at Texas Tech, and how the school's endowment went from less than $50 million (at the time it joined the powerhouse conference, The Big 12) to now, more than $700 million.  This huge revenue for Texas Tech (and schools like it) has introduced a unique set of challenges.  On the flipside of Texas Tech is the former all-girls school, Seton Hill University, whose football program, while in its infancy (even playing their games at a rented high school stadium) has nonetheless managed to double the school's enrollment.  Along with the questions facing schools big and small, Emmy-nominated reporter Jeff Yastine also takes an inside look at the $3.5 billion made annually in college logo licensing.

This is PBS, so count on a deeply skeptical and cynical look at college football.  Just the same, it should be informative.

UPDATE: Many thanks to reader Don in Madison Alabama who sent an email letting me know that the program is available to watch online at the following link.  Just watched (fast forward to the 14:00 mark), and it's about what I expected so far, hitting on the broad themes and critiques of the seemingly growing business element to the college game.  Tuesday's show promises to be about how "even small schools are getting in the game".


Brief Tuesday Roundup

Just some items I've saved over the last few days...

---The New York Times' Pete Thamel has a good story about the money angle of the many lopsided OOC games that are scheduled annually.

I wonder if teams would schedule more equitably if there were a mandatory $1,000,000 fee to schedule the Buffalo's of the world?

---Redshirt Freshman Mike Kafka will be the starter at quarterback for Northwestern this year, as sophomore C.J. Bacher has nagging leg problems.  Hopefully he can continue the offensive success established by forebears Zak Kustok and Brett Basanez.

---The Sports Frog talks a little about the amazing transformation with Stanford's stadium.  The school was able to demolish its old stadium (work beginning literally minutes after the Cardinal's season finale against Notre Dame) and build a new one within a single year.

---Rivals.com ($) has put together some fancy Heisman candidate highlight videos.

---Many more videos available from this link at FoxSports

---More from Rivals.com.  Here's a cool story about the round-trip travel mileage logged by D-I teams for road games this year.  Topping the list?  Florida Atlantic, with 15,064 total miles traveled.  The least-traveled team?  That would be Purdue with just 1,994 travel miles to be logged this year.  The most-traveled SEC team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, check in at No. 68 with 5,832 total miles.

---Hurricane turned tropical storm Ernesto continues to drag its way towards the Keys and South Florida after getting roughed up pretty bad after passing through Cuba.  It is unclear whether/how much it will strengthen as it heads towards the U.S.

---Yeah, the NCAA doesn't get it.  Callous fools sometimes.

---How much is Marshawn Lynch worth, according to the San Jose Mercury News?  $800,000.  Interesting read.

I really hate the word "exploitative" because it's often abused and thrown around as a weapon in public debate.  I'll ignore that angle of this story to simply say the following: the NCAA can do better by its athletes.  I'm not really in favor of free-market salaries or compensation for college players, but the NCAA desperately needs to find a way to be such poverty mongers.  There will be a point some time down the road where either the NCAA will collapse and the system will turn to chaos unless concessions start being made to take a stronger interest in athlete welfare and economic freedom not tied to eligibility.

---Oh, and here's a little more about Lynch from CBS Sportsline's Dennis Dodd.  Turns out the man can toss the rock a little.  And about that unusual running style (I don't know how else to describe it other than herky-jerky)?  Turns out it's from years of riding a bike that way through the streets of East Oakland.

---College Football News has moved to Scout.com.

---Now, where have we seen this argument before?  "Power rankings?"  "Prediction vs. relative strength?".  I love my readers.

I was watching SunSports' college football show last night and there was a segment discussion this topic almost verbatim from the Mandel column.  Good to see people are starting to wake up to the methodology arguments about college football's poll system.

Don't get me wrong, I love the polls, but there's a better way to do them, expressed many times on here.  It's simply encouraging to see that discussion trickle out into the mainstream.


That's Gonna Hurt

Sophomore quarterback Rhett Bomar and teammate J.D. Quinn, a lineman, have been kicked off the Oklahoma football team, according to published reports.

Oklahoma said that two players had been dismissed by the team but did not identify them. The school said in a statement that the players violated NCAA rules by working at a private business and taking "payment over an extended period of time in excess of time actually worked."

Bomar had a job at a Norman, Okla., car dealer at which he'd work about five hours a week, but claimed, for tax purposes, that he earned $18,000 a year...

For starters this all but kills Oklahoma's shot at a national championship.  Bomar is backed up by several nondescript players, most notably Paul Thompson, who was moved to receiver after a disastrous debut as the starting quarterback last year.

I have a mixed reaction about this situation and Bomar's departure.

Clearly Bomar did something ethically wrong here in accepting payments far in excess of his reported labor and in obvious violation of NCAA rules.  The dealership in question is clearly an emphatic Sooner supporter, involved not only in this situation but the earlier temporary free car given to star tailback Adrian Peterson.  It is unclear whether the Athletic Department has any punishable connection to this dealership that needs investigation.

Given that the rules are what they are right now, Oklahoma did the right thing in parting ways with the two players.  Bomar was already on thin ice after two underage drinking arrests and any coach in Stoops' position would have grown tired of such repeated irresponsibility and bad press from someone who is in a position of team leadership.

This doesn't count as a win for NCAA rulemakers though.  The unabashed capitalist in me admires the arrangement between Bomar and the dealership.  Bomar brought his name and prestige as quaterback to the dealership.  He received a financial reward, and the dealership could quietly market the fact that they had a star player working for them and also establish a personal connection to him in hopes of possible future business arrangements.  But in the twisted minds of the poverty pimps in Indianapolis, this type of arrangement merits strict sanction.

The NCAA's hilarious logic goes something like this:

Make money off of Rhett Bomar and other college football stars through TV, the BCS, etc = OK

Rhett Bomar and other college football stars making money off their names = Not OK

And then everyone scolds Bomar and screams "you greedy bastard!"

Look, Bomar has some growing up to do, no question about it.  Underage drinking is a very small crime (unless accompanied by the whole drinking an driving thing which is abhorrant), but he's been caught twice now including once at a basketball game when he should be breaking the law in private.  Combine those incidents and today's revalation about his work at the dealership and his goose was cooked.  That's stupidity and arrogance and he clearly hasn't cured himself.  I don't argue with his dismissal given this background, but part of the reason Oklahoma booted him, I assume, is to save face before any NCAA investigators.

But should they have to?  What responsibility does Oklahoma have for an overzealous car dealer doing business like is encouraged in this great economy and business model of ours?  These guys aren't amateurs and the NCAA shouldn't be cheerful about cutting into someone's ability to carve out a living, no matter the exorbitant arrangement.

Tom Zbikowski earned $25,000 for about nine minutes of boxing against the equivalent of a tackling dummy, why can't Bomar do the same for about five hours a week of appearances at a prominent car dealership?


Offense To Decline In 2006?

That's the speculation within the Pac-10 coaching circle.

The LA Daily News' Scott Wolf reports that Pac-10 coaches unanimously object to a new rule change regarding change of possession.

The coaches object that on a change of possession, the clock will now start when the official signals, not when the ball is snapped.

The rule is expected to shorten games by 10-12 minutes and coaches object that it could knock 10-12 plays out of a game. It also means that if a team takes over possession with 24 seconds left in a game, it would not need to even snap the ball.

Every Pac-10 coach opposed the rule change.

"We signed a petition and sent it off,’’ Bellotti said.

Said Carroll: "When you might throw 38 times in a game, now it be only 32. It’s a sad situation when there is such across the board disappointment by the coaches and the rule still gets changed.’’

I can understand fans' frustration with long games (they tend to last about four hours), but the byproduct of attempts to shorten games is now falling not on advertisers but on the product on the field.  This is dangerous territory for the NCAA and they may regret having made some of these changes.

Anecdotally, I was a bit perplexed at last year's Rose Bowl.  Anytime anything of significance would happen on the field, the game would shut down as the television broadcast would go to some lengthy commercial.  It completely disrupted the rhythm of the game for both teams and left many an antsy and bored fan in the stadium.

Instead of taking things out on the fans perhaps the NCAA could find some cooperation with advertisers to mitigate their excessive influence on the length of games.

That said, I enjoy long games.  It means each individual game is an experience, to be enjoyed throughout the course of the afternoon and evening.  The repeated interruptions get annoying, but college football is a long game to begin with and I have little trouble with that.  I love the rule that the clock doesn't run until officials set the ball on first down, for example.  The NCAA has smartly avoided tinkering with that part of the game, but now they're meddling in others.

To be continued... 


The Wiz has more 


Obviously I'm Not Alone In The Wilderness Here

I just found some eerily similar commentary to today's Amateurism entry from South Bend Tribune columnist Jason Kelly:

"Let's Remember, NCAA is a Trademark Brand"

As a defense, I had penned the majority of today's entry about the NCAA a few weeks ago (note the obviously dated sections about Brady Quinn and Notre Dame, for example) before finally pulling the trigger this afternoon.

Anyway, Kelly's column is terrific.

Kelly calls for some common-sense reforms and I agree with most of them.

Remove restrictions on endorsements and signing with agents. Grab the third rail of college sports and admit the amateur ideal doesn't exist and hasn't for years, for decades, forever.

Former USC quarterback Matt Leinart appeared in commercials last season as a celebrity spokesman for NCAA football. That didn't threaten his eligibility.

He made a spontaneous comment promoting "Sports Center" into an ESPN camera on the field after a game. That did.

Leinart made no money from either the NCAA or ESPN for using his image to promote their products. Yet the NCAA, in its infinite self-interest, replayed its own Leinart ad like a "Don't drink and drive" spot during prom season. For the "Sports Center" thing, it threatened to suspend him for the Rose Bowl (that didn't happen, of course, but that's another story).

That lack of shame in using revenue-restricted athletes as complimentary endorsers in its own ad campaigns illuminates the NCAA's lack of institutional conscience [Ed.-emphasis mine].

If Leinart had put his stubbly mug to use in a commercial enterprise that paid him for his time and marketability, he could have been drummed out of college football for debasing it with capitalistic interests.

Imagine that Brady Quinn could become a spokesman for Chipotle. He mentions it so often in response to "favorite food" questions, the chain ought to pay him anyway.

Or that Reggie Bush and his parents could accept a sweetheart lease from an agent as a loan against future earnings. That would be reasonable earnest money for the rights to a percentage of his potential net worth.

What effect would that have? It wouldn't make them stronger or faster or smarter. Just wealthier, and at least when it comes to its own bank account, the NCAA sees no problem with that.

In other words, Bush and USC should be off the hook.  Sound familiar?

And then he sounds a lot like Heisman Pundit with this proposal:

Offer an academic major in athletics, in the same serious spirit as music or art. In one of those cloying NCAA commercials -- "most of us go pro in something other than sports" -- a cocky saxophone player blows his own horn. He expects to end up in Chicago or New Orleans because "most good jazz musicians do." As if professional success as a performer requires nothing more than keeping his reed moist.

If he made a similar proclamation about his professional sports potential, a familiar lament would echo about misplaced priorities. Doesn't he realize he needs "something to fall back on" because sports provides only a fleeting living to the few who make it?

To cushion his eventual, inevitable fall off the stage, a sax player might have a music degree. An athlete has no comparable option.

Credit hours for varsity sports participation -- the performance element of athletics major -- would be only one way to back up platitudes about its educational value with the currency of a diploma.

Cross-list courses with sociology, psychology, medicine, journalism, education, business, all professional athletic fields as much as Wrigley and Soldier.

And then echoing my "responsibility" theme (Quote: "At least with more realistic degree options an extra ounce of choice is inserted into the process, and an athlete can pursue his or her true interest and calling and suffer the consequences if they fail along the way.  That's life"):

In accredited athletic departments, students, not coaches, should bear the responsibility for their education and graduation. Between phone calls, new Indiana basketball coach Kelvin Sampson said something honest.

Asked at his introductory press conference about how many of his players graduate, Sampson said, "All that want to ... We've never kept one from it."

Buck-passing sentiment aside, he had a point.

Disgust over graduation rates for athletes never acknowledges that individual responsibility might be involved, as though the system alone failed them.

Maybe it did. Among other things, that system creates incentives for the best athletes to go pro as soon as possible and reserves the right to strip scholarships from the worst.

Removing those barriers -- and assuring no shortcuts exist -- would place the burden for the quality of their education on the students themselves. After that, it's up to them. That alone would be a valuable lesson.

Great stuff and very similar to arguments presented here literally in the last few days.


The Amateurism Pretzel

SMQB has an entry from several months back that provides a great starting point in analyzing the NCAA's reasoning behind its policies to protect "amateurism".

In it, he argues one thing: the NCAA rules exist to protect its product---competitive collegiate athletics.

What is meant by "competitive"?  Well, the following:

[F]ans enjoying closer games and more teams with chances at winning more games is obviously good for any sport. The CFB version of the salary cap is scholarship limitations, and also the prohibition against paying players, which prevents the most monied boosters from buying the best teams at the expense of a better overall product

Got that?  The NCAA seeks to create rules and punishments that best drive equity and a level playing field into the finished product.  Its two obvious targets are recruiting and player compensation.

The NCAA's obvious solution has been to regulate recruiting practices.  Teams have limited access to recruits, and are granted limited financial resources to lure them to their programs.

In theory and according to the rules, every program has relatively equal access to a recruit and will spend similar monetary amounts on resources to lure the recruit.  This supposedly shifts the recruit's focus from the attention and freebies (lobster dinners?) thrown his way to the more important qualities of the institution thus eliminating the opportunity for rich programs to literally buy recruits and create a competitive imbalance.

In that same train of thought, the NCAA has also instituted scholarship limitations so that successful teams could no longer stockpile their rosters four deep with All Americans while the competition played with scraps.

This is all well and good, but it doesn't work towards enforcing the vague and idealized notion of "amateurism".

But why is amateurism a virtue? In Objectivist ethics, a "virtue" is an expression of rationality, something which expresses the value of a man's life. For example, "independence" is a virtue, because it recognizes that man must form his own judgments and live by the work of his own mind. In contrast, "amateurism," especially as applied by the NCAA, is not a virtue, because it holds that a man must--as an inflexible ethical principle--reject any form of compensation for his own work

Ahhh, the pretzel.

Look, somewhere along the way several American sports became highly profitable enterprises.  Professional leagues went from pennyless stick and ball barnstorming associations to profitable entertainment machines.  Babe Ruth could be sold to the Yankees and Donald Sterling could choke millions of dollars out of a moribund basketball team.

Further down river, amateur sports also gained economic prestige and emerged as veritable farm leagues that could develop amateur talent.  I am talking about you, D-I football and basketball.  The NCAA basketball tournament makes the NCAA and CBS fabulously rich and the BCS gets to award teams over $10 million for a simple appearance in their bowl games.

The minute the NCAA and its member institutions found ways to gain tremendous profit from college sports, the "amateur" moral high ground was lost.  Its mission could no longer be to protect some amateur ideal, but rather to simply regulate competition among its member institutions.

That is the current reality.

Let's get something straight before I go any further---I do not consider college athletics professional leagues.  The men and women who participate are student-athletes.  They play their games between fellow student-athletes and abide by the NCAA rules (however unfair and ridiculous some of them are).  My issue is with some of the rules that exist.  I take issue with their function, serving less the promotion of competition but rather the outdated ideal of amateurism.

Several situations of late have made me reflect on the frivolous nature of some of the NCAA's rules. 

Recently I introduced Brady Quinn's "agent shopping" conundrum.  Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn has been ahead of the ball in beginning the agent-search process before the start of his senior season.  For that, the NCAA might punish Notre Dame or himself.

Unfortunately, there is an NCAA Bylaw which says he may be ineligible if so much as an agreement was made for future representation between himself and a prospective agent.  Any ruling against Quinn would have been lunacy.  Nowhere is Quinn alleged to have benefited from his access to the agent other than peace of mind in not having to deal with the inevitable agent search process later in the season.

Remember, I've argued above that the NCAA's rules lack any moral or ethical strength.  The only logical and satisfactory mission left for the NCAA is to protect "competition" within its athletic product.  Quinn's actions do not threaten this competition in any way.  He had long ago been recruited to Notre Dame and thanks to the NCAA's strict transfer rules was not a flight threat if he so chose to leave for another program seeking access to agents or other benefits.

In other words the NCAA Bylaw in question is a terrible rule.  The only logic behind it is a bad one---one of pre-emption, striking at even the hint of impropriety that might occur because an agent might be in contact with an athlete.  It targets not competition but one's amateur status.

To this argument, SMQB would likely disagree with me.  In fact, he argues as such in regards to the Reggie Bush housing scandal that erupted in late April.

In Reggie Bush's case, agent access to athletes (or their families or friends) undermines the 'amateur' status of said athletes, which is not important for any esoteric or moralistic purposes - and certainly not just because the NCAA says it is - but for the ongoing success of the sport; the "value" being protected isn't amateurism, but competition, and that is good for football or any other sport where the games, and not the individuals, are the commodities.

This is where SMQB and I disagree.  Bush was in his second and third seasons at USC and was not a threat to transfer to another program.  The benefits extended to him were via contacts not of the athletic department or USC boosters but low-lifes his father had crossed paths with.  Whether Bush had gotten something as small as a free football or as large as a family house matters not because he was already enrolled and locked into his USC education and playing career.  Any such punishment would be towards a violation of a flawed "amateur" notion, not any doctrine about fair and even levels of competition.  The games, the commodity the NCAA is in theory protecting, would be the same quality whether or not Bush's family had gotten the house.

In no way was competition threatened via Quinn's or Bush's actions.  Thanks to other logical and acceptable NCAA rules already on the books, Quinn and Bush were recruited to their respective programs without any violation of NCAA rules or what we shall call the "competition doctrine" advanced by SMQB.

In fact, once they signed with their programs, it would be nearly impossible for them to offer their services anywhere else without steep consequences.  NCAA transfer rules require the loss of a season's eligibility and having to wait a year before being allowed on the field.  Combined with annual recruiting and the possibility for injury and many other unknowns, transferring from one program to another is a rare and arduous process.  The NCAA has put up successful safeguards in that respect, protecting the competitiveness of its product.

Here is yet another example of NCAA rulemaking gone wrong: Drew Tate.

Iowa senior quarterback Drew Tate recently hit a hole-in-one at a charity golf tournament.  That amazing shot netted him a $25,000 check as part of the tournament's awards package to lure competitors and donors.

However, if he had accepted the check it would have been a letter violation of an NCAA amateurism rule.  Thus, Tate returned the check and walked away.  Give me a break.  Tate received no competitive benefit for having hit a miraculous golf shot at a tournament he participated in, yet the NCAA sees fit to hem in on his ability to enjoy the rewards of participation in organized events.

Now, some of you will correctly argue that Tate was there only because he was Iowa's starting quarterback.  This is true, and I will not dispute that.  However, I don't buy the "pandora's box" argument that if Tate was eligible to accept the check, it would create a loophole for boosters to create similar events with easier prizes and rewards to athletes because of their status as star football players.

This is where I think the NCAA is entirely inflexible and afraid of its own shadow.  Any sensible organization would take a look at the facts of the matter and let Tate walk away with his check.  He was punished (not allowed to accept the check and retain amateur status) because of the possibility of abuse later on, on the chance that leniency towards him might open loopholes down the road.

I differ from the absolutists in that I think the NCAA should confront these situations head on.

So how do we reform the NCAA?  Good question and I have a few suggestions about where to begin.

1)Throw out the rule book.  Seriously.  Sit down and figure out what the organization's true mission is when it comes to enforcement.  Listen to arguments like presented at SMQB and here about competition and other themes.  Then, rewrite the rules, but write them with an eye not towards rigidity but flexibility.  Oh, and simplify things.  [Edit: Then re-write it.  Sorry, forgot this small but critical part in my zeal to complete this entry].

Many a failed organization (United Nations, European Union, etc.) tripped themselves up in contradictory principles and an ethic towards voluminous rule-writing.  Yet America's founding document had but ten original ammendments outlining the rights granted to the people and their governance.  It wouldn't hurt the NCAA to follow that lead and reduce its paperwork to but a few basic and well-understood principles.

2)Start making rulings and judgments.  Lots of them.  One of the great features of the American legal system is that the judgments build upon themselves.  The courts recognize the intense overlap of laws and the heavy shades of gray involved in any judgment.  Judges look towards previous rulings to make future rulings and when necessary adjust where they find previous judgments made mistakes or set bad precedents.

The NCAA needs to do the same.  Too often there is little established precedent to guide the NCAA in its decisions.  Create that precedent and future judgments become easier to render and easier to understand for potential rule-breakers.  Make it so that there are fewer pandora's boxes by being lenient towards the Drew Tate's of the world and oppresive towards the programs who decide on fancy, barely-earned door prizes for athletes at unimportant hypothetical golf events.  Stop "punishing everyone because of the possible actions of a few" as one commenter noted a few months back.

3)Don't be afraid to make mistakes.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and learning from a few mistakes early on that lead to better future judgments is much better than the current model.

4)Be realistic.  The world will not end tomorrow if Drew Tate accepts a check for hitting a hole-in-one.  He's not the bad guy, nor is Brady Quinn or Dwayne Jarrett or Matt Leinart or Pete Carroll or Charlie Weis.

Overly friendly tutors however, are not a benefit to even levels of competition.  Nor are friendly boosters who create an atmosphere of luxury for star athletes, providing access to automobiles and other perks.  However, schools shouldn't be held responsible for outside parties they cannot police, either.  If a player signs with an agent without a school knowing, they shouldn't have to forfeit games he played in, for example.

5)Focus most intensely on these areas---recruiting, academics, boosters.  Benefits extended to recruits or current players can be an enticement to future recruits that other programs simply cannot offer.  That is unfair and strikes at the competition doctrine.  Student-athletes must hold up to the "student" label.  They need to make grade and not receive unfair assistance from tutors, professors or the athletic department to maintain eligibility.  Boosters must not interfere with the agreed-upon rules that have been established to protect competition.

The bigger picture here is that the NCAA's rules and disciplinary measures are a mess.  They serve no clear purpose and have been written haphazardly over the decades to attack windmills where sometimes there are none.

Am I missing anything?  Feel free to add or subtract.


Long Way, Short Amount of Time

I'm watching a replay of the 1993 Florida/Mississippi State game.

Near the bottom of the screen, a handful of SEC scores were shown but then a message flashed to call Jefferson-Pilot's "900" number for updated scores at $1.00/minute.  How quaint.

Obviously things have changed dramatically.  Every network provides nearly continuous national scores, and one can get scores sent to themselves via cell phone (either by a message service or accessing the internet), or hauling a laptop into the room and checking any of dozens of free "gamecasts", calling friends on cell phone for score updates on other games, or checking other cable, satellite and subscription channels to watch those games live.

1993 wasn't that long ago.  But I'm kind of glad it is considering the benefits gained through the passage of time.

Oh... and those 1993 Gators had a fine group of college receivers:

Aubrey Hill, Chris Doering, Jack Jackson, Willie Jackson, Harrison Houston

The Gators would go on to win the game 38-24


God Said Tackle That Man

I love this story.

Headline: "Alabama company mixing Bible and college sports"

A Jasper, Alabama company headed by a man named Joseph Lundy is selling college football t-shirts with a twist: bible verses.  Made mostly for Alabama and Auburn fans (but also considering selling to Georgia and Texas fans), the shirts piece together fandom and scripture.


One Alabama shirt has a drawing of an elephant with words from Job: "If you lay a hand on him, you will remember the struggle and never do it again."

For Auburn fans, there's an orange shirt with a drawing of an eagle and words from Proverbs: "The way of an EAGLE in the sky."...

..."We're probably looking at one more shirt for Tuscaloosa and one more for Auburn. There is a verse for the Tuscaloosa shirt, Job 9:9, that references, 'He is the Maker of the Bear,' and people already tell us they would love to see that on a shirt," said Lundy.

I'm a non-native southerner, so this stuff is endlessly fascinating.  Religion and politics and sports blend effortlessly down here.  It's a very unique dynamic of the Southern existence.


Commissioner For A Day

This should be fun...

Origin: Stewart Mandel (bread + crumbs)

This list is not comprehensive but we have to start somewhere so here goes.

If college football had a commissioner, and I were in fact that person (head for the hills!), here are various policies I'd chase/enact:

---Comprehensive Schedule Reform: First legislation item signed would be that D-IA teams may only play other D-IA teams.  The day of the cupcake is over.  I would also strongly encourage every BCS conference team to play other BCS foes or quality non-BCS teams in out-of-conference play.  Games between powerhouse schools (USC/Notre Dame, Ohio State/Texas) would be incentivized with cash from NCAA coffers.

---Comprehensive Poll Reform: I'd work with the Associated Press to assemble a more engaged, talented group of voters for its poll.  I'd use NCAA money to send necessary information to all voters and pollsters such as full DVDs of all available games, or at least significant portions of the games, plus copious statistical information, quotes and stories of all games played each week.  Pollsters would be given several days to digest the material and not be allowed to send their ballots until Wednesday morning at the earliest.  Poll release would tentatively be scheduled for Thursday at noon Eastern time.

---Clarification on Postseason Play: No playoffs.  Ever.  The Rose Bowl would entertain only the Pac-10 and Big Ten champions.  If that were to disrupt a BCS championship game, tough.  Also there would be a reduction of bowl games.  There are simply too many bowl games right now and I'd work to phase out a few a year until the number settled at around 15-20 games.

---Football Saturday: I saw this somewhere else and I like the idea; like the NFL, college football games would start at similar times.  For example, all morning games would begin at say, 11 a.m. Eastern, and then the next round of games wouldn't kick off until 3 p.m., followed by more games at 7 p.m. and then a late flurry of 11 p.m. games.  One could channel-click at home with ease knowing each game watched would be at a similar junction as all other televised games.

---Preseason: I would allow every team one local exhibition scrimmage (minimal contact) against a nearby foe that wouldn't count on the schedule.  No fans or media would be allowed, but it would help teams smooth out a few rough patches before their first official game.  I would also bring back the various preseason classic games, which would count on the schedule.  It would be a great opportunity to schedule quality OOC games on opening weekend and help promote the sport.

---Eligibility: Players will have five years of eligibility, period.  There will be no redshirts, but players can apply for a 6th year of eligibility if faced with unusual injury, personal or family circumstances.  Transfers would no longer lose eligibility but must continue to sit one year before being allowed to play in games.

---NCAA Reform: The rule book would be burned.  A committee would be formed to greatly simplify the NCAA's mission to a few basic principles (think the U.S. Constitution---brilliant and concise, with delegation).  The majority of rules should be created to maintain 1)academic integrity and 2)fairness throughout the game.  Nearly everything else would be superfluous.  The NCAA would make many more rulings on the issues that come before it, making its mistakes but also setting precedents that will help clarify what is right and what is wrong.  Most people understand how our courts make their decisions and can reasonably anticipate how a judge or jury will react to a case.  In college football, it's almost the exact opposite.  The NCAA is simply too inconsistent and dark and distant.  Time to bring it into the light and create consistency in its rulings.

---Other Concerns: I would encourage a reduction in the number of D-IA teams.  We're at either 117 or 119 teams right now, which is ridiculous.  Ideally D-IA football should have anywhere from 80-100 teams.  Dropping a few D-IA teams would strengthen the quality of lower division football, making it more watchable and popular while also scraping away a handful of persistent losers from the D-IA ranks.  I would encourage the various conferences to find a way to reduce their numbers into something more like 10 teams.  Thus, round-robin play could be institutionalized and we wouldn't have to fret about certain teams playing conference title games and others not doing so.  Finally, I'd make it so that teams participating in 6-3 type games would both be credited with a loss.  That's not fun for the players, and it's not fun for the fans.


Monday, Monday

Two items to start the week off here:

1)Brutus Buckeye Burger---from Wendy's.

Wendy International Inc. is planning to debut a sandwich next month named after the Ohio State University mascot. The burger -- available at 125 central Ohio restaurants -- will feature a quarter pound of beef, sweet relish, mustard relish, tomatoes, bacon, lettuce, onion and American cheese on a roll...

...The nation's third-largest burger chain plans to add the Brutus Buckeye Burger to the menu Aug. 28 and offer it through the football season. The company also plans to offer a Fix n' Mix Frosty with mini Buckeye peanut butter and chocolate candies.

2)George O'Leary, as told by the great Whit Watson

Watson hosts a sports roundtable show called Sports Talk Live on the Sun Sports television network, and visited Central Florida football coach George O'Leary for an interview to be broadcast near the start of the season.

Lots of good info in Whit's blog about how O'Leary handled the resume scandal that swiftly terminated his hiring at Notre Dame, some anecdotal tales from friends about plane flights gone bad, a humorous childhood incident and more.

Oh, and his summer retreat in Lake Oconee, Georgia shares lakefront access with none other than coaching peers Frank Beamer of Virginia tech and Ralph Friedgen of Maryland.

It's a good read.