Category Archives: college football

Autonomy a Game Changer in College Athletics

ncaaA lot could be taken from the award of autonomy for the Power 5 conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 10, Big-12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference) in college athletics.

On one hand, autonomy is viewed as a victory for student-athletes.  Autonomy grants the Power 5 the ability to to award those athletes cost of attendance, improved long-term health care and guaranteed four-year scholarships.  The value of those athletic scholarships its schools hand out to cover costs beyond tuition, room and board, books and fees.

On the other hand, autonomy is viewed as something that will widen the gulf between the “haves” (Power 5 conferences) and the “have nots” (the so-called “Group of 5″).  Critics will be quick to say that schools from the “Group of 5″ (Mid-American Conference, American Athletic Conference, Sun Belt, Conference USA and Mountain West) will not be able to keep up with the Clemsons, Florida States, Alabamas, Auburns, Oregons, and Notre Dames (considered a “Power 5″ school thanks to its affiliation with the ACC).

Either way, I think this will be fascinating as hell.

First of all, I think it would affect recruiting immensely.  Just imagine if Nick Saban comes into a kid’s living room promising a guaranteed four-year scholarship that will also put an extra thousand or more in his pocket.  A rep from, say Marshall, could not compete with that.  Or, in an example that hits close to home, reps from East Carolina trying to compete with reps from UNC, Clemson, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, or NC State (my Wolfpack are so bad, so maybe NCSU is not the best example).

Schools from the “Group of 5″ cannot compete with the power conferences’ prestige is one thing.  Competing with the power conferences’ wealth is another.

Another thing to think about is how this would affect other sports at even the bigger universities.

It’s obvious that this autonomy ruling affects football and basketball the most.  After all, those sports are the money-makers at most universities.

For schools in the Group of 5, there is only so much money to go around.  If they want to compete with the big boys from the Power 5 conferences, they have to do what they have to do to keep up.  That may mean cutting other sports.  I could easily see volleyball, tennis, and track and field getting the ax at some of those schools.  In some cases, baseball and softball may end up on the chopping block.

The situation at Maryland shows that even schools in the wealthier conferences are not immune to cutting sports, especially if their financial houses are not in order.  While Maryland’s troubles were due to gross financial mismanagement (thank you Debbie Yow), other smaller schools in the fold such as Wake Forest, Vanderbilt and Northwestern could still be on the short end – mainly because those schools are small private schools.

Another thing to consider is how this will affect the Title IX sports.  Shouldn’t female athletes receive the same financial perks as the football, basketball and in some cases baseball players receive?  Schools in that predicament may resort to the same sport cutting to make ends meet for women’s sports.  And know this: no school would even dare cut the women’s sports.  That is a Gloria Allred-led lawsuit waiting to happen.

Either way, however autonomy affects college sports as we know it is going to be intriguing as hell to watch.  It’s too early to tell, but I think the gulf between the “haves” and the “have nots” have gotten a helluva lot wider.

2014 College Football Preview: Big 12

Big_12_LogoToday’s installment of the 2014 college football preview takes us to the Big 12, the conference without a championship game and one that is not afraid of the Southeastern Conference.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was really feeling himself after his Sooners curb-stomped Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.  Remember when Stoops said that the SEC was not as good as the media made it out to be?  Hell, he went as far as calling the SEC hype “propaganda.”  Well, he had PLENTY to say after his team spanked the Crimson Tide.

Speaking of the Crimson Tide, Stoops did not take kindly to what Nick Saban said.  Check out the bomb that Stoops dropped on Saban and Alabama:

“didn’t look like [Alabama wasn't motivated] first series. They looked ready to play. Everyone thought they would rout us.”

And here’s more:

“So if I’m not in a national championship game, that means I’ve got a built in excuse”

Stoops added one more haymaker in response to Saban bitching over the up-tempo, no-huddle offenses that he thinks restrict the impact of defensive coaches:

“All those geniuses can adapt to faster pace.”

Freaking Bob Stoops, gotta love him.

At any rate, here is how I see the Big 12 shaping out in 2014…

  1. Oklahoma (8-1 conference, 11-1 overall)
  2. Baylor (7-2, 10-2)
  3. Kansas State (6-3, 8-4)
  4. Texas (6-3, 8-4)
  5. Oklahoma State (5-4, 7-5)
  6. Texas Tech (4-5, 7-5)
  7. TCU (4-5, 7-5)
  8. West Virginia (2-7, 4-8)
  9. Iowa State (2-7, 3-9)
  10. Kansas (0-9, 2-10)

Analysis:  This is clearly a two-team conference.  Both the Sooners and Bears return loaded and ready to build off of last season.  Oklahoma returns 13 starters, and quarterback Trevor Knight is expected to take a step forward in his development after a standout performance in the Sugar Bowl.  Nine returning starters lead a stout defense.  Baylor is loaded on offense, but the defense – a key part of last year’s Big 12 title team – needs to reload with just four returning starters.

What puts the Sooners ahead of the Bears is that they host Baylor in what could be a de facto Big 12 championship game.

Meanwhile, Texas is in the midst of a rebuilding project under new coach Charlie Strong.  The cupboard may not be but so bare, but the Longhorns will at least be looking up at Kansas State for third place in the conference.

As for the rest of the conference, there is nothing more to note other than there is a whole lot of mediocrity and Kansas – namely coach Charlie Weis – sucks.

Big 12 Champion:  Oklahoma Sooners (kinda obvious when you finish first in a conference that doesn’t host a conference championship game)

2014 College Football Preview: B1G

big10-11-nav-logoWelcome to Part III of my 2014 College Football Preview.  Today I will preview the Big Ten conference – the richest-ass conference in all of college sports.

This off-season has been one of change for the B1G.  Maryland and Rutgers arrive from my beloved Atlantic Coast Conference (fuck Maryland) and American Athletic Conference, respectively.

Both schools were obviously not invited because of their athletic prowess.  It actually weakens the conference from a competitive standpoint in the revenue sports.  Maryland went 3-5 in ACC football and lost their bowl game to Marshall.  Its men’s basketball team did not make the NCAA tournament – nor the NIT.  Meanwhile, Rutgers just flat-out sucked in their revenue sports last season.

Nope, the B1G’s invitations those two schools were merely financially driven.  The Washington, DC and New York City metro areas represent a potential boon to the Big Ten Network.

This season also represents a change to the divisional alignments.  Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State are in the East division.  The two newbies will be placed in the that division as well.  Meanwhile, the way the West is now set up, Wisconsin and Nebraska appear to be the two favorites.  As a result, the East appears to be very top heavy and far superior to the West in terms of strength.

So the big question for the conference is, will this divisional realignment affect any of the teams’ chances of reaching the four-team College Football Playoff?  We’ll just have to wait and see this season.

As for now, without further ado…

East Division

  1. Ohio State (7-1 conference, 12-1 overall)
  2. Michigan State (7-1, 10-2)
  3. Penn State (5-3, 9-3)
  4. Michigan (5-3, 8-4)
  5. Indiana (3-5, 6-6)
  6. Maryland (2-6, 5-7)
  7. Rutgers (1-7, 4-8)

Analysis:  This is a beastly division.  You have the two 2013 B1G title game participants in the SAME DIVISION.  Michigan and Penn State are there as well.  I feel really bad for Indiana, who is looking to improve on last year’s results.  I think this division will be decided between the Buckeyes and the Spartans.  Meanwhile, I don’t feel so sorry for Maryland and Rutgers.  They wanted to get paid, so they have to pay the price (pun intended).

West Division

  1. Wisconsin (7-1, 10-3)
  2. Nebraska (6-2, 9-3)
  3. Iowa (5-3, 8-4)
  4. Minnesota (3-5, 6-6)
  5. Northwestern (3-5, 6-6)
  6. Illinois (1-7, 4-8)
  7. Purdue (0-8, 3-9)

Analysis:  Nothing much to say about this division.  This is going to be Wisconsin, Nebraska and the five dwarfs.  Iowa should be competitive this season, though no one is worried about challenging the two aforementioned teams for West supremacy.  Meanwhile, prayers go out to coach Darrell Hazell having to coach the sorry-ass Boilermakers.  Let’s just hope the higher-ups at Purdue give the brother the time he needs to turn things around.

2014 College Football Preview: SEC

674_-southeastern_conference-secondary-Welcome to Part II of my 2014 college football preview.  Today I will preview the Southeastern Conference, otherwise known as “The Beast”.

If it weren’t for me growing up in Atlantic Coast Conference territory, I would follow the SEC almost as religiously as I would the National Football League.

This conference has compelling matchups on almost a weekly basis.  Every year there is LSU-Alabama, LSU-Auburn, Florida-LSU, Florida-South Carolina, Georgia-South Carolina, Florida-Tennessee (especially when the Volunteers are competitive).  It’s also home to some of the more heated, storied rivalries in the sport: the World’s Biggest Cocktail Party (Georgia-Florida), the Egg Bowl (Mississippi State-Mississippi), and the biggest of them all: the Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn).

Throw in Texas A&M and Missouri into the mix, and we’ve got big games almost EVERY WEEK.  No other conference could boast that.

I mean, what’s not to love about this league?

Okay, so without further ado…

East Division

  1. South Carolina (6-2 conference, 10-3 overall)
  2. Georgia (6-2, 10-2)
  3. Florida (4-4, 8-4)
  4. Missouri (4-4, 7-5)
  5. Tennessee (3-5, 6-6)
  6. Vanderbilt (2-6, 6-6)
  7. Kentucky (1-7, 4-8)

Analysis: This will be a fun division race to watch. Both South Carolina and Georgia are the teams to beat in the SEC East. Either if those teams would give Alabama a run for its money in the SEC title game. The rest of the division is intriguing only to those who care if Florida and Tennessee will be back to competitive status.

West Division

  1. Alabama (7-1, 12-1)
  2. Auburn (6-2, 10-2)
  3. LSU (5-3, 9-3)
  4. Mississippi (4-4, 8-4)
  5. Texas A&M (4-4, 7-5)
  6. Mississippi State (3-5, 7-5)
  7. Arkansas (1-7, 4-8)

Analysis: This is one of the best division in college football. The top three teams in this division would beat the crap out of almost any team (apparently except Florida State) in the country. I think the Iron Bowl will settle the West division title. Since Alabama is hosting that game, that alone should put the Crimson Tide the win over Auburn.  The rest of the division outside of Arkansas will be much-improved.  Speaking of the Razorbacks, think Brett Bielema wishes he kept his ass in Wisconsin?

SEC Champion: Alabama Crimson Tide

2014 College Football Preview: ACC

Boz7c-KIIAA0D7nThe 2014 college football season is upon us.  I’m going to kick things off with a preview of the conference of my youth – the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The ACC had a lot to be excited about.  Two BCS bowl winners.  A national champion.  No wonder ACC brought in that swagger during its media sessions a couple of weeks back.

The conference now has a chance to build upon its breakthrough 2013 season.  The Florida State Seminoles bring back a lot of talent from its national championship season.  Duke should be able to build upon its Coastal Division championship.  Clemson, UNC and Miami are looking to make some noise.  And finally, Louisville will be looking to make some noise in its maiden voyage into the ACC.

Aren’t y’all excited?  Color my ass pumped as hell!  WHOO-HOO!!!

At any rate, let’s preview the ACC… shall we?  (Predicted finish are in parentheses)

Atlantic Division

  1. Florida State (8-0 conference, 13-0 overall)
  2. Clemson (7-1, 10-2)
  3. Louisville (5-3, 8-4)
  4. Syracuse (4-4, 8-4)
  5. NC State (3-5, 6-6)
  6. Boston College (3-5, 5-7)
  7. Wake Forest (1-7, 3-9)

Analysis:  This is by far Florida State’s division (and conference) to lose.  It’s essentially reverted back to the early 90s when, upon the Seminoles joining the conference, the ACC was known as “Florida State and the eight dwarves”.  Clemson is easily the second-best team in the conference, but it had to play in the same division as Florida State.  What intrigues me is Louisville.  Coach Bobby Petrino may be a d-bag, but the man is probably the best offensive mind in college football.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cardinals challenge Clemson for the “next best team” status sooner than later.  Outside of Syracuse (who should improve this season), the rest of the division is a dumpster fire.

Coastal Division

  1. Duke (6-2, 10-3)
  2. Miami (6-2, 9-3)
  3. UNC (5-3, 8-4)
  4. Virginia Tech (5-3, 8-4)
  5. Pittsburgh (4-4, 8-4)
  6. Georgia Tech (3-5, 7-5)
  7. Virginia (2-6, 4-8)

Analysis:  This division is the ultimate crap-shoot.  Teams one through five could win this division and serve as the sacrificial lamb to Florida State in the ACC title game.  That said, I like Duke over Miami THIS MUCH because Duke will be returning most of its starters from last season’s division championship team, including star QB Anthony Boone.  Losing backup QB/touchdown machine Brandon Connette will hurt some (prayers to him and his mother in California), but the team has enough offense talent to put up points on anyone in this league (outside of Florida State).  Miami has the talent to take this division, but the Hurricanes will be breaking in a new QB under center.  And the question with them as always is, can Miami stop anyone on defense.  UNC and Pitt finished last season on highs (both won their bowl games), and will be teams to watch.  Virginia Tech has the defense to win the division, but if only the Hokies had a reliable QB.  Paul Johnson’s and Mike London’s seats should be scorching hot Georgia Tech and Virginia, respectively.

ACC Champion: Florida State (yeah, this required a lot of thought…)

Latest Round of Realignment a Win-Win for ACC and B1G

Boz7c-KIIAA0D7nbig10-11-nav-logoThe latest round of conference realignment in collegiate athletics officially ended on July 1st.

The Maryland Terrapins departed my beloved Atlantic Coast Conference – where it was a founding member no less – for the Big Ten (along with Rutgers from the American Athletic Conference).  Meanwhile the ACC replaced Maryland with the Louisville Cardinals from the AAC.

While I am hoping the seismic plates of realignment calms down for good, I must say that BOTH conferences made out like bandits.  One conference made an athletic gain while the other a potentially huge financial gain.

Follow me for a minute.

The ACC has long played in the shadows of the Southeastern Conference.  While the ACC has made some huge gains in football the last two seasons, the SEC is still king and is perceived to be the big brother in an otherwise amicable relationship.  With the SEC gaining its own network, the folks in the ACC realized that the conference needs to be taken more seriously and make bigger gains in football.

Enter Louisville.

While Louisville would never be confused with other academically prestigious universities, it has one helluva athletics department.  The strides it has made in college football and college basketball (as well as baseball and soccer) is nothing short of amazing.  Hell Louisville comes into the ACC with the biggest athletics budgets in the conference (now over $87 million).  What Louisville will do for the ACC in football in basketball is make the conference stronger in football and perhaps the best in college basketball.

And with the possibility of an ACC channel looming, that could not come at a better time.

As for the B1G, the acquisition of Maryland (and Rutgers) was solely about money.  The Big Ten Network is a cash cow that was the brainchild of commissioner Jim Delany.  It is making tens of millions of dollars for each school in the B1G.  And with Maryland (and Rutgers) coming on board, the B1G could extend its network coverage into the Washington, DC (and New York City) markets.

And give Maryland credit for this: at least it was honest about its reasons for joining the conference (all about the $$$).  Maryland’s athletic department was broke, and the B1G can give it the financial lifeline that the Terrapins sorely need.

Let me add something here: as a sports traditionalist, losing Maryland hurts like hell.  I grew up watching those Maryland-Duke and Maryland-UNC battles in basketball.  It’s just going to be so weird seeing Maryland as a member of the Big Ten.

“No country for old men” I guess…

Union Ruling for College Athletes Bad for NCAA

ncaaThe Chicago district of the National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday that Northwestern football players qualify as employees of the university and can unionize.

This has the potential of being a HUGE game-changer in collegiate athletics.

If the student-athletes are able to withstand future legal challenges from universities and the NCAA itself, then those athletes will be able to command the following: suitable working conditions, appropriate times for practices, and most of all MONEY.  The working conditions could be anything from clean training facilities (see the mess at Grambling State University), to tricked out locker rooms.  Look at the common denominator in the recruiting arms race in collegiate athletics: flashy, tricked out facilities.  Check out Oregon’s and Florida State’s facilities (newly built or planned) to get an idea.  Simply put, if a school’s facilities are not up to snuff, it’s getting left in the dust on the recruiting trail.

Remember those instances at Michigan and Ohio State when they got popped for too many practices a few years back?  Could you imagine unionized student-athletes bitching about having to practice too much, and not allowing for a life outside of athletics?  Seems far-fetched I know, but you never know.

And of course there is the issue of student-athletes getting paid.  I have been on record of being staunchly against those young people getting paid.  Student-athletes have the type of perks that average college students would give an arm and a leg for – free room and board, access to the best training facilities, better medical care, better dining hall facilities (and food), better living quarters, and – most importantly – access to the best coeds.  As a guy who had part-time jobs in college in order to pay for books and dates, I think that student-athletes get what the need – if not more – from the universities they attend.  Otherwise an inner-city kid, for example, would not be able to attend an institution such as Stanford, Duke, and Michigan.

As for the universities, I think this is potentially bad for colleges everyone.

Most colleges barely break even with their athletics budgets as it is.  If colleges start paying football and basketball players, what about the baseball, lacrosse and volleyball players?  What about women’s sports?  You think the Title IX would be licking their chops over this?  Those colleges that barely break even would pull a Maryland and go broke.

This would also create a bigger gap between the “power conferences” (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) and the “lesser ones”.  You think St. Bonaventure and the like could compete with the likes of Duke, Louisville, Ohio State, Syracuse and Florida for basketball recruits?  Good luck with that one.

All of that said, I think the NCAA needs to blow itself up and start the hell over.  It has some of the silliest rules I have ever seen – remember when some kids got popped for eating too much pasta at a graduation banquet?  Deadspin has a list of some of those stupid-ass violations.  Here is a snippet:

FOOTBALL

Feb. 1, 2012

Violation: Assistant coach Bruce Kittle sent congratulatory text to a student-athlete who had signed with OU.

Feb. 1, 2012

Violation: Assistant coach Cale Gundy sent two congratulatory text messages to a student-athlete who had signed with OU.

May 14, 2012

Violation: Assistant coach Jackie Shipp sent a text message to a recruit who was a junior at the time.

Sept. 12, 2012

Violation: Assistant coach Bruce Kittle sent contact information for one recruit to another recruit, who was a junior at the time, when he meant to send it to assistant coach Josh Heupel. Resolution: For the four violations above, the football staff was precluded from having any written or telephone contact with recruits for two weeks and Kittle, Gundy and Shipp were provided detailed rules education. Contact for the three assistants involved was self-imposed. The NCAA expanded the noncontact period to the whole staff.

Nice job NCAA.

At any rate, couple student-athletes being able to unionize with the on-going Ed O’Bannon lawsuit, the NCAA is entering precarious times.  What happens to the NCAA the rest of the way will be “must-see TV”…

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