Friday, July 30, 2010

The Texas 10

One clever wag has produced the definitive logo for the new conference formed out of the former Big 12 due to the defections of Colorado and Nebraska.  What makes it so funny is the degree  to which it is grounded in truth.  In fact, one could argue that the Big 12 should have been titled "The Texas 12 Conference" in the first place.

When the Big 12 was formed out of the Big 8 and 4 members of the Southwest Conference, sports writers and broadcasters immediately declared it to be the strongest conference in the country before playing a game.  This summer they came within a heartbeat of being divided and distributed they way an organ donor is.  It has been alleged that one thing that saved the conference was that Texas leaked the plan for 6 Big 12 teams to join the Pac 10, now Pac 12, or so the commissioner of the Pac 12, Larry Scott, has alleged.

Why would Texas do this?  Easy. They can't dictate terms to the conference they are in unless they are the clear cut economic and sports power in that conference and that they are that in the Texas 10.  They were that in the Big 12 as well and this is one of the things that led Nebraska to leave the conference.  In the Pac 16, as it would have been, USC would never have allowed them to dictate conference policy.  The idea that they might have been able to wield power in the SEC or Big 10 is laughable.  In fact,  the only way Texas can be happy is in a conference created in their image.  As a Sooner semiloyalist I am dismayed that Oklahoma has ceded authority to them.  Oklahoma has, after all, won more Big 12 championships than Texas did and have been in more BCS championship games.

It has been said that the Big 12 was saved because ESPN and others worked with Commissioner Beebe to find a way to enhance the revenues of the ten teams that remained. It seems that ESPN acted out of self-interest for were 6 teams to leave the the Big 12 for the Pac 10, there would be no conference left that ESPN could strike a TV deal with.  Having partially lost the Big 10 thanks to the creation of the Big Ten Network, ESPN must have found the potential loss of Texas and Oklahoma and others to any TV deal the new Pac 16 would strike to be quite unsatisfactory -- unless, I suppose, they struck the deal with ESPN.  Allegedly BCS leaders also worked to keep what was left of the conference together.  The idea that one conference could expand by destroying another must have been anathema to clear thinking, reasonably moral persons.

The Big Ten claimed it would never take so many teams from a conference that it would kill it off.  As it is, they have taken just one team.  What this conference will do in the future remains to be seen but I would hope that they do not rip the guts out of the Big East just to lure Notre Dame.  Perhaps they could conspire with the ACC and SEC to gently dissect the Big East by way of creating so-called "Super Conferences."

The seeds of the destruction of the Texas 10 have already been planted.  The online journal, Cron, says

The Big 12 Conference promised Texas A&M $20 million annually and the Aggies intend to collect, A&M president R. Bowen Loftin said Wednesday.
“A key part of Texas A&M’s decision to remain in the Big 12 earlier this summer was the commissioner’s commitment that Texas A&M would receive a minimum of $20 million annually in future conference distributions,” Loftin said in a statement. “We remain committed to the conference and fully anticipate that the Big 12 will honor its commitment to Texas A&M.”
And what happens if the Big 12 doesn’t honor its $20 million pledge? A high-ranking A&M official said late Wednesday that every legal avenue would be explored first, with the potential of bolting for the Southeastern Conference coming after.

Presumably Texas A&M would have to be paired with some other team if it were to move to the SEC. The odds are that that would be Oklahoma unless T. Boone Pickens could stop it from happening.

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Domers vs The Big Ten

I have been following Rock's House over at for some time now and am fascinated by the fact that Domer contributors seem to be obsessed with various aspects of the expansion issue, from the issue of joining the Big Ten to financial questions concerning the Big Ten Network (BTN).  They are in fact more obsessed than Buckeye fans seem to be.

After writing the introductory paragraph, I traveled to and found that the top thread was one started by this post, titled: How to Back Door the Big 10.
So all this conversation about the BTN got me thinking. We keep equating Big 10 conference with BTN, but they are two very different entities. If the Big 10 wants ND to join its conference to improve the BTN economics, lets make a deal.

Screw the conference. Let's see what kind of dollars the BTN would pay for ND football rights. Why couldn't they match NBC dollars? You could kill two birds as they say: the BTN gets programming to drive it into basic and up HH coverage and ND gets its revenue without joining the dam conference.
This illustrates just how ignorant Domer fans can be.  Yes, the BTN and Big Ten are separate entities but the Big Ten owns 51% of the BTN and so there can be no back dooring.  Mark Silverman, who runs the BTN, would probably give the university presidents a heads up.

Some will object that I refer to Domers as "Domers."  It is not respectful.  Writers at ndnation often refer to the Big Ten as "The Integer." This is how rivals treat each other.  Yes, though Ohio State doesn't have any plans to play Notre Dame, the Domers do play 3 Big Ten teams t his year and I root for them -- yes, even for Michigan -- or, for that matter, any team that plays Notre Dame. My first encounter with "The Integer" was in an essay entitled, "No means No," which lays out the argument against joining the Big Ten.

The next thread on the front page of Rock's House mentioning the Big Ten is titled, "Something about the BTN thing doesn't add up to me."  This wanna be financier writes
The idea seems to center around the fact that adding teams that happen to be in a certain geographic market will force cable providers to add the BTN to every subscriber's cable package in that metro area. While that might happen in the short run, that does not seem like a sustainable business model in the long run. Eventually, people are going to figure out that they don't want to pay $150 a month for 2000 channels when they only watch 10 and on-demand/ pay-per-view is going to become "the way".

It seems like the Big Ten is making the proverbial 40 year decision based on market conditions that may only last for 5-10 more years. If I were them (and thank god I'm not) I would be more focused on finding schools that are a good fit for the long-term than adding schools primarily to get access to a new television market. If the quality of the conference teams and competition is good enough, people will pay to watch it. That seems like a more sustainable business model to me. 
Another post in this thread is titled Jim Delaney may be more worried CEO than visionary.  Then comes, in that same thread, this set of post titles:
* Well, since Purdue's number for 2008-09 was - destewart 2010-05-07 17:48:51
      o That was all TV revenue - crazymary 2010-05-07 18:10:48
* How is the $22m number unsubstantiated? - Boston Domer 2010-05-07 16:33:25
       o Because it's total income from all sources, not BTN. - 84david 2010-05-07 16:43:45
             + Where did you read that?

What is interesting about this is the interest they have.  But, first, a clarification.  No one in the Big Ten has said that the $22 million payment to Purdue (assuming for the sake of argument that that is the right figure) came solely from the BTN.  In fact, anyone who actually knows the situation would know that it comes from ESPN (football on ESPN and ABC), CBS (Saturday basketball broadcasts), bowl money to the conference, and NCAA basketball money to the conference, and the BTN,  The point of joining the Big Ten is not that the BTN will pony up $22 million per year to your school but that the conference will.

Further down there is a thread started off  with title Blurb on the Big 10's $22 million per year.
If ND adds up the NBC contract, bowl game, the NCAA basketball tournament, and licensing fees, how much of a gap is there with the Big 10's $22 million per year? Anybody have a good guess?
This is a very interesting question and it brought forth the response
While no one really knows, $15 million for the NBC deal (reported in the NYT), $3 million in rev sharing from the Big East (reputed avg payment for basketball schools) and $1 million BCS guarentee (non-BCS year) to $4.5 million BCS payout (BCS year). That's $19 to $22.5 million right there. That doesn't figure in the national radio deal (only school to have one), non- BCS bowl revenue in a non-BSC year and licensing fees. Of course this analysis is about as robust as the $22 million per Integer team that is being thrown around without citation--no one really knows.
We see here the characteristic delusions of grandeur of so many Domers.  They have so little going for them right now  in their major sports even an exclusive national radio contract is touted as a major asset.  One thing is that he believes his analysis is as robust as the $22 million figure "being thrown around without citation."  The Dude seems not to like to do research since the figure of $22 million has been well-documented.  Check out this Sports Business Journal Article for some of the data.  Let me just provide the basics along with some other references:  it comes from the division of 
$22 million in BCS money (usually 2 teams go)
$10,700,000 in non-BCS bowl money
$80 million automatic BTN licensing fee, paid no matter what
$42 million in BTN profits (half of the $84 million profits after paying the licensing fee)
$100 million per year from ESPN for football
$15.3 million per year from the NCAA for March Madness
$2 millions from CBS per year for basketball
This gives a total of $272 million per year.  This figure does not reflect bowl expenses. The figure of $22 million per school would require a total of $242, which would suggest that bowl game and March Madness expenses as well as in conference travel expenses for Big Ten games might amount to $30 million.  The NCAA has a crazy quilt way of distributing money to schools, which is one reason not to let it close to the football post-season.

So, Domers, the money is solid.  Read the figures and weep.  If you have questions or want further documentation, please ask.  

I don't really think I want Notre Dame in the conference.  Who can forget the Fainting Irish's tie with Iowa, a game in which the august Frank Leahy got his players to fake two injuries.
A controversial 14-14 tie against Iowa denied the Irish another potential national championship....
The controversy over the tie with Iowa stemmed from the fact that both of Notre Dame's touchdowns (one late in the first half and the other late in the game) came after a player had faked an injury. In both instances, Notre Dame had used up their allotment of time outs, and under normal circumstances, time would have expired in each half before they could run another play. Faking an injury was a widely-used ploy in football as a means of buying time, but in most cases there was no impact on the outcome of a game. In Notre Dame's case, they used this ruse not once but twice in the same game, and both times they managed to score touchdowns. A new rule was implemented the following year forbidding players from faking injuries, and many saw this as punishment directed at Notre Dame, who were branded as the "Fainting Irish."
Does the Big Ten really want this bunch of Cheating Cheaters in the conference?  We should probably force them to change the record of that Iowa game from a tie to a loss before admitting them.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Orrin Hatch Renews His Attack on the BCS

Orrin Hatch has been attacking the BCS system for several years now.  He has two specific problems as I understand it.  One is that his beloved, undefeated Utah Utes didn't get a "fair" shot at the National Championship game at the end of the 2008-09 season.  The other concerns how it is that participants from non-BCS conferences do not receive as much money for playing in a BCS bowl game as the primary participants from BCS conferences.  I have nothing to say about the latter issue except for the fact that the schools that have built college football and who invest the most money in it year after year deserve the bulk of the money.

The championship game of the 2009-09 season matched two one loss teams, Florida and Oklahoma, with Oklahoma losing 24-14.  That year, Oklahoma was in a 3-way tie for the Big 12 South championship thanks to the fact that Texas beat Oklahoma 45-35; Texas Tech beat Texas 39-33 on a last second play;  and then, disproving the apparent fact that Big 12 teams didn't play defense, Oklahoma crushed Texas Tech 65-21.  Oklahoma got into the conference title game thanks to its being ranked higher than Texas and Texas Tech by the BCS formula.

I presume that the Big 12 adopted use of the BCS standings as its tie breaker in order to facilitate the Big 12 champion's rise to #1 or #2 in the BCS poll.  Oklahoma's destruction of Texas Tech and then, in the title game, its destruction of Missouri sealed the #2 slot and an opportunity to be another Florida victim.

The fact that one-loss Oklahoma got into the championship game while an undefeated Utah did not get in upset Sen. Hatch.  Apparently he could see that 12-1 is not as good as 13-0, never mind the fact that Oklahoma beat two of the highest rated teams in the country while Utah beat an 8 loss Michigan team, not counting the loss to Utah.  The only other BCS school that Utah played before their magnificent bowl win over Alabama was Oregon State, which had two losses other than its loss to Utah, that by a three point margin.  I do not see in their schedule anything like Texas and Texas Tech.  The win over Alabama, which I must say I thoroughly enjoyed, was said by some to be due to a lack of interest on Alabama's part but this sort of excuse by BCS schools for losses to WAC and Mountain West teams is wearing thin.

The problem here is one we have had forever in college football. In 1968 and 1969, Joe Paterno's Penn State teams went undefeated with Orange Bowl wins and the best they could get out of human voters was #2.  In 1973, his team went 12-0 with an Orange Bowl win and the best he could get out of that was a #5.  And then in 1982, they went 12-1 with a Sugar Bowl win and came out #1.  In 1986, they went 12-0 with a Fiesta Bowl win and got another #1.  But Penn State returned to form in 1994 when they went 12-0 with a Rose Bowl win and came out #2.

Penn State's problem was with human polls, the Coaches Poll and the AP.  There are serious problems with these human polls.  The first is that they are subjective.  Everyone knows that college sports are regional in nature -- ergo regional biases come into the picture.  Second, unless voters do extraordinary due diligence, they will not remember exactly who beat whom, when, and by how much.  Third, given that coaches tend to be rather busy on Saturdays, they are likely either to pass their votes onto a grandkid or SID or just look at the scores in the morning paper before casting their ballots.  One thing is for sure, they will watch very few games other than their own.  Reporters are in a better position to watch games but even they can't see many.

When the BCS came into being, computer polls were added to the mix.  They have been crippled by being ordered not to include margin of victory.  That's a bit stupid, of course.  Limiting the importance of large margins of victory would be smart but they aren't allowed to do that.  What they can do that human voters cannot do reliably is figure in strength of schedule.  The BCS system currently consists of two human polls, the Coaches Poll, as always, and the Harris Interactive Poll, the latter consisting of a large number of "former players, coaches, administrators, and current and former media," and a set of computer polls the results of which are averaged.

Sen. Hatch's complaint has to be with the humans who do the voting and the computer polls.  His complaint is no different from but has less merit than those of Penn State fans back when they were constantly disrespected.  If Utah wants a shot at the BCS title game it needs to persuade the Pac-10 to include it when it expands to 12 teams, probably sometime this summer.  TCU and Boise State need to pray that the Big Ten takes 2 Big 12 teams when it expands to 14 or 16 teams and the Big 12 takes them.  BYU is screwed.  There is no way the Pac-10 would take two schools from Utah.  One thing is for sure, a playoff system will require something akin to the BCS to select and seed participants so there is really no escaping it.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Should There Be A College Football Playoff?

The NCAA basketball tournament has almost run its course and by sometime Monday night we will have a new national champion. It is taken as given that the NCAA basketball tournament is a legitimate method of determining the champion.  So, naturally, sports reporters and many fans think that a playoff is just the ticket for college football as well.  Understand one thing, the call for a football playoff is not about Truth (finding the "true champion"), Justice (opening the process to the little guys like Boise State, Utah and TCU), and the American Way (giving the people what they want.)  The clamor is simply about a desire that universities create a football extravaganza for sports reporters to opine about, watch, and then report on.  And for fans to watch as well.

The people who call for a playoff don't give a damn about universities and what is in their best interests.  College football is a great sport second only the professional football in the united states in popularity.  The schools that built college football into what it is today are not the little guys like BYU, Utah, and Boise State.  These programs are little more than a sideshow attraction.  It has been built by the BCS schools.  There can be no doubt about that.  I would argue that we should leave college football in the hands of the those who created it and these good people don't want a playoff.  That's good enough for me.

Some reporters seem to think that the BCS schools are run by village idiots since, as seems quite obvious to them, a playoff would bring in huge amounts of money universities are currently "leaving on the table" (as is often said).  They point to the NCAA basketball tournament as the model for their financial imaginings.  There are two problems with that.  First, the BCS schools do not want to share the money they have earned the way the NCAA currently shares basketball tournament revenues. The NCAA dispenses the CBS money to a very large number of schools.  I have no proof that the NCAA might try to grab control of any Division 1 football playoff but the fact is that they control all of the other playoffs.

The second problem with the financial imaginings of reporters and fans is that bowl division schools receive a great deal of money from bowls.  It is very likely greater than what a playoff would bring in but that misses two key points.  First, while the NCAA tournament has just one team that ends its season with a win, the bowls allow for a very large number of winners.  Moreover, it provides exposure to a very large number of schools, albeit not always a great deal of exposure.

The only genuinely compelling reason to have a playoff would be that that is the best way to find the best team in the country, the "true champion."  This is, of course, perfect nonsense. The notion that basketball playoffs reliably find the "best team" in the country is refuted by the facts.  Does anyone really think that North Carolina State was the best basketball team team in 1983 when it beat the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Cougars by a fluke basket in the last seconds of the game?  Did Dereck Whittenburg make a beautiful last second pass to Lorenzo Charles for a dunk or did he throw up a desperation air ball that Charles fortuitously happened to be in position to pluck out of the air and toss down.  Anyone who say the play knows that it was the latter.  Was NC State the best team that year?  The Sporting News calls it the biggest tournament upset ever.  The fact that NC State won 7 of its last 9 games that year coming from behind in the last minute supports the view that while gritty this team was not the best team.  And, the 8th seeded Villinova team that beat Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA championship game was manifestly not the best team that year.

This year, we have two 5 seeds, Butler and Michigan State, a 2 seed in West Virginia, and a 1 seed in Duke.  Butler got to the Final Four honestly -- it beat a 1 seed and a 2 seed to get there.  Michigan State beat a 4 seed but the rest of the work was done by others.  Tom Izzo was characteristically honest about the situation.
"I don’t know how many of those teams lose if it’s a best-of-three or best-offive,” Izzo said. “But that’s the excitement of the tournament.”  
Is any of the teams in the Final Four the best team in the country?  Very possibly not.  How would we know?  How could we prove it? If we let the tournament decide then we will have to accept that NC State was the best team in 1983 or or Villinova was the best team in 1985 and if Michigan State wins this year we will have to accept the manifest falsehood that it is the best team.

The problem with the basketball playoffs is that who wins is too much a function of seedings and the match ups they generate.  This would be no less true of a football playoff.  A question of real interest to me is how the 8 teams that would play off the championship would be determined?  Ironically we would have to use the BCS formula, possibly tweaked a bit.  Though no one would say that the humans that vote are objective or that they can remember key stats, we have the computer polls for that.  But if we are going to do that then we might as well accept the current system where the BCS determines which two teams will play in the national championship game.  There is no way to prove that the BCS winners are not the best teams of the years they win.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Boomer Buckeye

In 1977, the Oklahoma Sooners came to Columbus, Ohio to play the Ohio State Buckeyes in what was a wonderful football game.  Before that game, I was a bit twisted between my original love of the Oklahoma Sooners football program (I grew up in Oklahoma and went to OU one semester) and my much more recent love for the Ohio State Buckeyes.   At the time I was a thorough-going Buckeye fan but I hadn't exactly abandoned my affection for the Sooners (or Illinois or Rice, for that matter).  In honor of that, the week before the game I revised the Oklahoma fight song to reflect my current loyalty and sang it to anyone who didn't stop me.  It went:

"Boomer Buckeye"

Boomer Buckeye, Boomer Buckeye,
Boomer Buckeye, Boomer Buckeye,
Boomer Buckeye, Boomer Buckeye,
Boomer Sooner, O-S-U!

I'm a Sooner born
And a Sooner bred,
But when I die
I'll be Buckeye dead.

Rah, Ohio! Rah, Ohio!
Rah, Ohio! O-S-U!
Those familiar with the song will know I deleted one of the verses, the problem with it being that "Oklahoma" has 4 syllables and "Ohio" just three which wreaks havoc with the meter.

That game was remarkable in one important respect.  Ohio State went down 20-0 and most Buckeye fans must have thought the game was over since Woody Hayes' teams didn't have an ability to come from behind.  So did ABC as they switched their national coverage to another game.    Coming from behind that far normally requires throwing a pass or two.  In fact, the Buckeyes scored 28 consecutive points while passing 6 times for 29 yards -- a typical Woody passing attack.  We eventually lost by a field goal. After that game, I decided that I was finished with my lingering affection for the Sooners.  They had drawn Buckeye blood and I wanted to see Sooner blood.  Fortunately, OSU beat OU in Norman, Oklahoma.

I actually went to Oklahoma for one semester, the last semester in which they were undefeated in their 47 game winning streak.  The next year, I watched Oklahoma lose to Notre Dame, a school I had already lost all respect for, by 7-0.  Oklahoma couldn't run the ball against the Domers and had no passing game -- indeed they had to turn to their 4th string QB, a kid I knew from my home town, to try to move the ball through the air.  He couldn't get it done either.

I developed almost all my collegiate sports attitudes while growing up in Oklahoma.  Besides my affection for Oklahoma football and Oklahoma Aggie (now Cowboy) basketball, I developed a love for the far away Big Ten.  My dad traveled to Champaign-Urbana from Enid, Oklahoma to go to college and became a wrestler on their Big Ten championship team, and played one year as a scrub on Red Grange's football team.  He made two friends their, two brothers from Illinois, one of whom later became an uncle.  Both which came back to Oklahoma to live their lives.  Later on, I went to the University of Illinois to teach linguistics and before school started my first year I was tackled on the quadrangle by this same uncle's son, with whom I was very close growing up.  I met my wife at Illinois, where she got a a PhD and my kid was born there.  It is hard to hate the University of Illinois, whatever nasty thing they do to the Buckeyes.

As I said, I developed as disdain for Notre Dame very early.  This was due to my listening to what became a famous ND vs Iowa game in which Notre Dame, out of time outs, faked injuries both at the end of the first half and the second half to stop the clock.  In both cases they scored to tie the game, first at 7-7, and then at 14-14.  I was outraged.  The next year a new rule was passed forbidding teams to fake injuries.  This was widely seen as directed at the Fainting Irish.  So, on top of being cheaters, they had the temerity to stop the Oklahoma winning streak.  I latter learned how that streak started.  Before the first win, there was a tie.  Before that there was a loss to, you guessed it, Notre Dame.

And now there is talk that we might add the Fainting Irish to the Big Ten.  The only thing the Fainting Irish have going for them any more is their independence.  Sadly, they are not even the best independent team.  That would be Navy.  They might as well join.

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