Blowout Week in College Football

Blowout Week in the NCAAFor those of you who are college football fans, this was a grim week. There were very few games of much interest and there is a reason for that. Money. Money for everyone except the players but I’ve written about that inequity enough. Today’s blog explores the reasons we have college football games that are not competitive around this time of year.

Why in the third week of the college football season do scores like 76 – 0, 72 – 0, 54 – 6, 77 – 7, and 56 – 0 occur more frequently? Why are the third and fourth week of the college football season largely not entertaining for fans of the game?

The top college football teams are increasingly moving into what are called super-conferences. These are powerhouse conferences with the best teams. The other conferences cannot and largely do not care to compete. The only way to compete in these super-conferences is to generate revenue. Bigger stadiums, better locker rooms, and more television exposure gives players a greater opportunity to showcase their talents for an eventually payday in the National Football League. It also generates huge revenues for the schools involved and the NCAA in general. Billions of dollars.

As college football teams and conferences settle into this model their schedules become all the more important. The conference schedule is when the teams in these new super conferences play games against one another. Generally this starts to happen around the fourth and fifth week of the college football season.

Many of these super-conferences are split into two divisions with the winner of each division playing in a massively lucrative championship game. As the stadiums get bigger, as the television contracts get larger, and as the luxury boxes get more expensive; the revenue rises. The schools want more revenue and this is quite natural.

After the conference championship game comes the Bowl Season. To determine who plays in what Bowl Game a series of six mathematical formulas are calculated based on team wins, points scored, points opponent scored, strength of schedule, and other factors. These results are averaged with human derived rankings called the USA Today’s Coaches Poll (current coaches) and the Harris Interactive Poll (made up of former players, coaches, administrators, and current and former media members).

Starting next year the top four ranked teams will play in what is called the College Football Playoff system which culminates in a Championship Game hosted by the venue that bids the most. More money.

The pursuit of this money means that teams from the super-conferences don’t want their schedules to be too difficult in the non-conference season. They pay teams from smaller conferences to come in and serve as practice dummies. Thus we have a few weeks of largely uninteresting college football.

It’s not completely boring, there are always a few competitive games among those in the super-conferences but it’s generally a poor couple of weeks for the fans.

What’s the solution? Time.

College football with its super-conferences and playoff system is becoming a professional sports league. I think that eventually the polls and ranking system will be removed, the winner of each division within the super-conferences will play a championship game, and the winner of these games will compete in a playoff to determine a National Champion.

When this happens I suspect the schedule will essentially be designed by the NCAA much like it is in the NFL with teams from the super-conferences playing their early season games against other teams from other super-conferences. Schools that cannot generate enough revenue to enter the super-conferences will compete among themselves.

Is this a good thing? Do we need a junior NFL or should college football be for the kids? These are largely irrelevant questions. The lure of money is too strong.

Those colleges that don’t want to participate will continue on in the traditional way and those of us who appreciate the noble nature of athletics played for the sheer joy of it will turn to the Army-Navy game and the Harvard-Yale tussle. Personally, I’ll head on down to Francis Field on a cool November day to watch the Washington University Bears take on the Case Western Reserve Spartans.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for a full length eBook)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Aaron Hernandez and Urban Meyer

Win at all CostsFor my followers who are not sports fans there is a terrible story making headlines in the National Football League (NFL) these days. A player in the league is accused of premeditated murder. That he killed one of his friends reportedly because that friend was talking to some other people.

The case is in its infancy and guilt or innocence will not be determined for a long time so I’m not going to get into the particulars of the incident. Likewise there is much talk about the violent tendencies of NFL players but statistical analysis seem to indicate that professional athletes, football players included, are no more criminally inclined than the rest of the nation, actually less so.

What I do want to talk about is the culture of winning that pervades college and pro athletics. The responsibility a coach has when one of their players commits crimes, particular violent crimes. In this case the player in question, Aaron Hernandez, was coached at the University of Florida by Urban Meyer. There were apparently a number of incidents at Florida that put a question to Hernandez’s character, and more importantly to the NFL, his potential to be a great player instead of a public relations nightmare.

Meyer told Coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots that Hernandez was worth drafting although he was drafted well below his ability level, likely because of his off-field problems. Meyer has said that it is wrong and irresponsible to connect either he or the University of Florida to the misbehavior of Hernandez.

I strongly disagree. I will not lay the blame squarely on Meyer, Belichick, Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft, the University of Florida, the NCAA, or the NFL but there is certainly a connection. People with special ability in the sporting world are given chance after chance that other people do not get. They are entitled, coddled, favored, and allowed to behave badly without consequence again and again.

Here in St. Louis we drafted an extremely talented cornerback named Janoris Jenkins with a troubled past including failed drug tests and an arrest in a nightclub fight.

It angers me when I hear Meyer instantly dismiss any responsibility in the situation. Not only dismiss responsibility but actually attack anyone who dares suggest that he might have done something to prevent the situation. Meyer could have kicked Hernandez off the team, as Meyer’s successor Will Muschamp did to Jenkins almost immediately upon taking over as head coach at Florida.

It can be argued that Jenkins was a far more talented player than Hernandez. That Muschamp’s decision to kick Jenkins off the team was a much more damaging move than would have been removing Hernandez.

So far Jenkins has been a relatively trouble-free in St. Louis. He missed a curfew and Coach Jeff Fisher suspended him for one game. That’s what I’m talking about here today. That’s my point. Muschamp made Jenkins responsible for his actions. Fisher made Jenkins responsible for his actions. Apparently Meyer and Belichick did not do the same for Hernandez.

Who is ultimately responsible for our own actions? We are. Hernandez is. Jenkins is. But so is Meyer. He allowed Hernandez to continue to play and recommended him to the NFL. Personal responsibility doesn’t mean blaming everyone else when you make a mistake in judgment.

Meyer could have said that he understood Hernandez had problems. He tried to help. He wanted the best for the young man and gave him chances with that in mind. Instead he chooses to deny all responsibility. To bury his head in the sand and avoid any consequences to his actions. A terrible role-model, a terrible person.

I’m not blaming Meyer for Hernandez, I’m blaming Meyer for Meyer. Taking responsibility doesn’t always mean taking the credit when things go well. Personal responsibility means accepting consequences, or at least scrutiny, when things go wrong.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water ($2.99 for hours of reading pleasure)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt