Saturday, August 28, 2021

College Ball

There has been an interesting development in college football. This off-season the Big 12 was crippled when Texas and Oklahoma announced they would flee to the SEC. I'll tell you why everyone should have seen this coming... and what the Big 12 should do now.

"This is terrible!!" scream the sportswriters. Texas and Oklahoma's decision is "all about money!!" //vigorously wrings hands

Well, yes it is, but it's also your fault sportswriters. For years now, sportswriters have pushed obsessively for a national playoff for college football. They swore it would settle all arguments (as if that was a good thing) and wouldn't harm anything we love about college football. But it did. And that it would spoil things was obvious. In fact, I pointed it out: a playoff system changes how value is derived from college football... and that changes behavior.

Pre-playoffs, the value in college football was in beating your rivals and getting to a big name bowl game. That drove fan turn out, which drove ratings. That meant both ticket sales and national television contracts. To get into a great bowl game, every win mattered. The more you won, the better your bowl. So all games mattered. By going 11-0 Nobody State could actually end up in the Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl. Also, by having cool rivalries and scheduling them on Thanksgiving or the last day of the year, or whatever, you got television coverage. Army v. Navy is the coolest game ever, even though neither team will ever be national champs. This meant any team could matter.

That's not true now. Once they created the playoffs, the definition of value changed. Now value is about getting into the plyoffs. Bowl games became irrelevant. Conferences because irrelevant, except to the extent they gave you a leg up getting into the playoffs. Rivalries? Who cares! All that matters to sportswriters and television is the playoffs. If you don't believe me, watch the coverage this year. Not an article will be written on a national platform about a team that cannot make it to the playoffs. And when teams unexpectedly climb into that category, all the articles about them will be whether or not they can make it and if they deserve to. What's more, the moment they can no longer make it, the articles stop. This is the world the playoffs created: only 10-20 teams matter.

In light of this, it makes total sense that teams like Texas would do what they did. In the Big 12, they had rivals and the ability to sell television contracts in Texas. But the SEC has much more to offer. The SEC pays bigger money, because its television contract is the best. SEC teams dominate the top 10. They dominate the playoffs. Sure, Clemson or Ohio State win the championship from time to time, but the SEC rules. And the reason they dominate is the money they get lets them build first rate facilities and hire the best coaches, and the notoriety of being in the SEC draws in the best athletes.

This is the consequence of these sportswriters pushing for a playoff. They can grouse all they want, but this is the natural response to what they did. This is their fault. They killed the bowl system. They devalued tradition. They made all but 10 teams irrelevant. This isn't over either. The ACC will eventually lose Florida State, Clemson and Miami to the SEC. Parts of the PAC 12 (e.g. USC, UCLA, Colorado, Washington, Oregon) will likely merge with the Big 10. Notre Dame will one day be forced to join one or the other. And everyone else gets second tier status. Sorry.


So now the proposal. What should the rest of the Big 12 do? They've just learned that they are second tier and nobody wants them. Even with sportswriters telling the PAC 12 and Big 10 to pick over their bones, no one wanted any. So should they all just quit? No. I have a plan that could turn the table and change everything: go BIG! Seek out others school on the basis of avoiding irrelevance and create a new Big 12 like this:

(1) Build four football divisions of about 6-8 teams each, leaving room for expansion. They would look like this ("#" means they were ranked in last three years):
East: Cincinnati(7), West Virginia(6), Central Florida(7), South Florida(21), East Carolina, Army(19), Navy(23)

Midwest: Iowa State(6), Kansas, Kansas State(16), Oklahoma State(6), Tulsa(18), Bowling Green, Memphis(15), Tulane

Texas: Baylor(7), TCU(15), Texas Tech(25), Houston(17), SMU(15), Rice, UTEP

West: Boise State(13), BYU(8), Colorado State, Utah State(14), San Diego State(24), Fresno State(16), Air Force Academy(22)
(2) To bolster the football teams, focus on creating an elite basketball conference. This will consist of two divisions of 16 and 20 teams, using the above and a few more who do not have football programs. Here, I would reach for elite or sentimental where possible:

Already in: West Virginia(2), Memphis(9), Iowa State(17), Cincinnati(20), Central Florida(25), South Florida, East Carolina, Army, Navy, Bowling Green, Tulane

Add: Villanova(1), Xavier(3), Butler(5), Seton Hall(8)


Already in: Kansas(1), Baylor(1), San Diego State(4), Houston(5), Texas Tech(6), TCU(10), Oklahoma State(11), SMU(11), Kansas State(12), BYU(14), Utah State(15), Colorado State, Rice, UTEP, Tulsa, Boise State, Fresno State, Air Force Academy

Add: Gonzaga(1), Creighton(7)
(3) Cut a deal with Amazon to stream games of the week for free as an Unlimited promotion and then sell the rest as an "all sports" package (you get football, basketball, and whatever else they want to show). I would do a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday night game of the week - one from each conference. Sunday and Monday would compete with the NFL, but NFL games can be putrid at times and you can pick regions that aren't implicated in the NFL games that week.



Tennessee Jed said...

Well Andrew, The response from aCC, Big 10, PAC 12, and Big 12 was pretty pathetic. But my take is slightly different than yours. I grew up in Philly where local college teams were not significant. The Eagles and the NFL were the team in Philly, particularly starting around 1960 when they won the championship.

As a kid, I grew up reading Chip Hilton books by “Clair Bee” about kids from Valley Falls High who played three sports and went to “State University”. But, it was still about student athletes. Big time college football existed in the south and mid-west. The NFL was largely a northern enterprise. Cities like Knoxville, Birmingham, Norman, Fort Worth were not big enough to warrant pro franchises. After air-conditioning opened the south, population shifts went south and west.

Power Five, as you mention, is controlled by t.v. money. These schools football programs fund all the other sports (along with basketball.) so basically, college division 1 became a feeder league for the NFL. Good-bye student athlete, good bye rah rah be true to your school; hello McDonalds Happy meal bags stuffed with cash, and cover up gang bang rape parties.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I don't disagree. The idea that these are "student athletes" is just cover for these colleges making investments in minor league pro-teams. The fact they want to pay them now through sponsorships just confirms that.

But that said, I find the maneuvering and the hypocrisy interesting to watch. And I do enjoy the games, same as the NFL.

AndrewPrice said...

Ladies and Gentlemen, Ed Asner has died. Sadly, I remember Ed mainly as an *sshole leftist before being an *sshole leftist was cool. Still RIP.

In fact, there have been a lot of sad deaths this year so far. Alex Trebeck. Tragic. He was the calm that held the human race together.

Hal Holbrook. One of my favorite actors. Vastly underrated and underappreciated.

Charlie Watts. I had no idea he had been faithful to his wife all those years. Major respect!

Charles Grodin. He was an outsider in an insider world.

Rush. The one talk radio host who didn't scaremonger.

Cloris Leachman. Frau Blucher!!! A genuine comedian, so so rare.


Oh, and Larry Flynt, who worked to undermine society. A worm for the worms.

Critch said...

THE SEC is growing, GO VOLS! We Rule!

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, I think the SEC has made itself too powerful and too attractive for anyone else to catch it. I would bet they raid the ACC soon and then the football world will shift...

Tennessee Jed said...

Crotch … go Vols

Tennessee Jed said...

Critch, go vols

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