Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Conference Crisis Averted

Hats off to Texas (and commissioner Dan Beebe) for saving the Big 12. (I know this post is belated...but then when are my posts not belated?)

I'm glad to see college football hasn't devolved into super-conferences just yet. Part of my relief is, of course, tied up in the desire to see Notre Dame stay independent for as long as possible. But I'm also convinced that rigid adherence to conference scheduling makes for less exciting football all-around. (Unless, you know, you're playing in the SEC.)

Here's an interesting tidbit from the BCF Toys blog:

In twenty years, the frequency of games played between top-25 teams has been cut by nearly 40 percent. The primary reason for the decline has been conference expansion. In 1989, 25 teams were independent, including AP final Nos. 1, 2 and 3 and six of the top-25 overall. In 2009, only 3 FBS teams were independent, none of which were ranked.

So, in other words, less flexibility in scheduling = less opportunity for high-quality opponents to play each other. Of course it is difficult to predict how good any team will really be from year to year, but I would argue that the BCS format in general makes it less desirable for teams to schedule tough non-conference opponents. This is evidenced by the general trend toward scheduling weenie (I-FCS/formerly I-AA) opponents for season openers. (No offense to Appalachian State or anything.) And, quite frankly, that's lame. No one wants to see boring, uninspired, gutless football. (You know, unless they are a Michigan fan.) I also find it really difficult to get enthused about any system that encourages teams to rack up 60 points on "lesser" opponents just to make a case for the national championship.

(This could be the beginning of an argument toward a playoff system, but I'm not really in favor of that, either, so I'm not going to go there.)

The conference system right now also makes it virtually impossible for teams like Boise State to get their strength-of-schedule rating high enough to make a legitimate case for the national championship. Any move toward 16-team superconferences will only make the BCS monopoly worse. Do we really want to completely deprive the future Boise States of the world from the chance of breaking onto the big stage in college football? This seems...I don't know...sort of un-American.

Shoving aside politics (and all arguments about whether or not the "American Dream" is an actual possibility for every American citizen)...shouldn't we at least give non-BCS conference schools the chance to drag themselves out of obscurity, slam-bam their way into the Top-25 and make a pleading, heart-wrenching, puppy-eyed, underdog, Hollywood-style family-friendly case for the national championship game?

Not that the conferences really care about this sort of thing, of course. Or the BCS. Or the NCAA. (Apparently Congress sort of does, but Congress can't even solve its own problems these days, so the politicians just need to butt out before they make things worse.) It's all about the money they're trying to rake in from TV networks and bowl games -- which would explain why there are now approximately five zillion bowl games nobody cares about.

Of course I don't have a solution for any of this...I'm sort of just thinking out loud. I'm all in favor of cutting down on the number of useless, crappy bowl games. I'm also in favor of seeing more top-25 teams play each other. Which I guess could be accomplished with some sort of playoff system, but I'm not sure how you could implement a playoff system without eliminating conference championships and/or bowl games altogether. And all annoyance about ridiculous names like the "St. Petersburg presented by Beef O'Brady's Bowl" or the fact that last year's "GMAC Bowl" (between Central Michigan and Troy) took place the day before the national championship aside...what would the holidays be without College Bowl Week???


So anyway. This is just to say...

-I'm glad the conferences have stabilized. (For now.)

-I hope the Irish find themselves competing in something better than Roady's Humanitarian Bowl this year. (Though technically speaking I suppose any bowl game would be an improvement over last year.)

-I feel the faint urge to write the Cornhuskers a letter of condolence now that they have to play Michigan and Ohio State every year.

-I wonder what will come of this appeal USC's thrown at the NCAA. At least the Trojans have finally admitted some wrongdoing on their part, which is a nice turn away from the insufferable comments of SC's athletic director claiming the NCAA's allegations were "nothing but a lot of envy." But I still think it's pretty rich for the Trojans to claim on the one hand that they are taking "full responsibility for those violations" and on the other hand to say that the NCAA's penalty is "too harsh." You know, USC, maybe if you'd taken full responsibility for your athletic department in the first place, this kind of shit would never have happened. Seems to me like you've been breeding nothing but a lot of hubris. And I don't see how you expect the NCAA to overturn their ruling when you haven't really done anything to prove that your athletic department is under better control now than it was then.

-Speaking of control...I hope Golden Tate's gotten a handle on his late-night doughnut cravings. Preferably he's staying as far away from the Former Head Condom as possible. I'd hate to think any of this USC nonsense has started to rub off on him. What's he doing playing for a team whose name can be rearranged to spell "WEAK-ASS ATHLETES" anyway? (Thanks to Dave Barry and the 2006 Superbowl for that anagram.) Boo.

-Still distraught over the end of Blue-Gray Sky. I know there are a lot of Irish Blogs out there, but BGS was like...the blog. I don't know what I'm going to read during football season now.

-T-minus two months til the season opener. Go Irish Beat Boilers!

Friday, June 4, 2010


Percolating over Brian Kelly.

I'm still attempting to keep a level head about the new coach until I've seen a couple seasons under his direction, but damn if I don't agree with almost everything that comes out of his mouth. I feel like he gets it. You know? I feel like he understands the college football circus and Notre Dame's place in it. I like that he doesn't want to join the Big 10. I like that he understands that the Blue-Gold game ought to be exciting for fans. I like that he's luring Top-150 recruits (like Ben Koyack and Matthew Hegarty) away from the likes of Boston College, California, Iowa, Florida State, Penn State, LSU, Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio State, and Southern Cal. Not to mention keeping legacy players in the ND family.

Speaking of which, I really like that Kelly's players have started quoting him on what I believe to be an essential component of any championship football team. Here's a couple-months-old quote from Shaq Evans on the subject, courtesy of Irish Sports Daily:

“He’s emphasized that we need to be more together. Basically, he needs the team to be more like a family. He said that’s how they were at Cincinnati and that’s how they won. Teams that are together win together. That’s what the biggest change is here.”

Dude. Right on.

I cannot conceive of this quote as being anything other than utterly, entirely, unequivocally correct. (I mean, come on -- isn't this whole "family" concept a major plot point in both Miracle and Remember the Titans?)

But as always...saying all the right stuff is one thing; actually doing it is another.

So I'm trying to keep my optimism percolating until the season comes, although it does remain difficult not to feel enthused about Kelly's experience, passion, and proven track record of molding winning teams out of a whole lot of nothing. Emphasis on the team thing. Although of course a lot of questions still remain on the having a good defense thing. Not that I don't enjoy watching high-caliber offenses or anything, but I would much rather watch us score 20-some points per game and win because our defense is an unbreachable wall of BEAST than watch us routinely score 30+ points per game because the only defense we have is a good offense.

So, like I said...percolating.

T-minus three months til football season.