At some point you have to wonder if college football is in the early phases of death by a thousand cuts. The number of profitable programs is at an all-time low while the cost to field a winning program – we’re not talking championship-level; that’s an entirely different discussion – continues to rise. Booster fees are rising while at the same time booster donations at most schools are in a state of decline. Attendance continues to drop in many areas of the country. We’ve got a playoff system that threatens the bowls and too many bowls that reward teams for mediocrity.
These aren’t all the problems but they’re important to discuss. The foundations of college football aren’t on the verge of crumbling but we are at a place in time that unless some common sense is injected into the game things are going to continue to decline.
Let’s go point by point here:
1. We could spend the next week talking about why so many programs are taking on water economically but let’s focus instead on one common sense solution. There should be minimum standards for attendance, stadium size and athletic budgets to play at the highest level. Maybe require 30,000 average attendance, a stadium that seats at least 35,000 and an athletic budget of at least $40 million a year. If a school can’t meet the standard, then it has to play at another level. We got Division IAA back in the mid-1970s because there were schools like Davidson, Richmond and VMI playing Division I football. So instead of Division I, II and III we ended up with Division I, IAA, II and III which worked well until so many schools left DIAA to join Division I. Maybe it’s time to split Division I into two divisions, one for the current power schools and others who can meet certain attendance, stadium and budget standards and another for schools who are a level below. Let the schools playing in the new division have their own national championship playoff as well.
2. When everyone else was still in the dark ages of booster clubs, Clemson had IPTAY – “I Pay Ten a Year.” It was a great concept and it reached the grassroots fans because nearly everybody who had either attended Clemson or was a Clemson fan could afford $10 a year. IPTAY continues to be one of the greatest booster organizations in all of college sports. While IPTAY certainly goes after and requires boosters who will donate more than $10 a year to fuel the Clemson engine, it continues to have that grassroots appeal to the fan base because it has never abandoned the little guy. It’s my experience that far too many booster organizations really don’t care about the small time booster. Sure, it’s great to have that booster who can donate five or six figure checks every year, but expand the base and bring in the small time booster and find a way to make that small timer feel he or she is necessary and appreciated.
3. Attendance. That’s a tough issue because more and more fans – boosters included – are asking why pay a couple thousand a year for the right to buy four season tickets when they can stay home and (a) watch the game on a 72-inch ultra high definition screen, (b) sit in their own recliner without knees in their back, (c) access a clean bathroom without standing in line and wondering if the drunk next to them is going to barf, (d) eat good food instead of paying $5 for a skinny weenie, (e) drink beer before, after and during the game, (f) scream obscenities at the coaches without their love for the school being challenged and (g) let everybody else worry about parking and traffic. There is a glut of games on television to the point that some schools laugh off the attendance decline because they know they’ll make it up with the television money. The fan base is going to erode unless the game day experience is enhanced. Reduce the cost of tickets if necessary. If television money is making up the difference, then lower the cost of tickets so the folks watching on television see a full stadium. Reduce the booster fees so the stadium can be sold out for every game before the first foot hits the football in September.
4. The playoff system creates a truer national champion than the BCS ever did but it can’t destroy the bowl system. The bowl system should be a reward for teams that have a good season and not a way for one network to fill its programming. Did anyone watch the Cure Bowl? How many of you know who played in it, who won it and where it was played? You’ll have to look up those answers for yourself but one thing I can tell you is they must have counted each arm and each leg in the stadium as a person. If there were 18,000 people in that stadium then donkeys fly. A team with fewer than 7 wins should not be rewarded with a bowl game. By imposing a 7-win minimum, the quality of the games would improve, viewership would also improve and the payouts could improve as well. Because of the playoff, some of the bigger bowl games were rendered less important than ever before. Keeping the big bowls happy is going to be a problem and it might require tweaking the system a bit. Until the system is tweaked and functioning well, then we need to forget any talk about expanding the playoffs to eight teams.
MISSOURI SELF-IMPOSES BASKETBALL SANCTIONS
Missouri has self-imposed sanctions on its basketball program, vacating all 23 wins from the 2013-14 season and banning itself from any postseason play this year including the SEC Tournament. By taking such steps, Missouri is hoping to avoid harsher penalties from the NCAA which continues to investigate the years in which slime bucket Frank Haith was its basketball coach.
Haith bolted Missouri for Tulsa following the 2013-14 season, the second time he’s jumped to stay one step ahead of the NCAA. Remember it was Haith who the NCAA found paid a recruit $10,000 and then tried to buy off a booster’s silence at Miami. Amazingly, when the NCAA followed Haith to Missouri it only suspended him five games.
Even more amazing, the NCAA says it’s not going to go chasing down Haith at Tulsa.
Frank Haith has earned his slimy reputation every place he’s coached. He needs to be nuked by the NCAA and it’s mind blowing that the NCAA hasn’t seen fit to ban him from the college game and tell any college program that would hire him to prepare for nuclear winter. Ridding the college game of Frank Haith won’t make everything rosy, but it would send the right signal to the other slimeballs who continue to bring the game down.
USC COACH CLAY HELTON
Although he was offered the offensive coordinator job at UCLA by his best bud Jim Mora Jr., Lane Kiffin will be staying at Alabama where in two years his offenses have set numerous school records and produced a Biletnikoff winner (Amari Cooper in 2014), a Heisman Trophy finalist (Cooper in 2014) and a Heisman Trophy winner (Derrick Henry in 2015). In Alabama’s run to the national championship in 2015, quarterback Jacob Coker threw for 3,110 yards and went the final five games without throwing an interception.
What Kiffin has done in his two years at Alabama has created a wave of positive commentary about his abilities as an offensive coordinator. Calling him the best offensive coordinator in the SEC wouldn’t be a stretch. Southern Cal coach Clay Helton, who worked for Kiffin spoke about his former boss Wednesday.
“We were fortunate to be with coach Kiffin in our years at USC. The first thing you saw was how offensively brilliant the guy is,” Helton explained. “He does as good a job as anybody in the country creating mismatches, taking his best player and finding a way to put him on your worst player. His ability to game plan and get that done whether it is with (receiver Calvin Ridley), whether it is with (Heisman Trophy RB Derrick) Henry or whether it is with (tight end) O.J. (Howard), he’s the best at it.
“Obviously the things he has done over the past two years at Alabama, what he’s done with two different quarterbacks – two different styles of quarterbacks, I think speaks volumes of the type of offensive coach he is.”
BIG 12 GETS TITLE GAME WITHOUT EXPANDING
The Big 12 won’t have to expand to get a conference championship game. By a 7-2 vote (the SEC and the American Athletic Conference voted against it) of the Division I Council, the NCAA set aside the old rule which requires 12 teams and two divisions for a conference championship game and will allow a conference with 10 teams (such as the Big 12) to hold a championship game as long as the conference plays a round robin schedule.
The Big 12 plays the round robin schedule but hasn’t decided on the conference championship game nor the format of picking the two teams that would play in the championship game. Since the league plays round robin a team that has gone unbeaten through the regular season could lose to a team it already beat in the title game. Theoretically it’s possible to do that with two divisions, but it’s far less likely.
Of course, there is also the option of expansion and there is no shortage of teams that would like to join the conference such as Cincinnati, Memphis, Houston, UCF, USF and BYU. Big 12 commissioner Bruce Bowlsby says the league hasn’t ruled out the possibility of expansion just yet.
GOING PRO, STAYING PUT OR TRANSFERRING OUT
Alabama: Heisman Trophy RB Derrick Henry announced he will go to the NFL while All-American safety Eddie Jackson and outside linebackers Tim Williams announced they will be returning for their senior seasons.
Arkansas: RB Kody Walker has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
LSU: DE Lewis Neal has elected to stay for his senior season. MLB Kendell Beckwith is leaning toward staying but won’t announce until Monday. Running backs coach Frank Wilson could be departing for the vacant HBC opening at Texas-San Antonio.
Tennessee: Cornerback/punt returner Cameron Sutton made his decision to return for his senior season.
Texas A&M: WR Ricky Seals-Jones intends to return for his senior season.
Vanderbilt: The comings and goings with Vanderbilt have everything to do with the coaching staff. For the second straight year Derek Mason is making wholesale changes to his coaching staff. Mason has hired Cameron Norcross from Fresno State to coach the O-line and brought in Oklahoma quality control coach C.J. Ah You to coach the D-line and former Wisconsin assistant (last coached in 2013-14) Jeff Genyk to coach the tight ends. There is a really good chance Vandy CB coach Brett Maxie will be leaving for a position on the Indianapolis Colts’ staff.
Chip Kelly might one day look back at getting fired by the Philadelphia Eagles as one of the best things that could have happened to him. Instead of spending another year trying to make square pegs like Sam Bradford fit into round holes, Kelly goes to the San Francisco 49ers where he inherits not one, but two quarterbacks who can run with the football. The difference between serious success and mediocrity at Philadelphia always centered around the QB position, where Kelly tried to make his hurry-up, no huddle style work with immobile quarterbacks. There will be no such problems at San Francisco where both Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick are at their best when they have the option to tuck and run. As long as management at San Francisco promises to keep its fingers out of Kelly’s pie, then this could be a very successful venture. If management meddles, Kelly will get abrasive and we’ll have another bad situation.
It should come as no surprise but the Tampa Bay Bucs are about to hire offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as their head coach to replace the fired Lovie Smith.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson is Chip Kelly’s replacement for the Philadelphia Eagles per the Philadelphia Daily News.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Is it time for college football to split Division I and create a second division for those who can’t meet minimum standards for attendance, stadium size and size of athletic budget?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Most of you have probably never heard of Chris Rae but he continues to make music and play to appreciative crowds. He reminds me a lot of Mark Knopfler, who used to front Dire Straits before going solo. Rae’s never been as popular as Knopfler, but he continues to churn out the albums (25 so far). Today’s music is his 2014 concert at Montreux.