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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

How College Football Could Become Like the NHL

Okay, so the headline is a teaser. After all, we're not at the point where the owners of the major college football teams will be locking out their players at any time soon. TV ratings are better, and, yes, there probably is some overpopulation in Division I-A the way there is in the NHL (see, for example, Temple, Army, Duke and the other perennial candidates for the Potato Bowl -- for the two teams that get mercilessly mashed during the regular season). So, there aren't that many comparisons.

Except, perhaps, one.

And it's somewhat glaring.

It's called impatience.

Last year, Nebraska canned Frank Solich, the Tom Osborne protege, after going 9-3. Apparently the only thing worse in Lincoln, Nebraska than an allergy to corn products is failing to win 10 or more games in a season.

This year, Florida axed Ron Zook, who wasn't doing all that badly, except, perhaps, suffering from the "He's not Steve Spurrier" disease. And, finally, Notre Dame canned Ty Willingham after only three years, and despite his commitment to academic excellence that perhaps has been unparalleled in South Bend. Zook wasn't winning enough, especially when compared to rivals in Tallahassee and Miami, and Willingham wasn't winning nearly enough, and, to a degree, he wasn't beating Purdue, Michigan State and Boston College and was 7-8 against ranked teams.

If the rumors about the Indiana and BYU coaching positions are true, there will be 15 open Division I-A head coaching jobs after today. And there undoubtedly will be more, as some coaches will move from one DI-A school to another, thereby creating more vacancies. (There's a good link to an Ivan Maisel article on ESPN.com, but unfortunately my blogger has acted up and I can't create the link; check it out, though, as it's very informative).

It's one thing, of course, when a coach has had an ample opportunity to turn a program around, where he's had the ability to reap the benefits of his first two or three recruiting classes, and, say, after six or so years his teams are a collective 26-46 or soemthing like that, with a questionable graduation rate and some off the field problems. That type of record could compel a change. And no one would argue with that.

But what I'm seeing now is a much more severe pressure to win now or else get fired, either because the alumni are basically impatient or because the school in question sees large sums of BCS monies slipping away because it cannot muster say two more wins a season. If that pressure continues to mount across the board in Division I-A, then a head coach's tenure could be, well, rather tenuous.

Like two years, perhaps, or three years, max.

Just win, baby.

Which would make Division I-A football just like the National Hockey League (and, to a lesser extent, the National Basketball Association), where teams go through coaches the way Kojak used to go through lollypops or the way Paris Hilton goes through bathing suits. And those are not flattering analogies to say the least.

Division I-A college football is a mess right now, as it is having serious problems defining what it really wants to be. It needs a playoff system, but doesn't have one, and if three voters flip flop Cal and Texas in the next AP vote (which could happen if Cal doesn't stomp on Southern Mississippi on Saturday), then because of three writers located somewhere in the country, Texas could be in a BCS bowl game and Cal could not be playing on New Year's Day or after, even if it's only loss was a close one to #1 USC. It needs to reform itself to put the "scholar" back in "scholar-athlete", and it needs to ensure that its programs are not mere "eligibility mills" but help their players graduate with meaningful degrees that could lead to solid jobs down the road.

In fact, it needs more Notre Dames, fewer Ohio States.

But the trend is just the opposite.

Too much patience, I will concede, could lead to malaise and mediocrity. Too little patience, though, could lead to something much worse.

Corruption. Cheating. Disregard of a player's best interests.

None of which, the last time I checked, serve the usually lofty goals of institutions of higher learning everywhere.

Frank Solich, Ron Zook, Ty Willingham.

There will be many others.

And I'm not so sure that the programs who have made those decisions are better off/will be better off for these changes.

Patience. It's one of the first thing people in leadership are taught. Rome wasn't built in a day, and you cannot build a solid program without building brick by brick. That type of building can take years.

But destroying good programs and foundations because of the weakness of a school's leadership can take only weeks.

Which leads me to the ultimate questions:

1. How much is a national championship worth?

and

2. Are we absolutely sure that we really know what a champion is today?





3 Comments:

Blogger Sports Junky said...

I agree,

I love NCAAB. and recently I have bought stock in it. Not like real stock on Wall street, but a stock market that is strictly for sports.

You have seen it? Its pretty cool. You buy issues for your favorite teams and you make real money. Not like a fake stock simulator. I cash out Dividends each time the team wins. Also I can sell my team stock when the price goes up.

check it out if something like this interests you.
heres a link http://allsportsmarket.com
you can log in and check it out for free..

They just released IPOS for NCAAB this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

Hope that helps
-Erik

2:31 PM  
Blogger Sports Junky said...

I agree,

I love Hockey. and recently I have bought stock in it. Not like real stock on Wall street, but a stock market that is strictly for sports.

You have seen it? Its pretty cool. You buy issues for your favorite teams and you make real money. Not like a fake stock simulator. I cash out Dividends each time the team wins. Also I can sell my team stock when the price goes up.

check it out if something like this interests you.
heres a link http://allsportsmarket.com
you can log in and check it out for free..

They just released IPO'S for Hockey this week, so there are alot of good deals there.

Keep up the good work on your blog!
-Erik

3:43 PM  
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