It is plain to see that the NFL is creating quite a mess for college football programs these days. NCAA investigations into schools like Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – for allegations of improper contact – reveal that the problem of outside interference on college campuses is both very broad and very real.
Alabama head Nick Saban is taking matters into his own hands. He is currently refusing to allow NFL scouts to even attend practices. Other coaches like Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly don’t view scouts as the problem. Kelly has stated that the Irish won’t ban scouts, but will instead attempt to address the situation by better educating student athletes about the issue.
It seems logical that colleges would take steps to keep agents out. But scouts? These guys are not the ones offering cars and houses under the table to amateur athletes. They are the ones with clipboards and stopwatches sweating in the stands trying to earn a living by discovering the next big thing. Scouts help make college dreams of NFL success possible. Are these guys really to blame as well?
Loyal Homer believes scouts do share blame. He will argue that programs are well within their right to ban NFL scouts to preserve their programs. Bleacher Fan, on the other hand, believes scouts should be left to do their job.
One argument will prevail while the other will be shut out faster than a scout with a roll of hundreds at a Crimson Tide practice. Who has the right idea?
After a one day break from discussing football, The Sports Debates is back to our comfort zone.
Have you ever been leaving a game and been extremely frustrated by a call from the officials that was or was not made? Perhaps you have watched your favorite team on television lose because of what you thought was an incorrect call by a member of the officiating crew? You may scream out loud, “We got hosed by the officials!!”
Yep, do not lie. You have been in that position before, and probably recently. All fans have found themselves in this situation.
Two weeks ago, the Georgia Bulldogs scored a touchdown with just over a minute to play, giving them a 13-12 lead over the LSU Tigers. After grabbing the go-ahead catch, Georgia receiver A.J. Green was flagged for excessive celebration, even though replays showed that the celebration was very “conservative” and that nothing unusual happened. The 15-yard penalty forced UGA to kick off from their own 15-yard line. LSU eventually scored and won the game. I live in the heart of Bulldog country. Here we are 10 days later, and folks are still talking about it. Folks are still outraged!
The Monday following the game, a referee supervisor with the Southeastern Conference stated that the penalty probably should NOT have been called. Do you think that made Bulldog fans feel any better? Not hardly!
That situation segues into today’s debate.
Should a collegiate governing conference or association, such as the SEC in this situation, publicly acknowledge a missed call that affected the outcome of the game?
Sports Geek will argue that such organizations should publicly acknowledge a blown call, while Bleacher Fan will argue that they should NOT publicly acknowledge a blown call.
I must warn the debaters, though. Whoever wins this debate… if you celebrate excessively… you will be held in contempt of this court and you will be punished at my discretion!
As the college football season officially kicks off tomorrow when South Carolina plays North Carolina State, Sports Geek and I have decided to tackle a topic that is rather popular in certain parts of the country. With no disrespect intended towards the other four BCS conferences, let’s be real. The SEC and the Big XII are FAR and away the top two conferences in college football. All you have to do is look at the preseason Associated Press poll. There are five SEC teams in the top 15 (Florida, Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU, and Georgia) to go along with three Big XII teams (Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State). It is quite obvious that coming into the season that the SEC has a slight lead over the Big XII in regards to which is the best conference.
The best way to clearly answer the question is to look at the top of the mountain and see that the Florida Gators are CLEARLY the best team in the nation. CLEARLY! Even the mighty Sports Geek cannot disagree with that assessment (just a hint of sarcasm there). Last year, on a neutral field, Oklahoma could not beat the Gators in the national championship. Oklahoma has done nothing during the offseason to convince me that if they played again, the outcome would be any different.
Another issue that separates the two conferences to me is the quality of the teams from top to bottom. It is fairly obvious that both conferences have strong teams at the top. That falls under the “No Duh” category. But, take away the top two in each conference (Florida and Alabama, Texas and Oklahoma) and look at the rest of the conference.
Ole Miss is a trendy pick to make a splash this year. They are riding a wave of buzz after defeating Florida last year and then defeating Texas Tech (yes, a Big XII team) in the Cotton Bowl. I am high on LSU this year as they look to rebound from an average 2008 campaign. While UGA may be rebuilding, they still expect to have a strong year. The other three bowl eligible teams (Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and South Carolina) will likely stay competitive. The four “bottom” teams from last year (Auburn, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Tennessee) are looking at making improvements. Arkansas should be stronger with the addition of Michigan transfer quarterback Ryan Mallett. Auburn, Tennessee, and Mississippi State are creating some buzz with their new coaches – especially Tennessee.
The Big XII is strong in the middle with Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas Tech. Where I see a difference is at the bottom. Iowa State finished 2-10 last year and Baylor and Texas A &M both finished 4-8. Those numbers say enough.
Last year, the SEC placed eight teams in bowl games compared with seven for the Big XII. I am not seeing a big drop off this year. If anything, a couple of the lower teams could be better. From the best team in the conference to the worst team in the conference, the SEC appears to be a bit stronger than the Big XII.
It is quite obvious that Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma are obvious picks to make it to the BCS National Championship game. It has been well documented on this website that they are each led by outstanding quarterbacks.
Today, we are going to go outside the box and take a look at teams outside of the AP Top 10. The current AP rankings lists some quality teams ranked from 11th to 25th, and after taking a closer look I think that the LSU Tigers have a chance to be a BCS sleeper.
After winning the BCS national title two years ago, the Tigers knew they were in rebuilding mode last year. Did they anticipate falling to 8-5? Probably not! But it was hard to overcome the loss of guys like defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey and quarterback Matt Flynn.
Despite the struggles at times during last season, head coach Les Miles (who gets a lot of grief, yet is one of Loyal Homer’s favorite coaches) and his team come into the season riding a wave of momentum following an absolute whipping of Georgia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. The Tigers’ 38-3 victory over the Yellow Jackets (which I witnessed personally) was one of the more impressive victories of the bowl season last year.
Returning from that team is senior running back Charles Scott. It is very hard to stay under the radar at a high profile school like LSU, but nationally Scott is underrated. He finished last year with 18 touchdowns, including three in the bowl game. He did get some love from SEC coaches last season. So, if LSU does well this season he might get some love from the rest of the nation.
For me, the key to the season lies in the hands of quarterback Jordan Jefferson. After rotating between Jarrett Lee and Andrew Hatch last year, Jefferson took charge late in the season. He had a solid bowl game and LSU is looking for him to take a big step this season, just his sophomore season. Early signs from Tiger headquarters are that Jefferson is showing some strong leadership skills, and if he can transfer that to the field, the rest of the SEC – and maybe the nation – better look out.
One thing going against the Tigers is the schedule. They have to make conference road trips to Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss. And look who comes to Baton Rouge on October 10 – the mighty Florida Gators! You can bet that if LSU gets by UGA the week before, the buildup to that game will be tremendous. That game has been on Loyal Homer’s radar since the official schedule was released months ago.
Do I think the Tigers are a little overrated in the pre-season poll? Absolutely. Coming off a five loss season, I did not think they warranted a top 15 ranking. But, the opportunity is there for the Tigers to not only prove that pre-season ranking, but also climb higher and maybe, just maybe, sneak into that BCS championship picture.
Without tradition, college football would be radically different. The dew-soaked grass would not smell the same in the first week of September. The echoes of a fight song would not ring in our ears. The debates about the BCS would not keep our interest piqued year round. Tradition is a vital component to college football, the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the strange mixture of clashing colors and sounds and passion so intoxicating when the leaves begin turning.
If it is impossible to remove tradition from college football, how can such a traditional element like the home game become jeopardized in the favor of making some extra bucks? When did money begin to trump tradition?
Bleacher Fan correctly, and clinically, details all of the financial reasons why an athletic department makes the decision to move a home game to a neutral site. It is a concise, well-argued side of the debate.
Loyal Homer makes some excellent points, too. Neutralizing the home field advantage is a dangerous idea. Sure, it is easy for smaller schools to accept a neutral site game because they need more money to grow he program. It is easy for larger schools to accept a neutral site game because they can dominate the stands. The problem is that, year after year as smaller schools agree to these games in lieu of a home game, they are yielding to the erosion of tradition. They are raking in the cash, but building no tradition. The picture of a “successful” college football program will radically change because the key indicator of success will be finances, not tradition. If that transition becomes more real every year, the college football we all know and love will disappear.
To answer Bleacher Fan’s query about whether or not Rice needs a football tradition – Rice does need a football tradition. The powerhouse that is Texas football was not built over night. Nor was it built overnight in Florida, or Oklahoma, or Ohio State (though it sure seems like it was torn down overnight in Ann Arbor). I think it is difficult for Bleacher Fan to argue, on one hand, that Rice can play a game in Moscow and it will not make a difference, but also argue on the other hand that they have every right to sell all of their tens of thousands of allotted tickets. If no one cares where the game is played, how can they possibly have a shot at filling the seats with their loyal homers?
College football, if they are insistent on finding larger venues to rake in more cash, should follow the lead of the ACC and SEC with their Chick-fil-A College Kickoff. The 2009 version of the game features Virginia Tech of the ACC taking on Alabama on September 5 at the Georgia Dome – a neutral site. I have no issue with this setup because it is clearly taking a page from college basketball with their unending series of pre-season tournaments. A branded, neutral experience where the expectations are originally set as a neutral game between two regional teams with fans that travel? That is a formula for success, something where the organizers, the teams, and the fans all win. How common is that?
But, preserving home field, on the whole, matters most. As the college football season length has expanded the last couple of years, it has become possible to change the first game of the season into a College Kickoff type game. The revenues created are a bonus because five years ago athletic departments were not relying on them. But each college football team in the country should play at least six home games, if possible, in a 12 game year. Why? I will answer that question with a series of rhetorical questions that is sure to drive Bleacher Fan nuts:
Should Penn State forgo a home White Out for any reason?
Should Tennessee miss out of 100,000 people screaming Rocky Top six times a year for anything?
Should Notre Dame skip the chance to touch the “Play Like A Winner Today” sign for any reason?
Should Clemson give up running down the hill and touching Howard’s Rock for any reason?
Should Texas A&M skip yell practice with the 12th man for any reason?
Should Auburn skip the Tiger Walk for any reason?
Should Ole Miss fans not crowd The Grove on home game Saturdays for any reason?
Should Nebraska fans miss out on The Tunnel Walk?
None of those traditions – and those only scratch the surface of what college football tradition is about – were built over decades with passion and loyalty. A few years of teams increasing the number of neutral site games is enough to destroy them all.
Tradition matters. Loyal Homer wins because college football is on a slippery slope right now. A handful of neutral site “pre-season tournament classic” type games are one thing. As smaller schools start giving up their right to a home game simply to make extra bucks at the expense of tradition, college football as we know it is forever changed. A football league that constantly fights for the extra already exists in the form of the NFL. We do not need two of those.
There is nothing quite like this atmosphere. The long, winding St. Johns River nestles up against the banks of Jacksonville, Florida and splashes against the bustling shopping destinations on Jacksonville Landing. Around most of the US the air is becoming a bit crisper. For Southern football fans the last weekend in October is filled with something quite different – anticipation for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. (Shhhh… we’re not supposed to call it by that name anymore.) It is one of the great, traditional football games fans enjoy. It is also not “technically” a home game. The site of the game, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, is 342 miles from Athens, Georgia – and only 73 miles from Gainesville, Florida. Neutral site? Georgia fans do not seem to think so. Which begs the question… why does the game get played there?
I am sure that, as the question was coming out of your mouth, you surmised that the answer was money. The teams split tickets right down the middle and both rake in the cash from it. The two teams met for the first time in Jacksonville in 1915, when Georgia put an old fashioned Bulldawg whoopin’ on Florida, winning 37-0. (Interestingly, while Georgia leads the overall series 46-38, they have only won three times since 1989. Sic ‘em? Not lately.) The game has a tradition – and a revenue stream – unlike many other regular season games. But, is it “right” that the game between two schools with such passionate fans play at a “neutral” site?
It sure seems like it is happening more and more. College football games are leaving friendly home field confines and finding a new home at a site where neither team lives. The competing schools split the gate revenue. Bigger schools love it because they will only move a road game against a smaller school (heck, it was a road game and now they are sharing revenue… why not?) or a big game that will bring a crowd (see Oklahoma-Texas and a litany of other examples). A recent example is Ohio State agreeing to move their game against Toledo (you know, the Michigan killers) to Cleveland Browns stadium. Cleveland Browns stadium has hosted a neutral site college football since 2004, and will work to retain a college football event in the coming season (SOME team has to play football there… it certainly will not be the Browns – zing).
In even more recent news, the Rice Owls have agreed to move their home game against the Texas Longhorns in 2010 to a neutral site, Reliant Stadium. As reported by Austin American-Statesman writer Suzanne Halliburton, the decision will help Rice to “nearly double their total revenue” from ALL of their home games (based on a financial projection using 2008 revenue). With that kind of coin on the way, it seems like a good decision for both Texas and Rice… right?
Today’s question is: Should this trend of college football games being moved from home games to neutral sites continue?
Bleacher Fan will argue that games can and should move to bigger venues to rake in the extra money while Loyal Homer will argue that college football is damaged when removing the games from the home stadium becomes an irreversible trend.
The coin is flipped, and Bleacher Fan is set to kick off.
Before I begin, I just want to say that I, like Sports Geek, am also looking forward to the college football season… or football in general for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball. It still remains the national pastime to me. But, it’s tough to beat those fall weekends every year.
On to the debate…
The Big 10… or as I call it, the WEAK 11, most definitely needs a championship game. And to do that, they need to add another team to make it feasible to split the league up into divisions like the ACC, Big 12, and SEC do.
Let’s take a look at the SEC. In my opinion it’s the best conference in college football from top to bottom (right, Bleacher Fan?). I live right in the heart of SEC country. I’m almost exactly in the middle of Athens, Georgia and Gainesville, Florida, so I follow the SEC very closely.
The SEC added a conference championship game back in 1992, with Florida playing Alabama. Since its inception, Florida has played in the game a total of nine times. I think it’s safe to say that the Florida Gators have drastically increased their national profile since 1992. Three national titles (1996, 2006, 2008) go along way toward establishing a following like the one the Gators currently enjoy. Playing in the championship game helped them become a usual suspect when discussing the national championship.
Let’s use the 1996 Florida Gators as an example. Quarterback Danny Wuerffel’s Gators lost at the end of the regular season to rival Florida State 24-21. However, after defeating Alabama (in Gene Stallings‘ last season) 45-30 in the championship game, they were able to get the rematch with the Seminoles thanks to the University of Texas’ upset of Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game. Arizona State, which was ranked #2 in the nation at the end of the regular season, was contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl (and that is a debate for another day)! Ohio State knocked off Jake Plummer’s Sun Devils (the late Pat Tillman was also on this team), while the Gators absolutely destroyed the Seminoles 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl, thus allowing the Gators to jump all the way to the top of the polls to claim the championship!
Without the conference championship game, it is highly unlikely the Gators would have had a chance to play for the NATIONAL championship.
I also think the Big 10 needs to add another team to restore its national reputation as a powerful conference in football. Fair or not, the whippings Ohio State has taken in the 2006 and 2007 BCS Championship games really put them, and the conference, in a negative light.
Adding another team to the Big 10 also brings in another market to the conference. Yes, the ACC conference championship game hasn’t exactly been a big draw, as Sports Geek noted. But, adding Virginia Tech, Miami – and especially Boston College – has brought more markets to the conference and will also help the conference members recruit new areas. Imagine the Clemson Tigers getting headlines in the local Boston papers for playing the Boston College Eagles.
I really see no downside to adding another team. Are the members of the Big 10 scared of this? They have been coasting by on their cupcake schedules long enough. They need a conference championship game to give them a true test. It’s time they step up so they can be considered one of the elite conferences!