The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate… Size Isn’t Everything

June 14, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

On February 6th, 2008, every high school football senior in the country with hopes of playing at the next level had to make a decision. It was National Signing Day, where those recruits commit to the college program they wish to be a part of.

Every recruit, that is, except one.

A quarterback out of Jeannette, PA, by the name of Terrelle Pryor thought he was special, and that the rules of everyone else didn’t apply to him. And so, while everyone else was announcing their intentions for the fall, Pryor decided that he would not make his announcement until more than a month later, on March 19th.

We should have seen it coming then.

Terrelle Pryor has fallen right in line with many other phenom talents who are targeted at a too-early age as the next great athletic superstar. Throughout their formative years, when most kids are learning very important life lessons about maturity, responsibility, and accountability, these teenage “superstars” are instead being told they are ‘special’. Exceptions and excuses are made on their behalf for their mistakes, and before you know it, they are shut off from the rest of the world, living within the bubble of “I am better than everyone else.”

Think about the recent antics of other children (which is exactly what they are) who were thrust far too soon into the limelight that is sports stardom – LeBron James and Bryce Harper quickly come to mind. All of these amazingly talented athletes may be physically prepared for the rigors of top-tier athletic competition, but none have shown the maturity necessary to cope with those rigors, and none have demonstrated an ounce of consideration for anyone around them, DESPITE the fact that they all play TEAM SPORTS.

Still, we hope with each new kid brought to us by ESPNU or Rivals.com as the ‘next great thing’ that THEY will be different. We continue to blindly believe the myth that age naturally brings wisdom and maturity, when so many before them prove time and again that is just not the case in sports. We believe that a kid who hasn’t even gone to prom yet can manage a multi-million dollar lifestyle, when most adults aren’t capable of it.

And with every new revelation made about the misdeeds of Pryor and his cohorts while at The Ohio State University, it becomes more evident that he has continued to behave as though the rules just did not apply to him. HE was the superstar, and everyone else should be grateful that HE is a part of their system.

So it came as a surprise to no one when he once more ducked out on accountability and consequence by running away from the NCAA.

Once again, while his so-called ‘team’ will be suffering the wrath of the NCAA, Pryor gets to just walk away, untouched by sanctions that will largely (if not entirely) be levied specifically because of his actions.

Terrelle Pryor is special, and the rules don’t apply to him.

Does that sound like someone an NFL General Manager, Head Coach, or FAN would want on their organization?

Character issues to the side now (which are more than enough to turn any NFL GM off to the prospect of Pryor as a member of their organization), there are plenty of reasons from a performance standpoint that would ALSO be reason to look the other way when Pryor and new agent Drew Rosenhaus come knocking at your team’s door.

Yes, Terrelle Pryor is a physically gifted athlete. He undeniably has the build required to play in the NFL, and is an all-around athlete. His combination of size and speed are what got him noticed in high school, and what led the Buckeyes to an amazing 33-6 record during his three-year tenure with the program.

But for Pryor, the REAL story is not in the wins, but in the losses. His poor decision making ability in many of those games led to very costly turnovers, some of which decided the outcome of games.

When Pryor is leading a juggernaut team against the bottom-feeders of the NCAA, it is easy for him to look good. The talent of the team around him, and the support of a stifling defense that was the hallmark of Ohio State football under Jim Tressel, all compensated for Pryor’s inability to make good decisions.

He extends plays far too long, creating opportunities for the defense to force turnovers, and he forces passes into areas that should not be tested. That is why his ratio of barely more than two TD passes for every interception pales in comparison to TRULY successful quarterbacks of recent years such as Cam Newton (4.3 TDs to every INT), Sam Bradford (5.5 TDs per INT), or even fellow Buckeye Troy Smith (4.2 TDs per INT).

With very few exceptions, any time that Terrelle Pryor found himself in a pressure situation with the game resting on his shoulders, he failed to deliver. Instead, he USUALLY committed a costly mistake which actually hurt his team more than if he had done nothing at all.

And to top it all off, the projection for his pro potential is not even at the position he played in college. You see, everyone knows that he can’t hack it as an NFL QB, so they are instead HOPING that his size, speed, and strength will make him a successful weapon somewhere (anywhere) on the field.

So if I were General Manager of an NFL franchise, and was presented at the supplemental draft with the opportunity to draft a low-character, poor decision making, selfish, prima donna attention-seeker who will have to learn an entirely new position because everyone already knows he cannot be successfull at the only position he has experience in, my answer is a resounding ‘NO THANK YOU!’

The best thing for Pryor AND for the NFL would be for him to spend a few years in either the CFL or the UFL, developing some strong character traits, and proving to the world that he is more than just hype and bad publicity.

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The Terrelle Pryor in the NFL Debate… Yes, There Is Life After College Football

June 14, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

Life gave Terrelle Pryor lemons, and earlier this week he started making lemonade.

Well maybe that’s not entirely accurate. Perhaps it could be better stated that, life blessed Terrelle Pryor with incredible athletic gifts and placed him in an extremely enviable position to showcase those talents, and then his greed and ego caused the downfall of his career, his coach’s job, and his college football team’s chances for the immediate future….but really isn’t it just a matter of semantics?

In spite of his marred reputation and indiscretions, Terrelle Pryor has a lot of upside left to his football career and now he’s trying to start fresh in the NFL. He is off to a great start by signing the best agent in sports, Drew Rosenhaus . Seriously, I mean that. Rosenhaus could sell crazy pills to Gary Busey. But I digress.

So now, armed with the apex predator of all agents and a new penitent attitude, Pryor throws his hat in the ring for the NFL supplemental draft. Today’s debate examines the question, does Pryor warrant a shot of making an NFL teams roster following selection in the supplemental draft?

The answer is a resounding YES! Terrelle Pryor is an obvious talent, maybe not a prototypical NFL quarterback, but a football talent none the less. There is hardly a debate on this issue at all.

If this debate was about whether teams should build a franchise around Pryor, then I would admit that would be some obvious concerns for NFL General Managers to consider. And again, if this debate was about whether teams should spend a first round pick in the supplemental draft on him, I would acknowledge the fact that there are just too many questions for this to be a no brainer. BUT, neither of those are the issues Bleacher Fan and I are asked to tackle. We simply have to decide whether Terrelle Pryor, a stand out QB from the ultra competitive Big Ten, deserves a potentially mid to late round draft pick to then compete for a spot on the team roster. I simply cannot see any justification for teams to overlook him in such a low risk high reward scenario.

First of all, Terrelle Pryor is not a seriously bad guy. He didn’t shoot himself in the leg at a strip club like Plaxico Burress. He didn’t fight and kill dogs for pleasure like Michael Vick. He didn’t allegedly sexually assault multiple women like Ben Roethlisberger. No, Pryor did what more modern athletes than we’d probably care to admit do year after year. He took benefits that an amateur athlete cannot receive. We saw this play out on a much higher profile scenario with Reggie Bush last year which ended up costing him the most noteworthy of his amateur accolades, the Heisman Trophy. It was a black eye for Bush and his former college the University of Southern California but not so much for his pro team the New Orleans Saints. Sure the scandal was a distraction but it didn’t really seem to impact the day to day success of Saints football. Pryor is sure to carry some distraction and baggage to any team that signs, but it will be more of a hiccup in his integration to the pro game than a barrier to playing winning football. So while Pryor may not bring the drama and problems of a Vick or Roethlisberger he may bring some of their talent and athleticism.

Secondly, what do teams have to lose at this point? The supplemental draft works similarly to a silent auction that allows teams to declare what round they would be willing to take Pryor, and then surrender a pick in the following year’s draft if they have the highest bid. This means that any team could take a flyer on him with a seventh round bid. While I feel certain that won’t win him, it does mean that any team in the league could snatch a mobile quarterback to come in and fight for a roster spot. There are plenty of teams that still have holes at the QB position and many more that could stand to bolster their bench with proficient signal caller with the skills of Pryor.

This whole debate centers on the question of whether teams should take Pryor, but it is really a given that they will. The debate should really have been about determining the round he WILL be drafted. Drew Rosenhaus is prognosticating that his latest client will go in the first round. While I believe this is more posturing and price inflation than true projection, I would not rule it out that he will go for a pick in the top half of the draft.

Solving the QB concerns was an issue for many teams in the 2011 NFL Draft. Cam Newton, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Christian Ponder were all taken in the 1st round. While Pryor’s name certainly rivals one or two of these quarterbacks, the point here is that he doesn’t even have to. Pryor simply needs to demand enough attention to demand one draft pick from one team for me to win this debate, and I believe that is a given. The Texans, Jets, Ravens, Bears, and Chiefs all used late round picks trying to better their QB situation. It would be crazy to believe these are the only teams than need to strengthen their passing game, and it would be even more ludicrous to believe that all NFL teams are satisfied with the rosters.

I feel certain that Bleacher Fan will rattle off a laundry list of character defects and skill deficiencies that would cause teams to doubt Pryor’s effectiveness as a pro QB, but all draftees face similar second-guessing and scrutiny. If that was really enough to deter NFL GMs, Cam Newton would not have been the overall first pick in the draft.

Pryor may not pan out to be a star, but he certainly deserves a chance to prove he can be one.

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate Verdict

January 5, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

There is no doubt that the suspended players for Ohio State played a substantial role in the team’s performance in the Sugar Bowl. But the supposed redemption for the Big Ten that Ohio State was playing for is tainted because of the players the program agreed to use to meet the goal. Players that broke rules and should have been suspended for the Sugar Bowl were allowed to play and defer the start of their suspension until the 2011 season. This debate decides if the players should have been allowed to play, or if they should have been forced to begin their suspensions immediately.

Loyal Homer points out a disturbing fact that is unavoidable – the Sugar Bowl CEO, Paul Hoolahan, gleefully recounts his successful attempt to the lobby the NCAA in an effort to ensure Ohio State’s most notorious and talented players would play in one of the most high profile games of the season. Sponsors had to get what they paid for, television ratings had to be high. So, the only logical move is to ensure the top stars are available to play, or else risk a disaster of a game and a business opportunity squandered.

While I understand what Hoolahan did and his reasons, it undermines the integrity of college football. For the NCAA, it either stands for enforcing rules that preserve the amateur athlete and the sanctity of the sport, or it is willing to compromise its principles to make some extra money. The NCAA chose the money, but I choose Loyal Homer as the winner of this debate.

I reject the notion put forth by Babe Ruthless that college football – and its celebration season known as The Bowl Season – is reduced to a pure cash cow. Money is an unavoidable part of the college football business in modern times, but it should not force the sport to morph and evolve in a way that makes it indistinguishable from professional football. The decision to sacrifice earned punishment for wrongdoing in favor of television ratings and pleasing sponsors makes college football no different than professional football. Simply, that is a sad fact. Emphasis on the sad.

The idea of the punishment is correct on the part of the NCAA. The basic belief system seems in place. Babe Ruthless is correct that the players did something wrong and should be suspended. But, I disagree with the Babe that college football must be all about the money. If the punishment is just, then carrying it out must also be. The NCAA made a mistake by letting these players play in the Sugar Bowl.

I also part ways with Babe Ruthless when he attempts to draw a connection between suspended players and sponsored bowl games. There is nothing wrong with bowl games securing sponsorship. But that sponsorship – or any business interest – should never influence which players play in a game. Regardless of suspension or not, sponsorships and money should never dictate which players take the field – on college or pro sports.

To Babe’s last point – the suspensions are not about the players gaining unfair advantage. It is about amateur athletes selling items they earned through their relationship with the NCAA and then receiving special benefits from a local business because of their status. Those are clearly stated NCAA rules and the players are all in violation. The rules are clear, the punishment just.

The BCS is here, for better or worse. The existence of the system mandates an emphasis on financial payout. If a program is going to be a member of the BCS, then it must also resign itself to a pursuit of money. That is what Ohio State has done, but that does not make it right.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel should have suspended the players for the Sugar Bowl anyway. No doubt he would be pressured not to, but rules are rules. The players broke the rules, and must serve their punishment. Instead Tressel abided by the NCAA ruling, then trumped it by using the pending suspension – and stay of execution for the bowl game – to leverage those players into staying for the 2011 rather than turn professional. It is a disappointing move from a coach and community leader many revere as much for integrity as for sweater vests. If those players turn pro, it seems now all he has are the sweater vests.

Integrity matters most when it is the hardest to show. It is not until situations get difficult that true colors shine through. In this case, the NCAA, the Big Ten, and yes, even Jim Tressel, showed what matters most – money. If that really is the case, let’s just stop masquerading around squawking about the honor of the sport.

For BCS haters, Ohio State’s willingness to oblige the system only makes it stronger, and that fact should be upsetting. Ohio State blew a chance to show it stands for something. It had an opportunity to show the world that blind, lemming-like pursuit of the BCS payout was not all that mattered. Until high-profile programs stand up for what’s right, the BCS will continue to gain strength, and the amateur nature of college football will become a distant memory.

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate

January 4, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Here we are, at the nexus of Midwestern values and the insatiable desire to win a football game.

Last week Ohio State suspended five of its best players – quarterback Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver DeVier Posey, running back Dan Herron, offensive tackle Mike Adams, and defensive end Solomon Thomas – for selling memorabilia earned by their relationship with Ohio State’s football program for their own personal profit.

Before you get started… this is not a debate about paying college kids for their services. It can’t be, because when you study the facts you realize between free education, books, housing, meals, and a stipend… they DO get paid. So let’s dispense with that business right now.

This debate is about whether the players – who will sit out the first five games of NEXT season – still be allowed to play in the bowl game for this season. Knowing the players each have the opportunity to turn pro rather than receive their punishment, should Ohio State or the NCAA force the players to begin their suspensions now?

Any BCS football program relies on national exposure to retain strong recruiting and earn a financial payout that helps to foot the bill for the school and the conference every season. Is it worth it to sacrifice integrity on the altar of winning?

Yes, this debate is about more than just “should the five Ohio State players play in a bowl game.” It is about the integrity of coaches, players, and college football as a whole.

This should be simple.

Today’s question for our resident debaters is: Should Ohio State allow the five suspended players to play in the 2011 Sugar Bowl?

Loyal Homer will argue that integrity matters and the players should begin their suspensions immediately while Babe Ruthless argues the stakes of this game are too high to sit players when the NCAA and the schools are dependent upon the payday from national advertisers.

I am on the fence on this – push me off.

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate… Bucks Eye Integrity

January 4, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

I think we were all kind of shocked when we found out that the NCAA had suspended five players, including star Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, for the first five games of the 2011 season when an investigation concluded that he and four teammates sold miscellaneous team memorabilia like team jerseys, rings, and the coveted “golden pants.” Like the apparent idiot that I am, I immediately assumed that they would also be sitting out the Sugar Bowl matchup against Arkansas. But I forgot we are presently living in an era where the NCAA likes to play, “Can You Top This?” They are inexplicably allowing the five culprits to play, and I have yet to find a valid reason why. These suspensions should begin IMMEDATATELY!

When reading the original press release by the NCAA, one phrase originally jumped out at me. The release states the players “did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred.” Now, even the biggest Ohio State fans I know – Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek – have to admit this is a load of Buckeye crap (Editor’s Note: Yes, they do). If these kids weren’t aware that this would be a rules violation, I don’t know who it makes look worse, the Ohio State compliance department or the student athlete? Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith contends that players weren’t educated about the consequences of selling such items until November 2009, well after the items had been sold. Yet, Georgia Bulldog fans may recall that several players of their favorite team sold SEC championship rings after the 2003 season. It wasn’t against NCAA rules at the time, but the NCAA soon altered its rules. Perhaps Smith and the compliance department at the university missed the memo.

Something else bothers me about this entire situation. Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan is on record saying that he lobbied Ohio State really hard to make sure they did everything possible to get the five guys eligible to play in the bowl game. He had a game to sell. He had sponsors to please. He had television ratings to get. I respect that aspect of it. He is, after all, just doing his job.

However, what he said bothered me. He said, “I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would appreciate it.” Integrity…hmm. Who has integrity in this case? Not Ohio State. Not the five players. Certainly not the five players. Is there anyone outside Big Ten country who is pulling for Ohio State now? If there was before December 23rd, there isn’t now.

I’m anxiously awaiting the opportunity to read the argument from Babe Ruthless. Are we supposed to feel sorry for these players? Were we supposed to feel sorry for A.J. Green when he took $1,000 for selling his Independence Bowl jersey?

I can’t see valid justification for these Ohio State players playing, and no, giving Ohio State a fair shot at finally beating an SEC team in a BCS bowl game is not valid justification. The NCAA once again got it wrong!

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The Suspended Players Starting A Bowl Game Debate… Bowl Games Really About Benjamins

January 4, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

The 2010 college football regular season is in the books, and it has made me realize one thing—I miss Tim Tebow!

Since the universally admired Florida quarterback departed for the NFL, college football has been a parade of negative headlines. The pre-season NCAA probe into illegal contact with agents, the Cam Newton inappropriate benefits controversy, and the Reggie Bush Heisman relinquishing melodrama were all tabloid quality mainstays of the media that defined college football in 2010. So it should come as no great surprise that the 2010 Bowl season should be overshadowed by yet another scandal.

Five Ohio State players, including QB Terrelle Pryor, have been busted for selling championship paraphernalia and receiving improper benefits at a tattoo parlor. The NCAA investigated the matter and ruled that all five players must be suspended for the first five games of the upcoming 2011 season (Ohio State is appealing the ruling to reduce the suspension). Although the case against the players was fairly straightforward, and the action against them swift, it left many pondering the question, “Why didn’t the NCAA suspend them from the Sugar Bowl?”

The answer is simple, but discomforting to many. College football is all about the money.

At one time collegiate sports were a bastion for the STUDENT-athlete, but for most schools those days are long gone. Football programs are revenue generators and major attracting forces for potential clients… I mean students. There is so much wealth and revenue wrapped up in college sports that today’s game no longer tries to hide its commercialism.

Just looking at the names of bowl games clearly illustrates the profit driven commercialism of the modern “amateur” game. Bowls names, such as the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, GoDaddy.com Bowl and the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl have virtually no connection with the sport other than a cooperate sponsorship, and that is to say nothing of the formerly sacred bowls – such as the (Discover) Orange Bowl, (AT&T) Cotton Bowl, and Rose Bowl (Presented By VIZIO) –which have sold out their naming rights to maximize revenue. Even the national title game bears the imprint of big business with its new moniker the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.

My point in all this name nonsense is that there is nothing wrong with a sport making money, but it seems that the NCAA is in a ludicrous state of self denial continuing to purport the antiquated image of non-professional, uncompensated athletes in the profit driven big business of sports. We see it time and time again in college sports. Each year it seems that more and more college stars are revealed to have accepted some sort of illegal benefit or to have had in appropriate contact with an agent. Why? Because college sports are all about money.

It is that fixation with money that clearly drove the decision to ban the Ohio State five from games next season and not this year’s Sugar Bowl… correction that’s the Allstate Sugar Bowl. The absence of these five players, especially Pryor, would have hurt the competitiveness of Ohio State and in turn undermined the competitive validity of the gme. Watching a Pryor-less Buckeye team take on the Arkansas Razorbacks is a far less compelling game to watch. A less exciting game makes for poorer attendance and poorer ratings. Poorer ratings make for weaker commercial endorsement and the profitability of the whole bowl game decreases as a result.

Paul Hoolahan, Sugar Bowl CEO, validated my argument in his statement about lobbying to keep the suspensions from impacting the bowl game when he said, “I made the point that anything that could be done to preserve the integrity of this year’s game, we would greatly appreciate it… That appeal did not fall on deaf ears, and I’m extremely excited about it that the Buckeyes are coming in at full strength with no dilution.”

He is right. A punch-less Ohio State team would have undermined the entire bowl. Although I believe Mr. Hoolahan was looking at it from purely financial eyes consider the fans stake in the game. Fans that purchased Sugar Bowl tickets did not do so to watch backups play, they came to watch the REAL Ohio State take on Arkansas. Anyone who has ever bought a ticket to watch a sports team play only to find that their favorite superstar attraction is missing, for whatever reason, understands the disappointment I am describing. Recently I purchased tickets to watch the Miami Heat play. Had LeBron James been M.I.A. I would have been S.O.L., and would have been very upset about it. It would definitely impact my future ticket purchasing decisions, and the Sugar Bowl is no different.

Last, I’d like to consider the suspension itself. Players were punished, in essence, for selling their personal effects and getting discounted tattoos. TATTOOS! To channel my best Allen Iverson, we are not talking about cheating or a crime or the game that they go out there and die for and play like it’s their last. We are talkin’ about TATOOS. I simply don’t see the need for such drastic measures over something so very inconsequential. Does anyone really believe that Ohio State has a competitive advantage in signing recruits because of discounted tattoos?

These five guys are being punished enough. The NCAA would only hurt the sponsors and the fans by suddenly taking a principled stand against minor infractions. Where were all these so called principles when the naming rights for bowl games went up for bid anyways? The punishment is fine the way it is. It will be a deterrent to future devious tattoo discounts and will make Ohio State be more accountable for their athletes. But enough is enough; let them play in the Sugar Bowl.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Bucks, Badgers In High Stakes Big Ten Matchup

October 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

Over the past four years, the SEC has been the premier college football conference. It has claimed the last four national championships, and there has been an SEC program at the top of the rational rankings every week since December 7th, 2008. But with Alabama’s loss to South Carolina last weekend all that came to an end, and now it is the Big Ten’s Ohio State Buckeyes that sit atop college football’s mountain.

Behind junior quarterback and Heisman hopeful Terrelle Pryor the Buckeyes have rolled to a 6-0 record, including an impressive win over the Miami Hurricanes. The team now sits in the driver’s seat for the race to the national championship game.

But how long will the run at the top last?

Even the BCS, which provides the only ranking that REALLY matters, is projected to have Boise State, not Ohio State, as the number one team after the first standings are announced. Meanwhile, Ohio State, who is ranked number one in all of the major polls, could actually find itself as low as fifth in the BCS standings.

But a win on the road at Camp Randall Stadium over the eighteenth ranked Wisconsin Badgers could be all it takes for Ohio State to jump into the BCS lead.

As for the Badgers, who have not beaten Ohio State since 2004, a victory over the top-ranked Buckeyes would catapult them back up the rankings and into the BCS conversation, a welcome outcome after the fell at the hands of undefeated Michigan State two weeks ago. And, Home-Sweet-Home is right where the Badgers want to be for this matchup, as the team boasts one of the nation’s best home records since the last victory over Ohio State (40-4).

So, what will be the key matchup this weekend?

Wisconsin’s running backs, John Clay and James White, are leading a rushing offense that averages more than 240 yards per game (the eleventh best in the nation), while Ohio State’s rushing defense has only allowed 78 yards per game (the fourth best in the nation).

If the Badgers hope to pull off the upset Clay and White will have to find a way past Cameron Heyward and the rest of Ohio State’s defensive front.

It will be a classic Big Ten matchup between two of the conference’s powerhouse programs, with the winner staking a claim as a frontrunner team for a conference on the cusp of supplanting the SEC as the premier collection of football universities.

It is the game of the year for the best conference in the country.

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The NCAAF Conference Division Structure Debate

September 16, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

This summer, as college football stood on the precipice of arguably the most significant conference realignment in its history, many fans wondered what such realignment would do to their favorite rivalries across the nation. Whether you are a fan of a team possibly involved in the shake-up or whether you are a fan of great college football, it is interesting to debate which team belongs in which conference, which part of that conference, and why. Although the realignment fires have cooled for this year, we at TSD would like to rekindle the debate about how a conference should set up its divisional structure to encourage its rivalries.

Loyal Homer believes that the SEC’s model of trying to split big rivalries (such as Georgia-Auburn and Florida-Alabama) across divisions is the optimal way to align a conference. The SEC has been a leader, for better or worse, in many changes throughout college athletics, and Loyal Homer thinks they got it right here as well.

Bleacher Fan, however, believes that the Big XII’s model of putting its big rivals in the same division is the way to go. If playing for championships is exciting, why not add a divisional crown to stoke the flames of rivalry football?

Who captures your vote? Read and decide – before I do!

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The NCAAF Conference Division Structure Debate… Turning Something Into Nothing

September 16, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Rivalry is arguably the most fascinating relationship that mankind has ever developed because it is the one relationship that can fuel the two strongest of human emotions – love and hate – at the exact same time.

They have led to our greatest triumphs, our greatest tragedies, and only a rivalry can make a person a hero and a monster at the exact same time.

The greatest of politicians were part of the greatest rivalries – John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. And rivalry is the foundation for some of the most well known fictional works – The Montagues and the Capulets, Gryffindor and Slytherin, The Tortoise and the Hare, Superman and Lex Luthor.

Fortunately, as civilization has advanced, rivalry has advanced with it (sort of). Feuds that once were responsible for bloody wars and horrible atrocities have been moved off the battlefield and into more peaceful forms of conflict. The Hatfields and the McCoys, who once ventured across Tug Fork on the Kentucky/West Virginia border to murder and steal from each other, now battle it out in venues such as TV’s Family Feud game show.

But the best stage for rivalries today is undeniably sports, and the one sport in America where that sense of rivalry thrives more than any other is college football.

So, with the Big Ten conference (which boasts some of the game’s greatest and longest running rivalries) undergoing reorganization, officials had to grapple with trying to determine the best way to divide the conference without damaging those great (and very lucrative) rivalries.

The options were to pit rivals in the same division where they would be guaranteed to face off once each season, allowing that game to dictate division/conference standings (similar to how the Big XII has aligned divisions), or to have those rivals in separate divisions, where there is a possibility of having a rivalry matchup in the conference championship (as modeled by the SEC).

Unfortunately, the Big Ten got it WRONG!

I have been very opposed to the Big Ten adding a Conference championship to the format for the reason we are arguing today. In fact, one of my first arguments on our beloved site was about this situation more than a year ago. Nobody listened to me at the time, and now we are in the situation we have today, where some of the best rivalries in all of college football teeter precariously on the verge of irrelevance forever more.

I told you so! *Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.

Anyway, conference commissioner Jim Delany, along with the other leaders of the Big Ten, felt that the best way to preserve the integrity of the conference was to position its rival teams in separate divisions.

Now I will concede that an Ohio State-Michigan (since it is generally regarded as the top rivalry in the conference, I will use them as my running example) conference championship would be tremendous to watch. But the possibility of a rivalry matchup being played in a conference championship is not nearly enough compensation for what is going to be lost through the Big Ten’s decision to split rivals up.

Part of what makes rivalry games so special, especially in the Big Ten, is that they often have much more at stake than a simple notch in either the win or loss column. So when Ohio State and Michigan face off in the final game of the season each year, there is almost ALWAYS more on the line than simple bragging rights. In fact, over the last decade it has had conference (and even national) championship implications every single season (1999 was the last season where these two teams played and neither had a shot at the Big Ten title, although Michigan was only one game out of contention).

By putting Ohio State and Michigan in separate divisions, much of the drama from that final week matchup between these two perennial conference powerhouses is lost. Each school’s standings are independent of the other, and this becomes just another non-division game.

Had Ohio State and Michigan been placed in the same division, the programs would still be racing for the division crown each season, as well as a shot at the conference championship. Sure, the stakes would be diminished slightly, but that is a small concession to make in order to preserve the excitement of an entire season spent building up to the payoff of an Ohio State-Michigan game for all the marbles.

Part of what made the game so exciting as the final game of the season was to watch the two teams first battle it out week after week in the standings. Only then could speculation be cast aside when the teams could FINALLY duke it out on the field, each with their own opportunity to punctuate their argument as being the best in the conference.

Instead, what we will see is Ohio State jockeying for position against Illinois or Purdue, while Michigan simultaneously is trying to climb in standings against Northwestern or Minnesota.

Kinda takes away some of the magic from the buildup to the game, doesn’t it?

And here is something else to consider – In order for the two rivals to meet in the conference championship (the alleged payoff), their regular season matchup MUST be completely irrelevant.

Think about it. If Ohio State and Michigan are scheduled to play each other as the last game of the regular season, and then they meet AGAIN in the conference championship, that means that division standings were already locked in and decided BEFORE the regular season finale. One of the teams MUST lose during that regular season game, so if they can STILL make the conference championship after LOSING that game, they didn’t need to play it at all.

So what was the point of having that regular season game?!

Then, when the teams DO play the second time around (one week later), it is only the winner of THAT game that reaps any reward. If Ohio State wins game one, then Michigan wins the conference championship, it is Michigan who gets the title, EVEN THOUGH Ohio State already beat them just one week prior. There is no tiebreaker, even though they split the two games at 1-1, and the championship is awarded not necessarily to the BEST team, but to the team with the better TIMED victory.

What the all too likely outcome of this poor choice for a division structure in the Big Ten will actually result in is that these great rivals will almost never actually face off against each other in the conference championship, no matter how exciting the prospect of that matchup may be. And when they do face off on that grand stage, it will come just one week after they already played each other in a worthless game that was nothing more than a timewaster for everyone involved.

Congratulations Big Ten leaders, you have just made the biggest rivalry/rivalries in sports completely meaningless!

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The NCAAF Conference Division Structure Debate… Follow the SEC’s Lead

September 16, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

The Big Ten has finally decided to join the big boys of college football and have a conference championship game in football. With the upcoming addition of Nebraska, the conference will now have twelve teams, thus allowing an opportunity for a conference championship game. The first conference championship game will be held next year at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.

The Big Ten recently announced the division alignment for next year. Obviously, much of the attention was centered on where Michigan and Ohio State would end up. Would they end up in the same division, or would they be in separate divisions? As it turns out, they are in separate divisions. In one division, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan State, and Northwestern reside. On the other side, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois, and Indiana reside. Basically, this means you could have arguably the conference’s signature programs (Ohio State and Michigan) play each other twice (regular season and conference championship), and I think that is the best overall result for the conference. You know the conference did everything they could to make this happen and they could benefit long-term.

Look at how the SEC is currently structured. It’s set up geographically, but it also luckily puts Alabama and Florida in separate divisions. Now these two teams don’t play every year as they aren’t natural rivals (they play only twice every six years thanks to the rotating schedule… inter-divisional rivalries include Georgia-Auburn, LSU-Florida, Alabama-Tennessee, etc.), but both Alabama and Florida have played each other in the SEC championship the past two seasons, with the winner going on to win the national championship game. They are favorites to both make it to Atlanta again this season as well. And for the first time since 2006, the Tide and the Gators play in the regular season, thus setting up the possibility of a rematch in Atlanta in December.

Then there is the Big XII. Seemingly, the Big XII is decided in October when the Longhorns and the Sooners get together in Dallas for the Red River Rivalry. That isn’t always the case, but that’s certainly been the case of late. And why wouldn’t it be? Look at the teams in the Big XII South as opposed to the Big XII North. Odds are the winner of the Big XII championship game is going to be screaming “Boomer Sooner” or “Hook Em Horns” because the Big XII North features very little in terms of competition as of right now. The last eleven seasons the South has been represented by either Texas or Oklahoma. Obviously these things go in cycles, and who knows what will happen in the future now that Nebraska and Colorado are moving on. The point is that the Big XII Championship game often lacks that championship game feel because the two best teams in the conference are rarely in it. It’s almost a letdown, from a national standpoint, from the Red River Rivalry.

The Big Ten is moving in the right direction. By placing its two marquee programs in opposing divisions, it brings more attention to the conference and more potential for big games. Perhaps an Ohio State victory in the conference championship over a good Michigan team could propel it to a spot in the national championship game. That’s something that perhaps a victory over a mediocre team might not do. That’s what puts it a step above the Big XII situation right now, and that’s why it was the right decision by the Big Ten.

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