The Biggest NCAAF Expansion Winner Debate… It’s All About the Benjamins

June 25, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

On the field, the goal of every college football program is simple – win games.

Off the field goals are very different, although no more complex – make money.

That off-field goal is what was at the very heart of all the conference expansion hysteria over the past month. Whether speaking from the perspective of the conferences, or the universities, money is what fueled the fire.

The Pac-10 and Big Ten each wanted to grow from ten to sixteen teams, essentially transforming into “Super” Conferences with the ability to create tremendous financial gain for each respective organization. The Big XII was hoping to retain its core membership so that it could stay in business, and not lose money.

For the various programs that were invited into those conferences, the question each had to answer was simply which would provide more financial gain, their current or prospective future conference.

Now that the dust has settled, and we can apply that 20-20 vision which only hindsight allows, there is no doubt that the biggest winner is the University of Texas with its decision to remain with the Big XII.

In addition to the gain in influence which Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds has realized by essentially dictating the direction of not only his school, but for much of the NCAA, Dodds managed to secure for Texas a RIDICULOUS sized piece of the Big XII pie.

Thanks to the (understandable) desperation of those in charge of the Big XII conference, the folks who knew that losing Texas to the Pac-10 was tantamount to a death sentence for the entire organization, had to extend an offer that the Pac-10 could not match, and one the Longhorns could not refuse. Texas had no problem taking advantage of the Big XII’s vulnerable position.

As the university capable generating the greatest revenue for the Big XII, Texas was already in line to draw approximately $20M through the Big XII’s television revised contracts with FOX and ESPN. Adding to that, though, is a right that was granted to the school which would not have been available if Texas were to join the Pac-10. That right is for the University of Texas to create its own specific television network, making it the first of its kind.

While Texas will still have to compete with ESPN and FOX for broadcast rights to their marquis events (primarily those that take place on the gridiron), the University have the power to broadcast the school’s events in nearly every sport.

When launched, the Longhorns TV Network is expected to generate as much as $3M to $5M per year in additional revenue for the University. In addition to that increased revenue, the University now has an opportunity for greater exposure for all of its athletic programs.

Before the Super Conference negotiations started Texas was receiving between $7M and $10M per year. After the negotiations are concluded, Texas realistically could net as much as $25M per year, all while owning and supporting its own television network.

Going to the Pac-10 would have been good for Texas, but it wouldn’t have been THAT good!

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The 2000-2010 Best NCAAB Tournament Coach Debate… Living in the Wild Wild West

March 24, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

Oh, what a difference a weekend can make.

This time last week, basketball fans everywhere were filling out brackets. Basketball know-it-alls around the country were confidently making their can’t-miss picks for the tournaments. You could hear them at water-coolers everywhere:

“The Big East is the best conference going into the tournament! They have eight teams, and any one of them can make a run!”

“Kansas is far and away the favorite to take this tournament!”

“The Pac-10 teams are ALL down this year!”

Then the weekend happened. The only sound heard in living rooms and sports bars alike was that of brackets being busted.

Of the eight Big East “monsters” that were all seeded as favorites in their matchups, only four survived the first round, with two more falling before the Sweet Sixteen. Kansas, the number one seed overall, was bounced by mid-major Northern Iowa, and the Pac-10’s only two entrants. California and Washington turned in some very exciting performances with the 11th seeded Huskies reaching the Sweet Sixteen over top-ten ranked New Mexico.

NOBODY could have guessed the carnage that so many underdogs would have wreaked on the 2010 NCAA Basketball championships. In fact, reports that, out of the 4.78 million entries in their online bracket challenge, there were none (that’s ZERO) that had predicted all of the Sweet Sixteen teams (Editor’s note: One dude has a perfect bracket on CBS), and only four people out of the nearly five millions even picked 15 out of 16 correct (but there were more than 6,000 who went 0 for 16).

With the upheaval of the past weekend, the question must be re-asked: Which region of the 2010 March Madness Tournament is NOW the toughest to win?

In looking at the sixteen teams still alive and vying for the national crown, the four which pose the toughest collection of competition for each other live in the Wild West.

Each region claims strong teams, and each also boasts a great story, from Cornell’s run in the east to Northern Iowa’s toppling of the giant in the Midwest. The West, though, possesses the strongest collection of FOUR teams still remaining.

With all due respect to programs such as Northern Iowa, St. Mary’s, Cornell, or even Washington, their success has been surprising, and by all accounts should be short-lived. As much as I would love to see each of those teams advance deeper into this tournament, the EXPECTED result (although I will acknowledge that this tournament has provided anything BUT expected results) is that their 15 minutes is quickly drawing to a close now that they are facing progressively more talented competition.

Because of those EXPECTED outcomes, each of those double-digit seeded teams creates a seemingly weaker spot in the “Road to the Final Four.” Realistically, if I had to choose between Syracuse or St. Mary’s as my opponent, I would pick St. Mary’s.

Each of the regions in the March Madness tournament holds at least one of those double-digit seeded “weaker” team in it except for one – the West Region. The West may have two teams from mid-major conferences remaining (Xavier and Butler), but these teams are mid-major in name only. Both have proven all season long (and consistently over several seasons) that they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Like Gonzaga and Memphis (at least while John Calipari was coaching on Beale Street), these two programs are worthy of power-conference status.

Occupying the remaining spots in this region are top-seeded Syracuse and second-seeded Kansas State.

Syracuse was the biggest surprise story of the regular season. They began their 2009-2010 campaign unranked before playing all the way up to the top spot in the country, ultimately finishing the season in the third spot behind Kentucky and Kansas. As for Kansas State, they probably would have been a number one seed in the tournament had it not been for three losses against Kansas (who are now out of the picture and no longer a threat to the Wildcats).

In a seed-by-seed comparison, the West poses the toughest overall road to the regional championship games. Along with the East, the West is the only region with both of their top two seeds still alive, and they are the ONLY region that does not include at least one double-digit seeded team. All four of the teams in the West finished 2010 ranked in the top-25, and all four of those teams have a LEGITIMATE shot at playing in Indianapolis.

While all 16 teams remaining deserve recognition for their accomplishments this season, the toughest challenge still lies ahead for the four teams playing in Salt Lake City this weekend!

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The Reinstating Blount Debate – Sticking by Your Word Remains the Way To Go

October 22, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument that Blount should be reinstated.

As a child growing up in South Georgia, I was always taught by my parents that honesty was the best policy. You have all heard these sayings like, “You are only as good as your word” and “Your word is your bond.” In theory, these are good thoughts to go by in life. In sports, honesty also remains the way to go, and that is often either forgotten or overlooked. For every extra-marital affair by a sports figure or talking head, you have an umpire admitting he missed a call in a postseason game. You often have golfers who give themselves stroke penalties when they feel they have broken a rule. How refreshing. What about Oregon Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount?

You all know who Blount is and what his story is. If you do not, read Sports Geek’s intro. If you have not seen the video of the sucker punch (which I find hard to believe), then click here. No one is letting the Boise State player off the hook. In the year of “non-celebration,” it was something that was done in poor taste. But Blount should not have lost his cool, and should therefore suffer the consequences, as he has to this point.

The day after the game, Blount was told by Oregon head football coach Chip Kelly and athletic director Mike Belloti (who actually recruited Blount to Eugene) that he was being suspended for the remainder of the season. With Blount being a senior, his college career was effectively over. In the press conference announcing the suspension, several quotes were made and several prepared statements were released by all ofinvolved parties backing up the suspension.

  • “That’s not what we are all about. That’s not what we coach. That’s not what we stand for and it’s unacceptable.” Oregon head football coach Chip Kelly
  • ”We do not and will not tolerate the actions that were taken by our player. Oregon’s loyal fans expect and deserve better.” Oregon president Richard Lariviere in a prepared statement
  • “The PAC-10 strong emphasizes sportsmanship and fair play in all its athletic competitions and expects high standards of sportsmanship from all participants, including student-athletes. In this case, those standards were not met and the university has taken appropriate disciplinary actions.” Pac 10 Commissioner Larry Scott

Now, let’s fast forward to today. After an apology by Blount was published in the school paper earlier this month it was announced that Blount might be reinstated if he reaches certain guidelines. He could possibly play as early as November 7th against Stanford.

If that happens, then the three quotes I listed above can be wadded up and thrown out with yesterday’s newspaper. Kelly must now think that Blount’s actions were acceptable and it is what “we are all about.” Is Lariviere saying that Oregon tolerates such actions? Apparently so! Does the PAC-10 not emphasize strong sportsmanship? Apparently they do not!

I cannot help but wonder if Oregon is looking at the fact that Blount could be a big help to this year’s team. Oregon has been on a roll since that opening game nightmare. I am not saying that is in the thought process… but if it is, then shame on Oregon. Looking on from afar, the idea of Blount’s abilities helping Pregon definitely enters my mind!

The bottom line is that Oregon took a stand in the line of fire earlier this season, and now they are retracting the original punishment. The program and its representatives are not sticking to their original “word.” Therefore the entire coaching staff, administration, and even the conference as a whole, loses credibility.

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The Fumbling the BCS Debate – Sometimes, Your “Best” Just Isn’t Good Enough

September 28, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s arguments about the which NCAA football team has lost their chance to play in a BCS game this season.

Four weeks ago, The Sports Debates had an argument about which team ranked outside of the top ten at that time had the best shot of breaking up the traditional BCS party. The team I felt at the time had that best opportunity was the California Golden Bears.

Within my argument, I spelled out my reasons for why the Bears were a dangerous team, and why I considered them a threat to the USC Trojans within the Pac-10. Those reasons included a relatively weak schedule, and the very dangerous running back, Jahvid Best.

I also discussed exactly what Cal would need to accomplish in order to see that BCS dream come to fruition. Two of those accomplishments were to first defeat Oregon, and then to defeat Southern Cal. I argued at the time that if California could defeat Oregon (whom I expected to struggle early in the season under their new head coach Chip Kelly), it could position itself for a Pac-10 showdown at home against a very young and vulnerable USC team.

Leading up to last weekend’s matchup, everything went as planned for Cal. As predicted, the Ducks did struggle early, falling out of the top 25 after a week-one loss on the road at Boise State (star running back LeGarrette Blount was also lost for the season in the process). California, on the other hand, started off the season by winning in VERY impressive fashion, outscoring their first three opponents (Maryland, Eastern Washington, and Minnesota) by a combined score of 146-41. As a result, California had climbed ahead of USC in the rankings, moving all the way up to the sixth position.

Then came the showdown with Oregon, which is when the good times ended for the Bears.

Last weekend, the Oregon Ducks EMBARRASSED the sixth ranked California Golden Bears, defeating their PAC-10 cohorts 42-3. During the game, THEN-Heisman hopeful Jahvid Best (he should NOT be hopeful anymore) managed to rush for just 55 yards on 16 attempts as the Duck defense completely shut down an explosive California offense (the Bears only managed to gain 207 total yards of offense in the game). On the other side of the ball, California’s defense did not fare any better as they gave up 22 second-quarter points, putting the game out of reach before halftime.

Had the Bears been able to pull off the win, they would have entered PAC-10 play with a victory, would have climbed into the top-five in rankings (thanks to a loss by GREATLY overrated Ole Miss), and would have been poised to host a USC team that had proven their vulnerability by losing to Washington two weeks earlier (good call, Sports Geek). Instead, the loss puts California at 0-1 in the Pac-10 BEHIND Oregon, with a matchup against USC looming on the horizon. As a side note, the 42-3 score marks the worst loss in history for California when they entered the game ranked in the top ten (thanks to for THAT obscure stat of the day!)

Unlike USC, a team that has already defeated a BCS-caliber opponent in Ohio State and could potentially get an at-large BCS invitation, California needed to win the PAC-10 if they wanted to reach the BCS. That meant beating Oregon AND USC. They were unable to beat Oregon, and their BCS hopes are now gone! In order to win the PAC-10 now, they have to win out the rest of their season (including a victory over USC), AND they need Oregon to lose to USC and ONE MORE PAC-10 opponent (not to mention the fact that they also need all of the OTHER PAC-10 teams to lose at least one game). I just do not see it happening.

California was the top-ranked PAC-10 team, and had every opportunity to play in the BCS in January. After a blowout loss to an unranked in-conference opponent, they can kiss the BCS goodbye!

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The 2009 BCS Championship Sleeper Debate – They Call Them ‘Golden ‘ For A Reason

August 28, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Loyal Homer’s arguments on which teams they feel could be a surprise contender for the BCS Title Game.

All good things must come to an end, and for head coach Pete Carroll and his USC Trojans, the curtain may be falling on what has been one of the most impressive (and dominant) performances in college football over the past decade. The Trojans, who have won at least a share of the Pac-10 title for seven consecutive seasons, could be in danger of seeing that streak come to an end in 2009.

After losing 11 players from last season’s team in the NFL draft (including quarterback Mark Sanchez and the entire linebacking corps of Rey Maualuga, Brian Cushing, Clay Matthews Jr, and Kaluka Maiava), the Trojans will be putting a lot of young and inexperienced players on the field in several critical positions. Most notably, Carroll announced earlier this week that true freshman Matt Barkley is starting at the quarterback position. While Barkley’s performance in training camp was strong enough to make him the first ever true freshman to start a season opener at USC, that does not mean it will be strong enough to claim an eighth consecutive Pac-10 crown.

The two teams most likely to challenge USC’s supremacy in the Pac-10 this year are Oregon and California. While Oregon returns two very dangerous offensive threats to the highest scoring team in the conference from a year ago, senior running back LeGarrette Blount and junior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, they have a new head coach in Chip Kelly and may have some early struggles before finally settling in.

The California Golden Bears are a team full of upside and pose the most serious threat to finally ending USC’s streak at the top. Cal’s most exciting player to watch this season will be junior running back Jahvid Best. My pick as the dark horse for the 2009 Heisman Trophy, Best is an explosive playmaker that becomes a threat to score every time he is handed the ball. He finished second in total yards in the NCAA last year, rushing for 1,580 yards and 15 touchdowns along the way, and should at least match those totals this season.

Best, however, is not the only bright spot for Cal in 2009. The Bears are bringing back a very experienced group of players at wide receiver, including seniors Nyan Boateng and Verran Tucker. Junior Kevin Riley will also be returning behind center for his first full season at quarterback, after throwing for more than 1,300 yards, 14 touchdowns, and only six interceptions while splitting time with Nate Longshore in 2008.

Defense should be the strongest point for the Golden Bears in 2009. Eight of last year’s 11 defensive starters are returning to the field this season. Leading the defense is senior cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson, who last year racked up 70 tackles, two sacks, and four interceptions (on special teams, Thompson also had 344 punt return yards with a touchdown). Thompson anchors a defense that ranked in the top 15 in the nation for sacks in 2008, and ranked third overall for interceptions (picking off 24 passes, three of which were returned for touchdowns).

Also leaning in Cal’s favor this season is their schedule. During the 2009 season, the only road game that really poses a challenge for Cal is the September 26th matchup at Oregon (keep in mind that Cal has not lost to Oregon since 2005, including a win in Eugene in 2007). The rest of their road schedule includes games at UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford, and Washington. They get to play the “tougher” teams of USC, Oregon State, Arizona, and Washington State all at home, and their non-conference schedule includes Maryland and Eastern Washington at home, and a trip to Minnesota (who started 4-0 last season before losing six of their remaining nine games and do not look to be much improved for 2009).

Conditions seem right for California to make a strong run to the top of the Pac-10. Sure, they will need some help from Florida, Texas, or Oklahoma if they are going to push for the National Championship, but so will every other team in the nation! If Cal can finish the season as the Pac-10 champs, having beaten USC and Oregon, and with no more than one loss (which is entirely possible when you consider their returning talent and their 2009 schedule), look for them to be right in the thick of the National Championship conversation.

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The Heisman Trophy Sleepers Debate – The “Best” of the Rest

August 21, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s and Loyal Homer’s arguments on which of the Heisman Candidates are the most likely ‘sleepers’ to break the ranks of Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, or Colt McCoy.

Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy, and Sam Bradford are all favorites for the 2009 Heisman trophy for one reason only – they will be the featured players on teams that are expected to compete for the BCS National Championship. As the quarterbacks for Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma respectively, expectations are that at least one, if not all three, will be leading their teams towards a chance at the national crown. When you have that kind of supporting cast and spotlight around you, it is kind of hard NOT to be a favorite for the award.

That does not mean those quarterbacks are the best three college football players in the NCAA for the 2009 season. With all due respect to the three Heisman “favorites,” it can be easy to look like a superstar when you are on the best team in football. Just ask Tim Tebow, for example. His Florida Gators are the reigning National Champions. They lost very little of their talent to graduation and the NFL last year (wide receiver Percy Harvin is the only departure of note), and are the proud owners of one of the weakest non-conference schedules in college football. Anything short of absolute DOMINATION during those games is utter failure. By my count, Florida should AVERAGE a 24-point margin of victory against Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International, and Florida State. On their way to collective domination, Tebow should rack up some impressive statistics of his own.

More impressive in my book is the ability to succeed DESPITE a lack of fanfare. The player who will do that in 2009 is California running back Jahvid Best.

Here is the difference. Oklahoma is still a great team this year WITHOUT Sam Bradford. Likewise, if Texas were without Colt McCoy, or Florida played sans Tebow, they would still make formidable opponents and would likely remain in the top 25 rankings all season long. The Golden Bears of California, however, NEED Jahvid Best if they are going to compete for the Pac-10 title and a shot at a BCS bid in 2009. Bradford, McCoy, and Tebow are very good players in high-profile positions on great teams. Best is a great player on an average team, and he elevates the talent of those players around him.

Best is an explosive runner with big-play potential. In 2008, he ran for touchdowns of greater than 80 yards THREE different times! He combines speed with power, all packed into a 5-foot 10-inch frame. He is difficult to tackle, and nearly impossible to catch once he gets into the open field. Expect him to be a dominant presence on the field all season long.

Last year, en route to a 9-4 record and a fourth-place finish in the Pac-10 for California, Jahvid Best managed to rush for over 1,500 yards on only 194 attempts. That is an average of more than eight yards per carry! While four other running backs gained more rushing yards than Best, (Donald Brown of Connecticut, Shonn Greene of Iowa, MiQuale Lewis of Ball State, and Javon Ringer of Michigan State), they each needed at least 100 more carries to reach their totals. When you add his receiving and return yardage to those numbers, Jahvid Best finished the 2008 season with the second most all-purpose yards in the nation, behind Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin. Simply put, when Best gets the ball, yards will follow!

Many believe 2009 is the year that Cal FINALLY has a chance to end the perennial domination of Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans in the Pac-10. With the much depleted USC starting lineup (having lost 11 players to the NFL draft last year, including sux on the first day), fans in Berkeley hope this is the year their Golden Bears have the opportunity to end the current seven year streak of USC championships. If Cal is truly going to make that push, it will have to come on the shoulders of Jahvid Best.

Best does not have an easy road ahead of him. But, if Cal finds themselves sitting atop the Pac-10 standings in December, then expect to find Best sitting atop the Heisman vote totals!

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The 2009 College Football Most Important Game of the Season Debate – Under Pressure!

August 10, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Loyal Homer’s argument about which football game of the 2009 college season will be the most important, and why.

With teams like Florida (yes, I am calling out Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow, and the rest of Gator Nation) choosing the cupcake path of least resistance to hopefully ensure their spot in BCS play, there are other more respectable schools that have chosen to prove their worth through a trial by fire… and the entire nation of college football fans appreciate their boldness and daring!

As a result, we will be treated to two matchups, before we even see the third week of the season, which will shape the BCS picture for the entire year. The first of these games features #5 Alabama on the road against #7 ranked Virginia Tech, September 5th. The second is a September 12th rematch of last year’s hyped matchup with #4 Southern Cal travelling to Columbus to take on #6 ranked Ohio State.

Both games feature top-10 teams, each from a different major conference. In each case, the teams involved have some a chip on their shoulder, and each team has an opportunity to position itself for very early BCS consideration. Both are “can’t miss” games and both should be very entertaining. But in the discussion of which is most important, one of those two games emerges as the clear choice.

While the Alabama-Virginia Tech game provides both teams with an opportunity to prove that last year’s success was more than just luck, it is the USC-Ohio State matchup with much farther reaching implications.

For going on ten years, Ohio State and USC have been the respective kings of their conference. Ohio State has won at least a share of the Big Ten championship for four consecutive years (many expect 2009 to be a fifth), and a total of five conference titles since 2002. USC has had similar success, winning at least a share of every Pac-10 title since 2002. Both have also played in multiple BCS Championship games during that time frame, with Ohio State winning the title in 2002, and USC taking the crown in 2004.

While fans of the Trojans and Buckeyes are happy to see their teams annually compete in BCS matchups, extended periods of dominance like those seen by Ohio State and USC can have a secondary impact which is not good. People may be happy to credit those programs with long-term success, but they begin to doubt the relative strength of the competition those teams face. As a result, the Pac-10 and Big Ten have come under much fire in recent years for being sub-standard conferences.

What has given the Big XII and SEC so much leverage in recent seasons is the increased level of competition within the conference. How can Texas (for example) dominate the Big XII year in and year out when teams like Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas Tech, Kansas, or Missouri, continue to also perform at exceptionally high levels? Within the SEC, Florida, LSU, Alabama, and Georgia are regularly discussed in BCS conversations.

But in the Big Ten (for example), it is Ohio State, then Penn State, and then everyone else. None of the teams have provided any real level of competition to elevate the play of the conference. Michigan, who USED to be the class of the Big Ten, has not beaten Ohio State in six years, and has recently lost to Appalachian State and Toledo. The Big Ten has also failed to perform during Bowl games, turning in a record of 1-6 last year, and a record of 8-20 in Bowl Games since the 2005 season.

As for the Pac-10, it has not been much of a conference at all since Pete Carroll came to town. As head coach for the USC Trojans, Carroll has compiled an astonishing record of 85-15, complete with seven conference titles in only nine years at the helm.

This lack of depth has diminished the credibility that a Big Ten or Pac-10 schedule once had. Last week, Mark Schlabach of even went so far as to say that the ACC is a better conference, placing them at third on his conference rankings with the Pac-10 (fourth) and Big Ten (fifth) in tow.

So what, exactly, is at stake?

For the winner – They will be able to claim a QUALITY win over a very talented opponent. That team will have staked their bid for the National Championship game before teams like Florida, Texas, or Oklahoma have even had an opportunity to get their clothes dirty. They will be in full control of their own destiny, and will have a relatively uncontested path towards yet another conference title, complete with a probable BCS invitation.

For the loser – The damage done to the reputation of the conference may be insurmountable. This game will serve as further proof that the losing conference is very deserving of the criticism they have received thus far. The “best” that the conference has to offer was not good enough when matched against another quality non-conference opponent, and the entire conference will suffer.

Talk about PRESSURE!

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