THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: FEBRUARY 8, 2019
THINGS I WOULD LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN
On the day after the end of the second of the four seasons of football – 1. The regular season; 2. The recruiting season; 3. Spring football; 4. The dead season between the end of spring football and the beginning of fall camp – my mind wanders and ponders five things that I think would make college football better.
TAKE FOOTBALL OUT OF THE JURISDICTION OF THE NCAA: Last week the National Communists Against Athletes (that line is stolen from Brian Bosworth) hit Missouri hard with sanctions that included a 2019 bowl ban because 12 athletes across three sports (football included) were involved in some sort of academic fraud. This is the same NCAA that said it couldn’t sanction North Carolina for academic fraud that involved thousands of athletes over an 18-year period. Why? The NCAA excuse is that it couldn’t punish North Carolina because it doesn’t have jurisdiction over academics. So why did they hit Missouri with a bowl ban? Well, Mizzou isn’t a blueblood and that has something to do with it. This is just the latest example of hypocrisy by an out of control organization with this enormous, bloated bureaucracy that allows people who have no clue about football to make football decisions. Football is the revenue bell cow for every Division I school and the NCAA should not be allowed to hammer the sport that makes it possible for all those non-revenue sports to exist for something as trivial as an academic fraud case that involves so few. It is past time for Division I, at least, to secede football from the NCAA, which benefits from the College Football Playoff and bowls but doesn’t oversee them except to hand out sanctions that prevent a school from participating. Let the NCAA administer all the other sports and run those national championships but take football out of the equation. Let football be run by football people without an NCAA agenda.
A COLLEGE FOOTBALL COMMISSIONER: After seceding football from the NCAA, a new organization should be formed, headed up by a commissioner who actually knows a thing or two about football. First order of business, eliminate the ridiculous NCAA rulebook and come up with a simpler, common sense version without all the petty rules that require each school to hire endless numbers of lawyers to make sure everyone is compliant. Second, give the commissioner an adequate staff to administer, enforce the rules and investigate wrongdoing. Set ironclad guidelines for punishing the rules breakers instead leaving it in the hands of subjective committees of non-football people.
EXPAND THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF TO SIX TEAMS: At some point, the playoff is going to expand and there will be two driving forces – (1) More revenue; and (2) certain conferences will grow weary of their champions being left out. Currently, the playoff is under contract with ESPN until something like 2025 but I don’t think the current 4-team model stands a snowball’s chance of lasting that long. At some point, a Division I program will either declare bankruptcy or be reach out and touch close to going under. This will prompt the presidents and athletic directors to seek out new sources of revenue and the obvious place to look first will be the playoff. Adding one more weekend to the playoff might eliminate some silly bowl game that no one either attends or watches, but it would add many millions that can be distributed among the Power 5 conferences. The Southeastern Conference might have plenty to do with the second factor. We saw two SEC teams in the playoff in 2017 and it’s likely to happen again. What happens when the top three teams in the country are all from the SEC? It could happen and that would mean three of the remaining four power conferences wouldn’t have a team in the playoff.
Eventually, I think the playoff will expand to eight teams, but I think it would be a good idea to first expand to six, which would ensure all five power conferences that their champions would participate in the playoff. Yeah, I know that this would allow a couple of teams in the playoff that probably don’t belong but so will expanding to eight. More important, it would satisfy the school presidents and conference commissioners, plus it would make certain that all regions of the country were represented. That would be good for ratings and advertising revenue. A six-team playoff would allow the two top teams a first round bye. Play two games on campus with the winners advancing to the semifinals to face the top two seeds. The sixth team could be Notre Dame, a wild card or even an unbeaten team from the Group of Five.
A GROUP OF FIVE PLAYOFF: There are 130 Division I football programs – 65 that belong to the Power 5 and 65 that belong to the Group of 5. Not one team from the Group of 5 has ever made it into the playoff and while it’s not impossible for a party crasher from the Group of 5, it’s highly improbable. Does anyone really think a school like UCF could run the table playing an SEC schedule and then win two (or three if the playoff expanded) playoff games? Since the odds are no Group of 5 school will play with the big boys, allow them something meaningful to play for by giving them a playoff instead of sending them to such exotic locations as Montgomery, Alabama to play in something called the Camellia Bowl. Use the power of the College Football Playoff to negotiate a decent TV deal for the Group of 5 playoff. Play the Group of 5 national championship game on Saturday night before the Monday night College Football Playoff national title game. The Group of 5 game would never eclipse the CFP game in popularity or ratings, but it would make sense to give 65 other teams a shot at glory and some needed revenue and exposure.
A REAL SPRING FOOTBALL GAME VS. D1AA TEAM: I am very much in favor of eliminating regular season games against teams from Division IAA but that would cause financial hardship for the teams from D1AA. So here’s a solution that I think would work. Allow a spring game against a D1AA school instead of the glorified scrimmage that really doesn’t prove anything. The D1AA team could bring its band and you could make more seats available so the fans from the smaller schools could enjoy the big game atmosphere in a large stadium. The Division IAA schools could pick up their paycheck without getting pulverized during the regular season. For the Division I school, a loss in the spring wouldn’t be nearly as embarrassing and it would give coaches a chance to see their young guys compete against guys they don’t see every day. I’ve seen just as many injuries in spring football scrimmages as I’ve seen in real games, so play a game instead of a scrimmage. Another benefit would be forcing the Division I schools to schedule more games against the lower tier schools from leagues like the Sun Belt and MAC … or maybe even inter-conference matchups with teams from Power 5 conferences. What a concept that would be! Would you rather see UF play the likes of Charleston Southern or Idaho or maybe play Stanford or Nebraska?
CAN THE GATORS KNOCK OFF #1 VOLS IN KNOXVILLE?
On paper, the answer to that question is a big fat no. Tennessee (21-1, 9-0 SEC) is ranked #1 nationally for good reason and the Gators (12-10, 4-5 SEC) have lost three of their last four because they couldn’t throw it in the ocean if they were standing on the end of the pier. When the Gators heat up and hit 3-pointers, they’re capable of playing with and beating just about anyone in the country but it doesn’t take a basketball genius to figure out to beat UF you simply have to keep KeVaughn Vaughn and Noah Locke from heating up behind the 3-point line. TCU, Kentucky and Auburn all adjusted their defenses to make sure Vaughn and Locke couldn’t get untracked and as a result, UF is 0-3 in those games. You can bet the farm Tennessee will use a similar strategy.
Even if the Gators manage to hit some shots from the outside against the Vols Saturday afternoon, they’ve still got the problem of finding a way to contain Grant Williams, who is making it abundantly clear that he’s the best player in the SEC for a second straight year. Wiliams is hitting 57.9% of his shots while averaging 20.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. To put it mildly, there are few flaws to be found in his game. At 6-7, 240, Williams is a matchup nightmare for every team in the league, but particularly the Gators, who are not only vertically challenged but lack anyone with the kind of strength to keep Williams from having his way in the paint.
Florida played the Vols close for 30 minutes in Gainesville before falling, 78-67. For the Gators to spring the upset Saturday they’ll have to (1) find someone who can hit some shots in the event neither Allen or Locke can find the range; (2) find a way to keep Williams from dominating the inside; and (3) control the tempo of the game. Tennessee averages 86 points per game. For Florida to have a chance to pull this one out the Gators need this to be played in the 60s and that means controlling the tempo against a team with five players who average double figures.
Saturday’s SEC games
FLORIDA (12-10, 4-5 SEC) at #1 Tennessee (21-1, 9-0 SEC)
#5 Kentucky (19-3, 8-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (16-6, 4-5 SEC)
Ole Miss (15-7, 5-4 SEC) at Georgia (10-12, 1-8 SEC)
Auburn (15-6, 5-4 SEC) at #21 LSU (18-5, 8-1 SEC)
Arkansas (14-8, 5-4 SEC) at South Carolina (11-11, 6-3 SEC)
Texas A&M (8-13, 1-8 SEC) at Missouri (11-10, 2-7 SEC)
Alabama (14-8, 5-4 SEC) at Vanderbilt (9-13, 0-9 SEC)
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Former Florida D-line coach Brad Lawing has been hired to coach the D-line at Georgia State of the Sun Belt Conference … Former South Carolina D-line coach Lance Thompson has been hired to coach the D-line for Lane Kiffin at Florida Atlantic … Second leading scorer LaGerald Vick is taking a leave of absence from Kansas basketball to tend to some personal matters … Running backs coach Joe Panunzio is leaving Alabama for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles … Offensive line coach Jim Turner is leaving Texas A&M for the Cincinnati Bengals. HBC Jimbo Fisher said Turner’s replacement “will happen very, very, very quickly” … Charles Moore, a 4-star defensive end signee, has some academic issues so he’s hedging his bets. He signed with Jones County Junior College in Mississippi just in case he doesn’t make the grades and test scores to get into Auburn … The New York Knicks will claim they released Enes Kanter (14 points, 10.5 rebounds per game) because they couldn’t find a taker for his $18.6 million salary, but who are they fooling? This is all about finishing last so they have the best shot at drafting Duke freshman Zion Williamson in June. The Knicks plan to aggressively pursue free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the offseason as well … It’s a sad day for me. Frank Robinson, one of my childhood heroes and the only player who ever won the MVP in both the National and American league, died Thursday at the age of 83. Robinson, who won the AL triple crown in 1966 when he led the Orioles to the World Series championship, was Major League Baseball’s first black manager. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1982, his first year of eligibility.