Mike Spath points out that doing an interview for the official site is a pretty good indicator he'll be back.
So... a week or so ago EDSBS and I paged through the Rivals archives and extracted per-class scholarship averages for each BCS school and conference in the country. Quickie conclusions: the SEC is a bit sketchier than the Big Ten, as asserted by Jim Delaney, but not nearly as much as this year's enormous seven-to-eight scholarship disparity implies. Still, an attempt to provide some ethical and statistical context follows.
How big is this gap? Over the last six years, the Big Ten has handed out 22 scholarships a year and the SEC 25. This doesn't sound like a huge difference, but it depends on your perspective. In hockey, there doesn't seem to be much of a gap between a player with an 88% save percentage and a 92% save percentage, but rephrased it as "player A lets in 50% more goals than player B" and the gap is brought into relief. Similarly, 25 and 22 seem close enough but flip it around: if we ballpark the number of redshirts at 50%, a team retaining 100% of its players uses 19 scholarships a year. Every year the average SEC team experiences double the attrition of the average Big Ten team.
Is this scholarship gap necessarily a sign of poor moral fiber? Not necessarily. There are two different arguments getting conflated into one here:
- SEC classes are overrated on Signing Day and during the media blitz that follows because their increased attrition rate -- something the numbers show is indisputable -- allows them to sign a bunch more players who will never make an on-field contribution.
- The SEC doesn't care about football people. [/Kanye]
Argument #1, as noted, can be accepted as a given. Argument #2 is murkier and requires us to consider...
What exactly are the ethical obligations schools have here? The conventional wisdom from rabble-rousing sportswriters and tut-tutting moral arbiters is that College Sports Is Corrupt And Evil for even thinking about permitting players who are either dumb or heinously underserved by their schools to breach the local ivy-covered educational edifice. And there is a point in there somewhere: bluntly, most football players are not good at school and very few of them would be in college at all if they weren't huge and fast.
But it's hard to see how anyone's life is improved by strenuously demanding Stanford-level academics of 340-pound maulers from rural Mississippi. Stakeholder by stakeholder:
- 340-pound maulers. What's the alternative for these guys? Most of them will never sniff the NFL but it's a shame to take away their shot at it for an irrelevancy. Even if their education is remedial, that's likely better than they'd have otherwise.
- Normies. A few extra kids in big lectures dragging the curve down doesn't negatively affect the rest of the student body except in the smallest and most incremental way, and even that is offset by the contribution a healthy athletic department makes to the overall life of a collegiate campus.
- The University Ideal. Athletes' altered admissions standards don't necessarily compromise the university's academic purity. There already exist certain segments of the student population for whom the ability to put together a five-page essay or solve a differential equation is irrelevant: music and art students are admitted primarily on their talents in their field of choice, not arbitrary standards for performance on a standardized test. Essentially vocational programs already exist: a journalism major's classes are of secondary importance to his work on the school paper; an art student's GPA is secondary to his portfolio.
Besides, the idea of a cloistered, ivy-covered thing where you learn all about like Kant and Hegel and Thoreau in intimate seminars went away a long time ago in favor of enormous diploma mills. Large state universities -- where virtually every sporting program big enough to be corrupt lives -- are more expensive vocational schools these days for the vast majority of students. (Private schools, being private, can do whatever the eff they please.)
Where the ethical dodginess comes in is when the 340-pound mauler's education is less remedial and more nonexistent. The latest Sports Illustrated has an article on Greg Oden that details his courseload: a five-credit Sociology 101 course, a five-credit History of Rock And Roll course, and two credits for being a basketball player. It's hard to work up any outrage about next year's top pick in the NBA draft getting shorted in his education, but how many players with far more uncertain futures are getting educations in avoiding education at schools around the country?* The general feeling is lots.
This is because the system has a disconnect. It rewards teams for keeping players eligible, not for educating them. It encourages Harrick-like "how many points for a three-pointer?" classes, academic... er... tutors, and History of Greg Oden majors because the only people judging how educated our mauler is have a deep conflict of interest. The scary idea is not how many kids flunk out but how many "graduate."
It is an article of faith around these parts that the SEC is the worst offender in this department. Anecdotes filter up: former running back Max Martin got in the doghouse because he didn't go to class. When someone in the department asked him why, he replied that he didn't know he had to, since all of his buddies down south didn't. (Later, Martin transferred to Alabama; the coaches at the time reportedly asked if he had been arrested for any felonies, then hung up, thorough background check completed. He lasted a semester.) Varsity athletes in non-revenue sports relate similar tales on recruiting trips. Anecdotes prove nothing, though, proving nothing, and schools all over the place have issues. (Clem Haskins at Minnesota sticks out.)
All we have right now are some numbers that take a look from 10,000 feet up that reveal something indistinct. Even if we drilled further down into these numbers, they would only tell us the lesser half of the story, and the questions about "what about the guys who remain eligible?" would remain unanswered.
*(Referencing Ohio State here is sure to cock an eyebrow or two since I am an avowed Michigan fan. The intent is not to single out OSU as an exemplar of bad behavior; the SI article provided a rare concrete look at the courseload of a star athlete.)
It was pointed out that Ron Lee's sudden absence from the Michigan staff passed without mention here; that it did. That occasionally happens when I throw something up on the Fanhouse that's specifically Michigan-related.
Expanding on the above-linked: Lee did seem unable to get any of his charges to improve in hindsight, but that's just hindsight. Remember when we were big fans of Morgan Trent? Yeah, that was about eight games into the season. Maybe more. Once you got past Hall the cornerback talent Lee was presented with was mediocre at best. Anyone who's followed this blog over the past couple years knows that Michigan's been snakebit at corner in recruiting. A full list of those available to Lee:
- Hall. Granted, he's very good.
- Trent. Fast as hell but seemingly incapable of cutting fast enough to bother anyone on short routes. (This may be the much-referred-to "hips" and "swivel" jargony football experts throw out on draft shows.) Was rated and came to Michigan as a wide receiver and sort of looks like a wide receiver out there.
- Charles Stewart. Future safety. Destroyed in game against Minnesota.
- Johnny Sears. Redshirt freshman sleeper who was clearly not ready. One year of varsity high school football before coming here. Lee can't really be blamed for his struggles, nor should Sears be written off just yet.
- Brandon Harrison. Five-eight guy who bounced to safety and back, played in the nickel this year. Main contribution was missing a few tackles, IIRC.
This is the long way of saying that whatever the reasons for his hasty departure, they probably aren't entirely, or even mostly, about the secondary's struggles at the end of the year. (Safeties were supposedly still coached by English, though it seems odd to have one coach for just the cornerbacks.)
So what else is there? Recruiting, I guess. It's been widely speculated that the staff shakeup last offseason was a major factor in Michigan's crappy recruiting year (other factors: 7-5 2005, ill-advised decision to split Michigan recruiting up amongst various staff members, general bloody-mindedness of the universe). Perhaps Lee was a part of that, and if you're going to have a guy who only coaches a few players, especially when your DC is a secondary coach, he'd better be a bang-up recruiter in the Orgeron mold.
So there's my completely unfounded speculation as to the reasons Lee was let go and a projection for his replacement: a pretty face who coaches "the secondary" but mostly goes into people's homes and steals the athletic children. So a Viking. Nordic hhhyyyyarr.
Harbaugh Harbaugh Harbaugh. Right, so he's the coach of Stanford. I had assumed this would be widely regarded as a good move given the pool of masochists and bedwetters willing to consider the Stanford job, but NSFMF!
It's not if you ask Jon Wilner , who's yet more proof that the people we have voting in the polls should be disenfranchised. Check the exclamatory bon mot:
So you might be asking yourself: Why is Harbaugh qualified to coach Stanford?
Well, I'll tell you: Last month, San Diego lost to UC-Davis â€” Harbaugh is perfectly qualified for his new job!!!!
That's a zinger, there. Zing!!!! The rest of it putters along as you might expect; it makes me mad because it's really dumb. I almost fisked it, but there's been too much fisk in these here parts lately. For a much better version of the same skepticism check Tightwad Hill.
That's a double suckit on the rocks. Remember Notre Dame defensive end Ronald Talley's bizarre midseason decision to transfer away from a sure starting spot? Well, Talley has decided on a school and they wear this:
That's I-AA Delaware for anyone still stuck in double-take mode.
Woo statistics. The advent of the offseason causes some of the twitchier amongst us to pore over tables of minutiae like total dorks, something you would never see on this blog.
IBFC broke down the careers of offensive coordinators Malone, Parish, and DeBord in astounding detail. Vijay breaks up Michigan opponents by winning percentage, then presents average scores for those teams:
An interesting pattern emerges: Malone blows the doors off of bad teams, as does Stan Parrish, but as soon as you get away from the dregs of the schedule (say, teams in the 0-20% categories) Terry Malone's PPGs show a clear declining pattern (scoring less and less as the competition gets better), Stan Parrish's PPG show a generally declining but pockmarked pattern and Mike DeBord's don't waiver much at all. DeBord's offenses are scoring almost the same against the best teams on the schedule as they are against the good, the mediocre and the slightly bad.
Is this infuriating or not? I can't tell. Vijay doesn't offer up sample sizes here, but I would venture that if you're breaking down teams into 10% buckets and only have 3-5 years of data for each coordinator, some of the buckets are going to have two or three games and not represent all that much. More useful are scoring averages charted against average opponent score and averages based on leading/trailing in the fourth quarter, both of which offer a stark and probably statistically meaningful difference between DeBord and his personal Benjamin Harrisons. The conclusion:
To me, it seems that the most obvious answer would be that all the rhetoric is true with DeBord, that there is a "scoring offense" and a "non-scoring offense", that DeBord puts a greater emphasis on putting points on the board when he thinks they are needed than when he thinks they are for style. Playing Vanderbilt or Indiana, they aren't necessary. Up 14 on Wisconsin, Penn State or Iowa and you've got a great defense, they aren't necessary. In Columbus against Ohio State, you better grab the reins and go full speed.
The question remains: can DeBord adapt to defenses that aren't 1997 or 2006's? DeBord's been around for a lot of wins; not coincidentally he's also been around the two greatest defenses at Michigan since Bo retired. So his strategy has been sound, but what happens if next year's D is kind of bleah? Does DeBord open it up early and try to establish an unassailable lead? Or is the Orange Bowl all over again (granted that was not a DeBord production, but it does stand out as the platonic ideal of boneheaded Michigan stubbornness in recent years)?
Let's hope we never have to find out.
Meanwhile, SMQB is breaking down statistical relevance like whoah. My favorite part: other than the odd phenomenon of few penalty yards being slightly negative indicator of victory (hypothesis: penalties are more likely when you're on offense, so teams who finish way low in penalty yardage do so because they don't get many offensive snaps), the least relevant stat tracked by the NCAA? Time of possession. Which I hate.
Etc.: Rosenberg corrects Amaker. Mallet throws things. Florida wants to be just like Michigan. Former Michigan coach Steve Fisher doing fairly well at San Diego State. Braylon interview. Subcomandante Wayne is coming for your hookers. "Michigan Football Memories" Dec 31 @ 8.
Talking. Myself on Sports Bloggers Live yesterday. Firefox-incompatible.
No mo' Morris. Freshman wing K'len Morris will undergo shoulder surgery, miss the rest of the season, and apply for a medical redshirt. He should get one, as he appeared in only seven games -- NCAA guidelines state a player has to appear in 20% or fewer of his team's games. Michigan should clear its 35th in the Big Ten Tournament.
Bye, bye Kerry. Michigan recruitniks are probably familiar with Cincinnati Colerain, the southern Ohio powerhouse that's given Michigan the services of Cobrani Mixon (redshirted) and Mister Simpson (redshirted, then transferred to Cinci) over the past two years. Their coach, Kerry Coombs, has just been hired by new Bearcats coach Brian Kelly to coach defensive backs. This is good and bad. Coombs brought his entire team to the Michigan camp every year and often gave Michigan a shot at his top players. That's unlikely to continue. But Coombs may prove a thorn in Ohio State's side when it comes to the Cincinnati area. Respected Buckeyeplanet insider Honor & Glory says that he expects top-100 safety recruit Eugene Clifford to follow his coach:
Coombs has not taken the job...yet. If he does, I fully expect Clifford to de-commit and follow his h.s. coach to UC. I also would lay even money that Ben Martin heads to UC...
Martin, also a Cincinnati kid, is a defensive end who the #1 prospect in Ohio. He's reportedly choosing between OSU and ND.
No one paid UC's move to the Big East much mind when it happened, as the new conference looked like Conference USA with a BCS bid, but with the emergence of Louisville and WVU into quasi-national powers, Schiano driving Rutgers to unprecedented heights, and a promising upstart in South Florida, the Big East suddenly looks very legit indeed. For the first time in its history OSU may have to fight an instate school for prestige and recruits, and while this would be a strictly little-brother scenario similar to the Michigan-MSU dynamic, sometimes little brother is annoying. TJ Duckett and Charles Rogers come to mind.
Jimmah! I don't want to pretend this is conclusive, but Clausen's Oaks Christian team won their state championship 27-20 in OT. Jimmah's contribution was three interceptions, 94 passing yards, and some mildly bad behavior:
The only real pregame noise came from Clausen, who ran to midfield and pointed and shouted at the Cardinal Newman kids before the opening kickoff.
The kid has a swagger. The kid also has a quick trigger, throwing a bullet 17-yard pass to Marshall Jones for a touchdown on the game's first possession.
But the kid also is impatient. Cardinal Newman dropped eight guys off the line of scrimmage, and forced him to find an opening, and he couldn't.
And the kid has a temper, as we saw when he scolded receivers for not catching some of his high-and-wide passes.
More fuel for the theory that Clausen is virtually untested heading to Notre Dame and is extremely likely to disappoint. Bullets:
- He plays on an all-star team at a tiny private school; his opponents are likewise tiny.
- He's 19 already.
- His parents are crazy and have raised him to quarterback.
So no one really knows how he'll react under pressure or when there are players within 10 yards of his receivers. As an overage kid who's been coached since six, he's closer to his ceiling than anyone else entering college. All we really know is that Clausen throws a beautiful ball in 7-on-7 passing drills and gets really bad advice about his hair. Powlus redux? (Please remember that Powlus wasn't awful, but he wasn't any better than average, either.)
Etc.:Interesting article on this Chuck Neinas guy, a coaching headhunter. Rakes has some season awards to hand out. You might recognize something. Rose Bowl thing from MSNBC. Apparently our offense is a lot like USC's. You are reading the fourth most important thing in the universe*.
**(college football blogging)
The Romer paper is sort of an MGoBlog cause celebre, so it's with great glee that I point out a Michael Lewis article in the most recent ESPN The Magazine($)*. It seems Romer's convincing statistical proof that NFL teams scoff at expectation when making fourth-down decisions has had zero impact. Since its publication NFL teams have actually gone for it less on fourth down (14.5 percent now, 15.1 then). The Sports Economist summarizes Lewis' theory as to why:
Lewis first asks if Romer is simply wrong, but concludes that this is not the case (and I agree). Lewis also wonders if NFL coaches simply can't understand the complexity of Romer's argument. This is a possibility, but Lewis argues the coaches are more than capable of understanding complex arguments. After all, just running an NFL team â€“ as anyone associated with the Detroit Lions has learned in recent years â€“ is quite complex and difficult.
No, Lewis thinks Romer is right and NFL coaches understand his arguments. For Lewis, the reason why coaches fail to heed Romer's wisdom is that coaches do not wish to undermine their reputation in the coaching fraternity. As Lewis puts it "Go for it on fourth down more often than any other coach, and you not only set yourself apart from your peers, but you call into question their intelligence. If your decision doesn't pay off â€“ if you go for it routinely and your team fails â€“ you'll stand accused of malpractice."
Interesting to see this theory in practice on the NCAA level. Two prominent coaches are liable to go for it on any fourth down that looks tempting: USC's Pete Carroll and Notre Dame's Charlie Weis. And you couldn't pick two coaches with more opposite public personas. Carroll, derisively nicknamed "Pom-Pom" by rival fans, shows up dressed like Ricky Bobby, plays practical jokes on his players, and is down with Snoop Dogg. He's the archetypical "players' coach" who is lauded mostly for hiring Norm Chow and his ability to get every OMG shirtless recruit in the country to commit to USC. I don't think it's out of line to suggest that he's regarded more as an organizational figurehead than an Xs-and-Os maven.
Weis, on the other hand, is a supergenius. A tactical master blah blah, you know the drill. He offhandedly implies that other coaches are kinda stupid on a regular basis (and, IMO, is not entirely wrong). He's subject alternately to "he's a genius" swooning and "he ain't no genius" sneering, depending largely on the POV of the author and the results of Notre Dame's most recent game. It's not difficult to imagine a lot of doors closing should he find himself in need of a job at some point in the future.
This is to say that the way a coach acts vastly outweighs what he calls when it comes to media perception. If The Orgeron was to suddenly convert to the Church of Romer (he may have already but hasn't been able to show us since Ole Miss never found itself in fourth and less than 20) and justified it to the media by declaring anyone wanting to question his new strategery would have to defeat him in a shirtless greasy wrestling match, chances are the next day's paper would be conspicuously light on assertions that Orgeron's brain has gotten to big for his, um, brain-britches. Or whatever.
I don't buy it. I don't think fired NFL head coaches panhandling for jobs get turned down because they went for it more often than the league average. So what could possibly explain the gap between Romer game theory and NFL reality? Poker. I've played a lot of it. It's game theory in one of its purest forms, and the lesson it teaches is this: for the vast majority of the population it is hard to play anything other than weakly (ie, betting rarely, raising even more rarely, but calling lots) . Variance is scary. Inexperienced players don't want to risk folding a winner, but neither do they want to risk getting into a big pot with a loser. So they'll call down with third pair or whatever. That's why the most popular games by far are cheap limit games. Most people will take a negative expectation (small limit games have a proportionally huge rake that makes beating the game very difficult) as long as it promises lower variance, because gambling's fun derives largely from fear. People like a little fear. It's rare to run across someone who likes lots of it. This is not a gambling thing, it's a human nature thing. There's a lot of cognitive science behind it. Humans, as a species that relies on the effective application of knowledge to survive as opposed to freakin' huge talons or whatever, are constantly torn between the realms they know, which are safe but boring, and the realms they don't, which expand his knowledge but are dangerous. The end result is a sort of addiction to slightly new experiences and a lot of timid poker.
If coaches are drawn from a fairly typical sample of the population and have a fairly typical amount of risk tolerance (little), then it makes sense that most coaches are tight-weak. The only reason they wouldn't be tight-weak is if it provided some evolutionary advantage -- coaching is nothing if not Darwinistic -- that forced it into the population. Evidence suggests it does: FO found that the most likely to go were Parcells, Belichick (not coincidentally Weis's mentor), Shanahan, Cowher, and Schottenheimer. The Sports Economist extrapolates from Lewis and surmises that crotchety, successful old coaches don't have to care about what their peers think, but maybe you get to be a crotchety, successful old coach because you're more concerned about extending your current job than finding your next one.
So why isn't everyone aggressive by now? Most coaches, Romer-intelligent or not, get fired and replaced with some other guy plucked fresh from the ranks of the coordinators. When you get thrust into the poker of the NFL for the first time, the stakes are high, the depths dizzying, and the consequences of a gamble that backfires severe. The natural inclination of the n00b is to cower and make the safe play. Most of them never live long enough to get out of the kiddie pool and start making moves.
*(I saw an ad for "ESPN the Weekend" something like a month ago. Is anyone reminded of "Spaceballs the Flamethrower?"
- Lone Starr: Yogurt. What is this place? What is it that you do here?
- Yogurt: Merchandising.
- Barf: Merchandising? What's that?
- Yogurt: Merchandising. Come! I'll show you. [to the Dinks] Open up the store
- [Yogurt walks over to a wall filled with Spaceballs merchandise.]
- Yogurt: Merchandising! Merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made! Spaceballs: the T-shirt, Spaceballs: the Coloring Book, Spaceballs: the Lunchbox, Spaceballs: the Breakfast Cereal. Spaceballs: the Flame Thrower... [fires a short blast from flame thrower]
- Dinks: Oooooohhhh!
- Yogurt: The kids love this one. And last, but not least, Spaceballs: the doll, me.
- [Yogurt squeezes the doll, which says "May the Schwartz be with you!"]
- Yogurt: Adorable.
You might not want to think about hockey, but there are a couple articles out there for your persual. One on Rohlfs, the other on Cogliano. Bob Miller, who wrote the Rohlfs article, also offered this on a couple of recruits:
In a word - wow! Just in from watching Little Caesar's play Chicago Mission in the MWEHL MIdget Showcase being hosted by Compuware this weekend.
Treais had a hat trick made up of highlight reel type goals, reminiscent of his skill-set clone, T.J. Hensick. Very, very impressive performance by the Michigan commitment.
Jon Merrill was also a rock on defense for Little Caesar's. Bodes very well for Wolverine fans.
Boh Treais and Merrill are a few years from campus.
Kampfer's shoulder injury suffered on Sunday is supposed to be a separated shoulder that will keep him out a month. Michigan will go into the GLI down Johnson, Dest, Kampfer, and Cogliano, and my hate for the holiday PWR-murdering it represents will increase. Why do we play in this again?
(Rohlfs HT: Gorilla Crouch.)
More renovations. According the Sports Business Journal, Michigan will embark on a $75 million renovation of Crisler($). Weird thing: a reduction in public capacity from around 14,000 to 10,000. This seems backwards. The program is floundering so the logical thing is to expect it to flounder forever and reel in expectations and seating. Maybe the basketball team should go back to Yost.
More honors for Panter. He's been named to another All-American team: bad hair. It should be noted that Panter's grungy die job has disappeared.
More playoffs! Corn Nation has a discussion with Josh Centor of the Double A Zone on what, exactly, the NCAA does and does not control in this situation. Upshot:
CN: Could the NCAA have any influence on whether or not Division IA would move to a playoff system?
Only through the collective will of the membership. If an appropriate majority of the membership thought the postseason bowl system should be more akin to an NCAA championship, it is conceivable we could see a change that would bring the Football Bowl Subdivision in line with the rest of NCAA championship events.
Rakes of Mallow takes issue with the idea that the importance of the regular season would be seriously diminished if a playoff was instituted. I do find the argument that a playoff would have made the Michigan-Ohio State game "meaningless" odd. For one, that game was unprecedented in the history of the series. Every other time Michigan and Ohio State have played, they would have been battling for either a spot or seeding or whatever. A once-in-a-lifetime #1 versus #2 game is just that: once-in-a-lifetime. Citing the most extreme outlier you can find is the sure sign of a losing argument. And since it was ONCE IN A LIFETIME, the prospect of consolation in a playoff would have provided little solace on High Street November 18th, trust me. College football games won't morph into something with all the passion of a February Atlanta Hawks-Golden State Warriors game just because the playoff will permit the occasional two-loss team to compete.
TMQ cites history... anyone know what he's talking about? I'm too young to get this reference:
As to Miami tactics, Jason Taylor has switched this season to a hybrid defensive end-linebacker position, similar to the old "elephant" role played by Charles Haley in his heyday. Taylor has been terrific, and if Miami were playoff-bound, would be a contender for defensive MVP. On Sunday, Dolphins' coaches reached still further back into the past and let Taylor be a 1960s University of Michigan style "monster man," lining up wherever he pleased. New England blockers clearly could not figure out the rhyme or reason to where Taylor was, and he gave them fits all day. The reason New England blockers couldn't figure out the rhyme or reason to Taylor's movements was that there wasn't any -- Taylor was using his instinct to decide for himself where to line up on each down. Essentially, Taylor was calling his own plays. In the hyper-organized NFL, it's interesting to see that giving a top player the green light to use his instincts worked out really well.
Who were these people?