AHHHH PLAY FOR MICHIGAN
Ex-Harbaugh staffer: 'A great white shark, mouth open, staring at you'
That's from a longer profile he wrote in May on the often-inscrutable Harbaugh. I referenced this yesterday, but whenever these things happen I think about a Nietzsche quote despite never having read any Nietzsche. You see, there was this science-fiction Civ game called Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and when you got one of the techs it always said this at you:
Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman—a rope over an abyss. A dangerous across, a dangerous on-the-way, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous shuddering and stopping. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end: what can be loved in man is that he is an overture and a going under. I love those who do not know how to live, for they are those who cross over.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche ,"Thus Spoke Zarathustra"
Pretentious! But sometimes Harbaugh does not know how to live, like when he's on a national radio show and the preening show host starts in by asking him if he's ever soft. The vision of masculinity presented by Cowherd is so disorienting to him that his mind goes blank in terror*.
The good news is that Harbaugh can now enact the Thought Control government form. So he's got that going for him.
*[Just as I recoil at the arrogant bro-dom presented by Jim Rome.]
More Harbaugh. Face time in the 1993 Rose Bowl.
Doesn't say much there, either.
Yes, please. The NCAA may be slightly loosening its tie when it comes to the NBA draft:
Under the proposal, which was a coordinated effort by the NCAA, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the NBA, underclassmen would be allowed to attend the Chicago pre-draft combine in May, get evaluated by team personnel and given a true reading on their draft status. The players would then be able to decide if they wanted to stay in the draft or return to school. They couldn't sign with an agent, though.
The current draft rules don't allow a player to return to college once he officially declares for the NBA draft. The NBA would still have an early entry deadline of late April and an official withdrawal date of 10 days before the draft, as per the collective bargaining agreement. But the NCAA would then have its own withdrawal date moved up from the week after the Final Four to sometime in mid-to-late May.
That last sentence is confusingly worded and should be "moved back". This is progress of a sort—the kind of progress that takes you back to about eight years ago when this was the standard. College coaches hated it because they didn't know who would go and who would stay when the late signing period—which also starts about week after the Final Four—began. So they changed it. Now they might change it back.
Anything that acknowledges the reality of the NBA and NFL is a good change. This one is a bit half-hearted, and it seems like it's flirting with disaster to make this change without delaying the late signing period. Kid signs, other kid decides to return: whoops. You know that's going to happen.
The best solution here is draft and follow.
Exposure to price. When people start talking about the inevitable cable unbundling that is coming, they often make this calculation: if only X percent of people would get ESPN and ESPN costs Y amount of money, then ESPN is going to cost Y * (1 / X) dollars. That's a lot of dollars! Bet you don't want unbundling now! An example:
So you'd think a standalone ESPN app, with all their channels, would cost around the same [as Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc.]. As Lee Corso would say, not so fast. ESPN's perceived value and what the network actually needs to sustain their business model are vastly different.
One industry source I spoke to believes ESPN would have to charge sports fans at least $30 a month for an a la carte version of the networks to offset lost cable subscriber fees and advertising. MoffettNathanson Research believes Disney would have to charge $36.30 a month for ESPN to achieve the same level of reach it enjoys today.
At this point, we've reached a similar structure to European television. Channels such as Sky Sports, which carries popular properties like the English Premiere League, are not part of the basic service and run at $40 a month for the family of networks. Sky Sports even offers "day passes" for roughly $15. While hardcore American sports fans can justify similar prices here in the States, casual fans will balk and just catch the big event games on over-the-air networks.
But as taxi drivers and music labels and newspapers have found out, the internet tends to erode comfortable perches from which you can rake in piles of dough. ESPN has the advantage of still being a monopoly, but if the product was the only reason you could charge Y dollars you would not be able to get every song ever made for ten dollars a month.
The existence of Sling TV, which has ESPN and ESPN 2 and 18 other channels besides, for 20 bucks, is plenty of evidence that ESPN cannot reach that price point—and probably will not even try. Sky is a very different business model because the thing that is by far their main attraction, soccer, is virtually ad-free. You get some signage in the stadium, shirt sponsors, and halftime when everyone goes to the bathroom and gets a snack. That's it. The prime reason American sports keep spiraling in value (and can no longer fit in their assigned time slots) is that they are much more amenable to commercial breaks. Sky is trying to maximize its revenue; ESPN's attempt to maximize its revenue is going to come in much lower because 1) Americans are going to balk at the 40 dollar price and 2) advertisers want the eyeballs ESPN can deliver so very badly.
ESPN is currently subsidized by a lot of people who do not care about sports. When the internet is television, that goes away—and it does not necessarily get replaced one for one.
This is why adding Maryland and especially Rutgers was folly. In the near future the only people who get the Big Ten Network are going to be people interested in the Big Ten. They will no longer be able to snatch a dollar from the pocket of every cable subscriber in New Jersey who is a Tulane man. This is going to happen in ten years, at which point whatever short-term revenue gain will be spent, Jim Delany will have his bonus, and the Big Ten will be stuck with a couple of teams nobody cares about.
[HT: Get The Picture.]
Sauce relocates. Nik Stauskas is traded to the 76ers for… uh… stuff?
Many in Philadelphia wanted Stauskas last year. Now, 12 months later, Hinkie got him, a 1st rd pick, and 2 pick swaps for basically nothing.
— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) July 2, 2015
Stauskas had a rough first year in the NBA in a terrible situation, but that's awful quick to give up on a guy and dump him with some terrible contracts in exchange for cap space. Like the Pistons giving away a first round pick to be done with Ben Gordon, the main "asset" Sacramento acquired was the ability to not have Carl Landry on their cap any more. So they could go sign more free agents. Someone try to rip the face off the Kings GM just in case it's Joe Dumars.
Only incompetent Germans. Louisville's new helmet is… this…
Which I kind of like for an Arena League team. Of the future. Playing a life and death game against octopus space nazis.
Here is a conveniently-timed article titled "Adidas: Sports Apparel Laughingstock."
The old recruiting ghost story. Willie Williams has been revisited. It is a funny and sad story, one that you've probably heard before. Apropos of little, here is former Florida Gator on his trip to Penn State:
As if that story wasn’t juicy enough, Crowder spoke of his visit to Penn State as a recruit, which was “the worst.”
“They sit me in a room with two bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 Banana Red,” Crowder said. “They say ‘drink these, we’re gonna go out.’ Okay, I get all feeling good. We walk out of the door, go down two doors and go back into an apartment and it’s four big white girls sitting there and me. Big ole white girls. Talkin’ about 250.”
Crowder no doubt said his decision was all about the academics.
Here's this! It is a show featuring a bunch of Michigan guys, one a former walk-on QB under Moeller, and an mgoshirt.
It appears it is still looking for a home. If you are a TV executive, adopt it maybe.
Etc.: Here is a good thing about the buddha-fication of David Foster Wallace. Akron built a stadium. It's not going well. Warde Manuel($) is a name to watch for Hackett replacement. Bring Your Champions, They're Our Meat on the NBA Draft.
It's over. Hooray?
And lo, it ended. It ended for us before the new year, and now it's all over, all of it: the season, the BCS, the goofy bowl scheduling. Next year, there are three large games on New Year's Eve and three large games on New Year's Day, two of which are national semifinals leading to a final the next week.
The BCS itself was sent off with a grander finale than it deserved, a taut back-and-forth affair between Florida State and pretty-much-arbitrarily-chosen Auburn that worked out, unlike near-arbitrary matchups that ended up in one sided blowouts with another team with a near-identical resume looked on in disgust. With the playoff these outrages have been reduced in intensity and spread over a greater number of teams, which seems like progress.
How long this holds before expansion and realignment kicks in, I don't know. I tend to think we'll end up with an eight-team playoff sooner rather than later, and from there who knows what happens. Someone will say "but we can get more money," probably, and then things spiral on and on.
At the very least, a bunch of bad ideas have ceased to impact college football, like
- Coaches voting on teams they haven't seen and have a huge conflict of interest about
- Retired coaches voting based on what Oklahoma was like in 1975
- Computer polls that can't take margin of victory or anything else into account
- Richard Billingsley
Whether the new ideas are better is yet to be seen; they almost can't be worse.
OH GOOD. Penn State may have been an incestuous mockery of an athletic department for years, but by God did they turn that around quickly. Bill O'Brien goes so well that an NFL team scoops him up after two years and their sanction-riddled mess of a program heading for a crater is about hire away…
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) January 7, 2014
...the guy who turned Vanderbilt from a 2-10 type outfit into a consistent bowl participant and all-around thorn in the side of the SEC. Ace and I are trying to come up with the last Big Ten coach to have 1) a job at the time of his hire and 2) a resume better than Franklin's, and, well…
[12:22 PM] Ace: is it bad that kevin wilson was the first name that came to mind?
[12:22 PM] Brian Cook: #ImitateAdam_Jacobi
…we're having some difficulty. Ace throws out Dantonio, but Dantonio's record in three years at Cincinnati was 18-17. Best we've got is Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, who implemented a hugely impressive build at Utah State. But I dunno man, Vandy is coming off back to back 9-4 years. Vandy. Which is in the SEC.
Not sure how good of a cultural fit the fiery, weird Franklin (remember that thing about how he only hires guys with hot wives?) will be at Penn State, but for a team in their situation to poach the hot up and coming SEC guy is impressive.
Unless this is all agents getting their dude a raise, but there's a lot of smoke here indicating he's the guy. Which will mean Michigan is in a division with Urban, Dantonio, and Franklin. Plus Randy Edsall. It's not all bad, I guess.
That was awesome, do it more. Twitter was agog about the ESPN News section of ESPN's BCS overkill broadcast, as it featured coaches (and Chris Spielman and Matt Millen) with instant off the cuff reactions to what was going on. I was with Twitter. Spielman's fervor for assignments came through clearly as he steamed about Auburn's screen touchdown, and then Kevin Sumlin jumped in to say that is what Auburn does, they put the eye candy in front of you for just those reasons, and everything was just terrific.
A few suggestions:
- Everyone do this all the time. Seriously, I would watch Glen Mason in a room just dying in disgust as he tries to watch Michigan run the ball. This may qualify as torture under the Geneva Convention; if it doesn't, do it.
- The game is the most important bit, so make it the whole screen, with the coaches popping in with small PIP boxes. The All-22 camera angle combined with the smaller box for the actual game was problematic, and I have a huge TV. Maximize the game size; no need to cut to visuals of Spielman, et al., when I can hear them talking.
- Cut two guys. One guy to run things, one D guy, one O guy, and Spielman.
- Send small electric shocks to anyone who talks in platitudes, like Paul Chryst did much of the night.
What I have been trying to express all year. Smart Football profiles Gus Malzahn for Grantland. This is the core of the offensive philosophy that brought Auburn from 0-8 in the SEC to the precipice of the national title in one year with a converted cornerback at QB:
Malzahn had never been in charge of an offense before. Searching for help, he turned to a book famous in coaching circles, The Delaware Wing-T: An Order of Football, by Harold "Tubby" Raymond, and followed it "word-for-word."
The genius of Raymond's book is that it's not merely a collection of football plays, though there's still plenty of that. Instead, it's primarily a treatise on how to think about offensive football. "The Wing-T is more than a formation," Raymond wrote. "It is sequence football." The animating idea behind Raymond's "Delaware" wing-T was his belief that the best offenses were built around a tightly wound collection of plays that fit together so that defenses effectively dictated the next play; each time a team tries to stop one thing, it opens itself up to something else. Beginning in the 1950s and lasting into the early 2000s — first as an assistant under wing-T innovator David Nelson, then as head coach from the mid-1960s on — Raymond fielded teams that devastated defenses. If the opposition tried to stop his base plays, Raymond had counters to his counters, counters to his counters to his counters, and so on. He amplified this "sequential" approach by "utilizing the misdirection theme to its fullest." With a dizzying array of motions, backfield actions, and fakes, Raymond correctly determined that defenses wouldn't be able to stop his offense if they couldn't find the ball.
Auburn's offense is a modernized version of that. It's like Fritz Crisler, basically, except not as wacky. Michigan does not have a tightly wound collection of plays, partially because they can't execute basic runs and partially because that's just not how Al Borges rolls. Borges does have sets of plays that are interrelated, but instead of piling wrinkle on wrinkle like Malzahn does—his thing this year was double arc blocks…
…Borges goes to a different package once his previous stuff has been figured out. And they dispense with the frippery. To me that's a philosophical thing on par with huddling.
How do you run the ball in college football? The top 25 teams in yards per carry this year, with offense type appended (note: distinction between spread to run teams and passing spread teams largely based on how many yards the QB had. Generally spread to run teams had 500+ QB rushing yards, and usually 700+).
|1||Ohio State||6.8||Spread to run|
|3||Northern Illinois||6.35||Spread to run|
|4||Auburn||6.3||Spread to run|
|5||Oregon||6.26||Spread to run|
|6||New Mexico||6.14||Spread to run|
|9||Missouri||5.66||Spread to run|
|10||Florida State||5.63||Passing spread|
|15||Arizona||5.32||Spread to run|
|19||BYU||5.23||Spread to run|
|20||Oklahoma||5.21||Spread to run|
|21||Texas A&M||5.17||Spread to run|
|22||Wyoming||5.1||Spread to run|
Yeah, it's possible to have a good running game by going under center and grinding it out, but is it likely? Four of the top 25 teams are pro-style outfits, one of which is Alabama and their overwhelming talent. Is Michigan going to be Wisconsin? I hope so, because that's the only way we get on this list.
Dolla dolla bill. We have money. Some of it comes from the only incompetent Germans.
According to a study done by the Portland Business Journal, Michigan's contract with Adidas (which is currently set to expire in 2016) is the most lucrative apparel deal in the country. Yes, more than Oregon's flashy contractual arrangement with Nike.
Per the study, Michigan currently receives a total of $8.2 million annually from Adidas stemming from the contract signed in 2007 between the two parties.
Michigan receives $4.4 million in equipment and apparel, and $3.8 million in cash. That's more than twice as much as the next-highest school in the Big Ten, Nebraska, which makes a total of $4 million from Adidas.
Part of that is the fact that Michigan has so many sports, which drives up the equipment and apparel bit. I wonder what will happen in 2016; that Most Favored Nation status Martin acquired has long driven ND crazy and Michigan's national appeal has… uh… suffered in recent years. The brand, if you will. Maybe we'll run an ad campaign about how we know our football is terrible so we changed our football sauce.
Rivals ranks Five-Star Challenge camper Steven Parker 123 spots higher than any other service.
Rivals released their updated 2014 Rivals100 today, and this would've gone without more than a passing mention if not for this tweet that accompanied the release:
— Rivals.com (@Rivals) August 19, 2013
Fans of recruiting often throw out unsubstantiated claims about bias in the player rankings; this "fun fact" from Rivals, though, is just begging for some investigation into potential issues with their rankings. Does Rivals favor recruits who show up to their camps?*
I decided to take a look at the players in the Rivals100 who are listed as participants in the Rivals Five-Star Challenge; they represent 51 of the top 100 prospects on Rivals. My rather unscientific method of looking for potential bias was to look at each Five-Star Challenge participant's ranking on Rivals and compare it to their highest ranking on any of the other three services; if there's consistent bias in the rankings, Rivals should be the high outlier for this specific set of prospects. You can pore over the full (chart?) chart here; below is a summary of what I found:
- 26 of the 51 Five-Star Challenge participants (50.9%) were ranked higher on Rivals than any of the other three recruiting services.
- 11 players from the group were ranked at least 20 spots higher on Rivals than elsewhere, compared to eight whose highest ranking was 20 or more spots above their placement on Rivals.
- Five FSC participants in the Rivals100 were ranked 50+ spots above their next-highest ranking, including significant outliers OK S Steven Parker (#46, 123 spots higher than Scout) and TX OL Demetriux Knox (#35, 92 higher than Scout). Only two such players — AZ OL Casey Tucker (#79 on Rivals, #27 on Scout) and FL LB Kain Daub (#86 Rivals, #24 Scout) — fit the opposite criteria.
- On average, the 51 FSC participants were ranked 5.3 spots higher on Rivals than they were anywhere else; that number would obviously be even higher if we were looking at the industry average instead of the next-highest rank.
Where the numbers get really interesting, however, is when we look at the relationship between Rivals, ESPN, and Under Armour. As of this year, Rivals's recruiting rankings are "presented by Under Armour." Meanwhile, ESPN and Under Armour are still partnered for the Under Armour All-American Game. When I mentioned this potential conflict on Twitter earlier today, our friend TomVH noted that both Rivals and ESPN have input into the Under Armour AA selections:
— Tom VanHaaren (@TomVH) August 19, 2013
Since Rivals and ESPN both have potential conflicts of interest regarding Under Armour All-American prospects, I revisited my chart and looked for prospects whose highest non-Rivals ranking came from ESPN. Of those prospects, six are committed to the UA game. These are those six players:
|Name||Rivals100 Rank||ESPN Rank||Delta||Highest Non-ESPN Rank||Non-ESPN Delta|
This is, to be sure, a limited sample, but I can't say I'm surprised to see that each player's highest ranking drops — significantly, in the case of the top three players on the chart — when the two services with ties to the Under Armour Game are removed. When running the numbers for the full set of 51 Five-Star Challenge participants and using the highest non-ESPN rank for Under Armour All-Americans, the gap between Rivals and the other services widens significantly — the prospects are ranked an average of 11.1 spots higher on Rivals than the other services.
Rivals received some immediate backlash when they published the tweet at the top of this post; they repeatedly replied to commenters with this explanation when pressed about potential bias in their rankings:
@travatrave It shows how many of the kids we were able to evaluate first hand and in person, no bias at all.
— Rivals.com (@Rivals) August 19, 2013
This isn't an illegitimate explanation; Rivals got the chance to see a large group of top prospects in a setting that no other recruiting outlet was allowed to attend, and that should rightfully lead to some disparity in player rankings — both to the positive and negative. The fact that the Five-Star Challenge participants skew to the positive, however, along with the trend of major outliers among Under Armour All-Americans, suggests that some bias is present when it comes to recruits who participate in a Rivals-sponsored event.
Recruiting rankings, as we well know, are by no means an exact science, and my methodology here is far from ideal. That said, the role of sponsors in recruiting rankings is worth watching with a critical eye.
*Notably, the Rivals Five-Star Challenge is only open to Rivals reporters. No other outlet is allowed to cover it.