i come up with a simple solution to something that's definitely a problem
The 2013 Motor City Bowl between Pitt and Bowling Green, via StadiumJourney blog.
In our roundtable yesterday I suggested a new way of calculating bowl eligibility. It struck a chord, and it's offseason, so I thought I'd do a follow-up.
The Problem: With 40 (plus the NC) bowls, the bowl field has now expanded to 80 teams, or 62.5% of what's currently 128 FBS schools. However the old six-win provision for bowl eligibility remains mostly intact, disqualifying mostly mediocre schools who played much harder schedules in favor of bad, barely eligible, barely FBS teams.
This system doesn't just create less watchable bowls. It incentivizes schools to pad their non-conference schedules with noncompetitive opponents and FCS programs, and incentivizes conferences to play fewer conference games lest they disqualify more of their teams from bowl play. The result is a less competitive, and thus less interesting, football season.
My Proposal: A simple points system:
- 3 points for a win over any team in the final CFP Top 25
- 2 points for a win over any Power 5 school not included above
- 1 point for a win over any FBS school
- -1 points for a loss to any FCS school
I initially proposed 7 points as the cutoff for eligibility, but as one reader correctly predicted, this is still too exclusive. So I amend that to the highest bowl points level you need to fill the available bowl games is your bubble region.
[After the jump: I try this out with the 2015-'16 bowl field]
[This week we've changed up the format a little bit. I posted the question in a chat group and people weighed in when they got to it. So it's a bit more conversational.]
Do you like low level bowls? Where should they draw the line?
Ace: I’m torn on this mostly because of one game: last year’s Bahamas Bowl. Two 7-5 teams with smaller fanbases from non-power conferences played a football game in the Bahamas and the turnout was as expected.
— Chad Bishop (@MrChadBishop) December 24, 2014
BUT, I watched that game anyway, and it was completely insane and awesome:
I find myself making fun of the lower level, obvious cash grab for guys in garish blazers bowl games right up until I’m watching and enjoying them because they’re football.
[Hit THE JUMP for a more sensible approach to bowl eligibility]
One conference. Sixty-one teams. All the football.
Is realignment done? The Big XII is bouncing around the idea of making their conference even more mid-major than it stands now. Meanwhile the Big Ten's TV deals are all up very soon, so there's a chance to lock in oodles and oodles of money that won't come again. Why not go on one last expansion binge now to really set the market and ensure our conference's survival and fan interest in an uncertain future?
Here's my suggestion:
1. Rename. We're not 10 schools anymore, and this is confusing. I suggest the Big Ten rebrand as THE BIG SIX. The six shall refer to the six divisions, many of which have "Big" in their titles. Also since anything more than 11 teams is really a league not a conference, we'll call this the BIG SIX LEAGUE and the divisions can be called "conferences."
2. Expand. Here are the teams I'd add to the
conference league, and how I'd break them up into divisions conferences of 10 or 11 teams based on shared geography, program culture, and history:
Midwest Conference ("The Big Ten"): Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota
Northeast Conference ("The Big East"): Penn State, Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Maryland
Atlantic Coast Conference ("The ACC"): Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, South Carolina, Miami (YTM), Louisville
Southeast Conference ("The SEC")*: Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Arkansas, Kentucky
The Plains Conference ("The Big XII"): Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas, Nebraska, Mizzou, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Colorado
- Pacific Conference ("The Pac Ten"): Washington, Washington State, Oregon State, Oregon, Cal, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State
*The SEC is the only 11-team conference to start
These divisions can have nicknames like "Big Ten" or "Big East." To ensure no more crazy realignment, every team must affirm a six-year commitment at the beginning of every season (i.e. there's a six-year waiting period if you want to leave). No conference can expand past 11; any joining school must get a 2/3rds majority of votes from the league, and unanimous support from its conference.
3. The Schedule. Every school plays all of its division opponents plus three from the other five conferences (scheduled as two-year home and homes), for 12 games total (since the SEC has 11 teams they play just two non-conference opponents). Six must be at home and six away, and no more than five conference games can be home. Cross-conference schools may contract with each other to schedule these in advance, with any holes filled in by the league two years prior.
Every team is allowed to schedule one pre-season exhibition (the Rich Rod plan), but it will not count toward that team's record for determining final postseason ranking. Every league game (not just division record) however will count toward winning your division. League play begins the week after Labor Day, and must conclude by the last Saturday of November.
4. Conference Championship Playoff. I would replace the conference championship game with a six-team conference playoff between the division winners.
The first round is played at the home of the higher-ranked (determined by committee) school in early December, with the two top teams getting a bye.
The second round is played Christmas Day at the Sugar Bowl and Orange Bowl, with the two winners of the first round versus two teams that earned byes (highest overall seed selects its venue).
The championship is played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on January 1. The third place game is played at the Fiesta Bowl. Any school eliminated from the Final Four is free to play in any bowl game against any opponent (in or out of the league), regardless of final record.
5. Make Appropriate Hand Gestures Toward NCAA. The league shall declare its own rules superior to any made by the NCAA, and choose to ignore any NCAA rule. The league will make its own rules, specifically regarding appropriate compensation for its athletes (for example lifetime medical benefits, performance bonuses, league-approved player agents, and pay), and recruiting rules. Member schools will no longer be directly responsible to NCAA enforcement. The commissioner of this league shall be selected by the athletes, and will hold veto power.
6. What I did there. You see it. Good.
feeling that a ticket you have is a precious thing is good
More games should mean things
This is something that Brandon was moving towards getting right, save for the horrible contract that saw him eat an extra Notre Dame home game at the (hopefully temporary) end of that series. And that contract might not have been his doing.
This year's football schedule has one tomato can on it, UNLV, and three actual teams: BYU, Oregon State, and Utah. BYU and Oregon State are one-off home games. They're more expensive, but we've finally reached the point where spending an extra few hundred thousand dollars on an opponent like that has a clear ROI in ticket sales. (That is the reason Brandon was getting that right.) One of the smartest things he said during his tenure was about this.
Unfortunately, I have been able to google it to get the exact quote, but it was along the lines of "we have to get out of the business of scheduling games that feel like exhibitions to fans." He largely put his money where his mouth was in that department. Or tried to, anyway. It still galls that Michigan State landed a home and home with Alabama and Michigan was forced to play a "neutral" site matchup in Dallas against them.
But Brandon was right: repeated tomato can poundings make the fan look at his ticket and feel like a sap. The Product™ boils down to that: you look at the ticket that has a section and seat and opponent on it and you feel a certain way. For years many of these tickets have made you feel like it's another way to pay for the Ohio State game. That is going to remain true, but being less explicit about it is a first step on the road towards making fans feel like part of the enterprise instead of marks.
There's not much flexibility when it comes to college football. Michigan's going to play in their division and they've got three games a year (Indiana, Rutgers, Maryland) that aren't going to feel like much no matter what happens. They've been filling out the nonconference schedule with more respectable opponents; further additions have to happen a decade or more out. The wider landscape of college football will help here: double the number of teams in the playoff means double the number of late-season games that can impact the championship picture.
Michigan's other two revenue sports could use some help. This year's hockey schedule was a textbook example of what not to do: a weird one-off at Ferris State before even the exhibition games, home games piled into the fall when most fans are busy with football, an almost two-month absence from Yost in January and February punctuated by a fiasco of an outdoor game taken in by fewer fans than would have been at a home game.
Meanwhile, basketball plays a lot of nonconference games against the Coppin States of the world. It was seven last year (they just happened to lose two): Hillsdale, Bucknell, Detroit, Nicholls State, NJIT, EMU, and Coppin State. I don't see a great solution there given the way college basketball works: you're going to have a preseason tournament, you're going to have a game just before Christmas no one wants to play, there's not enough room to do anything interesting.
The conference, though… the conference could use some tweaking. Here are a couple of concrete plans to make basketball and hockey games have more wow factor on the ticket.
Basketball: making 14 an asset
Wisconsin ran away with the Big Ten title this year. Their last seven games included matchups against 9-9 Illinois, 4-14 Penn State, and two against 6-12 Minnesota. What if their stretch run was nothing but the other three games—Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State—and so was everyone else's? And what if you could never point to anyone's schedule and say that's why team X won?
This is possible, even in a 14-team conference if you're willing to rethink a conference schedule. You can have a true, fair, thrilling championship in 19 conference games:
- FIRST 13: round-robin amongst all teams
- LAST 6: split the league into top and bottom halves, have second round-robin within.
Everyone in each half plays the same schedule. The last three weeks of the regular season are an all-out brawl for a banner that means something it might not in a world where getting the wrong teams twice could knock you down a peg.
The downsides are real but not insurmountable. You would not know the last six games of your schedule until a few days before. With home sites that's not a huge problem. There will be demand for those games. And teams right around the cutoff could find their path to a bid get harder as teams just above it draw a bunch of tough games and teams below it lose the opportunity to knock off a Wisconsin. That effect is probably marginal (on average it's turning three games into somewhat harder or easier ones).
If they tried this I bet they would never even think about going back once they saw, say, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin, OSU, Indiana, and Illinois have a three-week war for a Big Ten title.
Hockey: a state championship
The FA Cup: the only time anyone has ever believed in Wigan
There's not a whole lot Hypothetical Michigan AD can do about the Big Ten or NCAA's playoff format. (It does sound like the national tournament is in line for some long-overdue changes.) But he can probably get the Michigan schools together to provide early-season matchups some additional oomph.
The formation of the Big Ten is something college hockey needed if they were ever going to expand past two western conferences, but it broke up a bunch of 40-year-old rivalries that mean something to college hockey fans. Instead of having every Michigan team save Tech in a single conference, now they're spread across three. The GLI has tried to compensate by inviting a Michigan team for the foreseeable future, but that doesn't do much for the three teams that aren't invited in any particular year.
Nor does it have that much selling power. The GLI is a nice event, but it's always been a little silly that Michigan has a banner for years they won it. It's two games. The trophy doesn't have a name. It's not, say, a 40-pound bronzed cast of Red Berenson's head.
What if the first half of the season had a different competition in it? Soccer does this to excellent effect. A state championship competition that features World Cup/Champions League style groups would be a reasonable time commitment and a way to inject stakes into otherwise fuzzy early-season matchups.
A problem: there are seven Michigan teams, not eight. We will fill in the eighth spot with a guest program. This could either rotate between reasonably local programs (ND, OSU, BGSU, Miami, even PSU) or be permanent.
|GROUP A||GROUP B|
|Notre Dame||Western Michigan|
|Northern Michigan||Ferris State|
Each team plays the others twice, whether that's home and home or not. The next year invert home/road and do it again; then switch the groups up. The only hard and fast rule is that Michigan and Michigan State are separate. The four teams in the bottom two rows are all WCHA members. They can either book an early-season conference series to count for the state championship or schedule bonus nonconference series, their choice.
After that's done, the top two in each group play for the Michigan Themed Hockey Trophy* at the Joe. (The other two also go to the Joe and play because everyone wants to know they've got X number of games booked.)
This is a commitment of eight games—six for teams currently in the WCHA. For teams in the Big Ten (20 conference games), Hockey East (22), or NCHC (24) that is doable. It does seriously restrict the flexibility of WCHA teams (28 games), but a lot of these games are the ones these schools would want to schedule anyway. For example, Ferris's nonconference schedule included two games against State, one against Michigan, and the GLI. Tech played Michigan and in the GLI. They would be signing up for another two or three games only. And the lack of flexibility is offset by the fact that they're locking in a Michigan or Michigan State series annually.
If you can pull this off then your early season, normally something without stakes other than the hope down the road your Pairwise ranking will be good, becomes three weekends in which you hope to qualify for a GLI that means you can print out shirts that say State Champs and kiss let's just say a 40-pound bronze cast of Red Berenson's head.
like this except with Red Berenson's head
Play for things. Give us stakes. A ticket that reads "Red Berenson's 40 Pound Head Tournament" is better than one that just says "Western Michigan."
*[Options: unearth the Ron Mason trophy that went kaput when the CCHA did, inaugurate a Red Berenson trophy for the former Michigan player and Detroit Red Wing, or go studiously neutral but somewhat silly by naming it after a guy who didn't play college hockey.
Gordie Howe played in the defunct minor-pro version of the USHL for a year, not the CHL, and he's Gordie Howe. So he's a good idea if you're going that route.]
all these people would have fit in Yost [Patrick Barron]
After a near-fiasco with the ice at Soldier Field that caused Michigan and Michigan State to drop the puck at 9:40 PM Eastern, scattered pockets of people and eighty thousand empty seats took in an ugly hockey game marred by ice closer to a dirt road than a smooth sheet.
And with that Michigan's participation in outdoor college hockey should be over, with a single exception.
Yeah, there's no much you can do if your opponent decides to move one of their home games, as Ohio State did a couple years back for a slightly better-attended outing in Cleveland's baseball stadium. There's no much you can do if the GLI is outside in conjunction with the Winter Classic. But Michigan can look at this fiasco of an event and choose to never do it again.
The lone exception should be occasional reprises of The Cold War and Big Chill*. Both were great events featuring packed houses, and will be again if they are sufficiently rare. What's sufficiently rare? I'd say one game at Spartan Stadium or Michigan Stadium every four years. You can tell each recruiting class that if you stay for four years you will play a packed outdoor game, and you are doing it rarely enough that the "packed" part of that proposition is likely to remain true.
Other than that, let's drop it. Outdoor hockey is
- COLD. Obviously.
- BAD HOCKEY. Strange lighting and bad ice make these games hard to watch. Pucks bounce over sticks. Skill's importance is muted in favor of luck.
- LITERALLY HARD TO WATCH. You're far away and the sightlines make no sense. (Any modern NHL building goes up as vertically as possible; most football stadiums are much less steeply pitched.)
Those are not fixable. Taking two teams from Michigan and having them play in Illinois is, but I'm just over it. I would rather watch an outdoor game on TV these days because the environment is the definition of antiseptic and I'll have a much better grasp on what's going on if I don't have to squint from a half-mile away.
I mean, it was cool. It will remain cool if it's rare enough. Remember when the television people were trying to expand the NCAA tournament to 128 teams because they're willing to wreck anything if they can point to a bigger number in the spreadsheet they're responsible for? College hockey is in the process of doing this to outdoor games. Outdoor games should be magnificent events. These days they're too often ghost towns full of monuments to hubris instead of people.
Meanwhile, even the watered-down modern-day Yost is one of the best environments college sports has to offer. Taking a game out of there to play in front of approximately as many people outdoors is the definition of madness. We can be done with that; we fired that guy.
*[they should drop the Big Chill nomenclature and just go with Cold War [roman numeral], in my opinion]
This season's proliferation of Bo Ryan bug basketball combined with the electric NCAA final and how that final was marred by the gibbering incompetents in stripes to create an environment where you can't throw a rock without hitting someone suggesting changes intended to make basketball more watchable. Most of these are at least indirectly aimed at Bo Ryan.
Here are some ideas which I do not necessarily endorse, except in the case of removing timeouts. I have watched basketball at least once and therefore am passionately in favor of this.
[UPDATE: Andy Glockner just posted on this, too.]
Shorten the shot clock
Eamonn Brennan caught the normally shy and reticent Tom Izzo making an appearance on the radio in which he said this:
“We have the slowest game in the world,’” Izzo said. “As you say, the international [game] is less [slow]. The pro is less. The women’s is less. And here we are with 35 [seconds].
He went on to say that chopping the shot clock was discussed at the rules committee meetings in Atlanta. Brennan suggests a drop to 24 but if they did change this I'd guess they go with 30, an intermediate between the current clock and the same as the international game.
I'm not sure a drop does much to make basketball nicer to look at. If you go all the way to 24 you've got less good basketball players operating in an unrestricted zoning environment, which is a recipe for a lot of ugly no-look heaves at the basket with the buzzer going up. Is watching Wisconsin play in a 24-second shot clock world even grimmer? Maybe. I shudder to think about middling college teams trying to scrape together a shot in 14 seconds after barely busting a VCU or Louisville press. College players probing the Syracuse zone in 24 seconds… I mean. Yergh.
If it's 30 you have marginally increased the speed of the game and made it more difficult for bug people to squat on your enjoyment… at least when they're on offense. They'll squat all the fiercer on defense.
One positive development from a shorter shot clock is the increased attractiveness of running. It still seems like a minefield of unintended consequences.
Get rid of timeouts, the more the better
The only interesting thing that has ever happened during a timeout.
No one has specifically been suggesting this because they haven't been forced to watch a basketball game that's just gone under two minutes with both coaches in possession of four timeouts, but check twitter the next time this goes down. Basketball teams should get one time out, end story. If networks want to slightly bulge commercial breaks in compensation, fine. Anything is better than the end of a tight basketball game feeling like rush hour in Chicago.
For a quick check on what happens when you don't have timeouts, let's go to the end of the Michigan-Indiana game. Michigan is down one with twelve seconds left and no timeouts:
While the outcome was displeasing to Michigan fans, hey guess what it's still basketball, and for neutrals it was much better than the same thing after yet another 30 second break.
Severely reducing available timeouts has the added benefit of making games more chaotic at the end. You can't save a possession by calling TO on the floor; you have to inbound even if that seems like a bad idea; you can't bail yourself out when trapped in a corner. All those near-turnovers that end in an anti-climatic timeout are suddenly 50/50 balls, which favors the trailing team.
Unfortunately, an unholy conspiracy of control freak coaches and revenue-craving TV execs means this will never, ever happen.
Call those foul things
At right: possibly a foul. Possibly not. But it definitely wasn't called one. Probably.
The referees weren't perfect, but for the most part, Beilein felt the officials allowed players freedom of movement -- which, in his opinion, is the way the game should always be played.
"I like the way the NBA is played," Beilein told WWLS 98.1-FM on Monday. "If you put your hand on a guy, it's a foul.
"We actually teach it, and it hurts us sometimes when we're not as physical as other teams."
The national title game was poorly officiated all around. One of the ways in which it was is symptomatic of a larger trend and not just an OOOAAAWWWWHHHH outrage with no redeeming qualities: all those phantom fouls on Louisville once they'd stolen the ball. UL would foul Michigan up and down the court; refs wouldn't call it until Michigan was in a terrible position because of it and turned it over. There's a tendency to look at foul, see if it affects the play, and then call it. You know and hate those whistles that occur after the shot.
A foul should be a foul. No more talk about Deciding The Game. The refs are deciding the game either way. "Letting the players play" is in fact letting nobody play because it's hard to play basketball when people are bumping and grinding you. Letting people play leads to ugly rugby-scrum games. All year Michigan opponents would hand-check Burke; all year everyone would shuffle their chest into the shooter without consequence; all year you could plow into a three-point shooter on a closeout without getting a whistle except in the most extreme circumstances.
At this point there has to be a terrible period where a foul is redefined as a consistent thing not dependent on the game situation, which will lead to scads of ugly games with lots of free throws. It'll be like that period in the NHL when the powers that be decided that all that stuff in the rulebook was there for a reason. That was a half-season of misery, but the game came out better for it.
Also, for pants sake can we get an advantage call? If a foul does nothing to prevent a one-on-zero fast break, fling your arms out dramatically and give the foul at the next opportunity*, which will almost invariably be after the fast-break bucket. When it's not just whistle it when the opposing team gets the ball back. They can't complain, they committed a foul.
You'll like this a lot, basketball referees. It's very dramatic. You can pretend you're a matador, or super into right angles, and you can do it for seconds at a time when the play is still going on.
*[no shots, just the personal and the team foul.]
The usual NBA business
The NCAA has no power to change the NBA's one-and-done rule. If they did, they would have already done it. That doesn't stop people from coming up with better systems than the current one—all of them. Beilein advocates for a baseball model where you either go straight out of high school or hang around for three years:
"(My preference would) probably be very much like baseball," Beilein said earlier this week. "I think that would be a great thing. If there's a Kobe (Bryant) or LeBron (James) out of high school, he can get that big contract and go.
"If not, go (to college) for three years and make an educated decision. Then guys can redshirt and do all these things. That's ideal in my mind."
The NBA is unlikely to go for that since one of the main goals of one-and-done was to put their future stars in a year-long free marketing internship, and to prevent a bunch of high schoolers with no business declaring from doing so.
Actually, there are some things the NCAA can do to help out here. For one, they can change their archaic rules. If you opt into a draft, you're done. If you just get drafted, you can maintain your eligibility. The "you just get drafted" rule is in place in hockey, and while it has its flaws the end result is a lot more sensible. A couple years ago I made an extremely useful and no doubt soon-to-be-accepted proposed change to the draft that boils down to these points:
- Everyone gets drafted out of high school; they retain their eligibility. The draft expands a round or two.
- An NBA team signing a draft pick has to provide a guaranteed contract that lasts until the player is five years out of high school. They cannot reclaim this roster spot even if the player is cut.
- Drafted, unsigned players can participate in summer league.
As a bonus the NCAA could allow drafted players to retain agents, get some money, and go to NBA team activities on the team's dime. The NBA could execute the bulleted sections all on their own now, though.
This would move the "should I leave school" decision to the player and the team instead of an advisory board that's guessing. NBA teams would have to think hard about guaranteeing a high school kid money and a roster spot for five years, less hard about guaranteeing a junior two. The NCAA would enjoy an influx of attention from fans of pro teams tracking their draftees and could use that as a useful jumping off point from their archaic notions of amateurism.
Fire anyone who turns the act of calling a charge into a play in one act
Also never happening but as long as I'm getting this out of my system I figure I should mention this. God bless the guy who called the Morgan/Triche charge like he was Marvin the Paranoid Android.