that makes one of us
ncaa: the bureaucracy
no one takes better fake dictator pictures than Nick Saban
Limiting the size of a football signing class in each academic year to 25, down from the current level of 28. The NCAA adopted that SEC-sponsored legislation put forward in 2009. The 25 limit would cover those who sign from Dec. 1 to August 1. The rule now runs from the February signing day to May 31, which allows schools to exceed 28 by enrolling signees before or after those dates. An exception would be made for mid-year enrollees included in the current academic year's initial counters.
I'm not sure I understand this, but I'm pretty sure the odd range of dates—you can't sign until February so what is December doing in there?—is to count JUCOs, who IIRC do sign sometime in December. (As a Michigan fan my knowledge of these things is minimal.)
This would make the LOI cap 25 + early enrollees. The language about "current year's initial counters" is there because early enrollees can count as the year's previous but don't have to. So if you enrolled 25 kids the year before you couldn't sign more than 25, period, because all your early enrollees would have to count as recruits for the current year.
This would appear to create a hard cap of 100 LOIs per four-year cycle, which would cut down on the churn considerably. Half the SEC would have to curtail their issued LOIs—Auburn has averaged 112, Mississippi State 110, etc. The impact on other conferences would be minimal. Iowa State, Kansas State, Oregon State, and West Virginia are the only other BCS schools averaging a significant amount over 25.
Making football signees who attend summer school on athletic aid before the fall semester count against a school's scholarship numbers for that next academic year.
There currently are no limits on how many can attend summer school, which can leave a recruit already on campus to be asked to delay enrollment until January if there's no room. The proposal would go into effect in summer 2012.
AKA The Elliott Porter Rule. No more moving into the dorm, then getting evaluated over the summer, then getting shoved out the door. An obvious step to take after Outside The Lines shredded LSU's practices.
Giving the SEC office more oversight in medical scholarship exemptions to review and determine outcome for cases. A team doctor, trainer and athletic director would need to sign off on each case.
A vague attempt to shut down St. Saban Memorial Hospital. Unknown how that will go, but I'm guessing it will be ineffectual. Having team doctor, trainer, and AD sign off on something beneficial to team doctor, trainer, and AD does not seem like the world's most rigorous check.
What they should do is have the school submit a medical request to the conference that locks in that scholarship, and then the conference tells the football team in question whether they can use that on someone else.
Keeping early enrollees from signing an SEC financial aid agreement until they are enrolled and attend class at the school. Currently, recruits can begin to sign a financial aid agreement after their junior year of high school, which keeps other SEC schools from recruiting them.
This has nothing to do with oversigning, but it's a neat end-around of the LOI system. Given the frequency with which kids in the South decommit it doesn't seem like a widely used one.
It's better than nothing but short of something that puts student welfare—thanks to Jim Delany the new hotness—above all. If the LOI limit above truly is a hard cap that will immediately curtail some of the worst offenders a significant amount. If one was in place four years ago Alabama would have signed 13 fewer kids, Auburn 19, South Carolina 11, etc.
It's not perfect. Twenty-five is still above what seems like a reasonable good-faith attempt to keep kids in school will see a team sign. Eyeballing the numbers on Oversigning.com, it appears that number is 22 or 23. Getting down to that level would start catching schools that are not actively tossing recruits into the trash heap, though, and starts to impact student welfare from the other direction by reallotting money from scholarship players to fortunate walk-ons.
As for the other two items, the first is an obvious response to the ESPN expose but even if that's the case it shuts down the absolute worst practice going on right now by eliminating the summer-camp tryout business one Les Miles is working. The medical scholarship stuff is too vague to evaluate but there's a decent chance something does come of it if only because other coaches must be hopping mad about this:
Meanwhile, guess who's confused?
"I really don't know what everybody is so up in arms about," Saban said, according to the Birmingham News. "This is something that people have done in college football for a long time and it's not illegal. We have never had a player leave our program who didn't create the issues himself that he made a decision to leave the program."
This is what I keep this Upton Sinclair blockoute around for:
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
I knew setting up ctrl+alt+f6 to do that would come in handy some day. Don't make me ctrl+alt+f7 you, Saban. It will be withering.
This always happens when someone brings up the idea of paying the kids who make the money some more of the money: everyone points and says "Machiavelli!"
look away unless you want to see the guy on the left
feed the guy on the right with regurgitated worms
This may be true. I have a hard time believing the man who wrote the infamous SEC letter is a political mastermind, but yeah, okay, this looks like a thing that will benefit big schools at the expense of small schools.
Fine. Let's drop that point. No one has attempted to answer this, though: why do we care? This is the point Delany's making when he talks about orienting the NCAA towards student welfare instead of a level playing field. Some schools are going to lose. They are the schools throwing a bunch of money at D-I athletics for dubious gains and not doing too well by their students while doing it. This makes their life a bit harder. And… so?
Even guys like Big Ten Wonk are peeved, which surprises me:
…the conferences with the deepest pockets will be able to address the needs of “student welfare.” The rest — the majority — will not. …
If the Big Ten wants players in its revenue sports to have “full cost of attendance” scholarships, the league has the resources to make it happen. (They have the resources to make it happen even assuming the bottom-line figure would need to be doubled and shared with an equal number of non-revenue athletes in women’s sports to survive Title IX scrutiny.) But creating these new dollarships, while merely cementing existing imbalances in college football recruiting in place, would revolutionize college basketball recruiting overnight. The elite high school football player already chooses between programs that can afford full cost of attendance scholarships. Not so the top high school basketball talent. In a sport where TV exposure and NCAA bids are spread (relatively) far and wide, talent currently has far less incentive to travel in packs. That will change, dramatically, when major-conference programs can offer recruits a better financial package than what mid-majors are able to afford.
I disagree. Unless increasingly ludicrous Title IX restrictions mean that every revenue-generating athlete's full cost of attendance scholarship is matched by a similar outlay to any confused chemistry major who wanders onto the rowing team, the maximum reasonable cost to mid-majors is around $50,000 a year. To take a not-totally-random stab at a mid-major you might have heard of, this will increase VCU's basketball expenses by just under 4 percent. George Mason's will go up slightly over 4 percent. GMU can zero this out by cutting coach pay (approximately 460k) 12%.
Every mid-major that cares to compete will shrug and FCOA their athletes without blinking. Student activity fees already in the hundreds of dollars will go up a few dollars in response.
Meanwhile, the surprises Wonk lauds usually come from ignored late bloomers, not recruits actively picking mid-majors over big schools. Of the top 70 players in this year's Rivals 150, two are going outside the BCS. One, UCF commit Michel Chandler, is undoubtedly involved in some Funny Business. The other, Charleston recruit Adjehi Baru, is a native of Ivory Coast who went to Charleston because they offered the son of his legal guardian a scholarship. Non-BCS four-stars farther down the list are going to Gonzaga (75), Xavier(76), BYU(86), Harvard (88), Alcorn State(94), SMU (98), and WKU (105).
A total of nine of 106 four-stars going to non-BCS schools. Gonzaga, Xavier, and BYU will FCOA. Harvard is Harvard. There are hypothetically three four-stars this year who might be swayed by extra money at a BCS school, and smart money is on each of the three having issues that cooled interest from bigger schools. The existing imbalances in college football recruiting are at least as strong in basketball; nothing of importance will be lost by allowing schools that can afford it to slightly lighten the hypocrisy inherent in the system.
The Sport Where It Might Have An Impact
Hockey. This had not occurred to me until I read this bit on Bucky's Fifth Quarter:
With the Big Ten hockey conference on the horizon, a move like this could be a game changer in college hockey recruiting. In addition to noted advantages of grouping traditional powers Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota together with Ohio State and Penn State and the TV contract with the Big Ten Network, athletes receiving this additional bonus for being a Big Ten athlete would be a significant recruiting advantage. Keep an eye on this story as it develops.
A lot of hockey schools are pressed for money as it is. Since hockey is an "equivalency" sport—meaning that scholarships can be divided—the net result could be a situation in which bigger schools have a bigger pool of money to give the guys on the bottom two lines. Hockey has 18 scholarships, which is two too few to cover everyone on the ice if you figure two goalies would be scholarship-worthy at each school. Playing time is less of an issue in hockey, too, since almost everyone plays. There are a number of guys who might go from being scoring line players at small schools to checking line players at large ones.
And that's not all since hockey is in a constant war with junior in a way that basketball and football are not. The carrot of another 5-20k on top of that "actually getting a scholarship" business should help big schools lure prospects who might otherwise head to junior (which might push those other guys right back to the smaller schools). Michigan hockey fans should be all in favor of this.
this will soon be the literal truth, literally
This site has fretted about, then documented the bad things massive attrition under Rich Rodriguez did to Michigan's Academic Progress Rating. The APR is a complicated number that's supposed to equate a 60% graduation rate to 925. Once you drop below that the NCAA starts glaring at you. Michigan put up a 897 in 2010, a 940 in 2009, and a 918 in 2008 (Carr's last year). They need a 945 this year to keep their head above water; that 897 will be an anchor for the next three years.
Right now, dropping below 925 doesn't automatically start hurting you. Between 900 and 925 the only punishments are a one-for-one scholarship reduction for every player who leaves ineligible. This results in yearly complaints about the various schools that didn't meet the minimum but didn't get punished. It's confusing and a little limp-wristed.
That would change if random NCAA committee has its way:
Currently in the Academic Performance Program, teams face two penalty benchmarks – 925 for more immediate penalties and 900 for longer-term, more serious sanctions. The committee is proposing the penalty structure be consolidated, with a single benchmark set at a projected 50 percent GSR. [Ed: this is estimated to be 925-930.]
While the 50 percent GSR is considered a minimum standard, Harrison said the committee also recommends that the long-term goal be stated clearly for the membership to raise the expectations above a projected 50 percent GSR.
Eliminating that grace zone and a lot of the exemptions that go with it is probably a good idea in the wider view. Right now you get things like South Florida dropping under the 925 level, losing ground the next year without penalty (which totally happened but I can't find the relevant link—their numbers are the worst the BCS FWIW), or Kentucky basketball graduating half of the 60% minimum but still checking out A-OK. Right now the APR is weaker than it should be.
In the shorter view, Michigan David Letterman puts his finger under his collar to go "yeeargh" when he reads this proposed penalty for dropping under the 925-ish level that corresponds to a 50% GSR:
Level One: Public notice and a financial aid penalty of 10 percent from the four-year average of total aid awarded. If the team demonstrates improvement, the financial aid penalty would be reduced to 5 percent. For example, a Football Bowl Subdivision team that awards the full complement of scholarships would be penalized nine overall counters and three initial counters at the 10 percent level, while men’s and women’s basketball would be penalized two scholarships.
Hypothetically, not hitting a 925-ish APR results in scholarship penalties equivalent to the worst NCAA sanctions in twenty years. That's level one! If you get to level two you have to eat your own face. Albert Lin writes your obituary if you hit level three.
A change that drastic would have to come with a lot of warning. (I mean, right? /finger under collar) Presumably by then Michigan will have pulled its APR out of the danger zone, at which point they'd be cheering on any NCAA committee itching to rip the spine out of schools not as committed to graduating kids. So… a qualified hurrah with the stipulation this has to be one of those committee-type timelines where it takes forever to do anything.
Darius Morris and Jack Johnson
The Bylaw Blog has developed a recurring theme of late: by placing greater restrictions on the folk it has control over it cedes territory to people it doesn't. A prime example is when the NCAA banned college coaches from attending AAU events. AAU events didn't stop collecting players or happening, and coaches got more distant from the players they were trying to recruit. This provides greater influence for middlemen, and in college basketball these days lots of middlemen want to get paid, yo.
Here's another example, one year after ACC coaches successfully lobbied the NCAA to move the draft withdrawal date up 40 days:
A year later, here we are again. The ACC's coaches drafted a new proposal, one that moves the early-entry deadline all the way up to the day before the beginning of the spring signing period. In 2011, that date -- April 12 -- would have passed us by weeks ago. It would have given underclassman prospects exactly eight days after the national title game to decide whether they wanted to go pro or stay in school for another year. It would have -- I mean, it will; I'm still having trouble with the idea that this is actually happening -- forced players with millions of dollars on the line to make life-altering decisions in the matter of a few days with minimal information on which to make them.
Why move the date? April 10th is the day before basketball's late signing period. Now coaches will know how many spots they have open when that period opens. Except they wont. Bylaw Blog:
In attempting to control the draft process, college coaches have lost all control of the draft process to the NBA. Instead of an NCAA deadline of May 8, the new deadline is not April 10, but still April 24, the NBA's deadline.
The NBA's shown no interest in helping college basketball, so the chances the change actually has any positive effect are slim. The net effect is to prevent a bunch of players from declaring and returning to school. But at least there's an alternate universe in which college coaches are happier.
Why not revamp? I've been bothering the Bylaw Blog about this on twitter, and now I'm going to bother you: you could sidestep all these issues by dumping the current NBA draft structure and replacing it with something closer to the MLB/hockey model. In those sports everyone is automatically put into the draft and thus retains their eligibility. In baseball there is a narrow window in which you have to sign or the team loses rights to the player; hockey teams retain rights to the player until they graduate.
The Bylaw Blog keeps shooting down these proposals like so:
Short draft, limited roster spots, lack of minor league make MLB model less workable for basketball. NBA should adopt MLS approach*.
That was the same reasoning given to me when I bothered him about hockey, but I think he's conflating the two models. The MLB model does encourage a bunch of players to sign way before they're ready to enter the major leagues and implementing it in basketball could see a bunch of college stars toiling away in the D-League, something no one wants. (If the NBA had any designs on making people care about the D-League they wouldn't have started forcing players to go to college.)
The hockey model doesn't necessarily have this issue. Since teams retain rights they can leave kids in school until they determine whether or not they want to sign them. Players do tend to sign before they are NHL-ready but that's because there is a ready-made minor league with a higher level of play that acts as an intermediary between the NHL and the league. There isn't in basketball and the D-league is never going to be one, so teams would almost want to keep their players in college until they thought they were ready.
If I woke up tomorrow and was David Stern this is what I'd do:
- Change the draft so that every recruit who signs a LOI is automatically entered.
- Extend the draft to three rounds.
- Rookie contracts are at least one year longer than the amount of eligibility you're giving up. (IE, straight out of high school: five years, junior: two years, senior: one year, but in that case you don't have the sign the guy so this is essentially zero years.) That roster spot cannot be reclaimed by cutting the player; contracts are not 100% guaranteed but have some floor (probably the league minimum) that is.
- Allow unsigned, drafted players to play in the summer league.
And then if I woke up the next day as the president of the NCAA I'd:
- Fume at my lack of power.
But if I woke up the next day as an NCAA president who could force choke anyone who disagreed with me I'd:
- Allow pro teams to pay for their players to attend rookie camps and assorted "should we sign you" activities.
In the specific case of someone near and dear to us who seems to be making an odd decision because of the current NBA draft structure, Darius Morris would have been in the draft out of high school and after his freshman year, but would have been passed over each time. This year he'd be taken at some point, could work out with his team a bit as long as he paid his own way (about which don't get me started, see fuming above), and then it would be up to the team and Morris to decide whether or not he was ready to make the leap. If the NBA team signed Morris immediately they'd be committing to having him on the roster for the next three years, so they'd have to think about it.
In this specific case and a lot of others the player would be far less likely to make a bad decision because he'd be talking directly with the team who held his rights. Similarly, NBA teams who draft a college player only to find out he needs more seasoning than they thought could save the roster spot and cash for someone else as they wait to see which of their prospects develop. Everyone would have more information via which to make better decisions.
Unfortunately, this seems diametrically opposed to the way things are going. Like Brionte Dunn and showing up on campus, I'll start getting my hopes up when people talking sense about how basketball recruiting goes down pass a legislative proposal and no sooner.
*[The MLS approach is to sign the player and then find a home for him, which doesn't seem workable because the NBA is not a single entity, unlike MLS. MLS is competing with leagues around the world for players, so there's a point to negotiating a contract with a league. The NBA isn't competing against anyone for anyone other than Josh Childress, so I'm not sure what the advantage of their structure is for basketball.]
Hello. What with hockey and dissertation and everything it was a tired, panicked last few days but go to bed at a reasonable hour and stay there for a good while and hey the sun's shining and there's a baseball game tonight. I've also got all these tabs; they're increasingly elderly but oh well.
Elsewhere in getting hammered in the temple. A roundup of post-championship reacts on the Michigan blogosphere. HSR:
The hardest part about the National Championship game last night was that there's no new lesson to glean from it. When you take penalties, you're going to have a hard time winning. When you can't get the puck into the opponent's zone, you're going to have a hard time winning. When you can't get a change in overtime, it's going to be almost impossible to win.
The Sun rose on Sunday in Ann Arbor. It was a beautiful, 80-degree day, the first such day after another long Midwestern winter. Normally I’d be pleased, but yesterday a picturesque spring day felt like a cruel joke.
"I think right now it's pretty tough to reflect on the season when you just lost a national championship game in overtime. If you're a competitor, you're going to be devastated," he said.
"You know the seniors aren't going to get another chance, and they've been the nuts and bolts of this team. Our young guys, they might think they'll get the chance every year, but it doesn't work that way."
So… yeah… if you were in the comments yesterday complaining that I was too down you don't follow the hockey team closely enough. This could be your reaction every spring, too! Season tickets! Get them!
Also in enragement. This is uncharacteristic of Berenson:
“Were they good penalties?” Berenson asked. “I can’t tell you what I really think. I mean, you can’t talk about refereeing and penalties, but when one team gets nine (power plays) and the other four, it doesn’t add up.”
He wasn’t done.
“We’re not out there to take penalties,” he said. “So every time a player falls down, it shouldn’t be a penalty, not in NCAA championship hockey.”
FWIW, it was only the third-period calls that I thought were terrible. The other stuff was either unfortunate, undisciplined, or plain necessary. Michigan took like three straight in the second and didn't call the ref a troglodyte who should be shot into the sun, so… yeah.
That last "boarding" call was some kind of awful, though.
The enlightenment comes. Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd won't be suspended for the season, or placed in stocks in the middle of campus, or forced to wear a hairshirt for picking up a DUI. While that's not so good for Michigan's laser night game throwback spectacular it's closer to sane. Rakes of Mallow somewhat defensively posted a list of recent DUI offenses and their consequences and the consensus is one game unless you play for OSU. [Ed-M: My list is better.] Doctor Saturday:
If anything, Res Life's scorched-earth verdicts against former basketball players Will Yeatman and Joseph Fauria and basketball player Kyle McAlarney — all of whom were booted from school for an entire semester for arguably lesser charges than the trio of alcohol-related offenses on Floyd's record — were evidence of a policy far out of step with the mainstream. As McAlarney wrote the Tribune, the office showed "no compassion, no consideration for me, no feelings whatsoever." Yeatman and his parents also publicly objected to his suspension before his transfer to Maryland.
I'm with him even if I was pulling for a two-game suspension.
Feature thing. ESPN's spring feature on Michigan:
It's so bizarre seeing Urban Meyer try to be part of the media. I expect him to kick himself out of this interview. Also there's actually a lot of interesting* technique stuff in there if you ever wanted to find out what a DL coach does.
*[for a given definition of interesting, which is mine but probably not yards.]
Too cool to live. Free Darko is no more. Amongst the huge list of tributes posted I think Will Leitch is the one who gets it rightest:
Free Darko made me see athletes not as heroes, not as villains, not as humans, but as mythic, god-like creatures, comic and tragic. I don't mean God in a big man in the clouds with a beard sense; I mean in a "release the kraken!" sense.
They were perfectly suited for the NBA. I talked to Shoals a bit when we were both writing for The Sporting Blog; he was disappointed in his traffic numbers and disappointed in the weirdly disjoined TSB and seemed like a guy who was losing faith, getting ready to move on. TSB duly imploded and now FD is scattering to fancy magazine pages of the world.
Random insane NCAA decision of the week. Colleges can no longer subscribe to Rivals and Scout because they provide recruiting information not freely available to the public. The Bylaw Blog is kinda sorta incensed by the unintended consequences of what started as an attempt to reign in AAU coaches in men's basketball:
But it’s the reason Rivals is not a permissible service that shows the deeper underlying problem with the current recruiting regulations. It is not permissible to subscribe to a recruiting or scouting service that provides videos of prospects in non-scholastic competition, unless the videos are free and available to the general public.
The NCAA and its members have fought the growth of non-scholastic youth sports vigorously. Subscribing to video of non-scholastic contests is prohibited. In basketball, going to watch AAU events is tightly restricted. In football, coaches are prohibited from going to any non-scholastic event.
This has resulted in two things: the steady, continued growth of AAU basketball, 7-on-7 football, and all other club sports, and diminished NCAA influence in this area. By removing college coaches from many AAU gyms and football camps, it has become the lawless wild west that the restrictions sought to avoid.
According to Infante, the NCAA should "let go" of high school sports and reorganize around the principle that non-scholastic sports are primary. That sounds radical, but Infante makes a persuasive point: you have no control over something you have completely banned and lots of control over something you are working with. If two rival AAU tourneys are competing for players, the one with college coaches in the house is going to win hands-down.
Meanwhile, Rivals and company should expect a surge in subscriptions from coaches' wives.
Side note: Banning Rivals based on video of "non-scholastic competition" is a weird situation when a lot of newspapers are covering recruiting in more detail these days. The occasional camp highlight video hardly registers on why people subscribe to Rivals—if anyone actually watches video it's of, you know, football—and it would be interesting to see if one of the sites tests the NCAA by cutting camp stuff. Most of it's "Christian Cullen" running a shuttle.
Foot… ball? Yes, they still play it. No, there is no running back. A Daily article on the situation recycles some of Borges' quotes from his recent press availability…
“To say we have a frontline back, a guy we’re saying, ‘This guy’s the guy’ — we’ve had flashes of excellence from all of them and that’s not a decision we have to make today,” Borges said. “But I like those kids.”
…and alarmingly references Vincent Smith and Michael Cox without so much as mentioning Dramatic Cupcake Hopkins. Practice chatter has been silent on him even as guys like Cox, who has never seen the field for a reason, get unearthed and evaluated. Meaningfulosity? About as much as the rest of spring practice, but if you forgot what happens this time of year because you were paying attention to basketball and hockey, we get very very bored and therefore try to parse anything we can out of the faint whisper of the ghost of a tiny fraction of tea leaf that wasn't very large to start with.
Good news for people who like boring news. There is a webcam of Michigan taking down their new scoreboards. You can watch it, or you can look at this picture. They are basically equivalent:
Yes, they left the Big Chill lingo up.
Womp-rats? Yesterday at about 7 PM Yahoo released its latest article that terrifies and thrills, and it's a doozy:
Tressel knew of gear scheme last April
If true, that would expose Ohio State to the worst kind of NCAA justice. Cover-ups are very bad. They got SMU the death penalty and are soon to terminate the job of Bruce Pearl.
Can Yahoo/the NCAA prove it, though? The Robinson/Wetzel piece relies on one anonymous source who said Tressel was "troubled by the information" and promised to investigate. I don't think OSU can reasonably suggest they investigated and found nothing since it didn't take the NCAA long to confirm the story, but previous Yahoo gotchas came with paper trails—as of now there isn't one.
The worst-case scenario here is that this gets rolled into an investigation of Terrelle Pryor's perpetual loaner and it turns out that—surprise—zealous OSU boosters are funneling massive amounts of impermissible benefits to players. It's getting to the point where it's hard to downplay everything that comes to light as an isolated incident, especially when Antonio Pittman tweets that cats have been getting hookups on tats since 2001.
I don't think anyone knows where this is going but if Yahoo can produce paper a major violation, an actual one not about stretching, is in the offing. Eleven Warriors just tweeted that they are hearing Tressel will admit wrongdoing(!) and sanctions/suspensions are "possible."
No serious harm done. According to Mike Spath, Carl Hagelin and Billy Powers expect Louie Caporusso to return for next weekend's CCHA finals at the Joe. Presuming Michigan can get by Bowling Green, by far the worst team in the league this season, without him they won't be short in their quest for a one-seed.
Word. Best NFL draft evaluation ever on one Justin Boren:
Plays angry on the field but his mental makeup is in question after a transfer from Michigan. Day 3 prospect.
Love to bits. The SBN Oilers blog goes off on semi-regular rants about how numbers are just not understood, man, that I love to tiny bits. Their latest is about the Avalanche and their fluky run last year. According to hockey's advanced metrics last year, the Avs were a terrible team. According to the standings midway through the year they were pretty good. They managed to survive a massive late slump to squeeze into the playoffs and fans thought this was sustainable and numbers were stupid. This year they're pretty much the same team except they're not nearly as lucky, so they're just above the Oilers in the standings and fans are discussing whether they should fire the coach they were pumping for the Jack Adams last year.
Avalanche fans are not alone in ignoring, even denying the evidence behind the performance of the team. In an article entitled "When the scientific evidence is unwelcome, people try to reason it away" in The Guardian, author Ben Goldacre explores what happens when people are "...confronted with scientific evidence that challenges their pre-existing view." His conclusion? "Often they will try to ignore it, intimidate it, buy it off, sue it for libel or reason it away." Goldacre references a 1979 paper from Lord, Ross and Lepper. From the paper's abstract:
People who hold strong opinions on complex social issues are likely to examine relevant empirical evidence in a biased manner. They are apt to accept "confirming" evidence at face value while subjecting "disconfirming" evidence to critical evaluation, and, as a result, draw undue support for their initial positions from mixed or random empirical findings.
Goldacre goes on to discuss a second group of people - those who attack the science behind the evidence presented to them.
When presented with unwelcome scientific evidence, it seems, in a desperate attempt to retain some consistency in their world view, people would rather conclude that science in general is broken.
This line of thinking is similar to that used by fans who argue in favor of shot quality. Shot quality has become the great foil used by those arguing against possession metrics as a basis of hockey analytics. The ever-increasing mountain of possession data, evidence and studies means little to the shot quality folks. Arguments abound in favor of shot quality with no evidence to back it up, so lacking so Desjardins challenged the world to prove the existence of shot quality. There were no takers.
When presented with unwelcome scientific evidence, it seems, in a desperate attempt to retain some consistency in their world view, people would rather conclude that science in general is broken.
What's that on the horizon? It's getting closer! It's getting closer very fast!
This is why numbers are important—they at least force you to consider things that conventional wisdom holds are ridiculous, like Derek Jeter being a pretty crappy defensive shortstop. The advanced metrics said the Avs were due to regress badly and they did. This would be just another guy who loves numbers accepting confirming evidence while some other team that defied the numbers would be seized upon by the Joe Morgans of the world as their confirming evidence… except for the fact that you can collect big sets of numbers and show they are accurate more often than not. We had a discussion about this before college football season when I predicted Iowa wouldn't do so hot and Iowa fans were like "numbers are stupid."
The other end of the spectrum from Joe Morgan is David Berri, who's just as wrong as Morgan and relies on a just-as-irrelevant credential ("I was the greatest second baseman of all time"/"I went to Princeton") in his quest to reduce everything in sports to a regression. I'm not arguing for that, either. The numbers gathered by football and basketball box scores are witheringly insufficient to hope to explain anything.
In reality, numbers are insufficient to fully explain anything but baseball for a lot of reasons. Baseball's easier and there are orders of magnitude more data—Pitch FX is insane. But in all sports advanced metrics can at least provide a much better answer for "what," if not how and why. An example: about a week ago LaVall Jordan tweeted that Michigan had the fourth best defense in the Big Ten. That's true on a pure counting number basis but if you do something like divide they were ninth*. That's a huge difference and the tempo-free number is indisputably better. There's a huge difference between talking about why Michigan has an above average defense or why they have a below-average one, and anyone who would prefer to talk about the former is just wasting people's time.
*[The MSU game moved them up to seventh.]
Hardaway explosion. Rod Beard's latest in the News has a wide array of quotes on the emergence of Tim Hardaway Jr. Vitale is involved, but don't let that phase you. Here's the most interesting bit on his recent blowup:
"When he was shooting a lower percentage earlier in the year, I called him in and we just talked a little about getting a better shot than he was taking," Beilein said. "(I told him) you're probably going to take just as many shots, but the ball will come back to you again.
"He did it immediately and his shooting percentage has gone way up."
Beilein has repeatedly praised Hardaway's coachability, which suggests he will continue to improve over the duration of his career at Michigan. Dad is also impressed:
"He's developed very well and the whole team has, from November to today," Tim Sr. said. "You can see a lot of confidence in them and you can see their swagger. They're playing well, they believe in the system and they believe in the coach."
Random offer thought. Michigan continues to litter the nation with offers, but a Q: could this be a more general pattern? The NCAA just implemented a rule that prohibits schools from sending written offers until August. In the past there was the verbal offer, which was more of an indication of interest, and the written offer, which was as close to official as something that says "we can revoke this at any time" gets. Now there are no written offers, nothing to distinguish between the two, and kids who may have waited to declare they had an offer until they had the actual paper in their hands now have nothing else do go on.
In any case, the universal predictions that this rule would lead to confusion and would do nothing to slow down the breakneck pace of recruiting have come true, like it was obvious they would.
Etc.: Posnanski writes something about the "joy of rooting against Lebron" that expands on yesterday's trash-talk assertions. According to Ira at WTKA via Brandon, Michigan's club seats and suites are sold out. Evolving Evan Smotrycz. Big Ten wrestling details.