this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
Apologies to AC1997, but my reply turned into a diary. There is a lot of snark here, it's not aimed at you, it's just because I'm snarky.
Brian's mentioned Bill Simmon's article about PEDs and its natural extension into college recruiting. Whenever a school, Ole Miss in this case, gets a recruiting windfall, illicit or otherwise, or has a sustained run of success at the top, like USC, lots of folks question whether or not the success is legitimate. Then, they openly speculate, often using terms like "U$C" or "Ole Mi$$," (AC1997 did not do this) why no one sheds light on the violations. Here's my take as to why really big recruiting violations rarely come to light.
First, let's set the scenario. Phil Philbert is a five star dual-threat QB from Springfield. Instead of staying home to play for Local U (LU), he instead goes to Football University (FU), which is on the other side of the country. LU fans cry foul and demand justice, but no one sheds light on why Phil was seen leaving town in a new Maserati.
In this scenario, I think there are three ways Phil and FU get caught:
- NCAA investigation.
- Concerned insider tells all.
- Investigative journalism.
First, we all know the NCAA isn't out to discover recruiting violations. If the NCAA is a part of a police force, its job is that of a detective. In other words, they here about something bad and investigate to determine what happened and who is responsible. This detective would be taking many of its calls from cops on the beat. The only problem is, there aren't any paid cops on the beat. If the NCAA and its members wanted that, there would be paid staff at FBS schools "patrolling." No one involved really wants that. Therefore, the NCAA is waiting by the phone for options 2 and 3 to call before starting an investigation.
The most obvious person to call the NCAA would be the concerned insider. They would have first-hand knowledge of the situation and could steer the NCAA toward FU's egregious violations. The problem is, who are these insiders with direct knowledge? The parties with direct knowledge are:
- Phil's parents.
- Phil's high school coach.
- FU's coach.
- The deep pocketed booster who bought the Maserati.
- The bagman.
None of these people has any incentive to talk. Phil and his family got a free car (or cash) and don't want to go to jail for not paying taxes on the gift. Phil's coach can't tattle or he gets fired and his high school becomes persona non grata in recruiting circles. FU's coach doesn't want a show cause penalty or to lose his buyout. The booster and the bagman love FU too much to tell. Anyone else who talks has circumstantial evidence unless Phil (or the bagman) is dumb enough to talk about their nefarious deed into a microphone.
That basically leaves investigative journalism. However, there are serious problems with developing these types of stories. Even disregarding the lack of actual journalists who have the skill and tenacity to run down these types of stories, they still have to get someone to talk. That's really hard. Additionally, which news outlet would run the story? The most obvious one is LU's home paper. However, LU's home paper probably isn't doing very well right now and is likely devoting their investigative stories (if there are any) to things like crime, serious corruption, or serious societal issues. FU's home paper is definitely out. Papers struggle for readers as it is, they don't need to anger their subscriber base by getting FU in a bunch of trouble.
That basically leaves Charles Robinson at Yahoo! and a few other journalists at big-time news organizations who have the time and organizational backing to do this type of work. I heard an interview with Robinson a year or two ago. In it, he basically said he has a bunch of Nevin Shapiro / Miami stories in the works at any time, but journalistic standards of prohibit him from publishing until he can get credible on-the-record conversations and / or a lot of verifiable evidence. Again, that's really hard to come by given the few people with insider knowledge and their lack of incentive to talk.
This is one guy's opinion as to why serious recruiting violations don't come to light very often. They're hard to find and hard to verify. Furthermore, I don't believe much really serious stuff actually happens anymore. It's too easy for someone to Tweet a picture of himself holding a stack of cash and add "loving FU right now, LOL." Cheating today is an incredibly short-sighted tactic that can't go on long. It would be impossible for wholesale, SMU-style cheating, to be kept quiet, just like it was then.
The PAC-12 announced an enormous media deal this week that’s worth a reported $22 million per school per year. The Big 10 and SEC have monster TV deals in place that virtually ensure profitability for their member athletic departments for the near future. That’s life on the top of the FBS division, and there’s no doubt that football is the key driver of both revenue and expenses.
This diary is about the other half. The financial straights of the lower tier of FBS, specifically the MAC, Sun Belt, and post Boise State WAC are also largely driven by football. Unfortunately for them, the train has fallen off of a cliff instead of chugging towards the land of monocles and gold toilets. These schools are reduced to selling home games to artificially increase attendance numbers and playing body bag games to pad revenue.
Specifically, this is about Eastern Michigan football and EMU athletics. What, if any, benefits does the school derive and what are the costs associated with those benefits? Why do they field teams at all on the D-1 level?
College sports have a purpose. The NCAA says that its purpose and the larger point of intercollegiate athletics is to promote things like sportsmanship, integrity, the pursuit of athletic and academic excellence, respect and leadership. These are all good things to promote and I believe athletics can help cultivate those qualities. However, a good club program or the intramural programs that most universities run with student fees can accomplish the same goals and provide much greater access than D-1 athletics. Thus, in my mind, schools must derive some other benefit from D-1 athletics than simply promoting certain values in its athletes—of which Eastern has about 465.
Every FBS school should probably ask itself what benefits it derives from big-time football. It’s a shockingly expensive undertaking, can give the school tons of press (both good and bad), can generate enormous revenue, and can be a significant drain on student funds. It’s easy for the University of Michigan to make a cost-benefit analysis for its football team and athletic department in general. It generates many millions of dollars for the athletic department and is a self-sustaining enterprise. Sure, it’s attached to the school, but it costs the school nothing. The Board of Regents never needs to worry about eliminating a student program to fund football.
Eastern Michigan has a tougher time. Last year, EMU’s athletic expenses were $24.64 million, a whopping 9.2% of the school's General Fund. For a little perspective, there are about 23000 students enrolled at EMU, of which about 2% are intercollegiate athletes. They use their share of the 90.8% of the budget spent on items other than athletics, but 9.2% of the budget is used exclusively to support athletics. Sure, some of that $24 million comes out of TV deals, sponsorship, and ticket sales, but the database shows that to be only about $1.7 million. Everything else comes from the General Fund in some way. By the way, tuition went up 3.8% in 2009-10 at EMU.
However, EMU could still justify athletics if the non-monetary benefits made athletics worthwhile for the school. I think sports teams at U of M make valuable contributions to the student body. Aside from pride, I firmly believe that the Michigan diaspora—I see shirts everywhere—stays engaged with the school in large part due to the visibility of the sports teams. This has benefits for job seeking grads, networking alums, and helps donations to the school. Maybe this is the case at EMU too, but it doesn’t help too much. They only received about $3 million in gifts last year. Even if all of those were directly the result of athletics, there are still almost $20 million that the school gives each year to athletics. People don’t go to games and EMU athletics aren’t on TV unless they’re getting drilling by a Big 10 team in September.
The world has changed. Regardless of why (and let’s not get into it), Michigan doesn’t have money to waste. Why is a public university spending almost 10% of their General Fund on entities that only directly benefit 2% of the student body and don’t produce discernable benefits for the student body, alumni base, or school? Michigan and Michigan State are different. Their athletic departments aren’t a choice of resource allocation for the school. If the department closes, the money disappears. If EMU closes its athletic department, there are over $20 million, by my count, that can be reallocated to improving education, facilities, or even lowering tuition.
Why can’t EMU de-emphasize athletics and expand its club offerings? They could bus to CMU, WMU, Northern Michigan, Toledo, etc and play at a rented high school field on Saturdays. The players could work out at a student gym instead of a team gym. The same could be done with other sports. Just as many students could play, but for millions less. If I was a Regent, I’d ask why.
I've been thinking a lot about oversigning with this year's Signing Day having come and gone. The problem, as I see it, isn't really one of competitive balance. It would be nice to have a level playing field, but I certainly wouldn't be willing to give up Michigan's built-in advantages anymore than an Ole Miss fan would give up oversigning, JUCO stocking, or quaint reminders of a brutal, bigoted past.
*Everything would have been forgiven if you would have picked him! [Ed-M: In fairness to their fans, the Ole Miss base wanted them to have this, but their school wouldn't allow it.]
The problem I see is that big-time NCAA football is largely built around taking physically talented young men, pushing them to perform physically, and developing an enormous support system to ensure they can:
1) Afford to stay enrolled through athletic scholarships
2) Maintain a minimum academic threshold to remain eligible, despite many of the athletes not being anywhere near qualified academically to be admitted through the normal undergrad admissions process
The problem with oversigning is that kids suddenly have both of the items many of them need to complete a degree yanked out from underneath them either mid-career or, in some cases, right before they start school. Many will drop out and go back to wherever they grew up because finishing a degree isn't conceivable without the support they had as scholarship athletes.
Wow, we're both tools, aren't we?
That said, coaches do need to be able to control their roster. Just because a kid doesn't get expelled from school for cheating on a research paper about research doesn't mean they're pulling their weight. Showing up on time isn't enough for any coach worth his salt, and I've got no problem with that type of player being cut.
With that in mind, here's an easy, no-frills solution that eliminates oversigning, still allows coaches to control their roster, and should help kids get their education:
1) 85 players on scholarship at any time, period. Graduating Seniors fall off after their last game, and incoming recruits count as soon as their LOI is sent in and count through the next football season.
2) Coaches are allowed to make cuts, and they must be finalized on May 31st for the next season. That player can never play for that school again--even off scholarship.
3) Players cut to free a scholarship for someone else may transfer with immediate eligibility to any school that will have them. Conferences could not make bylaws prohibiting movement among conference teams (e.g. Alabama player X could transfer to Auburn instead of getting a medical hardship scholarship).
4) LOIs are still binding for the player, but require the school to provide five years of scholarship, living, and academic support. Players may void the LOI by transferring of their own accord and these transfers would be treated identically to transfers under the current system. Players cut to make room for another scholarship player still get a full ride, but don't count against the 85 scholarship limit.
5) APR still exists, but players cut to make room for other scholarships still count for the remainder of their career.
6) Grayshirting still exists, but it exact stipulations are detailed on the LOI the school gives the player to sign.
7) Scholarships are only revokable for expulsion or conviction by a court for a non-misdemeanor crime, and the athlete may challenge scholarship revocation for anything short of a felony conviction in arbitration by the NCAA.
8) ADDED! Injuries happen. However, after May 31st, that injured player still counts against the 85 scholarship limit for the year. If a player, say a certain Freshman QB, goes down after four games, too bad. Medical redshirt policies would still apply for further eligibility, however. This would stop mysterious "injuries" from felling a 3rd string guard if Jadeveon Clowney wanted to delay his commitment until June 1st.
My reasoning is pretty simple. 85 scholarship players are allowed at any time, which makes sense. Everyone on the team counts. This is the obvious step to eliminate the specific problem of oversigning. The rest of the steps are designed to protect the athlete, and to some extent, the program.
I completely respect coaches wanting to cut certain players, but the ultimate goal should be to give everyone a chance to earn their degree. It's abhorrent that LSU could take a scholarship away from someone after school starts and send them home. My proposal eliminates the incentive to do that. Since the LOI counts through the next season, a better player couldn't commit late and cause a coach to cull his herd. It would also increase the risk for schools that routinely sign marginal students. If the recruit doesn't qualify, the school loses that scholarship for a season.
The rest of the rules are designed to protect student-athletes. Scholarship football players are really special athletes at top schools, and not all will become great players. The money involved in big-time football is big enough that schools can continue to support athletes who get hurt or don't live up to their hype. I choose five years for a degree because players are often forced to take fewer credits in the Fall and need a 5th year to graduate.
The final, somewhat controversial item might be grayshirting. I don't mind the idea, per se. I'd grayshirt at Michigan before taking a scholarship at CMU, but the details should be stipulated up front.
Thoughts? What obvious items have I missed?
So, Orson asked the DOD to perform a flyover at his son's first birthday party. I'm not going to weigh in on the merits of the flyover, but there are some key learning points we can all take from his somewhat flawed request. I deal with this shit at work, and need to let it out. Also might help Hoover over at NROTC get some solid flyovers next Fall.
1. Flexibility is key.
Here, Orson has some positives and negatives. On the plus side, he's willing to accept any of the military's prominent demonstration teams. However, you'll notice in block 2 that he specifically requests only F-22 Raptors. They aren't based near Atlanta, Orson's hometown, thus requiring added logistical support. Accepting an AC-130 from Hurlburt or JSF from relatively nearby Eglin AFB might make his request more supportable. Perhaps even a T-34C Turbomentor from Pensacola.
Kids, the military wants to help, help us help you and give us some flexibility.
Other negatives here: the request must be in at least 30 days prior. Planning is important.
2. Don't obviously lie.
Believe it or not, the people who approve flyovers are familiar with this form. Air Traffic Control approval is needed to fly in Atlanta's airspace--it's got one of the busiest airfields in the country. Honesty matters, regardless of what Jim Carey thought in Liar, Liar.
NOT A CLASSIC!
3. Okay, a little lying is okay.
Blocks 11-15, while seemingly innocuous, probably all need to be answered yes to be approved. Check that, the various public relations orders say they MUST be answered "YES."
Block 11. Does the local government approve? It approves by not actively disapproving.
Block 12. YouTube counts. After all, that's how this feedback was obtained:
Those guys aren't pilots anymore--probably.
Block 13. We know it's in the South, but seriously.
Block 14. See Block 13
Block 15. You aren't putting the Monty Burns' sun blocker up, right?
These are creative answers kids. Except 13 and 14. Don't be racist. Seriously.
4. I think everyone is getting the point, but I've got one final thing to remind you of:
1:35 to a military pilot means either a) 0135 (1:35 am) or b) 0135 zulu (6:35 am on the east coast). Either would be a terrifying surprise.
Kids, anyone can get a flyover for their ridiculous public event. Just remember to fill out the form, give everyone 30 days notice, know someone important in the military aviation rank structure, and give some creative answers to very important questions. Work the system well enough, and you might just get this:
Get into the Air Force Academy and you might even get to see a flyover wearing those stupid hats.
Tim didn't include the full All Big-10 Team for 2010 as voted on by the coaches. Denard is an honorable mention, presumably because only the coaches vote for the whole team while the media also vote on Player of the Year. Congrats to all, including David Molk (1st Team), Roy Roundtree, Jonas Mouton, and Mike Martin (2nd Team), and Steve Shilling (Honorable Mention).
Also, Ryan Kerrigan took home Defensive POY, Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) was voted Lineman of the Year and his teammate James White is Freshman of the Year.
2010 All-Big Ten Conference Football Team
As selected by CONFERENCE COACHES
|FIRST TEAM||OFFENSE||SECOND TEAM|
|Dan Persa, Northwestern||Quarterback||Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin|
|Mikel Leshoure, Illinois||Running Back||Evan Royster, Penn State|
|Dan Herron, Ohio State||Running Back||John Clay, Wisconsin|
|Tandon Doss, Indiana*||Receiver||Marvin McNutt, Iowa#|
|Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa*||Receiver|
|Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State*||Receiver|
|David Molk, Michigan||Center||Mike Brewster, Ohio State|
|Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State||Guard||Julian Vandervelde, Iowa|
|John Moffitt, Wisconsin||Guard||Justin Boren, Ohio State|
|Mike Adams, Ohio State||Tackle||Riley Reiff, Iowa|
|Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin||Tackle||D.J. Young, Michigan State|
|Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin||Tight End||Allen Reisner, Iowa|
|Dan Conroy, Michigan State||Kicker||Derek Dimke, Illinois|
|FIRST TEAM||DEFENSE||SECOND TEAM|
|Adrian Clayborn, Iowa||Line||Corey Liuget, Illinois|
|Cameron Heyward, Ohio State||Line||Karl Klug, Iowa|
|Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue||Line||Mike Martin, Michigan|
|J.J. Watt, Wisconsin||Line||Ollie Ogbu, Penn State|
|Greg Jones, Michigan State||Linebacker||Martez Wilson, Illinois|
|Ross Homan, Ohio State||Linebacker||Jeremiha Hunter, Iowa|
|Brian Rolle, Ohio State||Linebacker||Eric Gordon, Michigan State|
|Shaun Prater, Iowa||Defensive Back||Brett Greenwood, Iowa*|
|Tyler Sash, Iowa||Defensive Back||Johnny Adams, Michigan State*|
|Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State||Defensive Back||Trenton Robinson, Michigan State*|
|Jermale Hines, Ohio State||Defensive Back||Chris L. Rucker, Michigan State*|
|Defensive Back||Aaron Henry, Wisconsin*|
|Anthony Santella, Illinois||Punter||Aaron Bates, Michigan State|
HONORABLE MENTION: ILLINOIS: Jeff Allen, Nate Bussey, Trulon Henry, Graham Pocic, Tavon Wilson; INDIANA: Damarlo Belcher, James Brewer, Mitch Ewald; IOWA: Christian Ballard, Mike Daniels, Adam Robinson, Ryan Donahue; MICHIGAN: Denard Robinson, Stephen Schilling; MICHIGAN STATE: Edwin Baker, Kirk Cousins, Mark Dell, Joel Foreman, Charlie Gantt, Marcus Hyde, Jerel Worthy; MINNESOTA: D.J. Burris; NORTHWESTERN: Drake Dunsmore, Jeremy Ebert, Brian Peters; OHIO STATE: Devin Barclay, DeVier Posey, Terrelle Pryor, John Simon; PENN STATE: Quinn Barham, Chris Colasanti, D'Anton Lynn, Derek Moye; PURDUE: Ricardo Allen, Dwayne Beckford, Carson Wiggs; WISCONSIN: Montee Ball, Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus, Peter Konz, Bill Nagy, Blake Sorensen, Mike Taylor, Ricky Wagner, Philip Welch, James White, Kevin Zeitler.
|OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:||Denard Robinson, Michigan|
|OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR:||Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin|
|DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:||Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue|
|DEFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE YEAR:||Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue|
|FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR:||James White, Wisconsin|
Big Ten Sportsmanship Award Honorees: Tavon Wilson, ILL; Tyler Replogle, IND; Ricky Stanzi, IOWA; Mark Moundros, MICH; Kirk Cousins, MSU; Jon Hoese, MINN; Corbin Bryant, NU; Bryant Browning, OSU; Brett Brackett, PSU; Ryan Kerrigan, PUR; Scott Tolzien, WIS.
I'm at the tail end of a great week. My wife is pregnant with our first child and I'm on vacation visiting business schools. Obviously, Michigan's Ross is my first choice. It's a great school, the new building is fantastic (check it out if you haven't been), and its got a unique program that matches perfectly with my desired career path. I just hit "send" on the application and feel great about my chances.
Unfortunately, that's the problem. Despite every piece of positive news, I've got a very specific, overwhelming concern--will Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton be serviceable Big 10 linebacker this season? Add to that concerns about running backs, Mike Martin going pro after the season, and the shocking lack of depth in the secondary, and I'm legitimately worried. I spend my days concocting reasons why UMass's success shouldn't be a concern and why our defense can succeed in the Big 10.
Let's add another layer. I don't know a person dedicated or knowledgeable enough with which to watch a game. Everyone knows Denard Robinson is awesome at this point, but how many can appreciate Omameh destroying Te'o on the long touchdown against Notre Dame? This isn't an insult to others, but an indictment of my personality.
Brian had the long-standing email asking why he was a fan and why football was important. I'm starting to ask myself the same question. Last Saturday, I sat in my house screaming at the TV while the defense struggled. As my wife aptly points out, I don't take the same joy in watching the offense perform in a way I may never see again as a Michigan fan.
I always wanted someone like Donovan McNabb to wear the Maize and Blue. Now that a better player with better coaching (I really believe this) is running around making defenses look stupid, I take little joy in their successes. I almost broke my laptop when Rudolph scored his touchdown. When Michigan took the lead and eventually sealed the victory on Crist's throw out of the end zone, I was mildly satisfied.
My question to you, the fan, follows: why is football important to you? Why do you love Michigan football to the point of losing your temper, screaming at the TV, and investing your emotional happiness in 20-somethings you'll likely never meet?
I can't answer my question right now. I love Michigan football simply because I love Michigan football. "Why" is completely absent from the equation. I've got a love of my home state that somehow overrides enormous parts of my logical person and manifests itself in an intense desire to see the Wolverine's football team succeed. Is it guilt at leaving while the state struggles? Why do I care? Why do you? I think this exercise may help those of us that are struggling as the program completes (hopefully) its growing pains and become the ninja football machine we hope for late at night.