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04/15/2015 - 1:51pm "True fans" by that definition are arguably suckers, though...

If fans financially reward administrative malfeasance, they will usually get more administrative malfeasance. It's somewhat self-defeating...

04/15/2015 - 12:34pm Advocating for massive changes to amateurism...

is not beyond the scope of what a Michigan AD can do. Michigan carries a massive stick and perhaps the most prestige and cache in college sports. I think a Michigan AD saying publicly "we shouldn't prevent revenue athletes from receiving external endorsement income and, yeah, they probably deserve market wages somewhere down the line" would be a monumental catalyst for progressive change. 

03/18/2015 - 7:14pm You are conflating price with cost. The sticker price of tuition

has nothing to do with the marginal cost to the Universit of "educating" athletes, and that's the relevant measure to consider when we're trying to ascertain the actual cost to the institution of fielding these teams. Now in some situations, there are institutions that have very tightly fixed class sizes, which means that a student who does not pay for any tuition represents an opportunity cost.  But that opportunity cost is the average tuition charged, which in all cases is lower than the sticker price of tuition.  That concept does not apply at most D-1 institutions. 


What you call gold-plating, I call fixed costs and capital investments

Then you're using the terms "fixed costs and capital investments" wildly incorrectly. Michigan does not need to pay its Olympic Sport coaches 6-figure salaries, build $20 million rowing palaces, etc., and none of those costs is an "investment" since none of those sports stands a chance of generating enough interest/demand to cover those costs. 

03/18/2015 - 6:07pm The marginal cost of enrollment is MUCH LESS

than sticker tuition. It's not even close, your argument is probably the craziest thing I've ever seen posted on Mgoblog. Post-secondary education is a Veblen Good; for the most part, institutions generate more demand by raising prices.  Modern non-profit institutions engage in a significent amount of Gold Plating to spend the surpluses/profits they take in. Call it "bloat," administrative waste, whatever.


Athletes, especially in Olympic Sports, do not "require" expensive facilities, and at institutions that don't have lucrative revenue sports tend to have much cheaper facilities and travel. Treating "access to facilities" as compensation is akin to saying that Foxconn employees are compensated by working in a nice factory. 

03/18/2015 - 4:04pm That's not correct. Most revenue sport athletes

who receive a GIA now would do better if the compensation cap were destroyed, and the benefits go to administrators, coaches, and third parties. The actual cost to the institution of enrolling Olympic Sport athletes is much lower than the sticker price of tuition. Hundreds of institutions that do not have massively profitable football and men's basketball programs still field Olympic Sport programs, they just don't have as much bloat.  


Theft is theft. The institutions don't disgorge the benefits they steal from revenue athletes upon graduation.  Many revenue athletes who would be better off without the compensation cap do not end up receiving a payout after their eligibility expires.  


"Choose freely" is not a defense to an antitrust violation. It means college sports aren't slavery. That's an awfully low bar.  

03/18/2015 - 3:55pm And most industries don't have monopsonistic anti-labor

cartels who offer take-it-or-leave-it adhesive non-competes.  That's the real rub, coaches get to have independant entities bidding against each other for their services in an almost entirely unfettered market. Players get the business end of a monopsonistic cartel.  

03/18/2015 - 3:05pm Those contracts pose risk to both sides;

An AD might misread a coach's ability and  end up Ferentz-ing him/herrself (or the sucessor) and being stuck with expensive, long term mediocrity. That's true with long term contracts in everything-pro sports, law firms, Home Depot, whatever. That's one of the reasons the last round of collective bargaining in the NBA was so odd. The owners wanted universal (mostly) short term contracts badly. That's a feature if your GM made a bunch of poor decisions, but it also means that if your GM was a genius or really lucky (e.g. John Hart for the Cleveland Indians in the early 1990s, or Jerry Krause with the Bulls in the late 1980s) you lose a significant amount of value. 

03/18/2015 - 2:48pm All coaches and players should have the same economic rights.

Of course the market value of the men's basketball and football players is, and would likely continue to be, substantially higher than that of wrestlers and swimmers. But the college sports cartel victimizes some "Olympic Sport" athletes too (particularly by quashing their ability to receive third-party endorsement opportunities).

03/18/2015 - 2:36pm One problem I have with that argument is the MLB owners made

it (in much more melodramatic form) in the early 1970s against MLB free agency. And yet, the host of horribles they *swore* (like literally, in court and before Congress) would occur not only didn't happen, in some ways free agency actually enhanced player stability. 


I am not a soothsayer but my guess is that, if the college sports cartel allowed free transfer, the stars at weaker programs would mostly stay put and would not be the biggest risks to transfer.  The backups at the power schools would be the biggest risks to transfer, and I think that would probably improve the quality of football and men's basketball. 

03/18/2015 - 2:28pm That is an issue the market deals with through contractual risk.



See Jim McElwain. Or AFC Ajax. 


If CMU's AD thinks he has an extraordinary head football coach who is a strong risk to leave for a wealthier program, he can offer that coach a contract with a lot of guaranteed $$ and a much higher buyout.  Those contracts shift some/most of the risk of poor future performance from the coach to the AD/institution, but  they also shift some of the "risk" of future elite performance (or stated differently "risk of unilateral gain of future elite performance") from the coach to the institution.

03/18/2015 - 12:55pm Agree, but I wouldn't limit congruity to transfer rules;

The players should have the same economic rights as coaches. Period, full stop. 

03/18/2015 - 12:53pm Another move that's bad for players, but good for most coaches.

The courts cannot obliterate this anti-labor cartel fast enough. 

03/17/2015 - 8:46am I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for, but

you might be referring to this?…

03/16/2015 - 6:47pm Not really. It's "subjective" the same way choosing between

winning the lottery and getting punched in the nose is "subjective." Yeah, there are people out there who'd choose the latter; they're the distinct minority and usually a little scrambled in the noggin ( sort of  like the eight people who prefer Virginia's torpid sludgeball to, say, the Miami-OKC 2012 Finals).  

03/16/2015 - 6:33pm There are still 200+ games left in the NBA season.

Scoring in the last full NBA season (13-14) was a full 2 ppg/team higher than it was in 2007-08.  The age limit has nothing to do with it, as 1) the average age has dropped, as I pointed out; 2) there is no evidence that teams draft "better" with one-and-done than they did with high schoolers or that it improves player development (quite the opposite, in fact); and 3) the 18 year olds who couldn't play right away didn't play. They mostly sat until they were 19. 


Look at the entire F4 in 2006.  Both games had massive declines in viewership from the previous year (1.2 million decline for the early game 4.4 million (!) decline for the late game). That was the F4 without a #1 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams, and the ratings for the F4 and Finals were historically awful, although the GM-UF game wasn't the leading driver of that. 

03/16/2015 - 5:15pm You're getting heterogeneity by offering a lower quality

product in modern college basketball. That's not beneficial for college basketball or for the entertainment market. 

03/16/2015 - 5:09pm NBA scoring bottomed at 93.4 ppg in 2004. It was 101.0 ppg

in 2013-14. Pace bottomed out at 88.9 poss/48 in 1999, and has rebounded to 93.4 poss/48. Meanwhile the average age of a player has dropped by an entire year since 2000, so no, the age limit has nothing to do with it. 


In the NFL and in college football, both scoring and offensive efficency have increased.  Teams averaged 5.5 yards per play in 2014, a full .5 yard per play more than they averaged in 2000. 


The year George Mason made the F4 had one of the lowest TV ratings and lowest viewership in NCAA tournament history.

03/16/2015 - 4:24pm I am! The NBA is a much better basketball product.

I'd like to see the NCAA improve it's product, if not to match the NBA's level, at least to get where it was in the early 1990s. 

03/16/2015 - 3:49pm It's pushing against the low-talent teams, who should

be pushed against. College football, NBA basketball, and NFL football are moving in the opposite (more free-flowing, higher scoring, less UVA-style ghastly sludgeball) direction. 


03/16/2015 - 3:08pm It's not just nostalgia; in 1991, D-1 teams averaged 76.7 ppg.

Over 9 ppg/team (18 ppg overall) more than they average now. That is a massive difference.  My BOTE estimation for possessions/game in 1991 is 75/game, a huge difference from 2002 (69/game), and a jaw-dropping difference from 2015 (64.8/game). 


Again, watch some major games from the early 1990s. It was a totally different game. 

03/16/2015 - 2:40pm They got big audiences because of their opponents.

And the people who have been watching their games who aren't UVA fans have been complaining about how unentertaining they are to watch, so much so that UVA's President walked around the arena with a "Virginia isn't Boring" sign. 


The problem with your position is that UVA isn't the Yankees, or Kentucky. People don't inherently have an bias against UVA (except a Rolling Stone editor, I guess?) that they shoehorn arguments/agenda into.  They are watching your games and feeling bored/unentertained. 

03/16/2015 - 2:35pm Did Michigan's FB game with Maryland mean anything

this year? How about Indiana-Penn State? Or Vanderbilt-Tennessee?


Lots of CFB games mean nothing, and making 10 point leads quasi-insurmountable makes games less compelling to watch, not more.  If you need "meaning" to convince yourself to watch a sporting event, you arguably aren't actually entertained by it. You really aren't  more entertained by this?

...than by Wisconsin or Virginia's oafish bigs bounce passing back and forth for 30 seconds/possession? 

This argument that "CBB should be different than the NBA by being less entertaining" doesn't make much sense to me.  

03/16/2015 - 2:08pm 19th in 2010, 3rd in 2011, 20th in 2012, 108th in 2013,

4th in 2014. 


Those are Kenpom's recent rankings for Wisconsin's offensive efficiency. They are usually both 1) extremely efficient, and 2) extremely dull. 

03/16/2015 - 2:03pm Lol. Have you watched NBA basketball recently?

It's a substantially better product if you like entertaining plays and jaw-dropping athleticism. There are teams that "win with defense" in the NBA, it's just a more entertaining brand of defense (lots of blocks, steals, and counter-attacks) than what college teams do now. 

03/16/2015 - 2:00pm Michigan was 210th in tempo in 2013.

That's not my ideal, but it's not the NIU/UVA/Wisconsin sludgeball garbage that's pushing the game to new aesthetic lows. If we changed the rules a little bit to make one of his less entertaining defensive strategies unpalatable (and the entire defensive strategy UVA, Wisconsin, NIU, Denver use), we'd be faster and more entertaining. 

What does "both ways" mean? Beilein's style is not my preferred one, I've already said that. But he's Michigan's coach, and when he did have elite talent he did at times push the pedal. If he weren't Michigan's coach I would root against him the way I root viscerally against Bo Ryan, Tony Bennett, Ben Jacobson, etc. 


03/16/2015 - 1:39pm It was a wise rule change that was intended to change behavior.

If the officials had the temerity/competence to stick with it, it was designed to disincentivize pack line, flop-charge defense as a viable defensive tactic. That would force a lot of coaches hands to implement more aggressive offensive and defensive systems (leading to more entertaining play). 

03/16/2015 - 1:31pm I love Beilein because he's Michigan's coach;

and I love how the team played in 2013. Especially against Louisville; instead of trying to "shorten the game" and play unentertaining sludgeball, he ran with a running team and produced a highly entertaining 82-76 classic that might have gone the other way if Trey Burke's block of Peyton Siva had been officiated correctly. 


But I don't like his defense's reliance on flop-charges. I don't entirely agree that basketball has become "more of a thinking man's game" than it was in the 1980s. There is an advanced-stat case for many teams to play fast, risk a few more TOs, and trade defensive "packing" for attempted TOs. But the coaches today chose to prefer a different set of risks, and the officiating enables them to do so. 

03/16/2015 - 1:25pm The NBA is a substantially more entertaining product....

Being more like the NBA is a feature, not a bug. 


But I'd settle for being more like college basketball was in 1991. Watch this #1 UNLV @ #2 Arkansas game from 1991.


112-105 in regulation, with more dunks, layups, and blocks (and, you know; entertainment)  than UVA or Wisconsin probably had all year this year.

03/16/2015 - 1:09pm I couldn't disagree with you more on this, and most CBB viewers

agree with me. If you want to say there's a pace crisis instead of a skill crisis, that's fine, but that is a massive decline in the number of possessions from an already slow 2002. 2002 wasn't the golden era of CBB; the late 1980s-early 1990s was, when scoring and pace were substantially higher then they were in 2002.  And subjectively, go to youtube and watch some of UNLV or Duke's games from the early 1990s. They look NOTHING like the sludgefest of today. 


Basketball is supposed to be a highly athletic game of insanely quick decision making. It's not supposed to be Wisconsin/UVA running dull-as-dishwater swing offenses until 34 seconds run off the shot clock, then selling out to prevent the most exciting play in sports (the fast break) and packing the lane with unathletic defenders to try to draw flop-charges. 


Here's three easy fixes and one hard one;


1) Get rid of 98% of charge calls.


2) Cut the shot clock down to 24 seconds.


3) Severely penalize fouls that hinder fast breaks.


4) Eliminate the cap on compensation and try to pay the superstars to play more than one or two seasons. 

01/14/2015 - 11:15am Early signing stinks, but why do the stud VHTs sign anything?

I guess in basketball they don't, but other than Malik McDowell last year I haven't heard about that for football. Why do the guys with options sign anything at all? 

01/08/2015 - 5:37pm Something tells me if he was Philly's OC

and put up 15 a game you'd link Philly's depth chart and say "look at the depth chart."



01/08/2015 - 3:34pm If Les Miles or Hoke hired Fisch

it would be torch and pitchfork time. Very odd hire. 

01/08/2015 - 3:33pm He was and Weber regressed terribly under him because

Fisch messed with his throwing motion, preventing him from running and forced the "less explosion/fewer mistakes" tradeoff that "pro style" coaches seem to love.


Ugh. I trust in Jimmy but I'd rather see a flyer on a D-II guy or a first time coach or something. 

01/08/2015 - 3:07pm He was with the Ravens from 2004-2007

as a QB/WR assistant (basically the assistant to David Shaw), during a period where the Ravens had deadful QB play.


He was Denver's WR coach in 2008, when the Broncos had good WRs.


He was Seattle's QB coach in 2010, when Seattle had dreadful QB play.



01/08/2015 - 2:36pm Ugh. I remember him well at Minnesota....

He was terrible there. Not that it should matter with Jim Harbaugh as the head coach, but Fisch is a "wrong side of offensive history" guy. 

01/06/2015 - 9:11am Some of these moves take a leap of faith:

SJSU ran a "west coast offense" under Dougherty, and it truly sucked this year. 116th in scoring (19 ppg), 94th in YPP (5.28). Last year it was much better but not elite-just solid.  I know this guy's not coming in as the OC but still. 


That combination (poor #s + outdated philosophy) raises my hackles, though I know it's likely that Harbaugh is good enough to succeed with it. 

10/28/2014 - 3:15pm That IS meddling. He should judge the coach (singular;

not coaches; if he thinks his coach can't pick a staff then he's got the wrong coach) by the scoreboard and maybe advanced stats.  


Period, full stop.


Anything else at best provides irrelevant information to an AD.  At worst, it hinders transparency and communication within the program.  

08/25/2014 - 11:14am Great stuff, Brian. But I disagree with your conclusion:

Michigan's going to recruit well almost regardless of who the coach is. Not sure "solid recruiting" is ever a reason to keep a coach at a place like Michigan. 

08/04/2014 - 2:13pm Loved "Fear of a Black Wallet"...

His examination of the lunacy of somebody in a free market saying "corrupted by money and other financial influences" was great too. 

07/25/2014 - 5:20pm If you really feel that way, major college football is already

probably beyond what you claim to enjoy. If you really felt that way, you probably wouldn't have been a Michigan football fan for quite some time, and would instead focus on Michigan club sports or some of the really unpopular nonrevenue sports (although even there many of the athletes are competing to obtain or keep scholarships ($$), so even that's problematic for you).


We appear to agree though that, on the macro level, most fans' revealed preferences' show that they don't feel like that at all. They can't get enough of Cam Newton, Chad Johnson, T. OwensCristiano Ronaldo, etc.  It's not what people like to hear but mercs usually slaughter earnest patriots..., 

07/25/2014 - 5:02pm Amateurism was born as a classist tool of oppression

that was literally used to keep working class people out of athletics, and has only gone downhill since. College football has probably never been "amateur" and certainly has not been so by any meaningful definition since the 1950s.  Further, your statement is self-contradictory; if college football were truly "amateur," it would be run by amateurs and would not generate large amounts of revenue.


There's nothing mutually incompatiable about providing educational benefits to players and giving them monetary compensation. It's a ridiculous assertion. 

07/25/2014 - 4:54pm They're already employees, the question is the distribution

of the revenue they're generating. In a free market with independant entities (universities) bidding against each other for their services, the players would get most of it. Maybe all. Right now they get almost none of it.


Why would they go to school if the distribution changed? Why do they go to school now? To generate fan interest, of course. Nothing about that sham would change. 

07/22/2014 - 5:09pm I never said anything about eliminating antitrust...

robust competition law and contract enforcement is a necessity for vibrant markets. 


The rest of your post basically describes what we have with major college sports today. The biggest difference with a free market system would be the distribution of the revenue (away from administrators, bureaucrats, and coaches; toward players).  

07/22/2014 - 1:45pm I don't know if cfb was ever played by "student peers" at

the top levels. Before cfb existed, Harvard was using ringers (and accusing others of using ringers) in its boat races in the 1850s. Yale had a six figure slush fund to buy football players in the 1880s (more than $2 million in today's $$).  If you read Bill Reid's 1905 diary/book, Ivy League football programs were recruiting semi-literate ringers and committing widespread academic fraud at the turn of the 20th century (and paying their coaches well; Reid made $7,000/year to coach Harvard, more than any of Havard's professors and equivalent to about $180,000 in today's $$).   


I could drone on, and on, and on, but for the sake of brevity I'd say 1) that if a social institution has deviated from a concept (like student-athlete amateurism) for almost its entire existence, it's pretty safe to say that adherence to that concept is not driving interest in the institution; 2) even so, to the extent that people believe that the value of creating nominal "student-athlete" ties between players and institutions exceeds the costs (which are quite low), those ties will continue in a free market in a manner that no player would have legal standing (or likely any cognizable legal claim) to challenge.   

07/22/2014 - 1:15pm I'd tweak Gordon Gekko's screed a little;

Greed is. 

We can try to create systems to fight it, but as Leonid Brezhnev could tell you, you can't destroy a market; you can only turn it black.


Instead of hiding from the market for players or creating historically inaccurate "warrior-poet" narratives to pretend it's not there, let's try something new. Let's put on our Big Boy Pants and embrace it.    

07/22/2014 - 12:47pm The "vast majority" of D-1 football programs

do not lose money. Many athletic departments (not football programs; athletic departments) operate in the red, but a substantial amount of that is non-profit gold plating.


I'll say something for student subsidies too; at FSU, full time students pay  an athletics fee that's like $150 or so per year, depending on the number of credit hours the student takes. However, FSU students get in free to every FSU athletic event; football, men's basketball, baseball, etc. To me, that's a better deal than charging football-fan students $295 for a season ticket. 

07/22/2014 - 12:23pm Those are good questions. Some thoughts:

(and thanks!):


 Should schools be allowed to terminate scholarships at any time for any or no reason?


It should be based on contract. Elite recruits would be able to command fully guaranteed four-in-five deals, with stipends and GIAs from the top programs (Michigan, Alabama, TAMU, etc.). Mediocre recruits might get only a week-to-week offer from elite programs but might get a guaranteed offer from lesser programs (e.g. EMU, CMU), and at that point the recruit has a market choice. 


• Should steroids and other drugs be "decriminalized" (in the sense of no NCAA or school penalties, not necessarily as a matter of federal or state policy).


College athletic departments should not enforce laws against recreational drugs. Personally I'd decriminalize PEDs at every level too, but I think there's plenty of room for reasonable disagreement there. The problem that the prohibitionists' side needs to better address: is prohibition effective, or is PED use rampant? If it's rampant and there aren't many effective ways to make it less rampant, the prohibition leads to "grey market" strategies (similar to those created by the current cap on compensation), which might be more disruptive to competition than the PED use itself.


• Should athletes have to go to class, or even attend school?


Why do they go to class or attend school now? Why would altering the distribution of their value affect the nominal link between university and player?  Personally, I would leave it up to the university, and I'd suspect that most schools would continue to foster that link to the same extent they do today, because 1) that link is "cheap" and very tenuous as it is now, and 2) it is perceived to generate fan interest and revenue.  


• Should schools be able to trade a student athlete to another school, as a professional player would be traded?


Should be a matter of contract. Better recruits and players would be able to negotiate for stricter restrictions on transfer. 

07/22/2014 - 11:59am I think you're citing D-1 wide numbers....

...which is a measure that lumps together programs that are generating huge revenues (e.g. Kentucky basketball, Alabama football) with programs that are not (e.g. Yale basketball).    A friend of mine is writing an article that carves out the big time football and men's basketball programs and then compare those programs with the non-revenue programs, and his preliminary findings are indeed starker than the numbers you cited.   

07/22/2014 - 11:07am They've had 40 years to generate self-supporting interest.

If they can't do so in 40 years, it isn't going to happen and we're wasting time pretending that it will. 


I don't agree with your interpretation of Title IX (schools are "spending" resources on one group while receiving resources from another, so they wouldn't be "discriminating against" the former group by paying the latter; and needless to say, it's hard to argue that allowing all athletes to receive market compensation is "discrimination" against one group just because the market values that group's skills less), but to the extent that people do believe in it, the money for women's "educational opportunities" should come from general funds, not off the backs of football players. Title IX was not intended to finance (mostly) rich white girls' "educational opportunity" on the backs of (mostly) poor-lower middle class, (mostly) minoritiy males. 


07/22/2014 - 10:45am Turn back the clock to the early 1920s?

National polls and ranking systems have been around a long, long time. 


Honestly, if you want "amateur sports," they're available today. Today's club sports are probably closer to the  "amateur" ideal than college football has ever been. They're not very popular, but that shouldn't matter if that's what you really want. D-3 football is out there too; that's less "amateur" than club football, but it's less "professional" than BCS football, it's readily available in southern Michigan (Albion, Alma, K-Zoo, Olivet, Adrian, Tiffin, etc.) and tickets are dirt cheap.