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Old 12-08-2004, 05:31 PM   #1
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Default [Sports Central Newsletter] #119 - Why College Football is Broken

The Sports Central Newsletter
December 2004 - Issue #119

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|-- IN THIS ISSUE... --|

- Words From the Editor
- The O-Files: "Why College Football is Broken"
- Editor's Pick: "Athletes' Illicit Behavior Transcends Sports"
- Shots From the Lip: "Willingham Shortchanged in South Bend"



Hello folks,

College football is enormously popular in the United States, despite (or perhaps because of) its flawed way of determining a national champion. In what he calls a yearly ritual in the Sports Central Newsletter, Brad looks at what's wrong with college football and says that if the system is continually criticized for its blatant flaws, fans of the sport may be able to get their way (a playoff system) quicker than they think.

A large part of the attraction and appeal of college sports is the ubiquitous possibility of upsets, David vs. Goliath. March Madness is legendary for its unpredictable outcomes, equally as unpredictable as spring weather, and college football is largely devoid of this. Any sport where computers are a part of deciding the outcome is not high on my list of favorite sports.

Lastly, this is the final issue of 2004. The last 12 months have been enormous for us. We underwent a total revamping of the site and post more stories to the site than ever before. We've introduced a number of enjoyable columns and added popular features like our weekly NFL predictions to our arsenal. Thank you for your support over the last year, and we look forward to 2005 with much anticipation.

P.S. Please support our newsletter's sponsor, Game Day Ritual, a fantasy baseball game I think will be of interest to many of you. More details follow.

- Marc James
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|-- THE O-FILES -- |

"Why College Football is Broken"

By Brad Oremland

This column has become a yearly ritual. They say that given an infinite amount of time, a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters would eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Well, when confronted by an infinite number of articles by a thousand sportswriters with a thousand keyboards, maybe the NCAA will finally institute a college football playoff.

I wrote the following paragraph for the November 17, 2002 issue of this newsletter:

"Every year around this time, there is a chorus of cries for the creation of a playoff system in college football. The NCAA should take special notice that the cries are just as loud this year -- with two unbeaten teams in Division I-A at least temporarily stifling any controversy over who should play in a national championship game -- as they have been in the past, when as many as four teams were deemed worthy of playing for the title."

Fans wanted a playoff then, and we still want one now. Our stance has not changed because there are at least three teams that obviously deserve a shot at the national championship. We've been saying this for years. We saw the problems the BCS commissioners deliberately ignored.

The NCAA should be drooling over an impending playoff that features four or five undefeated teams and three or four popular and highly-regarded one-loss programs. Instead, it's agonizing over a system that clearly does not work.

Auburn won't get a chance to prove that it is the best team in the country. A top-five team -- either Cal or Texas -- will be relegated to a less prestigious bowl to make room for a two-loss ACC champion. Utah, in the year a mid-major program (from here on, I refuse to call them "non-BCS schools") finally gets invited to the dance, gets stuck with Pittsburgh. The Panthers have been playing well recently, so a bowl win isn't out of the question, but it would be a lot more fun to see the Utes face someone like Texas.

College football's season should conclude with an eight-team playoff, using the top eight teams in the BCS rankings. A year ago, I might have allowed for conference champions, but Virginia Tech, Michigan, and Pittsburgh don't deserve a shot at the national championship. Cal, Texas, Boise State, and Louisville might. The conference champs and the ninth- and 10th-ranked teams can whine about being left out, but if you've got two or three losses (or one against a weak schedule), you can't make a legitimate case for being the top team in country. Really, numbers seven and eight are only invited to give us an even number, and so they can't whine.

Consider this possible scenario for 2004-'05:

USC (12-0) vs. Boise St (11-0), Oklahoma (12-0) vs. Georgia (9-2), Auburn (12-0) vs. Utah (11-0), Cal (10-1) vs. Texas (10-1)

Even though there would probably be an upset in there somewhere, let's assume the favorites win out.
USC (13-0) vs. Cal (11-1), Oklahoma (13-0) vs. Auburn (13-0)

Oklahoma/Auburn would be the game of the year, with the victor advancing to face the winner of the Cal/USC rematch.

USC (14-0) vs. Oklahoma (14-0) would be a lot more dramatic than a matchup of two 12-0 teams that doesn't include the team many believe is the best in the country (Auburn). And imagine if Utah upset Auburn or Texas just crushed California. But I don't need to make this case to you. You want it. Poll after poll and study after study have shown that most fans want some form of a college football playoff, even if they have to settle for the so-called "BCS+1" game.
I believe that the current system is so flawed that it cannot last for another 10 years. And if enough people keep saying so, maybe we won't have to wait a decade.


Brad welcomes your feedback: mailto:[email protected]?subject=O-Files
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)


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There have been 14 new articles posted on Sports Central in the last week. Check them all out at: https://www.sports-central.org. The Editor's Pick is:

Athletes' Illicit Behavior Transcends Sports
By Diane M. Grassi

It has been quite the whirlwind in the sports world this past year, and none have been without scandal and deserved scrutiny. However, no individual athlete is above the game in which they are engaged. There must be a collective effort to protect the integrity of sports.




"Willingham Shortchanged in South Bend"

By Mike Round

After three seasons coaching the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, Tyrone Willingham was fired Tuesday morning. His 21-15 record included a 10-win debut season, but rumblings of discontent amongst both the alumni and student body and a lopsided defeat to the University of Southern California sealed his fate. Is Willingham a victim of the inflated expectations of Domers or was he short-changed because of his color?

Tyrone Willingham came to Notre Dame with an impeccable record at Stanford, where he understood the need to balance academic achievement with success on the field. He may not have been the university's first choice as head coach, but he had an impressive resume.

The logical approach when appointing a new head coach to a program in decline is to sit back and await gradual improvement. That's exactly the stance taken in South Carolina, where Lou Holtz inherited a moribund program and invigorated it to such an extent that Steve Spurrier can now look forward to challenging for a SEC title and even beyond during his tenure.

Willingham hit the ground running in South Bend, enjoying a magnificent first season, as opposed to Holtz in Columbia, who saw his team beaten week after week. Patently, that raised false expectations amongst fans, alumni and administrators.

The last two seasons of Willingham's reign saw only 11 wins. Unlike Gerry Faust and Bob Davie, Willingham didn't get to see out his tenure, completing only three seasons in South Bend. Willingham was one of the few black coaches in NCAA D-I football and many are quick to point to his color and link it to the apparent haste of his firing.

Notre Dame is not the most diverse university. Black students comprised 4.5% of Notre Dame's 2003 freshmen class. That's about 90 students out of 2,002. Nobody can say that Notre Dame's administrators are fully paid up members of the Klan but, without question, the university is hardly Grambling.

Faust and Davie were indisputably worse head coaches than Willingham and both are white. Both got a full five years in South Bend. A demonstration by predominantly black students after the firing was announced featured a banner proclaiming, "Equal treatment, not special treatment." Whether Willingham was short-changed because of his color or because the win-now mentality of modern college football dictated he go is irrelevant. The fact is he was.

Notre Dame isn't your regular university. It has standards that it expects its students and employees to adhere to. If you're representing Notre Dame on the football field, you're expected to play with passion, pride, intensity, and, above all, win within the rules -- but win. And when you're not on the field, you're expected to make your grades in class and if you don't, you'll sit it out on Saturday.

This criteria separates Notre Dame from the powers in NCAA football. Universities like Oklahoma, FSU, Auburn, Southern Cal, and Miami pay lip service to grades in class, behavior off the field, and individual integrity in their recruits -- Notre Dame actually mean it.

At South Bend they don't recruit the athlete with a rap sheet, no matter how talented. They suspend students who flunk class, or flout rules, no matter how important they are to the team. Elsewhere, the suspicion is that transgressions by athletes are covered up for the benefit of the win-loss column. And it works -- Miami, FSU and their ilk win championships.

Notre Dame hasn't won a national championship since Lou Holtz guided the Irish to the title in 1988. College football has moved on since the days of Tony Rice running the option. Now you need speed on both sides of the ball and a passing game. Rice, and his successor Rick Mirer, would routinely throw the ball just 15 times a game under Holtz. That doesn't cut it in 2004.

Willingham's successor, whoever it may be, knows he will be judged on wins, not GPAs. The firing of Willingham sends that message loud and clear. AD Kevin White rightly lauded Willingham for his work from Sunday to Friday with the team. Sadly for Tyrone, it's what happens on Saturday that really counts for the all-powerful alumni that write the checks out.

It's a strange world that we live in when success on the gridiron is judged to be more important that success in the classroom. Sure, Willingham's job was to be concerned with events on the football field, but how about some balance here people? The last time I looked, MIT hadn't challenged for a national championship, but their students didn't seem to be worrying about their future employment prospects because of it.

University honchos need to temper their expectations. Not every program can go undefeated or even 10-2. David Cutcliffe coached Ole Miss to 8-4, 7-5, 7-4, 7-6, 10-3, and 4-7 seasons, including four bowl victories. That wasn't good enough. The school fired him Wednesday after his lone losing season. If anything, this decision is worse than Notre Dame firing Willingham. Athletic Directors press the panic button at the first sign of lost revenue and it stinks.

If Notre Dame can't compete with the big southern universities for recruits, it can never be anything other than a seven-win team at best, especially as the Irish (honorably) refuse to schedule a bunch of cupcake games to boost their record, unlike the Bowden's and Tuberville's of this world who routinely pad the schedule with the likes of Alabama Computer Programming Tech.

When it comes to recruiting, Willingham struggled. But so did his predecessors. Notre Dame hasn't had a skill position player drafted in the first-round since Rick Mirer and Jerome Bettis were selected in 1993. That's hardly surprising as the weather in South Bend is hardly as enticing to an athlete with a choice as it is in southern California, Florida, Louisiana, or Alabama.

Having said that, it's darn cold in Ohio, Nebraska, and Oklahoma in winter, too, yet their universities recruit the blue-chip athletes. They offer them a winning program, a system tailored to showcase their skills, and a chance to go to the pro ranks. They also turn a blind eye to character flaws and underachievement in the classroom if the athlete is talented enough on the field. If Notre Dame wants to restore its former glory the suspicion is that the new coach will be handed carte blanche to do the same.

If that's the path the good burghers of South Bend choose for their university then it will be a sad day. Love them or loath them, Notre Dame is at least different. They separate themselves from the football factory universities who play on Saturdays by bringing other qualities into the equation rather than pure footballing ability. If Notre Dame takes the win-at-all-costs approach, it might please the sports-obsessed members of the alumni, NBC, and the bankers, but the stench of another corrupt program will linger over Indiana as it hangs over Tallahassee, Gainesville, Baton Rouge, Tuscaloosa, and the rest.


Mike welcomes your feedback: mailto:[email protected]?subject=SFTL
(Copy and paste the address if it isn't clickable.)


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(Thanks for reading! Next issue is set to come out on 01/02/05.)

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