All In All, A Good Run For Chris Berman

January 13, 2017

by John Furgele (Your 228)

ESPN announced last week that Chris Berman will no longer be their main NFL guy.  Berman (along with Bob Ley) is an ESPN original; he has been with the network since its inception in 1979.  In summation, Berman—love him or hate him—will be missed.

Berman was quick to point out that he is not retiring; he will still work for ESPN and will not be riding off into the sunset.  Berman’s longevity represents a lot when it comes to broadcasting.  The more one stays in the business, the more polarizing they become.  His supporters loved the shtick, the nicknames, the exasperated, running-out-of-breath end to sentences along with his natural enthusiasm.  His detractors, which seemed to grow with each passing year, will point to his notice me style, his calling himself The Swami and his constant need to be noticed and validated.

When ESPN began, it needed to be different.  Most thought there was no way that a 24-hour sports network could make it.  What would they show?  Where would they get their highlights from?  How many sports could they show?  In the 1970s, sports were confined to the weekends.  If you liked baseball, you had the Saturday Game of the Week on NBC and Monday Night Baseball on ABC.  If you were lucky to live near a major league team, there was a chance that a game might be shown on a Wednesday night, but other than that, you watched what you were given.

I grew up in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls area.  In the 1970s, we had the above mentioned baseball games to watch.  We also got see Montreal Expos games broadcasted on the CBC, and in 1977, the Toronto Blue Jays aired on CBC and then the CTV network.  The NHLs Buffalo Sabres aired on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate and back in the day, Channel 2 would show anywhere from 30 to 40 games.  We also had the NBA Buffalo Braves that aired on Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate.  The rest of the time, you had your radio and believe it or not, life was pretty good if you were a sports fan.  On the weekends, you could catch college football, college basketball, bowling, skiing and even some hockey and ABCs Wide World of Sports was a must watch.

Cable TV began making noise in the mid-1970s, and by 1979, ESPN debuted.  They didn’t have access or the rights to the “Big Four,” sports, so we got to see a lot of Canadian football, Australian Rules football and other bizarre events.  College basketball is what put ESPN on the map with help from the then bespectacled Dick Vitale.  ESPN helped grow college basketball to the point where filling out one’s bracket has become a staple in just about every office in America.

Berman was the charismatic one.  His nicknames for baseball players were funny and legendary.  Butch “Oil and Wynegar, Jerry “Rolls” Reuss, Steve “Alto” Sax and Jim “Two Silhouettes on” Deshaises pop into mind.  My favorite remains Ernest “I can see for riles and” Riles.  Critics pointed out that Berman was more clown and less “serious journalist,” so eventually, the nicknames faded away.  For me, it was an example of taking sports too seriously, but part of sports being taken as such is because of ESPN.  Now, you can’t just watch the game, you have to dissect it to the point of nausea.

Berman and Tom Jackson were Sunday night staples.  They showed highlights of every single game and it was something that many fans looked forward to.  It isn’t easy watching football from 1 pm to 7:30 pm each Sunday, but finding those 60 minutes to see Boomer and Jackson—from Louisville—was easy and a fun thing to do.  In 2006, the NFL forbade ESPN to show highlights and for the last ten years, Berman—and ESPN—have become less relevant.  The NFL Network has contributed to this as has Sunday Night Football on NBC.  They have the rights and because of this, ESPN’s role—and Berman’s—has diminished.  But, the highlight shows have not matched the quality that they were when ESPN carried them.

ESPN is struggling as more and more people continue to cut cable.  ESPN receives about $7.25 of everybody’s cable or satellite bill, by far the most of any network.  The second most expensive network gets about $1.65.  If you love sports, ESPN is a bargain, but if you don’t it can help justify ditching cable for a cheaper alternative.  Because of this, ESPN decided that it might be the right time to cut some expensive talent.  In addition to reducing Berman’s role—and salary—they have seen Colin Cowherd and Skip Bayless leave for Fox and have cut tons of staff in recent months.  The day is going to come where the right fees bubble will burst.  ESPN pays $2 billion per year to show Monday Night Football; $2 billion!   They pay Jon Gruden $6.5 million per year to broadcast one game per week, so there is no wonder why Gruden won’t take another coaching job is there?  Armageddon is not yet here as ESPN recently extended the Monday Night Football deal through 2021 for $15.2 billion.  But, when ESPN takes $10 or $11 from your bill, what will happen?  The diehards will pay $144 per year for sports, but will the spouses? The non-sports fan?  The young people living on their own for the first time?  And, as more people cut cable, what will ESPN do to re-invent itself?

They are trying to improve streaming in the hopes that they can hook and more importantly retain young people, but you can’t watch Monday Night Football on your phone as ESPN won’t allow it.  Even though they produce all the sports that air on ABC, they won’t put the major bowl games there as they try to force one’s hand into a cable subscription.  The Rose Bowl, the 5 pm New Year’s Day staple that aired for decades on NBC and then ABC  is now exclusively on ESPN, along with the College Football Playoff semifinals and championship game.

Berman will still be a presence going forward at ESPN.  The one bad move announced is that Berman will call a MLB Division Series for ESPN Radio.  Berman has lots of qualities, but play-by-play is not one of them.  Once a staple on baseball, he really does nothing with the sport all year and then jet-sets in for the playoffs.  And, saying he is terrible is being kind.  Why ESPN allowed this to be in his next contract is beyond puzzling.

Berman is one of the last giants in broadcasting.  The days of Howard Cosell are over, the bombastic “notice-me,” personalities are just about done.  Today’s network voices are much more subdued with Jim Nantz (CBS), Joe Buck (Fox), Al Michaels and Bob Costas (NBC).  Berman no longer fit the modern day profile and it was that and his age that is doing him in.  Could Berman have promised to tone things down for a three-year contract?  Perhaps, but it would not have been the same and we would have been sad to see a tamer Chris Berman.  He has aged before our eyes, his hair thinner, his waistline bigger, but his on-air personality has remained; for some that’s good, others bad.  For me, a good thing.

John Skipper heads ESPN and he has made it clear that it is his goal to cut costs and offer a great product.  The network has taken on many political issues and some accuse it of leaning too much to the left.  The sports fan hates this, he/she watches sports to escape real life, but the fact remains that there aren’t enough sports fans to drive huge ratings.  When Skipper let Mike Tirico leave for NBC, his motives were clear.  Replacing Berman was on Skipper’s agenda before he accepted the position.

There is no need to feel sad or bad for Berman.  In an era of job switching, Berman lasted at one company for 38 years—and he is not done yet—and that is commendable.

 

 

 

 

Bills Should Change Name Until They Make The Playoffs

January 1, 2017

by John Furgele (The 228, Accept No Imitations)

The Buffalo Bills have not made the playoffs for 17 seasons.  For those who struggle with math, the last playoff appearance occurred in 1999 in a game that was played in January, 2000.  To further depress Bills fans that game ended with the “Home Run Throwback or as others call it, “The Music City Miracle,” when the Tennessee Titans’ Lorenzo Neal fielded the kickoff, pitched to Frank Wychek who then threw a lateral across the field to Kevin Dyson who ran down the left sideline unscathed for the winning score.

Imagine that.  That’s a fan’s last playoff memory.  I hate to do this, but that was also the year that Doug Flutie started 15 games, went 10-5 and then sat out the meaningless finale.  In the finale, backup Rob Johnson shredded the Indianapolis Colts so impressively, that owner Ralph Wilson told head coach Wade Phillips to start Johnson in the playoff game.  Johnson didn’t play well in the AFC Wild Card Game, but he had the Bills up 16-15 before the Bills’ special teams broke down and that miraculous play occurred.

This offseason will be a tumultuous one for the team I call the Buffaloes (the Fighting Buffaloes after a win).  From 2000-2016, the Bills have never been 2-14 pitiful, but they have been 7-9, 8-8 and 9-7 mediocre.  In the NFL, this is called spinning your wheels; never bad enough to tear it down, never good enough to get over the hump to 10 or 11 wins that, in the NFL, will get you into the playoffs.

The fans have been loyal and for the most part, patient.  Teams that are 8-8 give fans false hope each and every year.  You know the fan’s mantra.  “If we can find a way to win that Raiders game and that Ravens game, we’re 10-6 and we’re in.”  Others might say, “If we can keep Sammy Watkins on the field for 16 games, that’s the two to three wins we need to get in.”

The Bills have tinkered and tinkered for 16 seasons.  Different coaches, different GMs, different QBs.  Marv Levy retired, came back to help, and then retired again.  At age 91, I think it is safe to say that he will stay retired.  Owner Ralph Wilson retired permanently when he left to meet his maker.  Doug Marrone coached the Bills to a 9-7 record in 2014, but because he couldn’t play nice with GM Doug Whaley exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and took an assistant coaches job at Jacksonville.  Think about that head scratcher.  He demoted himself!

Jim Kelly retired in 1996 and the Bills have been searching for his true successor ever since.  Again, for those with math deficiencies, that’s 20 seasons.  The Bills have been in the AFL and NFL since 1960 and its list of franchise quarterbacks is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.  How many “good” quarterbacks have they had?  Personally, I would label it at three.  There was Jack Kemp and statistically he was average at best, but he was a leader of men (as we saw later when he ran for Vice President) and led the Bills to back-to-back AFL championships in 1964 and 1965 under legendary coach Lou Saban.

There was Joe Ferguson from 1973-1984.  Fergy was tough as nails and was adored by most Bills fans.  In the early days, his main job was to hand the ball off to O.J. Simpson and that worked well.  The Bills went 9-5 in 1973 and 1974.  They made the playoffs in ’74, losing 32-14 to a team that was preparing to start its dynasty, the Pittsburgh Steelers.  The 1975 team went 8-6 and after two bad seasons in 1977 and 1978 and a 7-9 record (they were 7-6 after 13 games) in 1979, the team made back-to-back playoff appearances in 1980 and 1981. Fergy gets credit for longevity (12 seasons) and of course toughness.  He played the 1980 AFC Divisional Playoff Game with a broken ankle (a 20-14 loss).

Kelly (1986-1996) would be the third franchise QB as he led the Bills through the glory years, an era that saw Buffalo play in five AFC Championship Games (don’t forget 1988 and then 1990-1993), four Super Bowls and eight playoff appearances in those 11 seasons.  Many of us thought that the good times would be here for years to come as the Bills had become an organization that just re-tooled and reloaded rather than rebuilt every year.

After missing the playoffs in 1997, the Bills came back for two appearances in 1998 and 1999 with Doug Flutie working his magic.  Some may want to call Flutie the fourth franchise quarterback, but I will refrain for two reasons.  One, it was too small of a sample size; two, the Bills did everything in their wake to discredit him and not play him, always wanting someone else to be the guy.  But, if you want to count him, that’s fine. The main point, three or four in 57 seasons of play is not very good.

The Bills have tons of decisions to make this winter.  They have to pick a coach, decide if Tyrod Taylor is worth $90 million as well as determine the hierarchy in the front office.  Do they tear it down and start from scratch and suffer a 4-12 season or two? Or do they subtly tinker hoping that they can get that 10-win season and start making some playoff appearances?

Here’s what they should do?  Change their name for the 2017 season in the hopes that this record of futility ends.  The name:  Rochester Jeffersons.  Rochester is part of Bills Nation.  A good percentage of Bills fans come from the Rochester area.  The Rochester media covers the team full-time.  The Bills are as much as Rochester’s team as they are Buffalo’s, so changing the team name would be fine.  The Buffalo area fans might be hurt by this, but it would only be temporary, a year, maybe two; or until they make the playoffs.  And, the Bills hold their training camp at Saint John Fisher College, right outside the Flower City (Rochester).

Changing the name to Rochester Jeffersons would also evoke history.  The Jeffersons played in the NFL from 1922-1925.  In those four seasons, they never won a game, going 0-21-2, but in fairness they played most of their games on the road.  So, things can only go up when they go back in time and become the Rochester Jeffersons.

The only fly in the ointment would be if the Jeffersons enjoy immediate success.  What if they go 11-5 and win the Super Bowl because of the name change?  The tides would be turned, so if they go back to the Buffalo Bills, things could revert to this current period of futility. Would those in Greater Buffalo want their name back and run the risk of returning to their current mediocre ways?

The sooner this change is made, the better.  Let the success run rampant!

 

 

 

 

Stay or Go? NHL Faces Tough Decision.

December 30, 2016

by John Furgele (The 228 You Can Trust)

Believe it or not, the 2018 Winter Olympics are just one year away and before you know it, South Korea will be the focus of the sports world. The games are great as sports like bobsleigh, luge and skiing get some much-needed attention. But, for the hard-core sports fan, the games are about international hockey. And, the $64,000 question; will the NHL allow its players to play?

Right now, the answer would be no. Let’s be frank, the league really doesn’t want to send its players to the games. The reasons are obvious. First, do they really want to stop their season for two weeks like they have since 1998? Second, do they want to run the risk of a star player to getting hurt (John Tavares, 2014) in what really is a glorified all-star tournament? Third, is the debate over who should pay their costs and insurance over Olympic participation? The league itself doesn’t believe they should pay. Since the International Ice Hockey Federation runs the Olympics, they think the IIHF should absorb the costs and the IIHF disagrees. The league might be willing to the let the players go if the NHLPA pays the freight, something that the players are naturally opposed to.

There are, of course, reasons to play. Hockey is not football; in fact; of the major four sports, it is definitively fourth in popularity, TV ratings and revenues. Football is king by a wide margin with basketball and baseball running nip-and-tuck for second and third. Hockey is out of the medals popularity-wise, so having center stage at the Olympics has merit. The middle of February is the dead time for sports. The NBA (and NHL) is months away from their playoffs; football is over and baseball players haven’t started Spring Training. Olympic hockey is going to get attention by default, but nonetheless, it is going to get it. In 2014, both Twitter and Facebook were buzzing with each USA game, something that doesn’t happen when the Stars play the Red Wings on Valentine’s Day.

The fact that the NHL is the only league that suspends its season for the Olympics doesn’t sit well with the owners. It makes the league look amateurish and as we know, public image and perception is very important. Basketball doesn’t do it, and even if the games weren’t during its off-season, they still wouldn’t. Baseball was taken out of the Olympics because MLB wouldn’t send its players and the debate rages as to whether or not to bring it back. Baseball will be back for the 2020 Tokyo Games, but after that, we shall see.

Does stopping one’s season for the Olympics cheapen your sport? Is the attention the sport receives at the Olympics worth the break?   Does stopping your season make it look like the Stanley Cup is not the ultimate prize each and every season?

These are all tough questions. For the most part, players love representing their country at the Olympic games and most international tournaments. That said this summer’s World Cup of Hockey really didn’t give off the passion and enthusiasm that other world tournaments have done. There are certainly enough world events for the sport of hockey. The IIHF World Championships are contested every year, but is played during the middle of the Stanley Cup playoffs and buried eight feet deep in matters of importance. If Sidney Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins are in the playoffs he is not playing. And, if they aren’t, he might want to take the time off to rest from a grueling campaign.

The world championship is always played in May during the playoffs, and even though it occurs after most European seasons have ended, I have always found its calendar placing curious. Could they move it to late June in order to get more stars involved? That said, with 14 teams not making the NHL playoffs, there are enough available bodies to field teams for Canada and the United States; back when only 5 of 21 didn’t qualify, things were much tougher.

If the NHL has its way, the World Cup of Hockey would take over as the premier world championship event.   The NHL would love it of course because they own it. They can market it, sell the TV rights and more importantly control the revenues.   The NHL players would benefit too, because the collective bargaining agreement allows them to share revenues with the league. The IIHF would stand to lose of course, and that’s something that the NHL—and probably the players—wouldn’t shed many tears about. But, the IIHF is not going anywhere. They will still support Olympic hockey, junior hockey as well as many other tournaments and leagues.

So, what is the best solution? Should the Olympics go back to its core and showcase amateurs? Those who are of age remember with fondness the 1980 Miracle on Ice and many would like to see the Olympic tournament have a chance to once again replicate that. As good as that might sound, only the USA and Canada would oblige. The rest of the countries would send players from its professional leagues because they can, so you would have North American juniors and collegians playing against players from the Swedish Elite League, Russia’s KHL and the Finnish league. Sounds like what USA did in 1980, but it isn’t 1980 anymore.

If it were up to me, I would allow the Olympics to remain professional, but I would stock USA and Canada rosters with players from the AHL (and ECHL if necessary). The AHL would keep playing, because, as a minor league, it is not a win-at-all-cost endeavor. And with 30 teams to stock 40 players, most AHL teams would lose one, perhaps two players. Some would lose none. The AHL season would go on and the Olympic product would still be of high quality.   The costs could be split between USA Hockey, Hockey Canada and the IIHF and the insurance premium would be lower because AHL players don’t make the salaries that NHL players do.

The NHL has to make a decision, a long-term one. One of the reasons they are balking in 2018 is location. With the games being in South Korea, the time difference is considerable (14 hours ahead of NYC; 17 ahead of LA) and many of the games will air at inconvenient times for North Americans. If the Olympics were in Chicago, Toronto or why not, Lake Placid, the NHLers would likely be signed up already. That’s the one thing the NHL can’t do. It would be wrong and insulting to send the NHLers in one Olympics and then keep them home in another. The league has to make a commitment one way or another.

Sending the AHL players is the hybrid plan, but it’s also the right plan.

Despite Potato Bowl Win, FCS Still The Right Spot for Idaho Vandal Football

December 23, 2016

by John Furgele (Your One and Only 228)

There are lots of bowl games in this great land of ours—lots of them—and most sit in obscurity.  And this year even the Orange, Cotton, Sugar and Rose Bowl, because of the College Football Playoff, have diminished in relevance.

Yesterday’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Potato Bowl for short) carried a little more intrigue than most because the University of Idaho was one of the participants.  In case you’ve forgotten—and most of you never knew—Idaho is going to play one more year at the FBS level and then move to FCS in 2018.  They will be the first school to drop DOWN to FCS since the divide began back in the late 1970s.

Naturally, the move down has caused some hurt feelings in Idaho Nation.  Several key boosters said that they no longer will donate; others have surrendered their season tickets while others have hit the message boards to voice both displeasure and support for the move.  We live in a polarized society; a society that currently embraces protests and temper tantrums.  When we don’t get our way, we yell, dehumanize and denigrate all in our way.  The 2016 election proved this beyond a doubt and we see it sports all the time.

For some, moving from FBS to FCS is an insult, something that can’t be recovered from.  As a result, that $100,000 donation and the season tickets all go by the wayside.  Any move like this causes hurt feelings, and even though Idaho finished 9-4 this season and trounced Colorado State, 61-50 in the Potato Bowl shouldn’t be a reason for pause.

After the game, several made the case that Idaho can contend at the FBS level.  Quarterback Matt Linehan, who threw for 381 yards and was named the game’s MVP said that university President Chuck Staben is “tone-deaf,” and that the Vandals belong in FBS.  He later apologized numerous times for his comments, so I am willing to forgive and move forward; I’m sure others are not.

Despite the impressive win and a chance that the Vandals will be solid again next year, the move to FCS is a smart one.  We must remember that the Sun Belt Conference kicked Idaho out, leaving the Vandals without a conference come 2018.  Geographically, the best landing spot for Idaho would be the Mountain West, but that conference hasn’t shown eagerness, or more importantly, an invitation for membership.

Idaho could stay and play as an independent like BYU and Notre Dame do, but Idaho is not BYU or Notre Dame, schools with a national following.  Massachusetts is currently playing—and struggling– as independent and that’s what life would be like for Idaho if they stay at the FBS level.

Many people think moving to FBS is a no-brainer; a cash cow but reality begs otherwise.  During ESPN’s telecast last night, the announcers said that 84 percent of FBS teams lose money playing football.  These costs are offset by student fees, contributions from alumni, boosters and taking money from other divisions, so we all know that the cash cow doesn’t exist for schools like Idaho and Massachusetts as well as the other team that the Sun Belt is kicking out after 2017; New Mexico State.

Idaho football head coach Paul Petrino makes less than the Strength and Conditioning coach at Alabama does and if Idaho stays at the FBS level, they would never be able to pay the head coach the million dollar salaries that the 16 percenters do.  Idaho is a school that hires up-and-comers to coach.  You know who they are.  The FCS coach, the offensive coordinator, the defensive coordinator, the guy trying to re-launch his career after getting fired somewhere else.

Petrino has been supportive of the move and has stated that he will be the coach in 2018 when the Vandals move back to FCS.  He appears to be sincere, but I’m not sure he really is and you know what?  I can’t blame him.  He’s a guy who wants to coach FBS football and he was hired to do just that at the University of Idaho.  Now, things have changed and if wants to pursue other FBS opportunities, who could really be mad or upset at him?

The best quality we can have is to know ourselves.  It is not easy.  People with short tempers like to call themselves patient.  People that run with the wrong people like to think they are good judges of character.  Very few people can admit their flaws and weaknesses.  Idaho is trying to admit that FBS football isn’t right for them and as hard as that is, they are looking in the mirror and making that difficult decision; in essence, admitting their flaws and weaknesses.

For Idaho football, moving to FCS is and still is the right move.  It is an exciting level of football and if we look around the NFL and the CFL, rosters are littered with FCS players.  Idaho doesn’t have the monies or the facilities to play and succeed long-term at the FBS level.  They have the Kibbie Dome, a great venue for FCS football.  They will play in the Big Sky conference against the likes of Montana, Montana State, Idaho State, Cal-Poly, Eastern Washington, and North Dakota.  In 2016, the Big Sky sent four teams to the 24-team FCS playoffs.  Even at the FCS level, Idaho will have to work and work hard to be successful.

The Vandals will lose monies in guarantee games because FCS teams get less to play at Washington than FBS teams, but there’s still room for Idaho to play at Washington State.  Instead of getting $1.1 million, they might get $550,000, but that money can still help and as long as FBS teams schedule FCS teams, teams like Idaho can play them and make the guarantee money.

The hope is that time will heal the wounds; that the boosters and the fans come back and support Idaho at the FCS level.  I’ll be rooting for the Vandals in 2017 and will be really rooting for them come 2018 when they return (they played FCS before) to FCS and the Big Sky conference.

We need our country to heal and hopefully that healing will carry over to the Idaho football nation and community.  Idaho’s chance of success increases greatly as an FCS member in the Big Sky than it does as an FBS independent.

The sooner Idaho fans realize this, the sooner the healing begins.

Honesty The Best Policy for College Football Playoff

December 4, 2016

by John Furgele (The 228)

Before the tirade begins, let me be fair.  At the end of the day, I don’t have any problems with Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington being the four participants in the third version of the College Football Playoff.  We all know Alabama is the best team; we know that Clemson, based on talent and what they did last year can play with the Tide; we know that Ohio State at 11-1 is a quality team and we know that Washington, with 10 victories against Pac 12 teams is deserving of a slot.

All that said the CFP committee needs to be honest going forward.  The reality is that the CFP admires beauty and the better the record, the more the beauty.  What the CFP told us is that they really don’t value head-to-head, conference titles and strength of schedules.  Washington, to their credit, played 10 Pac 12 teams and beat nine of them; Ohio State went to Oklahoma and routed the Sooners; Clemson beat both Auburn and South Carolina (usually a good team).  At the end of the day, the less losses the better.  The CFP wants teams to look pretty; they (and college football) want to advertise that every week matters and if you slip up more than once, you will get punished.  Therefore, taking an 11-2 team like Penn State isn’t as good as taking the 11-1 Ohio State team.  By beauty’s definition, Ohio State is the better looking hottie.  She’s the 25-year old blond with the better curves than Penn State, the 30-year old who also is easy on the eye.  If they take a two-loss team, they are, in effect, devaluing what they think is the most important regular season in all of sports, so they won’t take a two-loss conference champion with a head-to-head win over a team that has only one loss.

Washington won the Pac 12 and in doing so, went 9-1 against Pac 12 teams.  They are a very good team and I won’t hold their scheduling of Rutgers against them.  Rutgers, by definition, is a Power 5 school.  But, Idaho?  The Vandals are a struggling program, so much so, that they have been kicked out of the Sun Belt and will be dropping to FCS at the beginning of the 2018 season.  The Huskies also played FCS foe Portland State, so to say the Huskies challenged themselves in their nonconference would be a falsehood.  That said, Alabama plays an FCS school every year, too, so who is better here?

Power 5 schools should not be allowed to schedule FCS schools anymore.  Let FCS schools play the Group of 5 schools.  There is nothing wrong with Bowling Green playing North Dakota; nothing wrong with Villanova playing Temple, but why do we have to see Alabama hosting Chattanooga the week before Thanksgiving so they can tune up and rest before facing Auburn?  There are too many “good games” out there for this to happen and if Alabama played Michigan rather than Charleston Southern, then it might be okay to see some two loss or even three loss teams make the CFP.

Since winning conference titles doesn’t really mean that much, let’s eliminate conference championship games.  They don’t help, in fact, they can cause more damage.  If Clemson and Washington would have lost to Virginia Tech and Colorado, they would have been out of the CFP.  In contrast, wins by the Buffaloes and Hokies would not have gotten them in either, so what’s the point?  Furthermore, had Alabama lost to Florida, the Tide would have still made the CFP cut.  Again, why bother?

Not only should conference championship games be eliminated, so too, should divisions.  Line everybody up one through 14, one through 12, and one through 10.  The English Premier League lines them up one through 20, so lining them up one through 14 is easier than pie.  Having divisions is artificial anyways.  Look at the SWAC at the FCS level for example.  Grambling won its division at 9-0, one game better than 8-1 Southern, yet Grambling played Alcorn State in the conference title game; an Alcorn State team that was 5-5 overall and 5-4 in its division.  Had the teams been lined up, Grambling would have faced the better Southern team in the SWAC Championship Game.

The conferences could protect the classic rivalries like Ohio-State/Michigan, but lining the teams up and playing nine conference games (time for SEC and ACC to get on board) will yield a conference title clash between the two best teams.  Using this formula, you wouldn’t have seen Penn State and Wisconsin, arguably the third and fourth best teams playing in the Big Ten Championship Game.  Nor, would you see it in the SWAC for that matter.

Ohio State and Penn State went 8-1 in the Big Ten, while division winner Wisconsin went 7-2.  Using this common sense formula, the Big Ten title game should have been a rematch between the Buckeyes and Lions and the ACC should have pitted Louisville and Clemson for the second time as both teams had 7-1 conference records.  I used to be against rematches, but not anymore.  If Ohio State and Penn State have the best records, then let a rematch take place.  It happens all the time in college basketball and it can happen in the NFL; why should college football be immune from it?

Eliminating the divisions and the conference title games is the right thing to do.  Let all the schools play 12 games and then use the eye-test to pick the four best teams.  Essentially, that’s what they did this year even though they paid lip service to the overall resume of teams.

The other thing this could do is get the season over on Thanksgiving Saturday.  Then, Navy could play Army on the first Saturday in December and the next day could be Selection Sunday.  Had Navy routed Temple in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game, there was a possibility that the CFP committee would have waited until December 11th to release its final rankings.  Nobody wants that, so let’s fix it.

Most agree that within a “few years,” the CFP will go from four to eight teams, but as Lee Corso says, “not so fast my friend.”  As evidence, take the fans’ reactions to the conference championship games.  There were seats to be had in Indianapolis (Big Ten), Orlando (SEC) and Santa Clara (Pac 12).  Some fans stated that they just couldn’t afford it financially, and take time off from work to hit three games in December and January.  In an eight-team playoff using neutral sites, you’d be asking fans to travel three times.  Is that feasible?  Perhaps, but the best solution would be for seeds 1 through 4 to host the quarterfinals and then use the neutral sites for the semifinals and finals.  This keeps the price up as bowls/sites would continue to shower money at college football for the right to host these games.

The four team playoff has much going for it, and right now, it doesn’t need to be overhauled or radically changed, just tweaked.  Eliminating divisions, conference championship games and games against FCS schools would be a simple and easy tweak.  It would also reduce the amount of lying that comes from the suits that run the College Football Playoff and that too, would be nothing but a positive.

 

 

College Football Needs To Do Better

November 23, 2016

by John Furgele (Accept the Only 228)

When conference championship games were created in college football, it was win-win, a pure moneymaker for the SEC, the league that started them.  The only problem is the games themselves.  In the inaugural SEC title tilt, undefeated Alabama faced 8-3 Florida.  If Alabama won, they would play in the Sugar Bowl against number one ranked Miami.  But, there was risk involved.  If the 8-3 Gators had won, they would have secured the conference’s automatic bid to the Sugar Bowl with no shot of a national championship, both for themselves and their league.  The SEC suits sitting in the press box had to be in total panic as it looked like Florida might pull the game—and the title—out.

In the end, Alabama won in a game for the ages, so much so that ESPN did a 30 for 30 on it.  The Gators won the Gator Bowl to finish 9-4 and Gene Stallings’ Crimson Tide blew out Miami to finish 13-0 to earn the national championship in college football.

The game was so successful, that every conference decided to expand to at least 12 members and stage their own conference title clash; even the Big 12 played one.  And, the stodgy Big Ten went against “longstanding traditions” to establish one for their 12 and now 14-team league.

Americans love football and because these games normally pit two excellent teams against each other, it continues to be a win-win, right?  Well, that all depends on how you perceive things.  The College Football Playoff has created many things; among them, angst.  Prior to the BCS and CFP, the winner of the conference title game went to the conference’s designated bowl game.  If 9-3 Georgia beat 11-1 Alabama, then Georgia went to the Sugar Bowl, while an 11-2 Alabama likely went to another top tier game like the Orange or Fiesta.  Now, the conference leaders are forced to root for the team with the better record.  Assuming Alabama beats Auburn and Florida (and this is a questionable assumption) beats Florida State, Alabama and Florida would be 12-0 and 10-2 when they get together in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.  Florida could very well be 9-3.

What hat does the SEC wear in this one?  Alabama is the best team; they could probably lose and still get one of the four CFP bids.  Florida, by winning would be guaranteed a New Year’s Six bowl, but is this what the commissioners wanted when they set up these title games?  At the end of the day, the SEC wants its best team, its undefeated team in the CFP as the number one seed.  They don’t want to see 9-3 Florida win that game and leave some doubt in the minds of the CFP committee.

The Big Ten could see Ohio State beat Michigan this week and with the game in Columbus, nobody would be surprised.  Ohio State would be 11-1, but if Penn State takes care of Michigan State, the Nittany Lions would play for the Big Ten title against another two-loss team in Wisconsin or Nebraska.  For arguments sake, let’s say Penn State and Wisconsin square off with identical 10-2 records.  If Penn State wins, they would be 11-2 with a victory over 11-1 Ohio State.  Which team would go to the CFP; the team that won the conference championship; or the team with the better record?

As good as the CFP has been, this is its biggest problem.  College football remains a beauty contest, and as long as that’s the case the CFP will never achieve to its fullest potential.  In college basketball, if you win the conference tournament, you get the automatic bid.  You may not get the higher seed that the team you just beat does, but you get to go, no questions asked.  In college football, Colorado could win the Pac 12 title, but at 11-2, be left out of the CFP for the 11-1 Ohio State Buckeyes or even an 11-2 Michigan, which beat the Buffaloes in September.  Yes, college football is only 12 or 13 games and we all know that college football loves the controversy because it provides ammo for all the sports networks.  Why would they want to change that?  On the other side, does this way of thinking make any sense?

The conference championship game could also hurt Clemson should they lose to Virginia Tech or North Carolina and finish 11-2.  The ACC isn’t good enough to get a two-loss team into the CFP, plain and simple.

Then, there is the Big 12, which gets knocked for not having a conference championship game.  Love it or hate it, the Big 12 does offer a true round robin, where each team plays one another.  But, we saw when TCU and Baylor each went 8-1 and 11-1; both were left out of the CFP because Ohio State drubbed Wisconsin 59-0 in their conference title game.

The easiest remedy is to eliminate the conference title tilts and have each team play 12 games and using the beauty contest model, the CFP committee would select what they think are the four best teams.  That way, a 9-3 Florida could never beat a 12-0 Alabama, because there wouldn’t be an SEC Championship Game.

Another option would be to drop back to 11 regular season games, play conference championship games and expand the CFP to eight teams.  In this format, the winners of the conference title games would secure an automatic bid to the CFP.  Because an eight team playoff requires an extra round, you’d have to drop down to 11 so no team would play more than 15 total games.  In this scenario, the 9-3 Florida could beat the 12-0 Alabama, but because there would be three at-large berths available, both teams could get in.  Would schools want to give back the 12th game and lose revenue?  Probably not.

The FCS plays 11 regular season games and it’s possible for the FCS champion to play 16 games.  The FCS has a 24-team playoff, so if you don’t get the opening round bye, you’d have to win five games to be crowned the champion.  Most FCS champions play 15 games, the same amount that both Alabama and Clemson did last year.  No matter how you slice it, that’s a long season for a college football player who is also “trying” to be a student, too.

Is there a way to have 12 regular season games, conference championship games and an eight team CFP?  That’s probably what those who run college football would want, but they know that they’d be pressing their luck with those who think college athletics has jumped the shark and its attempt to sell us the student-athlete.

I would hate to see Ohio State get into the CFP at 11-1 without playing in their conference title game.  Are they a better team than 11-2 Wisconsin; probably, but there is something negative about “backing in” to the playoffs.  I would hate to see Colorado win the Pac 12 at 11-2 and get left out, because in any sport, if you win your league or division, you get rewarded with a trip to the playoffs.  In the old days, the 8-3 team could go 0-3 in nonconference games, 8-0 in conference and their reward was a trip to the Sugar, Rose, Orange or Cotton Bowl.  Now, that three-loss team is the villain if it plays in the conference title game because all they can really do is wreak havoc.  I guess in some ways that’s good, because chaos can be fun, but it is my hope that college football can get the right teams into its playoff whether that number is four, six, eight or ten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for the American Athletic Conference to Rise Up

October 22, 2016

A call to BYU for a scheduling arrangement makes sense, too

by John Furgele (The Real 228, accept no substitutes)

The Big 12 got what it wanted and probably needed and that was attention.  You know the history.  In 2014, both Baylor and TCU were 11-1 and both were left out of the inaugural College Football Playoff.  While many screamed that it was unfair, was it?  Most pundits said that had the Big 12 conducted a conference championship game like the SEC, Pac 12, ACC and Big Ten, the winner would have advanced.  But, often, truth is stranger than fiction.  That year, Oregon was 12-1, Ohio State was 12-1, Alabama was 12-1 and Florida State—the defending champion—was 13-0.  With a human committee in place, it came down to good old subjectivity and both Baylor and TCU were left on the outside.

The conference then decided to petition the NCAA so they could play a conference title game as a 10-member outfit, a wish that was granted.  Now, the league could decide to expand to 12, 14 or even 16 members, or they could stay at 10 and have a title game, something that the SWAC does with its 10 members at the FCS level.

The league decided that any publicity was better than none, so they invited prospective universities to apply for Big 12 membership, and as usual, all the shafted schools who wanted Power 5 association applied.   Cincinnati, Connecticut, BYU, Houston, Memphis, Central and South Florida all decided that preparing PowerPoints and interactive presentations were a must in the hopes of landing a Power 5 slot and the money that goes with it.  How could Cincinnati not be playing in a Power 5 conference when Kansas, Iowa State and even West Virginia were?

What was the result?  For all the attention they received, they received it for doing nothing.  The show lasted for what—17 months—and in the end, the conference decided to do nothing, so the Big 12 will remain like the Big Ten, poorly named with its 10 members.

The conference that felt the pressure was the fledging American Athletic Conference.  When the seven Catholic members left the old Big East for the new Big East, the AAC was formed.  In the league’s first year, their champion was allowed to play in a BCS bowl, in this case the Fiesta and in that game, Central Florida (with Blake Bortles at QB) throttled Baylor.  The next year, they lost that slot and their teams were scrambling, playing in games like the Poinsettia Bowl, Bahamas Bowl and Cure Bowl.

The American offered plenty to the Big 12.  The conference has schools in big cities like Houston, Philadelphia, Orlando, Tampa, Memphis, Houston, Dallas, Annapolis/Baltimore/Washington, D.C and New Orleans.  Good-sized cities, cities that could help the Big 12 make some inroads in the eastern part of the United States. The American put on its best face and said that they have a great conference with great schools in great cities, but deep down they knew that they couldn’t hold back a Cincinnati or Houston should the Big 12 come calling.

In this way, the American Athletic Conference (AAC) reminded me of the Articles of Confederation, which was in essence, the United States Constitution before the Constitution.  The A of C served from 1781-1787 and was a loosely configured alignment of the United States.  It had some rules and regulations, but for the most part it allowed the states to do their own thing.  South Carolina could have slaves, but if France attacked it, the other 12 states would come to her defense.  The AAC was the same way.  It was an organization, sure, but when a third of the organization is looking to leave, how strong can it be?  If your girlfriend is still dating others on Fridays, how serious of a girlfriend is she?

As most fifth graders have learned, the Articles of Confederation failed.  The Founding Fathers knew that the “conference” of states had to be strengthened and the result was the creation of the U.S. Constitution, which despite some struggles along the way has lasted for 229 years, which all in all is a nice, little run.

Now, that the Big 12 expansion charade is over, it is time for the AAC to ditch the Articles of Confederation for the Constitution.  The conference has to believe it’s good and moreover, sell that it’s good to the rest of the college football world.  We know that Cincinnati, Houston and Connecticut were devastated that they didn’t secure Big 12 membership, but I hope that the first three phone calls—or in today’s world, text messages— AAC commissioner Mike Aresco received were from these three schools.  The message is simple:  “Let’s go forward and make the AAC the best it can be.  Let’s market our cities, our great universities, our great mix of urban, private and religious schools and present the AAC as a united and close-knit group.”  If the AAC can stay unified, they could negotiate a better TV deal and perhaps become what Aresco calls a Power 6 conference.

The Big 12 is really the Big 2; if Texas and Oklahoma ever explore moving, the Big 12 becomes a combination of the Mountain West and the American.  We know that can’t happen until 2024 or 2025 when the grant of rights runs out, but if you don’t think there will be another seismic shift in the college athletics landscape, you are only kidding yourself.

The AAC has to have everybody on the same page.  They can’t have Cincinnati, Connecticut and Houston continue to flirt with other conferences and even though it looks like things are stable, they can’t get caught up in the nonsense.  They have to swallow their pride and make the AAC work, something that they can do.  They have 12 football members (Navy is football only), they play in good sized stadiums and they have the opportunity to beat Power 5 schools.  For schools like Cincinnati, they can now look a recruit in the eye and sell them on the AAC.  No longer do they have to say that the AAC is nice, but we expect to play in the Big 12 very soon.

With no expansion imminent, the AAC schools need to call the big boys and say, “let’s play.”  Why can’t Cincinnati play at Alabama and why can’t Alabama play at Cincinnati?  Memphis needs to look Tennessee in the eye and say, “look, you’re the big boy, we’ll play you three times, but one of those games is going to be at the Liberty Bowl.”  Connecticut should do the same with Notre Dame.  It makes sense for the Huskies to visit South Bend, but in return, the Irish have to come to East Hartford, not Yankee Stadium or Met Life Stadium in the Meadowlands.  The AAC is not the MAC, nor the Sun Belt, and they have to think and act like a big boy if they want to get treated as one.

In one scenario, the AAC would add BYU, Boise State, Colorado State and perhaps one more school to get to 16.  They could play eight conference games, have a conference championship game and send their champ to a major bowl game.  That scenario is unlikely for two reasons.  One, it makes the league too big geographically.  If we remember the WAC tried to make a go of it with 16 schools and it just didn’t work.  Two, it would move the AAC back to an Articles of Confederation feel, something that they need to get off of right now.  But, the AAC could do what the ACC did for Notre Dame and that is provide four to five games per year for BYU, which will continue to play as an independent.  If BYU could play four to five AAC schools per year, it would be a win-win for them and the AAC.  Conference schools like to play BYU early in the year, but when October and November get here, most schools want to play in their conference, not outside of it, leaving BYU with games against Wagner and Southern Utah instead of Temple and Houston.  The exception is the SEC, which likes to schedule an FCS or Sun Belt team the week before Thanksgiving as their “prep game” before playing their finale.

It is time for the AAC to rise up and be heard.  They are still intact and they have plenty to offer college football and college athletics.  This is not the time for Cincinnati, Connecticut and Houston to hang their head in shame; it is time for them to be the leaders of a “new” and re-energized conference.

 

 

 

 

Resolve Sets World Record in Yonkers International Trot and Wins it for America

October 16, 2016

by John Furgele (The Best 228)

Yonkers Raceway did it right.  On Saturday, October 15, the International Trot was contested along with the Yonkers Invitational Trot and Yonkers Invitational Pace.  And, kudos are in order for the raceway to start the festivities at 1:10 pm so those in Italy, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland could see the action live.

Harness racing continues to get better and better with showcase races and Saturday’s card at Yonkers Raceway was no exception.  Along with the $1 million trot and the two $250,000 invitationals, the card featured a $45,000 race and no race had a purse of less than $21,600.  That’s the way to do it if you want to get fans out to the track.  Simulcasting will always be there, but the best way to attract fans to your venue is to give them something to get excited about and that comes in the way of high stakes races with good purses.

The International Trot did not disappoint. Resolve was one of three U.S.entrants, and the 6-year did the job in spectacular fashion.  Leading the entire way, he set a world record for 1 ¼ miles on a half-mile track in 2:23.4.  The field behind him was solid, but simply put, nobody could catch Resolve.  He cut fractions of 28.1, 57.1, 1:26 before hitting the mile in 1:54.4.  His driver and trainer, Ake Svanstedt said the colt did it all by himself and could have gone faster.

In the $250,000 Yonkers Invitational Pace, Wiggle It Jiggleit won and won easily.  Usually a horse that comes from behind, WIJI went to the front and was never headed, winning in 1:50.2. Some thought that Yonkers might see its first sub 1:50 mile, but with no pressure, WIJI cruised home to win for the 15th time in 23 starts this year.  For his career, he has 38 wins in 50 starts.  The gelding is owned by George Teague, driven by his son, Montrell and trained by Clyde Francis.  The sport would love to see WIJI in the Breeders Crown on October 28 at The Meadowlands, but the connections would have to supplement his entry.  When asked about the Breeders Crown, driver Teague said that he doesn’t want to tip his hat.  As we know, Marion Marauder had to be supplemented into last week’s Kentucky Futurity and all he did was win the race—and the trotting Triple Crown—in the process.  I hope and expect to see WIJI at the Big M in a couple weeks.

The Yonkers Invitational Trot saw Bee a Magician come back from a five month layoff to win impressively in 2:25.1 for 1 ¼ miles.  The 6-year old filly is four-for- four this season and for her career is 45 for 69 with earnings just shy of $4 million.  Known for being ornery, the filly handled the track—and the distance—easily for driver Brian Sears.  In harness racing, the winner gets 50 percent of the purse, so both Bee a Magician pocketed $125,000 each with Resolve adding $500,000 to his career earnings.

In the $45,000 Open Handicap Trot Svanstedt steered Bourbon Bay to victory in 1:54.1 returning $11.00.  The $35,000 Open Handicap Pace saw Rock N’ Roll World take the lead at the half mile to win in 1:51.3 for driver George Brennan.  He returned $6.20.

Yonkers Raceway will be dark on Sunday but will be back at it Monday with a 12-race card beginning at 7:10 pm.

Harness Racing Keeps Churning

October 15, 2016

by John Furgele (The Best 228)

Last year, American Pharoah captured America’s fancy when he rolled to the Triple Crown.  Later, he capped a brilliant three-year campaign by romping in the Breeder’s Cup Classic and then, like most dominant thoroughbreds, was sent off to stud.

Last Sunday, another Triple Crown was won, when three-year old trotter Marion Marauder captured the Kentucky Futurity at the Lexington race course known as The Red Mile.  In thoroughbred racing, we have sprinters, distance horses, dirt and turf horses, while in Harness racing, there are two types—trotters and pacers.

The Trotting Triple Crown consists of the Hambletonian, the Yonkers Trot and the aforementioned Kentucky Futurity.  The Hambletonian is the most well-known and prestigious of the three.  Raced at the famed Big M (Meadowlands) before a national TV audience (CBS Sports Network), the Hambletonian is the Kentucky Derby for trotters.  Driven by Canadian Scott Zeron, Marion Marauder won the Hambo by the slimmest of margins.  He then cruised in the Yonkers Trot before needing a photo finish for his win in the Kentucky Futurity.

Triple Crowns in Harness racing are not as revered as they are in thoroughbred racing.  Because Standardbreds race much more frequently, winning a triple crown is not always planned for.  In fact, because Marion Marauder was not nominated for the trotting crown, his connections had to come up with $47,000 just to get him into the Futurity field.  Nevertheless, with the win, Marion Marauder becomes only the ninth horse—and first since Glidemaster in 2006—to capture the Trotting Triple Crown.

On the pacing side, there have been 10 horses to win their Triple Crown, the last being No Pan Intended in 2003.  Pacers, because of the running style can run faster than their trotting counterparts, but trotting, because of the Hambletonian is probably the more well-known of the two “sports-within-a-sport.”

Is Marion Marauder going to capture the attention of one, American Pharoah?  Of course not, but his win puts him in the history books forever.

Harness racing continues to make positive inroads.  The sport has been buoyed by the installation of casinos at most of its parks, meaning fans can do more than just watch pacers and trotters run.  In fact, at most racetracks, most of the people are playing the casino games, but every time they play, the sport of harness racing gets a cut. And, the sport has always had its loyalists.

This November New Jersey residents will vote to see if two casinos will be built outside of Atlantic City.  If the referendum passes, it will bolster the sport of Harness racing immensely. As of today, the polls indicate that the referendum will fail, but optimists claim there is still time.  Those in favor claim that most of the opposition comes by way of neighboring states that have casinos.  The casino owners in New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware want those in New Jersey to keep making the drive rather than keep their monies in-state.   We know there is a more significant election on the cards in November, but as a harness racing fan, this is an important one.  And, it’s not only about racing.  Two casinos will greatly aid the breeding farms in the Garden State.

In racing, the International Trot takes place at Yonkers Raceway this afternoon.  This is truly an international affair with trotters from the United States, Canada, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Italy.  The American contingent consists of Resolve, Obrigado and Hannelore Hanover and the $1 million race will be run at 1 ¼ miles, longer than the classic distance of 1 mile.  In countries like Sweden, where Harness racing is revered, this is a big deal, hence the afternoon post time at Yonkers.

In two weeks, the best pacers and trotters will head to the Meadowlands for the Breeders Crown, where they will compete for $5.8 million in prize monies.  Like thoroughbred’s Breeder’s Cup, the meet will be contested over two days, with the older colts, gelding and mares competing on Friday and the two and three year olds on Saturday.  The four races for the older horses will begin Friday at 7:15, while the eight races for two and three-year olds will begin at 6:35 on Saturday.  Sportsnet NY (SNY) will have live coverage both nights from 9 to 10 pm, giving Harness racing a nice little boost.

Locally, Saratoga Harness (aka, Saratoga Casino Hotel) continues to churn, providing live racing through Sunday, December 18.  For most weeks, there is live racing Sunday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  By racing on Sunday, Saratoga Harness is trying to do what many tracks won’t—compete with NFL football-certainly not an easy task.

Like its thoroughbred counterpart, breeding and selling remains a vital part of the sport.  Morrisville State College, which offers both Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree programs in equine breeding and management, recently had its 2016 Morrisville sale.  There were 81 yearlings sold with the average price being $13,656.  The lowest purchase price was $1,700 with $55,000 being the highest, making Harness racing a sport that many more can get involved with.

Harness racing never sleeps and the month of October has been a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

Best Plan for the Big 12: Dissolution

September 29, 2016

by John “The 228” Furgele

Next month, the Big 12 will meet to decide if the conference should expand. This has been an ongoing circus; something the Big 12 absolutely loves.   The conference from top-to-bottom is quite weak, but expansion talk is keeping it relevant off the field because the on-field product has been struggling.

There are many rumors and many stories as to what the Big 12 will do. At first, it looked like the conference was going to add two teams, then four. Recently, reports say that the conference will vote NOT to expand and others say that conference might even dissolve. If they do expand, who should be invited? It appears that Houston would be prudent, but the non-Texas schools are afraid that Texas high-schoolers will choose Houston over Oklahoma State or Oklahoma.   Playing in Houston is a lot more glamorous than playing in Waco, or worse, Lubbock.

BYU is rumored to be a front runner and football-wise, they would be the most competitive. They can beat Power 5 schools right now and even though it was 1984, the university does have a national championship on its mantle.   But, there are issues with their candidacy. They are a religious school, they don’t play athletic contests on Sundays and the school’s Honor Code is said to be discriminatory against the LBGT population.  Those are serious obstacles, but ones that can be overcome.

Cincinnati is dying to join and everybody trots out that the Bearcats would give West Virginia a travel partner even though schools have never had those. After these three, there are the directional Floridas and other suspects, but the best option might be the third one from above and that would be dissolution.

The Big 12 is an aforementioned Power 5 conference, but is it? They do have two marquee teams in Texas and Oklahoma. Those two would be coveted by the other four conferences.   The Longhorns and Sooners are historical teams and are very important to the current blueprint of college football.   The rest of the teams don’t bring much cache. In fact, Kansas and Iowa State are atrociously bad. Kansas might be the worst Power 5 team in the land, so how do they make the Big 12 viable? Yes, they are great in basketball, but this is about football, and the Jayhawks are very bad each and every year.

Iowa State is only slightly better. The Cyclones would be a mid-pack finisher in the Missouri Valley Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision, so why should they remain a Power 5 team?  This season, they lost to Northern Iowa and it wasn’t the first time the Panthers won in Ames.

As for Kansas State, once Bill Snyder leaves, the Wildcats will go back to irrelevance. Snyder did an amazing job building the program—it might be the greatest coaching job in the history of college sports—but when he retired the first time, the program languished. The university begged him to come back to restore order and he did so, but he can’t coach there forever.  There was a time when the Kansas-Kansas State was a battle to see which team would win one game.

Dissolving the Big 12 gets the football schools closer to their dream which is four 16-team conferences with eight total divisions.  Each would have a conference championship game and the winners would automatically qualify for the College Football Playoff.  By then, the CFP will have eight teams and the playoffs would be epic. Dissolving the Big 12 makes college football stronger.  The good teams would move to a Power 4 conference, while the KU’s and ISU’s would find a conference better suited for them to be competitive.  And, it would finally force Notre Dame to abandon its longstanding independence.  Financially, Notre Dame is flourishing as an independent, but it really isn’t fair to the other schools, and even less fair to the players.  How does Notre Dame recruit against schools that can tell a player that they play for conference championships AND national championships?  At 1-3, the Irish really are done in terms of playing high profile games at the end of the year.  They won’t make the CFP; they won’t play in a New Year’s Six bowl game and if they’re lucky, they’ll finish 7-5 and play in the Pinstripe Bowl.  The Big Ten conference is waiting for them and Texas to get them up to 16 schools.

The SEC would then scoop up the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, one blueblood and one good program.  If the SEC can have Mississippi and Mississippi State, it certainly can handle the Oklahomas.

The ACC would need two schools and they would add Cincinnati (from the American) and would take West Virginia. Both are solid in football and basketball and would help the conference going forward.  There would be some old Big East nostalgia with Cincy, Louisville, Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh all back together, possibly forever.

The PAC 12 would have to become the PAC 16 (kudos to them for being the only conference to change its name to reflect the actual number of teams that it has).  They would have the toughest time, but they would want Houston and BYU.  Reluctantly, they would add Texas Tech and Baylor, but they also added Utah so it’s not as bad as it might seem.  BYU would definitely add some flavor to the Pac 16.  They have a hated rival in Utah and would also have private school brethren with Baylor and Stanford.

Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State are going to be demoted, but hope is not lost.  All three will join the American Athletic Conference and the result would be a very solid league.  The American would lose Cincinnati and Houston, but with these three and Navy they would have 13 football schools and 12 schools for basketball.  They would hold their own in football and would be a serious player in basketball with Connecticut, Temple, Memphis, SMU and the others.  One would think adding Massachusetts (currently an independent) makes sense, giving the league 14 football schools and 13 for others.

Army would be the only independent left and given their unique characteristics, they should be able to survive as one.  Army has the toughest requirements and because of that, accommodations should be made.  The Knights tried Conference USA in the late 1990s and it didn’t go well.  Navy wanted to join the American and they have succeeded, much like Air Force has in the Mountain West.  But, Army is different.  They are an eastern school and many of their eastern foes play at the FCS level.  Let Army play two to three FCS schools each year and then schedule schools from the Power 4 and the Group of 5 as they see fit.  If they win seven games, put them into a bowl game and let them enjoy it.

There it is, the complete overhaul of college football.  64 schools in four power conferences.  The Big 12, like the Southwest Conference would be a lasting memory, but would no longer masquerade as a power football conference. They won’t be missed and college football would be better going forward.