Monday, August 29, 2005

The Gelhead Awards and Welcome to the Party

I haven't been able to track visits to the Corporate HQ until recently, but I have a pretty good feeling that today was my biggest day so far. Thanks to all the visitors and feel free to have a look around.

I haven't been writing all that much about college football until lately because I'm not that big into recruiting and the season is just now starting. I guess I wrote a lot more about soccer and baseball and movies and stupid people and stuff. I'll probably mix all that in a bit more. My philosophy toward sports blogging is more along the lines of media criticism than game analysis or predictive abilities (I save that for soccer). Or jokes and shit.

So again, welcome. And if you're bored with these posts, go back and read my NFL Draft Diary. I call Mark May an IUD in it. And that still makes me laugh.

Also today we have Kirk Herbstreit's Herbie Awards, brought to you by the good folks at the Big 10 conference and Maxim Haircare products for men. Nothing too groundbreaking here, or at least nothing you can't get a billion other places. A few odds and ends...

Starting from the bottom:

The steakhouse in Atlanta he mentions is The Palm (and I could've sworn it was a chain or at least based on a restaurant elsewhere), not the Palms, which I believe is where Trishelle banged half of Vegas.

Best Game Day Coach nominee Mack Brown? I guess Herbstreit is giving credit for "consoling depressed players after yet another big game." Or maybe Herbstreit just thinks the game is in early February.

Best Uniforms and Best looking dudes in uniform... yeah he does this every year. Gotta give something for the honeys he plans on mowing on campus... Seriously though, if he ain't gay, I'm clever and funny. Any real man would say the "best" in uniform would be the fattest kickers and nobody else.

Best Student Section: Michigan? I've never been there, but I've always heard that it's strangely quiet for 110,000. Utah? You can't get beer over 3.4%. There's probably more liquor in section 308 in Sanford Stadium than in the entire state of Utah. LSU students bring their own arsenal - and that's just for the National Anthem. Auburn students can power windmill farms with those gay-ass pom-poms. And Georgia, well if we ain't loud it's because we're either passed out or hammering some hot as hell skirt. I mean Utah?

And finally a homer note. How do you name 9 tight ends without mentioning Leonard Pope?


Sunday, August 28, 2005

That's a bold statement - College Gameday Recap

College Gameday's preview special yesterday. Hyperbole and definitive statements abound. Remember that poll voters rely on these mouths to shape their votes. These statements set the table for how football is perceived. Here're a few choice selections. Definitive, uncategorical statements only (no "If so and so happens..."). By pundit:

USC won't win the national title because of D and departing offensive coaches.
Paterno and Bowden will coach as long as physically able (not retire this year).
Paterno has done more than any coach ever ever ever.
Bowden will coach longer than Paterno.
Oklahoma doesn't win the Big 12, national title.
Texas wins the Big 12 because Mack Brown's been around a long time.
NSFMF: Forget ND opening 2-3, might be 0-6. During this monologue Corso looked pissed at interruptions, drawing hearty laughter at the Douchebag estates.
Spurrier won't win an SEC title or BCS game at USC.
Vince Young wins the Heisman.
Eric Crouch was the worst passer (trails off, drooling...)
Big 12: Texas
Big East: Pitt
ACC: Miami over FSU twice
Big 10: Ohio State because they're going to Columbus in 2 weeks.
Pac-10: USC but doesn't win the national title
BCS Title: Ohio State vs. LSU. Ohio State wins.

[He's pretty good at framing things to avoid predictions, generally. Or at least better than the others.]
Frosh to watch: DeShawn Jackson (Cal), Jamal Charles (Tex.)
Chris Leak "not a great runner" but will have a great year if healthy (watch Josh Portis if Leak hurt)
Texas A&M wins the Big 12 South.
ND will win eventually, but not this year barring a miracle.
Jimmy Clausen wants to play for Spurrier (interesting comment, sort of out of place).
Leinart, Bush Vince Young/Ted Ginn winner, Reggie McNeal, Chris Leak, Marcus Vick are Heisman potentials. Leinart wins it. Reggie Bush is the best player on the team. Leinart is the Most Valuable Player.
Big 12: Texas A&M
Big East: Louisville
ACC: Va Tech
SEC: LSU wins over Florida (Alabama a sleeper)
Big 10: Ohio State
Pac-10: Matt Leinart wins it (Oregon 2nd)
BCS Title: Ohio State v. USC, Ohio State wins.
Multiple undefeated teams - Louisville is this year's Auburn.

USC wasn't "exactly dominating" last year.
Frosh to watch: Jonathan Stewart (Oregon)
Derrick Johnson was the best LB of the alst 10 years.
Ohio State beats Texas by 17 (then he qualifies it later... by adding a "what if", initially he said "what's going to happen after [that] happens")
South Carolina is a sleeping giant and they'll be in a BCS bowl within 3 years. (whoa)
Heisman: Off the chart types - Marshawn Lynch, Gerald Riggs. Reggie Bush wins it. John David Booty could step right in at USC without missing a beat.
Big 12: Texas
Big East: Louisville (not even close)
ACC: Va Tech
Big 10: Michigan
Pac-10: Pete Carroll wins it (I think he said Washington St. 2nd)
BCS Title: USC v. Va. Tech. Va. Tech wins.

Hardcore USC bandwagon. USC will "get better this year".
Only team that can beat USC is USC.
Bowling Green a BCS buster, will beat Wisconsin.
Texas will win the Big 12.
No big bowl for So. Carolina this year, but next 3-4 years.
Voting for Reggie Bush for the Heisman
Big 12: Texas
Big East: Pitt
ACC: Miami
Big 10: Purdue
Pac-10: Reggie Bush wins it.
BCS Title: USC v. Texas. USC wins

USC faces a lot of roadblocks (road games in conference).
Va Tech faces a "hostile opener" at NC State.
Adrian Peterson has a great chance at the Heisman.
SEC stronger than Big 10.

Other nuggets of wisdom:

Bob Stoops: "They didn't give us that opportunity to play for the national championship. That was earned." Millions of Auburn fans just flooded their outhouses with vomit. Stoops has quickly moved to the front of my annoying media whore list for college football.

I thought TiVo had accidentally changed to MTV2 during one commercial break because it sure looked like the "Diary" of Tony Yayo. Confusing. I hope I don't go back to slingin' yayo [to get my mayo]

Alberts (shockingly) raises an interesting point, though he doesn't take it to the next logical progression. What if Purdue and Ohio State (which don't play each other) both go undefeated? Could we see a mythical Big 10 title game at the Rose Bowl? 'Cause that would be boring as hell.

Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy are performing before the UCF/USC game Thursday. Once again, thanks, ESPN, for reminding me why I hate everything.

They all laughed at the Harris Poll. See below.

So I'll try to keep up on the GasBagBrigade's shifting predictions and posturing all year. And remember that these guys actually have an influence on the games themselves by virtue of the fact that they are serious gatekeepers of what teams get talked about and plenty of voters rely on them. Hold them accountable.


The Harris Poll - Introduction

The last few days I've been looking at the new Harris Poll component of the BCS. The Harris Poll is basically replacing the AP Poll in the BCS computations. The results of this poll, added to the Coaches' Poll, make up the the most important portion of the BCS. Basically this poll alone can make an enormous difference in where a team finishes, in whether a team has a chance to play for the BCS Championship, in what bowl a team goes to, in how much money a program can earn, etc. That is why it's important.

It's also flawed. All humans have biases. It's part of nature. And if we're going to base the system on polls, it's a risk we have to accept (whether the system is right or not is a different issue all together and I'm not bringing it up now). Assuming that this is the system in place now and for the extended future, the goal should be to limit the risk of bias in the poll. The Harris Poll fails miserably at limiting the biases of its pollsters. It seems as if some of the pollsters were selected because of their biases.

There are 114 voters, but 5 have withdrawn (4 because they work for ESPN, which intelligently wants no part of this mess, and 1 because he's the son-in-law of the head coach at Troy and even these idiots saw that as a conflict).

So here's how I'm going to present my findings. First, a list of the voters and their evident conflicts. Then, I'll categorize the conflicts by schools and conferences and provide some analysis and findings resulting from my research. If it works, you'll see pretty clearly that this poll is a joke and an embarassment. One tease: Noted powerhouse Kansas has 4 pollsters with a conflict. Florida and Florida State (as well as many others) have none.


The Harris Poll - The Voters

The conflict the voter is best known for is listed first. I performed searches via Google and tried as best as I could, but I realize that this list may have missed something. If something appears current, I'll try to note it as such, but everything else is the voter's former position. If I've incorrectly listed something, please let me know in comments and I'll delete it as soon as possible. This isn't my job, so I don't have the time to phone everyone on this list. Also, I know that lots of these guys have done things I haven't listed, like Terry Bradshaw's 10-10-220 commercials. Since that stuff isn't a direct conflict with one of the schools the poll is monitoring, it doesn't matter. If I've missed something that's a conflict (player, covered, or worked for), let me know in comments and I'll add it.

Bobby Aillet: Louisiana Tech player. Possibly an SEC referee (more likely his son). Stadium at La Tech named for his father.
Bill Battle: HC at Tennessee. Asst. Coach at Army. Assistant and player at Oklahoma. CEO of Collegiate Licensing - has contracts with 180 colleges.
Gene Bartow: AD at UAB. Basketball coach at Memphis, Illinois, and UCLA.
Dick Bestwick: HC at UVA. Asst. at GT. AD at South Carolina. Assoc. AD at UGA, Missouri. Player at UNC.
Joe Biddle: Current columnist for the Tennessean in Nashville.
Blaine Bishop: Ball State player.
Kim Bokamper: San Jose State player. Sportscaster in Miami now.
Terry Bradshaw: Louisiana Tech player.
Wilt Browning: Sportswriter in Greensboro, NC now, Atlanta, Greenville and Charlotte before.
Earle Bruce: HC at Ohio State, Iowa State, Colorado State.
Brentson Buckner: Clemson player.
Bob Casciola: HC at UConn. Broadcaster for predecessor to Big East.
Charlie Cavagnaro: AD at UNLV and Memphis. Basketball focus.
Jake Crouthamel: AD at Syracuse.
Eddie Crowder: HC and AD at Colorado. Oklahoma player.
Peter Dalis: AD at UCLA.
Charles Davis: Player at Tennessee. Announcer for Pac-10/Big XII.
Pete Dawkins: Player at Army.
Bill Dooley: HC at UNC, Va. Tech, Wake Forest.
Boots Donnelly: AD & HC at Middle Tenn. State. Asst. Coach at Vandy.
Kevin Duhe: Player at NE Louisiana (Louisiana-Monroe).
Spike Dykes: HC at Texas Tech. Player at Rice. Asst. Coach at Texas, New Mexico, Miss St.
Bert Emanuel: Player at Rice.
Bump Elliott: HC and Player at Michigan. Assistant Coach at Iowa and Oregon State.
Boomer Esiason: Player at Maryland.
Don Fambrough: HC and Player at Kansas.
Foge Fazio: HC at Pitt. Assistant at Cincinnati.
Bob Frederick: AD at Kansas. Basketball player at Kansas. On faculty at Kansas.
Andy Geiger: AD at Ohio State, Assoc. AD at Syracuse, Stanford, Maryland.
David Glazier: no conflicts known (Detroit Lions and Tigers, Baldwin Wallace College).
Jim Grabowski: Player at Illinois. Commentator for Illinois radio.
Mike Grace: No conflicts known (runs College Football Radio network, which appears to be in Alabama).
Bob Grim: Player at Oregon State. Radio analyst for Oregon State.
Pat Haden: Player at Southern Cal. Broadcaster for NBC (Notre Dame).
Bob Hammel: Retired sportswriter in Bloomington, Indiana. Attended Indiana University.
Dick Harmon: Current Sportswriter in Salt Lake City (Deseret News), covers Utah and BYU.
Tommy Hicks: Current Sportswriter in Mobile.
Clarkston Hines: Player at Duke.
EJ Holub: Player at Texas Tech. Weight room named after him. Works in development for Texas Tech.
David Housel: AD at Auburn. Student and longtime facultymember at Auburn.
Raghib Ismail: Player at Notre Dame.
Fred Jacoby: MAC commissioner, SWC commissioner, Assistant at Wisconsin. Student at Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Charley Johnson: Player and current faculty member at New Mexico State. Only retired number in school history. Assistant to President for Athletic Progress as of Aug. 2004.
Blair Kerkhoff: Current Kansas City Star columnist covering Kansas, Kansas State and the Big XII.
Mike Kern: Current Philadelphia Daily News writer covering Temple and others.
Roy Kramer: SEC Commissioner. AD at Vandy. Coach at Central Michigan. Degree from Michigan.
Larry Lacewell: Longtime Arkansas State HC and AD. Player at Oklahoma. Assistant at Oklahoma , Alabama, Iowa State. Locker room at ASU named for him.
Dave Lapham: Syracuse player.
George Lapides: Radio personality in Memphis. Links to Memphis, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Miss. State on his website.
Steve Largent: Tulsa player.
Robert Lawless: University President at Tulsa and Texas Tech. On faculty at Houston and Texas A&M.
Jack Lengyel: AD at Navy, Fresno State & Missouri. Interim AD at Colorado, Temple. Assoc. AD at Louisville. Coach at Marshall.
Jim Lessig: MAC and Sun Belt commissioner. AD at Kansas and Bowling Green. Assistant Coach at Minnesota.
Ferd Lewis: Current sportswriter for Honolulu Advertiser. Covers Hawaii. Fresno State grad.
Ted Lewis: Current sportswriter for New Orleans Times Picayune. Covers Tulane, LSU.
Mike Lucas: Current sportswriter for Capital Times in Madison, WI. Covers Wisconsin and Big Ten.
Mike Lude: Colorado State coach. AD at Kent, Washington and Auburn.
Tom Luicci: Current sportswriter for Newark Star Ledger. Covers Rutgers.
John Mackovic: HC at Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Wake Forest.
Don Maynard: UTEP player.
Don McCauley: UNC player.
Joe McConnell: Current Purdue play-by-play announcer. Assistant SID at Purdue. Play-by-play for Northwestern, Notre Dame, Illinois.
Mike McGee: South Carolina, Southern Cal, Cincinnati AD. HC at Duke and East Carolina, assistant at Wisconsin, Minnesota. Player at Duke.
Lance McIlhenny: SMU player.
Ray Melick: Current sportswriter for Birmingham Post-Herald, MSNBC. Radio personality in Birmingham. Covers Alabama, Auburn. See his "favorite" and "Hated" teams.
Ted Miller: Current sportswriter for Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Covers Washington and Pac-10. Darrell Moody: Coach at NC State, UNC, Clemson, LSU, Southern Miss, Tulane. Player at NC State.
Jim Morse: Player at Notre Dame. Radio personality for ND. "Major benefactor"
Craig Morton: Player at California.
Jack Moss: Sportswriter at Kalamazoo Gazette. Western Michigan alum and covers WMU.
Anthony Munoz: Player at USC. Camera magnet last 4 years at Tennessee.
Chuck Neinas: Big 8 commissioner. Heads Coach/AD Search consulting firm with dozens of clients (ND, TX, Okla, UGA, A&M, et al).
Tim Neverett: Play-by-play for UNLV. Broadcasting personality in Denver area.
Dave Newhouse: Current writer for Oakland Tribune. San Jose St. grad.
George Perles: Michigan State HC
Ed Podolak: Iowa player.
John Pont: HC at Indiana, Northwestern, Miami. AD at Northwestern.
Steve Preece: Oregon State player. TV announcer for Oregon State.
Homer Rice: AD at GT, Rice, UNC. Coach at Kentucky, Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Rice.
Pat Richter: AD at Wisconsin. Player at Wisconsin.
Paul Roach: Wyoming HC and AD.
Kenny Roda: Cleveland radio personality. Website links to Ohio State (NSFW in places).
Harvey Schiller: SEC commisioner.
Terry R. Schmidt: Ball State player.
Dick Schultz: UVA AD, Iowa coach.
Ken Shipp: Middle Tennessee St. player.
Irwin Smallwood: Current sportswriter (mostly golf) in Greensboro, NC. UNC grad. Daily Tar Heel publishes columns.
Jim Ray Smith: Baylor player. President of Baylor letterman club.
Larry Smith: HC at USC, Missouri, Tulane, Arizona. Asst. Coach at Miami OH, Michigan. Bowling Green player.
Gary Spani: Kansas State player.
Lou St. Amant: Radio announcer, and Assistant coach at Louisiana Monroe. Current President of "L Club". Baseball coach at ULM.
Ron Stephenson: Assistant AD at Boise State.
Nelson Stokley: Louisiana-Lafayette HC and AD. LSU player.
Jim Sweeney: HC at Fresno State (Field named for him) and Washington State. Current fundraiser for Fresno St.
Rick Taylor: AD at Cincinnati, Northwestern.
Whit Taylor: Vanderbilt player.
Jack Thompson: Washington St. player. Father of current player at WSU. Number retired by WSU (1 of only 2). Has awesome nickname - The "Throwin' Samoan".
John Toner: UConn HC and AD.
Steve Townsend: LSU SID. Assoc. AD at Alabama. Author of 2 books on Alabama.
Glen Tuckett: BYU AD and Baseball coach. Alabama AD.
Max Urick: AD at Kansas State and Iowa State.
Roger Valdiserri: Notre Dame SID for several decades. Assoc. AD at ND.
Bob Wagner: HC at Hawaii. Assistant Coach at Arizona.
Frank Weedon: Assoc. AD, SID at NC State. Maryland grad. Current NC State consultant.
Frank Windegger: TCU AD (and baseball player and coach).
Bill Yeoman: HC at Houston for 25 years.
Hugh Yoshida: AD at Hawaii.


The Harris Poll - Analysis & Conclusion

First off, some caveats about conflicts: I recognize that there is no way to accurately display direct connection between the conflict list in the previous post and actual biases. Some conflicts are much closer than others. For example, Bill Yeoman coached for 25 years at Houston and is still a legend there, while Larry Smith has 6 conflict schools and didn't leave with a good relationship at several of them. A long career at the same school may mean a bias toward that school, but also a bias against that school's rivals. An administrator that has worked at 6 schools may have dozens of biases toward and against schools. It's easy to say that since there are countless biases inherent to every voter, "they all cancel each other out", but I don't think the evidence supports that. Also, whether a conflict is in favor (Jack Thompson at WSU) of or against (Mackovic at Arizona) a particular school equally brings the poll into question.

I. Conference Categorization

For this section, I'm considering all conflicts equal (though I recognize that some are stronger than others and that the positive/negative dynamic exists). Also, if a particular voter has more than one conflict in the same conference (Dick Bestwick in the ACC - GT, UNC, UVA) , that voter only counts once for the conference.

SEC: 25 conflicts
Big XII: 22 conflicts
Big Ten: 20 conflicts
ACC: 17 conflicts
Pac-10: 17 conflicts
Conference USA: 14 conflicts
Big East: 12 conflicts
WAC: 11 conflicts
Independents: 10 conflicts
MAC: 9 conflicts
MWC: 9 conflicts
Sun Belt: 7 conflicts

Analysis: It is what it is. Some conferences are probably overrepresented (Independents, SEC, Conference USA). Some are probably underrepresented (ACC, Big East, MWC).

II. School Categorization

Same caveats - any conflict counts, though some are bigger than others. Categorized by number of conflicts.

6: UNC

5: Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma

4: Auburn, Cincinnati, Kansas, LSU, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Wisconsin

3: Arizona, Fresno State, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas State, Maryland, Memphis, Michigan, Missouri, NC State, Northwestern, Oregon State, Rice, South Carolina, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Tulane, Vanderbilt

2: Army, Ball State, BYU, California, Clemson, Colorado, Colorado State, Duke, Ga. Tech, Houston, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Miami (OH), Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, San Jose State, Stanford, Temple, Texas, Tulsa, UCLA, UConn, UNLV, Utah, Virginia, Wake Forest, Washington, Washington State

1: Arkansas, Arkansas State, Baylor, Boise State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, East Carolina, Georgia, Kent, Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisville, Marshall, Miami (FL), Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi, Navy, New Mexico, New Mexico State, Pitt, Purdue, Rutgers, SMU, Southern Miss, South Florida, Texas A&M, TCU, UAB, UTEP, Va. Tech, Wyoming

0: Air Force, Akron, Arizona State, Boston College, Buffalo, Central Florida, Eastern Michigan, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida State, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, Northern Illinois, North Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Penn State, San Diego State, Toledo, Troy, Utah State, Western Michigan, West Virginia

Analysis: Several points to make:

  • Florida, FSU and Miami all are perennial Top 10 teams, and therefore are most likely to be involved with a BCS controversy than just about any othe trio of teams. Yet there is only one voter with even a nominal connection to any of these schools (Bokamper). Florida is the most poorly represented state in this poll. And this is inexcusable. Unless the rules have changed, the ACC relies on the BCS rankings in part to decide which teams go to which bowls. If I were a FSU or Miami fan, I'd be very upset.
  • Some schools are significantly better represented than in-state rivals. Example: Arizona vs. Arizona State, Oregon vs. Oregon State.
  • Two of the three main Northeastern programs have no representation at all - Penn State and Boston College. It isn't like there aren't any writers in the Northeast.
  • Nebraska, Florida State, Penn State, Florida: all traditionally impressive programs, all involved in National Title chases in the last 20 years. Combined: No voters tied to the programs. I'd even add West Virginia in here.
  • UNC, Kansas, Cincinnati: among the schools with the most conflicted voters. Is the Harris Poll going to be used for basketball as well?
  • If the state of Florida is underrepresented, the state of Louisiana is clearly overrepresented. 12 conflicts among 5 schools. And they said the Ice Cream Distributor guy from ULM was needed for geographical inclusion? I call BS. This ought to make USC fans still sore about LSU's 2003 BCS Championship pretty mad.
  • Several successful mid-major programs are underrepresented. Mid-majors may have more to gain/lose by BCS poll bias. Boise State, Bowling Green, Southern Miss, TCU, UAB, UTEP, Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Marshall all have one or fewer related voters. Watch one (or more) get screwed.

Just at this level, there are plenty of questions which should be raised and answered by the Harris Poll. And these problems, to me, bring the entire poll into disrepute.

III. Age Distribution

In a previous post I discussed how a slight slant of this poll toward older voters could throw off the entire thing. I view older voters as "pre-Baby Boomers". My take is that there is a generational gap in college football. The younger generation thinks that the Florida schools are the standard bearers, that Boise State and Fresno State can hang with anyone, that Louisville, Virginia Tech and Kansas State are traditional powers not bottom feeders. The older generation still thinks that Notre Dame and Penn State are dominant (or even relevant), that Alabama is the only team south of Ohio, that Boise State is a punchline not a threat. Yes, I know this is stereotypical. Yes, I know that individual voters are able to do the research which should be required no matter how old he is. But this slant is a potential pitfall for the poll, in my opinion.

Finding voters' birth dates online isn't exactly easy, so my data isn't as accurate as I'd like. However, at least 45 voters (out of 109) can be considered in that pre-baby-boom generation. Nearly half. I see this as a problem.

Some other interesting facts about some of the voters' ages:

  • Eddie Crowder retired from Colorado as AD nearly 20 years ago. Retired as coach 31 years ago.
  • Bump Elliott coached his last game 37 years ago.
  • Bob Hammel published his last column 9 years ago. (Might not seem so long, but writing isn't exactly as physically taxing - imagine Furman Bisher + a decade)
  • Fred Jacoby has "53 years experience" in administration.
  • Mike Lude last coached in the 60's and his bio uses the Kent State shootings as a frame of reference.
  • Ken Shipp's coaching highlight was 30 years ago.
  • Homer Rice started his career in coaching or administration 54 years ago.
  • Bill Yeoman retired 19 years ago, but started coaching 43 years ago.

IV. Other Sports

Several of the voters were not football players or coaches, but rather were primarily involved in other sports. I don't think football experience necessarily must be a requirement, but it's worth looking at.

  • Gene Bartow, basketball
  • Charlie Cavagnaro, basketball
  • Bob Frederick, basketball
  • Irwin Smallwood, primarily golf
  • Lou St. Amant, baseball coach
  • Frank Windegger, baseball

V. The Problem of "Lifetimers"

In the above categorizing there is a clear flaw in my reasoning, which I readily admit. Specifically, an individual may have a tie to 8 different schools because of a career that has had him bouncing around. While all that moving around affects the categorization, it also tends to dilute an individual's loyalties. For example, Dick Bestwick worked or played for UGA, GT, UVA, USC, UNC, and Missouri. It's hard to be a Bulldog homer when you also worked for two close rivals. On the other hand, there are several voters who spent their entire (or nearly all) career at one school, and naturally would have much more loyalty to overcome in order to vote without a bias intruding. While that might not show up in the categorization above, it is indeed a problem. Unfortunately, these individuals must be addressed individually.

  • Jake Crouthamel (Syracuse). 27 years as AD. Built nearly every facility on campus.
  • Peter Dalis (UCLA). Student, nearly 50 years at UCLA.
  • Don Fambrough and Bob Frederick (Kansas). Fambrough was coach twice, spent nearly 40 years at Kansas and has "the deepest and strongest ties to KU football." Frederick has 3 degrees from KU, worked a total of 23 years at KU and is currently on the faculty (pdf).
  • Jim Grabowski (Illinois). One of the most beloved players in Illinois history, member of several halls of fame, commentator for 26 years for Illini football.
  • Bob Grim and Steve Preece (Oregon State). Grim was a player for the Beavers and worked as an OSU football broadcast commentator for 15 years. Preece also was a player and broadcast the postgame interviews for Oregon State's radio network.
  • EJ Holub (Texas Tech). One of the most egregious conflicts. Red Raider legend, longtime donor to the program. Current fundraiser for the program (Associate Executive Director for Development).
  • David Housel (Auburn). 40 years on the Plains.
  • Rocket Ismail, Jim Morse, Roger Valdiserri (Notre Dame). Let the criticism begin, since Notre Dame has 3 of the closest conflicted voters. Ismail is the best known Irish player over the last 20-30 years. Valdiserri's job for 30+ years was public relations for the Irish. Jim Morse is probably the biggest conflict. "Major benefactor" has the athlete's tutoring building named after his family because of his donations, serves (for 25 years) on the Athletic Alumni Development Council (read - fundraiser), has endowed athletic scholarships and provided "aircraft assistance" to the athletics department (to fly Kevin White around trying to hire coaches?).
  • Charley Johnson (New Mexico State). Another egregious example. Legendary player at NMSU (the only number ever retired by the school), but also he's served on the faculty at NMSU (head of the Chemical Engineering department) and served as the Assistant to the President of NMSU for Athletic Progress.
  • Pat Richter (Wisconsin). This one is almost parody. 20+ years with Wisconsin as a student and administrator. Longest serving AD in the Big 10 when he retired. His biography is titled "Always a Badger". Seriously.
  • Paul Roach (Wyoming). Coach twice, AD. "Loves Wyoming deeply".
  • Jim Ray Smith (Baylor). Player, President of the Baylor Lettermen's Club.
  • Lou St. Amant (La.-Monroe). Coach, broadcaster, current president of the L Club (booster).
  • Jim Sweeney (Fresno State). Longtime coach, field named for him. Current fundraiser for the athletic department. Read this article to see how he'd vote (yes, I know he's kidding, but he kind of proves the point).
  • Jack Thompson (Washington State). Legendary player (1 of 2 retired numbers). Father of a current WSU player. "...near and dear to my heart for three decades."
  • Frank Weedon (NC State). 45 years at NC State. Current consultant. Longtime SID and Assoc. AD.
  • Frank Windegger (TCU). 40 years as AD, baseball coach. Only number retired (baseball).
  • Bill Yeoman (Houston). 25 years as coach.

VI. Conclusion

The biggest problem in my opinion with the poll is voters with personal interests in the results of the poll. The Harris Poll, as part of the BCS directly affects bowl selections, and therefore the amount of revenue a particular school may bring in. Many of these voters are directly involved (at times employed) in fundraising for schools which may benefit from increased revenue resulting from inflated poll positions.

Example: Notre Dame has a singular arrangement with the BCS. If they finish in a particular position in the BCS poll, they are guaranteed a BCS at-large position. Three of the voters have direct ties to the university, one of which is directly involved in fundraising. Is there an incentive to fudge the votes on the poll in favor of a 8-3 Notre Dame to push them into an automatic berth (and $12M+ unshared)? I think so.

Another example: Fresno State runs the table, is on the verge of a top 6 BCS finish, but just outside. Should Jim Sweeney (or any other WAC-related voter) fudge the vote in order to get the Bulldogs into a BCS bowl game (and bring in $12M+ into the conference coffers)? He's a fundraiser, wouldn't this raise funds?

And this problem isn't just limited to the top of the poll, though that's definitely where the most deleterious effects can be felt, economic-wise.

Consider this hypothetical: The ACC has used the BCS standings as a tiebreaker in terms of bowl selection slotting. Assume Boston College, NC State and Georgia Tech all finish 8-3, and tied for 3rd-5th in the conference. All are toward the bottom of the BCS standings. Is it possible that Frank Weedon and Dick Sheridan rate NC State a little bit higher than the others in order to ensure that NC State gets that 3rd place finish and a high profile bid to the Peach Bowl (which pays out a little more), while unrepresented BC gets stuck with an expensive (most schools lose money going there) trip to Boise State. Sound fair? And would an issue like this fly under the radar? Possibly.

The fact is that people have biases. It's natural. I spent 7 years in Athens, and I will never be able to put aside my love for the Dawgs. I can't imagine spending 40+ years at a school, the amount of loyalty that would engender.

Can voters put aside biases? Maybe. I believe people can think rationally and objectively. But when individual voters have external pressures, such as job related benefits and detriments, I think it's much more difficult to be objective.

Where this takes us, I'm not prepared to say. Some will say that this poll is just another reason to go for a playoff. I'm not prepared to go that far. Whether we like it or not, this is the system in place. And that's why the system needs to be scrutinized, to ensure that it's the fairest system in place. I cannot say that the Harris Poll's component provides for a level playing field for all teams. When some schools have multiple ad hoc representatives voting for them, while others have nobody even in the area voting for their interests, a fair system is not evident.

Sportswriters across the country have hinted that the poll is interesting and have done profiles of individual voters (or the "several voters have ties to Local U" story). But I haven't been able to find a comprehensive view of all the voters, and I think that when you look at the big picture, it's a much uglier picture than expected. I'd like to give a credit to the many local writers whose columns inspired me to take a stab at this.

The end result: The Harris Poll is problematic now and deserves criticism before it becomes a major problem when the inevitable BCS controversy rears its head in November.

Finally, I'd like to apologize if there are any errors in the above. This is a hobby for me, and while I've put a lot of time into it, I have other responsibilites too. If you see any errors, please email me or post in comments and I'll make clear corrections.


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Premiership Picks

Midweek: 4/7 right result, 3 right scorelines (Straight cash, homey). Season: 14/25 right result, 4 right scores.

This weekend:

West Bromwich Albion v. Birmingham City: 1-0 I don't want to pick either team, but Cribbins got a "vote of confidence" this week, so I'll go with the Baggies.
Tottenham Hotspur v. Chelsea: 2-2 This should be entertaining. I like Spurs so far. Chelsea looked great midweek.
Aston Villa v. Blackburn Rovers: 2-1 Blackburn concede on the road.
West Ham United v. Bolton Wanderers: 0-1 Both sides have surprised me so far. Bolton still a little better.
Fulham v. Everton: 1-0 Everton hungover from the Villareal match.
Wigan Athletic v. Sunderland: 2-0 Sunderland are pretty much embarrassing now. Wigan shouldn't score, but...
Manchester City v. Portsmouth: 2-0 Pompey has big problems.
Middlesbrough v. Charlton Athletic: 3-1 'Boro is looking pretty good. Scoring more than I thought they would.
Newcastle United v. Manchester United: 0-2 Luque can't save Souness. Gone by Labor Day.


Thursday, August 25, 2005

Working on a big one...

I'll have the definitive Harris Poll deconstruction this weekend. I'm about halfway through researching the list of voters. It's as bad as everyone is saying. Some of the biases are barely veiled. The age thing I wrote about yesterday is as bad as I'd suspected. There are a few voters who have left the game in shame, and some who were never in it at all. It's an embarassment. Sit on the edge of your seats.


Champions' League Preview

Group draw happened today. The big story is Liverpool and Chelsea in the same group. Let's go group by group.

Group A: Bayern Munich, Juventus, Brugge, Rapid Vienna

Tough at the top. Both Munich and Juventus could win the whole thing. Those two ought to go through, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some upsets early on.

Group B: Arsenal, Ajax, Sparta Prague, Thun

Probably the weakest group. Arsenal and Ajax are tops, but look out for Prague before the winter transfer period. I don't think any of these teams are a real threat to win the cup, but a run to the semis is possible for Arsenal.

Group C: Barcelona, Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Udinese

Barcelona has probably the easiest path to the top, as they're head and shoulders better than the other three. There should be a pretty good battle for second though. I'd pick Bremen.

Group D: Manchester United, Villarreal, Lille, Benfica

Man U and last year's UEFA Cup quarterfinals. Manchester should clinch advancement by the 4th match. The others are all about even. I'll pick Lille.

Group E: AC Milan, PSV, Schalke, Fenerbahce

The toughest group, top to bottom. Milan have the most talent and should advance. PSV and Schalke both have talent to advance pretty far. It's always tough to play in Turkey too. I'll pick Shalke 04.

Group F: Real Madrid, Lyon, Olympiakos, Rosenborg

A pretty good group. Real ought to be a semifinalist at worst. We'll see how well Lyon uses their Essien bounty. Rosenborg aren't having a good domestic season, so this'll be their prime objective. I'd pick Lyon.

Group G: Liverpool, Chelsea, Anderlecht, Real Betis

The English clubs should advance. Anything short of the final might leave Chelsea's fans upset. Watch out for Betis, the sneaky "other" Spanish side this year.

Group H: Internazionale, Porto, Rangers, Artmedia Bratislava

Rangers fans are excited with the draw, but I don't think they advance. Inter and Porto are better. Artmedia have already done better than expected. None of these teams have a real chance to win it (and that includes Inter).

If I had to bet now, I'd say Barcelona, Chelsea and Milan are the best picks. A dark horse is Lyon.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sitemeter Added

I added sitemeter [just] today. So if you're a silent lurker reading and mad that I haven't added your blog to my links or some shit like that, you had no right to be mad until now. Now, however, I can track you. If you would like me to give a shoutout to you, email me at the address on the side and perhaps I'll oblige.

Also, to the person looking for "Matt Leinart + shirtless"... Sorry, dude. Try here.

And finally, for the new folks, I've added links that describe the title and handle.


I don't think it's right pickin' on the elderly

But I do it anyway. Bruce Feldman's blog entry (subscriber) at ESPN today focused on the Harris Poll in the BCS and how old some of the voters are:

"I looked at some of those names -- Wow, man, are you kidding me? I thought a lot of these guys were dead," said one head coach.

The more I think about it, the more this seems like a problem. Consider this post at EDSBS, which brings to mind (a) the fallibility of human voters and (b) the interplay between the mores of the day and the opinions of humans. The latter is what concerns me. If there's a age slant to the Harris Poll, there might also be a generational bias... as in the older voters view the game from their generational point of view, not necessarily the most accurate. Without jumping into the deep end of the "Offensive Revolution", I think the game has definitely changed since the '70s.

Proof positive that the game has passed some by: Beano Cook. Yeah, it's no great task fisking Beano. But he, as much as anyone in college football punditry, represents that past generation.

Perhaps these don't really show that Beano is stuck in 1970 (I'm sure there are plenty of examples out there), but here are some nuggets of insanity, inanity and incomprehensibility from today's espn chat with Count Jigglyjowls of the Three Rivers:

Mark (Lexington, KY): I am a huge Louisville fan and was wondering do you think UofL has a good shot at getting into the Rose Bowl if they go undefeated?
Beano Cook: If 60 teams go on probation...

I'm sure when the 5-6 Gamecocks hear from the NCAA they'll gladly give up their spot at #59 to the 11-0, BCS bound conference champs. Let's not overdo the hyperbole here.

Scott (Cleveland, Ohio): Is Randy Walker at Northwestern another of the coaches on the hot seat? Seems that program has risen to be average but now is stuck.
Beano Cook: Tough to be on the hot seat there when you have the toughest academics in the Big Ten and the only private school in the league...

Nothing all that egregious here. Randy Walker shouldn't be on the hot seat. The flaw in the logic is where earlier in the chat Beano (without being asked) listed off a bunch of coaches on the hot seat and included Bobby Johnson at Vandy, a school which has the toughest academics and is the only private school in its league. Their situations might be different (Walker's had more success, but has also had more time, support, and talent), but if Beano's reason works for one...

Charlie Weiss (south bend, in): How will my Irish team fare in my 1st season, will my QB and WR actually produce a passing game and will my defense actually defend the pass this season? Maybe a 8-9 win season? What do you think?
Beano Cook: At least seven wins. In last year's draft, Purdue, Boston College and Pittsburgh had two players drafted, the same as Notre Dame. The Irish lost to all three of those teams at home last season.

I have no idea what this means. Notre Dame lost at home last year to teams it plays on the road this year, without much comparative difference in the returning talent... so shouldn't they lose those games too? So does that mean Beano expects them to lose them and still get to seven (by beating 2 out of Michigan, Tennessee and USC)? Addled mind.

Beano Cook: Strange things happen, and it is unlikely, but that's why they play the games, as one Chris Berman has said in the past. This isn't like an election in Chicago, where you know the result after the first vote.

Chris Berman? Chicago voting? We're off the rails.

Today's chat featured only 4 Note-Trah-Dame questions and 4 Penn State questions. Topical 15 years ago.

Perhaps today's chat isn't a perfect fit for my grand unification theory, that Beano is from another time (or planet) and that voters of his ilk might slant the Harris Poll. But if the first released Harris Poll has Notre Dame, Alabama, Penn State, Army, Navy, University of Chicago and Yale, we'll know that this was a bad idea.

And one other thing about the Harris Poll: where will Brentson Buckner find time to vote considering all the lip balm he has to put on before every game?

Also football related: A couple of new comments to the SEC scheduling post down below. Anyone have an answer to my question from today?


Monday, August 22, 2005

A personal note

Apologies to those of you here for witty banter and sports talk, but I'd like to get something somewhat serious off my chest.

Eric Rudolph was sentenced today to 4 consecutive life sentences for his bombing of Centennial Olympic Park here in Atlanta. He was sentenced last month to two consecutive life sentences for bombing a women's' clinic in Birmingham. Because parole doesn't exist in federal penitentiaries, barring a presidential pardon, Rudolph will never take another step as a free man.

And I am very glad.

In the summer of 1996 I was a rising sophomore at UGA, and I worked during the Olympics at the Swatch pavilion in Centennial Olympic Park. The Swatch pavilion was a sort of museum/kitschy watch store/event facility situated to the right of the main stage in the park. I served as a tour guide or host. Basically, I stood at the door and let people in in groups the museum part could handle. Upstairs there was a VIP area and we'd let athletes and celebrities come in the back door and eat and drink and watch the bands that would perform on the stage each night. I wore a Gold Medal from one of the Dutch men's' volleyball team. I met Mark Spitz and Peter Fonda. I almost spilled rioja on the matriarch of the ruling family of Spain. It was a good place to work. A lot was going on down there. I saw terrible bands, met people from all over, went to events at the World Congress Center across the park.

Then, on the middle weekend of the Olympics, things got crazy. The park was about 5 times more crowded than any other night of the games. Across the main lawn from our building was the Budweiser pavilion ("Bud World") and it was hilariously packed. All the staffmembers commented on how crazy things were that night. After the main bands (like Santana and shit like that), every night a band called Jack Mack and the Heart Attack would play songs for the 40+ set and then the park would close. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait for the park to close.

The staff at the Swatch pavilion had 7 or 8 positions we'd stand at. 3 or 4 of them were inside, one was at the front door that faced the Bud pavilion. And 2 were at the exit, which was right next to the Swatch store. About 10 yards in front of the exit was a large sound tower, at the base of which Eric Rudolph placed a large bag full of jagged metal and a detonation device.

If you remember any of the footage that was run on a loop on news programs right after the bombing, one of the best shots of the actual bombing was an interview with Janet Evans, the swimmer. She was doing an interview upstairs in the Swatch pavilion in front of the big window that faced the stage when the bomb went off shaking the building and causing loud crashing inside. I let her in the front door about 15 minutes beforehand.

When I let her in and when the bomb went off, I was stationed at the front door. The shape of the building jutted out and kind of blocked the view of the stage and the building was between me and the sound tower. This was lucky, I believe.

When the bomb went off, the concussion knocked me back a foot. I kind of staggered for a second and then wondered just what the hell it was. It sounded like an enormous speaker had exploded, but it didn't feel like that. I ran about 15 yards away from the building, to be able to see the stage. On the huge screens that were on either side of the stage I saw Jack Mack freaking out. It was clear that it wasn't just a blown speaker. Then I turned back to the Swatch building. Before I could walk back, a soldier, in full uniform, came running at me, yelling for me to get down. I did so quickly.

After about a minute or two on the ground, with panicked revelers running all over the place, I got up and walked quickly out of the park. Luckily, the Swatch company made us wear these ridiculous red and white striped polo shirts, so it was easy to spot my co-workers. It was also a little startling. Two of my coworkers were stationed at the exit of the building. I had rotated away from that position about 30 minutes earlier. Both of them had blood all over their shirts. One had been cut by some of the shrapnel, slightly. The other had run into other people who had been injured very badly by the bomb. It was a lot of blood. They were very shaken. We all were, I guess. But they were almost catatonic.

Security personnel kept yelling to get out of the area, since there were fears that the bomb was only an initial barrage, in order to get the innocent civilians out of the park, then a bigger one would detonate with only security personnel inside. We weren't moving much, because we were trying to find all of our coworkers. Finally, we all went our separate ways home. I took MARTA westbound to where I'd parked 9 hours before. The MARTA trains weren't moving very often. Everyone on the train looked like I did. Confused, a little scared, a little angry. I befriended a family on the train. I can't remember their names now. I remember they were from Oregon and their son was an athlete on the US rifle team. They said he'd medalled that day. A bronze medal. Best day of his life. They were celebrating in the park, in the family area behind the stage, when the bomb went off. I traded them a Swatch pin (notoriously hard to get and "valuable") for their AT&T Olympic Family Village pin (also notoriously hard to get and "valuable").

I went home and drank 3 beers in about 30 seconds. I called my parents, who were up at a lake house. They didn't know about the bombing, so by waking up and telling them, I freaked them out much worse than they would've been. Then I watched the news for about 3 hours. I heard about Alice Hawthorne. I heard about the Turkish journalist who'd been killed in the rush after the bomb. I felt lucky to be alive.

They determined that the bomb went off and sprayed shrapnel right at our building. There were cantaloupe sized holes at eye-level in our building. Had I been stationed at the exit, I may have been injured very badly or worse.

They shut down the park for a few days. Swatch paid us for the downtime, and hired a bunch of former Secret Service agents for our protection once the park reopened.

A few months later I was interviewed, via phone, by the FBI in connection with the bombing investigation. I didn't have much to add, except what I've written above.

So today Eric Rudolph was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in jail. And I'm happy. He's a monster, a pure terrorist in every sense of the word. And as terrible as he is, I feel more of a tangible tie to this case.

I believe he tried to kill me.

And I don't like that. And that's why I'm glad that our justice system still works, despite his abettors in the woods of Western North Carolina. I'm glad he'll never be free again. And I might sleep a little better because of it.


Premiership Picks

Midweek edition. Last week: 4/8 right result, 0 right scores. Thus far: 10/18, 1 right.

Birmingham City v. Middlesbrough: 2-2. I think both these teams are headed for mid-table obscurity.
Portsmouth v. Aston Villa: 1-0. I'm sure Villa are better, but I'm not sure they're all that good right now.
Sunderland v. Manchester City: 1-2. Sunderland have problems in the back.
Arsenal v. Fulham: 2-0. Arsenal rebound from a disappointing performance.
Chelsea v. West Bromwich Albion: 4-0. Essien makes a big impact. On track for the title.
Blackburn Rovers v. Tottenham Hotspur: 0-1. Spurs the big surprise. They'll stay hot for a while, then cool off around the holidays.
Bolton Wanderers v. Newcastle United: 2-0. Bolton plays well at Reebok, Souness is gone before October.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Droopy Dog Watch

Haven't done this in a while, but read something in his insider column (subscriber only) today that epitomizes what I don't like about the guy. He has incredible inside sources, but uses his column and his nationwide respect as a pundit to protect and promote his guys. It's a symbiotic relationship, and I don't think the readers benefit at all.

Here's the passage that clearly displays this bullshit:

Incidentally, in the 2002 draft, Francoeur was considered unsignable, headed to Clemson as a safety/outfielder. Boston, which did not have a first-round pick, had a pre-draft deal cut with Francouer. Braves scouting director Roy Clark found out, did the same deal with the 23rd pick, and Red Sox scouting director David Chadd cut a deal with a left-handed pitcher named Jon Lester, who may well be in Boston's rotation next season and may be, along with Liriano, one of the best left-handed prospects in the game.

Here are the problems with this passage:
1) This wasn't incidental to anything else in the paragraph (which was supposed to be about how good Francouer was but instead was all about an unnamed scout thinking he sucks because he doesn't walk).
2) Any guess if someone in the Red Sox org slipped this in to make them look good? 22 teams missed on Frenchy. 7 teams can pull the "we had a deal with him but the Braves swooped in ahead" card no matter if it's true or not. Unfortunately, only the Sawwwwwks have Gammons' jowls resting on their inner thighs.'
3) And isn't it lovely that even though the Sox missed out on a fantastic player, they just happened to have a great lefty fall into their lap. Just providence.
4) For 4 years I've heard the same story from 3 people, two of which are very close to Francoeur. The Braves deal was in place for months. Every other team was told Clemson was the only placed he'd go. He only wanted Atlanta.

This story is either intraoffice Sox asscovering (which none of his readers give a shit about) or it's 100% pure golden sunshine blown up the legion of Sox fans collective ass. Great player on another team? The local boys would've had him, and though they missed him they got something better instead.

Next time you see him on Baseball Tonight, close your eyes and imagine some old dude repeating Red Sox press releases. Next time you read a column by him, pretend you've stumbled upon a Red Sox Fan Fiction site.


Thursday, August 18, 2005

You without me is like Harold Melvin without the Blue Notes; You'll never go Platinum.

Snoop's football league draws controversy. Here's the line to draw your attention:

Walking with Xavier toward the parking lot, parents and coaches describe rapper Snoop Dogg as a modern-day Pied Piper luring football players with his song "Drop It Like It's Hot" blasting from a school bus pimped out with enough bass, TV screens and gadgetry to persuade any kid to sell out the old for the new.

Pied Piper? Is R. Kelly in on this league too? [insert 10 year old cheerleader joke here].

Seriously though, recruiting 10 year olds seems kind of weird to me. Chuuuuuuch.


Baby Braves

Pointing your attention to this article on the Hardball Times that ranks players by age and win shares. While I'm not entirely sure I understand (or buy into) win shares, it's an interesting concept. And there's fun news for Braves fans. The youngest category of rankings, the 21 year olds, has 3 Braves in the top 5 (Francoeur, McCann and Davies). Also, the oldest win share earning player is our man Julio. I'm not sure what this proves, except that the Braves rule.


Premiership Picks

A good start last week 6/10 right result, 1 right score. Unable to post tomorrow, so here's this weekend's picks.

Manchester United v. Aston Villa: 1-1. I see demonstrations and shit, and a disappointing result for Man U.
Newcastle United v. West Ham United: 2-2. I see fireworks, but because both teams kind of blow.
Tottenham Hotspur v. Middlesbrough: 1-0. Quick start for Spurs.
Liverpool v. Sunderland: 3-0. Sunderland has defensive problems.
Charlton Athletic v. Wigan Athletic: 2-0. Wigan looked OK last week. Road is a different animal. Charlton looked better than I'd guess.
Blackburn Rovers v. Fulham: 0-0. Mules fighting over a turnip... monkeys fuggin a football.
West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester City: 0-1. Boring.
Bolton Wanderers v. Everton: 2-1. Hard to get points away at Bolton. Panic at Goodison Park.
Chelsea v. Arsenal: 1-2. Marquee matchup. Arsenal looks a little bit better at this point.

UPDATE: I messed up this week transcribing. Left off Birmingham City and Portsmouth, which really screwed up 2 games. Apologies to all. The lesson: Blogging sober can only lead to bad things.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hi. My name's LD and I'm looking for a fight.

I've been following an ongoing debate/exchange of bitchslaps between Heisman Pundit and Orson Swindle from EDSBS over how shitty the SEC's scheduling is. For the uninitiated, HP is a Pac-10 USC guy, Orson is a Gator. The short version of the debate:

Heisman Pundit says the SEC is "chickenshit" because they rarely leave the region for away games, schedule terrible teams at home instead for cash (which he thinks is no excuse) and the resulting wins unnaturally inflate their win totals and esteem in the national media polls.

Orson disagrees.

Apologies for the long post, but here's my take (in three thrilling parts):

1. "Leaving the region" is a canard.

SEC haters love to talk about how you never see SEC teams travel all that far and play teams "outside the region". John Walters at wrote about it a few weeks ago. Naturally, he had to correct his column the next week because it was a stupid argument. First off, there is no inherent way to place a value on "leaving the region", because "leaving the region" doesn't mean anything. Put this way, Tennessee has gone on the road in recent years to play Notre Dame and Miami. Guess which one is farther away, South Bend or Coral Gables? Here's a hint - one is nearly 400 miles farther away from Knoxville. But wouldn't you know that the longer trip for the Vols would be a "regional matchup". Meanwhile if Kentucky were to travel less than 2 hours by bus to Cincinnati, it's leaving the region. In a similar light, there has to be another dimension to "leaving the region" - as what are the representative qualities of the team traveling or being traveled to? Should the SEC get credit if Vandy were to travel to Stanford for a game with the rough equivalent of two mules fighting over a turnip? Who gives a shit about that game? And what's the reason for the traveling? Big payday by a bottom feeder in a conference going on the road to a big fish? Why give credit for something like that?

The point is that leaving the region doesn't matter. Playing a good opponent on the road if it's less than a couple hours away is every bit as valuable as traveling across the country to play a decent opponent. In fact, I'd argue that it's better to play regional foes. When the schedule goes to 12 games, Georgia has scheduled a home/home with Colorado (more on that in a minute), which is fine. However, scheduling the Buffs is at the expense of getting back to a regular meeting with our closest (as the crow flies) rival, Clemson. Is Clemson any better or worse an opponent than Colorado? Who's to say by then, but now I'd say they're comparable at worst (Clemson's probably a little bit better). And I'd say there is a value to facing regional teams too. Using the Georgia/Clemson example, there are hundreds of Clemson fans in my office and in my community. I know like one Colorado fan. I know when UGA played Clemson a few years back there was genuine excitement around offices because it was a regional matchup. That interaction is missing with cross-country games.

So my point is: what's the big deal with "leaving the region"? It's an easy thing to tabulate and come up with a statistic that seeks to show one conference, by going on the road to play someone in another region, is "tougher" or less "chickenshit" than another. But that statistic is basically meaningless considering that there are no defined regions that make sense and the relative strengths or motivations of the teams playing on the road. A statistic like that proves nothing except that some teams are forced to travel farther than others because there are more schools in certain places. And, like so many debates in college football, that statistic requires someone to compare not just apples and oranges, but rather good apples to mediocre apples to delicious oranges to apples grown specifically for pies to orange juice and so on.

2. Making money is a bigger motivation for SEC schools than others.

I posted a comment about this on the Resource Blog before, but the issue keeps coming up (with Heisman Pundit sidestepping the argument). One of the main reasons SEC defenders use for why they don't travel as much is that they're trying to make more money, which is part of the game (and whether that's good or bad is a debate for another day). HeismanPundit says this is a ruse because other schools (Michigan, Texas) make lots of money and still travel on the road. OK, great for them. The thing is that of the top 10 moneymaking programs, 6 are in the SEC. That creates a microeconomy. UGA, UF, UT, LSU, Auburn and Alabama (and Arkansas, Ole Miss, USC) aren't competing against the rest of the country primarily. They're competing against each other first of all. Here's a hypothetical: say Auburn goes on the road for one more game than they need to, that could be $2M that is no longer in the budget. If Auburn brings in $2M less, and Alabama doesn't make that choice (and takes the money instead), Auburn might not be able to have as large a recruiting budget, or start payments on a note covering a new practice facility. And guess what? Alabama does have that money, from the extra home game. So Alabama puts that $2M into renovating skyboxes, or a new weight room. And when that 5 star D-lineman from Hoover takes a visit to both places and sees the shiny new facilities in Tuscaloosa and the declining ones in Auburn, guess where he's probably going to choose (I know, Tennessee, 'cause they pay him)? Auburn instead doesn't want to take that chance. So all SEC teams have to have at least 6 home games - just to keep up with the Joneses. And there are a lot of Joneses in the SEC. The competition for every last dollar is so much closer in the SEC. And that's what drives all those schools to the top. Greed begets greed. And there isn't a single school that would (or should, if they care about their fans) take a step back. The competition is not the same in the Pac-10. While it might be getting there in the Big 10/12, it isn't quite the same yet. Now, whether this is a good thing or not is another debate all together. But for now this is the reality. And that is why you should never see an SEC team schedule fewer than 6 home games. Of course, I wouldn't expect any team in a major conference to schedule fewer than 6 home games either. (more on this below)

3. Individual scheduling motivations tell a different story from a simple statistic.

One of the worst habits of a college football writer is to paint with broad strokes. As in "the SEC never plays anyone out of conference," or maybe "nobody out west plays any defense." Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma all have been out of conference games for the SEC. And USC has a great defense, and there have been very good defenses out west for years. The point is that when a writer makes an overreaching statement, he's bound to incorrectly include teams, and offering a cherry picked statistic doesn't prevent this fallacy.

With the scheduling controversy, HeismanPundit is way too broad in his statements. He might say once or twice that Tennessee has gone on the road and should get some credit,but then he follows it up with a long tirade against "the SEC". UT is a part of the SEC. If you want to say one thing honestly, you can't say the other. It requires much more effort of a writer, but in college football you pretty much have to address things team by team.

And scheduling is no different. Teams set their schedules with different restrictions, motivations and goals in mind. The SEC is no different from any other conference when it comes to that. Some teams have rivalries that limit the number of OOC games they can schedule. Georgia and Florida play a neutral site game that limits their ability to ensure they get 6 home games. Some teams have financial pressure put on them by major facilities improvements. Some teams get pressure to play close rivalries (like how the Florida legislature got involved to make UF play FSU). So before we go off criticizing the entire league, let's take a look at each team and how each has to set it's schedule and how it's done the past few years in terms of matching up with good teams on the road. FYI: I think 6 home games is minimally appropriate in an 11 game season. In a 12 game season, I think 7 one year, 6 the next is fine:

Alabama: No real restrictions on home games. Had home/home with UCLA and Oklahoma in recent years. Went on road to Hawaii for extra games during probation. Appears to take as many home games as possible, likely for added revenue to pay for the stadium renovations in progress.

Arkansas: No real restrictions on home games. Had h/h with Texas, regional h/hs with SMU and Memphis recently. Major improvements to stadium recently. Has gone for 7 home games (including the Little Rock games) frequently in 11 game seasons. One of the worst "offenders."

Auburn: No real restrictions on home games. H/hs with USC, GT, UVA, Syracuse recently. Typically has 1 very good opponent, 1 decent/mediocre opponent, and 1 terrible opponent.

Florida: Plays UGA in Jacksonville, so in odd years must have 3 home games to get to 6. Plus, has a home/home rivalry game with FSU, so in even years the one away game in a 11 game season is the Noles. The trial 12 game seasons allowed for a h/h with Miami. Pretty much impossible to schedule a h/h with anyone else and still have 6 games.

Georgia: Plays UF in Jacksonville, so in even years must have 3 home games to get to 6. Plus, has a home/home rivalry game with GT, so in odd years the one away game in a 11 game season is the Yellow Jackets. The trial 12 game seasons allowed for a h/h with Clemson, and upcoming with Colorado. Pretty much impossible to schedule a h/h with anyone else and still have 6 games.

Kentucky: Home and Home rivalry series with Indiana and Louisville, so only has room for one other OOC game each year. Wouldn't matter if they went on the road.

LSU: No real restrictions. Has gone on the road to Virginia Tech and Arizona. Usually schedules more than 6 home games. One of the worst offenders.

Mississippi: No real restrictions, but has had a h/h with Memphis (don't think it's really a rivalry though). Went on the road to Wyoming last year, but usually goes for 7 home games. Worst offender.

Mississippi State: No real restrictions. Has had h/hs with Oregon, Tulane, traveled to BYU, Houston, Memphis. Less ability to draw teams without a h/h, so goes on the road. Probably should play more home games for the money.

South Carolina: Has a h/h in state rivalry with Clemson. However, the big crowds tend to force them into scheduling home games. Went for 8 home games in '03. Rarely goes on the road other than Clemson (Virginia in '02). Deserves criticism.

Tennessee: No real restrictions. Has had h/h with Miami, Notre Dame in the last few years. Has had h/h with Memphis too (unsure if required). Has done what HP thinks they should.

Vanderbilt: No restrictions. Has had h/h with Duke, Navy, TCU, GT. Done what they should. No need to schedule more home games because they don't sell out anyway.

So there you have it. Of the 12 teams, LSU, USC, Arkansas and Ole Miss deserve whatever criticism. Alabama could do "better. " UGA, UF and UK are pretty limited in what they can do. UT and Auburn already do what HP thinks they should. MSU and Vandy don't matter really, but go on the road already. Basically, 1/3 of the league deserves the criticism that other pundits cast at the entire league. Awesome.


Basically, it boils down to this. If the criticism is that SEC teams don't play difficult and distant opposition on the road, the response is:

A) Several of the teams do play difficult or comparable teams on the road;
B) Some of the teams, because of schedule limitations, cannot play difficult or comparable teams on the road;
C) Playing distant opposition doesn't benefit a program all that much, and in some cases it is much worse than playing local;
D) There are several reasons to play home games, first of all the competition among SEC teams to have higher budgets.

I await the "USC does this" or "someone else does that" argument. Oh yeah, and apple jolly ranchers kick the balls off orange starbursts.


Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Bitch is a word you use for someone you disrespect.

You very much should take a listen to Krazee Eyez Killah. And thank you to DeeJay Swayzee for showcasing this, and thanks to Low-Bee for bringing sunshine into my life.

Direct link to song here.


Half Volleys

1) AJC's sports columnists are now free. Fish/Barrel.

2) Preseason top 10, bitches. Camden County Saturday in the Dome? Not a good sign.

3) Granny Holtz thinks UGA sucks. Apparently returning 16 starters (at a minimum) vs 11 starters is "down a little". Also "pretty good" must mean losing the two best offensive players and best D-lineman, along with 40 other scholarship athletes. USC has played us close in the past. I'm not thinking it this year. Plus, last time Spurrier came to Sanford he put the starters back in to get to 50. We don't forget that, and rest assured Mark Richt will know about that. This is the year to woodshed them. I think we take it. More to come later.

4) (third item) I think FB is the right spot for Milton. Still remember that nasty block he put on that UK blitzing LB two years ago, on a play we scored a TD on when the game was still in doubt. Plus, he wouldn't get many carries at tailback. I'm expecting a solid blocking game from him early in the season, then an AJC article about his leadership.


This column is, simply, a mess

I've never read much in terms of sportsblogs, mostly because they're so insular - unless you're a big fan of a particular team, they're usually too specific for the transient reader. But with the coming college football season, I've started reading a bit more. And that's a good thing, as I've learned a good amount. There is, however, one thing that seems universal among sportsblogs. And that is a tremendous loathing for Scoop Jackson. I've been reluctant to piss on the gas fire, since I don't really give a shit about 90% of what he writes. The subtle comparison of criticism of Dusty Baker to a lynching last week was, well, too soon to use that card. Unless he plans on using it all the damn time.

Today's column is on the Hawks. I would never assume to know more about anything basketball related than an award winning journalist for Slam or Hoop magazines. But damn if this column doesn't make me feel superior. The problem is factual errors. Before this went online, Scoop wrote, edited, rewrote it, and then his editor(s) read, edited, revised, fact checked and reedited it. And these people got paid to do these things.

Before I got to the bottom of the first page I was embarrassed for them all. Perhaps one of the main premises in the article is that the ownership structure caused the trade problems. Doesn't anyone at ESPN think they should get the ownership structure right?

The owners decided that Joe Johnson was worth $70 million and two first-round draft picks. They decided that Joe Johnson was the answer to all of their basketball problems. They decided that Joe Johnson was going to be their LeBron James.
Well, only two of them did.
Steve Belkin. He was the one owner who felt different. He felt that Joe Johnson wasn't worth all that, because in his mind (as opposed to the mind of Joe Quinn, the lawyer for the other two owners who compared Joe Johnson's arrival in Atlanta to Larry Bird's arrival in Boston), Joe Johnson wasn't all that.
When the asinineness clears, he's the one that might be right.

There are nine principal members of the LLC. One group of principals in Atlanta, another in Washington DC, and Belkin flyin' solo in Boston. All the Atlanta and DC members, the General Manager, and the President of the LLC were in favor of the trade. Belkin was the only one in the entire hierarchy of the franchise that opposed the deal. Belkin is the largest ownership interest holder in Atlanta Spirit LLC, but he still owns only 30%. The LLC Operating Agreement sets out that the Atlanta members, Washington Members and Belkin each have one vote on decisions, majority rules. For this trade, it was 2-1 in favor of doing the deal. The only reason why this was even a problem was that Belkin had the figurehead position of NBA Governor (one of the DC members is the Thrashers' governor). Belkin lost the vote, but then wanted to take his ball and go home. And as numerous article have set out, it was clear that Belkin's opposition to the deal on the merits was a complete ruse. Belkin did not want to pay the salary at all. It had nothing to do with what the Hawks gave up.

But somehow Atlanta LLC couldn't. The incompetence of the parent company of the Hawks, the NHL Thrashers, and Philips Arena, where the teams play, allowed a petty disagreement over a mid-level free agent to get out. To the media and to the public.

This is not a petty disagreement. Belkin wanted to spend 1/3rd less on salary than the other owners. Belkin wanted to spend less than half of the luxury tax cap. This was a fundamental philosophical argument over the future of the franchise. Do we want to take the NBA shared revenues, go cheap cheap cheap on the team and become the Clippers East, or do we want to invest in the club and try to win and maybe approach a wider audience. This is not a petty disagreement.

Scoop supports Belkin in this column, but bases his support on a false argument. It would be one thing to say "the Hawks overpaid for Joe Johnson". This is not the dispute between the members of Atlanta Spirit LLC. The dispute was getting Joe Johnson or not. If Scoop wants to have an academic debate over the costs, that's a fine idea for a column. But in doing so, if he had done any in depth research on the controversy, he would know that he shouldn't "take Belkin's side".

What does Joe Smith have to do with the Hawks? And what's with the Al Harrington bit? Scoop seems to imply he's wasting his talent on such a shitty team, but if he were good, wouldn't the team be better?

The rest of the article is all about how shitty the Hawks are. OK, they suck. They have a bunch of players who play the same position. Johnson isn't a traditional point guard. One of the picks they gave up might turn out to be the next Jordan or something. All decent points. Of course, he could also mention that the Hawks have swung and missed the last few years on free agents, and money unspent is money wasted. Or perhaps that the Hawks have enough picks from deadline deals the last few years that they have a good chance of still getting a top pick the next few years. I think the Hawks had to do something to get a little buzz in this city, which will support a basketball team worth watching. They might've overpaid, but nobody's going to give the Hawks a discount. The best thing about this trade controversy is that a miserly owner has been outed (and likely ousted). Anyone who likes basketball should think that's a good thing. While, sure, player salaries are way high, teams that suck from the shared revenue teat without adding anything to the league should be shunned. Belkin wanted to do that. Good riddance. Scoop Jackson was really on the wrong side of the issue. And then he wrote a factually incorrect article.

Another shitty Page2 writer. Hruby sucks. Shanoff offers a mistake a day, guaranteed. Just for the heck of it, Brian Murphy is lame. Jim Caple never met a story he couldn't turn maudlin. Skip Bayless courts controversy, then sucks the life out of his columns with his aging hipster shitty references. I like Simmons, but his Boston columns annoy me after a while. Just weak all together.

Edited (poorly) for clarity and because I wasn't satisfied with it.


USA v. T&T

We ought to get 3 points tomorrow. Do that and we can leave the Euros with their clubs for the later matches. Don't think Keller, Reyna, Beasley, Convey, Onyewu, etc don't know that. I expect a big outing from the USA. My guess is that Donovan nets at least one, T&T don't score. 3-0 USA.


Sunday, August 14, 2005

Links Updated

With College Football starting up, I added a bunch of links. It's also the first time I've linked to people with whose opinions I rarely agree (Heisman Pundit, EDSBS). Take a look and enjoy.


Thanks, ESPN, for reminding me why I hate everything

It's a conversation we've all had a million times. The conversation about how MTV no longer shows anything which can be considered "music television". It's a youth pop culture network and nothing more. When M2 started, the argument was that it would be a network where they'd actually show music all day. They basically gave up on the pretense that the original network would do that kind of thing. Then the slippery slope continued. Now, MTV2 rarely shows videos either. It's just a marathon of WildBoyz followed by an episode of Stankervision, followed by Beavis and Butthead for two hours. The argument, I suppose, is that if you want videos, watch MTV Jamz or MTV Hits (which don't really show a lot of the music I'd like to see). My point isn't that every single MTV and MTV2 show is bad (obvs, Wonder Showzen and the Real World Challenges rule). And if more people want to watch an episode of Punk'd for the 45th time instead of new videos, I can't really blame the network dudes for trying to make more money. But it isn't what I want to watch. VH-1 is even worse. Well, maybe it isn't. They do the exact same thing only with lamer shows. Probably the only thing that makes it worse is the slogan "Music First", which I don't know if they still use since I don't watch it. What sucks is the way both of these networks went from doing one thing that I liked (videos) to doing a bunch of original programming and celebrity recut bullshit (and repeating ad infinitum). And now what I liked to watch is spread out over like 8 channels and kind of hard to find.

Which brings me to ESPN. In Mexico, I watched some of their ESPN channels and I was stunned to notice something. They show sports. Like, all day long. Sportscenter is on at like 9 in the morning for an hour, and then at 6 in the evening and 11. They have Cronometro, which is a roundtable show that's on once a week. Then they have a weekly car racing show. Then the other 140 hours a week they show things like volleyball or track and field or swimming or soccer or baseball or shit, anything. It ought not be so startling - a sports network actually showing sporting events - but it is. And it is because ESPN here fills about half its hours (or more) with shows about sporting events, instead of the actual events. You have the talking head shows: PTI, Around the Horn, The Stephen A. Smith yelling hour, Rome, etc. Then there's the preview or recap shows, which usually amount to more airtime than the actual events themselves - College Gameday, NFL Countdown, NBA Shootaround, Baseball Tonight, NFL 2Night, RPM 2Night, etc. And now there's plenty of "original programming" to displace actual sports - Poker, Tilt, Poker, Stump the Sweaty Dude, Poker, The Stu Scott Boo-Yaa Hour, Poker, Hu$tle, Poker, 3, Poker, The Junction Boys, Poker, Newlywed Game with teammates (stealing programming ideas from NFL Network parody ads?), The Contender, Poker, I'll Do Anything, Poker, Playmakers, Poker, The Season, Poker, Dream Job and Poker.

Maybe the ratings are better than showing real sports. Maybe producing shit like that costs a fraction of the price as compared to getting rights to real sports. Maybe I can get sports programming on OLN, Golf Channel, Tennis Channel, the two Fox channels, CSS, etc. But this creeping VH-1-ification of ESPN is not good news. ESPN used to be the place where we could watch sports. If we wanted to watch dramas, we'd watch something else. If we wanted to watch the $100,000 pyramid, we'd watch the Game Show Network. They call themselves the "Worldwide leader in sports", not the "Worldwide leader in stuff sort of related to sports."

And the cherry on the top of the shit sundae that ESPN has become lately is the premiere tomorrow of ESPN Hollywood. Entertainment Tonight with athletes. Cribs, clothes, controversy and shit. This show is, without a doubt, the worst idea ESPN programmers have ever had. Worse than Cold Pizza. Worse than anything with Woody Paige drooling all over it. Worse than Sizemore's wigs in Hustle. Nobody wants to see this shit. If you ask any sportsfan, they'll say the worst thing about sports in modern times is the influence of greed, money, and arrogant celebrity. This show glorifies all the stuff people hate about sports, which really gets to the reason why it's on the air. It is not a show for people who like to watch sports. It is a show for people who want to watch pop culture television. I don't have a problem when E! shows the NASCAR Young Guns True Hollywood Story. I don't mind (aside from the above rant) when MTV Cribs is all NBA players. It's as if ESPN saw VH-1's "Fabulous Life of NBA Ballers" and got protectively sensitive.

There's a grand unifying theory at hand here. Bill Simmons wrote last week about how people who want to become sportswriters should think about how they want to cover the game. I thought about it for a while, and I think my viewpoint is that the games should speak for themselves. I don't like it when the personalities or externalities are bigger than the games themselves. So I don't understand why ESPN would make a show where the personalities and externalities are the focus. And it seems like for the past few years the programming on ESPN has crept toward focus on the personalities (creating their own personalities which unfortunately influence the way games are played) and externalities. And it isn't a good sign. I remember thinking a decade ago about how MTV didn't show videos as much as they used to. Now they don't show them at all. I truly hope ESPN doesn't fall into the same pattern. Show sports. Quit showing bullshit.

Added: I want to clarify that, while I don't like it, I don't think celebrity-driven pop culture bullshit shouldn't be on the air. My bone to pick is with ESPN ignoring what they used to do (and what got them legions of viewers) and instead doing things other networks already do. I don't like the trend on ESPN.