5.12.15

COLLEGE'S DEFLATING FOOTBALL BUBBLE?

What happens when a handful of relatively successful teams register a lot of wins?  College football winds up with insufficiently many bowl eligible teams.
There are currently only 75 bowl-eligible teams that can fill the 80 slots needed to complete the lineup for this year’s record-setting number of games, which has exploded in recent years.

The dearth of qualified teams led the National Collegiate Athletic Association this week to soften its requirements for playing in a bowl game. Usually, a team must have won six of a season’s 12 regular season games. Even if Kansas State, Georgia State University and the University of South Alabama were all to win games this weekend, that would put the number of eligible teams at 78.
The difficulty of filling the lesser bowls is a side effect of the creation of a genuine championship series, which is genuinely hard to qualify for.
A large number of eligible teams this season have not lost any games or have only lost one game, meaning the wins have not been very evenly spread out. Of the top 25 teams, 17 of them have lost two or fewer games this season. That’s a problem when so many teams need at least six wins to play in a bowl and the number of bowl games is so high, said Mark Nagel, professor of sports and entertainment management at the University of South Carolina.

“With the recent expansion of bowl games, this has always been a possibility,” Nagel said. “It's not unprecedented, but it's rare to see it at this scale. Universities and their presidents like the idea of a bowl game. It gives them something to take alumni and donors to. There are televisions revenues and exposure for the university. But if we add another bowl, and we add another bowl, and we add another bowl, and you need two teams to play in each game, this is what can happen.”
That might be how positional arms races unravel, as athletics directors find themselves in the position of Mikhail Gorbachev, recognizing that Upper Volta with rockets is unsustainable.  And perhaps, a world in which bowls are only slightly more than participation trophies, becomes a ratings drain.
[For example] games like last year’s Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, where No. 95 University of South Alabama competed against No. 97 Bowling Green State University. The current number of bowl games means that 80 out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams are now guaranteed a spot in a game.

[Football Bowl Association executive director Wright] Waters said he doesn’t yet believe there are too many bowl games, as in the past he has dealt with the opposite problem: teams with winning records that don’t get to play in the postseason. He said he remembers university presidents pressuring him as a conference commissioner to find bowls for teams with 6-6 records to play in.
This year, Bowling Green is Mid-American champion, but that often means a return engagement in Detroit, at the Little Caesar's Bowl.  At least the trade association is asking the right questions.
“There was a time where we had 12 games,” Wright said. “Now we have 40. I do think we need to be careful to make sure we keep providing a wonderful opportunity to fans and student athletes as we add more bowls? Why are we in the bowl business and what purpose do they serve? Those are the questions we need to ask.”
But in a world of higher education breaking the social contract with normal Americans, and the legislatures becoming less generous with the appropriations, an interesting Washington Monument Strategy might be emerging.
The lesson of Missouri is clear: When a football team speaks, the public listens.

Let's face reality: Many fans don't care about the quality of LSU's academic programs. They don't care if the school cannot attract and retain top professors. They don't care that many young people are leaving Louisiana for schools in other states because of uncertainty about our higher education system.

What people do care about – and deeply – is college football. In fact, many people support LSU's academic mission only because they know that hiring a few hundred professors and instructors is the price they must pay to field a football team. As you and I know, many fans regard our institution as a sports enterprise with History and English departments on the side.
That's the flip side of populism, which the university's friends and the coastal elitists will likely seize upon as justification for their right to rule.  But as a Washington Monument Strategy, it has potential all the same.
Imagine the widespread panic that would sweep across Louisiana if the football players announced that they won't play the coming season unless the governor and the Legislature find the revenue to put LSU and the rest of higher education on sound financial footing?

This is a plan that will work. And the best part is it won't cost nearly as much as it would cost to lobby legislators. As you know, many of the lawmakers we must persuade won't listen to your arguments until you've made a campaign contribution or fed them a steak at Ruth's Chris. However, in the endeavor I am recommending, the NCAA is your friend. As you know, unlike with lawmakers, you can give players very little in return for their services.

Like Les Miles, for too long we've been trying to win by relying on an ineffective, outdated strategy. It's time for a new offense.
Margaret Soltan quips, "Designate certain states university-free zones and have states near them extend in-state tuition arrangements to people from those states who want to attend a university."  Spend the money on entertainment.
Keep the teams, and keep “university” in their names. Since football is the only university thing state residents like, maintain state subsidies for it. No one will complain, especially since whatever state funds designated for universities still exist could now in their entirety be given over to the football team.
Yes, and such universities can continue to send delegates to the Football Bowl Association's General Assembly.  There's a precedent, in the Byelorussian S.S.R and Ukrainian S.S.R voting in the United Nations.

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