Posted on: May 23, 2011 4:47 pm

Even NCAA Football 12 hates the Big East

Posted by Adam Jacobi

In anticipation of the July 12th release of NCAA Football 12, EA Sports is putting previews of the game on YouTube, highlighting the new and updated features. The updated collision physics are an absolutely welcome development, as is the improvement in crowd noise and behavior.

But the real superstar of the game, as it is every year, is the Dynasty mode, and this year the game reflects the fluid situation with conference realignment by letting the user do whatever he or she (but probably he) wants with the conferences' alignments. Here, let's let Kirk Herbstreit explain it all. He talks about the coaching carousel feature first, so you can skip forward to 1:08 if your time is important (and let's be honest--it is):

Yyyyyep, Herbstreit did just suggest that a player, and we quote, "strip the Big East of their AQ status." Granted, he also suggested turning the Rose Bowl into a MAC-Sun Belt showdown, but everyone needs to indulge their whimsical side sometimes.

Realistically, the Big East will never lose that coveted AQ status, of course; that's just not the way the BCS operates. But it's interesting to see that EA knows that the typical hardcore college football fan, the one who craves the ability to mold the college football world to his or her (but probably his) liking, is going to kick the Big East out of the BCS with a quickness. It's basically just a basketball conference anyway.

Posted on: May 23, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 2:49 pm

Patterson, Frogs thinking big with move East

By Brett McMurphy
CBSSports.com Senior Writer

PONTE VERDA BEACH, Fla. – Being that this was his first official Big East function, you’ll have to excuse TCU coach Gary Patterson for not realizing shorts, and not long pants, are the preferred attire in this beach town.

Still, it wasn’t Patterson’s slacks, but the bling on his right ring finger that stood out the most – the Horned Frogs’ 2011 Rose Bowl championship ring.

And by joining the Big East in 2012, Patterson believes the Horned Frogs will have an easier road to make even more BCS bowls. Leaving the Mountain West after this season for the Big East will be a huge boost for the Horned Frogs in recruiting.

“[In the Mountain West] we weren’t an [automatic] qualifying conference and [now we can] get a chance to get into a BCS game without going undefeated,” Patterson said. “And then for us, the TV sets [the Big East reaches 30 percent of the nation’s television sets] by being able to go east.

“That’s the same reason the Dallas Cowboys did it. Geographically it doesn’t make any difference to come to [play] Philadelphia. That’s how they became – quote – ‘America’s Team’ because they became seen so much. We’ll see how that works.”

So far last year’s announcement of TCU moving to the Big East has already made an impact.

“I think there will be [excitement moving to the Big East],” Patterson said. “The excitement is the new recruiting class, they’re the ones the Big East will have an effect on and maybe the class coming in. We haven’t really talked about it. Our whole thing is getting a chance to win one more championship in the league we’re in.”

Patterson said he didn’t think anyone was considering them “a lame duck” in their final season in the Mountain West.

“You have to play the games,” Patterson said. “Schedule-wise, except for the Boise game [which was changed from a TCU home game to a Boise State home game by the league] … the Mountain West could have played it anyway you wanted to as far as the league was concerned.

“We don’t get a return game one way or another [with the other league opponents]. The only thing I’m worried about is making sure our stadium is ready for the first home game.”

Patterson said attending the Big East’s spring meetings gave him a chance to become more familiar with how the league operates.

“My whole premise was to get to know people [here], getting the lay of the ground work,” Patterson said. “I’m still loyal to the Mountain West. I get a chance to meet people and understand [how the league works] when we come into the league next spring.”

Posted on: May 18, 2011 1:37 pm
Edited on: May 18, 2011 1:39 pm

Mark Emmert responds to the Dept. of Justice

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Earlier this month Christine Varney and the Department of Justice sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert and BCS executive Bill Hancock essentially asking why it is that the FBS level of college football is the only sport within the NCAA that does not hold a playoff to determine its champion. Well, after considering the question for a few weeks, Emmert has finally replied to the Department of Justice's inquiry, releasing the response on Wednesday.

Dear Ms. Varney:

We are in receipt of your May 3, 2011, letter and note your interest in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) system. You asked for the NCAA's views and/or plans rleated to the Football Bowl Subdicision (FBS) postseason football, including an NCAA playoff. Inasmuch as the BCS system does not fall under the purview of the NCAA, it is not appropriate for me to provide views on the system. With regard to the Association's plans for an NCAA FBS football championship, there are no plans absent direction from our membership to do so. These are the short answers to your request.

To elaborate, however, it is important to share some relevant background. The BCS system is composed of the eleven conferences, plus Notre Dame, that are members of the FBS. It was established, as I understand it, to accomodate public interest for determining a subdivision football champion via on-field competition within a more than century-old bowl structure. In essence, the system includes match-ups among the top-ranked teams for five bowls, including a BCS Championship Game in which the BCS-determined top two teams compete. The selection criteria and bowl match-ups are managed by the 11 conferences. Other than licensing the postseason FBS bowls, the NCAA has no role to play in the BCS or the BCS system. As a result, your request for views on how the BCS system serves "the interest of fans, colleges, universities, and players" is better directed to the BCS itself.

The NCAA conducts 89 championships in 23 sports annually, and each of those championships has been created at the request of the Association's membership. At no time in the history of the FBS or its predecessor, Division I-A, has a formal proposal come before the membership to establish a postseason football championship in that subdivision. Instead, the FBS has elected to conduct its postseason competition outside the NCAA structure. Without membership impetus for a postseason playoff, the NCAA has no mandate to create and conduct an FBS football championship.

You noted in your letter that I had been quoted expressing my willingness to help create a championship. Not included in your letter was the context reported by the New York Times that such a change "would not happen unless the leaders of the institutions with teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision want to make such a change." This is consistent with my comments regarding an NCAA FBS championship since I came into office in October last year.

The letter from Emmert then goes on to answer the questions individually, but none of the answer are different than anything Emmert said in the body of the letter quoted above. Essentially the NCAA used a lot of words to say "We don't have a playoff because none of our schools have asked us to do so, and that the BCS is who you should be asking about the BCS. Have a nice day." 

Posted on: May 17, 2011 11:16 am

Teams to watch for turnover trouble

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

We're certainly not breaking any news when we tell you that turnover margin is, yes, the kind of statistic that can make or break a team's season or -- for regular readers of Phil Steele and the numbers-minded like -- one that fluctuates from season-to-season nearly at random. While elite teams like Pete Carroll's mid-decade USC squads can end up consistently on the positive side of turnover margin, this correlation study at College Football News concludes that for most teams, it's more about the bounce of the ball:
[I]t's clear that for most teams, the turnover margin they enjoy one year has virtually zero predictive value for the turnover margin they will enjoy the next year. That means that on average, teams with substantially positive margins will see major decline in margin the next year, and teams with substantially negative margins will see major improvement the next year. A team with a -10 turnover margin in 2009, for example, would have an expected turnover margin of -1.2 in 2010, an improvement of nearly a full turnover per game!
Again, it's not a surprising conclusion (though that "nearly a full turnover per game" number deserves the exclamation point). But it's worth emphasizing that as we start to look towards the 2011 season, we pay a particularly skeptical eye towards teams with gaudy -- and likely unsustainable -- 2010 turnover margins. Here's a few:

Tulsa (+17). The Golden Hurricane are likely to be among the Conference USA favorites thanks to the 1-2 punch of quarterback G.J. Kinne and receiver/returner Damaris Johnson, but their no-huddle attack has always been something of a turnover slot machine and the overhaul  on the coaching staff won't help limit mistakes.

Connecticut (+12). No one's expecting a repeat trip to the Fiesta Bowl, but Paul Pasqualoni might have an even more difficult job ahead of him than expected. With quarterback Zach Fraser gone and the defense unlikely to come up with 31 takeaways again, just staying on the positive side will be an accomplishment.

Army (+16). The Black Knights are in better shape under Rich Ellerson, program-wise, than they've been in ages. But as the study points out, it's tough to expect a team that's averaged a -5 finish over the past eight years to turn in overwhelmingly positive margins two years running.

Maryland (+15). The Terps finished tied for fifth in the nation in fewest giveaways, and while some of that was steady quarterbacking by Danny O'Brien, some of it was also an amazing four fumbles lost all season. (Only Ohio State and Wisconsin lost fewer.) A repeat performance in that department is highly, highly unlikely.

Oregon (+13), Oklahoma State (+12). Many national title contenders are able to rely on year-in, year-out success in the turnover department -- Alabama has been +36 over the past three seasons, Ohio State an incredible +48 in that span -- but in the cases of the Ducks and Cowboys, their 2010 margins reperesented a quantum leap forward; they finished at +2 and 0 the year before, respectively, with neither better than +5 the year before that.

If either is going to make their expected BCS push in 2011 (or another one, in Oregon's case), they'll have to show that 2010 was the start of a Buckeye- or Tide-like trend rather than a fortunate one-off.

Posted on: May 12, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: May 12, 2011 8:05 pm

NCAA owes it to itself to support NFL owners

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As the days, weeks, and months creep by and the NFL labor situation gets no closer to resolution, diehard NFL fans find themselves in a predicament: what is there to do if there's no pro football? Do they breathe a sigh of relief and count the money they'll end up saving? Do they take up other activities, recommit themselves to family life on weekends, and put sports in general on the back burner? Or do they stare at an upcoming autumn devoid of football, freak out, and find the nearest college team to support until pro ball comes back?

If the NCAA is wise, it'll bank on the last scenario -- that NFL fans are really football fans. Then, it'll throw its full-throated support behind the NFL owners, who are currently fighting tooth-and-nail to protect the lockout they've placed on the players ... and reap the glorious benefits. Let's face it, no business for the NFL is good business for college football, and there are several college programs in particular that stand to benefit immensely from a protracted work stoppage in the pro ranks.

The Miami Hurricanes have a new coach and, um, plenty of seats for displaced NFL fans. Colorado has a new coach and a new conference with new rivals. Minnesota's got a new coach and a two-year-old stadium that makes the Metrodome look like... well, the Metrodome was already terrible, but TCF Bank Stadium is still a major plus for the Gophers. Those are three prime opportunities for athletic departments to encourage new fans to "help us start a new chapter in our future." Think Dolphins, Vikings, and Broncos fans aren't going to notice that opportunity? Especially if college tickets are half as expensive and there are ten times as many gorgeous young women at the tailgates?

The Houston Cougars should have Case Keenum back to finish his quest to break the NCAA passing records. He's just the next step in Houston's tradition of great college quarterbacks (David Klingler, Andre Ware, and to-a-somewhat-lesser-extent-but-he-
was-still-pretty-darned-good Kevin Kolb), and it would be insane for the Cougars not to publicize his assault on the record books on a weekly basis. Besides, no offense to the Texans, but the Cougars are the local team with more football tradition anyway.

Northwestern has billed itself as "Chicago's college football team" recently. That seems a little unfair to the hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans who are alumni of other major universities, but if the Chicago Bears are sitting at home on Sundays, Northwestern turns into the city's ONLY football team. Similarly, the idea of Indiana actually selling out its Memorial Stadium on a regular basis seems like far less of a pipe dream if Lucas Oil Stadium's sitting empty on weekends. Purdue would be happy to accommodate some of those Colts fans too.

The impact of a large influx of fans, if even for a game or two, is not insignificant. 10,000 extra tickets sold for $25 a pop equals a quarter-million dollars in extra ticket revenue alone, to say nothing of concessions, merchandise, and parking fees. That's something some teams can accomplish in one game. And that's just immediate money in. There's also the inroads made with fans, particularly younger ones. Making entreaties to families and younger adults means that the college football program can start cultivating long-lasting fan relationships -- and new donors. The alumni associations can always use the help, after all.

So, athletic directors and college coaches. Line up shoulder-to-shoulder behind the NFL's owners, and stand tall in their support. Then take, take, take from them. College football will be stronger for it.

Posted on: May 11, 2011 5:20 pm
Edited on: May 11, 2011 5:23 pm

The BCS is laughing at you

Posted by Tom Fornelli

When I first heard the BCS announcement today about the "punishment" it has handed down to the Fiesta Bowl, I could only laugh. Maybe I should have been outraged, but laughter is the natural reaction to a joke. Which is exactly what this whole thing is, and all that the BCS has ever been.

For all its improprieties, the Fiesta Bowl was told today it must pay a one million dollar fine and follow tighter BCS guidelines. In other words, pay this paltry sum of money -- "walking around" money to the Fiesta Bowl -- then do what you should have been doing the entire time.

It's the equivalent of parents sending their child to his room as punishment, where cable television and his XBox await.

Part of me wishes the BCS could run the entire judicial system for this country. "Tom Fornelli, you have been found guilty of murder. Pay a $50 fine and try not to kill any more people." I'll do my best, your honor.

So now, the Fiesta Bowl will reach into its very deep pockets, pull out a wad of cash and go back to being a BCS bowl game. Which means it will once again have the chance to award a couple college football teams the opportunity to pay their way to Glendale, pay for millions of dollars in tickets, and then play a football game where the vast majority of income will fill the Fiesta Bowl's coffers.

It's like a time-share seminar on steroids, only you've got to keep paying rent on the condo even after you've already bought it.

The Fiesta Bowl may not learn any kind of lesson from all this, but I have. Or at least, I've been reminded of it. The BCS may in fact be a joke, but the BCS has been in on it the entire time.

What I hope more people realize today is that the joke has been on us.

Posted on: May 11, 2011 3:42 pm

Release: 'Six other reforms' necessary for Fiesta

The Fiesta Bowl appears to have gotten off light in its punishment from its BCS peers, subjected to a $1 million fine that represents only a fraction of the kind of Monopoloy money the bowl has spent for its own board members over the years. And it has.

But at the least the BCS is making some effort to prevent the Fiesta's brand of scandal from happening again. Per the BCS's official press release, executive director Bill Hancock and the rest of the BCS overseers have approved a series of "six other reforms" recommended by a BCS task force to provide "tougher and more independent audits, tighter membership controls for the Fiesta Bowl board, and greater accountability."

These are in addition to various reforms enacted by the Fiesta already, without which the task force "almost certainly would have recommended the termination of the BCS Group's involvement with the Fiesta Bowl." Whether these reforms (or those added by the task force) will have any lasting effect remains to be seen, but at least it's a start.

The full text of the press release is as follows:
The presidents and commissioners who oversee the Bowl Championship Series today unanimously approved a special task force recommendation to enact a series of sanctions designed to create stronger oversight and better management of the Fiesta Bowl, including a $1 million sanction.

The task force concluded that the reforms undertaken by the bowl’s new leaders are “appropriate and necessary,” but due to the severity of the problem, the task force has recommended that additional measures and corrective action be required.

The commissioners and university presidents approved the recommendation of the task force that the Fiesta Bowl be subject to a $1 million sanction with the proceeds benefitting youth in Arizona. The task force also recommended the enactment of six other measures to improve the governance of the bowl.

The task force, chaired by Penn State University President Graham Spanier, concluded “The board of directors of the Fiesta Bowl failed in its responsibility to properly oversee the management and administration of the Bowl. The task force is deeply troubled by the evidence set forth in the [Fiesta Bowl’s] Special Committee’s report. That evidence strongly suggests that the Bowl’s executive staff frequently acted with scant regard for ethics and proper conduct. Further, it is the opinion of the task force that the Bowl’s board of directors over the years was negligent in its oversight responsibilities.”

The task force commended the bowl’s leaders for their swift and corrective “reveal and reform” actions since the Special Committee report was released in March. According to the task force’s 15-page report, “Nevertheless, the task force has concluded that additional reforms are needed, and is recommending sanctions.” Had these reforms not been made by the Fiesta Bowl, the task force “almost certainly would have recommended the termination of the BCS Group’s involvement with the Fiesta Bowl.”

In addition to the $1 million sanction, the task force called for the six other reforms involving tougher and more independent audits, tighter membership controls for the Fiesta Bowl board, and greater accountability. The task force also recommended requiring all BCS bowls conform to soon-to be developed standards for responsible bowl governance and that each bowl associated with the BCS be required to certify annually to the Executive Director of the BCS that it is conducting its business in accordance with the standards or be subject to possible sanctions.

Posted on: May 9, 2011 12:10 pm

Jim Delany isn't sweating the Dept. of Justice

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Last week the Department of Justice sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert and BCS executive Bill Hancock asking questions about the current BCS system, and implying that simply saying that the BCS doesn't violate federal anti-trust laws isn't good enough to prove that it doesn't. Which is a good indication that the Department of Justice is getting ready to find out for itself. Well, we've yet to hear from Emmert or Hancock on the matter, but Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany had no qualms talking about it to the USA Today.

According to Delany, the BCS has nothing to worry about.

"You never should be overconfident on legal matters. Like anything else, once they're in a courtroom or in front of a jury, you can't predict outcomes," Delany told the USA Today. "Having said that, we know what (the college football postseason once) was, and we know what is. And we know there was a thorough vetting of all antitrust issues at the beginning and during (the life of the BCS) because our presidents have always wanted to know the legal basis on which we operate.

"There's no judge or jury in the world that can make you enter into an four-team, eight-team or 16-team playoff."

Delany's point being that even if the DOJ were to break the BCS, conferences would go back to the old way of securing bowl contracts and not form a playoff system. 

"I know at the end of the day that we've operated in total good faith. I know that (the postseason) is better than it was," Delany continued. "And if it can't go forward, it can't go forward. But I also know that we can't be enjoined, we can't be directed or forced into something we don't think is the right thing for us to do."

I'll agree with Delany in that the current bowl system is better than it used to be. Before we settled national championships on nothing but opinion, and at least now we get a championship game, even if many of us don't always agree with the way the opponents in that game are settled. Still, just because things get better, doesn't mean they can't be improved further.

And as we all know, the BCS could definitely use some improvement.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com