Posted on: April 15, 2011 4:55 pm
Edited on: April 15, 2011 6:35 pm
Through an epic financial collapse, through historic scandals, despite the confounding BCS, college sports have prospered in this age.
Television and the accompanying platforms -- phones, internet and cable -- have followed along.
Wednesday's announcement that the Big 12 was the latest conference to hit the rights fees jackpot raised the question again. Why? Why are media companies in these tough times willing and able to pay out the wazoo for properties that, in this case, include outposts in Ames, Iowa; Waco, Texas and Manhattan, Kan.
What I'll try to do here is explain why we are witnessing an unprecedented growth in right fees -- and subsequently college revenue. The growth outstrips even that of the nation's highest paying coaches. For example, if Nick Saban had enjoyed a raise parallel to the Big 12's windfall, his salary would have jumped from $4 million to near $16 million per year.
So why is this happening? One industry analyst summed it up this way: "There is a value to limiting uncertainty." Sports have become one of the safest and highest-grossing buys for media companies. There are no coked-up, petulant stars to deal with. Well, at least not a lot of them. The only "winning" is done on the field. Sports are somewhat cheap to produce. Sports are true reality television, almost immune to being DVRed. Advertisers love that. There is a built-in following whose interest doesn't wane with time. Even the strongest TV series are cancelled. Try taking Alabama-Auburn off the air.
Since the advent of TV, sports have become the foundation of the medium -- largely immune to viewer trends or changing mores. College sports, in the last 25 years, have taken it to a new level.
"I think we're all making a bet on the future where we believe that college sports and sports in general is one of the leading lights generating large audiences," said Randy Freer, Fox Sports Networks president.
The biggest reason for these increases is competition. Simple supply and demand. There aren't many college sports properties available in coming years. Until 2013, it's basically the Pac-12 and NHL rights that are going to be available on the market. Newbies such as NBCUniversal and Turner are showing a willingness to get into sports in a big way.
That's why the Big 12 hit it big on Wednesday. That's why the Pac-12 could hit it even bigger next year (See below).
The SEC and Big Ten have set the bar, for now. Those conferences' schools each earn approximately $22 million per year, give or take. The SEC finalized a 15-year, $3 billion deal with ESPN and CBS a couple of years ago. The Big Ten is in the middle of a 20-year deal, partnering with News Corp. (parent of Fox) to produce the Big Ten Network in a deal that could be worth $2.8 billion. That's without mentioning the Big Ten's primary deal with ABC/ESPN. Seeing what the Big Ten had done with its network, ESPN moved to get the SEC using its multiple platforms as the equivalent to a "network."
CBS has the SEC's over-the-air rights.
The Big Ten and SEC have the most rabid following and/or are in the biggest markets. But in the last year, even the ACC doubled its annual rights fees to $155 million per year in a new deal with ESPN for the next 12 years. Because the ACC has become a diminished league in both main sports (football and basketball) since expansion, there was natural wonder why ESPN would pony up so much cash. It is essentially paying for Florida State and Miami on the come -- both have slumped since expansion -- and a couple of North Carolina-Duke basketball games every season.
Once again: supply and demand. Fox finished a close second and had all that money available for the Big 12.
The league got a 350 percent increase for its secondary rights with Fox (an average of $90 million annually). That's after losing Nebraska and Colorado in last year's conference realignment.
This is where it gets complicated. Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott was the wild card almost convincing Texas and five other Big 12 schools to join his league last year. When it became clear that Scott was serious, Fox and ESPN stepped in to make financial promises. Fox delivered what you saw happen this week, but at the time that's all it was -- a promise. ESPN did not alter its existing contract, despite the loss of the two schools, as a show of good faith.
In the end, Fox and ESPN had to make those promises. Neither could afford for the Big 12 to go away. That would have eliminated one BCS conference that accounts for 16 percent of the households in the middle of the country. With the Pac-10 going out to bid on its latest rights fees -- which it officially did on April 1 -- there was a chance that both ESPN and Fox would have been shut out of two BCS leagues.
That's a lot inventory (games) and advertising that would have disappeared into the ether. Desperation had literally set in. Cable giant Comcast, which recently bought NBC, was taking over the Rockets and Astros telecasts in Houston. Fox had to have a presence in Texas. Houston is the largest market in the state and a top five or six market in the country.
Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe got a lot of credit this week for "saving" the Big 12 that almost fallen apart 10 months ago. What's more likely is that Beebe happened to be the man in charge when these market forces collided. He gets credit for guiding the ship through choppy waters, but the ship was going to sail on after Texas re-committed to the Big 12 no matter who was in charge.
In short: Texas knew how the episode was going to end before it started. Yes, the school is that flush with cash, power and influence. It came through a rocky period with more money, a leaner, meaner conference and its own network (Longhorn Network).
"Obviously, Fox decided [they'd] rather have a piece of both these leagues than leave one die," said an industry analyst.
The latest round of conference realignment proved that it's less about what league you're in and more about who's your television partner. Utah happened to be in the right place and the right time when Scott's power play failed. It then received a life-changing invite from the Pac-10. The Big East was suddenly willing to fly halfway across the country to invite TCU. Its teams begin flying halfway across the country to play games against the Horned Frogs in 2012.
Did Fox overpay for the Big 12? It's likely. But it wouldn't be the first time for a rightsholder. Part of eliminating that uncertainty sometimes is paying more for something than it is worth. The length of the deals keeps leagues out of the market for long periods of time. And what most analyses haven't included is that virtually all these deals are backloaded. While Big 12 schools will receive an average of $9 million per year from Fox, a large portion of that money will be owed toward the end of the 13-year deal.
That's the reason you saw CBS have to reach out to Turner to share the rights for the NCAA tournament beginning this year. Industry sources have indicated that the back end of the deal was getting too expensive.
League rights fees are unique in that there are only a finite number of big-time conferences/leagues out there. The Big 12 deal was no doubt helped by the fact that the only other major conferences opening up in upcoming years are the Pac-12 (2012) and Big East (2013). There is already speculation that the Pac-12 may meet or surpass SEC/Big Ten numbers. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the league is seeking $220 million per year for its new deal. That's $18.3 million per year per school for you non-math majors.
Colorado and Utah brought little value to the Pac-10 in the big picture. But expanding allowed the league to stage a conference championship game beginning this season. Fox paid $25 million in a one-year deal to telecast the first Pac-12 title game in 2011. That's $2.5 million per team that the conference never had. Scott also is reportedly determined to launch a conference network along the lines of the Big Ten. That would be more found money for the once-sleepy league. NBCUniversal, Fox and either ESPN or Turner (perhaps both) are said to be interested.
All this further explains what happened to the Big 12 and what is about to happen to the Pac-12. Texas and California are still among the most valued television markets. The two leagues combined have Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. That starts to explain why the leagues almost go together.
College sports are undervalued: Delany began realizing that fact in the last decade. Even though ESPN was featuring his league, he felt there was more potential. The Big Ten has a large, passionate fan base (25 percent of the U.S. population). After a long, expensive fight, the Big Ten Network gained a foothold with cables systems. Salesmen literally had to go to from cable company to cable company to sell something that had never been tried before.
"We were on ESPN for 10 years but they weren't being very aggressive with us," Delany said more than a year ago when it was becoming evident that the BTN was turning the corner.
Now network has become must-see viewing for those rabid Big Ten fans find who find the league's second- and third-level football and basketball games. Its original programming is slick and engaging. Now the Big 12 and Pac-12 want to follow in Delany's network footsteps.
Pay TV is blowing up: Those high cable bills you pay? Thank what are called "sub fees" -- subscription fees for cable networks. ESPN is at the top of the heap getting approximately $5 per subscriber per month. By comparison, The Big Ten Network, outside of its natural footprint, reportedly gets a dime per subscriber.
Any kind of programming that increases those sub fees is attractive to a network. In the new deal, Fox is dumping a lot of Big 12 content on FX. The network has been the home of several successful drama series, but sports are seen as a way to make it more valuable. Let's say FX gets 15 cents per month in sub fees. Let's also say that the addition of Big 12 sports bumps that fee up to 22 cents. That's seven cents X 100 million FX households which equals $7 million per month. Multiply that by 12 months and you've got an extra $84 million per year on FX alone.
Cable operators are willing to charge it because viewers demand it. That's why niche networks like the Golf Channel, Comedy Central and Nat Geo are successful. Cable TV is able to reach specific audiences -- and their money.
Televised sports are a leader in technology: Sports have pushed along the development of both cell phone technology as well as HD and 3D.
A friend was getting a game on his phone recently. He was driving so he couldn't watch it, but he turned up the telecast so he could hear it. Without new technology that wouldn't be possible.
The next wave is Internet TV. Delany saw that wave coming approximately 13 years ago. That's a big reason he wanted to create the Big Ten Network. So-called "convergence" technology will allow us to watch from our computers, our phones, our IPads as well as enhanced televisions. Imagine having a spreadsheet for work open in one corner of your TV and the NCAA tournament in other portion of the screen.
Some of this is already hitting the market -- MLB.TV, ESPN3, March Madness On Demand. It's coming and we're all going to want it. That's how conferences will make and their rights holders will pay even more money.
Posted on: February 25, 2011 1:07 pm
For the moment I'm going to name it Super Saturday. Even that seems a bit modest.
Traditionally, the last weekend of the regular season was already a monster -- the Conference USA, Big 12, SEC and ACC championship games along with your random Civil War thrown in. It was, and is, usually a one-day play-in for the BCS championship bowl and other major bowls. Last year alone we got Oregon's coronation at Oregon State, Auburn's major, final statement against South Carolina and Virginia Tech winning the ACC (again).
That final weekend could be about to get a lot bigger. First, consider we've got a new configuration with the Big 12 dropping its championship game and the Big Ten and Pac-12 adding title games. Suddenly, the Big 12 is without a presence on that last day (Dec. 3 this year). Turns out there are serious talks underway about moving Oklahoma-Oklahoma State and/or Texas-Texas A&M to that day.
That could make Saturday truly Super considering the blockbuster implications for this season. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State most likely are both going to start the season in the top 10. The game could end up being the Big 12's first "championship game" in the new 10-team alignment. Texas and A&M could also be moved off its traditional Thanksgiving week home.
"The leader in the clubhouse would be either UT-AM or OU-OSU,” a source told the Tulsa World. “ABC wants a blockbuster weekend on championship Saturday, but doesn’t want to blow up Thanksgiving, so it’s a tricky situation."
The odds of all four of those Big 12 teams being out of the title race on the final day are minimal. Even if they are, those games are sure to deliver the key Texas demographic (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio etc.) That cannot be underestimated. The source added that a Texas-A&M, OU-OSU doubleheader is a possibility.
"That (doubleheader) is on the table and being discussed," the source said. "It is by no means a 'done deal,' but it is certainly possible."
Don't forget that the Pac-12 will play its first championship game that day at the stadium of the school with the best record. The Big Ten is already slotted to play its title game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. In other Super Saturday news, the Big East -- which just released its schedule -- will have two games that day -- Connecticut at Cincinnati and Syracuse at Pittsburgh.
The next question: How to schedule all those games so they don't all bump into each other.
Posted on: February 10, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 2:33 pm
Let's straighten out this TCU-Wisconsin mini-controversy. There's a huge reason the Horned Frogs did not want to play the Badgers for the second time in nine months. Its 2011 schedule is all but full.
TCU took a bit of a beating in the court of public opinion this week when Badgers coach Bret Bielema casually mentioned on a radio show that he had been approached by a third party to play the Horned Frogs in Madison in 2011. TCU turned down the "offer." Words like "rematch" and "ducking" entered the conversation on the always level-headed Worldwide Interweb.
It wasn't a true rematch in that Wisconsin wasn't willing to return the game. There was no ducking because, in truth, TCU's schedule is about to be finalized. The public just doesn't know about it yet.
The only other opening on the TCU schedule is expected to be filled by BYU on Friday, Oct. 28 at Cowboys Stadium. Pending the final contracts, that's the way it's going to be. TCU's other non-conference games are against Baylor, SMU, Louisiana-Monroe and Portland State. The Froggies will be playing five non-conference games because there are only seven conference games in its final season in the Mountain West.
AD Chris Del Conte's "Anytime, anyplace, anywhere," blast was in reference to Ohio State after Gordon Gee's "Little Sisters of the Poor," comment during the season. It doesn't apply to Wisconsin which was not committed to a return game. TCU is at a level now that it doesn't have to take one-off games on the road.
It has future home-and-homes scheduled with Oklahoma, Virginia, LSU and Arkansas.
England, Hong Kong weigh in on the BCS: Nothing like a little foreign influence in the BCS.
The San Diego State International Sports MBA Case Competition is taking on the postseason system in its annual contest involving some of the world's best MBA programs. Twelve schools are being asked to present their best alternatives for postseason college football. The winning group of students will present their case this summer to Mark Cuban, a noted BCS critic and NBA referee baiter who proposed his own playoff plan last year.
Among the MBA programs involved are San Diego State, UCLA, USC, Cal, Notre Dame, Texas, Florida as well as -- wait for it -- Oxford and Hong Kong University.
"We're really interested in what they say, they have no skin in the game," said Greg Block, a media relations director at San Diego State.
Per the press release, "The largest hurdle ... is to work around the existing personalities and relationships in the current system, making it possible for an independent, outside company to navigate the existing power structures, earn a profit and enact lasting change that is supported by all (I-A) universities."
A time-saving hint for the MBAers: They might start by calling the Rose Bowl, Big Ten and Pac-12 to figure out how to get those three entities in a playoff. No one inside the system has been able to do it yet.
A winner will be determined Friday night.
Signed and sealed: If you want to view the inner workings of an NCAA CEO you'll have to wait another 57 years.
Bumping around the NCAA website this week, I discovered something called the Richard D. Schultz Papers. If that sounds like something akin to presidential papers, you're right. Schultz was the NCAA's second executive director from 1987-1993, following the iconic Walter Byers. During his time NCAA basketball revenue skyrocketed, a football playoff became topical and gender equity became a major issue as Title IX took hold.
The point is, you may have to wait a while to read about it. Schultz' papers were sealed back in 1993 for 75 years or until 2068. All 111 boxes, taking up 57 linear feet.
"There are some documents the public will never see," said NCAA librarian Lisa Douglass.
The records are open only to NCAA employees and to "outside researchers" at the discretion of NCAA librarian, according to the site. I don’t know how much juicy stuff is in there but Schultz was not without a bit of controversy in his career. He resigned in 1993 after an investigation into improper loans given to athletes while he was AD at Virginia.
Juicy stuff, if you're an NCAA nerd like me and love poking around that that kind of stuff. For some reason Byers' papers are more accessible. Those of Cedric Dempsey, who replaced Schultz and Myles Brand are still being assembled.
Posted on: January 23, 2011 9:51 am
Edited on: January 23, 2011 4:59 pm
LAWRENCE, Kan. – It was a game worthy of “instant classic” status.
On The Longhorn Network, of course.
It was a scene that will be remembered long after what Texas’ 74-63 win over Kansas meant in the standings or rankings. For the first time in almost four years – 70 home games – they filed out of Allen Fieldhouse silent. No “Rooock Chaaalk, Jaaaayhaaawk” chant drifting down from the rafters after another Kansas victory.
Well, there wasn’t complete silence. A group of giddy Texas fans were sitting behind us in Section 10 whooping it up as their team’s win became apparent. You could practically see the steam rising off the heads of KU fans barely able to hold their tongues.
One Kansas fan on his way out early turned to the dancing, prancing Texas contingent and yelled, “How about doing it with some class?” Never mind that both sides’ fans – KU in basketball, Texas in football – have been known for their obnoxiousness at times.
It wasn’t about that, though, Saturday afternoon as we sat up behind one basket at historic Allen. It was a father-son outing. Jack had only been to one Kansas game in his life. We both watched the Ohio State-Illinois game earlier in the day knowing that if Illinois had won we might be watching KU play for the No. 1 ranking.
Me? I’m a dad who had a Saturday off to watch hoops with his son. Jack is a fan of the Jayhawks, as are most 14-year-olds who grow up 30 miles away in the Kansas City suburb of Johnson County, Kan. It’s like a worker at a Ford plant. He and his family tend to buy and drive Fords. It’s a loyalty thing. You become attached.
Jack is just learning what it means to be loyal. He jumped up and down with the students trying to distract a Longhorn free-throw shooter. He busily texted his friends, telling them where he was and what he was seeing. He met a friend sitting behind the Texas bench at halftime.
We have two “pro” franchises in the Kansas City area – the Chiefs and the Jayhawks. It’s a great sports town, a better college basketball town and on occasion – like 25 years ago – a baseball town. But the Chiefs and Hawks are talking points everywhere.
The talking points changed Saturday afternoon. Kansas didn’t lose the game because of the death of forward Thomas Robinson’s mother Friday night. That would be diminishing Texas’ coming-of-age effort that might have defined it as the new Big 12 favorite. More to the point, Kansas and Robinson somehow played through the tragedy for an afternoon.
The Jayhawks were good enough to go up 18-3 early. They led by 12 points at halftime and still had a double-digit lead in the second half. If anything, Kansas was inspired by their teammate deciding to play hours after his mother had passed. Robinson, a sophomore, recently lost two grandparents – his mother’s parents – in the last three weeks. It fell to Robinson’s sisters, 9-year-old Jayla, to deliver the news to her brother by phone Friday night.
Teammates and their mothers stayed up with Robinson through the early morning hours of Saturday morning trying to console him.
“It was the saddest thing I’d ever seen in my life,” KU coach Bill Self told reporters.
Jack and I found out while making the pregame rounds to see friends on press row. KU play-by-play legend Bob Davis told us. Apparently, 37-year-old Lisa Robinson died of a heart attack in Washington, D.C. When a moment of silence was observed before the game, obviously many fans were surprised. There were a couple of audible gasps.
Robinson is a backup, a brawny 19-year-old who averages eight points and six rebounds per game. On this day he contributed two points, five rebounds and four fouls in eight minutes. As Texas made a stunning second-half comeback, it became less about Kansas’ 69-game home winning streak and more about rallying around Robinson.
In the postgame, teammates praised his desire to play. Texas coach Rick Barnes started his postgame presser by issuing condolences. Kansas may play better than it did in those opening few minutes but it will never play worse this season when Texas outscored it 51-28 in the second half.
Again, it’s too easy to call the Jayhawks distracted. Texas has a physical front line that showed how to beat KU for the first time this season: Body up the Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus and shoot 64 percent in the second half.
That combination doesn’t happen every day against Kansas. It may not happen again this season. Maybe the Jayhawks were just … drained – emotionally, physically. There is a lot of healing still left. KU plays Colorado on Tuesday night. It’s not certain if Robinson will be there. There will be a funeral. Many, many more tears.
Whatever happens, Kansas is still a top-five team. It is also a changed team. Texas deserves our praise. Kansas deserves our sympathy.
It did everything right this weekend except win a basketball game. I’m hoping that’s what Jack remembers Saturday. He saw history – the end of that home streak – but he also saw loyalty and humanity.
Posted on: January 21, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2011 10:13 am
I put out an informal Twitter poll request this week: In light of The Longhorn Network announcement, what is the over/under on number of years the Big 12 will last in its current configuration.
Dan Beebe may want to avert his eyes. Fifty persons responded. The average life span from the respondents? 3.4 years
Here's a sampling of some of the replies ...
I'm not into Big 12 bashing. Any league with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Missouri (three 10 win seasons in the last four years) is formidable. It's going to be easier for the league to get two teams to the BCS each season without a championship game.
3.4 years? And some of us thought conference realignment had calmed down for a while. If an informal Twitter poll means anything, the upheaval has just begun.
This week's letters from the edge ...
I hope 2011 is better. 2010 left me feeling cheated by the NCAA, the SEC, the sports media herd, and Preacher Newton. I love the SEC and wanted to cheer for Auburn, but the smell was too great. And you in the media fed the momentum for that Newton thug, making this ripoff a fait accompli. I could not watch the biggest game of the year, and hung my head over the black eye to this greatest of all sports. With the possible nod to TCU, 2010 was the year without a national championship, and you in the media, the last line of defense, allowed it to be so.
What exactly did you want us to do? We reported the news to the best of our ability. We stayed on this Newton story so hard that the NCAA took the unusual step of dealing with player eligibility in the middle of an active investigation. What exactly did we miss?
We are, like you, still skeptical. We, like you, need closure from the 2010 season. We, like you, probably won't get it.
Two words summed up your post -- "real world". There is no real world in college athletics. Notre Dame is private. Texas is public. One has to release balance sheet. The other doesn't. Both are among the richest schools in the country. And that's just a start. There are still 118 other schools with their own stories, desires and bank accounts.
We should have it figured out by now. Athletic departments are like board rooms -- selfish and worried about the bottom line. The "stock" in this case are young adults on scholarships on whose talents the schools' "stock" fluctuates.
According to my research, you represent exactly 50 percent of the fans at Michigan right now. The other half wonder why the heck Dave Brandon couldn't do better.
There is no Louisiana-Lafayette. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette media guide has asked the media to call us UL, Louisiana or Ragin' Cajuns. The use of ULL or Louisiana-Lafayette is unexceptable.
Ragin' Politcally Incorrect:
Serious tip: I have this rule that I've enforced for the 13 years I've been at CBSSports.com. This isn't some court room where you can change your last name when it suits you. You've got to earn it, over decades. Calling Ooo-La-La, Louisiana is arrogant and wrong. The same goes for Central Florida (not UCF) and South Florida (not USF). In other words, you're not a household name just because you say so.
All name changes should go through a panel made up of USC, UCLA, ACC and K-State officials.
He did make an honest attempt and spoke to a few key players by cell phone when they landed after the bowl game. He even apologized. I've got no problem with that. Edsall and Maryland kept this whole thing under wraps perhaps better than any of the other coaching searches this season. We didn't know Edsall was at Maryland -- until Edsall was at Maryland. Hurt feelings heal. Randy Edsall's only duty is to his family, his employer and his players. He has done all he could for all of them.
At this time, SEC has had a good run in football and the BCS, no doubt. However, when CBS & ESPN, ABC tells you that the SEC is great, I wonder. You guys are paying a lot of money to the SEC, you really can't say anything bad, and lose viewers. Sorta like patting your 8-year-old on the head telling everyone how great he is.
... or sorta like saying the sky is blue. We were merely stating the obvious, no matter how repetitive it might be. The SEC is fantastic until further notice. Nothing can change that no matter who runs the company.
I really don't get your sniping at the Legends and Leaders division names. Get a life. I think they are fine. Hopefully they will build into a tradition in time. I really don't get why you hate the Big Ten Conference so much. It sure does show.
Thank you, Mr. Delany. Your correspondence is appreciated.
I still wish that Butler had hit on that 3-point, 3-fourths of a court shot at the end of the NCAA Championship Game last year. That would have done more for parity, folklore, and equalizing all sports, big and small, at all levels of college sports. Duke would have deserved it, too!
Little Big Man:
Obviously you haven't been watching Boise State, TCU, Utah and Jacksonville State in football.
How does a national championship game that isn't even on network TV in prime time demonstrate that the whole BCS concept is a good idea? Give me back the days when all the games were on New Year's Day and the winner was crowned shortly thereafter.
Ding, ding, ding! We have found one of the two percent of people who don't have basic cable. What's it like watching Oprah all day?
Let's just make it the SEC vs. Big 12 every year and get over with, right?
TCU beat four teams with at least eight wins this season. Wisconsin beat three. TCU beat five bowl teams. Wisconsin beat four. TCU was one of two undefeated teams left in the country. Wisconsin was not. The Mountain West is considered just as good or better than the ACC and Big East and may have a BCS berth beginning in 2012.
Posted on: January 19, 2011 7:37 pm
It wasn't a surprise, this ESPN/Texas deal. Not the money, not the partner, not the length. The Longhorn Network -- or whatever you want to call it -- was announced Wednesday, a deal worth $300 million over the next 20 years.
Somewhere in there they managed to remind us that "campus musical performances" would also be televised and you had to chuckle. Sure, TLN will fund some other areas -- half the money in the first five years will go to the university -- but at its core this about Texas controlling the market, the Big 12, the universe.
It's about power -- just like the BCS, which got me to thinking. We all know that our beloved postseason system is leaving hundreds of millions of dollars on the table by ignoring a playoff. The commissioners would rather control the system than profiti more by it.
The Texas deal, though, should be a sign. A modest Plus-One playoff (four teams) can, and should, be in college football's future. I wrote about it on the day of the BCS championship game.
"Everybody we do business with, we do long-term stuff with them," Texas AD DeLoss Dodds told me Wednesday. "We find somebody we like and put some length on it."
As for the BCS doing a long-term Plus-One agreement, I asked Dodds about that too.
"Yeah, absolutely," he said. "You have to get the Rose Bowl past where they are."
The Big Ten-Pac-12-Rose Bowl blockade of an expanded postseason is not insignificant. But, remember, we once thought something like the BCS was impossible because the Big Ten and Pac-10 did not want to give up their exclusivity to the Rose Bowl. On Jan. 1, TCU of the Mountain West won in Pasadena. There goes some of that exclusivity.
TLN is such a game-changer that Texas is now essentially competing as an independent. It has a contract with ESPN. It has scheduling agreement with the nine other teams in the Big 12. The conference could go away but Texas/ESPN won't. Dodds swears his will stay loyal to the reconstituted 10-team Big 12, but for how long? It was within a heartbeat of jumping to the Pac-10 last summer.
"If something happened and the Big 12 would dissolve in some way -- which would not be caused by us because we're not going to do that -- who would take us with our network?" Dodds asked. "That's a question in my mind and I assume someone would."
Yeah, somehow poor, old Texas would scrape by.
Control. Security. It's something the BCS should think about. A four-team Plus-One solves a lot of problems. It would produce a more legitimate champion. It would take care of, in most years, all the undefeated teams at the top. For example, this year we're still wondering about how TCU would match up against Auburn.
It would move the access argument from between the No. 2- and No. 3-ranked teams to No. 4 and No. 5. That actually would mean less of an argument. That also would equal a better football postseason
We'd have Texas to thank for the template. The Horns rule. Literally.
Posted on: January 9, 2011 7:31 pm
It's the little things in the BCS championship game. It's the little things because we know about the big things.
Figure Cam Newton for 200+ passing and 100+ rushing. Figure LaMichael James for 100+ rushing and a couple of touchdowns. Pencil Nick Fairley in for at least three tackles for loss and a personal four or two. None of that would surprise any of us.
It's the little things.
"I think it is real simple," Auburn's Gene Chizik said. "It is probably 200 years old ... We know that we have an explosive offense. We know that we have the capability of scoring a lot of points. What we'd like to do offensively is keep the football and eat some clock, get some first downs."
About that, Auburn is 86th in time of possession (29:01 per game) but is 11th in first downs (24.31). I'm a big stat guy so I think that's important. It's another indicator that Auburn is more like Oregon offensively than anyone knows. The difference in these two teams offensively is that I think Auburn wants to drive the ball, while Oregon wants to score quickly. Hence, the 79 plays per game. Possessions will have to be valued greatly. I compare it to a tennis match. If you don't score in this game, you lose serve.
I go back to the Oregon's USC game on Halloween. USC had a bye week to prepare for the Ducks' high-flying offense. Lane Kiffin spent a lot of time conditioning the Trojans. They were up to it to the point that USC scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter to go ahead 32-29. Oregon then scored 24 unanswered to win 53-32. Do I think that will happen against Auburn? No. My point is that no matter what happens, Oregon's defense is going to be left on the field for an inordinate amount of time.
The Ducks average 1.76 points per minute of possession but their defense spends more than 32 minutes per game on the field.
For Oregon, gang tackling is going to be key against Cam Newton. The Ducks have six players with at least 25 tackles. Linebacker Casey Matthews is the energy guy (73 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 3 sacks). Corner Cliff Harris (five picks) is the big-play guy. He averages 19.5 yards per punt return and has taken four to the house.
As for Oregon's offense, I suspect Chip Kelly will come out early running the zone read side-to-side with James. That will serve to tire out Auburn's defensive line, which obviously is its strength. When I talked to James following the Oregon State he told me that he -- and the coaches -- favor him getting up field more and using his body. Even though James is only 185, maybe 190, he is one of the hardest hitters in the game when he sticks his nose up in there.
Even though he's got a space-age offense, Kelly will try to manage this game like an NFL coach. Take chances, open it up and try to get out to a lead in the first half. If that happens, look for James running up in the creases to tire out Auburn. There is a line of thinking that Kelly has "hidden" much of the offense down the stretch. Quarterback Darron Thomas hasn't done much running. Look for that to be a factor too with Thomas rolling out with a run-pass option.
"Defensively, we think it is very simple. Again, that's 200 years old," Chizik said. "We've got to definitely stop the run first. We cannot give up the big plays in the secondary."
That's Auburn's biggest weakness. Only 14 teams are worse than Auburn against the pass.
The second half, particularly the fourth-quarter will be key. That sounds simple, but is really the identity of these teams. Oregon has outscored opponents 277-77 in the second half. Auburn has outscored foes 125-48 in the fourth quarter. That begins to explain why each of these teams has eight come-from-behind wins.
The final factor: Which team has the biggest chip on its shoulder? Make that Chip. Oregon has been acting like the team that is here on business. It got to the Valley early. There was scant media availability. We didn't even know Kelly was in town until Friday when he appeared at the mandated media day. The Ducks are still thinking about their performance in last year's Rose Bowl. They weren't physical enough against a quarterback of a similar build as Newton, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor.
Prediction: I thought former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti broke it down perfectly Sunday when he said Auburn runs a Wildcat offense on every play with Newton. Defensive coordinators call a running quarterback a "plus one" because he has to be accounted for on every play -- an extra running back if you will. New Texas coordinator Manny Diaz -- who coached against Newton in his second Auburn game with Mississippi State -- called the quarterback a "plus one and a half."
We've talked about the little things here. Like Chizik said, it's simple. Go with Newton. No one has stopped him yet. I don't think Oregon is going to be the first. Auburn 41, Oregon 31.
Posted on: January 4, 2011 12:48 pm
Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has emerged as a candidate to fill the same position at Texas.
A Mississippi State spokesman could not confirm that Diaz was in Austin on Tuesday, but said he was "out on the road". The same spokesman admitted to seeing reports that Diaz was in Austin.
Diaz is considered one of the brighest young assistant coaches in the country. In one year, Mississippi State improved dramatically in tackles for loss (from 89th to 17th), scoring defense (from 71st to 22nd) and red zone defense (64th to 13th). The Bulldogs went from 11th to eighth in total defense in the SEC.
Diaz, 36, was hired away from Middle Tennessee a year ago. He is the son of former Miami mayor who once worked as an ESPN production assistant. His other stops have included Florida State and North Carolina State.
Texas has embarked on a wide search to replace offensive coordinator Greg Davis and defensive coordinator Will Muschmap. The name of Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst popped up yesterday. Darrell Wyatt was introduced Monday as the Horns' new receivers coach.