Inside College Football: The season of 'more' and why preseason polls do matter
Dennis Dodd takes a look under the hood of college football one month out from the 2017 season
If there is a working title for the 2017 season it has to be … More.
More teams (up to a record 130 in FBS), more opulent facilities, more compensation for coaches, conferences and the cable networks that make it possible.
More disparity than ever for the have nots.
Nick Saban's latest bonus alone is larger than the annual budget of 181 Division I athletic departments.
Kansas recently announced it would spend $300 million in the next 3-5 years on football renovations. Why? Because it can with the Big 12 pulling in almost $35 million in NCAA, bowl and rights fees money. Oh yeah, and David Beaty has the worst winning percentage of any current FBS coach (2-22, .083) Why not throw money at the problem?
The Big Ten's per-team distribution -- boosted by its lucrative network -- is expected to reach more than $50 million by fiscal 2018.
Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic -- Lane Kiffin's new home -- will have four games nationally televised. Total. One of those will be televised on beIN Sports, a spinoff of the Al Jazeera Media Network.
In the same year a backup UCF kicker was forced to give up his scholarship because of his successful YouTube channel, it was announced for getting his conference on a lot of channels.
Yes, more is good if you're one of the haves. One quarter of the way through the College Football Playoff's 12-year, $7.2 billion, only eight teams have played in the first three CFPs. Last year, Washington became only the 20th team all-time to play for a national championship (BCS, CFP) since 1998.
It should be no surprise, then, that a recent NCAA survey showed there is a football staff out there of 197.
It should be noted there are entire athletic departments that don't number 197. It should further be noted, that as of January, teams will be expanding to 10 full-time, on-field assistant coaches along with what has obviously become an unlimited amount of unspecified analysts, consultants and film gurus.
"[It shows] that you have a lot of people who are doing non-specific duties who may or may not be productive," said Bob Bowlsby, NCAA Football Oversight Committee chair.
It also supports the season's working title.
Bowlsby's committee has been and will continue to determine if more is better when it comes to staff size. In announcing the 197 figure at the Big 12 Media Days, he all but said it wasn't Alabama, the program most suspected of staff excess.
However, NCAA Council chair Jim Phillips did say the offending program was in the SEC. How fitting in this season of More. The richest, football-crazed, most powerful conference is the home of a bloated staff size. Perhaps several.
"There's a bunch of them [nationwide] over 100," Bowlsby said.
All four have top-15 athletic budgets. Texas A&M (1), LSU (7) and Auburn (10) are in the top 10.
The survey parameters were broad. Schools were allowed to count academic support, student employees and sports medicine. In other words, a whole lot of folks who don't come remotely close to coaching football.
"We had a very large staff the first two seasons, and it can be too much," Michigan's Jim Harbaugh said. "Too many people with too much access. … We've taken the approach of consolidating jobs. We feel it can be better managed."
Michigan's former coach, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, said, "I don't want to repeal anything. Let's create jobs. Let's put people to work. 'Make Coaching Great Again.' That's my hat."
Phillips added: "We talk about keeping Division I and FBS football together. This would be an area that would have significance."
Phillips' statement reconfirms the existence of that divide. If you live in the right neighborhood, college football is resembling HGTV on steroids. Any project is possible with administrators spending like drunken sailors.
The 65 Power Five schools made a record $6 billion in 2015, according to ESPN. That's $4 billion more than the other 63 teams combined that year.
Not a bad profit margin.
"The stratification of the Group of Five puts them more in no man's land than ever," a powerful former college administrator said. "If you're the Power Five, why would you let anybody in?"
On the other side of the tracks, consider the incongruity that allowed UAB to reinstate football this season. , the momentum never would have been created for the school to spend $43 million-plus to bring it back.
All that just to play in the same TV-starved league as Kiffin's team -- Conference USA.
Saban recently reiterated Power Five teams should only play other Power Fives. That isn't going to happen anytime soon.
Half of the teams at college football's highest level would lose each Saturday. This year, Vanderbilt still needs to schedule Alabama A&M to get to a bowl. Florida still needs UAB for its annual SEC nonconference "breather" game in November.
Kansas State's Bill Snyder built the foundation of his program playing nonconference patsies.
Enjoy, then, those 130 -- the most teams ever to play for a national championship. Even if only a handful of them really have a chance.
If more isn't better, then mere membership in FBS is the best.
Why preseason polls matter
The Coaches' Poll debuted Thursday. The AP Top 25 drops on Aug. 21. This is also the time of year critics trot the tired, old "meaningless" label for those two preseason measuring sticks. If nothing else, they provide a template for the CFP Selection Committee.
- Since the playoff debuted in 2014, the first CFP Rankings and the AP Top 25 that week have agreed on 72 of the 75 combined teams in the top 25.
- Each year since 2014, the first CFP Rankings have agreed with AP Top 25 that corresponding week on nine of the top 10 teams. That included the top two in 2014: 1. Mississippi State and No. 2 Florida State.
- In last year's Nov. 1 CFP debut, it and the AP Top 25 agreed on the exact ranking of six teams.
I will argue that none of that occurs without the preseason seed being planted in the committee member's minds in August.
- Without the preseason polls, we wouldn't know that USC has started in the top five in the rankings in the AP Top 25 five times since 2004. Only once (2012) did it not finish there.
- Utah's Kyle Whittingham received a $15,000 bonus for starting the season ranked in the Coaches' Poll. Would he have not signed that contract if the school insisted on bonuses paid only after games are played?
- The end of the Big 12? Half the league (five teams) showed up in the preseason Coaches' Poll. No other league had half its teams in the top 25.
Why LSU closing practice is a bad idea
Forget Ed Orgeron ignoring needs of the media (which I can't, by the way), sunlight is always the best disinfectant. In other words -- transparency, transparency, transparency. The state's most followed institution besides the state house should be more accountable to the public.
and now the media. Sounds like an enemies list is developing in Orgeron's camp. I'll say it again: This is a shift in philosophy. Under Les Miles, LSU was one of the more accessible, friendly programs. Keeping an open door, buys a coach political capital in tough times.
Complications Down Under
Six Australian punters have contacted Rice coach David Bailiff, which is great for the Owls, who open the season against Stanford in three weeks in Sydney. Only one problem: Bailiff can't meet with them. August is a dead period.
"We'd have to fly there and recruit them, which I don't think we're going to do," Bailiff said. "It's 19 hours. We can find one in the [Texas] panhandle."
Bailiff has been consulting with former Cal coach Sonny Dykes whose team opened the season in Sydney last year. "He walked out to practice the first day. They had it 100 meters long," Bailiff said. "We've emphasized, 'It's yards, not meters,' so we hope it works."
How JUCO can be a 'punishment,' not just a last chance
We asked Coach Jeff Sims why he took Michigan State defensive end Auston Robertson at Garden City Community College. Robertson quietly was accepted after he was booted from the Spartans on April 21, the same day he was hit with two charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Sims has previously taken in players with troubled backgrounds. He has also kicked off the likes of Deiondre Porter, a former Florida defensive back now serving six years for armed robbery. Sims said he also rejected some players involved in the sexual assault scandal at Minnesota last year.
"I don't think football saves them," Sims said. "I think structure saves them. It's weights, class, practice. Sometimes, we create these people. Nowadays, to be good enough to play at Alabama, we are creating an entitled 6-foot-6 human being. If they're at Garden City, they're not entitled anymore …
"I know you think coming to Garden City is a second chance. I think it's a punishment. You have to come to Western Kansas. Robertson is a walk-on, 3 ½ hours from anything. It smells like shit. Three days a week, [you're] up at 7, going to bed at 10. There are up downs every time one of his teammates doesn't run through a line."
Sims referenced coach Bill Fisk, a former USC player who was his boss at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California.
"He would say, 'If not us, who?' Coach instilled in me it's better for the guy to be in structure, to be involved in us," Sims said. "If the kid is innocent, we've prolonged his education and he can move on past it when it's over. If it's a kid who has to pay a debt to society, at least we're educating them. I hope I'm not wrong. I'm fearful of the day we are wrong."
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