Saturday, January 28, 2012

The bowl system needs a dose of reality

By guest columnist: Ravi Dasari

This quote from Executive Director of the BCS Bill Hancock falls under the category of “Things that make you go hmmmm:” “Bowl games are immensely popular.”

He said that in last week’s story on “Slipping bowl attendance has BCS scrambling for reasons and fixes.” The BCS committee convened last week to figure out the reasons. They probably formed several double-secret task forces and sub-committees and hired a forensics expert to find those hidden reasons.

Let me save them the time: Most people like hardly anything about the current bowl system and that’s why they are not attending or watching the bowl games. Attendance this year at the five BCS Bowls – supposedly the most popular and compelling of the 36 bowl games – was down eight percent from 2005. Television ratings for the 34 bowl games on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, CBS and Fox were down 15% from last year.

If Mr. Hancock and his committee, as well as university presidents, will lift their heads out of the sand for a moment, here are just some of the reasons for the disinterest:

• There are too many bowl games and the product is watered-down. When 72 of the 120 Division 1 programs get to go to a bowl game – 6-7 UCLA went to a bowl game this past year - it’s just not special. Imagine patting your 8th grader on the head and saying “Great job Joey, you’re in the 45th percentile.” You would think smart academicians like university presidents would at least understand the theory of marginal utility.

• When companies sell products, if the benefits to the customer are not the highest priority, the product doesn’t sell as well. The bowl committees have expectations that each school’s ticket allotment is sold out. Yet, the tickets offered to the schools aren’t nearly as good as those that can be bought in the secondary market or even directly from the venue. They are usually located in the corners to around the 30-yard line, and hardly ever at mid-field. Then, there are inflated hotel prices and mandated three-night stays. The BCS games, which used to all be on Jan. 1 are spread out through the first week of the new year, right after people have had their holiday break, requiring them to take vacation time the first business week of the new year.

• It used to be that a program was selected to a bowl game based on merit. Not so anymore. Yes, some BCS bowls have affiliations with conferences to take their champions. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter that one team finishes above another in the standings or beats them head-to-head, or played a more difficult schedule and still ended with a better record. Bowl chairmen and athletic directors make backroom deals about guaranteeing ticket sales, or who knows what else, and suddenly, an at-large Hawaii team goes to the Sugar Bowl despite a weak schedule; an 8-4 Illinois team goes to the Rose Bowl; and every year there is controversy about whether teams who jumped others deserved that bowl.

• The BCS system is a sham. The system supposedly has the integrity to pick the national championship matchup pitting No. 1 and 2 in the BCS rankings. Yet, the same system, which ranks the top 25 teams, becomes invalid for teams No. 3 to No. 10 to play in the other four BCS Bowls. So teams like BCS No. 6 Arkansas or BCS No. 8 Kansas State this year were left out of BCS Bowls in favor of subjective selections of bowl committees.

• Speaking of bowl committees, there is enough evidence to say that some are extremely corrupt. Fiesta Bowl Chairman John Junker, who was making more than $600,000 a year before being fired in 2011, was proven to have exchanged massive kickbacks with university administrators and use bowl money to throw lavish personal birthday parties, etc. The Orange Bowl was found to have given Southern Mississippi Athletic Director Richard Giannani a free Caribbean cruise in 2010. Who knows what would be found if all the bowls were investigated. They get to make their own rules and be overt about it. No telling what they do covertly. Not exactly the way to gain trust and credibility with fans.

• Fans, media and even many athletic administrators and head coaches want a playoff system that exists for every other sport, and for college football at every other level. Yet Hancock and many college presidents say that’s not what people want and the BCS is working just fine.

Denial is not pretty because when reality sets in, as it has with bowl attendance and TV ratings, people have to find reasons and fixes for what they have been denying.

(Editor's note: Mr. Dasari is an alumnus of the University of Missouri and Duke University and has served in a consultative role to Missouri's athletics department.)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Big 12: Who's in and who's out

Kansas held serve at home on Monday in a win against Texas A&M and Missouri had to watch Oklahoma State's fans storm the court last night in a loss in Stillwater. Let's take a look at the latest developments in the Big 12 league race and how that impacts which teams, from the conference, make the NCAA Tournament.


- Kansas is a lock. The Jayhawks are 17-3 and 7-0 in the league and have quality wins against Ohio State, Baylor and Kansas State, plus a runner-up trophy in the EA Sports tournament in Hawaii. KU will extend its nation's best streak of NCAA tournament appearances at 23.

- Missouri is a lock. The Tigers are still in contention for a league crown and a likely one seed to the Big 12 winner. Their two losses have been on the road and, looking ahead, the Tigers get the Saturday-Monday schedule turn--at home against Texas Tech and then on the road at Texas. MU faces league-leading KU at home on Saturday, February 4.

- Baylor is a lock. The Bears lost two straight but rebounded on Tuesday night with a 12 point road win over Oklahoma. BU faces Texas at home on Saturday but then has two tough road games--at Texas A&M and at Oklahoma State.

- Kansas State is a lock. The word "lock" may be a bit aggressive but the 'Cats are 15-4/4-3 and own victories over Missouri and Oklahoma State. A key upcoming game is at Iowa State on Tuesday, January 31.

- Iowa State is in. ISU's Royce White is featured in an story today and he has led the Cyclones to a 14-6 record and a tie with Kansas State at 4-3 in the league. Let's ink, not pencil, Iowa State as "in" the tournament.

Does the league only get five teams in? After these five, the possibilities get pretty murky. Oklahoma State is very tough at home--just ask Missouri--but only has a 10-10 record at this point in the season. Texas is 13-7/3-4 but it's hard to see the Longhorns finishing above .500 in the league. Texas A&M, playing without Khris Middleton, looked good against Kansas in Lawrence yet stands at 11-8 and only 2-5 in the league.

I could see A&M getting hot and making a run but, for now, I'm only comfortable with calling five teams as representatives for the Big 12 in the Big Dance.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Big 12 turnovers and fast breaks

Fast break: Royce White of Iowa State is the real deal. White leads the Cyclones in points (13.6), rebounds (9.3), assists (4.4) and blocks (1.2) per game. Iowa State is 13-5 and 3-2 in the league with two road games coming up--Texas Tech on Saturday and Texas on Tuesday.

Turnover: Kansas State announced that Jordan Henriquez has been "suspended indefinitely" from the squad. The move leaves the 'Cats depleted in the frontcourt where Henriquez had averaged 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

Fast break: The three Big 12 front-runners--Kansas, Baylor and Missouri--all face stiff tests tomorrow. KU travels to Texas for a game which will tip off after Missouri's game at Baylor. The key to the MU-Baylor match-up will be the Bears' ability to exploit their frontline advantage while neutralizing MU's guard play. It will be interesting to see Scott Drew's defensive scheme--will he play as much zone against a team which has guys who can light it up from outside the arc?

Turnover: Let's not automatically put Tyshawn Taylor of KU in this category. Taylor has been on a tear lately--28 points against Baylor on Monday night and 28 against Iowa State on Saturday. The Taylor we've seen of late eases the scoring pressure on Thomas Robinson and also opens up the court for Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford.

Fast break: How many teams will the league get into the tournament? Kansas, Baylor and Missouri are all locks but after that it gets muddy. I think Iowa State gets in and Kansas State if it finishes at .500 in the league. Texas? They could've used a road win against KSU on Wednesday night. Oklahoma State? They can't seem to win on the road. So, let's say four Big 12 teams for sure and likely five given the conference's record against non-conference opponents.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

More Tebow...

Name another pop culture-sports phenomenon, in recent memory, that competes with Tim Tebow's impact on societal conversation. Want proof? Look no further than Tebow-related chatter which has become pervasive across social media.

Bluefin Labs and Ad Age tracked Tebow-related conversations and found that the 2,137,220 comments, during and after last Sunday's Broncos-Steelers game, dwarfed other sports events during 2011. The 2+ million comments were far higher than the 1,809,310 comments during Super Bowl XLV; the 901,238 during World Series Game 6; the 720,668 during game six of the NBA Finals; and the 293,304 during game seven of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals.

An average number of social media comments for an NFL game on CBS is 107,637 during the past season. The average number of social media comments for an NFL wild card game--based on the four games last weekend--is 788,050.

Tebow mania? It's definitely true in the world of social media.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tebow...and John Hadl?

You certainly know the story by now--Tim Tebow continued his storybook season on Sunday with the Denver Broncos by throwing a touchdown pass on the first play in overtime, thus allowing Denver to hold on in their Wild Card playoff game win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tebow's performance made him the first quarterback in NFL playoff history to throw for 300 or more yards (316) on 10 or fewer completions. Two others have accomplished the feat in the regular season--Cleveland's Milt Plum (308 yards, 10 completions) in 1960 against Pittsburgh and John Hadl of San Diego in 1968 (321 yards, nine completions) versus Denver.

Hadl, of course, is the two-time All-America at Kansas who went on to a prolific pro career with the Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and Houston Oilers. Hadl now serves as a senior member of the University of Kansas' athletics department.

(Source:, Wall Street Journal)

Penalty flags, hard fouls and three pointers

Penalty flag: How can we not start with last night's "national championship" game? After a regular season game which featured no touchdowns, Alabama and LSU faced off again last night with 'Bama getting revenge in a game devoid of national championship excitement. How long will the farce of the BCS be allowed to continue?

Hard foul: Missouri was brought crashing back to earth on Saturday given how Kansas State dismantled the Tigers' hoops team in Manhattan. But, let's be careful about suggesting that MU is a soft team who won't contend for a conference title. The KSU game featured a Wildcat team who got embarrassed last week in Lawrence and was desperately seeking to play the tough, physical style which has become a trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams.

Three-pointer: Will he or won't he? Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor has reportedly met with seven sports agencies and has met again with Baylor coach Art Briles. Griffin's decision to turn pro, or not, must be made by Sunday. I, like most everyone, fully expect RGIII to declare for the NFL draft and become a top ten pick this spring.

Penalty flag: Why don't those who gripe about Tebowing take on, as well, the inane celebratory dances and such which have become a trademark of the NFL after touchdowns?

Hard foul: Who are the people who picked Texas A&M first or second in the pre-season Big 12 conference basketball polls? The Aggies are currently a disaster on the court, featuring an offense which looked hapless against Baylor in the first half last week and 24 point losers to Iowa State on Saturday. I know Billy Kennedy's illness has been a distraction but this team did not deserve that type of pre-season ranking, confirming again why conference pre-season rankings should occur after the non-conference schedule is finished.

Three-pointers: ESPN and Sagarin ranked the all-time best college basketball programs based on wins and losses, margin of victory, historical consistency, and, of course, tournament success. Not surprisingly, Kentucky finished first and UCLA was second. Kansas was third followed by North Carolina, Indiana, Illinois, Duke, Purdue, Ohio State and Iowa. Other Big 12 schools' rankings are: Oklahoma State (18), Oklahoma (20), Kansas State (27), Missouri (29), Texas (47), Iowa State (52), Texas Tech (89), Texas A&M (111), and Baylor (117.) Other notables are ex-Big 12 schools Colorado and Nebraska at 51 and 57, respectively, Wichita State at 81 and Missouri State at 112.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Quote of the day

Our quote of the day comes from the always entertaining Frank Martin, head basketball coach of Kansas State, who had this to say following last night's 67-49 Wildcat loss at Kansas. Said Martin, "I almost called a timeout when we were up 1-0. I was so excited we had a one-point lead in the first half."

Martin had warned his team about the need to get out to a fast start in Allen Fieldhouse--after their 1-0 lead the Wildcats then succumbed to the amped energy level of the building and the Jayhawks' tough defensive play, falling behind 23-7.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday afternoon sports couch-potatoing

Greetings from the couch on this fine Sunday afternoon--New Years Day 2012. Let's check up on what's going on around the world of sports, shall we?

- Traditional New Year's Day bowl games which take place on January 2 throw everything off, don't they? Yes, I get that today is the final NFL Sunday but tomorrow's schedule of bowl games just seem off as a result. And, what's with the Cotton Bowl being played on Friday night, January 6? I'm so disappointed that classic bowl game moved out of the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

- Former Kansas Jayhawk Josh Selby played so well on Friday that Memphis' Marc Gasol tweeted "We broke the ice today with the first win! Great game by both rookies, @TheRightPargo1 and @joshselby2 keep it up." Selby played 26 minutes in the Grizzlies' win over Houston and had nine points and seven assists.

- Four years ago today my family and I were boarding a plane to Miami to see Kansas' win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. My, what a difference three seasons and a bad hire made on KU's opportunity to build on its best season in school history.

- In the "surprise, surprise" department, the University of Washington fired defensive coordinator Nick Holt after the worst defensive performance in school history--the Huskies' 67-56 loss to Baylor. There's no word out of Waco on the fate of Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Bennett. I've seen video football games that featured more defense than this one.

- Thomas Robinson scored 30 points and grabbed 21 rebounds yesterday in KU's victory over North Dakota. T-Rob becomes the fifth player in Big 12 history to achieve the 30-20 feat. What's most amazing is that the last player in Kansas history to score 30 or more combined points with 20 or more rebounds was Wayne Hightower in 1961. That means that guys like Walt Wesley, Danny Manning, Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, Wayne Simien and Marcus Morris never achieved this single game standard of greatness.

- By the way, two of those Big 12 players who went 30-20 are Kevin Durant (once) and Blake Griffin (twice.) The former Texas and Oklahoma stars are doing quite well, thank you, in the NBA thus far this season. Durant, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, had the game-winning three-point shot last Thursday against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and Griffin is averaging 28 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for the Los Angeles Clippers.