Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

playoffs

The first college football playoff

How about that committee selection process?

As it turns out, it wasn’t a case of Baylor or TCU in the collective mind of the College Football Playoff committee after all. It was neither, and the joke’s on both.

TCU wins by 52 points and falls from third and a spot in the playoffs to sixth and oblivion?

“The committee doesn’t see the fall being very far,” chairman Jeff Long said.

Off the top of my head, Jeff, I’d say it’s the longest free fall by a Top 10 team after winning its last game by half-a-hundred in the history of polls, rankings or cave markings.

[…]

The only surprise Saturday was the Buckeyes’ big win with a third-string quarterback.

But that was nothing compared with Sunday’s shocker, especially if you’re a TCU fan or were under the impression the committee really meant to provide more clarity than the BCS’ much-maligned process. As impossible as it seems, the committee mucked it up even more.

Frankly, I was startled last week when TCU vaulted from fifth to third over Florida State. The move seemed less a vote of confidence in TCU than a shot across the bow of the Seminoles.

Florida State beat a pretty good Georgia Tech in the ACC title game, but it was a typical FSU win this season, a little less than convincing, the kind that started it on a slow slide from first to fourth.

Until Sunday, anyway, when the Seminoles moved back up to three.

And TCU fell in a black hole.

“I wouldn’t be honest if I wasn’t a little surprised dropping from three to sixth,” Gary Patterson told ESPN, smiling, playing good cop for a change.

Had the committee made TCU fifth or sixth last week, it wouldn’t be an issue now. All this result does is feed the conspiracy theorists. For that matter, the weekly release was probably a mistake. Long insisted it was a new world every week, but that’s a hard sell for a public unused to seeing such volatile movement from one Tuesday to the next. Made you think it was less about providing transparency and in reality just an excuse for an ESPN dog-and-pony show.

I have no dog – or pony – in this fight. Honestly, if I’d been on that committee, I have no idea who my fourth team would have been. Given all the past hubbub and controversy that led to the creation of this committee as a replacement for the unloved and unmissed BCS system, it’s quite the irony that in the first year of a four-team playoff for all the marbles, four slots weren’t enough. When does the drumbeat to expand this sucker to eight teams officially begin, I wonder.

And speaking of expanding

The Big 12 commissioner says the conference will reconsider how to declare its champion after being left out of the four-team college football playoff.

In a phone interview on the College Football Playoff Selection Show, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told ESPN’s Rece Davis: “It’s clear that we were penalized for not having a postseason championship game. It would have been nice to have been told that ahead of time.”

“We have to weigh whether this is substantial enough to add institutions. … It’s certainly a major consideration.”

The Big 12 would need to add two teams or have the NCAA approve a waiver to have a conference championship game. The Big 12 has 10 teams, and a conference must have 12 teams to have a conference championship game.

Clearly, there had been too much stability in conference composition lately. Round and round she goes…

You have a strange definition of “only”, Bud

Or maybe it’s your definition of “logical”, I’m not sure.

But while first-year manager Bo Porter continues to fire up his players and general manager Jeff Luhnow oversees year one of a complete organizational overhaul, many longtime Astros fans continue to criticize the club’s impending American League debut.

MLB commissioner Bud Selig said Tuesday he fully understands fans’ complaints and sympathizes with their pro-National League pull. But Selig told the Houston Chronicle the only “logical choice” for baseball was to relocate the Astros to the AL, and he believes fans won’t question the move five years from now.

“The American League is very attractive,” said the 78-year-old Selig, who plans to retire Dec. 31, 2014. “We had a division number of six (teams) in the National League Central. And all the National League clubs had complained to me for a long time: ‘Commissioner, this isn’t fair. The other (divisions) are either five, and one division only has four.’ … And it made no sense.”

[…]

Selig said the primary reason for the Astros’ AL relocation came down to simple geography. With St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, the Astros were the odd team out. According to the commissioner, the Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers and Reds have “tremendous” rivalries. The Astros did not, he said, because of their isolation.

“The teams left in the National League Central all had a geographical (base) – there was a relationship. Houston was sitting down there; there was no relationship,” said Selig, who stressed he made the decision in the best long-term interests of baseball. “And I understand they’ve been in the National League for a long time, and I’m sympathetic to that. But we had to move a team, and … the fact of the matter is when you looked at all the other things that could happen, the only logical thing was for Houston to move. … I didn’t have an alternative.”

I can think of at least three reasonable alternatives, none of which would have necessitated the need for all-season interleague play, as we will now have with an odd number of teams in each league. Note that the Cincinnati Reds get their traditional rival the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as their Opening Day opponent. Baseball could have done any of the following:

1. Left things as they are. The divisions have been unbalanced since they were created in 1994, with the NL Central having a sixth team since 1998. Why did we hear so little about how “unfair” this was until there arose an opportunity to impose a condition on a somewhat sketchy new buyer? Every team in the NL Central has won the division at least once since 1995 with the exception of the pathetic Pirates, and the number of teams in the division is the least of their issues. I don’t buy the premise that there was a problem that needed to be solved.

2. Expand to 32 teams and go to four four-team divisions in each league. This would solve the balancing issue, and would make scheduling easier to boot. You could use it as an impetus to get rid of that silly interleague play altogether, since all that really does is vary each teams’ strength of schedule, which is a definite competitive liability for some teams each year, and make rainouts harder to make up. There’s plenty of money in baseball these days – the biggest problem is bottom-feeding owners – and no sign of that reversing course any time soon. I’d nominate Montreal as one expansion location, as that might help MLB make up for the grievous sin it committed against them a decade ago; I don’t have a clear favorite for a second franchise location, but there are plenty of potential sites. I can understand why the owners might not want to do this, but it’s surely a logical possibility.

3. Use divisions for scheduling purposes only and ditch them for playoff seeding. This is basically what the NBA does, where the top eight teams in each division qualify for the playoffs and winning your division carries no special benefit. MLB could simply take the four teams with the best record – or the top five, with #4 and #5 playing that one-game death match as they do now for the right to advance – and be done with it. This deals with the “unbalanced division” problem and almost certainly ensures that a team with a losing record cannot make the playoffs. It can’t dilute the concept of a “pennant race” any more than the three-division/wild card setup already has.

So there you have it, three logical alternatives to shifting (or shafting, depending on your perspective), the Astros. Maybe the league switch was the “best” solution by whatever criteria Selig and MLB had, and maybe it was the only solution that could get sufficient political support to actually happen. But it sure wasn’t the only logical solution. So happy Opening Day, at least for those of you who can see it.

Houston to compete for new college football championship game

Sure, why not?

The city of Houston and Reliant Stadium plan to make a push to host college football’s new football championship game, the head of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority said Tuesday night.

“We decided we want to aggressively pursue this opportunity for Houston,” said Janis Schmees, the executive director of the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority. “We want the decision-makers to know Houston is serious about hosting.”

With the support of local business and community leaders, Schmees said a bid committee has been formed and met Monday to discuss the next steps in the bid process.

That was from last week. I was looking for more information on this – there’s nothing on the HCHSA webpage and nothing useful on their Facebook page – but a little Googling found this:

No. 1 will play No. 4, and No. 2 will play No. 3 on Dec. 31 and/or Jan. 1. The sites of those games will rotate among the four current BCS bowls — Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar — and two more to be determined. One of the new sites will likely be wherever the newly formed bowl created by the SEC and Big 12 is played, Slive said.

The Cotton Bowl, played at the $1.1 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has long wanted to be part of the BCS and is expected to make a strong push to be in the semifinal rotation.

The winners of the semis will advance to the championship on the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the last semifinal. The first “Championship Monday,” as it was called in the BCS release, is set for Jan. 12, 2015.

The site of the title game will move around the way the Super Bowl does, with cities bidding for the right to host.

And this:

The semifinal games will be played in a rotation among six bowl sites and the championship game will be offered to the highest bidding city, like the NFL does with the Super Bowl. At this point, only two games are guaranteed a spot in the semifinals rotation: the Champions Bowl (which will pit the Big 12 against the SEC) and the Rose Bowl (which pits the Big Ten versus the Pac-12). The ACC is close to finalizing an agreement with the Orange Bowl, which would also become one of the three contract games included in the rotation.

The commissioners will take bids to host the other three bowl games that will be part of the semifinals mix. The Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl will probably be considered, but a source told ESPN.com that commissioners probably favored having the additional games in the Southeast, Texas and the West Coast.

Under the 12-year agreement approved by the presidents on Tuesday, each of the six bowl games would host a semifinal game four times. But a source told ESPN.com that there might be one or two more opportunities for hosting semifinals because the Rose Bowl might prefer to host its traditional Big Ten-Pac-12 matchup, instead of being included in the semifinals rotation four times.

So you have to figure that Houston and Reliant will have as good a chance as anyone. This new setup is in place through 2025, so there will be plenty of opportunities to bring the game to Houston. No clue at this point what the deadlines are or when host cities will be announced; my guess is we won’t know much till next year at the earliest. Plenty of time to get a good bid together. We’ll see how it goes.

Bye-bye, BCS

Some sort of playoff system is on its way.

The expected became a reality Wednesday as college football’s leaders announced that they will move forward with a four-team seeded playoff to decide the sport’s champion starting in 2014.

The decision effectively ends the controversial and polarizing Bowl Championship Series system, which began in 1998 as a way to match the sport’s top two teams in a title game.

The decision has been expected for months as conference commissioners conceded as early as January that the relentless controversy would prompt a change to a playoff-style format. The only step remaining, which appears to be a formality, is the presentation of their plan to the B.C.S. oversight committee in Washington on Tuesday.

But much like the B.C.S. was constantly steeped in controversy, the selection of a four-team playoff still appears destined to inflame the sport’s passionate fans. While the B.C.S. commissioners did not announce the details of how they would pick the teams for the four-team playoff, a source with direct knowledge of the decision said the plan is for a selection committee to “more than likely” pick the four best teams.

There are still a lot of details to be worked out, including minor things such as how the money will be split up, but the first step has been taken. More from ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com that under the recommended model, four participating teams would be selected by a committee, which would consider certain criteria such as conference championships and strength of schedule.

The two national semifinal games would be played within the existing BCS bowl games (Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar) on a rotating basis, with the host sites being predetermined before each season. The national championship game would be offered to the highest bidding city.

“We’re very unified,” Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said. “There are issues that have yet to be finalized. There’s always devil in the detail, from the model to the selection process, but clearly we’ve made a lot of progress.”

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said the recommendation was the product of a lot of negotiating and cooperation among the commissioners.

“I’m sure it won’t satisfy everyone,” Scott said. “Until you have an eight-team or 16-team seeded playoff, there will be folks out there that aren’t completely satisfied. We get that. But we’re trying to balance other important parties, like the value of the regular season, the bowls, the academic calendar.”

I think they ultimately will get to an 8-team or 16-team playoff, which is how it’s done in all other levels of college football, but just breaking out of the old system that everyone had to admit wasn’t working was the key. The reality distortion field around the league commissioners was strong enough for them to deny that for a long time. I’m still kind of amazed it has happened. We’ll see what format they approve next week. Hair Balls has more.

Two wild cards are one too many

I don’t care for this.

Major League Baseball expanded its playoff format to 10 teams Friday, adding a second wild card in each league.

The decision establishes a new one-game, wild-card round in each league between the teams with the best records who are not division winners, meaning a third-place team could win the World Series.

This is the only change in baseball’s playoff structure since the 1995 season, when wild-card teams were first added.

“This change increases the rewards of a division championship and allows two additional markets to experience playoff baseball each year,” commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.

Actually, Joe Sheehan and Scott Lucas have shown scenarios in which the new playoff structure would actually put a division winner at a disadvantage. Indeed, if this had been in effect last year the Red Sox would have benefitted at the expense of either the Rays or the Yankees, as both of them would have had to go all out to win the division and avoid the play-in game while the Sox, who were comfortably ahead of their competition for the #5 spot could have rested the roster and gotten their ace ready for the game. Add in the one-year provision of the team with the home “advantage” playing the first two games on the road, and the 2012 playoffs may not be the bonanza being envisioned.

I don’t care for Sheehan’s solution – contract two teams and go back to two divisions per league. If it were up to me, I’d expand by two teams and have four four-team divisions per league a la the NFL. You could even consider an NFL-style playoff structure, with two wild cards and the top two teams getting byes. Or you could just go with the four division winners. I understand Sheehan’s appreciation of pennant races, but once the divisions were introduced you allowed for the possibility of an inferior team winning the pennant while a better team goes home without getting a chance to play. It’s a tradeoff, and you have to decide whether it’s better to force good teams to miss out or to let mediocre but lucky teams benefit. Personally, I think what they had before this change was fine, and if they kept it as is, with the Astros remaining in the NL, it would be better. I don’t necessarily oppose the idea of expanding the playoffs, I just don’t think MLB is doing it in a smart way. I’m willing to bet they’ll figure that out and tweak things further in the coming years.

MLB approves Astros sale

It’s official.

Jim Crane’s $610 million purchase of the Astros from Drayton McLane was unanimously approved by Major League Baseball’s owners this morning.

All that remains is a formal closing of the transaction, which likely will take place early next week. At that point, McLane’s 19-year ownership of the club will end.

As we know, this not only means that the Astros will be changing leagues, but that the MLB playoff format will change as well.

Two wild card teams will be added to Major League Baseball’s playoffs no later than 2013, the same year the Houston Astros will begin play in the American League.

Commissioner Bud Selig announced Thursday that baseball’s owners unanimously approved Jim Crane as the Houston Astros’ owner. As part of his agreement to buy the club, Crane will shift the Astros to the AL after 2012, creating two 15-team leagues.

“It’s a historical day,” said Selig, whose new format ensures that an interleague game will be contested “from opening day on.”

Selig did not offer specifics on the schedule or playoff format, but said his committee for on-field matters favors the one-game playoff among wild-card teams in each league, saying it would be “dramatic.” The additional wild cards could be added for the 2012 season, but will be in place by 2013 for sure.

I’m not a hidebound traditionalist by any means, but count me among those who thought the current system, which as noted before produced two of the most compelling playoff races we’ve seen in a long time, was working just fine and didn’t need any further tweaking. But never let it be said that MLB and Beelzebub Selig are letting moss grow on them.

A potentially troublesome, or at least potentially hilarious, side item here has to do with the Astros’ lease at Minute Maid Park.

An Astros move to the American League could violate the team’s lease agreement with the Harris County Houston Sports Authority, according to a local attorney.

Kevin W. Yankowsky, a partner at Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., outlined his findings from a review of the lease in a Tuesday letter to J. Kent Friedman, the Sports Authority’s chairman of the board.

Yankowsky, an Astros fan since the 1970s, will make a presentation at the Dec. 1 Sports Authority Board of Directors meeting urging a strict enforcement of the Astros’ lease to play their home games at Minute Maid Park. The wording of the lease agreement, Yankowsky said, spells out that the Astros cannot play at Minute Maid as anything but a National League team without receiving prior consent from the Sports Authority.

[…]

“My position would be: (The Sports Authority) simply ought to refuse to renegotiate their lease,” Yankowsky said. “All they have to do is stand on their rights and let Major League Baseball know that come 2013 they intend to stand on their right. Then it’s up to baseball.

“Baseball can either sue the Sports Authority or give in. The Sports Authority doesn’t have to sue anybody. They can sit back and say, ‘We’ve got a valid lease, and this is what it says, and we’re going to enforce it.’ ”

Citing provisions from a 2000 agreement that expires at the end of 2029, Yankowsky said the terms spell out that the home team — the Astros — be a National League franchise.

[…]

“In the simplest form, what this means, in my judgment, is come opening day of 2013, the Sports Authority can refuse to let them play because it’s not a permitted use of the stadium,” Yankowsky said. “They can quite simply lock the doors and say, ‘No, it’s not a permitted use.’ The play of Major League Baseball games, by definition, are limited to games in which a National League team is the home team.”

Friedman called it “an interesting analysis” and said he has asked the Sports Authority attorneys to review the matter.

“We’ll take a hard look at it,” Friedman said. “If there is a legitimate legal position to be taken by the Sports Authority that benefits the community, we ought to take it. If it’s a stretch or if it’s something that ultimately doesn’t benefit the community, then that’s not what we should be doing. But that’s easy to say. How to sort through all that remains to be seen.”

While I applaud the outside-the-box thinking here, I have a hard time seeing this as anything more than a minor annoyance for MLB and the ‘Stros. Let’s be honest, this is the sort of problem (if it really is one) that is solved by whacking it with a checkbook until it dies. There’s a negotiated settlement in someone’s future, if it comes to that. I hope I’m misunderestimating Attorney Yankowsky’s interpretive skills, because I love me some misdirected chaos, but I’m not holding out much hope. Greg has more.

Astros to the AL update

I remain puzzled by this.

Major League Baseball is discussing with prospective Astros owner Jim Crane possible compensation for agreeing to move the team to the American League.

Three people familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday that MLB has broached the subject with Crane, who in May reached an agreement to purchase the team from Drayton McLane for $680 million. One industry insider said MLB representatives floated $50 million as a possible compensation package for Crane and his group of investors to move the team from the National League. It is not known if MLB has formally offered the $50 million, or if such compensation would come from a reduction in the sale price or by other means.

The discussions would suggest that MLB commissioner Bud Selig has moved past vetting the Crane group and will attempt to finalize the sale.

“Baseball seems very interested to cause this to happen,” an industry insider familiar with the negotiations said on Thursday.

That would constitute a significant shift from August, when MLB removed a scheduled vote to approve the sale from the owners’ meetings agenda. A person familiar with top MLB officials’ thinking said concerns about past business practices of Crane’s companies remain a point in contention in approving the deal.

Another industry insider contends MLB has been using past EEOC complaints and settlements involving war profiteering as “a bargaining chip” to leverage Crane into accepting a move to the AL as a pre-condition to taking over the team. Selig and the MLB Players Association have stated a desire for two 15-team leagues that will allow for the addition to two wild-card playoff teams. One of the 16 NL teams would have to change leagues for that to happen, and there have been no volunteers. With a pending sale, coming off the worst season in franchise history (56-106), the Astros would appear to be susceptible to persuasion to sever ties with the NL that go back to 1962.

Let’s put the question about the extra playoffs aside for the moment. It’s ironic that this is being discussed at the end of the season that featured the two most dramatic playoff races of the wild card era, but the shift in emphasis from the regular season to the postseason is a ship that sailed so long ago it’s on its third round trip by now. What I don’t understand is why 15 teams per league, which will necessarily mean interleague play year round, is considered desirable. If you want balanced divisions, I’d rather make like the NFL and expand to 32 teams with four four-team divisions per league and no wild card, or two eight-team divisions with the top two from each making the playoffs. Failing that, if interleague all the time is where we’re heading, then let’s drop the pretense of having separate leagues, essentially a fiction these days given that there are no more league presidents, and adopt saner schedules as folks like David Pinto have advocated. That would mean coming to a decision one way or the other on the DH – as a lifelong American League fan, I’m for it as I’m sure the MLBPA would be too – but that’s a debate I’m willing to have and to lose if it comes down to it. The current proposals are to me the worst of all possible worlds, which means I’d better start getting used to it. At least having the Astros in the AL would mean I’d get to see the Yankees every year. Even for me that’s not worth the ridiculousness of it all, but you take your silver linings where you can find them.

The BCS blahs

Were you thinking that the BCS bowl lineup this year was a bit of a snoozefest? You weren’t alone if so.

Ticket sales for some of those games — the Orange, Sugar, Rose and Fiesta bowls — have been sluggish, and ratings generally have been lukewarm for matchups that haven’t gotten the casual fan excited.

“We have to find a way to revitalize the market place,” Sugar Bowl executive director Paul Hoolahan said.

The ratings for Hoolahan’s game were down a touch, from 8.5 last year when the game was on Fox to 8.4 this season, ESPN’s first as the TV home of the BCS — though the Superdome in New Orleans was filled to capacity Tuesday for BCS-newcomer Arkansas and Ohio State, one of college football’s glamour programs and a reliable draw with its enormous alumni base.

The Fiesta Bowl and the Orange Bowl had more serious issues.

The Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 between Oklahoma and Connecticut drew a 6.7 rating, down 22 percent from last year, and UConn sold only about 5,000 of the 17,500 tickets the school was required to buy from the organizers.

Attendance at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., was 67,232, about 6,000 below capacity for the game.

At the Orange Bowl in Miami, Stanford and Virginia Tech drew a 7.1 overnight rating, down from last year’s 7.2 for Georgia Tech-Iowa, and the attendance of 65,453 was about 9,000 below capacity at Sun Life Stadium as neither team came close to selling its allotment of 17,500 tickets.

Perhaps if there were some way to make each game more important. You know, by making them part of a quest for something bigger. I’m sure someone can think of a system that could accomplish that. See this NYT story about PlayoffPAC for more.

TCU to the Big East

Can’t say that this was unexpected, given that TCU changes conferences more often than some people change clothes.

TCU, located “Where the West Begins,” is headed east. To the Big East Conference, to be exact.

The school announced Monday that it has accepted an invitation to join the conference in 2012. All sports will participate in the Big East.

TCU has competed in the Mountain West Conference since 2005 and will remain in the league for the 2011-2012 school year.

Rumors of the move have been circulating since September, but TCU wasn’t officially asked to join the conference until Sunday evening.

Father John Jenkins, the Notre Dame chancellor and chairman of the Big East Executive Committee, made the offer to TCU Athletic Director Chris Del Conte by phone.

TCU’s Board of Trustees, knowing the offer was coming, held an emergency meeting Monday morning and voted unanimously to accept.

Since the breakup of the Southwest Conference in 1995, TCU has been in the WAC, C-USA, and the Mountain West. You have to figure that if the Big XII comes calling some day, they’ll be receptive to yet another move.

Is it a good move for them? Well, it means that they’ll have a guaranteed shot at a BCS bowl every year, at least until 2014 when the current agreement expires. Beyond that, it’s a good question.

[U]sually when a school makes a major change like the one TCU is announcing today, it can at least try to sell the idea that it’s good for all the sports at the school.

This one seems strictly designed for men’s football.

We know that TCU is no powerhouse in men’s basketball. It’s going to play in the Big East with UConn and Louisville and Syracuse and Pitt and the rest of those big boys? Good luck.

As for women’s sports and the smaller men’s sports, the travel through the Big East would seem to be prohibitive although there was obviously some very difficult travel in the Mountain West as well.

But I think without question this is being done strictly for the opportunity to pursue an automatic BCS bid…which hasn’t really been a problem for TCU lately, anyway. The Frogs are going to the Rose Bowl this year. Outside of playing in the BCS national championship game, the stage doesn’t get any bigger than the Rose Bowl.

I realize that Frogs fans believe their team is just as deserving of that national championship game as Oregon or Auburn. I get that. But this move doesn’t get rid of the possibility of being left out of the title game in the future.

If everything was the same with Oregon and Auburn this season and TCU was just finishing an unbeaten run against the likes of Rutgers and Cincinnati and their new Big East foes, wouldn’t the Frogs still be, in all likelihood, No. 3 behind the Ducks and Tigers?

I would think so.

For what it’s worth, the highest BCS ranking of any Big East school is West Virginia at #24, though it’s Connecticut that has the edge in getting to a BCS bowl this year. I have to figure that if there were a real college football playoff, this move would be less likely to happen, as TCU would have its shot at a championship and wouldn’t have to worry about being passed over by forces beyond its control.

I dunno, I mostly think of the Big East as a basketball conference. As far as that goes, it won’t be pretty for the newcomers.

TCU spent the past five seasons as an also-ran in the Mountain West; its best finish was seventh (at 6-10) in 2007-08. Its highest rating in kenpom.com’s adjusted efficiency rankings during that stretch was 124th, in ’08-09. Because the efficiency rankings are best way evaluate teams from different leagues on the same plane, we can use them to project where TCU would’ve ranked in the Big East from 2006-10:

2009-10:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 178
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 172 DePaul, No. 156 Rutgers)

2008-09:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 124
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 3 (No. 135 South Florida, No. 141 Rutgers, No. 198 DePaul)

2007-08:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 169
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 164 Rutgers, No. 126 St. John’s)

2006-07:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 152
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 1 (No. 166 Rutgers)

2005-06:
TCU Efficiency Ranking: 229
Big East Teams with lower efficiency rankings: 0 (Closest: No. 162 South Florida, No. 108 St. John’s)

Those numbers indicate that the Big East is adding a team that would have finished 17th, 14th, 17th, 16th and 17th, respectively, in the league over the past five years. TCU’s ’09-10 team was, improbably, worse than the DePaul squad that went 1-17 in conference play that season. The Horned Frogs give the league a new TV market (Dallas-Fort Worth, which is the nation’s fifth-largest), but they will not make for quality hoops TV.

And that’s before you consider scheduling and tournament issues. Obviously, the Frogs can strive to improve their hoops program – they’ve done all right with football, after all – but it could be ugly for awhile. Anyway, congrats to TCU for finally getting what they want, at least until something better comes along.

Time for the annual “Someone said something stupid about the BCS” kerfuffle

I was going to write something about Ohio State President Gordon Gee and his obnoxious remarks about Boise State, TCU, and the BCS, but Mean Green Cougar Red covered all the of the ground that I would have, so I’ll just point you to him. I have two rooting interests in college football: The Rice Owls, and anything that causes BCS-related chaos. Someday, I hope to simplify this. I mean, I was forced to root for Alabama on Friday. Do you know what kind of a stain rooting for a Nick Saban team leaves on your soul? The fact that Boise State took itself out of the “national championship” debate this weekend doesn’t change the basic calculus of the situation. Sooner or later, something’s got to give, and it would be nice if the needlessly privileged like Gordon Gee began to grasp that reality.

Spreading the wealth

Here’s something that occurred to me after this year’s World Series concluded: In the past ten seasons, an awful lot of teams have celebrated milestones. Consider:

In 2001, the Arizona Diamondbacks won their first pennant and their first World Series title.

In 2002, the Anaheim Angels won their first pennant and their first World Series title.

In 2004, the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series title since 1918.

In 2005, the Chicago White Sox won their first World Series title since 1919. They defeated the Houston Astros, who had won their first pennant.

In 2007, the Colorado Rockies won their first pennant.

In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays won their first pennant.

In 2010, the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series title since 1954. They defeated the Texas Rangers, who had won their first pennant.

So since 2001, six teams won their first pennants, three won their first-ever World Series titles, and three won their first World Series titles in over 50 years. That’s what I call hope and faith. And congratulations to the world champion San Francisco Giants.

From the “If at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards” department

Too many bowl games, (maybe) not enough bowl-eligible teams.

The NCAA’s football postseason licensing subcommittee might have to alter eligibility rules for playing in the postseason depending on how the season plays out.

There are 35 bowl games this year, and there’s a chance not enough teams will meet the current criteria. One option being explored is letting teams with losing records into the postseason.

“The committee has begun to discuss the situation and has a host of options if the circumstances arise,” committee chair Nick Carparelli, Jr., an associate commissioner of the Big East Conference, said this week.

In April, the NCAA added another bowl game, bringing the total to 35. That means 70 teams will have to meet the current qualifications to participate, which include six wins, including five against teams from Division I’s top level, the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Last year, 71 eligible teams emerged to fill 68 slots for 34 bowl games. This year, with Southern Cal ineligible because of sanctions imposed in the Reggie Bush case, it’s not certain that the NCAA would have 70 eligible teams.

Would someone please explain to me again why a playoff system would be bad for college football? I seem to have forgotten the reason. Thanks.

Halladay makes history

Wow.

Roy Halladay waited his entire life to pitch in the postseason.

Then he delivered the game of a lifetime.

Halladay threw a no-hitter Wednesday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park, which the Phillies won, 4-0. The Reds had only baserunner: Jay Bruce, who walked on six pitches with two outs in the fifth.

[…]

Halladay becomes the fifth pitcher in baseball history to throw two no-hitters in one season, joining Johnny Vander Meer in 1938, Allie Reynolds in 1951, Virgil Trucks in 1952 and Nolan Ryan in 1973. Halladay is the first to have one in both the regular season and the postseason.

“I don’t think it gets any bigger than that, unless it was a World Series,” said Ryan, now the Rangers’ president. “I think it’s pretty amazing, He’s been on a roll. It’s phenomenal, but he’s really been on his game. That tells you right there they”re going to be tough to beat.”

That’s just awesome. The last time since Don Larsen’s 1956 perfect game that anyone came close to a no-hitter in the post-season was in the 1967 World Series when Jim Lonborg of the Red Sox had one through 7 2/3 innings. Congratulations to Roy Halladay for this historic achievement.

Postseason expansion: Not just for the NCAA

Texas high schools may be getting into the act, too.

There is growing support to create a Conference 6A that would send even more Texas high school football teams to the playoffs, the head of the University Interscholastic League said Monday.

UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt said “it’s more likely now than ever” that about 1,200 high schools would be realigned into six classes of roughly equal size in a shake-up geared at putting more teams in the postseason. Under the plan, four schools from every district of every size would make the playoffs.

Currently, only the two largest classifications — 5A and 4A — advance four teams from each district. Critics say it has created watered-down system where schools that finish 2-8 can sometimes advance in weak districts.

Breithaupt said schools have consistently indicated on surveys that more playoff teams are better.

He wondered if the preference was a product of the everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality that has become common in youth sports leagues.

“You look at the generation we’re raising up … you say those kids are used to getting more,” Breithaupt said. “They’re used to being in the playoffs. They’re used to an extra game and a trophy and being crowned. So maybe it’s just us fitting in with societal needs.”

Call me crazy, but I don’t think this has anything to do with the kids. There’s got to be a buck to be made here, and if there is, I daresay that will override any other concern.

The Baylor-PAC 10 emails

It’s impossible to keep up with all of the Big 12/PAC 10/Big 10 stuff, and the many possible permutations of what could happen, but I was amused by the emails from a Baylor regent trying to whip up support for their inclusion in any mass migration to the PAC 16 over Colorado.

Wrote [Baylor regent and prominent lobbyist Buddy] Jones: “We cannot let the other schools in Texas (A&M, U.T., Tech) leave the Big XII WITHOUT BAYLOR BEING INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE. Long and short – if U.T., A&M and Tech demand that any move to any other conference include ALL TEXAS BASED TEAMS from the Big XII, we are golden. We need to be in a PACKAGE DEAL!”

[…]

Jones argues that Baylor is better than Colorado as a potential Pac-10 team because, “Baylor is superior to Colorado academically. Baylor has athletic facilities superior to Colorado. Colorado doesn’t participate in the number of sports that Baylor does. Baylor’s overall record in all collegiate sports dwarfs that of Colorado.”

Jones also points to Nebraska as being a key to the conference realignment. He opines that: “It’s hard enough get the home teams to stick tight. But harder still to influence a bunch of corn shuckers.”

I’m sure he meant that in the nicest possible way. The Denver Post managed to get a couple of people on the record about the Baylor-versus-Colorado thing.

Powerful Baylor alumni said today that the Texas State Legislature is looking into ways to help their alma mater.

As Kip Averitt, who retired in March after 17 years as a state senator and is a 1977 Baylor grad, told The Denver Post: “If it’s one or the other, I’d rather it be us than you.”

[…]

“I think there’s a desire to have regional participation in all of the athletics,” said State Rep. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco), Baylor class of ’86. “If you don’t have Texas and Texas A&M and Tech and Baylor playing one another, you lose the regional nature of your conference.

“It’s fun to play Ohio State every now and then but people come in day in, day out for that regional competition.”

[…]

“We’re on the same academic tier as Colorado,” Averitt said. “Both of our schools are at the top of the spectrum. That can’t be an issue. But for us down here, we’re kind of a family. We like to compete against our family.

“It’s nothing against Colorado at all. We like to travel up to Colorado from time to time. It’s a beautiful state. But when it comes to conference realignment, it’s a huge deal to Baylor University and central Texas economics.”

Colorado’s appeal to the Pac-10, besides a closer proximity, is it’s a member of the prestigious American Association of Universities. While Baylor is not, it’s considered one of the best academic institutions in Texas.

Athletically, Baylor boasts the most Big 12 championships outside of Texas and Nebraska. Baylor officials quickly point out that Colorado does not carry non-revenue sports that are popular in the Pac-10 such as softball, baseball and men’s tennis.
“We think that also should be a consideration,” Averitt said. “We’re across the board.”

Is it just me, or does anyone else hear Frank Sinatra crooning in the background?

I dunno. I guess it could happen. Baylor’s arguments are quite logical. But I think Buck Harvey is correct in that logic will be trumped by numbers.

Colorado doesn’t dominate its region the way Nebraska does. But it is still the state’s largest school with the potential to be more. Baylor, bordered by UT on one edge and A&M on another, isn’t a growth business.

Then there are the numbers. Boulder, Colo., is 25 miles from Denver and is included in that city’s television market. It’s the 16th largest in the nation, the reason four major pro sports are there.

Waco is combined with Bryan and Temple on the same list, yet is 89th overall — just above Jackson, Miss.

This sure is fun to watch, isn’t it? In closing, I leave you with Dan Wetzel, who makes a strong case for how supporting a football playoff would have saved the Big 12 from the current attempts to pick its carcass, and Sean Pendergast, who compares the spot the Big 12 is in to that of the Big East of 2003. Check ’em out.

NFL passes new overtime rule

Good.

The National Football League owners have approved a change in overtime, starting with the playoffs following the 2010 season, that will modify the sudden-death format and prevent a team from winning a game with a field goal on the opening possession.

The vote was 28-4, with the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals voting against. It needed at least 24 votes to pass.

“It was really a good discussion in the sense that there’s been a lot of debate, both publicly and privately, over the rule — which is always good,” Competition Committee co-chair Rich McKay said in announcing the vote. “We’ve had this discussion for a number of years. We felt like this proposal, which we call ‘modified sudden death,’ was really an opportunity to make what we think was a pretty good rule — sudden death — even better.”

McKay stressed that the new overtime rule, which says the team receiving the kickoff can’t end the game on the first possession unless it scores a touchdown, will apply only to the playoffs.

“Part of the reason we have different rules is we have different consequences,” McKay said. “The consequences in the postseason are, go home if you don’t win. In the regular season, we have 15 other games.”

I would like to see this rule apply to all games, and despite what McKay says here the owners will consider expanding the new rule to the regular season in May. There are some wrinkles and subtleties to the new rule, concerning things like onside kicks and safeties, which just goes to show that you can never truly do anything the easy way in the NFL. Better make sure all of the refs get a thorough education on this. And yes, as promised, Texans owner Bob McNair voted for the rule change, and will support bringing it to the regular season as well.

McNair to vote to change overtime

Good for him.

Bob McNair will vote yes when NFL owners cast their ballots next week to change overtime for playoff games.

McNair doesn’t like the sudden-death system that’s been in place since 1974.

“I’m in favor of changing it,” McNair said. “I don’t like the prospects of going into overtime, losing a coin flip, and we might not even get the ball.”

The NFL spring meetings begin Sunday in Orlando, Fla., and the competition committee that includes Texans general manager Rick Smith is recommending that overtime be changed in the playoffs to allow each team at least one possession if the team that wins the coin toss kicks a field goal.

[…]

“They’re talking about something that makes sense,” McNair said. “I’d be in favor of something like that, where you can’t lose by a field goal on the first possession. I like it better if you have a chance to get the ball, too, and a touchdown wins.”

As you know, I prefer the college overtime system, which feels to me like extra innings in baseball. That it always allows each team a chance to be on offense is why I like it. But this change, however tiny, is still better than what the NFL has now.

NFL to consider new overtime rules

But only for the playoffs, at least for now.

Under the new format, both teams would get the ball at least once unless the first team to get the ball scores a touchdown, Greg Aiello said. If the first team to get the ball makes a field goal and the other team ties the game, action would continue until a team scores again.

Under the current rules, the first team to score wins.

“There have been various concepts that have been discussed in recent years, but this one has never been proposed,” Aiello said.

I confess, I rather like the NCAA’s way of breaking ties. But this is better than what the NFL is doing now, which leaves teams too dependent on the coin toss. I say give it a try and see how it goes, and be willing to do the same thing in the regular season. What do you think?

Perfection isn’t everything, but losing still stinks

So, anyone else watch that Jets-Colts game? I’ve read a lot of commentary about it today, some in favor of Coach Caldwell’s decision to pull the starters but more against, and there are two points I think need to be highlighted.

1. I can understand the desire to give starters a little extra rest, and to minimize the chances of a fluke injury derailing the team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl. I’m having a much harder time understanding the rationale for doing so in the middle of a game that’s still up for grabs. If the game wasn’t close, that would have been one thing. But to pull Peyton Manning, a guy who’s played in 191 straight games in part because he so seldom gets hit, when leading 15-10 midway in the third quarter? That’s out there, to say the least. Not playing Manning and the other regulars that got pulled at all would have made more sense to me.

2. All of the commentary I’ve seen has focused on the Colts and the effect Coach Caldwell’s actions would have on them. But it’s not just about the Colts. By essentially conceding the game to the Jets, Caldwell may have changed the playoff picture. Certainly, the Jets, who now control their own playoff destiny, were affected, in their case positively. The Texans, who now need two of the Jets, Broncos, and Ravens to lose to have a shot, and the Steelers, who need all that and more, were damaged. In baseball, at least, it’s generally considered poor form for a team that has already made the playoffs to put a weak lineup out against a team that is still competing for the postseason. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have some qualms about the Colts having that much influence over all these teams’ playoff chances. That just isn’t right.

The Bridge World has written about what they call “sportsmanlike dumping”, a condition that occurs when it’s in a competitor or team’s best interest to not do as well as they could in a given game or match so as to increase their odds of winning a championship. That’s the Colts’ basic argument here: This game meant nothing to them, so their strategy was not predicated on winning it, but on maximizing their chances to win the Super Bowl. Giving some starters the second half off was their way to do that. That’s fine as far as it goes, but as The Bridge World has noted in some of its more detailed examinations of the phenomenon, which tend to occur in tournaments that have poorly thought out conditions for advancement, the ethics of the situation can change if your championship-optimizing behavior disproportionately affects another team. If by not playing your best you prevent another team from advancing, is that right? That is precisely the case here. So I ask: What responsibility, if any, do the Colts have to the Texans and the Steelers and the NFL in general to play their best in a specific game? I don’t think you can truly evaluate Caldwell’s decision without taking that question into account. Sean Pendergrast goes into that from the Texans’ viewpoint.

Finally, I note that two years ago when the Patriots had started out 14-0, there was a fair bit of nattering in the press about how a perfect regular season is less important than a Super Bowl win. I thought Jim Henley had a good response to those concerns, and I just find it interesting that we’re revisiting all that a mere two years later, but from the perspective of a coach who agreed with that formula, unlike Bill Belichick. Belichick ultimately didn’t get what he wanted. We’ll see if Caldwell does. All I can say is that if the Colts flame out before the Super Bowl, it’s gonna be ugly. What do you think?

More heat on the BCS

I realize there are about a billion higher priorities for the President and the Congress to be dealing with these days, but I still really enjoy watching these guys squirm.

At a hearing Friday before the House subcommittee on commerce, trade and consumer protection, three members of Congress decried the manner in which college football decides its national champion and warned government action could be implemented should changes not be made voluntarily by the sport’s administrators.

Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, who has introduced legislation that would prohibit the NCAA from advertising its national champion in football as such unless it was produced via a playoff system, levied the most pointed criticisms of his peers toward the Bowl Championship Series.

“It’s interesting that people of good will keep trying to tinker with the current system, and to my mind it’s a little bit like — and I don’t mean this directly — but it’s like communism,” Barton said in his opening statement. “You can’t fix it. It will not be fixable. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to try a new model, and that’s why we’re here today.”

I can’t say I endorse Smokey Joe’s rhetoric, but I stand with him on the nature of the problem and the need for a real solution. And hey, better he focus on something he has some hope of actually understanding.

Four high-ranking college football officials testified before the subcommittee. Proponents of the current BCS system predicted that renowned bowl games would become endangered if a playoff system was initiated.

“It will be very difficult for any bowl, including the current BCS bowls, which are among the oldest and most established in the game’s history, to survive” because sponsorships and television revenue would go toward playoff games, BCS coordinator and ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “Certainly the 29 games that are not part of the BCS would be in peril.”

Okay, first of all new bowl games have been popping up like weeds even though none of them have any hope of ever having anything to do with a national championship. I don’t see why a transition to a playoff system would imperil such games. Hell, there are now three postseason men’s basketball tournaments that are not the NCAA championships. I see no reason why there could not continue to be ancillary postseason events in football; it’s not like the demand for more football is going to go down, after all. Finally, the “oldest and most established” bowls are ginormous boondoggles that drain money away from the universities and conferences that participate in them; they are long overdue for extinction. We may or may not be able to fix global warming and the financial crisis, but we can damn sure do something about that.