Thursday, September 20, 2007

Welcome to THE JUNGLE?; Jerrell Powe

Well its not quite Upton Sinclair, but Meat Market, a new book by Bruce Feldman on the sausage factory of NCAA football recruiting has received a great deal of attention in the sports press recently. Feldman was granted access to the inner workings of the recruiting machine run by Coach Ed Ogeron of Mississippi during the 2006-2007 recruiting season. It is now on my short term reading list, and I will give you all a full report in the near future. For now, the following comments by Barry Temkin are instructive:
His 2005 recruiting class, assembled hastily after he took his job in December 2004, has been an attrition-heavy disaster, thanks to too many academic and character risks. As he pursued the 2007 class under Feldman's watchful eye, Orgeron raised the bar in those areas but still showed a willingness to roll the dice on academics if a player was promising enough and to fight to get such prospects through the admissions door.

That made one Mississippi staff member particularly valuable because of his expertise in finding ways prospects could satisfy NCAA initial-eligibility requirements late in the game. And that in turn helped lead to the saga of five-star defensive lineman Jerrell Powe, who first signed with Mississippi in 2005 but has yet to play a down despite repeated attempts to become eligible, which included taking a slew of online courses.

The tension between academics and athletics is just one thing that made you wonder what institutions of higher learning are doing in this mass entertainment business in the first place.
Yep, THAT Jerrell Powe, who, after being declared ineligible twice before, learned from the NCAA earlier this month that, at least in his case, correspondence course shenanigans over the space of four months could not erase years of academic failure:
NCAA staff and the appellate bodies expressed concern that Mr. Powe had completed a significant amount of coursework in an unusually limited amount of time – much shorter than the average time it takes students to complete similar courses. In order to grant the waiver and appeal, the staff and membership committees were asked to accept that an individual who previously completed just 7 core courses out of a required 14 in his first five years of high school had subsequently completed 14.5 core courses at three different schools concurrently over a four-month period.
Occasionally, even the NCAA gets things right.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

FBS vs FCS: A Reality Check

It is only natural that many in the sports media have spent the better part of the last two weeks swooning over the performance of Appalachian State in the Big House. We cannot let this obscure the ultimate reason that so many of these mismatches are scheduled each season - so FBS teams can pad their records in an attempt to get bowl eligible and have another revenue-enhancing home game - or the immense disparity between FBS and FCS schools overall.

So far this season there have been 48 games between FBS and FCS schools, with the FBS schools posting an overall record of 42-6. The average margin of victory for FBS schools has been 31 points, more than four touchdowns, with the most lopsided score coming in Louisville's 73-10 beatdown of Murray State. The average margin of victory for FCS schools has been 9 points, with 3 of the wins coming by 3 points or less. There is, however, a scheduling lesson for BCS ADs - avoid the very best teams in the FCS. The FBS posts only a 5-4 record against teams from the FCS who participated in last years IAA playoffs.

FCS wins versus FBS in 2007
*Appalachian State 34 Michigan 32
Nicholls State 16 Rice 14
Northern Iowa 24 Iowa State 13
*Southern Illinois 34 Northern Illinois 31
*McNeese State 38 Lousiana Lafayette 17
*New Hampshire 48 Marshall 35

*Participant in 2006 IAA playoffs.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New NCAA Football Divisions Proposed

From Hee Hee.

Division 1-A is now officially called "Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-FBS)" and I-AA is called "Division I, Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-FCS)." But I do not think the NCAA should have stopped there. They should have gone further. They should go the full route and really create names that will hopefully end any and all confusion. They should have further broken them down as follows:

Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision, Teams That Get the BCS Bowls (Division I-FBSTTGBB)

This division would include the usual suspects of LSU, USC, Texas, and whoever wins the Big East and the football-tradition rich Atlantic Coast Conference.

Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision, We Are Notre Dame and Do Not Give a Hoot About Anyone Else (Division I-WANDADNGHAAE)

Of course, this would be Notre Dame. Perhaps they might get a tatse of some humble pie this year and be realigned into Division I-FBSTTGBB.

Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision, Teams That Get the BCS Shaft (Division I-FBSTTGBS)

This division would include schools like Boise State and other mid level programs that have excellent seasons but get denied BCS bowl berths because they are not one of the big boys. We will treat last year's Boise State team as an anomaly for now.

Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision, Teams That Don't Really Belong Except That They Are in A Big Conference(Division I-FBSTTDRBETTAC)

Here you would put schools like Indiana and Vanderbilt. OK, Vanderbilt has been getting better every year, but they seemed such a natural fit because of their history.

Division I, Football Bowl Subdivision, Teams That Only Belong Because of Tradition (Division I-FBSTTOBBT)

This would include schools like Army and Navy, even though Navy might actually have a shot at beating Notre Dame This Year.

Division I, Football Championship Subdivision, Teams That Don't Offer Scholarships (Division I-FCSTTDOS)

This division would hold the Patriot and Ivy Leagues.

Division I, Football Championship Subdivision, Teams That Offer Scholarships (Division I-FCSTTOS)

This would be the rest of the old Division 1-AA teams.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Dan Beebe named Big 12 Commisioner

Former OVC commish, and Big 12 COO Dan Beebe has been named the new commisioner of the Big 12 conference. From the article at

Beebe promoted, succeeds Weiberg as Big 12 commish news services

Updated: September 5, 2007, 4:16 PM ET

DALLAS -- The Big 12 Conference named Dan Beebe as its new commissioner Wednesday, nearly two months after he took the job in an interim role.

The former Ohio Valley Conference commissioner has been acting as commissioner since July, after Kevin Weiberg stepped down to take a job with the Big 10 Network.

Weiberg held the post for nine years.

Beebe, who had been the Big 12's chief operating officer since 2003, agreed to a five-year contract. Terms were not immediately released.

"I will bring my experience as a conference leader ... in taking the Big 12 to the next level of success as from a competitive and financial standpoint," Beebe said. . . .

Are the compliance problems in the Big 12 a priority as well?

In a phone interview with ESPN's Joe Schad prior to his introductory news conference, Beebe discussed recent Big 12 rules violations in football, including at Oklahoma and Texas, and said they are not indicative of a conference-wide isssue.

"My hope is these are anomolies and not a part of any widespread or elaborate schemes," Beebe said. "It can't be perfect. And the coaches are in the best position to stop these things. "In the two situations you bring up, people outside the athletic departments provided extra benefits. These are the instances that keep us awake at night. We need and will have a clear message that extra benefits will not be allowed in this conference."
For now, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. There is too much 'move along, there is nothing to see here' in his comments to completely dispel suspicion, and he will have to be closely watched. An article from June provides a bit more color on Beebe, in addition to some of the background to the Big 12's decision:

Big 12 may seek more dynamic leader

10:29 PM CDT on Thursday, June 14, 2007

For nine years, Big 12 commissioner Kevin Weiberg was in charge of placating a dozen presidents and athletic directors along with hard-balling TV executives, glad-handing bowl reps, meeting with city officials wanting to host championships and charting a course for a league that started with no tradition.

After Weiberg announced Thursday that he was leaving to start a new career as a television executive at the Big Ten Network, there was shock and sadness from the schools he served. . . .

Critics of Weiberg will say he was too mild-mannered to lead a power conference. . . .

One candidate who will never be accused of being mild mannered is Dan Beebe, the Big 12's senior associate commissioner since 2003, who already has some support for consideration as Weiberg's successor.

Beebe declined to be interviewed Thursday. But for those in the Big 12 wanting to seek continuity established under Weiberg, Beebe could be an interesting candidate. He is the former commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference and served as NCAA director of enforcement from 1987 to '89. He's the current liaison to the Big 12 presidents and chancellors, which could help his cause. And he doesn't hold back his opinions.

"Dan's a former rugby player," Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins said. "Need I say more? He's very thoughtful, a strong personality, extremely bright. He's one of the most honest and ethical people I've been around. He's a team guy and a team builder."

Perkins hired Weiberg, Beebe and Kansas State athletic director Tim Weiser to work for him when Perkins was athletic director at Wichita State in the 1980s.

Beebe was in charge of NCAA compliance at Wichita State. Weiser was in charge of academic programming, and Weiberg was senior associate athletic director.

There is no bigger fan of Weiberg than Weiser. And Weiser said Beebe might be the right fit to succeed their longtime friend.

"Dan's got a different style from Kevin and a different approach, and I think some of those differences might be what our league needs at this point," Weiser said.

"Dan will drill right down to a core of an issue. Either we'll agree or disagree. But I think he'll be more inclined to bring things to a head. We might break more eggs along the way, but I think in Dan's mind, that's not necessarily a bad thing. And I'm not sure I can disagree with that.

"It might be time for us to break a few eggs, step on some toes and make things a little more uncomfortable than things have been in the past."

But whose toes? Those of tawdry boosters and apologists for academic failure? One can only hope on this issue, or more appropriately, pray.