Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

by Brian Fremeau and Bill Connelly

(Russell Levine couldn't catch this weekend's games due to extenuating circumstances, so we've turned things over to our other two college football writers for this week's Junkie. Russell did turn in his usual Blogpoll ballot, which is at the end of the column.)

Brian: College football's lone weekend game featuring two ranked teams (Florida versus South Carolina) was decided by 50 points. It was a great day to rake leaves. That might be a little bit harsh, but when the best storylines of the weekend revolved around events that almost happened, it's hard not to want to shove Week 12 into a big Hefty bag and leave it on the curb.

Ho hum. The top 15 teams in last week's BCS standings were all victorious, and the top nine all held their ground in the rankings. Seven of those nine were in action, winning their games by an average of 34 points.

Oh, sure, there was some drama. Undefeated Alabama led SEC bottom-feeder Mississippi State by only five at halftime on the strength of a blocked-punt safety and a touchdown "drive" following a punt returned to the two-yard line, then added another special teams touchdown in the second half. But the Crimson Tide forced three-and-outs on seven Bulldog drives, and aside from the long Mississippi State scoring drive to take a temporary lead in the first half, Alabama gave up fewer than 100 yards all night.

USC flirted with another exasperating meltdown against pesky Stanford, a game that was knotted at 17 points apiece late in the third quarter. But the Trojans rolled up 28 points down the stretch to officially throttle and bury last season's albatross. Exacting revenge on an opponent is much more satisfying A) when the game and opponent merit national attention like the Florida/Georgia tilt last month, and B) when the fan base actually cares. Those who did stick around in Palo Alto were rewarded in the game's final seconds, when Jim Harbaugh's team lined up to attempt a completely meaningless field goal. When Pete Carroll called timeout to freeze the kicker, Harbaugh responded by running the offense back out onto the field to throw a much more meaningful touchdown on the final play to earn a backdoor cover. The post-game handshake was ... brief.

In the story of the 2008 National Championship, the Week 12 chapter will be rather thin, but it did add a few other anecdotes. LSU was working on redefining "mailing in the season" and trailed Sun Belt Conference dynamo Troy 31-3 in the third quarter before scoring 37 unanswered points in a furious comeback in front of the several hundred fans who stuck it out in Baton Rouge. The game featured LSU quarterback Jarret Lee slinging his seventh pick-six of the season, a stat that almost defies comprehension.

Navy mounted its second straight 20-point fourth quarter comeback in a finale against Notre Dame that, too, almost defied comprehension. Two weeks ago, Navy overcame a 27-7 fourth quarter deficit against Temple, winning in overtime to become bowl-eligible. On Saturday, leading 27-7 with 2:30 left to play in a game that had seemingly entered garbage time three possessions earlier, the Irish reserves gave up the ball on downs at the Navy 43-yard line. Navy had converted exactly zero third or fourth downs to that point in the game and had been held to a little over 150 yards on the ground, half their per-game average. But a completely brain-cramped Notre Dame hands team unit made virtually no attempt to recover any of three Navy onside kick attempts (including one replayed due to an Irish penalty), and the Midshipmen mounted a dizzying comeback that fell short on downs with seconds left to play.

Bill: Am I the only person (beyond Joe Paterno himself) who has grown twelve steps beyond sick and tired of the "Will JoePa retire?" talk. If Penn State manages to win out this season -- a possibility, albeit not a huge one if USC awaits in the Rose Bowl -- that will give Penn State 41 wins in the last four seasons. That would tie for the third-most wins JoePa has ever had in a four-year span (they had 43 from 1971-74 and 42 from 1993-96). Granted, teams play more games now, but that's still mighty impressive. I don't care if he's having to coach from the press box, the sidelines, a tailgate outside the stadium, or a hospital bed (a la Luther Van Dam); Penn State obviously has a good thing going right now, so why bother with the questions? It's clear that Joe Paterno is going to coach until either A) his mind starts losing its edge, or B) his wife tells him to quit -- and B is highly debatable. This is a sport where coaches follow dollar signs to the next opportunity, and there is nobody else out there with the loyalty and longevity of Joe Paterno. And most importantly, he's still winning. Enjoy him while he's still kicking around, one good hip or two. And when he decides to leave (or, God forbid, the decision is made for him), we'll all know about it pretty quickly.

Beyond that, I don't have too many thoughts about last weekend's slate. I'm just salivating at the thought of quite a few big rivalry games with big implications over the coming weeks. Utah-BYU will have more on the line than ever. Pittsburgh-West Virginia could decide the Big East title (or not, if Brian Kelly's "different quarterback every week" squad steals the show). If Oklahoma beats Texas Tech, then the next week's Bedlam battle in Stillwater might or might not decide the Big 12 South, depending on how the BCS standings shake out. Oregon-Oregon State might determine whether the Beavers throw a wrench into the BCS by clinching a Rose Bowl bid. Auburn-Alabama ... well, it isn't as big as the others, but Auburn has won six in a row in the series, and they will be fighting for their bowl lives and trying to prevent an undefeated Tide season. And that's saying nothing of the SEC and Big 12 title games on the horizon.

This coming weekend, though, all eyes will be on Norman, Oklahoma. More and more people are talking themselves into the "Oklahoma can't stop Texas Tech" idea, but I'm more focused on the "OU simply doesn't lose at home" concept. No place is louder than Owen Field on a big third down. I'm sure I'll end up talking about this game more in Varsity Numbers this week, but after a weekend without a marquee game, the hype for this one has already grown pretty deafening, and it's only Monday.

John L. Smith Trophy

This week's award goes to Steve Spurrier ... for leaving Florida. Ouch, babe.

BlogPoll Ballot

Russell Levine: This season, I am again voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog, and now available on CBS Sportsline. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment, and I may make changes based on comments for a revised ballot later in the week .

Rank Team Delta
1 Texas Tech --
2 Texas 1
3 Florida 2
4 Oklahoma --
5 Alabama 3
6 Penn State --
7 Southern Cal --
8 Utah --
9 Oklahoma State 1
10 Missouri 1
11 Ohio State 2
12 Boise State --
13 Brigham Young 2
14 Maryland 12
15 TCU 1
16 Oregon State 9
17 Georgia 4
18 Michigan State 1
19 Cincinnati 4
20 Pittsburgh --
21 Ball State 3
22 Miami (Florida) 4
23 Oregon 3
24 Northwestern 2
25 Boston College 1

Dropped Out: North Carolina (No. 14), LSU (No. 17), Florida State (No. 21), Virginia Tech (No. 22), Tulsa (No. 24).


18 comments, Last at 18 Nov 2008, 7:12pm

1 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

I remember an interview Joe Paterno did where he basically said that the reason that he refuses to quit coaching is that he's terrified that he'd pull a Bear Bryant and die right afterwords.

I believe him.

2 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

Spurrier could have won the JLS Trophy for any number of reasons. But chief among them were two calls:

1) Declining a Florida holding penalty, opting to give the Gators a third and 7 instead of a 2nd and 20 in the first half. As one would generally expect, the Gators then proceeded to convert the third down with ease. Perhaps they would have converted anyway, but it's hard to imagine many possibilities where 3rd and 7 looks better than 2nd and 20 for a defense.

2) That ridiculous lateral play on the kickoff return. I mean, it was unlikely to succeed, but carried an enormous risk with it, while also signalling to your team that you're pretty much screwed either way and simultaneously showing the world that you're unprepared and disorganized. That kind of thing is the very archetype of the JLS legacy, isn't it?

3 My Meaningless Top 25

Ho hum is right regarding last week. And to think, this week is the final full slate of games this season. It always goes by too fast.

College Football has nearly tripled it's revenues over the past ten years. Back then when the possibility was brought up about players getting paid, the response was "where's the money going to come from?". Well, what's the excuse now? And what's sad is that this money is being used to buy out head coaches.

Speaking of which, the new trend seems to fire coaches in mid-to-late season. To me all this does is add a few more weeks of sleepless nights by fanatic fans and alums over who the next coach will be, and the trickle-down is that coaches like Butch Davis and Randy Edsall are nagged to death with questions regarding interest from teams with openings. I'd like to see the NCAA step in and create a simple new rule- no contact with any other teams coaches- that includes assistants- until the all of bowls have concluded. That may effect recruiting for the teams looking for coaches, but the current system effects the games being played. Remember a few years back when Washington State played in the Rose Bowl without Mike Price, who bolted for Alabama (albeit briefly)? Yes, I said the Rose Bowl.

1. Texas Tech (10-0)
2. Alabama (11-0)
3. Texas (10-1)- IF OU beats Texas Tech next week, Texas should be the top team in the Big 12 South. They beat Oklahoma and had the toughest schedule of the Horns - Sooners - Raiders trio
4. Florida (9-1)- subjectively they're the best team in the country, but they lost to Ole Miss. If the Gators win out they'll win the National Title, so it doesn't matter where they're ranked right now.
5. Oklahoma (9-1)
6. Southern Cal (9-1)- Pete, you lost to Oregon State. You have nothing to complain about.
7. Oklahoma State (9-2)
8. Penn State (10-1)
9. Utah (11-0)
10. Missouri (9-2)- capable of pulling an upset in the Big 12 title game.
11. Ohio State (9-2)
12. Georgia (9-2)
13. TCU (9-2)
14. Michigan State (9-2)
15. Boise State (10-0)
16. Boston College (7-3)
17. Cincinnati (8-2)
18. BYU (11-1)
19. Oregon State (7-3)
20. Miami (7-3)
21. LSU (7-3)
22. Pitt (7-2)
23. Maryland (7-3)
24. South Carolina (7-4)
25. Ball State (10-0)

4 Re: My Meaningless Top 25

In reply to by Kevin Eleven

For a huge number of people the fact the kids don't get paid is a massive thing. The NCAA does all they can to stop them being paid in any way.

5 Re: My Meaningless Top 25

I agree with you. Anyone that doesn't think playing college football is WORK is kidding themselves. The athletes deserve to share some of the money they generate, and I wish Barack Obama was more in tune with that than having a playoff.

6 Re: My Meaningless Top 25

1) How much does a 4 year full ride cost these days?
2) How much is the training they are getting for those good enough to make it to the next level worth?
3) Are any of these kids forced to play football? They could all become accountants instead, can't they?

9 Re: My Meaningless Top 25

1. Depends, but the players still receive less than market value.
2. Not sure, but the players still receive less than market value.
3. The relevancy being...what?

7 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

Well, college is work, if you apply yourself. That doesn't matter if you are an athlete or a software engineer.

But let's take a closer look at that. Is there any difference in terms of preparation/work/study/whatever-you-call-it hours between

1. a football player / English major
2. a swimmer / English major
3. a physics major / nationwide mathematics competitor

Can you rationally explain to me why the football or basketball player should be the one who gets paid? Simply because the University is making money off them? They're making money off everyone. That's why Universities exist. Educational institutions turn a profit or else they would close their doors.

Of course we can go down the road over whether or not they should be "public" and "free" but that takes you nowhere. That's a 3rd grader argument. Goods and services are only rationally allocated through a pricing mechanism. See Von Mises' "Economic Calculation Problem of the Socialist Commonwealth" for more on this concept.

In the end, athletes make what they deserve after adjusting for market distortion due to excess capital being moved from more productive resources to the University education system, where the capital is employed ineffeciently. This market distortion is caused by government policy, as is all market distortion in the end.


13 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

Can you rationally explain to me why the football or basketball player should be the one who gets paid?

Yes because they are the ones who are producing valuable goods for the University. The only reason they are not being paid is because of monopolistic rules the NCAA is allowed to enforce. All high performing students are paid for their services with scholarships, housing, perks etc., but the NCAA sets an artificial cap on this pay restricting it to only a few non-transferable forms. Basically the NCAA is colluding against young athletes (even top echelon swimmers I am sure).

It may do this in part to subsidize some at the expense of others, but I am guessing mostly it does it simply because it is in the interests of the Universities themselves. It is great for organizations when they can collude to drive down the price of goods they need.

Should they be allowed to collude in such a manner? I am not really sure, but given how destructive (IMO) big time sports is becoming to academic integrity at some schools I would much prefer a system where we drop the charade of student-athletes. If the players want to spend their pay on an education (which could be discounted or something) more power to them.

Goods and services are only rationally allocated through a pricing mechanism.

This is not an axiom. I wish you free marketeers would stop pretending it is. Markets are an incredibly powerful tool but they are not our only tool. You take some brilliant arguments reacting against 19th and early 20th century statist economic policy and think they have double the scope they actually do.

15 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

The football player is also the only one that can't turn pro in his secondary/primary activity at the university as well. The swimmer could turn pro as there is no age cap to keep them from competing at a national/international level and then get the endorsements that come with that. The physicist/mathematician would be able to get a job doing physics and math if they were already good enough at it to get hired in the private sector. However, the football player could not go to the NFL, and need to use the university as a way to get three years outside of high school so they can play professionally. The others could skip the university altogether is they were talented enough but the football player can't. Since he's also generating a huge amount of income for them, I don't have much of an issue with them getting paid more than a normal scholarship student.

8 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

I'm curious when it became OK to lose. All this talk about "resumes" obscures the singular point of a football game--to win. There are no "good" losses. How Alabama (a team I don't particularly care about) can be ranked 5th despite being 11-0 in a BCS conference is pretty incomprehensible to me. It is so, so hard to go undefeated at just about any level of football, particularly one where the talent is relatively disperse.

Alabama doesn't play a whole lot of "pretty" football that we've come to expect in the 21st century. They play very tough defense, they physically beat you up on both sides of the ball, and they set up their offense with great special teams play. This doesn't make for scoring 50 points very often and having the subs in by halftime, but it's still a successful recipe to win football games. Have we gotten to the point where "how" you play is more important than the result?

10 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

Can you rationally explain to me why the football or basketball player should be the one who gets paid?

Yes- they generate revenue for the schools that far exceed room and board.

I love the way the term "rationally" gets used here. We live in a "rational" world where coaches get millions in salary, buyouts, country club fees (really)...and the players get room and board.

11 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum


Can you rationally explain to me why the football or basketball player should be the one who gets paid?

Yes- they generate revenue for the schools that far exceed room and board.

No, you still haven't answered my question. Collectively the entire student population generates revenue that far exceeds room and board or else the University closes. Though I haven't cracked open the audit books from Florida State recently, I'm guessing that tuition costs (no matter which way they are recieved, i.e. Student Loan, Cash, GI Bill, subsidy, etc) normally exceed the revenue for room and board.

So how much revenue above room and board (you forget to mention classroom costs, and all sorts of charges you would find on the balance sheet of a business, which is what a University is) should be the trigger for payments to the athlete?

I suppose that is a pricing question, and yes it can be answered rationally, if a University chose to do so. However, the "amount of work done" is not a rational question, and you can not distribute goods based on how much work someone has done. It has to be based on results.

For Americans students who want a career in football, you have limited choices. The University system has monopolistic characteristics. Yet, no one is forcing students to play football, so in that sense, their choices are unlimited.

Any college football player that feels he should be paid for his work should stop working. Silent dissent is consent. Since not a single major college football player has gone on strike, and taken up another career voluntarily, it appears they are getting what they want in return. I suspect that "rational" societies are ones where people enter into voluntary contracts. If the players felt defrauded, they'd break those contracts.

Sorry to be long winded, but when the "something has to be done" crowd gets into overdrive, it's difficult to present the "no, really, nothing has to be done" argument.

I made no mention of coaches salaries, etc.


17 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

Oh my God...POSTS!

David, why am I afraid that regardless of what my explanation is, you'll deem it to be "irrational"?

The Universities pay coaches, administrators, faculty and janitors whatever they want. Why should they be forbidden to pay the players the same way?

Some people immediately respond by attempting to make the issue more complex than it needs to be, and thus unworkable. Let's simplify: what rational reason could a college not be allowed to simply say "we pay our student athletes x-amount to play football"? That amount can be zero, or higher- the school decides.

Why not allow this free market mechanism into the game?

12 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

David, the answer to your question could be most easily had in college basketball, given thirty or forty college students with exceptional courage. If, on the the Thursday night before Final Four weekend, that number of players, fairly evenly distributed among the four schools, were to announce that they would not be playing on the following Saturday and Monday, absent come large checks, and CBS was faced with the possibility of sending back huge sums of money to advertisers, well, it would be an interesting thing to observe. I can't think of such similar drama involving, say, thirty or forty sociology majors. Cartels can often maintain pricing power for exceptional periods of time, but that isn't proof that they can maintain such power for an infinite period of time.

Also, universities quite often only remain open because they receive taxpayer subsidies. Revenues, from all sources, except government subsidies, very frequently fall short of expenses.

14 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

Will, great argument. I suspect that it wouldn't ever work in football as the number of second-stringers looking for an opportunity to play would be too great.

David, I think the reason has always been and always will be focused on football and men's basketball is the TV contracts for those sports. Let's face it, how many college championship games are shown on TV? (And if it weren't for ESPN, I think we'd be able to count that number on one hand and have fingers left over.) I can personally say that outside of numerous football/men's basketball championships, I have seen part of a women's basketball championship (Sheryl Swoops), several baseball championships (thank you, LSU!), and part of a women's softball final (at least I think it was the final--I don't even remember the teams, as it was something sports related to watch during the commercials of whatever else I WAS watching) I know that this is a football board, so it isn't the best place to take a poll. Having said that, has anyone else EVER watched a non-football/basketball/baseball championship on TV? (I'm not counting the time you watched a girl's swimming or gymnastics event in college just to see some hot girl showing off more of her body than you'd ever get to see otherwise)

18 Re: Confessions Of A Football Junkie: Ho Hum

It's definitely a complex issue. I think the only solid argument I can make for the status quo is the voluntary contract argument.

This SI article today, made some interesting points on spending/revenue from big program college football. Very good timing indeed!