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Experts Roundtable Discussion ... Part 2

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 7, 2007


Part two of the Expert Roundtable Discussion. What would you change on and off the field? How bad is the steroid problem? How much cheating is going on?

2007 Experts Roundtable

The State of the Game, Part 2

CFN is honored to get the thoughts and opinions on some of the hot topics and the overall State of the Game from some of the most talented, influential insiders in the college football media.

Along with Pete Fiutak and Richard Cirminiello from CFN in the discussion are ...

- Dennis Dodd, Sportsline.com - College Football Columnist

- Teddy "Mr. Media" Greenstein, Chicago Tribune - College Football Columnist, Media Columnist

- Stewart Mandel, SI.com - College Football Columnist
(You can preorder Stewart's excellent book,
Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls: Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign Over College Football from Amazon by clicking here.)

- Joe Schad, ESPN - College Football Reporter

Roundtable Discussion 2007 Preview
- Part One The BCS, tweaks, and college football's biggest problem
- Part Three Overrated, underrated, 10 years from now, & what fans don't understand

4. What one thing on the field would you change?

Teddy Greenstein: Let's see how the new, new clock rules influence the time of games. Four-hour games are bad for the sport. Baseball finally managed to trim some time off its sagas. College football needs to do the same.

Dennis Dodd: Two things, sorry. More day games and less TV timeouts. When those new rules were instituted last year, TV didn't budge one inch. Therefore, we got less football instead of less commercials which make the games so long. Maybe I'm naive but to shave one 90 second break off a game doesn't seem like too much to ask.

Joe Schad: You can get up and run if you fall and are not touched. Like in the NFL.

Fiu: Shortening halftime would be nice, cameras on the goal line for instant replay are a must, and getting rid of the half-the-distance rule on penalties inside the 15 would be smart (if it’s a ten-yard penalty on the defense and the offense is on the nine, the ball should go down to the one-inch line), but mostly, I’d change the pass interference rule. From the overtime setup to only needing to get one foot down on catches, I generally like the college rules better than the pro ones, but the big league has the pass interference rule right. Preventing a 42-yard gain by mauling a receiver, and only getting penalized 15 yards, isn’t fair.

Stewart Mandel: Eliminate, or, at the very least, loosen up the excessive-celebration rule on touchdowns.

Richard Cirminiello: The current system for overtime should end up in the same landfill as last year’s ridiculous rules for speeding up games.  While I can understand the NCAA’s desire to deviate from the NFL’s rules for overtime, starting drives in field goal range and mandating two-point tries after two periods just has too much of an XFL feel to it.  Ditto 54-53, seven-overtime games that ended regulation in a hard-fought, 17-17 defensive struggle.  If you want to avoid a traditional overtime that can last forever without any scoring, and increase the risk of injury to gassed kids, that’s understandable.  However, can we at least move the starting point for each drive back from the 25 to the 40-yard line, so the defense has a fighting chance of preventing a score?  Oh, and if after three possessions the teams are still knotted, it’s a sign from the football gods that the game should end in a tie.  

5. What one thing off-the-field would you change?

Richard Cirminiello: One of the many heavy-handed NCAA rules that has never sat well with me is the one requiring athletes transferring from one FBS program to another to sit out one season.  Why is it necessary to punish a kid that’s obviously not happy with his surroundings or lack of playing time with a one-year sentence on the shelf?  Coaches, as is their right, are free to job-hop at will when better opportunities arise for career advancement, more money or a better quality of life.  The same goes for administrators and professors within that university.  There’s absolutely no good reason why young athletes shouldn’t have the exact same latitude, sans the shackles and ramifications.  Sure, movement will hurt certain programs in certain years, but that’s tough.  Shouldn’t the NCAA rules have the athlete’s best interest at the forefront?

Dennis Dodd: Media access. The relationship between coach and media (legitimate media, not rightsholders who pay for access) has diminished. I can trace that to the rise in salaries. We still need them, they don't need us. That's sad for both the coaches and players who are sheltered from the public. This is the time of these guys' lives. Ninety-nine percent of them aren't going to play pro. Let them be interviewed, enjoy college life.

Those scholarships are, for the most part, paid for by the public. That means these players (and coaches) are public figures. Whether they like it or not, people want to know about them.

Joe Schad: More availability/access to coaches and players for all media covering all programs. The public doesn't understand how many great features will never be written due to lack of time and availability.

Stewart Mandel: Oh man, there are so many - cut the total number of bowl games in half, prohibit schools from negotiating with new coaches until after their bowl games, eliminate Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night games (I'm OK with Thursday) and install an early signing date.

Teddy Greenstein: The nastiness of some fans. It goes back to an obsession with winning. If the kicker of your favorite team shanks a key extra point, you are not entitled to send him a nasty email or hammer him on a message board. And lay off the refs, unless they purposely screw up.


Fiu: It doesn’t seem like a big deal to most, but I’d make sure the national title game isn’t played after January 3rd. Any later and the sports world loses interest and moves on to the NFL playoffs, like last season. The Rose Bowl should be the afternoon on New Year's Day, the Sugar Bowl should be that night, the Orange Bowl should be started early afternoon on the 2nd, the Fiesta Bowl played that night, and then the national championship should be on the third. 

6. In general terms (without outing anyone), how bad is the steroid problem?

Fiu: I don’t believe it’s nearly as bad as it used to be when every major offensive line in the 70s and 80s was squirting up, and it’s not nearly as bad as it is in the pros, since many of those undetectable designer creams and clears cost way too much for the college kids (remember, Barry Bonds, despite admitting in front of a grand jury that he did them, has never tested positive), but without being so irresponsible as to believe or report all the rumors and second-hand gossip that I’ve heard, it’s an issue since the testing isn’t nearly as good as it should be.

Yes, a player can go from being a 215-pound 18-year-old who runs a 4.7 to a chiseled 235-pound 19-year-old who runs a 4.55 by simply being in a college weight room and on a regular training plan, but red flags need to go up when there's a slew of players on one team that get a lot bigger and a lot faster in a big hurry. I have my suspicions about several teams that have a few too many quick body-type changers, but it’s the subject no one at any school will talk about when prodded. I don’t know for a fact of any specific player who has taken them in recent years, and I’m na├»ve enough to believe most college players are on the up and up, but your head is in the sand if you don’t believe a good percentage of players are doing them. Think of it this way; if taking steroids or human growth hormones is the difference between going to college on a scholarship and working in the local Wal-Mart because your family can’t pay for a college education, what do you think happens?

Dennis Dodd: See Question No. 3.

Joe Schad: We'll see with increased testing. Oh, that's another one I can't stand. The old "violation of team rules" and "protecting the privacy of the student-athlete." You want kids going to class and not taking drugs? Say that's why they're suspended or tossed when they are. You'll get sued if you do it? OK. Confirm it to media types off the record.

Stewart Mandel: I honestly have no idea. Unlike in the pros, we're very rarely in the locker room with the players, and you rarely hear anyone talk about it.

Teddy Greenstein: I wish I knew. The Big Ten will randomly test about 10 percent of its student-athletes this season. I doubt that will tell us much. I'd imagine steroids are prevalent, given that we don't see very many 265-pound centers these days … 265-pound linebackers, maybe.

7. In general terms (without outing anyone), how much “cheating” (by NCAA definitions) is going on?

Stewart Mandel: In terms of blatant, egregious cheating (like Albert Means or SMU-type scandals), I think it's a very small minority, but less overt "bending" of the rules goes on every day on almost any campus, whether it's a tutor crossing the lines with a athlete's work, players taking money on the side from a booster or prospective agent, coaches "supervising" when they're not supposed to, etc.

Fiu: By NCAA standards, every team could be nailed for something. It’s not all $100 handshakes from a car dealer. There are plenty of other ways to do things the NCAA would find naughty. Most players don’t have any money, even with the scholarship and stipend, and many find quirky ways to get a little extra cash and extra Dwayne Jarrett-in-cheap-rent-Matt Leinart-apartment-like benefits. For example, without outing anyone, I knew of one scheme involving meal tickets, selling the all-you-can-eat ones the players got to regular students on the soup-and-salad plan. Players get free drinks, sandwiches, and other little things all the time when they probably shouldn’t. Personally, I have no problem with anything that thumbs the nose at the NCAA and its repressive, self-serving rules as long as it doesn’t involve gambling, steroids, breaking the law (the real law, not the NCAA kind), or cheating in school.

Dennis Dodd: I tried to ask Mike Slive that at the SEC media days. It is amazing that the SEC next year could be probation free for the first time in 26 years. Is there less cheating or are the cheaters getting better? I tend to believe the latter.

Joe Schad: Not the wild west like I used to be. But plenty of "soft" circumvention of the rules. And plenty of, "Well, they're doing it." IE. Lots of secondary violations.

Teddy Greenstein: Probably a lot, depending on the conference. There's no incentive for players to rat out schools. Maurice Clarett did it, and most people branded him a liar. He is a liar, of course, but many of his Ohio State tales were believable.

Roundtable Discussion 2007 Preview
- Part One The BCS, tweaks, and college football's biggest problem
- Part Three Overrated, underrated, 10 years from now, & what fans don't understand