The State of the Game, Part 3
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
by clicking here.)
- Joe Schad, ESPN - College Football Reporter
- Part One
The BCS, tweaks, and
college football's biggest problem
- Part Two
off-field changes, steroids and cheating
Currently, the most overrated aspect of college football is …
Dennis Dodd: Returning starters, schedule, all that crap in
preseason magazines. Pete Carroll has played 43 true freshmen the last
four years. They weren't starters at the time.
Joe Schad: Preserving tradition of bowl games. The number of bad
bowl games is an embarrassment to the sport.
Stewart Mandel: Arguments over conference superiority. People (in
particular SEC fans) spend so much time debating this when the reality
is it's almost impossible to prove, the strength of each league changes
from year to year and the overall discrepancy in talent amongst the six
conferences is not nearly as dramatic as some people make it out to be.
(Never insult the readers … never insult the readers …) Recruiting,
recruiting, recruiting, recruiting, recruiting, recruiting, recruiting
and recruiting. How many Boise Staters could’ve gone to Oklahoma? How
hotly recruited was Troy Smith? Jason Gwaltney was the star running back
recruit of a recent West Virginia haul, and then some Slaton guy, a
relatively unknown pickup from the same class, became a Mountaineer
legend. How many Heismans has Ryan Perrilloux won?
Yeah, for a few days in February I’m interested in where the
mega-prospects are going, and I do care what the trends are as far as
which teams are getting the most top prospects, but to make recruiting a
year-round point of interest is a little strange, and an extreme waste
of time considering most of the name guys never come close to living up
to expectations. I’ll never understand why so many people care about
recruiting, but have no interest in other aspects of the game, like
spring football, when things are actually happening that’ll affect the
It’s a toss-up between December bowl games and the growing hype over
the recruiting process. The post-season used to be a charming time to
celebrate one last time the solid years of a handful of quality
programs. Today, it’s a painfully watered down display of mediocrity
with one opening for every two eligible schools. I suppose any football
is better than no football, but how many times can you watch the Sun
Belt runner-up lock horns with the ACC’s No. 7 team in front of 41,000
empty seats without longing for a rerun of Entourage? While I’m
sure this is blasphemy in certain circles, way too much time is spent
following the whims of 17 and 18-year olds, many of whom will never
impact a game we cover. Tell me about the uber recruits and let me know
who had the best classes, but otherwise, wake me up in three years when
the majority of these recruits will finally be ready to make serious
Teddy Greenstein: Well, after seeing Michigan and Ohio State get
spanked in their bowl games, the Big Ten has to wear it. You'd also have
to say recruiting rankings are overblown. But they are kind of fun.
Currently, the most underrated aspect of college football is …
Dennis Dodd: This is the golden age of the sport. It has never
been more popular -- or better. Just wish the coaches would admit that
and let their players become known to the public.
Joe Schad: How important good coaching can be. As opposed to
coaching salaries. Jim Grobe ACC champion. Great coach. Not very highly
Stewart Mandel: The regular season. With all the time and energy
spent every year debating the BCS and postseason format, I don't think
we appreciate nearly enough just how unique and dramatic those 12 or 13
weeks really are. I really took of it over the final month of last
season, when there were just so many truly big games (West
Virginia-Louisville, Louisville-Rutgers, Ohio State-Michigan, USC-Notre
Dame, LSU-Arkansas, et. al.).
Live games. For better or worse, the explosion of networks covering
college football has made it easier than ever to catch the action
without leaving the La-Z-Boy. While that’s not such a bad thing, it
also makes it impossible to really get the feel for the passion,
pageantry and sense of community that makes this sport so contagiously
appealing. Although taking in a dozen games on a Saturday
afternoon/evening is sweet, you haven’t really digested the full college
football experience until you’ve seen the cathedrals, heard the fight
songs and enjoyed the unique traditions in person.
Teddy Greenstein: Overtime. Do people appreciate how cool and
exciting OT is? It's way, way better than the NFL's version.
The sport itself on a national scale. I know, I sort of have to be
Up With College Football Boy all the time considering it’s what I do,
but for sheer excitement, weekly drama, storylines, and entertainment,
it’s by far the best sport going. The NBA is worthless until June.
College basketball doesn’t matter until late February since the
tournament is all anyone pays attention to. Take fantasy and gambling
out of the NFL and you’d decrease the interest level in half. Baseball
is nice, but that’s only because there’s nothing to challenge it during
Because there are so many teams and so many games, and because the
regular season matters so much, every college football Saturday is like
Christmas. At the end of the every fall weekend the entire landscape of
the season dramatically changes; you can’t say that about any other
sport. College football isn’t big in the major media markets in the
east, or Chicago, so it doesn’t get the national publicity, but it’s by
far the most fun sport.
Ten years from now, how will college football be different than it is
Dodd: There will be some kind of postseason adjustment. -- playoff
or plus one.
Within the next ten years, the security screening process to get
into a stadium will be tougher than getting on an airplane thanks to
some Seung-Hui Cho nutbag going off at some American sporting event, but
I don’t want to be a complete buzzkill here.
On the field, by 2017, the haves will have given the official boot to
the have-nots, and college football will become, for good and/or bad,
more professional looking. You want a playoff, huh? You’ll get one, but
you might not like what you’ll have to sacrifice to get it (my article
on this will be up in a few weeks).
With the Big Ten Network almost underway, and the SEC Network almost
certain to follow, the big leagues are only going to get bigger.
Eventually, the BCS conferences are going to realize there’s hundreds of
millions to be made by banding together and forming a super division of
college football with six conferences of 14 teams, and with an eight
team playoff to finish up the year. Sound crazy? Think back ten years
ago, or just a little bit more, and the Big 12 Conference didn’t exist,
the ACC was still a minor league football conference, at least compared
to the SEC and the Big Ten, Penn State, Miami and Florida State were
independents, and conference championships were just getting underway.
Things have changed wildly, and quickly, over the last decade, and
they’re only going to get crazier.
Joe Schad: Hopefully we'll have our four-team playoff
Stewart Mandel: The postseason format will almost certainly be
different, though probably not yet a full-fledged playoff. There will
have been at least one new conference realignment movement, most likely
involving some of the major Big 12 programs. And some new offensive
craze will have come along and supplanted the shotgun-spread.
Like baseball, college football is rooted in its traditions, so
don’t expect any extreme makeovers between now and 2017. A decade from
now, however, there will be some form of a playoff involving four, or
maybe as many as eight teams. There’s just too much pressure and
potential television revenue at stake for changes not to take place when
the current BCS contract expires. Also, expect to see another round of
conference realignments, as the Pac-10 and Big Ten look to get to 12
teams, the Big East tries to maintain its automatic berth, and the
smaller leagues attempt to pick up the pieces in the aftermath. The
technology for instant replay will be incredibly advanced, but officials
will still take a maddeningly long time to make what looks to be the
obvious call. Oh, and for the first time since the Nixon
administration, Penn State will have a new head coach…probably.
Teddy Greenstein: Nick Saban, who will have left Alabama to
return to LSU only to go to Auburn, will make $12 million a year. I'm
sure we'll also have even more accurate instant replay, so Oklahoma
President David Boren won't be able to cry about an "outrageous
injustice" if his team doesn't get the call on a close onside-kick play.
Knowing what you know, what don’t fans understand?
First, a lot of fans don’t always remember that these are
18-to-22-year-old kids out there, and there’s a thousand-mile wide
difference between them and the pros, even if they’re often dressed like
the big leaguers and get covered by the media like the big boys. NFL
players have access to world-class trainers, (ahem) supplements,
nutritionists, coordinators and coaches, and have every bell, whistle
and perk possible in place to help them succeed. College players are
just college kids who have to do college things and don't get nearly the
training, film room time, coaching or practice time that the pros do.
Remember, 99% of the players will be searching for regular jobs when
they’re done with their college careers.
Also, when it comes to the national writers, fans need to understand
that we immediately dismiss them as incapable of rational thought the
second they e-mail us with profanity, call us biased, or question our
motives. To think we care about your team enough to intentionally
write something negative couldn't be more wrong.
to understand that we love college football more than they do. After
all, we chose to do this for a living for a reason. The last thing we
want is to get bombarded by angry e-mails, so when we write something
slightly controversial, it’s because we really mean it (and if we take
the time we don't really have to respond and you're still being a
dillhole, any point you make is rendered worthless).
the old adage that even if you say 99 nice things, it’s the one negative
comment that gets remembered.
Dennis Dodd: Actual talent with evaluating a team. Most are
wearing blinders when it comes to old State U. They are the worst
"analysts" in any sport because of their emotional ties to their school.
For example, until I see otherwise, Florida State has slumped because
its players aren't very good.
Stewart Mandel: I think there is an overall sense of confusion
about a lot of things due to college football's uniquely autonomous
nature. People might not realize that the true decision-makers in
college football are the conference commissioners, university presidents
and the TV networks, NOT the NCAA. Fans see things that seem genuinely
out of whack -- i.e. the fact that some conferences play title games and
not others, the fact that bowl pairings don't necessarily coincide with
conference and standings -- and wonder, understandably, why someone
doesn't do something about it. Nine times out of 10, such chaos is a
byproduct of the fact the NCAA holds almost no regulatory power over the
sport and everyone operates independently of each other.
Two things really stick out: First, just how hard it is to be a head
coach in this business. And second, that the majority of today’s young
athletes are far more mature, intelligent and well-rounded than the
average fan would assume. On most campuses, being a head coach is a
high-wire act that depends on the emotional and physical stability of 18
to 22-year olds. Now more than ever, the distractions from outside
influences can be daunting for the coaching staff. It has to be sure
that academic standards are being met, NCAA rules aren’t being violated,
and the next generation of players are being wooed. A multitude of
different things can upset the delicate balance and cost a coach his
job. Today’s head coaches are the ultimate executives, managing,
delegating, selling, and glad-handing 12 months a year. While the
stereotypical dumb jock may still be out there, most of today’s college
athletes are the antithesis of that clichéd boiler plate. The majority
are well-read, well-spoken, and well-prepared for the next chapter of
their lives…whether or not that includes football.
Teddy Greenstein: That 95 percent of the college football
reporters I know don't have "biases," as e-mailers like to claim. For
example, I don't hate Notre Dame. I don't love Notre Dame. I'm
Notre-neutral. The writers I know are more concerned with making
deadlines and telling compelling stories than they are with who wins the
I'd say that as privileged as I feel
to be able to interview dynamic athletes and personalities like Reggie
Bush and legendary coaches like Bobby Bowden, and work for the worldwide
sports leader (and be on the sidelines for thrilling last minute games
like Michigan-Penn State '05) one thing people may not realize or fully
embrace is the job (as any good one does) also come with effort,
pressure and responsibility. One day it would be fun to tailgate in the
Grove or outside The Swamp and watch an entire game from the stands as a
fan. Well... Maybe not just yet.
- Part One
The BCS, tweaks, and
college football's biggest problem
- Part Two
off-field changes, steroids and cheating