Experts Roundtable Discussion ... Part 3
Posted Aug 7, 2007

Part three of the Experts Roundtable discussion. The most overrated and underrated aspects of college football, how college football will be different in ten years, and what the fans don't understand.

2007 Experts Roundtable

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, - College Football Columnist

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

- Stewart Mandel, - 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 Two On-field and off-field changes, steroids and cheating

8. 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.

Fiu: (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 season.

Richard Cirminiello: 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 contributions.

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.

9. 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 paid.

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.).

Richard Cirminiello: 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.

Fiu: 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 the summer.

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.

10. Ten years from now, how will college football be different than it is now?

Dennis Dodd: There will be some kind of postseason adjustment. -- playoff or plus one.

Fiu: 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.

Richard Cirminiello: 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.

11. Knowing what you know, what don’t fans understand?

Fiu: 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.

Fans need 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). It’s 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.

Richard Cirminiello: 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 game.

Joe Schad: 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.

Roundtable Discussion 2007 Preview
- Part One The BCS, tweaks, and college football's biggest problem
- Part Two On-field and off-field changes, steroids and cheating