The day college football’s postseason forever changed

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As someone who has been beating a very loud the drum for a college football playoff since even before I came around these parts more than three years ago, today is a red-letter day.  Something, to be perfectly honest, I never thought I’d see without some type of intervention from the federal government.

In essence, the leaders in college football Thursday formally endorsed a four-team playoff.  And officially placed the Bowl Championship Series on life support, with plans to pull the plug beginning with the 2014 season.

Automatic qualifiers?  Dead, although it’s still to be determined whether that’s good or bad for those outside the power conferences.  A plus-one, in which a title game is held after all of the bowl games have been played?  Dead as well, meaning there will be a true playoff in college football, bringing it in line with every other major sport in the free world, professional, collegiate and otherwise.

Following the end of the meetings in Hollywood, Fla., the commissioners of the 11 Div. 1-A (FBS) conferences as well as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick issued a statement that read in part that the group “will present to our conferences a very small number of four-team options, each of which could be carried out in a number of ways.” Borrowing from JFK, within that document lies the dawning of a new age in major college football’s postseason.

The impact of today’s developments wasn’t lost on the organization perhaps impacted the most by the tidal wave of postseason discussion that’s swept over the sport the past several months.

“This is a seismic change for college football and commissioners are aware of that,” BcS executive director Bill Hancock candidly and correctly stated.

While it was a great day, a tremendous day, it was far from a perfect one.  In my dream scenario, at least an eight-team playoff would’ve been implemented right off the bat.  Officially, and has been intimated for months, there will be no eight- or 16-team playoffs for the foreseeable future. While far from unexpected, seeing it off the table is more than a little disappointing but far from surprising.

Baby steps, y’all.  Baby steps.

Many questions still remain, however.  The one that has seemingly garnered the most attention is also inconsequential, or close to it: where the games will be played.  Whether it be inside the current bowl structure; outside the bowl structure but utilizing those same host sites; or neutral or on-campus venues — yes, the latter one is still officially on the table, but don’t hold your breath — the two semifinal games (that feels so good to be able to officially type) will be held somewhere.  Again, the where is almost inconsequential.  The how?  Not so much.

The how, of course, is what process the newly-revamped postseason will utilize to determine which teams will qualify for the four spots in a playoff.  Many possible scenarios have been mentioned, from limiting the field to teams that have won conference championships to taking the top four teams in the final rankings — using computers or human polls or some combination of both similar to the current system — to three conference champs and a “wildcard” to just about anything else in between.  Another scenario that’s gaining momentum?  A selection committee, similar to the one utilized in college hoops for its postseason tournaments.

Regardless of how that question is answered when a final decision is rendered in July, this part of the equation is simply something the sport can’t afford to get wrong.

In that vein, here are some helpful hints for the game’s decision makers to help them not get it wrong:

  1. If computers are part of the selection process, make any program utilized open and available for public scrutiny and have strength of schedule as part of the criteria.  The importance of that, especially the latter part, cannot be overstated.
  2. If human polls are part of the selection process, the first poll of a given season should in no way, shape or form be released until at least three weeks of the season have been played, preferably four or five into the new year.  Based on the annual turnover nearly every team in the country experiences, a preseason poll based off the previous year’s results is not only useless but it’s actually damaging to the process of, at the end of the season, determining the four best teams in college football.
  3. If human polls are part of the selection process, the coaches’ poll should not be one of them.  That one should be fairly self explanatory.
  4. If a selection committee is part of the process, make it as close to possible to being a full-time job.  If the sport is hellbent on going in that direction, do it right.  The selection process is not something to be half-assed, and neither should the committment any future committee members make.

Today — and the several months preceding it — was certainly a step in the right direction toward righting the wrongs of the abominable system used to determine a national champion in major college football.  Still, though, there are many more steps to take.  And many, many ways for the leaders of the sport to somehow screw it up.

Keep every available appendage crossed.  These next three months or so are monumental for the sport.

Drag racing accident leads to arrest for Mississippi State commit

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Mississippi State commit Nathaniel Watson has gotten himself into some legal trouble before his arrival at Mississippi State. Watson, currently a high school senior, was charged with assault first degree and a handful of traffic violations following a traffic accident earlier this month. Another student from Watson’s high school was arrested for reckless endangerment and other traffic violations as well. The two are accused of drag racing.

“The accident occurred after Tyrone Davis, also a student at [Maplesville High School], lined up in front of the school with his vehicle along with Nathaniel Watson’s vehicle for a race, witnesses stated that they lined up side by side and floored it, and both vehicles were squalling their tires and fishtailing up the highway heading into town,” according to an Maplesville Police Department press release (via The Clanton Advertiser). “As the racing vehicles topped a hill, an oncoming car caused Nathaniel Watson Jr. to swerve and lose control striking a power pole, cutting it in half and knocking power out to portions of Maplesville.”

A passenger in Watson’s vehicle suffered a crushed femur, fractured pelvis, a broken right arm and internal injuries. Neither vehicle involved in the accident was insured. Watson currently awaits a date in court in a county court. There has been no update or comment from Mississippi State’s football program or head coach Joe Moorehead about Watson or his status with the football program at this time.

Watson signed with Mississippi State on February 7. The wide receiver and two-sport athlete signed with Mississippi State over Auburn.

NCAA rule prevents Penn State football players from participating in THON activity

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This weekend is the annual THON dance marathon at Penn State, which has traditionally done wonders in racking up donations to help fight pediatric cancer. This year, however, the NCAA rulebook is getting in the way of one of the events members of Penn State’s football team typically participate in.

A message from Penn State informed media members there would be no media availability for football players at the THON event at the Lasch Building due to an NCAA rule regarding time restrictions in the offseason.

“We were informed this afternoon that due to the NCAA Time Management regulations, our current student-athletes are not permitted to participate in the THON event at the Lasch Building nor conduct media interviews [today] as it is a mandatory day off for the team,” a statement from Penn State Associate Director of Athletic Communications Kris Petersen said.

Members of Penn State’s football team have typically spent part of the day interacting with kids benefitting from THON’s mission, but that has tended to overlap with offseason days already scheduled through the athletics department for the football program. Because this was a scheduled day off for the football program, players are not permitted to take part in any organized activity while representing the football team. Although, one wonders just how far the NCAA would have been willing to challenge Penn State on this infraction in the event there was a conflict.

Players on the team can still participate and appear at the main event in the Bryce Jordan Center, and a couple already have along with head coach James Franklin.

Georgia football coaches all getting well-deserved raises

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File this one under stories that should have been expected from a mile away. The football staff at Georgia, following up on an SEC title and appearance in the College Football Playoff national championship game, are getting bumps in pay. As a whole, the assistant coaching staff under head coach Kirby Smart will be paid roughly $2 million more than the staff received a year ago, according to a report from Seth Emerson of Dawg Nation.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will see the biggest pay raise with of $900,000 to bump his total pay up to $1.5 million. That would make him one of the top assistant coaches in assistant coaching salaries. Based off last year’s USA Today salary database, Tucker would be the fifth highest-paid assistant coach, and that may even be higher now given some of the offseason changes in the assistant coaching pool. Last year, four assistant coaches received a total pay of at least $1.5 million, and three of them were in the SEC (LSU’s Dave Arranda and Matt Canada, and Texas A&M’s John Chavis; Clemson’s Brent Venables was the outlier).

Keeping in line with another growing trend when it comes to power conference programs and how much money is budgeted for the football staff, Georgia will give strength and conditioning coordinator Scott Sinclair a $150,000 raise from his previous contract of $300,000.

What has not been finalized, publicly at least, is what the future holds for the contract of Smart. After a wildly successful season, Smart is expected to receive a raise as well as Georgia continues to build something special under his leadership after just two seasons. Smart was paid a base salary of $3.75 million last year, according to USA Today’s salary database, which made him the 9th highest-paid coach in the SEC in 2017. That is fair, considering Smart was a first-time head coach and other coaches in the conference had more head coaching experience, but Smart has quickly proven himself among his peers in the conference and is likely to move up the SEC coaching salary ranking quite quickly. Nick Saban (Alabama) and now Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M) may still be on another playing field in terms of salary, but Smart should manage to move up closer to the high-end of the SEC salary spectrum.

Purdue raises $388,000 in beer and wine sales at football games

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Around the nation, college football attendance took a downward trend, but the Big Ten was the rare conference to see an increase in attendance. At Purdue, not only did more fans attend games in the first season under new head coach Jeff Brohm, but Purdue saw a revenue surplus fueled by the expanded sale of alcoholic beverages at football games.

According to The Journal & Courier, Purdue athletic department recorded $567,000 in gross revenue, of which $388,000 was generated from the sale of beer and wine last fall at football games in Ross-Ade Stadium. It was the first time alcohol sales had been expanded to the entire football stadium, as opposed to limited offerings in premium sections of the stadium.

“In general, it was very positive and it added to the game day experience. Fans responded to it,” athletic director Mike Bobinski said. “We’ve talked to our concessionaire group (Levy Restaurants) about how we can improve the operation so we don’t create bottlenecks and long lines that cause people to miss extended periods of the game. It was a really good start.”

The success of expanded alcoholic beverages at football games at Purdue continues a growing trend of alcoholic sales at athletic events around the country and will only help to encourage other schools to explore similar options if they have not already. Ten schools in the Big Ten already offer alcohol sales to fans at football games, but Purdue is just one of four to currently offer the sales throughout the majority of their football stadium.

The games that saw the most amount of money spent on alcohol at a Purdue home football game were the Michigan and Indiana games, with $88,341 and $98,223 spent on alcohol, respectively. Bottoms up, indeed.

The other chunk of revenue that helped pad Purdue’s budget sheet was a season-opening game in Indianapolis against Louisville. The game was played in Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, and each school received a check for $805,267.