Radio Interview on WCTC, Flagship station of Rutgers football

This Friday at 7:35 am, tune into the Bert Baron Show for our college football interview on WCTC 1450 AM, the Voice of Central Jersey and the Flagship Station of Rutgers football.  Bert has hosted collegefootballfan.com on his show several times in the past. We look forward to talking about our upcoming opener at South Carolina and about Rutgers opener at Washington State, both nationally televised on Thursday, August 28.  Click on to the WCTC logo below to listen to us live if you don’t live in the Central Jersey area.

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Power Five: Five for all, or none for Five?

Here’s our take on what on the new Power Five concept where the ACC, Big Ten, Big Twelve, PAC 12, SEC, and Notre Dame establish their own standards ignoring the other “Group of Five” conferences of NCAA football. This could be a good thing for college football if done properly, but on the other hand, this could result in a very corrupt system and detrimental to the survival of college football if the proper controls and severe penalties are not implemented for agreed to infractions designed to level the playing field for the Power Five members. This autonomy by a minority controlling the majority of the revenues ($470 MM according to USA Today- 71.5% to Power Five, 27.5% to the Group of Five, and less than 1% to Notre Dame) could destroy college sports forever leading to the demise of “big-time” college football. If controlled within fair and equitable guidelines and not abused by those who will formulate and monitor the guidelines pertaining to recruiting, scholarships, academic standards, compensation, transfers, equitable financial rewards, etc. , it could develop into a strong union among the individual members of the Power Five conferences, and it could also form a strong but separate union among the non-members.

However, our prediction is not so optimistic. For the “Power 65”, it’s no longer “all about the money.” It’s pretty clear that it’s “only about the money.”  If greed is what it’s about, college football will die among the 65. That being the case, shut them all down and let pro football invest in its own player development program with players right out of high school. Hell, we already read about future stars earmarked in grammar school already being offered college scholarships. Why should it be so hard determining who the best are four years later coming out of high school? Funny thing is the pros know they got a good thing going. Let the colleges spend all the money to sort out the wheat from the chaff, and let them spend all the money to develop them. Why should the NFL deduct from their millions when someone else is already footing the bill?

If the following aspects are controlled within guidelines fair to all schools by the Power schools, we feel college football can thrive and survive with this new model. If instead though the 65 abuse the strength they build on the almighty dollar and on that alone, the top level of college football is doomed to collapse, possibly even by governmental intervention through anti-trust laws.

  • Will the Power Five increase the amount of scholarships they will be able to offer? If it does, will that detract from the talent available to “Group of five” and possibly the FCS schools? There are limits to the talent pool from which to draw the level of play we see today. To recruit fairly, who’s going to monitor the offerings of the $2,000 to $5,000 spending money we hear being bandied about? You can’t tell me that some program’s not going to be tempted to tempt with more available dollars when everyone is now supposedly going to offer equal benefits (i.e., a free four-year education, spending money, health coverage, etc.). Is the perceived educational value of one institute of higher learning against another’s going to influence most athletes’ choices of schools based on long term educational goals, or are a few extra thousand or more plus other “benefits” under the table more enticing to an 18-year old and sometimes to their families? More likely the latter. Will walk-ons or other non-scholarship players be welcomed on the team? Is there a need for them?  Will they receive the same benefits as scholarship players?
  • How will additional scholarships be funded? More taxpayers money for state schools? Additional student fees? Higher room, board, and tuition to be paid by the general student populous? Rich and influential alum, legitimately or illegitimately? This problem has been exposed in the past, but now the foxes are in charge of the hen house. Now? Now we are all supporting the NFL even more through hard-earned money toward education for our kids. Should families of non-athletes be required to pay more to put a few extra grand in the pockets of full scholarship athletes? Tuitions, room, board, and student loans are costing families a lot already in the educational market where not everyone is guaranteed employment after graduation these days (and neither are the football players by the way, especially at the limited pro level). Students working part-time jobs for their school expenses wouldn’t mind a few thousand more in their pockets just like the athletes. Should schools be giving them extra cash as well?
  • What kind of deal is going to be made by the Power Five with the NFL and player agents? We hear that athletes will now be offered full four year scholarships. We think that’s a good thing, but will players now be obligated to stay all four years and graduate? Do they have to maintain a minimum GPA and take courses toward a legitimate degree now? If they decide to leave early and play pro ball, do they reimburse the school for the money they were given for a scholarship? Will every school maintain the same criteria to allow athletes to keep scholarships? What if a player decides to leave school for other reasons? How do they assure that the NFL and player agents will abide by their rules? Are agents going to be allowed to provide players with extra benefits during their college careers? They have in the past. What’s going to stop them now? Will they even play a role in influencing players about where they will go to college? Will they possibly be agents for schools recruiting now as well as for the players when it comes to future contract negotiations?
  • Will transferring to schools at lower levels still be allowed? If a player sitting on the bench his first two years decides he wants to go elsewhere to get playing time be allowed to go easily? More importantly, if a player at the lower level performs well and is deemed a possible better talent than expected out of high school, are the Power Five schools going to be allowed to “recruit” him away from his original school? Is there going to be a continual free flow of athletes among schools just for the purpose of making sure that the Power Five will always horde the best talent available among themselves? Do players sit out a year after transferring one way or the other to discourage this practice?
  • Does it make sense that the Power Five hordes the best players, offers more scholarships, offers cash stipends, other benefits, and keeps the majority of the TV money flowing into their coffers and still play any competition outside of its 65 members? We know the other schools may be looking for a big pay day, but c’mon, what’s the sense? Just give them a bigger share of the TV money. With significant advantages over teams outside the Power Five, why bother? Four automatic wins? It’s unfair as it is now, but now it’ll only be worse watching even more lopsided “exhibition  games”.
  • OK, so there will be a playoff. For now it’s for four teams, but the P5 will eventually change it to at least eight among the 65 (we are believers it should be eight already. Opening round in mid-December at home field of the four top seeds). Other bowl games? Now call them consolation games. There are now playoffs and 35 other bowl games. How do you play 37 games among 65 “competitive” teams? The lower conferences are already locked out of the money. So, late holiday season games for our viewing pleasure will now be played by a 0-12 SEC team against a 0-12 Big Ten team and neither could beat anybody on their Power 65 slate. This prime time event will be followed by the other winless teams and then the next night by 1-win teams, etc, etc until we get to the playoffs. Turn the TV off until that time arrives or when your mediocre alma mater plays somebody else’s. Can’t wait- not! Just fill the air time with a lot of other things that are unbearably boring to watch on the flat screen. Thank you, ESPN. Are you still going to run all those same commercials over and over in every game?

At least bowl season scenario might create interest around the schools from outside the Power 65. The better teams among them may be recognized in the same light as the Power 65 eventually. Merge these with some of the better FCs programs to expand the “Group of Five” and assimilate their current playoff system. They may form the basis for how many of us fans appreciate the game of college football for what it was supposed to be about: student athletes against student athletes playing to win a national championship on the football field.

Let the Power Five fail with all the problems they are going to have, and let the pros foot the bill for their own player development so we can enjoy watching our school beat your school and vice versa. Heck, if it comes down to watching Division 3, I’ll take it. They have a real playoff. The players play for the love of the game, it’s a lot less expensive to attend, and only the championship game has TV timeouts. Throw in the traditions, the fight songs, the student sections, the cheerleaders, and Saturday afternoon tailgating. That sounds like college football to me.

The Bucks start/stop here?

Two weeks from this Saturday, we will be attending our second game of the young season ( and possibly a third), when we venture back from Columbia, SC to Baltimore to watch a College Football Playoff (CFP) favorite, Ohio State, open against the U.S. Naval Academy at M&T Bank Stadium for a noon kick off. Everybody’s pre-season prediction seems to include the Buckeyes under HC Urban Meyer chosen as one of the four playoff contenders in the first annual CFP to be held at the end of 2014. They certainly look the part with Heisman candidate Braxton Miller at QB and an imposingly quick front four on defense, but looking closely at their offensive front, though huge, it returns only one starter. Also true Freshman Curtis Samuel will start as a RB-WR playmaker to replace last year’s leading rusher Carlos Hyde. Soph Donte Wilson return in the slot. Reports say that Miller will not have as many running plays called as he’s had in the past. That will depend on the pass protection up front. A rich Ohio State tradition assures top recruiting, and it also brings out the pre-season hype. If this were a typical Ohio State opener against an also-ran, Mid-American Conference opponent like those in the last four OSU openers, you could say this is just what the doctor ordered to warm things up for the inexperienced offensive line and backs to get their timing down. But, dial it back to 2009 when the Buckeyes struggled to a 31-27 win in that opener. It will be against the same team and the same triple option offense they faced in that opener in the Horseshoe – Navy. That game went down to the wire, and the season ended with the Bucks at 11-2 and the Mids at 10-4.

What definitely makes Navy more prepared this year than in 2009 is Junior QB Keenan Reynolds starting for his third season in a row.   Last season, he set the NCAA record at QB scoring 31 rushing TDs. USNA averaged 325.4 yards per game on the ground (411.3 overall) and the O-line returns four starters. The Buckeyes will bring mass and speed up front defensively, but the execution of the triple option adroitly run by an experienced Navy team could baffle the OSU defense at the start. However, the Buckeye beef up front compared to the Navy’s experience could wear down the run-oriented option as the game goes on. Defensively, the Mids need to make big stops and lost some of their top tacklers from a year ago. They will rely on big NG Brad Sarra to improve on clogging up the middle to allow repositioned inside linebackers and inexperienced outside linebackers in the 3-4 make tackles for short gains. If the Mids’ offense can churn out yards to keep control of the ball and keep the inexperienced OSU offense from establishing an early rhythm and wearing down Navy’s defense, this will be another game decided in the fourth quarter. Like the 2011 game we attended against South Carolina in Columbia where we saw the Mids hang in late for a 24-21 loss, if the Buckeye offense dominates late with fresh leg, they can triumph. If Keenan Reynolds can lead his offense consistently though through a defense which will be quick and possibly susceptible to over react to the many skillful fakes of the triple option, the Mids could set the Buckeyes back to start their quest for the inaugural playoff.

OSU better not be looking beyond this game down the Big Ten road before them. They are going to have their hands full in this game. Urban Meyer is a great recruiter who can reload with the best talent around, but Navy mentor Ken Niumatalolo is no slouch when it comes to finding the right players to run his unique offense never seen by Big Ten teams. We say: Go Navy (but we always do)! We are really looking forward to this one as I will be attending with Ohio State grad Barry Rappe. If Navy pulls the upset and beats the Irish later this season, it’s going to be a memorable season for USNA before becoming a member of the American Athletic Conference.   This is their last season as an Independent. Next season, if Keenan Reynolds has another tremendous year in 2014, he could be touted as a potential Heisman candidate next season. We plan to see Navy host Rutgers and Georgia Southern at Annapolis later this season, and we will return to Baltimore for the Army game on December 13.

Oh, by the way, the other potential game on August 30 starts at 6 pm that evening. Central Connecticut State ( a first-timer) plays at 2013 FCS runner-up Towson in a game to be played at Johnny Unitas Stadium on the Towson campus. We’ll see how we feel after this one and how quickly we can get out of the M&T parking lot afterward. Let the fun begin! Maybe with a big upset.

Audio

Radio interview on 1010 WJXL 92.5 FM Jacksonville, Florida (not WBOB)

This Tuesday night at 9:15 pm EST, tune us in Live with Richard Miller on his show “Miller on Sports” on WJXL 92.5 FM Radio in Jacksonville, Florida for an interview about the upcoming college football season. We have spoken to Richard several times on his show in the past for some enjoyable previews of past seasons.  You can listen live by clicking on the WJXL logo below and then clicking on the “Listen Now” at the bottom of the station’s home page.   Spread the word and tell your friends. Let us know what you think afterward by clicking on the comment box in the upper right corner of this page.

WJXL 1010 92.5 Jacksonville logo

 

The Eloquent Heisman

While away on a short vacation with my wife, St. Laurie, to Lake George, NY to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, I needed something to read for those moments when I wasn’t snoring away comfortably in my beach chair overlooking the beautiful, calm, clean lake. At a local book store, I happened upon what is thus far an enjoyable read by John M. Heisman along with Mark Schlabach of ESPN about John’s “Uncle Billy”:  Heisman: The Man behind The Trophy. (New York: Howard Books, Division of Simon and Schuster, October 2012). As depicted in the forward of the book by South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier, who not only won the Heisman at Florida in 1966, but who is the only Heisman winner to coach another Heisman winner, former Florida Gator QB Danny Wuerffel, John W. Heisman was a great innovator for the game regarding things that we take for granted today. Among these are the snap from center, audible “hike” signals, the hidden ball trick, and laterals. Beyond that, he was a believer in not only making young men better football players, but he used football as a vehicle to make them better men for the lives they would live after college. To Heisman, it was important to balance the education on the field with the education in the classroom.

Heisman Trophy

It’s been a fun and interesting read so far covering the early beginnings of college football, but what I really love is the eloquence of the historic memories quoted directly from quotations of the great coach himself. His writing depicts the style of the written word used in his day. John W. Heisman lived from 1869 to 1936. He received his undergraduate degree at Brown and at the University of Pennsylvania eventually earning a law degree. However, to the chagrin of his father, he never pursued a law career. An eye injury and his love for football led him into a college coaching career after graduation. Coaching stops included Oberlin College, Buchtel (now Akron University), Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Penn, Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, and Rice Institute. His final career record as head coach was 186-70-18. He was also a successful baseball coach at the collegiate level, finishing his career with a record of 219-119-7.

I have not finished the book yet, but I’d like to share the writing style of the great coach with fellow fans interested in college football history. In a game as a player for Penn against Penn State in 1890, here’s an example of how the man whose name is on the most recognizable individual award in all of sports describes the action:

“How was I to break through and block that punt? The opposing center was as wide as Gibraltar, but when he bent down he was not as high as wide. I got back a couple of feet, figured the exact instant he would snap, guessed it to a nicety and, in that instant, vaulted over him in a leap frog spread. Their quarter was just relaying the ball to Atherton. I chased after it like a hungry houn’dog yelping at the heels of a jackrabbit. I saw the ball flutter from Atherton’s hands, saw his foot swing back, then forward. High in the air I leaped with both hands upraised. Did I block it with my hands? No! The durned thing found a hole between them just big enough to wiggle through, but it wouldn’t get past my nose! Holy Kitty Cats of Isis! How it did smart! Another bloody nose for me and my eyes running tears as big as ‘taters. But I took after that black comet as fast as I could, and of course, along went Atherton.   Neck and neck we ran until he took a sudden dive at something I couldn’t see well. He must have missed it, but dimly seeing something round and dark on the ground, I pounced on it like a duck on a June bug. The thing wiggled out from under my clutch, and a harsh voice snarled, “What the hell yah tryin’ to do?!’ It was Atherton’s voice. I had mistaken his head for the ball. I wished then I had given it a swift kick! Meanwhile (Penn teammate R.R.) Ammerman had fallen on the ball for us and a touchdown.” (Heisman: page 30).

It’s not quite the sort of game action perspective we read about today. It’s a great book so far and I’ll give it a final review here when I’m done.

With the announcements today about more autonomy being given to the Power Five conferences, I’m sorry to say that the face of the game as it was developed by John W. Heisman and others is that college football is no longer going to be what it was intended to be. That’s for sure. I’ll be commenting on those thoughts as things come into perspective over the next few days.

In the meantime, among the Heisman hopefuls we’ll see play this year: Jameis Winston of Florida State, Nick Marshall of Auburn, and Braxton Miller of Ohio State.

Four weeks from tonight…

…the college football season starts and we’ll be visiting my daughter, Alex, in her senior year at South Carolina, and meeting up with Dan Donnelly of Dan’s Tailgate Blog when we visit Columbia to attend the best Thursday night opener of the 2014 season. Texas A&M sans Johnny Football takes on the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium. It’s a great, competitive game to start the season for both teams and for us, but going by our experiences over the years, the first game of the season depends a lot on the experience of the quarterback, especially against comparably good competition.

We think A&M’s Kevin Sumlin is a great coach with class. Rightfully, he’s dodged the Johnny Manziel questions and prefers to focus on his team’s future. Whoever his QB will be, highly-touted freshman Kyle Allen or formerly suspended Soph Kevin Hill, the limited experience against an experienced, quick defense in front to a volatile crowd on the road will be the difference in this game. Over the course of the upcoming season, the Aggies should improve with experience, but in this game, Steve Spurrier’s squad has the upper hand. Though the Aggies have to replace other key positions from a team drafted highly by the pros, replacing Mike Evans at WR, RB Ben Melena, and OT Jake Matthews will not be as critical to fill as Manziel. The QB will be the key to the offense on the first game of the season. The Kickoff Classics we attended over 22 years always looked good on paper based the teams the year before, but when a new QB was stepping in for one of the two, that made the most significant difference to determine the winning team in every game.

In the case of South Carolina, the offense last year was adroitly guided by tough guy Connor Shaw at QB. Shaw could take a beating, get wrapped up along the sideline, and come back out and dish it out to lead his team to some great comeback wins. As he went, so did the Gamecocks. When he was out though, Dylan Thompson, a fifth year senior in 2014, came in and did an adequate job but has to improve on his accuracy. With Spurrier and his staff more focused to get him ready for this season, he’ll be ready to take over for Shaw. However, if he goes down, there’s no experience to back him up. Luckily, Mike Davis returns in the backfield after gaining 1,183 yards a year ago. He had seven 100-yard games before injuries limited his action in the second half of last year. Also, four out of six starters return on the O-Line which reviews from preseason publications say will be one of Spurrier’s best. If as good as advertised, Thompson stands a good chance of making it through the season.

Defensively, we saw Jadaveon Clowney as ineffective most of last year when we watched Carolina, but the move to the pros by Kelcy Quarles will hurt. Line backing will be improved with Kaiwan Lewis (Mays Landing, NJ) and Skai Moore returning with experience and Safety T.J Gurley bringing experience to the secondary. Though the SC defense has to improve on its 20.3 ppg average a season ago and ranked next to last in the SEC in that category, A&M was far behind defensively allowing 32.2 ppg.

In the end, we’ll be giving the edge to the Gamecocks with Thompson’s experience at QB the primary reason over whatever inexperienced signal caller the Aggies call on in the opener for both teams. We can’t wait! Go Cocks!

Four weeks to go from tonight. We also plan to see South Carolina host Missouri on Parents’ Weekend (our last) on September 27 and we will visit Auburn for a game on the Plains if things work out on October 25. Hopefully, we’ll be able to follow the Gamecocks to a good bowl game in Alex’s senior year.

“What better way…”

It’s our home “advantage” living in New Jersey, The Birthplace of College Football, to have an opportunity to attend four NCAA college football games in three days – two D3 games, one FCS game, and one FBS game – all … Continue reading

We need a better definition of college football autonomy

During Day 1 of SEC Media Days, Commissioner Mike Slive , who would be the most effective NCAA commissioner if he wouldn’t show so much favoritism to the SEC, but more likely will control a potential de facto organization of … Continue reading

Audio

Favorite Our early preseason interview on Spadora on Sports

On July 5, Pete Spadora invited me for a little early college football season preview on his Saturday morning radio show, “Spadora on Sports” on WNER on Watertown, NY broadcast live in Boston, Vermont, and Canada as well as in upstate New York.

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In case you missed it live on July 5, click on the link below to hear about our plans for the upcoming season and about a little tailgate cuisine.  Pete has us on his show regularly on Saturdays before some of our games during the regular season.  We’ll let you know when right here on our blog so you can join in to listen when you can.