Tag Archives: College Football

MLB Playoffs vs NFL and College Football

The Major League Baseball playoffs are getting close to crunch time as the World Series will get underway shortly. Throughout much of the MLB playoffs I have noticed Fox Sports and TBS advertising the games that are coming up. Finding sports viewers that prefer the MLB Playoffs over NFL and college football can sometimes be a challenge. Even though the baseball playoff games are much more meaningful it is still the case that diehard sports fans would rather see action packed football even though the NFL is not even halfway through the season. The college football season is hitting the halfway point and SEC football games are getting TV ratings that are better than some of the baseball playoff games. Why is football so popular in the United States when compared to baseball?

Baseball is a Very Long Season

The major league baseball season starts around April 1st of every year. The college baseball season starts in late February. This means baseball fans can start consuming baseball before the snow has melted in some areas of the country. College baseball concludes with the College World Series in late May and early June. Fans that want to continue to watch baseball will have the opportunity to watch professional baseball games all the way through the summer and into the months of September and October. This means baseball season spans the seasons on spring, summer and fall. There are no other sports that span more than one and a half seasons.

When I was younger I throughly enjoyed playing fantasy baseball as it gave me something to do during the summer months. I grew up in a very rural area and there was not much going on. Instead of getting in trouble I decided to hop on the Internet and find a game that allowed me to use my number crunching skills. There were years in the mid 1990s when I was one of the top 100 players in fantasy baseball. I used to check the stats on a daily basis and I could predict who was going to have an amazing year on the mound. As the years passed I realized that fantasy baseball took way too long.

When playing fantasy baseball in the 1990s you had to adjust your team on a daily basis. There are often players that get placed on the 15 day DL or will sit out a few games causing an entire fantasy baseball team to struggle. If you were not willing to check your fantasy baseball team at least three times a week there was a good chance that you would end up getting beat by the team owner that had the time to simply update his team with players that were in a lineup. These owners didn’t have a better team, they just had the ability to update on any given day.

This process helped me to realize just how long and time consuming baseball was and is. Baseball games take around three or four hours to complete and there is a lot of downtime. There are 18 interruptions in the game with an interruption coming after just three outs. There are interruptions in football but it tends to be after something exciting has happened. Teams call a timeout or slow down the game when the other team is scoring or about to score. In baseball, an interruption can come when nothing happened in an inning. For the younger generation, this can be very boring.

The NFL Season is Short Enough to Stay Interesting

The NFL season starts in September and concludes during the final week of January or the first week of February. What makes the NFL very interesting is there are only 16 games in a regular season. This means that fans of a particular team have the opportunity to watch eight home games. Compare this to 81 home games during a major league baseball season. It is often true that people will be more excited about something that happens eight times a year when compared to something that happens 81 times a year.

Something else interesting about the NFL is the anticipation that is built for each game. ESPN and other sports channels now have hours of coverage leading up to the games on Sunday. When I was a child it was only Sunday morning TV shows that previewed this week’s games. Now we see shows every day of the week. There are shows that document the injuries for each specific team. Personally, I feel as if this is too much but some NFL fans absolutely love it. They only get 16 weeks to enjoy their team so they are going to soak up as much information as possible.

NFL fans are armed with plenty of knowledge when the game comes around. They know which team is expected to win, they know who is on the injured reserve and they know the weather conditions. Fantasy Football has truly changed the way some of these avid fans consume the game. If they know the weather in Pittsburgh is going to be cold and windy they can guess the two quarterbacks in the game are not going to have great stats. The defenses and kickers in this game might end up being the stars of the show. The numbers game that is Fantasy Football has encouraged fans to watch more games and consume more content related to the sport.

What I have come to realize, over the last decade, is that fans are not watching just the NFL to understand Fantasy Football and the growth of their favorite team. They are watching the college game as well, because they know in the near future these college players will be on their team. It is amazing to see how many NFL message boards will analyze specific college players to fit the needs of the team. Once again, this is taking it a little too far for me but it happens every day of the football season.

Will the World Series Garner Interest?

The St Louis Cardinals have a very large following. This means the World Series will get some interest from fans of the National League. As much as people say they want a different team in the World Series or Super Bowl, they really do not. The ratings show that more people watch when the most popular teams are in major events. The best thing for Major League Baseball will be a St Louis Cardinals vs Boston Red Sox World Series. This would get the best ratings and it would bring in a few fan bases that normally would not watch. The Red Sox being in the World Series would put New York Yankees fans in their seats hoping the Red Sox lose. If the Red Sox were not in the World Series Yankees fans would care a lot less.

One of the biggest problems for the World Series is the expansion of the college football and NFL season. There are now NFL football games on Monday night, Thursday night and all of Sunday. College football games are on Thursday and Friday Night and all day Saturday. This does not leave a whole lot of time for sports fans to watch baseball. Even when the World Series is on I still devote the majority of my TV consumption to college football. If there is a good college football game on TV it always trumps the World Series or any type of baseball. This is all too common with my generation.

Major League Baseball has also been slow to react to the technology era in which we live. Baseball is a traditional sport and a large majority of fans are not in their teens and twenties. This is much different from football. When you visit a college football or NFL stadium on any weekend you will find many age groups represented. When going to a baseball stadium it is often the case that adults and seniors are the ones that are at these events.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+ have changed the way people talk about sports. While the MLB is trying to increase interest on social media they don’t even hold a candle to the NFL and college football. The MLB Twitter account has 3.2 million followers while the NFL Twitter account has 5.2 million followers. The distance is even more significant when we compare college football to college baseball. This means the younger generation is actively engaging about football online but not as much when it comes to baseball.

The World Series will be a big event for Major League Baseball this year. With the Cardinals playing in the series there should be plenty of interest. Whether or not the MLB can parlay this interest into something bigger has yet to be seen. Over time it will be interesting to watch to see if the MLB can meet the challenges they have.

The B1G Conference is Really That Bad

Every year I hear B1G, formerly the Big 10 Conference, fans rant and rave about how they are just as good as the SEC. This comes on the heels of getting demolished in the previous bowl season. In 2013 it was more of the same. Some of my close friends that live in B1G Conference territory were talking up the conference from top to bottom. After seven weeks we can all laugh at them. The conference is just as bad as it has ever been. There is no way they can compete with the SEC. In fact, the B1G might be considered the fifth best conference in college football in 2013. It is a tough pill for many to swallow, but it is the truth. Sometimes it hurts to hear our favorite teams or conference is subpar but we need to accept it. Here are a few reasons the B1G Conference will continue to struggle in the years to come.

Recruiting Kills the B1G Conference

I entered college in 2000 and that was the changing of the tides when it came to recruiting. I can clearly remember sitting in my dorm room and having a debate with my roommate that teams north of Tennessee and North Carolina simply could not compete in terms of recruiting. Why would a high school senior want to go play in State College, Pennsylvania over Miami, Florida? He could enjoy the nice warm beaches and beautiful women in Miami or he could suffer through the cold winters in Pennsylvania.

Years ago, when travel was much more difficult, these northern schools could recruit because coaches would convince players to stay home. There is no more staying at home. Home is the entire United States. A college football player can hop on a plane and travel the entire country in less than a full day. In fact, if he is a very good college football player that has the ability to go pro he may be able to get from one end of the country to the other in just a few hours because of personalized aircraft. This was not the case in the 1980s and even early 1990s. It is also true that recruiters used to encourage kids to stay home so their parents could watch them play.

Today there are more games than ever on TV. If mom and dad cannot travel to the away games they will be able to watch little Johnny on ESPNU, Fox Sports 1 or the SEC Network. If little Johnny is going to a team that will compete in a BCS conference there is a very good chance that 90% of his games will be on television. Now that mom and dad can watch the games on TV there is no reason to worry about travel. This makes me ask the question, why would any high school student want to play in a cold weather climate?

I can understand the argument to play in cold weather if that is your brand of football. If you are the type of player that excels in cold weather climates it might be a good idea to play for Penn State or Notre Dame. Unfortunately for these schools, those types of players don’t really exist anymore as most high school football players want to run up and down the field and score 30 or 40 touchdowns a season. It is no longer the case that three yards and a cloud of dust is attractive like it was in the 1970s.

Where Do High School Players Want to Go?

As mentioned earlier, most high school kids want to go to the cool and exciting college campuses. When visiting South Bend, Indiana in late November there is going to be a chill in the air and most of the students will be bundled up. Take this same trip to Tuscaloosa, Tallahassee or Miami and you are going to see a much different campus. There will be many students wearing jeans but tshirts or short sleeve shirts will be common. It may even be the case that some of the girls are walking around in shorts or skirts. The only girls walking around in shorts or skirts in the northeast or midwest will be considered crazy.

Trust me when I tell you that teenage boys are going to go where the girls are. I think we all have a story about one of our friends deciding to go to college because of that lucky lady. Most of the time that lucky lady never ended up with our friend but it did cause him to go to a specific school. With Facebook, Twitter and social media now being a huge part of the recruiting process high school athletes know where they want to go to enjoy the scenery. In fact, some universities have created groups of females to help show recruits around campus. This is just another attractive feature of a campus in the south. These female groups started in Texas and the SEC. It comes as no surprise as girls love their football in the south.

If young men want to go where the girls are and enjoy the beautiful weather why would they decide to go to Michigan, Penn State or Notre Dame. In the past these three school dominated in terms of recruiting and having teams in the top 10. These are three of the most storied programs in all of college football with more wins than any other teams. Why can they not bring in the big named recruits anymore? It is all about location. If Notre Dame were located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana you can be rest assured they would have a top 5 team every year. If Penn State were a university in south Georgia or Florida they would be in the BCS title game every other year. Unfortunately, there is nothing they can do about their location. This makes recruiting very difficult and it may cause programs to change their mind when it comes to the overall direction of the football team. A good example of this is Oregon.

How Oregon Built a National Title Contender

The Oregon Ducks realized that playing traditional smash mouth football was not going to work because of their location. They could not recruit stud offensive and defensive linemen every year so they needed an alternative. The alternative was a very unique offense that was built on speed rather than on power. Oregon was more than willing to take players that normally would not play at the big schools like USC, Texas or Oklahoma. They used these smaller, faster players to develop a brand new style of offense. Instead of trying to run the ball on first and second down they decided to spread it out. The Oregon offense throws to set up the run. They also have a spread offense that rarely uses two tight ends. Heck, most of the time the single tight end is lined up as a wide receiver.

This new style of offense is very attractive to high school athletes that might be extremely fast but not that strong. When anyone watches an Oregon game during the fall months they can clearly see that most of the players are slim yet quick. This is something that Alabama, LSU and Florida would never had to do. These SEC schools can recruit five star offensive and defensive linemen every single year. This allows them to play a different brand of football. High school athletes will go to these schools just because of their location and history.

Oregon vs Ohio State

Oregon recognized that location was not in their favor so they went a different direction. We are seeing something very similar going on in Columbus, Ohio right now. Urban Meyer has brought the read option to Ohio State and he is recruiting more speed players. This will allow him to get enough speed on the field to compete with the big boys from the SEC. Something interesting about Ohio State is they do have the history to get some great five star recruits. If you can combine five star recruits with a unique offense the sky is the limit.

The only problem that Ohio State has right now is the location. Columbus, Ohio is not the most attractive area for high school athletes. When you think of vacation hotspots Columbus is not at the top of the list. Although this could cause problems in recruiting Urban Meyer knows how to get athletes for specific roles in his offense. Over the next two or three years it will be interesting to see if the location of Ohio State holds them back when it comes to a national championship run.

Something that will likely hold them back from a national championship run in 2013 will be their conference. The B1G has shown they are not ready to compete with the SEC and other power conferences. Until the B1G has several good teams (in the top 15) it will be the case that no one is willing to give Ohio State respect. They are not playing the toughest conference schedule so they may not be worthy of a spot in the BCS National Championship game.

Defense Wins Championships in the SEC

Every single year we learn that defense wins championships in the SEC. Not long ago I wrote an article about Georgia struggling on defense. They had no problems outscoring teams but eventually there was going to be a game in which the defense needed to take over. That game was Saturday, October 12th, 2013. The Missouri Tigers came to Athens, Georgia and the Bulldogs were decimated with injuries. Most of the skills players on offense were hurt and the team needed the defense to step up big. When playing in the SEC there are going to be games when the offense struggles. It is just the nature of the beast. Early in this game it was quite obvious that Georgia was going to be challenged by the Missouri Tigers.

Georgia vs Missouri 2013

Like many of the Georgia games in the early part of 2013 the Missouri game was high scoring. Unfortunately, the high scoring was in favor of the Tigers and not the Bulldogs. The Missouri Tigers were up 28-10 at halftime and Georgia QB Aaron Murray was struggling without his regular offensive weapons. As the second half opened the Georgia coaching staff recognized they needed to get on the scoreboard quickly. At one point in the second half Georgia had trimmed the lead to 28-26. They went for a two point conversation and ended up failing. Down just two points most Georgia fans felt good about the possibility of a win as Aaron Murray has been very good in the 4th quarter this year.

With less than seven minutes to go in the 4th quarter Georgia got the ball back down eight points. With this being a one possession game many fans expected Aaron Murray to lead his team down the field to score the final touchdown and two point conversion to tie the game. That did not happen. Murray was flushed from the pocket and threw an interception. This basically sealed the deal and Georgia went on to lose. Their top 10 ranking has been relinquished and their national title hopes are gone. Most feel as if they do not have a chance to win the SEC East either. That remains to be seen. What this Georgia vs Missouri game told us was that any team that wants to compete for an SEC championship needs a defense that can win games.

Running the Ball in the SEC

The Georgia Bulldogs also struggled to run the ball against the Missouri Tigers in their loss. Having the inability to run the ball and stop the other team is a recipe for disaster in the SEC. Most of the past champions were teams that were very physical. Even though they could throw the ball when they really needed they could still line up and get two yards when on the goal line. With the new age, fast paced offenses out there I have seen a few teams that can’t line up on third and one and run for the first down. This is something that just won’t fly in the SEC.

There are some conferences that can be won by throwing the ball all over the field, but that is not the SEC. Southern football is a little bit different. Stadiums in the SEC get very loud so the opposing teams struggle to call plays that involve lots of patterns and intricate passing routes. When a team is at home it is much easier because the crowd is silent when the home team has the ball. When you head on the road it is a much different atmosphere. Some teams try to simulate the loud stadiums with noise at practice but nothing compares to a Saturday night in Baton Rouge or other SEC university towns.

Over the last few decades most people that have watched SEC football on Saturday afternoon on CBS Sports know that running the ball is important. When they do the graphics at the beginning of the games one of the keys to the game is always controlling the line of scrimmage. Even though Texas A&M and Missouri have come into the conference and have thrown the ball they have yet to win a conference championship. Many people can put up the stats but when it comes to winning the SEC Championship you’d better be able to run the ball well. This is why I have always said that the best teams run the ball and stop the run. Even if their QB is having a bad day they can still win the game. This does not happen with teams like Texas A&M and Georgia.

Alabama Continues to Dominate

Week in and week out we hear about teams that could challenge Alabama for the SEC and BCS Championship. Alabama keeps winning and the contenders keep dropping. This past weekend it was Stanford and Georgia. There were experts that thought Stanford was physical enough to play with some of the SEC teams. Then they go out and lose to an unranked Utah team. That is no disrespect to Utah as they are a good team but they did lose to UCLA at home. It is not like Utah is the creme of the crop on the west coast. We all know what happened to Georgia which means they will not get to play Alabama in the SEC Championship game again this year.

Nick Saban has built a powerhouse in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It is amazing to see how consistent this team is. They can dominate the line of scrimmage which means they can win games ugly or they can win a shootout. This year they beat Texas A&M 49-42 and they beat Ole Miss 26-0. There are not many teams in the country that can play several different styles of football. Ultimately, Alabama would love to play physical football and beat their opponent into submission. This is what they have done in three of the last few national championship games. If teams from other conferences play Alabama in the BCS National Championship game they learn what the SEC is all about – physical football.

It is so very hard to win every week in college football. I have repeatedly said that college football has the best regular season as everything is on the line. With the pressure building there are many 18 to 22 year olds that would crack. Whatever Nick Saban is telling these kids is working. It is shocking to see them dominate the way they do. Once you are the best there is no way to go up. Keeping any young man grounded is difficult and Saban has to do it with individuals that have been the best their entire college career. Whatever psychology books he is reading I would strongly suggest other coaches check them out from their university’s library.

Defense Will Always Win SEC Championships

Many of my friends feel as if Oregon or Clemson could go into the SEC and win because of the different style offenses they run. I couldn’t disagree more. These teams have had the opportunity to play SEC opponents in big games and they have lost. I know that every year is different but to be the best you have to beat the best. When Oregon or Clemson can win a BCS bowl game against an SEC team they will have an argument to be made. Make a note that the ChickFilA Bowl does not count. It needs to be a big time bowl game in which the SEC will be prepared to play. Some of these lesser bowls are not all that important to an SEC team that could be vying for a national championship.

When looking at recruiting rankings the first position I look at is the defensive line. Almost every single year Alabama, LSU and Florida dominate defensive line recruiting. It comes as no surprise that these are the teams that end up winning the most SEC games by the end of the year. Every once in awhile a Texas A&M or South Carolina will sneak into the SEC Championship game but they are not consistent. If you want to know who is going to be in the top 10 in college football in the next few years just look at the defensive line recruiting rankings. There is a very good reason a defensive line can dominate a game.

Not only can the defensive line stop the run but they can completely disrupt the passing game of the opposition. Strong defensive tackles to go along with fast defensive ends works magic in college football. We have seen this from LSU for many years. The defensive ends get up the field while the defensive tackles clog up the middle. The quarterback of the opposition has to worry about getting hit on every play and he starts looking at the pass rush rather than looking downfield. This is exactly what happened to senior quarterback Aaron Murray in the Missouri at Georgia game and we saw the outcome. If you hope your favorite team has conference championship aspirations in the near future just check out the defensive linemen they are recruiting and developing.

Does the USC vs Notre Dame Game Matter in 2013?

At one time the USC vs Notre Dame game was one of the biggest games of the year in college football. Unfortunately, in the past 20 years it has often been the case that only one of these two teams is at the top of their game when they clash during the regular season. There have not been many top 10 match ups in recent years. Even when the game is competitive one team usually comes in ranked significantly higher than the other. The same will happen in 2013. In fact, this game will likely get overshadowed by an ACC game. Who would have ever guessed the ACC would rule the primetime ratings of this week’s Saturday slate? Trust me when I tell you many more people are going to be interested in Clemson vs Florida State than USC vs Notre Dame.

USC and the Lane Kiffin Debacle

The Lane Kiffin era did not last very long at USC. After Pete Carroll abruptly left the program to head to the NFL the Trojans felt as if they could replace Carroll with one of his disciples and have the same success. They did not have a problem luring Lane Kiffin away from the University of Tennessee, but it did not work out as planned for either party. Lane Kiffin came in with huge expectations but one issue after another made it difficult for him to lead the Trojans back to national championship status. As soon as Kiffin arrived on campus USC was under investigation. After getting stripped scholarships most USC fans were willing to give Kiffin a few extra years to turn it around.

Whether or not he should have been given these extra few years is an argument for another time. What we know now is that Lane Kiffin was not the man for the job at USC. He was an amazing recruiter but he was not a great coach. I think I saw the writing on the wall very early when Kiffin would go for a two point conversation after about half of his team’s touchdowns. There is absolutely no reason to do this at a big time football program. This is the type of stuff small schools do just to try to get attention. Lane Kiffin was acting immature and that does not lead to success as a Division I college football coach.

USC decided to let Lane Kiffin go earlier this year and it should have happen. Some would argue that it should have happened sooner. Even though USC was hampered by scholarships being reduced they were never the team that lived up to their talent. Year in and year out the team was in the preseason top 25. By the time the season ended they were lucky to finish in the upper half of the Pac 12 conference. Two years ago the Trojans finished the season strong and they were preseason top five last year. That didn’t last long as Matt Barkley actually got worse during his senior season. This was all I needed to know to make my final decision about Lane Kiffin.

Is Notre Dame Back?

Last year many people thought Notre Dame might be back to their championship ways when they finished the season undefeated. So many people were excited about the BCS National Championship game against Alabama that it was one of the highest selling tickets in the history of the BCS. As we got closer to the national championship game more people began to recognize that Notre Dame did not match up well with the Alabama team that had won two of the last three national championship. Some experts were even predicting a blow out in the national championship game. When all was said and done it was exactly that. About 10 minutes into the game it was quite obvious that Alabama was in a class of its own. They were not going to be challenged by Notre Dame in any way.

Does this mean Notre Dame is not back? Well, maybe or maybe not. Brian Kelly has only been at Notre Dame a handful of years and he is still building the program. Seeing Notre Dame in the top 25 is nice as a college football historian. Unfortunately, Notre Dame fans are not happy with a team that is just in the top 25. They want their team competing for a national championship every year. I honestly don’t think that is going to be possible as the landscape of college football has changed drastically. It is no longer the case that high school football players only see games on NBC, ABC and CBS. In the past, this was the way Penn State, Notre Dame and USC recruited. They were the only teams that were on TV every single weekend. With ESPN and Fox Sports now airing games all day on Saturday high school football players can watch any team play from the comfort of their home.

Growing Up a Notre Dame Fan

I am in my early 30s and I grew up in a very small town. While we did get ESPN we did not get other sports channels. On a Saturday afternoon in the fall I had the option to watch NBC, which always had Notre Dame games. The local ABC and CBS stations had games in the ACC but ACC football has never been great. This meant that I watched Notre Dame week in and week out. I eventually became I diehard fan as I could name all the players on the team. Names like Kevin McDougal, Jerome Bettis and Lee Becton come to mind. With NBC paying millions for these broadcasts it stands to reason they would push the Fighting Irish as much as possible. During my younger years Notre Dame only won a single national championship and that was in 1989. After that they were in the top 10 every single year and challenged for a title.

The change happened when Lou Holtz decided to leave Notre Dame. The coach after Holtz was Bob Davie and it was a steady slide through the Davie years. NBC and Notre Dame still have a very strong relationship but there are so many options for college football fans. At the moment I can watch ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, Fox Sports, Fox Sports 1, the Pac 12 Network, the B1G Network and all the local affiliates. At 3:30 pm on a Saturday there are about seven or eight games that fans have the opportunity to watch. When I was growing up I had the opportunity to watch two or three and one was always Notre Dame.

It is also important to point out that regional games dominated in my younger years. If I wanted to watch Oregon or Texas A&M I was out of luck. We would have to order a special package and it was just too much for my parents to afford. Rather than getting upset about not seeing these teams play I simply let it go and knew nothing about them. I did not have the Internet at the time. The only way I could get score updates was to wait for Sportscenter at the end of the night. This was a time when there were not daily sports shows dedicated to the college football updates.

With so many options available it is obvious that high school football players and athletes do not have to watch only one team. There are dozens of games on every weekend and sports fans can use the Internet to get updates at any time during the day. Finding out insider information in the early to mid 1990s was nearly impossible. Unless you knew someone walking around the campus you had no idea what was going on behind closed doors. Now, every single program has a specific website dedicated to recruiting and analysis of the team.

Ratings for 2013 USC vs Notre Dame

The USC vs Notre Dame game will kick off at 7:30 pm on Saturday, October 19th. As mentioned previously, the Florida State vs Clemson game will likely be much more widely viewed. If all things work out the Clemson vs Florida State game will be a top 5 matchup while the Notre Dame vs USC matchup will feature a team that has recently fired their head coach and another team that is trying to find its identity as a program. I am a diehard college football fan and I love tradition. I would throughly enjoy watching this game if it actually mattered. Notre Dame will not be playing for a championship this year and USC will be playing for a mid level bowl. This makes the game unappealing to me as a fan.

I also have the opportunity to watch two of the best quarterbacks in college football in Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston in the Clemson vs Florida State game. This is not a difficult decision at all. Also, the geographic differences in Notre Dame and USC make it unappealing. Neither is in the south and neither is in the hotbed of recruiting. These are just a few of the many reasons the TV ratings for the USC vs Notre Dame game will be subpar.

Are College Football Uniforms Getting Out of Control?

Sometime in the early 2000’s college football programs decided it was time to ditch the traditional uniforms and go with something completely different. It started as a single alternative uniform. Sometimes it was all black and other times it was all white. Then a few programs expanded their helmet selection. Matte black got popular and then came chrome. Before we knew it, almost every university in the country was wearing crazy colors. Some teams were wearing colors that weren’t even their school colors! In the last two or three years it has gotten completely out of control. Teams will do anything to get attention even if this means they have to grab a bucket of paint and throw it on a helmet to see what happens. When it all comes down to it, the only reason teams are doing this is to be the “cool kid on campus” that gets the recruits.

Recruiting and Alternative Uniforms

The Oregon Ducks were one of the first teams to try out alternative uniforms. There is a very good reason for this. The creator of Nike, Phil Knight, is an Oregon graduate so he is willing to let the Ducks become the test case for all kinds of crazy uniforms. During some of the bowl games in the early 2000’s the Ducks would wear “throwback” uniforms that were all yellow with a huge Duck on the helmet. This garnered tons of interest which caught the eye of the Oregon football administration. Getting attention is very important in college football as there are well over 100 programs. If it takes a unique uniform to get attention there are many teams that are willing to go that route.

College football recruiting has changed drastically over the last three decades. Years ago high school students were not recruited until their senior year and many of them wanted to go the university in which their parents received their degree or to the school they grew up cheering for. That is no longer the case. In fact, some recruits will change their mind three and four times during their senior year just because they want to do something different. High school football players are attracted to the shiny object. Sometimes that shiny object is a brand new helmet worn by Arizona State or a unique pair of cleats worn by Notre Dame. This sounds a little bit superficial but it is the reality of recruiting in 2013 and beyond. There are a large number of high school athletes that will choose a college based on the glitz and glamour of the school rather than the education.

High school athletes also get caught up in the moment. If they are on a recruiting trip and the team runs out in alternative uniforms they see the reaction of the fans. This might entice them to sign their letter of intent to that particular school. Strong recruiting coaches know when a team will be coming out in an alternative uniform. They schedule all the big recruits that weekend and hope to show them a unique experience. Prior to the proliferation of the alternative uniform, recruits would come during any given weekend out of the season and just watch the game. My how things have changed.

Traditional Football Uniforms

When I was at NC State from 2000-2004 I can remember making fun of teams like Notre Dame, Alabama and Penn State for being too traditional. Penn State has worn the same uniform since the beginning of their program. They have a white helmet with a blue strip down the middle. This has never changed. The same is true with Alabama. They have a crimson helmet with the players number on each side. No matter what year you watch an Alabama game you are going to see the exact same helmets. At the time it was very boring. Who wanted to wear the same thing every single week? Well, now the traditional uniforms are the new “cool” uniforms. With Maryland and Texas Tech wearing different uniforms every single week some fans have forgotten what their traditional uniforms look like.

The University of Maryland has gone above and beyond to avoid being traditional. The creator of Under Armour graduated from the University of Maryland and his goal is to put the craziest color combinations together when it comes to the Terrapins uniforms. They have worn everything from all black to camouflage. Their helmets are sometimes a completely different color from their uniform. Their cleats are a complete joke. Everything from red to yellow to neon colors have been worn by the Terrapin players. I know the ultimate goal is to get attention but they have taken it too far. In the next few years I would expect to see the Terrapins tone it down a notch rather than spending all of this money on a uniform that will last for about three or four hours.

I am glad to see some teams wearing traditional uniforms today. This does not happen very often. My alma mater, NC State, has given into the alternative uniforms and they look terrible. They have even worn pink uniforms. While the cause was great I feel as if a ribbon or a sticker can be worn to support a cause. Once again, when I was in school things were much different. NC State had two sets of uniforms. At home, they wore white pants and red jerseys. On the road they wore red pants and white jerseys. This was tradition and it rarely changed. During a very important game or a nationally televised game the Wolfpack would come out in all red uniforms at home. This got the crowd pumped up and it was something the players enjoyed. It is important to note that all the equipment staff had to do was set out away pants with home jerseys. They did not have to come up with a completely new outfit.

One of the defining moments of my NC State career, as a football fan, was when the Wolfpack came out in all white versus UNC in Chapel Hill. I still have several pictures from this game. It was one of the biggest games of the year and the coaching staff realized that all white would get the team fired up. Maybe once or twice a year the team would come out in all white or all red. Unless it was a very important game, the team wore traditional colors. That is not the case today. On any given Saturday NC State and other teams will wear alternative uniforms just to get a little bit of attention. This makes me cry inside. The big games are no longer big because the unique uniforms are worn every single week.

Other Ways to Get Attention

Rather than coming up with the craziest color combinations possible there is one way to get interest from high school recruits – win! The Alabama Crimson Tide have never had alternative uniforms. They wear the same uniforms week in and week out yet they still have some of the top recruiting classes in the country. They have won three of the last four national championships. All they have to do is continue to win. If the Alabama Crimson Tide continues to win they will never had to worry about wearing some crazy looking uniform to get the attention of high school kids.

Unfortunately, some programs have struggled to produce a consistent winning product on the field so they feel as if they have to go in a different direction. Many of these programs will come up with the “hottest” colors possible when it comes to a helmet or uniform. They will also hire coaches that are a little bit out of the ordinary. They may run a unique offense or dress in an unusual way. We have often heard that bad publicity is better than no publicity at all. After my four years of undergraduate studies at NC State I can confirm that any publicity is better than no publicity. Just last week the NC State Wolfpack lost to Wake Forest and no one cares. Apathy is the worst thing for a college football program. It is better to have fans that are up in arms about the success of the program rather than fans that could care less what happens on any given Saturday afternoon.

One of the reasons the SEC continues to be the best conference in college football is because their fans. Some would argue that SEC fans care too much. Well, this is the exact reason SEC schools get some of the best coaches in the sport. The athletic departments are willing to pony up the cash because they know fans will pack the stadiums every Saturday. This is not true in the ACC and PAC 12. Getting fans to a stadium is like pulling teeth in some other conference. Rather than trying to do it through crazy college football uniforms it is best to just win.

Do Sports Fans Watch Golf in the Fall and Winter?

I am an admitted golf fan during certain months of the year. In the spring, usually just after Easter, the true golf season gets going with The Masters in Augusta, Georgia. Prior to that there are a few tournaments in Hawaii and on the west coast but nothing that is all that interesting. From The Masters all the way through the FedEx Cup (August and September) the golf season is interesting to me. Unfortunately, after the final FedEx Cup stop in Atlanta there is very little reason to watch the PGA Tour. This has become apparent as the PGA Tour has changed the points system for the FedEx Cup. It is now the case that PGA Tour players can earn FedEx Cup points for the next season after the final round in August. This means some of those tournaments in October, November and early December will be a little more interesting. The question is, “will sports fans watch golf in the fall and winter?”

Football Trumps Golf

During the FedEx Cup Playoffs most sports fans are enamored with the NFL and College Football on the weekends. I am one of the biggest golf fans there is and I still have no desire to watch the FedEx Cup Playoffs unless Tiger Woods is making a run or one of my favorite golfers is on the leaderboard. In 2013 that was not the case. During the month of September I might have watched a total of two hours of golf. When a major tournament is being played I will watch about 25 hours over the course of four days. Most sports experts have accepted that Tiger Woods moves the meter but it is even more important during the fall and winter months.

As the football season starts to get into the heart of the action in November and December it will be the case that golf goes to the back burner. Tiger Woods hosts a tournament in early December every year but other than that particular tournament most golf events have very low ratings. Tiger tends to take a few weeks off and he will play some golf overseas. The problem with Tiger playing golf on the other side of the world is the time difference. When I was a diehard golf fan I would DVR some of Tiger’s golf rounds in Malaysia and Australia but now that he is back to normal I don’t watch them as much. One of the most unique viewing experiences for golf fans was watching Tiger Woods play like a human being. He would shoot rounds in the high 70s and he would even miss cuts. His temper got the best of him at times. This is something most people that play golf know all about.

When Tiger was going through his ups and downs of putting his game back together golf got some huge ratings just because fans wanted to see what was going to happen next. Now, if Tiger is not in the final pairing or on the leaderboard most people just tune in to football or another sport. It will be interesting to see how the PGA Tour fights this battle in the fall and winter months. Even though Tiger is back to his old self he still has not won a major tournament. It will be five years next year. While some feel as if it is good to see other names win big tournaments the ratings prove this is not the best for viewership.

The best thing for viewership is Tiger Woods vs Phil Mickelson. While Phil won the Open Championship in 2013 Tiger was unable to get that next major. If several more majors go by and Tiger is not in the final pairing the PGA Tour is going to see a drop in ratings. Some have made the argument that the younger golfers will bring more fans but this simply has not happened. Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are popular but they don’t hold a candle to Tiger Woods. Rory went to Nike in 2013 and, unfortunately, had a very bad year. Even when he was winning major tournaments we did not see huge ratings during those tournaments. When Tiger is winning tournaments we always see very large numbers.

The Ryder Cup last year was one of the best in recent memory and helped golf get some great ratings during the fall months. The President’s Cup this year may help a little bit but it is a competition that is often dominated by the United States. If the US gets out to a big lead in the first few days fans will go back to watching College Football and the NFL. This has been true in the past as golf is not as interesting when there is not a major tournament on the line. It is very similar to tennis in that most passive fans do not want to watch if it is not a major tournament.

Golf is a Summer Activity

Part of the reason golf is so popular to watch during the spring and summer months is people are actually playing golf at those times. I can remember picking up golf several years ago and finding out quickly that people would start playing golf just after Easter. They would get five or six rounds in during the summer and they would be done. Every now and again they would play a round in the fall but this was only if some of their buddies were hitting the links. In the golf states of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia golfers have to worry about leaves. If you have every played a golf course that is lined with trees you know leaves can become a huge issue. Unless you are a scratch golfer you are probably going to hit some wayward shots. There is nothing more demoralizing than hitting a shot just off the fairway and not being able to find it because there are so many leaves on the ground. This caused me to stop playing in the fall altogether. That has since changed but when I was not a good ball striker I had no desire to fight a losing battle.

With fewer people playing golf in the fall and winter they have little desire to turn it on the television. We love to watch things that we can relate to. It we haven’t swung a club in two months there is a high likelihood that we are not going to be excited to watch professionals shoot rounds under par. Unless Tiger is in a tournament in the late part of the year the ratings are almost zero. The Golf Channel does everything in their power to keep people interested with shows like the Big Break but oftentimes that doesn’t help. The only way to keep golf fans interested is to engage them in a way that makes them want to watch golf. Unfortunately, that is not very easy during the off season because most professional golfers have no desire to play in the cold weather.

What Can the PGA Tour Do?

I think it was smart for the PGA Tour to award FedEx Cup points for next season during the fall and winter months. This will entice many professionals to play rounds in which they would not have in the past. It may even encourage Tiger Woods to play on some courses in which people normally do not see him. This is one of the biggest issues when it comes to the PGA Tour. Golfers fall in love with specific courses. They end up playing 18 to 22 tournaments a year but they rarely visit courses where they are not comfortable. If you live in Wisconsin you will get to see Steve Stricker play but you won’t get to see Tiger Woods until there is a major tournament in your state. This might be once every decade.

From a personal perspective, I completely understand why golfers do not want to use certain courses. There are many courses in my local area that I have played once and I will never play again. All golfers have a particular shot shape that fits their eye. If you hit a power fade and you are play a course that requires a draw it can ruin your entire round. Tiger Woods hits a power fade off the tee but if you ask him to hit a draw with the driver it can cause huge problems. This is why Tiger has won some tournaments eight or nine times and he has never played other tournaments.

The PGA Tour will never force golfers to play a specific course but it might be a good idea to switch things up during the fall and winter months. Maybe try to get Phil or Rickie to play some of the courses in which they do not normally play. This could increase ratings and it could end up helping the PGA Tour in the long run.

Dream of Playing in the NFL Not For Everyone

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, and the rest of the 2012 NFL Draft Class now have the opportunity that many of them dreamed about their entire lives–fame and fortune. Griffin even had another year of collegiate eligibility, but passed it up for the chance to earn millions and, who knows, maybe even win a Super Bowl someday.

Believe it or not, there are some college football players who have said, “No,” to the NFL dream. Players who had passed all the tests and had the talent to compete at the next level chose to do something else. Hard for layperson to swallow, but for Andrew Sweat, Jeff Demps, Albert Rocker, and Jacob Hickman, their choices were easy.

Hickman started 36 straight games at center for the University of Nebraska, a school notorious for developing the nation’s best offensive linemen. After his senior season in 2009, Hickman was invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis where the top prospects in the country are put through a battery of tests to determine their draft status. Hickman declined the invitation.

“I had a great experience,” Hickman said. “I didn’t feel the need to continue playing. It just didn’t feel like it’s what I wanted to do with my life.”

Injuries played a part in Hickman’s decision. The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder has 14 screws and two metal plates piecing together his body as well some early arthritis. He was projected to be No. 10 center taken in the draft in 2010. Instead he chose to use his degree in construction management and the opportunity to chase his future kids around when the time comes.

College football fans will remember Jeff Demps and how dangerous he was for opposing defenses every time he stepped on the field for the University of Florida Gators. Demps was a running back and kick returner for the Gators whose speed led him to choose the track over the fortunes of the NFL.

Demps is on a quest to make the U.S. Olympic track team. After rushing for 2,470 yards and 23 touchdowns in his four-year career on the football field, Demps passed on the college all-star games and the NFL draft workouts in order to compete on the Florida track team. Demps is a four-time national champion on the track and holds the junior world record in the 100 meters (10.01) which he ran at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.

The Gator star could still return to football at some point, but even if he fails to make the US Olympic team this year, there is still a lucrative career ahead of him on the world track & field circuit.

Albert Rocker is not very well-known across the college football land. But, at Microsoft…well, that’s a different story.

Rocker was an outside linebacker for Georgia Tech, playing in a total of 38 games, all 13 games during his junior year in 2010, and was set to be the starter for the upcoming 2011 season, his senior campaign.

Rocker had decided that he was going to be a success; he was going to be successful in business or he was going to the NFL for a successful career. He approached both with tenacity. His days often started at 4:30 AM and ended well after 11:00 PM. There were football workouts and there were long hours spent hitting the books.

His drive paid off. Rocker attended a career fair where a former Georgia Tech alum passed on Rocker’s resume to a Microsoft recruiter. Ultimately, Rocker skipped his senior season to accept a job as a technical account manager with Microsoft in Irvine, CA.

“Your future’s not really secure in anything, but it’s a gamble as far as the NFL goes,” said Rocker. “I felt like I had to do what would be better for me in the long run.”

Andrew Sweat had to make the choice that would benefit him the most in the long run also. It was much easier after he slipped in the shower and hit his head.

Sweat started his junior and senior seasons at LB for Ohio State earning Academic All-Big Ten honors three times and was a four-time OSU Scholar-Athlete award winner. He was hoping the phone might ring during April’s NFL Draft, but that didn’t happen. But, when the Cleveland Browns called and offered a free-agent contract, Sweat had realized his dream.

After reporting the Browns, Sweat was staying at the team hotel and just hours before his first official workout with the team, slipped, fell, and hit his head in the shower. Sweat had suffered three concussions while playing for the Buckeyes the most recent midway through his senior year.

When the concussion symptoms returned after the shower mishap, Sweat made a decision. He is going to law school. Sweat graduated from OSU with a degree in finance and was accepted into five different law schools. Instead of choosing his Cleveland Browns uniform number, Sweat will be deciding on which law school to attend.

While the fame and fortune of the NFL is enticing, most will never have the opportunity. And for some that do get that opportunity, the fame and fortune just isn’t enough. For some, the choice is something other that football.