I miss Howard already

This great video of Howard Schnellenberger and his Louisville team that thrashed Alabama in the 1990 Fiesta Bowl:

Louisville’s offense, led by future top draft pick (and NFL bust) Browning Nagle, stole the headlines, but it was the defense that would produce the most NFL stars — namely future NFL studs Ted Washington and Ray Buchanan. But of course no star shined brighter than Schnellenberger himself, strutting around the locker room. (H/t Bill.)

What Does (or Should) It Mean to be Crowned “Champion”?

Given that some form of a college football playoff now seems to be a reality, I am glad the BCS is gone and generally think this move to a playoff is a good thing, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently better about a playoff over any other system. There’s no “right” way to determine what a champion is in almost any sport. In thinking through this I was reminded of a piece I wrote a few years ago on the old site. I’ve included it below:

One way or the other

[A]ll this made me wonder what the designation “National Champion” is supposed to capture, anyway. The baseline that everyone — including the President-elect – seems to push for is a playoff. So we can use that to ask about each view.

Doyel’s argument seems to be that Utah doesn’t deserve to be #1 because –“People, please” — you wouldn’t really expect them to beat Texas, OU, or Florida, right? I mean, just look at all their bare victories over mediocre or mid-level teams. In other words, one could phrase the Doyel view as the “National Champion” is the team that you think is the absolute best team in the sense that, were they to be matched up against any other team in the country, they would always be favored to win.

That can’t be right, though. That’s not at all what a single-elimination playoff gives you. Had the 2007 Giants played the 2007 Patriots the week following the Giants’ Super Bowl win, would Eli and Co. suddenly have become the favorite? I think not. In March Madness, with teams playing every couple of days, do we really think that the better team always wins each game? No, and that’s kind of the point of a playoff.

Indeed, series-based playoff systems, like with MLB or the NBA, are presumably based on the very idea that one-game is not enough to determine the best team. So, if we still think the playoff is the best solution, then it makes no sense to say that Utah can’t be the National Champion just because you think the other teams might actually be better overall. Though, if you subscribe to the Doyel view of “National Champion,” then the BCS probably does a better job for you than a playoff would, because the system is all about crowning the perceived best overall team. Although it lacks the precision of a playoff, it gives you fudge-factors so that Florida’s and Oklahoma’s (though not Texas’s) losses can be overlooked.

So, maybe instead of crowning as National Champion the best team in absolute terms, that distinction is a reward for having the best overall season. I don’t really watch racing, but that seems to be what they go for with their points system. And many BCS defenders say that it makes “every week a playoff,” so the best overall season gets rewarded (let’s just pretend like that is true). Well, a playoff doesn’t give you that either: Exhibit A – the 2007 New England Patriots. They played unbelievably all year, blew everyone out, and then lost. No one — not even them — tried to argue that they should get a share of the Super Bowl via media vote or whatnot.

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NCAA’s Academic Policy for Recruits

The following piece is by Ben Malbasa, a head high school football coach in Cleveland, Ohio.

We have all seen the ads.  NCAA athletes compete in their sports as they transform into accountants, teachers, doctors, and other professionals while a voice reminds the viewer: “There are more than 380,000 student-athletes and most of them go pro in something other than sports.”  While certainly true, the airing of such ads during championship football and basketball contests featuring young men who often turn pro and do not remain in college calls to mind the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy and her friends to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”  The fact that the NCAA chooses to run the commercials, despite such an obvious disconnect between the mission of the NCAA and the reality of the young men competing in its revenue-generating sports, shows just how important it is to the organization to continue to market the noble ideal of the amateur scholar-athlete.

Think of the hat as a tie-breaker

While the NCAA does not sponsor a football championship, the marketability of the scholar-athlete has been on constant display as the powers that control college football have worked to implement a play-off system.  During the past several weeks, college football fans have followed the meetings with great interest, and if future national championship games are as fiercely competitive as the negotiations that produced them, then football fans will be in for a great treat.  Unfortunately, sports administrators engaged in far less negotiation, and college football fans gave far less attention to the process resulting in the NCAA decision to raise the minimum standards for incoming freshmen beginning in August of 2016 (students beginning as high school freshmen this Fall will be the first group evaluated under the revised system).  As a teacher and head football coach at a college preparatory school, I find these changes to be frightening; indeed, it appears that the NCAA has chosen to sacrifice academic rigor on the alter it has built to the highly marketable image of the NCAA scholar-athlete.

For the sake of clarity, it is important to understand the current and proposed systems. Today, a student must earn at least a 2.0 GPA in NCAA approved classes and earn at least an average of 21.5 on the four sections of the ACT.  In other words, a student earning a 2.0 GPA must score in roughly the 55th to 60th percentile in order to be eligible to compete at the highest level of college sports.  Under the regimen that will begin in 2016, a student earning the minimum 2.3 GPA must attain an average ACT score of 23.25 in order to obtain full eligibility.  Such an ACT score would place the student in roughly the 70th percentile. 

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Smart Links – Trick plays, TESF, Gruden’s Game Plan, Play-calling Jargon, All-22 – 6/25/2012

Let’s bring this one back — the old “Starburst” play, run by, of course, Spurrier’s old Florida Gators:

– That said, not all trick plays are worth repeating. This one worked but, well, I think we can keep it on the shelf. The over-the-shoulder:

The Crystal Ball Run reviews The Essential Smart Football. Also, Amazon dropped the price on the paperback version, and you can also find it on Barnes & Noble’s website.

My small role in inspiring noted author and gamesman Spencer Hall to write this must rank among my greatest accomplishments.

A scouting-report style look at Jon Gruden’s offensive gameplan.

Kirk Ferentz now owns the “Stanzi.”

Will NFL play-calling evolve into something simpler? I’m curious what role helmet-radios play in all of this. Also, there needs to be some argument for why they will not become simpler other than path dependence.

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Smart Links – Approval Matrix, Phil Steele, Illiteracy, Food Trucks – 6/4/2012

My radio hit with Doug Farrar and Rob Rang.

Iceberg lettuce remains in its rightful place while something else is surely mislabeled.

The greatest 7-on-7 team ever.

A great — and depressing — article.

Phil Steele ranks the SEC’s coaches.

What an article on bankruptcy looks like when the author has clearly never read through an actual bankruptcy docket.

The globalization of food trucks. A good thing, in my view.

George Soros’s buzzworthy speech on the euro and the Cliff’s Notes version.

MLB and boy shorts.

Part II of Q&A with Eleven Warriors on the Spread and Urban Meyer

You can find it here:

RRF:  In your study of Meyer’s time at Florida, what were the issues when Meyer’s offense failed?  In other words, what are the necessary predicate conditions for his approach to succeed?

CB: … The other issues they had on offense at Florida — and look, he won two National titles there, which isn’t too shabby — largely were focused on a couple of areas. One was, somewhat inexplicably, Florida’s red zone touchdown percentage cratered after Dan Mullen left. In 2008, when Tim Tebow was a junior and Meyer won the BCS championship game, against conference-only opponents Florida scored touchdowns over 70% of the 43 times they were in the red zone. The next year, in 2009, again only against conference opponents, they scored a touchdown only 29% of the 41 times they went into the red zone — and this was still with Tebow as their quarterback! That drop in touchdown percentage explains almost all of Florida’s drop from 43 points per game to 26 points against conference opponents from Tim Tebow’s junior to senior seasons. (I’m excluding non-conference opponents since we all know that a few games versus directional U can really skew the stats. And all stats are via the invaluable cfbstats.com.)

Read the whole thing.

Smart Links – Holgorsen’s Dual-Threat QB, William Gholston, P.G. Wodehouse, Incompetents – 5/29/2012

My Q&A with Bruce Feldman on The Essential Smart Football, trends in college football, and what coaches I (and you, the reader) would most like to get drinks with.

Spencer Hall reviews TESF (in his own inimicable way).

Blutarsky reviews TESF.

So does Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com.

Dana Holgorsen recruits a dual-threat quarterback.

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Q&A with Ross Fulton of Eleven Warriors about The Essential Smart Football

Talking about the book:

The further benefit to these is when they are used in the no-huddle: The offense can run to the line, line up, call a single, simple concept, and the quarterback chooses where to go with the ball, making the defense wrong, every time. This is in contrast to requiring the quarterback to make lots of complicated checks or audibles at the line of scrimmage or to do that whole everybody-line-up-no-wait-look-to-the-sideline-for-the-new-signal thing. It’s run it and go, and the quarterback is the field general.

On defense the big trend is to take existing defenses, like the 3-4 or 4-3, but to begin using more “hybrid” defenders in the base defense, guys who were maybe considered “tweeners” a few years ago without a true position. These are the linebacker/safety hybrids and the defensive end/linebacker hybrids, who, when facing all these no-huddle or multiple-formation attacks, must be able to both take on a fullback or tight-end at the line, rush the passer, or drop into pass coverage. If you’re going to have any hope of defending a dynamic offense like the one Urban Meyer runs — which is spread but can use power, and can use power but still throw the ball around — then you need to meet that dynamism with more dynamism.

Read the whole thing.

Smart Links – Mandel Initiative, Obama’s Football Throwing Motion, Drag Concept, Bear Bryant, Hemingway – 5/24/2012

I did a podcast with Stewart Mandel of SI.com, which you can listen to here.

Wherein I critique the President’s form for throwing a football for New York Magazine.

My podcast with CheeseheadTV’s Brian Carriveau.

– Friend of the site Dan Gonzalez now has his own website, and has a great three-part series on his “Drag” passing concept, which you can check out here.

Do yourself a favor and read this.

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Smart Links – Solid Verbal, Roll Bama Roll, Algorithms, Kiffin – 5/22/2012

Me on the fantastic Solid Verbal Podcast, discussing Saban, Malzahn, Leach, Quarters coverage, my book, my preferred approach, and plenty more. Always a fun podcast to do.

Roll Bama Roll reviews The Essential Smart Football:

Obviously, The Essential Smart Football is about a lot more than just Alabama football and there is a ton to learn from this book once you get through the Saban-specific pieces. Brown’s articles look at a lot of trends and themes that affect the game as a whole examining how they came about and where they are likely to lead. The only thing more thought-provoking than the subjects he chooses are his insights on them (the pieces on the decision-making process of players and the “constraint theory” of offense being particularly interesting).

This is amazing.

This, on the other hand, is not very helpful.

Bribes and corruption in the other football.

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