The Risky Draft Declaration Debate… Don’t Be a Fool, Stay in School

January 17, 2011

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Normally, I would be the guy screaming that a college football player should go pro the moment that he is deemed NFL worthy.

Unless you are a player who could use the extra year of college to help vault yourself into a much more worthwhile draft position (like moving from being a late first/early second-round selection one year to a top-ten overall projection the next), the extra year of college will probably not do you any good. In fact, you should take the money now and run, because the opportunity for a multi-million dollar contract won’t always be on the table, but while opportunity to finish your college education almost surely will be.

That is exactly the advice I would normally give to an underclassman NFL prospect. But the 2011 NFL Draft is not going to be a NORMAL draft.

What good is time spent in a gym, when it COULD be spent on the field actually keeping you fresh and in GAME-READY condition? More, what good is being drafted to an NFL franchise with the promise of a multi-million dollar contract that you can’t collect on because the league is on lockout and NOBODY is getting paid?

Well, those are exactly the prospects facing underclassmen who decided to take the early leap into the NFL.

The reason this year is different is because of the still unresolved issue with the still unresolved collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners. This is not your standard, run-of-the-mill contract negotiation, either.

Without getting into the minutiae of how each and every negotiation has processed, here is a simple breakdown of how we ended up where negotiations stand (a more thorough, but still understandable, explanation can be found here):

The current CBA was originally scheduled to expire in 2013, but owners chose to opt-out two years early. They feel that the players are taking too much of the league’s money, and have basically drawn a line in the sand, hoping to force the players into a renegotiation. With issues like an 18-game schedule, rookie salary scales, and player safety still unresolved, the likelihood of a new CBA being settled before the next season gets underway gets slimmer and slimmer.

In this situation, A plus B equals lockout.

With a lockout looming on the horizon there will still be an NFL Draft, but after that, all league operations cease. That means no trades, no rookie camps, no OTAs, and most importantly, no training camp and no regular season.

What that likely means to the group of underclassmen taking the early plunge into the NFL, is no security, and no playing time.

They will miss out on a most crucial period in their early NFL development – Rookie Camp. They will miss out on the opportunity to practice with and get to know their new teammates. They will miss out on the opportunity to test their mettle and learn from playing with NFL veterans.

Most importantly, they will do so WITHOUT guarantee of a paycheck, and without the luxury of a safety net that previous season salaries have afforded their new teammates.

What they SHOULD have done is follow the lead of Andrew Luck. Luck, who was almost certainly going to be the top overall draft pick, has decided to forego his opportunity to enter the NFL as an underclassman to return to Stanford for his final college season.

It is true that he will gain nothing financially. But while players like Cam Newton, A.J. Green, Mark Ingram, and Ryan Mallett are sitting in a weight room somewhere just hoping that a deal gets done, Luck will be playing real, competitive football.

Now I know what you are thinking (and what Loyal Homer has probably written)… what if Luck gets hurt in his final college season? Won’t that cost him money?

Well, Sam Bradford suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder at Oklahoma, not once, but twice. When the draft came around, who went first overall? Bradford, to the tune of a six-year, $78M contract.

Adrian Peterson suffered MANY injuries over his college career, including a broken collarbone that ended his final season after only a few weeks. But that didn’t stop the Minnesota Vikings from drafting him seventh overall, and signing him to a six-year, $40.5M contract.

I think it’s safe to say that both Bradford and Peterson are doing great right now, and with sports medicine being what it is today, the likelihood of a REAL career-ending injury is very slim. Most, if not all of the underclassmen from this year, would have played out their final NCAA season without incident. Those who were injured would likely STILL not have seen it impact their NFL earning power.

It’s a simple choice – risk missing an entire year of playing time to enter a league with no structure, and most importantly, no guarantee of a paycheck, or stay in college and continue to improve your skill set ON THE FIELD in REAL competition, while adding to your future value in the NFL.

For those who took early eligibility, they have essentially put a blindfold on and dove head-first into a career without having any idea what to expect. By waiting one more season, this year’s underclassmen could have let all the NFL CBA dust settle. Then, when they finally DID take the plunge, they would know exactly what they were getting into.

They would have at least maintained, if not improved, their NFL value… and would have done so by staying in game-ready condition for a whole year while the rest of the NFL spent their time lifting weights and twiddling their thumbs for zero salary.

Any gambler worth his or her salt will tell you that in this case, the risk is just not worth the reward. So to quote Mr. T – “Don’t be a fool. Stay in school.”

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Final Hurdle Before the BCS National Championship

November 23, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

Oregon head coach Chip Kelly is used to being in the spotlight.

His first ever game as head coach resulted in a post game brawl where his star running back, LeGarrette Blount, sluged Boise State linebacker Byron Hout resulting in Blount’s suspension for most of the season. Still, without Blount in the backfield, Kelly led his team to a Pac-10 championship, and a Rose Bowl appearance, for the first time in nearly a decade.

Then, just months later, Kelly’s star quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, was charged with burglary, and later with possession of marijuana and driving infractions, which resulted in his kicking the Heisman candidate off his team.

Once more coach Kelly’s Ducks, who were 2010 national championship contenders at the time of Masoli’s dismissal., were without a star talent because of stupid, irresponsible actions. And, once more, Kelly rose to the challenge. After kicking Masoli off the team, the Ducks entered the 2010 season with moderately dampened expectations, but they did not stay dampened for long.

Now, with only two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Ducks not sit only atop the Pac-10 Conference, but thanks to an undefeated record they sit as the top ranked team in every major poll, including the BCS standings. Should Oregon finish the season in that spot, Coach Kelly, in only his second season at the helm, will have led the Oregon Ducks to their first ever national championship game.

Oregon has rolled over every opponent it faced in impressive fashion, including a 52-31 victory over Stanford, ranked ninth in the nation at the time. They have put up 504 points this season, and allowed only 172 to opponents. Oregon has risen to every challenge, and now have only one legitimate obstacle standing in the way of championship dreams – the Arizona Wildcats.

Yes, the Oregon State Beavers always present a challenge in the annual Civil War rivalry game. But this season all appearances are that the Beavers will be outclassed by the faster, more talented Ducks. If the Ducks do survive their matchup against the Arizona Wildcats, then beating the Beavers will be a mere formality.

The question is – can the Wildcats REALLY challenge the Ducks? In a short answer, yes (but it won’t be easy).

Arizona will enter Autzen Stadium ranked 21st in the BCS. They have already beaten top-ten ranked Iowa, and boast one of the best passing offenses in the country. Junior quarterback Nick Foles is averaging 275.1 yards per game, and has 13 passing TDs compared to only six interceptions. Foles’ primary target, Juron Criner, is currently one of the ten best receivers in the country, averaging 98.2 receiving yards per game.

But passing alone will not beat the Ducks.

The most important battle for the Wildcats in this game will be in figuring out how to stop the Ducks from scoring. Short of faking injuries to slow down the Ducks’ high-octane offense, that may not be possible as the Ducks are the only team in the country to AVERAGE more than 50 points per game. Running back LaMichael James has already racked up over 1,400 rushing yards and 17 TDs for Oregon, and quarterback Darron Thomas has been good for another 23 TDs in the air, 11 of which have gone to receiver Jeff Maehl.

The Wildcats are not coming into this game unprepared, or untested, though. The defense has allowed only 18.1 points per game (one of the best averages in the country), and two of the team’s three losses this season are by a combined five points. Unfortunately for Arizona, run defense has been a weakness lately, having given up 217 yards and 205 yards on the ground in losing efforts over the last two weeks against Stanford and Southern Cal, respectively.

Prior to those two losses, however, the Wildcat defense allowed only 88.9 yards per game on the ground, and if they can return to that earlier form they will have a very real opportunity to play spoiler to Oregon’s BCS hopes. If not, the Ducks can pack their bags, because they are as good as guaranteed an invitation to Phoenix on January 10th.

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The Reggie Bush Fallout Debate… Heisman and BCS Voters Cannot Ignore the Charges

November 17, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

I believe the saying goes – “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, then shame on me.”

So, what happened during the 2004-2005 college football season? I’ve scoured the Internet for hours and can’t seem to find a thing about it. I thought that USC won the national championship, but I can’t find a single statistic from the NCAA about their season, and that season is also skipped in the list of Heisman Trophy winners.

Weird!

Obviously, I am joking, but Reggie Bush’s infamous actions from that season have already left a black mark on his reputation, as well as that of the Heisman Trust, the USC football program, and the game of college football.

Fortunately, we can all put that behind us and move on with our lives, right? WRONG! Not even two months removed from the closing of the book on Reggie Bush, a new book may be opening right before our eyes in Auburn, AL.

Cam Newton, quarterback for the undefeated, second-ranked Auburn Tigers (and the current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy) is now under investigation for his own little laundry list of alleged infractions against the NCAA rules. Without rehashing the minutia of every single accusation and charge, let me sum them up for you:

  • In 2008, while at Florida, Newton was arrested for burglary, larceny, and obstruction of justice after having stolen a laptop. He then left Florida to play JuCo ball at Blinn College in Texas.
  • Earlier this month, it was reported that Newton may not have left Florida just because of the theft charges, but that he actually was under investigation for three separate instances of academic cheating, and was actually facing expulsion.
  • Just days after the cheating allegations were reported, sources came forward with accusations that Newton was involved in a pay-for-play scandal, which the sources cite as the reason Newton chose Auburn over Mississippi State.

Now, I understand that these latest charges of academic cheating and pay-for-play have not been confirmed… yet. And while I completely agree that a person is innocent until proven guilty, it is important to note that these charges have also not been proven false.

I am not advocating Cam Newton’s expulsion from college football, but the allegations levied against him are very serious, and if the Heisman Trust and the national pollsters blindly ignore these charges, they are opening themselves up for another very messy, long, drawn out scandal that could result in yet another non-season for the history books.

I am reminded of a scene from the HBO Series Band of Brothers, when a British Tank Commander is warned that he is driving right into a trap. Because he cannot technically ‘see’ the gun waiting to kill him, though, he is forbidden from taking the measures necessary to protect himself, and his men. So even though he anticipates an attack, and even though he has been warned by others that there is a gun pointed right at his head, his blind compliance with foolish rules that do not take circumstance into consideration result in his own death.

This is a situation where voters have an opportunity to prevent a possible embarrassment.

It is not about following the rules, because, if the allegations are correct, Cam Newton himself was not concerned with following the rules. The voters have an obligation to protect the integrity of the awards they have been honored with the privilege of bestowing. Knowingly and willingly granting those awards to a player or team that they have reason to believe may be ineligible is carelessly risking the integrity of the award, and cheapens the accomplishments of all those other winners who did it the right way.

Moreover, it cheapens the efforts of every other person who was ELIGIBLE for the award.

When allegations like those surrounding Cam Newton surface, there are only two ways that awards such as the Heisman or the BCS national championship, can be given WITHOUT fear of further scandal or controversy. Either postpone voting until the charges can be confirmed or denied, or allow that speculation to influence the votes cast during the process.

If the voters ignore the allegations, and continue to keep Cam Newton and his Auburn Tigers at the head of the pack while still under investigation, then shame on the voters.

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The Best Game of THIS Weekend Debate… Bucks, Badgers In High Stakes Big Ten Matchup

October 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

Over the past four years, the SEC has been the premier college football conference. It has claimed the last four national championships, and there has been an SEC program at the top of the rational rankings every week since December 7th, 2008. But with Alabama’s loss to South Carolina last weekend all that came to an end, and now it is the Big Ten’s Ohio State Buckeyes that sit atop college football’s mountain.

Behind junior quarterback and Heisman hopeful Terrelle Pryor the Buckeyes have rolled to a 6-0 record, including an impressive win over the Miami Hurricanes. The team now sits in the driver’s seat for the race to the national championship game.

But how long will the run at the top last?

Even the BCS, which provides the only ranking that REALLY matters, is projected to have Boise State, not Ohio State, as the number one team after the first standings are announced. Meanwhile, Ohio State, who is ranked number one in all of the major polls, could actually find itself as low as fifth in the BCS standings.

But a win on the road at Camp Randall Stadium over the eighteenth ranked Wisconsin Badgers could be all it takes for Ohio State to jump into the BCS lead.

As for the Badgers, who have not beaten Ohio State since 2004, a victory over the top-ranked Buckeyes would catapult them back up the rankings and into the BCS conversation, a welcome outcome after the fell at the hands of undefeated Michigan State two weeks ago. And, Home-Sweet-Home is right where the Badgers want to be for this matchup, as the team boasts one of the nation’s best home records since the last victory over Ohio State (40-4).

So, what will be the key matchup this weekend?

Wisconsin’s running backs, John Clay and James White, are leading a rushing offense that averages more than 240 yards per game (the eleventh best in the nation), while Ohio State’s rushing defense has only allowed 78 yards per game (the fourth best in the nation).

If the Badgers hope to pull off the upset Clay and White will have to find a way past Cameron Heyward and the rest of Ohio State’s defensive front.

It will be a classic Big Ten matchup between two of the conference’s powerhouse programs, with the winner staking a claim as a frontrunner team for a conference on the cusp of supplanting the SEC as the premier collection of football universities.

It is the game of the year for the best conference in the country.

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The Ranking a Banned Program Debate

October 3, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Earlier this summer the BCS brought the pain when it punished the University of Southern California for its lack of institutional control. As a result of a four year investigation into inappropriate benefits received by USC players, the BCS stripped the school of several scholarships, demanded forfeiture of previous wins, and, among other things, banned the university’s football program from BCS bowls for two years. The punishments doled out as a result of this process got us here at The Sports Debates thinking – “If the Trojans are banned from a BCS bowl game, then should the team not also be banned from the rankings?”

As of this weekend the Trojans were ranked in the top twenty teams, but the question at hand is, “Should USC be ranked at all?” It is not a matter of whether the Trojans are one of the most competitive programs in the nation, but whether they still warrant a ranking because of their bowl ban. No matter how well USC performs or who they beat, they will still not participate in a BCS – or any other – bowl at season’s end.

Which leads us to today’s debate: Should a ban from bowls include a ban from the rankings?

Loyal Homer believes it should. Obviously there is logic supporting this argument, but to win this debate he will have to prove that the team deserves a ranking ban.

Bleacher Fan, on the other hand, believes a bowl ban is not a good idea. He believes that although bowl bans are a punishment it does not actually change how well a team is playing.

Whoever wins this debate will be number one in my book, but their poll ranking may be a different story.

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The Ranking a Banned Program Debate… Post-season Ban Applies Post-Season Only

October 3, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Six years ago, Reggie Bush (while playing at Southern Cal under then-head coach Pete Carroll) violated an NCAA eligibility rule by accepting money from a professional sports agent.

The NCAA unfortunately has a very difficult task when it comes to situations such like this, where the infractions are being addressed several years after they actually took place. The people guilty of committing infractions are no longer under the governing body’s rule. Therefore, there is very little that can be done to hold the actual guilty parties accountable.

While the NCAA does still retain the authority to penalize a program, the NCAA must also be very careful about the way punishments are implemented because the people who will be most greatly affected by the punishment are those currently in the program, who had nothing at all to do with the infractions that took place.

To avoid a situation where the children must pay too greatly for the sins of the parents, the NCAA has stripped away any recognition for what the football program did during the season infractions take place, and has banned the program from participating in post-season football for the two years following the discovery of infractions.

Although I would like to see a more aggressive partnership between the NFL and the NCAA so that guys like Reggie Bush and Pete Carroll don’t get to walk away virtually unscathed (don’t forget, Bush gave back his Heisman Trophy, it wasn’t taken from him), this is actually a very fair and just punishment to be levied on the program.

The institution suffers by missing out on the exposure and profits of playing post-season football, but the impact to the athletes and coaches CURRENTLY within the program will be extremely minimal. They will not get to play in a bowl game for the next couple of years, which is unfortunate, but they will retain every other benefit that comes from playing at a major university.

So, why take the punishment a step further by banning the program from consideration when ranking the top 25 teams in the nation?

Rankings and Bowls are Independent of Each Other

If there were only 25 bowl invitations extended every year, and those 25 invitations were offered to the top 25 teams in the nation, I would completely agree with a ban on ranking to accompany the ban on bowl eligibility. But that is simply not the case.

The national rankings serve as a gauge of which are the best 25 programs in the nation, not the best 25 bowl eligible programs. Last season there were 43 teams that played in bowl games and were not ranked in the top 25. What does USC being considered for a national ranking now have to do at all with bowl eligibility?! Absolutely nothing!

Just because a team is ineligible to play in the post-season does not mean it does not deserve consideration as being one of the best teams in the country.

If Alabama was banned from 2010 bowl eligibility it would not change the fact that it is the best team in the nation right now. Why try to ignore, cover up, or alter that fact by producing a fraudulent ranking written as though Alabama did not exist? It would completely devalue the entire ranking process.

Southern Cal, bowl eligible or not, is going to remain in contention as one of the 25 best football programs in the country. Any attempt to disregard or ignore that fact is pointless.

You Can’t Penalize the Wrong People!

It is important that the current active members of the USC organization are not penalized too harshly for the rule-breaking of the predecessors. But, there is another group that would also be unfairly punished if USC were to be banned from ranking eligibility – opponents.

That’s right. Banning USC from consideration for a national ranking is actually penalizing every single team that USC would play while they were under that ban. Why? Because there is greater prestige associated with playing and potentially beating a ranked team.

Think about what the Washington Huskies accomplished last weekend. Which sounds better – beating USC, the team banned from bowls AND rankings, or beating USC, the team ranked as the 18th best in the nation?

When the BCS rolls around, and a team that beats USC is potentially jockeying for position within the BCS standings, should they not be given full credit for defeating one of the 25 best programs in the nation? It is not their fault (nor is it their concern) that USC is banned from bowl games. But if you take away USC’s ability to be ranked, you essentially rob their opponents of the credit they deserve for competing against one of the best teams in the nation.

A Rankings Ban Adds No Value

What could possibly be gained by stripping a ranking away from USC this season?

Whether they are bowl eligible or not, they are still potentially one of the best football teams in the nation. The ONLY benefit gained by removing the ranking is that the team that is ACTUALLY the 26th best could be artificially bumped into a ranking they did not earn, nor deserve. That minor, arbitrary alteration would come at a far greater cost to USC players today (who were only 13 and 14 years old when Reggie Bush broke the rules) and their opponents (who deserve full credit for beating a major football program).

Taking away USC’s ability to earn a national ranking is the same as banning them from playing at all this season. Their opponents gain nothing by playing them, and their current athletes would have absolutely nothing to show for all of their hard work this season.

They were banned from the POST-season, not the REGULAR season. Let the regular season play out as it should, and when bowl season rolls around USC will serve its punishment accordingly.

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The Fire Mark Richt Debate… Expectations Outpace Mark Richt

September 28, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

Mark Richt is no longer able to compete in the SEC.

Yes, he HAS led the Georgia Bulldogs to nine consecutive bowl appearances, and boasts a bowl record of 7-2 in those nine games. He has maintained exceptionally strong recruiting classes during his tenure, and has twice been named the SEC Coach of the Year. And if he were head coach of a Big East or ACC program, that would be considered a wildly successful performance, and Richt would be at the front of the line for the next “elite” coaching job in college football.

The only problem is he already HAS that elite coaching job in the nation’s top football conference. And when you look at his performance, specifically over the past four years as the SEC has completely dominated college football, Richt has actually UNDER-performed.

BCS Shortcomings

In the nine full seasons since Richt became head coach at Georgia, he has coached his squad to a 2-1 BCS record, with no national championship game appearances.

Now, let’s compare that to some of his SEC colleagues:

Les Miles is 2-0 in BCS games since 2005, including a national championship with LSU.

Nick Saban is 3-1 in BCS games, with two national championships for two different SEC programs (LSU and Alabama).

Urban Meyer is 3-0 in BCS games, with two national championships.

Pop quiz, what is Mark Richt lacking? That’s right! A national championship, DESPITE being at the head of one of the supposed powerhouses in the SEC.

As for those two BCS wins, one came in 2002, back before the SEC had really developed into the conference powerhouse it is today, and the other came in 2007 against a Hawaii team that had no business being in the BCS, DESPITE an undefeated regular season record (don’t forget that Hawaii earned their record by playing the WAC, two different FCS teams, and the only team they played from a BCS-caliber conference was the 4-8 Washington Huskies).

While the SEC has improved, Georgia has declined

There is clearly a gap in talent between Mark Richt and the other premier coaches of the SEC. And with each passing year the irrefutable evidence indicates that the gap is widening.

Since Georgia’s last BCS win in 2007, while the SEC has improved as a conference, the Bulldogs have been on a steady and sharp decline.

Entering into the 2008 season Georgia was ranked as the top team in the country. How did Richt respond to that ranking? By losing not once, but THREE times that season.

Again, a 10-3 record (with a win in the Capital One Bowl) is not bad, but as the pre-season favorite to win the national championship, three losses equals to a HUGE disappointment.

Then in 2009, Georgia (who still managed a top-ten recruiting class) was ranked in the pre-season as the 13th best team in the nation, and they played on to a record of only 8-5… falling COMPLETELY out of the top-25 by season’s end.

Somehow, despite that slide even deeper out of SEC relevance, Georgia managed ANOTHER solid recruiting class and found itself once more ranked in the 2010 pre-season as one of the 25 best teams in the country.

And once again, Richt has failed.

So far this season he has managed to win only one game (against Louisiana-Lafayette), and his three losses (all of which have come against SEC competition) have him sitting in dead last as the worst team in the conference.

It is time for Richt to go

During his tenure, Richt’s performance at the University of Georgia has been good, but as far as the University of Georgia’s expectations are concerned, “good” in the SEC simply isn’t good enough. This is a program that has recruited some of the top talent in the country, but has failed miserably on the field.

Since 2007, Mark Richt has had top-ten caliber talent coming into each season, and has progressively dropped further and further out of contention. He has lost 11 times in the SEC during that time (compared to only four losses each by Florida and Alabama during that same period). This season, he has the Bulldogs off to their worst start in 20 years (they also started at 1-3 during the 1993 season).

The SEC has progressed to a level at which Mark Richt can no longer compete.

Three different head coaches have won national championships in the SEC over the last four years. Each one has progressively improved their program’s stature, elevating the conference in the process. All the while Georgia fans have been left on the sidelines with nothing but disappointment.

Mark Richt has had all the tools, and every opportunity, to improve his program right alongside the likes of Saban, Miles, and Meyer. But unlike those three, Richt has failed to capitalize on his opportunities.

While the SEC has gotten better, Mark Richt has gotten worse. The only way that Georgia can progress as a football program is if they leave Richt behind.

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