04 December 2012

2012 Third Quarter NFL Report


AFC East: New England has wrapped up the divisional title. The other three teams in this division need a three game winning streak and a lot of losses by others to sneak into the post-season. The conference records of the Jets, Bills and Dolphins currently lie two or more game below .500 so a wildcard for any of them seems unlikely.

AFC North: This remains the only division in the AFC with any drama left. Baltimore. Pittsburgh or Cincinnati trail the Ravens by two games yet either could overtake the leader if Baltimore chokes in losing three of its remaining games.

AFC South: Houston is on the verge of winning this division. The Texans need only win two more games or just defeat the Colts again to accomplish that. The Colts control their own fate to grab the higher wildcard.

AFC West: Denver has secured the divisional title. The Broncos have a likely chance of finishing as the second seed in the playoffs. The other three teams cannot even finish with winning records.


NFC East: The Giants hold a precarious, one-game lead over the Redskins and Cowboys. New York has split its games with both teams. Washington and Dallas can both finish with more divisional wins than New York, which could give either the division if tie-breakers are needed to determine the champion.

NFC North: Green Bay holds a slight lead over Chicago thanks to the Packers’ victory over Chicago.  If the Bears can win the rematch, this division will likely not be settled until the final week of the season. The Vikings hold some tie-breakers of other teams yet still require some defeats by others to slip into the post-season.

NFC South: Atlanta has claimed the divisional title. Tampa Bay and New Orleans both need to win their four remaining contests plus see Minnesota, Washington, Dallas, Chicago and Seattle two or more games each. It appears unlikely that either the Buccaneers or Saints will grab a wildcard.

NFC West: San Francisco leads by more than the one and a half game. The Forty-Niners have already defeated second-place Seattle.  In addition, the Forty-Niners have another divisional win while the Seahawks have lost all three NFC West matches so far. Barring a complete collapse by San Francisco, the Rams’ superior divisional record and head-to-head tie-breaker advantage will not matter.


06 November 2012

NFL Halftime Report 2012

At this point in the National Football League season, every team has played at least half of its regular season slate. Only one team remains undefeated; no team is still winless.  The races for divisional championship are clarifying themselves. This is an appropriate time time to review each divisional race.

AFC East: New England and Miami have separated themselves as true contenders for the division. The Patriots have both divisional games so far. The Dolphins have split their two intra-divisional games and trail the Patriots by one game. However, Miami has not played New England yet so the Dolphins still control their own post-season fate.

AFC North: At first glance, Baltimore appears to be in the driver’s seat. The Ravens hold a one-game lead and 3-0 record within the division. However, they have two games with Pittsburgh remaining. The teams in Ohio would needs miraculous runs just to finish with winning records.

AFC South: Houston is leading the division but not able to coast just yet. The Texans have won both divisional games but neither occurred over Indianapolis. The Colts trail by two games but can overcome that by sweeping Houston. Jacksonville is a serious contender for the first pick in next year’s draft.

AFC West: Denver’s lead is more secure than its one-game lead over second-place San Diego and two-game lead over Oakland indicates. The Broncos have already defeated both of those once. Also, half of Denver’s remaining contests will be easily winnable in facing the dregs of the NFL. These include the home and away contests versus Kansas City plus single games against Cleveland and Carolina.

NFC East: The Giants hold at least three game lead over the rest of the division. Nevertheless, New York cannot relax due to two of it losses coming at the hands of the Cowboys and Eagles. If either one of those can complete the sweep of the Giants while on a winning streak, the Giants will experience a very tense race the win the divisional crown. If the Giants hold on to their lead, the other three will likely fail to qualify for the post-season as a wildcard.

NFC North: Chicago sits in first place but not comfortably. By only one game does it lead Green Bay to whom the Bears suffered their sole loss so far.  Also, Minnesota sits just two and half games behind first place and has yet to face either team ahead of the Vikings. It seems guaranteed that at least one of the NFC’s wildcards will come from this division.

NFC South: The Falcons have left the rest of the division miles behind them. They lead the other three by at least four games. Atlanta only needs to sweep both contests versus Tampa Bay plus win two of the six other remaining games to clinch the division.  It seems impossible for anyone else in the division to grab a playoff spot given their non-winning records.

NFC West: San Francisco is beginning to pull away from the rest of the division. The Forty-Niners, despite holding a mere one and a half lead over Seattle, are in a more comfortable position. The Forty-Niners have won both divisional games so far, including one against the Seahawks. In contrast, Seattle has lost all three divisional games to this point. The Forty-Niners’ three game lead over Arizona is also bolstered by a win versus the Cardinals.


31 October 2012

NCAA Football Report for October 2012

At first glance, the 2012 college football season appears headed to a similarly controversial finish as 2004. Four teams finished the regular season and conference championship games undefeated. Cries for the need for more than two teams having an opportunity to play for the national championship erupted. The two undefeated teams left out of the BCS title game had to settle for challenging the NCAA to amend the post-season rules while pleading their case to voters in the Associated Press poll to receive the AP’s national championship.

However, that year did carry some aspect differentiating it from this current season. It started with Southern California and Oklahoma pre-ordained to meet for the national title. The other two undefeated teams, Auburn and Utah, were given no consideration to move into the top two spots. USC remained in the top spot despite not playing in a conference championship game. Utah’s conference at the time, the Mountain West, had never had its champion included in any BCS bowl game. The mere fact that a member of one of the conferences without an automatic bid for its champion had received an invitation to one of the four major bowls made history. Finally, Auburn received no extra consideration for winning the Southeastern Conference title because the SEC’s current run of six straight BCS titles had not yet started. Auburn won its championship game but could never crack the glass ceiling of “Number Three”.

This year’s circumstances vary from those eight seasons ago. Alabama and Oregon started second and fifth respectively, having risen when others in the initial poll lost and fell. Kansas State and Notre Dame were ranked outside of the top twenty yet have already risen into the top four. Alabama and Oregon should benefit significantly from playing a thirteenth game versus another team in the top twenty-five, assuming both advance to their conference’s title game unscathed. Three of the four belong to major conferences while the other might be able to claim victories over two BCS conferences’ champions. Additionally, a fifth undefeated team, Louisville, is lurking and dreaming of an unblemished finish with no other undefeated teams remaining in December.

Southern California has been eliminated from any consideration for the BCS national championship game. Nevertheless, the Trojans can affect who will advance to that game. USC poses the only serious threat to Notre Dame finishing undefeated. Also, Oregon will have to defeat the Trojans on the road then likely again in the Pacific Twelve championship game. If USC does defeat both Notre Dame and Oregon, the national championship picture will become much clearer.

Kansas State might suffer from the same fate as Utah in 2004. Compared to other three teams in the top five, Kansas State has no historical basis, which might sway some voters. The Wildcats were very near to the bottom of all major college programs in the terms of winning percentage last century. The Wildcats play in a conference, which had four members defect elsewhere in the past two years. That hurts the perception of the strength of the Big Twelve.  Once again, the champion of the Big Twelve will rue not having a conference title game to bolster its ranking before the final BCS poll.

Notre Dame does have the advantage of prestige over Oregon and Kansas State. Despite that, the Irish could suffer by not playing on the first weekend of December. The three currently undefeated teams and possibly some teams with one-loss will have one final opportunity to impress voters before the final BCS poll is released.  Also, Notre Dame’s three-game sweep of the Big Ten does not impress voters as much considering the overall weak reputation of that conference this season.

The Big Ten’ reputation will be further tarnished after the awful results of its non-conference games. The conference title game appears likely to feature at least one unranked team; both participants seem likely to be outside of the top twenty-five polls. Its two most successful teams in conference play and overall cannot contend for the conference crown. The Big Ten’s hopes for bolstering its reputation this season will require winning at least a majority of its bowl games.

The SEC has revealed that it consists of more than Alabama and LSU competing for the championship. Those from the Eastern Division are not serving merely as punching bags for those on the other side of the conference. Florida and Georgia each have only one loss; the former having beaten LSU. It appears that the SEC East’s representative has a realistic shot of winning in Atlanta on the first Saturday in December for the first time since 2008.

It seems like a team from a conference without an automatic bid to the BCS has little chance to grab an at-large bid. Boise State appears to have the most realistic shot. However, that involves hoping that the Big Ten’s Big East’s champion finishes below the Broncos in the BCS rankings after the conference title games are played. That assumes that BSU even wins the rest of its scheduled contests. Also, pollsters may downgrade the Broncos for having lost to a middle-of-the-pack member of the mediocre Big Ten, Michigan State.

Of course, in college football, rarely do all projections made at this point of the season come to fruition. Everyone will have to wait and see the results of all the remaining games.  The joy lies in the process.


03 October 2012

First Quarter Report on the NFL in 2012

After the first quarter of the National Football League's regular season has been completed, some indications of how this season will progress can be discerned. Parity reigns as only three undefeated teams and two winless teams remain. As usually occurs, some teams have fallen short of expectations. Others have surprised the league with their level of success. As we head into October, a glance at the results so far is warranted. 

AFC East: This division is not as tight as it appears at first glance. While the Patriots, Jets and Bills all share a tally of two wins and two losses so far, Buffalo has lost one game each to the other two.

AFC North: Baltimore has nudged ahead of division due to a win over Cincinnati and a two and a half overall lead over Pittsburgh. Cleveland appears a serious contender for the first pick of the draft in April.

AFC South: Houston is pulling away from the rest of the pack. The Texans already have defeated the Jaguars and the Titans in addition to other intra-conference victories.

AFC West: San Diego and Denver have already made this a two-team race for the divisional crown. The Chargers have two wins with the division; the Broncos, one. In contrast, Oakland already has lost two divisional games. The Chiefs’ sole win occurred over an NFC team while losing one in the division and another one within the conference.

NFC East: Philadelphia holds a one game lead over Dallas and Washington. However, neither of those trailing teams has played the Eagles yet. Despite only trailing the Eagles by one game in the standings, the Giants’ deficit is greater due to two divisional losses, one to Philadelphia.

NFC North: Minnesota holds a slight lead over Chicago and Green Bay. The former lost a divisional game while the latter is a game out of first place.  The Vikings will have to wait until next month to start securing the divisional title since they play within the division for 5 of the last seven games. The Lions are slipping back to their habitual level of putridity after finally giving their fans a reason to cheer with a playoff appearance last season.

NFC South: Atlanta is running away with the division. The Falcons are undefeated, including a divisional win. The other three teams have at least three losses each. The Saints are proving the importance of a permanent coach in charge of a team, especially when the head coach also serves as offensive coordinator. The loss of Sean Payton has crippled the Saints’ hopes of hosting the Super Bowl.

NFC West: Arizona has surprised the league with its undefeated start. However, San Francisco only trails by one game and has yet to play a divisional game. Seattle’s suspicious victory over Green Bay the Seahawks’ plight, winless in two divisional games.


30 September 2012

NCAA Football Report for September 2012

September typically reveals much but not all of the truth about college football teams. Since most inter-conference games have been completed, fans college football fans have some ammunition for the never-ending debate about which conference is superior above all others. Some aspirations for conference or national titles have already gone up in flames one month into the 2012 season.

The Big Ten has struggled in non-conference play. The Big Ten finished with seven wins and three losses versus the Mid-American Conference, a disturbing sign of diminishing dominance over a group teams long considered merely pre-season punching bags.  The lone victory for a Big Ten team in four games against the Pacific Twelve was achieved by Ohio State, a member ineligible for the conference title.  Such struggles do not bode optimistically for the eventual conference champion’s chances of winning the Rose Bowl. Notre Dame swept all three matches versus the Big Ten. At least, the Big Ten split two pairs of games versus both the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference. Some consolation for the Big Ten lies in the fact that it has not slumped to the position of weakest BCS conference by winning all three contests against the Big East. With only two undefeated teams remaining, one ineligible for the post-season, the Big Ten’s hopes for a berth in the BCS title game rest on the shoulders of Northwestern who just appeared in the Top Twenty-Five for the first time this week.

The Southeastern Conference welcomed two new members but the SEC looks just the same as last year. Any hopes that either Arkansas or Auburn could challenge the apparently pre-destined de facto SEC Western Division championship game between Alabama and LSU evaporated when both started 0-2 in divisional games. The new guys have struggled as the other twelve established members suspected that they would; Missouri’s slim odds at the SEC East title disappeared with two loses within the division. Florida’s resurgence has been cast a bit of doubt on the widely accepted belief that the winner of next weekend’s game between Georgia and South Carolina will lock up the division. Whether the Gators can contend for the SEC East title will be determined in the next four weeks with games versus LSU and the two perceived favorites in the East.

The Atlantic Coast Conference has a glimmer of hope of seeing what it expected when it expanded. Florida State is the only undefeated Atlantic Division member that has played a conference game; its two wins occurred over the second and third place teams in the same division. Miami has already won three conference games. Could we see a flashback to the Nineties with a match-up of undefeated and ranked Seminoles and Hurricanes in October? Since Florida State remains the sole undefeated ACC team and one of just three who has yet to lose a non-conference game, FSU will need for all members of SEC, Big Twelve and Pacific Twelve to lose at least once for a trip to Miami and the national title game.

The Big East has managed to maintain some semblance of a status as a major conference despite the impending round of further defections. Its members have won both contests versus SEC teams. The eight Big East teams have won four of the seven matches against the ACC played so far. However, the Big East has lost two of its three games versus Mid-American Conference. Also, Pittsburgh lost to 1-AA team Youngstown State.  The Big East’s road to national respectability remains long and arduous.

The view of the Big Twelve can be spun in opposing ways. On the positive side, seven of the ten members have already swept all of their non-conference opponents. Two wins in two contests versus the ACC include Kansas State defeating division-leading Miami. On the negative side, nine of the twenty-nine non-conference victories occurred over FCS members. Half of the conference is still undefeated so the odds of a Big Twelve team advancing the BCS title game remain strong.

As for the possibility of a non-member of a BCS automatic qualifying conference slipping into a BCS bowl, four undefeated candidates remain. The chances of any others climbing the rankings are extremely remote at most. All but one team in Conference USA has at least two losses so far.  Everyone in the Mountain West has at least one loss; eight of the ten members have two or more. No one in the Sun Belt Conference is undefeated. Only one team in the Mid-American Conference has yet to lose.

Notre Dame has bolted out of the gates with four victories. Two contests versus the Pacific Twelve and three against the ACC remain. Barring two or more losses in November or to unranked teams in general, the Irish seem a near certainty for one of the BCS bowls.

One potential for the BCS at-large entry is Ohio. The Bobcats won at Penn State, its sole game versus a major conference member. The Bobcats face an uphill climb in order to reach the required finish in the top twelve in the BCS standings. Even a top sixteen ranking with a BCS conference champion ranked below Ohio seems unlikely.
Another possibility for a “BCS buster”, Louisiana Tech, holds much more potential for a BCS bid. The Bulldogs have already defeated a team from both the Big Ten and the ACC with a game remaining versus an SEC member.  An undefeated season including those three victories should ensure Louisiana Tech a spot in the BCS.

The final undefeated team from outside of the six major conferences is Texas-San Antonio. The Roadrunners have four non-FBS opponents plus two in their first seasons at the 1-A level. Therefore, UTSA does not even have the craziest delusion of appearing the BCS top 25. However, they only need two wins in the last seven games to finish with a winning record in their first season in the FBS, an impressive feat.


16 August 2012

A Stick Instead of a Carrot

Commissioner Roger Goodell showed justifiable concern over wholesale benchings of starters. He openly expressed a desire to give teams an incentive to play to win after clenching playoff berths, divisional titles or home-field advantage. He dangled the possibility of draft picks the following year's draft as an enticement. However, it is obvious that players and coaches care little, if at all, about the possiblility of more prized rookies in training camp of the next season. They focus on the "here and now" in the waning weeks of the regular season. That is to say, keeping stars on the bench where they do not risk injuries in meaningless games. The injury of Wes Welker in the Patriots' last regular season game reinforced that philosophy.

Instead the Commissioner will have to resort to more heavy-hand approaches.
1. Playoff seeding according to overall record. No longer will divisional champions automatically receive higher seeding with a home game in its first playoff game. That will motivate teams like the Cardinals to improve on their mediocre record in the past two seasons to strive for more wins after wrapping up the crown of the weakest division in the league.
2. Revoke playoff berths for teams without winning records or at least ten wins. If a team can win 11 or more games yet end up as a wildcard due to a competitive division, why should the winner of a mediocre division leap over a second place team with three or more wins?

12 August 2012

College Football Preview for 2012

With the start of the college football a few weeks away, a glance at the schedules for the highest level of competition is warranted. Since programs have the freedom to arrange their opponents outside of the games dictated by their conferences, matches reveal much about the quality and the level of courage or cowardice of each. Every season contains some intriguing inter-sectional matches as well as some yawn-inducing mismatches.

A round of applause for only scheduling full-fledged 1-A opponents goes to Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Southern California, Stanford, Boise State, Central Florida, Tulane, Ball State, Massachusetts, Florida International, Louisiana-Monroe and Notre Dame. These thirteen programs eschewed the prevalent practice of padding schedules with overmatched teams from the lower division formerly known as 1-AA. Connecticut, Nevada, Rice and Houston merit at most a half-hearted recognition for their games against provisional 1-A members in their first year among the big boys. While technically Massachusetts, South Alabama, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State qualify as FBS opponents, their depth charts equal those of the FCS level.

An award for courage for scheduling more than one opponent from a Bowl Championship Subdivision conference goes to Missouri, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Maryland, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Fresno State, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, Utah State, Idaho, Central Florida, Tulane, Marshall, Tulsa, Southern Mississippi, East Carolina, Rice, Alabama-Birmingham, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, South Alabama, Florida International,  Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, Troy, Western Kentucky, North Texas and Middle Tennessee. The same commendation applies to playing both Notre Dame and one team from the FBS conferences, namely, Michigan, Southern California, Miami, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Boston College. Northwestern, Louisiana Tech, Southern Methodist, Texas-El Paso, Buffalo, Ball State, Western Michigan and Louisiana-Monroe will go an even harder route against three non-conference teams from 1-A. The most acclaim is reserved for Syracuse and Massachusetts for squaring off against four major conference teams outside of their own conferences.  

A standing ovation is deserved for those facing both more than one BCS conference-caliber team outside of conference play and no FCS members.  Out of one hundred twenty full members and four provisional members, only Southern California, Stanford, Arizona State, Central Florida, Tulane and Massachusetts accepted those challenges. The fact that less than five percent of 1-A members face such a caliber of non-conference competition reveals the general decline in quality of non-conference games across the country.

A chorus of boos should be rained down on teams for lining up two or more 1-AA opponents or 1-A members in their first year of the elevated status. Two FCS members sully the slates of Texas A&M, Florida State and Navy.  Vanderbilt, Indiana, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Texas Tech took the slightly less easy option of one 1-AA opponent and one provisional 1-A team.  Texas-San Antonio’s decision to rise from FCS to FBS looks suspiciously incomplete with four matches against FCS teams.

Demerits for no non-conference opponents from a BCS conference are slapped on Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Texas-San Antonio. One should why fans would pay for season tickets that include their teams beating up some hapless punching bags from other conferences. Their slates of pushovers will rightly drag down the overall strength and reputation of the Big Twelve and Pacific Twelve Conferences.

A barrage of rotten tomatoes should be launched Texas Tech and Texas-San Antonio. Both avoid playing a non-conference opponent from a major conference in addition to playing more than one team who is not established in the upper classification of Division One football. UT-San Antonio could be excused since this year is its first in FBS. As for the Red Raiders, everyone associated with that program should be ashamed of such a blatant bunch of rent-a-wins posing as real games.

The Atlantic Coast Conference should be commended for every member playing at least one member of another BCS conference. In fact, eight ACC teams play two opponents from other conferences. In addition to its annual three intra-state rivalries with Southeastern Conference opponents, the ACC will also face two more SEC opponents in the neutral setting of the Georgia Dome on opening weekend.

The Pacific Twelve particularly deserves a citation for a quarter of its members scheduling so bravely.  Three members will only play 1-A members plus one team from another BCS conference. The Pacific Twelve continued the practice of scheduling a few games versus the Big Ten; four will occur this season. Additionally, there will be two games at SEC’s venues.

The Southeastern Conference has both extremes in scheduling. All fourteen members play at least one FCS member. However, all but two will play a team from another BCS conference. These include two games against the Big Ten, part of a recent trend for members to play each other in the regular season instead of having to wait until New Year’s Day.

All twelve of Conference USA’s members play a BCS conference opponent. Ten of the members play two or more members from BCS Conferences. Two members play three. With seven matches against the SEC plus five versus both the Big Ten and Big Twelve respectively, Conference USA has the opportunity to improve its reputation with wins over these more acclaimed conferences.

Nine of the thirteen Mid-American Conference teams play two opponents from BCS conferences.  Three each face three BCS teams. Every team plays at least one.  The MAC can chip away, if not smash, its reputation as merely the Big Ten’s patsies during the eleven contests between the two this autumn.

All ten Sun Belt members will face an opponent from a BCS conference. In fact, all but one will play two or more.  If the Sun Belt wants to dig out of the perceived status as the weakest FBS conference, it has to win more than one of its ten scheduled games versus the SEC. Three contests against the Big Twelve and two versus the ACC also would give the Sun Belt more credibility with some victories.

After the announcement of a four-team playoff to start during the 2014 season, many college football fans rejoiced. Of course, some questioned why this improvement would not take place for the upcoming and following seasons. Speculation began about the possibility of yet another controversial finish with one or more undefeated teams being left out of the BCS title game during the remainder of the BCS’ contract. Time will tell if this improved attempt at determining a true national champion will be needed in 2012.



30 July 2012

Conference Chaos

The appeal of college football has largely rested in its history and tradition. This serves as one of bases against instituting a true playoff system for the highest level of the sport at the university level, alternatively referred to as "Division 1-A" or the "Football Bowl Subdivision". The first season of National Collegiate Athletic Association football occurred in 1906. In contrast, the National Football League did not start until 1920. In the NFL, forty-eight franchises have fielded a team for one or more seasons then folded over the course of its eighty-two years. However, thirty members of Division 1-A have dropped to a lower classification or ended their football programs since the definitive designation of that level occurred in 1978. Since 1920, the NFL has added thirty franchises, which still exist to the two that were part of the founding members of the league. In the thirty-four seasons since the 1-A was created as a distinct level, seventeen have moved up to the highest level of NCAA football. Additionally, eight programs downgraded their programs from 1-A to 1-AA but later moved back up the highest echelon of NCAA football. Both NCAA football and NFL have undergone comparable degrees have change over the past several decades.
 A review of the list of teams from thirty years ago in both the NFL and Division 1-A exposes the myth of continuity of college football. In 1982, of the ten conferences in existence at that time, three no longer exist at that level. The Missouri Valley Conference has dropped to Division 1-A with only two of its members still participating in 1-A. Out of the seven teams in the Pacific Coast Athletic Association, three no longer field football teams while the successor of this conference, the Big West, does not sponsor football at any level.  The Southwest Conference collapsed after the 1995 season; its nine members reside in the Big Twelve (four), in Conference USA (three) and in the Southeastern Conference (two).  The dissolutions of these conferences have also interrupted or halted long-running series between programs around the country.
College football has experienced two seismic periods in this thirty-year span, in the early 1990s and in the early teens of this century. Of the one hundred fourteen teams participating in Division 1-A in 1982, twenty-six have changed their conference affiliation at least once since then. Of the twenty-five independents, nineteen are now in a conference and two have dropped from Division 1-A. In 1982, twenty-three of current 1-A members did not participate at this level.  In total, of the one hundred twenty-four FBS teams, seventy-four members have instituted a major change in their football programs in the past thirty years.
This season continues the tumult, which started last season. In 2011, Nebraska moved from the Big Twelve into the Big Ten; Colorado and Utah jumped from the Big Twelve and Mountain West respectively into the newly re-branded Pacific Twelve. This year, even more former members slip into new conferences after defecting from the Big Twelve. Texas A&M and Missouri start their affiliation with the Southeastern Conference. The Big Twelve stabilized itself by adding Texas Christian and West Virginia. Instead of the Big Twelve appearing on the verge on collapse, the Big East is the one teetering as Syracuse and Pittsburgh will complete their finish seasons before sliding into the Atlantic Coast Conference.
By contrast the NFL has only realigned its teams on one occasion since the NCAA created Division 1-AA. That consisted of the moving of some teams from one of the three divisions of five or six teams per conference into one of the newly established four divisions of four teams. In reality, most of the shake-up occurred in the Southern Divisions. In the NFC, three of the five in the NFC West entered the NFC South. Likewise, two teams from the former AFC Central and one from the AFC East formed the AFC South along with an expansion team. The most jarring switch involved Seattle switching from the Western Division of the American Conference to the equivalent in the National Conference.
Aficionados of college football tout historical rivalries and conference affiliations as a sense of continuity that foster interest and give credence as an established tradition. However, the relocation of former members of the Big Twelve has ended three long-running series. The second most played series, Kansas-Missouri, has ended with Missouri's defection to the SEC. Texas A&M's departure for the same location ended the third most played series between the Aggies and Texas. The fourth most played series ended before last season when Nebraska left for the Big Ten, thus halting its series versus Kansas.  This latest round of shuffling of programs to different conferences is undermining the nostalgia-laced allure of NCAA football.                              
If I would have had any position of power in college football a generation ago, the landscape would appear quite different. I would have pushed all of the Eastern Independents to form the Big East. If necessary, I would have dragged all ten of them, kicking and screaming in some cases, into coalescing. They had long running series, even some fierce rivalries against each other. The most successful among them even received an unofficial championship award each season, the Lambert Trophy. This group would have dominated the huge media markets of New York, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia. Huge revenue from television rights to their games would have forestalled any temptation to bolt for a position on the geographical fringe of another conference. Such a formal agreement would have cemented traditions and held down traveling costs. Such stability would have allowed for later additions of programs moving up from Division 1-AA such as Connecticut or Massachusetts.
Unfortunately for fans and for historical relationships, this alliance never came to fruition. Joe Paterno flexed his muscles to push away neighboring programs within easy traveling distances out of lingering indignation over being excluded from the Big East for basketball. Also, the seven Eastern Independents who formed the Big East smugly blew off the possibility of including the Military and Naval Academies. Faced with awkward scheduling with only seven teams, the Big East invited Miami. Despite the scant connections with any members, the Big East made the move out of desperation. For Miami, the move was merely a marriage of convenience. Once the ACC called Miami to join the conference where it had belonged in geographical terms, Miami bolted with no hesitation.
While I am waving my magical wand to shape conference affiliations as I would like them to be, I would love to undo the recent absurd moves involving the Big Twelve. West Virginia's relocation to the same conference with teams in Texas and in the Great Plains looks doomed to an eventual break-up in less than a generation. It parallels Miami's time in a conference with its closest co-member more than a thousand miles away. I know that those connected to Missouri and Texas A&M grew fed up with being viewed as an inferior in the Big Twelve. However, their defection to the Southeastern Conference will hurt their programs financially and emotionally. Instead of their teams' ability to take buses in day-trips to some locations as well as fans having manageable car rides to most games, flights will be required more often. That will result in most expenses for both teams as well as fewer of their fans at road games.
Additionally, I would halt the maniacal rush to the Mountain West Conference and push some teams back into Western Athletic Conference. The teams could prefer to split between a conference west of the Rocky Mountains and another including those in the Rockies and to the east of them. The second option is to have two overlapping conferences. Also, Brigham Young University needs to reduce its sense of self-importance and re-join either the Mountain West Conference or the Western Athletic Conference.                                
As anyone reviewing the past few decades of NCAA Division 1-AA football can see, change has occurred often within its ranks. However, modifications for which many of the spectators and the media have been clamoring, namely, a true multi-team playoff, have progressed at the pace of geriatric tortoise. As a fan, I fear that the latest streak of frenetic alterations of affiliations will undermine the long-term success and appeal of the sport at this level.

14 May 2012

The Curse of the Super Bowl

In the wake of the scandal involving players and coaches of the New Orleans Saints being suspended for all or a portion of the upcoming season, superstitious fans of the National Football League find the timing of these events to be destined. Based on the disastrous seasons of the two most recent teams whose metropolitan areas hosted the Super Bowl, one might conclude that a curse befalls the team with the possibility of playing in the league championship game on its home field. This supposed hex included the starting quarterback missing most of the season in the case of one and every game in the other. If this pattern continues, Drew Brees would be wise to continue his unsigned status through January. 

Bolstering the belief in this fated misfortune, none of the teams in the host cities of the eleven most recent Super Bowls qualified for the playoffs. Only twice in that span did the local team in the metro area of the site even finish with a winning record. In fact, in nine of those seasons, the team whose stadium served as the venue for the Super Bowl finished in third or last place in its four-team division. 

Going back to 1990, this perceived misfortune has befallen the city hosting the Super Bowl with frightening regularity. During twelve seasons, the host city’s team lost ten or more games. During these twenty-two seasons, the local team managed a winning season a mere five times. In only three seasons did the team from the Super Bowl site advance to the post-season; none of those played in their conference championship games. The most successful result for the supposedly accursed team occurred in Miami when the Dolphins won their division and a first round playoff game before bowing out in the divisional round. Given this litany of results, one could understand why fans would prefer that their team’s stadium not be used to stage this unofficial national holiday. 

However, this seemingly pre-determined failure for the team in media market of the Super Bowl has not existed since the inception of this championship game. Despite the mostly appalling finishes of home-town teams in the twenty-two most recent seasons, in sixteen of those forty-five seasons, they did finish with a winning record. Those teams even qualified for the playoffs in 22.2 percent of the first forty-five seasons ending in a Super Bowl. Hosting teams have averaged winning their divisions in one out of every nine seasons. During last four seasons of the 1970s, three teams whose home area hosted the “Big Game” qualified for the playoffs, including one advancing to its conference championship game and another going to the Super Bowl. 

Additionally, some fans and media have trumped up this alleged jinx by erroneously stating that no team has ever played as a “home team” in the Super Bowl. Actually, no team has ever played in the stadium in which it plays its home games. In fact, on two occasions teams did participate in the championship game within easy commuting distance of their home stadium. During the 1979 season, the Rams, based in Los Angeles for that season, commuted to the Super Bowl in Pasadena. Five seasons later, the Forty-Niners took the short trek southward to Palo Alto. Also, the Raiders have not had to leave their state for the Super Bowl on two occasions; in 1976 season, they headed south from Oakland to Los Angeles then to San Diego during the 2002 campaign. 

What explains this perceived misfortune for the teams whose metropolitan areas have served as the venue for the premier sporting event in the United States? One must regard the correlation between the sites of the Super Bowl and the track record of the teams who call them home. New Orleans, has hosted this event on nine previous occasions, the second most frequent host. New Orleans also endured a wretched franchise, which has managed only eleven winning records in its forty-five seasons. The Super Bowl has been played in Tampa Bay four times; the local team has managed winning seasons in less than a third of its thirty-five seasons. Finally, this ultimate football game has taken place twice in both Houston and Detroit, neither of whose teams have experienced more than modest levels of success; neither has ever managed to play in the Super Bowl. The frequency of the Super Bowl occurring in locales with underachieving franchises helps explain why the hosting cities’ teams fares so poorly in years when they had a chance to play for the championship in their backyard. Therefore, fans around the country need not fret if your city bids to host the Super Bowl or is so fortunate as to land the highest profile sporting event in the United States. 


Hypocrites Regarding Marriage

The fanatics hailing President Obama’s change of opinion regarding homosexual marriage claim their mission is “the right to marry for everyone”, “marriage equality”, “the end of discrimination” and other such idealistic statements. However, their claims of fighting for fairness noticeably omit others currently not allowed to marry whomever they wish.
Homosexual advocates and their allies frequently lump together all deviant sexual lifestyles as “LGBT”. One could reasonably conclude that members of all four of those classifications are united in pursuit of the same goals and mutual support of each other reaching those. If all four of those classifications are considered equally deserving of marrying whomever they wish, why are homosexual advocates excluding bisexuals from the quest marrying whomever they want? They condone the discrimination against bisexuals by touting a monogamous relationship as the basis for marriage. That limitation prevents those attracted to both sexes from marrying those whom they prefer. Why do these hypocrites want to deny bisexuals the right to both a man and a woman as their sexuality dictates? Why are homosexual advocates trying to force their morality on those others?
Why are supporters of the redefinition of marriage not demanding the right for intra-familial marriages? After all, those were legally recognized in different societies throughout history whereas homosexual marriages were never sanctioned. Incestuous marriages existed in ancient Egypt and in other societies millennia ago as brothers married sisters. Throughout the Middle Ages and Industrial Ages, European aristocracy arranged marriages between cousins. Also, Mohamadans have arranged marriages between cousins since Mohamad proclaimed the limitations on sexual relations, which do not include a ban on marriages between first cousins. The creator of Islam even arranged the marriage of one of his nephews to one of his daughters. So why do homosexual advocates and their apologists hate people of the intra-familial sexual orientation?
The proponents of homosexual marriage state that two people should be allowed to be legally married, whether that is a heterosexual or homosexual couple. Glaringly, that limitation excludes Mohamadan men who want more than one wife. How do they justify their tacit support of the ban on polygyny, thus denying a Mohamadan man a second, third, or fourth wife as the Koran states he has a right to do? Why are homosexual advocates and their lackeys blatantly engaging in Islamophobia?
Facile minds claim that everyone should be granted legal recognition of whatever type of intimate relationships that a person has. Have they never considered the consequences of that change? Do they prefer change for the sake of change? Do they actually prefer to water down this definition so it no longer has any importance? How do they justify demanding legally recognized marriages yet excluding other alternative sexual relationships?  Undermining a cornerstone of civilization carries serious consequences, which its detractors refuse to recognize.
Marriage has served as the foundation of the family for millennia. The mockery of the practice by empty-headed celebrities and shortsighted serial brides and grooms cannot diminish the value of the tradition. By extending the term “marriage” to a non-heterosexual and non-monogamous relationships, it undercuts the meaning of the term. The stability of this institution rests upon its more than mere sexual activity. Marriage binds together a couple with the assumption that the man and woman from different families will create and raise children. That bears much more importance than simply pacifying tiny minorities demanding governmental endorsement of their divergent lifestyles.