Category Archives: NCAA issues

Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian talks CFB unionization

It’s safe to say the pair of young men who shared the Northwestern quarterback duties for the past two seasons do not see eye to eye on the issue of the Wildcat football team unionizing.

While Kain Colter has been the face of the movement since he completed his eligibility after last season,  Northwestern senior-to-be Trevor Siemian voiced his opinion against today on a teleconference the Big Ten held for coaches and players from the West division to discuss spring football with the media. Continue reading

A Buckeye who was nearly a Wildcat weighs in on CFB union issue

Michael Bennett, a senior defensive lineman for Ohio State who seems to have a good shot at being a captain for the Buckeyes this fall, was asked yesterday about his thoughts on the movement at Northwestern to create a union for college football players.

“I don’t know the full reason behind their union. I don’t agree necessarily with football players being unionized. We don’t necessarily see the money, but we are getting a lot of benefit out of our scholarships. It just kind of seems silly to want to be unionized because we get a lot of stuff that people don’t get. Yeah, we don’t get the same opportunities, but we can get set up for life after football if we really want to. So it’s all about taking advantage of what you do  get. I don’t think the union is necessarily a great idea. Everyone wants to get more money all the time, but I mean we’re getting a good amount.”

Bennett was a four-star line prospect as a senior at Centerville High School near Dayton four years ago who had Northwestern as a finalist when he chose Ohio State. One of his former high school teammates, Ifeadi Odenigbo, is a current member of the Wildcats, but there was no indication last night if the pair have discussed this issue amongst themselves

Before talk turned to football, Bennett was asked if he was in favor of an addition stipend for players, but he did not sound too fired up about that issue, either.

“Yeah, it would be nice to get a little bit more, especially… I mean the cost of living is going up and I don’t think our stipend is going up, so I’d say a little bit more money is always nice but I’m not really in the business of trying to force people to do that.” 

Of course this is just one man’s perspective, but I found it interesting nonetheless.

Herbstreit, Smith, Galloway debate college athletes’ compensation

You should definitely read the whole back-and-forth between former Ohio State players and current ESPN analysts Kirk Herbstreit, Robert Smith and Joey Galloway, but the part that I want to highlight comes from Herbstreit. 

He seems to agree with my contention one of the NCAA’s biggest problems is perception, something it does little to help with its consistently tone-deaf responses to the debate about how major college athletes are compensated.

“It’s just bizarre to me that I don’t think we’re doing a good enough job of selling the student-athlete experience,” Herbstreit continued. “When you’re at Ohio State, it’s not just playing football and going to school. There are so many opportunities that you have that you don’t understand when you’re an 18- to 22-year-old kid and you’re going to these events and you meet people who are in the business community. Urban just committed an entire offseason to introduce athletes to business leaders in Columbus. You’re not going to get that if any of your sons or daughters went to Ohio State. I don’t know what an education costs if you’re there for four or five years, and you throw everything in, travel, all the stuff that you’re afforded.

“I just feel like people assume everybody is a Joey Galloway or a Robert Smith and they make it in the first round and make millions of dollars. 95 percent are me. They don’t play a down in the NFL and use this degree that I got from Ohio State to try to make something out of myself, and I just think we focus too much on the, ‘Wow, the athlete is being taken advantage of,’ when he’s not being taken advantage of. Maybe Braxton Miller is being taken advantage of, but everybody else on that roster is not being taken advantage of, so I just disagree completely with this notion of paying student-athletes. I just disagree with it.”

At the end he lapses into the overly simplistic “paying student-athletes” phrase that often trips people up in these discussions (because they are paid, so the debate should be if they get enough), but overall he hits the themes that people miss for the most part: While the system certainly could be better and needs some adjustments, it is already a pretty good deal for the players. That includes the rather large portion of the roster that never become standouts or even play, arguably players who get more out of their scholarships and college experience than they really pay back.

Some of the things being discussed could end up making things worse for many while only improving it for a few – and I would argue most of those who would see that improvement are already made whole when they reach the NFL, thanks in no small part to their college experience.

Here’s the full story, including responses from Smith and Galloway as well as debate about the Ed O’Bannon case, profiting off likenesses and more: ESPN Buckeyes Debate Paying Players.

What the NCAA should have said

So, let’s face it: PR is not the NCAA’s strong suit. Of all the things the organization struggles with, this might be No. 1. Of all the people guilty of a lack of nuance when discussing issues surrounding major college athletics, the NCAA’s spokespeople (be they official or de facto) could be the worst offenders.

We are reminded of this every time they simply deny athletes should be paid rather than point out they already are (and have been almost from the beginning)  paid,  and yesterday’s response from the organization following the news that football players at Northwestern have started an effort to unionize probably did nothing but blow a bigger hole in the organization’s credibility on this issue with the general public.  Continue reading

Cus Words: Will BCS History Repeat?

This week’s column is up at, and it discusses the possibility Ohio State could be the first and last team to be left on the outside looking in by the BCS.

That is despite the landscape and the thinking being much different in 2013 than it was in 1998, and the change could end up hurting the Buckeyes in the end.

Wouldn’t that be something? Cus Words: Will History Repeat?.

Delany’s pay-for-play comments hit the mark

As you might expect if you’ve been here before, I am on board with Jim Delany’s thoughts on compensation for college athletes.

(If you need a refresher, please see here.)

Since the time I wrote that entry, Delany has come out strongly in favor of covering full cost of attendance for athletes, and I see that as an essential change in the way the NCAA does business regardless of what else happens. Continue reading

Terrelle Pryor seems confused

So Ohio State’s trip to the West Coast for a football game turned out to be convenient for news-gathering as it happened to coincide with the first home pro start for Terrelle Pryor, the erstwhile Buckeye quarterback.

Among those Pryor talked to was Columbus Dispatch reporter Todd Jones, whom the current Oakland Raiders signal caller told, “Those guys (Ohio State) kicked me out of school after all those things I did for them.” Continue reading

For NCAA, True Reform Trumps TNT

I thought the USA Today piece about potential changes in – or abandoning of – the NCAA model that could be coming down the pike was excellent in a lot of ways, but the No. 1 reason is that it acknowledged the possibility major problems would endure regardless of who was in charge.

That is the main thing people miss when they start squawking about the NCAA.

“Change, ah say, change!”

Yes, reform is needed in many areas, but talk of burning the whole thing down is counter productive and borders on blindly stupid.

Perhaps the greatest truism in our society is this: We hate whoever is in charge and we know we would do a better job if we had the chance.

The United States of America was formed out of a desire to get out from under a monarchy, and that spirit lives on in us more than two centuries later.

The first time I noticed this was when I was about 12 and there was a revolution in my 4-H club. A change in leadership occurred but few of those inconvenient things we had to do to maintain a functioning club went away even though someone new – popularly chosen to run things – was telling us we had to do them. In the end, everyone’s hogs, cattle, arts and crafts still made it to the county fair, we all got our sale checks and the end-of-the-year potluck went on like usual. Then falls sports started so we (parents included or maybe specifically, as with 4-H) could all be put out by some different set of rules and regulations that were evil but nonetheless necessary in most cases.

The greatest enemy of the NCAA’s effectiveness (let alone efficiency) and therefore its popularity is without a doubt bureaucracy. It is not stupidity or greed, though some who don’t understand capitalism or most real alternatives elite athletes have today might see it that way.

I fail to see how any new organization with more than about a dozen schools would avoid similar bureaucratic problems because the bottom line is this – the NCAA is its members. That would not change if a different title were on the marquee of the new group’s headquarters. There would still be lots of mouths to feed, egos to stroke and agendas to serve.

As stated in the USA Today story, most people are generally happy with how the NCAA runs the lower level championships, and I’ll presume the same is true of Division I nonrevenue championships such was wrestling, volleyball, soccer, etc. The challenges of such undertakings should not be underestimated.

Yes, the Division I-FBS schools operate in much different circumstances than the rest, but that is not because of some NCAA mandate.

Do you know why Ohio State spends more than $30 million on the football team? Because it wants to, the same reason it also spends a pretty (though admittedly much smaller) penny on all the other sports, too.

Furthermore, the current NCAA model already treats the revenue sports differently in multiple ways. Football and basketball both have some of their own recruiting and practice rules. They’re also the only sports that require full-ride scholarships.

That specialized rules already exist would seem to be a pretty good indicator more can be made, perhaps some lifting restrictions on athletes’ ability to receive money for endorsements? What about compensation for their likenesses? Maybe a reasonable side job to make a little extra coin? Everything does not have to be one-size-fits-all.

Passing any or all of those new practices could alleviate some of the inconveniences in what is actually a really good deal for just about everyone involved in intercollegiate athletics, from the highly paid administrators and coaches to the anonymous athletes who receive far more in value of their education, training and life experiences than they receive via thousands of dollars in scholarship money. Let’s not forget the local economies in college towns across the country, either. I like these reforms (suggested by Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated, among others) because most of the new money they would generate and/or redistribute would go to the high-profile athletes who have big enough names to actually profit from them, and they represent the relatively few who lose much of anything in the system as it stands now (Although football and basketball players still get big paydays at an earlier age than most or all of their baseball or hockey counterparts, but I digress…).

Might a smaller working group be more manageable? More agile in dealing with problems that arise? Sure, that’s possible, but I don’t believe the current one is beyond becoming more responsive even if real change will not be easy. Neither would starting over.

And while the smaller schools and the big boys might have different sets of problems, they still have a lot of similar interests as well.

Bigger Playoff Means Better Regular Season

Let’s get this out of the way: In college football, the ideal of a truly meaningful regular season was lost 20 years ago. Let’s stop wasting our time worrying about it, OK?

Nothing did more to hurt the regular season than the creation of the BCS. Everything changed when the major conference commissioners (and Notre Dame) agreed deciding the national champion in college football was important enough to designate a game for doing so every year. That was an acknowledgment that simply voting on a champion at the end of the season wasn’t enough. With that out of the way, we may as well do it right. Two teams aren’t enough to do it right. Four is not a high enough number, either, but the fifth team will generally have done more to hurt itself than No. 3, so the damage overall is less.

The creation of the BCS forever shifted the gaze of fans to the end of the season. That genie is never going back in the bottle.

Within this world we’ve been living ever since, a reasonably sized playoff actually enhances the regular season because it could be made to make conference championships important again. As of now, they mean nothing.

Thus, in anticipation of future cries of bracket creep, let me declare now that four teams is not enough. (I did not expect to so quickly realize this until I read Bill Connelly’s excellent look at how the coming system might have applied to each season in the BCS era. Do read it.)

Eight would probably do, but the best number is 16, so if the newly hatched four-team job expands (which seems like no certainty but certainly a possibility), it should be viewed as water reaching level, much like the expansion of the NCAA basketball tournament was* in the 1980s.

A 16-team Division I FBS tournament would include about 13 percent of the division’s teams, still a lower percentage than make the Division I basketball tournament.

From a competitive standpoint, 64 (let alone 68) teams is probably too many for the basketball tournament, but I suspect they reached that number at least in part to balance the bracket once they established every conference would get an automatic bid and there should be some number of at-large teams as well. Both of those are common sense elements to constructing a postseason. Now, could they have settled on a smaller number than 64? Sure, but the balanced bracket is preferable I think to say, a 48-team tournament with however many teams getting byes in the first round.

Sixteen represents a perfect number for college football in a lot of ways. It includes every conference champion and then a small pool of at-large teams. It’s not a perfect system, but such a thing does not exist.

The two biggest potential problems would be too many games and the watering down of the regular season.

The former is in the eye of the beholder. NFL teams play 19-20 games (plus preseason) if they reach the Super Bowl. The finalists in a 16-team college football tournament would play at most 17. Is that too many? Tough to tell. They’re already playing 15 in the lower divisions of the NCAA. They play 15 in Ohio high school football (plus preseason intersquad scrimmages), too. It would appear 17 falls neatly in between, wouldn’t it?

The latter could again be viewed as water reaching level. I’d argue this format would actually make the regular season about as important as it is now as opposed to the perception some of the anti-playoff zealots hold.

If there were a 16-team playoff that rewarded a conference championship and offered a select few at-large bids, how much different would it be from what we have now on a local level?

Winning one’s conference would still be a major carrot for every team, regardless of conference, because it would mean an automatic bid. You know the best way to win a conference? Go undefeated, particularly with divisional play muddying the waters with tiebreakers and unbalanced schedules. Would a loss be the end of the world in the SEC or Big Ten? Probably not, but it isn’t now, either. That’s the thing people tend to forget when they talk about the sanctity of the regular season now. It exists selectively at best. That wouldn’t really change.

On top of that, what’s the best way to earn an at-large bid? Well when going undefeated is no longer an option, resumé becomes the most important issue. How does one build a strong resumé? Play a competitive nonconference schedule, something that would would become more appealing if an at-large bid were a real and tangible secondary goal to pursue and a nonconference loss had no bearing on earning an automatic bid.

If we have eight one- or two-loss loss teams vying for five at-large bids, it’s not hard to envision the chosen few being the ones with the most good wins and then the best loss, as we do now in somewhat haphazard fashion given the size of the pool from which to choose.

At any rate, going undefeated that first month of the season would remain very important because it would set up teams for the stretch run knowing a loss would still drop them out of the top tier but leave them better positioned among the second tier.

And going undefeated in the conference season would remain very important lest a team fall victim to the random happenings within the standings. This again would not actually be a change from the current system as we have already eliminated even winning one’s conference division from the prerequisites for making the championship game.

So what would we be left with? Well, fans of an individual team would still find it pretty damn important that they see a win every week. That is going to be true regardless of the system. This seems obvious, but some people seem to forget it in their arguments. Nationally, we’d likely get more appealing games at the beginning of the season and definitely at the end. In the middle, we might lose a little of the life-or-death feel from, say, The Red River Shootout, but I’m pretty confident people are still going to tune in and talk about it if Oklahoma and Texas are highly ranked teams. And besides, we’ve already seen the life-or-death feel all be misguided in that game in the past as the loser went on to play for the national title anyway. You know, just like last year’s Game of the Century between LSU and Alabama.

Put two good teams with large followings together and it’s going to be big. Kansas-Missouri basketball was Saturday afternoon destination viewing last season even though neither team had much to lose from a postseason standpoint. The idea we’d lose much from the college football season is really laughable.

But we would add relevance to about eight conferences, and we would (if common sense is applied) add home games to the docket for the top eight teams every year.

The MAC champion might not win many games against the Big Ten champ, but it would be fun to see such a David vs. Goliath scenario with everything on the line like we do now in basketball.

Then when the first round is over, we’d see the blue bloods of the sport get it on regularly, instead of, you know, like almost never.

How exactly is it that we have a meaningful regular season when teams can lose their last game and still play for a national championship?

So forget that and realize we can have a playoff that includes every conference, makes every conference race meaningful and leaves a couple of very precious and scarce spots for the cream of the rest of the crop.

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*I’m aware of the financial implications of expanding a playoff, but let’s leave those aside for now. The BCS commissioners seem to have done that to a large extent in creating this four-team playoff anyway considering the money they are leaving on the table by continuing to include the bowls in their system instead of playing home games to start the tournament. 

Urban Meyer’s Evolving Playoff Position

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer’s name was all over Twitter yesterday after he publicly questioned the practicality of adding another game to the ledger for teams in the national championship hunt.

Urban Meyer talks about the 2012 class

As Spencer Hall pointed out, Meyer was for a playoff before he was against it. That sent me back to the BCS Championship conference call in December 2006.

The head coach of Florida at the time, Meyer was a beneficiary that year of the backwards way the BCS works. His Gators were awarded a spot in the national championship game for lack of a better alternative, (and of course we know that eventually worked out pretty well for them and their coach*) but he still sounded like someone looking for a better way.

“I believe there’s an imperfect system,” he said then. “Everybody believes that. That’s just the way it is. It’s going to be imperfect again next year until at some point we figure out a way to determine it on the field.”

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