BCS Playoff System Imploding Bowls

For those clamoring for a Division I football playoff system and expressing critical indifference to the current bowl system where teams with losing records are “rewarded” with a bowl invite, be patient – this BCS cartel controlled system itself may be its eventual undoing.

Attendance is down – way down – at post season bowl games.  The Military Bowl played December 27 in Washington, D.C. between San Jose State and Bowling Green had an embarrassing 17,835 fans seated at frigid RFK Stadium. Moreover, when even football powerhouses with supposed “rabid” fan followings such as Nebraska and Florida only sell a small portion of their bowl ticket allotment (which the schools must underwrite), there’s an obvious problem.

USA Today, which has tracked college football bowl attendance for nearly 10 years, reports college football bowl game attendance this season is down an average of over 3,000 fans per game. Dwindling attendance costs the schools money, and scares away sponsors who want people to watch these games on television.

This problem is directly correlated to the fact that bowls outside the BCS championship system are perceived as meaningless thus the increased apathy even from the most loyal fans.

Despite an impending “expanded” playoff system (if you can characterize going from two to four teams “expanded”) and its significant new TV contract, the continued bowl attendance drop and significant financial losses for bowl participants (as they are forced to eat large blocks of unsold tickets) will result in a logical move to either an expanded playoff system on the order of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament or a restructuring of the FBS creating a tiered system splintering the haves (BCS cartel schools) from the have-nots.

This playoff solution will not only save many of the bowls but also significantly ramp up interest and ticket sales for bowls (and the schools involved) across the board. It may also avoid likely litigation related to a splintering of FBS schools.

How would such a system work to save the schools and the bowls?

Stick with the current lineup of games. Have 32 bowls, invite 64 teams, and play the games over a five week period.  Just as you have with basketball, use the minor bowls in earlier rounds.  This “December Madness” would generate national interest in each bowl game, significantly increase the stakes for all participants and culminate in a national championship game that would have everyone on the edge of their seats.

We already wait five to six weeks between the end of the regular college football season and the start of bowl games.  Playing a tournament during the December holiday break would alleviate conflicts with class time, build excitement, sell tickets, and validate who is the best team in the country.

It works for basketball, where the NCAA tournament does have weak teams playing but high levels of interest, sold out arenas, and blockbuster television ratings (and an even more lucrative TV deal).

Without this solution, aspiring programs such as UMass which struggled to not only win games in this, it’s first year in FBS, but also break 10,000 attendance level for home games will face major PR and financial reckoning fairly quickly even if they do achieve success via a bowl berth.

The outcry from students and faculty will soon reach a crescendo as schools chase the delusion of FBS riches and exposure only to realize that the pot at the end of the rainbow is not filled with gold but a huge tab for their drunken folly into FBS.

 

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Proposed NCAA recruiting rules: Smarter rules, tougher enforcement … and more work

Just before Christmas, the NCAA released a package of recruiting regulatory proposals designed to change the recruiting calendar, lift restrictions on how and how often coaches can contact recruits, and allow athletes to accept more money for participating in non-scholastic events.

Change and attempts to simplify NCAA rules related to the aforementioned areas should be positive step, but there may be unintended ramifications for non-BCS schools and student athletes related to these most recent measures.

“Smarter rules and tougher enforcement” are the stated goals.  No argument against that here, but the bigger picture needs to be taken into consideration.

For example, changing the recruiting calendar would allow off-campus contact with recruits beginning the first day of their junior year in high school and communication with recruits on or after July 1 following their sophomore year.  While this provides more access and interaction between coach and prospective student-athlete, it will place more demands on assistant and head coaches’ time. Particularly in the case of assistant coaches, they will be more limited in their ability to devote time to true coaching related and player development areas thereby limiting both their athletes’ and coaches’ development. This particularly conflicts with the recent access provided to coaches to develop their players in the summer session – these coaches now will be be pulled away to devote time to texting, calling and emailing their recruits.

It seems that under this proposed rule – one of many to be voted on Jan. 19 – schools that can spend on resources and technology will have an advantage.  More financial resources also opens the doors to more technology benefits; kids these days communicate primarily thru Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging – so schools with the financial and technological wherewithal to automate communication via these platforms will be able to cover more ground and further separate the haves (particularly BCS) and have-nots. It will extend the arms race in college athletics from facilities to technology development.

However, there may, in fact be a residual benefit for mid-majors and below as this earlier access to recruits will lead to more early commitments to BCS-level schools. Accordingly, lower-tier programs will benefit by having access to late-bloomers (if I was a mid to low major coach, I would hold and recruit these leftovers).

The potential recruits will most likely become inundated with communication from schools, potentially causing academic distractions at a time when the NCAA has tightened up rules for eligibility for this current freshman high school class. Moms and Dads, you think you spend time now helping with homework? Image being the filter for the tsunami of text messages your promising athlete will receive.

While parents may want to brush up on their social media skills, they also might want to invest in a bigger mailbox.  One proposed change would eliminate restrictions on sending printed recruiting materials to athletes.  Sounds fine but this, too, benefits the larger schools with deeper pockets. Financially well off schools can create more and better looking recruiting materials, thereby putting schools with smaller recruiting budgets at a disadvantage.

As a former head basketball coach I know that the NCAA has the best intentions in mind when it created these changes. Simplifying and standardizing the rules is a huge step forward for coaches, administrators and NCAA enforcers. An increased level of due diligence and relationship building for both the recruits and coaches will hopefully lead to a more fulfilling college and athletic experience. The downside to this will be that early commits who have leveled off will, as a result, either be dropped or not get playing time at the college level. So it may not necessarily result in “better recruiting decisions from both the coach and PSA,” as stated by Clemson President Barker, the working group chair.

What will result in better decisions are extensive full-game evaluations throughout an athlete’s career which is why we developed Recruiting Sports Network.  It’s critical for athletes, parents, and coaches to be as professional and extensive as possible in their due diligence, and maybe hold off before making a decision devoid of all the facts and history.

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It’s “Free Agent” season for college basketball players

 

The fall semester has drawn to a close meaning two things; the holiday season is well upon us and the free agent market in college basketball has begun.

Student-athletes announcing their intention to transfer have become an annual rite as each fall term ends. USA Today reports that one in every 10 scholarship recipients in NCAA Division I men’s basketball transfers (a total of over 400 last year alone!) a growing trend symbolized last season when UConn basketball player Alex Oriakhi, sent a text message during an NCAA tournament game to prospective coaches letting them know he’s available.

Oriakhi’s actions may be debatable, and the process of transfers is at best a work in progress (the NCAA is attempting to tighten up the qualifications for immediate eligibility vs. the normal requirement of sitting out a year). But the reality is that transferring from one program to the next has become commonplace in men’s basketball.

For an athlete, this probability demands more planning for your athletic and academic career.  Carefully selecting the program that is right for you in the first place would help ensure that your inclination to transfer would be less likely. But having a plan in place that facilitates and enhances your transfer opportunities is equally important.  Are your statistics and key reference information readily available?  You’ll need to inform and prepare your high school, club team and junior college coaches so that they can be prepared to speak on your behalf as well as to utilize their network to obtain exposure to schools and expand your options.

If this is “free agent” season for collegiate athletes, then you need to market yourself as one.  Create a profile on Recruiting Sports Network  and upload your academic transcripts.  Remember, coaches base their decisions on full game evaluations and are much more receptive to an email with full game video that comes directly from student-athletes. If you did not get quality minutes this season, obtain copies of your high school, club team or junior college games to upload on RSN.  Through your RSN profile, you will also be able to select your preferred schools and your video links and profile information will be automatically disseminated to these coaches.

For college coaches, attempt to do more due diligence on the front end but you’ll need to plan your season anticipating that at least 10 percent of your squad – sometimes two or three players – will consider leaving.  Address this reality proactively by ensuring that everyone is regularly provided a longer-term view not just by yourself but by your staff and trusted mentors surrounding your team.  Kids today tend to want immediate gratification, and you need to package the long-term view of things to combat the restlessness that this perspective creates.  Carefully and regularly communicate and assess each player’s state of mind.

As a coach, consider pursuing an additional recruit or recruited walk-on each year so that if transfers occur, you have sufficient bodies to practice effectively throughout the season (as injuries will also deplete your stable of able bodies).

And if you are leaning toward taking on a basketball free agent, consider:

-          How does the rest of the coaching staff view the player?

-          Be sure to speak with his coaches at his previous school to obtain their views and issues as it is often a two-way street.

-          Try to get the opinions of their teammates at their former school – often your players or someone else in your circle will have a relationship with a former teammate.

-          Does the player have a full RSN profile and videos uploaded for you to access?  If they care enough to market themselves effectively, then that is a positive sign are capable of handling the demands of your program as well as providing you with critical information to make a more complete evaluation

-          How will that player fit in with his new teammates?

-          Transferring brings change and adversity. How will this athlete manage these pressures?

-          What does the rest of the team think of taking on mid-season additions?  Will this affect team chemistry, especially if they may be a high profile addition who will require opportunities and attention?

For further perspective, I was impressed with what Penn State football coach Bill O’Brien said shortly after Penn State was penalized by the NCAA. He really kept his focus and the focus of his team on the bigger picture.

He told his players that, regardless of the punishment, they still will play before a packed stadium of nearly 100,000 people.  They still will be on television every week.  They still will be watched by NFL scouts.

That’s grasping the bigger picture. If you can do that, you as either an athlete or coach can effectively manage the temptation and reality of free agency.

 

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Don’t Let the Coaching Carousel Turn into a Roller Coaster Ride

Steve Addazio has left Temple University to become the head football coach at Boston College.  One of the most vocal supporters of Temple football, Addazio’s departure was sudden, unexpected, and left Temple football fans posting messages on Twitter like “if he doesn’t want to be here, then he should leave.”

Two years earlier Addazio replaced Al Golden, a man who brought Temple back to postseason bowl football and who looked for all the world like he would be around Temple’s North Philadelphia campus for a while.  But Golden is now running the Miami Hurricanes.

Father west Barry Alvarez, the athletic director at the University of Wisconsin, will coach the football team in the Rose Bowl matchup against Stanford. This move comes two days after coach Bret Bielema stepped down to take over the football coaching duties at Arkansas.  Farther west still we find Lane Kiffin running the show at USC after suddenly leaving the University of Tennessee.

“We think of these guys as people, when they don’t even think of themselves as people. They define themselves by the jobs they hold,” writes Michael Rosenberg in his Inside College Football blog on SI.com. “Do you know what football coaches are thinking about?” Rosenberg writes. “Two words: Next and more.  Next play, more points, next game, more wins, next recruiting class, more money.  Next job.”

As a former college coach, I know personally that this generalization does not apply across the board. However, the reality is that the coaching carousel continues unabated as expectations and ambitions prevail in generating significant turnover.  And this turnover has trickled down and affected all levels of college athletics with the student-athletes left to deal with the personal and emotional fallout without the freedom to transfer and play immediately for the coach that recruited them or attend another school of interest.

So what does this mean if you are a high school athlete with dreams of playing for a major program?  How should your mindset be adjusted when a coach who is recruiting you says he expects – in some cases they will say they demand – commitment, but is himself out the door before your eligibility year is completed? Is that request for commitment a one-way street?

The answer isn’t always clear. On the one hand, it is difficult to commit to an individual when the likelihood of that individual being gone is pretty high.

Certainly the coach is a primary part of the decision-making process.  Athletes will select schools because of the program, but their bond is with the coaching staff.

Still the environment today demands the athlete looks beyond who is holding the clipboard and examine the overall program and school. Start with your potential teammates.  What is their personality, their values?  How do they socialize? You are going to spend most of your time with these people, so being sure you feel as though you fit in is important.

What is the culture of the school’s program?  Are you comfortable with the values and priorities they proclaim?  Ask about the program’s culture while talking to the coach, talking to other teammates. Seek out alumni to ask this question, too.

Look up news stories about the school and about the athletic director.  What has been the A.D.’s track record in terms of hiring successful, positive coaches? Look at this not only for your sport, but other sports the school offers.

Just as anyone looking at college should do, ask yourself if you feel any connection to the school and its academic offerings and quality.  How would you feel attending the institution if you were a student who was not a part of the athletic department? This will help you sort out your feelings about the school – in today’s environment, you should almost assume that there will be coaching turnover.

Selecting a college for anyone is a key life decision.  That decision looms even larger when a major part of your college experience will be as a member of an athletic team. Step back from your emotions and relationships with the coaches and programs and do your own thorough due diligence before committing to a program. The resulting conclusions can make surviving the coaching carousel a lot less stressful and enable you to weather the associated emotional and career fallout.

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How to Protect Your Career and Program with New NCAA Rules

While a source for consternation by head coaches, the NCAA’s Board of Directors’ recent dramatic overhaul of its enforcement structure needs to be greeted with a proactive approach by head coaches in order to preserve their careers and programs.

Under new NCAA rules a head coach is held directly accountable for rules violations by members of the team or the staff, regardless of whether the coach was aware of the activity.  This is a result of the elimination of the rigid set of secondary and major violations. In place is a four-tier penalty structure, carrying with it ratcheted-up penalties for the most egregious violations.

The regulations include a new four level violation hierarchy ranging from severe down to incidental with associated consequences, but coaches must take heed that ignorance is no longer a defense.  Rather than focus on knowledge or the presumption of it, the bylaws presume only responsibility. Total responsibility is in, plausible deniability is out, and penalties can last as long as an entire season.

Now, your added expectation as a head coach is to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor your staff with a standard of vigilance and “constantly coaching your coaches” about rules and the importance of complying with them. That means more time, more work, and more involvement by everyone in the program. To ignore or minimize such requirements places your job and career at risk.

Compliance and knowing how to do it is everyone’s job.  Coaches will need to implement a whole new set of measures and strategies to add to an already overloaded plate filled with practices, training, development, fundraising and media responsibilities.  However, head coaches must bite the bullet in order preserve their livelihoods.

As a former head coach I know teams live and die on “to do” lists, so here is a recommended strategy for creating atmosphere and perception of the high degree of vigilance now required to cover your exposure should a violation occur:

  1. Compliance discussions need to be a part of a staff and team meeting; at least once a month.
  2. The head coach should actively run these meetings.
  3. Use and file sign-in sheets for meetings where compliance issues are discussed. Be prepared to follow up with team personnel who are not at these meetings.
  4. Set up and enforce penalties for not attending meetings where compliance issues are discussed.
  5. Provide reviews of the content of the meetings with anyone who was not in attendance.
  6. Leave no stone unturned.  Present each rule, and ask specific questions about each of them.
  7. Review the most serious rules, providing related scenarios.
  8. Consider compliance a part of the overall training program for the team.
  9. Follow up each meeting with written summaries distribute to attendees.
  10. Document everything including meeting minutes and those in attendance and keep a permanent record and file of this information. Copy these records via memo to the athletic director and compliance staff as well as a listing of those in attendance.
  11. Compliance staff should be a part of these meetings.  This provides a resource for questions you may not be able to answer, but it also provides verification that compliance standards are being set.
  12. Assign a liaison from your staff to the compliance office
  13. Constantly document procedures for following rules, and particularly develop a checklist for recruitment related matters.
  14. Develop a policies and procedures document and distribute to all athletes and staff in your program
  15. Develop an ethics policy and code of conduct (values, principals and strategies) for your program and distribute to all athletes and staff
  16. Ensure that ALL  violations are pursued, documented and reported immediately to the head coach and then to the compliance department without fear of retaliation
  17. Training – develop mock scenarios, address gray areas and teach skills for identifying and resolving ethical dilemmas
  18. Elite prospects should create a heightened sense of awareness leading to closer monitoring by head coaches and compliance staffs (i.e. -  how unofficial visits are paid for and inquire with assistants about whether they suspect a third party or handler is involved in the recruitment)

Head coaches need to accept the “new normal” that it is your job to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitoring – the expectation being that vigilant and constantly coaching your coaches about rules and the importance of complying with them is critical to career and program success and stability.

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RSN is Here for You

George White
Founder, Recruiting Sports Network

Welcome to Recruiting Sports Network!  I greatly appreciate your interest and look forward to working with our athletes, coaches and parents achieve your goals and dreams for yourselves and your programs.

As a former college coach, I started RSN because I recognized the need for athletes and their coaches to have an affordable platform to upload their game/competition video for college coaches to view – in all intercollegiate sports.

Likewise, I saw the need for college coaches to have a “go to” single source to meet their need for full game videos of prospects worldwide and have immediate access to their other key athletic, academic and contact information in an easy-to-use format.

We think that that you will really value RSN. However, we are already working on “next level” upgrades and enhancements to improve our services for you and I encourage you to provide us with your feedback.

Thanks for your loyalty and best wishes for continued success.

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HS/JUCO Coaches – Eliminate the DVD Copying Burden

NO MORE DVD COPYING AND MAILING IS NEEDED!!

Recruiting Sports Network provides the solution to this ongoing burden – the ability for high school and JUCO coaches to regularly upload full game videos for instant viewing by college coaches – multiple times.

By doing so, these coaches will cut through the numerous hurdles faced by college recruiters to adequately observe and evaluate their athletes in a full game setting.
RSN enables coaches and their athletes to eliminate the DVD copying and mailing hassle and expense.

College coaches will also have access to each athlete’s profile of key personal, athletic and academic info and athletes will be able to upload a copy of their transcript which is also a very critical item for college coaches in the recruiting process.

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Market Yourself!

Coaches are much more receptive to email with full game video received directly from student-athletes and their coaches. Recruiting Sports Network assists athletes with this process by providing a link to their videos that can be personally emailed with their profile and accomplishments to college coaches.  RSN also provides college coaches’ contact info and other resources to help athletes connect to them and market themselves.

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Full Game Video: Critical for Recruiting

Coaches must evaluate beyond highlight tapes to see all aspects of a prospect’s skills, knowledge and effort and will not trust their decisions to just highlights.

Highlight video is insufficient for a college coach to make a commitment to an athlete because it does not provide an adequate sample of factors such as skills, team play, IQ and attitude for college coaches to feel comfortable in making such a critical decision for their program.

Recruiting Sports Network was developed to help these athletes and their current and future college coaches by providing the key missing piece to connecting them for athletic opportunities – a platform for athletes to directly upload full game videos for immediate viewing by college coaches, thus eliminating several hurdles and making the recruiting process more efficient for both athletes and coaches.

RSN’s resources also provide athletes and coaches with the opportunity for an earlier assessment in the recruiting process and facilitate more detailed due diligence for coaches, thus guaranteeing a better match between school and athlete and minimizing issues such as the chronic incidence of transfers in intercollegiate athletics.

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