In the two months that I was away I had a chance to do some traveling and talk to a lot of college football people. It proved to me once again something that you already know: College football is now a year-round sport. Here are just five questions/topics that were on the minds of the people who run college football:
1. Is the Bryce Brown recruiting saga the sign of a trend? Should/will college football do anything about it? Mr. Brown, a running back from Wichita, was rated as the No. 1 recruit in many circles. The fact that he waited a month after signing day and had an “advisor” raised a lot of red flags. Brown announced yesterday that he was signing with Tennessee. Good for the Vols. The NCAA is investigating the relationship between Brown and his “advisor.” I doubt they will find anything.
But the concern I’m hearing is that these “advisors” will take on the role of agents, not unlike some AAU coaches have become power brokers in the basketball recruiting process. And if you talk to any college basketball coach who will tell you the truth, that is a complete mess.
Andy Staples of SI.com had it right. The football coaches need to get a handle on this thing and drop their resistance to an early signing period.
It would also help if the fans and the media weren’t so obsessive about recruiting. But I don’t hold out a lot of hope for that.
2. Are coaches going to start dropping out of the USA Today poll? Mack Brown of Texas told me he is thinking about it. Obviously, Brown feels like team got a raw deal last season when the BCS standings were used to break the three-way tie among Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech in the Big 12 South. Even though Texas had beaten Oklahoma head to head, the BCS Standings gave the Sooners a slight edge and OU went to the Big 12 championship game and on to the BCS championship game. Oklahoma’s loss to Florida further convinced Texas they should have been in the big game.
In the offseason, Brown brought in several of the people who work on the BCS standings and tried to get some clarification about how it works. He brought in one of the computer poll gurus used in the formula and the staff grilled him for 90 minutes. “We were more confused after we finished than when we started,” Brown said.
Brown is thinking about withdrawing from the coaches’ poll for this fall. “Do you want to remove yourself from a system you do not believe is working, or do you want to stay in it and try to improve it?” Brown said. “You are torn over what is the right thing to do for your team.”
3. Will the Mountain West request get any traction? The Mountain West believes that, given its track record, it is as good as some of the six conferences that get automatic bids to the BCS and thus deserves an automatic bid as well. That is probably true. It is also irrelevant.
Craig Thompson, the MWC commish, was in Washington, D.C. recently briefing some congressmen who have expressed interest in changing the BCS system. The word I get is that Thompson was nudged into the effort by his presidents, who hope to use some political leverage to get a bigger slice of the BCS financial pie. Also understand that this effort is not about this season and any season in the near future. Everything you hear about the BCS right now is about 2013. That’s when the current contract between the BCS conferences and ESPN will end. Everybody is positioning themselves now for that set of negotiations, which will begin around 2011.
What does this all mean? I’ll say this again even though I know it makes a lot of you furious: There cannot/will not be any kind of a playoff in college football until 2014.
4. Speaking of the BCS: Will FOX Sports televise the final year of its contract? Remember that back in 2007 FOX jumped into the BCS sweepstakes and took it away from ABC by paying $80 million a year. When the contract came up for bid last year, ESPN outbid FOX by putting up $125 million a year for 2010-13. FOX has one more season, 2009, on its current deal to televise the BCS games. But there are some rumblings that FOX could sell those 2009 rights to ESPN if the Worldwide Leader made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. Because the BCS championship game is being hosted by the Rose Bowl this season, it will be on ABC, of which ESPN is a part. Stay tuned on this one.
5. Which free agent coach is likely to be working again in 2010? There are a number of them out there who will be sitting out this season and waiting for a call after the next wave of firings. My money is on Tommy Tuberville. The 2008 season was a disaster at Auburn but, as the NCAA basketball committee would say, if you look at the body of work over 10 years, which included a run of six straight wins over Alabama, he must have done something right. Tuberville told me the other day that he may do some studio work for ESPN this fall which will allow him to spend most Friday nights at home in Auburn. “I want to be here to watch my boys play ball,” he said.
Phillip Fulmer has told me that he might get back in if there is an opportunity at a place where there are the resources to win a conference championship.