Kiffin-ed

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Lane Kiffin is unemployed. He was fired as the Head Football Coach at USC on Sunday. It comes after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State which is the seventh loss in the last 11 games dating back to last season.

Lane Kiffin

Belive it or not, Kiffin has a winning record as a head coach (40-37). While his record is better in college (35-21) than it was in the pro’s (5-15) no one would say that his tenure’s have been a success. USC Athletic Director Pat Haden and University President Max Nikitas pulled the trigger on Kiffin and put former Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron in charge for the remainder of the season.

Pat Haden

What sealed Kiffin’s fate was not win’s and losses although that did play a big factor. It’s the fact that wherever he goes problems seem to follow and no one really seems to care for this guy.

From a fall out with the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis where Davis fired Kiffin with cause to recruiting mistakes at Tennessee that ended up putting them on probation.

The problems continued for Kiffin in how he handled just about every situation. From the way he left Tennessee to his walking out of a post practice press conference at USC. He doesn’t give anyone a chance to like him.

But don’t cry for Kiffin. He’s not yet 40 years old, he’s made millions, and will be able to sweet talk some AD or NFL owner into giving him another chance.

In the end, Kiffin just didn’t seem ready to take on the jobs that he talked others into giving him and really has no one to blame but himself.

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What to Watch For This Weekend

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Thursday Sept. 26

5:30pm-NFL Network: Rams @ 49ers (Both teams really need a win and there is a lot of adversity for the 49ers right now not to mention an offense that has only scored 10 points in the last 2 games.)

Friday Sept. 27

5:25pm-NBCSN: Philadelphia @ Sporting KC (Sporting is in the Playoffs and Philly is on the outside looking in. Philly needs this bad.)

Saturday Sept. 28

4:45am-NBCSN: Chelsea @ Tottenham (It’s a good early season matchup. Chelsea is not looking all that great and Spurs look to stay unbeaten.)

9:00am-ABC: South Carolina @ UCF (A surprisingly tough out of conference road game for the Gamecocks. UCF is no joke. Most of the experts are pointing to this as a possible upset.)

9:00am-ESPN2: Northern Illinois @ Purdue (Could Purdue be NIU’s second Big Ten victim this year?)

12:30pm-CBS: LSU @ Georgia (Watch this game. It will not suck.)

5:00pm-ESPN3: Calgary @ Hamilton (Calgary had Hamilton’s number two weeks ago but now have to travel east and rebound from a heartbreaking loss last week to Toronto.)

3:30pm-ESPN: Ole Miss @ Alabama (Another upset alert game. Bama is not the same team they were a year ago and Ole Miss is much improved.)

4:00pm- FOX: Arizona @ Washington (There could be a 100 points total in this game.)

5:00pm-ABC: Wisconsin @ Ohio St (An actual game for Ohio St.)

5:30pm- Regional: Montreal @ Chicago (Chicago can make a run at the playoffs again but they have to get past Montreal who sits 6 points ahead of them.)

7:30pm-ESPN2: USC @ Arizona St (Lane Kiffin takes the underperforming Trojans into the desert to face a pretty solid Sun Devil team that is coming off a loss.)

Sunday Sept. 29

10:00am-FOX: Seahawks @ Texans: Probably the best team in the league goes on the road to face a possible Super Bowl contender.)

12:50pm-NBC: LA Galaxy @ Portland: Big NBC heads to the Rose City and future playoff teams square off in front of the Timbers Army. If you want to know what a soccer crowd looks and sounds like, watch this match.

5:20pm-NBC Patriots @ Falcons: Can Tom Brady take this young group of receivers and get past the Falcons in the dome? Only one way to find out.

How The Mighty Have Fallen

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

Texas, Nebraska and Tennessee have over 2,500 wins in their history. They have some 27 National Championships between them and they lost Saturday by a combined score of 144-58. The most telling stat of all is that the three teams gave up a combined 128 unanswered points.

THE FALL

These three universities have at one point or another been the program in college football at some point over the last 20 years. All three have big donors, the best facilities and a massive fan base. All that didn’t help them on Saturday as they were all embarrassed.

While all three loses were hard they were not all equal. Texas my have been the worse. With high hopes coming into the season they are now 1-2, fired their Defensive Coordinator a week ago and have given up 1,128 total yards in the last two weeks.

They’re in trouble and their Head Coach Mack Brown is firmly on the hot seat.

Nebraska was hoping for better results as well. They have a four year starting QB in Taylor Martinez but their legendary “Blackshirt” defense has been torched this season giving up almost 30 points a game on average. Yesterday was a complete meltdown in the 2nd half as they gave up 38 unanswered points to UCLA.

There may be some hope in Lincoln because they can score a lot of points with Martinez but their vaunted defense hasn’t struck fear into opponents since Ndaukong Suh was their.

Tennessee has been a beaten down program over the last 5 years. They haven’t beaten a Top 25 team since Halloween 2009 and Saturday saw the worse lost in Tennessee history. A program that knew it was in the rebuilding process were harshly reminded of it on Saturday afternoon.

Tennessee will be happy to be bowl eligable this season.

The great thing about College Football is, as Lou Holtz says, ‘You have a different team every week.’ These teams will march on the question is, will it be to victory?

Networks Must Share The Blame

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

There was an article on Yahoo last week talking about the low TV ratings this year for MLS. While the article didn’t dive into possible reasons why (except to point out that NBC had the Olympics last summer) there some major reasons that come to mind and the networks need to share some of the blame.

Last season was NBC Sports first season broadcasting MLS. While they do some by innovative things like having the color commentators between the benches they have some serious flaws that they have refused to correct. The major one being that they, and the league, continue to promote kickoffs a half hour before the actually happen. They have a pre-match show that runs some 25 plus minutes even though the programming guide says differently.

NBC Pre Show

This main reason leads directly into the second, the late night kickoffs. This season their will be 11 games that kickoff at 10pm EST or later on NBC Sports Network. Add in the 25 -ish minute pre-match show and the ball is not being kicked off until 11pm EST at times.

When we look at the other major broadcast partner for MLS, ESPN makes some of the same mistakes. Between ESPN and ESPN 2 they will broadcast 9 games starting at 9pm EST or later and all 9 of those matches are on Sunday evening. The rematch of last seasons MLS Cup Final (Houston at LA Galaxy) was broadcast at 11pm EST on Sunday May 5th. Was there another major event on ESPN 2 that day?

Late Night MLS

To dig the point home, this past month (August 25th to be exact) one of the biggest games of the season didn’t kick off until 10pm EST…on a Sunday night. This match saw US Men’s National Team star Clint Dempsey make his home debut in front of 66,000 plus fans in Seattle as they took on arch rival Portland. It wasn’t exactly a battle of cellar dwellers either, this match had big playoff implications.

Did ESPN really expect the casual fan to stay up until midnight on a Sunday? This is MLS. Not the NFL.

An issue that cannot be ignored either is that some of the biggest fan bases and the last 4 MLS Cup Champions are all out west. Let’s face facts, if Columbus and Sporting KC are not playing well it’s not going to hurt the TV ratings all that much. But when major market teams like DC United and Chivas USA are two of the worst teams in the league, that is enough to yellow card any set of TV ratings. Add in the wildfire that is Toronto FC and things may not be looking great north of the border either.

What the article also didn’t touch on is attendance. According to Sports Business Journal (Volume 16 issue 18) as of August 12th there are 10 teams in positive territory year over year in attendance and 9 in decline. The worse? Chivas USA which is down 36%.

Add this up and their should be some concern in the league office but the fact remains that the networks share some of the blame here. Network executives are not as smart as they think they are even though they like to think they are.

MLS needs to take more control over what games are shown and if all possible, when they are shown. They can do this as they begin the next set of TV contract negotiations. Without this change, ratings may continue to decline regardless of how many Clint Dempsey’s are brought back to the league.

The Economic Fall Off of Football

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

With the NFL kicking off this weekend most people are focused on their favorite team or their fantasy team. It’s a big weekend for bars and restaurants too. It’s one of the bigger weekends of the year that’s not really talked about. It’s talked about in the service industry because there is money to be made.

Sunday’s mean different things to different people but for at least 17 days of the year they mean a full slate of NFL games. WIth that comes people flocking to bars and restaurants ordering food and drinks. This means big money to the establishments and more importantly, big money to bartenders and servers.

Some veteran service industry pro’s will work the Saturday night shift and then do the quick turnaround and work the Sunday early shift just to capitalize on the first week of NFL games. This can be an even shorter turn around on the West Coast where games start at 10am.

Obviously some areas of the country are busier than others but none the less, these Sunday’s, especially early in the season are vitally important to the service industry workers. So if you’re out on Sunday enjoying a game or two or three. Please remember to tip your bartenders and servers well.

Spy Game. NFL Style.

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

This has been happening for years but it seems to have been kicked into overdrive this year. NFL players cut by one team then picked up by a rival team. Sometimes a division rival and other times by an early season opponent. While the new player may have been brought in for their skill, their insider knowledge is also high on the list of reasons they were signed.

Senaca Wallace is a perennial backup quarterback in the NFL. Having played with Seattle, Cleveland, San Francisco (about a week) and now Green Bay. Besides him, Green Bay also picked up QB Scott Tolzien. His former team, San Francisco.

SENACA WALLACE

Guess who Green Bay plays week 1, that’s right San Francisco.

While Wallace may be an actual solution to Green Bay’s problem of finding a second string QB, Tolzien is plain and simple an informant.

Tolzien spent all of last season as San Francisco’s third string QB. When he didn’t make the final roster Green Bay snatched him up.

Does he have things to share? Probably. Will he share them? Probably. There is no reason or rule that says he can’t.

The question now becomes, will this help Green Bay on Sunday? It might. It certainly can’t hurt. Let us not forget that San Francisco got the better of Green Bay twice last season and the second time was a thrashing in the playoffs.

This isn’t the first or last time something like this has happened. A few years ago New England picked up former New York Jets running back Danny Woodhead. He ended up having a pretty nice career with New England before signing with San Diego this offseason. People immediatly accused New England Head Coach Bill Belichick of picking up Woodhead soley to gain insider knowledge on the then up and coming Jets.

San Francisco is also guilty of grabbing a player from a divisional foe. They snagged wide receiver Chris Harper from the Seattle Seahawks. A team San Francisco will compete with for the NFC West title.

CHRIS HARPER

San Francisco can justify the pick up just like Green Bay can. They need help at WR with their star Michael Crabtree out for at least half of the season. It doesn’t hurt that he may know a little bit about Seattle’s 2013 offensive game plan though.

How ESPN (and others) Screw College Football Fans on DirecTV

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

One could argue that ESPN was all about the College Football fan. No matter the game, ESPN seemed to carry it on one of its many platforms. Now, ESPN has taken a step backwards. It has let an old TV mindset takeover and in the process screw the College Football fans in the digital age.

ERROR CODE

Last season, it was a College Football fanatics dream. If you were on DirecTV (which a lot of sports fans are because of NFL Sunday Ticket) and had an internet connection (pretty standard in 2013) you could watch multiple games at one time via DirecTV and ESPN3. On DirecTV you had your main games you flipped between, your XBOX 360 had another game or two via ESPN3 (any game on ESPN3, ESPNU and even ESPN2 was accessible), and yet another game via ESPN3 on your laptop. This year, unless you are a TV and internet customer of the cable provider (Comcast cable and Comcast internet for example) you can only get games shown exclusively on ESPN3. If you do have this, you’re in great shape. If you have DirecTV, we’ll you’re hosed.

Unable to play via XBOX 360

Why was something available last year and not this year? Probably because contracts got renegotiated at some point between last season and this season and with all of the conference realignment going on that is probably a safe bet.

But why would ESPN, the profit center for Disney, backtrack on showing games? Isn’t showing more games, and selling more advertising a great way to make money? Is ESPN really worried about people the digital world cannibalizing the TV profit? What is this, 2006?

In ESPN’s defense, they are not the only one who do this. The Big Ten Network does not allow you watch a game online if it is being broadcast of the Big Ten Network (as we’ve been told by the DirecTV customer service rep).

The bigger questions still remain why? Why treat TV and online separate when as recently as last season they we’re considered almost equal? Why must you have a TV and internet subscription to watch games on laptop, XBOX or tablet? Why isn’t an internet subscription enough? Why limit your customer base to those who have a cable TV subscription? By cutting out the DirecTV customers your losing 20 million people in the US. 

Could DirecTV help? Sure but their iPad app is…well horrible. You can only watch certain channels and only within your home. That’s like buying a car and only being allowed on certain streets.

There are answers out there. The short-term one is Slingbox. This device will make a comeback but not without a price. You’ll need another DirecTV receiver in another room. Kind of a bummer and a lot more money.

The long-term answer is for ESPN, the Big Ten Network, NBC Sports Network, and Fox Sports, to come up with a digital answer…not to say that they don’t already have one.

For example, when ESPN3 shows CFL games, there are ads during the commercial breaks of the broadcasted game. Yes it’s a bit of an apples and oranges comparison but not really. Why can’t ESPN, FOX, NBC and others run different ads online as they do on air? It’s not like they aren’t doing it already.

What is really sad is how unprogressive ESPN and others have become. They are taking steps back instead of forward and giving credence that the ‘any device anytime’ line is really just lip service.

What happens now is that fans will use pirated streams to watch the games. Nobody wins there. If the folks at Fox Sports, NBC, and the Big Ten Network (partially owned by Fox by the way) were smart they would flood the digital space with live, free streaming and sell the bejesus out of it. It’s a white space that can be stolen right from under ESPN’s nose. Then again, maybe this is another reason why the digital world will never overtake TV.