Harbaugh: Doing It His Way

Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Jim Harbaugh has been anything but boring since returning to the collegiate ranks. He brought Michigan back to the double-digit win mark in his first season and is now making headlines with his antics on the recruiting trail. Some are not happy about Harbaugh’s recruiting methods but there is precedent for what he is doing.

During this last recruiting push before national signing day (February 3rd) Harbaugh has done just about everything one could imagine.

He’s tried to climb a tree

Had a ‘Netflix & Chill’ night

and even sleepovers.

While the jury is still out on if these tactics worked (getting a recruit to commit doesn’t mean he’ll be a contributing player) it has ruffled some feathers especially to those recruits who’s scholarship commitments he pulled.

 of the Detroit Free Press wrote a great piece about how recruits, opposing coaches and even writers are upset about Harbaugh pulling scholarship offers from long standing commitments.

While it appears harsh it is not without precedent. Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville literally walked out of dinner with recruits while at Texas Tech to take the job at Cincinnati. Later, he and his staff pulled scholarship offers once they arrived.

And this is at a non-Power five school!

While some recruits should be angry about the how they were treated by Harbaugh, Tuberville and others, this is a cutthroat business after all. Coaches get paid millions to win NOW. While we’d like to think that coaches are there to educate and develop young men, bottom line is they have to win to keep their jobs and sometimes even that isn’t enough.

Is a coach going to pull offer from kid A and give it to kid B if he feels kid B gives him a better chance of winning? Damn right he is. There are only so many scholarships to go around after all. Let’s also not forget, these scholarships are for a year and can be revoked. It’s cold blooded but it’s the system that has been allowed to grow due to the money that is involved with college football.

The good side, it’s life lesson kids are learning early. Just because you are qualified doesn’t mean you get the job. Just because everyone likes doesn’t mean you won’t be let go in a round of layoffs. Just because you have an offer doesn’t mean that the you are set for the next four years.

Harbaugh has a track record of winning in college and in the NFL. He clearly knows what he’s doing and the type of player he believes will help him win at Michigan. Like it, don’t like it but you see how the San Francisco 49ers did after he left. At the very least he’s entertaining and giving us something to write about besides “what school will this “5 star” kid select?” when we all know that this kid may never make any kind of impact for the school he signed with.

 

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Surface Fail ?

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Super Bowl 50 may be set but one of the more interesting storylines to come out of Sunday’s conference championship games was the failure of the Windows tablet on the New England Patriots sideline in their game against the Denver Broncos. Turns out, the Microsoft Surface tablets failing is a pretty common thing.

The NFL released a statement on the issue on Monday evening specifically saying that the Surfaces didn’t fail.

BelichickEarlier in the day Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that the tablets failing, ‘it’s a fairly common problem’ (skip to the 5:45 mark) which is surprising but at the same time not surprising at all. They are Windows based products after all.

Microsoft’s contract with the NFL is some $400 million over five years. If four time Super Bowl winning head coach Belichick is claiming that the tablets failing is a “fairly common problem”, it makes you wonder about the frequency and if the problems were all network issues like the NFL claims.

Either way it’s certain that the technology and it’s connectivity have a ways to go. Their unreliability is probably why the NFL does not force the opposing team to stop using their tablets if one teams tablets stop working, unlike the headsets. And for you conspiracy theorists out there, according to the NFL, neither team has access to the devices until the game. 

Needless to say, it may just be a case of network connectivity….or they didn’t have the right drivers installed.

Face Up Against The Glass

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


It may be called the ‘glass ceiling’ but it is becoming very clear over the last 24 months that women in coaches are pressing their face up against the glass. From the San Antonio Spurs hiring Becky Hammon and then putting here in charge of the summer league team to the Buffalo Bills hiring the Kathryn Smith this week. The cracks are appearing in the glass.

Hammon and Smith may be the most notable names that are out there because they are the first two in professional sports to be actually coaching players. Their roles show that they have the motivational skills, acumen, and specific sports knowledge to help their teams win games. Because let us not forget, sports is about winning. If they aren’t helping the players get better and helping their respective teams win then they will be gone just like their boss.

Hammon and Smith are alone on the sidelines of professional sports but not in the front office. Several women have and do hold key positions in professional sports such as Senior VP of Baseball Operations from MLB Kim Ng and former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask.

Danielle Bartelstein was named Senior Director of Football Operations at Virginia Tech this past fall. She joins new head coach Justin Fuente who was hired to take over for legendary coach Frank Beamer. While this role may not lead to a head coaching or coordinator position it is a vital roll in college football. It is essentially the right arm of the coach off the field.

While it is 2016 and these hirings aren’t even a dent in the grand scheme of things, it does show that people and coaches in particular are coming around. Will there be a female coordinator or head coach in the near future in basketball, football or baseball? Probably not but the near future ain’t what it use to be.

Skipper In The Storm

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


The head of ESPN, John Skipper, did an interview with the Wall Street Journal where he talked about cord-cutting, Apple, and ESPN’s plans.

John SkipperSkipper says that Apple is close to being a bigger player in the TV service realm but are ‘frustrated by their ability to construct something which works for them with programmers.’ The Q & A goes on to touch on Sling TV and sports rights.

The major hurdle Skipper and ESPN have, along with other outlets, is the handoff from traditional distribution to digital combined with the rising cost of sports rights.

The fact is this, digital doesn’t pull in the dollars like traditional cable and satellite distribution does. Hence people are reluctant to do anything that could effect the cash cow because that cow is how ESPN affords the $1.9 billion a year for NFL rights.

Skipper has a tough job, ‘how do you make the handoff and maintain or increase revenue at the same time?’ Not sure there is an answer until but you are at some point going to be forced to make decision. That moment is coming closer with the evidence being the 7 millions subscribers ESPN has lost over the last two years.

I think Skipper very much understands the situation and see’s the gathering storm. Some sign makers on College GameDay differ and they could be right but Skipper doesn’t sound to me like someone who is panicking. The next questions becomes, will the Disney board panic if subscribers continue to decline?

Trippin Out

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


What is going in Salt Lake City? First BYU’s Nick Emery punches Utah’s Brandon Taylor during a game and now Oregon State’s Jarmal Reid blatantly trips a ref during a game.

Emery was only suspended for one game by the Mountain West Conference (MWC) and BYU took no additional action. I felt that was very weak by BYU and the MWC. THe PAC-12 and Oregon State should make a statement and suspend Reid for a couple of games and have him attend counseling or something. What Emery did was terrible and what Reid did was flat out uncalled for.

Another question is, ‘what’s going on in Salt Lake?’

Is there something in the water? Is Utah really that frustrating of a basketball team to play against? Is it the elevation?

Regardless, Utah home basketball games need to be added to the ‘must watch’ list for the rest of the season.

Lost Respect

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lovie Smith, USC’s Steve Sarkisian, Oakland Raiders Dennis Allen, and Penn State’s Joe Paterno. What do they have in common? All were fired either over the phone or via email.

Lovie SmithLovie Smith was let go via an unexpected phone call. This shocked a lot of people. Not only because of the way it happened but because it happened at all.

Sarkisian didn’t answer the phone call from Athletic Director Pat Haden because he was on a plane to rehab. So he found out in an email instead.

Dennis Allen had just returned to Oakland after playing a game in London. He was a head coach while on the 11 hour flight but was fired via a phone call once he got home.

Paterno was Penn State football. While he already said he was resigning at the end of the season, the administration fired him over the phone anyway.

Now Edmonton Oilers coach Ralph Krueger was fired via Skype while in Switzerland. At least his was face to face. Granted it was over a computer screen.

This doesn’t just happen in sports. Former Yahoo CEO was sacked over the phone by the Board of Directors.

It’s not that it’s cold or impersonal, it’s that it shows a lack of respect. While each case is different and each had it’s own set of circumstances, it still comes off as cowardly. If you are the one in charge and you can’t look someone in the eye and say, ‘we’re going a different direction’ then you have no reason to be in charge.

This is sports after all. The arena of competition, alpha males and pissing contests. So the best you can offer up is a phone call? Really?

Ratings Madness

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Now that the college football season is officially down and the dust has begun to settle, there was something interesting that came out of the ratings for the National Title game, online growth.

GoalLineNTGThe WatchESPN app say a 38% year over year growth. According to The Futon Critic, the College Football Playoff kicks but for ESPN digitally. The six total games in the first two years of the College Football Playoff rank as the most viewed events on WatchESPN.

While the 1.9 million plus unique viewers does not make up for the almost eight million who didn’t watch on ESPN, it is nothing to shake a stick at. In fact, it’s pretty damn impressive. That number includes cord cutters, people on their mobile devices, etc.

While the year over year number for TV viewership was down, the number for streaming was up. Expect this trend to continue as more services like Sling TV become available.

Second Screen, Delays & Moving Forward

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


A lot of people are on their phones, tablets or computers while watching a game. The College Football Playoff National Championship game is no exception. According to a study by Accenture, 87% use a second device while watching TV. It gets even more interesting when you cut the cord and stream the game. It gets even more interesting when you have multiple channels to switch between and ESPN using the National Title game as a test lab for coverage.

ESPN Megacast FilmRoomThe college football National Championship between Alabama and Clemson is going to be one of the most watched sporting events of the year. If you are watching it via an OTT provider like Sling TV and also on twitter….you will notice that twitter is more real time than Sling TV.

There is a delay when you stream video. It’s a byproduct of having to take a satellite feed, run the signal through an encoder and then spit it back out. It’s just the way it is right now. For the National Title game I was noticing a good 30-40 second delay between twitter and Sling TV.

Now these very rough findings are going to vary between users but it is a good thing to remember if you are on twitter and watching a game via Sling TV.

Coverage

Periscope Travis and KlattThrow in a new wild card, Periscope. Clay Travis of Fox Sports and Outkick the Coverage was streaming during the game. It usually consisted of himself and Joel Klatt and had various people on over the phone. This feed was on par with twitter and about as real time as you can get. It was not overly compelling which is shame since Travis and Klatt have a lot of insight to offer. It is awesome to see this medium used during an event like this. And it costs virtually nothing to do.

ESPN had a similar thing going on but with a higher budget on ESPNNews in ‘Voices’. This featured everyone from Taylor Twellman to Jay Bilas and wrangled by Michelle Beadle. Both the Periscope feed and ‘Voices’ just turned into people yapping about anything but the game and could be better.

ESPNU had the ‘homers’ broadcast from the sideline of the game. It was hosted by Joe Tessitore and Dave Pasch with alums Tajh Boyd and Barrett Jones. While semi-interesting it just wasn’t compelling.

SEC Network featured Paul Finebaum’s version of of FilmRoom with Bret Bielema, Greg McElroy and Booger McFarland. It was ok but not as good as ESPN2’s FilmRoom.

ESPN Megacast FilmRoomFilmRoom featured five head coaches along with Chris Spielman and Brian Griese. They brought Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi back again this year and he was joined by Jim McElwain, WIll Muschamp, Willie Taggert and Larry Fedora. A good combo with lots of insight and good connections to Clemson and Alabama.ESPN GoalLine National Title Game

 

While FilmRoom was very interesting but rough around the edges, ESPN’s best coverage was via GoalLine. It was a mutli-screen feed complete with stats. The audio during the game was ESPN Radio which featured the awesome combination of Mike Tirico and Todd Blackledge. During commercial breaks one of the screens would either jump between the other channels like ESPN2 and ESPNNews. NFL’s RedZone channel should do this for the Playoffs. Super compelling and great, great broadcast combo.

So word to the wise, if you cut the cord and are watching a big game via Sling TV or WatchESPN, don’t be on twitter. Twitter will spoil it. Would love to see ESPN do more with FilmRoom and GoalLine during the regular season. Maybe do FilmRoom on WatchESPN for the Saturday primetime game with retired or out of work coaches. Same thing for GoalLine. Either way, the future of live sports looks fun but has something work to do.

We’re Talking About Practice!

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


While the college football media is still basking in the glow of the ‘I told you the ratings would be down!’ for the College Football Playoff semifinal games on New Year’s Eve, others have moved on to the actual game. In the process they found an issue that should be addressed by the NCAA before next years game.

CLEMSON TACKLEAs ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and Ted Miller point out, Clemson will have less practice time this week than Alabama because the semester started at Clemson. This limits them to four hours a day once classes start. Alabama has no restriction.

This was also the case last year when Oregon was limited in practice because school was back in session.Ohio State on the other hand was not.

While it may not seem like a big deal and there is not enough data to see if this really is a difference maker, it is clear that it is some low hanging fruit that the NCAA could clear up before next years National Title game and win some brownie points in the process.

The NCAA hasn’t had the best run over the last several years but addressing this edge case this is a gesture that it could make a difference and at least show that the NCAA doesn’t have their head completely buried in the sand.

Zidane To The Rescue

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


 

ZidaneThe football (soccer) great Zinedine Zidane has swooped in to “rescue” Real Madrid. A club that is a mere four points behind La Liga leading Athletico Madrid….in January. Four points in Real Madrid’s view is unacceptable.

Zidane is a legend in the soccer community. While most novices of the sport will only remember him for his red card in the 2006 World Cup Final where he famously head butted Marco Materazzi.

Zidane was a heck of a player at Madrid and elsewhere and has been managing Madrid’s reserve side, Real Madrid Castilla, for a couple of years. This in the eyes of the powers that be is enough to manage the biggest club in the world.

His hiring isn’t so much a surprise as is the firing of Rafa Benitez. Benitez managed Liverpool to two Champions League Finals (winning the trophy in 2004) and found success at Valencia, Napoli, Chelsea and Real Madrid. He was 17-5-3 in all competitions since taking over at Madrid but that wasn’t good enough. Apparently a 4-0 loss to arch rival Barcelona and a supposed riff with superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo is enough to be sacked nowadays.

Don’t worry about Benitez. He walks away with a cool £7million (about $10.2million US) for his trouble. And Madrid can afford to pay. Real Madrid is the richest club in the world. They are estimated a $3.26 billion according to Forbes.

A lot of questions now arise for the 43 year old Zidane. He has played but never coached at this level before and it’s a very big stage to cut your teeth at.

Only time will tell if this is the right decision. Like other sports organizations (college and professional) it is becoming clear that the days of “building” are gone and it’s a “win now or else” mentality around the globe.  And don’t just win, but win by a wide margin.