The Battle Ground State

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 12.14.2016

Charlie Strong, Lane Kiffin and Butch Davis. These are a few of the folks who will be new head coaches in college football next season in the state of Florida. Add in the three big schools in the state, Florida, Florida State and Miami, and you have a fierce recruiting battle in the Sunshine State.

Florida is a little different than most places when it comes to recruiting. According to a CBSSports.com article, one in 99 players in Florida sign to an FBS scholarship out of high school. That’s an extraordinarily high rate and one that shows that there is enough talent to go around between all of these FBS schools and then some. Year after year the likes of Ohio State, Michigan, Tennessee, Alabama, Nebraska and just about everyone else comes down south and snatches up players.

Lane Kiffin FAUNow the head coaches in state may, how are already great recruiters, just need to convince a 17 year old to stay closer to home. Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, Mark Richt at Miami and Jim McElwain at Florida are all top notch recruiters and coaches. Their skills will be put to the test as Strong, Kiffin and Davis recruit from the same talent pool.

These new guys have NFL experience, run Power 5 programs, developed players for the next level and have the rings to show for it. The question now becomes, who can recruit a one or two star player and coach him up. Gut feeling on that is Charlie Strong now at South Florida.

Charlie StrongWhile Kiffin, Davis, Fisher, Richt and McElwain all have selling points about their programs, Strong is the only African American FBS head coach in this state. Along with his strong moral character and strong ties to the state (he coached at Florida on three different occasions), I see him winning out in the long haul. It may take him a year or two but he’s the only one of the three new coaches who has some talent leftover from the previous regime to work with.

Every college football season is a good college football season but this stretch run recruiting season maybe the start of something crazy. Something so crazy that it will probably end up as series on Netflix. Fisher, McElwain, Richt, Kiffin, Davis and Strong competing for the state’s best talent, let the games begin!

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Choices and Patience

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.29.2016

After the 2012 college football season, some fairly big jobs opened up. Two of the coaches looking to move up to a Power 5 school were Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones and San Jose State head coach Mike MacIntyre. Jones was doing the proverbial tour. He interviewed at Purdue and Colorado before taking the Tennessee job. MacIntyre was lower on the tier and Colorado ‘settled’ for him. Fast forward four years and MacIntyre’s Buffaloes are playing for a Pac-12 title and Tennessee is again 8-4 and not playing for a conference title. So which one was right?

Butch JonesUnder Butch Jones, Tennessee has shown continual improvement in his first three years going from 5-7 to 7-6 to 9-4. With sky high expectations this year, the Vols were never able to put together a complete game. While they did beat Florida, Georgia, and Virginia Tech they also lost to two teams they should have beaten handily in South Carolina and Vanderbilt not to mention being blown out by Alabama. The 8-4 regular season record still qualifies Tennessee for a quality bowl game but the season is seen as failure in the eyes of many.

Mike MacIntyreOut west Mike MacIntyre has not shown continual improvement in Colorado’s record. Going 4-8, 2-10 and 4-9 in his first three seasons in Boulder, only the hardcore football fan could see light at the end of the tunnel. The improvement was incremental but it wasn’t reflected in the record. This season MacIntyre put it all together and turned the 2016 season into a PAC-12 South divisional title.

The Buffaloes got off to a fast start by dominating their in state rivals Colorado State in the season opener. The Buffs built off of that and were able to rattle off some impressive wins even with a backup quarterback under center for three games. Tennessee meanwhile needed overtime and a whole lot of luck to beat a quality Appalachian State team. Both openers were a precursor of things to come.

Both coaches were hired at the same time. While Jones teams showed more promise early on, MacIntyre’s didn’t. Credit to Colorado for giving MacIntyre time to build the program back from the oil spill it was under previous regimes. While he started off on a ‘lukewarm seat’ this season, MacIntyre quickly erased any doubts about his job status as his team rattled off impressive win after impressive win. Jones will need some of that patience from Tennessee as he searches for answers going into year five.

Jones went from being the second coming in Knoxville to ‘is this guy any better than a 8 or 9 win coach?’ His job status will be questioned over the next several months not only because Tennessee didn’t live up to expectations this year with a senior quarterback and highly thought of defense but also because he will have a new boss come summer as current athletic director Dave Hart steps down.

Was Jones the right choice for Tennessee? At the time yes. They needed someone to put out the dumpster fire that Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley left behind. MacIntyre was the right choice at Colorado too. He has built a program with NFL quality talent and a belief that they can compete with and beat the best teams in the country.

While both are right for their jobs, it’s clear that both coaches are at the same crossroad. Both need to go to the next level but momentum seems to only be on Colorado’s side.

Experience Over Potential

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.18.2016

Yes, you have to win right now if you are a college football coach. Greatness is fleeting and so are boosters checkbooks. No one likes to give money to a loser after all and college football has turned into a perennial ‘keeping up with the jones’ world. So if winning is, as the great Vince Lombardi once said ‘the only thing’, then why don’t more college football programs go after coaches with a track record of winning?

Butch DavisButch Davis was hired on as the head coach at Florida International (FIU). He has spent the past few seasons on TV since he got run out of UNC for pretty much not having any kind of academic standards. Despite that he is a winner on the field. He has a career record of 79-43 in 10 years of being a head coach and brought Miami back from the brink as well as being the last head coach to take the Cleveland Browns to the post season (that was the 2001-2002 season). It’s a smart hire by FIU who have been a doormat ever since they ran Mario Cristobal out of town.

Speaking of Cristobal, why hasn’t anyone hired this guy yet?

Cristobal is young (46), turned FIU into a conference champion while taking them to back-to-back bowl games and is considered to be one of the best recruiters in the country. Oh, his current job is coaching the ever dominant Alabama offensive line. He did nothing wrong at FIU except start losing games. Since they fired him they have gone straight into the toilet.

Two other names that don’t seem to be getting a lot attention despite having successful collegiate head coaching experience are Al Golden and Greg Schiano.

Al GoldenGolden is coaching with the Minnesota Vikings and helping make Kyle Rudolph one of the better tight ends in the game. He made the best of a unwinnable situation at Miami, turned around Temple and stayed classy doing it.

Schiano on the other hand resurrected Rutgers into a legitimate program. Schiano has a winning record as the Rutgers head coach which should say something about his coaching abilities. He took Rutgers to their first bowl game since 1978 and was named Coach of the Year in 2006. While he has a good gig right now (AHC/DC for Ohio State) you’d have to imagine that he would want the chance to run his own show again.

The list can go on and on but it should give schools like Purdue, LSU and others some pause. Pause to not chase after the next sexy hire but instead to hire someone with a track record of winning. Hire someone looking to prove that they still do have what it takes and learned from their mistakes in the past. Hire experience, not potential.

The Pacing Problem

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 11.12.2016

The pace of college football games is becoming a bigger issue. The nearly 5 hour Tennessee at Texas A&M game earlier this year was probably the straw that broke the camels back. But there are ways to fix this and yes they are easy to achieve.

There have been two major articles written on this subject this fall. First by Ben Cohen in the Wall Street Journal and then by Dennis Dodd at CBSSports.com this past week. Both point out that games have steadily been increasing in time since 2008 and a few of the reasons are up-tempo offenses, increased scoring and of course TV timeouts among them.

Cohen’s article did an analysis on the Florida State vs Ole Miss game at the beginning of the year. While the game lasted a little over 4 hours there were only 16 plus minutes of actual football action (it was a heck of a game though).

Dodd’s article points to the main culprit of extended games, fast-paced offenses. Kind of ironic that fast-paced or up-tempo offenses cause games to be longer. Short passes, snapping the ball 15-25 seconds after the previous play all leads to more plays, more stoppages and longer games.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema have been vocal about the this style of play in the past claiming that it will lead to injuries. That may not be far off but there is no data to support their beliefs.

A few years ago, I remember listening to UCLA head coach Jim Mora on the Jim Rome show. He pointed out the low hanging fruit on how to solve this problem, quit stopping the clock after a first down. The NFL doesn’t do this and Mora postulated that if you don’t stop the clock after a first down then you will decrease the amount of plays a team can run (probably by a dozen) and speed up the game in the process.

Tougher sells would be to shorten the play clock by 10 seconds, limit reviews to 90 seconds, and limit the number of commercial breaks in a game.

There are fixes for this problem and some of them are pretty easy. This is an issue that the NCAA should look at. Games are getting longer and in a world where students won’t go to games due to poor mobile phone reception, it is an issue that should be addressed sooner rather than later.

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.31.2016

While many point to the end of the calendar year as the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, those folks are clearly not sports fans. While the yule log, spiked eggnog and massive amount are nice, they do not compare to the last week of October and the first week of November.

World SeriesSeveral years ago the World Series got kicked back a little bit. Now the baseball season overlaps with the NFL,college football, CFL and MLS for a two solid months. Add in the start of the NHL and NBA regular seasons and you have got sports on seven days a week.

After Halloween, the Mid-American Conference (MAC) starts playing football games during the week which means that there is football on seven days a week. Add this to the NFL games on Thursday, Sunday and Monday and it can be easy to see why some people get ‘football overload’ and turn to something else.

While the Holiday Season is great, it does not compare to this time of year. From the World Series to pivotal college football games to the MLS playoffs. The games this time of year are more important than the ones during the Holiday’s. So enjoy the Indian Summer some of you are getting and enjoy the sports overload.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Easier To Use and Follow Ups

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.19.2016

As we all know, Twitter is live streaming the NFL’s first 10 Thursday Night games. A couple of games in, you are starting to see some to of the changes that needed to be made not only for the games but for Twitter’s live strategy.

twitterads-they-started-mondayBefore the Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers game I saw more advertisements within the Twitter application further out from the game. I also received an email with a straight forward graphic reminding me about the game. These are both things that Twitter didn’t appear to be during Week 1.

 

twitterliveBy the time the Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers game rolled around the next Thursday, there was a video player inside the desktop application right next to the ‘Trends’ section.This is a big and necessary change especially for new users of the platform. Granted this is only on the desktop/laptop view and not the mobile view but it’s a start.

There are two parts of streaming NFL games that Twitter needs to nail. First show that the platform is stable enough to have the capacity that the NFL and others are going to need. They’ve done that.

The second part is to get users, new and existing, to watch and you can only do that through advertising inside and outside of Twitter.

With the combination of ads within the application running further out from the game and the email campaign, Twitter is getting the second half of this right because the stability and quality of the live stream is great.

Follow Up:

Last week I posted about the low hanging fruit that Sling TV and other OTT providers could pick. Those are the league channels like MLB Network, NBA TV and NHL Network among others. Well in a blog post on Sling TV’s website on October 19th announced that the NHL Network was now available in the sports package.

Princess of Darkness

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.17.2016

Amy Trask was the first female NFL executive. There have been female owners, wives, daughters and others but she was none of these when she went to work for Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. She worked her way up from an intern to be CEO of one of the NFL’s most storied and divisive franchises and along the line gained the nickname ‘Princess of Darkness.’

Amy TraskTrask has a new book out called ‘You Negotiate Like a Girl: Reflections on a Career in the National Football League’ and was recently featured on the Sports Business Radio podcast. One of the stories she told was how Davis didn’t consider her a woman and how that was one of the more special moments of her career.

Trask makes the point, ‘Don’t we all want to be regarded without respect to gender, ethnicity, race, religion, all of those characteristics which have no bearing what so ever on whether we can do a job.’ It’s a perspective that has examples all over the Raider organization. The Raiders were the first team to hire a Hispanic head coach (Tom Flores), an African American head coach (Art Shell) and numerous young coaches (Jon Gruden and Lane Kiffin).

Trask may not consider herself a trailblazer but she was. I look forward to reading Trask’s book and I also look forward to more NFL franchises seeing things the way Davis did when it comes to race, gender, ethnicity and so on. It is 2016 after all.

Sports Business Radio Podcast

What’s Happening Out West?

Compiled by Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 10.10.2016

For those that may have been asleep, there is a tectonic shift happening in the PAC-12. As Fox Sports Stewart Mandel points out, the Oregon Ducks and Stanford Cardinal have won the past seven PAC-12 titles. No USC, UCLA, or Washington in site. Now, the Ducks are losers of four in a row and Stanford has been manhandled in two consecutive conference loses. So the question is, what happened?

First, the Washington Huskies are pretty good. The #5 Huskies have defeated the Cardinal and the Ducks in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 114-27. Impressive yes but it’s how they beat these two that makes you stand back and take notice. They overpowered the Cardinal recording 8 sacks along the way and bullying the perennial bully. They then went into Autzen Stadium and hung 70 on the Ducks. A team they had not beaten in a dozen years.

Stanford didn’t recover losing the Washington State at home on Saturday night. It was another game where the offensive line was beaten up, although this time they only gave up four sacks.

The Ducks meanwhile have become the an oil spill. The once high powered offense is unable to make up for a defense that cannot stop a nose bleed since the second half of last years Alamo Bowl. Changes were made including a change in defensive coordinators and scheme.

After back-to-back seasons with a graduate transfer named the opening day quarterback, the Ducks have now turned to freshman Justin Herbert. Herbert may turn out to be a fine quarterback but it makes you wonder why head coach Mark Helfrich was unable to recruit a starting quarterback since he became head coach?

Helfrich has developed quarterbacks throughout his career. From Andrew Walter at Arizona State to Marcus Mariota at Oregon. This is his fourth season as head coach and he has yet to recruit and develop a quarterback.

Stanford head coach David Shaw has another problem. How does a team that has flat out overpowered teams over the last decade all of sudden forget how to do it? Add to that that his star player, Christian McCaffery, has been stuffed by opposing defenses and is now dinged up to the point that he may not play Saturday against Notre Dame.

In both cases you have to look at the head coaches. Did these coaches and their staffs identify the right players in the recruiting process and sign them? Are their players not responding to coaching? More often than not, when programs that have had as much success as Stanford and Oregon have over the last decade, players have a tendency to become complacent. They almost feel like it should be handed to them and they don’t have to work for it anymore.

Helfrich and Shaw have some tough mountains to climb. Neither thought that they would be in this place at this point in the season. While Helfrich and the Ducks have an off week to like their wounds and regroup, Shaw must find an answer this week in South Bend. The other fact is that while the media will always fawn over USC and UCLA, the Huskies are the team to beat out west.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: RedZone and Radio

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.28.2016

I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

RedZone and Radio

It was touch and go there for a few months as Dish (Sling TV’s parent company) and the NFL negotiated a truce. Once they did, NFL Network and NFL RedZone both appeared on Sling TV just in time for the start of the NFL season. While that is great, there are still some channels missing that leaves you searching for other options when it comes watching or listening to a game.

RedZoneRedZone is a great channel for the 17 weeks of the NFL regular season. No commercials and you get to see every score. The downside of course the ‘internet streaming delay’ that can vary from event to event. That means that you may hear about a score via text or social media before it actually comes across RedZone. The benefit of course is that you can be completely mobile and not miss any football.

CBS Sports Network is not available for cord cutters. The channel has very limited agreements with cable providers to give one the ability to watch the away from the traditional method of sitting in front of the TV.  This means that you are left with two options if you want to follow the game on CBS Sports Network. 1) go to a bar that may have it or 2) revert to the radio.

Last Friday Wyoming visited Eastern Michigan. I wasn’t feeling the bar route so I downloaded a radio app for my phone and listen to the game. Combine that with twitter and you had a pretty real time experience. It’s cumbersome but it can work and you can still see the big plays pretty quickly after they happen. In some cases even faster than that ‘internet streaming delay’.

It is kind of funny how new technology can lead towards using old technology. While reverting to the radio is an old school thing to do, so is using an over the air antenna which is something else that I do. It’s a lot like how Netflix exploited the USPS to get dvd’s out when they originally started.

RedZone on Sling TV is the real deal but being a cord cutter means that sometimes you have to go old school. You have to take advantage of over the air television and the radio. While it’s not ideal, neither is not having all of the sports channels available online.

Diary of a Sports Cord Cutter: Here But Not There

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard | 9.21.2016

I cut the cord last November. While addicted to sports, it made little sense to pay Comcast $150+ a month so I could watch various college football games and receive NFL RedZone. I began looking into other options. I found Sling TV and a plain, old fashion over the air antenna. This is the football season where I will be a full fledged ‘sports cord cutter’ and this is how it’s going.

Here But Not There

Cord cutting is not for the faint of heart. It is something that you have to want to do. While Twitter proved that they can handle the current level of cord cutters/mobile users who will demand the ability to watch Thursday Night Football while at their daughter’s dance recital or watching on their XBOX. It is a little frustrating though to not have the ability to watch the Thursday Night game via NFL Network over Sling TV.

photo-sep-15-8-41-39-pmWhile Twitter did a great job, they really did but their deal did have  a head scratching moment. Sling TV users on Roku saw the error you see to your right. How does that happen?

You’d figure that you’d be able to watch the Thursday Night game on NFL Network just like you’d be able to on Comcast, DirecTV, Time Warner or even Dish. You’d be wrong.

The NFL and Twitter cut a pretty sweet deal that would allow Twitter to have exclusive access to any and all OTT services. Or so it seems. In Twitter’s defense, they did roll out apps on XBOX One, Amazon Fire and Apple TV in time for the game. That’s great but Roku has around 10 million users, more or less, which makes them a fairly big player and to not be able to stream the Thursday Night game is pretty significant.

All hope was not lost though. Any decent cord cutter, including myself, have an antenna to capture over the air broadcasts. The real question becomes, when Twitter stops streaming the games after week 10 of the NFL season, does that mean that I can watch the Thursday Night game on NFL Network on Sling TV again since it will be exclusive?

It’s all very confusing but this is what happens in the new frontier. Deals are cut as people try to put the new model into the an older one. It’s the equivalent of putting a round peg into a square hole. It should all be sorted out soon enough and we can all get back to streaming the games were supposed to.