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.

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Dollars And Madness

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


As you fill out your bracket for that office pool you fully intend to win, it’s also a good time to stop and examine the money behind the NCAA Tournament. FRONTLINE looked into this several years ago in an episode called ‘Money and March Madness’.

Money and March MadnessThe revenue generated from the TV rights and the tickets and concession accounts for 90% of the NCAA budget. So this is truly the most important thing for the NCAA. It is the preverbal cash cow.

Andrew Zimbalist appeared on the Nightly Business Report to talk the numbers. Zimbalist is an economist at Smith College and has written several books on finance and sports. Zimbalist points out that the NCAA will bring in about $900 million and distribute about $200 million back to the schools that are in the tournament. While that is an absurd amount a money, the majority goes back to the 1100 schools that make up the NCAA and the 85 other championships that the NCAA helps put on. (The College Football Playoff is not run by the NCAA.)

Go to the 20:27 mark. 

Some would argue that this opening weekend of the tournament is the best sports weekend of the year. So while you are pretending to work and really secretly streaming the games on your computer or desperately trying to figure out what channel TRU TV is on, just remember the enormous amount of money that is brought in by the tournament.

 

 

Blue Villain

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Mike Krzyzewski and Duke are the standard in college basketball. Year after year they are competing for national championships, putting players into the NBA and Coach K is bringing home Olympic Gold Medals every couple of years. So it comes as a shock that sophomore guard Grayson Allen wasn’t suspended by the team or the conference after tripping an opposing player.

From the video, it seems pretty evident that Allen purposefully tripped Florida State’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes. While Duke handled the matter internally and the conference publicly “reprimanded” Allen, it all seems to fall short.

This wasn’t Allen’s first transgression this year either as the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore points out. Allen is now embolden to be the latest in a long line of hated Duke players.

Now compare Allen’s punishment to that of Oregon State’s Jarmal Reid. Reid tripped a ref earlier this year and was suspended four games by the university and it could have been longer.

There needs to be consistency. Yes these are separate situations, conferences, etc but that shouldn’t matter. The NCAA should step in and suspend Allen for at least a game. Having two similar incidents with different consequences doesn’t make any sense.

All that being said, what’s done is done and the case is closed. So just mark Allen up as the latest Duke Villain.

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.

acCUSE-d Of Not Paying Enough Attention

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the sport. He has been the head coach at his alma mater since 1976 and will probably retire after next season. He has spent a lifetime building a legacy that is now going to be tarnished because he wasn’t micromanaging the basketball program enough.

Jim Boeheim

The NCAA investigation pointed out some not so good things about Syracuse basketball. This included academic fraud and improper payments to players by a booster. It’s bad but many feel that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. That punishment includes vacating wins and suspending Boeheim for several conference games next season.

The 94-page NCAA report reads in part, ‘the head basketball coach’s failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance and monitor his staff…‘ which is a direct slap in the face to Boeheim. The NCAA uses this line to essentially say that the coach should have known what was going on. Boeheim took responsibility and apologized even though he feels that the program was far from running amuck. Regardless, Syracuse will give up scholarships, vacate wins in both basketball and football and the AD has even stepped down.

These sanctions fall on the basketball program while the memory of the Bernie Fine incident is still fresh on everyone’s mind. Boeheim withstood that storm but these latest sanctions appeared to be the straw that broke the 70 year olds back.

Essentially it’s been one thing after another since Boeheim led Syracuse to the  NCAA Title back in 2003. Yes he probably isn’t as “on top” of the program as he was back when he was 50 but who really is “on top” of their program? There are only so many hours in the day and the job is hard enough to do when you are in your 40’s much less in your 70’s.

Does Boeheim deserve to be run out of the game by the NCAA because of these latest violations? Probably not but he is getting a bit of a break. He is getting his choice as to when to leave when a coach of lesser standing may have been fired on the spot. Regardless if the NCAA vacates wins or not, we know who was standing on the sideline for Syracuse during that time. We know the legacy Boeheim built and not even the NCAA can take that away from the memory of basketball fans.

The NCAA Stikes Again

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

The NCAA has turned into the gang that can’t shoot straight. As many of you may have heard the NCAA reversed it’s position and granted eligabilty to a former Marine so that he may be able to play at Middle Tennessee. Previously it had stated that he, Steven Rhodes, was ineligable for the season because he played in an intermural football league while in the Marine Corps that had uniforms and referees.

Seriously.

After an unknown amount of tweets, Facebook posts, and general ‘are you kidding me?’ reactions the NCAA decided to grant Rhodes eligability. Previously it said that he had to forefit two years of eligablity.

Add this little PR disaster to the list of recent screw up’s (Miami investigation and the on going Johnny Manziel investigation) and one has to wonder how anyone can take the NCAA seriuosuly.

What’s next? Outlawing fans in the stadium?

 

Does The NCAA Need A New Leader?

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

With the opening of fall camp for college football the talk seems to be on everything off the field rather than what’s going on on the field. The main focus of the media attention, and the NCAA, has been on Johnny Manziel (aka Johnny Football) and to some extent Jadeveon Clowney. The attention is warrented since they are the two biggest names in college football right now however the NCAA is in a horrible position as far as investigating any wrong doing by either player.

Did they or did they not take money for signing autographs?‘ This seems to be the main point that the NCAA is looking into as far as Manziel and Clowney are concerned. The NCAA is still reeling from a botched investigation of the University of Miami and has had an apparent “brain drain” when it comes to investigators. The NCAA also does not have subpoena power outside of it’s jurisdiction. Meaning that someone outside of the NCAA (buisness owner, fan, family member) does not have to talk to the NCAA or turn over any documentation.

NCAA INVESTIGATIONS

While member schools attempt to abide by the NCAA rules, the NCAA is quickly losing credability with universities, athletes and fans.

Is it time for a change at the top?

MARK EMMERT

Mark Emmert has been in charge for a little over three years now and has been by far the most visible President in NCAA history. However he may not be the person to take the NCAA into the 21st century.

Recently Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos purchased the iconic newspaper The Washington Post. While this is making big headlines no one really knows what its going to mean for the paper. Most seem to agree that a tech titan like Bezos with his bottomless checkbook and business track record could be the one to turn the Post, and the print journalism industry as whole for that matter, once again into a profit center.

JEFF BEZOS

Should the NCAA look into someone similar to lead them on their road back to credability? Maybe a more forward thinking person who will embrace the new challenges in this every changing world? Someone with experience implementing change in such a large organization and a track round outside of academia? Someone who can see into the future a little better, make adjustments, and still enforce rules?

Someone like a former General Stanley McChrystal. Here is a former General who led combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Someone who had to adapt to a new enemy and implement change in an organization that is very slow to recognize it.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal

With or whithout change at the top the NCAA has a credability issue. It botched a major investigation, got caught being hypocritical, and is doing a poor job of listening to the public and the universities they oversee. Change better come soon or we could soon see the industry run over the regulator.

Improving The Digital Experience Of March Madness And Why It Will Never Happen

By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard

It seems almost arcane to think that the NCAA tournament wasn’t streamed live and available everywhere. That you could only watch whatever regional games was on CBS is almost unthinkable in this day and age. It wasn’t all that long ago that this was the reality of the situation. Now, you can see every game on just about any device from your desktop to your tablet to your phone and of course your television. But it’s not good enough because in the end, the user is still getting screwed.

March Madness

In 2003 when the NCAA and CBS began streaming March Madness it had two main  online sponsors, Dell and Marriott. We shouldn’t be surprised that the live streams over delivered on viewers. In the early years there was a limit on the bandwidth available so if you wanted to watch games online and not pay then you had to stand in a digital que. If you wanted to pay then you got access immediately. Now, massive improvement. No waiting except for the excessive amount of ads on the first two days. On Thursday, the first full day, I personally sat through 2 minutes of ads (a lifetime online) before being allowed to watch a game. Maybe that was one time only log in or bad timing but none the less.

Online History of the NCAA Tournament.

10 years in the experience has improved as have the ad dollars. However, the user experience is still not where it should be. Why? Because this is a business run by TV executives and the NCAA makes 90% of their revenue from March Madness The last contract that the NCAA signed with the TV networks (CBS and Turner Sports) is for 14 years and $10.8 billion. In 2011 the networks made $738 million from TV ad revenue and $60 million in online ad revenue in 2012. This is a lot of money and the cash cow continues to be TV advertising therefore the sacred cash cow will be protected at all costs.

If the NCAA and the TV networks were really smart they would split the TV and online experience into two separate groups then manage and sell them separately.  By doing this they would accept that the TV and online experiences are different. This would be the entertainment equivalent of walking on water. However if this was done, and online people could run the live streams you would see March Madness not only on Apple and Google’s Android platform but also on XBOX (Microsoft’s gaming platform) Playstation Network (Sony) and Google’s video platform,  YouTube. They could also sell it to other online providers like Yahoo and AOL. Best part, it would an experience that fits the medium.

The TV people would scream that this is taking away from their TV ad revenue. Not true. Why do people watch on computer, tablet and phone screens? CAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO A TV! If they did, they would be in front of their 50 inch TV screen and not have to think about mobile provider data rates or buffering.

It’s also not the same experience and it’s time people accepted that. If you are watching the games on your 50 inch TV through your cable or satellite provider your signal will not diminish if your 5 neighbors are watching it too. If your watching online and the same 5 neighbors begin watching the Twilight movies via Netflix your viewing quality may degrade. You can flip between games much faster on TV than you can online too. So let’s stop pretending that this is the same.

The advertisers make out too. You’ll have more target ads online then you will on TV and that is only going to improve over time. So if your not in the market for a car but you are for a pizza then guess what? Advertisers will have a better chance of getting their product or service in front of someone who is more inclined to purchase.

Finally, do not GEO BLOCK the online experience. If a someone is traveling to Italy during March Madness then make sure they can see the games. If they are that committed to watching March Madness at 2am on a Saturday then God Bless that fan.

Will this ever happen? Only if one or both of the following things happen:

1) A major sport such as the NFL negotiates this into their next set of TV contracts.

2) Viewership or ad revenue declines for TV.

In the end the user is not the concern, even if the TV networks and the NCAA say they are. It’s about money but by not focusing on the user and accepting the idea of disruption then the NCAA in particular is leaving lots of money on the table.

Frontine- Money & March Madness

Other Reading:

Ad Trends for March Madness

CBS Expects Record Users and Revenue

How to Watch at Work