Saturday, October 07, 2006

Big and small in college football

I was able to speak by phone about three hours ago to my old friend Matt Daley, my former radio partner, who decided to go back to school and get a second degree this year. His first degree is in mass communications, his second degree will be in sports management. Matt chose one of the best sports management programs in the country to get that degree- the program at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Matt was able to get tickets for today's game between Ohio State and Bowling Green at Ohio Stadium (which Ohio State leads 21-0 in the second quarter as I write this), and he called to brag just a bit about the great seats that he was able to snag (you know it is a call to brag when the first words out of your buddy's mouth are "you'll never guess where I'm sitting"). His call spawned a discussion about why large schools like Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn, or Georgia play small schools like MTSU, Bowling Green, UAB, or Georgia Southern.

We are prone to write off these small opponents that play our favorite college teams as "gimmie games" and frequently enough they are just that. What we forget is that the reason such games take place has as much to do with the smaller schools as the great powers of the game. If the small schools never had the opportunity to play the old powers, they would never generate enough money in today's college football climate to keep their programs and their small conferences (such as the MAC) alive. Bowling Green, for example, was given over $600,000 to play Ohio State today-enough to run their football program for the rest of the year. Small schools are where the game was born, and it would be a miscarriage of justice for those institutions never to have their day in the college football sun.

Aside from that, if there were no big vs. small games in college football, we would never hear of the impossible upset, which very occasionally does happen.


At Saturday, October 07, 2006 9:49:00 PM, Blogger Steve Mule said...

I think the big schools play the little schools so that they (the big schools) can get an easy victory, to show off and get some good practice, to say nothing of TV revenues. And you're right - upsets do happen. I'll never forget when KSU flew Austin Peay in for one of these games and LOST! Oh, the horror ...
Speaking of KSU, where are they in the rankings? 78?


At Sunday, October 08, 2006 12:38:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

In some cases, the larger "flagship" universities play smaller in-State schools in non-conferene play in order to keep that money in the State-a policy which makes sense.

You are right that it is an easy victory and that is a good reason a powerhouse might want to schedule a pee-wee-TV exposure is another matter. When powerhouses play mid-majors or minor schools in non-conference games, they don't always get the best TV exposure. The three networks usually won't pick up such a game, and ESPN will often relegate such a game to its ESPN Plus service. ESPN Plus was once the former Raycom Sports, a sports sindication service similar to Jefferson Pilot (now "Lincoln Financial") Sports. ESPN bought out Raycom in the mid-90's.

Because ESPN Plus is a sports sindicator, stations may choose whether or not they want to air the game(s) the sindicator is offering. CSS picked up the ESPN Plus feed for Ohio State and Bowling Green today, but had they not, the game would likely have only been viewable in the Columbus, OH market and the Toledo market. CSS is also the 4th-ranked sports network nationally of the four most-commonly viewed (ESPN, Fox Sports Net, Versus, and then CSS), so that wasn't exactly major national exposure for Ohio State, but it WAS (by comparison) for BG, so they were the big beneficiaries-that's just one example.

Kansas State: They wouldn't be as low as 78 because they are 4-2 and they did beat Oklahoma State today 31-27. The problem is who their two losses came against. The first was against a very good Louisville team. At #8 in the country, most of the experts expected the Cardinals to beat the Wildcats, and that is what happened-so that would not affect Kansas State's chances at getting into the Top 25. What did affect those chances was KSU's 17-3 loss to Baylor on Sept. 30. Baylor is just not a good program. If you have a decent program but are unranked and you are trying to earn the respect of a national ranking, losing to Baylor will not help you in getting there.

At Sunday, October 08, 2006 10:03:00 AM, Blogger Steve Mule said...

Thanks! As you probably know (or have figured out) I'm not into football (or sports in general, for that matter) and easily get lost trying (on those rare occassions) to figure it all out. However, you really do a good job of explaining all this, so good that even a sports illiterate like myself can at least understand that these rankings aren't derived from arcane tea leaf readings but actually have some real serious, systematic thinking behind them. Well done and thank you again.


At Sunday, October 08, 2006 11:56:00 AM, Blogger TheRep said...

What SEC school was it that went up north last year played a AA team and lost ?

At Sunday, October 08, 2006 12:02:00 PM, Blogger TheRep said...

Was it Maine over Mississippi?

At Sunday, October 08, 2006 9:25:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

I'm glad I could help you "make sense" of the media and coaches' ranking systems-that makes me feel good, I guess I haven't lost my ability to blab even though I have been off of sports radio for six years.

If it makes you feel any better-just because there are those of us who understand how the rankings work doesn't mean we always agree with the outcomes when the polls are released. That has spawned several offshoot polls such as the Harris Poll, which was used in BCS rankings up until last year, and the new IRACF poll, in which I vote.

Speaking of the BCS-those are the rankings that count toward the Bowl picture at the end of the season, and they are as complicated as ever-I may need to write a multi-part series explaining the BCS rankings to the unschooled when the first batch of BCS rankings is released in two weeks!

At Sunday, October 08, 2006 9:27:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Mississippi State played I-AA Maine in Starkville in the 3rd week of the season in 2004. Maine stunned the home crowd by defeating the Bulldogs 9-7 in what was considered a shocker even by my standards-Miss. State isn't exactly the class of the SEC.

At Tuesday, October 10, 2006 4:03:00 PM, Blogger Chucko said...

It's a mutually beneficial agreement, as you have pointed out Dave. For years (until the most recent decade if I recall), OSU would not play intra-state schools for fear of the horrific repercussions of losing, both monetary and more importantly in recruiting. Particularly the University of Cincinnati (which has now nearly upended the Bucks at least twice, including their national championship year), which is actually a quite large school that is generally mediocre in football but loves to play spoiler. Small schools get money and an opportunity to tell recruits you'll be lining up against a big program, the big programs get local exposure and most of the time a breather.

I'm jealous of Matt... I'd LOVE to go to a Bucks game. Still trying to get tix to the UND/Navy game through my brother for later this year.

At Tuesday, October 10, 2006 5:33:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

The smaller schools tend to be the big beneficiaries, but that is often a good thing because it gives those smaller programs something to build on.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Locations of visitors to this page
Profile Visitor Map - Click to view visits
Create your own visitor map