Thursday, July 30, 2015

Predictions/Expectations for 2015

The football break is now over.  Teams are now practicing, and it is time to fire up the old college football blog and look at how things will shape up for our Beehive State teams this year.

Utah Utes

Outlook: Utah is better than they were last year, but...

Prediction: 4th in PAC-12 South Division behind USC, UCLA, Arizona, but ahead of Arizona State and Colorado.  Will likely finally play in the Holiday Bowl.

Probable wins (7)

Michigan
Utah State
Fresno State
California
Arizona State
Oregon State
Colorado

Probable Losses (3)

Oregon
USC
UCLA

Too Close to Call (2)

Washington
Arizona

Optimists Prediction 9-3
Pessimists Prediction 7-4

BYU Cougars

Outlook: BYU is playing a tougher schedule these days, but do not have the talent to match.  If they finish bowl eligible, likely will end up in Hawaii.

Probable Wins (5)

Connecticut
East Carolina
Wagner
San Jose State
Fresno State

Probable Losses (4)

Nebraska
Boise State
UCLA
Missouri

Too Close to Call (3)

Michigan
Cincinnati
Utah State

Optimists Prediction 8-4
Pessimists Prediction 5-7

Utah State Aggies

Outlook:  Aggies are probably the 2nd best team in the MW Mountain.  Probably another trip to the Poinsettia Bowl.

Probable Wins (6)

Southern Utah
Colorado State
Fresno State
Wyoming
Air Force
Nevada

Probable Losses (3)

Utah
Washington
Boise State

Too Close to Call (3)

San Diego State
Nevada
BYU

Optimists Prediction 9-3
Pessimists Prediction: 6-6

Southern Utah Thunderbirds

Outlook: Didn't get a lot of love at media days, but they have a favorable schedule.

Probable Wins (5)

South Dakota State
Northern Colorado
Brevard
Sacramento State
UC Davis

Probable Losses (3)

Utah State
Cal Poly
Montana State

Too Close to Call (3)

Weber State
Portland State
Northern Arizona

Optimists Prediction: 8-3
Pessimists Prediction 5-6

Weber State Wildcats

Outlook:  They will probably win more than 2 games this season...not many more, but more.

Probable Wins (3)

Northern Colorado
North Dakota
UC Davis

Probable Losses (5)

Oregon State
North Dakota State
Montana
Northern Arizona
Eastern Washington

Too Close to Call (3)

Sacramento State
Southern Utah
Idaho State

Optimists Prediction: 6-5
Pessimists Prediction: 3-8

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Is the Big Sky Conference safe from realignment?

One of the reasons the Big Sky Conference expanded to 13 members from football was because they feared that some schools would leave.  At the time, the WAC was desperately attempting to hang on as a football conference and approached Montana and, by some reports, at least 5 other schools.  No one took the bait, and the WAC now no longer sponsors football.

But that was the WAC and the time was more than a half-decade ago.  Montana, at the time, decided that the expense required to move from the FCS to the FBS was not worth the extra revenue they would receive.  If Montana had moved, then others would have followed and the WAC would still be a sponsor of football.

But now that times have changed, would Montana make the same choice today?  Would Eastern Washington, Portland State or Sacramento State remain in the Big Sky Conference if there was a chance to move to the Mountain West Conference.

Let's take a look at what the Magic 8 ball says today?  I ask Magic 8 ball, "Will Montana join the Mountain West Conference"  I shake it up and the answer is, "My sources say no."  How about Portland State, and the reply is, "signs point to yes".  What about Sacramento State, and the magic 8 ball says, "yes."  Finally I ask, "Is the Big Sky Conference safe from further conference realignment?" and the reply is, "My sources say no."

Conference realignment has taken a breather.  Nothing has happened for a few years.  But if there is one constant in the known universe, it is change.  If BYU does join the Big 12 conference, they certainly will not come alone.  Boise State is their likely partner.  Hawaii is also rumored to be dropping football.  Most likely, the MWC will want to stay at 12 if Boise State leaves, or if Hawaii drops football.  And the most likely replacement for Boise State or Hawaii will not be Idaho or New Mexico State, but it will be a school from the Big Sky Conference. 

The Mountain West Conference is not like the WAC was when they approached Montana a few years ago.  That is, after all, where most of the WAC went, the reason why the WAC was so desperate in the first place.  While it was easy to so no to the WAC, it would not be easy to say no to the MWC.  

Montana might still say no to the MWC, or may insist that Montana State come with them, which might be a turn off to the MWC.  But other schools, like Eastern Washington may jump at the chance to move to the next level.

The other threat to the Big Sky Conference is encroachment by other FCS-level leagues.  All that is needed, for example, for the Big West Conference to bring back football are six schools.  They already have UC Davis and Cal Poly, who are football-only members of the conference.  The University of San Diego also sponsors football as a member of the Pioneer Conference.  Their nearest conference rival is Drake in Des Moines, Iowa.  If Hawaii decides to drop to the FCS instead of dropping football, then the Big West would only need two more schools to bring football back.  The proposed Los Angeles Ram football stadium in Inglewood isn't very far from Long Beach, and could give the 49ers just enough incentive to return to the gridiron.  And there are strong movements to bring football back to CS Northridge and CS Fullerton.  And if we are honest, we would also realize that the Big West is a better geographical fit for Sacramento State than the Big Sky.

The third treat to the conference is that schools may decide to stop playing football and to focus on other sports.  If this happens, they would certainly be out of the conference like Gonzaga and CS Northridge.  There would be better conference choices.

But if you read this blog, I'm sounding like a broken record.  But if someone asks the question, why is the Big Sky Conference so big?  Why do we have 13 football schools, this is the answer.  It's a response to the forces that threaten it.  At the same time, if any school gets invited to the MWC, that should be celebrated, not mourned.  The Big Sky Conference will survive.

Monday, April 27, 2015

What conference will BYU be in in 2020?

Bronco Mendenhall in a recent interview says that BYU has 3 years to make it into a power 5 conference.  What if it doesn't happen?  I envision 3 different scenarios.

1.  Remain Independent.

As long as Independence works like it has, there is probably nothing wrong with it.  What is BYU losing when they remain independent.  You have the season loaded with its hardest games in September.  In 2020, BYU's home opener is Michigan State.  They also have Missouri coming to Provo in October.  That is sure to get 60,000+ to Provo for each game.  There may not be Power 5 money, but at least that is something to look forward to.

Continued independence may sit better with fans if BYU can break out of the 8-5 and minor bowl rut that they have been in.  A victory over Utah will help.  There is a lot that BYU can do over the next three years to convince themselves and fans that long-term independence isn't bad.  But will they?

2.  Join the MWC.

I do not see this happening unless the MWC gets desperate.  The MWC is not a power conference, as we all know, but right now, they don't need BYU.  Certainly, someone is going to have to buy BYU out of many of those non-conference games to get BYU into a non-power conference.  The MWC doesn't have the money to do that.  In 2020, probably a game at Northern Illinois and one other game would have to be bought out of.  Someone will have to pay the fee, and it would likely need to be the conference.  It's not as bad as I am making it sound, as they could probably minimize a fee by providing that non-conference opponent with a substitute for BYU.

We often talk like going back to the MWC will be easy, but it is not as easy as it sounds.  It's not like it will be BYU's choice just to join their former conference and they will welcome BYU back like the father in the Prodigal Son parable.  The other MW schools will have a say in the matter.  Craig Thompson, commissioner, wasn't happy with the way that BYU just up and left.  And there are some coaches, like San Diego State's Rocky Long, who have been publicly critical of BYU's decision to leave.

Although the MWC is has a strong flavor in BYU schedules the next few years, it is not the former MWC conference mates that are providing the games.  Boise State, Fresno State, San Jose State, Utah State, Nevada and Hawaii weren't in the MWC with the Cougars.  San Diego State, New Mexico, Air Force, Colorado Sate and Wyoming have yet to show up on BYU's regular season schedule.  (BYU and SDSU met in a bowl game.)  If you think BYU will have a warm welcome back to their old conference, you are probably mistaken.  It seems that those other schools still hold a grudge against BYU, and probably will for a very long time.

I only see the happening if enough MW schools follow UAB to the realms of the non-football world.  That is probably more of a reality than the loss of lesser P5 programs.  Schools like New Mexico and Wyoming are more likely to stop playing football than schools like Vanderbilt and Wake Forest.  The lesser P5 programs can rely on money from their conference mates.  But MWC schools can't.  That kind of money isn't there.  In 3 years, the MWC may be fighting for its survival as a football conference.  If that happens, the survivors may welcome BYU back with open arms.

3.  Form a new conference

If there is no further action from the elite conferences, I imagine BYU asking the stronger members of the American and the stronger members of the MW to get together to form a new conference.  Try this one on for size.

East Division

Memphis
Houston
Tulsa
SMU
Army
Navy

West Division

Air Force
BYU
Boise State
Colorado State
Fresno State
Utah State

This is no prediction, just an example.  I think, however, that everyone will be weary of joining BYU for a conference again, unless, again, they are desperate.  In fact, it may be more difficult for BYU to lure any of these schools out of their current conferences than it would be to talk a Power-5 conference in taking them on.  BYU turned their back on the members of the former Skyline Conference to form the WAC and left Montana and Defending Conference Champion Utah State behind.  (Montana was forced to drop a division because of this.)  BYU turned their back on the old 16-member WAC to form the MWC and left long time conference members UTEP, Hawaii, and Fresno State behind.  BYU turned their back on the MWC.  BYU doesn't have a good history of being easy to play with.  When things don't go so well, it's BYU that picks up their marbles and goes home.  People aren't going to forget this.

4.  American Conference

There was talk of BYU joining the Big East with Boise State and San Diego State before the Catholic non-football schools left.  This is likely the reason why BSU decided to back out of that deal.  It is not likely that the AAC will want BYU unless someone comes in with them.  Because Navy is joining this conference as a football only-member, perhaps Air Force could be persuaded to come with the Cougars.

This could happen, especially if Cincinnati and Memphis join the Big 12.  And it is more likely than any of the other conference scenarios.  But the AAC is not a power conference and bringing in the Cougars would have to be a gradual thing, until BYU plays all of their committed games, or other arrangements are made.  It will not be--hey were were Independent in 2018 and in 2019, we are in the AAC.  It would be more like this: the AAC fills out the remaining 4 games in 2019.  5 games in 2020 and beginning in 2021, BYU is a full member of the conference.

My two cents worth

BYU made their own bed when they became independent.  Perhaps the idea was to audition for a larger conference.  The audition may be on the verge of failure.  Maybe it is time to give up on independence, but when you don't make the rules what can you do?  Perhaps BYU needs to sleep in this bed longer than they want to.  Perhaps they can ride out independence for a few years longer than planned.  Perhaps they will need to.  Maybe when Bronco Mendenhall said, "we have 3 years," he really meant, "I have 3 years."  And and the end of those three years, BYU could still be independent.  But Tom Holmoe and Bronco Mendenhall could be on their way out.

In reality, Bronco should think a little harder before opening his mouth.  I can say what I want in this blog.  But Bronco doesn't have that luxury.  In reality, it make take more than 5 years for BYU to get where they want to be.  Their timelines need to be a bit more flexible.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How long will BYU remain Independent April 2015 edition.

In the ever changing world of college football, BYU's hopes seem to have taken another blow.  But now is not the time for despair.  You might think that BYU may as well give up and go back to the MWC, but that is not going to happen...at least that does not seen like the case.

First of all, more than ever, the world of college sports is changing by forces outside of the NCAA.  Here are a few things that could work in BYU's favor.

-First, the results of the Ed O'Bannon suit, the full cost of scholarships, guaranteed scholarships and unionization have not fully been realized.  UAB is likely the first of many schools that will drop football in the coming years.  I even saw reports that Kentucky and Virginia were considering it.  Yes, these reports came out on April first, but there is a kernel of truth to these joke reports.  The expense of football will even cause some P5 schools to join UAB.  Kentucky may be one of those schools, as it it obvious that Basketball is their top priority.  Schools like Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest also put primary emphasis on roundball over football.  Schools with such an emphasis in the Big 12 include Kansas and Iowa State.  This could be both good and bad news for the Cougars.  The good news is that the ACC beats the Big 12 to Cincinnati and Memphis and other East Coast school.  The bad news, there may not be a Big 12 for BYU to get into.  It is also possible that if the PAC-12 loses schools like Washington State, not because of a great emphasis on basketball, but because they simply can't keep up being in the small market where they reside.

Another problem that lurks is the student loan crisis.  This will eventually put a cap on student loans, and possibly keep colleges from raising tuition and fees to support their sports programs.  This will negatively effect many schools and will cause some of them to drop sports, including football.

Another potential problem is the NFL and NBA.  These leagues have relied too long on almost exclusively college talent.  And while the NBA has been buoyed up by talent from Europe, the NFL has not.  When colleges stop sponsoring football, the NFL talent pool will begin to shallow.  The NBA, sooner or later, will need to develop a farm system much more similar to what exists in soccer and hockey.  Sooner or later, the NFL will need to follow.  Already, there is a lot of talent in the US that is wasted because kids can't make it in college.

Other sports are beginning to surge in popularity in the United States.  Soccer and lacrosse are particularly becoming more popular with youth today, and while there are injuries, visits to the emergency room happen with less frequency.  Well, that is the perception, but many of these sports have as many injuries as football, especially when coaches are not training their players on how to avoid injury in the first place.

Finally, popularity of non-football/basketball sports is increasing at the expense of football and basketball.  The good ol' American pastime of baseball is seeing a resurgence while soccer and some women's sports are beginning to enjoy a level of popularity that was considered unthinkable in the days when the old NASL folded.

Take all of these factors into consideration.  There will likely be room for BYU in the top tier of college football, as long as fans are patient enough to wait for it.  Someone will leave and make room for the Cougars.  It's just a matter of time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Is there parity in college sports?

Spring football is beginning again, and there are probably 125 teams that think they have a shot at winning the National Championship right now.  If there is one constant in college sports, it is the lack of parity.  How long has it been since Vanderbilt played in the Sugar Bowl?  Ever see Arizona in the Rose Bowl?  Have you ever seen Northwestern or Washington State in the final four?

The early rounds of the college basketball championship are fun to watch, but rarely does Cinderella actually dance with the prince. Only 5 schools have won 16 of the last 25 championships: Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Connecticut, and Florida.  This lack of parity has been broken up by Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan State, Maryland, UCLA, Syracuse and UNLV, the last so-called mid-major to win it all.

It's a little bit better in college football, beginning with the 1990 season 16 different schools have won the national title in the past 25 years, although there have been school like Colorado and Georgia Tech who only shared a title instead of being named an outright champion.  And then you have Alabama and their 4 titles since 1990.  However, a mid-major has not won a championship since 1984, and many now consider that one to be a fluke.

Parity may not seem like it's important to college sports, but it should be.  Parity leads to higher attendance, as a higher percentage of fan bases have real hope when the season begins.  For an example of what parity can do for sports, look no farther than the National Football League.  Even the New Orleans Saints, once the joke of the NFL, have won a Super Bowl.  The list of teams to never play in that game is a short one, only the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texas are on that list.  In the last 25 seasons, 23 of the NFL's 32 teams have at least played in the big game at least once with 14 different champions.  As a result, TV money has never been better.  Attendance is down slightly with technology, but most other sports leagues wish they had the NFLs gate problems.

All of the major sports leagues in North America have had good parity in the last 25 seasons with the notable exception of the NBA, which has had more runners up than champions and more teams not to appear in the finals than runners up.  This could also be a result of the lack of parity in college basketball.  

The most successful college teams, there are probably 10 of these schools, will see most of their quality players enter the NBA draft as underclassmen, many as freshmen.  This creates more scholarship opportunities than those schools who see most of their best players complete a full 4 years.  You will notice that the top recruits in high school basketball will list these 10 schools as their top choices, and it is rare that they will choose a school other than one of these 10.  

There are only 15 scholarships for a college basketball team.  In  a 4 year period, if Kentucky sees 3 freshmen enter the NBA draft every season, but Wyoming has all of their players play for a full four years, then Kentucky is going to have 9 more players pass through their program over a 4 year period than Wyoming does.  The odds are in favor of the schools that get kids to the NBA early.

There is one other anomaly in the NBA: 14 of the league's 30 teams do not qualify for the playoffs. Many of these teams will tank, or lose games intentionally to gain access to the 2 or 3 very talented players in the NBA draft each season. Many players who would be all-stars if they seasoned in college for a full four years will never succeed at the professional level. That is probably the main reason why the NBA has seen only 8 different champions in the last 25 years.

Yes, there have been only 14 NFL champions in the last 25 years, but there are only 32 teams in the league.  Almost half of your NFL cities have claimed a recent champion.  There are 120 Division 1 FBS programs.  About 14 percent of college football programs have recently won a share of the national title.  About 4 percent of college basketball programs have a recent champion.

While college sports has a different mission than professional sports, it would still be nice if Eastern Washington a chance to go all the way, instead of hoping for a 2nd round upset or a trip to the sweet 16.  I would be nice if Louisiana Tech played in the Sugar Bowl every now and again.  If this was possible now-a-days, perhaps there would less need for the NCAA's persnickety recruiting rules.  

Parity by US Sports League

National Football League since 1989-90 season.

Number of different Super Bowl Champions: 14
San Francisco 49ers (2), New York Giants (3), Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys (3), Green Bay Packers (2), Denver Broncos (2), Baltimore Ravens (2), St Louis Rams, New England Patriots (4), Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers (2), Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks

Most Championships since 1989-90 Season: New England Patriots (4)

Other teams to play in the Super Bowl but have not won since the 1989-90 season: 9:  (Some of these teams won the Super Bowl or a pre-Super Bowl Championship before 1989)
Buffalo Bills (4), San Diego Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans

Teams not to play in the Superbowl since 1989-90 season (Note, many of these teams won championships before 1989):  9
New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans

Major League Baseball since 1990 season, (considering 1994 post-season was canceled).

Number of different World Series champions: 14
Oakland Athletics, Cincinnati Reds, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays (2), Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees (5), Miami (Florida) Marlins (2), Arizona Diamondbacks, Anaheim Angles, Boston Red Sox (4), Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals (2), Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants (2)

Most Championships since 1990: New York Yankees (5)

Other teams to play in the World Series since 1990: 8
Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals

Teams not to appear in World Series since 1990: 7
Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Los Angleles Dodgers

National Hockey League since 1989-90 Season (2005 season was canceled)

Number of Different Champions: 14
Edmonton Oilers, Pittsburgh Penguins (3), Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils (3), Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche (2), Detroit Red Wings (4), Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks (2), Los Angeles Kings (2)

Most Championships since 1989-90 season: Detroit Red Wings (5)

Other teams to play in Stanley Cup Finals, but lose since 1989-90 season: 7
Philadelphia Flyers, Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks, Buffalo Sabers, Florida Panthers, Ottawa Senators, Washington Capitals

Teams not to appear in Stanley Cup Finals since 1989-90 season: 9
New York Islanders, Saint Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets II, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, Winnepeg Jets I/Arizona Coyotes

National Basketball Association since 1990-91 season

Number of Different Champions: 8
Chicago Bulls (6), Houston Rockets (2), San Antonio Spurs (5), Los Angeles Lakers (5), Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat (2), Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks

Most Championships since 1990-91 season: Chicago Bulls (6)

Other teams to play in the NBA Finals but lose: 10
Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, New York Nicks, Orlando Magic, Seattle Supersonics/Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers

Teams not to appear in NBA finals since 1990-91 season: 12
Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets II, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets I/Pelicans, Toronto Raptors

Major League Soccer since it's beginning (Began in 1996)

Number of Different Champions: 8
DC United (4), Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards/Sporting Kansas City (2), San Jose Earthquakes I/Houston Dynamo (4), Los Angeles Galaxy (5), Columbus Crew, Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids

Most Championships: Los Angeles Galaxy (5)

Other teams to play in the MLS Cup final but lose: 3
New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, Dallas Burn/FC Dallas, 

Teams not to appear in MLS Cup Finals: 7 (+2)
San Jose Earthquakes II, Montreal Impact, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps, Orlando City*, New York City FC*

*Expansion teams in current season.

FBS College Football since 1990 season

Number of Different Champions: 16
Note: Multiple national champions were declared in 1990, 1991, 1997 and 2003

Colorado, Georgia Tech, Miami (2), Washington (2), Alabama (4), Florida State (3), Nebraska (3), Michigan, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio State (2), Louisiana State (2), USC (2), Texas, Florida (3), Auburn (2)

Most championships since 1990 season: Alabama 4

Note: because of BCS and multiple bowls and scenarios, it would be impractical to list all of the teams that had a chance to win a championship going into the bowls.  The college football playoff began in 2014 season and Alabama was the runner up.

Number of college teams not to win the national championship since the 1990 season: 104

Division 1 College Basketball since 1989-90 Season

Number of different champions: 14
Kentucky (3), North Carolina (3), Duke (4), Connecticut (4), Kansas, Louisville, Florida (2), Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan State, Maryland, UCLA,Syracuse, UNLV

Most Championships since since 1989-90 season: Duke, Connecticut (4)

Other schools to play in the championship game but lose: 6
Utah, Indiana, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Butler, Memphis

Number of Division I college basketball teams not to appear in the national championship final since the 1989-90 season 331

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Comments on the End of the College Football Season for Utah

Yes, I know that I am little late this year, as the football season ended long ago.  I am still waiting for the punishments from the BYU/Memphis fight and I was waiting for the coaching dust to settle, as it has not yet completely done so.

BYU

The Cougars had a disappointing season, winning 8 games for the third season in a row.  By most standards, that is a pretty good accomplishment, if there are a few great seasons mixed in.  BYU hasn't had a great season in a long time and some fans will not be happy until BYU finally gets into what is now called a New Year's 6 bowl game or better.

But BYU's sidelines this year looked like a scene from M*A*S*H.  Especially when Taysom Hill went down to a season-ending injury against Utah State.  Frankly, however, the defense was very porous, even without before that happened and it is likely that Utah State and Boise State would have still been losses even if Hill would have remained under center.

There are a lot of real questions that BYU fans should be asking after this season.  Most importantly, how does BYU end up with a quartet of walk-ons behind Taysom Hill?  In all truth, BYU paid the football equivelent last season of driving without a good insurance policy.  If this happens again, regardless of the final outcome of the season, the head coach should be forced out.  Even though Stewart did an OK job of leading the team for 4 more wins, the personnel management was inexcusable.

I would expect 2015, with the powerhouses on BYU's schedule, will end up in the Cougars first losing season since 2004.  I would also expect it to be Bronco Mendenhall's last season in Provo if this happens.

Utah

Speaking of inexcusable, how is it that Utah lost both coordinators after having their best season since joining the PAC-12?  I understand that Sitake was looking for better stability for his family while Dave Christensen probably wasn't a good fit for Utah.  That is likely why Kyle Whittingham still hasn't named their successors, he really needs assistants coaches who are a good fit for the uniqueness of coaching in Utah.  Most likely, I expect that KW will promote Aaron Roderick and Morgan Scalley, find a place for Dave Peck (the outgoing Bingham High head coach) and then look for two alumni to join the staff.

The season could have been better, however, with more consistency on offense, especially out of the quarterback position.  But that was about the only real disappointment out of 2014.  All other aspects of their game, especially the Special Teams, worked very well.  And I would expect that 2015 will be even better.

Utah State

Utah State's motto for the 2014 season was "The Climb Continues."  The Aggies did not continue the climb in 2014.  They were also bitten by the injury bug, but still managed to win 10 games, after a bowl win.  However, the most telling game of the season was 21-14 loss at Arkansas State.  I won't say a lot else about this season, other than to ask one question.  If USU has really turned the corner, when are they going to get beyond BYU?  Did they look past Arkansas State because they were looking forward to BYU?  Was winning the Wagon Wheel more important that beating Colorado State and winning the conference?  Beating BYU was great.  But it is not the most important thing that USU football can do every season.  USU will not finish the climb until they can realize this.  Maybe having BYU last in 2015 will be the difference.

Weber State

There were only 2 wins for the third season in a row at Weber State, and now we can claim the years after Ron McBride's retirement as darker than the years after Sark Arslenian's move to Fort Collins.  Hopefully, it doesn't last as long.  But this season, all phases of the game were better, and Weber State wasn't exactly blown away like they were in 2013.  Also, 2014's schedule was a bit on the tough side, as they were burdened with 4 of the first 5 games on the road and with the tougher part of the Big Sky Conference to play.  The 2015 schedule is a little bit more realistic and WSU has a good chance at finishing above .500.

Southern Utah

There was a lot of turnover on the SUU staff in 2014, and it showed on the field.  By the end of the season, at least the offense was clicking.  The defense, well, they miss Justin Ena a lot in Cedar City.  The prospects for a good 2015 will rest in turning the defense around and keeping the offensive momentum going.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why promotion/relegation won't work in the US.

While the college football season is finishing about how I expected it to, and because I have nothing of quality to add to the conversation until it is all over, I am changing the subject for this week's entry.

Promotion/Relegation is something that is familiar to sports fans in Europe, it is not something that is practiced here in the United States.  Although some suggest that this could be part of the answer for College Football, it has never been tried or suggested at the professional level. 

This is how it works.  We will use the English Premier League as an example.  When the football (soccer) season is over in the EPL, the three worst teams in the EPL are relegated to the Football Championship League to play next season.  In the meantime, the two best teams plus the winner of a playoff between teams #4-7 are promoted to the EPL.  For the record, even though the Football Championship League is technically a minor league, it does not a developmental league like the baseball minor leagues, the 20 teams in that league are independent.

Therefore, it would be like demoting the worst team from the American League, the Texas Rangers, and the worst team in the National League, the Arizona Diamondbacks to the AAA level and promoting the best team from the International League, the Syracuse Nationals and the best team from the Pacific Coast League, the Las Vegas 51s.

This sounds like a great idea, at first.  What better way to stop your favorite NBA team from tanking than the threat of being placed in the NBA-DL next season?  Waiting for an NFL franchise in your town?  Well, if you hometown teams wins the minor league championship, you get the the opportunity to move up with it.

But there is a very good reason why this will never happen in the United States, even in Major League Soccer.  It's called politics.

In the US, we have the nicest facilities on the planet.  We are not like Europe, where they will put billions into facilities for the Olympic Games just to see them waste away in just a little over a decade.  When we put taxpayer dollars into a facility, we expect it to be fill to capacity every game day.  The average per game attendance in Major League Baseball is around 30,000.  At the AAA level, it's 6,000.  Do you think any city will put millions of taxpayer dollars into stadiums under the risk that attendance will fall by 80% if the star player blows a knee?  That type of spending will cause problems on Election Day.  No city in America is sport-crazy enough to see 30,000 fans show up for a minor league team.

It may be just like the example I provided above.  Would people in Phoenix really be happy about losing out to Las Vegas? 

Fans may eventually understand that this is part of the game, and many fair-weather fans will find other bandwagons to jump on.  But if US leagues adopt Promotion/Relegation, we can expect that teams will have to find another way to finance the building of facilities.  In the EPL, some teams like Chelsea, play in stadiums that are many decades old.  Their stadium was built in late 1800s, and has been expanded, improved and modernized as the years have rolled on.  But no public dollars have been involved.  While not every stadium in Europe has been built without help from taxpayers, it is rare that this happens here in the US, while it is common in Europe.

This may sound like a godsend to those against public financing of ballparks, the business community may morn.  Chambers of commerce love having their city defined as a major league city.  Many business deals are made on the baselines and sidelines.  For many cities in America, their team is the only game in town.  And for some cities, their teams are a source of public pride and positive publicity.  For that reason, there will always be pressure on cities to pour money into sports venues and keep their cities at major league levels.

Potential Cities for Relegation Leagues by Sport.

NFL
Los Angeles
Portland
Columbus
Salt Lake City
Orlando
San Antonio
Sacramento
Oklahoma City
Virginia Beach
Memphis
Raleigh
Larger NFL Markets like New York, Chicago, Houston

MLB
Indianapolis*
Charlotte*
Nashville*
Buffalo*
New Orleans*
Montreal
Vancouver
Portland
Columbus*
Calgary
Salt Lake City*
Edmonton
Ottawa
Winnepeg
Orlando
San Antonio
Sacramento*
Oklahoma City*
(*Denotes city with AAA baseball team)
Also larger MLB markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston

NBA
Tampa
Pittsburgh
Seattle
Kansas City
San Deigo
Baltimore
Cincinnati
Nashville
Buffalo
Montreal
Vancouver
Columbus
Calgary
Edmonton
Ottawa
Winnepeg
Jacksonville
Rahleigh

NHL
Houston
Atlanta
Cleveland
Seattle
Kansas City
San Diego
Baltimore
Cincinnati
Indianapolis
Milwaukee
Charlotte
New Orleans
Portland
Salt Lake City
Plus larger NHL markets such as New York, Chicago and Toronto

MLS
Phoenix
Detroit
Minneapolis
Tamps
St. Louis
Cleveland
Pittsburgh
San Diego
Baltimore
Cincinnati
Indianapolis
Milwaukee
Charlotte
Nashville
Buffalo
New Orleans
Calgary
Edmonton
San Antonio
Sacramento
Plus larger markets in MLS like Houston and Chicago

For reference, football (soccer) teams in the London Area (12)

English Premier League (6)
Arsenal
Chelsea
Crystal Palace
Queen's Park Rangers
Tottenham
West Ham United

Football League Championship (5)
Brentford
Charleton Athletic
Fullham
Milwall
Watford

League One (1)
Leyton Orient