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


West Division

Air Force
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 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.


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.


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.

Los Angeles
Salt Lake City
San Antonio
Oklahoma City
Virginia Beach
Larger NFL Markets like New York, Chicago, Houston

New Orleans*
Salt Lake City*
San Antonio
Oklahoma City*
(*Denotes city with AAA baseball team)
Also larger MLB markets such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston

Kansas City
San Deigo

Kansas City
San Diego
New Orleans
Salt Lake City
Plus larger NHL markets such as New York, Chicago and Toronto

St. Louis
San Diego
New Orleans
San Antonio
Plus larger markets in MLS like Houston and Chicago

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

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

Football League Championship (5)
Charleton Athletic

League One (1)
Leyton Orient

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Is it time for Bronco Mendenhall to Go?

Before you read anything else you should know, even though I have no inside information, I am confident that Bronco Mendenall will not get fired after this season. Gary Crowton had three losing seasons before he was asked to quit.  Bronco Mendenhall deserves at least that.  I have read rumors in chat rooms, but nothing credible indicating that boosters are beginning to withhold their support of the program.

College football is evolving right now. Only time will tell if this season is a blip on the radar or the beginning of irrelevance in Provo. It seems that the college football powers are willing to go on a spending spree right now, and no one knows where it will end. But sooner or later, it will end.  It has to.  The mission of every university involves creating professionals in something other than sports. Some do this by with research while others focus on teaching. As I read about Boise State's plans to provide stipends for the full cost of education, I wondered how they would pay for it. I quote this this paper.

"Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools spent more than $91,000 per athlete compared with just over $13,000 per student. Yet students across the country faced steep tuition hikes and increased fees."

This type of spending is not happening at BYU. According to this Department of Education website, BYU spends about 23,000 per football player. The total cost of education at BYU for football player would probably add significantly to this total, but BYU may still be the model of efficiency in college football. And, it is still considered a tuition bargain, even for non-LDS athletes. According to the site, in the 2012-2013 school year, BYU athletics earned five millions dollar profit. They have about 8,000 left for each student athlete.  BYU may drop out of an arms race, if it comes to that, but most likely they can absorb the extra costs.

The real problems for BYU are on the field this year. They are not only mired in a 4-game losing streak, they are losing games in ways that are rare. BYU doesn't often give up 2nd half leads and lose, but that has happened twice this year. They are not often out-coached by Utah State or Boise State. I can't remember the last time BYU gave up 31 points in the 2nd quarter alone. It has indeed been surreal.

There are other cracks in the wall right now.  Attendance is down this season, and sellouts against out-of-state teams are becoming rare.

This hasn't been the only disappointing season in Provo, recently. BYU exceeded expectations in 2006,  when they won the conference championship and had a dominating win against Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.  Things were looking up and fans knew that BYU would join rival Utah as a BCS buster.  Every season since has seen disappointment in one degree or another. BYU has been good, and some-times, scary good. But they have failed to turn the corner to greatness.

The question real question is, what are the problems in Provo and why can't teams that are coached by Bronco turn the corner? There is no doubt that BYU, at best, has been in decline since 2009 and the debate is how steep has that decline been. This year, BYU has been plagued with injuries, and that has led to at least 2 of the 4 losses this season. The other 2 losses can clearly be blamed upon the coaching staff and a lack of preparation for those games.

Even when Mendenhall was winning 10 games per season, this was still an issue. Back to the 2009 season, BYU was well prepared for their opener and won a close game against Oklahoma on a neutral field. Then, later that same season, they were blown out by Florida State at home. Yes, it was Florida State, but it wasn't one of their better seasons once all was said and done. And even though BYU went 11-2 in 2009, finishing with an overtime win over Utah and a dominating Las Vegas Bowl victory over Oregon State, it wasn't all it promised to be after that afternoon was over in Arlington. TCU won the Mountain West Championship that year and then played in the Fiesta Bowl and lost to Boise State.

BYU fans have been waiting for that moment of their own for years, but it was always gone to someone else. It was Utah, at first, followed by Boise State then Hawaii, and then TCU. All rivals to some degree, but never BYU. They never busted the BCS and will have to wait another season or two to bust the new playoff. But it's not as if there has not been inconsistency in Provo. Every year begins with promise, and every season has it's degree of sadness.

If there is one thing that you can count on from a Bronco Mendenhall team, it is at least two unprepared, under-coached games every single season. It has happened at least twice every season, Bronco has stepped to his post-game podium and said, "sorry, that was my bad." As a results, it's always next year. And perhaps Cougar fans have had enough.

While this year's performance, or Brocno's history may not warrant dismissal, it is certainly not going to get the program to the level that many fans crave. You might be in the Big 12, but if you win the conference championship, you won't be playing for the national championship.  Because your two losses will disqualify you.  And if you can't get a national championship in the Big 12, you definitely won't get one as an independent. It won't work as member of the Mountain West and it won't work as a member of the AAC. It just won't work.  A national champion has to be ready to play every single week without fail.  No excuses.  You have to win.

If you are satisfied with just conference championships, then BYU should join a conference. They will win one every once in a while with Mendenhall at the helm.  Probably enough for fans to happy.  If you want to win a national championship, then you need a coach that will have his team properly prepared every single Saturday without fail and without excuse. Conference affiliation or independent.  Every Saturday means every single one from September to November.

Even BYU fans who are apologists for Bronco Mendenhall probably understand this principle.  Either you learn to look past this, or you support your team whatever may come.  For me, you don't need to win every game, but there is no excuse for not be ready to play every week.  I think that fans should accept nothing less.

Is there someone who can have his team ready to play every week? Is there someone who can meet the standards of the LDS Church and have the Cougars ready every single Saturday without fail? There probably is. But if Bronco were to leave now, many fans may wish for Kalani Sitaki, but BYU may end up with Dave Campo (yes, the former Dallas Cowboy coach is an LDS church member who is currently the Defensive Coordinator at Kansas.).  BYU may end up hiring someone you would not expect, someone who doesn't come from the traditional college path of being a coordinator before becoming a coach, but who understands that his team need to be ready and knows how to get them there.

BYU will have to open their pockets as well as the hearts to get the man they need. Are they prepared to do that? They have the money. Is now the time? If it is, don't be surprised that a mission call is found for Bronco. There are some high profile mission president openings coming this year. Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Atlanta, Oakland, Sydney. It would make one heck of a headline.

However,  I expect Bronco to stay another year or two. And while he is here, expect more of the same. His teams will beat who they should, they just won't win enough games to win a championship.  And yes, there will be a couple of stinkers every season where Bronco steps to the mike and falls on his sword.

Turning the Corner

Turning the corner describes the week that was in college football in Utah this week.  Please read on.

Boise State 55 BYU 30

BYU fans are not used to seeing their team lose like this.  In fact, BYU fans are used to seeing their Cougars dish it out in games like this one, so much so that it could be a GEICO commercial.  There was nothing that Bronco Mendenhall's defense could do to stop the Bronco attack.  I will have more about the state of the BYU football program in a follow-up post.

Predicted outcome
Worst Case 5-7
Best Case 7-5

Projected Win
Savannah State

Projected Loss

Toss Up
Middle Tennessee

Utah 24 USC 21

You could expect that Utah would beat the Trojans at home, but USC is still USC and this was not an easy win for the Utes.  If they are to win the South Division, no wins from this point forward will be easy.  But this game was fun to watch, even though there were some missed opportunities by both teams.  There were mistakes made, but that didn't happen at the end of the game.  It will be fun watching Utah, Arizona and Arizona State break up the current log jam at the top of the division.

Predicted Outcome
Worst Case 7-5
Best Case 11-1

Projected Wins

Toss Up
Arizona State

Utah State 35 UNLV 20

The rallying cry in Logan right now could be, "our 4th String QB is better than your 4th string QB."  Matt Wells is certainly not one to use injuries as an excuse.  Of course that comes from the proper preparation of backups.  Your 4th stringers would certainly do well if they were prepared to take over when those in front of them go down to injury.

Predicted finish 8-4

Projected wins
New Mexico
San Jose State

Projected loss
Boise State

Don't have time to wallow in the misery of our FCS teams this week.  But I will note that Southern Utah took it to North Dakota last weekend.  There is hope that Weber State will finish with a win after all.