Sprints // 04.30.09

Look before you link. This is the only conclusion one can draw about an item railing against the use of overall draft numbers in evaluating conferences that appears to cite the post your humble correspondent wrote after the draft was complete.

A January post discusses the annual, annoying use of raw counting numbers to assess each conference's performance in the NFL draft, and is cited by SMQB in support of his annoyance at same.

I'm the "his annoyance at same" link. In reference to a story that begins:

I've always thought that attempting to rank colleges or confereces by the NFL Draft is worse than worthless.

Now, I suppose it would be easy to scan the headline "What the Draft Says About the SEC," look at the charts including the numbers ("Ooh! Charts! Pretty!) and miss the caveats that pervade the actual words. Not a huge trangression for a link dump. Annoying, but forgivable.

But here we get to the meat, in the middle of a sharp response to the Mayor.

Let's go back to first principles: the main reason this conference superiority argument is important is because we have a system that whittles the playoff to two teams before a game is played. Schedule strength is important. People use overall conference strength as a proxy for figuring out how good your claim to enter this playoff is, and they use the number of NFL draft picks as a (bad) proxy for figuring out overall conference strength.

[Rich Brooks' favorite expletive]. Having a playoff of any size will cause you to have to weigh conference strength. There are a lot of things that can be blamed on the lack of a playoff in college football, but the importance attached to conference superiority? C'mon. The conference argument is important because people like to be the best. If you have a six-team playoff (which Brian has advocated), you've got to either choose which six teams get in -- based in part on, you know, how strong their conference schedule is -- or you've got  to give automatic bids to six conferences -- and eliminate some along the way, based presumably on which ones are strongest and which ones are weakest. The same will be true in an eight-, twelve-, or sixteen-team playoff.

Furthermore, if this argument works, and the SEC is so unfairly portrayed as being the best league in the country -- how come Auburn got snubbed in 2004 as the Pac-10's Southern Cal and the Big XII's Oklahoma played for the championship? After all, if it's all about conference strength, "The Citadel" has no relevance.

The larger point is this, though: The Draft says nothing about college football, because it's a pro football event. People who base their opinions about college conferences on what happens in the draft generally cannot be reasoned with.

Does not compute. It's scandalous! Horrifying! The spending spree on college sports continues. Former Arizona President Peter Likins:

"The real important question for people to ask - for alumni, for taxpayers and tuition-payers - is: Where is the (additional) money coming from? If it's coming from the university while that university is firing people and reducing programs and diminishing services to the students it's intended to serve, that is worthy of protest."

All but about two dozen of the 120 athletics programs in the Bowl Subdivision are subsidized to some degree by their respective schools.

Problem No. 1 with the article: Yes, athletics are somewhat subsidized. But there's a reason some of them are called "revenue sports." What many of the generally progressive critics of athletics spending don't note is that the continuing of non-revenue sports, and Title IX in particular, is part of any spending problem. Personally, I like Title IX and similar policies/practices -- but you can't blast athletics spending and endorse Title IX, which produces endless spending for generally little or no revenue.

An earlier version of the spending study, released in 2005, found that schools had little to gain by stepping up their already sizable investments in athletics. For every additional dollar spent, that report found, programs realized only an additional dollar in athletics revenue. And no correlation was found between increased spending and win-loss records. ...

Notably, the new report departs from the earlier study in finding that some programs can spend their way to greater success on the field.

An extra $1 million spent on football increases winning percentage by 1.8 percentage points and the chances of a top 25 finish in the Associated Press media poll by 5 percentage points, the report estimates. And with a top 25 finish comes roughly $3 million more in revenues before a school ponies up for a bowl trip.

In basketball, the study similarly finds "a significant relationship" between non-salary expenditures and both winning percentage and the probability of reaching the NCAA tournament.

As a reporter, this is the most troubling part of this story to me. The new information that undermines the punchy quotes and tsk-tsking of the critics is placed below the old information that backs up the criticism. If you want to know why the public thinks we're biased, here's Exhibit A. Because the only reason I can think of to stack a story this way is if was molded to fit the worldview of the reporters, editors or someone else.

The article also has seemingly smaller transgressions, like citing as a trend numbers from the NCAA that even the NCAA says aren't long-range enough to use in searching for trends.

And then, there are instances like this. Yes, I know, it could be the exception to the rule, but it's still probably not the story you want breaking on the same day you write a story about the horrors of increased college spending on athletics.

The University of Arkansas' athletic department will donate $1 million to the UA for the use of academic ventures in the 2009-10 year.

Vice Chancellor Jeff Long, athletics director, and chancellor David G. Gearhart made the announcement this morning at the student union. ...

Gearhart confirmed that none of the money used will come from donor contributions. The $1 million is strictly from the athletic department's revenue streams.

Inconvient, that.

That was predictable. The lawyers get involved in the TeeBows sensation. Like you didn't see that one coming a mile away. Undoing the beautiful and logical combination of football and women's underwear? Now that's what I call an activist judiciary.

So much for "Spurrier is absolutely, positively coming to Notre Dame!" Seems that a lot of university planes can't be tracked by FlightAware. Which makes the whole idea ot trying to follow flight plans to divine your team's next head coach seem even lamer, somehow.

The Great Tennis Controversy of 2009. Ole Miss athletics officials lay down the law.

Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone, tennis coach Billy Chadwick and associate AD Lynette Johnson spoke with NCAA officials regarding the tennis flap earlier this morning. ...

In the end, Boone and the NCAA agreed to disagree. The school and the SEC may introduce legislation to the NCAA's championship cabinet to try and protect teams seeded as high as Ole Miss is right now.

You show em, Boone. Legislation! That's how we roll in the ESS!!!!! EEE!!!!! SEE!!!!!

Cart before the horse much? Navy has already agreed to bowl games for the 2009 and 2013 seasons. No, they have not yet achieved bowl eligibility in either season. Details, details.

Time flies, even when your players can't. The Rivalry. Esq., turned one year old Wednesday. Of course, that's like two weeks in SEC years, but still ...

Wind Sprints. Ole Miss: No. 7. Season: Four months away. ... When Steve Spurrier tells you not to go pro, you best listen. His WRs and QBs have struggled in the pros, but they've generally gone high ... Jamar Hornsby messes up the roster-trimming plan ...

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