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Saturday, May 29, 2010

World Cup spotlight to shine on South Africa

It happens once every four years.  No, I am not talking about the Olympics, but rather the World Cup, soccer's grandest stage of them all, where 32 nations compete over a 3 to four week time period so one can be called champion.  The 2010 version of the World Cup is to take place in South Africa, a diverse nation not exempt from controversy.  Indeed, for years the nation had been known primarily for apartheid, a sort of unwritten policy of treating ethnic minorities as second class citizens.  These games, however, look to bring a more positive note to the nation, as the whole country has been thrown into a whirlwind over the events.  The venues range from the large capital of Johannesburg, to the scenic Cape Town and Table Mountain, to the beautiful Port Elizabeth.  I myself would love to go the games, but not necessarily just to see soccer.  As many of you reading this blog may already know, my grandmother was born and raised in Cape Town, and I still have several second and third cousins that currently live in South Africa.  I actually had an outside shot to earn a trip there(through ESPN the magazine's take me to the World Cup contest), but alas I did not submit an entry by the deadline, and I think my chances of winning were probably slim since I am not really a rabid soccer fan.  In any case I shall be tuned to the games the moment they start(June 11th for those of you who don't know) and will be interested to see how things go for the country's first major international event in years plays out.  It should be fun to watch.

New blog...please check it out!

Hey everyone,  I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know that I have started a second blog I would like you to check out: Dawg Pound 34.  You can find it at  From there you will click on the hyperlink entitled Community, then click the hyperlink 'Check out recent blog entries or start your own.'  My name on the Dawg Pound 34 blog is jarrod877 if you can't find it.  As you may have guessed from the title, this blog is more fan based, and actually discussed the Cleveland Browns.  I have just finished my third post this morning.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Notre Dame's snubbing of Big Ten hurting conference recruiting efforts?

In the recent days and months there has been plenty of talk surrounding the Big Ten's effort at conference expansion, with the University of Notre Dame being among the targets.  Much of the talk has centered around how Notre Dame's refusal to join the Big Ten could make them a nonfactor when it comes to the BCS.  But could it be that the reason the Big Ten is pushing so hard for Notre Dame to join, despite the university's stance, is that Notre Dame is actually hurting Big Ten recruiting by not joining the conference?  If you look at how Notre Dame has fared as an independent recently, then you might say no.  Look a little deeper however.  Notre Dame travels to USC and Stanford(two geographically enticing locales) every other year, almost all of their games are nationally televised, and with the rise of service academies they play one of the toughest schedules year in and year out.  These are all great reasons to go to Notre Dame. And even though Notre Dame has not been in the BCS discussion for quite a few years, they have still been competitive.  Ohio State has had trouble recruiting in the Cincinnati area in large part due to ND, and things should not change with the hiring of Brian Kelly as head football coach.   Which all leads us back to bringing Notre Dame into the Big Ten.  Certainly Notre Dame would still get a certain number of recruits even as a member of the conference, but no longer would prospects who have verbally committed to one Big Ten school change their mind and sign with Notre Dame because they like the program's independence.  And that could go a long way to bring the Big Ten back as a major player when it comes to the BCS.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Time to revisit Title IX?

It is the reason that we are forced to watch the Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  No longer can we watch Ohio State versus Indiana on broadcast television or ESPN, we now have to tune into the Big Ten Network.   Admission prices to football and basketball games across the country have gradually increased year after year.  And athletic departments all over are being forced to make the unpopular decision to cut many programs.  Am I talking about the rise in head coaching salaries of major college athletics?  No, I am talking about Title IX, and a solution to an otherwise broken system must be found or more cuts will be on the way.

For those of you not familiar with Title IX, it is the stipulation in college athletics that states that for every men's athletic program a university offers it must also offer a women's athletic program.  Inspired by the equal rights amendment of the US Constitution, it was devised to bring equality to major college athletics.  But has it really accomplished what it has set out to do?  Let's take a look at the facts: in the current state of college athletics, over 65 to 70% of athletic revenue is derived from two sports, football and men's basketball.  That revenue in turn, is in large part used to fund the rest of a given athletic department to help achieve balance per Title IX.   I am not a math major, but I believe that anyone could tell that is far from an equal distribution of funds.  The question then becomes, how do we achieve equality in major college athletics?

The short term answer is to revise the way Title IX operates.  We need to find a way where everyone has an opportunity to play, but not at the cost of one or two sports.  One solution might be two eliminate all but a few varsity sports, such as football, men's and women's basketball, and a second women's sport.  All other sports would then become club sports, with members raising their own money in order to participate.  But that would then bring on another debate as to what sports should remain varsity and which should be club.  Members of the Johns Hopkins lacrosse team, for example, might not be eager to join the ranks of club sport just so they can make room for the soccer team.  Another solution might be to eliminate all nonrevenue sports.  This would also be very controversial, and very unpopular, as it would only leave a few sports within a given athletic department.  A third, and probably most practical solution, is to raise tuition, and use the increase of that tuition money to help cover the costs associated with having multiple sports programs.  Currently, many major college athletic departments operate independently of school operating costs, but why should they?  Are not college athletics in one way or another a part of the educational process, even if they don't take take place in the classroom?

As for a long term answer, I am not sure there is an easy one.  A major overhaul of Title IX is not likely, and coming up with one that is fair to both men's and women's sports is not a simple process.  Proponents of a Title IX overhaul argue that it just isn't fair for one or two sports to have to cover the nut on a year in year out basis.  Opponents of changes to Title IX will always argue that there needs to be equal opportunities for men and women.  Getting both sides to come to a consensus might be harder than a root canal.  But with time I am sure it will happen.

With the budgets of many major university athletic departments today approaching that of many mid-size corporations, it is time for us to consider how to effectively balance those budgets.  While the obvious answer is to cut wasteful spending,  the not so obvious answer would be to reexamine the way Title IX operates altogether.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Rush was wrong... about Donovan McNabb?

In order to save face, ESPN had to do it.  They had to fire Rush Limbaugh as co-anchor on Monday night football, for what on the surface appeared to be racially charged remarks aimed at Donovan McNabb, then the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Rush had made the comment, during a live broadcast of MNF, that he did not believe Donovan McNabb to be a very good quarterback.  In fact, he would go on to say that he believed McNabb got to where he was because in part "the media was desirous of a black quarterback to do well."  Limbaugh's co-anchors would not press him on this issue, as I am sure they thought it to be too divisive.  ESPN, understanding the political background that Rush had come from, wanted nothing to do with this and quickly dismissed him.  But the question still remains largely unanswered: was Rush right about McNabb, or is he actually a good quarterback?  These days quarterbacks are judged largely by what they have done in the postseason, and, in that department, McNabb has fallen somewhat short, having failed to win a Super Bowl(he does have one appearance, a loss in SB XXXIX to the Patriots), and five losses in NFC title games as well.  But does that mean he is not a good quarterback?  For an answer to that, we need to look at his body of work in comparison to quarterbacks who put up similar numbers that are in the hall of fame.  McNabb is most often compared to John Elway, in part because Elway finished his career playing for Mike Shananhan, and the prevailing notion is that McNabb will finish his career also playing for Shananhan, in Washington not Denver, however.  If we look at stats alone*, it would appear that McNabb has a slightly higher completion pct(59.0 to 56.9) and touchdown to interception ratio(2.16 to 1.33) than Elway, while Elway, threw for slightly more yards per attempt.  Elway, on the other hand, has two SB rings to McNabb's zero, and a couple of more SB appearances to add to those rings as well.  So one could argue that Elway is better than McNabb based solely on postseason record.  However, McNabb's numbers are eerily similar to Dan Marino, another hall of fame quarterback, and one who doesn't have a Super Bowl ring.  In fact, Marino only has a slightly higher career completion percentage than McNabb(59.4 to 59.0), while McNabb has a better touchdown to interception ratio than Marino(2.16 to1.67).  So, based on those two comparisons, I would have to argue that at this stage of his career McNabb is at least as good as Elway and Marino were.  I also think that answers the question "Is Donovan McNabb a good quarterback?" with a definitive yes, at least in my opinion.

*Stats are provide courtesy of

Friday, May 7, 2010

The New BCS and Natural Rivalries

The landscape of NCAA college football is about to change dramatically.  It is inevitable that the Big Ten Conference is going to expand, to at least fourteen and quite possibly sixteen schools.  The Pac 10 and SEC Conferences, afraid that these changes are going to leave them unable to compete, have already been proactive about seeking additional members.  When all the dust is settled, many predict that the Football Bowl Series will have four major conferences: the Big Ten, SEC, Pac 10, and the ACC.  Such a move has major implications for the current state of the BCS.  Some would even argue that such expansion will lead to the abolishment of the BCS in favor of a college football playoff system.  I have argued in earlier posts for a playoff system, but I do not see that happening despite the inevitable change that is going to take place among the NCAA landscape.  No,  I believe that when all is said and done, we will have a new BCS, much larger than the old system.  Proponents of the new BCS will argue that more inclusion should eliminate the need for a playoff system.  And I would agree that should be a good thing.  But what university president's and chancellors may have failed to consider in their quest to make more money is how conference expansion will affect the natural rivalries that certain schools have.   I believe though, that once the New BCS has been established, natural rivalries will take on a survival of the fittest mentality, whereby only one of the two schools will emerge each season with a chance to play for the championship.  Gone are the days where OSU and Michigan will play the final game of the season to determine who has a chance for the national title.  The establishment of a postseason conference championship reduces the relevancy of that game.  Just ask Texas, who already has a beef with the BCS from a couple of seasons ago-it beat archrival Oklahoma head to head only to be screwed out of the Big 12 championship on a technicality.  With the arrival of the New BCS, however, the Sooner and Longhorn rivalry might fall to the wayside, unless the conference that picks up one of the schools also invites the other school to be a member.  I think that is a distinct possibility, as UT and OU go to either the SEC or the Pac 10; the remaining schools in the Big 12 will possibly pull in schools from the WAC or the Mountain West or Big Sky conferences to keep pace.  The Big East, another conference that will be raided, will also look to other mid-majors such as the Mid American and Conference USA to bolster its membership.  In the end, the BCS will still comprise of 6 conferences, but they will be much larger conferences.  And they should probably rename their conferences as well.  For example,  instead of the Big 12, how about the Cornfed Conference?  And instead of the Big East, what about the Little Beast?  I've got it: the SEC is named the Big Greasy.  Point is, before the New BCS order, conferences were named based on the number of members that it had; post NBCS, they really can't claim to be the "Big 12" when they have  sixteen members.   Oh its going to be fun to watch.   And for those of you who still believe that college football will need a playoff, don't worry, its coming.  You just might have to wait another 10-15 years though.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Big Ten Expansion: A case for the University of Cincinnati

It has almost become a forgone conclusion that within the next year the Big Ten Conference will expand its membership, from eleven to possibly sixteen teams.  Names such as Notre Dame and Texas are being thrown around as potential marquee candidates for expansion.  Texas would surely be a huge addition, but the logistics of such a move make it an unlikely candidate.  Notre Dame has been asked to join the conference on several occasions but rebuked; in the end it may regret its decision to remain a football independent.  Other schools that have been mentioned as candidates are Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse, and Missouri to name a few.  One school, however, that I think would be a great addition for the Big Ten that almost no one is talking about is the University of Cincinnati.  Cincinnati, currently a member of the Big East, has a strong tradition in men's basketball(maybe not last season, but typically they're good), and has been builiding a reputation for itself as a football power in the last decade as well, culminating with last year's appearance in the Sugar Bowl against Florida.  Their addition to the Big Ten would also pave the way for a rivalry between them and Ohio State, something fans of both schools have wanted to see happen for years.  And the Bearcats would also bring a new fan base with them, the Southwest Ohio/Dayton and Northwest Kentucky areas, something that would have to be a boon for the Big Ten Networks.   So while the Big Ten goes looking for the home run candidate that will bring it out of the red and into the black, it would be wise to consider a consistently good program such as the University of Cincinnati for expansion too.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

OSU's next Troy Smith?

Even before he graduated from Ohio State, the buzz around Buckeye football nation largely revolved around who would be the heir apparent to Troy Smith as Buckeyes quarterback.  Smith has been in some circles regarded as the best quarterback to play for OSU in the last 20 years, and for good reason. For starters, in his 2 1/2 year career as a Buckeye he amassed a 25-3 record, which included 3 straight wins over talented Michigan squads, and nationally ranked Notre Dame and Texas teams as well.  Then there is the fact that he completed over 65% of his passes his senior year with 30 of them going for touchdowns against only six interceptions.  Many people would like to villify him for Ohio State's national championship loss to Florida in '07, but I think that criticism is unfair, especially given that: a) less than a couple of minutes into the game he lost his best wide receiver, b) offensive line play was shoddy at best, and c) a 27-14 deficit at half basically forced Jim Tressel and co. to abandon the run, allowing Urban Meyer to blitz like crazy, something OSU had not faced all season.  Regardless, even before the Baltimore Ravens selected Smith in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, the race to replace him was on.  And I think they may have finally found their guy....Kenny Guiton.

 Kenny Guiton has several things going for him that remind me of the situation Troy Smith was in back in 2002. Like Smith,  Guiton was the last quarterback drafted in his class, more to fill a need on the depth chart than anything else.  Don't get me wrong, the Buckeyes saw something about him they liked; Jim Tressel does not hand out scholarships on a whim.  OSU had their eyes on other prospects, and saw Guiton primarily as a safety net.  These other prospects would go elsewhere, and OSU would eventually offer their remaining spot to Guiton.  Upon enrolling at OSU, Guiton, like Smith before him, would be redshirted.  Guiton will now have an intense battle for the number two spot  behind Pryor along with Joe Bauserman, not unlike the competition between Smith and Zwick for the chance to backup Craig Krenzel.  And even though it was only the spring game, the late touchdown pass from Guiton to Taurian Washington had to remind a few people of Troy Smith's heroics against Penn State during his senior season.  That Pryor should have a hold on the starting spot for at least another season or two can only bolster Guiton's development much in the way that Smith was able to learn by watching Krenzel.

There is no denying that every year Ohio State fans expect their team to compete for and win a national championship.  Jim Tressel pretty much raised the bar to that level when he led the Buckeyes to one in only his third season as head coach.  Many people believe that this is the year the Buckeyes will win their eighth national title, led by qb Terrelle Pryor.  I myself believe that there will be another quarterback in the not too distant future who could lead them to the promised land, and his name will be Kenny Guiton.