Friday, March 19, 2010

Bryce Brown is soooo predictable

Remember Bryce Brown? Last year's top prospect nationally (according to Rivals) who sort of committed to Miami, sort of decommitted, then dragged out his recruitment forever before finally signing with Tennessee?

He and top-ranked all-purpose back David Oku both ended up in Knoxville after deciding that they really loved the recruiting process (I like to picture the two of them at McDonald's, staring at the menu for 10 minutes because they can't decide what they want). I said this exactly one year ago yesterday:
Brown and Oku might both be upstanding young men, but what are the odds one of these guys transfers by his junior year? 99 percent?
In hindsight, 99 percent might have been a little low. According to VolunteerTV, Brown is no longer a part of the team at Tennessee and is looking to transfer, possibly to Kansas State. If you're wondering (rightfully) why anyone would want to play at K-State, Bryce's older brother (and a former stud linebacker recruit himself) Arthur just transferred there from Miami. And if you're still wondering why anyone good would want to go to K-State, the Browns grew up in Wichita. Family matters, I suppose.

It's times like these when I fantasize about a casino where I can place bets on things like "Will Bryce Brown graduate from the University of Tennessee?" I need to call the State Gaming Board about this.

Anyway, Derek Dooley goes for the understatement of the year:
“(He has) concerns that I believe stem from -- and he told me stem from -- No.1, some of the reasons why he came here, and No. 2, his experience over the first six months he has been here. ... He’s dealing with a lot of issues.”
Indeed. This is what happens when you have a less-than-respectable agent/handler/manager from the time you're a junior in high school and never learn how to make decisions for yourself.

Wherever he ends up, I just hope it's where Bryce Brown wants to be and NOT where Brian Butler wants Bryce Brown to be. And I hope he sticks around long enough to get some use out of his gobs of talent -- if he doesn't, I'll probably look back in a couple years and regret wasting so much time writing about him.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Michigan-Notre Dame goes under the lights in '11

When I found out two weeks ago that I'd be getting laid off, I actually had a fleeting thought along the lines of "Hey, at least I'll have more time to blog."

But it doesn't work like that. First of all, I'm not really unemployed yet. My incredibly generous employer has decided to keep me around until the new guy takes over and decides I'm not worth paying anymore, so I've got a couple days left of showing up to work for no good reason other than to not lose my severance. Secondly, even when I do finally get laid off (probably Monday), I'll have to spend my newfound free time doing things like ... I don't know, looking for a job (on a related note, scouring the interweb job sites for something that pays me $100,000 a year to surf hasn't produced much so far).

It hasn't helped that my overall motivation level is near zero and that there hasn't exactly been a ton of exciting stuff going on in college football, but there are some things I just have to write about, specifically this:
University of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon announced today a historic night football game at Michigan Stadium between the Wolverines and Notre Dame on Sept. 10, 2011. It will be the first-ever primetime game played at home in the history of Michigan football.
Excuse me while I throw a party ...

OK, I'm back. In case you're wondering why this is such a big deal, re-read the last sentence quoted from that press release: It will be the first-ever primetime game played at home in the history of Michigan football.

The school has always resisted night games for two very obvious reasons:

1. There are no lights at Michigan Stadium, so a ton of portable ones will have to be rented and brought in.
2. The UM fan base includes a lot of ... umm ... older alumni. They like morning tailgating, afternoon games, early dinners, etc. If you've ever watched an SEC night game, you've probably come to the stunning conclusion that students love night games because they get a full eight hours to drink beforehand and get totally jacked up. This obviously isn't the image the UM administration wants to promote for what's essentially a Midwestern Ivy League school.

So what changed? I'm not 100% sure, but Rich Rodriguez and Dave Brandon are both a little more new-school. RichRod was able to promote the spring game as a "come on down for a party" event and drew over 50,000 fans last year, which was roughly twice as many people as had ever shown up before. Brandon's a former UM player and CEO of Domino's, so he's in a unique situation as a guy who wants to promote football as a business but has explicit familiarity with what the players want. This is a good thing.

And I'll say the same for the night game: It's a good thing. It will be an amazing experience. If I can afford tickets (which I'm sure I can't), I'll be there. The crowd -- or at least the student section and the under-80 crowd -- will be electric. It will be on national TV. The recruits who talk about how awesome The Horseshoe and The Swamp are at night will finally get to experience that intensity at Michigan Stadium, and that can only help.

I know some people who have been complaining for a while about Michigan's schedule (Notre Dame, a mediocre second school and a couple of MAC snacks) and lack of innovation. "Where are the home-and-homes with Texas or the games at Yankee Stadium or anything that will actually be exciting?" This will be exciting. And it's only 541 days and 4 hours away.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A random rant about Big Ten expansion

I stumbled across an old ESPN article the other day about the New York cable companies (among many others) refusing to carry NFL Network because of the cost. This is way-old news and doesn't reference college football in any way, so why do I care about it? I care because it kinda sorta indirectly relates to Big Ten expansion and the viability of Rutgers as a candidate.

(Insert forewarning here about my lack of expertise in TV ratings/operations.) Basically, to carry a channel, cable companies have to pay the provider the cost per subscriber (which varies based on the desirability of the channel, obviously). Most of that cost is then passed on to subscribers. ESPN, for example, is $3.00 per subscriber, but everybody wants it, so companies like Comcast and Cablevision and Time Warner are more or less obligated to carry it. They refused (and Time Warner still refuses) to carry NFL Network because the cost is between $0.61 and $0.75 (depending on who you believe), and they feel that it wouldn’t make sense to have somewhat of a niche channel on basic cable, where every subscriber pays for it. Most people don’t want to pay even 61 cents a month for something they never watch. The only way you can get it is on a premium package, because then you’re paying the cost directly.

If Rutgers joined the Big Ten, it'd be safe to assume that the same thing would happen with the Big Ten Network. The Big Ten has far fewer interested fans than the NFL does in New York/New Jersey, so there’s no way Time Warner and Cablevision (which comprise pretty much all of the New York TV market) would put it on basic cable, especially when you consider the price.

The cost per subscriber is $1.14, so that amount times the metro New York population of 18.8 million (if EVERYONE got the channel on basic cable) would be around $22 million, which is exactly what the Big Ten should be looking to generate from a new school in order for each school to make money via expansion (each school currently gets $22 million from the TV revenue pot). There are also around 8 million people in New Jersey who aren't part of metro New York City, so the total added TV revenue would actually be about $30 million. That’d be outstanding.

But it’s not gonna happen, because most of those subscribers aren’t going to get it on basic cable (maybe some will in New Jersey, but not a significant number). So let’s say, hypothetically, that 25% of the people in metro NYC pay for the premium package with the Big Ten Network on it. That seems fairly generous given the general lack of interest in college sports in the NYC area and the fact that most Big Ten games are already on national TV, but I think it’s reasonable. In that case, the $1.14-per-subscriber figure is now multiplied by 4.5 million (in metro NYC) and, just to pull a number out of my ass, another 6 million in New Jersey (75% of the population, another pretty generous number). So $1.14 x 10.5 million = $12 million. Meh.

Granted, that’s more pure TV money than would be made by adding Missouri (total population 6 million, although most of it probably would get BTN on basic cable) or Pitt (no net addition since most of Pennsylvania already gets BTN). But that’s not a huge amount, and I feel like to add a mediocre football program and a terrible basketball program -- both of which would do nothing for you nationally from a competitive or prestige standpoint -- the monetary aspect would have to be overwhelming, and $12 million (roughly) to split between 12 schools isn’t overwhelming when each school is already getting $22 million.

I know some people say getting more exposure in the Northeast would help in other ways, but I’m not sure what those other ways are. The number of D-I football prospects in New York and New Jersey is extremely small (this year, there were a total of FOUR four- or five-star recruits in the two states combined), so why does it matter if more people there are watching Big Ten football? Money, right? It doesn’t really help on the field (maybe on the court), and it doesn’t help enough financially to make up for that.

Personally, I’d much rather have the athletic boost from Pitt (high-level football and Big East basketball power) or Missouri (solid football and nearly annual NCAA tournament appearances along with six Elite Eights).

Upshot: Other than a not-that-significant boost in TV revenue, I don’t see adding Rutgers doing anything positive for the conference. And yes, I've already said this in fewer words, but the idea of Rutgers being relegated to the sports tiers in NYC (which seems certain) just added to my concerns.