We’re back, and we’re about the same as we’ve always been, but thanks for asking. We’ll get to some of our thoughts on the actual games that we’re played over the past week, but we’ll begin with last Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes.
We’re generally not smart enough to critique anything that 60 Minutes does, but this time they strolled into our world and they have no idea the whirlwind of wisdom we’re about to unload on them. They also have no idea we even exist, but that won’t stop us!
The 60 Minutes piece focused on something that we are actually quite passionate about, and that is the elimination of Olympic Sports at the collegiate level. Specifically, they focused on how during COVID-19, many schools have eliminated sports, and the subjects of their interview were a coach whose program was eliminated and one of his student-athletes, a former collegiate runner who now is an advocate for student-athlete rights and someone from the US Olympic administrative staff. And yes, we’re too lazy to look up her actual role, but it was related to the Olympics.
Ultimately, as we’ve argued before, the elimination of programs during the past 10 months is typically blamed on COVID, but the reality is that the financial issues would have been there regardless of COVID. The gymnastics coach at Minnesota made the valid point that their program’s operating cost is about $1.5 million, which is a small fraction of the estimated losses due to COVID (likely in the $50-75M range). He made that point to illustrate that getting rid of his program doesn’t really solve the problem. While his point is accurate in a vacuum of COVID, it fails to look at the bigger picture.
That bigger picture is the financial impacts of COVID are not a one-year problem. As much as we wish the financial challenges will disappear as soon as the vaccine is distributed widely, that isn’t the case. 60 Minutes said that Minnesota’s AD was asked and declined to participate in the interview. Given the tenor of the piece, we don’t blame him, but we wish they had presented more of the issues facing athletic administrators.
No athletic director, or aspiring athletic director, has ever even thought that cutting sports was a good idea. When it happens, it’s always the least bad idea. The financial model of college athletics is based on the entire institution believing in the importance of athletics to the educational mission of the University. And by entire institution, we mean the President of the university.
If an athletic director ever ends up eliminating sports, it’s never a surprise to the President. Frankly, it’s a last resort because the President has forced the Athletic Director to come up with drastic solutions to a financial disaster. And that was before COVID. When the decision is made to eliminate a program, it never goes well, and it’s the Athletic Director facing the questions. Which every athletic director knows, accepts and takes. Sometimes, they lose their job, as was the case at William & Mary. But, when that happens, it’s because there is a strain in the relationship between the athletic director and President – or athletics and academics at the campus in general. We would have thought 60 Minutes would have done enough to at least mention that part of the issue, but it was noticeably absent. Or, at least noticeable if you sometimes work in Athletic Administration at a University.
Now, you have athletic departments who are financially challenged having their primary source of revenue eliminated. There’s no feasible way for a Big Ten school to make up $50 million in lost revenue without just shutting down. So, however these schools are working out how to offset that loss – typically loans – it’s going to impact their finances for years to come. And, unfortunately in the case of Minnesota Men’s Gymnastics, it means the men in that program have lost their opportunity at Minnesota to compete in the sport they love.
While we wish 60 Minutes had presented a more complete picture of the issues facing college athletics, we are ultimately supportive of anything that raises awareness of Olympic Sports at the collegiate level. The woman from the Olympics provided wonderful statistics about the participation of the overwhelming majority of Olympians in college athletics. Between financial challenges from COVID and the imminent changes to the fabric of college athletics, there is real concern that the number of opportunities to compete at the collegiate level in many sports will diminish. We will all see how much these colleges and universities really value their front porch, which is the entire athletic department, not just the football program. While the football and basketball programs are typically the ones that generate the revenue, the Olympic sports are the foundation to the front porch.
And now, let’s step down off of our soap box and talk about football and basketball!
We’ll start in Chapel Hill, where the college version of me would have consumed about 8 Blue Cups watching the football team steamroll Miami Saturday afternoon. There is no feeling quite like the terror of the Heels settling for a field goal to go up 24-3 in the first half. Fans of most programs would likely just be thrilled their team is dominating on the road. Those fans have not watched the Carolina defense over the last two decades. Saturday’s version of Carolina Football dominated from start to finish and strolled out of South Beach with a huge win that has them positioned nicely to go to the Orange Bowl, if two ACC teams get into the College Football Playoff (Come on Clemson!).
It’s probably unhealthy – physically, mentally, ecumenically – to play the “what if” game, but had the Heels not laid eggs against Florida State and Virginia, they would be in the playoff conversation, with one loss to the #2 team in the country. We don’t know what the ACC tiebreakers would be, but we’re pretty sure they would rig it in Clemson’s favor – the ACC only rigs things for the Heels in basketball. But we’re not going to play the what if game that the Heels could be playing in the ACC Championship game with a shot at the college football playoff. Nope, definitely not thinking about the losses to teams with a combined 6-11 record. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent. (And yes, we just made an 80s SNL reference. We’re not old, we promise)
While the Heels were throttling the Canes on the football field, the basketball team was not exactly performing at the same level. We were unable to watch the basketball game, but at halftime, our field reporter Dr. G sent the following missive: “Caleb Love is lost. RJ Davis needs a year. Kessler is lost.”
A short time later, the good doctor reports “Black and Brooks seem disinterested. Davis is trying hard in his ball-dominant way. If it weren’t for Sharpe and Bacot we’d be down 10. To NC Central.”
But other than that Mrs. Lincoln, did you enjoy the play?
The Heels appear to be suffering some aftereffects of the Luka Garza experience, which included a series of long-range missiles from Eddie, Dougie and the
rest of the Hitler youth Iowa team. (Ed. Note – this is a reference to the movie Animal House. We are not comparing the Iowa Basketball team to Nazis. They are an extremely talented basketball team who beat the Heels handily. It just so happens they all look like the character Niedermeyer in Animal House. That sneaky little shit.)
While it wasn’t the best week for Carolina Basketball, it was better than the one Duke had. After suffering yet another loss at home, the Dookies just decided they would not play any other teams other than the ones their league will force them to play. Coach Krzyzewski is now claiming that it is unfair to the players to have to deal with all they must deal with, and they deserve a break. While we can agree that this basketball season is going to be a complete mess, if we’re determined to play, we should just embrace the dysfunction. Not to mention, the best chance of getting in as many games as possible is to start now and just deal with cancellations. Or, you know, cry, complain and hope everyone else follows you.
It’s also a bit of a hollow gesture, as they only had one non-conference game left, and it was scheduled to take place after they play Notre Dame this coming week. So, poor Gardner Webb doesn’t get their pay day while Duke attempts to take some moral high ground. If they really didn’t feel like it was safe, or right, to keep playing, then why are they playing Notre Dame this week? Just shut it down for the season and we’ll all be just fine without having to look at Matthew Hurt’s haircut the rest of the year.
In more solemn news, Florida junior Keyontae Johnson collapsed on the court during their game against FSU this weekend and remains in “critical but stable” condition. We don’t know much, so it is best not to assume anything, but Johnson did test positive for COVID this summer. We pray he’s ok. This is the potential nightmare scenario for college athletics, who pressed forward through the pandemic and just kind of covered one and a half eyes hoping nothing serious happens. Again, we don’t have any idea if this was at all related to long term effects from COVID, but we also don’t know it isn’t. Let’s just hope he’s ok.
It’s difficult to transition from that to something more lighthearted, so let’s talk about some good news from a historic moment in college football this weekend. Sarah Fuller finally got her chance to kick an extra point and made both. We’d all like to thank Tennessee’s defense for being the only thing that allows Vanderbilt to score a touchdown. This moment is a special one for Sarah, and for lots of young women around the country. Let’s enjoy it.
Elsewhere in the SEC, Florida lost a game to LSU because a guy threw a shoe. Seriously. The Florida defensive back made a tackle on third down, found the LSU receiver’s shoe in his hand and decided to throw the shoe. A 15-yard penalty and a few plays later, the LSU kicker made a 57-yard field goal and Florida’s playoff dreams were gone like a fart in the wind.
So, just to be clear, last year, Ole Miss loses the Egg Bowl because a guy pretended to pee like a dog in the end zone. This year, Florida loses because a guy threw a shoe. The SEC. It really does just mean more.
Meanwhile, we’ll get an updated CFP ranking this week, and the debate over Ohio State’s lack of games is only just beginning. The Top 4 is unlikely to change, but the real debate will begin next week. So, we’ll wait to really engage in this debate until we see the outcomes of this coming weekend’s games, but we’re fully on board with advocating for two things. The first is an expanded playoff, which obviously won’t happen this year, but would be so much better than what we currently have in college football (which admittedly is so much better than what we used to have.
The second thing we will advocate for is Ohio State not qualifying for the playoff based on a limited resume. Of the 5 games Ohio State played, only one has finished with a winning record (will be two with their game against Northwestern), and that game was at home and they allowed almost 500 yards passing.
Of course, it’s all a moot point since Alabama just finished a 10-game SEC schedule undefeated while averaging 49.5 points per game. Among other stats, they converted 59% of third downs and average 537 yards of offense. But it’s ok. Their quarterback is only completing 76% of passes and has thrown three whole interceptions, so the other teams should be just fine against them.
Speaking of unstoppable, YOUR WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM won again and has built an insurmountable 1-game lead in the NFC East standings. Might as well just deliver the Lombardi Trophy to
DC Landove r Ashburn, VA now and let everyone else go home and quarantine.
Speaking of going home and quarantining, we’re pulling a K and calling it quits.