Tuesday Morning Gator Bites

November 11, 2008

Happy Veterans’ Day to all. Today was originally marked to honor the vets of the Great War (better known as World War I) but has become a day to honor all those who serve in the armed forces. If you know someone who is or has been in the service, tell them you appreciate it often, but especially today.

Tickets to the SEC Title Game are going to be difficult to get, but GatorZone has the info on getting them through the school. Chances are though that if you are getting them from UF, you probably know by now.

Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun thinks we are going to face Steve Spurrier’s best South Carolina team yet on Saturday. I think he may be right. Even if he doesn’t beat Florida, Spurrier can still beat the Ghost of Clemson Past and win a bowl to get to nine wins, the most of his tenure in Columbia.

They easily could have beaten Georgia at the beginning of the year if not for some late mental mistakes, and that would have put them in position for the Citrus Bowl. For now, they look like a lock for the Outback Bowl in Tampa.

Tim Tebow won SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his work against Vanderbilt. It took him long enough, but he has clearly rounded back into his dominant form from last season. The Orlando Sentinel‘s Jeremy Fowler reminds us that Tebow played through a bum ankle early and a hyperextended knee later, and he cites some quotes from Dan Mullen about how much pressure Tebow felt early in the year. Tebow’s loosening up is as much as anything a reason for the Gators’ renaissance this season.

It also continues the streak of Florida having someone named all-SEC after every win this season.

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BR Open Mic: Race and Sports

June 5, 2008

This week’s Bleacher Report Open Mic topic was race and sports. This was my contribution.

There are many important issues surrounding race and sports.

A lack of minority representation can be found in nearly all sports, collegiate or pro, from administration/ownership and all the way down to the coaches. The media coverage of players of different races tends to differ as well. For example, when an African-American player has a child out of wedlock he’s usually vilified for it, while white players like Tom Brady and Matt Leinart generally get a pass.

There’s so much more than that, and all legitimate topics should be discussed in constructive ways until all people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Too many people, myself included at times, would rather just sweep racial issues under the rug and pretend they don’t exist.

However, it is important that when racial issues are broached that there really is a foundation in reality to the issue.

Back in 2006, it became national news when Chris Leak was booed briefly by Florida fans during the game against Kentucky. Much-hyped freshman QB Tim Tebow had injected some energy into the sputtering offense that day, and when he was pulled towards the end of a drive for Leak, a brief chorus of boos could be heard. Here is the AP game recap if you have forgotten the rest.

After the game, many sports pundits around the country saw the occurrence of Gator fans booing the return of the black senior quarterback over the freshman white quarterback as a racial issue. At the time I wrote a piece on it, mainly directed at then-Orlando Sentinel columnist Jemele Hill and CBS Sportsline columnist Mike Freeman who had taken that stance.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’m going to quote from what I wrote at the time:

“She [Hill] echoes the sentiment of a CBS Sportsline writer named Mike Freeman that Leak has been a punching bag at UF because it’s the South and Leak is black. The fans are down on the black starter, and want the white backup to be the savior.

To begin with, that’s crazy. Yes, there were racists in the crowd on Saturday. If you take any random set of 90,000 people on the planet, there will be racists of some type in that group. However, she must be forgetting 2003 when the UF fans were breathlessly pining for Leak to supplant Ingle Martin as starting quarterback. Martin is white. He ended up transferring to I-AA Furman where he played well, and he was a fifth round pick of the Packers in this year’s draft. There also were fans last year who wanted to see Josh Portis take away some of Leak’s snaps because of his running ability. Portis is black. He transferred to Maryland for a variety of reasons this offseason.

The booing only lasted about 2 seconds too, and it was only a small fraction of the people in attendance. It was like the thought process of the fans was:

  1. What? Tebow’s going out?
  2. Urban is an idiot for doing this! Tebow deserves to score after all that running!
  3. Boo!
  4. Oh crap, it looks like we’re booing Leak.
  5. Yay! Go Chris Leak!

Now, I know from people who were there that people were cursing Chris Leak’s name in the student section. In the alumni section where I sit with my folks, there were a few people who were booing the player, not the coaches too. However, the vast majority did their best to make up for the others. After a night of offensive frustration, people were excited to see Tebow run all over the field and they wanted to see him get a chance at the touchdown, not see the first team offense get more reps in the red zone. They were thinking about running up the score on Kentucky, not about what will get the team ready for the next four games.”

Gator fans are notoriously impatient, most especially when it comes to the offense. There were times last season when a vocal minority of fans wanted offensive coordinator Dan Mullen fired on the spot, and Florida was in the middle of turning in one of the best statistical offensive seasons in school history.

Freeman should have known better since he was once a local columnist in Jacksonville. I don’t know how much Hill knew of Gator fans’ nature at the time since she’s originally from Michigan and didn’t spend much time at the Sentinel, but I have no doubt that someone more experienced with the locals could have filled her in about Gator fan impatience.

Hill lost some credibility in my eyes since she was trying to bolt a racial frame on a situation that had 95 percent nothing to do with race. It has caused me to pause when reading anything else she’s written, wondering if she did everything she could do to research her columns.

As with any touchy subject like race, it is important to stand on firm ground when discussing it. When someone makes a race argument that isn’t well-grounded, it takes a little something away from those that do make legitimate arguments.

The people that need to hear the legitimate discussion will be less likely to take it seriously if they hear arguments like the one detailed above that are false alarms.


Bissinger v. Leitch

May 1, 2008

Much has been made of the dustup on Bob Costas’s show between Will Leitch of Deadspin and Buzz Bissinger, sportswriter and, most famously, author of Friday Night Lights.

Much has been said already at every other sports blog on the web, so a recap should be easy to find.

The central issue seems to be the meme that the mainstream media (MSM) is dying and that its members lash out at bloggers in fear and anger.

That is certainly what Bissinger did, taking full advantage of the fact that HBO is not censored. He trotted out the standard material we’ve all heard: that bloggers are the rabble of the earth, living in their mother’s basement and “spewing” out invective by the truckload.

There also has been talk of a generation gap effect, and that’s part of it. Leitch isn’t doing much novel work over at Deadspin, though, as his site is basically a sports tabloid with humor articles sprinkled in. It just happens to be online instead of on the newsstand.

The core of the conflict is between those who understand the Internet for what it is, and those who don’t.

A Brief History of the Internet

The Internet grew out of the US military’s reaction to Sputnik. As time grew on, it became more and more academic, and later, social.

By the end of the 1980s, the most popular part of the Internet was Usenet, a distributed system of newsgroups where people exchanged messages. Someone would post something he thought was interesting, and people would discuss the topic by replying to it. Usenet is where a lot of Internet culture was born, including concepts such as FAQs and spam.

Usenet was divided into categories, ranging anywhere from academic discussions of science and math to discussions of nonsense and unspeakable horrors. It was where the things such as the World Wide Web, Linux, and Mosaic (the first graphical web browser) were originally announced to the world. It was the main influence for message boards and chat rooms as we know them today.

For the most part the Internet was a place of libertarian ideals, where there was no censorship, a naturally-occurring etiquette and slang, and in most places, no one to chide you for being profane.

It was its own little world; aside from a few kooks and trolls, no one bothered it and it didn’t bother anyone. Whether you wanted to be rude or civil, there was a place for you.

That still remains true today. Many of the people who have shaped the Internet along its journey through the Endless September and corporatization grew out of that culture.

Many of its most popular destinations, from Something Awful to 4chan to Fark, follow those same veins of discussion without censorship. They are bastions of poor taste and lively discussion, where ideas, regardless of what they are, flow freely. You really have to have a thick skin to get through it all.

Blogs

If you’re unfamiliar, the word “blog” is just a shortening of “weblog.”

The practice predates the term, as it began mainly as people keeping online diaries or routinely updated special-interest sites. I can remember there was a big debate in high school shortly after the turn of the century about whether LiveJournal or Xanga was better.

It was another way for people to communicate, and people have always been communicative creatures.

Blogging began to hit the mainstream around 2001, and mainly in the political category. The first time many mainstream outlets covered their existence was in the reaction to Trent Lott’s infamous statements about Strom Thurmond.

It should not be surprising that politics was where blogging hit its stride, as that arena tends to provoke some of the strongest feelings and most heated debates.

Most of the popular sports blogs (such as Deadspin, EDSBS, and SMQ) began in 2005 and 2006. It was only natural as sporting endeavors also provoke strong debate. Sports also lends itself to satire and poor taste, so that trifecta is right up the Internet’s alley.

The Inflection Point

I don’t have any hard evidence, but I believe the real inflection point in the mainstream media’s reaction to blogs was when Dan Rather got fired.

It’s one thing when people are being immature, trading funny pictures and throwing barbs at each other for dozens of pages. It’s another thing entirely when the anchor of a Big Three network’s evening news is fired over a false story that was exposed mainly by bloggers.

Dan Rather had been a staple of the traditional 6:00 news for decades, but some random person on the Internet brought him down by exposing a story Rather ran as a fraud.

The correct reaction would have been to marvel at the speed of information exchange and try to figure out a way to harness the masses of educated people who now had a voice. The reaction instead has been to periodically attack what they don’t understand.

Sports

The sports media in particular should have seen this coming. I’d argue that a forefather of sports blogging is George Will, a political journalist and commentator who is also a skilled baseball writer.

If a political columnist could be a good sportswriter, why couldn’t a lawyer be one too? Or an English major? Or an IT worker? Or anyone else? Heck, Warren Buffett is one of the most highly regarded writers in America today, and he’s a full-time investor and financier.

Whether he realizes it or not, Leitch is simply following in the 30-year-old tradition of the Internet. In pseudo-Usenet terms, he’s running the “rec.sports.deadspin” newsgroup where only a small number of people can post news but anyone can reply. There is no censorship, a naturally-occurring etiquette and slang, and no one complains about profanity.

The big change of course is the scale. More people read Deadspin in a month than were probably even on the Internet for much of the 1980s.

Sometimes blogs break news; that fact shouldn’t be too surprising since traditional media outlets have only so many eyes and ears out there. Some major sports sites, such as Fox Sports and the Sporting News, have even integrated blogging by fans as a part of their sites.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, I think core conflict is between those who understand the Internet for what it is, and those who don’t.

I don’t know if Leitch consciously knows the history he’s perpetuating, but he certainly feels it intuitively. Bissinger, Costas, and a bewildered Braylon Edwards all clearly did not.

The Internet is truly a libertarian’s dream. Everyone has a voice, and the marketplace of ideas lets the cream rise to the top. Bissinger and Costas lamented the large volume of bad writing on the Internet, but those who understand the Internet for what it is know how to use search engines, social networks, and link aggregators to find that cream.

Leitch runs a well-written supermarket checkout tabloid for the sports world. He provides gossip, paparazzi-style photos (usually from Facebook or MySpace), humor, and some real analysis.

It’s not Pulitzer material, but it never claims to be. It has its place in the world and it occupies it with glee.

I wish though that the majority of the sports bloggers out there would get over themselves and this mythical battle with the mainstream media for The Future that they keep talking about. They are not the Future, but today’s embodiment of the Internet’s past. Plus, there’s no Future that can realistically exist without professional journalists anyway.

Besides, worrying about the future is for business analysts and actuaries. The greatest cultural achievements that people make usually are those that come naturally as a result of people scratching an itch to satisfy themselves and their inner drive, not those looking to cement something for future generations.

Just keep reading and writing. Just keep exchanging your ideas. If you’re worth it, your message will be heard. If not, then at least you tried.


Coach Contracts

April 9, 2008

I just discovered a wealth of fascinating information: the USA Today has every publicly available Div. I-A coaching contract compiled for easy reference. Perhaps I’m woefully late to this wagon train, but as I just about never read anything by the USA Today I think I can be excused for that. Now, these things are generally unreadable legalese, but there’s some great stuff in these and I’m going to go through some and pull out the interesting tidbits so you don’t have to. Hey, sometimes you gotta reach for content in the offseason.

I’m going to begin with the SEC, and if there’s any demand beyond that I’ll do more. Bobby Johnson‘s contract with Vanderbilt is unavailable since Vandy is a private school. For some reason the Mississippi schools didn’t release their coaches’ contracts either despite them being public institutions; it’s strange because Southern Miss did release Jeff Bower‘s old deal, so it’s not some quirk in Mississippi state law that prevents those contracts from being public. Also, nothing has been updated after this winter’s coaching carousel, so for example Arkansas still just has Nutt’s old deal rather than Petrino’s contract.

I’m going to do them in alphabetical order, so when the first one goes up this evening it’s going to involve two controversy magnets: Alabama and Nick Saban.


Slow News Week

September 26, 2007

This week seems to be a lull in the college football season. Maybe it’s just that Gator irrational exuberance has subsided thanks to the wakeup call at Ole Miss, but actual football hasn’t dominated the college football headlines this week – Mike Gundy’s tirade has.

It’s hard for me to give a neutral, third-party opinion like I usually like to give since I am only a year older than Bobby Reid. I cannot look back hindsight and say that I would have handled the kind of criticism leveled at him in Jenni Carlson’s piece better now than when I was back in college, because I still am in college. I have no idea how I would handle something like that because I am not in the public spotlight, but I know that if for some reason a professional writer had some reason and motive to rip apart my writing style on this blog, I would probably take it hard.

The main issue a lot of people are looking at is how much should college athletes be criticized. I don’t know if that’s the root issue here, because I can think of some recent examples in Gator football where an athlete got heavy criticism and no one had a problem with it. Look at DeShawn Wynn – he had been criticized in Gainesville all the way up to during his senior season for not fulfilling his promise that he showed in the 2003 Miami game. He was either overweight, had an attitude problem, couldn’t get out of the coaches’ doghouse, or some combination of the three.

The difference between Wynn and Reid is that during both the Zook and Meyer regimes, they had said those very things. It was nicer, in terms of saying that he wasn’t doing as well in practice as they’d like, or that his conditioning could use some improvement, and things of that nature, but because it was coming from the coaches, that criticism on him was never seen as overly harsh in the way that this article about Bobby Reid has been seen.

In the end, it’s not what Carlson said, but how she said it and where she got it from. The following are the reasons why everyone is upset:

  1. If you believe the rumors and the rumblings
  2. Tile up the back stories told on the sly over the past few years
  3. Word is
  4. apparently, Reid considered leaving OSU
  5. Reid has been nicked in games and sat it out instead of gutting it out
  6. Reid’s injury against Florida Atlantic — whatever it was — appeared minor but just might have been the thing that pushed Cowboy coaches over the edge.
  7. insiders say
  8. Does he have the fire in his belly? Or does he want to be coddled, babied, perhaps even fed chicken?
  9. If you listen to the rumblings and the rumors

These are all direct quotes from the article. As you can see, a lot of it is based on rumors, hearsay, and “insiders,” and that is bad journalism. It is full of speculation (#4), character attacks (#5, #8), and conclusions made from ignorance (#6). Gundy was right when he criticized the editor for letting something like this go through. Not even a student newspaper would print something solely based on unsubstantiated facts. The worst part is that this article was the front page feature story of the sports section of the largest newspaper in Oklahoma on a game day.

It would be a different story if Carlson had stated she had specific sources telling her this information rather than just repeating “stories on the sly.” That way, there’d be some kind of accountability with the article. There would at least be a face, even if an unidentified face, to the stories. Instead she has the weasel excuse of just repeating what she heard from “insiders,” which for all we know could be a janitor who overheard something in the coach’s office. If 75% of the article really isn’t true, then the coaches have no way of knowing who to go to to set the record straight, so all Mike Gundy can do is announce it at a press conference.

In the end, this was not an article, it was a blog post that ran in a newspaper. I hate to say that too, since I write this blog and I feel like I undermine my own credibility when I draw that comparison. However, this is exactly the sort of thing that appears on blogs and message boards all the time and no one ever knows where it comes from. Remember when Deonte Thompson was supposedly transferring two weeks ago? It turns out that was not true, but no one knows exactly where that story came from, so no one can be held accountable for spreading the misinformation. At least in the case of Bobby Reid, we all know where t find Jenni Carlson.

I am disappointed in a lot of sports writers on the Internet who are taking Carlson’s side by default and attacking Mike Gundy. Should Gundy have taken up the issue with a cooler head? Of course, but he also had to drive home a point to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. Dennis Dodd of Sportsline has gone so far as to call for Gundy to be fired, which is insane. It’s almost as though they think that if they don’t defend her and she doesn’t win in the court of public opinion on this issue, then they are somehow losing freedom of the press. That’s completely absurd; only a small lunatic fringe is suggesting Carlson should be silenced. Anyway, they decide to do what Gundy invited them to do – attack him.

The standard response is that Gundy should be more concerned with his 15-17 record at Oklahoma State than with what the newspaper says. That completely misses the point; if a coach lets an article like this one, which by the way appeared in the largest newspaper in the state and was based on rumors and full of cheap shots towards his quarterback, go without addressing it, he risks losing his players completely which would make that record look a lot worse. Carlson writing this piece is not evidence of the sad state of sports journalism, it’s the people blindly coming to her defense without thinking that is.

Sure Carlson had the right to write that article the way she did. That doesn’t mean she should have written it though. She has a responsibility as a newspaper columnist to report the news and opine on that news, but not to try to make news by reporting hearsay. She probably thought it was some kind of minor coup, having used her privileged “insider” knowledge to crack the Case of the Benched Quarterback in grand Encyclopedia Brown fashion, but instead she went too far and ended up writing an attack piece of hack journalism. The fact that she’s been unapologetic about it makes matters worse.

Now, I personally try to keep my criticism of the Gators to on-field matters only. I have not said a word about Kyle Jackson, despite the fact he gets killed almost daily on other sites and message boards, because he personally is not the only problem player in the defensive backfield for UF. He’s an easy target, to be sure since he’s a senior and a lot of the other guys are in their first or second year. However, everyone has missed tackles and had bad plays. Hence, I say that the secondary as a whole is the problem, not Jackson personally, because that’s the truth and so it doesn’t get personal. I’m not here to be a cheerleader, but I prefer to single guys out when they’re doing well, not when they’re struggling.

In the end, I don’t think anything will change. Someone will come along attempting to be the journalistic equivalent of Andrew Meyer, causing a scene just to get noticed. Hopefully, other coaches will have the courage and conviction to call out the journalist like Mike Gundy did, although hopefully with a cooler head. When a guy is getting paid millions to play football and has chosen to live a life in the spotlight, fire away. If he’s just a college student though, what he does off the field (provided it’s not illegal) is no one’s business.


Bear Hunting with Sylvester Croom

July 27, 2007

Al.com has been leading the pack when it comes to SEC media day coverage, and I’ve been sifting through some of the videos. One that I thought might be a little bland was that of Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom, since he’s not really the excitable type, and isn’t known for shooting his mouth off like Steve Spurrier.

As it turns out, it was a pretty entertaining video. First of all, it may be your only chance to hear someone with an Alabama accent speak with humility. Beyond that though, his first great line came when he was asked about playing LSU the first game of the year. Instead of making excuses, he said that if MSU plans on ever competing for the SEC title (one of his goals, eventually) it would have beat the top SEC teams both whether at the beginning or end of the year. He summed it up with, “August 30 is as good a time as any” to play the Tigers. I really like that line.

He continued talking about LSU, and praised it for being such a good team. He also got in a dig at Notre Dame, saying that the Sugar Bowl  last year went exactly how he thought it would. Well, I can definitely say I’m for anyone who takes shots at overrated teams, especially when that overrated team is Notre Dame.

Finally, the press conference ends with this exchange:

Reporter: Did you say you’re more excited going into this season than any year so far here in Starkville?

Croom: You ever gone bear hunting without a switch? I mean, bear hunting with a switch? Well that’s what we’ve been doing for three years, bear hunting with a switch. This time we got a gun.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s officially welcome Sylvester Croom into the official SEC Quote Machine club. I’m going to have to start paying more attention to what he says and see if any more chestnuts like this come out. I really hope Miss State officials and fans don’t lose their perspective, forget how bad things were when Jackie Sherrill left, and fire Sly after he misses a bowl again this year. Not only has he cleaned up the program (not one Bulldog had an off-the-field issue this summer for the first time in a long, long time), but by now he’s joined the rich tradition of SEC coaches saying interesting things. Those are both things to be proud of.


The ACC

July 26, 2007

People are finally catching on to just how mediocre the ACC is, and by “people,” I mean sports writers. Many will tell you that the ACC is not the conference that the SEC is, but “take a look at how [insert a couple random ACC teams] are looking this year. They’ll be great!” There have been many excuses and short-sighted comparisons between the ACC and other conferences, but the simple fact is that it has never been that great of a football conference, especially not lately.

Back when FSU left the independent ranks to join the ACC, the theory was that by adding a serious football school it would make the other ACC teams better, and the ACC name would help make FSU’s basketball team better. In actuality, what it led to was a fraudulent streak of FSU finishing in the top-4 for 14 consecutive years during which Florida was the only elite school it faced every year – remember those were Miami’s down and probation years. FSU feasted on the weaker ACC programs that lacked (and largely still lack) complete commitment to football. Neither aspect of that plan worked, even after adding BC, Miami, and Virginia Tech. VT has been the only consistent national power since the expansion.

So back to the writers. I ran across these links somewhere on the GatorSports.com message board (I think) and now I can’t find them, so thanks to whoever that was who put them together. SI.com’s Stewart Mandel and the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Bob Lipper are the two writers. They both document how bad the ACC has been of late. I will now go over the important stats.

ACC teams went 6-16 against other BCS-level teams last year.

ACC teams ended up losing by an average of just a field goal, but that hides the real story. In each victory, the ACC team won by at least 10 points. In all but one case, it absolutely should have been a 10-point margin of victory. Of the ACC’s 6 wins, three were by Wake Forest playing the dregs of the Big East and SEC in Syracuse, UConn, and Ole Miss. Another was VT playing another mediocre Big East team, Cincinnati. Another was FSU demolishing an unmotivated UCLA team that basically had already played its bowl game when it beat USC. That leaves Maryland beating Purdue in a bowl, and those teams were roughly even. So, you’ve got one win in a relatively evenly-matched game. In those wins, the average score was 28-14.

Of the losses, the only real mismatches were Duke’s two losses, Maryland’s loss to West Virginia, Miami’s loss to Louisville, and UNC’s loss to Notre Dame. That leaves 11 games where the ACC team had a reasonable shot at winning and failed to do so. In all, the ACC teams were beat on average by 11 points, 30-19, in the losses. Basically, the ACC just plain got beat up by the other conferences.

ACC teams are 3-31 (!) against top-10 opponents since 2000.

I was only able to find schedule/results with rankings at the time on ESPN.com, and it only goes back to 2002. I believe they use the coaches’ poll for rankings. I’ll save you the counting – there’s 25 games listed, with the ACC 1-24 in them. Two games I know are not on this list are the 2002 Orange Bowl when Florida destroyed Maryland in Steve Spurrier’s last game as Gators coach, and the national title game in 2000 where FSU did absolutely nothing in losing to Oklahoma 13-2.

Now, there’s all kinds of problems when you look at how teams were ranked at the time they played. I mean, if the Devil Rays sweep the Royals in the first series of the season, then the Yankees beat the Rays in the next game, does New York boast that it beat a first-place team? Of course not. The only thing that really matters is looking at end of the year ranks, and diligently searching for special cases (like USC beating Arkansas last year before the Pigs knew what they were doing).

An example in this case would be that Notre Dame was a top-10 ranked team when it played Georgia Tech last year, and Notre Dame most definitely was not one of the 10 best teams in 2006. Still, ND was No. 2 at the time, so GT’s loss in that game gets counted towards this stat. However, by having that be the case, the ACC comes out looking even worse because it couldn’t find success against even the false top-10 teams. The games on average haven’t been close either, with the the average final score being 29-17. That’s really bad.

The ACC has won only one BCS game.

The writers put this one as “The ACC champion has lost its last seven bowl games,” but why stop at seven? The ACC’s 1-8 record in BCS games is by far the worst of any conference, leaving it with the same number of BCS wins as the Mountain West Conference and WAC. The Big 12 is the only other conference under .500 (5-7). In addition, the ACC has never sent more than one team to the BCS, with the Big East the only other Big 6 conference to have failed to do so as well. The Big Ten has done it 6 times, the SEC has done it 4 times, the Big 12 has done it 3 times, and the Pac-10 has done it twice. The best winning percentage goes to the SEC (9-4, .692), followed by the Pac-10 (7-4, .637), Big East (5-4, .556), and Big Ten (8-7, .533).

But I digress. The ACC’s streak of futility in bowls is Notre Dame-ian, to coin a term, and it is mainly caused by the decline of FSU since 2000. With FSU falling back to the pack as a result of its top assistant coaches leaving for head coaching jobs, there suddenly was nothing special about the ACC champion. Another factor though is the league’s champions have often been put in some tough spots.

In 2000, FSU never really should have been in that national title game with Oklahoma, and the 11 point margin doesn’t really tell the story of how much better Oklahoma was. In 2001, Maryland ran into the Spurrier-Grossman buzz saw, and the rest is history. The 2002 Georgia team that FSU met would have played for the national title had it not lost to Florida. That 2003 bowl game was a rematch between the champions of the two worst BCS conferences. In 2004, Virginia Tech met an Auburn team that was unhappy about not being in the national title game (which almost always leads to the team in VT’s situation to victory) and still lost. The 2005 FSU team quite possibly is the worst major conference champion in history. The 2006 Wake Forest team got lucky throughout the regular season, and then got humbled by a much better Louisville team.

Long story short, being the ACC champion means absolutely nothing in bowl games, except possibly that you’re going to lose. While the ACC champion has faced some truly tough spots (2000 – 2002, 2006), it also should be noted that the ACC team in question in those years was not really an elite team.

Conclusion

The ACC is at the bottom of the BCS. It has more quality teams than the Big East, but it also has four more teams than the Big East has. At least the Big East has some legit powers in Louisville, West Virginia, and probably Rutgers at the top. Only Virginia Tech probably fits that mold right now in the ACC.

Why is that? Well, for one, it’s a basketball conference and always will be. Second, it just doesn’t have the coaching that other conferences do. Bobby Bowden is the only head coach in the league with a national title, and probably the best head coach in the league, Butch Davis, hasn’t even coached his first game at UNC. Also, it’s in the same region as the SEC, which has more money, bigger stadiums, more tradition, and better coaches taking a lot of the best recruits in the region. The ACC has the funds, facilities, and fans to make sure that any ideas of the ACC falling behind a mid-major conference like the WAC are laughably implausible, but they probably won’t push the SEC, Big Ten, or Big 12/Pac-10 (depending on the year) out of the top-3 of the BCS leagues.

Keep the above figures in mind as you peruse the pre-season picks and analysis on TV and around the web. If someone talks about the ACC as being the same caliber as the SEC or Big Ten, it should set off a warning flag. The results on the field show the ACC as being a clearly inferior league compared to other top conferences, and don’t accept any other conclusion. These numbers don’t lie.

EDIT: SportsLine’s Dennis Dodd has joined in, but he offers a new stat that should really hit home with the conference. The ACC Championship Game in Jacksonville did not sell out, and the Gator Bowl Association (the committee who put on the game) lost $300,000 on the game. That’s unfathomable, especially considering that Georgia Tech was in the game, and Jacksonville is right next to Georgia.

The SEC Championship Game definitely would never have empty seats, even if it was Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. The Big 12 Championship Game would probably never have empty seats, even if it was Iowa State and Baylor. Yes, Alltel Stadium (ACC title game site) is larger than the Georgia Dome (SEC) and Arrowhead Stadium (Big 12), but not by that much. The whole point of expansion was to make money, and have a championship game to make even more money. Well done, boys.